Once again, NXT is the tough act to follow.
Their pay-per-view, Takeover: WarGames II, aired Saturday night from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California and the card did not disappoint in the slightest.
The main roster will have to step its game up if it wants to come close to the yellow brand’s action. We saw everything from titles being defended and scores being settled, to the return of the show’s namesake match.
Let’s look at what went down in the City of Angels!
Matt Riddle vs. Kassius Ohno
Result: Matt Riddle wins via pinfall
Kicking the show off was a match that was supposed to happen next week on NXT TV. However, Ohno interrupted Riddle on the Takeover Pre-Show, so the King of Bros made his way to the ring and threatened to knock out the Knockout Artist in both rings.
Ohno responded by saying he would knock Riddle out, entered the ring, and ate a running knee from Riddle seconds after the bell rang. Geez, can someone say squash?
I get that they’re making Riddle seem like a big deal, but was doing this during Takeover really necessary? Sure, it makes the newest signee to NXT look strong, but it also destroyed Ohno’s credibility literally within seconds.
Regardless if they have a more competitive match next week, Ohno now looks like a guy who can destroy jobbers but gets destroyed when he tries to step to someone who’s more credible.
2-Out-of-Three Falls Match for the NXT Women’s Championship: Shayna Baszler (c.) vs. Kairi Sane
Result: Shanya Baszler wins two falls to one
Now kicking off the actual action for the evening was the red-hot rivalry within the NXT women’s division.
Sane, looking to avenge her title loss at WWE Evolution, came out of the gates early as she unleashed an array of offense against Baszler. But it didn’t take long for Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir to make their presence known, which helped their fellow Four Horsewoman pick up the first fall.
The Pirate Princess fought back, however, and was able to spike Baszler with a brutal DDT on the ring apron. After clearing out Duke and Shafir, she hit her patented Insane Elbow to even the score.
Duke and Shafir attempted to interfere once more, but Dakota Kai and Io Shirai came in to even the odds. Shirai eliminated everyone on the outside with an impressive moonsault, which allowed Sane to turn her focus back to Baszler.
But the champ would counter another attempt at an Insane Elbow into a sneaky roll-up for the third and final fall to retain the title.
At first, I was skeptical as to why they would start with this one, but once it got going, I was too interested in the action to care anymore. As soon as Baszler scored the first fall and started taking the fight to Sane, I was worried that it would be a clean sweep. Luckily, it was a more back-and-forth bout. It was a great start to the night; there was so much fast-paced action that it kept you interested throughout and gave you little time to catch your breath—in a good way!
Baszler retaining was the right move in my opinion; flip-flopping the belt between her and Sane wouldn’t have made much sense for either of them. Now it looks like she’ll have plenty of new challengers for her title, such as Shirai, Kai, and possibly Bianca Belair and Mia Yim.
Sadly, this might be Sane’s last shot at the belt for a little while. It’s a shame that she didn’t get a better title run, but the Queen of Spades is a force of nature and Sane was just an unfortunate casualty.
Aleister Black vs. Johnny Gargano
Result: Aleister Black wins via pinfall
Then came the match many people—myself included—predicted would steal the show, and it sure did.
Black was looking to exact some revenge on Gargano for secretly attacking him and putting him out of action for months. Gargano insists what he did wasn’t wrong, that the ends justified the means. He also claimed that he wasn’t afraid of Black, saying, “Bring me the Black Mass” as he waited in the ring for his opponent.
Once the bell rang, Black went on the offensive, but Gargano had an answer for just about everything that was thrown his way.
The Striking Man from Amsterdam then caught him with a couple of big strikes and a tope con hilo. After a near fall, the two would continue to trade hard-hitting strikes that shifted the pace of the contest into overdrive.
Towards the end of the match, Gargano seemingly begged for Black to finish him off, only to counter a Black Mass into a roll-up for a two-count. Black had seen enough, and after two brutal knee strikes—one without a kneepad—hit Gargano with a Black Mass.
As he held a stunned Gargano up, the former champion declared, “I absolve you of all your sins.” before hitting a final Black Mass for the victory.
