Welcome one and all to the official TJRWrestling preview of NXT’s upcoming Takeover presentation, WarGames. On August 5, 1988, I attended my first ever wrestling show. Jim Crockett Promotions brought NWA action to the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles, California and their main event that evening would be something known as WarGames. Dusty Rhodes, Lex Luger, The Road Warriors, & Paul Ellering took on The Four Horsemen with JJ Dillion and when that night was over, my life was changed forever. WarGames has always been my favorite gimmick match since then. Even when it was bastardized at the end of WCW (WarGames 2000 anyone?), it still had a special place in my heart. I’ve hoped for YEARS that Vince would see the appeal of the match and when we got a DVD set dedicated specifically to the match, I thought we had come to that point. Shield vs. Wyatts. Nexus vs. WWE. Raw vs. Smackdown. Plenty of opportunities that would’ve made sense for this match. It never happened though. Here we are though, and Triple H has revived it for his latest Takeover project in Houston. The day the match was announced(spoiled) online, I bought my tickets. Houston is a 4 hour drive and is well worth making to see my favorite match come back to life. It wouldn’t be WWE though if they didn’t change what wasn’t broken. How does I feel about these changes? I’ll get to that. We have a decent undercard to get through first, with some really intriguing matchups.

Kassius Ohno vs. Lars Sullivan

Triple H’s Frankenstein project makes his Takeover debut in a match that came together very suddenly and with no story behind it. Ohno felt he had a lot of momentum going his way (debatable) and wanted to cash in on that momentum by challenging Sullivan. Judging by Sullivan’s demeanor towards Ohno on this week’s episode of NXT, he doesn’t feel very challenged by Ohno and thinks it’s funny that Ohno would challenge him. When I look at this card, I feel like this could be the most physical Takeover of all time as the matchups just lend to a lot of hard hitting action sure to be. These two are no exception. I love the progression of Sullivan. At some point, Triple H has to rely on guy he’s created himself instead of constantly just plugging holes with guys on the indy circuit. With the popularity of The Young Bucks and Cody Rhodes, the indy scene has never been hotter. There will be plenty of stars that will choose to stay where they are than go to WWE, just because it’s WWE. So the progression of Sullivan, Velveteen Dream, & Authors of Pain is not just huge for NXT now, but for WWE as a whole down the road. Ohno has good matches when he’s motivated, which worries me in this match because how motivated will he be when he’s clearly there to make Sullivan look good? It’s the next step in Sullivan’s progression and I’m excited to see how he takes it.

Prediction: Lars Sullivan

Aleister Black vs. The Velveteen Dream

This is the sleeper match on the card for me. This storyline has been the most interesting and intriguing to me in all the undercard matches. It’s a simple story of the young up and comer wanting respect from the grizzled vet that’s seen it all. I’ve loved how TVD has had a serious/mean streak added to his character and is not just all flamboyance and show. He needs to be taken seriously in the ring to make everything work, and they’ve done a great job with that. Black has been the perfect fodder for him as well. They could not be more polar opposites and the story that has played out between them with Black refusing to acknowledge any of TVD’s actions has been really well done for both parties. I have a soft spot for TVD as I had to suffer through that entire Tough Enough season for TJR (you’re all welcome) and it’s been great to see someone from that season grind it out and find his niche with the company. He was clearly the most charasmatic and passionate member of that show, and that has shined through in how he’s immersed himself in the Velveteen Dream character. This match is really a toss up. I feel they have big plans for Black moving forward as they’ve always presented him as a special attraction, however, a win here for TVD would instantly catapult him into a different level for NXT. A win or a loss is the difference between Tyler Breeze & Elias Samson (talking strictly NXT here).  I think they’ll do their best to make TVD look like a million bucks, but ultimately they’ve probably invested more into Black and he’s got more to work with currently.

Prediction: Aleister Black

NXT Women’s Championship – Fatal 4 Way
Peyton Royce vs. Kairi Sane vs. Ember Moon vs. Nikki Cross

