Is Johnny Gargano’s fairy tale over?
Welcome to one of the best times of the year: TakeOver! NXT knows how to do pay-per-view or Network Special or whatever and I expect that this will be no different. I can say that I am most looking forward to EC3 and Velveteen Dream and the main event tonight, the Last Man Standing title match between Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano. My vacation has come to an end — I traveled for over seven hours through many different types of weather and three states and now I am back in my chaotic home life, packing and painting rooms ahead of my first move in almost six years. The big difference this time is that I have a five year old daughter in the mix so there is more to be considerate of this time. I have a lot on my plate right now but TakeOver is a holiday and I intend on getting myself into the right frame of mind, cracking a couple of Polar Lime seltzers and watching some good f-----g wrestling. You know what, enough about anything, let’s just get right to it.
TakeOver opens with the best video package for a title match that I can remember in years. Tommaso Ciampa has been built to such a next level that I am at a general loss for words about him aside from to say that he is the most compelling wrestling character in all of the sports entertainment that I consume. The package shifts to set up how amazing this whole event will be and I am already shaking with excitement for it. I can not begin to imagine what Jonathan G Wrestling and Tommaso Blackheart Ciampa will do tonight to raise the already high bar. These dudes are giving Omega and Okada a run for their money as far as feuds and match quality goes.
The first match of tonight is the Tag Team Championship match. SHOCK THE SYSTEM. I am aware of but not familiar with Fish and O’Reilly prior to NXT and while I liked what I saw before Fish’s injury, I am a super big fan of Roddy and O’Reilly. They are a really great technical evil heel/stable tag team. I love Kyle playing the belt like Hogan every single time and Roddy just looks like a real star somehow. Out come their opponents and I still have not warmed up to this theme song for Moustache Mountain. They totally RULE and I am a huge fan but this song sucks and I really don’t think NXT has been good for their legacy regarding me personally. It is a very rare thing but it’s happening so far and I don’t see being able to do much more than what they have done so far. Roddy starts off by beating down both of MM. The match quickly turns into a real late 80s/early 90s style almost slapstick tag match. Moustache Mountain make it look fun how they f--k s--t up but I do much prefer when Undisputed take control and beat down the lovable Strong Style Collective members. MM almost have an accessible version of the Vaudevillians gimmick, being throwback gentlemen wrestlers. They both do throw mean punches but that all goes away sporadically as O’Reilly takes over with his kicks that seem to be able to reach across the ring. He is so lanky and good at throwing fists and feet. It’s f-----g amazing. Tyler bate pulls his usual amazing feat of strength where he has one on his shoulder and grabs the other by his feet and spins around a bit. That one goes soft but he then grabs Roddy while O’Reilly has him in a sleeper hold and suplexes Strong and it’s unbelievable. Tyler Bate gets stuck in Era’s corner for a while and he just takes a total beating from both the Messiah of the Backbreaker and The Kangaroo Octopus, Kyle O’Reilly. O’Reilly tags in and proceeds to torture the legs of Tyler Bate. These young dudes are seriously made of rubber because it’s gross how his leg bends. Strong goes to bounce onto Bate’s leg as it’s on the bottom rope and Bate counters by kicking Roddy right in the ass of the ring! When Trent Seven finally gets the hot tag he comes in like a dad going apeshit at a PTA meeting. Man, Trent Seven is really well built to take a stiff beating. Kyle O’Reilly strikes Seven like a cobra with punches and kicks. I can not get enough of O’Reilly. Roderick Strong’s submission is called the Stronghold but it’s just a crappy Boston crab. While that is happening, O’Reilly puts Bate in a modified arm bar and Bate picks O’Reilly up clean off the mat and power bombs him onto Roddy! THIS IS AWESOME.
After some outside ring fuckery and some amazing, Ricochet caliber maneuvering from Tyler Bate, Roddy kicks out of a Tyler Driver. Hot DAMN. Riley works another tweak to Bate’s knee and Roddy throws Bate Knee first into the top turnbuckle, O’Reilly tags in and he puts bate in a sort of Figure Four. Seven tries to come in the ring and the ref gets distracted, leading to Roddy going in the ring and pulling the whole submission closer to his corner. Then Seven goes and grabs the white towel and he does the thing where he almost throws in the towel but he eventually tosses it in the crowd. Once Seven gets tagged back in they take over and hit the Burning Hammer on O’Reilly and he F-----G KICKS OUT!! KYLE O’REILLY RULES!! NXT NXT NXT NXT NXT (I love that chant. it is such a smart thing that Trips fed the crowd)! Bate gets flashy and fucks the whole thing up leading to Seven taking a high/low double kick from Roddy and O’Reilly and holy f-----g S--T 1-2-3 IT’S OVER!! BOOM! the Undisputed Era retain THEIR titles and I couldn’t be happier to hear THIS theme song and see gold on members of that stable. Hell yes this was a great match. And honestly, these are ultimately four guys who are nobodies to people who only watch Raw and SmackDown and I feel like this would be appealing too most of them. Oh S--T War Raiders are there behind a celebrating Undisputed Era and they just absolutely decimate O’Reilly and Roddy. HOLY F--K YES.
