WWE NXT Takeover: WarGames 2020
December 6, 2020
Capitol Wrestling Center
Watch: WWE Network
Meet our reviewers:
Steve Case: Snowflakes have been known to fly when Steve straps in for War Games. Outside of the Strap Match, this should be your typical high quality, entertaining wrestling show. With any WWE product these days, the problem is that it’s hard to care about any of it. Best you can hope for are a quality two to three hours of wrestling, and try to forget that none of it will matter in a week. Follow Steve on Twitter @Coachcase44.
Sean Sedor: With his Eagles getting blown out by the Packers, and a Sunday Night game between the Chiefs and the Broncos that will probably end up being a blowout, Sean decided to hop on this TakeOver review to give Steve a helping hand. The WarGames matches should be fun, so Sean is looking forward to the show. You can follow Sean on Twitter @SASedor2994, and you can check out his YouTube channel (just search his name) for some F1 video game content.
WarGames Match: Candice LeRae, Dakota Kai, Raquel Gonzalez & Toni Storm def. Ember Moon, Io Shirai, Rhea Ripley & Shotzi Blackheart
Steve: First things first, War Pigs by Black Sabbath will always pop me. Saw Sabbath live in Detroit on their farewell tour. They opened with that and it’s still one of the coolest moments I’ve been to.
Not more can be said about how dumb it is that the face team has the advantage, so I’m not going to try. Kai and Moon start the match. They have a fun 5 minutes of action where both women looked really sharp and were able to include some unique offense using the structure. Shotzi joins them as the first new entrant, but grabs a tool box under the ring before entering. Things get sort of clunky for a bit with Shotzi until Gonzalez comes in to even the odds for the heels (ugh). Raquel comes in and starts throwing everyone around and it rules, at one point using Kai as a weapon. Right before Shotzi’s team regained the advantage with Rhea, Kai would springboard double clothesline Moon and Shotzi in a cool spot. Rhea then appropriately cleans house, probably in another attempt to build her up and feed her to Charlotte. Rhea then gets into the tool box, grabs a hammer and nails Dakota with it, before throwing her into the cage like a rag doll. We get a half hearted hoss lady brawl until Toni Storm enters, not before bringing a bunch of kendo sticks under the ring. Wouldn’t Shotzi have seen those? Anyway, Toni barely uses the sticks before things slow down again. This segment ends hilariously in a double ring corner spot where Ember moon counts for them all very loudly so the moves go off in unison.
Shirai also goes under the ring to find a ladder before entering, also in the same spot. Raquel and Kai both prevent Shirai from getting in the ring, buying time to keep things even….for the heels. Candice is the last entrant, but Io stops her at the cage door. Indi Hartwell then appears and takes Io out. Team Candice take control in the cage, beating down everyone with kendo sticks. This is until Io finally gets in the match by climbing to the top of the cage, puts a trash can over her head, and dives onto everyone in a cool spot. Io, along with the rest of Team Shotzi then run wild leading to a near fall after an Io moonsault. The two teams proceeded to kind of randomly do things to one another as we pass the 30 minute call. We then got a little finisher spam from the ladies for several near falls. We are reminded how this all started with Candice destroying Shotzi’s tank before Shotzi hits a senton onto Candice from a ladder. This is starting to drag a bit. Raquel and Io struggle mightily to set up the finish of her powerbombing Io through a ladder in between the two rings for the pin. The first thirty minutes flew by, clunky as they may have been at times. After that this really dragged on leading to a sloppy finish, that now makes your faces look weak and dumbb. There was a lot of good and a lot of sloppiness here. Good enough, but forgettable. ***1/4
Sean: So much like last year, the Women’s WarGames match is kicking off the show. Team Candice picked Dakota Kai to start for their team, while Team Shotzi picked Ember Moon to start for their team. Speaking of Shotzi, she came out in an upgraded tank, which was certainly something. The two of them were having a nice exchange in the opening period, and it was at this point that I remembered that the babyfaces weirdly have the advantage in this one. Ember did some cool moves on Dakota into the cage, but Dakota was able to turn the tables before Shotzi Blackheart entered the match with a toolbox. While the toolbox doesn’t get used right away, Shotzi goes right to work on Dakota. We get a nice Doomsday Dropkick combo before Raquel Gonzales enters, and the heels immediately gain the advantage.
