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WWE NXT TakeOver: New Orleans predictions: Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa, Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas vs. Aleister Black, more!

NXT, WWE's Developmental flagship-turned-stand alone brand, will be putting on their latest live special tomorrow (Sat, Mar. 7, 2018). This time, it’s even bigger than normal, as TakeOver: New Orleans goes down on the eve of WrestleMania 34 - and head-to-head with Ring of Honor’s Supercard of Honor XII.

The card comes our way from Smoothie King Center at 8PM Eastern, exclusively on WWE Network. The black-and-yellow brand’s events are always special, and with head-to-head competition from Ring of Honor and Bullet Club on ‘Mania weekend, they’ve loaded this one up. From recent signees like EC3 and Ricochet competing for a new title, to the payoff of a year-long program in Tommaso Ciampa vs. Johnny Gargano, New Orleans has five exciting bouts lined up for what should be a much-buzzed about night of action - even during as busy a weekend as this one.

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.


Aleister Black vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas (c)

Sean Rueter: Just feels too soon to take the title away from El Ídolo and his business associate, especially when their run thus far has largely been dedicated to playing a supporting role in setting up the Ciampa/Gargano program. It’s not the usual NXT way for main events/title programs, but Zelina is there for a reason. She can do something which protects Black in a losing effort and sets up a stipulation rematch down the road. Pick: Andrade “Cien” Almas

Kyle Decker: I’m torn on this for one reason: Johnny Gargano. Without Johnny’s story, Aleister would be my easy pick. But if the story if for Johnny to finally get revenge on Ciampa here and eventually claim the gold that’s eluded him, Almas actually works better. He is the man Gargano can’t beat and it would be the sweetest if Johnny wins the gold from him. But Aleister would be the bigger challenge in general. I bet they do a best of both worlds thing where Black wins but to get a shot at Aleister, Gargano needs to beat Almas to do so. And that’s finally how he gets his win over El Idolo. Pick: Aleister Black

Rev. Claire Elizabeth: This one is hard. On one-hand, Almas and Vega are on a hell of a roll and I’d like to see them fend off contenders for at least a few more months. On the other, it’d be a shame to waste this momentum Black has, especially since I don’t see him as a guy NXT is in a hurry to push up to the main roster. I gotta pick, so, let’s keep playing the hand we drew... Pick: Andrade “Cien” Almas

Stella Cheeks (of the always awesome NYD podcast): *Sings to Aleister’s theme* No man is ever truly champion, until he beats the champion, which is totally gonna happen. Seriously though, this is Aleister’s moment. He’s been unstoppable since his debut! The fans love him, his in ring work is always impressive and his character work is TOP notch. Although Almas’ run has been fun - due almost exclusively to Zelina - it’s time he drops the belt. I honestly can’t imagine what else he could do or who else he would face. Yes, he’s a good wrestler, but without Zelina he as a champion is meh. With Black there are so many more interesting storyline possibilities… because, you know, Aleister is actually interesting. Pick: Aleister Black

Erin Cline (the more enigmatic half of Not Your Demographic): This one is really hard to call. I, always and forever, want to pick Cien but he’s already had such a successful run as champ it doesn’t really seem like he needs the belt in the same way that Black does, especially because they’ve built Black into this unstoppable force. I think it’s the right call to move the title to Black and would help establish him as an even stronger babyface to beat the terror that is Cien and Zelena. And god knows WWE always desperately needs strong babyfaces. Pick: Aleister Black

Brigade17: It’s amazing to think back upon Almas’ NXT debut. Do you remember? He wore the silly hat, couldn’t talk...He is unrecognizable from the man he once was, and I mean that in the best way possible. In fact, I’d wager that it’s time for a call up. With Vega at his side, Almas is main roster ready. Meanwhile, Black’s methodically picked apart the entire NXT roster. There are plenty of heels lurking for a shot and I think it will be fascinating to watch Black hold them at bay. One Black Mass and we’ll have a new champion. Pick: Aleister Black

Ember Moon (c) vs. Shayna Baszler

Sean Rueter: Seems weird to say about the champion and someone who’s been a fixture of the top of the division for almost her entire run on the brand, but things never came together for Ember in NXT. Here’s hoping she’s the rare case of the main roster being a better fit for what her skill set. I’m not convinced the Queen of Spades is ready for the role, but this is the position the bookers put themselves in... Pick: Shayna Baszler

Kyle Decker: I’ll be legit surprised if Baszler doesn’t leave here without the title. They found a way not to put it on her at the last TakeOver, but in a way that made it pretty clear she’s the next champion. It also feels like Ember is going to be on her way to the main roster pretty soon and she’ll need to lose the title to get there. Pick: Shayna Baszler

Rev. Claire Elizabeth: Shayna should have won the title last time. Love the Queen of Spades, let’s do it! Pick: Shayna Baszler

