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

Watch: WWE Network

Meet our reviewers

  • Kevin Wilson: Since I have the most Twitter followers of any semi-regular VOW writer, I am contractually obligated to review more events to help get the site social media buzz. You can follow me too at @JoshiPuro
  • Steve Case: I have significantly less Twitter followers than Kevin, but still am allowed to participate. It must be how my charming personality comes through in the written word. This show is going to rule. I’m pumped. Follow me at @coachcase44
  • Suit Williams: The only NXT I’ve watched since the last Takeover involved my guys Oney Lorcan and Fabian Aichner. They aren’t on this show, and that bums me out. I also do reviews for PWPonderings, and I have a podcast called Smark Sports that you can find on iTunes. Get at me on Twitter, @SuitWilliams.

NXT Tag Team Championship
War Raiders (Hanson and Rowe) def. The Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong) (c)

Kevin Wilson: What a way to start. As a long time fan I won’t complain about them including the “hot tag/distracted referee” spots as its a wrestling tradition, but it didn’t feel like the match really kicked off until they tossed the Southern Wrasslin structure aside and started smoothly trading bombs. The Undisputed Era certainly have a style, while sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between their matches as they can feel a bit same-y I can’t deny that their methods are entertaining as hell and they are tremendous at making their opponents look like a million bucks. Hanson and Rowe more than did their part though, they hit their impressive spots with ease and I can’t imagine anyone watching this that hadn’t seen them before not coming out of it as fans. Potentially a star-making performance for War Machine and a fine way to kick off the show. ****

Steve Case: They are really playing up this viking stuff aren’t they? The crowd seemed into it. Myself? I don’t know. They come out hot with a double team sprint barrage like that and they can come in on a ship for all I care. The War Raiders absolutely NEEDED a performance like that. They looked like a million bucks with their unique tag moves, high energy work rate, and more than a little help from the Undisputed Era. Roddy and Kyle bumped all over the place for the Raiders. These Takeover tags have been highlights of many show to this point, and this was no exception. Not quite to the heights of the Moustache Mountain or Oney/Burch matches, but this was still another huge notch in the belt for the Undisputed Era. Give us Raiders/Lorcan and Burch RIGHT NOW. ****1/4

Suit Williams: Hanson and Rowe came out with a troupe of fellow history dorks. They are big, mean motherfuckers. They don’t need a gimmick. Rowe proved it when he bodyslammed his partner on the champions, and fired O’Reilly at Strong to massive reactions. Strong and O’Reilly are so good at building the hot tag for their opponents, with this match being no exception. Then when it was time for the Raiders to shine, these guys bumped like superballs for them. They made the War Raiders look like a million bucks here, not like that was a particularly hard task. Hanson in particular got over massively with his athleticism, doing a Tajiri-style back handspring elbow that had people jumping out of their seats. Fantastic tag wrestling with a red-hot crowd. Can’t ask for much more. ****1/2

Matt Riddle def. Kassius Ohno

Kevin Wilson: We knew going in who was winning this match, so it was all about the journey. As a showcase for Riddle I think they did well enough, however it is time to move away from this feud since it’s so one-sided. Ohno’s unorthodox offense was a treat, between the foot biting to busting out a moonsault, and even though his job now is to help along the newer wrestlers he hasn’t lost a step. Ohno held the match together well and them calling back to their previous encounters was a necessary but appreciated touch. I have less faith than others in the Riddle Experiment, he’s strong and has quality submissions but I don’t think he has really connected with the fans yet which made the match feel flatter than it should have been. The ending was a bit odd and didn’t get a reaction – it could work but fans just aren’t conditioned yet for that type of conclusion. This felt more like a good TV match than a TakeOver match, perfectly fine wrestling with solid action but nothing that will be remembered before the night is over. **3/4

Steve Case: I really wonder how Vince, or Hunter for that matter, feel about Riddle’s cute anklet. This was hurt a little by the crowd clearly knowing Ohno had zero chance of winning. They still did a strong job of getting Riddle over as a never say die, hard hitting babyface. This was very hard hitting, with several stiff forearms and kicks. At one point Riddle ate Ohno’s boot, busting his lip a little bit. In an incredibly gross spot, Ohno caught Riddle leg and BIT HIS BIG TOE. Feet are gross and make me want to vomit. I liked Riddle using the death by elbow finish, though it felt kind of out of nowhere. Hopefully this begins Riddle’s ascent to the top of the card. ***1/2

Suit Williams: How does Matt Riddle make BRO a six-syllable word? Anyway, Ohno went through the same spots he did when he attacked Riddle on NXT, before Riddle showed some heart and fought back. Ohno went after Riddle’s feet after that, stomping on them and biting his toes for an advantage. Maybe we learned a little more about Ohno than he meant for us to there too. Riddle was ready to put Ohno away before Ohno offered a fist bump. Riddle grabbed his wrist and elbowed him into submission. Ohno gets a Takeover payday, and Riddle gets to put his first feud firmly in his rear view mirror. ***1/2

NXT North American Championship
Johnny Gargano def. Ricochet (c)

Kevin Wilson: I personally didn’t really need the “WHICH VERSION OF GARGANO ARE YOU” sub-storyline but since it’s an important story to NXT overall it is what it is. I was intrigued going in who would win the match structure battle but they meshed their two styles together really well as it didn’t feel like either had to make sacrifices and were able to showcase their strengths. Ricochet is the complete package, he has the agility and strength to do just about anything he wants to do and his matches are never dull. I loved the back and forth throughout, I didn’t love the announcers hammering in that they both were “well scouted” but the fluidity going from spot to spot was on point. Some of the false finishes were very convincing and I was hooked into everything they were doing. The ending itself didn’t do a lot for me, Gargano’s conflicted character is starting to get a bit cringe for me and I’d rather they save that for skits. Still, that doesn’t take away from the fact that they put on a stellar match as the action was top notch, the focus on Gargano’s soul is the only thing stopping me from going the Full Five on it.  ****1/2

