By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
NXT WarGames Hits
Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano, Pete Dunne, and LA Knight vs. Bron Breakker, Carmelo Hayes, Tony D’Angelo, and Grayson Waller in a WarGames match: This match had a lot working against it. The old guard vs. new stars theme made the outcome of this match feel rather predictable. The inexperience of the new stars. The rushed stories that put the entire match together and required fans to accept that rivals, including the most bitter of rivals, were suddenly working together. Despite these issues, everything came together nicely. Most importantly, the moment didn’t feel too big for the new stars. It was widely assumed that Gargano would take the loss for his team on his way out the door. We’ll find out what his future plans are on Tuesday, but whether he’s staying or going, the right call was made by having Breakker pin Ciampa. Breakker avenged his previous loss to Ciampa and sets up a rematch for the NXT Championship.
Raquel Gonzalez, Io Shirai, Kay Lee Ray, and Cora Jade vs. Dakota Kai, Mandy Rose, Gigi Dolin, and Jacy Jayne in a WarGames match: A good start to the show. I’m not big on all the weapons that are used in WarGames matches these days, but it’s pretty much become the norm regardless of which company is running a WarGames style match. The story with Jade dislocating her shoulder was really well done. She sold it extremely well and it served as a good swerve to make viewers assume she would take the loss for her team. Rather, it turned out to be a feel good finish with Jade actually scoring the pin to win the match.
Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel vs. Kyle O’Reilly and Von Wagner for the NXT Tag Titles: The pleasant surprise of the night. And maybe it should not have been such a surprise given how good Aichner, Barthel, and O’Reilly are. But the team of O’Reilly and Wagner have displayed no chemistry together and this was the match that interested me the least on paper, so my guard was down. It felt like Aichner was unleashed, as he had an especially impressive performance and broke out more high spots than we’ve seen him use in some time. The post match angle with Wagner attempting to turn on O’Reilly was encouraging if only because it shows that the creative forces won’t keep trying to shove Wagner down our throats as a babyface.
Cameron Grimes vs. Duke Hudson in a hair vs. hair match: A soft Hit. The match fell a tad below my expectations, but it was still entertaining enough to land in the Hit section. The hair vs. hair stipulation really carried the match. Without it, this would have felt like Tuesday night fodder. The head shaving left a lot to be desired. I’m guessing it’s a minor hook for Tuesday’s television show as they want viewers to watch to get their first look at Hudson’s shaved head.
Overall Show: A good outing. While many are quick to make favorable comparisons between this show and the brand’s Takeover events, I’m not going there. This show never had a chance to measure up. The best Takeover shows were filled with spectacular matches that were preceded by strong builds that made viewers feel emotionally invested. There just wasn’t enough time for the NXT 2.0 creative forces to introduce the newcomers and tell stories that would generate that level of fan engagement. And while most of the matches on this show may have exceeded expectations, none were near the caliber of Takeover’s finest matches. That said, had you told me when NXT 2.0 launched that the brand would produce a show of this quality so quickly, I never would have believed it . And while the challenge could become even greater for future shows to measure up if NXT loses more of the veterans who are holding things together, the mix of the old guard and the newcomers worked nicely on this event. So while the show may not have been Takeover good, it was very good for what it was.
NXT WarGames Misses
Roderick Strong vs. Joe Gacy for the NXT Cruiserweight Championship: It wasn’t bad, it just felt like a television match. I’m still not sure what they wanted from the fans given that both men seem to be heels, and the match concluded with an underwhelming outcome. I was more than ready for NXT to ditch the cruiserweight championship. Let’s face it, WWE has done a terrible job of booking the cruiserweight division and it’s hard to imagine things getting any better given their focus on hiring bigger developmental talents.