WADE KELLER PODCAST - Royal Rumble preview with Sam Roberts
(Search "wade keller" to subscribe in podcast app or CLICK HERE to subscribe in Apple Podcasts.)
Drew McIntyre is wearing a suit on the pre-show panel, and he speaks of his return being in the future, so if he shows up tonight in the ring it will be a nice swerve. But given the amount of talking he is doing about waiting for his return, it feels like his return will be soon.
A musical act is starting Takeover: New Orleans. The Tron plays shots of the wrestlers and feuds involved tonight. Looks like it is Cane Hill.
Mauro Ranallo claims 13,955 are in attendance. The North American Championship ladder match starts the show. The title is maroon and the badging follows the pattern of the other NXT Championships. EC3 is the first out. Percy Watson tells us about how wealthy EC3 is. Ranallo describes his as “entitled” and Watson adds “smug”. They have a tough road to get him over as a heel, he is immediately suffering from the Adam Cole problem. Speaking of, here he is for the match. The announcers keep repeating that he will be “doing double duty” tonight, leading to the idea that he probably won’t be. Counter-intuitively, Ranallo reminds us that big men tend to struggle in ladder matches. Lots of fist bumps with the crowd on the way out position Richochet as a heel, and he definitely gets the star treatment on the way out.
1. EC3 vs. KILLIAN DAIN vs. ADAM COLE vs. VELVETEEN DREAM vs. LARS SULLIVAN vs. RICHOCHET – North American Championship Ladder Match
EC3 pulls a Miz and immediately dips out of the ring. The ring gets cleared of everyone but Sullivan and Dain. EC3 tries to egg them on, they both decide to go outside to beat on him. They handle everyone, bump into each other, are about to go at it, then Ricochet hits a poorly aimed shooting star press off the top, and nearly knocks himself out on landing. Ricochet gets a ladder in the ring, but Dream ends his climb. Dream bumps all over for Ricochet. Ricochet wants a springboard move, but Dream cuts his legs out. Cole stops Dream from climbing, and kicks a hole through Dream. Cole fends off Dain and drops Dream with The Last Shot. EC3 has a jarbreaker for Cole, then a Stinger Splash. Sullivan is back in the game and does what you would expect. Dain dumps Sullivan out, then hits a suicide dive. Dainmanhandles Ricochet and Dream. Ricochet and Cole come to blows. Dain and Dream beat them up. EC3 is on the outside waiting for his moment, then he returns to pick up the scraps. Sullivan carries the ladder over his head and throws it at the crowd, then demolishes everyone in the ring with it. Sullivan throws Dain into a ladder set up in the corner. Sullivan press slams Dream face-first into a ladder on the mat. Sick, unique spot, no way to make that not hurt.
Ricochet stops Sullivan from climbing, does a sunset flip powerbomb over the top, Sullivan blocks, Dream and EC3 help, Sullivan hangs on, Cole adds punches and Sullivan is down. Dain stops Cole from climbing, Cole calls him a punk and pays for it. Back body drop dumps Ricochet on a ladder. EC3 clears Dain off the ladder. Cole and EC3 fight over the ladder, fold it up and ram Sullivan with it. They agree to beat up Dain together too. They set a ladder up between the booth and the ladder and ram Dain into it. They smash Sullivan with the ladder again and give each other high fives. EC3 poses and says “EC3 Bay Bay!” Cole gets mad, hits the Last Shot into the ladder. Then superkicks all around. He even catches Ricochet coming off the top with one. “Adam Cole Bay Bay” pops the crowd. Cole is climbing, but Sullivan knocks the ladder over. Dream hits Sullivan with a ladder, then heads to the top, Purple Rainmaker to Dain. Dream selling ribs badly, Purple Rainmaker to Cole. Dream to the top again, Purple Rainmaker to Ricochet. Dream can barely hold a ladder. Sullivan makes his problems worse. Dream tries tapping out as Sullivan crushes him in the corner with the ladder. Sullivan charges at Dream, Dream shoves the ladder at Sullivan. Dream climbs the 15 foot ladder in the corner, Purple Rainmaker to Sullivan. This is a star-making babyface turn for Dream.
