This is the final stop before NXT Takeover: Philadelphia. So there was plenty from the show to discuss. The final touches on what promises to be an exciting main event have been prepared, and the Royal Rumble is clearly going to have a tough show to beat this weekend. Before we get into what will happen at Takeover, let’s get into the rest of the show.
NXT started off with a quick promo from the Velveteen Dream. He appeared in front of a black background as music played over his promo. He reminded fans that Johnny Gargano would be putting his title shot on the line in a match against him tonight. Dream said that every NXT Superstar dreams of being the NXT Champion. He then boldly claimed that it was his time and that Gargano’s dream is over.
No Way Jose vs. Cezar Bononi –
For the first time in several months, No Way Jose danced his way down to the ring to start of the show in Atlanta’s Center Stage. There was not to this match, but Jose was clearly beloved by the audience attending the show this night. Bononi and Jose tussled for a bit until Jose finally began to fire back with some moves of his own.
Jose got the win with a punch to the face. Between this and the fact that Lacey Evans also won with a punch last week, this is quickly becoming the most devastating move in NXT. Nevertheless, No Way Jose has officially returned.
Winner: No Way Jose
A quick video package hyping up the Extreme Rules match between Aleister Black and Adam Cole at Takeover aired. This will likely be shown again right before their match this Saturday.
Latoya vs. Bianca Belair –
The Mae Young Classic standout faced a woman only identified by the announcer as Latoya. She was significantly smaller than Belair, so it was rather clear that this match was meant to further build up Bianca. After displaying her strength for a good portion of the match, Bianca had the match won after she whipped Latoya with her long braid went she attempted a jump off the top turnbuckle. Belair then hit a reverse powerbomb to get the win.
Winner: Bianca Belair
Up next was an taped interview featuring Percy Watson talking with Shayna Baszler and Ember Moon before they face each other for the NXT Women’s Championship in Philadelphia. Moon said that the reason why she wants to face Baszler is because she has no respect for the NXT locker room member like Dakota Kai. Baszler countered by saying that her attacks on the women’s division are nothing personal, but it was all done in an attempt to lure in the big fish (that being Ember.)
Moon said that she intends on teaching Baszler about respect during their match this weekend. Baszler brought up the fact that Moon worked so hard to join NXT, and she said that she has worked just as hard to get to where she is right now. She vowed to win the title before claiming that she doesn’t care about what the NXT audience thinks of her. Instead, they should just get used to seeing in control.
As promised, part 2 of TM-61’s story was broadcast on this show. After spending several months out with an injury, a video package reminding fans who these two are aired last week. It was revealed that Nick Miller and Shane Thorne found each other on the independent circuit and began to train under WWE Hall of Famer Harley Race. Eventually, they were finally able to snag contracts with WWE and they began teaming up together on NXT television a few years ago.
Part 2 showed exactly why it was that these two were gone for several months. Prior to the 2016 Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournament, Shane Thorne suffered a knee injury after taking a bad landing during a match against Roderick Strong. He still made it to the finals against the Authors of Pain at NXT Takeover: Toronto, but another match against The Revival made the injury worse, which eventually required him to get surgery. They encouraged fans to forget about what they did in the past and to look forward to what they’ll do in the future. Harley Race even made a brief cameo by putting the team over. TM-61 will make their in-ring return next week.
A tag team match featuring Chase Brown & Damien Smith taking on the Authors of Pain never got started since the Authors laid waste to both men. Akam and Rezar got the chance to cut rare promos in English. They both promised to Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish that they would beat them down just as badly at Takeover. They vowed to become two-time NXT Tag Team Champions this Saturday. They then gave Smith and Brown the Super Collider for good measure.
The Velveteen Dream vs. Johnny Gargano –
Johnny Gargano’s chance to headline NXT Takeover: Philadelphia against Andrade “Cien” Almas for the NXT Championship was on the line in this match. Right out of the gate, Dream played some mind games by wearing a Johnny Gargano t-shirt to the ring.
