The SmarK Rant for NXT Takeover Wargames 2020 – 12.06.20

The SmarK Rant for NXT Takeover Wargames 2020 – 12.06.20

Live from the Capitol Wrestling Center in Orlando

Your hosts are Vic Joseph, Wade Barrett & Beth Phoenix.  Every time I want to type “Stu Bennett”!

Pretty cool of them to use “War Pigs” for the theme.

Wargames #1:  Toni Storm, Dakota Kai, Raquel Gonzalez and Candice LeRae v. Shotzi Blackheart, Rhea Ripley, Io Shirai and Ember Moon

Dakota starts for the heels against Ember for the 5:00 opening and goes for a sleeper right away, but Ember throws her to escape that.  They exchange kicks in the corner and Ember gets a senton, but Kai chokes her out against the cage to take control.  We get some more dull stuff and Kai gets a Code Red out of the corner as the first period ends.  Shotzi is the next one in for the babyfaces.  Why would you book a babyface advantage?  She brings a toolbox into the ring and runs wild on Kai for a bit, then hits a baseball slide between the rings and finally Ember helps out for the 2-on-1 advantage and Kai STILL manages to fight them off!  Shotzi rubs her into the cage and goes up, but Kai cuts her off, so Shotzi and Ember do a double-team missile dropkick as the period expires.  The clock is running slow already, adding an extra 30 seconds to that period.  Gonzalez is the next one in for the heels and she fights off both babyfaces and puts Moon down with a spinning slam.  Shotzi gets powerbombed into the cage and then Raquel uses Dakota as a battering ram and the heels go to work.  Dakota gets a springboard clothesline onto both faces, and next in is Rhea Ripley at 12:00.  So we get the showdown with Rhea and Raquel, and Rhea runs wild with clotheslines on Kai, and then finds a mallet in the toolbox and beats on Kai with that.  That looked REALLY fake.  If you’re gonna introduce stuff like that, it needs to be a big spot for the finish.  We get another slugfest between Rhea and Raquel, but Toni Storm is in for the heels at 15:00.  She brings kendo sticks into the match and undoes some turnbuckle pads as the heels kind of haphazardly work people over and beat on them.  This match is really oddly booked.  Everyone piles up in the corners for a double elevated bulldog spot in unison, which you can tell because Ember loudly counted down for the spot.  Io Shirai is last in for the babyfaces at 18:30 and she wants a ladder into the match, but Raquel tries to block the door and keep her out.  So the heels keep beating on the babyfaces while Io throws more s--- into the ring rather than, you know, doing something to help her team.  Toni uses her belt to keep the door shut and Candice is the last one in, but first Indi Hartwell jumps out of the audience in a neck brace and attacks Shirai before throwing MORE crap into the cage.  So the door gets locked with Shirai outside as apparently TECHNICALLY the match can’t end until Io manages to get into the ring.  So LeRae goes for a pin on Shotzi but the ref won’t count.  But then Shirai comes off the top of the cage with a garbage can on her head and dives onto everyone as they pump “this is awesome” chants in.  Io runs wild with everyone all piled up in one ring and hits the moonsault on Raquel for two, but Candice saves.  Candice gets Gargano Escape on Moon while Shotzi puts Storm in a double arm submission, but LeRae gives hers up to make the save.  Shotzi beats on the heels with a kendo stick, but Dakota puts Io into the trashcan and squashes it with a double stomp for two.  And OF COURSE we’re at the 30:00 mark because even with shorter intervals they still had to book this thing to go insanely long for no reason.  Ember sets up a pair of chairs and puts Kai onto them for an Eclipse, but that only gets two because Storm saves. Storm Zero onto a trash can gets two.  Rhea saves and gets her cloverleaf, which then gets two.  Shotzi and LeRae fight onto the ladder and Shotzi puts her down onto a chair and follows with a senton off the ladder.  But nothing comes of it, and over in the other ring Shirai gets the moonsault on Kai for two.  She goes up for another try, but Raquel powerbombs her onto a ladder and gets the pin at 35:22.  Once they actually got everyone into the ring it was pretty good, but it took WAY too long to get there and people were disappearing for minutes at a time.  And it felt like they had nothing to say with the match, so they just piled weapons and gaga into the ring to fill time.  Like they built to the big spot with Shirai getting locked out of the cage and then diving onto everyone with the garbage can, but it led to nothing and the match went for another 15 minutes after the big climax.  Also, the babyfaces had the advantage and STILL lost the match!  ***1/2 for the work in the last few minutes but I wouldn’t watch it again.

