The build to WarGames has been ridiculously fast, but still very well done. Within an hour of the announcement, one WarGames match was set and the other was well on its way. The rest of it just fell neatly into place and we have a great card to look forward to. Timothy Thatcher versus Tommaso Ciampa will be brutal. Dexter Lumis and Cameron Grimes’ strap match is likely to be ridiculous. The North American Championship match should be great. But it’s the namesake WarGames matches that everyone is waiting for. For the men, it’s Undisputed ERA versus Pat McAfee and company. For the women, it’s Team Blackheart versus Team LeRae and if that’s not match of the night, I’ll be extremely surprised. The North American Championship is the only title on the line tonight because all the other champions are involved in the WarGames matches.
Sam Roberts and Wade Barrett hosted the Pre-Show. McKenzie Mitchell confirmed that the women’s WarGames match would be kicking off the show. I would have liked to see them main event, but it wouldn’t be the first time the best match on a TakeOver was the best match of the show.
Team LeRae def. Team Blackheart
Tommaso Ciampa def. Timothy Thatcher
Dexter Lumis def. Cameron Grimes
Johnny Gargano def. Leon Ruff and Damian Priest
Undisputed ERA def. Team McAfee
Vic Joseph and Wade Barrett were the on-site commentary team for the night. Beth Phoenix joined them remotely. It would have been nice to have Kevin Owens for the show, but there are no complaints about the team.
Quick Rules Reminder
WarGames takes place in a double ring surrounded by a cage.
One member of each team starts the match.
After five minutes a member of the team with the advantage is released from the cage.
Three minutes later a member of the opposing team is released and every three minutes after that, alternating teams, until all competitors are in the ring.
Only when everyone is in the ring can the match be won.
Winning is by pinfall or submission. If anyone escapes the cage they forfeit the match for their team.
Team Blackheart – Shotzi Blackheart, Rhea Ripley, Ember Moon, & Io Shirai vs Team LeRae – Candice LeRae, Dakota Kai, Raquel Gonzalez, & Toni Storm – WarGames
Dakota Kai started the match for her team. Shotzi Blackheart has a new tank and it’s an upgrade. The whole team posed on it before the match and Blackheart fired something from it at the cage in front of Kai’s head. It made her jump, but it would have had to get through the chainlink to hit her. Ember Moon started for their team.
Shotzi Blackheart was the first additional members, and she brought a toolbox and a crowbar. It gave Ember Moon some time to recover, and she needed it, but Kai got no respite until Raquel Gonzalez joined them. Unsurprisingly, Rhea Ripley was next and the chaos started to build. No more toys, although Ripley did make use of a big hammer from the toolbox on Dakota Kai. She then got into it with Gonzalez because they were the only two standing.
The trouble with WarGames matches is that it doesn’t matter how badly competitors get beaten up, until the final members of the team arrive you can’t win. Toni Storm brought kendo sticks to the party and used one on Ripley before taking the turnbuckle pad off, as if the big metal cage isn’t enough metal to bounce people off.
Shotzi Blackheart came off the top of a tower of doom at the same time Dakota Kai was knocked off Ripley’s shoulders by Moon. So everyone was down when Io Shirai got there. She put a couple of ladders in the ring and another kendo stick, but Raquel Gonzalez stopped her getting into the ring and giving her team the advantage. Three times Gonzalez kicked her back after she’d thrown weapons in, then Toni Storm held the cage shut with her belt. Shirai even got knocked down trying to climb in.
She was still outside the cage when Candice LeRae arrived. Indi Hartwell attacked Shirai from behind, helped LeRae throw more toys into the ring, then chained the door after her with Shirai still on the outside. Hartwell put the key down her top and told the male officials to come and take it.
With Shirai not in the ring, no pinfalls or submissions could count. She solved that by climbing to the top of the cage with a trashcan, put it over her head, and jumped off onto everyone else.
