This weekend isn’t just about Wrestlemania, tonight we may have the single most stacked NXT TakeOver event in history. Johnny Gargano vs Tommaso Ciampa is my pick to be the best match of the weekend, at the last TakeOver the NXT Championship match got Dave Meltzer’s fabled five stars, we have a triple threat tag team title match that is filled with talent, and we debut a new championship. It is the last on that list that I’m focusing on here, because not only do we have a new title at stake, we also have six men vying for it. And ladders.
It reminds me of the kinds of phrases I used to describe WarGames back in November. Chaos, carnage, destruction; and all in the best possible kind of way.
First let’s talk about the title. It makes total sense that WWE would want to introduce more regional titles past the United Kingdom Championship, but I’m a little surprised that North America was the second one on the list. What with pushing Jinder Mahal so strongly last year, and the Greatest Royal Rumble event at the end of this month, I would have thought one of those regions would have been next in line.
I suppose the issue was the lack of current established and recogniseable talent from those areas to make the title mean something. That’s something WWE is still trying to build up. But I think John Cena confirmed that they were running a similar event at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia, which has a 100,000 capacity. And there are some great talents from out in Australia and New Zealand to warrant it.
But I suppose a North American Championship is most practical, and can be introduced immediately. Most of WWE’s talent already comes from Canada, the US or Mexico anyway, so there were no issues there.
The United Kingdom Championship was first awarded as part of a tournament between UK competitors. Tonight, the field is made up of five North Americans and a European. It’s nitpicking, I accept that, but I would’ve liked to see the first match be made up entirely of American, Canadian or Mexican wrestlers. I know Johnny Gargano, Roderick Strong and Adam Cole have all competed for the UK Title, but for me it would’ve really pushed the idea that it was the best of the best in the region who won the belt. So even if only for this match, I think it possibly should’ve been region exclusive stars.
That’s not a knock on Killian Dain at all, I’m a big fan of the guy and he could have yet another star making performance tonight. Plus, the story he has going with Lars Sullivan in a battle to be NXT’s premier monster warrants his inclusion. But I think those two will play the savage role tonight, taking the big weapon spots and dominating for large chunks of the match.
But here’s the thing, I think they might take each other out of contention for the match. Similarly to the fatal-4-way leading up to TakeOver: Philadelphia also including Gargano and Aleister Black, where Dain put Sullivan through the announce table, there will be some spot away from the ring that takes both of them out of the equation for the night. I suspect Sanity will be going up to the main roster, so Dain and Sullivan will probably have one more match at the next NXT tapings, where Sullivan will win to become the dominant monster of the yellow brand.
Velveteen Dream is another who could have a breakout performance in this match. He is one of those guys in NXT who has clear superstar potential, but maybe isn’t quite ready for a top title run or the call up. This title is the perfect solution for guys like him. But I’m not sure he’s going to win. Again he’s going to be involved in some really cool moments, but there are other people who are more ready, and need it more.
One of those being Adam Cole. There is a bit of a question mark over whether he will be in this match or not, because of the three options William Regal gave him on Wednesday night. Cole can either pull double duty and compete in this match and the Tag Team Championship match, leave Kyle O’Reilly on his own in that match or pull out of this ladder match. I’d imagine he’ll compete in both, and I’d imagine he’ll win one and lose win, but I can’t make up my mind which way round that will be.
On one hand, he is the best option to win the North American Championship. It gives the Undisputed Era something else to brag about, he is the best in the ring of the non-debutants in the match, and most importantly it would keep him away from Aleister Black when Black presumably becomes NXT Champion. But on the other, I can’t see Strong and Dunne winning the tag titles, and if the Authors of Pain win them back then the division hasn’t progressed at all in the last year. So I’d be picking Cole and O’Reilly to retain those.
All of which eventually takes us to the two new faces in the ladder match, who would be the best two options to win if it’s not going to be Cole. Let’s start with Ethan Carter III, or EC3. He was in NXT before as Derrick Bateman, and he was entertaining then, but he really found himself when he left and went to TNA. He returns a much bigger star than he was when he left, and he would be an accomplished choice to be the first man to win the belt.
And then there’s Ricochet. I’m so excited to see what he does in NXT. He is an incredible flyer, but he can exchange holds just as well as anybody too. This is an arena where he should be able to absolutely shine on his TV debut, with his flashy offence being perfectly suited to the madness of a six man ladder match. I’d love to see him win the North American Championship, but instinct tells me no. I get the feeling Ricochet’s push to the top of Wednesday nights is going to be paced similarly to Aleister Black’s, with him not winning titles until a really big event a little way down the line – either on the Royal Rumble or Wrestlemania weekends next year.
So there we have it, if Adam Cole is in the match, he’s probably my pick to win? It all depends on the dynamic of his two matches, what order they go on and the result of the tag match. I think he’s the safest bet. But if it’s not going to be Adam Cole Baybay, I think EC3 would be next in line. He’s probably the next most well rounded man in the match. That is of course unless Cole pulls out and is replaced by someone else, and let’s face it at Wrestlemania weekend who knows. Drew McIntyre’s return to the company this time last year came out of nowhere, so anybody could show up.
And just to wrap this all up, I mentioned it at the start but it’s worth repeating that this is possibly the most stacked TakeOver NXT has ever had. Considering the plethora of talent that has passed through the yellow brand, that’s no mean feat at all. This has a very good chance of outperforming Wrestlemania 34, and considering how strong that line up is again that’s saying something. I sometimes talk about matches having the potential to be special. But in this case “special” applies to the whole show. When the show is inevitably fantastic, remember how great it is to be a wrestling fan right now, and that NXT typifies that.