NXT TakeOver: War Games 2019 – Review

Well then… that was something else wasn’t it…

We got the first TakeOver show of the NXT is now the main roster too era… and boy oh boy did it deliver. A typically great NXT big show that went exactly 2 and a half hours for the main show and three hours overall. Excellent. 5 good – great matches and lots and lots to talk about and celebrate.

The slightly different to usual TakeOver pre-show saw Charly, Sam (who was his usual asshole, heel-character self) and Pat (who was his usual short-wearing, man of the people, funny as heck self) stand at the top of the entrance ramp to present. We were told that just before we came on air Mia Yim was jumped from behind and was now not in the women’s War Games match (that would open the main show).

Angel Garza defeated Isaiah ‘Swerve’ Scott 

Good faced paced match. More exciting than the average WWE pre-show match. Really fun spots, highlights being Garza doing his ‘rip off his pants’ spot and then superkick Scott for a nearfall, (crowd was a little dead, but also the ref was audible shouting instructions like ‘stay down’ and ‘hard cam’ to help these guys along which really didn’t help my enjoyment of what was an alright match. A fun spot was when Scott did a jumping backheel kick to Garza, and finally in the finish where Scott blocked an attempted low blow from Garza, but Garza countered into a… well… I don’t know quite what it was but he locked a double underhook and then hit a sort-of sit out powerbomb type move and got the pin. This was fine, but heavily led by the ref.

**1/2 

They played a hype package for Riddle vs Balor. Sam Roberts shat on Riddle in NXT which came across as all Roberts’ pre-show comments now do, as BS and forced.

We saw the beaten Mia Yim being carried into an Ambulance led by Ripley, Candice and Tegan. Dakota Kai was hanging around too. Ripley then picked a reluctant Kai to be Yim’s replacement. The plot thickens…

They played a hype video for the men’s War Games match. Before Pat McAfee got the crowd hyped up before the main TakeOver show started.


Rhea Ripley & Candice LeRae, Tegan Nox and Dakota Kai defeated Shayna Baszler, Io Shirai, Bianca Belair and Kay Lee Ray in a War Games Match

Ripley entered first up to a huge ovation. Everyone else got ok pops, Io Shirai was the other where the crowd reaction upon her coming out was notably loud. The wrestling itself in the early stages was really good, and that kept up all match pretty much. To follow on from there great singles match from the previous NXT TakeOver it was Candice and Io who started off the match for their teams. The crowd was split as the two women had a really fun mini-match, with Io at one point smashing LeRae’s face into the cage wall with her knee. Eventually after a slight fuck up with the countdown clock it was Bianca Belair who came into the match next and the former college athlete pretty quickly hit an awesome looking shooting star press onto a prone Candice. LeRae tried to mount a comeback but Belair, like an early 2000s Brock Lesnar, hit two consecutive lift up powerbombs and then another that sent Candice crashing into the War Games cage wall! Io Shirai then ran at the ropes back and forth a number of times before hitting a Dropkick. Next to enter to even the odds was Rhea Ripley who got a big reaction. The crowd ate it up when she went under the ring to bring out some weapons (trash cans and lids and kendo sticks, chairs as well but not tables that the crowd seemed desperate for). Ripley launches Belair onto one of the trash cans she had pulled out which looked a horrible bump to endure. NXT UK Women’s Champion Kay Lee Ray entered the match next. She also bought in a number of chairs from under the ring. She went to grab a table, but then didn’t just to annoy the crowd. There was an awesome spot where it looked like the heels were going to launch Candice onto a pile of chairs below, only for Ripley to come underneath all of them and launch everyone off the top in a tower of doom spot. The late replacement in the match Dakota Kai was next to enter… but just as she looked fired up to finally get into the match, she turned around and attacked her best friend and teammate Tegan Nox! Kai really went in wirh her attack as a a number of officials came out to try and stop it, including NXT GM William Regal who Kai even pushed away! In a really great heel move Kai used the cage door to repeatedly smash Tegan Nox’s surgically repaired knee. This was an awesome heel turn and made Kai into a bigger star immediately. Many, myself included saw it coming but the timing of it caught me off guard and it was executed really well. It was just what Kai’s character needed. Team Captain Shayna Baszler was the final person from her team to enter the match and looked to take great enjoyment from what had happened. With Kai turning on and abandoning her team and Tegan Nox now injured the match would now continue and begin officially 4vs2 in favour of the heel team. The heels dominated for a little bit until Candice stopped Belair hitting Ripley with her long ponytail by attacking her with a kendo stick. Io Shirai went up to the top of the cage and Candice followed, Kay Lee Ray tried to go after her but LeRae got her with a reverse Frankensteiner off the top for a nearfall. And then in the spot that I personally and I’m sure most watching dreamed of going into this match, Io Shirai hit her signatures moonsault OFF THE TOP OF THE WAR GAMES CAGE onto both Candice and Bianca below!!! This looked as spectacular as hoped. In a really cool spot Kay Lee Ray tried to jump off the top rope onto Ripley only for Rhea to smash her in mid air with a trash can! With Ripley pre occupied Shayna Baszler cane from behind and tried for the Kirifuda Clutch submission, it was locked in seemingly until Rhea Ripley appeared to handcuff herself to Baszler! She then kneed her in the face and with Shayna stunned she hit her Riptide slam-type move onto a couple of unfolded steel chairs that were in the ring for the pin fall and the win.

