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    Sunday, April 8, 2018

    Smark Hen-XT (4/4/18): TakeOver: New Orleans Predictions

    This year's Showcase of the Immortals may be at the Big Easy, but there is nothing easy about churning out predictions for this Sunday morning's (Philippine time) TakeOver: New Orleans. The black and yellow brand once again gave us a ridiculously stacked card, and I'm so hyped for it!

    Enough with the jibber-jabbering and let's go through the matches! *cracks knuckles*

    NXT Tag Team Championship and Finals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic (Triple Threat Match): The Undisputed ERA (Kyle O'Reilly and Adam Cole) (c) vs. Authors of Pain (Akam and Rezar with Paul Ellering) vs. Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne

    I'm guessing (again) that this will be the swan song for Authors of Pain, since they're now ripe enough to go to the main roster (and who else is there to face?). I'm also not sure if they really are keen on making Pete Dunne #PeterTwoBelts, even though he and Roderick Strong have been killing it as a team. Plus, putting the titles on a shaky team like Roddy and Peter is quite a risk, so they're eliminated for me. With those things said, I'm going for Undisputed ERA here. It won't be a clean win for the cocky duo though, since Adam Cole will also be involved in the ladder match.

    And I also want more of air guitar Kyle O'Reilly on my screen, please.

    NXT North American Championship (6-way Ladder Match): EC3 vs. Adam Cole vs. Velveteen Dream vs. Ricochet vs. Lars Sullivan vs. Killian Dain

    MAN, this is the hardest one to predict. This is a wide-open field, and the four (relatively) old-timers have proven their cases this past year with strings of phenomenal matches and performances. The two newcomers in EC3 and Ricochet, on the other hand, are riding on a ton of momentum, so it's not going to be a surprise too if ever they decide to strap a rocket on either of them. But with how this week's NXT episode ended (and after all the hype), I'm putting my money on Ricochet being the inaugural NXT North American champion. But really, I'm fine with whoever wins this potentially glorious clusterfuck.

    Unsanctioned Match (If Gargano wins, he gets reinstated in NXT): Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa

    The time has come for Johnny Gargano to beat the holy hell and bloody pulp out of Tommaso Ciampa after costing him the NXT title and his job. As I mentioned last week, out of all the matches in this card, this may just give me one of the most cathartic victories in all of my two years as a returning wrestling fan.

    There are a ton of matches this WrestleMania Weekend, and this will be one of the handful that will make grown men and women cry. This was quite a journey for our favorite underdog in Johnny Wrestling, and he will finally slay the snake from his past and move on to much greater things.

    NXT Women's Championship: Ember Moon (c) vs. Shayna Baszler

    To be very blunt, this build to their rematch from TakeOver: Philadelphia was the most underwhelming in the card, maybe because it wasn't consistent. But despite this, it was with Ember's feud with Shayna that she found her stride character-wise. Shayna was a revelation to me. Her character is very much on point that there were times that I wanted to fight her myself (But I'd lose my limbs, of course). I feel kind of sorry for Ember because she followed Asuka's legendary title reign with something woefully short, but Shayna Baszler will be our new NXT Women's Champion at the end of TakeOver. Imagine the sea of chasing babyfaces she'll have as challengers.

    NXT Championship: Andrade "Cien" Almas (with Zelina Vega) (c) vs. Aleister Black

    Hoo boy, another tough decision to make. After playing second fiddle to the Gargano-Ciampa storyline, the NXT title and the champion, Andrade "Cien" Almas needs a much longer time where he can be in the spotlight alone. But Aleister Black has been on fire since... well, making his NXT debut. Man, I love El Idolo and Zelina Vega, but they should strike while the iron is hot, so I'm picking Aleister Black.

    As per usual, I'm expecting nothing but really great stuff from TakeOver: New Orleans, since high-quality wrestling has always been the norm in TakeOvers.

    Rest of the show:
    • Authors of Pain (Akam and Rezar with Paul Ellering) vs. Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne for the finals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic ended in a double disqualification after Adam Cole and Kyle O'Reilly interfered: Roddy and Peter make a really good babyface team! And who knew that Peter can actually be a struggling, never-say-die babyface?!
    Really good stuff from the tag team division. AOP dominating the first few minutes of the match reminded me that they aren't just two big boys who throw people around, but they are two big boys who throw people around and knock them out with their strikes. Pete's hot tag to Roddy and his babyface comeback were just things of beauty. So were the nearfalls.

    Undisputed ERA messing things up also made a lot of sense. With the announcement of Bobby Fish being on the shelf for a while with a knee injury, it was up to Adam Cole and Kyle O'Reilly to devise a plan and escape the obligatory title defense. But they only made things much worse (on Cole's side of things, at least), because they now have to defend it against AOP and Strong-Dunne, as NXT GM William Regal announced.

    Cole and O'Reilly complained to Regal about his decision, and Mr. Regal's line "You're the Undisputed ERA. You're smart, you'll figure something out" was a great callback to Regal always being the thorn on the ERA's side.

    While that one was addressed, I wonder why nobody brought up that AOP and Roddy were once on the same team at WarGames?

    • Kairi Sane def. Vanessa Borne: This match was basically Kairi's exhibition match because the commentary team kept on saying that she is definitely next in line for the NXT Women's Championship, regardless of who wins after TakeOver. Vanessa Borne's character is already on point, but just like anyone from the Performance Center, she is still a work in progress. There were rough spots during this match, like not being in the position for Kairi's offense. But this is why they're in the PC, though.

    • Killian Dain vs. Lars Sullivan ended in a no-contest: Remember when we were all salivating at the thought of a hoss fight between these two large men? Well it was disappointing, to say the least. Sure, Dain and Sullivan are two strong men who hit hard, but it just never picked up. Was it because the face-off among the participants of the ladder match was placed way too early on the match?
    I understand that the good stuff should happen on TakeOver, since this was a go-home episode, but they should have put a bit more effort, I guess? The crowd did pop when Velveteen Dream came out to be involved, though. As well as Adam Cole, EC3, and Ricochet. The face-off was fun, but it wasn't strong enough ending to a go-home episode.

    It seems that go-home episodes aren't NXT's forte. People can easily catch this week's episode through YouTube videos, but to be fair, everything that happened to forward existing angles made sense. Did this episode hype me up for TakeOver? Not quite, but I was already hyped to begin with. This deserves a C+.

    Photos from WWE.com

    Ardelle Costuna works at a news organization somewhere along EDSA whenever she's not watching wrestling. As someone who just recently turned to Japanese wrestling (full-time ish), she is a sucker for no-sold German suplexes, kick-outs at one-count, and whatever the hell Tetsuya Naito is doing right now. Send her your (joshi) puroresu match recommendations and watch her swoon over Kenny Omega, and Jake Lee at @aandthejets.
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    Item Reviewed: Smark Hen-XT (4/4/18): TakeOver: New Orleans Predictions Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Ardelle Costuna
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