The SmarK Rant for NXT Takeover Wargames 2019–11.23.19

The SmarK Rant for NXT Takeover Wargames 2019 – 11.23.19

Live from Chicago, IL

Your hosts are Mauro Ranallo, Nigel McGuinness & Beth Phoenix. Mauro can’t even make it out of the introductions before referencing Baby Yoda! I mean, I can’t blame him, but pace yourself, man!

Wargames #1: Rhea Ripley, Tegan Nox, Dakota Kai & Candice LeRae v. Shayna Baszler, Bianca Belair, Kay Lee Ray & Io Shirai

Dakota is subbing for the injured Mia Yim, after getting snubbed twice. So we start with EVIL IO and Candice. They slug it out on the mat to start and Candice snaps off a headscissors, but Io lands on her feet in a slick reversal. Candice gets a slam off a full nelson to chase her to the other ring, but she tries a dive and gets hit with a forearm by Shirai. Io gets her between the rings and hits a pair of 619s to reach a devastating 1238, and then follows with a double springboard dropkick into the other ring. If they’re trying to keep her as a heel they’re doing a shitty job because the fans are chanting her name and cheering everything. Dropkick in the corner and she chokes LeRae out, then takes her down with a drop toehold onto the ring divider and we get some cheese grater action on the cage. And the heels still have the advantage! So as we run out the clock on the first period with crowd chanting “Where’s the clock?”, Bianca Belair is the next one into the ring.

So Bianca hits LeRae with the facebuster and a standing shooting star, but Candice fights back with a rana and slugs away on Shirai in the corner. Belair cuts that off with a triple powerbomb on LeRae and runs her into the cage on the last one, allowing the heels to double-team her. Shirai runs the ropes 5 times to charge up a low dropkick in another great spot, and Rhea Ripley is the next one in to make the save with garbage cans and kendo sticks and chairs. However, there are no tables, so the crowd boos her. No pleasing this city. So Rhea drops Bianca on a trash can and then the babyfaces try a suplex on the chairs, but Io breaks it up and the period ends. Kay Lee Ray is next in, and she brings more chairs into the ring but then teases a table and turns herself heel by denying it. Tornado DDT for Rhea on a chair and she puts her on the chair stack, but Candice saves. So KLR disgustedly folds up all the chairs again, and they all fight on the top rope before Rhea brings them all down with the Tower of Doom before Bianca follows with a 450 onto Rhea. On the chairs. OK then, that probably hurt.

Dakota Kai is next…but she turns on Tegan Nox to pay off THAT storyline and then slams her bad knee in the mini-cage door to destroy it! She even attacks William Regal! Hey, maybe you should have asked to be part of the team sooner, jerks! Kai keeps attacking Nox and Mr. Regal has to pull her off, and now the babyfaces are down a person. So Shayna Baszler is last one in for the heels and it’s 4-on-2 with Nox unlikely to compete. So Rhea fights off the others and goes after Shayna, but she gets beaten down and apparently the Match Beyond has begun. Rhea and Candice fight from the middle of the rings like Butch and Sundance and Rhea manages to dropkick Shirai into the corner and then suplexes KLR into the cage.

We get crazy double submissions with Rhea putting Shirai into a cloverleaf on the top rope in one ring while Baszler chokes out LeRae in the other, but Candice escapes. However, Bianca presses Candice onto Ripley and Io adds a moonsault for two, with Rhea barely saving. Belair whips Rhea with the hair, but Candice saves with the kendo stick and beats the hell out of Bianca. Io cuts her off with a backbreaker and goes to the top of the cage, but LeRae follows and then manages to hit a top rope reverse rana on KLR for two. Meanwhile, Io climbs on the top of the cage and moonsaults LeRae and Bianca at the same time, somehow not dying in the process. Over in the other ring, Rhea beats on people with chairs, but Shayna catches her in the choke with no one left to save, (on either side) so Rhea does the work herself and manages to handcuff herself to Baszler. This leads to the Riptide on the chairs, and she gets the pin at 27:32. Yet another star-making performance from Rhea Ripley, who is somehow eclipsing everyone at every turn. Now hopefully they FINALLY put the title on her soon. I also kind of figured they were playing the long game with the Dakota Kai stuff, and I’m glad they paid it off sooner rather than later. Great match, safe violence, Io Shirai flying off the cage, cool finish, what’s not to love? ****3/4

