NXT TAKEOVER – NEW ORLEANS [Preview]: That North American Jazz.
The ominous one from Amsterdam, Aleister Black – who I’ve been a fan of from way back when (go ahead and check the archives) — is the man who’s got the best shot of taking the title from Andrade “Cien” Almas with Zelina Vega at his side. Black has yet to lose a singles match in NXT. Velveteen Dream, Adam Cole (Bay-Bay), OhNo & Itami have all fallen to the Black Mass spinning head kick. His promos as of late have been intriguing, his entrance is sinister, and he has one of the best theme songs in the past ten years. He has a major test in front of him with Cien, who over the past year has improved greatly, and then improved again–the dude leveled up twice–has been carrying the NXT title since November where he put Drew McIntrye on the shelf. No longer under a mask, Cien has really come out of his shell and into his own. Arrogant, egotistical with a beautiful woman at his side.
PREDICTION: Is Cien’s time in NXT finished? But in the shadows Killian Dane is stalking Black, Drew is on his way back to the active roster. Is the typical post Mania-Draft-ShakeUP his time to make it to Tuesdays? Maybe? Or maybe he’ll be on RAW, with Vega at his side — and a wicked black eye and a cold shoulder missing that NXT title now on the shoulder of Black.
Shayna Baszler has been on the warpath since Ember Moon eked out a victory at TakeOver Philly. First there was the vicious attack after the match followed by Baszler targeting Moon’s injured arm in their rematch a couple of weeks later—a match that Baszler won by DQ after an elbow and spear by an interfering Kairi Sane. Baszler would then dismantle Sane before calling out Moon and declaring that she’s leaving with either the title or a limb. Who isn’t looking forward to this war?
PREDICTION: AND NEW…While I’d argue that Ember Moon isn’t really ready to move up to the main roster, I’m sure Papa Hunter thinks the opposite. Besides, Baszler continues the trend of MMA stars trying to give pro wrestling the air of legitimacy, and how legitimate will she look if Ember beats her again? The Queen of Spades makes the War Goddess tap, Moon goes to Smackdown to challenge Asuka, Sane goes after Baszler.
It started way back in May at TakeOver: Chicago after a hard fought match between DIY and AoP, Tommaso Ciampa snapped and brutalized his former friend and tag team partner, to gain massive heat, before going into obscurity. Johnny Gargano, sick of losing, found a new drive and was determined to become the NXT champion. After a hard fought match at Philadelphia, the ghost of Ciampa returned to cheap-shot the underdog with the big heart. Needless to say, this match has been building for the better part of 9 months; everyone is ready to see Ciampa have his comeuppance. As an unsanctioned match, expect there to be massive amount of brutality and death-defying spots. Gargano has a gift for telling a story in the ring, going so far as to get a 5-star rating from Papa Meltzer (and a 5-bible rating from Monsignor Moody) during the Almas match. Gargano and Ciampa have chemistry and a white hot rivalry; this will undoubtedly win match of the night!
PREDICTION: My stone-cold lock of the century goes to Gargano. Although Johnny Wrestling is overdue for a trip to the main roster, his ultimate enemy has gotten the better of him on more than one occasion. Booking logic says Gargano is due for a win and mayhaps an NXT title run.
In a WrestleMania Weekend full of wacky matches, this could very well be the wildcard of them all: a 6-man ladder match to crown the first ever NXT North American Champion. This one is going to be bonkers, to say the least. With the debut of the long awaited Ricochet, and the comeback of Ethan Carter III (who just this passed week made his in-ring debut with one hell of a promo), there is sure to be plenty of excitement for all marks.
PREDICTION: There’s also a great contrast of styles for this bout — with a good mix of indy love (BAY BAY, Pt. 2) as well as a couple of home grown talents (the power of Lars), it’s really anybody’s game; hell, I wouldn’t even sleep on Dain. But, out of all of the guys in this match I believe that Velveteen Dream has the most to gain by coming out on top in this match.
Spoiler alert! You’re not really supposed to know the Tag Team Championship match at TakeOver: N’awlins until Wednesday, but let’s just say that both of these teams somehow will find themselves involved next Saturday. Hey, it’s about the journey, not the destination! Well, when it comes to Adam Cole‘s weekend (taking the place of injured faction brother Bobby Fish in this tag match with Kyle O’Reilly and taking bumps from five other bad ass dudes in a North American ladder match), the story could very well be about both. Does Cole have any chance to win both straps on Saturday night? Seeing how he’s the closest thing we have to his PC mentor, Shawn Michaels, why not “shock the system”? It sure would make headlines, and make the Undisputed Era (who plan on missing a guy for a minute), very very strong.
PREDICTION: That said, Roderick Strong has looked like arguably the best in-ring talent on both WWE rosters the past few months (he, alone, made the recent 205 Live Cruiserweight Tournament somewhat relevant), and his teaming with the hier to Hunter Hearst Helmsley, WWE UK Champ Pete Dunne, sure makes for a great cinderella story this WrestleMania Weekend, too. As for the A.O.P., I’m just waiting for them and Paul Ellering to be drafted this week to Smackdown Live. Imagine all the monster matches these bulls could have with The New Day and The Bludgeon Bros. It’s time.