Day 080: Like The Survivor Series, But Good [NXT WarGames Roundup]
I don’t know what it is about fall weather that makes wrestling promoters get a hard-on for team matches. As soon as a leaf falls, they say to themselves, “You know what sounds good? A 45 minute match with bragging rights on the line!” A couple of weeks ago, we saw the “best” of Raw and Smackdown face off in Survivor Series matches. Last night, we were given NXT WarGames. Invented in 1987 when Dusty Rhodes got stoned and saw Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, WarGames became a staple in the WCW PPV cannon. Much like the Survivor Series, it’s two teams against each other due to real heat or heat manufactured for the event. Much like the Survivor Series, the matches are overly long, forcing the cards to only feature a few matches in between the WarGames bookends. The similarities stop there. Instead of being a lame tag contest, it’s an all-out brawl with fighters entering at staggered times! Instead of one ring, there’s two! And they’re both encased in a jumbo steel cage! And there’s weapons! And high-flying maneuvers! And it’s also breathtaking and entertaining as fuck! WarGames is a lot like a Survivor Series match, except it’s good!
Match 1: Women’s WarGames Match – Team Candice def Team Shotzi
The stark difference between WarGames and Survivor Series were immediately apparent in the entrances. Even though Shotzi Blackheart came out in her brand new tank and invited her team to take a ride for a photo-op, the entrances were significantly shorter than their WWE counterpart. I appreciate the brevity of NXT. When their weekly show starts, there’s always immediately a match, sometimes with the fighters already in the ring. It’s a brand that respects our intelligence and time.
Anyways, the match was great, I guess. Rachel and I watched the 2019 WarGames last week and our socks were rocked off our asses. The women’s match had so many high spots that I ended up feeling exhausted afterwards. If I hadn’t watched it recently, I probably would’ve appreciated last night’s match a lot more. Considering the competitors involved [8 of the most talented women in sports, btw] the match just didn’t feel tight enough. There were so many maneuvers that needed better timing. Some were waiting in their spots for over 5 seconds for the move to go through. They were trying a lot of amazing stuff, but they really could’ve used more tightening up. In a highlight reel, the match looks amazing. But it should also be noted that the actual technical directing was lacking. The camera work was jarring and some of the cuts made no sense. It definitely took away from the experience, as even pinfalls were cut away to two people standing around, catching their breath.
All of my complaints were redeemed when Women’s Champion, Io Shirai, entered the match with a bang.
Displaying some huge Ralph Wiggum “I’m a brick” vibes, she puts a trash can on her head and leapt from the top of the cage. It was a next-level spot that I watched over and over and over. It might’ve been my favorite wrestling moment of the year. Competitive hardcore wrestling has been around for over 25 years now and they’re still coming up with shit that takes my breath away. That’s just plain special. Following the high spot, the match got a whole lot better. Ember Moon sent Dakota Kai through 2 standing chairs with a ridiculous top rope neckbreaker. It succinctly ended after Raquel Gonzalez hit Io with a one-armed powerbomb through a fucking ladder for the 1-2-3.
Rating: 4.5 trash cans out of 5
Match 2: Tommaso Ciampa def Timothy Thatcher
This was a decent palette cleanser after 35 minutes of attempted high-spots. This was a bone-crushing, methodical wrestling match. There was a lot of chokeholds and suplexes. It was a quality match that didn’t rely on any immense heat or gimmicks. It was specifically formulated to calm you down while still keeping you engaged. Both guys are extremely talented and they have a bright future in the business. I don’t fully understand why Ciampa hasn’t been promoted to the main roster yet, because he’s seemingly more than ready.
Rating: 3.75 bleeding ears out of 5
Match 3: Strap Match – Dexter Lumis def Cameron Grimes
I’ve only been watching NXT for a few months, and even I feel like this feud has been going on for too long. Dexter is the mute artist who silently stalks Cameron, who in turn runs away endlessly. They even had a goddamn haunted house match. It’s a very one-sided feud, which doesn’t seem fair because Grimes isn’t a jobber. He’s just written that way. Hopefully, this one buries the beef for good and they can both move onto better things. Surprisingly, this match was a lot closer than I expected. Grimes actually got in a decent amount of offense and was seemingly determined to face his fears. It was all moot, as Lumis got him in a chokehold and the bell rang swiftly.
Rating: 3.5 zombie refs out of 5
Match 4: NXT North American Title – Johnny Gargano def Damian Priest & Leon Ruff
This should not have been booked as a triple threat match, but here we are. Leon Ruff has basically acted as a middleman to the Gargano-Priest feud. He won the title from Gargano after being distracted by Priest and defended it in a rematch after more Priest interference. Leon is being booked as the scrawny rookie underdog that nobody takes seriously as a champion. He spent most of the match trying to get offense on Gargano, only to be pushed aside by Damian, who treats him as a little brother that just won’t get out of the way. Finally, his patience boiled over and he slammed Leon through the barricade, keeping him out of the match for a good 10 minutes. When he eventually came back, it seemed like Leon was in position to steal the match, but it wasn’t meant to be. A whole army of people in scream masks came to interfere on Johnny’s behalf. Damian took them all out one-by-one until one blindsided him with a lead pipe. This kept him incapacitated long enough for Johnny to finish off Leon for the win.
After the match, the scream killer with the lead pipe unmasked himself to be…Austin Theory! I marked out heavily when he yelled out, “It’s me, Austin!”, a tribute to one of the most shocking/dumb moments in Raw history.
Rating: 3.75 ghostfaces out of 5
Match 5: Men’s WarGames Match – Undisputed Era def Team McAfee
I wanted to be as excited as everyone else was for this match, but I just genuinely had no clue who these people were. That’s the problem with being an NXT noob. I’m somewhat familiar with Undisputed Era, as they’ve been an elite stable for years, but I’ve barely seen any of them in any matches. They’ve spent their time since the last Takeover PPV talking instead of fighting, which is something you don’t normally see in NXT [unless your name is Finn Balor]. When this feud started 2 months ago, it was obvious that they were saving it for WarGames, but I figured I would become more familiar with them first. I was wrong.
Well, I certainly know these guys now.
It was a full 45 minutes of well-choreographed carnage. I can’t even recite my favorite high spots, because it was all a blur of chaos. Even Pat McAfee, the former punter of the Indianapolis Colts in his second match ever, had some good spots. He event did a ridiculous flying senton off the top of the cage. This wasn’t some Dennis Rodman bullshit. It’s clear that he’s actually taking the time to learn his craft. He’s definitely a little green, but he showed that he can hang with the best. And he’s also pretty damn good on the mic. Consider him 1999 Shane McMahon.
I’m not going to give away much, as this is something you should probably just see for yourself. It’s was a sublime match that will go down as [probably] the best of the year.
Rating: 4.75 flying knee chairshots out of 5
This whole event was solid from top to bottom. It’s everything a wrestling fan could want out of a PPV. If you have any vague interest at all in seeing this, I implore you to do so. Make up a fake email and get that free trial to the network. Get a password from a friend. Hell, maybe you should just fork over the $9.99 monthly fee, because this shit is 1000% worth your money.
Overall: 4.75 broken tables out of 5