TJRWrestling WWE NXT Takeover: Phoenix Preview (Ciampa vs. Black, Ricochet vs. Gargano)

Kurt: Welcome one and all to a special edition of the NXT Spotlight here at TJRWrestling. The time is upon us for the first NXT Takeover event of 2019, and just like the 5 events we got in 2018, this card is nothing short of loaded. We have a dream match for the North American Title, a first ever match-up for the Women’s Title, and a main event with a lot of intrigue heading into it. We’re back to our normal five match card, after only having four at War Games. Helping me once again is the namesake of this great site, Mr. John Canton. John, what are your initial thoughts on this card?

John: I’m looking forward to this show just like every Takeover. They are proven as great shows every time they do them and I think last year was the best year in NXT’s history in terms of Takeover events. There’s no reason to expect much of a drop off especially with this card they have set up. My complaint about the show is that guys like Velveteen Dream and Adam Cole should be on every Takeover, so the fact that they are sitting on the sidelines for this card is disappointing. I get that others need the spotlight too, but maybe they could have added one more match to get them on the show. It’s still an awesome show that I will enjoy. I just wish two of my favorites, Dream and Cole, were on the card.

Matt Riddle vs. Kassius Ohno

Kurt: We start with our only non-title match of the night. Some people may feel this storyline has worn out its welcome already because Riddle is 2-0 already and there’s no reason to believe he won’t go 3-0 here. However, I think it’s done a great job revitalizing Ohno as a legitimate heel and given him something to sink his teeth into. He was just a guy for months and months, but this has helped change that. I wasn’t thrilled with his match with Keith Lee a couple weeks ago on TV, but I can say more positive than negative about Ohno, which wasn’t the case for a long time. As for Riddle, I missed a lot of his hype on the indy scene, and the more I see of him on NXT, the more I realize I truly did miss out. He really doesn’t do that much, but there’s just an aura and charisma about him that is hard to deny. I easily see why people think he can be a true top star. As I said earlier, I don’t see any reason Riddle shouldn’t go 3-0 here and move on to potentially a title feud. John, what are your thoughts on this contest?

Prediction: Matt Riddle by Bro-Mission

John: If you follow NXT at all then you know how this will go. Kassius Ohno is in NXT almost as a player/coach that’s there to share his 20 years of experience while putting on some good matches as well. Matt Riddle’s a big star on the rise that could be a main event talent on the main roster within the next two years. They’ve been working together for a few months, so I fully expect this to be a hard-hitting match with some vicious strikes and in the end, it’s a win for Matt Riddle…bro. I expect this to be an excellent match and it might be a good choice for the opener with a likable guy in Riddle starting it off on a positive note.

Winner: Matt Riddle

NXT Women’s Title Match
Shayna Baszler (c) vs. Bianca Belair

Kurt: This match is going to get overlooked with some of the high profile matches on this card, and a relative newcomer that is a true Performance Center project in Bianca Belair, but I have legit high hopes for this match and think it will surprise some people. I pull for Bianca because she went to the University of Tennessee and is a #VFL, but even from an unbiased perspective, I think she offers a lot in terms of strength, personality, and creativity. I’m interested to see how much of her power she’ll be able to show off against Shayna since they’re similar stature, which is a rarity for both women. I think it will make them work outside their comfort zone. Sometimes that leads to magic, and sometimes it leads to a trainwreck. That’s part of my interest in this match.

Shayna gets better every time she’s out there, and she has even more visible confidence with her Horsewomen buddies behind her now. I want to pick a title change here, but I think it might be a little too soon. I think the more logical move here is to continue to build Bianca as a top contender, make her come close to winning a couple times, and have Shayna and/or the Horsewomen do something to Bianca that gets Shayna disqualified. Bianca stays UN-DE-FEAT-ED, but Shayna keeps the title and just makes Bianca more motivated. How do you like seeing a fresh matchup like this, John?