Timothy Thatcher v. Tommaso Ciampa

Ciampa takes him down with a headlock but can’t hold him down, as Thatcher beats him down and goes for the ankle.  Ciampa beats him down with forearms and he works on Thatcher’s leg before tossing him to the floor.  Thatcher catches him with a forearm on the way into the ring and Ciampa seems to be hurt, but Thatcher comes in with a double underhook suplex for two and goes to a chinlock.  Thatcher continues working on the neck and rams it into the apron, the HARDEST PART OF THE RING, which gets two.  Ciampa fights up and Thatcher gets a belly to belly but he’s too far into the ropes.  Another chinlock, but Ciampa escapes with a jawbreaker, so Thatcher grabs him by the beard and slaps him down.  Thatcher tries a double underhook suplex, but Ciampa backdrops out of that and both guys are down.  They exchange forearms and collide off a headbutt and both are down again.  Ciampa makes the comeback with clotheslines and they head up, allowing Ciampa to hit the superplex for two.  He goes for the finish, but Thatcher chops him in the throat and goes for a guillotine, but Ciampa takes him to the floor to escape.  They both beat the count at 9 and Ciampa makes another comeback, getting a bulldog choke while Thatcher bleeds from somewhere, but he makes the ropes and hits Ciampa with a german suplex.  He pulls Ciampa up by the beard and hits another one, and they head to the apron where Thatcher necks him on the top rope to put him down again.  Ciampa fights back with a backslide but Thatcher flips into the ropes, so Ciampa throws chops on the ropes and follows with the draping DDT for the pin at 16:49.  Both guys worked hard as usual and it was hard-hitting, but it feels like neither one is going anywhere at this point.  ***1/2  Maybe Ciampa and Gargano can reunite and then turn on each other again, I dunno.

Strap Match:  Dexter Lumis v. Cameron Grimes

Grimes brings his own strap for some reason and insists on using it, and then attacks Dexter and beats on him outside the ring before the bell.  Back in the ring, Lumis makes a comeback and the bell rings, so that the announcers can stop reminding us 17 times a minute that the match hasn’t officially started yet.  But then Lumis gets hooked up so the match can start and he throws Grimes around and tries for a strapping, but Grimes runs away to the floor and chokes Lumis out.  Grimes tries to run into the crowd and gets pulled down.  Beth:  “Lumis is doing what he does best, which is slow the pace down!”  Truer words have never been spoken.  Grimes bumps all over the floor and into the plexiglass, but then gains control again and uses the secondary strap for some extra damage.  Back in the ring for more whipping, but Lumis comes back with a spinebuster despite having a bag on his head.  This is apparently a “sixth sense” he was using, even though last I checked “touch” and “hearing” were already senses.  Grimes manages to run Lumis into the post and hits him with kicks from the apron, but Lumis yanks him to the floor for another bump.  But then Grimes gets a chair and beats on Lumis with that in the ring, but Dexter just kind of pops up and makes the comeback.  “This strap match turning very ugly!” notes Vic.  Oh we got there about 5:00 ago I’d say.  Lumis goes up and Grimes yanks him down and into the flipping bodypress for two.  Lumis escapes the Cave In and yanks Grimes down, bouncing him face off the chair and then choking him out at 12:55.  What is the point of keeping this f------ feud going for months when Lumis WINS ALL OF THE MATCHES?  This just felt like it dragged on forever and the strap match stip meant nothing.  *1/2

Meanwhile, Karrion Kross is just about ready to come back.  Well good thing they took the title off him so that Finn Balor could sit on the shelf for months instead.