There’s a saying where you can interchange any number of famous coaches, athletes, politicians, etc. that states, “you don’t want to follow xxx, you want to follow the person after that.” The winner of this match will be in that unenviable position of following the Babe Ruth of NXT, Asuka. This match has four very credible contenders that all have a stake to winning this match. Kairi Sane is the Mae Young Classic winner and a favorite of the “indy darling” crowd. She’s majestic in everything she does and her Insane elbow drop is a sight to behold. Peyton Royce is the lone heel in this match, which is a dynamic NXT hasn’t seen in it’s champion since Sasha Banks over two years ago. Asuka walked that line a couple times but never fully committed. Peyton with Billie as a heater would be a new dynamic for the title and something that I think if you’re needing to reset the division, would be a perfect route to take. Nikki Cross is the overall fan favorite that has the most momentum behind her. She’s the star of Sanity and I don’t think it’s arguable. That’s not a knock on the gentlemen of that group either. Her crowd reactions only grow with every appearance and someone with her type of character could be a lot of fun as champion. Then, there’s Ember Moon. The woman who came just this close to beating Asuka, but never could get over the hump. Now she’s been labeled as not being able to win the big one. I’m not sure if that’s a dead giveaway for her winning or for maybe something more dramatic like a heel turn. I tend to think it’s more of the latter. I don’t necessarily want Billie Kay to help Peyton win the match, but I think it’s inevitable. To move on from Asuka, you need to take the division in a totally different route. Kairi would feel too similar, Ember’s opportunity feels like it’s passed, and Nikki is already at a point where she’s so good that she doesn’t need the title. So with all that said, I think we’re going to have an Iconic new champion.

Prediction: New NXT Women’s Champion, Peyton Royce

NXT Championship Match
Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas (w/Zelina Vega)

Can we drop the “Cien” from Almas’ name? WWE knew that Carlito Carribean Cool was too long of a name, how have they not figured it out here? Ok, rant over. Everything else about Almas as of late has been gold, and it can all be attributed to Vega. Almas was on the verge of being released during his ill-fated babyface start in NXT. Even when he turned heel, he still didn’t look fully comfortable, but was at least having strong matches while making his opponents look good. Then, Vega appears, and you can literally see the switch flipped in Almas. She has been perfect for him. It’s an odd matchup as I’m sure most of us felt when we left the last Takeover event, Drew vs. Adam Cole was a sure thing. Almas, even after a surprising win over Johnny Gargano, was nowhere near the title picture. Sometimes you just catch lightning in a bottle though, and with WarGames being the attraction, this is a perfect opportunity for someone like Almas to get a title shot when he probably wouldn’t have otherwise. I think so highly of Almas and Vega as a pair that I wouldn’t object to a title change here, and it would make sense in the layout of the show to do one here as it won’t be the last match of the show. I just think that the money is in Drew vs. Cole at Mania weekend and Drew moving on to the main roster after that. I know this isn’t exactly a “sexy” match, but this will be a hell of a battle in my opinion.

Prediction: Drew McIntyre retains

WarGames
The Undisputed Era vs. Sanity vs. Roderick Strong & Authors of Pain (w/Paul Ellering)

That video package gives me goosebumps every time I see it. Like I said at the beginning, WarGames is special to me and I’m excited to see it in any incarnation. Yes, it bothers me that there’s no roof on the cages. Yes, it bothers me that the teams are coming out of shark cages instead of all at ringside surrounding the cage. But it’s still the essence of WarGames. It’s two rings, teams entering at certain intervals, and the match can’t end until everyone has entered. These nine guys know what this means to be in the first WarGames under the WWE banner and all are super talented. They will make sure this is an unforgettable match. The only rule change that truly annoys me is the shark cages. It’s so forced. They could all be at ringside like the original incarnations. The no roof doesn’t bother me beyond nostalgia reasons. The roof on the cages were notorious for leading to injuries. JJ Dillion in the original WarGames, Brian Pillman in 1991, it does make the offense limited.

As for the participants, I really have to giving the booking team credit on how all nine participants have been built up leading to this match. Sanity became a natural babyface with their presentation, entrance, and look. The crowd has really gotten behind them. The Undisputed Era have appeal oozing out of them and are just as good individually as they are collectively. Adam Cole is arguably the biggest star on the brand already. Authors of Pain are another homegrown creation from Triple H that have exceeded all expections. Roderick Strong is the wild card. He’s been searching for that NXT Title win to bring validation to his career and has come up short every time, through no fault of his own. His pairing with AOP was never explained beyond being in the ring with them when he decided to not join The Undisputed Era. Has the fact that Roddy has come up short so often, typically due to nefarious ways, made him finally decide he needs a change? Perhaps something to “shock the system”? I’d like to see Sanity win the match as a big babyface win for them would really solidfy them as a top act, but as I said, I think Adam Cole is the biggest star on the brand and you have to protect him. I would suspect Alexander Wolfe will be the first one in and will have to go the entire match underhanded. EY and Dain will come in at the very end and clean house, but then Roddy will finally make the turn and The Undisputed Era will reign.

Prediction: The Undisputed Era

Our fearless leader John Canton will have our live coverage of Takeover since I’ll be there live. I’ll be back next week with a live report of the show and my thoughts on the matches that they’ll tape for next week’s NXT, which includes Johnny Gargano vs. Pete Dunne for the UK Title. Until next time, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do… but if you do, name it after me!