What we got here was a very fun back and fourth match between these two incredible athletes. This match did a lot to highlight both individuals. It did a great job in making the chance to challenge for the title feel like a much bigger deal.
After a few mat-based maneuvers, the crowd began dueling chants for the Dream and Gargano. Dream hung with Gargano for a little while, but the dynamic shifted when the Velveteen Dream told Gargano that he was not ready for Takeover. Gargano locked him into the GargaNo Escape hoping for a shockingly quick victory, but Dream quickly made his way to the ropes.
Velveteen Dream rolled outside of the ring to rest for a bit, but Gargano hit an incredible senton on him. He got him back into the ring, but Dream had enough time to recover and drape Gargano over the second rope. He was able to land a neat swinging neckbreaker for a two count.
Gargano was able to escape outside the ring. This prompted Dream to go up to the top of one of the ring posts, perhaps teasing a Purple Rainmaker elbow drop onto Gargano outside the ring. It was all a swerve though. Instead, much to the anger of the fans, he simply walked out of the ring. He walked towards Johnny, but Gargano ended up giving him a chop before tossing him back into the ring.
The Velveteen Dream took a very brutal looking lariat from Gargano back in the ring. The move actually took a lot out of Gargano as well. Both men were so exhausted that they laid on the mat for a while before making another move. Gargano eventually crawled over and got the Dream down for a two count. Both men continued to stumble around the ring due to their exhaustion. It really looked as though these two were both desperate and willing to do whatever it took to get the win here.
Velveteen Dream was the first one to recover here, and he got Gargano up for a rolling Death Valley Driver. Instead, Gargano muscled his way out of it and attempted to lock in the GargaNo Escape. Again, this was not enough for “Johnny Wrestling”, and Dream hit a DDT. Was this enough to put Gargano away? Really close, but no!
Gargano was then able to make his way up the the top turnbuckle once again. Velveteen Dream was able to crotch Gargano before he had the chance to execute whatever he had planned. Dream then went up to where Gargano was and hit the Death Valley Driver on him at last. Yet again, this was only another impossible close near fall. Gargano simply would not give up, and neither would the Velveteen Dream, for that matter.
Finally, The Velveteen Dream went for the only move that he had yet to use: The Purple Rainmaker elbow drop. He went to the top rope… but he missed when Gargano got his knees up in time! Back to his feet, Johnny hit Dream with a superkick before locking in the GargaNo Escape. With nowhere else to go and nothing else up his sleeves, The Velveteen Dream quickly gave up the fight.
Winner: Johnny Gargano
After the match ended, Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega made their way down to the ring. Almas walked right up to Johnny in the ring and held the title in front of his face. He attempted to land a cheap shot, but Gargano fought back. Almas eventually overpowered him and sent him outside of the ring. He and Vega posed with the title in the ring until the plucky underdog finally got back up. Gargano hit a kick and a slingshot DDT on the champion.
Gargano noticed that the NXT Championship was just lying in the ring unattended to. Fans chanted for him to touch it. Don’t these fans know that this is bad luck. I mean, it has to be. Right? However, he touched it anyway. He held it up and made it clear that he is ready for Takeover. After weeks of being lost in the shuffle, Gargano is more confident in himself than ever before. Almas may have two wins over him already, but maybe this will finally be the time for “Johnny Wrestling” to win the big one.
NXT Takeover: Philadelphia cannot fail with the lineup that it has. In addition to the title match, the extreme rules match between Adam Cole and Aleister Black should be interesting. We also have the intrigue of seeing the dominant Shayna Baszler possibly snag her first title reign already. A brutal tag team title match between the Undisputed Era and the Authors of Pain could be great fun. Triple H even confirmed recently that Kassius Ohno will take on The Velveteen Dream on the show. If that match even remotely resembles the one Dream had tonight, sign me up.
NXT Takeover takes place this Saturday night at 8pm ET. After that, we return with the fallout from the show right back here. I’ll see you NXT time!
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