It’s looking like another excellent TakeOver card tonight, with the added excitement and intrigue of the WarGames match. We’ll see a new women’s champion crowned, and an NXT Championship match. There isn’t a match on the card that looks anything other than great.
Pre-show was only half an hour, but did a good job of hyping the show. They also went through the rules of the WarGames match, which can be found here if you want a refresher.
Billie Kay interviewed Peyton Royce, she wasn’t supposed to, but she dismissed Christy St. Cloud and took over. They played a word association game, declaring all the other participants, ‘not iconic’. Royce was, unsurprisingly, very confident. We’ll see later if that confidence was misplaced.
Lars Sullivan def Kassius Ohno
Aleister Black def Velveteen Dream
Ember Moon def Nikki Cross, Peyton Royce and Kairi Sane – to become NXT Women’s Champion
Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas def Drew McIntyre to become new NXT Champion
Undisputed Era def SAnitY, and Authors of Pain plus Roderick Strong
A promo package for the show, heavily featuring the WarGames main event opened the show. With it being such a huge deal to have brought back/updated the match format, the hype is likely to act as punctuation throughout TakeOver.
Kassius Ohno vs Lars Sullivan
Big lads scrap to kick off the show. And what a scrap it was. They needed to batter each other to get the crowd hyped up, and they did. The second ring was a bit of a distraction, but it can’t be helped.
I think we knew from the outset that this was unlikely to be a technical masterclass. Not that there wasn’t technique or talent, both were plentiful, but it was more of a kick in the face, run over by a freight train, forearm to the head, sort of a match.
Short and sweet at around ten minutes. They both kicked out of a multitude of moves that would have left a lesser man laying on the mat wondering what day it was. There was no need for it to be any longer.
Lar Sullivan pinned Kassius Ohno off the Freak Accident.
First ‘celebrity’ crowd shot of the night, Tyler Bate, Trent Seven, Mark Andrews and Wolfgang.
Undisputed Era were shown chatting to William Regal in the locker room, without sound, so we have no idea what they were saying.
Aleister Black vs Velveteen Dream
The first of the epically good promo packages preceded this match. I described Velveteen Dream’s behaviour as somewhere between petulant child and jilted lover, and I stand by that. It’s given the feud a very odd vibe, but not in a bad way. Different is good.
I firmly believe Aleister Black is the best talent on the NXT roster. Velveteen Dream is very good, but he’s still exploring his full potential, he’s only been around a comparatively short time (three years according to commentary).
I honestly don’t know what to praise first about this match. The psychology, the storytelling, the athleticism, the talent, skill, technique… it was all there in huge quantities, and it came together perfectly. The crowd were a lot more behind Velveteen Dream than I expected. They cheered for both men, but there were several ‘Velveteen’ chants, and a few ‘Say his name’ chants as well.
This is the hardest Black has been pushed in NXT. Both physically, and with the mind games. A very good thing, because it allowed the NXT crowds to really see what he’s capable of. I don’t think it’s going too far to say it solidified his position as a major player, while establishing Velveteen Dream in the same way. It is worth noting that Velveteen Dream is just 22 years old.
In the end, Aleister Black landed the Black Mass, and Velveteen Dream had no choice but to stay down for three. Black is still undefeated in NXT.
After the match Aleister Black sat cross legged in the ring with a mic and said, ‘Enjoy infamy, Velveteen Dream’. Then he walked away, but stopped to look back from halfway up the ramp. A huge validation from the veteran to the up and comer, and richly deserved. The rest of the night will struggle to top that.
William Regal was shown talking in the locker room to SAnitY leader Eric Young, with the rest of SAnitY behind. Again, presented without sound. Lovely moment from Nikki Cross. She was sat rocking in one of the open locker/cubby’s, with her head in her hands. When William Regal appeared she just got up and legged it.
Crowd shots of Asuka, Funaki and Finn Balor. They do love to show how many WWE names want to be there for TakeOver events. I’m surprised it’s not more to be honest.
Nikki Cross vs Kairi Sane vs Peyton Royce vs Ember Moon – Fatal four-way for the vacant NXT Women’s Championship
Billie Kay came out with Peyton Royce, but left her at the stage after sharing some words of encouragement, so it was as level a playing field as you can get in this type of match. It seemed to throw Royce for a moment, but she pulled herself together and carried on.