It was pandemonium. Vicious and brutal chaos with no respite and bodies everywhere. More broken pins and failed submissions than I can count and enough noteworthy spots to make this review a novella. Moon Eclipsed Kai through two chairs. Blackheart made LeRae the filling of a squashed steel chair sandwich when she dropped down off a ladder onto her, but that left them both down and out.
Everyone was down when Raquel Gonzalez picked up the win for her team. She did it by power-bombing Io Shirai through a ladder suspended between the two rings and pinning her on the ring divide.
Indi Hartwell joined the team in celebration.
Finn Balor told everyone to enjoy WarGames but remember that when the sirens stop and the cage raises they go back to what they do and the time for team sports is over. On Wednesday, it’s all eyes back on ‘the prince’.
Tommaso Ciampa vs Timothy Thatcher
I’m not sure how you’re supposed to follow a WarGames match. Timothy Thatcher’s technicality and a match that started very strategically, was a bit of a step down hype-wise. It was a good match, but it’s hard to go from full-on WarGames chaos and trying to keep track of half a dozen things at once, to a match based on methodical destruction.
That’s the best description I can come up with, methodical destruction. They took each other apart. Timothy Thatcher was bleeding from his ear well before the finish and I don’t think a single part of either of their bodies went undamaged.
It looked like Thatcher was going to come out on top, but Ciampa got him tied up in the ropes and was able to deliver Willow’s Bell, on four of the referee’s five-count, for the win.
From the looks Thatcher and Ciampa exchanged after the match, it’s not over.
Dexter Lumis vs Cameron Grimes – Strap Match
It might have been better to put this after the WarGames match as general ridiculousness of a strap match might have tempered the comedown.
This one came about to stop Cameron Grimes constantly running away from Lumis, which only kind of worked because he kept trying anyway. Grimes didn’t come into his own until he managed to get a bag over Lumis’ head. Not so Lumis couldn’t see, but because Lumis’ eyes freak Grimes out.
The strap is quite a versatile weapon. It was used to whip, to bind, to pull each other off or into things. Grimes used it to pull Lumis into one of the pillars by each corner. Lumis used it to pull Grimes off the apron to the floor with a thud.
In the end, Cameron Grimes got his feet tangled in the strap. Lumis pulled him over so he hit he head on a chair, then put him out with The Silence.
There’s a Keith Lee WWE 24 airing after WarGames. That’s going to be a must-see.
Karrion Kross is on his way back. The lights started to flicker and there was a vulture and the same symbolism that accompanied his initial arrival. If there was any doubt, the ‘Tick Tock’ sealed it.
Leon Ruff (C) vs Damian Priest vs Johnny Gargano – NXT North American Championship match.
I’ve quite enjoyed this storyline for the fun diversion it has been, and I’m not really ready for it to be over, but it’s probably time. Leon Ruff has done ok from it. A title to his name, two wins over Johnny Gargano, and he got to hear the ring announcer introduce him as champion at TakeOver. I like the story they’re telling. Ruff spent some of the early part of the match trying to convince Priest to see him as a threat instead of just tossing him aside.
Priest got so annoyed with Ruff coming at him, he put him through a barricade and retaining wall with a Razor’s Edge. Ruff was taken away by officials and Priest apologised. Gargano called Ruff a joke and said he told him he couldn’t hang.
Ruff came back after a while, running down to the ring and taking out Gargano and Priest. He almost got the pin on Gargano off that first rush of momentum, but Gargano kicked out. With Priest still out on the outside, Ruff kept on Gargano, but couldn’t capitalise. Priest came back, but got sent shoulder first into the post. Leon Ruff was lawn-darted into the same post and banged heads with Priest on impact. Gargano tied Damian Priest in the ropes and tried to finish it, but Priest got free when Ruff was in the Gargano Escape and got him out.
Annoyingly, three Ghost Faces turned up to beat down Damian Priest, then another three. Ruff nearly stole a victory when Priest paused after taking them all out and throwing Gargano back into the ring, but he just made it.