(An advertisement for FX in the middle of this leads me to believe that may be a new home for NXT given the inked FOX deal. Hmmm.)
Oh lovely, the next match is going to be between EC3 and Velveteen Dream. This is one that I am torn on. Instinctually I am stoked for Dream and want him to win everything but I also feel like certain losses will help to shape and mold his character so I’m not really that personally protective of him in that way. EC3 on the other hand needs to have a rocket on him immediately. The promo for the match almost isn’t as good as ACTAUL build up to this match. It is still awesome, of course, but this build has been fun in real time. Notorious D.R.E.A.M. is on Dream’s tights tonight. He always comes out with custom tights and tonight is no exception. He also has written on his tights “Call me up, Vince. #Dreamover” Wow. Dude rules.
EC3’s music hits and he is doing a bunch of Jersey Shore looking bouncing around and dancing and I don’t like it at all. He looks like a million bucks and chiseled out of stone but he kinda looks like a 6 year old with a muscle suit on tonight. Ah well. Dream is also notably wearing a puffy vest that look like it’s made from a quilt. The bell rings and Dream immediately seems rattled and EC3 seems like a very seasoned veteran. EC3 works slowly and methodically on the arm of Dream and it’s a sort of show of strength and Dream kinda looks like a chump right now. Dream gets tied up across the top turnbuckle and EC3 kicks him in the gut three times, the third time leading to Dream crotching himself on the top rope. So far I feel like EC3 is a little boring and Dream is good at selling. The Dream hits EC3 with a twisting DDT on the outside of the ring! The match gets more interesting when Velveteen Dream takes the lead and EC3 sells. EC3 seems to have too much of a “B-rate John Cena with actual wrestling gear” though. Dream hits EC3 with a Rude Awakening and EC3 kicks out of a pin attempt. YOU THINK THEY CARE ABOUT YOU?? Dream drags EC3 out of the ring and smashes him around and a little on the announce table before tossing him back in the ring and missing another pin.
These two are totally gassed midway through this match and it gets real sloppy. The crowd is basically dead and only barely make some sound when dream goes up to the top rope, possibly hoping for a Purple Rainmaker, but to no avail. EC3 has Dream in a pin and picks him up from flat on the ground and powerbombs him for a 2 count. Everything is in slow motion. The superplex from the top turnbuckle took about 20 long seconds to position correctly. EC3 goes for a fireman’s carry on the edge of the ring and Dream counters and hits EC3 with the Dream Valley Driver. EC3 kicks out and pulls out a massive f-----g German suplex out of nowhere while continuing to try to sell his sore neck from the DDT outside earlier. HOLY F-----G HELL DREAM VALLEY DRIVER ON THE EDGE OF THE RING AND THEN A PURPLE RAINMAKER RIGHT ON THE SIDE OF HARDEST PART OF THE RING!! Now THAT was a f-----g finish to a match!! Holy mackerel that was a sick ending! When they show the replay you can see EC3 race to be pinned after getting hit with that Purple Rainmaker and it’s a little bad but f--k it, that was AMAZING. Best finish of the weekend so far. Oh my goodness.
The camera shows Matt Riddle sitting in the crowd and Mauro makes an announcement that he has signed with NXT. A middling crowd response but I have heard good things so I look forward to seeing him perform for sure.
