John: Welcome to the TJRWrestling NXT Takeover WarGames Preview. It’s always a very good PPV with two WarGames matches featuring the men and women of NXT. I think the absence of the NXT Title is unfortunate, but there’s not much they can do about that since Finn Balor broke his jaw in a match two months ago at the last Takeover. Hopefully Balor is back in action soon, and we might see Karrion Kross (the NXT Champion before Balor) return in the near future as well based on recent comments from Triple H. Anyway, there are a lot of good things to talk about on this show. I always enjoy the WarGames concept even though it will be weird seeing it at the WWE Performance Center setup instead of an arena with a big crowd. That’s 2020, though. Nothing is ever that simple this year.
Joining me for the preview are two guys that used to write about NXT weekly for us on TJRWrestling: Kurt Zamora and Lance Augustine. Let’s get to it.
Kurt: WarGames has been my favorite gimmick match since I saw it live when I was three years old in Los Angeles during the old Jim Crockett Promotion days. I saw the first NXT WarGames in Houston and this has become my favorite show of the year for NXT. This year has another duo of kickass WarGames matches and I am stoked to preview this show and watch it live on Sunday.
Lance: It’s time for another Takeover event. If there is anything we have learned from these shows is that NXT very rarely misses with them. Pat McAfee and Adam Cole having another face-off, this time inside of WarGames, is enough to sell me on the show by itself. Couple that with a stacked Women’s WarGames and some solid undercard matches and we may be in for a hell of a night. I have faith in this show delivering, but again, that’s one of the safest bets someone can make.
(Note: All graphics are from WWE.)
Tommaso Ciampa vs. Timothy Thatcher
Kurt: I think this year, more than any other, has really hampered NXT’s long term plans in terms of who’s on their face and heel sides. Finn Balor started the year in a fresh heel turn, one that no one saw coming, and now he’s already back to a babyface. Seemingly before the heel turn could get to second gear. Tommaso Ciampa has followed the same path. After being the sacrificial lamb for Karrion Kross, they took him off TV for a bit and had him come back and absolutely destroy Jake Atlas, even throwing him off a stretcher. It was a tremendous job of freshening him up and making him a heel again. And even sooner than they did Balor, he’s a babyface again. I get it, he’s “Mr. NXT” and talks in interviews about how he never wants to go to Raw or Smackdown. That makes it really hard to boo him in NXT. It’s just been a weird dynamic seeing them not sticking to drastic changes.
Thatcher is one of those really good midcard guys and a strong addition to make up for some of those call-ups I mentioned earlier. I love his wrestling school segments. They’re unique, and gives someone who is very bare bones, some much needed personality. I think this will be the start of a very good, hard hitting rivalry. Ciampa has outsmarted Thatcher the last two weeks, so I think Thatcher wins this but again, this is just the start for them.
Prediction: Timothy Thatcher
Lance: This is going to be a straight-up fight. We already know what Ciampa is capable of and Thatcher, although a newer talent in NXT, has proven he has the goods as well. The cage fight he had with Matt Riddle to close out an episode of NXT was really good, and it seems like he has been moving upward ever since. Ciampa is known for being brutal in the ring and I think these two styles and going to work well together. It’s going to be a tough fight, and it has my interest. As far as a winner, Ciampa’s days are counting down and he will do his part in putting some of the younger talents over.
Winner: Timothy Thatcher
John: I get the sense that this will be a match where the “newer” guy Thatcher comes close to winning many times, he’ll get a lot of offense and in the end it’s going to be a win for Ciampa. I wish Ciampa was in the heel role, but I think NXT’s bosses see him as a bit of a tweener that can feud with anybody on either side. It’s time to see what Thatcher can do in a Takeover style match, so Ciampa is the guy for him. By the time we get to the next Takeover, Ciampa might be a heel again facing a rising babyface. Without real crowds there, face/heel doesn’t matter as much. I expect a technical wrestling match with a lot of submissions and counters, but in the end I’ll go with a Ciampa win after about 12 minutes or so.
