NXT PPV 2018Recaps (PPV/Event)

[PPV Recap] ‘NXT TakeOver: New Orleans’ – Gargano vs. Ciampa, Almas vs. Black

Date: April 7, 2018
Venue: Smoothie King Center (New Orleans, LA)
Commentators: Mauro Ranallo, Nigel McGuinness, & Percy Watson

JVPW is a site focused mainly on classic pro wrestling but I’ve decided to start sprinkling in some ‘current day’ stuff as well, beginning with tonight’s NXT TakeOver: New Orleans. On paper this show looks INSANE, with a new championship making its debut, a grudge match months in the making, and the possible ascension of a man who made his debut at last year’s WrestleMania weekend event to NXT Championship glory. Hell to the yes. Let’s go!

CHAMPIONS

  • NXT Champion: Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas
  • NXT North American Champion: VACANT
  • NXT Women’s Champion: Ember Moon
  • NXT Tag Team Champions: The Undisputed Era (Adam Cole & Kyle O’Reilly)

LINEUP

  • LADDER MATCH: EC3 vs. Velveteen Dream vs. Killian Dain vs. Lars Sullivan vs. Adam Cole vs. Ricochet for the vacant NXT NORTH AMERICAN CHAMPIONSHIP (*****)
  • Ember Moon [c] vs. Shayna Baszler for the NXT WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP (***1/4)
  • DUSTY RHODES CLASSIC TOURNAMENT FINALS: The Undisputed Era [c] vs. The Authors of Pain vs. Roderick Strong & Pete Dunne for the NXT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP (**3/4)
  • Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas [c] vs. Aleister Black for the NXT CHAMPIONSHIP (***1/2)
  • UNSANCTIONED MATCH: Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa (*****)

*****

-Show opens with a darkened arena and a loud ‘NXT’ chant from the faithful. A bell starts tolling, leading us into a live performance of the TakeOver theme song: ‘It Follows’ by Cane Hill intercut with clips of the various moments the led us to this moment. It’s cool production-wise but the song is craaaazy lame, at least to me. Are we not over this whole pseudo-metal thing yet? This could have been part of an Attitude Era show.


LADDER MATCH
EC3 vs. Killian Dain vs. Adam Cole vs. Velveteen Dream vs. Lars Sullivan vs. Ricochet for the vacant NXT NORTH AMERICAN CHAMPIONSHIP

The North American Championship looks like it would fit right into the 70s/early-80s era of the WW(W)F and I absolutely love it. About time NXT got a secondary singles championship; there’s so much talent on this brand, it’s nice to give them another title to battle for…provided they don’t forget it exists like what tends to happen to secondary championships on the main roster. It’s going to take a few months for me to get used to seeing EC3 on a WWE program, especially since he kept the TNA gimmick (minus the Carter connection, obviously).

Bell rings and the crowd is already chanting ‘THIS IS AWESOME’. Things break down quickly, leaving Sullivan and Dain, the two MEATY DUDES of the match, ready to butt heads. EC3 stops that by being a jerk, and another brawl breaks out on the floor until people get flattened by a springboard shooting star press from Ricochet. HELL YEAH. Ricochet sets up a ladder, Dream attacks him. Ricochet speeds all around the ring, hitting a headscissors into a beautiful dropkick and the crowd goes nuts. Dream backdrops Ricochet to the apron and grabs the top rope to stop a springboard move. Dream goes climbing, Cole pulls him off and peppers him with forearms. Dain climbs the apron, Dain leaves the apron courtesy of an enzuigiri. EC3 goes on the attack, hitting a rolling neck snap on Cole but getting belted with a lariat by Sullivan. Powerslams for EC3 and Cole, Dain throws him out and follows up with a TOPE SUICIDA. Dain picks Dream up in a fireman’s carry and catches a crossbody from Ricochet but gets stopped with a big boot and they all fall to the mat. Dain beats down Cole, Dream beats down Ricochet. EC3 joins the brawl, Sullivan grabs a ladder and heaves it into his opponents, using it as a battering ram. Sullivan throws Dain into a ladder set up in the corner and drops Dream onto another ladder with a gorilla press. LARS CANNOT BE CONTAINED. Sullivan climbs the ladder, Ricochet tries to take him down with a sunset bomb but he hangs onto the ladder. Dream and others help him out and finally Sullivan goes down. Cole tries to seize the moment but Dain stops him with a forearm, then backdrops Ricochet right onto the ladder. Nice. Dain climbs the ladder, EC3 hits him with a flying faceslam and forms an alliance with Cole to try and take out Sullivan. The new best friends for now go after Dain next on the floor, building a bridge between the announce table and the ring so they can whip him into it. Ouch.