Adam Cole (BAY BAY) vs Rick O’Shea is up next and now all of the previous promos make sense. The whole thing is awesome. I really hope this doesn’t turn into a thing a crazy spot-fest. Prince Puma comes out first and his music is fine and dandy. I thought his entrance vest that he is wearing was stupid till I saw the sort of angel wings on the back and I’m embarrassed to admit but I’m down with that. He looks like a star for sure but he still has a bit to go before he gets buried by Vince on the main roster. SHOCK THE SYSTEM. Adam Cole comes out looking cool as f--k and when the ring announcer says his name, 15,000 people at Barclays all yell BAY BAY and that is amazing. The bell rings and here we go. Rick looks like he is going to tear Adam Cole apart but he still looks cool and smooth as hell. Cole looks his usually cocky self. The match starts fairly slow and they don’t do much to speak of but then as they volley back and forth a bit, Ric ducks a kick from Cole who looks and smirks and says “You’re not that special”. That’s cerebral right there. Well another few minutes of Adam Cole yelling to Rick that YOU’RE NOT SPECIAL and I am starting to realize that something phenomenal is going to happen soon. Ricky does his little floppy dippy move where he lands in the ring on one knee with his fist pointing down and Adam Cole looks begrudgingly impressed. Cole gets the upper hand going in fairly short order and he just wears down Rick onto the mat. Keep the high flier off his feet, BAY BAY.
It says a lot that Adam Cole can make a headlock seem compelling. Nigel refers to Cole as being aggravating as one of his traits and I agree. Rick gets some offense in and manages to hit a standing shooting star press into another sort of second rope reverse 450 splash and this guy doesn’t even seem to be breaking a sweat yet. Out of nowhere Cole hits Ricky with a Backstabber! Cole resumes focusing on the neck of Slick Ric but Ricochet takes over and jumps from across the ring, catches Adam Cole’s super kick and then hits him with a sort of Lionsault, but Cole kicks him square in the f-----g face while Ric is mid air. That was just amazing timing. Holy s--t. I’m exhausted and this isn’t even over.
The two of them go back and forth, strike for strike, kick for kick, and it ends with Cole getting two kicks on Ric with a yell in between the two and then Ric nails Cole with a kick and they collapse on each other. MAMA MIA CHANT . Ricochet fakes that he thinks that Adam Cole is elsewhere and ends up reversing Cole’s super kick with a nasty slam but rather than go for the pin, Rick goes upstairs and Cole rolls to the other side of the ring. Rick hits Cole with a huricanrana from the apron to the outside of the ring and then tosses Cole back in the ring and 630 and Ricochet wins the North American Championship!!! WOW.
That was awesome. That match was awesome. I am bummed that Adam Cole doesn’t have that title though. That’s okay. He should get a better title — let Bobby Fish and O’reilly be tag champs and put the NA title on Roddy and I’ll be pleased. The replay on that 630 splash confirms that Ricochet is really impressive. Good for him. Thats a fine title to be on him and much better than it being the cruiserweight title. I feel even more sad about that term after the previously mentioned 83 Weeks about his Jericho where they talk about Cruiserweight being used as a derogatory term from Scott Hall to Jericho, for example.
Mark Henry and Kevin Owens are in attendance. Cool.
Women’s Championship match is up next and the promo goes all the way back to the inaugural Mae Young Classic. It is a nice package of showing how sort of adorable but also badass Kairi Sane is in the ring. It’s very impressive how, somehow, after all this time, they have built a nice, long game-style feud between these two. This is the rubber match and it has taken over a year to build to this. Sane has really improved a ton since her introduction to NXT. I am really looking forward to this match and I am naturally rooting for her as the SUPER DUPER babyface to beat the big bad wolf in Shayna Baszler. Kairi seems to have extra fur on her jacket this time and I think that is fine. I am officially a mark for her after that s--t she pulled a few days ago on NXT on Aliyah. That was totally vicious. Baszler looks cool as a cucumber and runs through her usual pre-match ticks with a focus that makes me feel nervous for Kairi. Sane knows how to play to the back of the room and she looks awesome tonight. Baszler gets a muted sort of boo tonight. Huh. Brooklyn is a pretty smart crowd, though, so I shouldn’t be surprised. Oooh, a shot of the other three of the 4 Horsewomen of MMA (including Ronda!) sitting in the crowd.
The match starts off pretty hot and Kairi Sane has absolutely no fear of Shayna Baszler and I am so excited and impressed right now! They pull some early submission attempts and then get forehead to forehead and Sane looks real tough. They trade punches and chops back and forth but it’s just a matter of time before Baszler picks a target and focuses on it. Tonight she is choosing to work on Sane’s knee. Baszler sits on Kairi’s back and proceeds to mangle her legs, bending them like rubber till I cant look anymore and then, of course, she bends her foot and stomps her toes a la Dakota Kai’s arm and that looks like s--t. Baszler beats on Sane some more and suddenly Sane’s inner beast is awakened and she yells COME ON and gets in Baszler’s face. She no sells a few chops and starts beating on Baszler. Sane slaps her foot a bit to wake it up and starts marching around the best she can with a messed up foot. Sane tries to pull off something from the top rope but Baszler reverses and tosses Sane off the top rope. Kairi Sane seems like such a believable threat to Shayna Baszler tonight and I would have never believed it. I barely bought it that Sane won the MYC against Baszler in the fist place. Kairi hits Baszler with an InSane Elbow into the back but goes up for a second and baller rolls out of the ring. Sane decides to instead go up for a cross body from the top turnbuckle to the outside of the ring. After tossing Baszler back in the ring she hits her with the InSane Elbow and Baszler kicks out!!! Sane then locks in the Anchor but Baszler reverses into the Kirifuda Clutch, god damn they make it look dramatic for Sane to get the bottom rope but she eventually gets a rope break. Baszler, frustrated, goes back to work on the right leg of Kairi Sane. This looks bad.
