#AndStill: War Raiders retain NXT Tag Team Championship

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Photo . Wrestling News World

The recent NXT TakeOver: New York opened with a tag team championship match that on the face of it was quite unlikely. Put aside that it was a face versus face matchup, which is more uncommon than unlikely. No, what was unlikely was the team that was challenging for the belts. Aleister Black and Ricochet have both been very successful as solo performers on the NXT brand. They have each held singles gold; Black is a former NXT champion while Ricochet is a former NXT North American champion. On top of that, they may have been the two most popular members of the NXT roster not named Gargano. But they did not come together as a team until they began to appear on WWE’s main roster. On Raw and Smackdown Live they have mist commonly been seen as a tag team after never having done so in NXT.

Once they began teaming in NXT, though, they had the success that matched their solo careers. Put together to compete in the fourth Dusty Rhodes tag team classic, they marched their way through the tournament. First, they defeated the rising young team of Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel. Then they triumphed over the reunited #DIY, perhaps severing that alliance once and for all, And then in the final they defeated the ascendant Forgotten Sons. All of that brought them to their NXT tag title challenge. Oh and by the way, on that same weekend they were challenging for the Smackdown Live tag team belts at Wrestlemania.

All of that said about the challengers, they were facing off against an imposing duo in the reigning champions, War Raiders. Hanson and Rowe were themselves once an unlikely pairing. They first got widespread exposure in 2014 when they both participated in Ring of Honor’s Top Prospect tournament, which Hanson won when he defeated in the finals. Shortly after that, though, they joined together and formed a very successful tag team, eventually making their way to WWE’s NXT brand. They captured the NXT tag straps in January at NXT TakeOver: Phoenix by defeating the Undisputed Era, and clearly represented a daunting opponent for challengers as they are two very large, very talented men.

The match itself was an outstanding contest. As noted, the twenty minute plus bout kicked off NXT’s big event and set a standard that the other matches on the card would have a hard time to surpass. It was very physical, fast-paced and undeniably spectacular. One of the signature moments was when Ricochet, best known for his incomparable aerial assault, caught the massive 300 pounds Hanson and hit him with a fall-away slam, a move normally associated with much larger grapplers. Soon after, the big bruising Hanson showed off his versatility by doing a cartwheel into a handspring elbow off the ropes into the One and Only. Meanwhile, Black, constantly described by broadcasters as the best pure striker in WWE landed a number of stiff kick and knee strikes but was matched by Rowe who is himself possesses an array of fierce knee and forearm strikes.

The action moved outside the ring by the midpoint, with Ricochet, Black and Hanson all displaying their ability to use the ropes to spectacular effect on the floor. At the culmination of the match, War Raiders were able to get the advantage by utilizing tag team offense. Clearly, after the early story that was told where all four individuals showcased the diversity of their offense, the story’s finale was that the longtime tag team was able to better the performance of two outstanding solo performers who were still new to working together. In the end the War Raiders were the ones with a happy ending to their story, as they hit Fallout on Ricochet and successfully defended their titles. The only down note was that it appeared Ricochet may have suffered an injury, perhaps a concussion, in the last couple of minutes of the contest.

After the match, Ricochet and Aleister Black bid a tearful farewell to the NXT universe, as they are clearly now bound for the main roster where they are destined for big things, whether as a unit or as singles, perhaps both. But before those bittersweet goodbyes, the announcer proclaimed the winners, #AndStill NXT tag team champions were Hanson and Rowe, the War Raiders.