Two night before WrestleMania 35, NXT will get their time to shine at TakeOver: New York.
Thousands will pack the Barclays Center to see the black-and-yellow brand do what they do best: be a tough act to follow for the main roster. Every NXT title and one from NXT UK will be on the line, with five matches officially on the card.
The following are my predictions and thoughts for each match. I’m usually pretty good when it comes to NXT predictions, so let’s see if I can keep it going!
NXT North American Championship: Velveteen Dream (c.) vs. Matt Riddle
Up first is a bout between two of NXT’s most charismatic superstars.
Velveteen Dream is in the midst of his first title reign in NXT, defeating Johnny Gargano for the North American Championship back in February. He has quickly become one of the more popular wrestlers on the roster, exuding a kind of charisma and confidence that few can pull off.
Let’s not forget the fact that he’s only 23 years old and has the talent that many his age wish they had. To have already faced guys like Gargano, Aleister Black, Kassius Ohno, Adam Cole, and Ricochet shows how much of a star he is. However, his opponent in his first title defense shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Matt Riddle has been on an impressive streak since his debut in October 2018. His laid back and carefree attitude is a stark contrast to who he becomes once he steps into the ring. The laughs and smiles are replaced with punishing strikes and grueling submissions. At the rate he’s going, it was no surprise that he already has a title shot.
These two are set to clash in Brooklyn for the first time ever. What was once a light-hearted rivalry has escalated into a social media war of words that no one knew they needed until now. I honestly think that this could be a surprise match of the night contender.
I’m picking Dream to retain here; while Riddle will give him a run for his money, it just doesn’t make sense for him to lose the title so soon. The Velveteen Dream Experience will continue through WrestleMania weekend.
Winner: Velveteen Dream
NXT Tag Team Championships: War Raiders (c.) vs. Aleister Black & Ricochet
Next, we move on to the NXT tag team division.
Aleister Black & Ricochet are quite the odd-ball pairing on paper, but they actually work really well together. Black’s strikes and brooding demeanor are balanced out by Ricochet’s high-flying and upbeat personality.
These two have already made waves on the main roster, earning several RAW Tag Team Championship opportunities. But they didn’t forget about where they started, participating in and winning the fourth annual Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.
By defeating The Forgotten Sons in the final, they earned a shot at the NXT Tag Team Championships at TakeOver: New York.
Standing in their way are the current champions, War Raiders. Rowe and Hanson have been a force to be reckoned with since they burst onto the scene at TakeOver: New Orleans last year. They have demolished their competition, including The Undisputed Era, whom they beat for the titles at TakeOver: Phoenix several months ago.
I’d say this prediction is rather easy: War Raiders will retain. Black & Ricochet are almost guaranteed to stay up on the main roster after this, so there is no need for them to win the titles. However, I do think this match will be a great send-off for them.
Now let’s just hope they have the same success on RAW or SmackDown Live as they did in NXT.
Winners: War Raiders
NXT Women’s Championship: Shayna Baszler (c.) vs. Io Shirai vs. Bianca Belair vs. Kairi Sane
We then turn our attention to the NXT women’s division’s top prize.
Shayna Baszler has been running rampant as the NXT Women’s Champion for months now, taking down her competition with relative ease. She most recently retained the title against Bianca Belair at TakeOver: Phoenix, ending her challenger’s undefeated streak in the process.
Then Io Shirai and Kairi Sane got involved. The two teamed up with Belair to take on Baszler and her Four Horsewomen stablemates, Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke, on an episode of NXT TV. Shirai would pin the champion, but Belair argued that it should have been her who picked up the win for her team.
They would then wrestle for the chance to face Baszler at TakeOver: New York several weeks later. However, the champ got involved in the match and took both women out, including Sane after she tried to help them. This led to all three women being added to the title match.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love Baszler, I always have and always will. This might be my bias talking, but I really don’t see a reason for her to lose the title.
Sane has already had her time as champion, and quite frankly I’m not sure why she’s in the match to begin with except to take the pin. Shirai hasn’t really been featured enough on NXT to warrant her winning it this quick, in my opinion. Then there’s Belair; she’s already lost to Baszler, and I’m still not completely sold on her just yet.
So, for those reasons, I’m picking Baszler to retain once again. The Queen of Spades’ rule will continue, and long may she reign.
Winner: Shayna Baszler
NXT United Kingdom Championship: Pete Dunne (c.) vs. WALTER
Now we look at the match that determines who will be the face of NXT UK.
Pete Dunne has been one of the most consistent performers in the entire company. He has held the title for 682+ days, the longest active reign in WWE. Every time he steps into the ring, it has the potential to be a match of the night contender. After beating Joe Coffey at the inaugural NXT UK TakeOver, it seemed like there was no one left that could dethrone The Bruiserweight.
Then, in the blink of an eye, everything changed.
Walter made his NXT UK debut after the match, staring down Dunne and making it perfectly clear who he was gunning for. Everyone knew these two were going to face each other at some point, we just didn’t know when. Several weeks ago, we got our answer and now NXT UK’s coveted prize will be on the line on Friday night.
I have a feeling that this will finally be the match. Walter is the guy that will beat Dunne for the title; he is just too big and too strong not to. Dunne has nothing more he needs to prove, and him losing wouldn’t hurt him in the slightest. The champion won’t go down without a fight, but I think he’s finally met his match.
2 Out of 3 Falls Match for the vacant NXT Championship: Johnny Gargano vs. Adam Cole
Finally, we get to see who will become the new NXT Champion.
The original plan was to have Johnny Gargano face then-champion, Tommaso Ciampa, but neck surgery forced the latter out of action for several months. This also meant he had to vacate the title he held for 238 days.
A fatal five-way match was announced to determine who would challenge Gargano in Brooklyn. Adam Cole bested Ricochet, Aleister Black, Velveteen Dream, and Matt Riddle to earn the opportunity, and the match was set.
Every fiber of my being wants to pick Cole to win the title. I’ve felt like he’s deserved to be in this position for a while now, and it’s a shame it’s taken this long to get there. However, it seems like Gargano winning is almost guaranteed.
For over a year now he has come close time and time again to winning the NXT Championship, but has always come up short. It just feels like this time it’s going to be different, and he will finally capture the title that has alluded him for so long.
So, begrudgingly, I’m picking Johnny Wrestling to become Johnny Champion once again.