Winner: Tommaso Ciampa
Strap Match: Dexter Lumis vs. Cameron Grimes
Kurt: No one has done more to boost their stock in my eyes over the last couple months than Cameron Grimes. When he first came on NXT, he had the “turn the TV” heat with me. Couldn’t stand him. But now as he’s developed his character and let his personality come out, he’s one of my favorites in the brand. His acting during this storyline with Lumis has made it far more entertaining than it had any right being. Not only that, but I remember thinking how are they going to make Lumis a babyface, but Grimes has worked his ass off to do just that. Lumis is still missing something with me, but he has enough uniqueness in terms of incorporating his art into his character, along with things like crawling on his knuckles, that I’m still interested in his character and want to see more.
These two are clearly hard workers and I think they will do what they can to stand out on this show. This could be the most physical and violent Takeover ever when you see who’s on the card and what they’re known for. Having a strap match adds to that thought and I expect some tough shots given to one another. Grimes has done so much to impress me lately, I wouldn’t mind seeing him use a win here to catapult him into a title shot against Balor. NXT is light on top heels and I think Grimes can be a challenger for the time being.
Prediction: Cameron Grimes
Lance: Lumis has found a cool character and has been playing mind games with Grimes as of late. This has allowed Grimes to let his more comedic side come out and it’s been working for him so far. There will be nowhere to run for either man in this match though and I am sure we are going to get solid work out of both. Strap matches are entertaining, most of the time because it isn’t something you see all that often. So, the general consensus that I have come to is that this match will be solid, but nothing spectacular. They will probably get a good 12-15 minutes to go at each other.
Winner: Dexter Lumis
John: I’m a huge fan of the Cameron Grimes character. I think the whole “to the moon” catchphrase and the over the top mannerisms are hilarious. I also know he’s very talented in the ring just based on what I’ve seen from his career in WWE as well as in other wrestling promotions. To me, Grimes is one of the guys on NXT right now that has the most long term potential on this brand as well as if he ever gets to be on Raw or Smackdown.
I think a Strap Match is tough to pull off, but it makes sense considering the feud has seen Grimes running away from Lumis constantly. I’m sure there are some fans that aren’t interested in the Lumis character since he’s so different from what we normally see in WWE. I think different is good, though. With that said, I don’t really expect great matches when it comes to Lumis because it’s more about the slow pace to get over his character work. Anyway, I guess I’ll go with Lumis here although I’d rather see Grimes get a bigger push out of the two guys. If they booked a crafty finish with Grimes winning in a fluke way, that would be funny to see. I’m still going with Lumis, though.
Winner: Dexter Lumis
NXT North American Championship: Leon Ruff (c) vs. Johnny Gargano vs. Damian Priest
Kurt: The biggest problem I have with this match is I have no idea if I’m supposed to take Ruff seriously or not. He’s not a previous indy darling, having only won the Evolve tag titles in the past. I thought maybe I just wasn’t in the know with him, but that turned out not to be the case. I thought it was funny to have him beat Gargano and keep the streak going of Gargano not defending a title in NXT successfully. It really played well with Gargano being a heel now. However, for that to lead to a Takeover match, as the champion, I don’t know if I can buy that. I could be talked into it being a hell of a way to debut a character, but when it’s someone Ruff’s size, that’s where I struggle. I’m all for underdog characters. I’m just not feeling this one.
I love Gargano as a heel, something I didn’t think he would be able to play off. I hope this story of people in the Scream masks is leading to some sort of stable that he and Candice are the leaders of. I think that could be a lot of fun. That being said, I thought Priest had a ton of momentum on him when he won the NA Title and I think he needs to get the title back to get that momentum back. I think he’s got star written all over him and want to see him as one of the faces of the brand.
Prediction: New North American Champion, Damian Priest
Lance: This pits the last three NXT North American Champions against one another. When Ruff beat Gargano for the title, I don’t think I was the only one shocked by the move. Gargano just won the belt himself against Priest not too long before that and Ruff was, and still is, a relative unknown. Fast forward and now Ruff has had a few key wins against Gargano, albeit with help from Priest. This is the rare match where any one of these guys winning the title would work. You could have Ruff retain and take the rub of winning this type of match. If either Priest or Gargano walks out as champion, I could see them just staying in a feud with each other.
