Welcome to Ringside News’ coverage of NXT TakeOver: New Orleans!
For a year or two now, NXT has felt like it was in a constant state of rebuilding, following the loss of Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Neville, The Revival and most of the women’s division. The rebuild took some time and there was periods of underwhelming runs, like Bobby Roode and Drew McIntyre as Champions, however tonight’s TakeOver marks the first night of a new NXT. The main event features a great heel Champion against a beloved babyface, two massively over former partners go to war in a bout only NXT could have, the women’s match features the end of a bitter rivalry, and a huge ladder match determines a new Champion and welcomes two new faces to the brand. The next generation has well and truly arrived.
We’ll start with the brand new NXT belt, and that is the North American Championship. William Regal announced the new title and that the first Champion would be crowned in a huge six-man ladder match that features Killian Dain, Lars Sullivan, The Velveteen Dream, Adam Cole, and two new faces, EC3 and Ricochet. This is a massive match because of the men involved and the stipulation but also the ramifications. NXT has long needed a mid-tier title, for the likes of Adam Cole or Kassius Ohno to wear, to help feel like some big names aren’t just being left behind. The United Kingdom Championship is practically an NXT title but it’s also a separate entity and I don’t think anyone ever expects Pete Dunne to lose it to an NXT regular like Roderick Strong. So tonight will mark the debut of a new Championship and the man to wear it, and for once, I could see every guy in the match walking out with the belt and that’s good booking.
Our main event tonight features the long road to the top of the mountain for Aleister Black. The man from Amsterdam has been a red-hot babyface since debuting in NXT and many thought he would rocket to the top of the division, however it’s been a much longer road than that. Black now stands at the precipice but the wily and resourceful Andrade Almas stands in his way. Almas has been a revelation this year and totally deserves his run with the title, however I think it’s time for Black to grab the gold and become the face of NXT. These two can continue their rivalry until the next TakeOver and that keeps Almas in contention until he, presumably, moves to Raw or SmackDown. This may not be the most exciting match on the card, right now, but it will be a barn-burner for sure.
Then we have the, arguable, true main event of the evening. The unsanctioned match between Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa is a master-class in booking. These two former partners have, through some unfortunate injuries, been kept away from each other for almost an entire year since Ciampa’s turn. Ciampa got injured and thus they couldn’t settle their grudge there and then, which ultimately worked in their favour because, in the interim, Gargano got Daniel Bryan levels of over with the NXT faithful, and Ciampa transformed himself into an old-school heel in incredible shape. Now these two can unleash fury upon each other and it means so much more than it would have 10 months ago, which shows the power of a long, slow build. This is the night’s most anticipated bout and it should blow everything else out of the water.
Elsewhere on tonight’s card, Ember Moon defends her Women’s Championship against Shayna Baszler, and the NXT Tag Team Championships are on the line as The Undisputed Era face The Author’s of Pain and the team of Roderick Strong & Pete Dunne. There’s lots to look forward to at tonight’s NXT TakeOver: New Orleans, and the guys and gals of NXT are sure to give WrestleMania a run for its money. Enjoy the show!
The pre-show begins with the panel of Charly Caruso, Sam Roberts and Pat McAfee. The former NFL player, McAfee, says nothing compares to WrestleMania weekend. He says he had dinner and Sting was there, he shook hands with Vince, and he ate with Shawn Michaels before TakeOver. He says no Superbowl can compare to WrestleMania because it’s all about the fans and it’s a week-long event. The panel rundown the entire card for tonight’s TakeOver.
We see a video for the feud between Ember Moon and Shayna Baszler. The panel talk about the bitterness of the rivalry and how Shayna is a beast. Roberts says it may play a factor that Ember knows Baszler can seriously hurt her, to which McAfee agrees. Roberts says tonight is the night for Baszler to finally assert her dominance and win the title. McAfee says he likes Sam’s hair but he disagrees with him, saying that Ember will win because she’s a nice lady. Drew McIntyre will be on the panel at some point.
