WWE NXT TakeOver: Phoenix is in the books and predictably delivered a wildly entertaining card that saw the apparent reunion of DIY after new NXT North American champion Johnny Gargano and NXT champion Tommaso Ciampa brandished their gold as the show came to an end. NXT TakeOver: Phoenix boasted at least two early match of the year candidates—one of them being Bianca Belair vs. Shayna Baszler.
Sandwiched between a white-hot acrobatic tour de force from Johnny Gargano and Ricochet, and an NXT Championship main event between Tommaso Ciampa, Belair and Baszler began their match saddled in the popcorn spot, and ended it as a potential match of the night.
Baszler-Belair was far from the coordinated athletics between Gargano and Ricochet, which garnered chants of “both these guys,” suggesting fans were in no way invested in their storyline but rather a high-flying spectacle between two great athletes. This was a battle of good vs. evil.
A valiant babyface who was Tommylee Lewis’d out of a pinfall when she had the title won, Belair fended off Baszler’s goons and willed an entire arena to emotionally invest in her final breaths of the match as Baszler survived with an extended rear-naked choke. That’s not acrobatics, that’s pro wrestling.
NXT TakeOver: Phoenix Key Competition
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From the Forbes WWE Vault:
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WWE NXT Total YouTube Viewership for Go-Home Show: 557,482 views (Up from 375,112 for NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn 4 go-home show)
- Most-Viewed: Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano Take Down Aleister Black and Ricochet (210,852 views)
- Least-Viewed: Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch vs. Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel (47,834 views)
- Median Viewership: 121,743
NXT 2018 Year-End Awards
- Overall Competitor of the Year—Kairi Sane
- Rivalry of the Year—Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa
- Male Competitor of the Year—Tommaso Ciampa
- Breakout Star of the Year—Ricochet
- Female Competitor of the Year—Kairi Sane
- Match of the Year—Andrade vs. Johnny Gargano – NXT Championship Match (TakeOver: Philadelphia)
- Tag Team of the Year—The Undisputed ERA
- Future Star of NXT—Io Shirai
- TakeOver of the Year—TakeOver: New Orleans
War Raiders def. Undisputed Era—NXT Tag Team Championships
It was no KUSHIDA at Wrestle Kingdom 13, but The War Raiders had the first great WWE entrance of 2019.
I can’t describe War Raider’s offensive scheme with any word other than “Bruh!”
All four of these risk-tolerant NXT stars seemed bound and determined to tear their rotator cuffs.
Mauro Ranallo hip-hop quote: “Out like a light, ayy!” (“Sicko Mode”)
Hanson is 305 pounds, but nobody told his agility.
20 minutes into me sitting down to watch this show, the first match had already received a standing ovation.
Matt Riddle def. Kassius Ohno
The crowd was down for this match early after the show-stealing opener, but they really woke up once Kassius Ohno started working over Matt Riddle’s bare feet.
This match had a very good TKO finish but wrestling fans need to be acclimated to this type of finish before it gets a reaction, especially in a match that struggled to follow War Raiders vs. Undisputed Era.
Johnny Gargano def. Ricochet—NXT North American Championship
Among being a tremendous on-paper matchup, Johnny Gargano vs. Ricochet is also a battle between arguably NXT’s best (Gargano) and worst (Ricochet) theme songs.
When fans chant “both these guys!” they’re also saying “the storyline didn’t work!”
One day Ricochet will wrestle Rey Mysterio, and the match will end in one of them diving onto the other from outer space.
This match was absolutely insane in all the best ways.
There were two “fight forever” chants at this point on this show, but if you live in Arizona, there’s really nothing to but fight.
Tommaso Ciampa was featured almost as much as both competitors in the video package leading up to this match, and he couldn’t be bothered to make an appearance.
Shayna Baszler def. Bianca Belair—NXT Women’s Championship
A developing story was Sam Roberts working out a heel character where he cut a strange pseudo-shoot promo about how Bianca Belair cannot win the NXT Championship. It’s as if he was speaking, and mid-sentence, a producer screamed “more Corey Graves!”
Mauro Ranallo rock quote: “With a Little Help from my Friends” (“With a Little Help from my Friends”)
NXT TakeOver Phoenix is following a pattern of great match, come-down, great match come-down which bodes well for the main event.
Mauro Ranallo pop quote: “Whip it! Whip it good!” (“Whip It”)
This match was built around Bianca Belair doing her “un-de-fea-ted” gimmick while Shayna Baszler countered with “o-ver-rat-ted.” It also overachieved in the popcorn spot despite starting slow.
I’ve been conditioned to subconsciously lower my expectations for black wrestlers in WWE the second I get excited about them because of the company’s invincible glass ceiling. But I’m excited AF about Bianca Belair and nobody can tell me different. She’s that good.
I’m going to miss that un-de-fea-ted catchphrase after Belair suffered her first loss.
Tommaso Ciampa def. Aleister Black—NXT Championship
Aleister Black’s somewhat spiky kick pads are a nice twist to the overused footwear.
I might be tripping but this match went at least 10 minutes struggling to follow Baszler-Belair?
Aleister Black landed a Black Mass and as he went to pin Ciampa, Ciampa instinctively roll to his side. A simple, but brilliant, spot which I don’t think I’ve ever seen in my life.
A slow start and a strong finish that solidified Bianca Belair and Shayna Baszler as certified show stealers.