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    Wednesday, December 9, 2020

    The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: NXT Takeover WarGames 2020

    Undisputed Era in WWE NXT TakeOver: WarGames 2020

    WarGames has become one of NXT's iconic matches since it's 2017 debut on the brand. Akin to the main roster's Survivor Series, it has become such a staple that I've come to look forward to it just to see who will come to face the Undisputed ERA. Yes, I'd be lying if I didn't say that I'm invested in the PPV because I always wonder how they'd build into the eventual ERA vs. whatever makeshift team—and this year was no different. However, I'd have to say that having two WarGames matches in one show is starting to become gimmicky and unnecessary.


    While I admit that both of them had their own strengths, I feel that NXT could just do with one of these so that the idea still feels fresh. I'd probably compare it to WWE's Hell In A Cell wherein the stipulation itself has started to lose its luster for having too many cell matches in one show. I miss the days of old when these really felt special and the gravity of the stipulations mattered. It did help that the two WarGames bouts were end-to-end on the card, but I suppose it's a matter of taste when it comes to these things.

    With that being said, let's run through the card and see how everything in the card fared.

    The ERA gets their revenge on Pat McAfee

    Like I said previously, this is that one match I look forward to every year. As a fan of the ERA, I've enjoyed their multi-man work. Plus, this is the first year that they're actually working the babyface role which is a breath of fresh air considering they've run through the ranks beating up all the good guys. The buildup to this was fire—especially since apart from Dunne, the other members of team McAfee weren't main event material prior to this run.

    Pat McAfee, Kyle O'Reilly, and Adam Cole in WWE NXT TakeOver: WarGames 2020

    Right off the bat, one of the things I've noticed is how they're starting to invest in Kyle O'Reilly as a babyface star. After the last TakeOver, they've really made Cool Kyle such a lovable character that you can't help but just cheer for the guy. With him starting this fight, it's obvious that they see a lot in O'Reilly and want to build him up for the eventual singles run. A lot of the best spots here involved him and rightfully so.

    On the other side of things, It looks like they're really giving Pat McAfee the ball on the heel side as well. Say what you will about McAfee but the guy isn't all talk. As scared as I was for all the high-risk spots he performed, he was great in the ring—just look at that Swanton Bomb dive from the top of the cage. Plus, he has one of those punchable faces that you just want to see get his comeuppance. I'd say he's similar to The Miz in terms of how much you want to see him get beat up.



    Props to Roderick Strong as well. I get the feeling he's the most overlooked member of the ERA but his solid showing really made me think of how much he deserves a single run as well. Hell, I'd love to see Strong vs. Balor just to see how much it'll help Roddy's career. Just look at what that matchup did to O'Reilly's character.

    Normally, I'd nag with how long the main event was, but it was so fast-paced and action-packed that I wasn't bothered. The build-up to this one was strong. The in-ring timing was excellent. Everybody got their own highlight. I wouldn't mind if the feud continued after this show since they're all performing in peak condition and have a lot of chemistry together. I never thought I'd look forward to an Oney Lorcan/Danny Burch match, but here we are. Oh 2020, you are indeed a strange year.

    Three-Time, Three-Time, Three-Time!

    Nobody would have expected Johnny Gargano to win the NXT North American championship for the third time considering Leon Ruff has been such a hit with the NXT Universe but yet again, Gargano has found himself holding the gold. It's going to be a different story if he finally breaks his first-defense curse but I suppose the next defense will still involve Damian Priest or Leon Ruff.



    The bout itself was mostly Priest running through both Gargano and Ruff, but it surprisingly had good storytelling for all three characters. With Lee and Dijakovic now on the main roster, Priest has now embraced his big strong man role. He was booked to look powerful here and even as he lost, I now see him in a new light. Ruff, on the other hand, was your everyman underdog. He's probably what you'd get if you mixed R-Truth up with Rey Mysterio. I actually thought he'd remain the champion with the way the story was going but I suppose they're planning to move him on to different things after this.

    The big story here was Gargano's Ghostface family. While it did feel like a "Retribution" rehash (just use Ghostface masks instead), it does make me wonder what direction they're going with this. Deep inside, I wish they'd do a David Arquette reveal just for the shock value, but I'm really not sure why they're running with the Ghostface cover (perhaps there's a WWE deal with the owner of the license?) besides the fact that the Garganos are building some kind of mega stable and these are leftover Halloween Havoc ideas just to tie the loose ends from that show.

    Johnny Gargano and Austin Theory in WWE NXT TakeOver: WarGames 2020

    A little side note on the Austin Theory reveal, I chuckled a little after hearing the "It was me, Austin. It was me all along." because of the obvious call back to the "Higher Power" storyline from the Attitude Era.

    No One Will Survive?

    One of my favorite fights of the night would have to be Timothy Thatcher vs. Tommaso Ciampa. Maybe the story itself was a little light, but with such little background, they made up for the sheer brutality of it all. It was simple and it was hard. That's basically all you need to know since the whole match was just Ciampa and Thatcher exchanging holds and blows. This was actually a good break from the gimmick matches and that's what sets it apart from the others.