Prediction: Bianca Belair by Disqualification (Shayna Baszler retains)

John: I think we’re thinking about this match the same way, Kurt, except I’m going with the title change for Belair. I remember when Baszler won the title back from Kairi Sane when I wondered why they did the title change. It makes sense now because WWE might want to elevate Belair by putting the title on her while Baszler has done all she could in NXT. The story is that Belair hasn’t lost and they have been pushing that undefeated streak hard. Now that Belair has the biggest match of her career up to this point, can she get over the hump by beating a dominant champion? I say yes. This will probably be the worst match of the show in terms of star ratings, but I still think it can reach a three-star level like most Baszler matches at Takeover, so that is still pretty good.

Winner and New NXT Women’s Champion: Bianca Belair

NXT Tag Title Match
The Undisputed Era’s Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong (c) vs. War Raiders (Rowe and Hanson)

Kurt: Speaking of matches that are under the radar, I feel this is the match they’ve spent the least amount of time hyping up. War Raiders hadn’t been seen on TV in quite a few weeks, meanwhile Heavy Machinery had been involved with Undisputed Era. Then, the War Raiders show up to help EC3 out and they get a title shot all the sudden. Not that they don’t deserve it, everything was headed this direction after War Games, but the injuries seemed to have really put a derailment on the storyline and now they’ve shoehorned it back in.

This match seems like the match that’s least deserving of a title change for the reasons explained above, and as much as Undisputed Era has going for them, I don’t think now is the time to try and force a title change to help establish War Raiders. This is another storyline I would keep going for a few more weeks before doing the switch. I don’t want to predict another interference finish like I did in the women’s match, but Bobby Fish getting involved makes too much sense. Also, no Adam Cole on this show? That shows you how loaded this roster is. John, any potential for a title change here in your opinion?

Prediction: The Undisputed Era retains

John: I think it’s fair to say that the next NXT Tag Team Champions will be the War Raiders because they are the best choice among the teams in NXT right now. However, that doesn’t mean that the titles should change hands this Saturday at Takeover. I say keep the gold on Undisputed Era. As Kurt pointed out, this match hasn’t been that well. I thought after WarGames that there would be a lot more focus on Undisputed Era vs. War Raiders, but it’s been a bit disappointing in terms of the build.

The match will be great. You know the Undisputed Era can really go in the ring while the War Raiders have a lot of experience. I’m sure they have wrestled on live events recently as well. I’ll take the champs to retain possibly with an assist from Bobby Fish and/or Adam Cole because that fits into the Undisputed Era’s style. It can lead to another match at the next Takeover with the War Raiders winning the titles.

Winners: The Undisputed Era

NXT North American Title Match
Ricochet (c) vs. Johnny Gargano

Kurt: What a time to be alive. Johnny Wrestling vs. The One & Only. I truly feel we’ll look back on the run that Gargano is on, as one of the greatest runs in wrestling history. Right up there with Flair in 89, Hart in 97, the likes of those. It’s been that good in my opinion. I love how much Ciampa is still in his head and he has unknowingly become a puppet for Ciampa because he is so blinded by hate. Ricochet has been as advertised thus far. He carries himself like a star.

This match should close the show. Nothing is going to be able to follow it. Plus, this has more potential for a title change than the NXT Title match has, more on that later, so that drama closing the show can take this match to even another level. Going back and listening to Ciampa’s promo that put this match in motion, talking about he and Gargano running NXT and how that’s always been the dream for them, makes me want to pick a title change here. If Gargano wins, especially by less than clean circumstances, there’s a terrific story to be told there. Ciampa continues to believe he’s changed Gargano for the better and he’s got his understudy. Whereas Gargano is going to feel vindication by becoming a champion and feeling that now, more than ever, is his time to finally dethrone Ciampa. That could lead to an epic champion vs. champion match at Takeover for WrestleMania weekend. John, should we just go ahead and shut down Match of The Year voting for 2019 after this?

Prediction: New North American Champion, Johnny Gargano

John: This is probably my favorite match of the entire Royal Rumble weekend and I love the Rumble matches as well as Bryan vs. Styles on Sunday. Gargano is Mr. Takeover especially after the year he had last year and I know what Ricochet can do. This is the biggest match of Ricochet’s WWE run so far, so I fully expect him to do some of the craziest shit ever where we ask ourselves “what did he just do?” He’s the human highlight reel as much as anybody in wrestling today. The story going into the match has been pretty good with Gargano becoming obsessed about wanting to be the champion. The cheap shots by Johnny have helped add to the story as well. Ciampa’s involvement has helped too.