North American title:  Leon Ruff v. Johnny Gargano v. Damian Priest

Johnny quickly tosses Priest and slams Ruff for two, but Ruff slips away from him in the corner and gets a dropkick and springboard rana.  Priest comes back in and tosses Ruff out like some kind of jobber.  Can you even imagine?  Ruff tries to get some offense on Priest and that goes badly for him, so Ruff and Gargano team up to put Priest on the floor.  But then Johnny turns on Ruff and spears him for two.  Priest fights with Gargano on the floor, but Ruff dives onto Priest from the stage and Priest catches him and declares his annoyance, before powerbombing him through a plexi wall.  And then referees haul Ruff back to the dressing room while Priest and Gargano continue.  Johnny gets a DDT onto the floor and they fight back into the ring, where Priest gets a leg lariat for two.  Gargano with a shiranui for two and throws some kicks, but Priest puts him down with a lariat and they’re both out.  But then Ruff returns and makes a comeback on both guys with a dive.  Back in the ring, a cutter on Gargano gets two.  Johnny cuts him off and beats on him in the corner, but Ruff comes back with a clothesline for two.  Priest comes back in and tells Ruff that there’s no more chances being given to him and he takes out both guys with a chokeslam and then suplexes Ruff onto Gargano.  Johnny runs Priest into the post, however, and goes after Ruff by throwing him into Priest, but Johnny stops to tie up Priest in the ropes and Ruff gets a crucifix on Gargano for two.  Ruff goes up and misses a frog splash, and Johnny puts him in the Gargano Escape right in front of Priest, but he escapes the ropes and saves.  Priest goes up with a leg lariat on Johnny and then throws Ruff into Gargano again and chokeslams Johnny.  But then a bunch of people with Scream masks run in and attack Priest and he fights them off, hitting them with dives.  This allows Ruff to splash Gargano for two, but Priest makes the save and puts him down with a knee.  Priest and Gargano trade some stuff and Priest goes to finish, but ANOTHER Scream killer hits him with a lead pipe, and Gargano DDTs Ruff to regain the title at 17:29.  And the last masked man reveals himself as Austin Theory.  This was way, WAY overbooked and Ruff’s entire title reign was a complete waste of time.  Like, he does some good moves like a million other people they have under contract, but he’s not nothing going on otherwise.  Also, and I know this is going to shock you, but I thought the match went way too long.  **1/2

Wargames #2:  The Undisputed Era v. Pat McAfee, Oney Lorcan, Danny Burch and Pete Dunne

Kyle starts with Dunne and they both work for a leglock on the mat and do some nice grappling, leading to a nice spot where Dunne retreats between the rings and catches him with a triangle.  To fight to the other ring and Dunne puts him down with a head kick and uses some SMALL JOINT MANIPULATION and stomps the hand to block O’Reilly from evading him.  Kyle grabs a guillotine and puts Dunne down, but Dunne hits him with the X-Plex and goes into an armbar on the mat, which Kyle reverses into a heel hook as the first period expires.  That was a great opening period.

Oney Lorcan is next in for the heels and slugs it out with Kyle, but Dunne cuts O’Reilly off and they go to work on him.  Dunne surfboards him and Lorcan chops the chest and DDTs him.  O’Reilly fights them off and goes up for the flying knee onto Lorcan, but Dunne swoops in and dropkicks the knee to take him out.  They put O’Reilly into a double submission move, but Bobby Fish makes the save at 8:30 and runs wild on the heels.  Fish and O’Reilly do some double-teaming on Lorcan to get rid of him and then pound Dunne with kicks and everyone works for submissions in the corners as the period expires. Danny Burch is next in for the heels at 11:30 and he brings a CRICKET BAT, which has Wade popping.  The English heels use the bats for some damage to the Era, although of course Lorcan would be unfamiliar with it, and then Burch spends too long monologuing and gets rolled into a kneebar by O’Reilly.  Dunne stomps the injured arm of O’Reilly to break that up and Burch adds a shot with the bat as the heels go to work again.  The heels proceed to beating them down, but Roderick Strong saves at 14:50 and runs wild on the tag champs.  Backbreaker for Dunne and then we get a great bit where he hits them with forearms while running between the rings, before Lorcan finally runs him into the cage to stop him.  Lorcan and Burch double-team Strong while Dunne destroys Fish’s arm between the rings, and Pat McAfee is the last guy for the heels at 18:00.  He’s got tables under the ring that are pre-labelled with the names of the Undisputed Era and he loads up the ring with them.  That’s cute.  So he sits and watches while his goons do the work, but then Strong gets put on his assigned table and Pat moonsaults him through it.  And Adam Cole is the last one in at 21:34, and he brings a fire extinguisher with him and cleans house with a chair.  We get the showdown with McAfee, but Dunne breaks it up and does the curb stomps on Cole, but Cole reverses to a DDT.  And then McAfee holds him from behind for an enzuigiri from Dunne and makes the fatal error of pointing to his head to indicate his intelligence.

