WWE NXT TakeOver: WarGames 2019 Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction, Highlights
On the eve of WWE Survivor Series, the Superstars of NXT battled for supremacy of their brand at TakeOver: War Games in Rosemont, Illinois.
The Undisputed Era sought to continue its reign of dominance, but to do so, it would have to overcome the challenge of Tommaso Ciampa, Dominik Dijakovic, Keith Lee and a mystery opponent inside the unforgiving confines of a two-ring, steel cage.
Eight women etched their names in the history books by setting foot inside the punishing match type for the first time as Rhea Ripley, Tegan Knox, Candice LeRae and Mia Yim battled women's champion Shayna Baszler, Bianca Belair, Io Shirai and NXT: UK women's champion Kay Lee Ray.
Who emerged victoriously, and would Matt Riddle spoil Finn Balor's return to the squared circle as a member of the Black and Yellow by upsetting the former NXT champion?
Find out with this recap of Saturday's extravaganza.
Kickoff Show: Isaiah 'Swerve' Scott vs. Angel Garza
Two of the brightest young stars in NXT squared off in the night's opening contest as part of the kickoff show when Isaiah "Swerve" Scott battled Angel Garza in singles competition, each jockeying for position on a crowded roster.
Scott took down Garza early with a diving headscissors on the arena floor. Swerve continued to control the bout, utilizing unconventional offense. Garza countered a crossbody with a suplex into the turnbuckles, ripped his own pants off and grounded Scott with a superkick.
A springboard-inverted suplex and second superkick earned Garza a near-fall.
The Superstars exchanged a flurry of chops before Garza jumped off the top rope and dropped his opponent with a sit-out powerbomb. Scott responded with a Death Valley Driver on the ring apron and a double-stomp on the floor.
A dramatic two-count left Scott in disbelief as his opponent avoided defeat. A series of blocked kicks between the competitors gave way to Garza's delivering the Wing Clipper for the pinfall victory.
Garza defeated Scott
The match's early moments were sloppy, as the opponents did not jell at all. By the time they slowed things down, though, the action became more coherent. As the contest neared its conclusion, it had developed into a damn fine one.
The crowd was far more into Scott, but Garza has been prominently featured on NXT television for the last few months, so it makes sense that, after a high-profile cruiserweight-title loss to Lio Rush, he would get some momentum back with a win over a fellow face of NXT's future.
Women's WarGames Match: Team Ripley vs. Team Baszler
With Mia Yim out of the match because of an attack at the hands of an unknown assailant just before the kickoff show, Dakota Kai stepped in on the babyface side. But it was Candice LeRae who started things for Team Ripley against Team Baszler's Io Shirai.
The familiar foes unloaded on each other as their teammates watched from the stage. A spear through the ropes by LeRae was met with a nasty knee to the face from Shirai, who followed up with a 619. Double knees to the chest and a springboard missile dropkick continued the Mistress of Evil's early roll.
Just as LeRae created separation, Bianca Belair entered the match for the heels, who won the numbers advantage by way of Shirai's win over Yim on NXT TV two weeks earlier. Belair answered a brief comeback by Candice Wrestling with a triple powerbomb that ended with the babyface crashing into the side of the steel cage.
Rhea Ripley entered the match next, drawing a huge pop and introducing trash cans, lids, steel chairs, and kendo sticks to the match. Ripley uncorked a nasty inverted side suplex on Belair, sending her rib-first into a trash can.
The heels regained the numbers advantage with the arrival of NXT: UK women's champion Kay Lee Ray, who retrieved more chairs from under the ring. She denied fans tables, drawing big heat from the Chicago faithful. In the ring, she dropped Ripley with a tornado DDT onto the chair.
With the heels and LeRae set up on the top rope, Ripley brought all but Belair crashing down onto a pile of chairs. The EST of NXT followed with a 450 splash to the Aussie.
