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NXT WarGames 2021 recap & reactions: Age in the cage

Team 2.0 vs. Team Black & Gold in actual brand warfare? Sign me up

Christmas is around the corner. For some that means love and family. For NXT, that means it’s time to draw battle lines and go to war. NXT WarGames comes to you live from the Performance Center, and I’ll walk you through the highs, lows, and everything else. Holla at Claire for the play-by-play, then come back here for more fun stuff.

Back? Good.

Let’s talk NXT WarGames.


Case of the P.T.A.

There was a moment in the men’s WAAAARGAAAAAMES match when every individual feud had a moment to shine. Grayson Waller landed an elbow drop from the heavens on top of a defenseless LA Knight. Tony D’Angelo put Pete Dunne in a swinging neckbreaker from the top rope. Oh, and he had a crowbar around the Bruiserweight’s throat. Dexter Lumis reappeared to chase off a nosey Trick Williams! And then there were the main four: Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Garagno, Bron Breakker, and Carmelo Hayes.

Those four had multiple moments that changed the temperature of the match. Whether it was Johnny and Melo during the match’s first five minutes, Ciampa calling in an Air Raid on Bron with a metal trash can breaking his fall (trash cans don’t really break falls), or the multiple mini DIY reunions perfectly in flow with the match.

The beauty of this particular WarGames match is it’s steeped in history. We’re talking about a battle between NXT’s past and its future, so everything has to count. That context is the only way a freaking crutch pops the crowd. They know what it means to the wrestlers, to the brand, and why its appearance is momentous. But if you get your Sherlock Holmes on, you’ll notice it was the Black and Gold team doing most of the callbacks. “Marcus,” you’re saying to yourself, “of course they had the callbacks. They’re the team with all the history!” And you’re 100 percent correct. At a certain point, focusing too much on the past and the way things were done can inhibit one from focusing on the present and what’s happening now. And that’s how The Black and Gold walked away as losers.

Team 2.0’s number one rule was there are no rules. They’re the ones who bought in the plunder. They’re the ones who locked the cage door to use the numbers game to their advantage even if it was for just a few extra seconds. Melo and Bron’s crew didn’t have it easy, but they used every edge—no pun intended. Hey Beth!—they possessed to stall, punish, or surprise their counterparts who believed they just weren’t ready. That means we had several near falls, a lot of momentum swings, and many moments where the Black and Gold crew figured they had the entire thing wrapped like presents, mummies, or sandwiches.

Which brings us to the closing moments of the match. As I said, it was all about the four main players in our performance. Johnny announced this was his first WarGames and it might be his last. It only makes sense that he Ciampa showed off the moves and chemistry that made DIY, well, DIY. If that teamwork and showmanship ended the match and sent Team 2.0 crying? That’s pure poetry. And it’s what almost happened.

After a Meeting in the Middle put Bron out of commission, it was Melo shooting at Ciampa and Gargano. A thumb to the eye here, a low blow there, and it looked like the North American champ was ready to make history. Then that DIY teamwork kicked in again, as Gargano held Melo long enough for Ciampa to nail the champ with a knee to the back of his head, with Johnny taking some damage in the process.

Ciampa grabbed Melo, positioned him near a table placed ever-so-properly in a corner, and prepped him for a Fairytale Ending. Yet, somehow, through all that, they lost sight of the Big Bad Booty Nephew. Seriously, how do you take your eyes off of a human that large? Anyway, in one of the best moments of the night, Bron speared Ciampa through the table right as the NXT champ lifted Hayes into the air. It was poetry in motion because it said so much in less than 15 seconds. The NXT Champion took his eye off his biggest challenge because he doesn’t think he deserves a shot. While taking his sweet time to finish the match, he was caught off guard by that same man, put through a table, and then powerslammed for the three-second tan.

It wasn’t the greatest WarGames, but it was a damn good story, a satisfying ending, and the boys put on a hell of a show.

