Typically speaking, NXT TakeOver events consist of five matches. That’s just the formula that’s worked for the brand, and it’s always made for a lean, mean show. That should tell you something about NXT TakeOver: WarGames II, which is only booked to have four matches. The stakes here—the anger, the hatred, the passion, and the rivalries—can’t be contained. There’s simply no room for a fifth match because every battle here is worthy of the time to sort out the anger at the heart of each conflict. Four matches, four grueling contests, and yet another classic TakeOver event. Let’s get to the rundown of the show.
Matt Riddle defeated Kassius Ohno
At least, four matches were scheduled, but the anger in the NXT locker room spills over at the start of the show. Matt Riddle comes to the ring and tells the L.A. crowd that he was offended by Kassius Ohno interrupting him on the preshow, and he challenges the Knockout Artist to a match. Ohno comes out ready to embarrass him, but it’s Ohno who ends up eating crow, bro. Ohno tries to jump Riddle as soon as the bell rings, but Riddle hits him with a quick knee and the match is over. Riddle has his first ever TakeOver win, but I doubt this feud with Ohno is done.
Shayna Baszler (c) defeated Kairi Sane in a 2 Out Of 3 Falls Match for the NXT Women’s Championship
After that quick defeat, it’s on to Shayna Baszler defending her NXT Women’s Championship against Kairi Sane in a 2 Out Of 3 Falls Match. The two have traded wins and championships for months and months, and this night saw them try to settle that bad blood once and for all. You can read all about that match here.
Aleister Black defeated Johnny Gargano
With the NXT Women’s Championship match done, it’s on to yet another blood feud, this one between Johnny Gargano and Aleister Black. Their hatred for one another stems from Gargano not only costing Black his NXT Championship but also attacking him and putting him on the shelf for weeks. Gargano feels like he was just doing what needed to be done to get to Ciampa, but none of that matters to Black. Thus, the stage was set for a match where each man felt like he was owed something, and was willing to do anything to get back on the path to the NXT Championship.
The bad blood boils over immediately, with Gargano slapping Black, and Black hitting back with a massive kick to the face. You can tell, as the two exchange strikes, that Gargano is wrestling with a new edge ever since attacking his foe. He’s cocky and confident and evading Black’s strikes at every turn. Of course, you can only evade those for so long, and Black eventually hits back with a flurry of fists and boots.
It’s strange to see the two technical wizards going full bore right off the bat, but that’s what personal hatred will do. Eventually, though, the two settle into a more focused rhythm, trading submissions and counters, and neither man managing to truly control the match. It takes a suicide dive DDT followed up by a slingshot DDT for Gargano to get close to the victory, but Black still manages to kick out. In other words, it’s going to take a lot to put either man away. There’s no championship on the line, but this is about more than gold. It’s about respect and character and a need to be the best in the business. It’s remarkable to watch them battle it out, near equals the entire time. It’s near fall after near fall for the entirety of the match, with Black hitting multiple running strikes, and Gargano hitting back with quicker, high-flying moves.
“A cavalcade of kicks” is what Mauro Ranallo calls it, and he’s right. The two exchange boots and knees, Gargano even hitting Black with an exposed running knee, only to still fall short of getting the win. As the match goes on longer and longer, the stakes higher, each man has to up the ante. So Gargano goes for yet another suicide dive, but the repetition is a mistake. Black is ready this time, and he hits Gargano with a knee to the jaw as he flies through the ropes.
Gargano does all he can in that moment, which is to beg for the Black Mass and an end to this whole thing. He’s playing possum though, and Gargano uses the momentum of the Black Mass to roll through to a Gargano Escape. That leads to a truly epic finish, as Black escapes the submission, hits Gargano with an exposed knee, and then lays him out with not one Black Mass, but two, absolving Gargano of his sins before pinning him for the win, keeping his TakeOver undefeated streak intact.
Tommaso Ciampa (c) defeated Velveteen Dream for the NXT Championship
Because the WarGames match has to end the show, the NXT Championship match is up next, and boy is it a doozy. Velveteen Dream comes to the ring meaning business, this time in tights inspired by the NWO’s Hollywood Hulk Hogan. Is it too much flash though? Is Dream too concerned with image? Because Ciampa loves that NXT Championship more than anything else, and he’s focused on making sure nobody else ever gets their hands on it.
Like Hogan at the SkyDome at WrestleMania X8, Dream basks in the adoration of the crowd. He feels and uses that energy to gain an early advantage, getting inside Ciampa’s head, which is no easy task. As much as Dream shows off his athletic skill, running circles around Ciampa in the early going, his showboating gets the best of him. He spends too much time imitating Hogan and looking to the crowd for adoration, and you can’t be doing that against a man like Ciampa, who stabbed his own best friend in the back in order to further his own career.