This was a fantastic match from start to finish. Both men played off each other so well, with so many mind games that added to the story-telling of the contest. They also pulled out all the stops, especially the strikes, my goodness, those strikes! That diving DDT on Black to the outside and that knee to Gargano when he attempted a suicide dive were brutally awesome!
They went back-and-forth and had many moments where it seemed like one would put the other away. But the ending couldn’t have been any better, with Black’s “absolving your sins” statement the icing on the cake.
Black comes out looking strong and will hopefully set his sights on the title rematch he rightfully deserves. Gargano also looked strong and can still say that he gave Black all he could handle. Will he go back to being a full-on babyface or continue to play in the darkness? Only time will tell.
NXT Championship: Tommaso Ciampa (c.) vs. Velveteen Dream
Result: Tomasso Ciampa wins by pinall
Up next was the most unlikely match-up of the night for NXT’s top prize.
Dream, who was looking to become the youngest champion in NXT history, took it to Ciampa early on. However, the champ quickly took back control of the match and unleashed a ton of punishment on his challenger.
But the Dream wouldn’t go down easily, so Ciampa resorted to winning by any means necessary. This included pulling on the tights during a pin attempt, trying to use his title belt, Goldie, to knock out Dream, and even exposing the concrete floor at ringside.
Some miscues almost cost Ciampa the belt on numerous occasions, but an ill-advised Purple Rain elbow drop by Dream to the ring apron ended up being the challenger’s demise. As the Dream lied on the floor, writhing in pain from almost breaking his elbow, Ciampa got him back into the ring and hit a DDT on the metal part in between both rings for the win.
I think this match was tied with Black vs. Gargano for match of the night, without a doubt. There were mind games, brutal spots, and near falls aplenty. Ciampa even had the nerve to try and bully Mauro Ranallo, what a monster!
Ciampa thought he could easily run through Dream and move on, but boy was he wrong. The Dream—looking good in his Hollywood Hogan gear, I might add—put up one heck of a fight and once again proved why he’s a rising star in NXT.
The champ literally had to do anything and everything he could to win and was as resourceful as ever. There were several moments toward the end of the match where the Dream looked to pull off the upset, but Ciampa was able to survive and finally outsmart his opponent.
This almost guarantees a Black vs. Ciampa title match, but let’s not forget about the Dream. It’s only going to be a matter of time before he’s a champion in NXT.
WarGames Match: War Raiders, Pete Dunne, & Ricochet vs. The Undisputed Era
Result: War Raiders, Pete Dunne & Ricochet win via pinfall
Last but not least was the highly-anticipated WarGames match.
Adam Cole and Ricochet started things off, renewing their recent rivalry. After the clock reached zero, Kyle O’Reilly was the next competitor to join in.
Cole and O’Reilly would team up on Ricochet until Hanson joined the match to even the odds. Roderick Strong would join next to give Undisputed Era the advantage once again, only until Rowe arrived and wrecked the opposition with Hanson.
Bobby Fish would be the final Undisputed Era member to join, but not before attacking Pete Dunne in his cage and using the other cage’s lock to trap him in. He threw away the key, then made his way to the ring and started handing steel chairs to Cole, Strong, and O’Reilly. The Undisputed Era went to town on their opponents, with the UK Champion watching on helplessly.
Just when things looked bleak for the faces, the referees had the brilliant idea of bringing bolt cutters out to free Dunne. Once they did, he went berserk and an absolute war broke out inside the rings. After that there were weapons, huge spots, and pain all over the place!
The dust finally settled, with Dunne and Ricochet teaming up to finish Cole off and earning the win for their team.
This one was chaotic, yet entertaining at the same time. It brought all of the feuds these men were involved in to a satisfying conclusion without becoming too overwhelming.
Like I said in my predictions article, there would be things that would satisfy just about every wrestling fan in this match. There was brute strength, high-flying, submissions, and technical ability all in one bout.
In no way does this loss hurt anyone in the Undisputed Era; this was just for War Raiders, Dunne, and Ricochet to get their revenge on the guys that have been a pain in their butts for months now.
It will be interesting to see what storylines await them all, but for now let’s just enjoy another amazing WarGames match and yet another fantastic Takeover.