NXT Takeover War Games 2018 Review

So the show itself began with Matt Riddle coming out. This stems from a spot on the pre show where he joined the panel only to be quickly interrupted by the man who he has had recent verbal altercations with on NXT TV, Kassuis Ohno. Anyway Riddle came out to a big pop to open the show (he was wearing typically OTT gear. My friend Stefan said he was wearing his Borussia Dortmund kit which wasn’t far off). Of course none of us really care about the god awfulness of his gear because… well it’s Matt Riddle for Christ sake! He goes on to cut a promo can calls out Ohno to face him RIGHT NOW as opposed to next week when they are scheduled to face off. Ohno comes out to respond and the impromptu match is made to open the show.

Matt Riddle defeated Kassuis Ohno

Riddle kneed him in the head immediately and got the pin in around 7 seconds. Ohno seemed in shock, the live crowd seemed annoyed as I think they assumed they were going to get a proper match. Me as a fan at home didn’t mind too much as I never expected to see the match tonight in the first place. Perhaps it was because it was assumed, by me also, that the match would be tapped before Takeover began ready to be shown on next week’s NXT TV. So the live crowd didn’t get to see that then, and didn’t get a proper match now. So with that in mind I totally understand why they may have felt short changed by it. This sort of thing has never been done in NXT, I can’t recall the last Takeover squash match if there ever has been one.

N/A

Shayna Baszler defeated Kairi Sane 2-1 in a 2 out of 3 Falls Match to retain the NXT Women’s Championship

There were ‘Kairi Crew’ signs in the crowd similar to ‘Hugger/Cesaro section’ ones of the past. Sane is simply the most ultra babyface I can think of in WWE right now. Shayna got the backstage camera walk out entrance and received a heel reaction from the crowd upon entering the arena. They’ve certainly given this a big-fight-feel. It was though the challenger Sane who started the better of the two, but seemingly as soon as her advantage became clear it was time for 2 of Baszler’s Horsewomen buddies to make their mark on proceedings. And so with the ref’s attention diverted both Jessamyn Duke & Marina Shafir attacked Kairi on the outside. This allowed Baszler to soon after apply her Kirifuda Clutch submission to force Sane to tap and take the 1-0 lead. The crowd let their feelings be known with the ‘bullshit’ chants. But I think this was the right kind of heat in the sense they were pissed at the babyface getting screwed rather than they were unhappy with the booking and what actually happened. Also I think it was app for Baszler to win the first fall as her coming from 1-0 down for example and beating Sane 2 falls in a row would A. not protect Sane at all and B. not make logical sense for the big, bad heel to make the comeback of a babyface nature. So shame it happened so quickly but made sense for a few reasons.

Baszler dominated the start of the second fall before Sane got a couple of quick nearfalls on her comeback. There was then a pretty awesome looking counter into a spike DDT on the apron by Sane which got the “holy shit” chants from the crowd, but that wuld be when Duke & Shafir would again go to attack Kairi, but this time to no avail. Sane made her way to the top rope and then dived onto the 3 former MMA fighters on the outside (the crowd were so into this match at this stage and urging Kairi on at every chance they got). Kairi then got Shayna back into the ring and hit her Insane Elbow finisher to equal the score at 1 fall a piece. Another fairly quick fall but as a stand alone it was pretty effective.

It was Sane this time who followed up her pin with more offence, including 3 Spears/’Interceptors’. Baszler though would then go for a superplex only for both women to exchange strikes on the top rope, the sequence ending with Sane hitting a Sunsetflip Powebomb for a 2 count. Jessamyn Duke then distracted the referee enough for Marina Shafir to go at Kairi, only for DAKOTA KAI to come running out for the save. And then not long after IO SHIRAI came running out and hit a moonsault onto Duke and Shafir from the top rope to the outside (whilst wearing JEANS I might add). In the meantime Sane hit her Insane Elbow drop, but mustn’t have got all of it as Shayna rolled her over as eh went for the pinfall and Baszler got the 3rd and final fall to win the match and retain her title. This was a very good opener (unless you count Riddle vs Ohno as your opener) but needed 5 or so minutes longer to be great. Nonetheless it ticked all the boxes you would want from this match and would seem to be an end to the rivalry perhaps. Be fun to see this new 3 v 3 dynamic going forward, and MAYBE Io vs Shayna down the line for the title???

