I did not plan on writing this column, my plan today was to just sit down and enjoy NXT TakerOver New Orleans for what it was and focus my writing efforts on Wrestlemania tomorrow but half way through this amazing show I could not help but feel inspired to write something. I don’t know if I was caught up in the emotion or if it was because of my first ever DDP Yoga workout earlier today but in the moment this felt like one of the best cards the WWE has put on in a long time.
I’m not a historian fit to make those calls though but there is one thing I do know, who the biggest winners and losers of the night were. So let’s find out who flew as high as The Velveteen Dream and who crashed harder than Killiann Dain did onto ECIII?
Daniel Bryan is back but he has some stiff competition for the most beloved wrestler on the WWE roster from this man, who backed up his 5 star rated match against Cien Almas in January with a cathartic win over former tag team partner/roommate/best friend/best man/crusher of dreams Tommaso Ciampa.
Gargano came out to a sea of signs showing support for him and the crowd could not have been more one sided if it had tried. The match he put on was utter chaos, emphasised by what is one of my favourite spots in wrestling, knocking the sound out of the announcers table. While Gargano tooks some ungodly punishment, he was able to constantly come back and only added to his likeability when he gave his friend a second chance in the run up towards the end of the match.
At the close he scored the ultimate moment of full circle retribution, taking him out with the crotch that had been used against him so many times and knee brace that once protected the knee of the guy who drove it into his forehead a year ago.
If ever a good guy needed to win it was this time where there was such a clear difference between good and evil in the performance and for the crowd but my favourite part of this was that in the end Gargano clearly took no joy from destroying his former partner. While he was obviously happy to have his job back and the monkey of Ciampa off his back, his celebration was suitably gritty alongside his wife. Where to next is a mystery but tonight was Johnny Wrestling’s.
The Undisputed Era
As of Takover New Orleans, NXT is The Undisputed Era. The band of brothers now hold two of the three male titles on the show after Adam Cole plucked the new North American Championship from the rafters in the opening ladder match and have a new member in Roddy Strong who defected across to their faction, helping them hold the tag titles and simultaneously take out the Dusty Rhodes Classic.
The turn of Roderick Strong on his tag team partner Pete Dunne was particularly well done, calling back to the group’s shared history in Ring of Honour, their previous offer to Strong when they first arrived last year and developed on Strong’s slow build of aggression through the Cruiserweight tournament. Strong came to NXT with the mission of winning championships but despite putting his best foot forward came up short on multiple occasions in both singles and tag team action previously. In this light the change of heart of NXT’s previous moral center makes a whole lot of sense.
Special mention needs to go to Adam Cole though who pulled double duty, gamely backing up after the brutal 30 minute ladder match. He ended up taking even more punishment but the fact he went out at all shows just how dedicated he is to his Undisputed Era brothers.I expect the Undisputed Era will become the anchors that the male NXT product is built off and there is no doubt all four members are huge winners from tonight’s action.
The Dutch Destroyer’s capped off a year long journey tonight that began with his debut at Wrestlemania weekend last year against Cien Almas and has now climaxed with winning the NXT Championship off Almas in a typically hard hitting manner.
Even though he came up against a man he had previously bested, Black did his homework on his always improving opponent and started off the match at an uncharacteristically fast pace, hoping to take Almas to task before the champ could employ his usual cerebral, underhanded tactics. Black got his shots in while avoiding and surviving multiple interferences by Zelina Vega and was able to capitalise on the power couple’s one and only mistake of the night and hitting Black Mass for the win.
What is next for Black remains to be seen but the guy is second only to Gargano in terms of pure popularity in NXT. There are very few wrestlers in the company that have the aura of Black and he now looks set to add to that with a strong reign top of NXT.
If only for the call that Shayna Bazler’s grip is harder to prise open than a pistachio, Ranallo deserves to be on this list.
This card marks a big moment for Ranallo who was left off the WWE commentary team in the lead up to Wrestlemania last year amidst rumors of mental health issues, workplace mistreatment, bullying. Ranallo has called some of the biggest sporting events ever but has always dreamed of commentating at Wrestlemania, while this wasn’t completely that he put in a suitably emotive and passionate call given the magnitude of the card.
Ranallo is in possession of a top gear that few commentators posses and when he hits it he can elevate the emotion of the match and lift those around him. Tonight, along with Nigel McGuiness & Percy Watson he showed why NXT is the best commentary team in wrestling today.
New Orleans Dentists
For obvious reasons the WWE didn’t show any slow motion replays of Gargano and Ciampa literally knocking one another teeth out (at least that is what it looked like to me) but for one New Orleans dentist the main event may have been an extremely profitable venture. Let’s hope he has a steady hand, that Gargano smile is set to launch millions of dollars of merch. You better not stuff it up Doc’.
I mean, does anyone like this guy? The crowd don’t, the commentators don’t, I can tell you Twitter doesn’t and by the looks of it not even the WWE production team does as Ciampa didn’t even get a theme song to come to the ring to. Instead he had to come to the ring to the soundtrack of a thousand boos and people chanting all sorts of obscenities. I don’t like him either but even I thought that was a bit rough on the WWE’s part.
In reality though Ciampa, who looks like he spent his time off in a gym working on his upper body, came to New Orleans declaring that he would end his former partner and that it was ‘his time’. The match he had with Gargano was brilliant but he will now leave having lost the match decisively and finish this feud without a singles win to his name. Not only did to Sicilian Psychopath break up DIY for nothing but he even refused Gargano’s offer of peace mid-match in retrospect two big mistakes given how this has all blown up in his face.
Looking forward, the guy is utterly loathed by the crowd and it will be interesting to see if he can sustain the hate outside the Gargano feud.
Cien Almas & Zelina Vega
The now former champ who, along with his manager Zelina Vega, has always been able to stay one step ahead of his opponent just came up against someone who was too well versed and too resilient to fall into his traps. In the end Almas and Vega fell into their own trap, trying to be too tricky for their own good and now leave without the crown they worked so hard for.
Long term this is hardly terminal, they will be back somewhere with a new, improved plan and success is the only language these two speak. Tonight though, they can only end up in one place, down here on the losers list.
Main Roster Wrestlers
Imagine having to follow this tomorrow? Not for the first time the NXT TakeOver event has taken over the hype of the Wrestlemania weekend and I’m sure at least a few of the men and women scheduled to wrestle tomorrow are wondering how they will be able to follow up this given the time.
I’m not sure if they are really losers because sometimes a rising tide will lift all ships. It is undeniable though that the NXT roster has thrown down the gauntlet to their higher paid, higher profile co-workers.
To wrap things up in a bow though: WHAT A NIGHT! When pro wrestling is good there is nothing like it. I may go back one day, re-watch this and find small faults I don’t like but right now I don’t care. Wrestling rocks and I cannot wait to see what happens at Wrestlemania tomorrow.
Thanks for reading LOP, let me know in the comments who you thought were the biggest winners or losers at TakeOver New Orleans or better yet, sign up for the LOP forums and join in the post PPV chat going on down there. You can also follow me on Twitter @Sir_Samuel. Also make sure you check back in here after Wrestlemania where I will have another Biggest Winners & Losers for you all.