by Frank Lucci
It is time for the Road to Wrestlemania, which also means we are taking the footpath to Takeover: New Orleans as well.
Currently NXT is the bastion of sanity in a WWE Universe full of shock releases, hot debut rumors, and disappointing 25th anniversary shows. With WWE having plenty of open spots for both the men and women rumble matches, this could be a last glimpse of NXT in its current form. Every random match featuring the likes of Lacey Evans or Bianca Belair makes me wonder if these folks will soon be stepping into more prominent roles. But Shayna Baszler looms over all the women as the hot newcomer who is way better than expected in her role.
Meanwhile, on the men’s side there is plenty of rumors of who may be jumping up to the main roster via the Rumble, and each men’s match could see a participant leave NXT once the event is done. I’m SPaceman Frank and here are my NXT: Takeover Philadelphia predictions!
Kassius Ohno vs. Velveteen Dream
Despite hyping a potential Killian Dain or Roderick Strong vs Lars Sullivan NXT decided to throw this match together because reasons. Not that I am necessarily disappointed by seeing this match, but they spent several weeks building someone challenging Lars and now we got nothing. Ohno seems to settled into his role of opening TakeOvers and losing to the next big talent, and Dream is going from trying to be number one contender to jerking the curtain in less than a week.
Still, this should be fun, and I hope Velveteen throws Ohno a pair of shorts to cover his cellulite (sorry for body shaming but please Kassius stop with the tights). I really want Kassius to get a victory on a Takeover, but Velveteen Dream has some momentum going in and he is the future so he will win here.
The Undisputed Era vs. Authors of Pain (NXT Tag Team Championship Match)
This match has the feeling of a swan song for the Authors of Pain. Sure, they could grab the belts again and hold the fort down, but there would not be any point in it. They have been floating around since losing the belts, and while War Games was nice it didn’t mean much to the team’s status. Meanwhile Undisputed Era have been establishing that they are plotting the run the show going forward.
Really, I see Adam Cole potentially challenging for the belt around ‘Mania time if they don’t go for the other obvious choice for Mania time (more on that later). Kyle and Bobby have done pretty well as a team, but I see this being their true coming out as a team without Cole. The Era wins and AOP show up and start wrecking main roster teams and eat Heath Slater or Kurt Hawkins.
Aleister Black vs. Adam Cole (Extreme Rules Match)
A rare stipulation match sees Old Dutch Al (New nickname pending) taking on Michael Cole’s troubled stepson in an extreme rules match because Philly. I like how they firmly established why this match is happening, and the escalating violence really sold this as a blood feud to watch. It is tempting to give Aleister an advantage here, but really Undisputed Era can just pile on the numbers and help their man win this match.
I think the Undisputed Era are going to be NXT’s big thing in 2018, and a win here would solidify that feeling for me. Meanwhile Black could show up in the Rumble and I wouldn’t bat an eyelash. Cole wins after some shenanigans.
Ember Moon vs. Shayna Baszler (NXT Women’s Championship)
When they first started building to this I was very skeptical. I do not like the shoot to the top immediately push for “legit” athletes, and nothing in the Mae Young Classic told me Shayna would be a star within a year. But she is doing really well with her character work, particularly with her sit down interview with Percy “My head looks like a turtle” Watson and Ember Moon.
Meanwhile, since winning the belt I have seen the same old Ember as before, and I feel like I have seen the limits to her character and ring work. She is good, but not quite attention grabbing enough to carry a division. She is a prime candidate for a call up, where she will do fine…but just fine. With Ember being in the main event scene for over a year in NXT I am ready for here to get gone and let the hot newcomer take over. Lazer Blazer wins and gets the Brock treatment while she learns to actually wrestle.
Andrade “Cien” Almas v.s Johnny Gargano (NXT Championship Match)
Did anyone think this would headline a TakeOver event? Sure, their first TakeOver match was great, but who could have predicted this would be the headliner before the Rumble? Cien has been ok, but Zelina Vega is the real star here and everyone knows it.
Meanwhile, Johann Von Wrestling has been milking his steady rise for all it’s worth and it truly feels like he earned this spot. There is plenty of options on the table here. One is a returning Tomasso Ciampa costing Johnny Wrasslin’ a victory, but does anyone see Cien Almas as the headliner going into Mania season? Wouldn’t Team DIY exploding make much more sense for the biggest TakeOver of them all?
If Almas wins I see him moving on to Adam Cole, but again would Jonathan Grapples vs. Cole match more sense? I think the outcome is Johnny wins for the feel-good moment leading to Ciampa showing up to stare down or attacking his former partner.