*** 3/4

X Pac and his dog (no legit he had his Dog with him) were shown in the crowd… as you do…

Aleister Black defeated Johnny Gargano

My prediction to my friend Stefan before this match was that it would be quote “a slobberknocker” … I wasn’t wrong. The crowd definitely were against Gargano (who came out in Venom inspired gear, which given his recent actions was very clever) as opposed to Black who got a huge babyface pop. Gargano quickly mocked Black by sitting and doing his crossed leg pose whilst smiling at him, they exchanged strikes after until Black did his sit down pose but Gargano immediately kicked him as he began strongly. The crowd were definitely booing Gargano. There was a beautiful Okada roll pin attempt by Gargano into a submission move, as Black would alter go onto the rope to wipe out Gargano and begin to take control with more kicks. He followed this up with a great springboard moonsault that got him a 2 count. Mauro Ranallo (who I actually tweeted saying how much I was looking forward to hearing him back calling NXT, and he was kind enough to respond) described Black as ‘technically proficient” , he was certainly correct. Black hit a superkick and then went for a moonsault to the outside but missed, only for Gargano to respond with a tope suicida through the ropes into a DDT onto Black which looked incredible. He quickly followed that up with a slingshot DDT into the ring and got a 2 count of his own. Pretty incredible chemistry on display from these two. Gargano told Black “you’re not the chosen one, I am” as they exchanged more strikes, Gargano then went for another dive to the outside through the ropes but flew right into a high Knee from Black who then hit a kick and a German Suplex with the bridge for a nearfall as the crowd really showed their appreciation for the match. Gargano followed up a beautiful Clothesline into the Gargano Escape submission but Black was able to roll over into a 2 count nearfall. Gargano though would respond by launching Aleister Black ‘snake eyes’ – like into the middle turnbuckle. He then looked down at Black and began to lift his head up with his foot as lack sometimes does to his opponents before hitting Black Mass. Gargano then sets up for his half of the DIY (his tag team with former friend Tomasso Ciampa) finisher, but Black puts his hand up to stop Gargano before sitting crossed leg and demanding of Johnny his best shot. Gargano then pulls down his knee pad to leave his knee exposed, Black is able to avoid it though and an exchange ends with a running knee and a 2 count. Gargano was in almost a trance at this stage as the “fight forever” chants from the tremendous crowd could not have been more appropriate. Gargano lifted Black up and slaps him as he talks trash, they both exchange more brutal strikes before Gargano pushed Black to the outside of the ring, he went for another Tope and again flew into a knee from Aleister (Mauro is going crazy as always at this stage). Back in the ring Gargano begged Black to stop and for mercy, Black just starred at him before Gargano seemed to ask his opponent to put him out his misery… Johnny Gargano then turned a Black Mass attempt around and eventually once again had the Gargano Escape locked in as he continued to talk trash. Black was able to turn it around though and eventually hit a knee strike before he himself exposing his knee by pulling down his pad. He hit knee strike and then a Black Mass kick. But a near lifeless Johnny Gargano lent against Black and didn’t go down. Black talked trash back and hit a 2nd Black Mass and got the pin for the win. This was another incredible Johnny Gargano Takeover match. He now has been in a record 11 matches at Takeover shows and having watched them all I don’t recall any being bad, and pretty much all of them being either good, very good, excellent or superb. This one of the superb ones for sure. A simply stunning professional wrestling match.

*****

The Undisputed Era were shown backstage discussing strategies ahead of the main event, before a hype video for the next match was shown.

