It can’t be easy for NXT to keep the quality of its pay-per-view shows consistently high when so much of the roster turns over from year to year. For NXT TakeOver: WarGames 2018, the winning formula turned out to be making the Undisputed Era, which was part of the first edition of this event in 2017, a bit presence in the main event while also keeping the rest of the card short but tight.
How short? We’re talking one very brief squash match (thanks, King of Bros) and three other bouts before the WarGames Match itself. Unlike last year, when it featured three teams of three combatants each, the 2018 version had just two squads, the back to full strength Undisputed Era against the team of Ricochet, Pete Dunne and the War Raiders.
Otherwise, the rules were the same: One wrestler from each team squared off in the unique twin ring surrounded by a steel cage. The other members of each side were locked in cages and released every three minutes, with Undisputed Era always getting a temporary edge thanks to a singles match they won during the build-up to TakeOver.
Ricochet went in first to face Adam Cole, and both men were cautious before climbing in the same ring. Ricochet gt in the first licks but took double knees to the back when he tried his first aerial effort. A big dropkick put a stop to Cole’s momentum, and a springboard European uppercut left both men down.
Kyle O’Reilly was the next man into the action, and while Ricochet held his own for a minute by dishing out blows from between the rings, O’Reilly was able to leg whip him to leave him vulnerable to a two-on-one beating. A backbreaker had Ricochet in need of help, and he got it in the form of Hanson, who fired off an impressive string of running clotheslines and a cannonball in the corner before providing his back for Ricochet to use to launch a Shooting Star Press.
Roderick Strong entered the fray and made an immediate impact, hammering Ricochet with knees to the back. Undisputed Era used its numbers advantage for about a minute of undisturbed damage-dealing, but Rowe was in to give both O’Reilly and Strong a powerbomb at the same time.
Then came the plot twist: When it was time for Fish to enter, he took a detour to the cage holding Dunne and used his padlock to keep the Bruiserweight trapped inside, tossing the key into the crowd. Fish then stopped and dragged steel chairs with the Undisputed Era logo on them into the rings, where the group used them to wear out all of Dunne’s teammates.
The refs finally get bolt cutters to free Dunne, who used a kendo stick to beat away the welcoming committee at the cage door and then filled one ring with trash cans and tables. The next few minutes showed off the Undisputed Era’s ability to take some stiff bumps until Fish finally broke up a pinfall and got the momentum switched.
Dunne ended up fighting all four heels at once and doing pretty well until O’Reilly came over with a chain, torturing the Bruiserweight’s already injured knee until Ricochet flew to the rescue. He and Dunne hit tandem top rope moves and got a rare two-count, and the War Raiders set up one of the tables. A popup powerslam on Cole forced O’Reilly to make a save while Fish drove Rowe back through one of the tables. Hanson dove and splashed O’Reilly through a table to save Ricochet from a submission hold, and all eight men were slow to get up.
Both Cole and Ricochet ended up straddling the top of the cage, exchanging right hands. Eventually, everyone but Ricochet got into position for what can only be described as a Christmas Tree Powerbomb. That left a lot of targets for Ricochet, who did two full rotations on his moonsault to come down from the top of the cage.
Both teams had a dramatic face off and met to throw hands in-between the rings. A rapid fire sequence of signature moves followed, and after Dunne hit the Bitter End, Ricochet followed with the 450 Splash, and both men pinned Cole to finally bring the match and the show to a close.
The next NXT pay-per-piew is NXT TakeOver: Phoenix on January 26, 2019.
FULL MATCH CARD
Matt Riddle admits he isn’t scheduled to have a match tonight, but after Kassius Ohno interrupted him, he proposes knocking Ohno out in both of them. Kassius says the King of Bros is too stupid to know he’s not on the card or ready for TakeOver. He calls for a ref and we’ve got a match.
Match 1 – Matt Riddle vs. Kassius Ohno
One knee to the face from Riddle and he’s 1-0 on NXT PPVs. Thanks for showing up, Ohno.