I think it will be a good back and forth match with some memorable spots. Hopefully, that isn’t wishful thinking. This is a tough one, but I will go with Priest regaining the title and having Gargano continue to chase him throughout the end of the year. I hope that Ruff doesn’t get lost in the shuffle if he does lose the title, though.
Winner and NEW NXT North American Champion: Damian Priest
John: It’s rare to see a triple threat match on a Takeover. They just don’t do it that match in NXT compared to how often these kinds of matches happen on Raw or Smackdown. I like the story here with Ruff as the underdog, fluke champion that really only won the title because Priest distracted Gargano and Ruff capitalized to win the title in one of NXT’s biggest upsets ever. Ruff wants to prove he’s not a joke while Gargano wants to get his title back and don’t forget that Priest got screwed out of the title after Gargano beat him thanks to help from a masked man.
This can go either way. I like that it’s unpredictable. My lean is to go with Gargano winning back the title just because I think his history of not having title reigns is shitty, so I think it’s time to give him a run that lasts a few months at least. Plus, he’s got the masked people helping him, which could lead to a reveal with Johnny leading a stable. There are a lot of guys he can feud with that would feel like fresh feuds. If Ruff retained, I’m sure it will be in a fluky way rather than some dominant win by him. Priest winning again is fine with me, but I’m ready for him to move on to other things. It wouldn’t shock me if Priest is in the Royal Rumble next month and then on Raw or Smackdown soon after that. I’ll go with Gargano in what should be an entertaining match around 15 minutes or so.
Winner and NEW NXT North American Champion: Johnny Gargano
Women’s WarGames Match (Advantage to Team Shotzi): Team Shotzi – Shotzi Blackheart, Ember Moon, Rhea Ripley and NXT Women’s Champion Io Shirai vs. Team Candice – Candice LeRae, Toni Storm, Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez
Kurt: Let’s just take a moment to appreciate how damn good the NXT Women’s division is right now. They lost Mia Yim and (maybe?) Mercedes Martinez recently, and yet never blink an eye. Tegan Nox was hurt again when they clearly had big plans for her, but yet Ember Moon returns to the brand and it stays as strong as it is. This is no slight to the men’s War Games match, as it has a hell of a story behind it, but I would not complain if this match closed the show with how much talent is in the match. NXT clearly has high hopes for Shotzi since she’s captaining the team that has the women’s champion on it. You don’t see that very often in these 8 & 10 person tag matches. Not to mention how much they used her to promote Halloween Havoc. She has a great personality and an entrance unlike anyone else, so I’m all for it. I think she can be a huge star.
Rhea Ripley seems to finally have turned the corner from the momentum she lost coming out of WrestleMania. Triple H even admitted to such in his media call for this show, talking about how this year did not go how it was planned to for her. She’s so young and such a loud personality that just jumps off the screen, I love watching her every time she’s on TV. Candice isn’t as strong a heel as her husband is, but I do find some of the things she’s done entertaining. And as I said earlier, I’d like to see some sort of stable with her and Johnny as leaders. Toni turning heel was unexpected, but I expect her to come out of this as Io’s next challenger.
This is incredibly tough to call, as both teams make sense to win. I think because the bigger stars are on Team Shotzi though, and for the first time maybe ever, the babyfaces have the advantage, I think they’ll pull out one hell of a match.
Prediction: Team Shotzi
Lance: The women’s division in NXT is some of the best women’s wrestling you will find anywhere. The depth of the roster is very good, and this match has the potential to be a show-stealer. Io Shirai being added to the mix on Wednesday really gave Team Shotzi some extra firepower. Blackheart won the ladder match on that same show to gain the advantage in the match and I don’t think that is something to be overlooked. One of the more underrated performers in the match is Toni Storm, who recently turned heel and joined that side of the equation. I have been a fan of hers since I saw her on NXT UK and she should shine in this match if given the opportunity. Ember Moon is making a comeback on this Takeover as well which gives this match a big-time feel for sure. I expect Team Shotzi to take advantage of what they gained on Wednesday and will dominate the first part of the match while going on the defensive for some of it as well. Would I be stunned If someone came off the cage in this one? Probably, but I do think that they will have some high impact spots and really show why the women’s division in NXT is the best in the world. In the end, I think Team Shotzi comes out on top and are pushed to victory by the addition of Io Shirai to the team.