Stella Cheeks: This feud really helped to form Moon as a champion and a big win over Shayna would solidify her as a babyface champion – which they desperately need to do. We don’t need an underdog story right now (hello we have Johnny!) what we need is a champion who won because she was the best. No cheating, no shenanigans, she is the champ for a g-d reason. Ember as the leader of the women’s division, putting Shayna in her place and protecting her fellow wrestlers is a good look. And to be honest, although Shayna has improved drastically over the past year she still has a ways to go. I’d love to see Shayna reignite her feud with Kairi or even start/continue the feud with Dakota. Pick: Ember Moon

Erin Cline: Hate to say this but I’m honestly over Ember as champ. I love her as a wrestler, but her character is basically nonexistent and there doesn’t seem to be much left to DO with her. Shayna has been k i l l i n g i t as the resident NXT bully monster and has obviously been working her ass off since the MYC. I followed Shayna in Shimmer as well and it’s been such a stark and fast improvement since they really put the spotlight on her and I’m cool with them rewarding that work. So I’m going... Pick: Shayna Baszler

Brigade17: This is probably the match I feel most confident in. I think Shayna Baszler has been phenomenal for NXT and that she’s the champion the women’s division needs moving forward. There’s going to be a lot of new blood - who better to exploit it than a badass bully? Pick: Shayna Baszler

Velveteen Dream vs. EC3 vs. Killian Dain vs. Adam Cole vs. Lars Sullivan vs. Ricochet

Sean Rueter: There are no bad choices among the four non-hosses (sorry, Dain would have worked as a singles champ coming off his ‘Mania appearance last year, but has been adrift too long, and Sullivan needs to get back the momentum he lost when he disappeared with injury... and both need more of character-work). NXT doesn’t usually strap guys immediately, though, which is why I think they’ll do it here. They waited a long time to get this guy, and they’re going to push hard right out of the gate. Pick: Ricochet

Kyle Decker: Wide open field right here, but I’ve narrowed it down to two really: EC3 and Adam Cole. Ricochet just debuted and I bet this leads into a proper feud with Dream. Dain and Lars don’t really need it as it won’t add that much to their status of impressive monsters. So EC3 or Adam Cole? Cole could really use it more as, while impressive, has been pretty under the radar his entire NXT run. And if you’re going to be in a group called “Undisputed ERA,” you kind of need some gold of your own. But EC3 is the hot act, perfect to help put the title on the map. Going to lean towards Cole because I feel he needs it more, but I say that with minimal confidence. Pick: Adam Cole

Rev. Claire Elizabeth: The really interesting thing here to me is that William Regal explicitly positioned the North American title as a counterpart to the UK one, down to bringing in all the best talent. So... will whoever win get to defend it on friendly indies? Wishful thinking on that idea leads me to pick between our two freshly-signed indie men, and well, it’s a ladder match... Pick: Ricochet

Stella Cheeks: I’ve got three…um, letters and also a number for you… EC mothereffin’ 3. Look, I know Ricochet is going to win, but let me have this. I love EC3 will all my heart and I’m so happy for him. No one make’s being a rich, entitled, asshat look so good! I think Killian and Lars cancel each other out. Adam is too tired from (or distracted by depending on the order) his Tag match to do that much, and the remaining match is all about EC3, Dream and Ricochet. Pick: EC3 almost wins, but Ricochet comes out of no where with a sweet ass crazy ladder mover and gets the belt… but then he hands it to EC3 because he loves him just as much as I do.

Erin Cline: FIRST AND FOREMOST thank god they finally added a midcard belt!!! This has felt like a long time coming and this is such a great way to showcase all of these guys they don’t have a place for in the “main title” picture. I’m still not convinced that we’ll actually see Adam Cole in this match, as Bobby Fish’sinjury means he’s working Undisputed’s other title match on this card. Adam seems like the likely (and smartest) option there, so I’m going to make my prediction assuming he’s replaced by someone (a new ERA member?) and that person does not win. In that case, I feel like we’re really down to EC3 and Ricochet. My gut says Richocet, they’ve waited a long time to get him and had to convince him to leave NJPW and they seem ready to reward him for it. EC3 seems like a natural as well, but I can easily see this spinning off into a feud between the two of them after TakeOver... I think I’ve gotta go with Ricochet. The crowd is hot as hell for him and he seems to produce better promos as a champion, which is really what he’s in NXT to work on. EC3 can cut chasing the belt promos which would elevate Ricochet as well. Either way, this match is going to awesome. Pick: Ricochet

Brigade17: So here’s the deal. I think Adam Cole is going to win this match. I have a working theory for this one so feel free to tell me if I sound idiotic in the comments. I think it makes sense for a heel to win the North American Championship if Black wins in the main event. I’m wary of EC3 winning because no debuting NXT talent has ever won a championship this quickly. And with Bobby Fish injured, I think it makes sense for the Undisputed Era to drop the tag team championships. Winning here would be good for the Undisputed Era, good for Cole, and great for NXT’s midcard. Pick: Adam Cole