Dream climbing again, EC3 slips under, powerbomb into a ladder in the corner. EC3 can’t even stand himself. There’s Dain, STO to Dain, bulldog to Sullivan. EC3 climbs. Cole stops him and climbs, EC3 stops him. TKO off the ladder pops the crowd. I think the only one they aren’t cheering in this match is Sullivan. EC3 climbs again. Dain pulls him off, bicycle kick. Dain is bleeding from the forehead, but Cole stops Dain. Dain throws Cole like a bag of chips, Wasteland to EC3. Dain throws a ladder on EC3, hits a senton to EC3 and they are both in pain. The ladder is put on EC3 gain, Dain looks for a Vader Bomb, Cole attacks, puts a sleeper on Dain, Dain hits the Vader Bomb to break Cole off him, and destroy EC3. Cole is trying to not die and Dain is in bad shape too. EC3 isn’t moving under the ladder.
Dain and Sullivan stare down, Ricochet interferes and hits high-speed offense to Dain and Sullivan. Sullivan catches him and throws him drom corner to corner. Dear lord is Sullivan strong. “throw him back!” from the crowd so Dain throws Ricochet to Sullivan. The big men drop bombs on each other. Sullivan catches Dain on a crossbody, body slams him, then starts a climb to boos. Richochet tries to stop Sullivan, and pulls him off. Kick sends Sullivan away, but not for long. Sullivan is about to knock the ladder over so Ricochet does a moonsault off the ladder, over the ropes, to the crowd ringside. EC3 is set up on his back on a ladder, Ricochet lands a perfect shooting star press to EC3.
Dream stops Ricochet’s climb, misses with a ladder and Ricochet has a punch for him. They play lightsabers with ladders. Apparently Dream was busted open and is back in action. Dream sets up a ladder, bridges one between it and the corner, then puts Ricochet on the bridge. They tussle. Ricochet drops Dream on the ladder. Dream fends him off. Very precarious. Dream wants the Death Valley Driver, hits it, and then both tumble to the mat. Sullivan with a lariat to Dream on the outside. Sullivan plants Dream on the ladder bridge between the apron and the booth, then stands on the apron. Sullivan catches EC3 trying to ambush him, stops EC3, then power slams EC3 into Dream and the ladder collapses under all three men. Dain makes a bridge to the Spanish booth and puts Ricochet on it, Cole punches Dain on the apron. Dain picks Cole up and hits a senton to Ricochet, crushing the ladder.
Sullivan is the first to recover, and sets up a ladder to climb. Dain drags himself into the ring and climbs the other side of the ladder. They trade strikes on the ladder. EC3 gets a ladder and hits Dain and Sullivan with it, then sets it up to climb himself. Cole climbs the other side and they trade blows as well. Very unique visual here. Dream is back in action hitting Sullivan and Dain with a ladder, he sets up next to Dain and Sullivan. Dream can’t even stand up to climb. Ricochet climbs Dream’s ladder. EC3 knocls Cole off, then moves to the Dain-Sullivan ladder. Cole rips EC3 off the ladder and they are both down. Dream sneaks in and gets his hands on the title, but Ricochet is there too. Dream is floundering, Ricochet hits a neckbreaker and they both are on the mat. Dain and Sullivan are next to each other on ladders, Freak Accident off the ladder and Dain hits his head hard on the ropes. Dainis bleeding, Sullivan is bleeding, Sullivan is climbing and Ricochet flies from the ropes to Sullivan’s back and yanks Sullivan off. Ricochet is climbing, no one is there, no Cole is there and knocks the ladder over. Cole climbs, hands on the belt, Cole has it!