Rhea Ripley is the next to enter for Team Shotzi, and she goes right after Raquel. Rhea went into the toolbox and used a hammer to do damage to Dakota. She then got into it with Raquel once again, as Toni Storm evened the odds for Team Candice. Toni brought out some kendo sticks and took off some of the turnbuckle pads (clearly she’s been watching some Toru Yano tapes lately). The heels used the kendo sticks to beat down on the babyfaces, before we got dueling Tower of Doom spots in the two rings. Io Shirai then enters for Team Shotzi, and sends a Ladder in the ring. However, while she keeps throwing weapons into the rings, the heels prevent her from entering the cage, and Toni uses her belt to keep the cage door closed.
Candice finally enters, and Indi Hartwell jumps Io from behind before helping to get more weapons into the ring. This allowed the heels to have a four-on-three advantage as they beat the crap out of Team Shotzi. Candice tried to pin Io, but the referee wouldn’t count, since Io wasn’t in the ring. We then got an insane moment, as Io entered the match by doing The Great Sasuke’s trash can spot off the top of the cage. We then get into the WarGames portion of the match, where pinfalls can finally take place. There were various nearfalls and big bumps at this point. Shotzi did a senton off a relatively short ladder onto Candice for a nearfall, but the finish saw Raquel Gonzalez pin Io Shirai after a powerbomb through a ladder bridge that was set up between the two rings. So she’s clearly getting a title shot at some point.
This was a pretty good match for the most part, but it was also….unspectacular in other aspects as well. There were a number of cool spots (particularly the finish and Io Shirai’s tribute to The Great Sasuke). At other points, the match was just….kinda there. While WWE is clearly trying to invoke the original WarGames from NWA/WCW, it’s very obvious when you watch this WarGames match (and all the others they’ve done) that they’re trying to be more like TNA’s Lethal Lockdown with all of the weapons. Unfortunately, they have no natural way to get all these weapons in the ring, so it takes forever for some of the wrestlers to get their foreign objects in the ring. All the women involved in this one worked hard (without question), and I suppose they did a decent job of giving the heels the advantage when they were at a clear disadvantage when it came to the order of entry. However, this was by no means great. ***1/2
— WWE (@WWE) December 7, 2020
Tommaso Ciampa def. Timothy Thatcher
Steve: Can we just put Thatcher on NXT UK and get another WALTER match? After that Ilja match, I’m confident that can happen. Instead he’s having a grapple with Ciampa in a meaningless match. These two are capable of having that kind of match, but it would never happen here. This crowd noise is so bad. The crowd isn’t going to sound like Austin helping Mankind on RAW through the duration of Ciampa’s focused leg work. Thatcher is in control for the majority of this middle of hour two NXT TV match. The work here is fine and on the stiff side, there’s just no reason or stakes or point to this match at all. It’s at a snail’s pace and has no life to it. The finish of this finally shows some life when Thatcher’s ear explodes hardway and Ciampa starts to pummel Thatcher. The finish saw Ciampa hit his rope assisted DDT for the win. This was a slog until the blood and into the finish. Solid finish, that doesn’t really make up for what came before it. **1/4
Sean: It’s kind of funny how this match stands out as the only regular wrestling match on the entire card. Zero gimmicks attached. In a stark contrast to the opener, we get mat work to start this one off. After the first few minutes, the action takes a pause when Ciampa indicates that he’s having issues with his neck. Thatcher capitalizes, and immediately starts going after the neck. Ciampa is finally able to mount a comeback with a series of clotheslines, and eventually hits a superplex. Thatcher cuts off Ciampa’s momentum with a throat chop, and a standing guillotine gets broken up when both tumble to the floor. The pace picked up a little bit after some big Ciampa knee strikes, which busted open Thatcher’s left ear. Some more back and forth between the two led to Ciampa hitting Willow’s Bell for the win.
