Ken Burns Presents: A Preview of NXT TakeOver WarGames

Please imagine the whistling from Guns n' Roses' "Civil War" here.


The cruel month of November has demanded much for those of us on the front lines, and I do not foresee an end to the bloodshed it has caused. Before we embarked on a battle for brand supremacy, our general manager appeared, chanting the word “WARGAMES” like a preacher begging God for salvation, but there is no salvation in our future. This Saturday promises two WarGames cage matches, both of which serve as mere pretense for individual pursuits for the richest prizes in NXT. And after the bloodshed brought forth by these matches and the ladder matches preceding them? We go to war with Raw and SmackDown. While it isn’t my place to second guess our generals, I wonder if Triple H could have chosen a better time for this conflict. Regardless, the battle goes well for the moment, and with luck and providence, I will see you on the other side.

Triple Threat Match For a Shot at the NXT Championship: Pete Dunne vs. Killian Dain vs. Damian Priest

These three have been involved in each other’s affairs for several weeks now, and while I’m supposed to buy into this as a grudge match with a spot in the first main roster PPV NXT Championship match on the line, I can’t think of three top tier NXT wrestlers I’m less interested in at the moment. No slight intended, but nothing over the course of the past three weeks has led me to the conclusion that they’re worthy of a shot at the king. Much like the series of matches and brawls they’ve already had, this will be fine, but man what I really want in this spot is a 20-minute banger between Angel Garza and Lio Rush.

Prediction: Pete Dunne is the wrestler most capable of the statement match that Survivor Series represents for the black and gold brand, so let’s give it to the Bruiserweight. 

Finn Bálor vs. Matt Riddle

With Johnny Gargano unable to compete, Matt Riddle was taken off of his WarGames team to carry NXT’s flag against the returning Finn Bálor. That return has been an exciting change of pace for Finn—no matter how into LEGO and thirst traps he is, no man as ripped as him is without a mean streak. Riddle is the most interesting opponent for him, too, the kind of indie dream match thing that didn’t actually happen on the indies and gets to be something entirely NXT’s. What sucks is that it’s difficult to imagine Bálor losing, as his NXT return was the first real shot WWE fired against AEW Dynamite, but that’s neither here nor there: this match should be a banger.

Prediction: Bálor takes it, but kinda shadily because he’s mean now. Then Johnny Gargano will do something to defend his turf and distinction as NXT’s special boy. 

WarGames Cage Match: The Undisputed ERA vs. Tommaso Ciampa, Keith Lee, Dominik Dijakovic, and a Faceless Grey Avatar

Why Tommaso Ciampa decided not to pursue Adam Cole without the pretense of this WarGames match is beyond me, but Established Stable of Talented Cowards vs. Team of Random Dudes Putting Aside Their Beef is about as classic a set-up for this kind of match as it gets. The build to this match has been all about unlikely alliances, as everybody is fed up with the Undisputed ERA and is down to hang out with the famously difficult to hang out with Ciampa. Beyond building to Ciampa vs. Cole, this match could see Lee and Dijakovic set aside their endless series of matches to go after the Tag Team Titles, because that’s a tale as old as time. While the Faceless Grey Avatar will probably get replaced by Velveteen Dream or Malcolm Bivens, both of whom would make worthy challengers to Roddy Strong’s NXT North American Championship. There hasn’t really been any mistrust between team Random Dudes, and Undisputed ERA have had their hands full with the brand supremacy thing, so the momentum going into the cage isn’t quite as heated as it should be. Whatever! It’s WarGames! I’m here for the hardway juice and someone submitting or surrendering, not the intricate storytelling leading up to it.

Prediction: The Undisputed ERA are like a tiny new World order for people who are not shy about being horny for professional wrestlers, an just like the nWo they have a habit of winning where a loss might make more sense. While Ciampa & Co. taking the win sounds like a nice way to kick off a build to January’s TakeOver, we probably need a reminder that the ERA are as finely tuned a unit as ever. 

WarGames Cage Match: Rhea Ripley, Mia Yim, Tegan Nox, and Candice LeRae vs. Shayna Baszler, Bianca Belair, Io Shirai, and Kay Lee Ray

Pretty stoked for this match, as it’s got to be the last time WWE will refer to a match as “historic” and “first time ever” just because women are in it. I don’t know what’s left! I’m also stoked for this match because NXT’s women’s division is my favorite thing about Wednesday nights, and eight of the best women on the WWE roster are getting stuffed into my favorite gimmick match of all time. Like with the men’s WarGames match, anything like a coherent story has been sacrificed upon the altar of Survivor Series, but there’s something to the idea of Rhea Ripley representing such a unique threat to Shayna Baszler that she’d look to recruit outside of the Four Horsewomen of MMA. There are interesting intangibles hanging over the match, too! Kay Lee Ray’s surprise entrance into the match by sending Mia Yim crashing to the floor at the end of a ladder match was rugged as hell, and seeing her on a bigger stage is exciting. There’s also the bit of drama revolving around Yim getting picked over Nox’s Team Kick partner Dakota Kai. With nothing truly at stake here and the women’s division needing a shake-up outside of the eventual clash between Ripley and Baszler, I want Kai to make like Evil Bayley and get mean.

Prediction: It’s hard to imagine this ending without some kind of shenanigans, and shenanigans tend to benefit the bad guys. Baszler will temporarily benefit from the upgrade in entourage, but given that all seven women in the ring should be willing to murder her for her title, who knows! It’d be pretty rad if this became the first WarGames match where a team abandoned its captain to a merciless beating, but I don’t think that’s the kind of historic, first time ever deal we’re gonna get.