NXT Takeover War Games: Recap & Grades

The most exciting event of a wrestling filled weekend is pretty much always the NXT Takeover. For the past few years, this “developmental” brand has been showing up their big brother every single time they go back to back. It’s been about three months since NXT Takeover Brooklyn III, and the card for Houston is tantalizing.

Obviously, the first War Games in 19 years is a huge event, but that’s honestly not even my favorite thing about this card. The Fatal Four-Way match for the title that Asuka vacated is beyond exciting. Aleister Black and Velveteen Dream have gone well above expectations in their build-up. As much as I enjoy Bobby Roode, Drew McIntyre has the potential to give us the first great NXT title match since Nakamura left the black and yellow brand.

It’s time to Takeover.

 

Kassius Ohno v. Lars Sullivan

Ohno isn’t small by any means, but most people are dwarfed by the monster that is Sullivan.

The Knockout Artist lands several hard elbows to start the match, but Lars shakes them off and shoulder tackles Ohno to the ground. Another shoulder tackle from the apron and both men are on the ground. Back in the ring, Ohno lands a couple of kicks but falls to a big clothesline almost immediately. Kassius is thrown to the apron and eats a powerslam when he enters again.

Back on his feet, Ohno hits several incredibly hard elbows, punches, and kicks. These strikes are almost Lucha Underground level volume. He keeps the aggression high, but Sullivan refuses to be kept down by any amount of offense. Ohno removes his forearm sleeve (which is serious in wrestling) for a discus clothesline, but is caught by Lars before being lifted and planted in his trademark slam.

Not even the valiant Kassius Ohno is enough to stop Lars Sullivan, as the behemoth wins yet another match.

Rating: 6/10

 

Aleister Black v. Velveteen Dream

I’ll be honest: I thought that Velveteen Dream was a bad gimmick that wouldn’t work. I am more than happy to have been proven wrong, because the NXT crowd have made this a lot better than I ever expected. The feud with Aleister also has no right being as good as it is, so I’m happy.

A deep arm drag starts the match in favor of the former Tommy End. Any time Dream tries to find a different wrestling hold, Black slides right out and controls the match again. Rebounding off the ropes, Aleister jumps into a crucifix hold that becomes a scary submission before turning it into a rollup. After a few strikes, Dream is thrown over the top rope. Black rebounds from the rope and lands sitting down as Dream slides back in and swivels his hips. Dream mimics Black in sitting, but the Dutchman imitates his opponent by slithering up to his face. This sounds very silly, but it’s great stuff.

Velveteen Dream finally lands some significant offense with a clothesline or two before sending Aleister to the outside. Black gets back in the ring and tries to take out his frustrations, but Dream responds with a big superkick. The crowd has been chanting “say his name” and “Velveteen” a lot more than I ever would have imagined. Dream sits on Black’s back with a chinhold locked in before he can power his way out. Aleister gets back on top with a sweeping dropkick and a springboard crossbody before trying to set up the finish, but Dream lands a Death Valley Driver for a close two-count. Dream wants to repeat his big move from the second rope, but Aleister sneaks out and drops his opponent, catching him with a running knee. Dream responds with a move that looks like a Cross Rhodes but ends as a DDT.

Dream wants the Purple Rainmaker (great name for a move) but gets caught and stuck in the ropes. Black kicks him in the mouth, Dream finds the room for another superkick, but then eats a spinning knee. After yelling at Black for a few more seconds, he eats a Black Mass kick for the end of the match.

Aleister Black wins another hard fought Takeover match.

Rating: 9/10

The unlikely combination of Black and Dream made for a top notch Takeover match that the crowd was incredibly hot for. Post-match, the victor final said Velveteen Dream’s name on the mic, which means their future is still up in the air.

 

Nikki Cross v. Kairi Sane v. Peyton Royce v. Ember Moon: NXT Women’s Championship Match

It will not be an easy task to fill the shoes of Asuka, but any of these four women could win and I’d be ecstatic about it.

The four women slowly approach each other before breaking off and splitting up. No individual has a significant advantage over the rest and they all rotate between opponents. Ember jumps to the outside on to Nikki and Peyton turns into a big hit from Kairi. Ember hits a tope suicida on Kairi and Peyton before she catches Nikki and powerbombs her on the floor. Back in the ring, Ember and Kairi are trading strikes before the Mae Young Classic winner gets her groove and lands a big corner spear. Royce catches her in the ropes and abuses her arms due to the lack of ropebreak in a fourway, but Moon breaks it up.