Chaos in the ring to start, but that is the nature of the beast. They quickly migrated to the outside and took turns in leaping of the ring onto each other. Ember Moon nearly flew over the top rope and took out Peyton Royce and Kairi Sane, she also powerbombed Nikki Cross onto the floor so hard it looked like she was trying to put her through it. Cross was out of the action for a long time after that.
The thwarted submission and pin attempts counter was off the scale. And everyone got in their signature stuff. Everything you’d expect, without looking formulaic or too planned. Actually, it flowed really well, and kept up a decent pace throughout. There was a lot going on though, I’m sure I could watch it a couple more times and see things I missed (it suddenly occurs to me how much worse the WarGames match will be for this).
The tower of doom spot went to Peyton Royce, taking over Ember Moon, with Kairi Sane at the top.
Nikki Cross eventually returned to the action by leaping off the top turnbuckle onto all three of her opponents. Kairi Sane hit the Insane Elbow on Peyton Royce and Nikki Cross, Royce rolled away, and Moon broke up the pin attempt on Cross.
Ember Moon’s first attempt at the Eclipse was foiled by Royce, but she managed to hit it shortly after on both Cross and Royce. Peyton Royce rolled out of the ring. Ember Moon pinned Nikki Cross for the win.
Asuka entered the ring and asked William Regal if she could present the title belt to Ember Moon. She did, and they hugged. I might have got the prediction wrong, but I’m very happy to finally see Ember Moon rise to the top of the NXT women’s division. She’s been earmarked as something special since the first hype video before her debut, and it’s good to see it pay off.
William Regal shown, again without sound, talking to Authors of Pain, Paul Ellering and Roderick Strong.
More Crowd shots, Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe (separately of course, kayfabe and all that). Owens was wearing an Undisputed Era shirt.
Drew McIntyre (C) vs Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas – NXT Championship match
With the talent in the ring this match should be truly superb, so why did it feel a little underwhelming at the start. They’re both very talented, but the most interesting prospect going into the match is what part Zelina Vega will play in the result.
Zelina Vega was definitely a factor. She attempted a hurricanrana on Drew McIntyre quite early, but her reversed her momentum and placed her back on her feet on the apron. Her outrage might win funniest moment of the night.
There was absolutely nothing wrong with this match. The pace was slower in places than the previous matches but, sandwiched between the four-way and WarGames matches, it needed to be. There was nothing missing, power moves, submissions, flight, athleticism, all there. Something just felt lacking for me. Maybe it was partly the crowd, they were at their loudest doing the annoying ‘sweet’ on the two-counts.
McIntyre foiling Almas revers hurricanrana attempt and flipping him over his head, facefirst into the mat was impressive. Almas’ springboard dropkick to kick McIntyre in the head while he was stood on the second turnbuckle was impressive. That’s the thing, a lot of it was impressive. I was impressed. I just wasn’t excited or particularly invested.
Vega got involved again later, when Almas went and grabbed the belt from the timekeeper’s area to distract the ref, and she spiked Drew McIntyre into the mat. Almas followed up with a Hammerlock DDT, but only got two. Almas managed to get his foot on the rope after a Claymore kick, also with a little help from Zelina Vega.
Drew McIntyre hung himself up on the ropes while going for another Claymore kick, and the sound had to be dropped for a few seconds while he swore it out. Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas pinned Drew McIntyre with a DDT almost immediately.
Something was clearly not right with McIntyre at the end of the match – looks like an injury. He was seen by a medic in the ring while Almas was celebrating, and there were grim faces all round.
Dustin Rhodes and Arn Anderson in the crowd shots this time, and a run through of the rules before the teams were introduced for this main event of the evening. Sirens accompanied the lowering of the cage over the double ring.
SAnitY vs Undisputed Era vs Authors of Pain and Roderick Strong, with Paul Ellering – WarGames match
SAnitY were first out. Eric Young went to the ring to start for his team, meaning Killian Dain and Alexander Wolfe entered one of the shark cages on the stage. Undisputed Era came out next, with Adam Cole entering the ring, leaving Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly in the cage. Paul Ellering led Authors of Pain and Roderick Strong out last. Roderick Strong was dressed up like the other two, and he took the first shift for his team. Authors of Pain is quite some back-up to have, but we don’t yet know in which order the teams will be released.
So, the first five minutes was a standard-ish triple threat, albeit one spread over two connected rings, with a cage round them. Adam Cole received seven staples in his head after a house show two days ago, got to wonder if that is going to re-open at some point in this match. Knowing that the match can’t be won until all nine participants are in the rings is weird. It’s all about the punishment until then.
