It is time for another big NXT Takeover event on the WWE Network, which also means that it is time for another Running Diary from yours truly. NXT’s annual WarGames extravaganza is upon us, and as usual with NXT, I’m fully expecting an entertaining night of action. Stiff shots, violence, and lots of wild and crazy spots. It’s about time to make this happen. Are you ready? I’m ready. You know the routine… say it with me…
LESS DEW EET!!!
(0:01) The cage is down already, so it looks like we’re kicking things off with one of tonight’s two War Games matches. That works for me. Let’s get some wackiness out of the way quickly.
(0:05) I cannot tell you how much I hate Alicia Taylor as a Ring Announcer. Everything she says sounds like she’s playing pretend. Think of the greatest Ring Announcers in the history of wrestling, and you’re thinking about people who make it sound effortless. That is certainly not Taylor. Yikes.
(0:05) Sure enough, it’s the women’s War Games match to start. Candice LeRae, Toni Storm, Dakota Kai, and Raquel Gonzalez are taking on the team of Shotzi Blackheart, Ember Moon, Io Shirai, and Rhea Ripley. Dakota Kai is the first entrant for the heel squad.
(0:08) Ripley, Shirai, and Blackheart are all in competition for having the coolest entrance in all of NXT. Ember Moon, on the other hand, has a fluffy animal tail on her entrance gear, so it’s pretty much even, you know?
(0:10) Shotzi’s new and improved tank can fire projectiles. Watch the fuck out, Robert Stone.
(0:11) Shotzi was ready to be the first entrant for her team, but she was stopped by Ember, who walked down the ramp. Shotzi didn’t exactly put up a fight there. The match is underway after a bunch of entrances, albeit ones that were generally cut short for this event.
(0:14) Remember the old NWA War Games matches? Arn Anderson would’ve been a bloody mess by this point in the match. I miss those days. Meanwhile, Ember and Dakota are almost wrestling in slow motion so far. They’re pacing themselves, I guess.
(0:16) In an early Christmas miracle, the face team won the early advantage for the match, and Shotzi Blackheart is now in the ring for a two-on-one advantage.
(0:18) Well, the pace has picked up with the new entrant. Shotzi has been beating the hell out of Dakota while Ember takes a nap or whatever she’s been doing for the last couple minutes.
(0:20) Raquel Gonzalez is in next for Team Candice. Good movie. Dakota Kai is down and out for a while. Gonzalez not only evens the odds here, but you could say she gives the heels the advantage.
(0:21) Gonzalez is beating both faces down by herself, and Woi Bar-ruh read my mind, saying that she’s basically worth two women by herself, giving Candice’s squad a technical three-on-two advantage. I knew I liked that guy.
(0:23) Rhea Ripley is out as the next entrant, and we get another showdown between Rhea and Raquel. It only lasts for a second, though, as Dakota Kai interrupts.
(0:24) It is utterly amazing to see where Rhea Ripley is right now compared to where she was at last year’s WarGames event. When Survivor Series weekend was over last year, you would’ve GUARANTEED that she was going to be the next huge star in the wrestling business. She ended up losing a match to Charlotte that she shouldn’t have lost, and then she went down the ladder for months. She’s more than talented enough to still make it happen, but NXT royally botched things with her.
(0:26) Toni Time! Toni Storm is the next entrant. Multiple women have brought random weapons into the ring with them, but so far, it hasn’t led to much. As soon as I type that, though, Toni wears Rhea’s back out with some kendo stick shots.
(0:29) All six women were involved in a double stack spot in the corner, and you could blatantly hear someone (Ember, I believe) call out the “one-two-three” timer before they jumped and crashed.
(0:30) Io Shirai is next up, but her entrance is blocked by Raquel Gonzalez, who sends Io crashing into the ringside barricade.
(0:32) I worry for Shotzi Blackheart in this match. She might be certifiably insane with the lengths she’ll go to in a match, and it doesn’t always work in her favor. Putting her in a match like this might mean something ridiculous.
(0:33) Io still hasn’t gotten into the ring yet. Gonzalez and Storm are spending a lot of time and effort to keep her out. As Candice LeRae makes her way to the ring, Io confronts her, only for Indi Hartwell to show up and take Io out. Looks like the heels have an unofficial team member.
