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Zen Arcade Reviews: NXT TakeOver: WarGames

November 18, 2017 | Posted by Jake St-Pierre
Undisputed Adam Cole NXT TakeOver WarGames
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Zen Arcade Reviews: NXT TakeOver: WarGames  

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Kassius Ohno vs. Lars Sullivan
On the surface, this appears to be a solid hoss fight. Lars Sullivan has been built up quite tremendously actually, with an accompanying name-change thankfully because nobody wants to watch a monster named DYLAN MILEY beat people up. Kassius Ohno is certainly the guy to put him against in his first Takeover match, since he’s one of the most versatile wrestlers on the planet and undoubtedly can help craft a match to amplify Lars’ strengths. It’s hard to really say how far along Sullivan is at this point, but they’re putting him with the right guys.

Lars comes out of the gates hot, rushing Ohno into the corner. Ohno fights back with chops and elbows, so Lars just runs through a lariat and shoulder tackles him to the mat. He shitcans Ohno to the floor and even comes off of the apron with another shoulderblock. Ohno fights back with a pair of boots, but Lars lariats him to the SHADOW REALM in response. Ohno tries fighting back again, but Lars hits a POP UP POWERSLAM for a big nearfall. Lars goes up for a diving headbutt, but Kassius avoids certain death and dodges it. A huge barrage of Mafia Kicks and elbows score, but Lars won’t go down… until Kassius hits the SPINNING MAFIA KICK for a nearfall! Lars just no-sells more boots, so Ohno gives him DANIELSON STOMPS AND A SENTON! LARS KICKS OUT AT ONE~! ROLLING ELBOW… COUNTERED INTO THE FREAK ACCIDENT! Lars Sullivan wins in 7 minutes. ***1/4 The brand of Big Lads Wrestling™ that I think everyone was looking for out this match. It had the excitement you want out of an opener, but it also was worked at a logical clip and did nothing to expose any potential shortcomings Lars Sullivan may have. It’s not going to re-invent the wheel, but in terms of getting Lars Sullivan over as more than a minute-man, I think both he and Kassius Ohno did a fabulous job. Who doesn’t love a good hoss fight?

Aleister Black vs. Velveteen Dream
At the risk of being a little hyperbolic, this feud is one of the best undercard rivalries NXT’s given us in a very long time. There’s been an undoubtedly great chemistry as characters between these two men, and I find it hard to believe their in-ring product will lag behind. Aleister Black is a superstar in waiting – and has been since he first started in NXT – and from everything I can tell, I don’t know if Dream is very far behind. Hopefully we’ll see a coming-out party between both men here, because the stars are aligning for it.

Dream has a fantastic Rick Rude-esque airbrush of Aleister Black’s face on his tights. The crowd loves this guy, for what it’s worth. Dream tries an early slap, but Aleister matrixes out of the way and works him over a little bit, stretching him and basically having his way in the earlygoings. Dream shoots him off and tries to get some space, but Black tilt-a-whirls into a gnarly Octopus variant. Dream is finally able to at least get a strike off, but Aleister shitcans him and soon finds himself Indian Style in the center of the ring. Dream gyrates in response, but Aleister just looks away instead… so Dream sits down right in front of him! A wrestling match threatens to break back out, and Dream actually gets Aleister off his feet with a lariat. Dream measures for a dive, but puts the brakes on instead and postures to the crowd. Aleister gets out of a DVD, but Dream catches him with a nasty superkick on the rebound for a 2 count. Dream even hits a Rude Awakening for 2. Dream ties Aleister in the ropes, but Black boots out and escapes. He starts making his comeback, and he hits a sliding knee to the side of the head. He hits a SWEET QUEBRADA for a two count, and he measures for Black Mass, but Dream swats him away. CARTWHEEL DVD FROM DREAM! BLACK KICKS OUT! Dream now measures for one off the top rope, but Black wriggles out and gives him a kick to the back of the knee to send him down. BICYCLE KNEE! DREAM KICKS OUT! DREAM WITH A MODIFIED DDT! BLACK KICKS OUT! Dream heads up for the Purple Rainmaker, but Black boots him out of it… and now Velveteen Dream is locked up in the ropes! BIG BOOT FROM BLACK… SUPERKICK FROM DREAM… RIGHT INTO A SPINNING KNEE FROM BLACK! BLACK MASS~! Aleister Black is your winner in a nutty 15 minutes. **** Where do I even start with this? It’s been a very long time since I’ve been this entertained by a such a… simple match. Velveteen Dream and Aleister Black got the absolute most out of what was actually a pretty easygoing structure. Sure, there were a lot of wacky strike exchanges down the stretch, but the bulk of this match was buoyed almost exclusively on their personalities… and that’s what the match NEEDED to be. They didn’t need to work this like an indy opener with two non-descript wrestlers going out there to steal the show. These two men stole the show by using their characters and charisma to build to a logical but ultimately exciting climax. Isn’t that what wrestling was built on? By using your personality to bring the people in and get them invested in the physical part of things? I mean, it wasn’t a Match of the Year candidate or anything, but it was a damn great piece of psychological pro wrestling that I urge anyone to watch just as an example of pro wrestling done right. I have endless praise for the men in this match and what they pulled out.