Ember throws Kairi into the ropes and jumps over her, leaving the unsuspecting Peyton Royce to eat the spear from NXT’s Pirate Princess. Kairi goes for her top rope elbow a little too early, and Ember catches her. As she attempts the superplex, Peyton runs up and German suplexes them both, but can’t land a three-count on either. As the three brawl, Cross has gotten back up and dives on to all three before attacking each woman in a separate corner. She hits her swinging neckbreaker on Kairi but Ember is able to break up the pin. Nikki hits another neckbreaker on Ember while she’s perched on the top rope, but Moon rolls out of the ring. Peyton takes advantage and catches Cross with her fisherman buster and Kairi almost misses the break, but no three-count yet. She slams Peyton on top of Nikki and hits her elbow on the both of them. Peyton rolls out and Ember breaks up the pin.

Ember wants to hit the Eclipse, but Peyton stops her before taking out Kairi on the outside. She goes after Nikki in the ring but neither woman can capitalize. Capitalizing on their fatigue, Ember hits the eclipse on both Nikki and Peyton and pins Cross for the win.

Ember Moon finally wins the NXT Women’s Championship.

Rating: 8/10

Even though this match didn’t even break ten minutes, it was stellar action from top to bottom. The NXT women’s division is the best women’s wrestling that this company has ever seen, and they never fail to show up and blow everyone away.

I thought for sure that Ember would’ve won the title in Chicago before she got injured, and then I also expected her to beat Asuka in Brooklyn, but I’m glad it happened this way. Ember absolutely deserves this victory, and I’m ecstatic about this run of non-white champions as well. Diversity is important and representation matters, especially when it involves stunning athletes.

 

Drew McIntyre (c) v. Andrade “Cien” Almas: NXT Championship Match

Adding Zelina Vega has made Almas the best he has been thus far, and getting fired was the best thing to happen to McIntyre. This should be good.

Drew has the clear size and strength advantage, but Almas doesn’t take too long to play sneaky. Drew catches him with a smart counter before throwing Almas into the ropes. He lands in them and poses but catches a boot in the mouth for his bragging. Vega tries to hit a hurricanran on Drew, but he catches her and throws her back up to the apron before hitting Almas with a big elbow. Back in the ring, Drew is thrown shoulder-first into the ring post and then caught in an illegal armbar through the ropes. The champion powers out of a hold and throws Almas across the ring. Both men trade strikes before Drew picks up steam with several big suplexes and a jumping elbow to the head.

After a quick counter, Almas attempts his running double knee but turns it into a back elbow before setting up an inverted tornado DDT. The challenger gets caught going for another big move and eats an inverted Alabama Slam. Drew goes to the top rope but falls to a springboard dropkick to the outside. Almas lands a headscissor to the ringpost quickly followed by a top rope moonsault to the outside, but only picks up a two-count. Andrade traps McIntyre in the tree of woe for a double stomp followed by running knees but still can’t keep the champ down for three.

An attempt at the hammerlock DDT turns into Almas falling to a sit-out powerbomb. An avalanche Celtic Cross is countered by Almas, who turns it into another running knee to the back of Drew’s head. Andrade leaves the ring and grabs the title so that Zelina Vega can sneak in a hurricanrana on the champ. Almas hits his hammerlock DDT but Drew kicks out to everyone’s surprise. After getting back up, Drew lands the Claymore Kick but Vega puts her client’s foot on the rope. Another Claymore attempt puts Drew over the rope and hurting bad, and Almas capitalizes with a DDT from the top rope for the win.

With the crucial help of Zelina Vega, Andrade Almas wins the NXT Championship.

Rating: 8/10

Almas is such a phenomenal worker, and I’m elated that he is being rewarded for finally getting his footing. I don’t know if this means McIntyre is already moving back to the main roster, but I’d certainly be down for that.

This is the best NXT Championship match since the days of Shinsuke Nakamura and Samoa Joe, and NXT Takeover Toronto was exactly one year ago today (I was there for it too, so there’s that).

I’ll also add that I’m just thrilled to have a Mexican champion that I believe will be taken seriously. I really like Kalisto’s work, but it was clear his Cruiserweight run wasn’t going to be much. I just love seeing Hispanic people succeed, so I hope Almas never loses ever again.

 

Sanity (Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe, Killian Dain) v. The Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly) v. Authors Of Pain (Akam and Rezar) & Roderick Strong: War Games

First War Games match in 19 years. Three great teams and also Roddy. I am so excited.

The match begins with Young, Cole, and Strong together in one ring. This one is going to be particularly tough to recap with nine whole boys going at it, but we’ll see what happens.

While all three men take turns trying to murder each other, it’s clear that most of the heat is between Cole and Strong. Roddy is thrown from one ring and falls hard on the metal that joins the two rings. Cole hits a neckbreaker to the leader of Sanity before going back after Strong. Roderick now hits his stride and delivers chops to both of his opponents in opposite corners. At this time, Fish and O’Reilly are let out of their cage to join the fight. They immediately go after Strong before ensuring that Eric Young is down as well.

