I’m taking a bold step here since, as of this writing, WrestleMania 34 hasn’t even happened yet but for those who watched NXT Takeover: New Orleans, you could take tonight off and have had a great wrestling weekend. Mania is Mania and we’ll all watch but here’s 5 reasons you’ll be talking about Takeover and not WrestleMania on Monday with your one work friend who also watches WWE.
5: No fluff
WrestleMania 34, including pre-show, is going to be six hours at minimum. Of those six hours, most viewers could skip all but a handful of matches and feel like they saw what they wanted. Add in the likely Hall of Fame lineup and musical act and there’s plenty of things a lot of us wouldn’t be sad to have missed.
Takeover: New Orleans? Blink and you missed something relevant. Three hours, five matches. I would be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks any of those matches went long. Outside of the video packages to establish how these matches were set up, everything here mattered.
Ronda Rousey will have her in ring debut at WrestleMania 34. That’s not insignificant. A lot of time and money (I’m sure) has gone into bringing her to the WWE for this moment so it’s a major point for the company. Other than some NXT people being in the pre-show battle royals, there’s no expectation for anyone else to debut. That’s saved for the Raw after Mania.
Takeover had two debuts: EC3 in ring, Ricochet on TV, and the North American title. Sure, it all happened in one match but when you only have 5 matches, that’s not a big deal in my opinion. Both EC3 and Ricochet showed why they were signed and, while I’m not a fan of the look of the North American title, I’m excited for what it means for potential storylines as a long time NXT fan. Speaking of the North American championship…
3: The Undisputed Strength of Adam Cole, BayBay
Adam Cole was in 40% of the matches at Takeover and, if not for the main event, would have been the most relevant character of the night moving forward. He’s the first North American Champion, was Freebird ruled into the 6 man tag title match, and finally managed to convince the most clean-cut man in NXT in Roderick Strong to join the Undisputed Era after months of trying. There’s a massive weight on Adam Cole’s shoulders now but, so far, he’s shown he can carry whatever he’s given. Especially if it’s more gold.
2: Who’s the champion?
The only title not being wrestled for on TV between WrestleMania 34 and NXT Takeover: New Orleans is the UK Title and even that got TV time with Pete Dunne being in the tag championship match and playing a pivotal role in the finish. Outside of that match, every title found a new champion at Takeover.
Will the same thing happen at WrestleMania? Hard to say. Every title is on the line and we can virtually guarantee at least two will change hands but do all of the matches feel like they have worthy contenders? That, I’m not so sure about. This is the one thing that WrestleMania 34 could overcome Takeover with in my opinion but they would have to pull some major swerves.
1: Unsanctioned 5 star match
When I saw what time it was when the NXT title match finished, I thought, “Is it over? No, they still haven’t done Ciampa vs Gargano.” I agree that the title should generally be on last but not in this case. If they had built and explained why Nakamura vs AJ Styles was a dream match, it could have this level or story weight behind it but they didn’t.
Nothing in this match was wasted. It was years of story building up to this match. The formation of #DIY, winning and losing the tag titles, the first post-logo attack. Zelina Vega using the mind games to distract Gargano over and over. This is long story telling at its best, reminding us about this over and over without Ciampa being able to participate until he could.
Then this match happened. Ciampa came out to no music. Brilliant. Gargano gets his music but doesn’t just do his entrance. Even the official wasn’t in the normal black and white stripes. Just a black shirt and gloves, prepared for blood.
Usually, the “loser leaves the promotion” match is used to move the person on to the next level. Bo Dallas went to the main roster after his. Not this time. This time, after a brutal match, Gargano stays in NXT.
The match with the closest stakes and build is Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon vs Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn and that will not close the show nor be nearly as satisfying.
This was the best way to end a wrestling show. I can think of nothing WrestleMania 34 could possibly do to match this ending other than invent time travel and go back to Daniel Bryan winning the title at WrestleMania 30.
NXT, once again, has taken over a WWE pay-per-view weekend. Good luck, “main roster”.
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