Next, we get a video hyping the North American Championship and tonight’s ladder match to crown the inaugural Champion. McAfee calls Ricochet a “stick of dynamite” and says he will light NXT on fire. Adam Cole joints the panel for a quick interview. Charly says he will be pulling double-duty tonight, to which he says tonight is a travesty, it may as well be called NXT: Screw The Undisputed Era. He says everyone knows he has a ladder match but he also has to defend the tag titles tonight. Adam Cole says Pat McAfee is a nobody and shouldn’t be here, to which McAfee gladly tells Cole that the ladder match will be the first match on the card. Cole is astounded that he has to have a ladder match before defending the tag titles. Cole says tonight is the biggest challenge to his group but they will come out on top as they always do. Roberts introduces himself to Cole and asks what he thought what was going to happen when they interrupted the Dusty Classic. Cole says they wanted to show that nobody is as good as them, nobody deserves a title shot or the Dusty Cup. McAfee says Cole is sounding like a whiner, to which Cole says that’s rich coming from a punter, “that’d be like you trying to give Peyton Manning advice”. Cole storms off and the panel move on.
We get a video for the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournament, which ended in a no contest, and therefore tonight we will get a Triple Threat match to determine the winners and the Tag Team Champions. Cathy Kelly interviews Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne backstage. She asks how they feel and Strong jokes “Pete looks thrilled”, then says he’s waited a long time to win a title in NXT and tonight is the night. Dunne says he can’t wait to put his foot in the mouth of the Undisputed Era. Strong says he isn’t worried about AOP because they will take the fight to them tonight. Back with the panel, McAfee says the AOP are incredible and they’ve “written many leather-bound books about pain”. He says the thing that hurts Strong and Dunne is their lack of chemistry as a team, whereas the other two teams have so much experience as teams. McAfee says he’s showered with a lot of big men but the AOP are the biggest guys he’s ever seen. Roberts says he thinks Adam Cole having already competed could really hurt their chances tonight.
The next match for discussion is the unsanctioned match between Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano. The video package for the match went all the way back to their tag team debut and chronicled the rise and fall of D.I.Y. We return to the panel and Candic LeRae has joined. Charly asks how she feels about this potentially ugly match. Candice says they lived with Tommaso and he was a part of their wedding, and now he’s a sociopath. She feels like she is living in The Twilight Zone. She says Ciampa has taken away their fairytale. Roberts asks what Gargano’s mentality is, since he gambled and lost his career. She says she wasn’t happy with the decision and Johnny has never been the same person since Tommaso turned on him. She says it’s unsettling how calm Johnny is, and she wants the man she married back. She says Tommaso has turned into a monster and now he needs to slay the dragon to move on in his life. They cut backstage for an interview with the referee for the unsanctioned match. Charly asks Drake Wuertz what his role in this match is, to which he says simply to count the pinfall or call submission. There are no rules. He gets asked how felt about counting the pin that ended Johnny’s NXT career, to which he says that was the hardest thing he’s ever had to do because he’s known Johnny a long time. He made the wrong call but he won’t make any mistakes tonight.
The final topic of discussion is the main event, the NXT Championship match between Andrade Almas and Aleister Black. Drew McIntrye has joined the panel and, since he got injured, says he’s been rehabbing constantly. He says he went to the same doctor as John Cena and told them to give him the John Cena treatment, so he’s been training like a mad man. They ask how he feels about Almas, to which he says the guy is cocky but gets the job done. He says Almas had to tear his bicep off and drop him on his head to take the title but he did it. McAfee asks who he thinks will win, to which McIntyre says he doesn’t care, he’s coming for Almas regardless. However if Black wins, they will set the world on fire with their feud. And with that, the TakeOver: New Orleans pre-show is over.
NXT TakeOver: New Orleans begins with a completely blacked-out arena with nothing but an NXT chant from the fans. Suddenly a bell rings, then again and again before a spotlight shines on the guitarist of Cane Hill as they play the theme to TakeOver New Orleans, ‘It Follows’. The band’s performance is interspersed with footage of the feuds for tonight’s matches.
We head to the ring after the performance and it’s time for the huge, six man ladder match! EC3 is the first man out for the match.
The bell rings, and all six men stare at each other with the crowd chanting, “This is awesome!” Things kick-off; EC3 immediately bails out of the ring while Cole and Dream attack Ricochet. Killian Dain throws Dream out of the ring, then Sullivan and Dain come face-to-face. EC3 begins urging them on, wanting them to take each other out. Sowly, the both turn to EC3 and attack. Sullivan and Dain beat him down but quickly start arguing amongst each other. Ricochet then takes them out with a springboard shooting star press plancha!