Tomasso Ciampa defeated Velveteen Dream to retain the NXT Championship

Dream came out to a massive pop… and he was wearing… HULK HOGAN NWO inspired ring gear!!! He had been teasing as such all over his social media recently. Ciampa cradled and held his title like it was a baby as he came out to his usual chorus of boos but now of course with his fantastic entrance music to go with it. Velveteen Dream made a feisty start on got on Ciampa’s back at one stage before slapping him. Ciampa seemed to be annoyed with Dream in the early stages of this match. He then tried to make fun of Dream before both men missed attempts at their signature moves. Ciampa then got a hold of Dream’s bandana and did the Hulk-Hogan cupping-of-the-ear to mock Dream. He tossed Dream to the outside whilst still holding his bandana, so Dream responded by grabbing Ciampa’s NXT Championship (or “Goldie” as Ciampa likes to call it). Ciampa chased Dream in fury as the stalemate continued. Velveteen Dream slided and hit Ciampa and regained possession of his headband (really fun psychology early on) before doing his usual hip-shake taunt, and then Dream hit an exquisite standing dropkick and a top rope clothesline before ceremoniously placing his bandana back on his head. Dream follows this up by doing the Hogan cupping of the ear to the crowd, before hitting the big boot and going for the leg drop but Ciampa rolled out the ring much to the crowd’s dismay. Dream though hit a double axe handle to Ciampa off the top to the outside. Eventually though Ciampa pushed Dream back to the outside and followed up with a vicious looking running knee strike to a prone Velveteen Dream in the corner of the ring, this prompted Nigel McGuinness on commentary also with Mauro and Percy Watson to frantically proclaim that Dream was out of it. Tomasso Ciampa mocked the Velveteen Dream by doing his signature crawl and pose he does as the crowd booed as the champion continued to stalk the challenger. An Avalanche neckbreaker from Ciampa to Dream onto the ropes which made hum fall to the outside came not long afterwards. This was followed by Ciampa gleefully patting himself on the back as he has done in previous big matches as he revelled in his own success. Ciampa then hit a running knee to Dream whom was laying across the announce table. Ciampa dominance continued and at one point he had Dream in a neck hold which led Dream to drool from the mouth, AND CIAMPA RUBBED THE DROOL INTO DREAM’S FACE which was both GRIM but also very creative. The crowd chanted “VELVETEEN” as the urged him to make a comeback, he eventually got a backslide for a nearfall and then a neckbreaker to leave both men down. Then a great little period saw Dream do the kick up (ala HBK in the past), followed by the Hulk Hogan “YOU” as he pointed at Ciampa, then strikes, the big boot and the Hogan leg drop three times in a row. Dream continued to ‘Hulk up’ and hit a brilliant Spinebuster for a 2 count. Eventually Dream made his way to the top rope looking for his elbow drop finisher but Ciampa rolled out the way, but he then threw him to the outside. A really good spot then saw Dream have Ciampa in a Figure 4 leg lock around the ring post. The ref counted for Dream to release the illegal hold but also Tomasso Ciampa tapped frantically behind the ref. This was clever 2 ways as the ref’s back was turned so he didn’t see it but also as Dream was using the ring post for leverage it was an illegal move so the tap wouldn’t be valid. Ciampa would go on to get a roll up 2 count only to shortly after find himself locked in a regular Figure 4 in the ring. They exchanged who had the pressure of the hold on the other before Ciampa had Dream’s shoulders on the mat for a very close nearfall before the hold was broken. Then after being kicked to the barricade Velveteen Dream did sulex off the apron over the ropes that sent both men to the floor below. Dream rolling Ciampa then himself in as the ref’s count reached 9, and after a frantic exchange of strikes and a thwarted Project Ciampa attempt, Dream nearly kicked the referee as he went for Ciampa the NXT Champion then rolled Dream up but the ref spotted him holding the tights so waved the pit attempt off. Dream then got maybe the closest nearfall of the match after his signature Rollind DVD, crowd were super hot at this point. Another frenetically paced exchange concluded with Dream coming off the top but right into a knee from Ciampa who got a nearfall and then he hit Project Ciampa for yet another 2 count. Ciampa in his anger then went to retrieve his precious title belt from ringside, he took the belt into the ring but Dream rolled him up for a 2 count. Then just as he did a couple of weeks ago on NXT TV Velveteen Dream hit a spinning DDT onto ‘Goldie’ for a nearfall. Dream and Ciampa then both got nearfalls as the action continued to get better and better. After Dream had a figure 4 locked in Ciampa managed to escape by letting his boot loose, and whilst with only 1 wrestling boot on Ciampa was outside the ring and began to remove the mat that covers the floor outside. Dream came out to him as Ciampa drove both men flying over the nearby announce table. Then in the melee as Ciampa got up he launched some nearby papers at my guy Mauro Ranallo (which is about a heel move as you could get in NXT given Ranallo’s popularity), yet another off-the-cuff yet stupendous simple, bad guy move from Ciampa. It quickly got bad for Ciampa though as it was the Velveteen Dream who used the exposed flooring to his advantage as he hit a DDT to Tomasso Ciampa on the arena floor. He quickly put Ciampa to the ring and went to the top rope and did indeed hit his finisher the Purple Rainmaker elbow drop. Sadly it was not to be as all our hearts skipped a beat as Dream came so close to an amazing win. Dream went to elbow Ciampa (who was outside the ring now) from the top rope but Ciampa scurried back inside the squared circle. And then as he regained the advantage Ciampa hit a gruesome DDT onto Dream onto the steel girder that separated the two rings (to separate them ahead of the main event. Should have probably said they alternated each match which of the two parallel rings were used). And off the back of the DDT onto the steel Tomasso Ciampa got the pin and retained his title. This was a match very different to the match prior between Black and Gargano but one which was at least as good. This was by a long way the best singles match of Velveteen Dream’s career, and just as he did last year at Takeover: War Games he gains as much in my opinion from a loss as he may have from a win. This was an amazing performance from both men, Ciampa showed his usual best and Dream stepped up and matched him. Absolutely excellent match. I can’t explain how happy I am that the Velveteen Dream smashed this, the biggest match of his career, out of the ball park for a massive home run!

