NXT brought a huge show for NXT TakeOver: New Orleans on the eve of WrestleMania. WWE’s developmental territory were all hungry to impress while a lot was riding on a few matches.

Let’s get right to the action as the Smoothie King Center was sold out and everyone was ready to see what Triple H and the rest of NXT’s finest could bring to the table.

EC 3 vs Ricochet vs Adam Cole vs Velveteen Dream vs Lars Sullivan vs Killian Dane (NXT North American Title Match)

EC 3 was really selling the entire spoiled gimmick still in NXT and it was nice to see that portion of his character transition over from Impact Wrestling.

Velveteen Dream received a very nice respectful reaction as did Killian Dane. Adam Cole has a legion of fans but nothing compared to the response Ricochet received when he hit the ramp.

Things got started very quickly as soon as the bell sounded. Please forgive me if I didn’t catch everything because this was crazy. “This is awesome” chants broke out before anyone touched.

EC 3 rolled outside first and Adam Cole jumped Ricochet and tossed him over the top rope. Soon it was just Lars Sullivan and Killian Dane in the ring and Carter tried to antagonize them to fight but that didn’t work well for him because they just went outside to pound on him. But soon Ricochet hit a springboard shooting star press to the floor on Dane and Sullivan.

The One And Only grabbed a ladder and set it up in the ring. Dream knocked Ricochet off the ladder and as he tried to prop the ladder in the corner, Ricochet jumped him and took him down with a series of head scissors and a dropkick. It was beautifully done as expected.

Dream stopped Ricochet from hitting another springboard move and he took him out of the ring. Cole knocked Dane off the apron and Soon Cole and EC 3 were fighting in the ring until Lars jumped in and hit powerslams on both of them. Dane threw Sullivan out of the ring and hit a suicide dive that a man his size shouldn’t be able to do at all.

Dane picked up Dream and Ricochet but Cole hit a kick and they all fell backwards. Killian hammered away at Cole in the corner while Dream fought with Ricochet for a bit.

Then EC 3 jumped in to attack anyone he could while Lars tossed a ladder into the ring and took everyone out with it.

Lars leveled Dane, Cole, Carter, Dream and Ricochet with a ladder and bounced Dane off the ladder after propping it in the corner. Then Lars picked up Dream and gorilla press slammed him into a ladder before climbing up to get the title.

Ricochet met Sullivan at the top of the ladder and hammered away at him. He attempted a sunset flip powebomb but Lars held on. Suddenly everyone was up there helping him and Lars took a big bump.

Cole almost had the title but Killian Dane grabbed him and knocked Cole down. Dane hit a backdrop on Ricochet into a ladder propped in the corner and started to climb himself. Carter met Dane and sent him off the ladder face-first.

Then Carter and Cole picked up the ladder and drove it into Lar Sullivan. They moved outside to gang up on Killian Dane too. Thye built a bridge with a ladder propping it from the apron to the announce desk and drove Killian into the ladder.

Carter and Cole seemed like they were working well together until EC 3 tried to parody Cole’s “Bay-bay” taunt and ht took a DVD into a ladder from Adam Cole Bay-bay! Suddenly, Cole took everyone down with various excellent moves and received a rousing ovation.

Cole started to climb up to get the title as the crowd chanted his name but Sullivan tipped the ladder over. Then Dream jumped back in and took Lars down with a ladder. He hit a sick Purple Rainmaker elbow drop from the top rope on both sides of the ring landing across the ring on everyone he could until he was the only man standing.

Then Lars pinned Dream against the turnbuckle with the ladder but Dream came back by smashing him with the ladder with Lars tried to splash him. Then Dream climbed up to the top of the ladder and it was a tall one.

Velveteen Dream then hit an absolutely stunning Purple Rainmaker elbow drop on Lars Sullivan as the crowd chanted, “Velveteen” at the top of their lungs.