Winner(s): Team Shotzi
John: My friends above both nailed it when they praised the NXT Women’s division. If you read my NXT reviews weekly, you know I do it all the time. The women’s division is the strength of the NXT brand right now with several women impressing me this year whether it’s Io Shirai as an incredible all around champion or former champions like Ripley and Moon performing at a high level. Other women like Blackheart, LeRae and Kai have all had great matches this year with Shirai, which shows how talented they are. Then there’s Raquel Gonzalez, who has taken a huge leap this year in terms of being kind of unknown earlier in the year, but now she’s thriving. I’m still not sure about Toni Storm as a heel although I have faith in the NXT creative team to make anything work.
The babyface team led by Shotzi Blackheart will get the advantage here, which means they will get to attack 2 on 1, 3 on 2 and 4 on 3 until things are evened up. I feel like they’re going to try to be creative in the match with weapons being used and perhaps other women will try to get involved like Indi Hartwell since she’s an ally of LeRae. I also wonder if there will be a heel turn by the face team where somebody like Moon or even Ripley turns on the team to help the heels win. If I had to pick one I’d say Moon is the woman that turns on her team. I just get this feeling that something big happens here. Anyway, I’m going with the heel side getting the win with Gonzalez looking the most dominant and picking up the victory for her team. The women’s WarGames match went 27 minutes last year. I can see them going a bit more than 30 minutes this year. I’m going with Team LeRae for the win.
Winners: Team Candice – Candice LeRae, Toni Storm, Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez
Men’s WarGames Match (Advantage to Team McAfee): The Undisputed Era – Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish vs. Team McAfee – Pat McAfee, Pete Dunne, Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch
Kurt: There’s a lot of things NXT deserves credit for, but the booking of Pat McAfee may be at the top of the list. This is going to be only his second match ever, yet they built an entire War Games match around him, and it’s a hell of a match up! That’s incredible. Not to mention the fact that Ridge Holland was clearly supposed to be a part of this and they had to pivot off that after his unfortunate injury. There are not many better on the mic than McAfee, which is a testament to how naturally gifted he clearly is. I’ve always been a fan of Oney Lorcan, an unsung hero of NXT for a long time, so to see him in a top spot and become tag champion has been really exciting to see. Pete Dunne is perfect for the group, a hired assassin of sorts, and he came back in incredible shape to pull off the role. He already looked like a badass, but now he looks like he could kill anyone with his bare hands.
This is a unique spot for the Undisputed Era because it’s a match they basically created and own, but now they enter it for the first time as babyfaces. I thought they were headed for a breakup with Roddy and Fish staying heel and Cole with Kyle staying faces. It looks like they’re all staying together though, and I think it’s for the best. Much like New Day, there should be no rush to break this group up. There’s a lot they can do as babyfaces now. Much like the women’s match, this is tough to call as well. It makes sense for it to end with UE making an example of McAfee and officially blowing off the feud. However, as I mentioned earlier, NXT is short on top heels. I could see them giving Team McAfee the win to keep this stable strong. Dunne could be another next challenger for Balor as well, so I could see him picking up the win for the team. I’m going to lean with that prediction, but it’s truly a toss up. I just want to see what McAfee up his sleeve.