Cole and EC3 high five, but EC3 takes it a step too far by doing his own version of ‘ADAM COLE BAYBAYYY’. Cole drops him on the ladder then holds a Superkick Party for everyone in the ring, including one to a slingshotting Ricochet. Cole starts climbing, Sullivan pushes the ladder over. Dream rams Sullivan with a ladder, then hits a trio of Purple Rainmaker elbows. Dream struggles to get a ladder set up, Sullivan shoves him into the corner and goes for a ladder splash but Dream throws it right in his big ol’ skull. Dream climbs the ladder, which is set up in the corner, and hits a SUPER PURPLE RAINMAKER. He’s beyond lucky that ladder didn’t fall over, goddamn. Dream resets the ladder under the belt and gets his hands on it but EC3 stops him with a corner buckle bomb INTO ANOTHER LADDER. Poor guy. EC3 stops a couple of contenders, then starts climbing. Cole pulls him off and goes climbing, EC3 clubs him from behind and hits a SUPER TKO. Dain pulls EC3 off the ladder and drops him with a bicycle kick. He climbs a couple rungs but Cole stops him with a series of jabs. Dain drops a ladder on EC3 and hits a senton, then heads to the middle buckle. Cole hits him from behind and applies a backpack sleeper, but it don’t mean NOTHIN’ as Dain hits a VADER BOMB ONTO EC3 ANYWAY.

Dain and Sullivan tease fighting once again but in comes Ricochet to stop that with bicycle kicks. Sullivan catches him and throws him all the way across the ring to the feet of Dain. Dain heeds the chants of ‘THROW HIM BACK’ and tosses Ricochet right back at Sullivan, Ricochet bounces off the mat and to the floor. The big men go clubberin’, Dain dropping Sullivan with a lariat and Sullivan catching a HUGE CROSSBODY to counter with a powerslam. Nice. Sullivan climbs the ladder, Ricochet pulls him off and belts him with a superkick. He climbs the ladder, Sullivan dips it so Ricochet changes gears and HITS DAIN AND COLE WITH A MOONSAULT ON THE FLOOR. Ricochet clears Sullivan from the ring, EC3 attacks him from behind and seats him on the top buckle. Ricochet fights back with a kick and EC3 falls on a ladder, leaving him open for a SHOOTING STAR PRESS hurting both men. Ricochet climbs, Dream stops him but eats a right hand. Dream creates a bridge from the buckles to another ladder. Ricochet knocks him onto it, Dream kicks him and crotches him on the top buckle. Dream picks him up and HITS A ROLLING DEATH VALLEY DRIVER ON THE GODDAMN BRIDGE LADDER.

