WrestleMania season is in full force, and World Wrestling Entertainment proper isn’t the only the brand that will be present. WWE’s developmental brand, NXT, has its own big plans for arguably the most important period of the year for wrestling. For the fifth year in a row, NXT will be making its way to the Barclays Center. On April 5th, the venue in question will be home to NXT TakeOver: New York!
For approximately half a decade, TakeOver events have been positively received, not only for the quality of matches presented but the caliber of stories being told. Recently, NXT had to pivot due to the unforeseen neck surgery NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa had to undergo. Nonetheless, NXT has been able to put together a promising card, including the main event that, while thrown together, shows tremendous promise.
With only a short time to go before TakeOver: New York takes place, let’s run down the 5 matches that will place, how they came together, and predictions for who will win on Friday. Let’s begin!
NXT Tag Team Championship: War Raiders (Hanson and Rowe) (c) vs. Aleister Black and Ricochet
In early 2018, the team of Hanson and Rowe made their NXT debut. Exhibiting an impressive combination of brute strength and surprising agility, War Raiders proceeded to go on a tear, defeating such teams as The Mighty and The Undisputed Era. The following November, War Raiders would defeat The Undisputed Era to win the NXT Tag Team Championship, which they have held ever since. Simply put, they made an impression in short order.
This leads us to the 4th Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, which began this past March. Though Aleister Black and Ricochet made their main roster debuts in February, they were still able to take part in the aforementioned tournament on NXT. Black and Ricochet defeated the European Union, DIY, and finally, The Forgotten Sons, to ultimately win the tournament. Black and Ricochet would also stamp their place in the TakeOver: New York card, challenging the reigning Tag Team Champions in what may be their final match on the yellow brand.
Prediction: Given that Black and Ricochet are firmly etched in main roster programming, as a tag team, it doesn’t make much sense for them to pick up the win here. The match itself is promising, without question, and could end up being the show-stealer of the night. However, the smart money’s on the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic winners losing on this night. From there, they can make their official NXT farewell before riding off into the sunset. War Raiders, on the other hand, will take on new challengers moving forward.
WWE United Kingdom Championship: Pete Dunne (c) vs. Walter
If you’ve been keeping up with the NXT UK program, or reading the American Assessment pieces on this site, you will know that Walter has made quite the impact. Following a successful United Kingdom Championship defense against Joe Coffey, Pete Dunne was confronted by the debuting Walter, who stood toe-to-toe with the reigning champion. In future NXT UK shows, Walter defeated everyone from local talents to established veterans, including Kassius Ohno.
On the March 20th, 2019 edition of NXT UK, Dunne demanded that he take on Walter. Following this declaration, NXT UK General Manager Johnny Saint and assistant Sid Scala announced that they contacted NXT General Manager William Regal in regard to the TakeOver: New York event. As a special attraction, in the Barclays Center, Dunne will defend the United Kingdom Championship against Walter! Will the longest-reigning UK Champion emerge victorious, or will the hard-hitting Austrian claim the greatest prize in NXT UK?
Prediction: By the time TakeOver: New York rolls around, Dunne will have surpassed 680 days as UK Champion. In an era where most title reigns don’t reach a fraction of this, it’s a remarkable achievement, to say the least. With that said, all reigns must come to an end, and I believe that this will be the night it happens. Since his debut, Walter has been positioned as a dominant force, not to mention perhaps the only one that can unseat Dunne for his championship. I believe Walter will come away the champion. For Dunne, loftier goals may await him yet.
NXT Women’s Championship: Shayna Baszler (c) vs. Io Shirai vs. Bianca Belair vs. Kairi Sane
As NXT’s first-ever two-time Women’s Champion, Shayna Baszler has been nothing short of dominant. Whether it’s defeating formidable opponents or picking apart helpless local talents, the former mixed martial artist etched a reputation for herself. As TakeOver: New York approaches, however, Baszler may meet her greatest challenge yet when she competes against not one, not two, but three of the best women’s wrestlers in NXT. More so, each one has the motivation to become champion.