Prediction: Team McAfee
Lance: This has a very old school WarGames feel to it. The two teams competing do not like each other and this feels like a big blowoff to the feud of the year in NXT, at least to me. Cole and McAfee have already faced off one on one and the match was way better than it had any business being seeing how it was McAfee’s first match ever. McAfee aligning with Burch and Lorcan was a good way to put him with some established talent, and adding Pete Dunne was just the icing on the cake. Dunne is one of my favorite wrestlers’ period, so it was nice to see him come back and be inserted into a prime-time feud right off the bat. The Undisputed Era has been on top in NXT for years now, and I love that they are getting some screen time as babyfaces. I think all four men are doing well with it, but I am looking forward to the Cole/McAfee faceoff inside the cage. I expect this to have some very good action with both teams getting some time to shine. I don’t think I am going out on a limb when I say that I think someone is coming off the cage, either by tossing someone else or hitting some sort of big dive. This is going to be an intense brawl all around and I am all in on it. I originally picked The Undisputed Era to win, but after going back and forth, I may be leaning Team McAfee. It all comes down to if they are going to bring Pat in for more appearances. Imagine the fantastic promos that would come from him if he picked up a victory over Adam Cole in particular. I will say that’s the way they go after someone leaves Cole laying, and McAfee puts his arm over him to pick up the win to conclude the match. This match is what WarGames is everything WarGames represents.
Winner(s): Team McAfee
John: The story here has mostly been about Team McAfee dominating everything in its path for a few months, so I think the result that makes the most sense is a win for The Undisputed Era as a babyface unit. I mentioned a turn in the women’s match. What if one of the Undisputed Era guys turns heel? That would be pretty huge, but I don’t expect it to happen.
I have really enjoyed Pat McAfee’s performances as a heel character that knows how to get heat and has no trouble getting more heat than anybody on the show. He’s a guy who you want to see get his ass kicked. We saw Pat’s first match of his life against Adam Cole earlier in the year, which was an impressive showing for McAfee. Now we get to see him in a WarGames setting with an exceptional talent like Pete Dunne on his team along with tag team champions Lorcan/Burch, who are two of the most consistent workers on the NXT brand. I’m genuinely happy for Lorcan/Burch getting more of a spotlight.
As for The Undisputed Era, we know how great they are and we have seen them in the previous three years of WarGames matches, but there’s a different feel this year since they are faces for the first time. I don’t know if this is going to top previous WarGames matches in terms of the quality of the match because it’s tough to assume that when there’s an inexperienced guy like McAfee. However, in terms of the build, I think it has been excellent and I’m eagerly anticipating this match. I’ll go with Undisputed Era winning after about 30 minutes of intense action.
Winners: The Undisputed Era – Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish
The Match I’m Looking Forward To The Most
Kurt: Both WarGames equally.
Lance: Men’s War Games Match. The feud is coming to its crescendo and I am very excited to see the conclusion.
John: The Men’s WarGames match over the Women’s WarGames match just because the build was better. It wouldn’t surprise me if the women’s match is better.
The Match I Care About The Least
Lance: Lumis vs. Grimes.
John: I really like Ciampa, but his match has the weakest story, so Ciampa vs. Thatcher it is.
Kurt: I think the Women’s WarGames will go just a bit longer than the Men’s WarGames match.
Lance: I could see either of the WarGames matches going over 25 minutes.
John: I’ll go with Men’s WarGames match as the longest.
Lance: Ciampa vs. Thatcher.
John: Probably Lumis/Grimes around 12 minutes.
Excitement Level on a Scale of 1-10 (1 being low, 10 being high)
Kurt: 10 out of 10. I’m biased, and I won’t apologize for it. Like I said at the beginning, WarGames is everything to me and I’m stoked we’ve got two really good matches inside the double cages.
Lance: I am going with a 7 on this one. I am very excited about both WarGames matches and I think the other matches will do their part to make this a very good show.
John: It’s an 8 out of 10 for me because I’m a huge WarGames fan. I think NXT has built up both WarGames matches very well. The three midcard matches are okay, but not really that great. The absence of the NXT Champion Finn Balor hurts a bit because if he was in a match then that would strengthen the card a lot. A casual fan may not have a lot of interest since there’s only one title match on a Takeover. With that said, I have a lot of faith in the NXT brand and I believe they’ll deliver another great Takeover event.
John: I’ll be back with a review of WWE NXT Takeover WarGames on TJRWrestling.net on Sunday night or maybe Monday morning because I’ve been having WWE Network issues. It’s not my computer’s fault. It’s WWE Network in Canada that has issues. Anyway, I’ll get through it as best I can.
If you want to send an email, send it to me at [email protected] as well. Thanks for reading.