I am an NXT fan. No WWE brand does more with less. The NXT brand builds stars all within pre-taped weekly 1 hour shows. It builds feuds and sometimes includes multiyear storylines and callbacks.
This is the second year NXT has put on a PPV with the WarGames format. I vaguely remember WarGames matches back in the WCW days. It was cool to see it return last year because the visual for the TV audience is so damn cool. This year’s WarGames just might have ended up being the top TakeOver of 2018.
Matt Riddle def. Kassius Ohno
It was announced these 2 would face each other on NXT next week, but this ended up being an unannounced match for the card. While it ended up being a 5-second squash, it properly introduced Matt Riddle to the NXT crowd and showed how much of a star the King of Bros can be.
Shayna Baszler (C) def. Kairi Sane – NXT Women’s Championship (2 out of 3 falls)
These two have great chemistry. While I feel that Baszler should be booked a bit stronger, Kairi shows the heart and grit needed to make her challenge look believable. While the wrestling was excellent, it seemed to take a backseat to story as Duke and Shafir inserted themselves into the match early on.
Sane battles valiantly until it looked like all hope was lost when out comes Dakota Kia and Io Shirai to even up the odds. Shirai hits an insane moonsault from the top rope to the floor that made Charlotte’s look like she needs to go back down to the Performance Center and wipes out Duke and Shafir.
Shenanigans aside, this match was pretty damn solid. It was competitive and Shayna won with basically a roll-up. This match was pretty short for being a 2 out of 3 falls match. It probably could have used 5 more minutes. That said, I am looking forward to what I’m guessing will lead up to a 3-on-3 tag match in the future. I am also pleased to see these 6 as the heads of the women’s division going into the future. I don’t think they could have picked anyone better than these 4 to get Shafir and Duke up to speed.
Aleister Black def. Johnny Gargano
Gargano’s Punisher gear was spot on. The guy who does bad things who thinks he’s a good guy. Gargano has said he thinks he’s the hero in this story despite attacking Black from behind. I mean, there was a spot where Gargano had Black in the Gargano escape and Johnny was screaming “I’m the hero!”
I must say, I wasn’t too interested in this feud despite both guys being exceptional performers. This match was insane! This was my favorite match on the card. These guys worked so stiff. Some of their spots were brutal and pretty much all of the spots were timed to perfection. Aleister dared Johnny to hit him with his best shot since he wasn’t blindsided this time. There was a moment where Gargano begged Aleister to finish him by laying his head on Black’s boot. The finish was sick as Black hit the Black Mass on Gargano. Johnny lands on Aleister’s chest. Black tells him “I absolve you of your sins” and then hits him with another Black Mass.
The storytelling in this match was amazing. The hits were hard. The spots were sick. Yes, there were more than a few no-sells, but that’s usually what you get in a Gargano match.
Tomasso Ciampa (C) def. The Velveteen Dream – NXT Championship
Dream used to get on my nerves. I still saw him as the self-righteous superfan from Tough Enough, but, man, what a transformation. I also didn’t have much exposure to Ciampa before his tag team stint with Gargano. These two have turned into absolute gold.
Dream came out in a black and white Hollywood Hogan gear. It was awesome. The guy is so freaking over. Ciampa grabs Dream’s Hollywood headband. Dream grabs Ciampa’s title. Both wrestlers try to play mind games against each other. Dream does all the Hogan greatest hits with leg drops and Hulk up fist shakes. Ciampa was brilliant. His boot came undone midway into the match and he spent quite some time untying it. That set up a spot where Dream tried to hang onto Ciampa’s leg, but couldn’t because the boot was undone. So many near falls during the last third of this match. Dream missed the Purple RainMaker to the outside. Ciampa dragged him back into the ring and hit the draping DDT on Dream on the metal partition between the two rings for the win.
Fantastic match. Feels like the end of this feud. Maybe a call-up for Dream after the Rumble?
War Raiders w/ Ricochet & Dunne def. Undisputed Era – WarGames Match
WarGames is always visually stunning for the TV audience. The build for this match was pretty solid. I feel like the faces were thrown together at the last minute, but NXT is pre-taped, so it was probably months ago at this point. Bless NXT for trying to put over the War Raiders and have us view them as the team captains, for whatever that’s worth, but, let’s be real, we all came here for Dunne and Ricochet.
While the women’s title match was 5-10 minutes too short, this WarGames match was 10-15 minutes too long. I get there was a lot of set up here, but there were some times where it was just hard to understand what the heck was going on. Don’t get me wrong, the match was great. The final 10-12 minutes was pretty freaking great.
Ricochet’s moonsault from the top of the cage onto every freakin’ body following the Christmas tree of suplexes from that corner. Legend has it that Ricochet is still spinning towards the center of the Earth and won’t stop until he comes out on the other side of the planet. Mama Effin’ Mia! The stand-off following all that craziness provided one of the best visuals of the night. All 8 men stood in the partition after everything short of killing one another screaming and throwing fists.
It’s trench warfare! – Mauro Ranallo
After a ton of back and forth between Dunne and Cole, Dunne hits Cole with the Bitter End and Ricochet flies in with a splash. Both men pin Adam Cole (Bay-Bay) for the win. The two men celebrated at the top of the cage holding their belts up high and hinting at a future feud between the two. The Undisputed Era’s chemistry and teamwork are second to none. The War Raiders showed their strength, agility, and athleticism. Good stuff all around.
NXT TakeOver: WarGames II
NXT TakeOver: WarGames II was amazing. So much fun. I didn’t score the Riddle v Ohno match for obvious reasons, but it was a solid kickoff to what turned out to be one of the most enjoyable WWE PPVs of the year. Yeah, I probably scored Gargano vs Black a little too high, but that match was the one that had me most interested throughout it. There were no lulls there. NXT is life for a company that puts together 3-hours worth of basically nothing except pee jokes and buried tag champs almost every week. (Yes, I’m writing this review late.) This was quite possibly the best TakeOver of 2018 and that’s saying a lot considering what we’ve been blessed with by Triple H and company.