*****

Kayla Braxton explained the rules for the main event…

Pete Dunne, Ricochet & War Raiders defeated Undisputed Era in a War Games Match

Era came out first to a big pop. Adam Cole will enter the match first. War Raiders next out for the faces. Then Pete Dunne sporting the War Raiders face paint. Ricochet the same as he entered next to another big Pop for him. So the in-ring action begins with a repeat of the epic North American Championship match from Takeover Brooklyn 4 in August. These 2 will be in the ring then for 5 minutes before the next participants enter. They began exchanging strikes as Cole softened up Ricochet knowing a follow Undisputed Era member would be entering next. Cole then hit a Hushigiroshi as he was well on top and raked Ricochet’s head against the cage wall as he talked trash. Ricochet though was able to mount a comeback with double dropkick, and with Cole in the far ring Ricochet came flying over with a springboard soaring european uppercut (thanks Mauro for the assist with the name of that one). Kyle O’Reilly entered next (3 minutes until a teammate joins Ricochet) and he quickly joined Cole in laying the boot into Ricochet. Pete Dunne wanted to enter next but Hanson of the War Raiders pushed in front of him. He came in like a house on fire. Hanson beat on both members of Undisputed Era as soon as he came in, he’s pretty incredible as an athlete given his size (he did a cartwheel in between his offence). He then placed Cole and O’Reilly in opposing corners of one of the rings and then did a whole load of running charges into alternate men before throwing Cole into O’Reilly and then splashing into them both, which the crowd loved. Ricochet in the meantime was able to recompose himself and get back into the action. He did a really clever spot where he spring-boarded off of Hanson’s back in order to get the jump to do a standing shooting star press onto O’Reilly. Roderick Strong then entered the match. He got in and chopped on Ricochet straight away and then the same to Hanson before going back and superkicking Ricochet. He followed that up with step-up running knees to both his opponents before a Urinagi to Ricochet. The crowd absolutely loved Strong during this. As the next one of the babyfaces wanted to enter the match Rowe this time shoved Pete Dunne and The Bruserweight was again denied a chance to exit their cage and join the match. Rowe goes right on to attack Strong before O’Reilly jumps on his back. Eventually the War Raiders hit a sort of powerbomb-scoop powerslam type move, it was brutal put it that way, And then Rowe began launching Hanson into Strong then O’Reilly as they took over and the momentum firmly changed into the babyface team’s favour. Adam Cole was left alone looking terrified as Hanson and Rowe approached him, he backed up from them but backed into Ricochet. War Raiders then long-darted Cole into the cage wall and then continued their assault as Ricochet fought Strong in the other ring. Then it was time for Bobby Fish to enter the match. As he left his cage he went to the other and rammed Pete Dunne’s head into the holding-cage, before using the bolt from his own cage and locking onto Dunne’s cage to try and keep Dunne locked in the cage. He then threw the key away. Fish then made his way to the 2 rings but before doing so he retrieved Undisputed Era branded steel chairs from under the ring/s (no legit, this happened). All 4 Era members then went to town with the chairs attacking Ricochet and War Raiders, before throwing Hanson into a cage wall, then Rowe and then Hanson again. This is really good, and logical team work from Era so it’s really great. So NOW it was time for Pete Dunne… or was it? Ricochet was being beaten on as the officials scrambled to find bolt cutters to get rid of Pete Dunne’s extra lock. Strong hit an avalanche German Suplex to Hanson and Fish did the same to Rowe as Adam Cole hung from the cage and directed his mocking towards Pete Dunne before doing his “ADAM COLE BAY BAY” thing to delight the crowd. Cole’s mood quickly changed as bolt cutters were now in play and the officials were able to free Dunne so he could finally come into play. As Dunne made his way to the ring Fish and O’Reilly tried to keep the cage door closed, but Dunne used a kendo stick from under the ring to attack them both as Ricochet did a cool-looking crossbody onto Era (not before Dunne hit Adam Cole’s hand onto steel steps with the stick before entering the Cage). Dunne also brings in trash cans and 2 tables as he entered (he was notably limping at times with his knee/leg heavily wrapped)… every crowd loves tables don’t they! Mauro summed it up well saying that the bedlam was about to begin and indeed with all participants now in the structure the War Games match could now properly begin! Dunne led Ricochet and Rowe in a kendo stick backed assault on Era, Dunne had a