Winner: Adam Cole in 31:19. This is the most brutal ladder match I have ever seen. I was cringing throughout most of it. Dream looked like a complete babyface star. EC3 is the Miz of NXT. Cole looked smart and sneaky. Ricochet got his skills over hard. Sullivan and Dain looked like they could win it at anytime.
NXT Champion Andrade “Cien” Almas is shown backstage with Zelina Vega. He is angry as anything just pacing around yelling but we can’t hear what he’s saying.
Video package on the Shayna Baszler – Ember Moon feud. New talking points from Baszler and Moon. Moon vows to break and embarass Baszler.
Cane Hill plays Moon’s entrance, adding the singer for Hailstorm for it. I really like the presentation, with the singer standing mid-ramp, and Moon working around her, almost dancing with her. Ronda Rousey and Jessamyn Duke are shown ringside cheering for Baszler.
2. NXT Champion EMBER MOON vs. SHAYNA BASZLER – NXT Women’s Championship Match
Moon with a quick dropkick and Baszler dodges it and Moon lands on her face. Moon rolls outside, Baszler tries to followup, Moon has a dropkick waiting. Dropkick into the steps. Back in the ring, Moon hits a top-rope codebreaker, two count, then locks Baszler in a headlock. Baszler gets under the ropes for the break. Baszler catches an apron kick and drives Moon into the apron. Baszler sends Moon into the apron. One count in the ring. Baszley wants to work the arm but Moon slips out, Baszler with a high knee in the corner, gutwrench slam, covers for one. Baszler locks in a bow and arrow, but Moon gets a foot under her, and transitions to a head scissors to escape. Handspring lariant from Moon, highknee from Baszler, Moon with a surprise two. Leaping knee gets two for Baszler. Baszler thinks sleeper but Moon throws her off, cover for two. Baszler with a hold but Moon gets to the corner, bounces out and then throws Baszler back to slam her off. Moon dodges a knee in the corner, then fires up with kicks. Suplex to Baszler and a kipup from Moon. Moon with an odd sliding move to cover for two.
Moon tries a springboard crossbody, but Baszler side slips and sets up the Shayna Stomp, Moon escapes. Moon looks for a Shayna Stomp of her own, looks conflicted for a moment, but hits it. The ref tries to buy Baszler a moment but Moon doesn’t care. Moon covers for two. Baszler is in pain selling arm damage, and Moon heads up, but Baszler shakes a rope to knock Moon off. Baszler kicks Moon’s head as she dangles in the corner. Baszler waves the ref away but she can not move it, and holds it in a bad way. Baszler slams her shoulder into the ringpost twice to fix her shoulder, then approaches Moon who kicks her away. Baszler on the outside, Moon perched on the top, Eclipse. The ref leaves the ring to check on them both. Moon is clutching her back or her side. The referee starts a double count.
They both get in at nine. Baszler is still in immense pain. Moon approaches, Baszler surprises her with a hold, but Moon yanks on the injured arm,then mounts, Baszler transitions into a hold we her legs, Moon forces her into a cover, Baszler lifts a shoulder, Moon deadlifts Baszler up, powerbomb into a cover for a nearfall. Great sequence. Moon hauls herself to the top. Baszler is up, blocks the Eclipse, catches Moon, tries a hold, but Moon picks on the arm. Baszler pulls her own hair to compensate for not having the left arm in full health. Moon is fading out and can’t get to the ropes. Moon is flopping a foot around, but Baszler rolls her mid-ring. Moon is desperate. Baszler looks like she is in more pain than Moon. Moon still has life, bridges into a cover for one but Baszler pushes out and keeps the hold. Moon is out and the ref calls it.
Winner: Shayna Baszler in 12:57. Outstanding match telling the exact story we expected to see told, but done oh so well. This is the best match I have seen Moon in. Baszler looked brutal yet tough for being able to win a match, despite being the victim of the Shayna Stomp which is a match-ender.
Paige tells us about a new movie based on her life, “Fighting With My Family”. Clips of the movie are shown, with Paige and her brother bump into The Rock, he cuts a promo on them.