More importantly? I have no idea where we go from here. As someone who wants surprises from his wrestling, that’s the best place in which to be.

If you didn’t know already, it’s official now: 2.0 season has begun.


Separation Anxiety

The question going into the women’s WarGames match—for me at least—was whether the babyface squad could get on the same book, much less the same page. Everyone had their own agendas and that normally leads to at least a mild case of chaos. Opposites attract but they can also repel. Nope, that’s not how science works, but you get my point.

In the end, the story was about the rookie and youngest person in the entire match: Cora Jade. Jade, the third entrant, wrestled with something to prove. And who can blame her? Her teammates and her opponents are champs, former champs, or wrestling legends. Of course she goes after Dakota Kai with her skateboard. Of course she goes after everyone like a rabid dog. And, of course, she took the riskiest high risk of the match.

With her squad placing Jacy Jayne on a table, Cora went to the top of the cage. High on adrenaline, and, again, needing to prove her self, Jade goes for a Senton. I say goes for because she landed awkwardly. Sure, anytime you land on someone, it’s not a smooth landing, but you normally don’t land on your shoulder either. Cora held on to that shoulder and was clearly in agony. After some discussion with the referees, it looked like Cora was on her way out. But Dr. Io Sharai wasn’t having any of that. Sharai popped Jade’s shoulder back into place after telling everyone she would handle it.

Cora nursed her shoulder for the rest of the match while the fighters fought. And fought they did. Trash cans, tables, and utter violence. At this point, Raquel González, Kay Lee Ray, and Sharai were just trying to protect their injured partner.

But then something happened. Once Mandy Rose entered and the match “officially” started, Cora summoned the Power of Greyskull, and broke up a potential match ender with a Kendo stick. Once again, that adrenaline kicked in and she managed to get a few shots in before getting a surprise rollup pin on Jayne.

The one-armed woman in a wrestling match scored the W for her team, and the biggest one of her career to this point. A fun opener that had a couple sloppy moments, but props on the ending that makes sense based on the main story the match conveyed.


Extracurriculars

No New Friends

Kyle O’Reilly is done with affiliations and friends. O’Reilly and Von Wagner—still an awful name—put up a really good fight against Imperium. But that good fight didn’t equate to a meaningful win. Their newfound friendship wasn’t enough for the longtime chemistry the champs developed. Kyle fell victim to an Imperium Bomb and that was that.

Or it was until the attempted double cross by Wagner. Fortunately, Kyle saw it coming because he knows a thing or two about betrayal. Good match with an interesting twist in the end.

If this is Kyle’s last hurrah, hopefully he goes out in a blaze of glory

Luck Be a (Grimey) Lady, Tonight

The right man won. Does it matter that he had a handful of tights? Not really. The whole thing between Cameron Grimes and Duke Hudson is about outplaying the opponent. Poker isn’t about playing the cards; it’s about playing the person in front of you. Bluffing and hustling are built into the rules. In that context, I have no problem with a babyface playing loose with the rules to get a win. Another good match with the added bonus of seeing Duke Hudson humbled with a God-awful haircut. Seriously, a bowl cut is better.

Get Your Weight Up

Roderick Strong walked into the Performance Center as Cruiserweight champ and he leaves the same way he entered. I’m not sure how to feel about the match because if Joe Gacy isn’t going to win, what was the point? Not even saying I’m a fan of dude, but it’s just weird.

Gacy stopping Harland from harming Ivy Nile was the most interesting part of the match. Other than that? Meh.


This was a fun show for the most part. The one match I wasn’t feeling is the match I predicted I wouldn’t feel, while the rest was, unsurprisingly, consistent. We also got a lot of vignettes in this show.

It didn’t need to be anywhere near 3 hours and it felt like they were dragging it out for Sports Entertainment Reasons ™. The two matches that needed to stand out did, while setting the stage for a very interesting week of television.

Grade: B+

That’s my grade and I’m sticking to it. Your turn.