Damian Priest v. Pete Dunne v. Killian Dain

Dunne goes for the fingers right away, but the heels toss him and Priest gets a dropkick on Dain as we get our first “Archer of Infamy” of the night. Hopefully the last. Dunne comes back in with SMALL JOINT MANIPULATION on Dain, but Priest lays him out from behind. Dain slams Dunne headfirst onto Priest’s head in a dangerous spot and beats on Priest on the floor, then slams both guys on the floor at the same time. Back in, Dain gets the heat on Dunne, but Pete comes back with german suplexes on both guys and jumps into the cross armbreaker on Priest while trying to break Dain’s fingers at the same time. The heels team up with a powerbomb to break that up, however. Priest and Dain slug it out, but then Dunne beats on both of them and stomps their hands. They fight to the floor and Priest takes out Dunne with a Razor’s Edge onto the table, however, and then Dain does the cannonball on Priest through the railing, which always gets a reaction. Back in, Dain gets two on Priest. Senton and he goes up, but Priest brings him down with a Razor’s Edge for two before Dunne revives and makes the save. Dunne stomps Priest down and makes the comeback, but Priest suddenly dives onto Dain on the floor, and then Dunne follows them out with a moonsault. Back in, Priest and Dunne do the slugfest and Priest takes him out with a lariat, but Dunne reverses a chokeslam into the armbreaker. Dain makes the save there and hits Priest with a One Winged Angel for two. Dain piles them in the corner and hits them with a cannonball for two on Priest, but Dunne saves and hits a Bitter End on Dain that goes pretty badly, and that gets two. Dunne goes up and Priest brings him down and into Dain, and the Reckoning on Dunne gets two before Dain saves. Dain hits Dunne with a chop block and sends Priest to the floor, but he goes up and Dunne cuts him off, then breaks Priest’s fingers to hopefully hamper his archery career, and the Bitter End gets two. OK, now we’re way past the point when they should have ended this match. Dain tries the Angel on Dunne, but Dunne pulls him down and onto Priest, and pins Priest to win at 20:00. Not a big fan of this one, it didn’t have much flow and they missed the peak by at least 5:00 and then just kept trying the false finishes. It was like a good TV main event, but not on the same level as your usual Takeover match. **3/4

Takeover Portland comes in February. Hoping for the Billy Jack Haynes cameo!

Meanwhile, the men’s team are still searching for a fourth member. I mean, the women managed to win their match down 2 people, so maybe they should suck it up, buttercup? Just saying.

Matt Riddle v. Finn Balor

OK, “Masters of the WWE Universe” is a pretty sweet mash-up line, I’ll give ‘em that one. Riddle immediately tries for the armbar, but Balor rolls him over for two and they’re at a stalemate. Balor takes him down with a headlock, but Riddle reverses into the rolling gutwrenches and Balor manages a rollup for two. Riddle with a sunset flip and Balor rolls into a low dropkick for two and goes to the chinlock. Balor beats him down in the corner and fishhooks the nose, then tosses Riddle and follows with a baseball slide for two. Riddle comes back with kicks and an exploder out of the corner, and a senton gets two. Balor tries an enzuigiri, but Riddle catches the foot with an anklelock and Finn makes the ropes. Balor hides in the corner, so Riddle pulls him out for a german suplex attempt. Finn’s knee gives out and Riddle can’t finish the move, but Balor fires off a dropkick and then follows with his own german. Riddle no-sells that and hits the knee and german suplex for two. Riddle with the ripcord knee, but Balor takes him down for the double stomp and follows with the sling blade, only to walk into a spear. Riddle with the jackhammer for two. Balor reverses out of the Bro Derek and the 1916 gets two. Riddle comes back with Bro 2 Sleep and goes up for the moonsault, but he hits knees and Balor dropkicks him into the corner to set up the Coup de Grace, which misses. Riddle hooks him in the Bromission and Balor rolls out of it, but Riddle upkicks him from the mat. Balor comes back once more with the 1916 DDT, however, and that finishes at 14:30. Started a bit slow but turned into a hell of a match. I’m really not a fan of the finish where one guy does his big moves and the other guy pops up with no transition and hits the finisher, though. ****

Wargames #2: Adam Cole, Roderick Strong, Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly v. Tommaso Ciampa, Dominick Dijakovic, Keith Lee & ????