Dream ends up on the floor, Sullivan belts him with a clothesline and lays him on the second bridged ladder between the apron and the commentary table. Sullivan climbs the apron and HITS A FREAK ACCIDENT ON EC3 THROUGH THE LADDER AND THROUGH VELVETEEN DREAM. WHAT THE ABSOLUTE HELL. There’s a THIRD bridged ladder and Dain lays Ricochet on top of it. He climbs the apron, Cole belts him with forearms and PUTS HIM THROUGH THE LADDER AND RICOCHET WITH A SITOUT SLAM ARE YOU KIDDING ME. After a minute or so of everyone trying to recover Sullivan gets to his feet and starts climbing the ladder towards the championship. He gets his hand on the leather, Dain climbs the other side and they start trading right hands. EC3 slides in as well and hits both men in the kidneys with another ladder. He sets it up next to the first one and starts climbing one side, Cole on the other. Dream gets involved with a third ladder, setting it up next to the other two. Ricochet climbs the other side and they all duke it out for that gold. Cole takes EC3 to the mat with a flying Russian legsweep, Sullivan and Dain end up on the canvas while Dream and Ricochet trade punches. Dream almost gets the belt but Ricochet takes both of them out with an AVALANCHE NECKBREAKER. Sullivan and Dain end up on the ladders, the former hitting the latter with a Freak Accident. A bleeding Sullivan climbs the ladder, Ricochet LAUNCHES ONTO HIS BACK AND PULLS HIM DOWN INTO THE LADDER NEXT TO THEM. My god, he’s not dead is he? Okay cool he’s moving. Ricochet climbs the ladder, Cole dips it and sends him flying out to the floor, then climbs the ladder and grabs the championship!

Adam Cole defeated EC3, Velveteen Dream, Lars Sullivan, Killian Dain, and Ricochet to win the NXT NORTH AMERICAN CHAMPIONSHIP (31:18)

  • MY GOD. SH*T. What a ladder match. A beautifully constructed battle between six men all vying for the championship, making it look like the most important title in pro wrestling history in this one. Everything about this one was tremendous; every wrestler got their big OMG moment, Sullivan and Dain putting people through ladders to one up each other was INSANE, crazy ass highspots from Ricochet that undoubtedly is going to catapult him near the top of the heap immediately, and Velveteen Dream had the performance of his goddamn career so far. And this is only the OPENING MATCH of this show. Lord lord lord lord. I’m sorry if none of this makes sense, I am absolutely THROWN by this one in the best way possible. (*****)

We get a breather with a video recapping the feud between Ember Moon and Shayna Baszler. Good luck ladies, that match is going to be CRAZY HARD to follow.


Ember Moon [c] vs. Shayna Baszler for the NXT WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP

Moon may be out first, but she gets a baller live music introduction so that makes up for it. I love live music entrances so much, thank the wrestling lords for WrestleMania weekend. Fellow Horsewoman Ronda Rousey in the crowd, the night before her own wrestling debut, to cheer Baszler on. Rousey seems to be having the time of her life this weekend between this and the Hall of Fame, and it’s great. I wasn’t a huge fan of the first Moon/Baszler match back in January but I’m hoping for good stuff here regardless. Should be pretty damn hard-hitting with Baszler involved, that’s for sure.

Bell rings and Baszler immediately drops Moon to the floor with a right hand, her bully smirk in full effect. Baszler IS SUCH A GOOD DOUCHEBAG HEEL. Moon gets the upper hand with a dropkick into the ring steps and after a pinfall attempt she locks in a Crossface trying to beat Baszler at her own game. Baszler rolls halfway out of the ring to force a break then bails completely to regroup. Moon tries a penalty kick, Baszler catches it and sends her face-first into the apron. Baszler goes after Moon’s left arm, Moon manages to escape that but can’t escape a running knee to the head followed by a deadlift gutwrench suplex. Baszler locks in a bow and arrow, Moon escapes and hits a palm strike, Baszler hits her with a high knee strike, and Moon rolls her up for a two-count. Nice sequence. Baszler belts Moon with another knee strike to the nose for the 1…2…Moon barely kicks out. Baszler applies the Kirifuda Clutch but Moon reverses the momentum and drops on top of her to force her to break it. Moon dodges a knee strike and goes a kickin’, culminating in a running front-facing dropkick. Moon goes for the pin but Baszler manages to kick out, frustrating the champion. Baszler ducks a springboard crossbody and tries to stomp the elbow but Moon escapes and sweeps the legs. Moon steps on her hand and STOMPS THE ELBOW. Moon wrenches the arm, and Baszler, down to the mat and covers for the 1…2…kickout. A pained Baszler crotches Moon on the top turnbuckle and kicks her right in the back of the neck, followed by a dropkick to the spine. Baszler then goes to the ring post and POPS HER SHOULDER BACK INTO THE SOCKET BY RAMMING AGAINST THE POST. Yikes, man.

