Updated: Mar 23
It is not often in a wrestling year that I can say I look forward to a show as much as the Royal Rumble. However once again, as they are so prone to do, NXT have pulled a card together that gets the wrestling fan inside me incredibly excited!
Looking deeper into the matches, there are 2 matches that are quite literally impossible to call, such is the backstory of the characters and the implications that a victory for either would bring to the brand.
After NXT Takeover: War Games, NXT completely waylayed any possible residual fears I could have over the persistent revolving door of talent that the brand is solely used for, and how it could effect later Takeovers by putting on showcase matches with rising in-house talent such as Velveteen Dream and Lars Sullivan, and once again, this show promises to be a barnstormer. The elevation of Johnny Gargano to a main event player has been met with much fanfare, and proves that through their storytelling and booking, NXT know how to create a star!
Let’s look at some of my predictions for the much anticipated NXT: Takeover Philadelphia!
Match #1 - The Velveteen Dream vs. Kassius Ohno
With Ohno having the unofficial and quite unfortunate title of ‘Gatekeeper of NXT,’ it is his job to put over young and upcoming talent whilst still defeating jobbers at NXT takings to keep up momentum (take note Dolph Ziggler.)
This does however mean that VELVETEEN DREAM is almost a lock to win this match. The man was catapulted into stardom during his outstanding match with Aleister Black at Takeover: War Games, and has run with a gimmick many of us would thought would fail and us instead created a character we, as fans, simply cannot get enough of.
Dream needs to win this match to capitalise on the aforementioned momentum, and it needs to be over a legitimate opponent. Ohno, as proved by his loss to Lars Sullivan, might well be that opponent!
Match #2 - The Undisputed Era (c) vs. The Authors of Pain
This really is a tough one to call. NXT will certainly want to build towards The Undisputed Era becoming THE dominant faction in the brand, and to do that, it would make sense for them all to be holding gold, as is the case with any faction.
Authors of Pain proved everyone wrong when they originally debuted in NXT. After all, everyone assumed they’d just be lumbering giants, incapable of an interesting match. Sure enough, 2 fantastic matches against #DIY and a dominant tag team reign later, and they are one of the most anticipated promotions to the main roster; let’s face it, they will bolster whichever tag scene they end up becoming a part of exponentially!
Though this is excellent for fans of AOP, unfortunately that is why I cannot see past THE UNDISPUTED ERA (REDRAGON) to win. Why give the belts to a team that it is so heavily rumoured to be headed to the main roster sooner rather than later?
Match #3 - Aleister Black vs. Adam Cole
A not so dark horse for match of the night here.
Now that Black’s mini streak of victories is truly over after his pinfall loss in the #1 Contendership Fatal 4 Way thanks to interference from his opponent here, it truly does make it another difficult match to call rather than simply assuming Black will win because he’s Aleister Black.
These men are going to put on a wrestling clinic, there is simply no doubt about that, but I feel that it is ADAM COLE’s to lose.
Why? As highlighted in a previous prediction entry, NXT are priming the Undisputed Era to become THE dominant faction on the brand, and to do that, Cole needs a credible victory. One against the fantastic Aleister Black will certainly help! Don’t be too sure that we won’t see interference from the other 2 troublesome scamps in The Undisputed Era either - with it being Extreme Rules, anything goes!
Match #4 - Ember Moon (c) vs. Shayna Baszler
Possibly the toughest match on the card to call. Ember Moon has, so far, not defended the NXT Women’s belt - having only won it at the last Takeover - which ordinarily would make her a shoe in to win here...
The problem is however, the woman she is facing is a one person wrecking ball in the form of ex-MMA fighter Shayna Baszler. Having choked out Kairi Sain and challenged Ember Moon, the momentum truly lies with Baszler rather than the Champion.
It’s an uncomfortable catch 22 NXT find themselves in here, with anything but a victory damaging the legitimacy of both competitors...so here is what I’m thinking for this match: EMBER MOON to win, but via DQ; in so much as Shayna takes it way too far and beats Moon to within inches of her needing serious medical attention. Not only does this protect Moon’s run with the title, but also cements Baszler as a woman you can build the division around, and a very scary heel monster to boot!
Match #5 - Andrade 'Cien' Almas (c) vs. Johnny Gargano
On a night where the vast majority of the matches could go either way, devoid of the ‘lock of the night’ match, I feel this is probably the closest we have got to an easy one to predict.
Gargano is fantastic, reminiscent of Sami Zayn when he was in NXT, a crowd favourite and pretty much unparalleled in the ring. His victory in the #1 Contendership Fatal 4-Way over Aleister Black came as a relative shock (to those who hadn’t had it ruined by the spoilers) and got one of the biggest pops in NXT history.
That is why I’m going for ANDRADE ‘CIEN’ ALMAS!
The man has re-invigorated his career since being paired with Zelina Vega and becoming the cold calculated heel he portrays now. He only took the Championship from Drew McIntyre at the last Takeover and is yet to defend it. Surely at least one title defence is needed to cement this reign?
As for Gargano, it’s almost written in the stars that Ciampa will return in some form to cost his former Tag partner his chance at the gold, whether it be his music or an actual appearance from the Psycho Killer, so in that small way, at least Johnny Wrestling will be protected!
And there you have it. My predictions for Takeover: Philadelphia are; VELVETEEN DREAM, REDRAGON (THE UNDISPUTED ERA), COLE, MOON (VIA DQ) and ALMAS.
It promises to be another absolutely stellar night of wrestling from NXT, and once again one that points a spotlight at the main roster and demands their following PPVs be better. There’s not a match on this card that I am not looking forward to, and I think we could witness several early contenders for WWE’s Match of the Year at this very Takeover!