Sane reverses into a sort of Anchor but Baszler makes it to the rope. Sane wraps the Anchor on around the rope and pushes the ref’s 5 count. Kairi Sane is absolutely sick tonight. Her third attempt at the InSane elbow is countered with a pair of knees and Baszler goes into the Kirifuda Clutch which Sane counters into a pin for the 3 count!!! HOLY S--T THAT WAS AWESOME!!!! It rules how fun it is when the good guy wins in a well told match and story. Wrestling rules!!! Kairi Sane looks great with the title and I am very happy for her, personally and as a wrestling fan. She seems like she has worked very hard to get to this point in her career and it shows. Baszler doesn’t even f--k with her post match and I really appreciate that too. Sane looks like she has been hit by a Mack truck but she totally rules and Brooklyn is also pretty stoked about it.
Hoooooooo boy it’s time for the main event already? This is the moment I have been fearing. I’m glad Johnny is available to essentially fill the spot for Aleister Black. The video package for this Last Man Standing match is basically the same as it was last time I saw it, which was incredible. The folks at NXT have done a next level job of crafting this whole story. I am so nervous for this match. No pinfalls, count outs, or submissions. The only way to win is for the one of them to not reach the ref’s 10 count. My only concern is: what happens if they both go down for the count? Also, I started watching TakeOver a little late tonight on account of all the travel today but it would appear that they are giving this match a LOT of time. Gargano’s music stinks. NEXT. Well, Tommaso’s theme song is still great. This time he has a choir of 15,000 strong raining BOOs and A-----E chants on him. It’s nice to see that The Champ has his “serious Miz” Jacket on for the big show tonight. Wow a really loud chant of “F--K YOU CIAMPA” as he enters the ring. Huge BOOS as he holds up his title.
Before the bell even rings, Gargano goes ballistic on Ciampa, starting off just pummeling the living f--k out of him. Mauro just reminded me that this is in fact the third TakeOver in a row that these two have headlined and, yeah, I guess it has been. Johnny gets tossed into the ring stairs but seconds later is right back on the offense with Ciampa, just decimating him. Gargano is in the darkest place, peeling up the protective padding from the concrete ringside. These two are punching each other for real. Gargano f-----g TOSSED Tommaso right into Percy through the broadcast table! As Gargano tries to set up something with Ciampa on the US announce table, Ciampa grabs Johnny and tosses him through the Spanish announce table. Ciampa brings a chair into the ring and I can feel that being used soon, but not now. Ciampa gets Johnny in the corner and smashes his face with a running knee, then warns I’m NOT DONE YET, hits Johnny with ANOTHER KNEE and then, after setting up a chair on Johnny’s neck, Gargano reverses and hammers Tommaso on the knee with the chair. Ciampa puts Johnny into a sleeper hold and while I wasn’t going to mention that, he puts his legs right up on the bottom rope for leverage and it’s awesome. THE FAIRY TALE ENDS.
Ciampa puts Johnny in another sleeper hold after Gargano just makes the ref’s 10 count. Gargano eventually turns an attempted top rope maneuver from Ciampa into a lawn dart into a chair tied up in the second turnbuckle. While Blackheart gets a chance to recover and breathe a minute, Gargano sets up not one but two tables, one of which is upside down on the first table. That looks dangerous and I do NOT like this one bit. These two are just beating the ever living f--k out of each other. Ciampa brings Johnny back in the ring and just devastates him with a chair. Ciampa picks Johnny up and then hits him with three Project Ciampas, which is a god damn power bomb into a backstabber. How the f--k can Jonathan Wrestler-man get up from that?? Ciampa pulls up a chair to watch Johnny get counted out, who stands up quickly to super kick the sitting Ciampa as the ref counts 9!