(0:35) Candice “Barry Bonds” LeRae swinging some HEAVY kendo stick shots at Shotzi’s back. Ouch.
(0:36) Sigh. LeRae goes for a pin, but the Referee can’t do the count because Io hasn’t entered the match yet, a fact that every heel seems to be unaware of.
(0:36) Well… there goes that. Shirai climbs to the top of the cage, places a trash can over her own head, and does a dive onto the rest of the competitors. That was a cool visual that is going to be seen in video compilations for a while. It was dumb as hell that everyone just waited for her to jump on them, but hey, I’ll take what I can get.
(0:38) The pace has quickened exponentially since Io actually got into the ring. Good. There were too many slow spots for my liking.
(0:40) I just face palmed my hand through my own head. Candice LeRae has a trash can lid, so Shotzi Blackheart gets a steel chair. She goes to hit Candice, but Candice drops to the mat and crawls over to get a kendo stick… ALL WHILE SHOTZI JUST FUCKING STANDS THERE AND WAITS FOR HER.
(0:41) There have been some REALLY clunky spots in this match so far. The stuff in between those clunky spots has been pretty fun for the most part, though.
(0:46) Gonzalez gets the pin after a one-armed Chokeslam puts Io Shirai through a ladder that was placed between two chairs. Brutal looking spot. Looks like Gonzalez has earned herself a shot at the NXT Women’s Title by pinning the champion to win the match. The match probably didn’t need to last as long as it did. I think that takes away from it a bit. As I said, there were some really clunky moments sprinkled throughout, so I can’t give it a super high rating. I’ll say 3 stars. If you want to go 3.25 stars, I won’t punch your mother. I’d think about it, but I wouldn’t do it.
(0:53) Our next match is Tommaso Ciampa vs Timothy Thatcher. There’s bound to be at least a few instances here where I cringe and say “owww” to nobody in particular as I watch this.
(0:58) I get that there aren’t a ton of options because there are only five matches on the card, but it’s an interesting placement having this one after a hectic War Games match. The “cool down” match makes sense, but just based on their in-ring styles, this is going to be a SUPER cool down.
(1:02) Both of these men are in interesting spots on the NXT card. On a million different occasions, I’ve said that Ciampa doesn’t need to be in NXT anymore. There just isn’t much of anything left for him to do there. Thatcher, meanwhile, should be higher up on the card, but he continues to pick up loss after loss after loss.
(1:05) You know what’s really fucking annoying? That rhythmic clapping on the plexiglass that the fans in attendance keep doing over and over and over and over and over again. It’s like they’re being ordered to do it at gun point. It’s… just… clap… after… clap… with… no… enthusiasm… at… all.
(1:07) Thatcher’s ear is a bloody mess. Looks like it got clipped by a big kick from Ciampa.
(1:12) Ciampa gets the win in the expected hard-hitting battle. Again, I just don’t get why Thatcher keeps taking losses. This was one of those matches that could go either way when it comes to match ratings from the general public. Some people love that style, even though it can be slow and plodding at times. Others find it boring. I dig the style. I just didn’t fully dig the match. It was fine. I’ve just seen a lot better from both men. It’s another 3 star match. It says a ton about the history of NXT Takeover events, though, that back-to-back 3 star matches can almost be viewed as a disappointment. If I had to guess, though, I might bump the rating up on a second viewing once I can get beyond the clapping and stuff like that.
(1:15) Looks like our next match is Dexter Lumis vs Cameron Grimes in a Strap Match. As is tradition, whenever Cameron Grimes is mentioned, I feel the need to bring up the fact that he nearly broke my leg at an indy show a few years back. I’ll have to tell that full story one day.
(1:20) Grimes has brought his own strap for the match, and he makes a point to say “I have my strap on” to the Referee, which makes me giggle.
(1:20) It was all part of a distraction, though, as Grimes attacks Lumis before the match gets started.
(1:22) The bell rings to finally get things underway as Lumis connects himself to the strap. I’m not sure what to expect from this one.
(1:24) These fucking people are still doing the rhythmic slapping on the plexiglass. For the love of Christ, please make it stop.