This was an exceptional match and for me at least the best War Games match in NXT so far. Every woman in this match individually was good to great. And the finish did exactly what I had hoped. Rhea Ripley, who comes off pinning Charlotte Flair on SmackDown now heads to Survivor Series having pinned Shayna here. Ripley was a star before this but she is absolutely a made woman now and this sets up a a HUGE NXT Women’s title match around the corner surely. A great great great match that I absolutely loved, and both myself and my mate Dan who I watched it with thought it absolutely flew by time wise whilst watching, which is maybe the best compliment you can give a match. This was absolutely brilliant and surpassed all the lofty expectations it had going in.

****3/4

Pete Dunne defeated Killian Dain & Damian Priest to earn an NXT Championship match against Adam Cole at Survivor Series 

In a contrast to usual TakeOver match order it was the men who had the un-enviable task of following a great match by the women. Dunne was by far the crowd favoruite. This was a really fun three way where all 3 guys got chances to shine. Unsurprisingly given the participants it was a really hard-hitting affair that suffered a little from coming after a War Games match, in terms of crowd investment. But it was good nonetheless. Highlights of the match included Dain (who for me was the MVP of the match) hit a fallaway slam/Samoan drop combo to both Dunne and Priest at the same time! Later on Priest hit Dunne with a Razors Edge onto the Spanish announce table which did not look like fun to take at all. Killian Dain, the absolute madman, then came flying through the ropes with a Tope onto Priest, and not long after hit a rolling senton onto Priest that sent them both through the barricade. Towards the end Dunne cracked both his opponents fingers and then hit a superplex on Dain, he followed with a Bitter End for Priest for a two count. For the finish Dunne had Dain in a sleeper hold but Dain fought off with a Samoan drop that saw both guys land on Priest (who was on the floor). This allowed Pete Dunne to take advantage by pushing Dain out the way and he pinned Priest for the win! I really liked this finish as it protected both the larger guys and was logical for the scheming and frankly much smaller Dunne to get a realistic win. The crowd popped huge for Pete Dunne, he faces Cole for the NXT Title tomorrow night now. That’s if Cole makes it that is… more on that later…

This was a fun and good enough match that suffered a little due to lack of crowd investment towards the later half after such a fast start and the match that came before this. Nonetheless for what it was it was perfectly fine a match.

