Preview: NXT TakeOver: Phoenix (1/26/19)

It’s the first NXT TakeOver of 2019 and if 2018 was anything to go by, TakeOver: Phoenix has a lot to live up to. However, if past pay-per-views do indeed foreshadow future TakeOvers, then NXT should have no problem whatsoever in living up to the hype.

All titles, barring the NXT UK championship held by Pete Dunne, will be on the line in five mouth-watering matches.

NXT TakeOver: Phoenix (1/26/19)

Matt Riddle vs. Kassius Ohno

Photo: WWE

Their last encounter barely lasted a few seconds but something tells you Kassius Ohno will be better prepared and less complacent this time around.

Ohno is definitely looking to settle the score with martial arts expert, Matt Riddle. Riddle’s unique style and flamboyance has brought a different type of character to NXT since his arrival but the wily veteran Ohno doesn’t see it like that and wants to break General Manager William Regal’s “shiny new toy”.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, role Riddle’s on-screen buddy Keith Lee plays in this match, having just been defeated by Ohno by nefarious means two weeks ago on NXT TV. The safe bet is for Riddle to continue his momentum with a win, though a heel-turn for Keith Lee may not entirely be an impossible thing to wonder.

NXT North American Championship Match: Ricochet (c) vs. Johnny Gargano

Photo: WWE

Ricochet successfully led his team to victory inside War Games at the last TakeOver but, in Johnny Gargano, he faces the biggest threat yet to his North American title.

Initially, this match was suggested by NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa as something for his old DIY buddy Gargano to do while he himself was busy main eventing TakeOvers. Gargano chose to focus on the message instead of the messenger and decided he would indeed set his sights on the NXT North American championship.

Johnny Wrestling made a stunning statement a few weeks ago on NXT when he dropped the champion Ricochet with a hellacious super kick. The One and Only is sure to be taken to the limit by NXT’s perennial bridesmaid when it comes to big matches, Johnny Gargano.

Could this be the time Gargano finally gets his hand on singles gold in NXT?

NXT Tag-Team Championship Match: Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly & Roderick Strong) (c) vs. War Raiders (Hanson & Rowe)

Photo: WWE

Raymond Rowe of the War Raiders recently got married to Sarah Logan of the Riott Squad but, rest assured, there will be no love lost when the War Raiders and the Undisputed Era collide for the NXT Tag-Team Championships this Saturday.

Rowe’s partner Hanson reportedly suffered broken ribs, a ruptured spleen and torn ligament during the War Games match at the last pay-per-view also involving the Undisputed Era. While the Viking duo has failed to catch the imagination of the NXT Universe the same way they did with crowds in Japan and Ring of Honor, there is no doubting their in-ring ability as a team.

It is still unclear which two members of the Undisputed Era will step into the ring to defend the tag titles. Adam Cole is not booked for another match on the card and all four members have taken part in championship matches in the past. Roderick Strong and Kyle O’Reilly are the most likely to defend the gold though don’t discount them having a trick or two up their sleeve during or even before the match.

The Undisputed Era’s two reigns as tag-team champions sandwich a three-week reign for Moustache Mountain. The faction’s combined days on top of the NXT tag division number over 375 (as recognized by WWE). The reign of terror could yet continue here though it would breathe fresh impetus into the NXT careers of the War Raiders if they were to capture the NXT Tag-Team Championships in a scintillating bout – as these tag matches often are at NXT TakeOvers.

NXT Women’s Championship: Shayna Baszler (c) vs. Bianca BelAir

Photo: WWE

After her storied rivalry with Kairi Sane in 2018 ended at TakeOver: War Games, Shayna Baszler now has to contend with the challenge of “un-de-fea-ted”, Bianca BelAir.

BelAir poses a unique challenge to Baszler’s dominant style as she is more flashy and charismatic in and out of the ring than anyone the Queen of Spades has faced so far in her NXT career. The EST of NXT showed that she wasn’t afraid of the dictatorial ways of Shayna Baszler when she slapped the NXT Women’s champion right across her face two weeks ago on NXT.

It would be foolish to discount the possible influence of Baszler’s Four Horsewomen buddies, Marina Shafir, and Jessamyn Duke, on this match. However, Bianca’s undefeated streak and potential main roster plans in the near future for Shayna and her cronies make this one of the more unpredictable matches on the card.

It is also not out of the realm of possibility that we potentially see one of, or both, these women in another match taking place on Sunday, a certain 30-women match in particular.

NXT Championship Match: Tommaso Ciampa (c) vs. Aleister Black

Photo: WWE

Former champion Aleister Black is out for blood against the infuriatingly calm and cocky champion, Tommaso Ciampa. Two years ago, no one could have predicted that Tommaso Ciampa would one day be NXT Champion but, here he stands, having held the belt for six months now.

After disposing of Ciampa’s old friend and foe, Johnny Gargano, at the last TakeOver, Black lost a steel cage match to the same opponent thanks to surprise assistance from Ciampa to Gargano. Ever since then, the imminent #DIY reunion rumors, though denied vehemently by both parties, have not stopped circulating.

Ciampa ended Black’s undefeated streak in NXT when he pinned him for the title in July but Black now hopes to end his career come TakeOver. The Sicilian Psychopath best hope his in-ring game is as good as his Twitter game this Saturday in Phoenix.