Winner by pinfall: Matt Riddle
Match 2 – Kaira Sane (challenger) vs. Shayna Baszler (champion) – 2 out of 3 Falls NXT Women’s Championship Match
Sane wastes no time delivering all kinds of offense, but she runs afoul of Baszler’s lieutenants quicker than you might imagine, and Baszler locks in the Kirifuda Clutch and gets a relatively quick tap from Sane.
Baszler leads, 1 fall to 0.
Baszler goes right back to work with submission holds, but Sane is able to score multiple near-falls, including one while back in the champ’s finishing hold. After flying to the outside to take out all of Baszler’s crew, she follows with an Insane Elbow in the ring to get a three count.
Wrestlers tied, 1-1.
With Baszler in some trouble and Sane looking to drop another Insane Elbow, the Horsewomen once again get involved, distracting the ref and shoving the Pirate Princess off the top turnbuckle. Dakota Kai and Io Shirai even the odds at ringside, with Shirai hitting a beautiful top rope moonsault to the floor. Sane takes advantage with the Insane Elbow, but Baszler is able to roll through it with one arm holding the challenger’s shoulders down to retain her title.
Winner … and still NXT women’s champion … Shayna Baszler
Match 3 – Johnny Gargano vs. Aleister Black
Gargano shows a total lack of respect with a slap to the face right after the opening bell, but Black soon earns it back. Johnny Wrestling takes the fight to the mat, but Black shows his stuff with a big kick to the face and a somersault plancha. A springboard moonsault gets him a near fall, but Gargano responds with DDTs both out of and inside the ring. Gargano talks smack to Black before they exchange strikes, and Black delivers a huge knee and a bridging suplex that gets him a two count. The Gargano Escape is locked in, but Black rolls it into a pin and forces Johnny himself to escape. Black sits in the middle of the ring and dares Gargano to hit him with his best shot, avoiding the running knee once, but not the second one, though he still manages to kick out of the pinning predicament. Back and forth strikes erupt, and when Gargano goes for a suicide dive, Black catches him with a knee to the jaw. Back between the ropes, Black tries for his finisher but ends up back in Gargano’s finishing hold. Intent to teach Gargano a lesson, Black smashes Gargano with the Black Mass multiple times, holding Gargano up for more between each one, and ends up with the deserving pinfall.
Winner by pinfall: Aleister Black
Match 4 – Velveteen Dream (challenger) vs. Tommaso Ciampa (champion) – NXT Championship Match
This one gets off to a slower start, with some good storytelling as Dream gets his headband taken then gets it back. He wants to drop a Hulk Hogan legdrop but sees Ciampa roll out of the ring. On the outside, Ciampa crashes home a knee with Dream on the table, but the challenger regains the edge and rips off multiple legdrops before administering a submission hold with Ciampa’s leg wrapped around the post. Back in the ring, the Figure Four makes an appearance, though it doesn’t end things, and Ciampa tosses Dream into the barrier. Dream pulls off the rarely seen suplex out to the floor, leaving both men down. Ciampa tries to roll up the challenger with a handful of tights, but the ref sees it before counting the three. Dream takes advantage with a shot to the face and a rolling Death Valley Driver but only gets a two count. More near falls follow, and Ciampa loses his boot before hitting a DDT on Dream trying to re-enter the ring. On the outside, Ciampa exposes the floor, but gets distracted by Mauro Ranallo (who granted, had called him a “sick S.O.B.”) and hit by a rolling DVD. Dream climbs up top and drops a big elbow, yet it’s still not enough to finish the match. Ciampa digs down deep for one more move, and it’s a good one: He DDTs Dream on the metal between the two ring, and that finally ends this one in impressive fashion.
Winner by pinfall … and still NXT Champion … Tommaso Ciampa
Main Event – Undisputed Era vs. War Raiders, Pete Dunne and Ricochet – War Games Match
Total event rating: 8.5
Nick Tylwalk has been with SLAM! Wrestling since the dawn of time, or at least since before the turn of the century. He spends his days overseeing FanSided’s Entertainment efforts, but he’ll always make time to sneak away for some wrestling.