Ricochet grabs a ladder and puts it in the ring. He sets up the ladder, but Dream stops him from climbing. Ricochet gets the better of him and hits a head-scissor takeover before flipping up and dropkicking him down again. The fans are enjoying Ricochet. Dream drops Ricochet on the apron, but Ricochet punches him back. Ricochet goes for a springboard, but Dream hits the ropes to knock him to the floor.
Dream climbs the ladder, but Cole cuts him off, then stomps him down in the corner. Dain returns and grabs Cole, but Cole hits him with a step-up enzuigiri. Cole hits Dream with a fireman’s carry neckbreaker. EC3 runs in and attacks Cole before hitting a rolling neck snapper. Sullivan runs in and clean house before hitting a flapjack powerslam on Cole. Sullivan then hits EC3 with a powerslam. Dain throws Sullivan out of the ring and wipes him out with a suicide dive!
Back in the ring, Dain hits Ricochet and Dream with clotheslines before picking them both up. Cole quickly big boots him down, then Cole and Ricochet trade blows before Dain gets involved again. EC3 runs in and punches away at Ricochet. Sullivan comes into the ring with another ladder and throws it at the other five! Sullivan attacks Dain with the ladder before flooring Cole and EC3, then Ricochet and Dream as well. Sullivan sets the ladder up in the corner and sends Dain into it. Sullivan grabs Dream and gorilla presses him midsection first onto a ladder. Sullivan sets up the ladder and climbs, but Ricochet cuts him off. Ricochet goes for a sunset flip powerbomb, but Sullivan hangs on. Cole, Dream, and EC3 join in to complete the bomb. Wow, that was a great showcase for Sullivan.
Cole gets in Dain’s face and talks trash. Dain then head-butts him down. Ricochet charges Dain, but Dain gives him a back body drop onto the ladder. Dain sets up the ladder in the center of the ring and climbs, but EC3 takes him out with a face-buster off the ladder. EC3 and Cole join forces to hit Sullivan with the ladder and punch him down. They head outside the ring, then get a large ladder and build a bridge from the apron to the commentary table. They send Dain ribs-first into the ladder. Cole and EC3 get in the ring and ram Sullivan in the midsection with the ladder before doing a high five. EC3 does the “Adam Cole Baby” chant but with his own name, the fans boo, then Cole then turns on EC3 and gives him a fireman’s carry slam onto the ladder. Cole hits Dream, Dain, and Sullivan with superkicks. Ricochet goes for a springboard, but Cole superkicks him out of mid-air! Cole drinks in the adoration of the fans before firing up a massive “Adam Cole Baby” chant!
Cole sets up the ladder and climbs while the crowd loudly chants, “Adam Cole.” Sullivan knocks over the ladder. Dream hits Sullivan with the ladder.Dream goes to the top rope and drops the Purple Rainmaker on Dain. Dream then hits Cole with the Purple Rainmaker. Dream to the top rope once again for a third Purple Rainmaker to the back of Ricochet’s head. Dream picks up the ladder, but Sullivan powers him to the corner and rams the ladder into him. Sullivan goes for an avalanche, but Dream throws the ladder in his face. Dream sets the ladder up in the corner and climbs. This is a much taller ladder than the others. Dreams stands on the top of the ladder and poses before dropping a huge Purple Rainmaker on Sullivan! A “Velveteen” chant fires up. He and Cole are the two most over guys in this match.
Dream climbs the ladder and touches the title, but EC3 climbs the ladder and powerbombs Dream off the ladder onto another ladder in the corner! Dain runs in and dropkicks EC3. EC3 quickly takes Dain down and starts to climb the ladder. Cole pulls him off and quickly climbs. EC3 cuts Cole off and climbs the ladder before hitting a TKO off the ladder! Another “This is awesome” chant picks up. EC3 climbs the ladder, but Dain rips him off and hits a bicycle kick. Dain climbs the ladder, but Cole stops him. Dain throws him to the corner before lifting EC3 up for a fireman’s carry slam. Dain picks up a ladder and slams it down on EC3. Dain then hits him with a senton splash with the ladder on him! Mauro Ranallo calls it a pyrrhic move. Dain climbs the ropes, but Cole jumps on his back. Dain then hits a Vader Bomb onto the ladder on top of EC3 with Cole on his back! This is insane.