(1:26) I love Grimes (despite that near broken leg) and his work. The Lumis character entertains me. With that said, I didn’t need this Strap Match. You know how this stipulation goes. Move… stall… walk… stall… walk… whip with the strap… stall… walk… stall… move. It doesn’t make for incredibly engaging matches more often than not these days. That makes back-to-back slow matches tonight. Luckily, the two remaining matches on the card should be crazy from start to finish.
(1:31) I’m not quite sure how Dexter Lumis wrestles in jeans tight enough to give him a yeast infection, but bah gawd, he does it.
(1:34) The plexiglass slapping… the slow pace of this match… I just want this to be over. This isn’t fair to either man, honestly. They’re being placed in a very tough spot.
(1:35) Lumis picks up the submission victory. I’m just happy it’s over. Let’s move on. It wasn’t terrible. Just boring. Very boring. I’m not even going to rate that.
(1:38) As we get a mini-infomercial about the new NXT War Games toy set, the lights begin to flicker in the arena… and “tick, tock” is all that’s heard before the lights come back on. Of course, with the rule that all of WWE’s commentary teams have to be morons, they act like they don’t know who or what that was all about, even though “tick, tock” is pretty much a dead giveaway. Karrion Kross is set to return soon. Come on now.
(1:40) Next up, we have Leon Ruff defending the NXT North American Title against Damian Priest and Johnny Gargano in a Triple Threat Match. This should be a lot of fun.
(1:44) This isn’t a surprise to anybody that has seen him, but holy shit, Leon Ruff is skinny. He looks like a decent gust of wind would send him flying. He is announced at 157 pounds, but there’s no chance he weighs that much.
(1:48) Thus far, the match has had a very quick pace. After that last match, this might as well be the Lucha Libre-ist of all Lucha Libre bouts.
(1:51) Priest “injures” Ruff, then apologizes to him as Ruff is taken away by officials, followed by Gargano botching a tornado DDT. Fun times.
(1:54) Ruff is already back. That was stupid. He’s already the underdog. There’s no need to force the “he’s injured” angle, only to have him literally return a couple minutes later looking fresh. Just let him wrestle.
(1:58) I do like the story here, outside of that injury angle. Priest is a face, but he can’t help but be dickish to Ruff, who he clearly doesn’t see as a threat. Ruff is, of course, the underdog trying to defy the odds. Gargano is just obsessed with trying to get the North American Title back. It’s a good dynamic.
(2:00) Three people in full Ghostface attire show up and attack Damian Priest, but he fights them off, just as three more show up… and he fights them off, too. Oh. Okay.
(2:03) ANOTHER Ghostface shows up and lays Priest out with a lead pipe. It is enough of a distraction for Gargano to get the win. We have a new North American Champion. The match was good. Lots of fun. It was just overbooked all to hell. If we would’ve had a ref bump, it would’ve been an Attitude Era main event. Let’s go with 3.25 stars.
(2:06) As many people predicted, Austin Theory is unmasked as the Ghostface who hit Priest with the pipe. Again… okay. Theory had loss after loss before “quitting” a while back, so it’s not like he looks like a million bucks right now or anything. Gargano gets himself yet another title reign in NXT. Take everything I said earlier about Tommaso Ciampa needing to leave NXT already and multiply that be ten for my thoughts on Gargano. I don’t give a rat’s ass about him being the North American Champion for the 38th time.
(2:08) Main event time. Undisputed Era vs The Kings Of NXT. War Games. Let’s go.
(2:15) Kyle O’Reilly is starting things out for UE, while Pete Dunne is the first man in for Pat McAfee’s squad.
(2:19) Man, I can’t help but cringe when I watch Pete Dunne matches. My fingers and hands hurt when I watch him work on those body parts. He looks like he’s going to snap every single finger of his opponent in every match.
(2:21) Oney Lorcan is the next one out for the two-on-one advantage.
(2:23) It was such a smart, smart idea to place Dunne in a stable with Lorcan and Danny Burch. It was an even smarter idea to have Pat McAfee be in the group with them.
(2:24) Bobby Fish is out to even the odds. This has been such a hard-hitting match so far. My goodness.
