WarGames is a bit of an anomaly in NXT. The black and gold brand doesn’t usually have match themed pay-per-views. It’s pretty commonplace on the main roster. Royal Rumble. Survivor Series. Elimination Chamber. It’s a thing that WWE loves to do.
But the reality of those main roster pay-per-views is that the titular match is often the least interesting one. Except for the Royal Rumble, of course. Everyone enjoys a Royal Rumble match. WarGames matches, on the other hand, always seem to be brilliant. 2020 was no exception.
That being said, Finn Bálor was left off the card. This meant the NXT Championship was not defended at WarGames. Hopefully, that was just because he hasn’t been cleared to wrestle after being off with a broken jaw. If not, there’s no reason to not have your champion compete.
A brief and somewhat vague, promo that was likely for Karrion Kross ran during WarGames. Kross relinquishing the NXT Championship due to injury led to Bálor winning it. One has to imagine that Kross is going to come looking for it as soon as he gets back.
It’s also worth noting that there was no pre-show match for WarGames this year. This is unfortunate as NXT has a lot of great talent looking screen time. It would have been nice to see at least the NXT Cruiserweight Championship defended.
Women’s WarGames Match
The show opened with the Women’s WarGames Match. This was the second year they had such a match, and it was a barn burner. Candice LeRae headed up a team consisting of Toni Storm, Dakota Kai, and Raquel González. Shotzi Blackheart’s team was made up of Ember Moon, Rhea Ripley, and Io Shirai.
This was a great match, a perfect example of what WarGames is capable of. All eight competitors laid out some huge spots. Dakota Kai in particular took a lot of abuse. This included taking an Eclipse from Moon through two chairs. It was a brutal but brilliant moment.
Io Shirai, the current NXT Women’s Champion, also came out with some massive stunts. Naturally, she dished out a couple of picture-perfect moonsaults. But Shirai entered the match by climbing to the top of the cage, putting a garbage can over her own head, and diving onto everyone.
Shotzi Blackheart absolutely thrived in the WarGames environment. NXT pushing her has been unexpected, but incredibly welcome. She’s a talented wrestler and a unique personality. Continuing her association with Ember Moon would be smart as they have a natural chemistry.
Team LeRae won the match after González put Shirai through a ladder from the top rope and got the pinfall. If you’re keeping track, González pinned the current champion. She has been with NXT 2016 but it’s only recently she’s gotten any kind of a push. It’s a smart move as González has all the tools to be a star.
The downside was Rhea Ripley losing another big match. Ripley, by her own admission, hasn’t been herself since losing her title to Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 36. Losses like this are not going to help her find her footing.
Timothy Thatcher versus Tommaso Ciampa
This wasn’t a pretty match. It wasn’t a high flying bout. No one was looking for bit spots off the top rope. But it was two guys beating the absolute tar out of each other. Thatcher and Ciampa are two of the hardest hitting guys in the business. This match proved it.
Ciampa and Thatcher absolutely took it to each other in a straight-up, old school wrestling match. It was a brutal slugfest, to say the least. Lots of hitting. Lots of submissions. The goal for each man was basically just to hurt the other. And they did that quite successfully.
The victory went to Ciampa, which was the right call. The former champion needed the victory under his belt to start picking some momentum up. But given the death stares the two competitors were giving each other after the bell, this one isn’t over quite yet.
Strap Match: Dexter Lumis versus Cameron Grimes
In addition to being a creepy bastard and a talented wrestler, Dexter Lumis is becoming known for strap matches. He took Roderick Strong to the woodshed not that long ago in one. At WarGames, it was his current obsession, Cameron Grimes, who took the whupping.
Lumis and Grimes are both rising NXT stars. They are definite contenders for the North American Championship down the road. But these two have had a few gimmick matches in the past few weeks. That includes a blindfold match and a partially cinematic match at Halloween Havoc.
It’s honestly getting a little tiresome, particularly in this match. The bout just went on way too long, and should have ended a lot quicker. It was just too much for a feud that fans have become less invested in over the last couple of weeks.
Lumis picked up the victory once again via submission and hopefully this is the end of their feud. The whole thing has run its course. Fans are ready for something new for both superstars. Maybe Lumis should start stalking Pat McAfee.
North American Championship Match
Leon Ruff has become a surprisingly big name in NXT. The relatively new recruit hasn’t been on the scene that long but already ended up with the North American Championship around his waist. But that reign has been aided by Damian who kept interfering in his matches.
Wanting to prove himself, Ruff more or less challenged Johnny Gargano and Priest to a triple threat match. This seemed like a no-win situation for Ruff but he stepped up and showed that he is an incredibly talented wrestler. He even took a massive Razor’s Edge from Priest through the safety barrier.
With the help Austin Theory dressed as Ghostface from the Scream movies, Gargano won and became the first three-time North American Champion. While it was unfortunate to see Leon Ruff’s reign come to an end, he still turned in a great performance.
Men’s WarGames Match
Pat McAfee’s mission to bring down the Undisputed Era down brought him good company. Pete Dunne is working with him as are the current NXT Tag Team Champions, Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch. But you need a hell of a team if you’re stepping into WarGames against UE.
The odd part about Team McAfee was that they were firmly at a one-man disadvantage once all eight men were in the ring. Credit where credit is due as McAfee took some big bumps in the match and put on a decent show. But the reality is that he still isn’t a wrestler. That left his three teammates to do the heavy lifting.
It was, all in all, a decent match. But the Women’s WarGames match was better. The Men’s WarGames Match was hard-hitting but it sometimes felt like it had to be toned down to accommodate for the still green McAfee. The difference was that the Women’s Match was all experienced professionals taking it to another level.
Oddly enough, another problem was the UE. Undisputed Era picked up the victory when Kyle O’Reilly pinned Oney Lorcan. This was the right call as McAfee winning this match would have been intolerable. He’s decent on the mic and getting better in the ring but he’s nowhere near the caliber of who he was in the ring with.
In one form or another, the UE has now been in all four editions of WarGames that NXT has held. They’re great in the matches, but it’s time for new teams to get involved in the event. Fans will eventually stop caring about WarGames if the only mystery is who UE will face each year.