SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Mauro Ranallo is back at the announcer’s desk And then Matt Riddle’s music surprises us. He enters the ring to cut a promo. He talks about how he is not scheduled to face Kassius Ohno until next week, but he wants the match now because Kassius Ohno interrupted him during the preshow. Ohno comes out and answers the challenge.
1. MATT RIDDLE vs. KASSIUS OHNO
Bell rings, Ohno charges and runs right into a knee strike to the jaw, he’s out.
Winner: Matt Riddle in 0:05. What a wretched let down to the long build to this match.
Post-match, Ohno is staggering around trying to figure out what happened.
2. KAIRI SANE vs. NXT Women’s Champion SHAYNA BASZLER – 2 out of 3 Falls NXT Women’s Championship Match
Sane starts of hot hot hot. Chops drive Baszler into the ropes, then a sliding elbow sends Baszler outside. Elbow from the apron has Baszler checking her mouth. Baszler tells the referee (Drake Wertz) that something is wrong with her mouth. As he checks on her, Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir come out, beat up Sane, then feed her into the ring. Baszler locks in the Kirafuda Clutch, Sane taps.
First fall: Baszler at 2:02.
The crowd chants “bulls—” as the second fall starts, Baszler with a jumping knee strike for two. Baszler tries the Kirafuda Clutch again, then drags Sane to the mat. Sane rolls around and finally gets a foot on the ropes. Sane tries to get Baszler off of her, Baszler catches a kick, transitions to a single leg crab while stepping on Sane’s head, then she stomps on Sane’s head. Baszler locks in a neck crank. Sane tries a trio of surprise leverage covers but can’t get the pin. Diving clothesline wipes Sane out. Baszler ends up on the apron, Baszler dodges a spear, wants a suplex, Sane counters into a massive DDT on the apron. Baszler rolls outside and Duke and Shafir check on her. Duke and Shafir attack Sane, Duke ends up roundhousing the ring post, ouch. Sane heads up top to hit the Insane Elbow to the outside to all three drawing the first “Mama Mia!” from Ranallo of the night. Sane rolls Baszler into the ring, another Insane Elbow gets a fall.
Second fall: Sane at 7:35.
Bell, Interceptor, Interceptor, Interceptor, spinning backfists… Sane to the top, but Baszler meets her there. Headbutt from Sane. They go into the standing boo/yeah strikes on the turnbuckle, Baszler wants a superplex, Sane flips over, transitions to a powerbomb for a nearfall. Alabama Slam plants Baszler, Duke distracts the ref, Shafir pushes Sane off the top turnbuckle. Dakota Kai rushes out from the back to try to even the odds, but takes a beatdown. Io Sharai comes out, moonsault (“Mama Mia!”) to wipe out the Horsewomen, Sane leaps off the top for the Insane Elbow, Baszler dodges and hooks in a cover at the same time for the win.
Winner: Shayna Baszler in 10:53. The action in the ring was great, but the constant noise from the outside really took away from the match.
X-Pac is show in the audience, holding a tiny dog.
NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa is shown backstage looking at the title. Someone has spray painted “Dream Over” backstage then painted an “X” over it.
Hype video for Johnny Gargano facing Aleister Black.
Gargano’s Tron has changed, as has his ring gear, the doodle of a face now looks like it is merged with the Punisher logo. Gargano comes out all smiles slapping hands with kids. Black comes out with a jacket that resembles a carapace with horns sticking out of it.
3. ALEISTER BLACK vs. JOHNNY GARGANO
They stare at each other from their corners out of the bell. Gargano has the heel corner. The crowd is fairly split 50/50, they approach. Gargano slaps Black. Black retailiates with a big boot, Gargano send shim outside, follows, takes a kid. Black boxes him against the apron. Gargano back in the ring, dodges a kick, dodges more, and taunts Black. Gargano sits on the mat and crosses his leg, ducks a kick, rolls Black up, roll through kick. Chops in the corner from Gargano. A feint from Black lets him knee Gargano in the face, then he uses rapid strikes to send Gargano outside. Black does his bounce off the ropes into a sit, Gargano slips in the side to ambush Black. Gargano stomps a hole in Black. Rollup from Gargano for two, he rolls Black over into an innovative hold, a variation of a bow and arrow. Black blocks a roll, cover for two. Surprise from Gargano gets another two count. Gargano puts Black into the corner to lay in chops. Black fights out of the corner, but Gargano fends him off. Gargano wants a spear but takes a knee to the middle. Gargano sent outside, top rope dive wipes Gargano off.
