NXT TakeOver: War Games Review

The cage doesn’t lend itself well to photos. Credit: WWE

War Games. It’s the one gimmick match that WWE hasn’t run into the ground. In fact, they haven’t touched it. Until now. After years of fans calling for it, it’s finally back. I’m not entirely sure if it was needed, but we’re getting it. Minor quibbles aside, NXT TakeOvers are always good and this one was no exception. Let’s dish out some stars.

Lars Sullivan defeated Kassius Ohno

I miss Chris Hero. Credit: WWE

Much like his former partner Cesaro, Kassius Ohno should be seen as an in-ring marker. If you can’t go out there and have a decent match with him, then you ain’t worth shit. This was a test for Lars Sullivan. Could he do more than quick squash matches?

The answer seemed to be yes. This was a stiff and gruelling contest that made Sullivan look like a beast. His strength was well exhibited as he threw Ohno around the ring and took a few of those elbows to the chin. Noone is going to call this a wrestling classic. However, Sullivan didn’t shit the bed either, and that’s probably enough for WWE.

Verdict: Two And A Half Stars

Aleister Black defeated Velveteen Dream

Mind games on top of mind games. Credit: WWE

There are some similarities between this match and the last. The Velveteen Dream has done a fantastic job turning a potentially awful gimmick into something interesting. However, we still don’t know if he can back it up between the bells. Step forward, Aleister Black.

And, if we’re honest, the jury is still out because unlike Sullivan good might not be enough. This was a good match, but Dream looked green at times and against a lesser opponent it might have fallen apart. It’s hard to get past the feeling that there might be more sizzle than steak to the former Tough Enough man. To give him his dues, though, considering the Performance Centre usually produces trash, he ain’t half bad.

Because minor in-ring issues aside, Dream did get over with the crowd. Part of that was down to the weird booking, as Black came across like the heel and Dream as the plucky young underdog. It didn’t take long for the fans to start chanting his name and he was happy to play to them. Suddenly, WWE has gone from slapping a cringeworthy gimmick on the guy to having a hot young babyface on their hands.

Verdict: Three Stars

Ember Moon defeated Peyton Royce, Kari Sane and Nikki Cross to win the vacant NXT Women’s Title

Any chance to see that elbow. Credit: WWE

I like all four of these women, yet this didn’t click for me. It had all the faults that you expect from a four-way: excessive selling, lack of a coherent story and wrestlers slowly placing themselves into position for the next spot. (Moon’s finisher is cool, but it is particularly bad for that last one.)

I think the main issue is that I’m not sure who benefits from it. Sane was irrelevant in the narrative of the match even if she did look good in the ring. Royce and Cross once again came up short in a title match and are left spinning their wheels in the same position they’ve been in for months. Moon, meanwhile, comes out with the belt, and yet we were instantly reminded that she couldn’t beat Asuka when Asuka presented it to her.

Despite all these moans, this is an easy match to watch. It’s four talented wrestlers going out there and hitting each other with big moves. If – unlike me – you can prevent yourself from overthinking it, you’ll have a nice time.

Verdict: Three Stars

Andrade Almas defeated Drew McIntyre to win the NXT Title

Our new champ. Credit: WWE

Wow, I did not see that coming. I was convinced McIntyre was going to step into the role of NXT’s ace for the foreseeable future. He can go in the ring and is capable of working both WWE and indie style, he’s a decent promo and he looks the part. He seemed perfect for the role.

I apparently didn’t count on Andrade Almas. Almas deserves that belt and Zelina Vega deserves to be associated with it. It felt like he had flopped in NXT. That he’d been slotted into the jobber to the stars role and would stay there. With the insertion of Vega as his manager, he’s got better and better. He always had the in-ring talent but now he’s got the story arc to back it up.

This was a fantastic match. It was McIntyre’s high impact offence against Almas’s smarts. Almas has this in-ring savvy which makes him fascinating to watch. If things aren’t working for him, he changes it. There was a moment where he was going for a powerbomb out of the corner as McIntyre held onto the ropes. Rather than lamely struggling he stepped to the side and swiped the legs. It’s a level of intelligence we don’t often see from wrestlers.

This ticked all my boxes and easily the best thing on the card at this point.

Verdict: Four Stars

The Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish) defeated The Authors of Pain (Akem and Razor) with Roddy Strong and Sanity (Eric Young, Killian Dain and Alexander Wolfe)

Learn to fly. Credit: WWE

It warms my hearts to see Killian Dain excel at this level. The big man was on the first ever indie show I attended and I’ve got a lot of love for him.

This match didn’t really get going till the Authors of Pain came down and started throwing people between the rings. When the rest of Sanity came in it turned into a total clusterfuck and not necessarily in a bad way.

Because it’s impossible to say that this match wasn’t entertaining. If you turned away for ten seconds, you’d miss at least one big spot and potentially two. However, it was also sloppy (will O’Reilly be fined for accidentally hitting himself with an unprotected chair shot to the head?) and all of these men will be hurting for a while to come.

As hinted above, I think Dain came across as a star. His flurry when he first came in was fantastic and I hope NXT begin to give him more matches. Elsewhere, Strong continued his low-key fantastic year by managing to shine as he wrestled the whole thing and took a hell of a beating while doing so.

Most people got their moment. The Authors of Pain have improved tenfold since they debuted and they excel in this kind of environment. They are bloody fantastic at chucking folk about the place.

In fact, the only losers might be the winners. Fish and O’Reilly looked good if unremarkable and I’m still not sold on Cole. He came across like the secondary star here and the finish felt flat. NXT seems to be planting their flag in The Undisputed Era, and I’m not sure if that’s the right move.

Those worries aside, this was crazy fun, and it did what it needed to do. They did a decent job of living up to that War Games legacy and I’m sure WWE won’t now make it a yearly thing and ruin it…

Verdict: Four Stars

Overall

TakeOvers are always reliable. Credit: WWE

Death, taxes and NXT TakeOver delivers. I don’t think this was one of the best TakeOvers, but it was still damn good. The twin main events produced in very different ways and while I had issues with some of the other matches, I enjoyed all of them. It was an easy show to watch and that tends to be the case when NXT is in town.

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