Being a wrestling fan in the UK means a certain number of late nights if you want to see major US-based shows live. Sometimes I don’t bother, sometimes I start watching planning on going to bed if it doesn’t pick up, and sometimes I just know I’m going to be glued to the television all night.
Any particular NXT Takeover is going to fall into that last category, but holy shit this WarGames card is absurdly exciting. I can see why they’d only book four matches for it – there isn’t a single bout on the card I’d regard as being likely to run short. On this post, I’m going to lay out my expectations and predictions for the evening, then I’ll do a followup post after the event covering my immediate reaction.
Gargano vs. Black
The match with the least gold involved, and no WarGames gimmick, but also the match with the most build and plot behind it. It’s going to be notable whatever happens simply for being Gargano’s first NXT match where he’s playing it unambiguously heelish. (His previous match with Ciampa showed hints that he was slipping into the dark side, mind, and at the time I thought it was teasing a heel turn.) It’s also a weird case where one of the competitor’s intro music also happens to tell the story of the match. Turns out that Gargano was never really truly good… but does that mean he is truly E…VIL?
If I had to pick a winner, I’d pick Gargano – Black really doesn’t have much left to do in NXT and no real storylines aside from this one, which makes me think he’s ripe for a call-up. Whilst he could go gunning after the NXT championship rematch he’d been denied by Gargano’s attack, that would mean either coming after Ciampa (when there’s still that outstanding business between Ciampa and Gargano) or Dream (which would be a repeat of a previous feud – a good one, but still a repeat).
There is another potential route I can see, but I’ll get to that when I talk about Ciampa’s match.
Ciampa (C) vs. Dream (NXT Men’s Championship)
(I don’t get why NXT forget to say “men’s” whenever they introduce the men’s championship, but I’m going to make sure I include it here.)
This is a really hard one to call but it’s also one I am really looking forward to. A large proportion of what I’m looking forward to is Dream’s entrance and whatever absurd thing he’s going to airbrush onto his pants, mind, but that’s because the Artist Formerly Known As Patrick has become the best entrance in the business in his time at NXT and I am sure the match itself will be great.
As much as I love Dream, him getting a championship shot was more than I dared hope for and I can’t quite bring myself to firmly believe he will win it. They might keep the title on Ciampa so that Gargano can come after it and add a shine to that feud, but does that feud really need it? There’s something to be said for Dream taking the title leaving Ciampa’s schedule clear to focus solely on his long war with Gargano.
If, that is, there’s still a war to fight there.
Time to address that possibility I alluded to in the Gargano vs. Black fight: what if DIY get back together as a heel team at this point? Ciampa’s made some tweets since Gargano’s heel turn went public expressing apparent approval of Gargano’s change of heart, after all. I can see Gargano interfering in this match to have Ciampa win on the basis of “if I can’t have the belt, I don’t want anyone other than Ciampa to have it”, and I can even see Ciampa interfering in the Gargano vs. Black fight as a “thanks for keeping Black out of the equation” gesture.
I could even see this being how DIY gets called up: Ciampa loses the belt, Gargano pops up to attack Black, DIY give Black a punishment beating and get kicked out of NXT for their trouble and come up to the main roster as a heel tag team.
Baszler (C) vs. Sane (NXT Women’s Championship – 2 Out of 3 Falls)
This is probably the end of what I’ve been thinking of as the “Anime vs. MMA” feud. Kairi really goes all-out in portraying her character in a very fantasy-embracing way, Shayna brings all the gritty realism her MMA background can muster; it’s about as jarring a combination as you can think of, which I guess is why this feud is so good.
The unspoken names here are Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir. If they don’t interfere and there isn’t a clear storyline reason why they don’t interfere (like they got barred from ringside or kicked out the building or whatever), it’ll be weird, considering how crucial a role they played in Evolution. And if that happens, I really hope Kairi has some form of backup of her own. (There’s a few likely names among the latest crop of Mae Young Classic entrants, Io Shirai being prominent among them.) In her promos leading up to this Kairi seems to have given Duke and Shafir’s role no thought whatsoever; if that’s because she has a plan to counter it, then that makes sense, but if she genuinely expects that they won’t interfere and hasn’t made any attempt to counter that she just looks incredibly foolish. It’s one thing to get ambushed when you weren’t expecting it, it’s quite another to get ambushed in exactly the same way twice in a row.
As for who wins… God, I really don’t know. With Rhonda vs. Becky looking like the direction for next Wrestlemania, I can see WWE wanting to call up Shayna and her goons sooner rather than later… but I can also see them wanting Duke and Shafir to stick around in NXT to polish up their skills further before they get their cup of coffee in the big time.
Undisputed Era vs. War Raiders, Ricochet and Pete Dunne (WarGames Match)
This is the second go-around in WarGames for Undisputed Era (remember, Roderick Strong was in last year’s one as backup for AOP). The story here doesn’t quite feel as compelling as last time’s; there’s the nice tension between Ricochet and Dunne adding spice to it, but I feel like War Raiders are only here because they’ve got a name appropriate to the stipulation.
Should be good, but I am not sure what’s supposed to be at stake here and as such I don’t feel able to make many firm predictions. I can see the Era winning due to dissent between Ricochet and Dunne, I can see them losing if one or more of them are getting called up.