WAR GAMES MATCH:
Team Baszler (Shayna Baszler, Io Shirai, Bianca Belair, & Kay Lee Ray) vs. Team Ripley (Rhea Ripley, Tegan Knox, Dakota Kai & Candice LeRae) - 8.75/10
This is, as we’ve been told a million times, the first ever women’s War Games match, so Candice’s gear is all about gender equality… and also, for some reason, there is some sort of angry cupcake on it. I don’t understand people anymore.
Dakota Kai is a replacement for Mia Yim, who was injured in a backstage attack.
The crowd annoyed me this match with their clear not caring who won and just wanting to see things. The “WE WANT TABLES!” chants are the worst of this, so I am hereby declaring a new rule at all wrestling shows: If a wrestler starts pulling out weapons from under the ring and you respond by chanting “WE WANT TABLES!” the wrestler should be allowed to go into the crowd and hit you in face with those weapons for being a sh*tty fan. Stop telling the wrestlers what you want to see them hurt each other with and just pay attention to the story they’re trying to tell you.
Speaking of stories, this is one of those matches that I cannot stress enough how important it is that you go watch it for yourself first. I’m even going to give you a few lines of leeway so that nothing is accidentally spoiled for you if you scrolled down a whole bunch by accident.
Okay…have you watched the match yet? Good. Here we go:
I thought the booking here was genius. I was initially skeptical of the turn from a booking point of view. Not because of any logic issues (I am fine with the explanation that “the match beyond” was allowed to start when all reasonable participants were in the ring rather than some sort of strict letter of the law interpretation where the match shouldn’t have been allowed to start because Dakota and Teagan were never in the ring, although I will admit that if they hadn’t explained it to us I wouldn’t have been very happy with it) or because they turned a big match like this into more of an angle than a match and thus “cheapened” War Games or anything like that.
The reason I was skeptical was because I was afraid that they were going to take the cowardly “protect everybody” route. “The babyfaces have been screwed and are at a numbers disadvantage, so if they lose they’re not really losing and no one gets hurt.” F*ck that bullsh*t. THAT would cheapen War Games by having it not be the be-all, end-all that it’s supposed to be and not resolve anything.
And they didn’t even go the ROH vs. CZW route by having the team made up of a disparate group of heels fall apart at a key moment, either, thus evening the odds. They put the babyfaces over cleanly, despite a four on two disadvantage. And they emphasized that by having Rhea Ripley pin NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler clean in the middle of the ring. No one can possibly watch this match and think that Candice and Rhea didn’t deserve to win and that Rhea is not the clear #1 contender to the NXT Women’s Title.
I also can’t help but gush over the beautiful layout of the finishing sequence. That handcuff spot was wonderful because they waited long enough to forget about the handcuffs, so that they were a huge surprise when they did come into play again, and both the symbolism of Rhea handcuffing herself to Shayna and thus showing no fear of her as well as the poetic justice of the weapon Shayna introduced being used to set up her own downfall were fantastic. The little sequence they worked after the handcuffs were on was full of great twists and turns, and the finish looked BRUTAL.
And, yes, of course there were a bunch of other big, crazy spots in the match. It’s War Games. Of course there were. But none of those spots were particularly memorable other than being big spots. But I will say that these women were put in a rather challenging position for the overall whole of the match because they had to go for a long time with a heel numbers advantage and what seemed like no real chance of a comeback without the match feeling like it was dragging, and they managed to succeed. This was a FANTASTIC match.
WINNER CHALLENGES FOR THE NXT TITLE TOMORROW NIGHT AT SURVIVOR SERIES 2019:
Killian Dain vs. Pete Dunne vs. Damian Priest - 8.25/10
They did a lot of awesome stuff with the usual three-way story, but it definitely overstayed its welcome a bit and started to drag.
MATT RIDDLE vs. FINN BALOR - 8.5/10
AWESOME! Balor’s selling in particular was great, but everything about his was awesome and you should go out of your way to see it.
WAR GAMES MATCH:
Undisputed Era vs. Tommaso Ciampa, Keith Lee, Dominic Dijakovic, & Kevin Owens - 7.75/10
The violence here was great, but I thought it definitely went too long and started to drag. They also fell victim to trying to be WAY too cute at times, making things feel very forced. The worst of it was the finish, where Cole and Ciampa were fighting on the top of the cage forever but with all of the other tables set up there they were you knew those two weren’t going to do their spot until everyone else from UE got put through a table first. Stuff like that. Owens was a good surprise, though with the way the announcers framed it, I don’t think he is staying in NXT but rather just getting revenge on UE for whatever they did to him on Raw.
This was another awesome TakeOver show, but it definitely had its flaws. Too many of the matches (really only two, but that was half the card) dragged, and the lack of titles being on the line made the show not feel very important. It was as if the thing we’re supposed to care about (titles) was taking a back seat to the calendar-prescribed gimmick, and that is… well… a very WWE thing to do, and NXT needs to do everything it can to not be like the main roster.
STUPID ANNOUNCER QUOTES
1. Beth Phoenix- “The NXT locker room, they’ve been hustling, grinding, across all three brands, and that’s testament to the history we’re going to see here tonight.”
Beth has been doing this thing for a while now where she just says this ridiculous word-salad bullsh*t. It’s like Matt Striker, but without him also trying to show us how much of a nerd he is or desperately begging for us to tell him that he’s a good announcer. I know it’s been a while since Lucha Underground, but you should all know by know that if I liken an announcers’ commentary to that of Matt Striker, it is in no way a complement. This one was bad enough that I almost gave Nigel an honorary stupid announcer quote for responding to it by saying “that’s right, Beth!”