NXT TakeOver: Phoenix
January 26, 2019
American Airlines Center
Phoenix, Arizona

Watch: WWE Network

Meet our previewers

  • Steve Case: Death. Taxes. The Patriots make the Super Bowl. NXT Takeover delivers. The four things you can count on in life. The one you can’t count on? My predictions for wrestling events. @coachcase44
  • Ricardo Gallegos: After a barrage of Fantastica Mania reviews, my body is ready for some sweet NXT action. Follow me @theunderwally and if you speak Spanish, go check Polvora.com.mx for more of my ramblings.

Matt Riddle vs. Kassius Ohno

Steve: I’m not going to dive into Matt Riddle’s promos in this preview. Yes, they aren’t great. No, I don’t think it’s his fault. The dude has charisma for days so hopefully someone lets him show it on the mic. In the ring, it hasn’t been a problem. He’s had some solid matches on TV, but here I think he has his first WWE banger. If these two get around 12 minutes, this will be excellent. I really like Ohno as the angry grizzled veteran being overlooked by shiny new toys. I expect him to make Riddle look like a star here. I don’t know where Ohno goes from here, but I really hope this leads Riddle to a feud with Keith Lee. Lee has been an afterthought since coming to NXT, so maybe he’ll be the next to jump Riddle for his shiny new toy status. Prediction: Matt Riddle

Ricardo: Riddle doesn’t need a script to get over. Riddle oozes charisma and his in-ring stuff speaks for itself, so he needs to make everyone forget about his awkward promos by having a killer match with Kassius, who has been brilliant in this jealous ‘Get off my lawn’ persona. I expect a fast, hard-hitting knee and elbow strike bonanza that will kick off the show with a bang. Prediction: Matt Riddle

NXT North American Championships
Ricochet © vs. Johnny Gargano

Steve: There’s no way this match doesn’t deliver. Ricochet has been great since coming to NXT, but him being the North American champion just doesn’t work for me. I feel like it’s holding him back. He also lacks fresh matchups in that role. Johnny Takeover, on the other hand, could have a lot to benefit from a North American title run. It’d be his first singles title in NXT, it would open up loads of fresh matchups for that title, and it adds even more layers to the Ciampa storyline. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets involved here in some capacity, especially after this week’s NXT TV. I know they haven’t done run-ins like this yet at a Takeover show, but with the DIY storyline, it fits beautifully. I expect this being MOTN and potential MOTY contender, depending on how they book the finish. Prediction: Johnny Gargano

Ricardo: NXT has been teasing us with a heel DIY reunion and after this week’s dramatic ending where Johnny and Tommaso got to look into each other souls for what felt like an hour, it seems like we’re gonna see them tag again real soon.

I feel that Ricochet’s buzz has cooled down a little bit and that North American title (that shouldn’t exist) might be the reason. I need a Ricochet main event push, and I need it now, so dropping the title would be a first step in the right direction. I think Ciampa will be a factor in this one:  that allows his drama buddy Gargano to get the title, Ricochet doesn’t lose ‘clean’ and he can chase Ciampa not only to get revenge but to get that sweet NXT Championship. Whatever the case is, this match is going to be mind-blowing and it has Match of the Year Contender written all over it. Prediction: Johnny Gargano

NXT Tag Team Championship
The Undisputed Era © vs. War Raiders

Steve: Speaking of afterthoughts, the War Raiders have also been impressive the once in a blue it seems we’ve seen them. I really hope we see a good handful of rumble season call-ups on top of what we’ve seen already. They have been MIA since War Games. The UE seems primed to be a huge deal as a main roster faction. Can you imagine the pop at the RAW after the rumble? I’ve always said Mania would be their time, but with all the new teams and faces in NXT, I think the time is now. They have nothing more to gain in NXT, and you have to believe the suits see money in them as the “new Four Horsemen” they created. This should be a very good to great match, where the UE bump all over the place and make the War Raiders look like unstoppable monsters. Give me War Raiders v Lorcan & Burch or Aichner & Barthel.  Prediction: War Raiders