Once Ciampa has control, he keeps it. He stays on top of Dream, following him everywhere and never giving him a moment to catch his breath.
With no easy path to the win, Ciampa decides to cheat. He rolls up Dream and gets a huge handful of tights, but the referee notices just before counting the 3. When that doesn’t work, he does the next best thing, bringing the title into the ring to attack Dream, a move that backfires when Dream plants him with a DDT on the title. But even that’s not enough!
It’s looking like it’s Dream’s moment when Ciampa, in a rare act of unchecked emotion, explodes and throws papers at Mauro Ranallo. That brief loss of focus allows Dream to hit a Death Valley Driver on the outside, throw Ciampa into the ring, and then hit the champ with the Purple Rainmaker.
That move has never failed Dream, but somehow Ciampa kicks out. With Ciampa laying on the apron, Dream doubles down and goes for another Purple Rainmaker, but Ciampa sees it coming, moves, and Dream lands hard on the floor. It’s only moments later when Ciampa takes advantage of the two rings for WarGames, planting Dream on the steel that connects the two rings and following up with the pin for the win. The Blackheart retains his title and gets to continue calling himself the main event, but after that showing, there’s no doubt that Dream’s time at the top is coming.
Ricochet, Pete Dunne, and War Raiders defeated The Undisputed Era in a WarGames Match
And finally, it’s here. It’s time for WarGames, which sees the Undisputed Era taking on War Raiders, Pete Dunne, and Ricochet. The teams have been brawling in various iterations for weeks now, so WarGames is the only way to contain the carnage (or at least try to). Ricochet and Adam Cole start the match, with the other members of the teams talking continuous trash to either other from shark cages up on the ramp. Cole and Ricochet, who once battled for the North American Championship, go back and forth for the first five minutes before another man is released, this time Undisputed Era’s Kyle O’Reilly after Era won a match on Wednesday to secure the first entry.
O’Reilly and Cole work Ricochet over for the entire three-minute interval, but Hanson evens the odds real quick, using his menacing mix of speed and power to get the momentum back for his team. It turns out that Hanson makes a good partner, acting as a springboard for Ricochet to hit a Shooting Star Press. The match follows the pattern until every team member is released, with Undisputed gaining the upper hand with each new member. Strong in particular is a game changer, hitting one massive backbreaker after another. Strong’s been on another level ever since turning on Dunne and joining Undisputed.
As the match rolls on, there’s clear tension between War Raiders and Pete Dunne. The Raiders prevent Dunne from entering the match before them. What they couldn’t have predicted was that Bobby Fish would leave his cage, steal the lock, and then add an extra lock to Dunne’s cage and then throw away the key,
The match technically doesn’t start until Dunne is in the ring, but that doesn’t matter to Undisputed. The longer Dunne is trapped, the longer Undisputed can beat down Ricochet and War Raiders. What Undisputed didn’t account for was not only the referees getting bolt cutters and releasing Dunne, but that he’d be coming out even angrier than ever. He introduces tables, kendo sticks, and trash cans into the mix, and that’s bad news for just about everybody involved in this match.
There’s too much brutality to keep track of. War Raiders ruin Adam Cole by putting a trash can on his head and then throwing their bodies into him. The Bruiserweight is left alone with Undisputed, but he fights off all four of them with fists and forearms. They get the upper hand back, and Fish and O’Reilly smartly lock Dunne in a submission while Strong and Cole hold off the others in the second ring. That’s until War Raiders use Ricochet as a weapon, throwing him to the other side to save Dunne. Ricochet delivers a hurricanrana off the top rope. Fish spears Rowe through a table that’s set up between the rings. It’s sheer brutality in every corner of the double cage. Hanson absolutely destroys O’Reilly with a splash through a table, saving Ricochet from a deadly submission in the process.
Eventually, because this is a WarGames match, things move to the top of the cage, where knees get shaky and the moves get crazy. Seven men end up hitting the mat after a suplex turns into a triple power bomb/mass of humanity, and that sets the stage for the craziest thing we’ve ever seen in WarGames. Ricochet, alone on top of the cage, somehow executes a double backflip onto the mass of bodies below. It’s absolutely ridiculous, but it’s not even close to the end of the madness.
After the teams trade fists in the middle of the two rings, it’s a mad sprint to the finish. Hanson lays out O’Rielly and Fish with a gravity-defying springboard double elbow, but Strong knocks out the Raiders. That leaves Cole trying to win it for Undisputed, and he almost does, connecting with a superkick when Ricochet tries to hit him with a springboard crossbody. But this all comes back to Dunne, the last man to get into the match. He hits a Bitter End on Cole, which gives Ricochet the opportunity to hit a springboard 450, and both men lay an arm across Cole for the win. It’s a perfect, frantic ending to a perfect, frantic match, and one of the best NXT TakeOvers of all time.
You can watch NXT TakeOver: WarGames II on the WWE Network.