Johnny Gargano def. Velveteen Dream to remain the challenger to NXT Champion Andrade “Cien” Almas at TakeOver: Philadelphia

Johnny Gargano vs. Velveteen Dream: WWE NXT, Jan. 24, 2018

Johnny Gargano puts his NXT Title opportunity at TakeOver: Philadelphia on the line in a captivating grudge match against Velveteen Dream. Video courtesy of the award-winning WWE Network.

Johnny Gargano took a huge gamble by putting his NXT Championship opportunity on the line against Velveteen Dream, but as the outcome showed, Johnny Wrestling was right to bet on himself, even when others weren’t willing to.

There were moments during the thrilling clash when it looked like Gargano’s decision to risk his title match was nothing short of foolhardy. Dream, competing in his first match since November, showed zero signs of ring rust; in fact, he was arguably performing at his ruthless best. Plainly aware of the opportunity at hand, the purple-clad provocateur wore down Gargano mentally and physically. He entered the ring wearing a Johnny Wrestling T-shirt and told Gargano that he was not ready for TakeOver, preying on any shred of self-doubt still harbored by Gargano. Dream savagely targeted Gargano’s spine, too, torqueing it with neckbreakers and a vertebrae-collapsing DDT.

Gargano refused to quit. Not only that, but he returned fire, often focusing his attack on Dream’s left arm. The strategy paid off late in the match when Dream, still feeling the effects of Gargano’s offense, opted to use his right arm for the Purple Rainmaker elbow drop instead of his left arm. However, the split second it took Dream to make that decision made all the difference. Gargano avoided the move, causing Dream to crash and burn. He then drilled Dream with a superkick and forced him to tap out to the Gargano Escape.

Afterward, NXT Champion Andrade "Cien" Almas and Zelina Vega strode to the ring to get a closer look at Almas’ reaffirmed opponent for TakeOver. El Idolo ambushed Gargano, but Johnny Wrestling fought back and stunned the champion with a slingshot DDT. He then proudly raised the NXT Title overhead as Almas writhed in pain, perhaps giving the NXT Universe a peek of things to come this Saturday in Philadelphia.

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