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NXT TakeOver: WarGames preview - A Tough Spot

NXT is back tomorrow (Nov. 23) with TakeOver: WarGames, emanating from the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Illinois. We’ve already made our predictions and you can find those here.

Now it’s time to look at the card. We’ll run down the matches and ask one big question pertaining to the match. But first let’s take a look at why this card is a bit behind the 8-ball.

A Tough Spot

The 2019 pre-Survivor Series TakeOver is in a tougher position than usual.

There are multiple things working against them, things that could prevent them from delivering a knockout show.

The first challenge was building to the event. Much like WWE pay-per-views such as Hell in a Cell, TLC, or Elimination Chamber, this is a destination gimmick show. Meaning they had to make up a reason for two WarGames matches. Instead of using the stipulation for a story that deserves it, they have to mold their stories to fit the gimmick.

To their credit, they did a pretty good job making WarGames seem warranted. Especially for the men.

The Undisputed ERA have been running roughshod over NXT, and now that they have all the titles, it’s worse than ever. Tommaso Ciampa has issues with Adam Cole in the ERA. Undisputed got into the business of Keith Lee and Dominik Dijakovic. Forming a team of people willing to go against the top stable on the brand was an easy sell.

They definitely did a great job building the drama in the NXT women’s division. For weeks, everyone wanted a piece of Shayna Baszler and her Women’s title. Morphing that into two distinct teams took a bit of a stretch. Io Shirai and Bianca Belair were two of those women who wanted Shayna’s title but are now OK just to team with her. This match feels more shoehorned to fit the gimmick. I’m definitely looking forward to this match a ton, but the reasoning is flimsier.

And then there’s the fact NXT is competing at a unit at Survivor Series just the night after TakeOver.

While NXT has tried to convince us that certain people hate each other so much they’re going to tear each other apart in the WarGames structure, they’re also OK to show up on Raw and SmackDown together to beat up wrestlers on those rosters. While they’ve been careful not to work completely together, being on the same team sometimes and bitter rivals the other takes away from some of the heat behind the matches.

Then there’s the match itself... and the fact they’re doing two of them.

Full disclosure, I’m not the biggest fan of WarGames. It feels like saying that is blasphemy, but I think the match is overrated. They have the predictable, 10 minute-plus opening where the heels exercise the man advantage until a babyface comes in hot to even the score until another heel comes in and they have the advantage. Rinse and repeat.

The match after that can be good but also risks just becoming a cluster**** spotfest. That doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable. But running two of the match makes this even more difficult.

That’s because running it twice means each one is less special. It’s not the big attraction, where we can forgive it if it gets a bit out of control because there’s another 40 minute one later on. We’re going to see two matches where eight people try to beat the hell out of each other in a two-ringed cage. It will have lost its novelty by the second match.

It’s a tough spot, but at the same time, they’re the ones who put themselves in that position. They don’t have to have two WarGames matches. They don’t have to make WarGames a yearly TakeOver. They don’t have to lean into the Survivor Series build for BRAND SUPREMACY as hard.

NXT’s week-to-week program has been very enjoyable and they’ve balanced those things to the best of their capability. But it all adds up and could detract from the show tomorrow. It will still be good because TakeOvers usually are, but maybe not as good as it could be. We’ll find out.

Now onto the matches!

Tommaso Ciampa, Keith Lee, Dominik Dijakovic & TBA vs. the Undisputed ERA in WarGames

Months back, Roderick Strong defeated Velveteen Dream to win the North American championship, the title Undisputed needed to fulfill their promise of holding all the men’s gold. Since then (and before then really) they’ve run roughshod in the promotion.

It was inevitable they’d find their way back inside WarGames as they’ve been in every NXT WarGames match so far. And making enemies of pretty much everyone on the roster, there were certainly going to be people to step up to try to knock this team down a peg.

Tommaso Ciampa led the charge, wanting to win back the title he never lost. He was joined by Matt Riddle, who’s had plenty of issues with the ERA himself over the last year. Keith Lee and eventually Dominik Dijakovic joined the fray.

However, the day Dijakovic joined, Riddle bowed out, instead wanting to focus on facing Finn Bálor, who had been targeting the Bro. That last spot hasn’t yet been filled.

There’s nothing on the line outside pride, but you’d think if Tommaso’s team wins, they’ll all become challengers for the ERA’s respective titles.

The Big Question:

Who’s the fourth man?

It’s a pretty basic question. The fact that NXT is waiting until last minute to make the reveal makes me think they haven’t decided on it yet or they’d have revealed it on TV this week.

Velveteen Dream is out injured. So is Kushida (though Kushida’s timetable wasn’t too long so maybe the long wait is to see what his status is last minute). Assuming both men are definitely a scratch, let’s take a look at a few other options.

  • On the regular NXT show, there’s Isiah “Swerve” Scott, who wins more than he loses and is very impressive. He’d be able to do some incredible things in the cage, but doesn’t have any history with the ERA.
  • There’s Tyler Bate from NXT UK. He’s a fantastic talent and he & Trent Seven once beat Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish for the tag belts so there’s some history there.
  • I’ve seen people speculate on Kevin Owens after the ERA attacked him last Monday. I personally don’t think it’ll happen. It looked like Triple H authorized that (though Undisputed could have been going rogue) and if he works the NXT show, does that mean he’s off Team Raw on Sunday? It’s no impossible, but I put it as unlikely.