Dain and Sullivan come face-to-face, but Ricochet gets in the way. Ricochet hits them both with bicycle kicks. Sullivan quickly turns him and throws him across the ring in front of Dain. Dain looks upset. The crowd chants, “Throw him back,” which Dain is more than happy to oblige. Ricochet falls out of the ring in pain. Dain and Sullivan exchange punches in the center of the ring. Dain kicks Sullivan in the midsection before clotheslining him down. Dain charges Sullivan, but Sullivan catches him and slams him down. Sullivan is alone in the ring with the ladders. Sullivan sets one up and slowly starts to climb.
Ricochet cuts him off and pulls him off the ladder before connecting with a superkick. Ricochet quickly climbs the ladder, but Sullivan begins tipping it over. Ricochet then does a moonsault block off the ladder onto Dain and Cole, who are outside the ring! Ricochet pulls himself up to the apron and hits Sullivan with a springboard dropkick. EC3 quickly chop blocks Ricochet and puts him on the top rope before wildly chopping him. Ricochet kicks him back, and EC3 falls onto a ladder. Ricochet then hits a shooting star press onto EC3, sandwiching him onto the ladder! Ricochet climbs the ladder, but Dream cuts him off and kicks him down. Apparently Dream was busted open. Ricochet and Dream go to hit each other with ladders, but they create a ladder bridge in the ring. Dream lays Ricochet onto the ladder, and he climbs the other ladder. Ricochet cuts him off. Ricochet hits a double leg takedown on the ladder bridge. Dream quickly kicks the leg and after a few moments hits a rolling death valley driver on the ladder bridge!
Dain sets up another ladder bridge and puts Ricochet onto it. Dain gets on the apron, and Cole cuts him off. Dain picks up Cole and leaps off the apron, slamming him through Ricochet and the ladder bridge! A “Fight Forever” chant fires up. Sullivan is the last one standing, and he gets in the ring before setting the ladder up under the North American Championship. Sullivan slowly climbs the ladder, but Dain climbs the opposite side. They exchange blows before EC3 gets in the ring and hits them both with a ladder. EC3 sets his ladder up side-by-side of Sullivan and Dain’s. Cole and EC3 then start climbing the ladder.
There is a brawl happening on the ladders between all four men. Dream runs in and sets up another ladder side-by-side. There are three ladders, and all five are fighting it out. Ricochet somehow gets back in the ring and climbs the ladder. Cole is knocked to the canvas. Cole and EC3 take each other out. Dream gets his hands on the title, but Ricochet stops him. Ricochet then hits Dream with an avalanche neckbreaker off the ladder! Sullivan then wipes out Dain with a Freak Accident off the ladder! Sullivan climbs the ladder, but Ricochet springboards off the ropes and jumps on his back. The ladder buckles under the weight. Ricochet sets up the ladder and climbs, but Cole knocks him off to the floor. Cole climbs the ladder and claims the NXT North American Championship!
Adam Cole is the first ever NXT North American Champion! Cole celebrates with the title while replays are shown. The crowd are ecstatic about this, although it probably means The Undisputed Era will lose the tag titles.
We get a video package for WrestleMania’s main event between Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar.
Cane Hill are live in the arena again and this time Lizzy Hale (Halestorm) has joined them to play Ember Moon to the ring! Such a cool entrance. Shayna is out next and we see Ronda Rousey and Jessamyn Duke in the front row to cheer on their friend.
(C) Ember Moon Vs. Shayna Baszler
The bell rings, and Baszler quickly sidesteps a dropkick before punching her out of the ring. Moon kicks her while she gets out of the ring and dropkicks her into the steel steps. Moon gets Baszler into the ring, ducks a clothesline, and hits a springboard codebreaker for a near fall. Moon goes for a crossface, but Baszler quickly gets to the ropes and gets out of the ring to catch her breath. Moon goes for a running kick from the apron, but Baszler blocks it and rips her off to the floor.