Adam Cole is shown backstage with a trainer. She is in intense pain. Kyle O’Reilly is concerned, Cole says he doesn’t know if he can participate in the tag team match, O’Reilly asks if it can be cancelled. Ranallo tells us that Regal is sick and not physically present.
Aleister Black is shown backstage warming up and looking intense.
Video package on the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.
Monster pop for Pete Dunne on his entrance for the tag team championship, Dusy Rhodes final match. Dustin Rhodes (billed as such) and Jeff Jarrett are shown in the crown. Cole’s ribs are taped. Let’s see what Dunne can do to Cole, that will make some great visuals. The crowd is chanting for Dunne before the bell.
3. THE AUTHORS OF PAIN (AKAM and REZAR w/Paul Ellering) vs. UK Champion PETE DUNNE and RODERICK STRONG vs. NXT Tag Team Champions UNDISPUTED ERA (KYLE O’REILLY and ?) – NXT Tag Team Championship and Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Final Match
AOP jump Cole and O’Reilly before the bell so the ref calls for the bell. Akam and Rezar clear the ring. O’Reilly comes in, the double team him and Cole barely saves the match. Cole knows he messed up and gets dumped out of the ring. Akam and Rezar trash the Spanish announce desk at Ellering’s instructions. Strong and Dunne try to interrupt. Cole gets a double powerbomb through the booth. That will let him take some time off. O’Reilly with knees to Akam and Rezar, then Strong. Dunne leaps on O’Reilly and we are seeing a brief preview of a great match in the future. Strong with a backbreaker to O’Reilly, a knee to Rezar. Backbreaker to O’Reilly, cover, two. O’Reilly locks in a guillotine, then looks for a triangle, Akam tries to break it up, O’Reilly catches his leg too, Rezar powerbombs Dunne into the mess on the mat. AOP double team Strong. Akam strangely decides to stay on the apron as if he has to actually stay outside of the ring. Dunne returns to his corner as Rezar hits a gorgeous suplex. Cole is still collapsed outside as O’Reilly tries to fight Rezar. Big suplex to O’Reilly, he tries to fire up but collapses and lands outside the ring.
Strong is getting double teamed again. A referee checks on Cole as Strong is desperate to get a tag. The announcers point out that Dunne doesn’t seem eager for the tag, but it seems more like he doesn’t feel Strong can make it to him. O’Reilly interferes in the match, Strong breaks free, Dunne wants a tag, Dunne gets it and unloads on Akam. Dunne drives Akam into the corner but takes a knee from O’Reilly, flips over O’Reilly, German suplex from O’Reilly, Dunne lands on his feet, kicks O’Reilly, Dunne fends off Rezar, cover for a nearfall. O’Reilly and Dunne trade blows. Double clothesline from Akam stops the brawl. AOP think Super Collider, hit it. The Last Chapter to O’Reilly, Strong breaks it up, but gets thrown out of the ring.
Dunne works Rezar’s fingers. Strong is in and takes it to Rezar, Olympic Slam to Rezar for a very close nearfall. Dunne gets a tag, heads up but O’Reilly holds his leg. Strong and Dunne double team O’Reilly, then Rezar, cover, Akam breaks it up. Strong low bridges Akam, then follows with a dropkick through the ropes, Akam dodges. Dunne and O’Reilly trade strikes, Bitter End, cover, Strong turns on Dunne! Dunne with a backbreaker to Dunne, puts O’Reilly into a cover on Dunne, O’Reilly is knocked out but wins the match.
Winner: Undisputed Era in about 15:00. Really great match but the ending is insanely questionable. The booking with Cole was smart, having him be knocked out for the match made perfect sense.
Post-match, Cole and O’Reilly back away from Strong, they think he’s going to attack them. Strong yanks the armband off of Cole and puts it on. They can’t believe that he is with them. Bobby Fish meets them on the ramp to celebrate.