chain as his weapon and Hanson a chair as the babyfaces surrounded their opponents before letting loose. Dunne then stamped on O’Reilly fingers onto the metal separating the two rings. Cole launched Ricochet into the cage again but not long after Hanson placed Cole slumped in a corner and Rowe threw Hanson into him in a fun spot. Rowe then threw Hanson onto O’Reilly who was prone on the steel girder. Hanson got a nearfall on Strong as Fish broke it up. Hanson then went to try some form of springboard but Cole threw the trashcan at him which made me laugh to be honest. Fish and O’Reilly went on to launch kicks each on Rowe and then Era turned their attention to Ricochet, with Cole hitting a backstabber to put the North American Champion down. The four members of the Undisputed Era then surrounded Pete Dunne, Dunne did his best to fightback and hit a series of moves but eventually the numbers proved too much with O’Reilly breaking up a submission on Fish and then wrapping a chain around Dunne’s foot and pulling on it. Dunne thought countered by bending O’Reilly’s fingers and turning it into a kimura lock, but Bobby Fish broke that up hitting Dunne’s leg with a chair. O’Reilly then targeted Dunne’s leg with an ankle lock as Undisputed Era blocked off the faces from making the save. Roderick Strong put even more pressure on Dunne by using a chair to add to the strength of the hold which was really creative, until Ricochet was able to leap in and save the day for his team. He did get a chair to the stomach for his troubles by Strong. There was then a massive back body drop into the other ring as Hanson stood tall amongst the chaos. A Table was then set up in between the two rings as O’Reilly and Strong were on the top ropes. Strikes were exchanged by all until Dunne and Ricochet got them down with a throw and a hurricanrana respectively. The War Raiders then moved the table to the far ring as Hanson slammed Adam Cole onto a table. The legs of the table did give way but Hanson set it back up and there seemed to be no issue, Cole seemed to be about to meet a serious pain spot. Rowe then lifted him onto Hanson and he hit a powerbomb for a 2 count as O’Reilly to Rowe. Rowe then suffered further being hit with a kendo stick before Bobby Fish speared Rowe through a table that was in the middle of the two rings (was quite something to see a light heavyweight in Fish spear a super heavyweight). Adam Cole was then with Rowe in the corner of the ring near the table (the same exact spot where in last year’s match Alexander Wolfe took a suplex through a table and split his head open). Cole was left hanging upside down from the turnbuckle until Kyle O’Reilly attempted to help him before Ricochet stopped him and laid him on the table with a series of strikes. Strong followed this up with a jumping knee to Ricochet, before O’Reilly hit a knee to Ricochet on the table. And then it got mad as Hanson splashed O’Reilly though the table! This only got a 2 count as it was of course broken up. Everybody in the match was at this point down apart from Adam Cole. He then took the chance to climb the cage before Ricochet followed him. This was confusing at first as they brawled but then it became apparent after Strong climbed after them and tried to push Ricochet out of the cage (remember a team is disqualified if a member leaves the cage) so this was actually a very cunning plan by the heels so I was impressed. And then one by one all the participants climbed the cage wall, and they all joined in a big suplex crash and burn spot… apart from Ricochet. The in possibly one of the most amazing spots I have ever seen in WWE or in wrestling anywhere for that matter; Ricochet was left stood on top of the cage, and he then performed a double moonsault (a 630 or 720 or whatever, I’m not great with maths) onto all the 7 other participants that were below. It was absolutely incredible to witness and the GIFs of it are everywhere already. Then with both teams collecting themselves in opposing rings they all stared eachother down before making their way into the middle are with the steel floor, before beginning individual brawls. War Raiders hit their finish on Fish, O’Reilly and Strong did their finisher on Rowe, Hanson did the handstand springboard off the ropes that Tyler Bate (WHO IS A CRUSERWEIGHT) does but with a back elbow. And Ricochet flew into a superkick from Adam Cole. Cole would go onto to hit the Last shot running knee to Dunne but he kicked out. Dunne then hit the Bitter End on Cole, Ricochet climbed up and hit his 630 splash on Cole before they both crawled over to cover him and the babyface team picked up the win as the clock hit the 47 minute mark. It was interesting to note they played Dunne’s music. Dunne and Ricochet climbed the cage and held their belts up as the show ended. This was an amazing match, but it did go too long slightly.

