I was actually looking forward to this. The NXT Takeover shows have been really good and I was hoping this would be no different.
No fart-arsing around, let’s get straight into it. We’re from… some town in America? Probably not an important one. Shi-Kar-Go? Oh, Chicago. Hey, they named a town after a Catherine Zeta-Jones movie!
1. On the pre-show, Mia Yim is taken out, so we have intrigue! Who did it? What actually happened? Who will replace her? Will Samantha leave Simon and go back to her true love, Bob? Will Lionel ever play the piano again? What does this mean? Oh, and Ripley’s anger was a nice touch. Later on, we have Dakota Kai picked as the replacement. Yeah… I smell something here…
2. Isaiah Swerve Scott v Angel Garza
And we start with a messed up headscissor outside… This match tried to be a spotfest that we’ve grown used to in AEW, but there were a lot of awkward looking moves between the really cool ones. Love the pants to the face, by the way. Look, a decent back and forth match which Garza won with the wing-clipper. I like that move.
3. The first match and already the commentators have reached a fever pitch. They have 2 WarGames matches to go… and they’re at this level already? They are not leaving themselves anywhere to go. At least they’re not sniping at each other…
4. Women’s WarGames: Rhea Ripley, Candice LaRae, Tegan Nox & Dakota Kai v Bianca Belair, Kay lee Ray, Io Shirai & Shayna Baszler
I was hoping this could live up to the inaugurality of it. Well…
This was not a normal WarGames match. This was not let them in, one at a time, until we get the ending. Dakota turned on Nox before coming to the ring, leaving Ripley & LaRae 2-on-4 (although everyone in the rings waiting for the attack was, well, silly). And… This was their coming out party. Ripley is going to be an absolute star. Strong, athletic and with a unique look (my bias not withstanding), her tower of doom suplex was a thing of beauty and all the women took it magnificently. Shirai’s moonsault from the top of the cage was so smooth. And LaRae took an absolute pounding so well. This was non-stop from the Shirai-LaRae opening. And then Ripley handcuffed herself to Baszler, hit the riptide onto two chairs, got the pin and the win. WOW! However… 2-on-4. The odds… Dunno…
5. Okay, rant time! In the past 15 years women’s wrestling has gone from crap/toilet break stuff to main-eventing WrestleMania and doing Hell in a Cells and now WarGames. I cannot imagine a Bella, Kelly Kelly, Alicia Fox, Maryse, Layla, McCool… well, most of the women from back then taking a DDT to a chair, hitting any move from the top of a cage, taking those garbage can/chair shots… no way. Look, sure, a few may have, but most would never even contemplate it. Nope. Women’s wrestling has come so far. I would love – love – to see Ripley, Roussey, Lynch, Flair, LaRae, Neidhart become the new Women’s 6 (remember the Smackdown 6? I do – this would as awesome, I am sure), or add Cross and Shirai and have a Women’s 8. When was the last time a company had 8 women who could all legitimately be considered great wrestlers? And the next tier down is also impressive, like Baszler, Mia Yim, Ray, Asuka, et al. And, as regards to WarGames: Kudos to the WWE & NXT for allowing and encouraging this, to the fans for accepting this, and, especially, to the 6 women involved for being so freakin’ awesome.
6. Damian Priest v Killian Dain v Pete Dunne
Winner loses to Adam Cole for the NXT title at Survivor Series. They had a tough job, following that WarGames match, and they tried their hardest, but the crowd was worn out. Look it was not a bad match – in fact, it was quite decent – and some of the moves were fine, but there was a lot of waiting around for set-ups for big moves, and a lot of 1-on-1 stuff with only a few 3-ways spots. Still, watchable. Pete Dunne won.
7. Matt Riddle v Finn Balor
This was a great match. So much for giving the crowd a breather before the main event! These two pulled out quite a good back and forth contest. But it was a wrestling match, not just a spot-fest, which set it apart on a card as stacked as this one. The spear/jackhammer by Riddle was a nice nod to Goldberg. The ending came after they kept kicking out of moves that would have finished it on TV until Balor wins with the 1916 DDT. Ending irked me, but match was really good.
(Bonus Thought! Masters of the WWE Universe? Look, I’m almost 50, but… hell yeah!)
8. Men’s WarGames: The Undisputed Era v Keith Lee, Dominic Dijakovic, Tommaso Ciampa & ???
Started like a normal WarGames match, with the faces in control when the numbers were even, the heels taking over when they had the advantage. I liked that harkening back to the old days. And then, when Cole comes in, the weapons are introduced and it becomes what ECW would have done with a WarGames match. “Plunder”, to quote Dusty. The match changes with that. And then Ciampa leaves the cage to belt Cole – shouldn’t his team be DQ’ed for that? The clock ticks for the final entrant, they tease nobody coming out, and then… Kevin
Steen Owens makes his return! The crowd explodes. There’s a botched double throw, there’s tables in the ring, there’s some incredible break-ups of pins and the action is non-stop. End comes when three UE members are out through tables while Cole & Ciampa are on top of the cage. And then… Ciampa hits his Air Raid Crash from the top of the cage through 2 tables for the pin and the win. And Britt Baker is shown – and named! – looking concerned for her partner Cole. What a match.
9. For the first time in a very bloody long time, the surprise entrant was an actual surprise. I was actually thinking John Morrison (but there’s still Survivor Series) or maybe a returning whoever from AEW, or maybe even a Daniel Bryan or Samoa Joe “one night only” thing, but… Kevin Owens. It’s far better for him than fighting Shane McMahon or doing whatever he’s doing at the moment on the main roster.
10. Another rant! All right, don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed the WarGames matches. They were both better than I was expecting. The first NXT WarGames, with the tag team thing, felt wrong; last year’s was okay, but the Pete Dunne stuff was… not good. This year’s were both better. But – and this is a pretty big ‘but’ – there was something missing. Go back and watch the WarGames matches from 1992 and before. There were not the “plunder” spots; the cage had a roof. The violence back then was more realistic and less spotfest heavy. And there was blood. A lot of blood. Red everywhere. WarGames without blood is like Slim Jim without Randy Savage – you know it can be done, and it doesn’t really affect anything, but, really, it’s not the same.
But there is something about NXT. If they can bring the goods like this, why are Raw and Smackdown so freakin’ lame? What happens? I honestly do not get it…
Sorry. WarGames. 5 matches. One okay, one good, one really good, and two excellent. You know, you can’t ask much more than that. And that’s NXT Takeover: WarGames III!
Comments, thoughts, etc. are always welcome!
Tags: Adam Cole, angel garza, bianca belair, Candice LaRae, Dakota Kai, damian priest, dominic dijakovic, Finn Balor, Io Shirai, isiah swerve scott, Kay Lee ray, Keith Lee, Kevin Owens, Killian Dain, Matt Riddle, Mia Yim, NXT, nxt takeover wargames iii, Pete Dunne, Rhea Ripley, Shayna Baszler, Takeover, Tegan Knox, Tommaso Ciampa, Undisputed Era, Wargames, WWE