Black with stiff kicks in the corner, then a leg sweep, basement dropkick, Lionsault for two. ack to the second rope, Gargano has kicks and drags him off. Superkick sends Gargano outside again. Moonsault from Black, Gargano is in the ring, dives through the ropes to hit a DDT, then a slingshot DDT in the ring for a nearfall. Gargano tells that Black isn’t the “chosen one”, he is, Black tries to make a comeback, but Gargano halts it. Black with offense, Gargano dodges all of it, reverse ‘rana, Gargano runs full steam into a leaping knee strike and they are both on the mat to reset the match. They stagger to their feet and brawl, with Black int he ring and Gargano on the part between the two rings. Gargano tries his spear through the ropes, takes a knee. German suplex into a bridge gets Black a nearfall. Gargano ducks more kicks, clothesline, and the are both a bit slow off the mat. Gargano with a tornado DDT in the ring into the Gargano Escape, Black rolls into a cover for two. Kick from Gargano to the head, Snake Eyes from Gargano and Black is looking rather evil. Gargano teases the Black Mass, staring Black in the eyes, then moves into his #DIY pose. Black asks for a minute, then sits cross legged and demands Gargano gives him the best shot, Black ducks a knee, takes a kick, running knee, Black kicks out at the last moment.
Black kicked out but he’s selling his head. Gargano takes a fist full of hair to yell at Black and hits elbows. Black is reeling, but he has some life still in him as they trade elbows. Black is fired up, then Gargano, Black wants a springboard moonsault, Gargano pushes him outside, wants a suicide dive and Black meets him outside with a leaping knee. Black gets to his feet first on the outside. Black rolls Gargano into the ring, Gargano begs off a bit as he backs up. Gargano clutches Black’s leg and kisses his foot asking for punishment. Black sets up Black Mass, Gargano says “thank you”, schoolboy for two, rolls right into the Gargano Escape, rolls Black back over to the middle of the ring, Black into a cover for one, leaping knee to put Gargano on the mat. Black drops a knee pad, another knee to the face, he sets up Black Mass, hits it, Gargano falls into Black but is still on his feet. A second Black Mass, cover, end.
Winner: Aleister Black in 18:10. Absolutely fantastic match. My thinking was that Gargano needed to win more than Black, and the win by Black indicates that Black will be facing Tommaso Ciampa sooner rather than later. Surprising to see this definitely paid off and ended in only one match.
The announcers put a plug in for the Red Cross to help with the California fire recovery.
Undisputed Era is shown backstage.
Video package on Velveteen Dream facing NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa.
It’s hard to believe, but it has been a year since Dream’s “say my name” feud with Black.
Dream comes out with a Hollywood Hulk Hogan themed outfit, with a “Hollywood” headband and “oVa” shirt and black and white feather boa. Of course, he rips the shirt off. He does the hand to the ear too.
4. VELVETEEN DREAM vs. NXT Champion TOMMASO CIAMPA – NXT Championship Match
The crowd is 100% in favor of Dream and he eats it up. Lockup and they end up tied up in the ropes, with Dream on the advantage. They move to mat wrestling. Dream mounts Ciampa’s back then slaps him in the head to show off. Ciampa is very unhappy. Another lockup, Dream gets Ciampa in the corner, Ciampa pushes out of the corner, Dream slaps him. Dream looks for the Dream Valley Driver, Ciampa slps out, pushes Dream off and takes his hairband. Ciampa taunts Dream with a hand to the ear. Dream goes outside to laugh about it, then grabs the title. Ciampa gets distracted by it, then they tangle in the ring, Dream mocks Ciampa’s “bye bye” wave. They move to a sudden attack, huge body slam from Dream followed by hip shimmies in the face. Dropkick then a leaping bulldog into the ring ropes. Dream gets his hairband back and puts it back on, hand to the ear. Dream bounces Ciampa into the ropes, big boot, hand to the ear, teases a leg drop, Ciampa rolls outside, Dream with a double axe handle from the top. Back in the ring, Dream jumps to the turnbuckle but Ciampa pushes him off.
Ciampa rolls Dream into the ring and delivers rapid kicks, then a running knee in the corner knocks with the knee brace Dream out cold. Dream recovers as Ciampa stalks him. Dream gets knocked onto the apron and Ciampa hits a neckbreaker over the ropes. Ciampa claps for himself on the apron as Dream reels. “F— you Ciampa” from the crowd as Ciampa hits a knee strike with the brace on the Spanish announce desk. Ciampa locks in a tight chinlock on the mat. Dream is foaming out of the mouth and gasping for breath. Dream is struggling badly, but gets to his feet. Backslide surprises Ciampa for two, then wild punches, neckbreaker, and Dream is back in the game.
