SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
•Preshow, Mia Yim Attacked – HIT: The preshow kicked off with Pat McAfee, Charly Caruso and friend to the PWTorch, Sam Roberts breaking the news that earlier in the night, Mia Yim was attacked backstage and is unable to compete tonight. I kind of saw this coming, especially once they announced that Kai was taking her spot. But that’s okay. It’s what I wanted to happen.
•Preshow, Isaiah “Swerve” Scott vs Angel Garza – HIT: Tom Stoup (of the PWT Talks NXT podcast) messaged me shortly after this was announced on Twitter earlier in the day and I have been anxiously awaiting this bout ever since. Angel Garza continues to be one of my favorite acts in NXT. There aren’t many people who can keep the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand and play a credible tweener. Garza, though leaning heel recently, knows his character so well and makes you want to love him whether he wants you to or not.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Swerve has all the makings to be a top star on whatever brand he finally finds his footing in. It’s a bit of a shame that he had to eat the pin tonight. But both he and Garza put on a great preshow opener and given the last handful of weeks of NXT TV, it makes sense that Garza went over. They have been building Garza up a bit more than Swerve, so it serves to give him even more credibility before getting him into a higher profile feud.
•Women’s WarGames, Team Ripley (Rhea Ripley, Candice LaRae, Teagan Nox and Dakota Kai) vs. Team Bazsler (Shayna Bazsler, Bianca Belair, Io Shirai, Kay Lee Ray) – HIT: First things first, I absolutely loved the fact that they had a camera man in the ring. It offered great perspective and put you right in the action. I believe they’ve done it for prior WarGames matches too, but this is the first time I can talk about it! Candice and Shirai kicked off the match, and what a first five minutes it was. Belair entered the fray next, and LaRae did a pretty decent job fending off her two foes until they finally overtook her. Ripley was in next, bringing the chaos to an already chaotic match. Trash cans, kendo sticks, chairs. Not even the cage door could escape being weaponized by the leader of Team Ripley. Kay Lee Ray was up next, and helped Shirai and Belair lay waste to Ripley and LaRae. It was Kai’s turn to enter next, but she turned around and beat the hell out of Teagan Nox, turning on her best friend and Team Ripley. Regal, enraged, came out to physically restrain Kai and pull her into the backstage area. Shayna came out next and all four members of Team Baszler spent the next several minutes annihilating LaRae and Ripley. Mauro announced that since Nox was medically unable to compete and that Kai had turned on her team, all of the competitors are in the ring, and WarGames had begun!
These women pulled out ALL the stops for this match. LaRae with a Poisonrana to Belair from the top rope, Shirai with a moonsault from the top of the cage, and weapons galore. At one point, Baszler attempted to handcuff Ripley to the ropes but LaRae made the save. Those handcuffs came into play at the end of the match when Ripley handcuffed herself to Shayna when Baszler had a submission locked in. Ripley broke free and used the handcuffs as leverage to powerbomb Bazsler through two chairs for the 1-2-3. This. Was. EPIC.
•Damian Priest vs. Pete Dunne vs. Killian Dain (Winner faces Adam Cole for the NXT Title at Survivor Series) – HIT: That Women’s WarGames match was a very tough act to follow, but these three men did a fantastic job in doing just that. Generally, I’m not a fan of triple threat matches. You usually see one competitor selling while the other two go at it. Naturally, there was some of that throughout the match. But the way that the match was put together, all three competitors were in the action more often than not during the first half. Priest caught Dunne in a Razors Edge on the announce table, taking him out of the action while the two big men went at it. Eventually, Dunne made it back into the mix and even got the upper hand against Dain and Priest on a few occasions. Killian Dain really impressed me in this match. I’ve had a hard time distancing him in my mind from his Sanity run, but I finally saw him in the light that I believe NXT wants to frame him in, a badass monster heel. Pete Dunne seemed like the natural winner here, considering Adam Cole is a heel. Dain and Priest are also heels, and I didn’t think we would see a heel vs heel match for the NXT title at Survivor Series. Predictable, maybe. But, I don’t even care. Dunne’s NXT UK championship run was beautiful, and even if I don’t think he’ll actually beat Cole, I’d love to see him with a solid NXT Championship run in the near future.