Moon kicks Baszler off the apron and hits an Eclipse ON THE FLOOR. Moon and Baszler barely make it back in, Baszler applies the Kirifuda Clutch but Moon breaks it by attacking the left arm. Baszler moves into a triangle choke, Moon LIFTS HER UP and escapes with a powerbomb for the 1…2…BASZLER KICKS OUT. Moon measures Baszler and goes for the Eclipse, but Baszler CATCHES HER and locks in the Kirifuda Clutch for the third time! Baszler holds her own hair to keep pressure applied, her left arm still too injured to be of use, and that’s amazing. Moon tries to free herself by pulling the hurt arm but doesn’t have enough left to do it. She grazes the bottom rope with her foot, Baszler rolls her away. Moon almost fades out and tries to shift the weight onto Baszler’s shoulders for a pinfall but Baszler kicks out and wrenches it in even more, Moon finally passing out.

Shayna Baszler defeated Ember Moon [c] via KO to win the NXT WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP (12:56)

  • Much better than their match back in January by a mile. A great fight and Baszler came off like the toughest human being alive, ramming the post to pop her shoulder back in and using her own hair to wrench in the Kirifuda Clutch when her arm wasn’t strong enough. Absolutely insane. Moon was great as well, having learned from her previous encounters and targeting Baszler’s left arm but it just wasn’t enough. She came in like a champion and fought with the heart of a champion but it was just too much. Great stuff. (***1/4)

After a regular commercial Paige introduces a sneak peak of Fighting with My Family, an upcoming biopic based on her life. It actually looks…good? It’s no See No Evil but what is, really? Besides See No Evil 2 of course.

Cut backstage where a medical official is checking on Adam Cole, who wants to cancel the NXT Tag Team Championship match he’s supposed to compete in. Poor baybaaaaaay. After that we launch into a video recapping the feud between the three teams involved in said championship match, which is also acting as the Dusty Rhodes Classic finals.


DUSTY RHODES TAG TEAM CLASSIC: FINALS
The Undisputed Era (Adam Cole & Kyle O’Reilly) [c] vs. The Authors of Pain (Akam & Rezar) [w/ Paul Ellering] vs. Roderick Strong & ‘The Bruiserweight’ Pete Dunne for the NXT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP

Cole has his ribs taped following his ladder match win earlier in the night. He does not look happy to be in this match as well, but he’s been forced into it and he’s ever the pro. O’Reilly may have to wrestle this one completely on his own. Dustin Rhodes and Jeff Jarrett are shown hanging out in the audience. A few months before this Jarrett could have easily mistook NXT for TNA. Dustin has a polka dot pocket square to honor his father.