This was definitely a physical match, and the wrestling throughout was very solid, but I don’t think it was anything super special either. It seemed like it went a tad too long, and felt like a match that was trying to be epic when it really wasn’t. I know some have really enjoyed Thatcher’s presentation in NXT, but the dirty secret is that he’s pretty much been a glorified jobber since winning the Fight Pit Match against Matt Riddle. He loses constantly. I guess this win sets Ciampa up for….something. What exactly? I don’t know. ***1/4
— WWE (@WWE) December 7, 2020
Strap Match: Dexter Lumis def. Cameron Grimes
Steve: If this isn’t putrid garbage, it will exceed the bar I’ve set for it. That’s what this build has been. And with that, Grimes brings his own strap and gets the referee to allow it. Take that referee’s license! Grimes then attacks and beats on Lumis before the bell. Lumis gets the upper hand, and after about five minutes of action, both are strapped up and we get the bell to start the match. From there, Lumis proceeds to beat and throw Grimes all over the ring area and it kind of rules. Grimes finally gets the advantage back after a back body drop on the cement. Grimes put a blindfold bag over Lumis’ head (do NOT watch that shit match from a couple weeks ago) and uses the strap all over Lumis’ back. These two would proceed to beat the hell out of each other and it’s surprisingly good. Grimes introduces a chair at one point for some reason. There’s already a strap, you don’t need a chair. The finish would see the two counter one another trying throw each other into a chair. Lumis would tie up Grimes legs to finally get Grimes to face plant the chair, then would choke him out. Surprisingly strong match. ***1/2
Sean: So this was a match that was setup by all the wacky shenanigans that have been going on with these two over the last several weeks. Grimes brought his own strap, and jumped Lumis before he got attached to the strap. Lumis finally fights back and puts on the strap to officially start the match. They brawl on the floor some more, and at one point, Grimes tries to use the sack that contained the original strap to blindfold Lumis. However, Lumis was able to fight back, and started whipping Grimes with the strap. We got some decent back and forth in the closing minutes, and eventually, Lumis put away Grimes with a choke assisted by the strap. This was similar to the previous match in that it felt a little too long, but the action itself was pretty solid for what it was. It’s an incredibly dumb feud, but I suppose I have to give these guys some credit, as they did have a relatively solid strap match. While I couldn’t possibly care about the outcome, they did put in the effort, so I’ll give them that. ***1/4
— WWE NXT (@WWENXT) December 7, 2020
WWE NXT North American Title: Johnny Gargano def. Leon Ruff (c) & Damian Priest
Steve: A crow shows up pre match showing Kross is returning soon, interrupting the War Games play set commercial that 8 year old me would have killed for.
