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    Tuesday, November 26, 2019

    The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: NXT TakeOver: WarGames 2019

    I've been wondering for quite some time on how NXT would make TakeOver: WarGames 2019 work because of how it ties to Survivor Series. While the rivalries within the PPV were already defined with weeks and weeks of build-up, the added pressure of competing as a team for the next night was a conundrum to me.

    Surprisingly, each Superstar gave us a performance that we'd never forget regardless of their alliances on the following show. What's also interesting is that they didn't hold back considering that the WarGames matches would take a heavy toll on their bodies and could affect their Survivor Series matchups.

    This is probably the TakeOver with the least matches ever but they didn't skimp on anything. All the time spent was worth it and all the little quirks, bells, and whistles in the matches really added to the overall quality of the bouts and the show as a whole. I'll be running through some of the small details which helped make each bout better as we go deeper in this review.

    The Women of NXT

    Sometime this year, I wondered about the sad state of the NXT women's division. With historical performances from alumni like the Four Horsewomen, it was saddening to see that NXT had exhausted all their options in terms of the female contingent and that NXT Women's Champion Shayna Baszler had beaten everybody.

    With the USA Network deal, some changes to the division were made which really added value and, in turn, helped make this match possible. Rhea Ripley's solid push really helped build this bout's credibility. Io Shirai's heel turn opened new matchup possibilities. Dakota Kai's and Tegan Nox's NXT stint now had more valueeven if Kai was being booked as a jobber to the bigger names.

    That leads to one of the small points I'd like to make. Sure. Maybe we were already led to believe that Kai would turn heel at some point. However, it was surprising that it happened mid-match and that it happened at the expense of her former partner. It was done in good taste, though. Mauro Ranallo said it best when she said that Kai was unhinged. Unhinged Dakota Kai might have had one of the freshest heel turns since Shirai turned early this year.

    I'm certain people would say that this felt like a wasted spot and that Mia Yim was made to look like a fool after getting that fourth spot for naught. Don't you think it was better that way? Everybody was put in the limelight and everybody got their moment. Plus, they could easily name Yim's attacker as Kai if they wanted to.

    Another point to be made is how NXT was able to fully utilize the WarGames concept this time around. Not only did they do two matches, but during both matches, the action was non-stop. The transitions were great and everybody had something going on at almost every point in time. Remember when you'd see around four people down and then you'd expect that a spot would happen? Well, there's less of that and more fluid exchanges happened.

    The participants were also able to maximize the set-up of two rings. Shirai had no problem walking and running across the ropes of both two rings. It felt so natural and was such a wonderful sight to see. The small details on how Bianca Belair's hair was pulled so she'd be forced to take the moonsault from Shirai were very subtle but interesting. Ripley's insertion of the hardcore element was also welcome.

    I suppose that from that result, we're going to see more of Shayna vs. Rhea, especially now, considering that Ripley has been receiving a monster push akin to that of Becky Lynch. I seriously hope nobody gets called up yet. Well, maybe Shayna deserves a call-up and if that happens, I'm betting that Rhea gets to take the gold from her.

    Triple Threat Slobberknocker

    There's not much to say about this match except that it was a slugfest. All three men highlighted their strengths and they were able to show everybody how unique and talented they all areconsidering that all three men are unofficially labeled as brawlers.

    Killian Dain really showcased his power in this one and it was great to see him getting the chance to show the NXT Universe what he can do. Ever since his non-existent main roster stint, I've missed the big man. I do think his attire looks weird. I never liked his old attire either, however, this one gives me Otis Dozovic vibes. It's hard to get that out of my head now.

    On the other hand, Damian Priest was able to display his striking skills. Watching Priest is like watching a Matrix movie. His quick hits and perfectly timed dodges actually reminded me of Rob Van Dam. Although it's a little sad because I can't seem to connect with him yet. Still, he's a very talented individual and in a few months, he'll probably find the right spot.

    Eventual winner Pete Dunne had a more balanced set of skills on display. It's easy to forget that Dunne is still a Cruiserweight because of his diverse skillset. He was either breaking fingers, punching his opponents, or flying through the air. Maybe that's what makes him a believable foe for Adam Cole.

    I think that this feud is far from over. Whether it becomes just a one-on-one between Dain and Priest, or if it stays a three-way, I expect a continuation of this rivalry within the next month. Heck, bring this feud back to NXT UK. Maybe the UK brand needs to see this smash-fest.

    The Prince is Back

    Finn Bálor's in-ring return to NXT has been highly anticipated so this was a beaut to see. I didn't really expect much because I was just excited to see this. I can already imagine all the matchups Finn will have on this roster. Finn vs. Ciampa, Finn vs. Lee, Finn vs. Dunne—the possibilities are endless.

    The match itself was what you'd suspect. Matt Riddle is an in-ring specialist and he served as the perfect first opponent for Finn. They meshed together so well that I actually want to see a rematch between the two. If these two are what I should expect in NXT's future, then sign me up, please.

