BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- NXT TakeOver specials have had a habit of setting a tremendously high bar for WrestleMania weekend over the past few years, and NXT TakeOver: New York was no exception. Johnny Gargano and Adam Cole had the entirety of the Barclays Center on its feet by the show's final moments on Friday, as Gargano finally broke through to become the new NXT champion.
WALTER ended the longest active WWE championship reign by dethroning Pete Dunne as United Kingdom champion, War Raiders sent Aleister Black and Ricochet off to the main roster and the women of NXT showed up in a big way, though Shayna Baszler walked out with her championship still in hand.
NXT championship, two out of three falls: Johnny Gargano def. Adam Cole
The NXT championship main event between Gargano and Cole wasn't the plan, but NXT does what NXT does best -- call an audible that's sure to work. Tommaso Ciampa's unfortunate neck injury resulted in his relinquishing of the title and a guarantee that a new NXT champion would be crowned Friday night. Would Gargano realize his dream and stand atop the NXT mountain? Or will the Undisputed Era reign supreme with its leader wearing the gold?
"Adam Cole" chants filled the Barclays Center as the bout began with a series of impressive reversals and some mat-based wrestling by both combatants. A few sequences later, they both transitioned to some strike-heavy offense. Gargano nailed a basement dropkick to the outside, while Cole connected with a standing enziguri.
Trademark moves were aplenty, with the first coming from Gargano, who hit his patented slingshot spear and then a tornado flatliner. Each produced a two-count.
Cole unleashed some offense of his own when he targeted Gargano's back by utilizing a backstabber for a two-count. A few sequences later, Cole connected with his last-shot knee strike out of nowhere and scored the first pinfall of the match. Cole 1-0.
Just minutes later, Cole hit it again, but this time, Gargano managed to kick out and seemingly caught a second wind. He speared Cole on the ring apron and landed on him with a somersault senton.
Back and forth they went as the pressure was on Gargano to try and even things up. He came close when he executed an avalanche air raid clash from the middle rope, but Cole kicked out of the ensuing pinfall attempt. Gargano took it a step further with an even more devastating move when he connected with a slingshot DDT on the ring apron. Gargano appeared to he headed to a count-out victory to even the score, but, inexplicably, he broke up the count. However, he made up for it back inside the ring when he locked in the Gargano escape and Cole tapped out. Tied 1-1.
"N-X-T!" chants filled the arena as the sudden death round began. Gargano and Cole, who appeared to be refueled, laid into each other with some stiff strikes. They traded near falls and more strikes until they super-kicked each other at the same time and collapsed in the middle of the ring. On cue the crowd responded with "Both these guys!" chants.
Cole came within a split second of a championship victory following another super kick to the back of Gargano's head, followed by a straitjacket German suplex. Gargano responded with an inverted hurricanrana and a super kick, but as he crawled toward a pinfall attempt, Cole rolled to the outside of the ring. When Gargano followed him, Cole delivered a wheelbarrow suplex to Gargano into the side of the ring.
However, when Cole rolled him in the ring, Gargano responded with a draping DDT, followed by a slingshot DDT. After a Cole kick-out, he then took it to another level with a Canadian destroyer, again, only for a two-count.
Cole hit the next big move, which was, ironically, Ciampa's Fairytale Ending finisher on top of the announcer's table, which failed to break. Gargano managed to climb back in the ring at a nine count and was met with an immediate super kick. Yet again, he kicked out. Gargano then managed to lock in the Gargano escape, but the three remaining members of the Undisputed Era emerged and surrounded the ring. While the referee was distracted due to a Cole interference, Kyle O'Reilly raked the eyes of Gargano, who broke the submission hold. O'Reilly and Bobby Fish then hit Gargano with their leg-sweep/clothesline finisher, but Gargano kicked out yet again.
Gargano had to eliminate Cole's Undisputed Era comrades if he had any chance of winning the match, and that's exactly what he did. After backdropping Cole onto O'Reilly, Fish and Roderick Strong on the outside, Gargano attacked each of them outside of the ring.
When Gargano re-entered the ring, he was met with two more super kicks, but it didn't keep him down. As Cole attempted one more last-shot knee strike, Gargano ducked and, again, locked in the Gargano escape. This time, there were no Undisputed Era members left to interfere and Cole tapped out.
Johnny Gargano is the NXT champion and the first-ever NXT triple crown winner. His wife, Candice LeRae, stormed the ring to celebrate with her husband.
As Gargano walked up the entrance ramp, Ciampa appeared and they, along with LeRae, embraced. If this seems confusing -- how his bitter feud with Ciampa for three years resulted in a an embrace -- check out the latest WWE video on Ciampa's surgery and recovery.
When Gargano appeared, alongside Ciampa, on multiple episodes of RAW and SmackDown Live, it appeared that his NXT journey might have been coming to an end. Now, it appears that it's just beginning.