Dream almost had the title but EC 3 powerbombed him off the ladder onto another ladder the was still propped in the corner. Killian Dane tried to stop Carter but he got free. Then Adam Cole tried to climb the ladder too and Carter got under him and hit a TKO drop which took a lot out of both men.

EC 3 started to climb once again and he got all the way to the top until Killian Dane tore him off and took him down with a kick to the face. Then Dane started climbing until Cole stopped him. Killian took care of Cole by putting him in the corner and picked up another ladder to put it over Carter who was on the mat after another slam. Killian Dane hit a monster running senton on Carter smashing him with the ladder and then he climbed to the top rope to do something else but Cole stopped him.

But Cole couldn’t quite get Dane to stop his pursuit of more damage to Carter because Killian just ended up hitting a Vader bomb with Cole on his back on top of Carter who also had a ladder on him.

Then Dane spotted Sullivan. But Ricochet jumped in and hit bicycle kicks all around however Sullivan caught Ricochet and launched him across the ring. Then it was Sullivan and Dane until the crowd started chanting “throw him back” so Dane tossed Ricochet across the ring once again.

Then Dane and Sullivan started lighting each other up with shots. Sullivan caught Dane out of mid-air and laid him down on the canvas before picking up the ladder to climb.

Ricochet stopped Lars and pulled him down before hitting a superkick and climbing up too. Lars tipped the ladder over and Ricochet turned his momentum into a backflip landing on Dane and Cole who were on the floor below. That was sick.

Carter lit Ricochet up with some chops when they got back in the ring but Ricochet knocked him down onto the ladder and landed a marvelous shooting star press onto EC 3 who was laying on the hardware.

Ricochet tries to climb up but Dream stopped him even though he was bleeding. The wedged a ladder into the steps of another ladder creating a bridge and Dream put Ricochet on it while he climbed up. But Ricochet got to his feet and they fought on. Suddenly the two were fighting on the bridge until Dream hit a rolling death valley driver on the ladder bridge that took both guys out in a big way.

Sullivan destroyed Dream with a lariat on the outside and then he put him over the other ladder bridge that was still on the outside of the announce table and ring apron. Carter stopped Sullivan on the apron for a second but Lars picked up EC 3 and planted him through Deam and the ladder. Wow!

The crowd broke into very appropriate “holy sh-t” chants at this point once the ladder snapped in half from the weight of a human car crash.

Killian Dane created another bridge from the apron to announce table and he placed Ricochet on his. Then he picked up Adam Cole and hit a sick seated bomb on Cole through Ricochet and a ladder which snapped another ladder in the process.

Lars Sullivan got in the ring and started to climb the ladder toward the title. He almost got to the title but Killian Dane climbed up to join him. These two huge guys really shouldn’t be on the same ladder. Carter nailed Lars and Dane with another ladder and sat his up next to their.

Then Cole and Carter started climbing the other ladder while they threw shots at each other the whole time. Dream joined the game too and smashed Dane with a ladder which he sat up too. Then Dream started climbing and soon Ricochet was climbing too.

All 6 men were up on a ladder going for it. Cole was knocked off and then he pulled Carter down too. Dream got his hands on the title but Ricochet stopped him.

Ricochet hit a neckbreaker off the ladder and it took a lot out of both men. Now Dane and Sullivan were up there all alone once more. Sullivan hit a Rock Bottom looking move on Dane from the ladder that almost broke the ring.

As Lars Sullivan started climbing the fans started to boo but Ricochet jumped on him from a springboard off the ropes and the ladder broke and fell to the side. Ricochet sat up another latter while someone said, “go go go.” But Adam Cole knocked Ricochet down and grabbed the title to become the first-ever NXT North American Champion.

Ember Moon vs Shayna Baszler (NXT Women’s Title)

It’s hard to believe that the NXT Women’s Title match is the cool-down contest after that incredible opening contest that might very well stand as the best match all WrestleMania weekend. God, that was outstanding and I’m sorry the recap was so long. But it was seriously sick.

