The yearly WarGames took place this week, with NXT looking to get back on track after AEW’s recent exploits with the Winter is Coming special, a massive acquisition in the form of Sting, and a partnership with Impact Wrestling.
With two WarGames matches scheduled for the show, along with several other interesting matchups, the show managed to live up to the lofty expectations set by previous Takeovers, especially the WarGames events.
Four out of the five titles on the brand were not defended, with more focus on the non-title feuds and the WarGames matches. There was a little bit of everything on the show, a comedy-horror match (Lumis-Grimes), an interesting triple threat (NA title), a hard-hitting wrestling encounter (Thatcher-Ciampa), and the WarGames matchups.
Women’s WarGames Match | Shozti Blackheart, Io Shirai, Rhea Ripley, Ember Moon vs. Candice LeRae, Dakota Kai, Raquel Gonzalez, Toni Storm
Kai and Moon started it off for their respective teams before the arrival of captain Shotzi gave the babyfaces a 2-on-1 advantage. Blackheart brought a toolbox with her to the ring and teamed up with Moon to lay Kai out. Gonzalez joined the action and helped Kai, as she overpowered both the faces with her tremendous strength.
Gonzalez launched Kai into the other ring, delivering a double clothesline on their opponents. Rhea Ripley’s arrival saw a face-off with Gonzalez, as the two powerhouses of the division brawled.
Ripley opened the toolbox and used a mallet on Kai. Storm arrived next and introduced kendo sticks, teaming up with Gonzalez to brutalize Ripley. Io Shirai was next, but Gonzalez prevented the NXT Women’s Champion from entering the ring. LeRae entered last and came face-to-face with Shirai on the outside, but interference from Indi Hartwell led to LeRae entering the ring, locking the door, and tucking the key in her shirt.
The heels enjoyed momentum with the 4-on-3 advantage, before Shirai, with a garbage can on top of her head, jumped from the top of the cage to officially enter into the match. The babyfaces came back into the match and delivered a lot of offense, but were unable to rake up the pin.
All the participants delivered some of their trademark moves, with Ember Moon’s jaw-dropping eclipse onto two chairs on Kai being the standout moment. The finish saw Gonzalez counter Shirai’s head-scissors attempt and delivered a powerbomb onto a ladder for the win.
Result: Team LeRae def. Team Shotzu
Analysis: It is hard to top a match of this quality to kick off the show. Both the teams took a lot of damage inside the ring and topped it with offensive maneuvers which will be in highlight packages for a long time.
Raquel Gonzalez pinning the champion is a major moment, as it establishes her as possibly the next challenger for the title. Gonzalez has looked mighty impressive ever since debuting as the insurance policy of Kai, and is now all set to chart out a singles career of her own.
Timothy Thatcher vs. Tommaso Ciampa
The two brawlers looked to dismantle each other in the second match of the evening. Ciampa took control early on in the match, but Thatcher got back with a series of joint destroying maneuvers. Thatcher looked to attack the throat of Ciampa and squashed his comeback attempt with a huge slap to the throat.
Ciampa finally got some offense in, as he delivered a super-plex and applied a headlock. Thatcher started bleeding from his ear but refused to quit. Thatcher delivered multiple suplexes and looked to finish it off with a German on the apron. Ciampa countered, tried for the draping DDT, but Thatcher survived. Ciampa ended up applying the guillotine, followed by Willow’s Bell for the win.
Result: Tommaso Ciampa def. Timothy Thatcher
Analysis: This match was expected to be a hard-fought encounter with both the men looking to kill each other. It was exactly that and much more as the two stars displayed their wide range of wrestling acumen. Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler would be proudly looking at this match, quite reminiscent of their hard-hitting battles during their time in NXT.
All is not over between these two, as an encore with a stipulation (Submission Match?) could be on the cards in the future.
Strap Match | Dexter Lumis vs. Cameron Grimes
Cameron Grimes had to face his worst fears for the third team in close to a month, and this time it was up, close, and personal as he was tied to the horror figure of Lumis. Grimes attacked Lumis before the match outside the ring, but once the action began, Lumis used his strength to get back on top.
Both the stars took turns throwing each other into the guardrail. Grimes introduced a blindfold, callback to their recent blindfold match on NXT, and used it to his advantage. Lumis delivered a spine-buster and looked to inflict more damage, but Grimes used the strap to pull him back.
