NXT TakeOver: WarGames Review

Live from the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, with Mauro Ranallo, Percy Watson, and Nigel McGuinness on commentary, the latest TakeOver event featured three title matches and the return of WarGames! How did it fare? Let’s hit the ropes and find out!

 

Kassius Ohno vs Lars Sullivan

There wasn’t much build for this one, but I thought it was a pretty good opener. Kassius Ohno was definitely the right opponent for Lars Sullivan’s TakeOver debut, because his offense always looks (and sounds) legit, so Sullivan’s no-selling felt impressive, and Ohno’s agility let him bump all over the place when Sullivan went on offense. A solid enhancement match for Sullivan, which he won with the Freak Accident…which really needs a name change. I know Sullivan’s theme is called “Freak”, but on commentary they’re calling him “The Leviathan” – maybe they could call it the Depth Charge? I dunno, something sea-related or monstrous would be better.

 

Aleister Black vs Velveteen Dream

If it wasn’t for the spectacle and the insanity of WarGames that came later, I would have said that this match absolutely stole the show. I wasn’t very optimistic when this program started, but I thought they built it really well, with Velveteen Dream becoming more outrageous and violent as he fought to earn Black’s recognition. And, of course, it led to one of the best moments of the year:

I’m a total sucker for the whole “rise up behind the other guy” spot – Randy Orton did it to Shawn Michaels ages ago, and I popped just as big for this as I did then.

I had a feeling that this match would be special when I saw Velveteen Dream’s custom tights, but these guys blew me away. Not only were there some really fun character-building spots that got the crowd into it, but there was a ton of great action – and more than that, their timing was really solid on all of it. I always expect crisp wrestling from Black, but Dream was right there with him the entire way. Just check out their striking exchanges, or how smoothly Dream got into position for the quebrada from Black. Even watching it a second time for this review, the big spots in this match had me jumping out of my seat. Black eventually picked up the win via Black Mass in an easy contender for match of the night.

In the end, the Velveteen Dream didn’t just make Aleister Black say his name…he made all of us say his name.

 

Nikki Cross vs Kairi Sane vs Peyton Royce vs Ember Moon – NXT Women’s Championship

I thought Nikki Cross was winning this match for sure with the way they kept cutting to closeups of her during everyone else’s entrances. What the heck was up with that? Either way, I’m a big fan of all four women, and while there were a couple of timing issues (as there usually are in multi-person matches), I enjoyed it overall. Each woman got a chance to shine, to hit their signature moves, and to show off their unique styles – from the high-flying desperation of Sane, to the insanity of Cross, to the hard-hitting offense of Moon, to the glamorous, dramatic selling of Royce (seriously, watch her swoon when she gets hit with a big move! It’s great!). The powerbomb on the outside and the tower of doom spot were nice highlights to a solid match that saw Ember Moon hit a double Eclipse onto Cross and Royce for the win.

I really loved the moment at the end where Asuka got into the ring to present the title to Ember Moon and they embraced before Moon celebrated with tears in her eyes. Just a really pure, emotional moment that showed the friendship and respect the two women have for one another, as well as how much the accomplishment really means to Moon.

Sometimes it’s easy to get jaded to seeing titles change hands, or seeing new champions crowned, but moments like this show you how much it means to the performers who’ve worked for years and traveled around the globe to make it this far. This moment was the culmination of all the hard work Ember Moon has put in since she arrived in NXT, and for the years she’s been working on the independent scene before that.

How about a “You Deserve It” chant?

 

Andrade “Cien” Almas [w/Zelina Vega] vs Drew McIntyre (c) – NXT Championship

They did a good job of building this match on the NXT weekly show, but I felt like it got lost in the shuffle with how much publicity was given to WarGames. That said, this was a match I was really looking forward to. Almas has really grown on me over time, especially since the match in Japan that he had with Oney Lorcan – it feels like he’s really stepped up his effort in his matches since then, and the switch to a more hard-hitting style really suits him. As for McIntyre, I never saw his first run in WWE, and I never saw him in TNA or the indies, but his look screams “main event” like no one else in NXT, and he’s shown that he can work really well with smaller guys (Roode, Strong).

