NXT Takeover Philadelphia: Keep Raising The Bar

The Undisputed Era vs Authors of Pain (NXT Tag Team Championship): This match was a lot what you would expect. It also telegraphed the main aura of this NXT Takeover: ring psychology.  Authors of Pain used their power and height advantage early against Fish and O’Reily. Towards the end, Fish and O’Reily used their speed and grounded Akam while targeting his leg. The contrast between the two teams played off really well and reDRagon ends up stealing the win with a roll up.

Authors of Pain are primed to go to the main roster to do some damage – probably after Wrestlemania. Fish and O’Reily have a lot of challenges coming up with the likes of Sanity, TM 61, and the recently signed War Machine.

Velveteen Dream vs. Kassius Ohno: Velveteen Dream is an absolute star – as apparent from the cheers of the Philadelphia crowd. Even at just 22 years of age, he has a command of his character that’s just unique. There were nice little touches between him and Ohno that gave a little nod to their story line. Dream dressed in boxing trunks and the match starting out with striking was a nice little nod to Ohno’s “Knockout Artist” insignia.

A couple of spots went array towards the end of the match. Overall, this was a Velveteen Dream showcase. The sky is the limit for him. I’m not sure when Ohno goes from here, but you can do something with the impending frustration of losing the past two Takeovers.

Ember Moon vs. Shayna Baszler (NXT Womens Championship): Now, a lot of fans with past NXT womens championship matches were used to a certain style. After all, you had the likes of Asuka, Sasha Banks and Bayley. Ember Moon vs. Shayna Baszler was completely different from that. It served to tell a story.

You’ve got the newcomer, Shayna Baszler. She’s the bad, tough newcomer who has been choking out everybody at the performance center. She’s also still green in the ring. Many times, it was mentioned in the commentary that Ember Moon challenged her. Chalk this up from how she won the belt. There was a fatal-four way for it, but she couldn’t top her toughest challenge, Asuka. This was her trying to prove herself as a worthy champion.

The main focus was Ember’s arm. Shayna took out Dakota Kai with it. Ember hit the Eclipse and still couldn’t capitalize on a pin. It took a quick roll up in order to beat Shayna. It served to show that Ember can fight through pain, but also kept Shayna looking like a viable threat as well. Ember technically “survived,” even with the attack at the end.

It will be interesting to see where they go with the Wrestlemania takeover. You can make a case for a rematch, but there is a wealth of talent in the NXT women’s division (Nicki Cross, Kari Sane, Candice LeRae to name a few).

Aleister Black vs. Adam Cole (Extreme Rules Match): One word that describes this match: brutal. If you can add on to that, brutality with a purpose. Even though this was a extreme rules match, the weapons added to the story – they weren’t the entire story. Each of these men were looking to one up-brutalizing each other. Many of the spots in this match made you wince for both of these men. It worked. For the beginning, Adam Cole told the story with this reactions trying to figure out Black’s emotions. Even the interference from Fish and O’Reily worked in the match because it was able to progress their story with Sanity as challengers.

My guess is that Aleister Black is up next as an NXT Championship contender. Adam Cole is also in line for a run as well. Why not see this match one more time? There’s chemistry here that seems like a natural feud.

Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Johnny Gargano (NXT World Championship): One thing I am immensely thankful is that the WWE brass let these two men go wrestle. No WWE-style championship match where it’s slow and methodical. The match continued to escalate where the near falls had you on the edge of your seat. Every time Gargano got hot, Almas had a counter to break it.

This is not hyperbole, but this match is not only the best match in NXT history, but will be one of the best of the year. How could you not be proud of how far Almas has come? Within a year, with the inclusion of Zelena Vega, he has transformed into a true champion. Johnny Gargano is one of the best wrestlers in the world. Both men made true cases for that title with this match. Speaking of Vega, the brief fight between her and LeRae only added to the heat of the match. Kudos to WWE for not telegraphing that.

I know a lot of people didn’t like the finish. Gargano came up empty handed – however, with the progression of Almas, he needed to retain here. Gargano will eventually get his well-deserved crowning as champion, but he has some unfinished business. We didn’t fall for the NXT graphic this time. I like that keeping the Ciampa reveal towards the end was the right move. The match was so great, you didn’t want to inundate that with the Ciampa story line.

There’s a consensus that these Takeover events raise the bar so high that the main roster PPV’s are kind of a let down. With two Royal Rumble matches, this is going to be hard to gauge. NXT has notable signing in EC3, War Machine, LeRae, and Richochet. The cupboard is full. If NXT keeps having the calendar of events like it did with NXT: Philadelphia, a conversation is going to have to be had on why this is not translating on the main roster.

Journalist, Self-published author, and photographer since 2014, Murjani "MJ" Rawls is always looking to stretch his capabilities of his creativity and passions, Rawls has as a portfolio spanning through many mediums including music, television, movies, and more. Operating out of the New York area, Rawls has photographed artists spanning many genres from Slipknot, Kendrick Lamar, Marc Anthony, Zac Brown Band to name a few. Twitter @: MJayRawls