As the clock ticked down and the babyfaces were set to even the odds again, Kai turned on her teammates, dropping longtime friend Tegan Nox with a big kick and damaging her previously injured knees. When William Regal appeared, she lashed out at him too. She returned to beat down Nox until Regal physically pulled her off.
With Kai obviously out of the equation and Nox appearing unable to compete, Baszler entered the match prepared to capitalize on a four-on-two advantage. Despite the odds, LeRae utilized a trash-can lid on Ray and Shirai while Ripley tossed around Baszler and Belair. A big dropkick by Ripley on Ray gave way to a suplex into the cage wall.
The team captains applied submissions across the ring but failed to net a victory. Shirai delivered a moonsault to LeRae, but Ripley broke up the pin just in time. She paid dearly for it, enduring Belair's ponytail whips. LeRae blasted The EST with a kendo stick as action escalated.
Candice delivered an avalanche poison rana, as called by Mauro Ranallo, while Shirai stayed perched atop the cage. The 2018 Mae Young Classic runner-up delivered a moonsault that wiped out LeRae and Belair on the mat below.
Across the ring, Baszler trapped Ripley in her clutch submission, but the Aussie fought out, handcuffed herself to the women's champion and delivered the Riptide to earn the win for the babyfaces.
Team Ripley defeated Team Baszler
If you did not know Ripley is a star of the future, you damn sure do now.
The Aussie captivated the fans from the moment she set foot on the stage and continued to do so every time she was spotlighted. She was superb, bringing the right intensity and aggression before putting away Baszler and earning a shot at the women's title.
As much as this match was a star vehicle for Ripley, enough cannot be said about the work of the other women involved in the match.
Belair took some rough bumps and was beaten to hell by a kendo stick. Ditto for Ray, who fit right in the barbaric match despite having no real history to speak of with any of the women involved. LeRae and Shirai were the glue that held everything together, the former displaying great resiliency and the latter stealing the show with her death-defying moonsault.
It was Kai's brutal, malicious attack on Nox, though, that was the biggest story of the match. The often overlooked and disrespected Kai unleashed weeks of frustration on her best friend, the NXT general manager and anyone else stupid enough to step to her.
She was a revelation, showing the type of emotion that makes heel turns like this as effective as it was. She is poised to become a major player on NXT, and it is about damn time.
No. 1 Contender's Match: Pete Dunne vs. Damian Priest vs. Killian Dain
The three-way rivalry between Pete Dunne, Killian Dain and Damian Priest took on added significance because the winner of their Triple Threat match would earn the right to challenge Adam Cole for the NXT Championship at Survivor Series on Sunday night.
The early action was nonstop, as neither of the competitors could gain a sustained advantage until a fallaway slam/Samoan drop combination by Dain to his opponents.
Dunne recovered from an onslaught by Dain to drop the big Irishman and trap Priest in a triangle choke. A double powerbomb by the heels halted The Bruiserweight's comeback attempt, though. Again, Dunne mounted a charge, unloading with clubbing forearms to his opponents and stomping on both of their fingers.
All three went for a big kick, though, laying each other out and drawing a big "N-X-T" chant from the fans.
Priest gained the advantage, dropping Dunne with a South of Heaven for a two-count as desperation set in. On the floor, he delivered a nasty Razor's Edge to Dunne, onto the announce table, only to eat a nasty tope suicida from Dain.
The Beast of Belfast followed up with a cannonball splash that put Priest on the floor. The enigmatic archer of NXT, though, fought back into the match and dropped Dain with an impressive Razor's Edge from the middle rope. Dunne broke up the pin.
Priest dove over the steel post, wiping out Dain, and Dunne followed with a moonsault that laid both of his opponents out.
Late in the match, Priest tried for a chokeslam, but Dunne countered into an armbar. Dain saved the submission, obliterating The Bruiserweight. He flattened Priest but could not put him away for the win. Dain delivered a Vader Bomb to the back of Priest, but Dunne broke up a pin and delivered the Bitter End. Priest broke up the pin.
