NXT held one of its Takeover events in Southern California for the first time on November 17, 2018 and we take a look at it from two different perspectives. Andrew watched live at the Staples Center while Steve watched from the comfort of his home.
NXT Television Tapings – Scheduled to Air November 21, 2018
Keith Lee vs. Fidel Bravo
Andrew: This was a squash match. Keith Lee got a really good reaction from the crowd when his name appeared on the video screen. Fidel got very little offense in and avoided Lee for a few moments. Eventually, Keith Lee put Fidel away and got the win in under two minutes.
Lars Sullivan vs. Keita Murray
Andrew: Another total squash, only this one went thirty seconds. Lars looked like a monster here. After the match, Lars attacked Keita and cut a promo about wanting a shot at the NXT Championship. He was about to attack Keita again before Keith Lee ran out to make the save and hit the pounce on Lars.
Nikki Cross vs. Candice LeRae
Andrew: Nikki got a great reaction from the crowd and came off like a star. Candice got a good reaction from the crowd, but it seemed like there were more Nikki Cross fans in my area. This was a solid back-and-forth match that went about seven minutes. Candice did some Super Dragon spots, including a modified Curb Stomp while grabbing the hair of Nikki Cross. This caused some fans to boo Candice. Nikki Cross got the win in a good match.
NXT Takeover: War Games II
Matt Riddle vs. Kassius Ohno
Andrew: I remember the first time I ever saw Kassius Ohno perform in 2002 on a VHS tape I bought off someone. He had a crazy hour-long TLC match with 0-2 MMA fighter Phil Brooks in some small warehouse. I saw him grow as a performer in person after he made his PWG debut in 2004 at the Santa Elks Lodge. In 2005 at a PWG show, I saw him jump out of his chair at the merchandise table to throw a drunken fan out of the Silverlake Independent JCC after the fan got into a confrontation with Ronin. The guy spent years busting his ass all over the world in front of crowds of all sizes. Seeing Ohno go from a guy in a Superman shirt and cargo pants wrestling 93 minutes in front of 40 people to wrestling at the Staples Center was awesome. Kassius Ohno, Chris Hero, whatever you want to call the guy, he earned the easy night and payday. Get that money.
I thought Ohno’s selling of Riddle’s knee was brilliant. The way he got back to his feet and then stumbled around was such a brilliant touch. It reminded me of Zab Judah getting knocked out by Kostya Tszyu. Where else but SoCalUncensored.com will you get a Kostya Tszyu vs. Zab Judah reference in an NXT review? Nowhere.
Steve: I am in full agreement that Kassius Ohno is great. So is Matt Riddle. Both deserve all the success they get. This was a fun way to show how devastating Riddle can be to counteract the kind of aloof personality he’s show in his interviews so far.
NXT Women’s Championship – Two Out Of Three Falls Match Shayna Baszler (c) vs. Kairi Sane
Steve: The crowd was really hot for this. Sane started out hot, and having Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir come out to take her out worked really well. It shifted the story to Sane trying to overcome the odds and fight from behind. It also allowed Dakota Kai and Io Shirai to come out to help setup future programs, while not taking away from the actual match. It’s rare when interference adds to the match rather than takes away from it. I thought this was really good and I liked Baszler retaining so she can be the dominate heel the faces have to chase.
Rating: *** 3/4
Andrew: With the show having had only four advertised matches and reports of each match getting a good amount of time, I thought this was going to be loaded with a lot of filler moments. The match layout ended up being really good and kept things interesting. Having Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir get involved in the first fall was a great touch. It helped the match draw a good amount of heat from the fans, and their involvement added an interesting plot to the match. Kairi’s suplex counter into a DDT on Shayna on the ring apron was the highlight of the match, followed by Io Shirai’s moonsault after her run in. Dakota Kai’s run in also got a pretty good reaction for her run in. I thought the ending with Shayna’s counter on Kairi’s elbow drop was a great finish as well. This was a really good match. It seemed like every moment mattered and time wasn’t wasted.
