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WWE NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia predictions: Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas, Ember Moon vs. Shayna Baszler, more!

NXT, WWE's Developmental flagship-turned-stand alone brand, will be putting on their latest live special tomorrow (Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018). This time out, it’s another ”Big 4” event as TakeOver: Philadelphia goes down on the eve of Royal Rumble.

The card comes our way from Wells Fargo Center at 8PM Eastern, exclusively on WWE Network. With only a little more than two months since the last live special, November’s WarGames, NXT had to work faster than usual to set the line-up. Did that make for a more predictable line-up?

We’ve had some changes since the pre-Survivor Series show, that’s for sure. All the titleholders are different than when the black-and-yellow brand rolled into San Antonio. Tonight, Andrade “Cien” Almas defends his NXT title against Johnny Gargano, Ember Moon puts her Women’s belt on the line against Shayna Baszler, and Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly of Undisputed ERA try to stop Authors of Pain from becoming two-time tag champs.

On the undercard, Undisputed’s Adam Cole and Aleister Black will try to settle their issues under Extreme Rules, while veteran Kassius Cole deals with brash upstart Velveteen Dream.

If you're new or someone who only checks out NXT for the live specials, we've got a full preview of the matches coming up for you between now and belltime. Right now, we've assembled a motley crew of Cagesiders who watch & love NXT to give us their thoughts & predictions on each.

Let's get to it.

WWE NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia PREDICTIONS

Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas (c)

Sean Rueter: Too much attention being paid to the challenger and not enough to Zelina Vega’s associate. El Ídolo needs an archrival, and I don’t think it’s Gargano. Would love to see him hold onto the belt until Chicago or even Brooklyn and I think it’s likely since Triple H and team probably don’t want another short title reign after Drew McIntyre’s. Plus, my favorite babyface triumphs come after A LOT of hardship, and Johnny seems like he could take a little more. Pick: Andrade “Cien” Almas

Kyle Decker: I’m to the point that I’d be surprised if Tommaso Ciampa didn’t make his return here. The question is does he screw Gargano out of the title or wait for him to win that to make their feud the championship feud? The former seems more likely to me as Johnny finally climbing that summit has been his story and Ciampa would be more hated for denying him that moment. Plus, this feud won’t need a title. Pick: Andrade “Cien” Almas

ReverendKain: I like the Vega/Almas double act as much as the next guy, but as good as El Idolo is and as much as Ciampa looms around the corner, as Evolve Guy I can’t pick against my dude here. The Bee’s Knees, the Cat’s Pajamas, the Whole Shebang, the WWN Icon, the heart and soul of Dragon Gate USA... and your next NXT Champion. Pick: Johnny Gargano

Stella Cheeks (of the always awesome NYD podcast): It has to be Johnny – the timing is too perfect. His never say die underdog story has been perfectly crafted, his wife just got signed to NXT and Ciampa is poised for a comeback sooner rather than later. Cien and Gargano have put on some blockbuster matches and while Johnny has come up short, it was because his doubts allowed Zelina to get in his head. But that era of his career is over and doubt is for people who are not Johnny Mother Effin’ Wrestling! It’s his time to take his rightful place as NXT Champion. Sorry for your short title reign Cien, but... Pick: Johnny Gargano

Erin Cline (the more enigmatic half of Not Your Demographic): All I want in my life is for Johnny to win this belt. I am always on Team ‘Cien’ and I am so happy they gave him this belt, but Johnny has earned it and spent the last year really building himself into the babyface WWE desperately needs. Ultimately, what I want is for Candace to come out and neutralize Zelina (I normally would not encourage this, but they’ve already established them as a couple during the Mae Young Classic (MYC) and having Candace make her TakeOver debut by setting up a feud with Zelina would be an excellent move), and after Johnny wins the title that MOTHERF***ER TOMASSO CIAMPA comes out and beats the $#!+ out of him. GIVE US THIS CONCLUSION WE NEED IT AND THIS HAS EARNED A BELT. Also acceptable if Cien retains but ONLY if Tomasso costs Johnny the win somehow. Pick: Johnny Gargano