(2:27) Danny Burch is out next for The Kings, and he’s looking for some weaponry. He finds… a cricket bat. He also finds… another cricket bat. Burch and Dunne use those bats to their advantage right away.
(2:29) Burch just hit O’Reilly with the cricket bat so hard that I honestly thought a gun went off in the building.
(2:31) Roderick Strong is out to even the odds. He hits some stiff chops and one of his patented backbreakers within a minute of being in the match. Some of the hardest chops I’ve ever seen in all my years of watching this great sport have been delivered by Roddy Strong. He seems to be on a mission to batter and bruise the chests of his opponents. I’ve seen so many matches where his opponent would have a bloody chest after repeated chops.
(2:34) Here comes some fun… Pat McAfee is entering the match now. He pulls out a table from under the ring, followed by another table, followed by a steel chair, then another chair, and another table, and then another table. Each table has the Undisputed Era logo spray painted on it, as well as one of the names of the UE members. Odd booking, as they spent most of the final advantage time for McAfee’s group just having him grab hardware from underneath the ring.
(2:37) McAfee lands a pretty looking Moonsault (until he landed on his knees, that is), putting Strong through a table.
(2:38) Adam Cole is the final entrant in the match, and he grabs a fire extinguisher to push the heels back so that he can officially get into the ring.
(2:39) I thought another gun went off in the building. This time, it was just O’Reilly hitting Dunne across the back with a steel chair. This has been some good shit, pals.
(2:43) McAfee locks a Figure-Four on Cole, which Cole is able to reverse until Pete Dunne makes the save. We’ve seen a spinebuster in this match, and now, the Figure-Four. At least these guys know their history with War Games. You have to pay homage to the Four Horsemen.
(2:47) Danny Burch is on the “Adam Cole” table, and UE powerbomb Pete Dunne onto him… but the table doesn’t break. Ouch.
(2:48) Almost immediately after that, McAfee tries to send Adam Cole through the “Kyle O’Reilly” table with a superplex, only for Cole to shove him off the top turnbuckle. McAfee almost had a nasty landing, as only his head, shoulders, and very upper back seemed to hit the table.
(2:50) Dunne, Lorcan, and Burch have all been beaten down. That leaves Pat McAfee all alone against all four members of Undisputed Era. They get to beat him down for a couple moments until the rest of his squad can finally make the save. Gotta have some brief satisfaction like that, where the cowardly heel gets his comeuppance, even if it is only temporary.
(2:54) MCAFEE WITH A SWANTON FROM THE TOP OF THE CAGE! It was yet another one of those dumb stops where everyone just stands there and waits for someone to do a dive, but like with the Io Shirai spot earlier tonight, it looked pretty and will be replayed for years to come. Poor Pat didn’t really get caught by anyone all that well, though, so he pretty much did a Swanton onto the mat.
(2:58) The pace on this match has been stupid fast. Just spot after spot. Absolute carnage.
(3:00) PAT MCAFEE KICKED OUT OF PANAMA SUNRISE. I don’t think I’ve been that surprised to see a kick out in a wrestling match since Shawn Michaels kicked out of a Tombstone at WrestleMania 25.
(3:01) Kyle O’Reilly picks up the win for Undisputed Era. What a fucking match. As I said, it was just carnage. I don’t know how they kept up that pace for nearly 45 minutes. Oney Lorcan is bleeding from the mouth and has a nasty gash in his eyebrow. Bobby Fish has a bloody elbow. We go off the air with UE celebrating their victory and talking trash to the camera about how they run NXT. Let’s say that was 4.5 stars. Good stuff.
Overall, that might have been the worst NXT Takeover event. HOT TAKE. No, I only say that because of the high bar that the previous Takeover events have set. Your “usual” Takeover event will feature multiple Match Of The Year candidates. Even when it doesn’t, it’ll be one Match Of The Year candidate and a bunch of really good matches. Tonight, we got a Match Of The Year candidate in the main event, but it was a bunch of “meh” and “good” otherwise. That’s what qualifies as the “worst NXT Takeover” these days. I guess I’ll take it. You can’t really complain about that.
What did all of you think? Did you enjoy WarGames more than I did? Less than I did? Hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and tell me what’s on your mind. I’ll be right back here in my usual Wednesday spot, and until then, please take care of each other.