Aleister takes the mic after the match as a dazed Velveteen Dream reels beside him, and finally says his name! I love this feud SO MUCH.

NXT Women’s Title: Kairi Sane vs. Ember Moon vs. Peyton Royce vs. Nikki Cross
I went over my qualms with this match in the roundtable preview I did here on 411, most of which still ring true. I don’t like the constant spamming of multi-woman matches in this division and this match is no different, although I have no doubt in my mind that the match will be very good. I mean, look at the talent in it and tell me you’re not at least excited about it? I can have all the issues with the booking I want, but I’m sure that will all blow away once the match is done.

It’s a Pier Sixer early as one would expect. It’s all a bunch of wacky spots that I’m not a fast enough typist to call, but I’m happy about it. Ember jumps out onto Nikki Cross with a pescado, and Peyton eats a forearm from Kairi Sane as she walks away. Ember hits a SWEET Lope on both women as they brawl on the floor. Nikki blindsides Ember immediately after, so Ember MURDERS Nikki with a Powerbomb on the floor. Jesus CHRIST. Ember and Kairi duke it out in the ring, and Kairi hits a big spear in the corner. Peyton catches her running though and puts in a wacky inverted Gogoplata thing in the ropes, but Ember superkicks Royce out of it. Royce eats a spear from Kairi as Ember leapfrogs the Pirate Princess, who drops Ember with a forearm and heads up top… only for Ember to knock her down before the elbow can land. Ember measures for a Superplex, but Peyton German Suplexes Ember into a Tower of Doom spot! Nikki finally coms back in and crossbodies all three women from the top rope and runs wild. Nikki grabs Ember and nails her with a spinning neckbreaker, but Peyton blindsides her with a PerfectPlex for a sloppy two count as Kairi breaks it… and HITS BOTH WITH THE ELBOW DROP~! EMBER SAVES! Ember measures for the Eclipse, but Peyton saves Nikki… ONLY FOR BOTH TO EAT THE ECLIPSE! Ember Moon is champ in 10 minutes. *** This match seemed a little too paint-by-the-numbers to really have any impact for me, but it was worked with enough of a pace to keep me interested. Nothing incredibly memorable happened though, and I think that doesn’t much justice to what should be a big moment for Ember Moon. It felt like a normal NXT TV main event rather than a legitimate crowning and that’s why I was slightly annoyed by this being a four-way. There’s no time to focus on the participants, foregoing that for spots instead. There’s nothing wrong with that if there’s a legitimate reason to have the match, but this was a lazy booking crutch rather than an actual attempt to make Ember Moon look like the top dog of the division… and that’s why this match fell short for me. It was over in a flash and did nothing to leave an impression on me. And that sucks, because this was actually a pretty exciting little match in a vacuum, which is why I gave it the three-star treatment.

Asuka hits the ring and presents the title to former opponent Ember Moon in a cool little moment.

NXT Title: Drew McIntyre © vs. Andrade Almas
Young Cien better be thanking his lucky stars he’s got Thea Trinidad as his manager, because their act is so much more of a top act than whatever Almas was doing beforehand. There’s a chemistry there that Andrade desperately needed, and now that he’s got it, I think he can finally have an NXT career worth its salt. Does that mean he’s winning the belt here? Not a chance, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have a great match anyway.