Aleister Black over Johnny Gargano
Andrew: Excellent match. This was the best pro wrestling match that I’ve ever seen take place inside Staples Center, and that includes Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle at WrestleMania 21 in 2005. Aleister Black really came off like a star in person. I could see him being a major star on the main roster if he is used correctly. I really liked the way both guys meshed with each other inside the ring. It seemed like they had really good chemistry. The structure of this match was also great, and there were a lot of creative moments throughout. Everything in this match was put together very well, and the pacing made this really exciting. The spot where Aleister Black countered a tope suicida attempt by Johnny Gargano with a flying knee was my favorite moment of the match. Like I said, this was great. It might not be on the same level as the Young Bucks vs. Golden Lovers from NJPW in Long Beach back in March, but this was still a fantastic match. I highly recommend people check this out.
— Chad #TheChaosColumn (@ChaosNOrder626) November 18, 2018
Steve: Wow, what a great match. I agree with Andrew that this is probably the best match in the history of the Staples Center. Gargano seems to be a natural face, but his heel work has been fantastic. I love the story they are doing with Gargano and Ciampa and his loss here despite being willing to do anything to win should serve to drive him even crazier as he is haunted by Ciampa. This was one of the best matches in Southern California this year and should be a match of the year candidate.
Rating: **** 3/4
NXT Championship: Tommaso Ciampa vs. Velveteen Dream
Steve: Dream considers himself a legend already and his homages to various legends such as Hulk Hogan was a great touch. Going into the match I didn’t expect Dream would be winning, but they did such a great job building up the drama in the match it made the near falls very believable. The hot crowd really came across on the broadcast too. This was great.
Rating: **** 1/2
Andrew: Velveteen Dream is a legitimate star. The guy has so much charisma, personality, can work a crowd really well, and is also a really good performer inside the ring. Tommaso Ciampa also came off like a star but in a different way. He has a really unique heel character that isn’t like others. It’s almost like he’s an evil, psychotic main villain character hellbent on taking over the world in a movie. The match itself was a really good modern “old school” heel vs. face style formula that built up as it went on. The storytelling was the strongest part of the match and really enhanced it. Everyone in attendance was going nuts for the near falls, and it seemed like everyone in the crowd wanted to see Velveteen Dream get the win. As I said, this was a really good match. It wasn’t as good as Black/Gargano, but I don’t see anything this weekend being better than that. With that said, I don’t see anything else from this weekend being better than this match either.
War Games: War Raiders (Hanson and Rowe), Ricochet & Pete Dunne vs. Undisputed ERA (Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly & Roderick Strong)
Andrew: I have to be upfront with you people, Ricochet having a bunch of barbwire on his entrance video is really dumb and weird. Has he ever had a match in his career that involved that stuff? It really just doesn’t fit his character. As for the match, the first half seemed to lag in person, but the second half was much more exciting. In person, the storytelling involving Pete Dunne being told to stay in the shark cage by the War Raiders and then being locked in by Bobby Fish didn’t come across well. People picked up on it eventually, but it felt like part of the crowd missed it when some of that happened.
The match really picked up once Pete Dunne entered the cage and brought in weapons. After he entered the cage, the match went into another gear. Ricochet’s double moonsault off the cage was the obvious highlight of the show. Everyone seemed to go nuts for it. There was another cool moment where Hanson put Kyle O’Reilly through a table with a top rope splash as Kyle had Ricochet in a Triangle Choke while laying on the table. That will probably be overlooked by the double moonsault, but I thought it was really cool. Overall this was so much fun in person. It was a pretty cool spectacle full of exciting moments.
Steve: I also thought the first part lagged. Every War Games match is structured the same way, with the heel team having the advantage and there wasn’t anything that really separated this one. Everyone looked great in this, especially Ricochet who should be main eventing Wrestlemania in a few years if WWE doesn’t blow it with him. His double moonsault was crazy. I didn’t think the flow was as good as it could have been, or even as good as last year’s War Games match. It just felt really long. Still, this was a really good match, but if it was structured better it couldn’t have been great.
Rating: *** 1/2
— WWE NXT (@WWENXT) November 18, 2018
Andrew: The main card was a great show, and probably the best major WWE event I’ve attended. Every match on the Takeover portion of the card was really good, and the crowd was very into the event. Aleister Black vs. Johnny Gargano was the best match on the show. It might be the best match in WWE this year. Everything else on Takeover was really good. The matches for the upcoming episode of NXT aren’t really matches you need to see, but Candice vs. Nikki Cross was okay. Not much else to say here. Check this out if you have the chance.
Steve: Takeovers have been the best events in terms of wrestling WWE does since they started doing them. While not among the best, this was another really good one. It is crazy to think about the talent in NXT right now.