**** 3/4

This was possibly in terms of in-ring quality, THE best event in WWE history. Of course there were only 4 (real) matches but nonethless the ‘worst’ well more least-good match on the show was good. This show was absolutely incredible. The show was almost perfect, in hindsight had the main event been 10 minutes shorter and that time added to the women’s match, but that can be said with hindsight so it’s nit picking really. Apparently the live crowd loved the Matt Riddle stuff, I sensed they were annoyed at not getting a proper match. I have heard that in response to the Riddle stuff on the show, Triple H admitted he intentionally lied about there only being 4 matches on the show. The idea was that by not announcing the Riddle match the fans couldn’t be dissapointed  by not delivering. Kind of similar but the reverse of the Cena-Undertaker stuff from Mania, so I guess that does make sense. I also found it highly hilarious that Mauro screamed the correct name of Io Shirai’s moonsault, as opposed to Michael Cole who had incorrectly named it for the entire MYC this year. Many others also thought Dunne would turn having been shunned by both the War Raiders but was not to be… for now… his tapped leg was as he broke his foot a few weeks back. Undisputed Era got a standing ovation after the cameras went, many noted as I did that Fish seemed to hurt his surgically repaired knee again during the match. Apparently he was fine though backstage so maybe one to watch out for. Overall this was with ease one of the top 3 WWE shows of the year, maybe the best, certainly was in-ring. Many, MANY positives from this show. Even by NXT’s lofty standards this show was stupendous.

Josh.

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