Hanging Down at Dino’s: NXT TakeOver WarGames Recap and Review

Undisputed Era reclaims the cage; Adam Cole lightly grabs his crotch on live tv

NXT continued to do what it’s done all year; produce mediocre weekly television, and then really show up with a great PPV. WarGames gave us two fantastic gimmick matches, double straps, and the internet going crazy for Io Shirai. It’s exactly what she deserves.

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WarGames Match: Team Candice (Candice LeRae, Toni Storm, Raquel Gonzalez, and Dakota Kai) def Team Shotzi (Shotzi Blackheart, Rhea Ripley, Ember Moon, and Io Shirai)

We started with Kai and Moon in the ring; Moon blasted Dakota with a suplex and a series of kicks. Kai tripped Ember up and hit a backstabber, but out came the cavalry. Shotzi pulled out a crowbar and a toolbox from under the ring, potentially to fix some creaky parts of the cage, then wrecked Kai with a bulldog. Gonzalez was out to even the odds, and found herself double teamed by Blackheart and Moon. She powered back and dropped them both, powerbombing Shotzi into the cage wall. Kai and Gonzalez worked together to wipe out Blackheart and Moon, but they were assisted by Ripley, who immediately went after Gonzalez. The two tall queens teed off between the rings, until Storm came out to give the heels some backup. She brought in a kendo stick and laid into Ripley, deepening the Australian/New Zealand beef. Shirai went for a ladder on her entrance, but Gonzalez tried to keep her from entering with a big boot through the door. Storm used her belt to shut the door, which feels a little counterintuitive, because then the match can never start, and they’ll never win. Nobody really thought this one through. Candice and Io had a stare down outside, but Indi Hartwell ran in to attack Shirai, sporting a very fashionable neck brace that Candice probably bedazzled. Indi locked the door, and Team LeRae pummeled the faces. Candice went for a pin on Shotzi, but the ref reminded her that the match wasn’t live yet. That’s what you get for never reading the terms and conditions.

Shirai appeared above, diving onto the women below with a trash can on her head in an incredible performance art piece encompassing the essence of what if feels like to be alive right now. Io cleared out the heels with the sledgehammer, and Team Shotzi was rolling. A moonsault onto Gonzalez almost got Shirai the win, but it was broken up by Kai and Storm. LeRae got the Garga-No Escape on Moon, but Blackheart matched her with an submission on Storm. Things broke down quickly; Kai landed a stomp through the trash can on Shirai, but Io kicked out just in time. Moon bounced Kai’s head off of two steel chairs, then hit the Eclipse onto the chairs. The pin was broke up by Toni, who landed Storm Zero onto a trash can, only for the faces to make the save. Another few near falls were traded, but neither team could make it happen. Gonzalez blocked a hurricanrana attempt from Shirai, instead driving her through the ladder with a powerbomb to get Team LeRae the win. A bit of a surprising result to see Gonzalez score the pin fall, but her performance here was excellent. A very tough match to kick things off for the night, and a great showing from all women involved.

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Tommaso Ciampa def Timothy Thatcher

Two men whose arms look like socks stuffed with walnuts gave us a match up that allowed Vic Joseph to say “ground and pound” several times, so I guess that’s a positive for at least once person out there. Things were evenly matched on the mat to start with, both able to trade holds until Ciampa tossed Timmo to the outside. He ran back in to deliver an uppercut that wrecked Tommaso, then got him in another submission. Thatcher continued to control things, landing a bruising uppercut and going for a slam. Ciampa came back with a series of clotheslines, making the virtual crowd go wild. A superplex almost put Thatcher away, but he kicked out at 2.5. Thatcher blocked the FairyTale Ending with a shot to the throat, then locked Ciampa in a neck submission. Big Daddy NXT threw the duo through the ropes to force a break, but each man managed to make it back in. Ciampa split Thatcher’s ear open with a big knee, then locked him in a submission. Timothy hit a German suplex, blood streaming down his neck, to get the upper hand again. Several uppercuts dropped Ciampa to the mat, but he blocked another German on the apron. Willow’s Bell through the ropes crushed Thatcher’s presumably already tensile skull, and Ciampa got the win. This was exactly what you expected here; hard hitting, angry as hell, and real sweaty. I’m glad everybody’s getting tested after this exchange of bodily fluids.