[ J.J.’s Reax: This makes no sense at all. Strong and Dunne had the match won. Why would he turn on Dunne when he could have actually been a champion with Dunne? The surprise on Cole and O’Reilly’s faces showed they clearly didn’t expect the turn. ]
Nita Strauss (the guitarist for Alice Cooper) is shown in the audience.
Brief video package on the Black – Almas feud.
4. ALEISTER BLACK vs. NXT Champion ANDRADE “CIEN” ALMAS (w/Zelina Vega) – NXT Championship Match
Hot start to the match with Black unloading on Almas. Black is just unleashing his full arsenal. An axe handle in the ring from Almas slows it down. Black with an octopus mid-ring, slides into a one count. Almas slides outside and Black pursues to deliver more offense. Vega with a head scissors into the rings behind the ref’s back, Almas recovers, rolls Black into the ring, Almas covers for a nearfall. The crowd is somehow split between Black and Almas. Almas with his backbreaker/elbow drop combo through the ropes into two. Cross armbreaker through the ropes from Almas, then a springboard dropkick for two. Almas and Black trade offense. Almas looks for a tornado DDT, Black blocks. Black has a dropkick to cut off a top rope move.
Black is selling arm damage. They trade blows mid-ring. Black gets the upper hand, then kips up. Spring board moonsault catches Almas for two. Black heads to the top, but Almas meets him there, then looks for a superplex. Black blocks it, then hits a sunset flip powerbomb, Almas lands on his feet, tries running double knees, Black dodges, German suplex from Almas, Moonsault, Black rolls away, Almas’ feet hit the mat bounces right into a second moonsault, hits, cover for a nearfall.
Almas and Black are trading shots mid-ring again. There is some great work here, Almas covers for two, Black responds with a high knee that barely hits Almas for two. They knock each other down with roundhouse kicks. Black thinks springboard, Almas shoves him over, then hits a corkscrew plancha from the top, rolls Black into the ring, cover for two. Almas has never moved this fast. Vega gets the championship, hands it to Almas. Almas brings it into the ring, and Vega hits a spike huracarana on Black behind the ref’s back, Almas covers for a very close count. Almas looks to Vega for instructions, she has nothing but anger.
Black counters the hammerlock DDT, hits Black Mass, but Vega puts Almas’ foot on the ropes to stop the count. Vega yells at Almas to get off the mat. Vega yanks on Black’s foot on the apron, then Almas yanks Black’s foot to send him into the ring post. Ranallo points out this is the fourth time she has interfered in the match. Almas sets Black up in the ropes, double stomp. Almas hits the double knees, cover, Black barely kicks out. Vega cannot believe this. Almas wants the hammerlock DDT, Black slips out, Black thinks Black Mass and Almas dropkicks him in the back during the turnaround. They roll to the apron. Almas shoves Black into the ringpost and Vega is shouting instructions. Double knees to Black sitting on the apron slamming his head into the ringpost. Black looks dead. The ref asks Black if he is OK. Almas tries the DDT over the ropes, Black back drops Almas to the outside. Massive spinning dive over the top from Black, Almas surprises him with the hammerlock DDT on the way back in for a very very very close nearfall. Masterful timing on the kickout by Black. Vega tries to interfere in the match again by coming off the top with a crossbody, Black dodges and Almas catches her, and as he holds her, Black sticks Black Mass into Almas’ face for the win.
Winner: Aleister Black in 18:21. Another great match with Black and another great match with Almas. I think this was very much the wrong time to take the title off Almas, he has been a great champion and I felt this was the time to move him to the main roster, and the title needs a long run on a single waist after the last few years of shorter title reigns. All the same, I really like Aleister Black and his work, and I am always happy to see him on my screen. But Almas should have kept the title.
Triple H is shown backstage “earlier today” having Johnny Gargano sign a waiver.
Video package on the Ciampa – Gargano feud that has been running for 10 months with no actual match.