Mia Yim, Candice LeRae, Tegan Nox, & Rhea Ripley vs. Shayna Baszler, Bianca Belair, Io Shirai, & Kay Lee Ray

This match didn’t come together as cleanly as the men’s did.

That’s because the men had a faction ripe for WarGames. Shayna has her goons, but they’re not even in this match.

The build actually started as a free-for-all to see who gets to face Baszler for her championship. Rhea Ripley looked like the front runner, but everyone wanted a piece. Bianca Belair made her intentions known, though a loss to Ripley hurt her cause. Candice LeRae recently suffered a title loss to Baszler. Meanwhile Shayna & Co. kept antagonizing Tegan Nox & Dakota Kai (Dakota suffered a non-title loss to Baszler in this build).

It was a fun, chaotic time and displayed just how damn good NXT’s women’s division is.

With all these factors, it eventually broke down. Nox, Ripley, Kai, and LeRae found themselves on one side of things. That made sense. These are people Shayna has tormented. What had less explanation was Io Shirai and Bianca Belair teaming with Shayna despite having no love for her.

Dakota Kai is the most interesting character in all this. She didn’t end up making Ripley’s squad. Instead Ripley chose Mia Yim when the Blasian Baddie aided them with a kendo stick during a Team Baszler attack. This left Kai on the outside looking in.

There was speculation that the champ would use the moment to convince Dakota to join her team, capitalizing on some bitterness, but that never happened. Kai remained loyal to her friends despite not being picked for the team and UK Women’s champ Kay Lee Ray joined Baszler’s team, though we have no idea why.

So as mentioned above, there are more plot holes in this one compared to the men. Why are these women willing to team with Baszler when their motivation was to win her title? Why Kay Lee Ray? But despite all that, I’m looking forward to this match more because of the talent involved.

The Big Question:

Will Dakota Kai play a role?

The most interesting thing about all of this is the exclusion of Dakota Kai.

She seemed like a lock for this team but Rhea opted to choose Mia Yim over her. She’s obviously hurt but so far, she’s opted to help her friends despite being left off the team. Does she continue that role or does her bitterness consume her? Does she somehow cost her team tomorrow out of jealousy?

This will come into play one way or another. NXT isn’t one to just leave a plot line lingering. It’s just a matter a when this will eventually manifest, and if that manifestation is a heel turn or not.

Matt Riddle vs. Finn Bálor

On the first episode of the two-hour USA NXT, Finn Bálor returned and stared down Adam Cole. It looked like the hero had returned, ready to help battle the big bad Undisputed ERA. But looks can be deceiving.

When he was standing across from Undisputed alongside Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano, Finn shockingly delivered a Pelé kick to Johnny Wrestling. He beat up the heart of NXT while the ERA gang attacked Ciampa.

This was the last we saw Gargano and eventually learned that a neck injury will keep him from competing tomorrow.

So Finn turned his focus to Matt Riddle instead. He attacked the Bro when Riddle was teaming with Keith Lee and Tommaso Ciampa to face the OC (this led to some speculation on if Finn was aligned with AJ Styles’ Club or if they were just the beneficiaries by happenstance).

The Bro retaliated the following week but once again, Finn got the best of him. Because of that, Riddle pulled himself off Ciampa’s WarGames team to face Finn Bálor.

The Big Question:

Is Finn Bálor a rogue?

Since his heel turn, Bálor has aided both Undisputed ERA and The OC. It wasn’t obvious. He was targeting men he already had issues with at the time. But it still aided these heel factions all the same.

My bet is that’s all circumstantial and Finn is going it alone. This lone wolf version of Bálor is excellent. It makes for good drama though.

He’ll likely beat Riddle clean tonight, but I wouldn’t be totally shocked if he had a little help from some friends.

Damian Priest vs. Pete Dunne vs. Killian Dain in a #1 contenders match

This all started for Pete Dunne on the way to a match.

He was on his way to face Damian Priest when he walked by Killian Dain, who was just finishing up brutalizing Boa. They had a little exchange that ended with the Brusierweight snapping Dain’s fingers.

Dunne would then go on to lose to Priest due to a lowblow. Dain did not interfere there. Instead he bided his time.

When Dunne’s close friend Tyler Bate faced Cameron Grimes, Dain attacked him instead. He’d wait until after Dunne won his rematch with Priest to attack Pete himself. But because Priest got caught in the middle, he became part of this as well.

This was recently named a #1 contenders match with the winner facing Adam Cole at Survivor Series.

The Big Question:

Does the stipulation give away the ending?

I could see any of these guys winning if this didn’t reward the winner a title shot at Survivor Series against Adam Cole. But now that it’s part of this, it makes me think that Pete Dunne has to be the favorite.

He’s the only babyface in this match. Now Survivor Series has seen some heel vs. heel matches in the build and on the show. Do they want another?

I could see them telling a story where Adam Cole has to try to answer the size problem that the Beast of Belfast would pose. But it feels like the Bruiserweight is the favorite.

NXT TakeOver: WarGames will air on the WWE Network tomorrow night at 7 ET. We’ll see then if we get any answers to the questions posed. And keep it here to during the event for all your WarGames coverage.

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