LOL at Priest barely getting an entrance You know you’re small when you make Johnny Gargano look huge. Pretty strong action between variations of these three up until Priest would power bomb Ruff through the barricade in a pretty dumb looking spot. It almost looked like Ruff was just barely heavy enough to knock it down. Ruff was taken to the back by referees to allow Priest and Gargano go at it for a few minutes. Ruff would come out of the back and attack Gargano leading to a blockbuster stunner for a nearfall. In a creative spot, Gargano got Priest tied up in the bottom two ropes while getting Ruff in the Gargano escape. Priest would use his height to get out and break it up before Ruff tapped. Things were going well until a bunch of Ghostfaces show up to beat down Priest. Priest takes them all out in spectacular fashion, looking tremendous while doing it. Priest looked like he was going to put Gargano away, until a Ghostface hits his with a lead pipe, taking him out to the outside. Gargano would get the better of Ruff, hitting his Final Beat finish for the win. Really good match with all three getting time to shine. The Ghostface stuff might have made sense to the story, but that doesn’t mean it’s good. It rather sucks, actually. Post match, the final Ghostface takes off his mask to reveal himself as Austin Theory, who then starts to yell in the camera, “It was me, Austin!” LOL this company. ***1/2
Sean: It’s pretty stupid that, in the buildup to this match, Damian Priest has seemingly cared more about embarrassing Johnny Gargano than getting his title back. Should be noted that he lost the title via interference in that match back at Halloween Havoc. Right at the start, Gargano had a strategy of trying to keep Priest out of the ring while going after Ruff, but that didn’t work out for him too well. Meanwhile, Priest was treating Ruff….the champion….like a total non-entity, constantly telling him to get out of his way. Priest gets frustrated to the point that he sends Ruff through a barricade on the floor with the Razor’s Edge. Ruff gets taken away, and at this point, this turned into a singles match with Gargano and Priest. They go back and forth for a few minutes before Ruff returns and starts running wild. It then turns into a singles match with Ruff and Gargano after the latter tied Priest up in the ropes in the other ring. Priest is able to escape that predicament, and nearly has the match won. However, that was the signal for several Ghostface characters to come in and attack him. They just serve as bodies for him to dive onto on the floor. Another Ghostface smacked Priest with a pipe, and that allowed Gargano to hit Ruff with One Final Beat to recapture the North American Title. The Ghostface with the pipe was revealed after the match to be Austin Theory.
I feel like a broken record saying this, but here we had another match on this card that, while pretty good as a whole, felt a little too long. Of course, the fact that they’re still running with this Ghostface gimmick in December is totally absurd, but at least they finally paid it off here with the Austin Theory reveal. The action throughout this one was really good, and I probably would’ve rated it a bit higher if not for all the interference at the end. It should be interesting to see where Ruff goes from here, now that he lost the North American Title. In all honesty, it wouldn’t shock me if he just fades back down the card. ***1/2
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— WWE NXT (@WWENXT) December 7, 2020
WarGames Match: The Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly & Roderick Strong) def. Danny Burch, Oney Lorcan, Pat McAfee & Pete Dunne
Steve: Kyle O’Reily and Pete Dunne start this match and this can get injected right into my veins. Dunne looks like he’s in unbelievably great shape. These two proceed to have a five minute sprint that makes me want to see what they can do with 15-20. Oney Lorcan enters the match. Things go about as well as you’d think for O’Reily being in there with Dunne and Lorcan. Fish enters the ring and runs wild to even things up for his partner. Fish looked on fire here. Imagine this tag match. Now imagine it anywhere but WWE/NXT.
Danny Burch enters, but not before he grabs a cricket bat from under the ring. Just…why? This isn’t necessary. This definitely brings things down a bit from what was a great match to this point. Next in is Roderick Strong, who is attacked immediately by the tag champions. He quickly regains the advantage and cleans house. McAfee enters last for his team and grabs tables and a ton of weapons to bring in the match. These matches didn’t need weapons. They just can’t help themselves. The tables all have a different UE member’s name on them. McAfee moonsault’s off the top rope through Strong on his table. Cole finally enters and sprays a fire extinguisher, then wields a chair to take down everyone but McAfee. The two look they will square off in the center, but Dunne gets in the way.
Things break down after O’Reily trash talks McAfee into a chair from Cole. We get brawling until McAfee and Cole are isolated in one ring. McAfee put Cole into the figure four until Cole flipped the pressure. After some wild brawling and a failed table spot, McAfee finally goes through a table at the hands of Cole. Undisputed Era then stands up the other three between the ropes and cage and take them out like a firing squad, leaving all four with McAfee. This does not go well For The Brand.
This would seem to be the logical match conclusion. But no! For some reason this match just continues. This all leads to the moment we’ve been waiting for, McAfee on top of the cage. He does a swanton off the top to the group…..who doesn’t catch him. WOW. They kind of caught his upper body, but he still hit HARD. We end up how we began with Dunne and O’Reily going at it. Dunne hits the bitter end for a great nearfall, only we are now ten minutes past where this should have ended. O’Reily hits a brainbuster on Dunne on the steel grate attaching the two rings for another nearfall. A lot of stuff happens randomly after that, culminating in a Panama Sunrise from Cole on McAfee….for A NEAR FALL. LOL WUT.
