War Raiders def. Undisputed Era to Win the NXT Tag Team Championship
In what should come as no surprise, Undisputed Era produced yet another outstanding tag team match. It makes complete sense why the company would count on them time and time again to kick off TakeOver with a bang, because all of their matches have a high standard of quality regardless of who they're up against. War Raiders have had a nice run in NXT up to this point, but they needed that one truly memorable match to stand out and this was it. Admittedly, I'm slightly disappointed The Street Profits weren't the team to beat Undisputed Era as NXT Tag Team Champions, but it was a cool moment for War Raiders, nonetheless.
Matt Riddle def. Kassius Ohno
I was hoping for this to be the barn-burner I know these two are capable of, but it ended up being just another good match between Riddle and Ohno. Don't get me wrong, I thought the intensity both guys brought to the table was excellent and it felt personal, but it could have been better with more time and a hotter closing stretch. That said, Riddle went over decisively as he should have and his flurry of elbow shots to Ohno's head was a unique finish that played off his past in the UFC.
Johnny Gargano def. Ricochet to Win the NXT North American Championship
I doubt I was the only one who had high expectations for this outing going into the event, and not only were those expectations met, I would certainly said they were exceeded. I realize we're barely a month into the new year, but this is probably my new favorite match of 2019 so far. Not only was the in-ring action as exhilarating as expected, the storytelling was spectacular with Gargano torn on whether he should journey over to the dark side in order to get the job done. Ultimately, he did by exposing the concrete floor on the outside, using it to his advantage, and going on to win the championship. Gargano rarely won when he played by the rules, but now that he doesn't care about anyone but himself, he's finally winning when it matters most. I loved everything about this and hope a rematch is in their future. The only problem with it was that it wasn't the main event and the next two matches had a tough time topping it.
NXT Women's Champion Shayna Baszler def. Bianca Belair
I was worried that the heel vs. heel dynamic of this match wouldn't work in their favor, and although it took them a while to win over the audience, Baszler and Belair eventually got them into it with fans rallying behind Belair. Speaking of whom, this was her strongest performance to date and I appreciated how she took Baszler to the limit and withstood all of her offense before losing. Sure, she's no longer un-de-feat-ed, but Belair gained a ton in defeat, and also didn't lose a ton considering Baszler needed Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke to interfere so she could retain her title. I'm curious who will dethrone Baszler as champion when the time comes for her to move on to the main roster because there aren't any obvious candidates aside from possibly Io Shirai.
NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa def. Aleister Black
Ciampa has been NXT Champion since unseating Black as champ back in July, so this rematch has been a long time coming. The chances of the championship changing hands here were fairly slim, but they still managed to get the crowd invested in the nearfalls and tell a terrific story with Ciampa targeting Black's leg (the same one he uses to hit Black Mass) throughout. Black was protected in defeat by kicking out of Ciampa's finisher twice, and unless he's main roster bound as early as the Royal Rumble, I have no clue what's next for him. That final shot of Gargano and Ciampa celebrating together on the top of the stage with their title belts was just beautiful. A heel DIY reunion is absolutely something I can get behind.
I apologize if I sound like a broken record whenever I sum up my overall thoughts on these TakeOver specials, but they're all above-average and knock it out of the park every single time. This installment was no exception, with each bout delivering in a major way. Even the weakest match of the night (Riddle vs. Ohno) was better than most of what we see on the main roster pay-per-views. Ricochet vs. Gargano was my favorite bout personally, but the tag team title opener was fantastic as well, so I wouldn't argue with anyone that went with that one, either. The streak of strong TakeOver shows continues. Needless to say, the Royal Rumble on Sunday will have its work cut out for it.
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