Bell rings and it’s chaos almost immediately, Authors of Pain emptying the ring and hitting a neckbreaker/powerbomb combo on O’Reilly for the 1…2…Cole breaks it up just in time. The AoP do not take kindly to this and Rezar tosses his ass out like yesterday’s garbage. AoP clear the Spanish announce table and put Cole through it with a double powerbomb (after he almost slipped out). THAT POOR GUY. O’Reilly belts Akam with a diving knee strike then drops Rezar. Back in the ring O’Reilly and Dunne trade armbars, Dunne gets cleared out of the ring and Strong hits O’Reilly with a backbreaker. Strong clears Akam off the apron, O’Reilly clears out Rezar then hits another backbreaker for the 1…2…O’Reilly escapes. O’Reilly puts Strong in a triangle choke, Akam tries to put the boots to him and O’Reilly applies an Ankle Lock. Rezar finally breaks it all up with a powerbomb onto O’Reilly, using Dunne as his projectile. Things settle down and AoP focuses on wearing Strong down. Strong escapes a chinlock but can’t escape an overhead belly-to-belly suplex from Rezar. O’Reilly attacks Rezar with strikes, Cole still writhing on the floor. Rezar suplexes O’Reilly and it’s finally too much as he falls through the ropes and right onto the floor. Dunne finally gets the hot tag, laying into Akam with a series of strikes. O’Reilly attacks Dunne, Dunne lands on his feet after a release German suplex and kicks him in the back of the neck. O’Reilly and Dunne trade strikes and a double palm strike that leaves them wobbly enough for Akam to wipe them both out with a double lariat. AUTHORS OF PAIN FOREVER. AoP hit the Super Collider, then The Last Chapter on O’Reilly for the 1…2…Strong breaks it up out of nowhere.

Rezar sends Strong into Dunne, Strong hits him with a high knee strike and hits an Olympic Slam for the 1…2…REZAR KICKS OUT. Dunne tags back in, O’Reilly grabs his leg so Strong makes him pay with an apron suplex. Strong and Dunne double team Rezar, Dunne covering for the 1…2…Akam makes the save. Strong sends Akam to the floor but misses a wrecking ball dropkick. Akam charges, Strong sends him into the steps. Dunne hits O’Reilly with an enzuigiri and The Bitter End for the 1…2…STRONG BREAKS IT UP AND TURNS ON DUNNE, HITTING HIM WITH THE END OF HEARTACHE AND PUTTING O’REILLY ON TOP FOR THE 1…2…3!

The Undisputed Era [c] defeated The Authors of Pain and Roderick Strong & Pete Dunne via pinfall to retain the NXT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP and win the 2018 DUSTY RHODES TAG TEAM CLASSIC (11:43)

  • A good match that unfortunately will be overshadowed by everything else on the show so far, except for that Strong turn. It was a cool moment and an honest to goodness surprise, but at the same time it didn’t make a lot of sense since Strong spent 2017 feuding with The Undisputed Era. Kinda felt like when The Giant joined the nWo out of nowhere back in 1996. They needed another guy for Tag Title defenses though, so it’s a good move on that end. (**3/4)

Strong grabs Cole’s Undisputed Era armband and puts it on his own arm, signifying his heel turn and new alliance. Even Bobby Fish comes out on crutches to celebrate. Right on. Pete Dunne is gonna break a lot of fingers coming up, I bet. Why didn’t they just turn him? That would have made more sense, but hey whatever.

Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas [c] [w/ Zelina Vega] vs. Aleister Black for the NXT CHAMPIONSHIP

Black made his debut a year before at TakeOver: Orlando, defeating…Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas. Funny how things shake out in a year, eh? I never expected Almas to be NXT Championship-worthy but proved it and then some, having arguably the best match I have ever seen back in January against Johnny Gargano. Kinda sad it’s not getting the main event spot tonight, but the Gargano/Ciampa feud has been front and center so I guess it makes sense.

Black immediately goes on the attack, hitting a series of strikes and sending the champ crashing to the floor. Almas walks around the ring trying to get his bearings together but Black isn’t about that, hitting a beautiful springboard moonsault. Back in the ring Black locks in a modified Octopus hold, then switches to a sunset flip for a two-count. Almas once again rolls out to the floor and Black continues the assault. He rolls Almas in, who distracts the ref so VEGA CAN SEND BLACK INTO THE STEPS WITH A HURRICANRANA. Nice. Zelina Vega is a baller. Dueling chants for both men, Almas connects with a hanging backbreaker and covers for the 1…2…challenger kicks out. Almas works over Black’s left arm with a triangle over the top rope, following up with a missile dropkick for the 1…2…Black kicks out once more. Chinlock City, here we come. Black escapes and hits a back elbow, Almas pays him back with a boot. Black blocks an inverted tornado DDT and Almas tries the armbar over the top rope again but they tumble too far over and it’s more awkward than anything. Almas launches himself at Black, who catches him on the way down with a knee strike. Black sweeps the legs and hits a running basement kick. Black follows up with a springboard moonsault for the 1…2…Almas kicks out once more. Black tries a sunset bomb but Almas lands on his feet and catches him with a snap German suplex. Almas heads to the top and goes for a moonsault, but Black moves out of the way so he hits a standing moonsault instead Ibushi-style for the 1…2…KICKOUT. Almas and Black trade strikes and kicks, Almas ducks a backhand and hits a falling version of his own for the 1…KICKOUT. Black belts (HA!) a charging Almas with another knee strike for the 1…2…Almas ain’t done yet.