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Dexter Lumis def Cameron Grimes (Strap Match)

The Grimes/Lumis feud has quietly been one of NXT’s more solid programs, due in part to the absolute hilarity of combining the redneck used car salesman with the pornstache sporting murderous art teacher. Add in a ten foot leather strap, and you’ve got a surprisingly fun wrestling match. Grimes insisted on using his own strap at the beginning, because he comes to a party prepared. I can respect that. He jumped Lumis before the strap was attached and the bell rang, tossing him around the outside. Back in the ring, Lumis fought back with some right hands and strapped himself to Grimes. He tried to whip Grimes, who attempted to flee over the plexiglass and into the 20% real people crowd. Lumis drove him into the barricade and slingshotted him from side to side. Grimes got a moment to breathe when he dumped Lumis over the barrier, but he rose back up without a mustache hair out of place. Grimes raked the strap over Lumis’ eyes, then brought out the second strap to really make sure everybody had a good time tonight. He popped the bag over Lumis’ head and whipped him with both straps, but Lumis still landed a spine buster. Lumis yanked him off the apron with the strap then delivered some more strikes with the leather in the ring. Grimes grabbed hold of Lumis’ Target Mossimo grey straight leg jeans and tossed him back into the turnbuckle, using the opportunity to grab a chair and lay into the American Psycho stan. Grimes took a moment to admire his work, which allowed Lumis to drop him with a huge slam. Lumis reversed the Cave In, then yanked the strap to send Grimes face first into the chair. He locked in Silence, and Grimes tapped to end it. This outstayed it’s welcome just a little bit, but I do find Grimes so entertaining that I didn’t mind. These two guys worked very well together, and the actual wrestling here was a nice cap on a feud that revolved around haunted houses and zombie referees.

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North American Championship: Johnny Gargano def Leon Ruff and Damien Priest (Triple Threat)

Gargano went after Ruff straight away, but Leon was ready, hitting a hurricanrana and a drop kick. Priest came back in the fray, tossing Ruff aside to lay into Johnny. Priest told Ruff to stay out of his way, but the champ refused to back down. Gargano saved Ruff from a choke slam, and the two teamed up to go after Priest. Johnny immediately betrayed Leon, as is his way, and caught him with a DDT for a two count. Priest went for Gargano on the outside, but Ruff stepped in and stepped up to Priest. A Razor’s Edge through the barricade eliminated Ruff from the match, which made me pour myself another glass of wine. Why am I here if not to see Leon Ruff have a nice time? The other two went back and forth in the ring, each getting a near fall. When both men were laid out, Ruff made a miraculous recovery and leapt onto Gargano. He dove onto both men on the outside and almost got the pin on Johnny, who just kicked out. Priest hit a double flatliner on Ruff and Gargano, but didn’t get the pin. Johnny countered the Razor’s Edge to send Priest into the ring post, and tied him up in the ropes. A crucifix bomb got Ruff a two count, but Johnny got him in the Garga-No Escape. Priest broke free to pull Ruff away, then telegraphed his whole arrow thing, because he’s an archer. A leather archer. And that’s working for him. Suddenly, a bunch of Ghostsfaces swarmed Priest, suggesting the impossible- Johnny has friends. Priest took them out with a couple dives, but couldn’t block the shot to the neck from a cinematic 90s villain with a lead pipe. With Priest eliminated on the outside, Johnny hit One Final Beat on Ruff to become a three time champ, then ran home to celebrate with what I have to assume is the only film he’s ever seen.

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WarGames Match: Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly, and Roderick Strong) def Team McAfee (Pat McAfee, Oney Lorcan, Danny Burch, and Pete Dunne)

Dunne and O’Reilly started us off, grappling in the center. This was an interesting contrast to the rest of the match, focusing on the wrestling instead of the brutal physicality. Lorcan was out next, laying into O’Reilly with chops while Dunne held him up in a Surfboard. He got backed up by Fish, who dropped Lorcan and Dunne with a suplex. ReDRagon double teamed Dunne and UE seemed to have the upper hand, until Burch was released. He went under the ring to bring out a cricket bat and teach the Canadian O’Reilly a thing to two about British culture. Team McAfee celebrated as O’Reilly and Fish were wiped out on the mat, but Strong tried to make the save. He fought off Lorcan and Burch to buy his boys some time, until the tag team champs came back and laid out all 3 men. McAfee brought in a table that he’d already helpfully labelled with the names of UE members. Arts and crafts must have really bonded Team McAfee, because they were gelling nicely tonight. He delivered a beautiful moonsault onto Roddy on his individually labeled table, as Cole ran down and blasted the heels with a fire extinguisher. In a cool move, Cole countered the Bitter End into a DDT, but still found himself caught by Dunne after McAfee grabbed him from behind.

Chaos ensued as all eight men went after each other; UE got the advantage when they planted Dunne, Burch, and McAfee through the tables. They crushed the underlings into the wall, then all went after McAfee. The rest of Team McAfee slowly came back into it, saving Pat from losing his personally styled muscle tank. McAfee did a great Io tribute when he dove from the top of the cage to the group fighting below. Adam overcame a low blow to land Panama Sunrise, but McAfee still kicked out. A fourth wind from UE saw O’Reilly land a diving knee onto a chair to crush Lorcan’s chest and get the Era the win. While this dragged at times, the effort from all eight men was great. McAfee has proven he’s willing to pull out all the stops to put on a great show, and he couldn’t have asked for better opponents.