•Finn Balor vs. Matt Riddle – HIT: Finn Balor’s first match back on the Black and Gold brand! I think Matt Riddle was a great first feud for Balor. Riddle continues to be a solid crowd favorite, and a perfect choice for a heel balor to play off of. Surprisingly, I think this may be considered the lowest point of the night. The first two matches on the card were fast paced and brought a lot of action. There were a lot of rest holds, submissions and methodical selling here. Personally, that’s the type of match I can get down on as long as the story being told is told well. But I think that it may have been a little bit too slow and “submission-y” for the live crowd. Any other night, I think the crowd would have eaten this match up. But after the triple threat and Women’s WarGames, it seemed like they had a harder time getting into it. All of that said, I enjoyed the hell out the hell out of this match. Balor needed the win here to look strong in his return to NXT and Riddle really didn’t lose much credibility with this loss, he still looked like a million bucks.
•Men’s WarGames, Team Ciampa (Tomasso Ciampa, Keith Lee, Dominick Dijakovic and possibly an unnamed partner) vs. Team Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong) – HIT: On the NXT media call Wednesday morning, which PWT Talks NXT’s own Kelly Wells was a part of, Triple H said that we would get the reveal for the fourth member of Team Ciampa the night of WarGames, and it will be epic. The match started with Roddy and Ciampa and we still didn’t know who the fourth member of Team Ciampa would be. The two men started the match with an explosive energy, Ciampa with the upper hand for nearly all of the first five minutes of the match. Roddy fought back and was able to knock Ciampa off his feet shortly before the second member of UE, Kyle O’Reilly, made his way into the cage. Try as he might, Ciampa was no match for Roddy and O’Reilly. The Calvary was on it’s way for Ciampa, as Dijakovic entered the match next. The Worcester, MA native obliterated KOR and Strong, allowing ample time for Ciampa to catch his breath and eventually join in on the UE beat down. That is, until the three-minute timer counted to zero and Bobby Fish officially entered.
The three members of UE turned the tides and took it to Ciampa and Dijakovic for the entirety of the next three minute countdown when Keith Lee was uncaged. The big man singlehandedly and quickly regained the advantage for his team, allowing Ciampa and Dijakovic to recooperate and assist Lee in keeping the UE at bay(bay). In Women’s WarGames, the fans were chanting “WE WANT TABLES” at Ripley, but unfortunately they didn’t get them. As Cole entered the match, he gave the crowd what they want and introduced no less than four tables into the cage. WarGames doesn’t start until all members of all four teams enter the ring and before Cole was able to enter the cage, Ciampa pushed him through a table leaning against the barricade meaning the match would not start quite yet. The three minute timer ticked to zero and after a few moments it appeared that nobody was entering as the fourth member of Team Ciampa. Wearing his original NXT gear, Kevin Owens entered the arena to a deafening pop. Owens and team cleared house, and the match officially begins with chants of “Welcome Back!” echoing throughout Chicago. There were a lot of bodies laying on the mat while two or three competitors would take turns fighting throughout the cage. After a few reversal attempts and a teased package piledriver by Owens, Cole was able to land a Panama Sunrise on Owens but wasn’t able to cover. The match came to a close when Ciampa and Cole climbed to the top of the cage, and Ciampa was able to land an Air Raid Crash from the top through two tables. He landed on top of Cole, and the ref counted the pinfall. Incredible. Women’s WarGames, in my opinion anyway, was about a quarter notch above the men’s. But don’t think that I disliked anything about this match. It was utterly entertaining, horrifically brutal and masterfully crafted.
Be sure to check out a special Saturday episode of PWT Talks NXT on the PWTorch Dailycast! Recorded immediately after the conclusion of WarGames, Kelly Wells, Tom Stoup and I break down the show and chat with an on-site correspondent. Go VIP! www.pwtorchvipinfo.com.