A Ghost Face took out Damian Priest with a large metal pipe and Gargano pinned Ruff with One Final Beat. Right up to the interference, I would have said that was one of my favourite recent triple-threats. It was a really entertaining match. The interference was in keeping with Gargano’s current ethos, but I’m still disappointed.
Austin Theory was the pipe wielding Ghost Face.
The next NXT special will be New Year’s Evil on January 6th, which is a Wednesday.
Undisputed ERA vs Pat McAfee, Pete Dunne, Oney Lorcan, & Danny Buch – WarGames match
Kyle O’Reilly started for Undisputed ERA. Pete Dunne started for Team McAfee. That was a great shout. Five minutes of O’Reilly versus Dunne with no weapons and no interruptions was fun to watch and easily the best combination to do the first stint.
O’Reilly took some damage from Dunne’s joint manipulation techniques and didn’t get the amount of damage done he needed to before Oney Lorcan joined the fun. Fun for them, not Kyle O’Reilly. He did get a few shots in, most notably landing on Lorcan from the top while Lorcan was hooked in the ropes, but mostly he got beaten up.
Bobby Fish was the one to even things up and save his tag partner. Their teamwork is beautiful and they had Dunne and Lorcan under control until just before Danny Burch arrived with two cricket bats in a bag. They didn’t stop O’Reilly destroying Burch’s knee and making him pointlessly tap until Dunne could break it up, but they did make the beatdown he got afterwards worse.
Roderick Strong was next to the cage and took full advantage of being the fresh man until he got bounced off the cage and ceased to be quite so fresh. Pat McAfee was the final member of their team, despite having faked going out each time. He spent most of the three-minute advantage getting tables and chairs out from under the ring. He had a table for each Undisputed ERA member, with the logo and their name on. McAfee sat on a turnbuckle and watched his hired goons do the hard work until they loaded Strong onto his personalised table, then he moonsaulted him through it.
Finally, it was Adam Cole’s turn. He sprayed team McAfee with a fire extinguisher from outside but didn’t bring it in with him. He did bring a chair though, and threw it at Dunne’s head so hard it bounced back past Dunne after hitting the cage. Cole facing up to McAfee turned into Dunne taking on Cole and O’Reilly calling McAfee out. Cole hit McAfee with a chair from behind and everyone was suddenly brawling.
McAfee caught Cole from behind with a chop block and got him in a figure four while the rest of his team kept Undisputed ERA away. Cole turned it over and Undisputed ERA stopped Team McAfee breaking it up. They got there eventually though. The finish had to be bigger than that.
Cole set up the O’Reilly personalised table. The Cole table was already set up and Dunne was dumped on Burch on top of it. The table didn’t break, so O’Reilly leapt on them to put then through it. Cole up McAfee through the O’Reilly table. Lorcan, Burch, and Dunne were trapped between the ropes and cage and just bounced off and kicked until they were down. It was down to Undisputed ERA and Pat McAfee. He had a brief attempt to escape the cage, then got beaten up and thrown around until his team recovered.
Kyle O’Reilly took a landing off the turnbuckle that had the ref checking him over. Pat McAfee dived off the top of the cage and took everyone out. O’Reilly and Dunne, who started the match, were the only ones on their feet. They got straight back into it, but neither a Bitter End from Dunne nor a suplex onto the ring divide from O’Reilly was enough to finish it.
The false finishes got ridiculous somewhere around the point of McAfee kicking out of a superkick and Panama Sunrise. But there were a few more to go before O’Reilly drove a chair into Lorcan’s face with a knee from the top rope and finally got the pin.
NXT’s women’s division is the best thing about WWE. Raquel Gonzalez, in picking up the victory for her team, pinned the NXT Women’s Champion. Is there a title shot in her future? And if there is, will it cause problems with Dakota Kai? The men’s WarGames match was great, but the women’s match still outdid them to take match of the night for me.
Oney Lorcan was bleeding after the match. There seemed to be concern about him and maybe a couple of others. If everyone came out of this PPV uninjured I’ll be pleasantly surprised.