Ricardo: Am I wrong in thinking that the War Raider’s highlight since War Games II has been a youtube video showing Rowe’s Viking wedding? Well, despite the weak build, I think this could end up being Match of the Night: O’Reilly and Strong have been fantastic in all their tag team title defenses at Takeover events and I can see them hitting another home run with Hanson & Rowe, who are in desperate need of something to do in NXT. This could be the start of a rampant championship run with the potential to deliver top matches with many of NXT’s tag team division. Prediction: War Raiders

NXT Women’s Championship
Shayna Baszler © vs. Bianca Belair

Steve: This might be the most intriguing match on the show. We all see the talent Bianca has. She oozes charisma in the ring. She’s insanely athletic, has a unique look and presence, and she’s impressed in the ring but hasn’t done it yet on the big stage. Shayna is an interesting choice to have her go up against. Outside of Kairi, Shayna has been very hit or miss when it comes to match quality for me. I’m not really sure how their in-ring styles will mesh. Shayna has worked with Kairi, Kai, and Ember, three ladies who had been in the business and had experience. Bianca is a PC product through and through, so I’m very intrigued how this turns out. Being call up season, and knowing the MMA vs WWE horsewomen match looms, I’m guessing Shayna and company are moving up sooner rather than later. My guess is Shayna’s ladies get involved, with Io and Kairi making the save (they are having a match on the taped pre-show), leading to Bianca getting her big win. Prediction: Bianca Belair

Ricardo: I’m very excited for this one. In 2018, Shayna had one of the best trilogy of matches in recent NXT history but that was against the accomplished Kairi Sane, so it’ll be very interesting to see how does Shayna fare against a less experienced competitor. The thing is… despite the clash of styles, Belair has been incredible and there’s something about her that gives me full confidence that we’ll see a great match. Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke will get involved in some capacity and that could totally disrupt the flow of the match, but it could also give Baszler and Belair some breathing room and a chance to get the crowd more invested. Also, their interference could lead to Belair going bonkers and unleashing her awesome hair whip to get rid of them, so everyone would win in that scenario. Rumors of Ronda Rousey leaving after Wrestlemania means that WWE could try to replace her ‘badass ex-MMA’ aura with Shayna’s gang or maybe even speed them to a main roster spot after the Rumble. My guess is Bianca will still be undefeated. Prediction: Bianca Belair

NXT Championship
Tommaso Ciampa © vs. Aleister Black

Steve: I’ve been predicting Black to get moved up since before Summerslam, and clearly that has not come to fruition to this point. I’m calling it again because he’s another that has nothing left to accomplish in NXT. He is much more valuable on the main roster than he is on NXT. He would absolutely continue to be great at NXT, but he takes a top spot away from some of the new signings and up and comers, which is counterproductive. Ciampa has been great at pulling the strings with Gargano, Black and Ricochet. He’s a dastardly heel and has had a lot of mileage left on the tires. If my North American title prediction comes true, he would have a perfect next challenger. The big question here is how does Johnny get involved. Does he at all? Is he conflicted, or does he go all into the dark side? My guess is that at the end of the night, DIY holds all the singles gold. How we get there? Well, that’s the fun part. Prediction: Tommaso Ciampa

Ricardo: I can see Aleister Black moving up soon – maybe at the Royal Rumble – so I think the biggest thing this match needs to do is convince us that there’s any chance that Aleister can win the belt, but that may not be that hard given that these two are completely over and I expect a hot crowd for the entirety of it. I enjoyed their first match (when Black lost the championship) but that was barred by melodrama and interferences, mainly because the aim of that match was to solidify Ciampa’s heel persona and set-up a Black/Gargano/Ciampa triple threat that never happened, so I’m hoping that this will be free of all that nonsense and we get to see these two destroy each other with no telenovela Johnny Gargano performance to interrupt it. Prediction: Tommaso Ciampa