Shayna Baszler wanted another piece of Ember Moon and had to walk away with the NXT Women’s Championship this time. After all, Ronda Rousey and Jessamyn Duke were at ringside cheering her on.

Baszler knocked Moon out of the ring from the getgo with a right hand and Moon hit a running double knee into Shayna sending her into the ring steps. They went inside quickly and Ember hit a top rope code breaker but it only got a two count.

Ember locked on a submission and Baszler squirmed out of the ring. Then Baszler countered Moon on the apron and sent her crashing forward. It really seemed like they were working fast possibly to cover up for the opening match that took forever.

Moon hit a running knee once they were inside and followed it with a gut wrench suplex and a kick to the back for a two count. Then she locked a stretching submission on Ember Moon.

Ember fought her way out of it and took her down with a leg scissors and then she hit a flipping leaping palm strike onto Baszler in the corner which Shayna followed up with a knee of her own.

Then Baszler hit a jumping knee to the face that looked great and it got a two count. As Moon got to her feet, she defended herself against Baszler’s advances and landed a dropkick.

Baszler tried to lock on a rear choke but Moon sent her back onto the canvas to break it up. Moon moved out of the way and Baszler missed a knee and Moon followed it up with a takedown and a kip up. Baszler clotheslined Ember to the mat for a two count and the two fought on.

Moon started to focus on Baszler’s shoulder as she climbed to the top turnbuckle but Shayna knocked her down. Baszler hit a couple dropkicks to Moon’s back as she hung from the turnbuckle and Baszler looked hurt.

Baszler went to the ring post and rammed her shoulder against the metal in an attempt to pop her shoulder back as she screamed in pain. That was a pretty cool dose of reality until Ember Moon landed a top rope flip onto Baszler to the floor.

Once they moved back into the ring just beating the referee’s 10 count in the process, Baszler locked on her submission hold but Moon returned the favor and got out of it. Moon lifted Baszler up and slammed her down onto the mat for a two count and then she climbed to the top rope as Baszler got to her feet.

Moon went for the Eclipse and she pretty much hit it, but Bazler pulled her back and locked in the Kirfiunda Clutch. Moon fought like crazy but couldn’t get to the rope. She kept it on for a very long as Ember Moon tried to get out but she was unsuccessful. Soon Ember Moon’s body went limp and the referee had no choice but to call for the bell.

Winner and NEW NXT Women’s Champion: Shayna Baszler via TKO

After the match was over, Baszler ran over to celebrate with Rousey and Duke at ringside. It was really quite an impressive moment, let’s hope it works. But I have a feeling Ember Moon migth be earmarked for a call-up soon enough.

AOP vs Undisputed Era vs Rodrick Strong and Pete Dunne (NXT Tag Titles)

This is just the third match of the night. I swear to god it doesn’t get any better than NXT TakeOvers. Adam Cole had to wrestle once again and he was heavily taped up with black athletic take for this contest and selling his ribs. But he looked darn good with the NXT North American Title over his shoulder as Kyle O’Reilly had both NXT Tag Team Titles around his body.

AOP tossed Dunne over the top rope and hit a neckbreaker/ powerbomb combination on O’Reilly and tossed Cole out of the ring. Then AOP cleared off the announce table and although he tried to escape, they sent Adam Cole through a table so he got to take a little nap which was well deserved.

Dunne locked double wrist lock on O’Reilly but Kyle transitioned into an armbar. O’Reilly knocked Dunne down and then he hit Rezar with a dropkick. Roderick Strong nailed a nice backbreaker on O’Reilly and applied a chokehold but Akam jumped in to break up the hold, however, Kye O’Reilly locked an ankle lock on him. So Rezar powerbombed Pete Dunne on top of everyone to break it all up.

AOP beat Strong down until O’Reilly was tagged in and took a belly to belly from Rezar that sent him out of the ring. AOP kept tagging in and out to abuse anyone who happened to be in the ring with them. If they’re not ripe for a call-up at this point then I don’t know when it will happen.

