NXT TakeOver Phoenix results, recap, grades: New champions crowned as rivals reunite
WWE delivered once again with NXT TakeOver, though the results may not be what you expected
Another NXT TakeOver, another fantastic night of professional wrestling from WWE. The first NXT TakeOver: Phoenix delivered as only the brand's signature event can with five solid matches across a card that sets the stage for the brand's road to WrestleMania 35 weekend. With two title changes and a pair of former partners appearing to reunite at the show's close, there is plenty to get to from the event.
That's not to say this was among the top tier of TakeOvers that have been presented from NXT. Quite the contrary, in fact. Unlike recent events that were filled with stellar matches, this card was driven more by storylines. In fact, only one match truly stood out from the show, while a couple others simply got the job done. As such, due to the high standards set by NXT TakeOvers that preceded this one, it must be judged accordingly. Grade: B
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NXT TakeOver: Phoenix results, grades
Tag Team Championship -- War Raiders def. Undisputed Era (c) via pinfall to win the titles: Rowe opened with a solid run as a tope suicida by Hanson missed and laid him prone at ringside, but Roderick Strong (through a bevy of backbreakers) and Kyle O'Reilly were able to assert their dominance with a two-on-one advantage. A single-arm overhead suplex by Rowe threw O'Reilly into Strong, knocking both outside the ring. Hanson eventually tagged in and hit a cartwheel lariat that brought the crowd to its feet, and a bronco buster to Strong resulted in a close count. A catch powerslam by Hanson and subsequent tope suicida nearly saw the titles change hands, but O'Reilly kicked out; Strong saved O'Reilly following a splash by Hanson, and he climbed to the top rope for a superplex on Hanson only to see Hanson kick out from a diving knee by O'Reilly. Undisputed Era took control as the crowd chanted "fight forever," but their High-Low finisher did not get the job done on Hanson. A second attempt was escaped with a cartwheel by Hanson, who hit a double back elbow to stun UE. Rowe then hit his patented press slam powerbomb followed by an elevated leg drop by Rowe for the 1-2-3.
While it started slow, business picked up over the second half of the match as War Raiders got the opportunity to shine in their title victory. The change was necessary to breathe some new life into the division, and War Raiders went over strong by kicking out of the High-Low finisher on their way to victory. The match did not necessarily live up to the high standard set by some of the NXT tag team bouts over the past 12 months, but it was still a fun display and great start to the show. Grade: B
Matt Riddle def. Kassius Ohno via submission: Ohno dominated Riddle in the early going, throwing him into the ring post and the steps as he delivered solid strikes; he even reversed a potential German suplex by stomping on Riddle's exposed foot, but Riddle wound up hitting it anyway. As Riddle began drilling Ohno in the chest, Ohno grabbed his foot and chomped down on his big toe before lifting him up for a Liger bomb followed by a moonsault from the top rope. Ohno missed his rolling elbow but hit a senton; as he went for another, Riddle put him in a rear-naked choke only to see it stopped via rope break. Ohno pleaded for mercy late and held out his fist for a bump, but Riddle grabbed it for a knee strike, followed with a sleeper suplex and hit repeated knee strikes on Ohno until he submitted.
Call it a bias against Ohno if you want, but this match would have been much better if Riddle was able to display his true talents against better competition. Ohno got too much offense in early to be believed, and the finish was delayed with the referee out of position. Riddle was not given the opportunity to truly show what he can do, which should have been the case in his second TakeOver match. The right guy went over, but the crowd reaction told the story here. Grade: C
North American Championship -- Johnny Gargano def. Ricochet (c) via submission to win the title: A series of athletic reversals and counters led to a lack of offense early as the crowd chanted, "N-X-T." Ricochet struck first with a tremendous step-up moonsault off the second turnbuckle to the outside, but Gargano's aggressiveness inside the ring evened things out. A bevy of offense including a 619 in the corner, springboard European uppercut and roll-through northern lights suplex into a brainbuster only got a two count for Ricochet. Multiple high-risk flips resulted in more two counts for Ricochet, who also completed a 360-degree flip out of a hurricanrana attempt from the top rope. Gargano caught Ricochet's handspring back elbow attempt with the Gargano Escape only to be deadlifted by Ricochet and thrown into the corner. Gargano rolled away from Ricochet's 630 finisher and then left the ring, which sent Ricochet flying over the turnbuckles to splash him on the outside. A springboard 450 followed from Ricochet, but Gargano kicked out again. A subsequent shooting star press from Ricochet was caught and nearly resulted in a roll-up for Gargano, who followed with a superkick to send Ricochet outside the ring. Ricochet caught a Gargano dive, but Gargano reversed it for a spiked hurricanrana outside the ring and followed with a spiked DDT inside the ring for a 2.9 count.