After a vicious triple team from the Undisputed Era, Akam and Rezar are freed from their cages. Fish and O’Reilly try to keep the door closed, the but the former tag champs power their way in. They throw Adam Cole and Eric Young from one ring to the other before using their partner as a projectile. The Authors Of Pain are wrecking balls capable of taking out all four men on their own, and they just happen to have a little help from Roderick. Just as strong gets to his feet. Alexander Wolfe and Killian Dain are released. Wolfe reveals a bully club from his jacket as he enters the cage, and Dain grabs chairs, trashcans, kendo sticks, and even a big chain from under the ring. As he approaches the entrance, he reacts to the crowd chants of “we want tables”, shrugs, and grabs two tables from under the ring as well.

Kyle O’Reilly tries to hit Wolfe with a chair, but he hits the rope and then himself in a fun moment. Wolfe then slams Fish on a trashcan. As Killian Dain finally enters the cage, he pulls out a separate chain and locks the door. He reveals to everyone a key and then he eats it! Not even Akam and Rezar are a match for the Beast From Belfast, as he sets up a dropkick to one man that ends as a senton on the other. He goes to the top rope for a diving crossbody on all eight men. Dain attempts the first pinfall of the match, but Cole breaks it up. Dain destroys Cole and Fish simultaneously before moving on to O’Reilly and Strong, because one man at a time is just too easy.

Akam is actually able to powerslam the big man, but O’Reilly hits him with a tornado DDT off the cage. Several pinfall attempts with a break and all nine men are struggling to stand. Akam and Rezar hit the Supercollider on Fish and O’Reilly (with Dain in the middle) but Young is able to break it up. Strong goes on a rampage hitting several backbreakers, running knees, and even an Olympic Slam on Killian Dain. Adam Cole goes to the top rope, but is stopped by Strong and Young. The remainder of Sanity and Undisputed Era go after those men before Akam and Rezar powerbomb the whole lot of them, leaving Cole to celebrate between the two rings. The Authors Of Pain bring both tables to the far ring to send Cole through them, but Wolfe breaks them up (for some reason). Wolfe then hits a super German suplex on Rezar through both tables, hitting his head hard and busting wide open. Killian Dain, to everyone’s surprise, sets up O’Reilly for a Coast To Coast with a trashcan, telling Cole “I’m gonna kill him”.

Cole has been on top of the cage for a while now, so Strong climbs all the way up to get him. Roddy superplexes Cole onto the rest of the field to chants of “please don’t die”, and everyone is back on the ground. Strong manages to try for a pin, but Cole kicks out. AOP hits the Last Chapter on Dain in between the two rings, causing the former reDragon along with Young/Wolfe to hit some tandem offense. Young hits a wheelbarrow suplex to the cage on Roderick, but Cole comes back with a kendo stick. The former three-time ROH champion hits a running knee through a chair onto Eric Young for the victory.

Adam Cole secures the pinfall and The Undisputed Era wins War Games.

Rating: 8/10

I know that was a lot to read, but it was even more to type. Don’t ask questions about how that math lines up.

Alexander Wolfe really surprised the hell out of me with his performance at NXT Takeover Brooklyn III, and he lived up to that once again here. I hope his head is fine, but he managed to fight through it, and you’ve gotta respect him for that. You’ve gotta respect all nine of these performers for putting their bodies on the line for entertainment. I’m no War Games expert, but this is the most entertaining War Games that I’ve seen, which I’m sure is a hot take.

Get ready for Fish and O’Reilly to come after Sanity’s tag titles very soon. I’m not sure if Cole will be next in line for Almas quite yet, but he’ll hold gold in NXT as well. It’s only a matter of time.

NXT is always an event, and I can’t remember the last time a Takeover card wasn’t more exciting than the main roster PPV that followed it. There will be some great wrestling happening tonight at Survivor Series, but I just can’t see it comparing to what the “developmental” brand managed to accomplish.

After the slow start of the first match (which did everything it needed to), this card never gave up or slowed down. The remaining four matches were all stellar from top to bottom, and they could all seriously contend for the list of best NXT matches this year. Hell, they’ve got a good shot of making the list of WWE matches as well. That’s just what NXT does.

We’ve got two months until NXT Takeover Philadelphia during Royal Rumble weekend, and a lot can happen between now and then. Start your fantasy booking, friends!

Nick Potter

Co-founder of The Filmsmiths. Degree in Broadcast & Cinematic Arts with a minor in Cinema Studies from Central Michigan University. Pretty much the barbecue sauce of people but I'm doing my best.

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