The final TakeOver event of 2020 promised to end a tumultuous year on a high note, with two WarGames matches featuring the very best NXT has to offer. Throw in a smattering of hard-hitting bouts in between and the WWE Universe had plenty to look forward to. Andy Spoors, as always, is on hand to deliver his verdict.
Hell In A Cell, TLC, Money In The Bank. Gimmick PPVs seem to weigh heavily on the shoulders of those Superstars assigned to Raw and SmackDown. An albatross they must bear, simply because the WWE schedule dictates their place on the event calendar.
Gimmick PPVs came to be, due to the popularity of those types of match. Hell In A Cell was always the culmination of a bitter feud. There was nowhere bigger for two Superstars to duke it out. WarGames is, thankfully, a different beast.
Closer in kin to the traditional and annual Survivor Series matches, NXT Superstars can make a team of four and challenge another quartet to settle their disputes with nowhere to run and prove once and for all, who is the smartest and superior in their division.
After successfully introducing a women’s match last year, another double helping was served. It doesn’t even feel like an argument so much as fact that NXT’s women’s division is quite simply put, the best in the world. Expectations, therefore, were quite rightly sky high for all eight involved to put on a spectacle.
Stepping up to open the show in retrospect was a mistake. It was a ridiculously high bar to set the matches to follow. Set piece after set piece. Mini stories and rivalries bubbled up throughout. Each competitor felt like they brought something unique to the dance.
Dakota Kai, acting as the iron woman for Team Candice, was a stark contrast to her heel turn and abandonment of long-term friends last year. The recently returned Toni Storm and Ember Moon looked sharp and hungry. The behemoths Gonzalez and Ripley faced off against each other inside the double cage. All expertly delivered.
Bizarrely it was to be trash cans that would steal the show, with two moves involving NXT Women’s Champion Io Shirai proving most eye-catching. The Japanese Superstar would, intriguingly, be the one to lose the match after she was sent crashing through a ladder by Gonzalez.
Expect big things for one of NXTs fastest rising women in what is the biggest moment of her career so far.
An uncomfortably brutal match between Tomasso Ciampa and Timothy Thatcher saw the former pick up a win by the barest of margins. It’s always wince-inducing when Ciampa takes a beating in the knowledge of his previous neck surgery.
This certainly wasn’t for the faint of heart or for those that enjoy the new school style of high-flying action. Two guys entered the ring with the intent to bludgeon the other with forearms and apply submissions.
If the style was more akin to an MMA fight, the nasty looking ear injury Thatcher sustained hammered that point home. Ciampa held an illegal submission on the ropes followed by a ruthless draping DDT, landing his opponent on the top of his skull.
The unorthodox pin for the victory was a nice touch and the subsequent stare down after the bell makes this feud far from over.
We mentioned in our preview of the event, Cameron Grimes and Dexter Lumis were ones to watch for the future. That viewpoint was solidified after their back-and-forth Strap match. Afforded plenty of time to show the WWE Universe what they could do, both men emerged with their credit intact.
Lumis grabbed the W by effectively hog-tying his opponent and placing him in his signature submission move. After injury robbed him of a shot at the North American Championship a few months ago, Lumis and his unnerving persona seem like a perfect foil for Johnny Gargano’s chicken shit heel character.
Speaking of Gargano, he became the first ever three-time North American Champion by vanquishing Leon Ruff and Damien Priest in a triple threat match. The small statured Ruff was always fighting a losing battle against two seasoned veterans but his job became close to impossible when an army of masked assailants flooded the ring to help Gargano.
One ‘ghost faced killer’ in particular laid out Priest handing the victory to Johnny ‘Takeover’. Tongue firmly in cheek, the mystery man unveiled himself as Austin Theory with a play on the infamous Mr McMahon line ‘It was me all along, Austin!’
The main event of the night was awarded to the second WarGames match. This time The Undisputed Era looked to gain some measure of revenge for weeks of sneak attacks from Pat McAfee, Oney Lorcan, Danny Burch and Pete Dunne.
The only ever-presents in the men’s WarGames match since its reintroduction, Undisputed Era’s win loss ratio wasn’t exactly favourable heading into the show. With the advantage going to Team Pat, Adam Cole and company needed a standout performance to boost their stats.
As expected, the match was an all-out war of attrition. Once all eight men had entered the cage, the back and forth truly started. A natural ebb and flow gave all participants a chance to shine.
The Superstar that shone brightest was undisputedly (no pun intended) Dunne. He may have finished on the losing side but his character work of trying to save the newcomer McAfee from a severe beat down was eye catching.
Granted, Dunne holds the record for the longest ever NXT UK Championship reign, so should be well known to the WWE Universe by now. However, since being forced to sit on the side-lines due to travel restrictions, he has bulked up, leaned-out and come back with a new-found sense of self.
More high-flying exploits and an impressive in ring intelligence further cemented McAfee’s fledgling NXT career. Again, the question remains for the victors here. What’s next for UE? Another tilt for all the titles? A move to Raw or SmackDown? Break-up or just stick around and hope something comes up that suits a hugely talented quartet?
As we exit 2020, the great news is NXT arguably looks in better shape than it did heading into the year. With fans heading back to ringside, fingers crossed, at some point next year, the future is looking as bright as ever for the black and gold brand of WWE.