January seems to be a late Christmas for us wrestling fans. It starts with Wrestle Kingdom and ends with the Royal Rumble. And sandwiched in-between? Another tantalising NXT TakeOver match card. Every title is on the line and there are high expectations as per usual.
The most interesting aspect of this show is the potential scouting of Royal Rumble entrants. The big event is this Sunday and we will no doubt be seeing multiple NXT upstarts making their unofficial main roster debuts in the legendary battle royal. So, let’s get back to business and break down a key event in the landscape of 2019.
Matt Riddle Vs. Kassius Ohno
It’s a rematch from the last event, though this one will no doubt be much more competitive. Matt Riddle disposed of Kassius Ohno in a record seven seconds at WarGames. This time, we can expect a much more competitive affair that could be a real sleeper hit. When you’ve got two performers as competent as Matt Riddle and the man formerly known as Chris Hero, it’s hard to go wrong.
Prediction: This is harder to call than it appears on paper. Ohno has lost twice in a row to Riddle and played dirty to earn a victory over Keith Lee. It does seem too soon to give Riddle his first loss though and I don’t see this feud continuing past this show. Based on that logic, I’m backing Matt Riddle to make it three wins in a row against NXT’s gatekeeper.
NXT North American Championship Match
Ricochet (C) Vs. Johnny Gargano
Johnny TakeOver is in another marquee match at the event that has become synonymous with NXT’s most-prized asset. Ricochet’s been a strong babyface champion and is the perfect fit for Gargano’s new, smug “I’m a heel but I think I’m a babyface” persona. If this is anything less than spectacular, I’ll be astounded.
Prediction: I believe we’re going to see a title change here. Ricochet’s done a fine job, but it’s time for him to move on and give the reign to arguably the greatest NXT wrestler of all-time. Johnny Gargano gets my vote, he’s earned it after his incredible work in 2018.
NXT Tag Team Championship Match
The Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly & Roderick Strong) Vs. War Raiders (Hanson & Rowe)
Aside from a two-day layover in the shape of Moustache Mountain, Undisputed Era held the NXT Tag Team Championships every day of last year. They’re the kingpins of the division and probably the best NXT tag team ever. This title match was first teased after a run-in at Brooklyn 4, continued with a screwy finish that saw the return of Bobby Fish, and escalated in a War Games match. These are two top tier teams who will give the crowd something special.
Prediction: I don’t know why, but I get the feeling that Undisputed Era will find a way to survive and weasel their way out with the gold. Something tells me that their time in NXT isn’t done yet, and the division still needs more work before they leave it behind. The War Raiders will have their time, but they’re currently living in someone else’s era.
NXT Women’s Championship Match
Shayna Baszler (C) Vs. Bianca Belair
It’s about time Bianca Belair got on the main card of TakeOver. The EST of NXT will remind us all that she’s un-de-fea-ted at every turn, and she has improved rapidly for somebody so new to the wrestling business. Her in-ring work isn’t fully developed yet, but how else is she supposed to get better without being given big opportunities? Her promos are already where they need to be, so facing somebody as dominant and protected as Shayna Baszler is a good look for her.
Prediction: Shayna Baszler. I want to be more analytical but Bianca’s being presented as someone who defines herself by being unbeaten. Shayna snapping that streak in two will humble her and lead to character development. This could even be building to a rematch with a more experienced, less cocky Bianca.
NXT Championship Match
Tommaso Ciampa (C) Vs. Aleister Black
It’s weird to think that this is Aleister’s first TakeOver main event ever and will likely be his last. It’s the rematch he never got and is the culmination of something that has been brewing for so long that it doesn’t feel real it’s finally over. Ciampa’s work has been expectedly exceptional, and Black is as consistent as always. This will be a worthy main event.
Prediction: Aleister is somebody who I am fully convinced will be in the Royal Rumble. I know he isn’t a part of the crop of stars that have been appearing on Raw and SmackDown, which is why I think it will happen. They’re acting as red herrings for a real surprise NXT debut. There isn’t anything more to do for the Dutch Destroyer in NXT, so Tommaso Ciampa is my pick.
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