If you’re anything like me, you aren’t too invested in NXT right now, or haven’t been in the past year. Booking woes, poor character development, Velveteen Dream still being on payroll and some illogical storytelling have made the show flounder, though there are bright spots such as Pat McAfee, Shotzi Blackheart, Llegado Del Fantasma, Cameron Grimes and William Regal saying “WAH-GAMES!” Yet, the Takeover’s always seem to deliver despite all of NXTs inherent issues. Tomorrow’s show looks to be no different.
There will be two War Games matches, a strap match and a North American Championship match. The show begins at 7 EST Sunday on the WWE Network. Despite it being a yearly gimmick pay-per-view, one that a year ago stole Survivor Series weekend with Dakota Kai’s turn on Tegan Nox, Finn Balor’s match with Matt Riddle and Kevin Owens NXT return, War Games is always fresh. This will be the fourth War Games match for the Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish, Adam Cole, Roderick Strong and Kyle O’Reilly). In fact, it was at this event in 2017 where Strong turned on the Authors of Pain to join the UE. Yet, it doesn’t feel like it’s been overdone for them. NXT has also taken the NWA’s old concept and made it their own in a very good way.
Dexter Lumis vs Cameron Grimes: Strap Match
While Dexter Lumis was far more interesting over the summer, Cameron Grimes has done more than enough to keep me invested in this program. Grimes is the next big thing for NXT and it shouldn’t be long until he’s pushed to the moon.
In what seems to be becoming the match type synonymous with Lumis, he will take on Grimes in a strap match. Lumis has already done one of these in NXT, as he defeated Roddy Strong in a strap match at this years Great American Bash. It’s refreshing to see such a tradition finally become relevant in pro wrestling again, as a strap match is very versatile in what you can do with it and it’s been awhile since it’s been done in regularity. This will probably be the worst match on the card, but it should still be strong and expect both to look strong.
Leon Ruff Defends Against Johnny Gargano and Damian Priest
I don’t know how I feel about this program. On one hand, I love all three. The fact Leon Ruff is getting a chance to shine is awesome. The match will certainly be fun as long as it doesn’t fall into the usual triple threat tropes. Ruff having the belt fall from his waist is hilarious. The Kevin Owens Show segment was great.
On the other hand, the segment was only great because of how Kevin Owens broke the fourth wall constantly. Johnny Gargano’s heel character is almost as bad as his booking and Damian Priest is in a state of flux. Leon Ruff is still relatively new and hasn’t found his own as a persona in NXT yet.
I’m not really sure what to expect from this. I really don’t want Priest or Gargano anywhere near this championship going forward. I’d much rather see Ruff get a fluke victory as you can easily do in a triple threat environment, and then hold the belt for a little while. I’d also like to see Jordan Devlin make his return to the States after a few weeks of his open challenge over on NXT UK (which is firing on all cylinders, as usual. It’s the most consistent product in wrestling) and defeat Santos Escobar or Curt Stallion to be the undisputed NXT Cruiserweight Champion. This would open up for Escobar to be the one who dethrones Leon Ruff, making him a contender in NXTs heavyweight division going forward.
Timothy Thatcher vs Tommaso Ciampa
I’m not really invested in this program, either. Both characters are in a transitional period and it seems like they’re trying to find things to do with the former NXT Champion. Ciampa’s character hasn’t been interesting in a long time, the promos from both haven’t been very good. It seems as though Ciampa’s run out of things to do in NXT. Thatcher’s shoot gimmick has a lot of potential going forward.
However, both are extremely physical and tremendous performers. Expect a hard-hitting match with really good psychology. While a match is only as good as the story behind it (which hasn’t been very good), if you can set that aside and appreciate the art of just a pure wrestling match, this may be your match of the night.
Women’s War Games
This entire program has fallen flat to me, which is a shame because I love all eight of these women and had great personal interactions with four of them. Raquel Gonzalez is somebody I saw dozens of times on the Florida coconut loop and she’s gotten so good in so little time. Candice LeRae is somebody I’ve followed since the Independents and World’s Cutest Tag Team. Ember Moon is one of my favorite female performers on the planet. Toni Storm and Rhea Ripley have both been high on my favorites list since their days in NXT UK. Dakota Kai has really come into her own as a heel in the past year. Io Shirai is the best in ring female in the world today. I can’t say enough good words about Shotzi Blackheart, because Shotzi is just an incredible talent with so much range. She’s probably their next big female breakout superstar.
The match will deliver. These eight are way too good to have a down match. But, my hype has fallen in a major way. With the return of Ember Moon at the most recent Takeover event, I was ecstatic to see where she’d go and her booking his been mishandled majorly. Io feels super forced into this match, having barely interacted with any of them outside of Ripley who she just had a great battle with, while Storm was a perfect fit for team Shotzi. Alas, NXT 2020 had to go with a nonsense shock value, thus turning Toni heel inexplicably in a way that barely made sense, to put her onto Team Candice. It’s not like Indi Hartwell had been working with the heels, defeated Shotzi over the summer and is literally the tag team partner of Candice LeRae. Rhea Ripley’s booking since WrestleMania is a rant worthy of its own separate article.
All in all, much like every match so far, this should be a fun match but the story leading up to it hasn’t quite delivered.
Men’s War Games
This is what I’m most hyped for from a storyline perspective. Not because Adam Cole and ReDRagon have been three of my favorite performers for the better half of a decade and not because Pete Dunne is one of my favorite wrestlers on the planet. It’s also not because of how awesome Team 1 2 are (and yes, Triple H is spot on when he said Danny Burch is one of the best talents overall that he has).
But, Pat McAfee. After that fifteen minute barn-burner he had with Adam Cole at Takeover XXX, he’s doubled down on how much of a natural he is in regards to his heel work and mic performance. He’s the most consistent promo on the show, surprisingly. The former Pro Bowl punter has delivered in every way imaginable and it’s been magic. He’s easily the best thing going in NXT right now. He and Llegado Del Fantasma are the only reasons I find myself wanting to tune in on a weekly basis at this point.
I’m more than excited to see McAfee confirm that he is, in fact, that good that quickly. With seven other great in ring workers, he’ll also have to do less so it may come across even better. Pat McAfee, if he were to fully commit to professional wrestling, could be a huge star for the WWE going forward.
Are you excited for Takeover War Games? Which match are you most looking forward to?