Grimes delivered several chair shots, hit a Spanish Fly, but his Cave-In attempt was blocked. Lumis tied Grimes to a chair and applied the Silence submission to win the match.
Result: Dexter Lumis def. Cameron Grimes
Analysis: This wasn’t a technical masterpiece, but it was yet again a fun character-based match between the two stars. The cocky but terrorized Grimes taking on the stoic and devastating Lumis has been entertaining for quite some time, and this was hopefully the final match in the feud.
Both the stars have tremendous potential and can easily be main-event status in the coming months, and hopefully, WWE pushes them to the moon.
NXT North American Championship Match | Leon Ruff(c) vs. Johnny Gargano vs. Damian Priest
The unlikely champion Ruff, who saw himself dragged into the middle of Gargano-Priest rivalry, defended his title against both the stars on the show. Priest tried to keep Ruff away from the action, but the champion refused. Ruff and Gargano formed an unlikely alliance to take out Priest, but Gargano eventually assumed control of the match.
A Razor’s Edge to the outside proved deadly for Ruff, but he returned and hit a senton and a cutter on Gargano. Priest saved Ruff on an occasion, and Gargano tied Priest to the ropes. Priest recovered and was about to finish him off, but several masked men surrounded the ring.
Priest took them all out with a huge dive to the outside. Ruff tried to steal a win with Frog Splash but was unable to do so. Priest was about to hit the Reckoning on Gargano before another masked man attacked him with a lead pipe. Gargano took advantage and hit the One Final Beat DDT on Ruff to win his third title.
Austin Theory revealed himself to be the masked attacker after the match.
Result: Johnny Gargano becomes 3-time North American Champion
Analysis: This was a fun match, with the weird dynamic between Ruff and Priest coming into the play several times. Gargano used his heel tactics to come out on top, with a new partnership with Austin Theory.
Theory’s main-roster run failed and he has found a new lease of life in NXT alongside Mr.NXT himself and it will be intriguing to see how this partnership grows. As for Ruff, it was a dream come true, but it had to end someday. Priest continued to look like one of the strongest men on the roster, and can easily stake a claim in the main-event scene.
Men’s WarGames Match | The Kings of NXT vs. The Undisputed Era
The match started with Kyle O’Reilly and Pete Dunne, with Oney Lorcan and Bobby Fish following up as the match progressed into lots of double team action by both sides. Danny Burch entered and introduced cricket bats, which turned the tide in the heels’ favor.
Roderick Strong came in like a storm and delivered several offensive maneuvers to the heels. Pat McAfee entered last for his team, decorating the ring with several weapons, including four tables, each labeled with the name of an Undisputed Era member.
Strong went through his table after a moonsault from McAfee. Adam Cole entered the match as it officially started and blindsided the heels (quite literally) with a fire extinguisher. McAfee put Cole in a figure-four as the other members brawled. TUE power-bombed Dunne onto Burch who was laying on the table made for Cole. It didn’t break, so Strong delivered a splash for good measure, sending them through the table. Cole threw McAfee into the O’Reilly table across the ring.
McAfee hit a splash from the top, onto the pile of stars in the ring. Dunne and O’Reilly exchanged nearfalls after Bitter End and a suplex. McAfee low-blowed Cole but his punt kick attempt was dodged. Fish speared Burch through the final table which was meant for Strong.
McAfee caught Cole with a superkick and went for a Panama Sunrise of his own, but Cole recovered and delivered his finisher for an extremely close nearfall.
Cole’s Last Shot landed on Lorcan who sacrificed himself for McAfee. Dunne hit Bitter End on Cole onto a chair but ended up taking a spectacular backbreaker from Strong. TUE teamed up to lay Lorcan out, and finished it off by O’Reilly delivering a knee from the top for the pinfall.
Result: The Undisputed Era def. The Kings of NXT
Analysis: The Undisputed Era and WarGames is a love story which the historians of the future will document in beautiful words. Competing in the match for the first time as babyfaces, they shone brightly along with Pat McAfee’s ever-rising stock as a professional wrestler. There were a few points of similarity between the match earlier and this encounter, and those exact replica shots could be a hindrance for some.
O’Reilly taking the pin over Cole is a continued sign of big things to come for the former Tag Champion, who will possibly look to challenge Finn Balor once again for the title.