Drew bats Almas out of an up-and-over in the earlygoing, using his size to his advantage. Almas pulls off a Tranquilo in the ropes, so McIntyre boots him to the floor. Zelina Vega tries to dive off of the apron into a Hurricanrana on McIntyre, who sets her back up on the apron and stops an Almas dive to boot. It spills back into the ring, where Almas runs the champ’s shoulder into the ringpost. Almas uses that to go right after McIntyre’s arm for the heat. McIntyre hits a sweet Suplex throw to get some separation, followed by an equally cool pair of Belly-to-Belly Suplexes. McIntyre heads to the top rope for a double Axehandle, but Almas hits a pretty sweet Tornado Reverse DDT. He looks for the Hammerlock DDT, but McIntyre bumrushes out and hits the reverse Alabama Slam for a two count. McIntyre tries to powerbomb Almas on the floor, but Almas posts him and hits a BEAUTIFUL ORIHARA MOONSAULT~! He rolls McIntyre in for a two count. McIntyre meets him up top for a Superplex, but Almas crotches him, hits the hanging Double Stomp, and the Double Knees for a two count. McIntyre hits a HUGE DEADLIFT LIGERBOMB for a nearfall of his own! FUTURE SHOCK scores from McIntyre, but only for 2. Almas takes him off the top rope and nails the double knees to the back of the head for 2… and Zelina Vega hits a Spike Rana on McIntyre! HAMMERLOCK DDT! MCINTYRE KICKS OUT~! CLAYMORE FROM MCINTYRE! ZELINA PUTS ALMAS’ FOOT ON THE ROPE! HANGING DDT FROM ALMAS… AND HE WINS~! We have a new NXT Champion in 16 minutes. ***3/4 If you want to go a paragraph up from this analysis, you will see that I said “not a chance” in regards to Andrade Almas winning the NXT Title in this match. This is because I believed that, well, there was no chance young Andrade was going to actually win this match and win the NXT Title. I actually drew a parallel to the match between Hideo Itami and Bobby Roode in May, where Hideo Itami was quite literally a filler title defense until Roode dropped the belt to McIntyre. They had a fantastic match, but Itami never really had a prayer of winning. That’s what I thought this match ws going to be, and it appeared that the crowd thought so too. I thought the Hammerlock DDT nearfall was about the best we were going to get here, and it was a damn great false finish indeed. But not only did we get an awesome surprise finish, we got a fantastic match to complement it. It wasn’t the best match of the year or anything of the sort, but it didn’t need to be. It wasn’t worked like the archetypal WWE main event match. They didn’t start super slow to build to a big crescendo. They went pedal-to-the-metal quite early and only got more intense from there, and I think that’s what this match needed. The crowd didn’t think Almas was going to win, so they needed a distraction of sorts… and this kind of “sprint” was needed to make sure the action kept going long enough for the crowd to forget about what they (and I) thought they knew. And it perfectly encapsulates the story they’ve been attempting to tell with Andrade Almas after Zelina Vega came in. He was a loser without her, and now he’s the king of the world with her. So not only was this a perfect piece of psychology in the short term, it blew off a long-term story they’ve been telling with the man who won the match. What’s not to love? A total success from beginning to end and a welcome surprise.

WarGames: The Undisputed Era vs. SanitY vs. The Authors of Pain & Roderick Strong
The old-schooler in me feels slightly dirty calling this match WarGames, but something’s better than nothing. Even with the distorted, overly “creative” rules NXT gave this match, there’s a lot to like here. I like the AOP and Sanity both have something to offer in such a chaotic environment, while Roderick Strong and The Undisputed Era have the technical chops to keep the match from going off the rails. And for what it’s worth, NXT has treated this match like a big deal, so I’m not here to try and pretend I’m not excited. It’s not WarGames exactly, but it’s still kind of WarGames… right?

Eric Young, Adam Cole, and Roderick Strong are the first men in the cage. Five minute opening period, by the way. All three men brawl all over the place, with all three getting various advantages until Adam Cole hilariously tries to escape the cage immediately upon getting his ass kicked. Cole uses that to crotch both Strong and Young and get the upperhand early. Roddy starts running wild now, going crazy as the first period runs down… and here come Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly.

Well, they’re not doing the stupid TNA booking of WarGames at least, as the heels come out and run amok. Fish and O’Reilly hit the assisted Wheelbarrow Suplex on Roddy as Cole works over Eric Young. The next period runs out, and here comes The Authors of Pain.

The Undisputed Era tries to keep the door closed, but the AOP bumrush in and clean house. The AOP just decide to toss everyone from ring-to-ring before TOSSING RODDY ONTO EVERYBODY! The AOP put their opponents in Trees of Woe before giving the remaining opponents DVD’s into the wrestlers IN the Tree of Woe. It’s mostly clubbering until the rest of SanitY enters.