O’Reilly goads Pat into the other ring with some quality trashtalk and Cole lays him out with a chair, and everyone brawls.  Fish and O’Reilly hit Dunne with knees and Kyle gets two, but Lorcan saves and they hit O’Reilly with a double suplex for two.  McAfee clips the knee on Cole and gets a figure-four while his guys hold off the Era in the other ring, but Cole turns it over while the Era hold the heels off now.  That was a clever sequence.  Dunne makes the save.  Burch and Lorcan set up Cole’s table, but Cole fights off Dunne with the brainbuster for two and sets up O’Reilly’s table.  He takes Dunne to the top for a superplex, but Pete fights him off by going to the fingers.  So the Era powerbombs Dunne onto another table, but it doesn’t break, and Strong splashes him to finally break it.  And then Cole puts McAfee through another table and everyone is out.  The Era recovers first and puts the heels between the ropes and the cage, delivering a series of running kicks and elbows to them in an awesome spot, and leaving them laying in a heap while McAfee calls for a truce.  Pat tries to run away but gets caught in a 4-on-1 situation and the Era mugs him and beats the hell out of him to get some revenge.  McAfee bumps into the cage like he’s Bobby Heenan, but his guys make the save and beat down the Era again.  It’s actually a really clever conceit that McAfee holds no actual loyalty to his crew and they only stick with him because he pays them so well, and he makes no excuses about it, blatantly letting them do the work on his behalf.  Everyone regroups and slugs it out in a big pileup, but McAfee goes to the top of the cage and hits everyone with a swanton in a dramatic but safe spot.  Pete and Kyle slug it out in the other ring, but Dunne breaks the fingers and hits the Bitter End for two.  This gives us our first Shocked Kickout Face of the match from Dunne.  They head to the middle of the rings and O’Reilly suplexes him onto the grating for two.  He goes up to finish Dunne off for good, but McAfee brings him down with a chair, only for Cole to steal it.  So McAfee goes to the nuts, but Cole recovers with a pump kick and they put Burch through Fish’s table.  McAfee superkicks Cole and tries his own Panama Sunrise, but Cole blocks it, hits the real deal, and gets two.  So he does Shocked Kickout Face and sets up the Last Shot, but Lorcan takes the bullet and allows Dunne to hit a sick Bitter End onto a chair.  And then everyone goes nuts with highspots, until O’Reilly hits Lorcan with a flying knee onto a chair for the pin at 45:04.  See, if only McAfee hadn’t pointed to his own head to indicate his intelligence, they might have won.  Rookie error.

Anyway, this was FANTASTIC, everything right that the women’s match did wrong, with a focused storyline through the entire match where you could tell what everyone in the match was doing at all times.  The heat segments made sense through the match and built how they’re supposed to, keeping sympathy on the babyfaces and giving the heels the advantage to move things forward when needed, and all of the weapons that got brought into the match had a purpose and paid off meaningfully.  Plus the heels got their comeuppance after months of beatdowns and s----talking.  *****

Overall, the men’s WarGames makes this an easy thumbs up, but for me it’s the only match really worth watching on the show.  The strap match and North American title were particularly worthless, both feeling like average TV matches at best, but you should really go out of your way to see the main event.