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Hi there, my name is Jackson and this here will be my first column for Wrestle Thoughts, with the hopes of many more to come.

A bit about me before we get started (I’m sure I’ll be able to formally introduce myself soon enough). I’m 23 Years of age, living in the South Coast in the land down under, Australia. I’ve been a wrestling fan since I can remember, 13 years give or take so I’ve quite the passion and love for the sport that I’m sure all of you have as well.

During the wrestling year of 2018, there were many MANY standout performances that I had the privilege of seeing and also many that I didn’t, due to the flood of professional wrestling streaming services, as well as money being an issue and honestly just not finding the time between being laid off work and looking for new options elsewhere. That being said, it’s not as if I didn’t pay attention as this year struck me as a bang up year for professional wrestling and many very cool moments that you just couldn’t miss regardless and ones that will certainly be All Elite. So to be fair to matches and promotions that I have not had the privilege of seeing from 2018, I’m going to be listing my 10 favourite matches from a brand that I haven’t missed a special from all year and a brand that has stepped up in so many ways to truly bring you some of the great wrestling matches of 2018 and that is NXT. Before I monologue too much, let’s get into my list, of Top 10 NXT TakeOver Matches of 2018.

* Disclaimer: (These are not ranked matches in terms of Worst-Best match, 10 being least favourite 1 being most favourite, but instead, a list of my 10 Favourite Matches in General under the NXT banner)

© Refers to champion heading into match

10. NXT Championship Match: Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas © vs. Johnny Gargano.
NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia – Wells Fargo Centre

If you are making a list of Top 10 TakeOver matches this one is included EVERY time, hell if you were making a list of Top 3 TakeOver matches I still firmly believe this makes the cut every single time. Being one of, if not my favourite TakeOver match ever. This match had everything you could want from a big time championship main event, the underdog story of Johnny Wrestling, the big time player and a man who felt like a REAL champion heading in, in Andrade plus the ‘x factor’ of Zelina Vega at ringside and of course you can’t forget the wrestling. These two pulled out spots you really only see on your favourite indie promotions or under the NXT banner where things seem to be a little more lenient with big time moves. Poison ‘Rana’s, wilding spiking DDTs and more that would leave your jaw dropped. Johnny has a way of captivating you in truly getting behind him all the way to pull of the big win, his facial expressions is some of the best you’ll see in NXT or WWE as a whole for that matter and really tells the whole story without saying a word. Every moment of this match was gripping and had you on the edge of your seat wanting more and they delivered in every sense of the word. If you haven’t seen this match, do yourself a favour and jump on the network and chuck this on, I promise you won’t regret a damn thing.

9. Extreme Rules Match: Aleister Black vs. Adam Cole
NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia – Wells Fargo Centre

This match took place the same night as my first match mentioned above. It must have been something in the air that night as this match almost stole the whole damn show and it probably would’ve if not for that stellar championship match between Gargano and Almas to close the show. This match was probably done as a bit of a throwback to the ECW events that took place in Phillie being that Philadelphia is considered the home of ECW. That isn’t to say it wasn’t necessary as these two had been going back and forth on NXT TV in a heated rivalry in which both wanted to tear each other apart, the result? An absolute barnburner of an extreme rules match between two of the best in the business. Adam Cole is a favourite of mine so by default this was going to be good. At this time I liked Aleister’s in ring work but wasn’t so much of a fan of his character and his undefeated streak. To me, Cole needed this win more and it could’ve gone over fine with their being interference from Sanity and the rest of Undisputed Era anyway but either way they each tore the house down with some brutal looking shots that they probably felt weeks following the match itself. Black crashed through a table after a superkick by Cole from the top turnbuckle, which looked just awesome. Cole then went neck and back first over two chairs, similar to an ushigoroshi type maneuver that Cole typically uses. There were ladders, chairs, tables and more tables as both men went through the announce table thanks to a meteora from Black to Cole. Blood was shed, both men were spent but by the end of it, Aleister Black held on to his undefeated streak and came away with the win in a hard fought contest that is still a favourite to this day.

