NEW ORLEANS — Even for a man whose credo is “Shock the System,” Adam Cole couldn’t have picked a bigger way to put the world on notice, as he won a car-crash Ladder Match at TakeOver: New Orleans to become the first-ever NXT North American Champion.
The historic victory caps a banner year for Cole, who has racked up quite the list of accomplishments both within NXT (his Undisputed ERA faction walked into TakeOver as NXT Tag Team Champions) and outside of it (Cole himself was one of the surprise entrants in the 2018 Men’s Royal Rumble Match). Becoming the first-ever dual champion in NXT history is quite the cherry on top, especially considering Cole outlasted three of NXT’s fastest-rising stars and two of its most promising signees to do it.
Among the list of the vanquished were Ricochet and The Velveteen Dream, the two most aerially-inclined Superstars of the field and the architects of its most nail-biting moments. Seeking to use the environment to their advantage, the two engaged in an unofficial game of one-upsmanship that included a textbook Purple Rainmaker from Dream off the top of a ladder. Not to be outdone, Ricochet executed a moonsault off a falling ladder and a shooting star press to EC3, who was laid out atop another ladder himself.
Speaking of which, the much-ballyhooed EC3 attempted to maneuver his way into the path of least resistance and ended up, ironically, enduring the most punishment of anyone in the match. “The Top One Percent” suffered a Vader Bomb from Killian Dain while trapped beneath a ladder and a Freak Accident from Lars Sullivan onto Dream, who was himself splayed out over a ladder. Sullivan and Dain spent the majority of the match leaving untold destruction in their wake, moving closer and closer to an all-out hoss fight, though they only threw hands for a few moments before their opponents interfered in the fisticuffs. Their power ended up making them mutual targets for the entire field, and they were dispatched early on in the final six-way scramble to the title — Dain after being jabbed with a ladder by EC3, and Sullivan after Ricochet full-body springboard tackled him off the rungs.
Ricochet seemingly had a clear path to the title after taking out the monstrous Sullivan, but his opportunity was spoiled by Cole, who had shrewdly made his presence known only when he needed to (at one point he cleared the field with a blitz of superkicks), and spared himself the kind of bone-smashing punishment that his opponents had sustained. In the end, there was Cole, tipping Ricochet’s ladder over and scrambling into the rafters to seize the title for himself.
To say Cole was ecstatic to claim the win was an understatement. He didn’t prevail so much as survive, but that was no small accomplishment given what was left of Sullivan, Dream, Dain, Ricochet and EC3. WrestleMania Axxess tournament winner Akira Tozawa awaits as his first challenger tomorrow, but tonight is for celebration. Say hello to the first-ever NXT North American Champion. BAY-BAY.