Andrade Cien Almas vs Johnny Gargano
January 27, 2018
Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA
NXT Takeover: Philadelphia
NXT Heavyweight Championship
With all due to respect to all legendary WWE performers of the past, this may have been the best match I’ve ever seen in company history. Not just NXT, but also WWE. From the entrances to the athleticism to the execution to the psychology to the storyline to the post match angle, everything here was flawless.
You can argue Bret Hart vs Steve Austin or Shawn Michaels vs Undertaker or a few other contenders, and I don’t think any of them can hold up to this. The crowd was blazing hot for all of it, ironic since Philadelphia is supposed to hate white meat babyfaces, and Paul Gargano is exactly that kind of babyface. As for Andrade Almas, because it took so long for him to get over in NXT, many people had forgotten (or were simply unaware) of how damn good he is.
The storyline was that if Gargano lost, he’d be close to leaving NXT. While nobody was buying that he’d consider quitting, many thought this was his possible swan song and that he’d be called up to the main roster. In reality, the idea was for him to come back all along, and it was Almas who WWE had eyes on for the main roster. It made every near fall mean that much more, so the pops were extra loud and they played it up perfectly. What they did inside the ring was ultra precise and extremely impressive, not just the high spots but simply the execution would elicit random standing ovations.
One highlight was Zelina Vega interfering towards the end, which brought out Garagno’s wife Candace LeRae to spear her out of nowhere. Because the cameras (intentionally) didn’t catch her coming out of her seat (she was seated at ringside), the effect was umpteen times more impactful and caught everyone off guard. It got a huge pop. A win by Gargano would’ve garnered one of the biggest pops of all-time, although that wasn’t the plan. Instead Almas devastated him with knees, except this time to the outside ring post instead of the inner turnbuckles as usual. A draping DDT and it was over. Fans gave Gargano a standing ovation, and just as the credits rolled, Tommaso Ciampa nailed him with a crutch. Again, perfect execution because it was after the credits and no one saw it coming.
Absolute brilliance. As stated earlier, this may have been the best match I’ve ever seen in WWE history and easily the best match of Q1.