Both men with forearms, slaps, and finally a double high kick and they crumple to the canvas. They get up at the count of six, Almas sends Black into the buckles with a hip toss. Black intercepts a kick, Almas shoves him out to the floor when he goes for a springboard. Almas immediately follows up with a corkscrew plancha (!!!) and quickly rolls Black in for the 1…2…BLACK KICKS OUT. Killer. Vega grabs the NXT Championship and hands it to Almas (?!?). He brings it in, the ref gets distracted with getting it out and Vega SPIKES Black with a hurricanrana. I thought he broke his neck, jeeeez. Almas goes for the Hammerlock DDT for the 1…2…Black kicks out and hits BLACK MASS for the 1…2…VEGA PUTS ALMAS’ FOOT ON THE ROPE. Love it. Black tries a springboard moonsault, Vega grabs his leg and Almas crotches him. Vega yells at Almas to take advantage. Almas heads to the top and DOUBLE STOMPS him into the apron. Almas rolls in and follows up with the double running knees (Meteora?) for the 1…2…BLACK KICKS OUT AND VEGA GOES CRAZY. Almas goes for the Hammerlock DDT again, Black escapes but Almas dropkicks him in the back of the head mid-Black Mass and they’re both down once again. Almas chops Black and lays him on the apron against the post, hitting another running pair of knees. Black counters a Hammerlock DDT with a backdrop and out goes Almas to the floor. Black takes a second to regroup and connects with a tope con hilo (mostly, he almost missed him) and rolls him into the ring…but Almas wakes up and hits the Hammerlock DDT for the 1…2…BLACK KICKS OUT ARE YOU KIDDING ME. Vega tries to interfere again but lands in Almas’ arms, leaving him open to BLACK MASS for the 1…2…3!

Aleister Black defeated Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas [c] via pinfall to win the NXT CHAMPIONSHIP (18:20)

  • Great match with the right man winning. There were some slip-ups here and there but the ending few minutes made up for any imperfections. Vega was totally on point here as well, constantly interfering and saving her client until it ultimately backfired. Gives both of them an excuse to lead to a split and they’d both be right for it. Killer. Almas deserves all of the praise for taking the ball and running with it as champion; he has made himself one of the brightest prospects in the company in just a year’s time, and I hope he gets the main roster rub soon. (***1/2)

Before the main event we get a video recap of the feud between Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa. This is going to be INSANE.


UNSANCTIONED MATCH
Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa

The build to this one has been tremendous, it seems. Can’t wait to see it happen. There are NO RULES in this one and both men have signed waivers to absolve NXT and WWE from any legal ramifications. Ciampa makes his entrance to the ring without music so the crowd gives him one by chanting ‘ASSHOLE’. The ref is in all black, black gloves to boot. BECAUSE IT’S UNSANCTIONED.