Ember Moon (c) vs. Shayna Baszler

Sean Rueter: Kind of thinking the loser might show up on Sunday to claim 1/30th of a piece of history, and I don’t think The Queen of Spades is ready for the big-time yet. Moon does the pass-out-rather-than-tap-out thing, debuts in the Rumble and starts to transition to the main roster where we can hopefully forget she was a transitional champ who never beat The Empress. Pick: Shayna Baszler

Kyle Decker: While I can see plenty of reasons they could make a switch here, that’d really be cruddy for Ember’s character. She already had to wait for Asuka to leave before she was able to win the title. If she dropped it the first time, that’d be pretty terrible. Shayna’s time will come, and likely sooner than later, but Ember will retain at least once. Pick: Ember Moon

ReverendKain: My question is this— is this match also for Shayna’s AIW Women’s Championship? Ember’s got a lot of history in Ohio, it almost seems plausible in our wacky world of 2018 pro wrestling! Anyway, Ember’s road to the title was weird and rocky and I couldn’t see where they were going with it at any point so why would I have any better luck with her title reign, right? So on the mark hat goes, and since I first saw her wrestle Colleen Schneider for Premier my grapple-loving self has been on board with the Queen of Spades. Let’s do it. Pick: Shayna Baszler

Stella Cheeks: I love how they built this feud! We’ve hardly had any interactions between Baszler and Moon besides a FIRE backstage interview, but the heat between them is palpable. I love that all the action happened between Baszler and other women on the NXT roster and not Moon. It really solidified Baszler as a heel and showcased some of the underutilized female talent. Plus, having their first official meeting in ring at TakeOver for the belt is brilliant. Although Baszler looks strong, I think Moon retains. Baszler is the perfect heel to elevate Moon’s title reign and push her into great champion territory. Right now she feels like “champion because Asuka left”, but this feud has the potential to make her “champion who fights for her division”. Push Ember to the Moon ;) Pick: Ember Moon

Erin Cline: I really, really, really hope that they don’t just throw Ember away for their Shayna boner. I like the direction they’re taking Shayna (unstoppable murder bully is WAY better than, “Hey, look it’s Ronda’s friend”) but to give her the title already would be a hollow and worthless move. Ember put in so much work with Asuka I can’t imagine anything more disappointing than her immediately dropping the belt at her first TakeOver defense. Let Ember squeak out a win or have Shayna act recklessly and get disqualified. No need to blow the load here already. Pick: Ember Moon

Undisputed ERA (c) vs. Authors of Pain

Sean Rueter: This kind of feels like it could be one of those times where everyone is convinced NXT is going one way, then they go the other. Still sticking with the pack, though. And putting early money on Rezar to win The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Pick: Undisputed ERA

Kyle Decker: The Authors have been lame ducking their way around NXT for almost half a year now. They’ve got to be moving on sooner than later. Plus, SAnitY is owned a title match and it would make way more sense for them to fight the team that beat them and then later attacked them backstage. Pick: Undisputed ERA

ReverendKain: The Book of Pain is more like an encyclopedia set by now, they’ve been writing so long. Time to go. Pick: reDRagon Undisputed ERA

Stella Cheeks: AOP had their time to shine and while I think they did a good job covering for Sanity’s unplanned absence it would make no sense to put the belts back on AOP. Undisputed Era is just getting started in NXT and a win over former tag champs, especially ones as dominant as AOP would do wonder for their push. Pick: Undisputed ERA

Erin Cline: With all the rumors of a call-up for AoP, it seems likely that Undisputed retains here and ushers out the Authors. AoP also doesn’t seem to have a place within this NXT tag division anymore and could be better used rebuilding the RAW tag division (and god knows RAW loves a Legend manager). I also really want an Undisputed/TM61 feud and letting the teams speak for themselves in a feud seems necessary and preferable because they’re all *so good* at it. I know I’m totally skipping over the ACTUAL match coming at TakeOver for what it signifies for the future, but honestly, isn’t that the point of this feud? Pick: Undisputed ERA