Baszler throws her into the barricade before putting her in the ring for a one count. Baszler grabs the arm, but Moon kicks her back. Baszler hits a running knee before hitting a gutwrench suplex. Baszler follows up with a kick to the spine for a two count. Baszler then applies a bow and arrow stretch. Moon fights out and hits a head-scissor takeover. Moon hits a handspring elbow smash. Baszler quickly comes back with a knee, but Moon rolls her up for a two count. Baszler hits a second knee for a near fall. Baszler looks upset a bit. Baszler hooks the head, but Moon snaps her off and dropkicks her down for a two count. Baszler quickly goes for the Kirifuda Clutch, but Moon falls back onto Baszler to break it up.
Moon sidesteps a running knee from Baszler and kicks away at her before hitting a dropkick. Moon then hits a modified suplex and kicks her for a two count. Baszler sends her into the ropes and sidesteps a springboard cross-body. Baszler quickly steps on the hand and goes to break her arm, but Moon gets away. Moon then steps on Baszler’s hand and stomps the arm! Baszler grabs her arm in pain. Moon goes to the top rope, but Baszler crotches her up there before kicking away at her. Baszler then dropkicks her. Baszler goes to the apron and rams her shoulder twice into the ringpost to pop it back into place! That was a cool spot. Baszler walks over to Moon via the apron but Moon kicks her to the floor. Moon scales the top rope and leaps off and hits the Eclipse on the floor! Insane!
The referee is counting but both women get back in the ring at nine.They’re both down inside the ring now. Baszler is writhing around in pain on the mat. Moon grabs her, but Baszler surprises her with the Kirifuda Clutch. Moon attacks the injured shoulder and counters a triangle choke into a powerbomb for a near fall. Moon goes to the top rope and tries for the Eclipse, but Baszler counters that into the Kirifuda Clutch! Moon looks stunned before Baszler stretches her back. Baszler’s left arm is dead so she grabs her own hair to lock the hold in. Moon grabs the injured left arm, but can’t make headway. Moon nearly gets to the bottom rope and grazes it, but Baszler rolls her to the center of the ring. Moon grabs the left arm again and yanks it, but Baszler fights through the pain. Moon rolls back, trying for a for a final pin attempt, but Baszler rolls her back over. Ember fades out and the referee calls for the bell!
We have a new Women’s Champion! Shayna celebrates her huge title win before heading outside the ring to hug Ronda Rousey and Jessamyn Duke, who are both emotional. Baszler walks off with the title and holds it high on the ramp, while Moon is awake and holding her throat in the ring. Good story-telling and a good match. Baszler’s time has certainly come.
Adam Cole is backstage with a trainer, who’s checking on his ribs. Kyle O’Reilly walks in and Cole says he doesn’t know if he can compete.
We see Aleister Black warming-up backstage. Up next though, is the NXT Tag Team Championship match. We see Dustin Rhodes and Jeff Jarret at ringside. Adam Cole has his ribs bandaged up as he comes to the ring with Kyle O’Reilly.
Akam and Rezar attacks both teams as soon as the bell rings. Akam aims for Adam Cole’s injured ribs right away. They clear the ring of their opponents. The AOP then hits O’Reilly with a powerbomb neckbreaker, but Cole breaks the pin up. They send Cole out of the ring and clear the commentary table. Paul Ellering is shouting instructions to them. They life Cole up but he falls down behind them, accidentally, so they pick him up again and hit a double-team powerbomb on Cole through the table! The announcers say his night is over.
O’Reilly quickly takes them out with knees. Strong attacks, but O’Reilly gets out. Dunne grabs the arm, but O’Reilly gets out and kicks away at him. Strong with a backbreaker before hitting Rezar with a knee. Strong hits another backbreaker on O’Reilly for a near fall. Strong lifts O’Reilly, but O’Reilly counters into a guillotine. Akam goes to stomp O’Reilly, but he counters into an ankle lock while holding the guillotine. Rezar then powerbombs Dunne onto O’Reilly, that looked painful! Akam knees away at Strong in the corner, then punches him repeatedly before tagging Rezar in.