Roddy took a lot of abuse as his partner Pete Dunne looked on in the corner until he was knocked off the apron by a member of AOP so Strong had nobody to tag. But the Bruiserweight soon got the tag and he took the British Strong Style pain to everyone in the ring with him.

Dunne rocked O’Reilly with a kick to the neck and then he hit a slam on Rezar for an extremely close two count. Pete and Kyle traded shots in the ring until Akam ran in to take them both out with a running clothesline.

Then AOP hit a double powerbomb but Strong broke up the pinfall. Adam Cole was still alive, but he got to sit out this match pretty much because he had already worked a lot in the opening contest.

Strong took out Rezar with an Olympic slam but only got a two count. Dunne made the tag and he hit some double team moves with Strong but it was unsuccessful in winning the match.

Suddenly Pete Dunne hit the Bitter End on O’Reilly but Roddy jumped in and broke up the pin. Then he hit a backbreaker on his own partner before putting O’Reilly on top of Dunne for the three count.

Winners: The Undisputed Era via pinfall

After the match, Roddy put on an Undisputed Era armband and officially joined the team already as a tag team champion. It looks like he took them up on the offer they made when they first debuted and since Bobby Fish isn’t around anymore due to destroying his knee, Roddy is going to join the ranks to fill out the faction. This is a good choice and extremely exciting to think about it. Bobby Fish came out on crutches to pose with everyone around the Dusty Classic trophy all holding up Undisputed Era hand signs. Very, very cool.

Andrade Cien Almas vs Aleister Black (NXT Championship)

Black lit up Almas from the start with kicks and he left the ring but Aleister hit a flipping dive on the NXT Champion as he tried to get around the ring.

They battled around the ring but Almas rolled inside while Zelina Vega hit a seated head scissors takedown on Black that sent him into the ring steps.

Almas maintained an advantage and carried on with his assault focused on Black’s back. He applied a draping armbar over the top rope and nailed a springboard dropkick for another two count.

Almas locked on an armbar but Black fought out of it by driving him into the turnbuckles. Almas hit a boot to the face and set up another draping armbar but Aleister was ready for the springboard dropkick as he nailed a knee to the face.

As Zelina Vega cheered Almas on he kept fighting back as he stopped Aleister Black on the top rope. Black jumped down and tried to nail a move, but Almas ended up pulling off a knee to the face which he followed up with a moonsault but Black moved so Almas landed on his feet and flipped back again to hit Black.

Black hit a few kicks and a knee strike but Alas fought back with some forearms for himself including one back elbow that took Black down.

Aleister Black followed up with another knee strike and got a two count in the process.  They stood in the ring for a moment and slapped each other with chops and then landed a kick to each other’s head at the same time which sent both guys to the canvas.

Almas sent Black into the turnbuckle but Aleister caught a kick attempt and went for a springboard but Andrade pushed him over the top rope and hit a beautiful corkscrew plancha on Black. He rolled him into the ring quickly and covered for a two count.

Suddenly Zelina Vega grabbed the NXT Title from the timekeeper and distracted the referee so she could come in the ring and hit a spikerana on Black. Aleister Black then covered him for a two count.

Suddenly, Aleister hit the Black Mass but Zelina Vega put Andrade’s foot over the bottom rope so the referee stopped the count. This brought a MASSIVE amount of heat on her.

Black jumped on the apron but Vega grabbed him and sent his leg through the roped. Then Andrade went on the apron at Zelina’s aggressive direction and hit a double stomp on Aleister Black.

He rolled Black back in the ring and landed a running double knees and covered for a two count.

Zelina Vega was very worried on the side of the ring as the crowd chanted “this is awesome.” Then Almas tried for a hammerlock DDT but Black ended up trying for a Black Mass, however, Almas hit him first with a dropkick to the back of the head.

Andrade hit Black with the running knees into the steel post on the apron but Black blocked the draping hammerlock DDT and sent Almas over the top rope to the floor.