Dream rallies, diving clothesline, kip up, more clotheslines. Rapid back and forth all over the place. Big boot from Dream, leg drop, leg drop, leg drop. Dream Valley Driver, Ciampa pushes out, Dream with a spinebuster for two-and-a-half. The referee has gloves on but I don’t see blood. Dream knocks Ciampa outside, plancha to the outside, Dream rolls Ciampa inside and heads up top, but Ciampa cralls across the ring, then sends Dream outside. Ciampa looks for the draping DDT, Dream slips out and smashes Ciampa’s knee on the apron. Dream wraps Ciampa’s legs around the ring post, Ciampa taps out but the ref was breaking Dream dree and didn’t see it. Ciampa, small package for two. Dream rolls through a hold, locks in a Figure Four, and drags Ciampa midring. Dream lifts up, Ciampa rolls over to reverse the Figure Four, Dream rolls over, ciampa rolls over, Dream rolls over, they trade punches, Dream kicks Ciampa, cover for two, Ciampa grabs the ropes. Great sequence there.
Ciampa kicks Dream off him and into the barricade, then sets up the draping DDT, Dream crawls across the ropes. Dream blocks suplexes, then suplexes the both of them over the ropes to the outside, that looked very scary. They are both selling on the outside. Ciampa is loosening his boot and checking his knee. Dream rolls Ciampa into the ring, rolls in at nine to break the count. Ciampa the Dream trade punches, then kicks, then punches, then kicks. Ciampa looks for Project Ciampa, rollup from ciampa, referee catches Ciampa with a handful of tights, the distraction lets Dream hit the Dream Valley Driver for an incredibly close nearfall. Dream wants another Dream Valley Driver, Ciampa slips out. Dream, tries a turnaround kick, Ciampa counters with a knee, Project Ciampa, Dream kicks out at the last possible moment. Ciampa looks near tears and is trying to pull his boot off. ciampa rolls outside and takes the title belt to leave. No, he’s going in the ring with it. The ref tries taking the belt, Dream with a schoolboy for two. Dream DDTs Ciampa into the belt, Ciampa manages to kick out and Dream is insane. Dream up top, Purple Rainmaker, Ciampa gets a boot up, Dream rolls outside, takes a draping DDT on his way in for another near near nearfall. Ciampa doesn’t know what to do.
The match is almost at twenty minutes. Ciampa has a boot off. Ciampa rolls outside to rip the mat up as he has done in the past. Ciampa sets up a draping DDT to the concrete, Dream gets his feet and shoves Ciampa and himself over the announcer’s desk, they are both on the ground behind the desk. Ciampa snaps and attacks Mauro Ranallo! Dream with a Dream Valley Driver to the outside, pushes Ciampa in the ring, Purple Rainmaker to Ciampa, nearfall, Ciampa is on the apron, another Purple Rainmaker, Ciampa dodges and Dream crashes ont he outside. Ciampa sets up the draping DDT to the metal between the two rings, drags Dream in. It’s over, Ciampa is still champion.
Winner: Tommaso Ciampa in 22:17. Have either of these two ever had a less-than-great Takeover match? Putting Dream and Ciampa in the ring together and giving them 20+ minutes was sheer booking genius, even if there was practically no build. As said on the PWT Talks NXT podcast (we will be recording tonight after NXT!), this match sold itself on the basis of Dream and Ciampa but I want to see this match again already. I was on the edge of my seat, super emotionally invested in seeing Dream win, and incredibly disappointed in the loss, despite my booking hat telling me that there was no way Dream won tonight. Black – Ciampa is all but guaranteed at this point.
Nita Strauss is shown in the front seats (she’s been visible behind Percy Watson all night). I bought her album after hearing about it from NXT, and it was delivered yesterday, and I have to say that I really like it. I have bought quite a few albums after hearing about them on NXT and always have been happy.
Video package for War Games.
Adam Cole is starting War Games for Undisputed Era. NXT UK Champion Pete Dunne has white paint on his face to show solidarity with the War Raiders. Ricochet is starting for his team. He too has paint on. Cole is eager to face Ricochet in the cage.
5. WAR RAIDERS (HANSON and ROWE), NXT UK Champion PETE DUNNE, and NXT North American Champion RICOCHET vs. UNDISPUTED ERA (ADAM COLE, NXT Tag Team Champions KYLE O’REILLY and RODERICK STRONG, and BOBBY FISH) – War Games Match
We start War Games less than two hours into the show. By its nature, War Games is a long match, but the timing points to an extremely long match.