Rezar knees Strong to the mat for a one count. Rezar then applies a chin lock and eventually Strong fights up and elbows out, but Rezar floors him with an overhead belly-to-belly suplex. O’Reilly comes in and kicks away at Rezar. Cole is still down in the rubble of the table. Rezar then kills O’Reilly with a German Suplex on his head. O’Reilly quickly gets to his feet before falling out of the ring unconscious. Akam tags in and works over Strong’s midsection. Rezar tags back in and chokes Strong with his foot. Akam tags in and steamrolls Strong with a knee to the ribs. Rezar tags in and knocks Dunne off the apron. O’Reilly jumps on Akam’s back, but Rezar big boots him off. Strong then hits Rezar with an enzuigiri.
Dunne is tagged in, and he punches away at Akam before hitting a forearm shiver. O’Reilly quickly knees him, but Dunne backflips over him. Dunne counters a German Suplex by landing on his feet before kicking O’Reilly in the back of the neck. Dunne counters a slam from Akam for a two count. Dunne and O’Reilly trade vicious blows before Akam runs in and hits them with a double clothesline. The AOP hit Dunne and O’Reilly with the Super Collider. They then hit O’Reilly with The Last Chapter, but Strong breaks it up. Rezar throws Strong out of the ring. Dunne grabs Rezar’s hand and snaps the fingers. Rezar quickly sends Strong into Dunne, but Strong quickly boots Rezar and hits an Olympic Slam for a near fall.
Dunne tags back in. Strong gives O’Reilly a back suplex on the apron before Dunne hits him with a double stomp. Strong and Dunne hit Rezar with a double-team slam, but Akam breaks it up. Akam avoids a dropkick from Strong at ringside, but Strong manages to send him into the steps for a near fall. Dunne hits O’Reilly with the Bitter End and covers, but Strong slides back into the ring, and kicks Dunne to break the pin! Strong then hits Dunne with the End of Heartache before putting O’Reilly on top of him for the three count! Wow!
After the match, Adam Cole rolls back into the ring and sits with O’Reilly. Strong walks over to Cole, grabs his arm and takes the Undisputed Era armband from him. Strong puts the armband on his arm and helps Cole and O’Reilly to their feet. He hands them their titles and the three of them post in the ring to huge cheers from the crowd. That was a perfect twist. The three of them head up the ramp and out comes Bobby Fish to celebrate with them. The four of them pose with their belts and around the Dusty Classic trophy.
We get a video package for the huge mixed tag match between Kurt Angle, Ronda Rousey, and Triple H and Stephanie. The match takes place tomorrow night at WrestleMania, which is free on the WWE Network for new subscribers.
It’s main event time and we get a video package for the rivalry. Aleister Black is out first to a good reaction, followed by his opponent, who gets booed unanimously. Almas is wearing his lucha mask as he makes his entrance. We get ring introductions for both men before the match begins.
The bell rings and Black explodes out the gat,e attacking Almas with some huge kicks, eventually flooring Almas, who rolls from the ring. Black hits the ropes with a springboard but messes it up and lands on his stomach instead of his feet. Black quickly recovers though as he runs, leaps over the top rope and hits a huge springboard moonsault to Almas on the outside.
Black and Almas roll back inside and Black continues the assault, he looks for a black widow submission but kinda screws it up for a second. Black’s offense has been sloppy because he’s trying to go so fast. Almas rolls from the ring and Black chases after. Black sends him back into the ring and attempts to slide in but Zelina Vega uses the distracted referee to leap off the apron and hit Black with a hurricanrana into the steel steps. Black is sent back into the ring and now Almas is in control.
Almas hits a backbreaker and a neckbreaker combo for a two count. Andrade takes to the corner, and uses the ropes to assist with an armbar and he keeps it locked-in as the referee counts to four. Black is down but as he gets to his feet h ‘s hit with a springboard dropkick gets him another near fall. Black locks-in an armbar on Almas, who frantically tries to escape. Black forces Almas to the corner, but he keeps an armbar locked in. Aleister finally breaks the hold, only to end up in a sleeper hold. Black walks into a kick to the face and Almas uses the ropes for another armbar, hanging over the top rope. Black hits a knee as Almas flies off the top rope to give himself time to recover.