Aleister Black nailed a running flip on Almas but once they were in the ring, Almas nailed the hammerlock DDT. 1-2- kick out.

Zelina Vega jumped off the top rope but Andrade Cien Almas caught her as Aleister hit the Black Mass. 1-2-3 and that happened.

Winner and NEW NXT Champion: Aleister Black via pinfall

Johnny Gargano vs Tommaso Ciampa (Unsanctioned Match)

This was the main event even though it technically didn’t happen under a WWE umbrella although there would be a WWE referee officiating to count and check for submissions I guess.

Tomasso Ciampa came out with no music and received a huge chorus of boos and a-hole and you suck chants… also “f-ck you Ciampa” chants were happening too which was pretty hardcore.

Johnny Wrestling received an outstanding ovation as he looked focused and ready for battle.

These two just stood in the middle of the ring and looks at each other for the longest time before unloading on each other with closed fists. Gargano hit a slingshot spear and laid in some punches, but Gargano returned fire with a ton of boots of his own.

Gargano clotheslined Ciampa out of the ring and hit a suicide dive. The two fought for a moment before Gargano sent Ciampa over the barricade and into the crowd. Then Gargano hit a jumping dive over the barricade onto Ciampa.

Tommaso dropped Johnny over the barricade and rained fists down onto Gargano’s back. Then Tommaso started removing the mats around the ring exposing the concrete floor.

Johnny tried to stop him, but Ciampa nailed a right hand and followed it by a suplex attempt but Gargano landed on his feet, jumped on the apron, and landed a kick to the face. Then Johnny sent Tommaso over the announce table taking everyone out including Mauro Ranallo while the crowd chanted “mama mia!”

Gargano stood on the announce table and got Tommaso up too and tried to piledriver Ciampa but he blocked it and Ciampa ended up suplexing Johnny off of the table. That shot smashed the back of Ciampa’s head off of the mat as well which only made matters worse for the Sicilian Psychopath.

Ciampa hovered over Gargano and hit some fists and then he propped the covering of the announce table up and suplexed Gargano off of it but Johnny only bounced off and to the floor.

It seemed like Gargano was really hurt and Tommaso was biding his time but maybe that’s just how good he is at selling.

Tomasso hit Johnny a few times as he hovered over him in the ring. Then Tomasso launched Johnny into the turnbuckle which sent him bouncing off onto the mat. This is a strange situation because if they really do get hurt, it’s like NXT’s hands are tied a little bit about how they can treat it because it’s not like it was a normal match and to ignore this would be killing a storyline.

Ciampa tried to score a pinfall but Gargano kicked out at one. Gargano tried to grab Ciampa’s beard as he fought on to stay in the match as Ciampa applied a Texas Cloverleaf submission but Johnny didn’t tap out.

Gargano made it to the rope but the referee couldn’t break up the hold until he was out of the ring. Tomasso stomped on Johnny Wrestling’s head and the crowd showered him with boos as he applauded them to antagonize them.

Ciampa landed a running knee lift and then he went into the crowd and he stole some dude’s crutches who happened to be wearing a Johnny Gargano shirt. Then as soon as Ciampa had the crutches a member of security led the dude away which was just odd and it didn’t seem to work. But the important part is that crutches were now in play.

Ciampa brought Johnny to his feet by choking him with the crutches but Gargano dodged every crutch shot until Ciampa landed a knee and Gargano returned with a kick to the head.

They fought on and Ciampa grabbed Johnny’s legs and swept his legs out from under him causing him to take a hard backbump. Gargano tried to return with a slingshot DDT on the apron but Ciampa caught him.

Gargano transitioned it into a powerbomb and he hit Ciampa perfectly on the exposed concrete as the crowd chanted “you deserve it.” That was sick, but still pretty heartless of the NOLA crowd. But thankfully, when watching on the replays it was obvious that Tommaso took the bump with his shoulders and his head seemed to be okay or else it would have split like a watermelon.