    Bálor in NXT is also pretty special because I think it works better than seeing him on the main roster. It's not really a demotion by this point because as I said in my previous review, NXT is the A-show now. He fits well here. He looks more vicious facing opponents who are similar to his size. Plus, he can easily help boost the roster by adding star power just as he did here when he made Riddle look good as well.

    Let it also be said that nobody really hated Finn during the match. He got a few boos here and there but he's still popular and the cheers were very much heard after he used 1916 to win the match. I'm guessing this eventually leads to his match against Johnny Gargano at the next TakeOver so that's something to watch out for.

    Not So Undisputed

    The big story going into the match was Team Ciampa's fourth man. Rumors rumbled around, from Matt Riddle pulling double duty, to Johnny Gargano returning. Nobody really knew who to suspect especially since there was so much going on in NXT.

    All throughout the match, it was the question hanging over everybody's heads. Ciampa's team was at a disadvantage because the team was in flux all through the build and Keith Lee and Dominik Dijakovic just came out of a rivalry. Remember that they also lost the advantage match on NXT's previous episode.

    It was a great choice to have Roderick Strong start the match. Roddy's got that dickish vibe that helped give the opening extra jeers. For a while, the Undisputed ERA really did make use of their advantage. Once Dijakovic came in, he really helped clean house for a bit. Dijakovic threw both Roddy and Kyle O'Reilly around like ragdolls.

    Realistically, even without the fourth man, I felt having both Lee and Dijakovic gave the advantage to Team Ciampa because of the size difference, however, considering that the ERA were all champions, I suppose in the realms of wrestling, they actually had more to offer.

    It's important to note that this match felt like Lee's redemption. After months of doing almost next-to-nothing, he was easily the star of this match (and the show by extension). With what happened the night after, it wouldn't be too far off until we see him transferred to the main roster and being a household name.

    The end would come when surprise entry Kevin Owens evened the odds. Although the waiting angle took too long and felt like some dead air, it was worth the wait. It was truly a game-changing moment and gave the impression that NXT was the land of surprises.

    While Triple H implied that Owens could return to the black-and-gold brand, It seems unlikely at the moment considering that, as of today's RAW, he was placed in a rivalry against Seth Rollins. I wouldn't be surprised if Owens loses this and returns to NXT. After all, this is the place to be.

    The finish came after that death-defying move from the top of the cage by Ciampa to Adam Cole. AEW star (and Cole's girlfriend) Britt Baker being shown on-cam actually summed up how everyone felt. It felt like Cole died right then and there. The funny thing was that Cole came back out for another match just 24 hours after on Survivor Series. Talk about hard work and dedication. Do you dare question which is the A-show now?


    Now that this PPV is over, it's time to map out our next TakeOver. Expect that Baszler and Ripley will be at each other's throats again (for the NXT Women's Championship). I'm hoping Johnny Gargano reappears once again to finally confront Finn. I expect Dain and Priest to at least continue this feud if Dunne has already graduated from it. And finally, we're looking forward to seeing Ciampa vs. Cole for the NXT Championship.

    2020 is looking up for NXT. Again, by this time, if you still don't know which is the top brand, then you should watch this show and Survivor Series to know which one it is. Hint: It's NXT.

    Grade: A

    Match to Watch: WarGames Match - Team Ciampa (Keith Lee, Dominik Dijakovic, Tommaso Ciampa, and Kevin Owens) vs. The Undisputed ERA (Adam Cole, Roderick Strong, Kyle O'Reilly, and Bobby Fish)

    Not-So-Full Sails

    • Seeing the ref pull out the chair so Rhea Ripley could pin Shayna Baszler was a small detail I noticed. I know. Nitpicky. But, yes, I saw that.
    • Oh. Imperium. I've been looking for you. That random appearance at the PPV felt weird.
    • Dain's Michinoku Driver to Priest's head was lovely to watch.
    • Dominik Dijakovic's entrance music sucks so bad. It doesn't bring out the mood that I'm expecting from him.
    • I loved The Undisputed ERA's green trunks. They reminded me of army tights and it felt so cool seeing the ERA go to war.
    • It felt so weird not seeing Velveteen Dream anywhere. I miss the dude. Please come back.
    • All the same with KUSHIDA. Whatever happened to his push?

    Did you agree with these takes? What was your favorite moment from NXT TakeOver: Toronto? Did you notice something that we missed? Hit us up in the comments section below.

    Photos and Videos from WWE


    Miguel “The Migz” Llado is your supposed style icon and NXT reviewer at the Smark Henry offices. A lover of everything music, wrestling, videogames, and food, he lives his life tweeting his mind off (@the_migz) and ‘gramming random food items and locations (@tha_migz) as he sets on his journey to completely do things spontaneously. You can also add him on PSN (MigzLlado) to show your WWE2K19 (or any PS4) skills. When not being a smark, he lives his life being (and trying to be) an awesome architect, musician extraordinaire and armchair fantasy booker.
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: NXT TakeOver: WarGames 2019 Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Migz Llado
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