Adam Cole vs. Aleister Black

Sean Rueter: No idea. The dude with allies would seem to have an advantage with a no-DQ-type stip, but Fish and O’Reilly are busy. So barring a Donovan Dijak debut... Maybe I should pick the guy whose theme song I like more? That’s it. I mean, “Undisputed” is good, but it’s not “Root of All Evil”. And this gets us to the Almas feud I really want to see before he and Aleister get called up, because NXT creative’s build for those two conflicting characters should be deep. Pick: Aleister Black

Kyle Decker: This is the match I’m torn on the most. 50/50. On one hand, Adam Cole is lacking a signature single’s victory since he’s debuted in NXT in August and really could use one if he’s is going to be one of the top heels in the promotion. On the other, I think the winner of this will end up #1 contender and Black vs. Almas makes more sense than a heel vs. heel bout. I’m going to go with Black, but really, I have no idea. Pick: Aleister Black

ReverendKain: Honestly Kyle wrote his picks before I did first and I like his logic. Just have to flip it since I picked Johnny Wrestling to win the big one. Plus I like the idea of Cole/Gargano better, just because there’s a certain poetry to two men who were scouted by WWE young and left on the indies to mature at opposing sides of the ROH/Evolve divide meeting for the biggest prize WWE’s developmental brand has to offer down the line. Pick: Adam Cole

Stella Cheeks: I truly do not know what to expect from this match. I can’t imagine Undisputed Era winning both of their bouts, but with this being an Extreme Rules match there is a lot of room for shenanigans. Cole is such a good heel that he can spin a loss and it seems foolish to build such a powerful undefeated (in singles competition) streak for Black, only to throw it away in a non-title gimmick match. Perhaps Fish and O’Reilly try and get involved only to be thwarted by Roddy costing Cole the match? Whatever happens, my gut says... Pick: Aleister Black

Erin Cline: My gut says Black, but with the Extreme Rules caveat it really feels like this is Adam Cole and Undisputed’s match to lose. Honestly, I think this one really depends on where they put it on the card. I don’t think they’ll do a win for both Undisputed in the tag match and a win for Cole against Black (especially since Black is still a hot item they seem to be committed to building), so with that in mind I hope this one comes up for Black after beating off all of Undisputed. Pick: Aleister Black

Velveteen Dream vs. Kassius Ohno

Sean Rueter: Dream’s momentum won’t be hurt by a loss, and Ohno’s value depends on picking up a win over a bigger name than Raul Mendoza (no offense). I could see KO mentoring VD through a teased or actual face turn following this match, too. Pick: Kassius Ohno

Kyle Decker: Dream is a young star on the rise who can use a big win. Ohno is a veteran here to help put over young stars on the rise. Pick: Velveteen Dream

ReverendKain: I need Ohno to start being the gatekeeper he’s best as, and the pieces for that are starting to come together after he and Gargano had that war on the way to Johnny’s contendership. If he swats Dream down here, I think we’ll have arrived. Pick: Kassius Ohno

Stella Cheeks: Ohno and Dream will put on a good match, but... Velveteen Dream is a breakout NXT star and Ohno is a hard hitting jobber. Sad, but true. Pick: Velveteen Dream

Erin Cline: Mark this down as both the first time I’m rooting for Velveteen Dream and my first time rooting against Ohno. At this point, it feels like Kassius has become the poster child for Never-Gets-A-Win, which makes me sad, but watching the growth of Dream over the last six months has been a delight. I can’t wait to see them bring out the best in each other, and a Dream ending does seem like the right way to go. Pick: Velveteen Dream

That's who we've got. Who are you taking, Cagesiders?

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