Steve Case: This was an outstanding match (shocking) between two of the best wrestlers in the entire company. It built from slick grappling, to some unreal exchanges where these to Ferrari’s were flying at hyper speed, through some solid character work that lead to a definitive finish. This progressed so well and built so beautifully. It’s such a testament to how great these two are at this pro wrestling stuff. Johnny deciding against the DDT to the exposed cement almost costing the match by his own finish was a great callback. This leading to Johnny going full on darkside with a brainbuster on said cement to win clean as a sheet was great. This is an early MOTY contender. Johnny Takeover delivers again huge, adding a nice new wrinkle to his story. Ricochet looks great in defeat and is hopefully heading into a fued for the NXT Championship. Outstanding match. ****3/4

Suit Williams: First of all, I wanna thank the WWE Network for crapping out on me and causing me to lose a few minutes of this one. But what I did see was an absolutely stellar match. These two go together like peanut butter and jelly. Their opening exchanges were so silky smooth, and just when you think it would slow down a tick, they just kept going. There was a bit of Gargano melodrama in there, surronding whether he would drop Ricochet on exposed concrete to win, but eventually he did and got the win. Again, I missed a few minutes, but with what I saw, I would give it ****1/4.

NXT Women’s Championship
Shayna Baszler (c) def. Bianca Belair

Kevin Wilson: A more chill match than the last one, but that is probably what I (and the crowd) needed. Unlike the last match, the story here was more traditional – the cocky champion against the accomplished but less experienced fan favorite challenger. Baszler actually getting cut from the hair whip was amazing, probably not for her but the visual was fantastic. The shoulder/arm work by Baszler was great as it always is, she is still limited overall but she is really good at what she does and she stays within her specialty. The referee bump sucked but wasn’t a surprise, at least Belair fought off the interference and broke out of the choke, successfully overcoming the stacked odds for the moment. Course she made a mistake and lost anyway but she showed some adversary by not just losing the first time Baszler cheated. I am surprised how long they let Belair fight the choke since normally that’s an instant win, I think the story is the same without the minute long submission hold and now if they fight again they’ll have to keep doing it. Really, the thing that annoys me about the interference is that Baszler doesn’t need the crutch, she’s so good anyway and it just hurts the flow of the match. There were moments that felt like they were building to something but they kept sabotaging themselves, a good enough match but with a few tweaks it could have been a lot better.  **1/2

Steve Case: I was worried about the chemistry these two would have in the ring. Though it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might have been, it was far from great. They did a good job playing up the “she might not be ready for this spot,” that oddly was started by a comment from Rosenberg on the pre-show. If this ended with Bianca passing out in the same way after losing her cool after the visual pin, the match jumps up high in quality because of the story they told until then. But they went “babyface superstar building” mode with Bianca surviving two rear naked chokes, one lasting a year, and a run in by Shayna’s goons in order to protect Bianca in defeat. The story was told and would have had the same effect, but they couldn’t resist the tried and true. **1/2

Suit Williams: This was fine. Bianca got her hope spots, specifically standing up out of the rear-naked choke twice. But other than that, this was a decent NXT TV match. I was bothered by Bianca constantly having to hang on to her braid so she doesn’t trip on it. Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir ran in, and Bianca ran them off. She went for a 450, but Shayna moved and grabbed the rear-naked choke and eventually got the win. We know that these two are special talents, but they had a decidedly pedestrian match here. **1/2

NXT Championship
Tommaso Ciampa (c) def. Aleister Black

Kevin Wilson: It sounds demeaning to say a match was boring but damn the first chunk of this match was a bit boring. I don’t mind some quality limb work but it still has to be… interesting, although I will give Black credit for selling it well for the rest of the match. I was confused watching this as I wanted to get sucked into it but something wasn’t clicking for me for much of the match, it felt slow and disjointed. Even the ending, with Ciampa slowly hitting his finisher a few times, it felt like a black and white drama when I wanted something with more pop. The story was told well so it was better than the Gargano match in that regard, and the action was crisp, it just didn’t fully connect. Probably my least favorite of Ciampa’s big matches over the last year, overall it was a well-thought out match but it just didn’t translate as well as they hoped it would.  ***

Steve Case: This was a good title match, but doesn’t even compare to the match they had on NXT TV last year. This might be one of the lesser NXT title matches we’ve had in some time. That’s a high bar, and this was by no means bad, but it will be ultimately forgettable. The leg work Ciampa did early and how it contributed to the rest of the match was very good, especially how it lead to the end. I am surprised that the finish came relatively clean as a sheet. They instead saved that moment for the very end of the show. This was a fun nod to the signature spots they’ve done in the past. The plot thickens. ***1/4

Suit Williams: Ciampa worked over Black’s leg for like 15 minutes, and it felt like time stood still. It kept going, and going, and going, and going, and fucking going. I think it was a review where I talked about how Ciampa always feels like the second guy in an impressive match, and it’s here where we see what happens when he leads a match. This may have been the opposite of Gargano/Ricochet. That match was dynamic and fast-paced and exciting, while this was tedious and slow and unbelievably boring. Ciampa won, Gargano came out and posed with him, and I think I would rather base jump into the Grand Canyon than see the Gargano/Ciampa soap opera continue. **