On one side, Kairi Sane is a proven champion. She defeated Baszler at TakeOver: Brooklyn 4 to win the aforementioned championship, though she would eventually lose it back to Baszler at the first all women’s pay-per-view, Evolution. Bianca Belair earned an opportunity to challenge Baszler at TakeOver: Phoenix, but despite a valiant effort, the “EST of NXT” fell short. Io Shirai is the only competitor to not have challenged for the championship at a TakeOver yet, so it can be argued that she has the most to prove out of everyone. Despite the motivations of all four competitors, only one can come out on top.
Prediction: This may be the most difficult prediction to make. The reason for this is that all four competitors can be seen, by the NXT Universe, as solid champions. There isn’t a single weak link that can be picked out from this crowd of challengers. As mentioned earlier, only one can emerge victorious. Though I enjoy the work of Sane, Shirai, and Belair, I believe that Baszler will retain here. From there, she will go on to take on new contenders down the road.
NXT North American Championship: Velveteen Dream (c) vs. Matt Riddle
If there’s one universal truth that exists in professional wrestling, it’s that looks can be deceiving. In NXT, you needn’t look further than two of the more eccentric characters on the brand: Velveteen Dream and Matt Riddle. Dream, often regarded as a self-important provocateur, has put on a series of high-caliber matches with the likes of Ricochet, Ciampa, and Johnny Gargano. The coolheaded Riddle has earned tremendous popularity in short time, not only because of his laidback attitude but his hard-hitting dominance. Riddle’s 6-second victory against Ohno at TakeOver: War Games II is evidence of this.
On NXT programming, the newly-minted North American Champion Velveteen Dream cut a promo. During the said promo, Riddle came out to not only show Dream respect but tell him that he had his eyes on the championship. With two vastly different personalities clashing in this championship match, one must wonder who will emerge victorious. Will TakeOver: New York be Riddle’s night, where he wins his first title in NXT, or will the eccentric yet determined Dream continue his reign in 2019?
Prediction: For the past few years, NXT fans have seen the growth and development of the Velveteen Dream. He went from simply being an engaging character to an engaging character that could hang with the best of opponents. While fans may not mind seeing Dream retain at New York, I believe that this will be Riddle’s night. I lean toward the idea of Riddle defeating Dream in a competitive contest, becoming the 5th North American Champion in the process. As far as Dream is concerned, we may see him reach his aspirations of making the main roster after WrestleMania.P
NXT Championship: Johnny Gargano vs. Adam Cole (Two-Out-of-Three-Falls Match)
This show’s main event is among the most interesting in TakeOver history, mainly due to the fact that it was largely thrown together. Following the aforementioned neck surgery Ciampa had to undergo, the NXT Champion had no choice but to relinquish the title. Triple H announced that Gargano would go on to TakeOver: New York to challenge one of five men, who would compete in a multi-man match, for the vacant title. Ultimately, inaugural North American Champion Adam Cole won the encounter, penning his name in the TakeOver main event in the process.
Since his NXT debut at TakeOver: Brooklyn III, in 2017, Cole has become one of the biggest names on the brand. His victories alongside The Undisputed Era, not to mention his singles accomplishments, show that he will be a major player for some time to come. Gargano’s story arc, from broken hero to a somewhat reluctant villain to a newly rekindled fan favorite, has become a vital component to NXT’s weekly programming. While he has been an NXT Tag Team and North American Champion, many fans want to see him win the big one. It may not be against Ciampa, their feud being among the longest-standing in recent WWE history, but the accolade will not be any less significant.
Prediction: Much like with the NXT Women’s Championship match, it can be argued that this bout can go either way. On one hand, it would make sense, from a storyline perspective, for Gargano to finally become NXT Champion. On the other hand, Cole has been a prominent fixture in NXT programming, so him becoming the next titleholder makes sense as well. If I had to choose, though, I would give the nod to Cole. Gargano has already been on main roster programming, teaming alongside Ciampa, so perhaps he’s set for full-time main roster competition sooner than later. Cole, on the other hand, can continue to help carry the NXT brand, this time as its top champion.
If you’d like to make your own predictions, and see how they play out, catch NXT TakeOver: New York this Friday, April 5th, on the WWE Network.