Last night in Houston, NXT proved once again that they still have the ability to put on a near perfect pro wrestling show with NXT TakeOver: WarGames. From start to finish, every single match felt important and there was never a lull in the action; they had our attention for the full two hours and thirty minutes that they invaded our lives.
While there certainly was not a bad match on the card, that’s not going to stop us from having some fun and ranking said card from top to bottom.
1. Aleister Black vs. Velveteen Dream
The key word here is psychology.
We start with the entrances. Aleister Black rises from the darkness surrounded by burning candles. The attention to detail and the amount of thought and creativity given to these NXT TakeOver entrances never ceases to amaze me.
Dream is wearing tights with Black’s face on one side and his on the other. Mauro quickly reminds us of a little bit of history involving Rick Rude and Jake Roberts where Rude wore tights with Jake’s wife, Cheryl, on them. The crowd chants for Velveteen Dream. Dream screams at Black — “They know my name!” And that’s the story of the match. Dream wants Black’s respect, he wants recognition, he wants Black to say his name. Something so simple, yet something so perfect when executed flawlessly by two engaging characters.
Initially, I thought Patrick Clark’s ‘Velveteen Dream’ would be a short-lived experiment. After this match, I can’t even express to you how impressed I am. On a card that gave us a WarGames match that exceeded expectations and a Fatal 4-Way Women’s Championship match that certainly lived up to them, this was my favorite match on the card. Nothing beats a good singles match between two competitors that tells a great story.
In the end, Black would hit his Black Mass for the victory. A crossed legged Black, with Dream pawing at him and the crowd chanting at him to say his name, would finally give his adversary what he wanted. “Enjoy infamy, Velveteen Dream,” Black would say before exiting the ring. Black would even peer back at his opponent for a final time when he hit the halfway marker of the aisleway.
They should show this match to everyone who walks into the WWE Performance Center for the first time. Matches like these should be the end goal.
2. The Undisputed Era vs. Authors of Pain w/ Roderick Strong vs. Sanity (WarGames Match)
“You don’t win WarGames, you survive it.”
Oh dear. I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s start with the scene at the end. You had bodies strewn across two rings inside of two steel cages. Alexander Wolfe is laying against the ropes with blood coming out of his head, dripping down his left arm. Adam Cole has just pinned Eric Young after hitting him with a Shining Wizard into a steel chair. It’s impossible for him to celebrate after everything he just went through including taking a superplex off the top of the cage while the crowd chanted “Please don’t die.” There are trash cans, chains, a broken table, kendo sticks and more chairs spread across both canvases.
Killian Dain. Let’s talk about Killian Dain. This man swallowed the key to the cage before locking it up. He pulled off a Shane O’ Mac coast-to-coast special on O’Reilly with a trash can and had an unforgettable moment with Rezar on the grates between the rings after they both took out the rest of the competition. Killian Dain was the star of this match. That said, the other eight competitors all had their own special moments. Everyone worked together as a team to make this an instant classic. This was worth the nearly 20 year wait and if you can continue to find the right competitors, this should be a yearly event for NXT.
3. Ember Moon vs. Kairi Sane vs. Nikki Cross vs. Peyton Royce (Fatal 4-Way Title Match)
Awesome match, definitely could’ve been a headliner on a card that didn’t have a WarGames match and definitely should’ve been on after McIntyre versus Almas.
Cross, representing Sanity, came out wearing sunglasses with a bandana over her face and her hood up. Sane, the Mae Young Classic winner, was out next followed by Peyton Royce who would send Billie Kay to the back before heading to the ring. Ember Moon came out last.
Everyone played their role perfectly in this match. Moon would end up winning the match after hitting an ‘Eclipse’ on both Royce and Cross. Royce would roll out of the ring and Moon would pin Cross in the middle to win her first NXT Women’s Championship. Just as William Regal was about to hand the belt over to Moon, Asuka entered the ring to do the honors herself. Asuka and Regal would both leave to give Moon the ring to herself to enjoy the moment. Lovely stuff.
There have been a handful of legendary women’s title matches at past TakeOver events and this one ranks somewhere in between those. Chalk up another important part in the history of a brand that consistently books their female competitors to perfection.
4. Drew McIntyre vs. Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas (NXT Championship)
Zelina Vega (Thea Trinidad) was the big star in this one. She did some awesome stuff with McIntrye (including going for a head scissors on Drew early and also hitting a nasty rana on him late). McIntyre would absolutely DESTROY Almas with a Claymore late but Vega would make the save by putting her man’s foot on the rope to break the pinfall. McIntyre would miss the next Claymore and appear to injure himself leading to ‘Cien’ placing his opponent on the top rope and ripping him down with a crushing DDT.
We would later find out from Triple H that McIntyre may have suffered a torn bicep near the end up the match which could keep him off the shelf for up to a year if he requires surgery. Putting the belt on Almas was already the right decision, McIntyre was likely main roster bound, and was even moreso in hindsight with the unfortunate and untimely injury. Almas’ stock has raised considerably since aligning himself with Vega making him a true main event player as champion. What’s next? Your guess is a good as mine. I’m expecting a program with Aleister Black leading to another title change at TakeOver in Philly early next year.
5. Kassius Ohno vs. Lars Sullivan
Again, just to be clear, don’t take this match being ranked at the bottom as it being bad. As a matter of fact, it was perfect for what it was. This was a great opener that clocked in at just under six minutes and did what it needed to do.
Lars Sullivan — aptly described by Mauro Ranallo as a Jack Kirby illustration come to life — showed us why he has the potential to be a major star on this brand. While I honestly believed Kassius Ohno would’ve headlined multiple TakeOver events by now instead of opening shows to put over up and coming talent over — it makes sense and he looked great doing it.
Lots of power work here in a short match with the end coming on a sequence where Ohno would miss a spinning discus clothesline before being put away via Sullivan’s ‘Freak Accident’. It’d be nice to see Ohno be brought up permanently beginning with a surprise entry into the Royal Rumble. There’s nothing left for him here if he’s not challenging for a title.
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