Black build some momentum as he unloads with stiff kicks to the body. Black knocks Almas to the corner, then as the Champ stumbles out he lands a springboard moonsault for a two count. Almas backflips out of a top rope powerbomb and hits a German suplex to regain contro! Aleister rolls out of the way of a top rope moonsault, but Andrade lands on his feet and immediately hits a standing moonsault to get another two count. A long exchange of strikes leads to Almas getting another near fall, which surprised the commentators who said Almas couldn’t trade shots with Black. Aleister gets to his feet and lands a knee to the face for his own near fall. Both men are down and out.
Both men beat the 10 count back to their feet after they take each other out. Almas hip tosses Black into the turnbuckle, but Black recovers right away. He goes for a springboard moonsault and gets shoved right over the top rope. Andrade follows up with a corkscrew plancha to the outside for the closest two count of the match. The ref prevents Almas from using the belt as a weapon, which allows Vega to hit another hurricanrana to Black. Almas makes the cover, but he only gets a two count. Aleister counters the hammerlock DDT and nails the Black Mass Kick.! Zelina Vega grabs Almas’ foot and places it on the bottom rope to break the count. The crowd is hook, line and sinker now. Almas’ matches always start slow but build to a huge crescendo and this one is no different.
Vega distracts Black so Almas can trip him on the middle rope while attempting a moonsault. The NXT champion climbs to the top rope and hits a double stomp on the apron while Black hangs over the middle rope. A running double knee in the corner is still not enough to keep Black down for the three count. Almas hits a huge dropkick as Aleister goes for the Black Mass again. Both men roll out to the apron where they exchange chops. Almas pushes him into the ring post and hits another brutal running double knee. Black backdrops Almas out of the ring to counter his finisher again. He gets a running start and flips over the top rope onto Almas. As they get back in the ring, Almas hits the hammerlock DDT out of nowhere. Black kicks out and the crowd goes nuts! As both men slowly get to their feet, Vega jumps off the top rope and Black ducks out of the way. Almas catches her and Black uses the opportunity to hit the Black Mass Kick for a second time to get the three count and become the new NXT champion!
After the match, Black celebrates his huge win and looks genuinely amazed – first time I’ve seen him crack a smile. Zelina Vega is throwing a fitting tantrum at ringside. She crawls in and assists Almas as Black holds his title high. Almas is really, really good and he’ needs to be on the main roster.
It’s the final match of the night – which I legit forgot was happening for a minute, then thought I’d somehow missed the whole damn thing. Thankfully that wasn’t the case and it’s time for Gargano Vs. Ciampa!!!
Both men make their way to the ring, Ciampa to no music, just an arena full of boos. Weirdly, Gargano and Ciampa’s ring gear looked almost identical. Dunno what they were going for.
The bell rings and they just stand there staring at each other for a moment. Ciampa talks some trash, but Gargano stays quiet. Then they start throwing hands in rapid fire and the fans love it. Gargano takes control with a Thesz press followed by a slingshot spear through the ropes. Gargano puts Ciampa in the corner and stomps a mudhole in him until the fans go nuts. He clotheslines Tommaso out of the ring and hits him with a suicide dive that he almost botched.
Ciampa gains some control by throwing Johnny into the barricade. Ciampa then gets thrown over the barricade and into the crowd. Gargano goes flying over the wall at him to take him down in the crowd. Ciampa then drops him on the barricade and clubs him in the back repeatedly. He rips up part of the floor mat surrounding the ring to expose the concrete beneath. Ciampa tries to suplex Gargano onto the floor, but Johnny counters, climbs the apron and hits a running kick to the face. Gargano then grabs Ciampa and throws him over the announce table into the commentators. The fans start to chant “Mamma Mia” for Mauro Ranallo.
Gargano brings Ciampa onto the table and looks for a piledriver or a powerbomb. Tommaso counters it and grabs an iPad and hits him with it. Ciampa grabs Gargano and hits a superplex from the table down to the floor! That was a nasty bump for both men. Ciampa takes the lid from the announce table and leans it on the table, then picks Gargano up and slams him through it! Ciampa brings Gargano back in the ring and slows things down by draping him over the apron and stomping on him over and over. The fans begin chanting “fu$k you Ciampa”. Johnny tries to fight back, but Ciampa keeps beating him down.
