WWE’s baby sister kicked off a four-day television spectacle with an incredible show hosting five top-tier matches.

Despite two title changes occurring and an inaugural North American Champion being crowned, Johnny Gargano stole the hearts of the entire audience by defeating Tommaso Ciampa.

NXT NORTH AMERICAN CHAMPIONSHIP – Adam Cole def. Killian Dain, Lars Sullivan, Ricochet, EC3 and Velveteen Dream 

Well, Ricochet certainly announced his arrival with that early springboard shooting star press!

There were so many cringe-worthy moments from this ladder match including death valley drivers, aforementioned shooting star presses, and neckbreakers.

Everybody got their moments to shine with Sullivan and Dain getting their big power moves in, EC3 had his comedy spot early, Velveteen Dream and Ricochet teased their future feud, and Adam Cole was just typical arrogant Adam Cole… Bay Bay.

Eventually, after nearly half an hour of action, Adam Cole was able to push Ricochet off the lone ladder, grab the title and become the first NXT North American Champion.

What a start, a fantastic contest to open the night and the best ladder match I’ve seen since the tag title match in NXT last year.

NXT WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP – Shayna Baszler def. Ember Moon

Moon got in some early offense, unlike the previous match between these two in Philadelphia.

Shayna quickly regained dominance and tried to tangle Moon’s body into different positions.

Sadly, anything following that ladder match was going to be difficult, and this felt very slow in comparison, slightly slower than their first match even.

Shayna got her shoulder ‘dislocated’ by Moon and even popped it back in place with thanks to a ring post but only to walk into a Total Eclipse on the outside.

Baszler locked in the rear naked choke submission hold for what seemed like an eternity before eventually passing out without tapping.

NXT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP & DUSTY RHODES TAG TEAM CLASSIC FINAL – Adam Cole & Kyle O’Reilly def. Pete Dunne & Roderick Strong and The Authors of Pain

Cole came out bandaged up, selling his injuries after capturing the North American Title earlier that evening – it was less than an hour ago.

Therefore, with Paul Ellering’s direction, Cole was put through the announce table by Rezar and Akam.

Personally, I thought Roderick Strong had the best showing in the match with his use of versatile striking, and he ultimately changed the course of NXT forever.

Dunne hit the Bitter End on O’Reilly and covered him before Strong broke up the count, nailed Dunne with End Of Heartache and threw O’Reilly on top of a lifeless Bruiserweight for the win.

A solid match but nothing near the heights that these guys can reach and sadly, probably the last time we see AOP inside an NXT ring.

NXT CHAMPIONSHIP – Aleister Black def. Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas

Coming out in his luchador mask, Almas exudes confidence after an extremely successful year in NXT so far.

The challenger started stronger though as an inch-perfect moonsault to the outside connected before Zelina Vega distracted Black and hit a lovely hurricanrana into the steps.

Almas was able to combine dirty heel tactics with his usual moveset that includes high-flying offense – the flying armbar on the ropes was a personal highlight.

A very well paced match between two of the best workers in NXT, as well as a brilliant valet in Vega who again caused more trouble by spiking Black on his head.

Vega then saved Almas, who was out due to Black Mass, by putting his foot on the rope and in turn saving the match.

Mauro Ranallo on commentary was absolutely on fire during this match, selling the shenanigans as well as the action inside the ring.

After lengthy back and forths between the pair, including an amazing near fall on Black due to the Hammerlock DDT, Vega flew into Almas and caught her before receiving another Black Mass and staying down for the three count.

Another incredible NXT Championship match, this title is one of the most prestigious in wrestling today and Black is the second champion of 2018.

UNSANCTIONED MATCH – Johnny Gargano def. Tommaso Ciampa

This match had all the hype in the world behind it, an expectant crowd knowing they could witness greatness inside the Smoothie King Centre.

With the crowd firmly behind Johnny Wrestling from the first bell, he gained the advantage before being firmly brutalized by Ciampa.

Ciampa went flying across the table before suplexing his former DIY teammate to the floor.

It’s easy to run out of adjectives to describe Ciampa’s attitude without using expletives, but the crowd certainly blasted their fair share of cuss words directly to Tommaso Ciampa.

Blackheart controlled the majority of the match with submission moves and devastating power moves, relentlessly raining down on the babyface with little remorse; there was nothing the official could do about it due to the unsanctioned stipulation.

Ciampa got power bombed onto the bare concrete, much to the delight of the NXT Universe who chanted at the top of their lungs: “You deserve it!”, in a shockingly painful move.

Gargano got his revenge with Ciampa’s crutches and almost got the win with the Slingshot DDT.

A Gargano Escape tempted Ciampa to tap out, but he was resilient and escaped with an eye gauge.

Tantalising near falls followed, and the crowd kept investing into the match, no hints of burnout despite reaching the three-hour mark.

A beautifully modified STF using Ciampa’s knee brace eventually brought Johnny Gargano the win, and he can remain in NXT, for now.

One of the best emotional matches WWE has ever produced, perfectly executed by two of the industry’s finest.

There may not have been a title on the line, but these two showed that no extrinsic title needed to be present for Gargano and Ciampa to put on a timeless classic.

OVERALL

Again, NXT produces another fantastic WWE Network exclusive. Their bar seems to keep being raised, and the momentum it has gathered now almost establishes itself as the second biggest brand in wrestling. Sure, NJPW has phenomenal matches and has really captured the western world, but every fan of New Japan outside of Asia will watch NXT as well. A fantastic event with a spot-fest ladder match, an emotional main event and three exquisite title matches in between created a perfectly balanced card. Arguably the best TakeOver card to date, WrestleMania has a lot to live up to tomorrow night.

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