WarGames is an interesting pay-per-view for the WWE, as is NXT TakeOver in general. On the Saturday before the WWE’s big four events, an edition of NXT TakeOver happens. The problem for WWE is that TakeOver is almost always better than the main brand pay-per-view that happens the next night. The time is tighter, the matches are better booked, and the talent is more hungry.
With a pay-per-view only happening four times a year, the superstars of NXT are always fighting for one of a precious few spots on the card.
NXT TakeOver: WarGames 2019 represented a huge change for NXT. It was their first pay-per-view event since NXT moved to a live two hour show on USA and became a full brand rather than a developmental one. They needed to deliver the best event they have ever put on to prove to fans that NXT is still the same high quality brand they’ve always been and they did.
Women’s WarGames Match
The opening match of the evening was the first women’s WarGames match in history. Originally a WCW match, NXT started using the format in 2017. The first two years were epic, featuring groups of male wrestlers beating the crap out of each other across two rings surrounded by a steel cage.
The women’s division delivered an epic match of their own, as they always do when given the opportunity to shine. Both teams were stacked with incredible talent going into the match, though Rhea Ripley’s teams lost Mia Yim to a backstage attack on the pre-show. Dakota Kai would take her place.
As the preliminary part of the match went on, Team Baszler was up with three wrestlers in the ring to Team Ripley’s two. The buzzer went off, allowing Dakota Kai to join the match. Instead, she turned on her own team by beating up her teammate and best friend, Tegan Nox. Neither woman joined the match. The heel turn was an absolutely brilliant piece of storytelling and left Team Ripley at a severe disadvantage.
Everyone involved showed up and showed out. Kay Lee Ray was amazing, taking two huge bumps, including being swatted out of the sky with a garbage can. Io Shirai hit a beautiful moonsault from 20 feet in the air. Bianca Bel Air was a juggernaut of power and precision.
In the end, Rhea Ripley and Candice LeRae came out on top in an outstanding performance, despite taking on four opponents. This was one of the best-booked matches of the year, a brilliant piece of storytelling from start to finish.
Triple Threat Match
The next match featured a three-man fight to decide who would face Adam Cole for his NXT Championship at Survivor Series. Killian Dain versus Damian Priest versus Pete Dunne.
The match itself was refreshing due to its line up. This was the first singles TakeOver match for both Dain and Priest. While it wasn’t Dunne’s first time out, he is a huge fan favorite and always puts on incredible matches.
The match-up delivered big, with each man getting the opportunity to shine. It sold both Priest and Dain as main event players in NXT perfectly. Ultimately, the fan-favorite Pete Dunne would win and go on to face Adam Cole at Survivor Series in a show-stealing match.
Balor Versus Riddle
Finn Balor is one of the stars who defined NXT and TakeOver as the brand grew into its own. His recent return was met with great joy, though his heel turn was not. This new Balor quickly instigated a confrontation with NXT’s resident stallion, Matt Riddle. It would have been nice to see him in the WarGames match but this match was most likely prompted by Johnny Gargano’s injury.
Riddle was also kind enough to take a break from egging Goldberg on to wrestle Balor.
Regardless of which side of the line he’s on, Balor is one of the best wrestlers in the business. So is Matt Riddle. Putting these two together in a match was an outstanding choice. Doubly so when you consider that this was the only straight-up, one-on-one match on the card. It was a great match and hopefully only the start of their rivalry.
Men’s WarGames Match
The main event of the evening was the Men’s WarGames match, featuring the four members of Undisputed Era against Team Ciampa. Tommaso put together a team consisting of Keith Lee, Dominik Dijakovic, and Matt Riddle. Unfortunately, Riddle had problems of his own meaning Ciampa needed a new teammate.
He cryptically said he reached out to someone, but not who or if they said yes. With all members of Undisputed Era in the ring, they watched the clock run down and waited for Ciampa’s final partner. After a few moments, Kevin Owens walked out to a huge roar from the crowd. The NXT alum accepted the invitation to get some payback on the Era.
While the women’s match brought in toys like chairs, garbage cans, and kendo sticks, the men brought the tables in. They used the tables to their full potential, with members of Team Ciampa finding fun and special ways to put the Undisputed Era through each table. Ciampa hitting Cole with an Air Raid Crash from the top of the cage through two tables to win the match was breathtaking, especially for Dr. Britt Baker, DDS.
In case you weren’t aware, Britt wrestles for AEW and got on camera on the NXT pay-per-view with a killer reaction shot. She’s currently on the opposite side of the Wednesday Night Wars from her significant other, Adam Cole.
It was an unreal match, and the first TakeOver event for both Lee and Dijakovic. Both men delivered big, proving they belong on more pay-per-views. Filled with huge spots and great tension from Team Ciampa’s secret partner, this was the best men’s WarGames match to date.
WWE’s Best 2019 Pay-Per-View
NXT TakeOver: WarGames was, by far, WWE’s best pay-per-view event of the year. Every match was an instant classic, thanks in no small part to the announce team of Beth Phoenix, Nigel McGuinness, and Mauro Ranallo who sold everything perfectly.
On top of the high quality of every match, it was a breakout evening for many wrestlers. Keith Lee, Dominik Dijakovic, Damian Priest, and literally every woman involved in their WarGames match proved they are some of the best in the business. If NXT needed to show fans that they’re still the same crew and still put on an amazing show despite an upgrade, they succeeded.
NXT TakeOver: War Games III is a hard act to follow.