Gargano and Ciampa take thirty seconds to stare each other down, then starts wrecking each other with strikes and a slingshot spear from the former. Gargano stomps a mudhole into Ciampa in the corner, going so far as to kick the bottom rope into his face repeatedly. Gargano clotheslines Ciampa out to the floor, following up with a tope suicida. Ciampa clubs Gargano in the back with a forearm, Gargano whips him into the crowd then follows up with another tope suicida into the audience. Ciampa drops Gargano ribs-first on the barricade, then belts him with the hardest damn forearms to the spine I think I’ve ever heard. Aw man the ref has already taken the gloves off. Ciampa connects with a backbreaker and yells at Gargano to do something. Ciampa rips away the protective mats (are the ring posts tied to the barricade?!?) and goes for a suplex but Gargano escapes and hits a superkick from the apron. Gargano throws Ciampa into the announcers, scaring Mauro Ranallo half to death and I think hurting Percy Watson a little bit. ‘MAMMA MIA’ chant from the crowd in honor of Ranallo. McGuinness is the only one who can still be heard at this point. Gargano goes for a piledriver, showing Ciampa’s buns in the process (it’s an all-body tan, good for him), but Ciampa fights him off and SUPLEXES GARGANO ONTO THE FLOOR. Jeeeeesus. Ranallo is back on commentary. Ciampa hits a back suplex into the covering of the announce table but it doesn’t break, which is surprising. That cover is a lot tougher than I thought.

Ciampa rolls Gargano into the ring and toys with him, stepping on his hands and hammer whipping him into the corner, turning Gargano inside out. After more punishment Ciampa goes for the first cover but Gargano kicks out at one. Gargano grabs at Ciampa’s beard, Ciampa makes him pay with a series of right hands. Ciampa applies a Cloverleaf-like leg submission. Gargano grabs the rope but the ref reminds him that there’s no rope break. He breaks out anyway, leaning halfway out of the ring, but Ciampa doesn’t care and just KICKS THE DUDE STRONG STYLE IN THE BACK OF THE NECK REPEATEDLY. Ciampa then jokingly claps and smiles before going stone-faced again and it’s terrifying. Ciampa looks for something under the ring but can’t find it so he hits a running knee strike instead. Ciampa TAKES THE CRUTCHES FROM A FAN and lifts Gargano by the chin with one. Gargano dodges repeated crutch strikes and hits a roll-through kick that sends Ciampa to the apron. Gargano repeatedly belts Ciampa with left hands, Ciampa sweeps the legs to stop him. Ciampa grabs Gargano and tries to suplex him on the exposed floor but Gargano fights him off. They jockey for position and GARGANO HITS A SUNSET BOMB ON THE FLOOR WITH A SICKENING THUD. JESUS CHRIST. JESUS CHRIST. JESUS CHRIST.

Somehow Ciampa isn’t dead and they both roll back into the ring. They grab for the crutch and a tug of war ensues. Gargano wins it and TEES OFF on Ciampa until Ciampa sends him out to the floor with a backdrop. Ciampa goes to do something but Gargano HITS HIM WITH A CRUTCH TO THE HEAD and Gargano follows up with a slingshot DDT for the 1…2…Ciampa kicks out. Gargano exposes the middle turnbuckle and goes for the Lawn Dart, but Ciampa escapes. Ciampa blocks a kick and belts him with a back elbow to the jaw. Gargano tries a slingshot spear, Ciampa counters with a knee strike and hits a spin-out powerbomb for the 1…2…GARGANO KICKS OUT. Ciampa measures Gargano and mocks him with D.I.Y. mannerisms before hitting a running knee to the back of the head for the 1…the 2…the GARGANO KICKS OUT. Loooooord. Ciampa looks to be going for a piledriver, Gargano drops to one knee to stop him so Ciampa responds with hard forearms to the back. Gargano escapes and belts Ciampa with hard ass lariats. Gargano grabs the beard and slaps Ciampa repeatedly, Ciampa pushes him off and hits a lariat of his own. Gargano spikes Ciampa and locks in the GARGA-NO ESCAPE! Ciampa, VEINS BUSTING OUT OF HIS HEAD, makes it to the ropes but the ref can’t break it. Gargano stomps his hand off, and brings him to the center of the ring, Ciampa escapes by DIGGING INTO GARGANO’S EYES.