Match of the year contender? Absolutely. If you like pro wrestling (if you are reading this site, then you probably do), then you will love this match. One of the most frustrating things I deal with when I hear complaints about WWE is from people who bitch about main roster storyline or matches. That’s fine, so I ask those same people if they watch NXT. A lot of time they say no. I get that life is busy and you may not have time to watch the weekly TV show. That’s fine, but a match like this on a Takeover is definitely worth your time. Ricochet and Gargano are two of the best wrestlers alive (not just in WWE), so please make sure you watch this match because it’s going to be one of the best matches this year. I have no doubt about that.

Picking a winner is hard, but I’ll go with Ricochet retaining. I just get feeling that Johnny is going to go back to being a pure babyface soon and he shouldn’t have this title in his possession for that to happen. It would be cool if he blamed Ciampa for his actions of late, which then leads to Gargano back to being the face that we love and that leads to the next Gargano/Ciampa match. I also agree with Kurt that this should be the main event. I know it’s not the most important title in NXT, but that doesn’t matter to me. Put this match on last because it will be the best although the main event will be good too. My reason for picking Ricochet is I think that they want to make him the face of NXT this year before he’s on the main roster next year. They might have him keep the NA Title, then win the NXT Title at the same time and really elevate him this year. It’s just a feeling I have about the future of NXT. As for this match, I’m very excited about it.

Winner: Ricochet

NXT Title Match
Tommaso Ciampa (c) vs. Aleister Black

Kurt: Ciampa has been the glue of NXT for the last year. He’s exceptional in all facets of his game and has made everyone better around him. Including his challenger in this match. Black was struggling a bit as champion, perhaps putting too much pressure on himself having to try and keep up with the DIY feud, but ever since losing to Ciampa, he has been better than ever. A lot of that has to do with how NXT has presented Black in recent weeks, using cool effects much like Velveteen Dream, to make him feel special, and it’s working. He’s ready for the main roster now, and I feel this match will be his swan song before he is a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble. I think the only thing hurting this match is I don’t think anyone believes Black will actually win. Which is why I would put this on before the North American Title match. It ensures the crowd will be into the match fully. As good as these guys are, even they can’t follow Gargano and Ricochet, so why make them try? Put them in a position to succeed and let them beat the hell out of each other. John, are you sensing this is Black’s final appearance in NXT?

Prediction: Tommaso Ciampa retains

John: This should be a very competitive match with Ciampa finding a way to retain his title again. These two have wrestled eachother quite a bit in their careers, so the chemistry is definitely there. I’m sure they will set up a few spots where it looks like Black will win although I doubt many people watching will think there will be a title change here. That might hurt the match a bit.

I agree with what Kurt said about this being Black’s NXT goodbye and he’ll debut on the main roster at the Royal Rumble on Sunday. Black will likely be on Smackdown because that’s where his new wife Zelina Vega is. Out of everybody in NXT, the case can be made that Black is the most ready for the main roster due to his experience, his unique look and the potential of his character. I’m excited about what’s next for him.

I’m not sure what the plan is for the next Takeover during WrestleMania weekend. It could be a multi-man match since they haven’t done one of those for the main NXT in a while. Maybe Ricochet becomes a double champion. Gargano could become a face again to go after Ciampa. I don’t know the plan and that’s okay because I have faith in NXT delivering the goods like they always do. For this match, I’ll go with a Ciampa victory in what should be an excellent match.

Winner: Tommaso Ciampa

Kurt: Thanks for joining us on our preview for what should be a fantastic NXT Takeover event. I will have live coverage on Saturday Night, and John will have his recap on Sunday morning as we all wait in anticipation for the Royal Rumble that evening! Be sure to check us out on Twitter as well.

Kurt: @KTankTJR
John: @JohnReport