The WarGames match is revived two decades after its last appearance in WCW. Drew McIntyre defends the NXT Championship for the first time at a TakeOver event, whilst four women compete to win the vacant NXT Women’s Championship…
(Winner via pinfall: Lars Sullivan)
(Winner via pinfall: Alistair Black)
Fatal-4-Way for the vacant NXT Women’s Championship
(Winner via pinfall, and new champion: Ember Moon)
Drew McIntyre (C)
Andrade “Cien” Almas (with Zelina Vega)
(Winner via pinfall, and new champion: Andrade “Cien” Almas)
Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish (“Undisputed Era”)
Roderick Strong, Akam & Rezar (“Authors of Pain,” with Paul Ellering)
Eric Young, Killian Dain & Alexander Wolfe (“Sanity”)
(Winners via pinfall: Undisputed Era)
NXT TakeOver: WarGames was my first live experience of a WarGames match, and one that I approached with some trepidation. On paper, the match rules seemed overly complicated for a 2017 audience, whilst I also wondered how they would work around having a second ring there whilst doing the other matches on the card, without it looking messy on screen. For the former, I felt that the rules were actually relatively simple when the match was in play, but I do still feel that the matches themselves looked a little odd with the second ring always in the background. You’d be gutted to have floor seats too, given they didn’t seem to be showing the matches on the screen either.
For me, this was the first TakeOver in a while that actually presented new talent with a real chance to shine and make names for themselves. As NXT has grown and developed, it has gained a reputation for some incredible wrestling shows from top to bottom (particularly in 2017), and this has resulted in not only a strong reliance on experienced former indie talents to fill out each TakeOver card, but also a lack of opportunity for those still looking for breakthrough opportunities. Due to the multi-man main event taking out nine talents who would have otherwise filled out other matches on the card, WarGames finally gave some of NXT‘s potential stars of the future a chance to shine.
Lars Sullivan, a giant of a man, came through his match with Kassius Ohno well, still looking strong despite a competitive match. Ohno was always going to put him over, and it’s disappointing that 2017 ends with Ohno in that role given where he started the year, but his legitimacy as an international talent certainly helps Sullivan look even more threatening following the victory.
Alistair Black and Velveteen Dream has been an incredibly well crafted storyline. Something about it feels very old school, but with an injection of the current day world in it, and both men have wonderful chemistry. The crowd were up for this match, and whilst it being 1:30am meant I was hitting a wall at this point, I enjoyed what I saw too. I don’t believe that it was the instant classic some have claimed it to be in its immediate aftermath, but it was bloody good (I even watched it back again to make sure I wasn’t missing something!). Dream came out of it looking like a million bucks, whilst Black maintained his march toward the top of the card.
At this point, we were two matches in, and NXT had cemented three talents as big players for 2018. When is the last time a WWE main roster show was able to make that claim?
The women’s match needed more time. It was good for what it was, and the air of mystery over who they’d actually strap the belt to made it unpredictable, but it quickly descended into a spotfest, which isn’t a problem, but does eliminate some of the depth of storytelling that has made previous women’s title matches in this brand so good. Just look back as far as August’s NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III even.
Some of the spots were great, and the fan appreciation for Royce really made me think that rumours of her taking the belt might be true. However, here’s the problem in NXT (well, it’s not a problem per se): the women’s division comes with such high expectation for TakeOver match quality now, that you cannot put the belt on someone who may not always be able to deliver in the big matches. Royce is good, and developing nicely, but is she the right woman for that spot? Not yet, and nor was Cross.
That left Kairi Sane and Ember Moon as the viable options, and given the belt has spent the past 19 months on an Asian competitor who was not fluent in English, it seemed unlikely they’d go straight to Sane, leaving Moon as the logical choice. She looks like a champion, she fits the mound of previous NXT champions, and she can go in the ring on the big stage: clear winner. My only issue was that they should have done it at TakeOver: Brooklyn III, and given Moon the rub of beating Asuka. She’s taken the championship on cold, but I’m sure she will have a good run with it. A good match for all for women here, but one that an extra ten minutes could have turned into a 2017 classic for the brand.
How about Andrade “Cien” Almas, your new NXT Champion? Not a single person in the crowd, or watching at home, would have predicted this match result, and if anything I personally liked the idea of McIntyre having a one and done TakeOver feud befor moving onto a more serious opponent such as Adam Cole. How wrong I was!
McIntyre is either going to the main roster (where he belongs, if we are being honest, or I sense a heel turn coming. The latter seems unlikely given the brands amount of top heel workers, but would make for entertaining viewing nonetheless. I’d like to think he’s headed to one of the top shows though, although that once again raises questions over why he was allowed to take the belt in August, instead of allowing Almas to end Bobby Roode’s reign? Given booking decisions made here, those made at Brooklyn III seem somewhat baffling in hindsight.
As a spectacle, this NXT Championship match was brilliant. Competitive, bur Almas almost always looked the better man. It felt like they were telling the story of Almas being so close, but never quite able to put down the champ, so when he got the three count and became the new champion, the bookers took us somewhere we didn’t expect to go, and as a result I don’t think anyone was unhappy with the decision. Surprises in wrestling often aren’t that common, so this was pleasant, and no one can say that Almas was undeserving based on his performance here. You could argue that the decision to put the belt on him suggests a change in tactics for NXT as a brand, given they’ve spent 2-3 years putting the belt purely on established indie names, but isn’t that the point of this so-called developmental brand? Shouldn’t guys like Almas, if they can go in the ring and have a great overall package, be given these chances to carry the brand? It may be short lived, but let’s enjoy it whilst it lasts.
The return of the WarGames match gimmick brought with it a level of carnage we haven’t seen in a WWE ring for quite some time. Submission holds with chains wrapped around arms, broken tables, blood pouring from heads (although they tried to avoid showing that, despite the hard to miss pool of blood on some table debris)… it was great fun. The crowd were into it from the start, and I enjoyed the story being told throughout, as multiple angles came together at various points in the match. There were some crazy spots, and those I attendance ate it all up.
Even though the match went long, it flew by, and when Adam Cole got the victory via pinfall, I was almost sad to see the match end. I could have easily watched another 10-15 minutes of action without starting to look at a clock.
Quite where this leaves things is up in the air. Will Adam Cole move straight to the NXT Championship picture, or will they keep him away from it a little longer? Do Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly challenge Sanity for their NXT Tag Team Championship? January’s TakeOver event, advertised on this show, certainly has some interesting options.
As far as my final thoughts, I thought NXT TakeOver: WarGames was an entertaining show. I like the 2.5 hour runtime for these shows, and the matches as always were good to great. I don’t believe that this was the best TakeOver of 2017, but that’s more a commentary on how incredible NXT‘s TakeOver events have been this year. The quality here was still better than most wrestling shows, and if NXT can maintain this level as a bare minimum, then 2018 should be another great year for the brand.
Match of the Night
Undisputed Era vs. Authors of Pain & Roderick Strong vs. Sanity