Gargano pulled up the ringside mat for another spiked DDT but had a change of heart. Ricochet took advantage with a pinning combination inside the ring for a two count and hit a spinning clothesline as he went to the top rope for a Phoenix splash. Gargano avoided it and hit a superkick, but Ricochet reversed a subsequent maneuver and locked Gargano in his own submission finisher. As the crowd chanted "fight forever," Gargano drove Ricochet back-first into the ring post from the apron, dragged him outside and hit a brainbuster on the exposed concrete. Gargano mouthed "I win" to Ricochet before hitting a springboard spiked DDT as he picked up the clean 1-2-3 to become the new champion.
Athletic, captivating, brutal and violent -- this match had it all. Gargano's aggression was apparent throughout, and he captured the title as the heel side in the match without doing anything illegal or even questionable. The bout itself was great, and the story told throughout was even better. Best of all, no one knows what is going to happen next in this storyline. It is no doubt the leader in the clubhouse for "match of the year" in WWE, and I actually think it outshone the Kenny Omega-Hiroshi Tanahashi match at Wrestle Kingdom 13. Grade: A+
Women's Championship -- Shayna Baszler (c) def. Bianca Belair via submission to retain the title: After using Belair's hair to pull her head-first into the ring post, Baszler continued dominating the challenger inside the ring by stomping on her left arm. Belair sold the injury for the duration of the match as Baszler remained aggressive. Belair's inexperience looked set to do her in, but she countered Baszler's aggression with a hair whip to the midsection that gashed Baszler's stomach and sent her reeling. The referee got knocked out before Belair hit the Kiss of Death, resulting in no count; she panicked as a result, leading Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke to the ring to help Baszler. Belair took care of both, but Baszler took advantage of the distraction by locking the challenger in the Kirifuda Clutch. Surprisingly, Belair powered out of it and attempted a high-risk maneuver, which Baszler avoided; the champion locked in another Kirifuda Clutch, but after two strong attempts to power out, Belair succumbed too suffer her first defeat.
Good job booking Belair to look strong despite notching her first loss in NXT. As expected, the chemistry between these two was an issue throughout as the match did not look overly fluid. That said, Baszler sold like hell for Belair and did a great job putting her opponent over in defeat. The interference of Shafir and Duke was to be expected, so that did not detract from the match. It was also the right decision to keep the title on Baszler, so all is well that ends well. Grade: C+
NXT Championship -- Tomasso Ciamoa (c) vs. Aleister Black: The match began with aggression from both men as Ciampa concentrated on Black's left leg, suplexing it into the ring steps, stomping on it, running it into the ring post and driving it into the announce table. Black countered Fairytale Ending three times and nearly picked up a win with a suplex bridge on one leg but only got a 2.8 count. The challenger attempted to lift the champion for Black Mass, but Ciampa countered with a dragon screw and single-leg crab. Ciampa then dropped Black with a Tower of London to the ring apron for a near pinfall. A double stomp to Ciampa's chest followed by a brainbuster gave Black another near fall but to no avail. On the outside, Black slipped on water spilled by Ciampa earlier, giving the champion an opening to hit Faritytale Ending only to see a surprising kick out.
That led Ciamp to expose the ringside concrete just as Gargano did earlier. Distracted by the referee, Ciampa suffered a flying knee from Black, who followed with a Black Mass inside the ring. However, by the time an exhausted Black crawled over to Ciampa, the champion had rolled onto his stomach to prevent a pinning attempt. Ciampa pulled the referee in front of him as Black attempted a second Black Mass; Ciampa then avoided a roll-up, leaving Black's legs dangling on the middle rope. The champion took advantage with a draping DDT and followed with a Fairytale Ending only for Black to shockingly kick out again at 2.9. A third Fairytale Ending connected, but Ciampa did not attempt a pin; instead, he went for a fourth, which Black avoided to hit a spinning back kick. However, as Black went for Black Mass, his injured left leg gave out one final time, giving Ciampa an opening to hit that fourth Fairytale Ending for the 1-2-3. After the match, just as Gargano did earlier, Black screamed, "I win." The two met on the ramp and held their championships in the air together.
Fantastic story told throughout this one and another instance on this card of a heel going over via somewhat dastardly means yet still picking up a clean win without interference or a shmoz finish. This did not necessarily live up to the Ciampa-Gargano or even the Ciampa-Velveteen Dream matches, but it was a solid pairing with Black selling his left leg injury throughout. One wonders what this match would have looked like if Black was allowed to be 100 percent, but the injury did provide an excuse for his loss in this situation. Four finishers is usually a bit overboard, but it worked in this scenario considering the booking. The finish with the two former tag team partners on the ramp was also a nice touch. Grade: B+
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