I’m so glad to see Dijak and Lee finally getting pushed where they deserve. Ciampa immediately decides to start the match himself, with Strong stepping up for the Era. Ciampa actually gives up the crutch, but Strong throws it out of the cage and decides to do it himself. So they slug it out and Ciampa wins that, but Strong gets a backbreaker. Ciampa suplexes him onto the top rope and slugs away in the corner before following with a knee. Strong fires back with his own punches in the corner, but Ciampa slips out and punts him from behind. They slug it out between the rings and Ciampa clotheslines him into the other ring. Strong puts him down with a gutbuster and slugs away on the mat. They slug it out and Kyle O’Reilly is the next one in for the heels, but Ciampa fights them off until Kyle beats him down with knees. Strong and O’Reilly double-team Ciampa with kicks on the ropes, but Ciampa keeps fighting until Strong hits him with a series of forearms while running back and forth. They beat Ciampa down, but Dijak saves and it’s go time.

Big boot for O’Reilly and he superkicks him into a lariat, then superkicks Strong and suplexes O’Reilly onto Strong. O’Reilly tries to slow him down with a guillotine, but Dijak slams him into the cage while Ciampa recovers and beats on Strong. We get a great spot with Dijak hitting O’Reilly with forearms between the rings while Kyle keeps bouncing up for more, and Bobby Fish is next in for the Era. Fish hits Ciampa with kicks on the cage and then batters Dijak down. Fish & O’Reilly with the high low on Dijak and Chasing the Dragon on Ciampa, and Fish is confident that they’ve got this under control and he lets Adam Cole know. Although then he makes the mistake of trash-talking Keith Lee from the ring, and I feel like that’s a bad idea. Just a hunch. The Era beats down the babyfaces, but Keith Lee comes in and he’s pretty fucking pissed off. Double bodypress for redragon and then the slingshots onto them with another one, throwing them around in exactly the way you’re not supposed to shake babies. Finally all three Era members manage to get him off his feet and beat him down. Dijak makes the save for his frenemy and the hosses fight off the Era, but Adam Cole (BAY BAY) is last in for the heels.

Cole finally brings the tables that the crowd was asking for, setting one up on the railing and pulling out a continuing stream of them from under the ring like a clown car. But then Ciampa tosses him through his own table on the floor before Cole can get into the ring and then hauls him in. So the Era all back off to one ring and we get the big slugfest, which leads to Fish going low on Keith Lee. Keith Lee is very low on the list of people I would want to hit in the nuts. And then the clock counts down for the fourth man, who turns out to be Kevin Owens for a monster pop, apparently back in NXT. Pop up powerbomb on Fish, package backbreaker on O’Reilly, and he powerbombs Fish onto O’Reilly for good measure. Cole offers him a UE spot, but KO can’t make the hand gesture and hits a stunner instead for two. Lee and DIjak grab Strong and throw him onto the other Era guys, and Ciampa hits the draping DDT on O’Reilly, but tables get set up and the Era regains the advantage. Everyone piles up in the ring and Lee hits them all with a flying bodypress, but then O’Reilly dives off the top with a flying knee onto Lee’s leg and goes to the kneebar. Dijak saves with a moonsault for two, but Fish moonsaults HIM for two. And then Owens with a swanton on Fish for two, but Cole saves with a superkick. Lee goes up and Strong brings him with down with a top rope Strong Slam, and redragon hit the high low on him for two. Another high low on Dijak, but KO makes the save (“Oh no, did that hurt?”) and then tries the package piledriver on Cole on the middle of the rings. Cole escapes and manages to hit a Code Red on the divider instead, and everyone is dead in the ring. The Era set up a couple of tables but can’t keep Ciampa down, and he comes back with running knees on Strong and Fish on opposite sides of the ring. Cole cuts him off with a superkick, but Ciampa gives him the running knees as well. They head to the top and Cole uses the beard to fight Ciampa off, then climbs to the top of the cage while Dijak takes care of Strong with a chokeslam through a table. O’Reilly tries a triangle, but Owens saves with a frog splash, putting Kyle through another table. Lee powerbombs Fish through a third table, and we’re left with Cole and Ciampa slugging it out on top of the cage. And then Ciampa brings him down with the Air Raid Crash off the top of the cage, through two tables, and NO FUCKING KIDDING that’s over at 38:33. This started as a great old school Wargames match and then turned into the modern car wreck style and they were both fantastic, like chocolate combining with peanut butter. And tables. *****

Well, I suppose you can dock marks for 25% of the show being under four stars, but with three of the four matches being great and two of them being Match of the Year Contenders, this warrants an easy BINGE IT on the scale of Burn It / Avoid It / Skim It / Watch It / Binge It. These shows just keep delivering.