Now we’re in the Match Beyond, and here we go! Alexander Wolfe has a nightstick, and Killian Dain goes under the ring for some more plunder. SanitY runs wild on everyone with chairs and chains and sticks and trash cans… and Killian Dain brings out some tables too! O’Reilly eats a German from Alexander Wolfe, who then scoop slams Bobby Fish on a trash can. Killian Dain finally enters and locks the door behind him with another chain… and SWALLOWS THE KEY~! That makes room for some clubbering between Dain and the AOP! This match RULES. Dain heads to the top rope and comes out onto everybody with a HUGE HIGH CROSS! Adam Cole saves the pinfall, and runs like hell away from Dain and grabs a kendo stick. Dain finally gets his hands on Cole for a Tree Slam, but Bobby Fish stops him in his tracks. Fish tries a sunset flip on Dain, who catches Cole and GIVES HIM A MICHINOKU DRIVER ON FISH~! He does the old Michael Elgin Fallaway Slam/Samoan Drop on Roderick Strong and Eric Young respectively before going toe-to-toe with Rezar! Akam blindsides Dain and hits him with a Powerslam, but Kyle O’Reilly breaks the pin and hits him with a cage-running DDT! CHASING THE DRAGON ON RODERICK STRONG! Dain MURDERS Cole with a lariat, but he runs right into reDRagon and their kicks. Alexander Wolfe suffers the same fat from Kyle O’Reilly. Kyle takes the chain and wraps it around Wolfe’s arm for ARMAGEDDON! ERIC YOUNG BREAKS IT WITH AN ELBOW! JUMPING MOONSAULT FROM BOBBY FISH BREAKS THE PIN! The AOP hit the SUPER COLLIDER BETWEEN THE RINGS while sandwiching Killian Dain, but it only gets 2! Eric Young is able to avoid a Superbomb from the AOP, and he gives Rezar a DVD onto Akam! Roderick Strong just goes INSANE with backbreakers and jumping knees on everybody… and he hits Dain with an OLYMPIC SLAM! Adam Cole breaks the pin and heads up top for something, but Eric Young stops him, along with Roderick Strong. Adam Cole is in the middle of them, and soon enough everybody join for a SUPER DOUBLE TOWER OF DOOM! And Adam Cole is the only one left standing and he rejoices. Adam Cole soon finds himself staring down the barrel of the Authors of Pain, who crotch him on the ropes and go after the pair of tables still left unbroken, bringing them to the adjacent ring. The AOP go up top with Cole again, but Alexander Wolfe saves the day, allowing Adam Cole to escape. Cole teases escaping, and ALEXANDER WOLFE HITS A GERMAN SUPERPLEX ON AKAM THROUGH THE TABLES! SUPER NECKBREAKER FROM EY! Adam Cole is left alone again, this time slithering on top of the cage. Alexander Wolfe sliced his head open on the landing through the table, too. Dain folds Kyle up with a lariat and puts a trashcan in front of his face… for A KILLIAN DAIN COAST TO COOOOAST~! Adam Cole stands on the top of the cage as Eric Young lays prone, but he sees Roderick Strong instead and tries to get the fuck out of Dodge despite his losing the match if he does so. Roddy meets him on the top of the cage… and SUPERPLEXES HIM FROM THE CAGE DOWN TO EVERYONE ON THE MAT~! COLE KICKS OUT! Killian Dain and Akam duke it out between the rings, but the AOP HIT THE LAST CHAPTER ON THE METAL! Kyle O’Reilly grabs a sleeper on Rezar, and a jumping knee from Fish puts Rezar down. Roderick and Cole now find themselves alone in the center of the ring, and they duke it out. Cole takes Eric Young out with a kendo stick, and he pins EY with a shining wizard into the chair. The Undisputed Era wins WarGames in 37 minutes. **** I’m still of the opinion that an actual WarGames match would have been preferable to what we got, but these nine men made sure that the handicap was about as minuscule as humanly possible. This was everything you could have possibly hoped out of this match. It was chaotic. It was wild. It was violent. And it had all sorts of small, awesome little storyline threads throughout it. We got to see Killian Dain destroy everybody at multiple points of the match. He was the one who introduced all the plunder and weapons, did that wacky Coast to Coast, and generally came off as the most protected worker in the match. We had multiple faceoffs between Adam Cole and Roderick Strong. There were several moments where Roderick Strong used his speed and explosivity to get the upperhand for his team. Adam Cole was the slimy piece of shit who was able to avoid every big bump everyone else took before slinking out of the backdoor with the win after everyone else took the damage. The match was logical and paid precious attention to the motives and attitudes of each character, meaning nobody did anything their character wouldn’t do. Adam Cole didn’t do anything crazy because it was established immediately that he did NOT want to be in this match, and was trying to avoid as much punishment as possible. Killian Dain on the other hand was willing to jump into the fire and destroy everybody at will, because that’s SanitY’s modus operandi. He didn’t take any crazy bumps either; that’s what Eric Young is there for. It wasn’t a crazy brawl for the sake of being a crazy brawl. Everyone played their roles to perfection and it made for one of the most delightful messes of a match I’ve seen all year. Like I said, it’s hampered by the overly complicated rules and bastardization of the WarGames rules, but they worked around that with the best match they possibly could have. It definitely lived up to expectations and definitely exceeded mine.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
NXT is probably the most consistent wrestling product in North America, and it's because every single one of their big shows not only has quality up and down the card, but it sets things up for the future as well. Not only did we get a huge spectacle of a main event, but we got a huge surprise in Andrade Almas winning the NXT Title, opening up some super intriguing concepts down the line. That goes for the Women's Division as well, given we're still very much in the infancy of Kairi Sane's NXT career. So like I said, we get great matches complemented with legitimate consequences that will mean something down the line. It makes me feel rewarded as a viewer, and boy was I ever rewarded by this show.