NXT TakeOver: WarGames waltzed into our lives last night (Dec. 6) from the Capitol Wrestling Center (CWC) in Orlando, Florida. You can find all the results at the live blog here.
Undisputed ERA def. the Kings of NXT in WarGames
The women’s WarGames opened and the men’s WarGames closed this show.
The men had a fun match. It went about 45 minutes with enough false finishes that extended the match another segment that it felt like the Return of the King. But they were some legit nearfalls and the last ten minutes of the match were probably the best part.
The Undisputed ERA got their revenge after going to war with Pat McAfee and crew. This match allowed Pat to hit his spots - a moonsault through a table, getting tossed from the top turnbuckle through a different table half way across the ring, a senton from the top of WarGames - while allowing the seasoned professionals to fill in the blanks in between. With his fantastic heel attitude, he again proved to be an asset to NXT.
ERA got a moment when they were able to isolate McAfee and went to town on him (something that would bite them in the arse because it allowed the other three members of his team to recover and extend the match). That was a moment we needed, even if it did not lead to the finish. Pat needed to get his after all his hubris and all his scheming. Hell, he even had four tables, each with a name of an ERA member, marking that table for their destruction. Roddy went through his, but McAfee went through O’Reilly’s later in the evening.
Undisputed got the win in the end, with Kyle O’Reilly picking up a pinfall on a f’d up looking Oney Lorcan, maybe establishing him as ERA’s top guy instead of Cole.
So all that is good. Unfortunately, I was ready for it to be over well before it was.
That wasn’t the fault of the match. That was the byproduct of having two WarGames on the card. And unlike last year, NXT didn’t book one match unique enough to separate the two. (Last year, the women had a big heel turn leading to a 4 on 2 handicap match, a stark difference from the men’s match.) The men played theirs less chaotic, and had the heat between the teams more than the women, but it still wasn’t enough for them to feel unique.
Unlike many other gimmick matches, WarGames is designed to be long. The period of entrances themselves takes 30 minutes. The match doesn’t even officially start for half an hour. And because they had three other matches instead of two, matches that ranged from OK to good, it was easier to tire out by the time the men’s war was over.
Surely some people enjoyed having two fun WarGames in one night. But this year for me, having two meant detracting from the other. I would have appreciated either as the main event as the only WarGames match. Two just had me WarGames’d out.
Team Candice (Candice LeRae, Dakota Kai, Raquel González, & Toni Storm) def. Team Shotzi (Shotzi Blackheart, Io Shirai, Rhea Ripley, & Ember Moon)
Since this was the opening match, it didn’t suffer from being the second WarGames on the card. That left me appreciating it a bit more.
It was an overall a by-the-books WarGames, outside the babyfaces having the person advantage. They used the babyface advantage to showcase Raquel González and later, still gave the heels the edge anyway when Candice LeRae’s team kept Io Shirai from entering the ring.
That was a creative way to make sure the good gals didn’t have it too easy. Raquel kept Io Shirai (the last member of Shotzi Blackheart’s team to enter) from getting in the ring via the front door. Toni Storm helped by using her belt to keep that door closed. Because of this, and an attack from Indi Hartwell, LeRae entered the ring prior to Io, giving the heels a 4 on 3 advantage anyway.
This all led to a fun spot where Io Shirai climbed the structure, put a garbage can over her head, and coffin dropped onto the mass of people in the ring.
The rest of the match was a sequence of different wild spots, but there was no specific flow to it. It was chaos, which to be fair, is what WarGames is all about. The women didn’t have the hatred between teams like the men’s match had, but it was enjoyable none-the-less.
The villains won this match when González powerbombed Shirai through a ladder, earning her and her team the 1-2-3. This surely sets her up as Io’s next challenger. In the meantime, Shotzi Blackheart can still feud with LeRae, given neither of them were a factor in the finish. And Ember Moon can try to get her revenge against Toni Storm for betraying her weeks back.
Johnny Gargano def. Leon Ruff (c) & Damian Priest to win the North American title
All in all, this was a fun match that started to lose me in the end.
The most compelling story of this match, and this feud, was Leon Ruff’s insistence that he is more than a joke or a fluke. Despite his insistence, Damian Priest’s refused to actually see him that way.
This played out in this bout. The Archer of Infamy was reluctant to really go after the North American champ. At one point, Ruff went for a dive on Priest outside the ring and Damian just caught him, gently placing him down. This pissed off Ruff, who socked Priest. That infuriated the goth brawler, who delivered a Razor’s Edge to the small man into the plexiglass separating the fans. His action immediately filled him with regret, and in that way, he still wasn’t giving Ruff his due.
Leon was taken away by medical personnel but then returned to try to show both men he deserved to be here. At this point, Priest would fight the champ, but his heart still didn’t seem into it.
This story would take a backseat to Johnny and his mysterious Ghostfaces, and that’s when the match slightly veered off track. Because Gargano didn’t just have one or two masked individuals, like implied on Wednesday. He had six.
That’s overkill. Especially when we’re only months removed from seeing a group of masked losers on the main roster in similar situations. And it’s not fair that NXT has to book with WWE in mind, but they still have to for all the fans who overlap.
Even if these numerous scream masks didn’t come off as RetriBOOtion (I did not come up with that and given how corny it is, I don’t want credit), having Damian overcome six guys is overkill. There’s nothing they couldn’t accomplish with just one or two of them, especially if the future isn’t a Gargano stable. Because why would Johnny suddenly stop using six guys if he has six guys at his disposal.
Only one person took off their mask. They were revealed as Austin Theory, something that most people would have predicted. We’ll hold judgement of this angle to see how Theory fits in with Johnny and whether or not the new North American champions has more members to reveal.
Tommaso Ciampa def. Timothy Thatcher
Tommaso Ciampa survived a battle with Timothy Thatcher.
These men were brutal to each other. Thatcher targeted Tommaso’s neck and throat, in essence targeting his career threatening injury. Ciampa was also mean. At one point, he noticed Tim’s ear was bleeding so he let go of a Reverse Chinlock, pounded his fist into that ear repeatedly, and then locked the submission back in.
These men continued their punishment of each other. The fight made its way to the ring apron. The first time, Tim pulled Tom throat first into the rope - a brutal move. The next the fight ended up there, it was all Ciampa, who delivered delivered a pump kick, chops, and then his Willow’s Bell finisher.
The match was really entertaining. But once again, we have a “close but not quite” moment for Thatcher. There are only so many times a wrestler can go the distance without winning a big fight before we just figure he can’t get it done. It ceases to do them any favors.
NXT is good at getting people where they need to be so Tim will be OK as long as they want him to be.
Dexter Lumis def. Cameron Grimes in a strap match
This match was fine, but is was the blowoff of a feud that should have ended back at Halloween Havoc.
Like that feud, this match probably went longer than it needed to. It wasn’t bad. It had its moments. Cameron Grimes played the heel when he insisted they use the strap he brought and not the official strap just to score a cheap shot on his opponent. The match ended the right way, with Lumis submitting Grimes. But it felt too long in the middle for a feud that had worn out its welcome.
It’s time to see what they do with Lumis next. He deserves a North American title shot. Though I’m not sure how much I want to see him in a feud with Gargano, another smaller heel like Grimes is. I’d prefer him face someone like Damian Priest to see some big dudes collide.
This was a solid show, but one that I feel suffered from having both standard WarGames matches with not enough thematically to separate them. The North American title match was strong, but overbooked the finish with all those Ghostfaces. Thatcher/Ciampa was really good. Lumis/Grimes was fine but inessential.
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