Undisputed Era were the first team released. Fish and O’Reilly went straight for Roderick Strong and beat him down, then all three members of Undisputed Era turned their attention to Eric Young. They used their advantage well, keeping both Strong and Young down for the majority of the three minutes.
Authors of Pain were next out of the shark cage. Funny moment watching Kyle O’Reilly trying to hold the door shut to stop AoP gaining access to the match. He failed, obviously, and the murdering began.
Three minutes later SAnitY were released. Alexander Wolfe rushed to the ring, and brought out a nightstick. Killian Dain took his time getting to ringside, and didn’t enter the cage. Instead, he looked under the ring and threw some toys in, chairs, trash cans, a chain, and a kendo stick. As the crowd chanted ‘we want tables’ Dain shrugged, pulled a couple of those out from under the ring, and threw them in too. Eventually, Killian Dain climbed into the ring, locked the door… and ate the key.
Kyle O’Reilly had a comedy moment just before Dain entered the ring. He went for Alexander Wolfe with a chair, but Wolfe side-stepped and O’Reilly bounced the chair off the ropes and hit himself in the head with it.
Finally we were at a point where a pinfall or submission could occur, but first, complete chaos. Nine bodies, two rings, a steel cage, and a variety of toys. Shout out to anyone who tried to play by play this, hope the RSI improves soon. Here are a few highlights.
Killian Dain landed a diving cross-body, on everyone else. Authors of Pain did a Supercollider on two members of Undisputed Era, but sandwiched Killian Dain in between them.
Double tower of doom spot, with Authors of Pain doing the throwing, and Adam Cole the only man left unscathed by it. He did get crotched on the top turnbuckle moments later though. Cole then spent a long time laying on the top edge of the cage, while commentary reminded us for the 100th time that if you leave the cage your team forfeits the match. While he was up there, Alexander Wolfe and Rezar went through the tables, propelled by Wolfe.
Killian Dain did a coast to coast, driving a trash can into Kyle O’Reilly. Adam Cole looked like he was going to jump off the cage, but Strong followed him up there and superplexed him onto almost everyone else in the match turning the crowd’s ‘please don’t die’ chants into ‘holy shit’ chants. The only one not taken out by the superplex was Alexander Wolfe, who was busy laying, bleeding heavily, on the other side of the ring. Somehow that didn’t result in a pin, just a two count.
Standout performance of the match has to go to Killian Dain. He was involved in so many of the high points of the match. He also took a Last Chapter from Authors of Pain.
The end had to come eventually. Adam Cole pinned Eric Young after kneeing a chair into his face. There wasn’t much in the way of celebrating, just broken bodies laying across the two rings. Adam Cole managed to get to his feet to get his hand raised, but that was as long as he stood for. The final shot of NXT TakeOver WarGames was Undisputed Era struggling to their feet, and the already super annoying ‘Adam Cole Baybay’, followed by the realisation they couldn’t get out of the cage.
I did not do well with my predictions, just three out of five correct. I’m very happy with the results of the ones I got wrong though, so it’s all good.
Match of the night went to Aleister Black versus Velveteen Dream. And, despite the high quality of the rest of the show, it wasn’t even a close-run thing. It was a definite match of the year candidate for me. If you only watch one match from NXT TakeOver WarGames, make it that one, but the whole show is worth watching. There hasn’t been a bad NXT TakeOver yet, but I think this was right up there among the best.
The double ring was distracting to start with, but not as distracting as the fake tan on one of the refs. I’ve never seen a human that orange before, it was quite startling.
The WarGames match itself was insane. And I’m still not sure why Killian Dain felt the need to swallow the key, it appears they ended up lifting the cage to let them out after the match. As a spectacle, I think it worked really well, and all three teams look stronger for having survived it, almost, intact. Alexander Wolfe was bleeding quite badly by the end, and was apparently helped from the arena. There is no word yet on whether he, or any of the others, sustained any injuries other than that. Eric Young was also bleeding, but not too much.
Drew McIntyre may well be injured though. He looked to be in a lot of pain with his arm, and really distressed when he was seen by the medic in the ring after the match. Triple H said in his post-TakeOver Facebook live interview that McIntyre has a suspected left bicep tear. He is set for an MRI in the morning, followed by surgery if a tear is found. I’m sure more details will be announced in the next few days.
All in all, a spectacular show with a lot of highlights, and very few low points. Well worth spending two and a half hours of your time on. Can’t wait to see how the fallout unfolds on NXT in the coming weeks.