NXT women's championship: Shayna Baszler (c) def. Bianca Belair vs. Io Shirai vs. Kairi Sane
The NXT women's championship match was destined to tell us a lot about the future of the division. Would Baszler build upon her already dominant second reign with the title, further distancing herself from the pack of contenders? Could Sane become a two-time champion with a proper second stretch as champion? Or would Belair or Shirai take a major leap forward and create a strong line of demarcation that might signal the end of Baszler's time in NXT?
With no clear favorite to walk out as champion, every pinfall attempt or submission could be the end of the match -- and the mood was tense throughout. Belair, Sane and Shirai all seemed to have the match put away at various points, but Baszler ultimately swooped in at the most opportune time, locked Belair in the Kirifuda clutch and strengthened her stranglehold on the NXT women's championship.
One of the biggest question marks heading into this match was how long it would take for Sane and Shirai, to this point a tight-knit pairing, to come to blows. After teaming up to neutralize both Belair and Baszler in the early going, we got our first tease of Shiraisa and Sane going up against one another under a WWE banner -- at least for a brief, energetic, counter-filled moment before both women got pulled out of the ring.
Baszler tried to use Belair's hair whip against her as a tug of war rope to pull Belair headfirst into the ring post, but Belair flipped the script and pulled Bazler's head into the line of fire first. Belair showed off her incredible strength throughout, setting the tone when she caught Shirai out of midair, used her as a battering ram to bludgeon Sane and then tossed Shirai halfway across the ring with a fallaway slam.
Sane and Shirai managed to work as a team for most of the match, with Shirai vaulting a running Sane up and over the top rope for a flying elbow on Belair and Baszler, and each helping to hold opponents in place throughout.
Belair added to her highlight reel when she press-slammed Shirai from the ring and out onto Baszler and Sane at ringside. Belair hit, or nearly hit, the Kiss of Death on multiple occasions, but the chaotic nature of the Fatal 4-Way never allowed her to take full advantage. Shirai seemingly had the match in hand after a pair of moonsaults on Baszler, but then Sane broke up the pin -- albeit with a pained expression on her face.
Sane hit an Alabama Slam on Shirai, landing her directly on Baszler, and then hit the In-Sane elbow. But then Shirai broke up the pin. From there, the battle was on.
Shirai nearly took Sane's head off with a running dropkick, then laid in forearms to Sane's head. Shirai went for a scoop slam, only for Sane to reverse it into a brutal-looking DDT. Sane had another chance for the In-Sane elbow, but Beliair broke out her hairwhip.
Belair took her displays of strength to an entirely different level as got both Shirai and Sane up in the Kiss of Death and nailed it, but Baszler charged in at the final moment, locked Belair in the Kirifuda choke and that would be it.
With no disqualifications in the match, Belair tried everything from hair pulling to eye pokes, but eventually she had no choice but to tap out.
Being champion doesn't necessarily keep Baszler from working in some way with Ronda Rousey moving forward, but it does keep her feet squarely in NXT for the time being.
WWE United Kingdom championship: WALTER def. Pete Dunne (c)
It's hard to believe that Dunne is only the second-ever WWE United Kingdom champion, a championship that debuted in January 2017. Dunne has held the title for nearly two years in a truly impressive run that has garnered him immense support among the WWE universe.
On the other hand, WALTER made his WWE debut at the first NXT UK TakeOver event in January of this year and, just a few months later, landed a title opportunity and a chance to place himself atop the brand as its new champion.
Mat-based wrestling transitioned into WALTER's pursuit of his patented, earth-shaking chops, which he connected with dozens of times during the match. WALTER dominated early on, shrugging off a Dunne clothesline as if it were an annoying gnat and connecting with a big boot to the jaw.
Dunne played the role of the underdog throughout the match, and the story was built upon his comeback attempts, many of which were futile. Dunne continued to fight back, though, and a swift kick to the back of WALTER's head opened up the door for him to catch the challenger with a moonsault to the outside of the ring. Surprisingly enough, it was Dunne who instituted the first near fall of the match following a sit-down powerbomb. He continued his string of offense by leaping off the top rope and hitting a double-stomp onto WALTER outside of the ring.
One WALTER dropkick later and the big man was once again in control and connecting with massive, loud chops. Dunne's comeback attempts continued, though, as the two traded advantages and vicious, hard-hitting strikes and stomps. Dunne countered the WALTER strikes, as he often does, by using joint manipulation as he stretched, pulled and yanked on WALTER's fingers.
As the match neared its conclusion, Dunne caught WALTER with his Bitter End finisher, but WALTER kicked out to the roar of the crowd. The two stood in the center of the ring and traded more strikes and chops, and more strikes and chops, and more strikes and chops.
The finish saw Dunne lock in a triangle choke with WALTER perched on the top rope, but WALTER turned it into a top-rope powerbomb. He followed it up with a splash off the top rope and ended the near two-year title reign of Dunne.
