Adam Cole sought to continue what has become, arguably, the greatest NXT Championship reign in the brand’s history as he entered the arena for TakeOver’s main event. To do so, he would have to overcome a Tommaso Ciampa driven by the desire to regain the title he was forced to relinquish due to injury. Their individual goals fueled the marquee bout of the evening’s show.
Ciampa delivered the first big blow of the match, hanging Cole up on the guardrail at ringside and delivering a nasty knee lift to the face. A series of chops to the chest followed and a running knee to the face sent the champion crashing into the timekeeper’s position.
Cole turned the tide with a wheelbarrow suplex into the announce table, Ciampa’s head and surgically repaired neck crashing along the edge of the structure. The champion grounded his challenger and worked the injured body part.
An alert Ciampa countered a Panama Sunrise attempt with a dropkick that caught Cole in mid-flight. A flurry of clotheslines and a German suplex gave Ciampa momentum while a torture rack bomb earned him a two-count.
The fight headed to the top rope, where Ciampa delivered a massive Air Raid Crash for a dramatic near-fall. On the floor, Cole tried for a powerbomb onto the announce table but Ciampa fought out and delivered one of his own. The champion bounced off the table, which did not break, as the crowd erupted. A second powerbomb led to Cole obliterating the table and the fight returning to the ring.
Project Ciampa earned the challenger a near-fall and left him in disbelief. Cole responded moments later with a tope but Ciampa had it scouted and cut him off. Back in the ring, Cole earned a near-fall off a ushigoroshi. He followed with the Last Shot a minute later, but Ciampa crawled to the safety of the bottom rope to avoid defeat.
Ciampa delivered the Air Raid Crash again, this time to the ring apron. Cole answered with a Panama Sunrise on the arena floor, further damaging the neck of his opponent. The challenger popped up, though, and delivered Willow’s Bell. The Fairytale Ending seemingly finished Cole off but the champion shot his shoulder off the mat just before the three-count.
Late in the match, Roderick Strong, Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish all interfered but Cole still failed to put Ciampa away. He followed up with the Last Shot but, again, could not keep his opponent down.
Ref bumps, more interference and a low blow ensued as Cole looked for any way to leave with his title reign intact. Ciampa caught Cole with a low blow of his own, added another Fairytale Ending and had the champion pinned for the count of, at least, 15.
The lack of a referee prevented the coronation, though, and a shocking betrayal by Johnny Gargano moments later ensured earned Cole the tainted victory.
Cole defeated Ciampa
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
“Shocking” may not be the word for Gargano’s betrayal, at least to anyone that has been paying attention to his saga with Ciampa over the last two years. The relationship between the team formerly known as DIY has been one of twists, turns and a rollercoaster of emotion. There have been heel turns, reunions, more betrayal and in between, a series of defining matches.
Gargano’s turn here was not “shocking,” at least not from the standpoint that it happened. It was shocking, though, in the sense that NXT officials appear content to let those two write yet another chapter in their story. This, just as it appeared as though the brand may be moving on from that particular rivalry for the time being.
Given the amount of time that has been invested in the story, one has to hope that Triple H and those in charge of crafting the story understands how important it is for them to put an exclamation point on their epic rivalry with one last, great match. And, perhaps more significantly, how vital injection of freshness will be to ensuring fans can muster enough emotion and energy to watch the familiar foes battle one more time.
If not, the feud will limp to a conclusion rather than sprint to the ending the performers and fans deserve.
As for the match between Ciampa and Cole, it was great for the first two-thirds before overbooking bogged it down a bit. Still, the psychology surrounding Ciampa’s neck was strong and played off an injury everyone was familiar with, making it far more believable that the champion could exploit it all the way to victory.