By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Austin Aries def. No Way Jose
If anyone doubted Jose's ability to get over with an audience, I dare them to listen to the reaction he received when he entered. It was electric! Granted, he may never get above a certain level if he is ever promoted to the main roster, but he has already been in NXT for a few months and he has yet to wear out his welcome. Plus, he's pretty passable in the ring, and needless to say, this was the best bout he's had to date against Aries, who obviously carried him to a very entertaining opener. Aries has been killing it since arriving in NXT, so while a win would have benefited Jose, I think Aries needed the victory more. Hideo Itami coming out afterward was a pleasant surprise (I was shocked he wasn't on the pre-TakeOver TV tapings) and the crowd popped huge for him hitting his first televised GTS. What a monumental moment to witness live. I'm very much looking forward to their feud in the future.
Ember Moon def. Billie Kay
I had heard rumblings about Athena/Moon before and how great she was, but had never seen her in action until this event. Kay scored a surprising amount of offense, especially considering it was Moon's debut, but I'm glad she showed signs of potential. The match itself wasn't anything out of the ordinary, but Moon's beautiful looking finisher definitely was. The crowd popped for that big time and she will have no trouble winning over fans with that move.
Bobby Roode def. Andrade "Cien" Almas
I've been high on Roode since he broke out as a singles star in TNA five years ago, and he has always had that "star" aura about it. That was extremely evident when he made his entrance on this show and the entire audience sang along with his "glorious" theme song. I got goosebumps at the time and I have goosebumps just thinking about it now. Wow. Almas didn't receive as favorable of a reaction, but he did win over some of the critics with his impressive aerial abilities. Roode was the obvious choice to emerge victorious, but Almas desperately needs a restart or an overhaul of some sort before he fizzles out entirely. Furthermore, Roode needs a new finisher. That Pumphandle Slam doesn't look devastating whatsoever.
NXT Tag Team Champions The Revival def. Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa
Remember when the tag team division was NXT's sole glaring issue for many years? Yeah, me either. The Revival have done amazing things during their run on top over the last year and their latest title defense against Gargano and Ciampa was no exception. Gargano and Ciampa have such strong chemistry together that I'm relieved they didn't break up afterward as I feared they might. Meanwhile, The Revival are brilliant at in-ring psychology and the fans were buying into all of the nearfalls down the stretch. I figured Revival were retaining, but even I had my moments of doubt when they came close to victory. This was an excellent effort from both tremendous tandems. Are TM-61 next in line for a title shot?
NXT Women's Champion Asuka def. Bayley
I don't know whether it was because of a better environment or a better build, but I thought this match was infinitely more enjoyable than their initial bout back in Dallas. That was a great match as well, but despite the obvious outcome to this contest, the crowd seemed to be more engaged in the action this time around. Asuka's strikes and kicks are vicious, and Bayley had the crowd in the palm of her hand throughout. I really liked how the crowd reaction was split, too, so they weren't fully in favor of either fan favorite winning. Asuka retaining was the right move considering Bayley was main roster bound, and the show of respect from the fans during the post-match was the perfect send-off for the former champ.
Shinsuke Nakamura def. Samoa Joe to Win the NXT Championship
Can anyone else not wait to see Nakamura's entrance performed at WrestleMania? This might as well have been The Show of Shows because the energy in the arena for his iconic entrance was beyond breathtaking, and the crowd singing along with Nakamura's catchy theme was simply surreal to say the least. Joe was a fantastic foil to Nakamura, doing nothing to endear himself to the audience and putting him through the ringer. The match was hard-hitting, physical and an absolute blast. From where I was sitting, it certainly looked like Joe was legitimately hurt by the first Kinshasa, and I loved how it took two of them to keep him down. Nakamura's championship celebration was one of the coolest things to be a part of in person, and I'm excited to see what's in store for his reign as champion.
Of course, I'll be biased in saying this because I was there, but this was not only the greatest wrestling show I've attended to date (and that's covering quite a bit of ground), but the best all-around TakeOver special yet in my opinion. I thought it was not just as good as last year's installment in Brooklyn but better with Roode and Moon making their in-ring debuts, Itami hitting the GTS, and three terrific title matches (and an awesome ending to boot). It's arguable, I know, but it was without a doubt one of the most amazing experiences for me personally. I'm already anticipating TakeOver: Brooklyn next year as well!
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