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The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: NXT TakeOver: New Orleans


"It's finally over."

Our favorite underdog Johnny Gargano mouthed those three words to the camera as the broadcast faded to black. He was holding with him the remains of a crutch and Tommaso Ciampa's knee brace: the remains of the monster he just killed.

And yes, finally, the monster from his past was slain in a violent, dirty, beautiful, and emotional 37-minute battle. It was a brutal classic that will go down in history as one of (or maybe the) best unsanctioned match(es) in WWE history. Heck, maybe even one of the best matches—full stop—in WWE's history.

As an unsanctioned match, it had an abundance of spots where we all winced in pain: Ciampa suplexing Gargano on the floor from the commentary table, Gargano powerbombing Ciampa on the exposed concrete floor, Ciampa stealing the crutches of a hobbled Gargano fan (of all people, of course), the closed fist shots to each other. They made use of everything but tables, ladders, and chairs, which was excellent on their part when we think about it. But really, the former tag team partners never really needed those.


When I said emotional, by God, it was audibly-gasping, ugly-crying levels of emotional. Boo-savoring Ciampa is great at being an asshole (definitely one of the best right now), and Gargano continued to prove why he is a unicorn of a pure babyface.

For some, 37 minutes is way too long for a match, but I felt that it was necessary to plant the seeds for the best parts.


I was an ugly, emotional mess after this fight.

The 10-month Gargano/Ciampa saga that overlapped two stories and encompassed through social media proved that there is nothing like making the fans invest in characters through a long-term storyline, no matter how simple the premise is. Great writing and equally great (or even better) workers is an equation that never fails, which has always been the bedrock of professional wrestling.

I can continue raving about this match until there's nothing left but unintelligible sounds, so go watch it once. Or twice. Or a hundred times.

*****

Rest of the show:
  • Adam Cole def. EC3, Ricochet, Velveteen Dream, Lars Sullivan, and Killian Dain in a Ladder Match to become the inaugural NXT North American Champion: Nothing quite like kicking off the show with six crazy men and a ton of ladders.
As if everyone involved in this match aren't bona fide stars yet, this was a star-making and money-making performance from everyone. This was a beautiful, stressful clusterfuck that I almost pulled my hair out of my head; and I'm glad that nobody died.

Everyone did great in this Ladder Match. Ricochet was his usual flippy, flying self (but who'd dare complain?), Lars Sullivan and Killian Dain tossed Ricochet around like a ragdoll, Velveteen Dream doled out Purple Rainmakers to everyone like they were flyers, Adam Cole held a Superkick Party just like how his former friends did it, and while he mostly took bumps from everyone, EC3's charisma was still just as vital in the match.

In the end, Adam Cole made history by becoming the inaugural champion in the most Adam Cole-esque way by pushing Ricochet off of the ladder.

If you want something fun from Wrestlemania Weekend, then this is the shit, baybay.

  • Shayna Baszler def. Ember Moon to become the new NXT Women's Champion: This was more on the calmer, quieter side, because who would dare follow the craziness that was the Ladder Match? What it lacked from crazy spots though, Shayna Baszler and Ember Moon's excellent psychology and storytelling inside the ring made up for it.
Oh, and there was that crazy Eclipse to Shayna to the outside.

There were two basic stories in this match. One is the honorable Moon, who seemed to injure Shayna on purpose during the match with a stomp on her arm after months of standing up against her. The second one is Shayna freaking Baszler being the toughest badass on the roster right now—she freaking put her shoulder back in place by repeatedly ramming it against the turnbuckle—but with an injured arm, she is as fragile as glass.

In the end, Shayna was able to apply the Kirifuda Clutch on Ember (which she never really found out how to counter), making her pass out. The Queen of Spades' reign of terror is about to begin.
  • Undisputed ERA (Adam Cole and Kyle O'Reilly) def. Authors of Pain (Akam and Rezar with Paul Ellering) and Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne to defend the NXT Tag Team Championships and to win the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic: Roderick Strong sure can lace up his boots, and he is damn good at it, heck, even one of the best in the world. Despite this, he has always lost the big ones that made him and his character feel flat...
...until he joined the little shits (and I mean that with my wholehearted affection) of the Undisputed ERA.

Once again, Roddy turning heel makes perfect sense. We have yet to know what his intentions were, but with strings of losses during big matches, he knew he had to change something, and what better way to bring change than by joining the faction that has all the gold?

Everyone expected Pete Dunne to turn on Roddy, so this was a very welcome surprise, especially now that Pete may call on his strong and stylish British friends for backup...

  • Aleister Black def. Andrade "Cien" Almas (with Zelina Vega) to become the new NXT Champion: Zelina Vega was vital for the rejuvenation of El ├Źdolo's career, so it's one of life's biggest and most awful ironies that she (partly) caused the downfall of her client. I loved it so much.
As expected, Black, Almas, and Vega (yes, she should be in the freaking conversation, too) delivered an excellent semi-main event that had a lot of back and forth. It was essentially a handicap match, with how Almas caught up with Black's momentum thanks to the cunning and enterprising Vega. With Black as their opponent, they needed it. Badly.

But as the match went on, Aleister knew better. He side-stepped Zelina's diving crossbody attempt on him, allowing Almas to catch her in mid-air. With Zelina in his arms, Almas got knocked out from Black's Black Mass for the 1-2-3.

I honestly would have wanted a much longer Andrade title run, but this was quite a way to go out (*coughSMACKDOWNLIVEcough*).


*****

There are only two constant things in life: change and TakeOver shows outdoing the last one.

I never thought that a perfect WWE PPV existed until TakeOver: New Orleans happened. It deserves all the stars in the galaxy and an A+.


Photo from WWE.com



*****
Ardelle Costuna works for a news organization somewhere along Timog Avenue whenever she's not watching wrestling. A renewed fan, she only knew of Shawn Michaels' (her wrestling first love) retirement just two years ago. She's currently drowning in a lot of shows she missed, but she's loving every minute of it. You can catch her crying over some damn good wrestling and swooning over Kenny Omega at @ardellelledra.

Comments

  1. Gargano vs Ciampa's honestly Top 10 NXT Anime Battles for sure, and well-deserving of its high praise. Holy goddamn hell there was some ugly crying and emotions.

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