***3/4

Finn Balor defeated Matt Riddle

The video package before this dream match was really good. Riddle came out in Black and Red attire, which I think is some form of reference to a Chicago based sports team??? When the now heel Finn Balor came out the spotlight for his entrance was solely on him, and his gear was all black. Sometimes its the subtle things that impress me the most. The fans chanted “RIIIIDDLE” in reference to his public “rival” Goldberg. The match itself was very mat-Wrestling heavy which I think we all needed at that stage of the show. Balor was in charge early and hit a Dropkick to Riddle through the ropes and caught him right in the face with his foot (it looked horrid and even worse on replay). They went back and forth after in the ring with strikes and Riddle got a near fall with a knee strike and a German Suplex. Riddle went for another knee and tried to follow with a power bomb but Balor hit back with a double foot stomp and a slingblade. And then in a spot me and Dan and I’m sure everyone else watching found absolutely hilarious; Riddle hit a Spear and then a Jackhammer for a nearfall on Balor. Matt Riddle uses the ultra protected finishers of Bill Goldberg as just another couple of regular moves. Fantastic. He then hit the “Bro 2 Sleep” (which for obvious reasons in Chicago got a big pop as the finisher of a certain someone). Riddle went for the Floating Bro but Balor got his knees up and then dropkicked Riddle into the corner. Finn went for the Coupe de Grace but Riddle moved, and then locked in the Bro-mission. Balor somehow rolled his way out of it and then followed with his old 1916 DDT for the finish and the win.

This was absolutely as good as you’d expect from these two. Both guys looked so good here. I can’t imagine there’s many guys as happy with their job in WWE right now than Balor. This was brilliant. On any other show match of the night but somehow only the 3rd best on this show.

****1/2

Tomasso Ciampa, Kevin Owens, Keith Lee & Dominik Dijakovic defeated Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Roderick Strong, Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish) in a War Games match 

Shockingly enough… this was fucking fantastic stuff as well!!! Era coming out draped in all their gold really did make them look like a million dollars. Ciampa came out wearing his Psycho Killer mask from his indie days and also had face war-paint on. His camo-inspired gear and signature crutch too pleased me highly, again it’s the subtle things. Team captain Ciampa marched to the ring to start the match, and it was Roderick Strong who volunteered to start for Era. They had a fun brawl until O’Reilly entered and they ganged up on Ciampa. Dijakovic was next in and went on a tear. Bobby Fish was next in. Era were really in control now, Roderick Strong hilariously took the piss out of Dijakovic’s catchphrase by saying “feast your eyes DORK” which I found hilarious at the time. Keith Lee then entered at full speed to the delight of the crowd and looked really ready to go. He went at O’Reilly and Fish, he LEAPFROGGED over one guy (yes the 300pound plus Lee leapt over someone) and hit a crossbody after… I love me some Keith Lee!!! After Strong had hit Lee with a Dropkick Ciampa tried to make the save only to be outnumbered and beat on. Finally Adam Cole entered for Undisputed Era, and he took some tables from under the ring beforehand to the delight of the Chicago crowd. After sliding some tables in the ring he set one up leant against the barricade, but was then shoved from the ring steps by Ciampa as he went to go into the cage and Cole went crashing through the aforementioned table he’d just set up. It looked great. With the 7 pre announced participants now in the match we had the four Undisputed Era members in one ring and the three babyfaces of Team Ciampa stood tall in the other. They walked towards their downed opponents like Lions about to attack their prey… it led to a great mini brawl. Bobby Fish hit a low blow to Keith Lee before he could attack and Era seemed to gain the upperhand. This coincided with the countdown to the final entrant in the match, the mystery 4th member of Team Ciampa… the clock counted down and the crowd with it to zero… nobody came out for a few seconds… and THEN… KEVIN OWENS MUSIC PLAYED AND THE CROWD WENT APE SHIT!!! And out came the former NXT Champion sporting his old KO-NXT shirt as well!!! This was an awesome choice. The look on Adam Cole’s face was priceless. “HOLY BLEEP, HOLY BLEEP” Mauro called on commentary. And once again “Mystic Dan” called this spot on… anyway Owens came in like a house on fire and hit all the Era members with moves, Cole tried to get his irl friend to do the Undisputed Era sign… but after a mini tease Owens gave Cole a “suck it” and hit him with a Stunner (which Cole sold great by the way) and for a nearfall. Not long after Lee and Dijakovic threw Strong from one ring into the other but he kind of got caught in the ropes so didn’t quite make it fully. Kevin Owens seemed really fired up and shook the cage in excitement. Tables were set up everywhere. Keith Lee hit a huge crossbody onto everyone which looked great. Lee then really took a beating as Strong hit an Angle Slam on him from the top rope, and then Fish and O’Reilly hammered him with knee strikes. Meanwhile Cole and Owens went back and forth on the metal bit between the two rings. Owens looked to try a package piledriver onto the metal plate which the crowd were hot for in anticipation. But somehow Cole just about reversed it into a Panama Sunrise which the crowd gave a “holy shit” chant for. Tomasso Ciampa went on rampage after hitting knee strikes to Fish and O’Reilly and then Cole too. And then we came towards the finish which as it played out just got better and better and visually more spectacular each spot… so first of all Dominik Dijakovic sent Bobby Fish through a table with a chokeslam to take him out, he tried to do the same to Kyle O’Reilly but he got out of trouble with a triangle choke using another table to lean his back on for leverage… only for Kevin Owens to take the opportunity to climb to a nearby top turnbuckle and hit a frog splash to send O’Reilly through the table. Next it was Roddy Strong’s turn as Keith Lee hit a sit-out powerbomb onto Strong off the top rope through another table to take him out. Meanwhile… across the side of the other ring the two team captains were about to top the lot of them with a table spot of their own… and one for the ages… so by this stage both Ciampa and Cole had made their way to the top of the cage in the far corner, with two tables set up below… and after a brief back and forth of jostling for position (and Ciampa steadying his footing) Tomasso picked Adam Cole up and hit a Air Raid Crash from the TOP OF THE FUCKING WAR GAMES CAGE THROUGH THE TWO TABLES SET UP BELOW!!! The crowd went wild for this bump and it was of course enough to get the pin fall and the win for Ciampa. Immediately after of ALL PEOPLE the camera cut to Adam Cole’s girlfriend in the crowd who looked mortified. She was mentioned by name on commentary, Britt Baker (that’s AEW wrestler Britt Baker by the way). This was an amazing spot to end a brilliant match. My immediate thought was I hoped Ciampa was ok, but thankfully Keith Lee went to him to offer him a hand up and the babyface team celebrated to close the show.

