By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
NXT Takeover: WarGames Hits
Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly, and Roderick Strong vs. Kevin Owens, Tommaso Ciampa, Keith Lee, and Dominik Dijakovic in a WarGames match: The siren and laser light show for the lowering of the WarGames cage was really cool production work. The actual match was even better. Both matches delivered in a major way. I still feel like WarGames should be special and this event would have been just fine if the either match was the only WarGames match and closed the show, but I’m also not complaining. The match was very well worked and the KO surprise was a lot of fun. Does KO’s appearance mean he’s an NXT regular or was this a one off appearance? If a stay in NXT pays him the same or if he’s merely happy with his compensation, then here’s hoping Owens is back in NXT.
Rhea Ripley, Candice LeRae, Tegan Nox, and Dakota Kai vs. Shayna Baszler, Io Shirai, Bianca Belair and Kay Lee Ray in a WarGames match: Kai’s heel turn was phenomenal. They laid the groundwork on television by having Ripley choose Yim over Kai for this team. Kai has shown a more aggressive style since then and has been losing matches to continue building her frustration. Kai’s attack on Nox was a thing of brutal beauty. The actual match was highly entertaining with the babyfaces being outnumbered and finding a way to win. I enjoyed the captains going for simultaneous submission holds, and LeRae’s poison rana off the ropes on Ray was spectacular. Shirai’s big leap from the top of the cage was another sensational moment. I loved Ripley’s home run swing with the trash can as Ray leapt at her off the ropes and the way Baszler was there to immediately apply the Kirifuda Clutch. That would have been an acceptable finish, but instead they went the other way by having Ripley escape the hold and beat the champion to set her up for the title shot. This match easily could have closed the show. The babyfaces won despite being shorthanded and none of the heels will be damaged. This was a wonderfully booked and fabulously executed match.
Pete Dunne vs. Damian Priest vs. Killian Dain in a Triple Threat match for a shot at the NXT Championship at Survivor Series: I’m running out of positive adjectives for this show. Anyway, this was a very well worked Triple Threat match. I like the way they kept all three men involved as much as they did rather than having one man sell at ringside for prolonged stretches. There were strong near falls and innovative third man breakups throughout. Dunne going over sets up the most appealing of the three NXT Title match possibilities for Survivor Series. It will be interesting to see if the knee injury he sold following Dain’s late chop block factors into the title match.
Finn Balor vs. Matt Riddle: There was no reason to think Balor would lose his first Takeover match following a heel turn and yet the match was good enough that there were moments when it was hard not to buy into that possibility. Balor going over clean makes sense and Riddle seems to be fairly teflon at this point in that losses don’t seem to affect his popularity. It really is refreshing to see a heel beat a babyface clean and I wish we would see more of this on Raw and Smackdown.
Angel Garza vs. Isaiah “Swerve” Scott: The good, fast paced opening match one would expect from these two. Garza going over is logical given that he fought Lio Rush to a disputed finish in a recent WWE Cruiserweight Title match that will presumably lead to a rematch. As such, there was no point in having him drop a match before that rematch is held. The single match on the 30-minute pre-show was a welcome addition from the usual talking heads and video packages approach. Plus, the more time they spend in the ring, the less camera time that hammy Pat McAfee receives.
NXT Takeover: WarGames Misses
None: This section is an empty and lonely place coming out of Takeover events. Here’s hoping that continues to be the case.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Ricky Starks on his NWA run, doing enhancement work for WWE, leaving NOLA due to Hurricane Katrina, the January 24 NWA Hard Times PPV on FITE.TV, his relationship with Nick Aldis, and much more...