They jaw at each other, and Cole gets Ricochet to come into his ring, where he ambushes Ricochet. Ricochet has a big series of punches for Cole though. Dropkicks send Cole to the other ring, Ricochet follows to deliver more offense. Ricochet tries a springboard back elbow and Cole responds with a leaping backstabber to turn things around. Cole is manhandling Ricochet around the rings. Cole has knee drops then knees to the back for Ricochet. Cole shoves Ricochet’s face into the cage. Cole telegraphs a body drop, letting Ricochet make a comeback. Springboard European uppercut goes from one ring to halfway into the other ring. The first countdown is over, and Undisputed Era are all eager to get in, it’s Kyle O’Reilly he takes Ricochet down and he and Cole double team Ricochet.
Ricochet fends off the double team for a moment, but a dragon screw leg whip through the ropes from O’Reilly mangles Ricochet’s leg. All Ricochet can do is cover up on the mat. He tries to rally but it doesn’t last. Cole with a fireman’s carry to dump Ricochet onto O’Reilly’s knee. The timer is up, and Pete Dunne wants in, but Hanson stops him. Dunne looks angry. Cole and O’Reilly jump Hanson as he comes in, but Hanson weathers the storm and puts them both down. Hanson bounces all over the ring to give Ricochet a break. Hanson with corner clotheslines from corner to corner to corner to corner on both O’Reilly and Cole. Hanson slams O’Reilly onto Cole in the corner, then hits a Bronco Buster to them both, and gets Ricochet. They do the arm smash, Hanson acts as a platform for Ricochet to hit a running shooting star press to O’Reilly. Hanson turns to Cole but takes an elbow to the face. Hanson thinks fallaway slam, O’Reilly stops him, Ricochet makes the save. Everyone is recovering as the timer finishes up, Strong is in the cage and on fire. He has chops for Ricochet and Hanson, a drop kick for Ricochet, leaping knees all around, a pair of backbreakers then torture rack into backbreaker all to Ricochet. Strong wants a knee to Hanson, gets caught, Cole and O’Reilly hit Hanson, Strong manages a backbreaker to the massive Hanson. The audience seems to be firmly behind Undisputed Era at this point. Gutbuster from Strong to Ricochet followed by O’Reilly hitting a second rope knee drop to the back of Ricochet’s head.
The timer is up, and Rowe and Dunne nearly come to blows to get in the match, Rowe gets out the door first and levels everyone. Cole tries to break Rowe off of O’Reilly but gets caught. O’Reilly locks in a sleeper hold, but Rowe can still fight Cole off then back into the corner. Hanson sets Strong on Rowe so he hits a body slam to O’Reilly and a power bomb on Strong at the same time. Cole backs away from Hanson and Rowe and right into Ricochet who feeds him to the two big men, they toss Cole into the cage. Ricochet is chopping Strong and the timer is set to release Fish. fish runs over to Dunne, grabs his hand, yanks his arm through the cage, then chains the door with the lock from his cage, then tosses the key into the audience. Fish goes under the ring to feed chairs to O’Reilly. Undisputed Era deliver a steel chair beatdown tot he faces. The chairs all have Undisputed Era logos on them, as the announcers point out that the match won’t even officially start until Dunne can enter the ring.
Strong slams Rowe right through a chair. Cole holds the ropes open so Rowe can be thrown straight into the cage. They throw Hanson into the cage too. Drake Wertz looks like a fool as he finally realizes he can’t get Dunne out, now that the timer is over. Fish superplexes Rowe, Strong superplexes Hanson, as Cole mocks Dunne still suck in the cage. The referees have found bolt cutters to get Dunne out. Dunne is free, but with his wrapped knee he isn’t walking so great. O’Reilly and Fish try to keep the door shut, Dunne gets a kendo stick to smash their fingers, then Cole’s fingers, then Strong, then slams the door on Strong’s face. Ricochet creams everyone as Dunne throws trash cans and kendo sticks into the cage. Dunne has a pair of tables too. Dunne finally enters the ring to officially start the match.