8. Six-Man North American Title Ladder Match: Adam Cole vs. Ricochet vs. EC3 vs. Killian Dane vs. Lars Sullivan vs. Velveteen Dream
NXT TakeOver: New Orleans – Smoothie King Centre

Ladder matches can be clunky messes of a match if not done correctly. I’ve seen Ladder Matches happen simply because of the gimmick of the match itself and the reputation it holds. Ladder Matches aren’t exactly always smooth and easy to watch with six guys each needing to shine. But this Ladder Match stands out to me as one of the best, it flowed well, everyone got their spots and moments to shine and none of it seemed clunky plus no one seemed out of place. Now other than the obvious debut of Ricochet to NXT, to me Dream stood out as a bonafide star here. You could argue all six came away looking awesome but Velveteen stood out amongst a packed match of five of the top guys in NXT at the time. He hit a beautiful Purple Rainmaker Elbow from the tippy top of an 8ft ladder, crashing down on to Lars Sullivan in what was nothing short of one of the best spots of the whole show, let alone just the match itself (and that includes a show with Gargano/Ciampa one on one). At the end of it Adam Cole superkicked his way to victory and climbed up the ladder and retrieved the brand new, North American Championship in what is sure to be a Ladder Match remembered throughout history.

7. Unsanctioned Match: Johnny Gargano vs. Tomasso Ciampa
NXT TakeOver: New Orleans – Smoothie King Centre

I really don’t have a lot to say here because we know exactly what this match was. An instant classic. This feud to this very day of writing and publishing, is one of the greatest stories told under the WWE banner in quite some time. I literally don’t remember being so enthralled in a rivalry as much as I have been with these two. Even with the recent heel turn(?) of Gargano in somewhat teasing joining Ciampa and reforming #DIY, it all makes sense. It’s a dramatic, engaging story of two of the very best to lace up a pair of wrestling boots. Not only was the storytelling on point but the sequences and spots they pulled off to make this one of the more engaging No-DQ type matches, is second to none. I won’t go on too much, but even if you’ve seen this once or twice, go back and give it a watch and you’ll see things you missed each time, THAT is how good these two are. (So much for not a lot to say, huh?)

6. NXT Tag Team Championship Match: Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reily & Roderick Strong) © vs. Danny Burch & Oney Lorcan
NXT TakeOver: Chicago II – Allstate Arena

Want a hard-hitting, stiffly-worked, fast paced tag team title match? Look no further. This one covered all the above.. Now it could’ve been thanks to the immense popularity of UE or the gritty rough and tough challengers in Lorcan and Burch, but this match stands to this day as one of the best opening bouts of any PPV WWE or NXT combined. Roderick Strong is one a whole other level of quick, hard-hitting and precise all at the same time. While O’Reily is so technically savvy and stiff looking with his kicks that it would have KENTA shaking in his boots, not only that but Kyle carries such a charismatic and entertaining swagger about him that seems unmatched outside of his UE brethren. Burch and Lorcan may not have been the crowd’s favourite to win this one walking in, but by the end of the match it was the Brits who walked away proving that they can go on a TakeOver and hang with two of the best tag team wrestlers to do it in Strong and O’Reily. I’m still waiting for Burch and Lorcan to have their chance to shine again on a TakeOver special and hopefully it isn’t too much longer until we see the wily veterans steal the show again.

5. Ricochet vs. Velveteen Dream
NXT TakeOver: Chicago II – Allstate Arena

We’re half way through and we land on what many called a dream match, pun intended. This match had a lot of hype surrounding it with this being Ricochet’s debut singles match at a TakeOver event. We know he’s good and we had seen him on TV, but coming into a big event like TakeOver on WrestleMania weekend you just knew this match was going to be special. Velveteen to me, is one of the best promos in NXT at the moment and he’s only going to get better. His charisma is something that is going to carry him through his career but his in-ring work has become so good lately that this pairing of Ricochet and Dream was a match made in heaven. Pulling out all the stops to top each other move for move, this match lived up to all the hype and then some but eventually saw Ricochet hit a devastating 630 Senton for the win. It almost seems that with each loss Dream suffers he only tends to come out of it looking better than if he came out with the win.