    I'd have to give high praise to Thatcher because of how good he plays a character (I'm not even sure if it's still a character by this point). The facial expressions, the grunts, and everything in between was perfect. If I had to make a comparison, His work is pretty similar to Chris Benoit's in-ring character and I wouldn't be surprised if he'd be built into something akin to that. He does need to flesh out his motivation more and be involved in more storylines as it might be boring to other people.


    Tommaso Ciampa and Timothy Thatcher in WWE NXT TakeOver: WarGames 2020

    Ciampa is a different story. To be honest, I'm not sure what his character arc is now. It feels like he's acting like a gatekeeper of sorts but I think he's reached the ceiling in this brand. I know he's mentioned in the past that he doesn't want to be called up, but, I don't think it makes sense to give him the win here because he's a star on his own.

    The Women Call For War

    The Women's WarGames started the show and it was actually a fun match story-wise. A lot of relationships were redefined here and all Superstars had their time to shine and build into their character. If there's one gripe I have over the participants, it's that I felt Toni Storm felt a little lost after her surprise heel turn. I just felt she lacked the oomph I was looking for in terms of interesting moments in the match.


    Candice LeRae, Indi Hartwell, Toni Storm, Dakota Kai, and Raquel Gonzales in WWE NXT TakeOver: WarGames 2020

    Otherwise, a lot of future feuds may have been built from here. Rhea Ripley and Raquel Gonzales looked like an interesting rivalry that could continue off from here. Them being the powerhouses of both groups looked like a beautiful car crash waiting to happen if they move forward with this. I do feel that Gonzales looked uncomfortable and sluggish at times but I think that's something she and Ripley can work on together.

    Shotzi Blackheart was a revelation here. It felt like this match was tailored specifically to make her a star and they succeeded with that. Her star-making performance is sure to launch her career. They could easily just call her up or make her the next face of NXT shall Io Shirai be called up instead. She easily has a mix of talent and looks. You can't help but cheer for her whenever she mounts her comeback.


    Women's WarGames match at WWE NXT TakeOver: WarGames 2020

    Speaking of Shirai, the way the match was booked, it seems inevitable that she and Candice LeRae will meet up again in the near future. With the previously mentioned Gargano championship win, a LeRae championship run could benefit that and help give the Gargano family storyline the focus they need in the coming year. At this rate, it's only a matter of time until LeRae wins the championship.

    Strapping... To The Moon

    A strap match is already gimmicky, but surprisingly, Cameron Grimes's humorous take on things made this match really special. I really think that there's this weird uncomfortable chemistry between him and Dexter Lumis. I'm not totally sure if it's because I find Grimes funny and Lumis's deadpan reaction contributes or if it's totally because of just Grimes in general.

    Cameron Grimes and Dexter Lumis in WWE NXT TakeOver: WarGames 2020

    Lumis looks unique and special, but there's just so much you can do with a character like this. I feel he still has to explore what kind of stories he can be inserted in but this rivalry with Grimes is probably a step in the right direction for him. The creepy guy schtick has little potential unless they go all out on it.

    Grimes has always been special and I feel this match was more to help Lumis than him. I do hope they give him a chance to showcase his skills in the NXT North American title picture since he always seems to make the best of what he's put in. Otherwise, I feel this feud was put in just to pad time in the show and add unique match types as well.

    Conclusion

    Team Shotzi Blackheart in WWE NXT TakeOver: WarGames 2020


    As with the previous TakeOver, I felt this show went on too long but at least they were able to push out a lot of future feuds. I'd say this was a good TakeOver to end 2020 and that come 2021, I think we'll be seeing a lot of new development within the brand. The Garganos will probably be the highlight of the next year with Pat McAfee probably becoming a solid staple of the brand. Shotzi has a bright future ahead of her, as well as Damian Priest and Leon Ruff. The next year will definitely be fun.

    Noticeably absent was the NXT Cruiserweight Championship. Perhaps they're still holding off on it, but personally, I would've preferred they put the cruiserweight bout rather than the Grimes/Lumis face-off. It's also a little weird not seeing the NXT Championship be part of a show as big as this, but with Finn Bálor coming off from an injury, and with no viable challengers built-up in the immediate surrounding, this was a good choice. A lot of new players were built and it's still unknown who would be Finn's next challenger, but safe to say, this show did its job as a solid year-ender.



    Hopefully, next year, they forego the two WarGames matches in favor of one, but for now, I'd say this was a fun enough watch for me to be invested in what happens next.

    Grade: B+

    Match to Watch: Men's WarGames Match (The Undisputed ERA vs. Pat McAfee, Pete Dunne, Oney Lorcan, and Danny Burch)

    Photos from WWE

    *****

    Miguel “The Migz” Llado is your NXT reviewer at the Smark Henry offices. A lover of music, wrestling, videogames, and food, he lives his life tweeting his mind off (@the_migz) Instagramming random food items and locations (@tha_migz), and streaming videogames on Twitch (@the_migz) while he pursues his musical career via his YouTube channel (Migz Llado) and courtesy of his band The Mox (TheMoxGarageRock). You can also add him on PSN (MigzLlado) to show your WWE2K19 (or any PS4) skills.
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: NXT Takeover WarGames 2020 Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Migz Llado
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