Ciampa comes out to no music, but gets a monster “a—–e” chant on the way out. He has some amazing entrance coat though. If Rasputin was the lead singer for Type O Negative and had Miz’s designer, this would be it. The referee is Drake Younger, he isn’t wearing a striped shirt, but a black NXT polo. “F— you Ciampa” from the crowd. Ciampa mocks Gargano’s entrance.
5. JOHNNY GARGANO vs. TOMMASO CIAMPA
They stare at each other. Gargano huffs and puffs. They unload and Gargano knocks Ciampa down twice, mounts. Spear through the ropes, more strikes to Ciampa. Ciampa fights out of the corner, Gargano puts Ciampa back in the corner and stomps Ciampa over and over and over and over again. Gargano clears Ciampa over the top rope, suicide dive. Ciampa gets some offense on the outside, then Gargano sends him over the barricade. Gargano runs, jumps over the barricade and lands on Ciampa. They brawl outside in the audience. Ciampa with a front suplex onto Gargano. The referee cringes as Ciampa pounds on Gargano. Given Drake Younger’s reaction at the last match Gargano was in, is it possible he involves himself in this match or favors Gargano somehow? Ciampa starts ripping the padding off the floor, the referee is begging him not to. Gargano recovers and tries to attack Ciampa but Ciampa is ready for him. Ciampa tries a suplex onto the concrete but Gargano blocks twice, then slips over, onto the apron and kicks Ciampa. Gargano throws Ciampa over the announce booth and Watson and Ranallo don’t get out of the way in time. “Mamma Mia!” chant fromt he crowd. McGuinness seems to be the only announcer still online . Gargano preps a powerbomb on the booth and gives Ciampa a wedgie for some reason. Ciampa hits Gargano with a monitor, suplexes Gargano off the booth onto the outside. Ciampa is screaming and clutching the back of his head, Gargano is groaning. Ranallo is back in a headset and thanks McGuinness for taking over. Watson in the background is trying to get himself talking again. Ciampa beats Gargano down.
Ciampa sets the top of the booth up across the booth and floor, then sends Gargano through it. Ciampa climbs on top of the booth and then sits down. Another “f— you Ciampa” chant from the crowd. Stiff kick to Gargano’s back. Watson is back in the game as Ciampa slams Gargano’s face on the apron. McGuinness reminds us that the referee felt remorse at making the call on Gargano’s last match. Gargano gets thrown upside down and into the corner. Ranallo tells us that the referee cannot stop the match for medical reasons. Gargano is bleeding from the mouth as he recovers. Gargano springs to life with elbows, Ciampa weathers it, slam for one. Gargano grabs Ciampa’s beard but Ciampa gets through it. Ciampa tries to force Gargano into a clover leaf. Gargano is just screaming in pain as Ciampa bends him in half, Gargano gets to the ropes but it doesn’t matter. Ciampa just uses the ropes for leverage, but Gargano uses the apron to break himself free. Ciampa kicks Gargano in the back of the head over and over and over again. Ciampa claps for himself and grins like a maniac. Ciampa looks under the ring for something and doesn’t find it. He looks under the other corner, then asks the referee where something is, the referee says he’s just the ref. Running knee strike to the side of Gargano’s head. Ciampa finds a fan on crutches and steals the crutches. Ciampa gives Gargano a goodbye wave and heads to the ring.
Ciampa slides into the ring with the plant’s crutches. Ciampa takes swings with the crutch, Gargano dodges, but a big kick takes Gargano down, Gargano dodges another crutch shot, takes Ciampa down and hits his roll through kick. Ciampa things a suplerplex over the ropes onto the outside, Gargano blocks, hits a kick, Ciampa blocks a slingshot DDT, transitions to a backpack slam attempt, Gargano holds the ropes, slips down, then powerbombs Ciampa off the apron onto the exposed concrete on the outside. A “holy s—” chant turns into “you deserved it!” Ranallo echos that Ciampa deserved it, but McGuinness denies that. Ranallo points out how many times Ciampa has his Gargano with a crutch. That is the exact kind of strong, babyface announcer all matches deserve. They recover across the ring, then both crawl for the crutch at the same time. Tug of war over the crutch. Gargano wins it, and has the crutch. Gargano is unloading on Ciampa with the crutch, four crutch shots in a row. Gargano winds up for a fifth but a back drop sends Gargano over the top. Ciampa falls through the ropes looking to snag Gargano, Gargano whacks him in the upper back, slingshot DDT for a nearfall.