This was another spectacular match. Ciampa was unreal levels of good in particular but everyone involved was great here. A brilliant match.

****3/4

And THAT was TakeOver! Another great NXT show as they always seem to be. So much set up for the future too; Ripley as a certified MEGAstar and the next contender to Shayna, Dakota Kai as a new heel and potential singles matches with all 4 members of team Ripley, You have Pete Dunne vs Adam Cole for the title at Survivor Series now (providing Cole survived that table bump that is) which really could steel the show, Finn Balor looked as big a star as he has done for years in a great match with Matt Riddle who wasn’t at all damaged even in defeat, and the main event sees Ciampa go even further up the ladder on his quest to bring his beloved Goldie back to Daddy by pinning the NXT Champion. And the big reveal of Kevin Owens came off great. What that means for Survivor Series with Owens as a member of Team Raw in the men’s 5v5v5, bearing in mind we still don’t have a reveal of Team NXT for that match remains to be seen.

Speaking of Survivor Series… it was revealed by Rhea Ripley on the usual post-TakeOver Facebook live chat with Triple H, hosted by Cathey Kelly, that the women’s NXT team for their 5v5v5 would be Rhea Ripley as team captain, Candice LeRae, Io Shirai, Bianca Belair and former NXT UK Women’s Champion Toni Storm!!!

One other bit of news from the show was the announcement that there will be another NXT TakeOver show coming from Portland, Oregon on Sunday February 16th 2020. There is no TakeOver over a Royal Rumble weekend (we’ve a Worlds Collide tournament instead, whatever that’ll look like). But if that TakeOver is anything near as good as this one was we are in for an absolute treat.

This was another really good NXT TakeOver show and one where all the big moments came off as huge as intended. And the wrestling and big spots were brilliant throughout the whole show. The main show went exactly 2 1/2 hours which is an absolute dream for us fans used to 4-5 hour main PPVs (another which we will likely get Sunday night as well) but it absolutely flew by. Another triumph. Bravo NXT. I love you so much and will be firmly in your corner for Survivor Series.

Josh.

 

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