By Nolan P. Smith
When it comes to these action-packed, doubleheader wrestling weekends, I am always thrilled to see what the WWE and NXT have in store. To be honest, NXT has always put on a better show in my opinion, but with Takeover going against Wrestlemania 34, I had my doubts. After watching NXT Takeover: New Orleans, I have to say, this is one of the best PPV wrestling events I have seen.
The show kicked off with what I consider the match of the night: the six-man ladder match to crown the first ever North American Champion. The competitors were the debuting EC3 and Ricochet, the monsters Killian Dain and Lars Sullivan, the Velveteen Dream, and Adam Cole. This was an extremely physical match, which allowed for every wrestler to be showcased and show that they did indeed belong in such a prestigious match. The match was the perfect setting for Ricochet to show what he does best: literally ricochet around and outside the ring at breakneck speeds. It was also a perfect debut for EC3, showing that he belongs in the WWE once again, and he does indeed. It was great to see the monsters terrorize the ring, Dream hit one of the best elbow drops I have seen off of a ladder and Adam Cole… well, he’s Adam Cole, and he showed why he deserved to be the winner and first ever holder of the new title. Cole is exactly the kind of guy you want as a champion: he’s got the smug charisma, he can take a beating, he’s sound in the ring, and he’s gold on the mic. Congrats to Cole and to the other 5 competitors for one heck of a match.
Next was the NXT Women’s Championship, which saw champion Ember Moon take on once again the former MMA fighter, Shayna Baszler. This is the match I was looking forward to the least, and it ended up being a really good match. Moon is one of the best women wrestlers NXT has, it was Baszler I was worried about. However, it was a thrilling match with lots of submissions and surprises, one where Moon drops the belt to Baszler, and in a hard-fought battle, no less.
We got another title match following the women’s match: not only was it for the NXT Tag Team Championships in a triple threat, but the winners would also be the winners of the Dusty Rhodes Invitational Classic. We saw last year’s Dusty Rhodes winners the Authors of Pain take on the team of Roderick Strong and Pete Dunn as well as the current champions, the Undisputed Era- Kyle O’Reilly and his fill-in tag partner, Adam Cole. This was another very physical match. The chemistry between these three teams was outstanding, and the shock twist at the end was much appreciated as the Undisputed Era retain the gold, gain a trophy, and gain a new member in Roderick Strong.
The next match is actually the NXT Championship match as current champ Andrade Cien Almas defended against the enigmatic Aleister Black. Almas and Black pulled out all the stops, as did Almas’s manager Zelina Vega. This was a classic match, with ups and downs, interference, and in the end, a kick to the head that gives us a new champion. Congrats to Black on winning the big title in NXT- you could see at the end of the match how happy he was, as the usually stoic Black broke character and smiled as he raised his belt to the sky. Almas has been a terrific champion, but it is exciting to see talent be recognized by way of the NXT Championship.
The last match, which is unexpected to be the last match, was an unsanctioned match between former tag team partners and best friends, Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa. This was a hard-fought battle that told a story of betrayal and retribution with their fighting alone. A great ending to a great night as Gargano stands tall, reinstated and ready to climb that ladder to the top. Ciampa garnered more heat than the rest of the roster combined for the night, and he earned it. A classic good vs evil match, both of these guys poured their hears out in the ring, and it showed.
I have been watching NXT for the past few years, and I honestly feel this event was my favorite thus far. There was no “dud” match, no retreading familiar turf, just great matches packed with heart, dedication, and skill. NXT Takeover New Orleans has set a high bar for Wrestlemania, let’s see how the WWE’s grandest stage of them all measures up.
Rating: 10 out of 10