This appears to be just the first chapter of a long, physical and, most importantly, entertaining rivalry on the NXT UK brand. Both Dunne and WALTER proved Friday night that they can carry a brand as its top two superstars..
NXT North American championship: Velveteen Dream (c) def. Matt Riddle
The NXT North American championship match between Dream and Riddle offered something of a conundrum. It was clear this would be a great match, but after Dream played second best on a number of occasions to NXT's top-line talent, he was just starting to get on a roll as champion heading into this match. Conversely, Riddle hadn't yet lost a one-on-one match in NXT and was on an absolute roll of his own.
Dream and Riddle threaded the needle effortlessly, in front of what seemed to be a conflicted crowd that couldn't fully decide which star they wanted to get behind for most of the match. Dream ultimately squeezed out a roll-up victory in an excellent closing sequence, and both men parted with a fist bump of respect that Dream initially refused to start the match.
Both men were clearly embracing the moment and the stage entirely, with Riddle sporting Yankees-inspired pinstriped wrestling gear and Dream getting carried to the ring on a platform dressed like the Statue of Liberty.
Riddle got the first real advantage in the match with a dizzying trio of moves -- a ripcord knee, a patented move he calls "bro to sleep" and finally a snap German suplex, only to get a two-count.
Dream swung the crowd back in his direction by channeling his inner Hulk Hogan, ignoring the damage of multiple Riddle strikes, pointing directly at Riddle's chest and then finishing it off with a big boot.
Riddle seemed to have an answer for everything Dream could think of, but Dream started to have an answer for everything Riddle did late in the match as well. Even as Riddle locked in a tight ankle, and then switched legs to take out Dream's base, Dream reversed out of a powerbomb and then hit his high-torque spinning DDT -- setting up the Dream Valley Driver.
Riddle dodged a purple rainmaker elbow by locking on an armbar and trying to transition into the "bro"-mission. As Dream tried to catch a breather on the ring apron, Riddle -- still standing in the ring -- picked up Dream and went up and over with a suplex to return Dream into the ring. The crowd was fully back in Riddle's corner, but it hit the top of its energy when Riddle showed off a different set of skills with a moonsault that had a full rotation built in.
Neither would back down, but Dream started showing serious fatigue. After a last-gasp superkick, Riddle hit a powerbomb/rollover into knee combo, but he got only a two-count.
Riddle would've been a believable contender to walk out of TakeOver with the title in hand by any measure, and when he successfully locked in the "bro"-mission (and added torso punches for good measure), it seemed likely he would. But Dream rolled over into a crazy-tight small package to pick up the three-count in a tremendous final sequence that left both men walking out of Brooklyn as good, if not better, as when they walked in.
Both Riddle and Dream have plenty of options moving forward, but likely not much more against each other. This was a nice, well-contained short story, and a nice base to build upon if given another chance in the future.
NXT tag team championship: War Raiders (c) def. Aleister Black & Ricochet
Black and Ricochet have clicked as a team. They won the 2019 Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic to earn their opportunity at the NXT tag titles at TakeOver and have also racked up wins on both RAW and SmackDown Live and, as a result, find themselves pulling double duty this weekend.
The bout, a clash of strength and power, began with Rowe and Black countering each other multiple times to set the tone. The crowd was into it from the start..
Black and Ricochet got the better of the War Raiders early on by way of their athleticism, but this one went back and forth more times than you can count. Each team used its attributes to its advantage, including a picture-perfect springboard clothesline by Ricochet to Rowe, followed by a standing shooting star press.
Both teams, however, also exhibited the strengths of the other team's frequently throughout the match. Hanson showed off his cardio when he nailed Black and Ricochet with consecutive body avalanches in their respective corners at least 10 times. Seconds later, Ricochet caught the massive Hanson in midair and executed a fallaway slam. The trend continued further when Hanson hit Ricochet with a springboard clothesline while Rowe held Ricochet in the air. Those sequences were enough to warrant "Fight forever!" chants from the Brooklyn crowd.
The aerial attacks continued, highlighted by a beautiful corkscrew moonsault by Ricochet to the outside of the ring onto Rowe. Not to be outdone, Hanson proceeded to leap off the top rope and deliver a somersault senton onto all combatants.
Once back inside the ring, Black abruptly caught Rowe with his Black Mass spinning heel kick, -followed by a Ricochet shooting star press. However, Hanson broke up the three-count.
The high risks caught up to Ricochet and Black, though. Ricochet missed a 630 splash and Black missed a moonsault to the outside of the ring, providing the opening for the War Raiders to connect with their Fallout double-team finisher onto Ricochet for the win.
Post-match, both teams embraced in a showing of respect toward one another while the crowd serenaded Black and Ricochet with "N-X-T!" chants and loud applause.
If this was the end of Ricochet and Black as part of the NXT brand, and it certainly seems that way, it was one amazing way to go out. Next up for the duo: another tag team championship opportunity at WrestleMania on Sunday.