Ciampa removes some of his wrist tape and tries to choke Gargano with it, but Gargano blocks it and they trade fists while holding onto the tape, a metaphor of how they used to be joined together as a team (as pointed out by Ranallo). Gargano wins the shootout…until Ciampa connects with a kick right to the family jewels. Ciampa bends a crutch across Gargano’s back and hits Project Ciampa for the 1…2…GARGANO KICKS OUT AGAIN! Ciampa gets to his knees and lifts Gargano up, saying it’s his moment. Ciampa lights up Gargano, Gargano hits him with a superkick and a lariat, followed by a Lawn Dart into the exposed turnbuckle and a superkick. Gargano brings Ciampa to his knees and tells him to look at him as he hits THE HARDEST SUPERKICK I HAVE EVER SEEN for the 1…2…CIAMPA KICKS THE FUCK OUT ARE YOU KIDDING ME. Sorry for swearing but holy god this match. Gargano heads to the top turnbuckle, Ciampa grabs his ankle and cuts him off with a knee to the jaw. Ciampa picks Gargano up in a fireman’s carry on the middle buckle, Gargano escapes with elbows to the side of the head but Ciampa fights back and hits A FLYING FUCKING PROJECT CIAMPA FOR THE 1…2…GARGANO KICKS OUT AGAIN I CAN’T TAKE THIS, MY BLOOD PRESSURE IS SKYROCKETING. Ciampa takes his right brace off, clutching at his surgically-repaired knee. He EXPOSES the knee like a crazy person and charges, GARGANO HITS THE KNEE WITH THE BRACE. Gargano breaks the crutch and goes to hit him in the skull with the jagged steal, but HE STOPS. Gagano sits down next to a dejected-looking Ciampa, Ciampa tries to sucker hit him with the brace but Gargano ducks. He locks in the Garga-NO Escape, then switches into an STF and USES THE BRACE TO PULL CIAMPA’S HEAD BACK, forcing Ciampa to finally tap. My god.

Johnny Gargano defeated Tommaso Ciampa via submission with a knee brace-assisted STF (37:00)

  • One of the most emotional and intense wrestling matches I ever seen in my 20+ years of watching and obsessing over this entertainment medium. Gargano and Ciampa gave no quarter; there were no restholds, no lulls. They beat the everloving dogshit out each other and I’ve never believed that two wrestlers hated each other as much as with this one. They didn’t need blood, or broken tables, or any of that jazz to sell the drama, they did it on their own. Gargano might be the best pure babyface on the WWE roster, Ciampa might be the best pure heel on the WWE roster, and they just showed up EVERYONE. EVERY SINGLE ONE. People better with words than me will definitely have more interesting things to say and I’m going to let them because I’m pretty much fucking speechless. What a war. What a night. What a everything. (*****)

Gargano’s wife Candice LaRae runs to the ring to embrace and congratulate her man. What a show.

*****

FINAL THOUGHTS: I have been watching pro wrestling since 1991, through the highs and the lows and everything in between. I spent my childhood playing with wrestling figures, watching every event my parents would buy me, and ignoring all semblance of a social life. I have defended pro wrestling from people who didn’t like it, I have stuck with it even when I thought it had passed me by, and in a lot of ways I have defined my life by my love of this insane industry.

I have never felt more vindicated to be a pro wrestling fan more than with NXT TakeOver: New Orleans. Top to bottom this is the best wrestling show I have ever watched, bookended by two legitimate BEST OF ALL TIME matches and with an undercard that didn’t sag even for a second. For three-plus hours I was glued to my seat, screaming and damn-near crying at what I was seeing. I love this show. I love NXT. I love pro wrestling. I regret nothing. WATCH THIS AS SOON AS YOU FUCKING CAN.

  • Best Match: Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa
  • Worst Match: Nah
  • Best Moment: Gargano finally gets his measure of revenge in one of the best stories ever told in pro wrestling history
  • Worst Moment: It had to end

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