Tommaso Ciampa vs. Johnny Gargano

Sean Rueter: Triple H likes to break hearts, as Philly’s main event reminded us. Not overly concerned by the stipulation, as there are things for Johnny Wrestling to do elsewhere, and ways around it still should they decide to walk back his exit again. It just doesn’t seem right to end Blackheart’s reign of villainy with his first match back. Pick: Tommaso Ciampa

Kyle Decker: My only issue with this match, and it’s the slightest of nitpicks, is the outcome holds little doubt. They’ve set this up in a way that Johnny really has to go over here. He’s been down too long and with the stipulation as it is, he’s got to win here. That all being said, this will be a fantastic bit of storytelling, which will be par for the course regarding this feud. Pick: Johnny Gargano

Rev. Claire Elizabeth: There are two things I’ve been thinking about since this match was officially announced last week. One, Tommaso Ciampa’s excellent no disqualification match against Cedric Alexander for Ring of Honor at the end of 2014 that saw the Sicilian Psychopath literally dismantle the ring for a victory. Two, Johnny Gargano’s likewise excellent “I Quit” Match against “All Ego” Ethan Page at Evolve 49 that saw Johnny Wrestling pick up the win with a brutal turnbuckle-and-rope assisted Gargano Escape. These two guys, in this match, with those (and many other, to be fair) examples of what they can do in this situation... I can’t wait. Pick: Johnny Gargano

Stella Cheeks: I keep wanting to write “This will be the match of the night” for all of these matches, but I really truly think Gargano vs Ciampa is going to blow everyone away. They are both incredible wrestlers and never fail to deliver, but this time the stakes are astronomically high. For almost a year every moment these two have appeared on NXT has influenced this story line and it has been incredible. This feud is truly what makes wrestling great. Johnny has to win! He gotten SO close to winning the championship so many times, only to have Ciampa mess with his mojo. He needs his revenge and we need Johnny back in NXT! Slaying his ultimate demon at TakeOver NOLA would be the perfect (temporary) button to this story! And can you imagine how insane Ciampa will go if he loses? How dangerous he would become to the Locker room? That’s an NXT I want to watch every week. Pick: Johnny Gargano

Erin Cline: I mean, this is obvious right? Very excited to scream and freak out and probably cry about this match regardless of what feels like a pretty predictable outcome. Pick: Johnny Gargano

Brigade17: At the Cruiserweight Classic, Gargano beat Ciampa. Ciampa had hesitated on an unprotected knee strike and came up short because of his compassion for his friend. worries about mushy feelings like compassion anymore. A Ciampa win here is the best move, in my mind. Ciampa could do so much with the hatred he’d receive for shipping Gargano off to the main roster. And what would happen if Gargano won? They’d just keep feuding until someone left. Let’s have a clean break now and pick it up some day on the main roster. Pick: Tommaso Ciampa

Undisputed ERA (c) vs. Authors of Pain vs. Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne

Sean Rueter: Eh, what the heck. They’re not doing anything else with them anyway. Cement their legacy as two-time champs and back-to-back Dusty Cup winners. Pick: Authors of Pain

Kyle Decker: I’m eliminating the Authors off the top. If they’re not called up to the main roster very soon, I’ll be shocked. ERA is the proper tag team, but Dunne and Strong have been so great as a makeshift pairing that I’m picking them. Pick: Roderick Strong & Pete Dunne

Rev. Claire Elizabeth: This has gotta be a swansong for the Authors at long last, right? They’ve been more than good enough for a call-up for months now and I’m salivating at the idea of them getting a crack at the Usos or New Day or the Bar or whoever. So that leaves us to Undisputed ERA, down a man, or Strong and Dunne, thrown together (but excellent!) because Moustache Mountain couldn’t go. I’m thinking we get a retention here. Pick: Undisputed ERA

Stella Cheeks: I don’t need another AOP title run and as fun as Strong and Dunne are I think this really is the ERA of Adam Cole. Plus, if Cole & Guitar O’Riley win it gives Adam an excuse to lose the ladder match. Pick: Undisputed ERA

Erin Cline: Again, because Fish’s injury and Regal’s booking leaves room for Undisputed to get up to something, I’m not confident at all in what we’re about to get from this match. It seems extremely unlikely that they’ll put two belts on Pete (no matter how much he’s crushing it) and honestly, what’s the point of putting them back on AoP? Why aren’t AoP already main roster? If Adam is Bobby’s replacement that really seals the deal for me that Undisputed retains. Past that though this is the match I’m totally unsure about. Undisputed retains, Freebird-style. Pick: Undisputed ERA

Brigade17: With Bobby Fish hurt, I think the Undisputed Era’s in trouble. The rag-tag team of Strong and Dunne got thrown together in a hurry, but let’s give them some time and see what happens. Pick: Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne

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

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