Ciampa finally got back in the ring and they both eyeballed the crutch at the same time and crawled to get it. They ended up fighting over the crutch and Gargano ended up with it. Then he nailed Ciampa a few times with the crutch bringing this storyline full circle.

But Ciampa put Johnny over the top rope allowing him to hit a crutch across the head followed by a slingshot DDT for a two count.

Gargano started undoing the turnbuckle and exposed the metal ring. Gargano picked up Tomasso and tried to lawn dart him into the turnbuckle but Ciampa turned it around on Johnny.

They fought on the apron and Ciampa caught a kick to the face when Johnny tried for another slingshot spear. Then Ciampa followed with a spinning sit-down powerbomb for a two count.

Ciampa readied himself as Johnny got to his feet and then he nailed a knee to the back of Johnny’s head for a very close two count.

They fought on as Ciampa tried to powerbomb Johnny but Gargano kept fighting back. Then Gargano grabbed ahold of Ciampa’s beard and chopped away at him. Ciampa followed with a clothesline but Gargano spiked Ciampa with a reverse leg scissors.

Tomasso soon found himself in the Gargano Escape and Tommaso fought on to escape this hold as Mauro Ranallo went on about Johnny Gargano fighting for his job like he’ll be unemployed anytime soon.

Gargano pushed against the ropes with his feet to flip around and keep the move on but Ciampa started to dig at Johnny’s eyes as Mauro called Ciampa a “sadistic son of a bitch” which was just great to hear.

Ciampa stated to unravel the tape around his hands and he tried to choke Gargano but Johhny stopped him. They traded shots in the middle of the ring as the crowd cheered with each shot until Johhny started unloading one after another and Ciampa kicked him in the crotch.

Ciampa nailed a crutch across the back and nailed powerbomb but Gargano kicked out at two. As Ciampa sat on his knees, Gargano crawled up to him and they looked each other in the eyes. Suddenly Gargano started slapping him and landed a superkick followed by another takedown and then he launched Ciampa into the exposed turnbuckle and nailed another superkick.

Ciampa rose to his knees and Johnny nailed a straight kick to the face. 1-2-kick out! What the what?!

Both of these guys were shot as the crowd blasted “NXT” chants. Gargano rolled to the apron while Ciampa remained seated in the ring. As Johnny climbed to the top rope he hammered down on Ciampa to keep him down. But Tommaso landed a knee to Johnny and climbed up to hit a headbutt too.

Then Tommaso sat Johnny up in a fireman’s carry off the middle rope but Gargano started to fight back. Suddenly he repositioned himself to stand in front of Tommaso and Ciampa landed a top rope bomb onto his own injured knee. 1-2-kick out! Ciampa was almost in tears as he messed with his knee brace.

Ciampa took off the entire knee brace and slumped in the corner as he exposed his own knee before running forward but Gargano nailed Tomasso’s knee with his own knee brace. Gargano grabbed the crutch and broke it in two.

Gargano was about to whack Tomasso with a jagged crutch but he stopped short and hesitate. Ciampa rubbed his face and just sat there while Johnny looked down. There was no movement until Gargano sat the crutch down and sat next to Ciampa.

This was a recreation of their amazing moment from the Cruiserweight Classic. Suddenly Ciampa took a swing at Johnny with the knee brace but Gargano was ready.

Johnny pulled him into the Gargano Escape and then used Ciampa’s own knee brace for even more leverage and that was ridiculous. Tomasso Ciampa had no choice but to tap out.

Winner: Johnny Gargano via submission

After the match was over, Candice LeRae ran down to the ring to celebrate with her husband while Ciampa was led off by ringside officials.









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Aaron Varble hasn’t just been writing for more than a decade in various formats including sketch comedy, stand up, television, radio, and other various projects; nor is he just another professional wrestling fan with a master's degree in journalism and Tourette’s syndrome. He's always looking to explore the why not with the why and the how come along with the how. Follow on Twitter @TheVarble