Gargano takes the cover off a turnbuckle. That never ends well. Gargano looks for a lawn dart into the turnbuckle, Ciampa slips out and smashes Gargano into it. They tussle over the ropes. Gargano may have lost a tooth. The ref has black gloves on. A knee cuts off a slingshot spear from Gargano, Blue Thunder Bomb from Ciampa for two. Gargano is recovering and Ciampa poses, hits a knee to the back of the head, Gargano kicks out at the last moment. Gargano is firing up with lariats and strikes, grabbing Ciampa’s beard and slapping him, Ciampa wants powerbomb, Gargano slips out, revrese rana, Ciampa catches him, Gargano slides into the Gargano escape. Ciampa is struggling, crawling to the ropes, but there is no rope break. Gargano kicks Ciampa’s hand, rolls back to the middle the ring, Ciampa grabs Gargano’s nose and eyes, Ranallo calls him a “sadistic son of a b—-“. Another “f— you Ciampa” from the crowd as Watson gets angry at Ciampa for almost blinding Gargano. Ciampa removes his wrist tape. It looks like he wants to use it as a garrotte. Gargano blocks it, but they are locked together by the tape, “Beat It” style. They bludgeon each other. Gargano gets the upper hand until a kick to the groin knocks Gargano down, vicious crutch shot from Ciampa, Project Ciampa, Gargano kicks out somehow.
We are at the thirty minute mark now and they are both down on the mat. Ciampa finishes taking the tape off the wrist and crawls over to Ciampa who is just kneeling. Ciampa tells Gargano to look into his eyes. Ciampa says it is his moment, Gargano has slaps and punches. Ciampa responds. Superkick from Gargano, clothesline. Lawn dart into the exposed turnbuckle, superkick. Superkick again. Ciampa somehow kicks out. Gargano goes to the top, a high knee from Ciampa stuns him. Ciampa looks like he wants an avalanche Wasteland, Gargano elbows out, Ciampa lands a top rope Project Ciampa, and Gargano barely kicks out. Ciampa clutches his injured knee and starts to remove the knee brace. Ciampa gets himself free of the brace to check the knee. The ref checks on him as he hobbles to the corner. Ciampa removes his knee sleeve too, to show his knee and consider his next step. Ciampa wants a running knee, Gargano smashes Ciampa’s knee with the brace, then breaks the crutch in half. Gargano looks like he will stab Ciampa in the head with the crutch, then stops. Ciampa is cowering in from of Gargano. The crowd wants Gargano to do it. Ciampa shakes his head and knows he is defeated. Gargano is conflicted. Gargano drops to one knee to sit next to Ciampa. Ciampa tries to hit Gargano with the knee brace, Gargano ducks, applies the Gargano Escape, then grabs the knee brace and uses it in the Gargano Escape and Ciampa finally taps out.
Winner: Johnny Gargano in 37:01. What an insanely good, emotionally-charged match. I believe this is the longest NXT match ever, and it was so good. It really did look like Gargano was ready to forgive Ciampa at the end, and Ciampa seriously considered it for a moment. This was another brutal, sick match for the night.
Post-match, Candace LaRae comes out to congratulate her husband. He is clearly very injured in the face.
Final Reax: this was easily the best Takeover in a long time, in fact, quite a few years. Not a bad match on the card, not even an “good” match on the card. All of the matches were picture perfect and did exactly what they needed to do. The biggest surprise of the night was Strong turning on Dunne, and the Black win was very unexpected. If you want to introduce someone to NXT, this is a great show to have them watch.