Later, with all three Superstars up top, Dunne snapped Priest's fingers and delivered The Bitter End. Dain delivered a senton to break up the pin. Another, this time with Dunne on his back, led to The Bruiserweight's shoving Dain off and pinning Priest for the win.
Dunne defeated Priest and Dain
This one went longer than it should have, having peaked several minutes earlier. You could tell the longer the match went, the more the crowd lost steam, biting on each near-fall until one too many exhausted them. The finish felt flat, but the Illinois fans still reacted favorably to Dunne's winning and earning the pay-per-view title match with Cole at Survivor Series.
While Dain was impressive, as he has been every time he gets the opportunity to showcase his ability, it was Priest who really stood out. We have seen Dunne in many high-profile spots, but this was Priest's first chance to showcase himself in a major TakeOver match, and he more than lived up to the moment.
He was excellent, fitting right in with his more celebrated opponents and even looking like he may win the damn thing on more than one occasion. The question now is whether he can build on this performance and become a breakout star in NXT.
Matt Riddle vs. Finn Balor
Matt Riddle sought to end Finn Balor's new attitude as he battled the former NXT champion in singles competition. Riddle found success early with a trio of gut-wrench suplexes but quickly found himself on the receiving end of a basement dropkick and rear-naked choke from Balor.
Balor methodically worked over Riddle, targeting the face and throat of The Original Bro.
Riddle fought back, unloading with some forearms, but Balor shifted momentum back in his favor with a big forearm. Riddle countered a sling blade, though, and applied an ankle lock that had Balor seeking the sanctuary of the bottom rope.
Balor withstood an onslaught by Riddle, fought through the pain in his ankle and delivered an explosive dropkick to ground his opponent. The Bro delivered a V-Trigger and followed with a German suplex for two, turning the tide back in his favor once again.
Riddle delivered a ripcord knee to the face, to which Balor responded with a double stomp to the midsection. A big sling blade by Balor was answered with a spear by Riddle. The Jackhammer, reminiscent of Riddle's internet nemesis Goldberg, only earned Riddle a two-count.
The babyface followed with the Bro To Sleep and tried for a high-risk splash but crashed. Balor delivered the shotgun dropkick and tried for the Coup de Grace, but Riddle moved. He applied the Bromission, but Balor made it to the ropes.
Moments later, Balor dropped his opponent with the 1916 DDT for the pinfall victory. "The Prince is back!" Ranallo exclaimed.
Balor defeated Riddle
This was Balor's first match in months, and it showed early. Once he heated up, and he and Riddle began unleashing on each other, the match improved drastically.
This was an intense, hard-hitting bout that saw Riddle pull from both Goldberg and CM Punk (and draw appropriate responses from the fans) while trying to defeat Balor. The Prince was either ready for it all or withstood it all to stay alive and eventually pick up the win.
You can argue that Riddle's losing as much as he has will hurt his credibility with fans, but The Original Bro is charismatic enough to stay over with fans regardless of his win-loss record. Still, he does eventually need a defining and high-profile win to stay relevant in the ever-evolving NXT brand.
Men's WarGames Match: Team Ciampa vs. Undisputed Era
An aura of mystery hung over the men's WarGames match Saturday as Undisputed Era battled Tommaso Ciampa, Dominik Dijakovic, Keith Lee and an unknown fourth teammate. Who that person would be was a mystery as the cage lowered and Adam Cole, Roderick Strong, Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly entered the historic AllState Arena.
The answer to any questions surrounding the fourth competitor would have to wait as Ciampa marched to the ring, daring anyone to join him inside the cage to start the match. North American champion Strong started for the heels.
Strong controlled early, but Ciampa fired up and blasted his opponent with a running knee. A series of chops ensued, and Strong regained the upper hand, downing The Blackheart as the clock ticked and the heels gained the numbers advantage in the form of O'Reilly.