As these two hit the inevitable punch for punch segment of the match I am just so impressed with the athleticism that they are both displaying. After these two knock each other down, the ref counts 1 and they both spring up and no-sell each other! They bash each other some more and the match moves back outside the ring and Ciampa hits The Fairy Tale Ending on the ring steps and I wanna throw up. Johnny obviously makes it to his feet and Ciampa looks annoyed. The Champ then grabs his tool box from under the ring, cutting the ropes for the ring, revealing more of the inner workings of a wrestling ring. He is helping to break down the ring already! What a guy! As Ciampa gets antsy and goes to grab Johny he gets blasted in the face with a fire extinguisher and next thing he knows, Johnny is in the ring, with a crutch and he just proceeds to go totally nuts on him, leaving the crutch in a thousand pieces. Ciampa keeps trying to get the upper hand on Johnny but Gargano keeps countering. Gargano hits Ciampa with a DDT onto the bare ring boards and Tommaso barely snakes out of the ring for a 9 count. Johnny dives through the second rope. Gargano hits a ring crew by accident and gets distracted, as Tommaso wails him and then hits him with a running knee with a chair on it THROUGH Johnny. Tommaso then buries Johnny under people, tables, chairs and barriers and Johnny still makes the 9 count. Holy f-----g s--t I can’t believe this match. This is incredible.
Ciampa almost looks like he is impressed but nevertheless he grabs a pair of cuffs and starts dragging Johnny around the ring. Johnny gets one of the cuff on Tommaso but Ciampa counters. As Tommaso tries to hit Johnny with a fireman’s carry at ringside, Johnny reverses, and these dudes can barely do s--t. They are working towards the double upside down tables and Johnny super kicks Tommaso through them, smashing Ciampa’s head into the table legs. Ciampa is up and moving via crutch by a 9 count and I am so impressed with this dude. Tommaso starts to retreat with his crutch and Johnny stalks him out the ring, kicking the crutch out from under him, and now he starts to dismantle the champion, reliving spots that Ciampa has unleashed on him. Gargano puts Ciampa in the Gargano Escape and Tommaso taps desperately. Johny handcuffs Tommaso to the stage by the TitanTron and just kicks the living f--k out of him, who is begging for his life. I’M SORRY JOHNNY!! I’M SORRY!!! IT’S TOO LATE FOR THAT NOW. HOLY S--T THIS FEELS REAL.
This is uncomfortable but it is so deserved, This is like Johnny turning to the dark side. JOHNNY, I’M SORRY. Gargano seems to be turning heel in the moment. Ciampa gets up at the count of 8 and Gargano looks at him and he immediately sits back down. As the ref counts 8, Johnny throws a knee into he face of Tommaso and then f-----g throws himself into a bunch of s--t. As he was clutching his knee, while handcuffed to the stage, Tommaso Ciampa slid off the side of the edge and technically stood up and won the f-----g match. Johnny Garagano is a f-----g idiot and I am inclined to refer to him as Johnny Garbage from now on. The dark side turn for him was pretty interesting but the way he just HAD to have one more finishing blow. That was clearly the flaw in the approach. Mauro says that Johnny may have dislocated his knee. Work or not, that is believable. Tommaso Ciampa deserved to win that match because he is smarter and he doesn’t moonlight as a bad guy, like Johnny tried to — he lives in that space. Tommaso Ciampa is gonna make every other competitor in NXT look like garbage when he is done with them, just like Johnny does right now. This guy gets it.
Well, TakeOver has come and gone. I enjoyed all of it very much, some of it much more than others. This main event that I just beheld was complete and utter devastation. Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa kicked the hell out of each other and it was awesome. Adam Cole looked really good losing to Ricochet. Undisputed Era still have Tag Team gold and I am happy about that. Kairi Sane is the new women’s champ and that match was phenomenal. It might have been my sleeper favorite match of the night. Sadly, the one match I had super high hopes for has already sat in my mind in an underwhelming way, even with the sick finish. I am still impressed with EC3 and Velveteen Dream but that match was a real stinker. All in all, I traveled for 7+ hours today through 3 states and I was as pumped up and awake and stuck to TakeOver as any other bit of television I get to watch, so that rules. I’m gonna go to bed now because I have more house painting to do tomorrow and then 7 hours of SummerSlam to watch.
Thanks for reading this and please please check out the podcast that the Good Brothers of AiPT! Wrestling are doing called Poor Taste Wrestling. I realize a plug right here is a bit of an echo chamber type thing but still, it rules and you should be listening to it if you aren’t already. My dudes know what the f--k is up.
Wrestling Rules. F--k the World. Party Hard.