SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Coming to you live from the Toyota Center in Houston, it’s NXT Takeover WARGAMES! The card includes two big title bouts including the crowning of a new women’s champion, and of course the dangerous WarGames itself! (Sort of.) The “match beyond” hasn’t been seen in the wrestling industry for over 20 years. Here’s what you can expect, along with my predictions for the show.
Lars Sullivan vs. Kassius Ohno
While this semi-rushed feud doesn’t sound super-appealing on paper, I have a sneaking suspicion that it may over-perform given our expectations. The story is fairly simple: Lars Sullivan is a bully. We’ve seen him run amok through much smaller (and lesser known) talent for the better part of two months. He dispatched No Way Jose pretty easily and dismantled Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan on a weekly basis. It’s not the first time we’ve seen the WWE enhance a monster by feeding him smaller guys. (You know who I’m talking about.) Enter Kassius Ohno. The knockout king hasn’t had the perfect return to NXT but he has managed to string together a series of victories (including one over NXT Veteran Hideo Itami) before he decided to play the “pick on somebody your own size” card and confront Lars. If you are skeptical about this match, let me remind you that Kassius Ohno became a “Hero” on the independent circuit because he filled the role of gatekeeper fantastically. In other words he has the ability to bring the best out of anyone he faces, and his strike-heavy offense should clash well with Sullivan’s power and intensity. This one could honestly go either way, but I’d assume they need a short holdover challenger to the NXT title for tapings…so…
PICK: LARS SULLIVAN
Aleister Black vs. Velveteen Dream
I was at NXT Takeover Chicago when the Velveteen Dream debuted. I, along with the rest of the crowd, became disconnected on exactly who this dude was. He had such panache, such attitude, but only on the surface. Underneath it all, it didn’t seem like there was anything immediately there. As time went on, Dream slowly began to show us small fragments of the man beneath the fashion, but he never had that opposing force that would challenge him to fully explore exactly who he is. That was until he began stalking… Aleister Black. Black came into NXT with waves of excitement, and immediately became recognized as the ultimate badass. A dude who could murder you with a single-kick (his explosive Black Mass finisher) and stare into your soul as he slowly collected it for his voodoo esque trophy case.
So when these two crossed paths, at first it seemed like a waste. They both live in completely opposing worlds. Two different sides of a completely different coin…and that’s exactly why everything about this is fire. Velveteen Dream wanted acknowledgement, and Aleister wouldn’t give it to him. Hell, he wouldn’t even call him by his name, instead referring to the Dream by his real personae… Patrick. Through this feud, the Dream became one of NXT’s must-see characters. Through this feud, he found himself. Found his purpose, and found an enemy who may dismiss his flamboyant antics, but only if he allows him to do so.
The “say my name” segment from the tapings was one of the most captivating moments I’ve seen on television in a while, and I’m not just talking about wrestling. This is THE potential show-stealer. Rumor is that their house-show bouts have been fantastic, and the chemistry created from past episodes seems to be blossoming. I don’t know what long-term plans they have for either man, but both are stars, and tonight they will prove it. In my heart I want this conflict to stretch past tonight. It still can, but even for a dreamer…no one survives the Black Mass.
PICK: ALEISTER BLACK
Kairi Sane vs. Ember Moon vs. Nikki Cross vs. Peyton Royce (NXT Women’s Championship)
In all honesty, there is merit in putting the title on any of these four women. Peyton Royce and Billie Kaye have wildly excel’d in their “Dynamic Duo” gimmick and adding gold to their stable will strengthen their “TOLD YOU SO” attitude that they both play perfectly. Nikki Cross taking home the championship would not only create a new form of supremacy over the women’s division, but will only make her faction SANITY look that much more dominant. Kairi Sane was the fan favorite going in to the Mae Young Classic, and she exceeded expectations with her charismatic charm and WICKED elbow drop. Putting the title on her is the right thing to do, and it most certainly could happen this evening. However, I think it is too soon for Kairi, which leads me to our final competitor: Ember Moon. Ember came closer then anybody in the attempt to dethrone the Empress Asuka, but her shortcoming left her in a disheartened state. Now with Asuka gone, she can finally claim the prize that had alluded her for well over a year, even if she has to turn to the dark side. (Dark side of the Moon joke in there somewhere.)