FINALLY, we get a finish when O’Reily hits a knee on Oney through a chair. There was a great match here that’s half as long and half as ridiculous. Still a solid effort from all and McAfee took some crazy bumps. Fun, flawed match to end a flawed and fun at times show. ***1/2
Sean: Imagine telling someone a year ago that Pat McAfee would be working a WarGames match, while leading a stable that included Pete Dunne, Oney Lorcan, and Danny Burch. It’s pretty crazy, but hey…that’s 2020 in a nutshell, I guess. Anyway, Kyle O’Reilly and Pete Dunne are selected to start the match for their respective teams, which makes sense, given that both guys are more than capable of going the distance. They have a pretty entertaining exchange during this opening period, until Oney Lorcan enters the match for McAfee’s team. Of course, it’s at this point where the heels are able to gain the edge, but O’Reilly does put up a fight. The next entrant is Bobby Fish, who rushes to the cage to help his longtime tag team partner. They go to work on Dunne and Lorcan with some double teams before Danny Burch tilts the odds back in Team McAfee’s favor.
Burch brings an orange bag with him in the ring, and takes out two cricket bats. Team McAfee used the cricket bats to beat the crap out of reDRagon until Roderick Strong came in and ran wild on them. Dunne, Lorcan, and Burch were able to survive that onslaught, and regained the edge in the ring by the time Pat McAfee came in. He immediately goes under the ring and gets four tables out, with each of them having the name of an Undisputed Era member written on them. McAfee managed to put Strong through a table with a moonsault, and the heels gloat until Adam Cole enters the match and sprays them all in the face with a fire extinguisher. Cole finally gets his hands on McAfee and things break down into a massive brawl.
McAfee locks Cole in the Figure Four while the rest of his team holds off Undisputed Era, but Cole was able to reverse the hold and put the pressure on McAfee. We did get one table botch where the table didn’t break, but they recovered it quickly, as Strong put Dunne and Lorcan through the table with a top rope splash. Cole then sent McAfee through a table, which set up Undisputed Era destroying Dunne, Lorcan, and Burch in one of the rings. This left McAfee all alone in one of the rings, and Undisputed Era went to town on him. It looked as though Cole was going to punt McAfee, but the rest of McAfee’s team came to his rescue. After a series of top rope moves, we got the typical standoff spot, which led to McAfee doing a swanton off the top of the cage. Of course, because this is WWE, barely anyone in the pile even caught McAfee on the dive. O’Reilly and Dunne had some more fun back and forth, but then it came back down to Cole vs. McAfee. It looked like Cole was going to pin McAfee after the Panama Sunrise, but McAfee kicked out. They went another two minutes, and O’Reilly ended up getting the pin after a top rope knee drop to Oney Lorcan, who had a chair on his head.
This was definitely better than the Women’s WarGames from earlier in the night, but it had the same problem that pretty much this entire show had…..it went a little longer than it needed to. I guess to be fair, that’s also been a problem with pretty much all of these WarGames matches since NXT brought the match back. That final period once everyone gets in the cage is always very long, and it’s clear that NXT still hasn’t learned their lesson with that. At this rate, I don’t think they’re ever going to change that, so expect (at least) the Men’s WarGames match to go very long for as long as NXT does this match. On the bright side, everyone involved worked their ass off, including Pat McAfee. I’m sure I’m not the person to say this, but he probably would’ve been a superstar wrestler in another life. O’Reilly getting the win over Lorcan likely signals an upcoming tag title shot, which should be fun (whether his partner is Fish, Strong, or maybe even Cole). Ultimately, this ended up being match of the night for me, but I don’t think you can call it a great match. ***3/4
— WWE (@WWE) December 7, 2020