Being half way through the list and with so little room for every match I wish to talk about, I’m going to mention some that just didn’t quite make the cut for no other reason then that the ones that made the list were just that little bit better all round. So let’s get down to…

Honorable Mentions:

NXT Women’s Title Match: Kairi Sane vs. Shayna Baszler ©
NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn 4

Eight Man Tag Team War Games Match: War Raiders, Pete Dunne & Ricochet vs. Undisputed Era
NXT TakeOver: War Games II

NXT Championship Last Man Standing Match: Johnny Gargano vs. Tomasso Ciampa ©

None of the above mentioned matches were bad, hell all of them would’ve made the list if I was to break my own rule and do a Top 13 but alas, here we are.

Alright, enough blabbering and back to the list!

4. NXT Tag Team Championship Match: Moustache Mountain vs. Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reily & Roderick Strong) ©
NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn 4 – Barclays Centre

Now, some may say the TV match these guys had on NXT weekly programming was better due to the finish of Tyler Bate throwing in the towel to save his partner Trent Seven, but to me the way that all went down only spiced things up for this thrilling enouncter. Was Bate going to throw in the towel again should Seven become trapped in a submission? Could Moustache Mountain topple the dominant duo of O’Reily and Strong and re-capture the championships they first won back in Blackpool, England to a roaring ovation? That’s what we were going to find out and you just knew either way this went down that it was going to be magic inside the ring due to who was featured in this astonishing bout featuring of four of the most astounding wrestlers in the game today.

On a quick side note: Tyler Bate to me is the greatest professional wrestler under the age of 25 and I dare anyone to make the argument as to who could be better. He has to be one of the pound for pound strongest wrestlers in NXT or NXT UK and his thighs, boy oh boy his thighs *starts swooning* – okay, okay enough day dreaming of Tyler Bate. He absolutely will be a huge success in this business and easily a World Champion hopefully not too far in the near future.

3. NXT North American Championship Match: Ricochet vs. Adam Cole ©
NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn 4 – Barclays Centre

Moonsault countered with a superkick mid air is all that needs to be said. Go watch. Now. It’s worth the price of the WWE Network alone. These two are magic together. Genuinely don’t know what else to say here.

2. NXT Championship Match: Velveteen Dream vs. Tomasso Ciampa ©
NXT TakeOver: War Games II – Staples Center

Let me just start this off by saying that many MANY moments during this match did I think the match was over and that we had a new champion. The false finishes caught me EVERY time and I bought into this match more than I originally thought I was going to. Here’s another case of Dream coming out of a match looking better because of a loss. These two worked so well here and Tomasso’s heel work is beyond fantastic. Dream probably had one of his best singles matches here and is a world champion waiting to happen and he will go FAR in this business.

1. Aleister Black vs. Johnny Gargano
NXT TakeOver: War Games II – Staples Centre

Lucky last! This match to me was exactly what I wanted it to be. Everything I expected it to be and then some. I didn’t know how they were going to present this grudge match without it coming off cheesy and cliche like most WWE grudge matches (I’m looking at you Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose). But this was an absolute war from the moment the bell sounded. Aleister was a man possessed and Johnny was working the cocky arrogant heel role to perfection. Dives outside to the ring countered with knee strikes, suicide dives into a tornado DDT, poison ranas and some of the best storytelling? You have yourself a barnburner of a TakeOver match. I was left jaw dropped and immediately wanting more from these two and that’s exactly what you should want from any match. Props to these gentlemen. It’s got to be true what they say, Johnny Gargano isn’t just Johnny Wrestling but perhaps Johnny TakeOver with his incredible performances with just about anyone and especially when it comes to stealing the show at TakeOver specials.

And so concludes my list of my TOP 10 FAVOURITE NXT TAKEOVER MATCHES OF 2018. I hope you enjoyed the list and reading my first column for Wrestle Thoughts as much as I had fun writing it. I will be back soon enough with more just like this.

As a bit of fun, sound off in the comments about some matches you think I should’ve included plus some of your dream matches you wish to see take place at a TakeOver special in the future!

If you wish you to follow me on social media I’ll leave my Twitter Handle below and you can Tweet at me what you thought of the list and any suggestions/comments you may have. But for now, I’m Jackson for Wrestle Thoughts singing off.

Follow me on Twitter: @jxcksonmann