Dunne uses the kendo stick to single handedly take out Undisputed Era, then gives sticks to Ricochet and Rowe. Dunne has a chain wrapped around his fist. Dunne starts to yank O’Reilly’s fingers, then hits the Dunne Stomp. Ricochet with a stick to Fish. O’Reilly is crying for Strong as Dunne rips his fingers off. Dunne X-plexes Strong onto O’Reilly, but Cole chop blocks Dunne’s injured leg. O’Reilly whiffs a chair shot, it hits the ropes and smacks him in the face. Hanson puts a trash can on Cole, Rowe carries Hanson and slams him into Cole. Hanson and Rowe smash each other in the face, then Rowe body slams Hanson onto O\Reilly. Hanson with a springboard clothesline to Strong as Rowe holds him. They try it on Fish, but Cole chucks a trash can on Hanson to stop him, and Undisputed Era turn the tide. They gang up on Rowe, then Ricochet. Leaping gutbuster from Strong into a backbreaker from Cole to Ricochet. They stalk Dunne, who stands up, ready to take a beating. He manages to stand strong againest all four. Knee bar to Fish’s injured leg, but Fish refuses to tap, O’Reilly breaks it up. O’Reilly gets the chain, Dunne uses it to lock in a triangle, chair from Fish lets O’Reilly transition to using the chain to assist an anklelock. Undisputed Era use chair to protect the attack on Dunne, Strong aids with a chair. Ricochet goes flying over the middle ropes to finally get Dunne the space he needs. Rowe and Strong brawl in one ring as everyone else is in the other ring. Strong and O’Reilly are stuck on turnbuckles, Dunne with a superplex and Ricochet with a Frankensteiner, Ricochet covers for two. Hanson sets a table up, puts Cole on it, but the table collapses. Hanson rolls Cole off, sets the table up again. Rowe wants to powerbomb Cole through a table, Cole fights out. Rowe throws Cole to Hanson, powerslam, cover for two. Fish spears Rowe through the table set up between the rings.
Cole things to suplerplex Ricochet through a table, Ricochet slips out, puts Cole in a Tree of Woe, O’Reilly saves Cole. ricochet beats O’Reilly onto the table. Strong nails a knee strike, then O’Reilly has a triangle to Ricochet, Hanson nearly kills O’Reilly with a top rope splash through the table, covers, but Strong breaks up the cover with a trash can. Cole is the only one on his feet and he is barely up. Cole drags himself to the top of the cage, and Ricochet is there too. They meet in the middle to trade punches. Strong is climbing too, hits Ricochet, and they are trying to push Ricochet out to have him out of the match. Now Dunne starts climbing to meet Cole and twist his fingers up. Dunne thinks to drag Cole into the ring, O’Reilly gets there then Rowe then Strong. Fish has a sleeper on Hanson, but Hanson gets under. Massive Doomsday Device spot. ricochet is the only one intact, on a separate part of the cage.
Ricochet comes to life, thinks moonsault from the top of the cage, double turn moonsault onto the pile. “Mama effing mia!” from Ranallo, that’s a new one. The teams separate into separate cages and stare at each other, slowly make their ways to the ropes to glare and threaten each other. They meet between the rings, and brawl based on feuds. Strong and Dunne, Cole and Ricochet, O’Reilly and Fish against Rowe and Hanson. It’s Fish and Rowe on their feet, Rowe knocks Fish silly, leg drop from Hanson to Fish, O’Reilly makes it back, handspring backelbows from Hanson to Strong na dO’Reilly. Cole with a save, Ricochet flies into a superkick from Cole, Cole counters a Bitter End with a DT, shoulderbreaker, Last Shot, Dunne kicks out. Dunne ducks another Last Shot, Bitter End, Ricochet with a 450 splash from the top, they both cover with only one arm, and get the win.
Winners: War Raiders, Pete Dunne, and Ricochet in 47:08. Somehow, none of the pre-match tension on the babyface team played a role in the match at all. Really strong match here, making use of the cage and weapons to put on a brutal, hard-hitting match. I think I liked this better than last year’s War Games match, in no small part because Undisputed Era were much more coordinated and established as a team, with Adam Cole not spending half the match trying to run away.
Post-match, Ricochet and Dunne post on top of the cage with their respective championship belts. Dunne grins at Ricochet’s belt, indicating that he has not forgotten it.
Final Reax: Overall match quality was unbelievable. Even the Riddle squash was well-done. I think the only match I didn’t especially care for was, surprisingly, Baszler – Sane, because I think Baszler looked weak for needing so much help when she should have looked dominant to finally put the feud to rest. Despite the crazy-high expectations for Gargano – Black, Dream – Ciampa, and War Games, I feel that Gargano – Black and Dream – Ciampa exceeded expectations, while War Games met them. Excellent event to wrap the year up and set up storylines for the first part of 2019, where it looks like we will finally see War Raiders get a tag team title shot, Dunne and Ricochet settle their beef once and for all, Baszler move past Sane, and Black settle things with Ciampa or move out of NXT.