Matt Riddle def. Kassius Ohno
As Riddle himself said, this match was originally advertised to take place on next week's episode of NXT, but I guess officials decided to hold it a few days early at TakeOver instead (and truthfully, that should have been the case, anyway). Well, this wasn't much of a match at all because Riddle literally beat him with one move almost instantly. I didn't watch the Kickoff show, but apparently Ohno said there that he would "expose [Riddle] in one second flat," so Riddle turned the tables by beating him in a few seconds. I was looking forward to them killing it against each other, but I can't argue with Riddle going over strong in his TakeOver in-ring debut. Hopefully a rematch is in the cards eventually.
NXT Women's Champion Shayna Baszler def. Kairi Sane in a 2-out-of-3 Falls Match
You had to know interference from Marina Shafir and Jessica Duke was coming, but I was disappointed that it happened so early in the outing and that it continued to happen throughout the bout. NXT rarely pulls that card, so it bothered me because I was hoping for something more straightforward considering where they are in the feud (I actually assumed this would be the blow-off, but apparently not). This was fun while it lasted, but it's also pretty ridiculous that a 2-out-of-3 Falls match would be 10 minutes long. I don't think any of their previous encounters went under that, so I thought that was illogical and took away from what could have been a barn-burner. On the bright side, Dakota Kai and Io Shirai coming to Sane's aid toward the end was well-received by the crowd and should lead to a hell of a six-woman tag team matchup on NXT TV.
Aleister Black def. Johnny Gargano
The buildup to this bout was brilliant, and sure enough, this was the perfect mix of exhilarating action and spectacular storytelling. Seriously, I don't think there was a single dull moment from start to finish. Gargano is channeling his inner heel exceptionally well and his change in character has even affected his offense a bit, which I love. Black was on his A-game as always and he had a phenomenal performance in his first bout back from injury. The crowd ate up everything they did and provided an electric atmosphere for this outing. I predicted Gargano would pick up the victory via nefarious means, but there was nothing wrong with Black winning, either. The finish was fantastic as well with Black hitting Gargano with not one but two Black Mass kicks as retaliation for attacking him over the summer. I'm excited to see Gargano's dark persona continue to evolve.
NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa def. Velveteen Dream
Seeing as how this event emanated from Los Angeles, it was awesome of Dream to pay homage to Hollywood Hulk Hogan by donning his colors and t-shirt design (he did the same with Hogan's traditional red and yellow back at TakeOver: Chicago II). Hell, he even hit some of his signature moves including the big boot and leg drop at one point. Dream is such a huge fan favorite right now that it wasn't difficult for fans to rally behind him here, even though they didn't buy into most of the nearfalls early on. That said, Dream came close on a handful of occasions down the stretch (especially after that diving elbow) and the drama and suspense was outstanding. From Dream's focus on Ciampa's previously injured knee to the mind games they played on each other to Ciampa looking for every opportunity to steal the win, everything about this was terrific. Dream fought valiantly, but it wasn't enough to earn him the title, at least on this night. Fingers crossed we haven't seen the last of Dream in the NXT Championship picture.
NXT North American Champion Ricochet, WWE United Kingdom Champion Pete Dunne and War Raiders def. Undisputed Era in a WarGames Match
Similar to last year's WarGames main event, this started out slow, but the pace picked up with every new person that joined the match. Although a majority of that first half consisted of brawling and beatdowns, they kept things interesting with their chemistry and I largely agreed with the order of entrants. I liked the story they told with Bobby Fish sabotaging Dunne's cage to ensure he couldn't enter when he was supposed to, taking advantage of the numbers game in the meantime by brutalizing the babyfaces with weapons. Once everyone was in there, it was equally as enjoyable and as extreme as last year's WarGames affair and I appreciated that the spotlight was shared by all eight competitors. Ricochet may have had the most memorable showing, especially after he came flying off the top of the cage on top of the rest of the wrestlers. Those final few minutes in particular were a blast and the babyfaces finally got a measure of revenge over Undisputed Era after months of being put through hell by them.
This may sound strange, but I honestly had my reservations about this show once the first two matches were rushed. However, any shred of doubt I had was wiped away by the incredible Black vs. Gargano match, followed by the stellar NXT Championship clash. Plus, the main event delivered as expected (despite dragging at times), so all things considered, this was another above-average TakeOver special. These shows never cease to entertain and I'm always amazed how NXT raises the bar every time TakeOver comes around.
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