In the weeks before TakeOver: Phoenix, Tommaso Ciampa delivered a shrewd sentiment about his NXT Championship run: The title doesn’t make the man; the man makes the title. After defending his coveted championship in a grueling clash against Aleister Black, the self-proclaimed Greatest Sports-Entertainer Alive has a newer idiom that’s more fitting: Can you stand the reign?
In a fight that will go down as one of NXT’s most hotly anticipated championship rematches, Ciampa and Black fought each other with pure fury. For Ciampa, he wanted nothing more than to preserve his sweet union with “Goldie” – the nickname given to his coveted NXT Championship. For Black, it was correcting the sins committed on the July 25 edition of NXT. The culmination of these storms made way for a wild collision in which The Dutch Destroyer and The Blackheart brutalized each other with every weapon in their arsenals. Black struck Ciampa with more strikes than a bowling lane, lacing him with an assortment of kicks across the chest and jaw. As hard as Black’s hits were, The Blackheart endured, forcing his opponent to exhaust all the maneuvers in his toolbelt.
Ciampa exposed the left knee of Black, dropping him knee-first into the announcer’s table and even locking in a single-leg Boston Crab submission hold to further tenderize the limb. But like Ciampa, Black pushed back. When Ciampa dropped him with the Fairytale Ending, The Dutch Destroyer avoided a pinfall. Infuriated, Ciampa stepped out of the ring to expose the mat on the outside and was met with a knee strike from the flying Dutchman, but the tide swung once the action spilled back into the ring. After kicking out of an impact DDT, Black followed up by clocking the NXT Champion with a Black Mass. But when Black attempted to close the fight with another devastating blow, his wounded knee gave out and left Ciampa the opening to secure the Fairytale Ending and retain “Goldie.”