Watching it live on Saturday night, this match absolutely delivered. I loved the way Almas would occasionally string two or three moves together in a flurry for a nearfall (his two double knee spots), and I loved the release suplexes from McIntyre where he just hoofed Almas across the ring. The match built really well to its series of nearfalls by the end, and every one of them would have been a believable finish. It finally came to a head with Almas hitting his Hammerlock DDT off the top rope for the pinfall.

…and that’s where it gets hard to watch. After the show, news got around that McIntyre had suffered an injury during the match, and you can see it right at the finish. He keeps hold of the top rope as he drops into the DDT, and something goes in his biceps. He keeps his cool during the pinfall, but immediately afterward you can see him grip for his arm right above the elbow. People were speculating that it could be a torn biceps, which would probably put him out for months, but no one online seems to have any conclusive answers.

So it was a damn fine match with a really unfortunate ending, because I’m sure McIntyre lost here to facilitate a move to Raw or SmackDown.

…also, how hard is it to pronounce “El Ídolo” correctly?! IT’S THE VERY FIRST THING YOU HEAR WHEN ALMAS COMES OUT! I’m so damn sick of hearing the announcers call him “Ellie Dolo”.

 

SAnitY (c) vs The Undisputed Era vs The Authors of Pain [w/Paul Ellering] & Roderick Strong – NXT Tag Team Championship, WarGames

I’ve got to be honest – I wasn’t allowed to watch wrestling when I was growing up, so this was the first WarGames match I’ve ever seen live. The only other one I’ve ever watched was the nWo vs WCW WarGames match that featured the Fake Sting, and that was only because it was included on an nWo DVD. So while wrestling Twitter and all the purists were going nuts about the changes to this version of WarGames, I was just excited to see it. So…speaking as a first-time WarGamer, did it deliver?

You’re damn right it did. There were way too many impressive spots to mention them all, but some favorites include the AoP throwing Cole, Young, and Strong from one ring to the other, their double Death Valley Drivers into opponents in the tree of woe, Dain getting the tables, Dain swallowing the key, the dual towers of doom, Wolfe’s German suplex through the tables, and of course Strong suplexing Cole off the top of the cage. The Undisputed Era won in the end after Cole clocked Young with a kendo stick and hit him with a running knee through a chair for the pinfall.

Occasionally I’ll criticize matches for feeling like regular wrestling contests instead of the blood feuds they’re purported to be, but this match was big, and rough, and nasty, and it looked and felt like a fight. People were beaten, thrown around, hit with weapons, put through tables, and thrown off the top of the cage. It was brutal and loud and violent, and it was glorious. The fact that you don’t see a lot of stipulation or weapons matches in NXT helped to give everything more impact, and so did the blood. I don’t need or want to see blood on every show, but some matches need it, and I think this was one of them…and hell, the fact that you know everyone who bled was busted open hardway just shows how intense this match was.

WarGames was freaking awesome, and I don’t care what anyone else says. I’ve watched it three times, and have been entertained every single time. Easily the match of the night just based on the spectacle, the brutality, and the number of holy sh*t moments.

And can we give some props to the camera guys inside the cage? Not only did they catch all the action, but they didn’t get in the way, didn’t get knocked over, and didn’t get caught on the hard cameras even once! Phenomenal job by the camera operators and the producers in the truck.

 

Final Thoughts

Look, I’ll just say it: I love NXT. I’ve never seen a bad TakeOver show. I’ve never even seen a disappointing one. The wrestling is always on point, the production is great, the announcers call the action like they should, and the crowd is hot as hell. If you’re not watching NXT, you owe it to yourself to tune in and find out what you’re missing. NXT TakeOver: WarGames was awesome.

 

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