With all the buzz surrounding this weekend’s Royal Rumble event, you could be forgiven for forgetting a little bit about NXT Takeover: Philadelphia. The show had a fairly weak build in comparison to a lot of the brand’s other events and a lot of the matches felt like they were put together at the last minute. That being said, NXT Takeovers often eclipse their WWE counterparts on the night and Takeover: Philadelphia has certainly set a very high standard for the Royal Rumble to live up to. Full of excellent matches and plenty of memorable moments, this once again proved that NXT is one of the most consistent wrestling products on the planet right now, but which match stole the show in Philly? Let’s take a look back at the card and rank each match from worst to best.
Velveteen Dream Vs Kassius Ohno
The fact that this was the weakest match on the card speaks volumes about the level of consistency delivered by NXT this Saturday night. Velveteen Dream is a star in the making and his pure charisma and ring presence makes him incredibly watchable. The match was far from bad, it just suffered slightly from a lack of build. Dream, though, even managed to remedy that a little by claiming he was going to defeat Ohno in 30 seconds on the event’s pre-show, in the process, making the opening 30 seconds of this match highly entertaining. Ohno deserves some credit here too, he more than did his part in the match and getting the victory over such an established indie veteran will do wonders for Velveteen. Does Ohno doing the business here mean he could get a spot in the Rumble? I wouldn’t rule it out.
Shayna Baszler Vs Ember Moon
Shayna Baszler is definitely going to win the NXT Women’s title at some point. The Mae Young Classic finalist is a star in the making in NXT and her performance last night further highlighted that. While she still may be a little bit green in between the ropes, her sheer presence makes up for it. Comparisons to Brock Lesnar are more than apt and she feels like a force of nature whenever she makes her way to the ring. Ember Moon also played the perfect babyface here and the two put on a solid, though not spectacular match. The finish, which saw Baszler trying to fully apply an armbar to Moon could have been a complete disaster in any other bout, with both women just rolling around the floor for five minutes but the excellent story-telling on display made it a gripping watch and Baszler’s post-match attack on Moon ensures that the feud will continue over the coming months.
The Authors of Pain Vs Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish
Before this match, I honestly had no idea just how young The Authors of Pain were. These guys have some serious talent, and have always impressed me but when I was realised they were younger than I am, I was blown away. This match felt like it could well be their swansong in NXT, especially with Raw’s main roster being in serious need of some legitimate tag teams (they did have The Revival, but yeah, look how that turned out). The story-telling of the match was simple but effective, with The Undisputed Era being forced to outsmart their bigger and stronger opponents. They did this expertly and the bout was fairly entertaining from ring-bell to ring-bell. If this was to be the Author of Pain’s last appearance on the brand, then they can be proud of what they achieved at Takeover: Philadelphia.
Adam Cole Vs Aleister Black
The Philadelphia crowd were red-hot all night but they really amped things up here, beginning the match with ‘this is awesome’ chants before these two men even locked up. Cole and Black are both destined for big things in NXT and on the main roster and their star power really helped elevate this bout. The no-DQ situation was perfect for the pair, especially considering the event’s location and the two utilised it well throughout, giving the fans plenty of big spots and using a wide array of weapons innovatively. It looked at one point as though the match could have a screwy finish when O’Reilly and Fish made their way to the ring, but Sanity came down to even the odds and add to the ensuing chaos. Black’s win came as something of a surprise to me but it looks as though he may well be moving on to the NXT title at the next Takeover. Cole still managed to look great in defeat here and the two men put on one of the finest matches on the card.
Johnny Gargano Vs Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas
There’s good, and then there’s the main event of NXT Takeover: Philadelphia. Johnny Gargano is one of the most over wrestlers on the planet right now, while Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas is making a great NXT champion. This match had everything you could want from a professional wrestling match. The near falls throughout the match were so good that I nearly fell off my seat on several occasions, the in-ring spots were perfect and the storytelling here was some of the best I’ve seen from the WWE since Cena Vs Punk in 2011. The crowd was stupidly into this and every time Gargano went for the victory, you could feel the whole arena stand up in anticipation. The inclusion of Candice jumping over the barrier and chasing off Vega was a masterstroke, while the post-match attack from Ciampa, despite being fairly obvious, was perfectly executed, as was his restrained reaction after the attack.
This match just felt like everything came together seriously and is an early candidate for match of the year. Gargano is a superstar right now and Almas also deserves a lot of credit for his work here. Almas will likely move on to a match with Black at the next Takeover, while Gargano will square off with Ciampa but both men are going to have to do a lot next time around to top this. The commentators said they had witnessed one of, if not the greatest match in the history of the company last night and for once, they weren’t exaggerating.