Ciampa locks in a cloverleaf submission and Mauro says Gargano will never tap to this man. Gargano grabs the rope, but the rules make it so it doesn’t matter. He eventually breaks free, but Ciampa starts stomping on his head as he lays on the apron. Ciampa sits down smiling smiles and sarcastically claps for himself as the ref checks on Johnny. The fans boo again He looks for something under the ring but doesn’t find it. He hits a running knee before grabbing crutches from a fan at ringside, who I’m guessing was just planted there to get some heel heat.
Ciampa lines up for a big shot with the crutch, but Gargano avoids his wild swings. Gargano rolls Ciampa over for the rolling kick to the head. Tommaso rolls to the apron and pulls Johnny’s legs out from under him. Ciampa counters a slingshot DDT and picks Gargano up on his shoulders. He’s looking for a backbraker onto the exposed concrete but Johnny ends up escaping his grasp and powerbombs him onto the exposed concrete from the apron. Both men are slow to get back to their feet once they roll into the ring – you can see Ciampa’s bruised back. They both reach for the same crutch at the same time and fight for control of the weapon. Gargano wins the battle and starts teeing off on Ciampa with the crutch, and he’s really cracking him. He catches Ciampa with a slingshot DDT for a quick two count. He rips a cover off of a turnbuckle, but Ciampa prevents him from using it against him.
A stiff elbow to the jaw takes Gargano off his feet. Ciampa picks up Gargano for a spinning powerbomb for another near fall. He sets up for his half of DIY’s finisher in the corner and nails Gargano with a running knee to the back of the head for yet another two count. The fans are getting more and more into this one. Johnny counters a powerbomb and hits a huge clothesline. He hits a few more before Ciampa turns him inside out with his own clothesline. Gargano tries to hit a reverse hurricanrana but they botch it and Gargano lands on his head. Gargano locks Ciampa in the Gargano Escape but the fans are completely silent for some reason. Ciampa gets to the ropes but there’s no rope break here, so Ciampa rakes the eyes to force him to break the hold. Tommaso pulls the wrist tape off of one of his hands to choke his former friend. Gargano catches him first and they begin exchanging punches with the tape holding them together.
Gargano starts getting the better of Ciampa, but then the psychopath resorts to a low blow to win the exchange. He grabs a crutch and hits Gargano with it before hitting the powerbomb backstabber. Somehow, Gargano manages to kick out and the fans cheered. Ciampa grabs him and yells at him. Johnny fires-up and unleashed some hard slaps to the face and a superkick. He picks up Ciampa on his shoulder and rams his head into the middle exposed turnbuckle like a lawndart. Another kick to the face puts Ciampa down so Gargano can hit his running superkick. That seemed like all she wrote but Ciampa kicked out!
Johnny goes to the top rope and Ciampa follows – you can see a huge black eye for Ciampa and Johnny looks worse for wear too. Ciampa looks for a backbreaker but Johnny elbows his way out, then Gargano sets up for a hurricanrana. Ciampa counters and hits a powerbomb backbreaker from the middle rope! Gargano kicks out again, causing the fans to erupt! Ciampa pulls his knee brace off to expose his knee, then stands in the corner, waiting to run and hit his knee to the back of the head. As he takes off, Gargano grabs the knee brace and hits him in the leg with it. Johnny picks up the crutch and breaks it in half. Gargano lines-up a big shot with the crutch but stops short when he goes to use it as a weapon and stares at his former partner. They sit down next to each other for a moment of great story-telling. Suddenly Ciampa tries to use the knee brace as a weapon, but Gargano ducks it and locks Ciampa in his finisher. Again the Sicilian Psychopath will not tap, so Johnny grabs the knee brace and uses it to really crank back Tommaso’s head and he finally taps out!
Wow, what an insane match. So many false finishes and it just kept going, those guys went to war. The fans were hot at the start, died in the middle but then came back big for the end. And with that win, Gargano has been reinstated to NXT. Gargano celebrates in the ring and out comes his wife to join in. The show closes with Johnny holding the crutch and Ciampa’s knee brace above his head.
That’s it for NXT TakeOver: New Orleans! Let us know what you thought of the show and come back tomorrow for all your WrestleMania coverage! Until then, safe travels!