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The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: NXT TakeOver: Phoenix


Is it time for #DIY to own NXT, albeit on the other side of the fence now?



If you told me a few months ago that in less than one year, Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa would be standing side by side, titles in hand to end the first TakeOver of 2019, I would've just said you were lying. Lo and behold, here they were in all their glory, acting like the last year and a half didn't happen. But see, here's how this all came to be.

Tommaso Ciampa and Aleister Black was a grudge match waiting to happen since the latter was literally on the edge with the champion. You could tell from the pre-match vignettes to the actual showdown itself that this one was, as good ol' J.R. would say, a slobberknocker.


Both men gave everything they had as they exchanged flurries of punches and kicks which felt stiff as hell. You could literally hear every hit as they bounced off each other's skin. This was one of those matches where you could actually feel that they'd do anything just to end one another to get ahold of that championship.

Things would take a toll on the challenger when his legs would eventually give up on him upon attempting a Black Mass in the closing minutes of the match. This is where Ciampa would take the lead and hit multiple Fairytale Endings to finish Aleister off and retain the NXT Championship.



In a sense, most people did expect Ciampa to retain, but him retaining like this wasn't something that we foresaw. A lifeless Aleister isn't a sight that I'm used to seeing, but it was a tough and grueling match after all. This is definitely something that made Tommaso Ciampa look stronger and tougher than ever.

Now, we move forward and wait to see what the future brings for this unspoken understanding between Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa. With both men holding the two singles titles in NXT, are these two men taking over? Is this a legitimate reformation of #DIY or is there a swerve here somewhere? I guess we'll find out in a few days.

NXT TakeOver: Phoenix was good—maybe even better than the Royal Rumble, and everything was between the four and five-star star level of quality. Well... maybe not the Matt Riddle vs. Kassius Ohno match, but with just five bouts, everything felt special and unique. Grade: A

Rest of the Show

  • War Raiders (Hanson and Rowe) def. The Undisputed ERA (Kyle O'Reilly and Roderick Strong) to win the NXT Tag Team Championships: Going into this match, I already knew the War Raiders were a force to be reckoned with, however, I didn't expect that this match would be entertaining considering it was a clash of styles. The Raiders are more known for their powerhouse moves while this ERA combination is known more for their technicality and striking. What I said in the previous sentence still makes sense,  however, add athleticism and "flippy" stuff to that and you'll understand what I mean.


Hanson is a human weapon of mass destruction all on his own. Rowe as the weapon user would be a good analogy as he was able to use Hanson effectively in all ways possible with maximum damage in mind. The ERA never knew what hit them with Hanson flying all over the place.

To be honest, I didn't expect the Raiders to win but with their showing in this bout, I've been turned into a believer. Also, post-note, I'd like to mention that that War Raiders entrance was epic, on point, and made them look and feel special.
  • Matt Riddle def. Kassius Ohno: Seeing Ohno vs. Riddle for the third time somewhat disappointed me. There doesn't seem to be any payoff for Ohno as Riddle has beaten him twice previously in a convincing fashion. This felt like the throwaway match of the night as all the other matches at least got me invested into it.
This isn't a knock at both men's talent. It just felt like there was nothing more to see with this rivalry. I would've much preferred another set of matchups to at least evolve this feud and inject new life into it. I thought that extra push would come with Keith Lee's inclusion but I guess there's always a next time.


That said, that elbow combo finish looked brutally scary and built Riddle as a force to be reckoned with. If this rivalry isn't over yet after that, then I don't know anymore because that looked like the one to seal the deal.
  • Johnny Gargano def. Ricochet to become the NXT North American Champion: From the onset, everybody knew this match would be good and boy, were we not disappointed. It was a technical clinic for both superstars with both Gargano and Ricochet exchanging holds, grabs, and pins left and right. For what it's worth, they made use of every second of the bout. Action-packed and fast-paced, you could literally see both of them flying and moving at an unbelievable speed.


If I had to pick the Match of the Night, this would be it. All the little quirks and callbacks from here and there; the top rope huracanrana attempt which ended with Ricochet on his feet and Gargano with a surprised looka spot that is oddly familiar to Will Ospreay fans—and that amazing over the corner tope con giro to the outside were moments that will forever remain engrained in my mind.

The final moments of the match focused heavily on Gargano's battle with his inner demons. Unfortunately for Ricochet, Gargano decided to embrace the dark side and drilled him onto the unpadded concrete floor and another DDT in the ring for good measure and the 1-2-3 victory. Mamma mia indeed!
  • Shayna Baszler def. Bianca Belair to retain the NXT Women's Championship: If there was one word to describe Bianca Belair's performance in this match, it would be "dominant." Sadly, dominance wasn't enough to get the title in the bag as Shayna still walked out as champion. However, even in defeat, Bianca showed she was one tough cookie by not tapping out, and instead, just passed out.

Shades of Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold a la WrestleMania 13, this bout would end up in a way nobody expected and I'm sure this brought Bianca closer to the hearts of everybody. At the same time, the inclusion of Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke gave Shayna that extra heat which helped push the final moments of the match into a different gear. Mark my words, this would be a welcome rematch for me in the near future.

What did you think of this year's pre-Royal Rumble TakeOver? Did your picks win the night? Which match was a Match of the Year candidate for you? Hit us up in the comments section below!

Photos and videos from WWE

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Miguel “The Migz” Llado is your supposed fashion guru and semi-young boy at the Smark Henry offices. A lover of everything music, wrestling, videogames and food, he lives his life tweeting his mind off (@the_migz) and ‘gramming random food items and locations (@tha_migz) as he sets on his journey to completely do things spontaneously. You can also add him on PSN (MigzLlado) to show your WWE2K19 (or any PS4) skills. When not being a smark, he lives his life being (and trying to be) an awesome architect, musician extraordinaire and armchair fantasy booker.

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