PICK: EMBER MOON (BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY)
Andrade “Cien” Almas (w/Zelina Vega) vs. Drew McIntyre (NXT Championship)
If you’ve been a follower of my primers, you know that I am a big fan of Andrade. I’ve always thought his in-ring ability was some of the best within the company, and his crisp athleticism truly exciting to watch. However, he like the Velveteen Dream, struggled for a while with a dull uninteresting character. That was until Zelina Vega showed up. Zelina in my opinion may be the very best manager/valet in the business right now. She cuts her promos with integrity and passion, and has even proven that she will step on the rule book to help her man come out on top. Andrade is now on the biggest win streak since his debut at Takeover THE END, and he’s finally getting a chance to shine in the main event scene. His opponent…
The once entitled “Chosen One.” Drew McIntyre’s previous stint with the company will always be remembered by die-hards, but it’s his work in the past couple years that many people will be talking about in the future. Drew hit the independent scene hard, and improved in literally every aspect of the business. His return was met with massive support, because even the wrestle-universe was aware at the leaps that McIntyre had made. And it didn’t even take very long for him to have a lasting impact for NXT. First he knocked Bobby Roode off his throne, which was no easy task. (I could make a case that Bobby Roode may have been the best male NXT Champion since the title was created.) Then he defended his title against the most competitive Roderick Strong their ever was. Drew has already reached the “fighting champion” landmark and he’s only existed in NXT for about six months. The future is looking bright for the Big Scotsman, and as much as I adore the Zelina/Andrade pairing, this just seems like a bump in the road.
PICK: DREW MCINTYRE
Authors of Pain & Roderick Strong vs. SANITY vs. Undisputed Era (WARGAMES)
Well how did we get here? Time and time again Triple-H and the creative minds behind NXT continue to keep this expanding developmental empire a gem within the wrestling industry. What should have been a simple title change/rematch clause feud has turned into an event that hasn’t been attempted in nearly 20 years. The Authors of Pain led by Paul Ellering are as old school as it gets: Two Big Brutes that know how to hurt and know how to work together. They are teaming with the Messiah of the back-breaker Roderick Strong. Why? Well because of history. The Undisputed Era led by the oh-so-charming Adam Cole have made it their mission to change the landscape of NXT. At Brooklyn they made their first move, attacking the tag-team scene and the new champion McIntyre moments after he won the belt. Their well-planned attacks proves that they are as prepared as they are menacing, and I expect them to take full advantage of the numbers game when it works in their favor. At one point the ERA offered a spot in their group to Roddy due to their shared journey through Ring of Honor. Roddy accepted, but than he didn’t, joining the Authors and setting the stage for these two forces to clash.
Then there’s SANITY. The tag-champions were the first targets of Kyle O’Reily and Bobby Fish back in August, and it didn’t take long for them to start butting-heads at Full Sail either while Akam and Rezar were on hiatus. All three of these groups have substantial heat with each other, and the confinements of two rings covered in cages seems like the only justified way to settle this score. Now the rules are obviously going to differ from traditional WarGames rules, but I have faith that Aitch and company have made said decisions for our benefit. So how do you pick this one? Well, here’s what I think: Roddy will turn…oh yes…he will turn.
PICK: THE UNDISPUTED ERA
NOW CHECK OUT THIS NXT TAKEOVER ARTICLE: NXT TRACKER – TAKEOVER WAR GAMES: Match by match preview including War Games, McIntyre vs. Almas for the NXT Title, Women’s Title four-way