Strong and O'Reilly paired off on Ciampa, leaving the former NXT champion reeling as commentator Beth Phoenix put over the heels' teamwork. Just as the Undisputed Era began to roll, Dijakovic entered the match and tossed both Strong and O'Reilly around with reckless abandon, sending them into the unforgiving walls of the cage.
He pinballed O'Reilly, bashing him with a forearm every time he rebounded off the ropes.
Fish was next to enter for the villains, surgically picking Dijakovic apart before teeing off on Ciampa with a flurry of kicks. With a three-on-two advantage, the heels wore down the opposition, hoping to make things as easy for Cole as possible with a major championship defense at Survivor Series awaiting him.
Lee entered the match next, much to the delight of the fans, and bowled over Strong. A single crossbody wiped out the NXT tag team champions, and the audience erupted. As dominant as Lee was, the numbers again proved problematic for the big man.
Cole finally entered the match, introducing tables to the proceedings, much to the delight of the NXT Universe. He even set one up against the guardrail as the commentary team reminded fans that the match does not officially start until all eight competitors have entered the ring, meaning the heels could beat down their opponents outside the ring.
Ciampa came seemingly out of nowhere, sending Cole flying through the table propped against the guardrail. With Team Ciampa recovered, Undisputed Era retreated into the second ring, begging off. A brawl ensued, and the heels regained the upper hand with a nasty low blow to Lee.
The clock ticked down, the buzzer sounded and Kevin Owens returned to NXT, entering the match as the fourth member of Team Ciampa. Owens tore through the competition, suplexing Strong and powerbombing O'Reilly onto Fish.
Cole begged off but ate a stunner as Owens rolled. In an awkward spot, Lee and Dijakovic launched Strong into his partners. Ciampa dropped O'Reilly with a draping DDT, and the babyface team set up the tables.
The heels finally slowed their opponents' momentum, dropping Lee before O'Reilly applied a kneebar. Dijakovic broke it up with a springboard moonsault. A big swanton by Owens leveled Fish, while a superkick from Cole downed Ciampa. Strong delivered a Strong Slam to Lee.
Cole and Owens sparred between the rings, ending with Cole delivering a destroyer piledriver onto the metal bar connecting them. Ciampa unloaded on the heels but ate a superkick from Cole. The NXT champion and The Blackheart battled to the top of the cage while Fish and Strong set Lee up on another corner.
Dijakovic chokeslammed Strong through one table. Another chokeslam was countered by O'Reilly's triangle choke. Dijakovic powered out and placed O'Reilly on a table. Owens came off the top with a powerbomb, driving the tag champion through it. Lee put Fish through yet another table as the hits kept coming.
From the top of the cage, Ciampa drove Cole through two tables with the Air Raid Crash, earning the victory for his team.
Team Ciampa defeated Undisputed Era
That match-ending spot was breathtaking. For a moment, it became less about the exclamation point on the match and more about the safety of the Superstars. There will be some who question whether a spot that dangerous belongs in wrestling, but as the definitive conclusion to a match that had already seen so much carnage, it made sense.
When done sparingly, it means more. Here, it certainly did.
The outcome of the match definitely sets up Ciampa vs. Cole for the NXT Championship, a given if recent television was any indication. Judging by the booking elsewhere in the match, it would not be a surprise if Lee and Dijakovic teamed up to challenge Fish and O'Reilly.
The intriguing aspect of the ordeal is the involvement of Owens. The commentary team certainly made it sound like Owens was back in NXT, and if that is the case, a showdown with Strong over the North American Championship may not be a terrible direction for him.
At least while Cole is busy with Ciampa.
For months, NXT television built to this match. Different divisions built to this one contest and, taking that into consideration, it more than paid off the work and efforts of those involved. It was a legitimate Match of the Year candidate whose toughest competition may be the women's match that preceded it earlier in the night.
How will the main-roster stars follow anything accomplished on this show and, furthermore, in what shape will the Superstars who have to work Sunday night be in come showtime?
We will find out Sunday on WWE Network.