“The Last Stop on Two Roads” – NXT Review (20/11/2019) & “NXT TakeOver: WarGames” Preview

Hi and welcome to the last episode of NXT before both TakeOver and Survivor Series. Last week on NXT, you missed an absolutely superb trio of matches from Lio Rush and Angel Garza, Keith Lee and Roderick Strong, and especially one from Io Shirai and Mia Yim. Unless you watched them in which case, good on you. I must say, I enjoyed last week’s heavy-lifting on the build to TakeOver because by focussing in on the one show more heavily, it stopped things feeling cluttered and convoluted. So any with that in mind, let’s get into this week’s Interbrand-heavy edition of NXT:

The Undercard

Pre-match: Becky Lynch returned to NXT and declared an open challenge – Becky Lynch vs Rhea Ripley // no contest after Shayna and her chums attacked. Lynch and Ripley fought back to even the odds, at the top of the ramp Bayley hit Shayna with a chair. This was pretty good but was over before it really got going.

Pre-match: Kona Reeves made his way to the ring only to die via Ricochet after being dropkicked into the post – Matt Riddle def. Ricochet // A distraction allowed Riddle to cradle Ricochet for the pin. Post-match: Cesaro and Nakamura attacked. They fought them off, then out came Roderick Strong, Riddle fought him off then out came Finn Bálor but Riddle fought him off. This was a fun sprint that packed a lot in. I’m already bored with all the finishes via brawls.

RAW Tag Team Champions The Viking Raiders def. Forgotten Sons // A Viking pinned a Son off a move. This was very long and slow. I miss War Raiders having good opponents.

Promos & Packages

We got a Kay Lee Ray highlight reel.

We got a video package for Pete Dunne vs Damian Priest vs Killian Dain.

We got a very good video package for the Women’s WarGames match.

We got a video package for the Men’s WarGames match.

The Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly) vs The Revival (Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder)

Holy hell, this was everything I wanted it to be and a tiny bit more. When The Revival lost their SmackDown Tag Team Championships back to The New Day a few weeks back, many people were disappointed that we weren’t going to get ReDragon facing off against The Revival. Well, this might be better than any meaningless ‘brand supremacy’ three-way dance as instead, we just got 25 minutes of pure tag-team action. I don’t want to write too much about this in case you haven’t seen the match yet but it is the best pure tag rules match in far too long: tag ropes are used, five counts were followed, I almost expected there to be DQs for the illegal man attacking the legal one.

Also worth noting, there were no post-match shenanigans, this was just a hot crowd watching great tag work and that’s a beautiful thing. The Revival worked surprisingly well as the de-facto faces of this encounter, forcing the Era to raise their game back to heights not seen since they faced Danny Burch & Oney Lorcan and various callbacks to previous NXT tag epics were beautifully done. All this and O’Reilly threw in a split-leg leap into his belt air-guitar. What more could you ask for? The Era won with the Total Elimination on Scott Dawson for the pin. Dash Wilder seemed to be trying to intervene but Dawson called him off. That’s not just good tag work, that’s a great friendship.

Winner: The Undisputed Era

Dakota Kai vs Kay Lee Ray

I like Kay Lee Ray, I like Dakota Kai, this was far than either person’s best work, though maybe the best I’ve seen Lee Ray look in WWE. They worked a classic format, early babyface fire gave way to heel heat, an energetic comeback cut off and the finisher hit for the pin. But in terms of what it represented, it was some great storytelling. Ray has a significant history with Tegan Nox (and has had a fair few bangers with Candice LeRae) but also there is the small matter that a few weeks ago, it took Shayna Baszler nearly 12 minutes to do what Ray did in under 6. It does not just establish Ray’s place on her team but also pushes Kai further down the proverbial totem pole, possibly part of some storytelling about Kai getting redemption. I hope so at least because SHE SHOULD BE THE ONE TO BEAT BASZLER! Overall, Kai introduced a new kick variation by doing her corner facewash boot but to Lee Ray on the outside and it filled its time well, if I gave points, I’d give it a 6.5/10. Kay Lee Ray won with a Gory Bomb for the pin. Post-match: brawling from all three brands. Io Shirai and Kairi Sane face off. Nikki Cross hits everyone with a bin lid.

Winner: Kay Lee Ray

Ladder match for an advantage at WarGames: Adam Cole vs Dominic Dijakovic

Right now, I’d probably be saying this was a really good match if we hadn’t seen it done last week by Yim and Shirai and this one just wasn’t nearly as effective. Sure, they worked well. Cole was surprisingly effective at convincing as he wore down larger opponents and obviously, watching Dijakovic ragdoll him was incredibly satisfying, they also built some great spots like Dijakovic one-armed slamming him through a ladder or Cole’s daredevil leaping destroyer.

It just felt that where some of the spots were maybe more creative than the Women’s match last week, the overall storytelling was not as consistent with Cole working far more in spotfest mode than psychological warfare. Also not helped by the now heavily-repetitive nature of the post-match brawls to close out the shows, we get it, brand supremacy, blah-freaking-blah. Though I will say that Keith Lee wrecking Drew McIntyre with a Spirit Bomb and then joining in with Ivar to take out everyone was nice. Adam Cole won by retrieving the briefcase. Post-match: what I previously said happened, big brawl, Seth Rollins came out to attack Cole but then out came Tommaso Ciampa to knee Cole in the face and brawl with Rollins to close out the episode.

Winner: Adam Cole

Just go watch that Undisputed Era vs Revival tag match. The rest of it is fine but that is the only must-see thing. I’m looking forward to next Wednesday hopefully getting back to consistent one-show storytelling. Or possibly more bullsh*t. Who knows.

NXT TakeOver: WarGames Preview:

Angel Garza vs Isaiah ‘Swerve’ Scott // This is a last-minute addition to the card. I can see Garza winning here and possibly getting a Cruiserweight Championship rematch the following night. Either way, it’s likely going to be a pre-show stealer and not just because it’s the only match on there.

Finn Balor vs Matt Riddle // Another late in the game replacement after Johnny Gargano wasn’t cleared. These two have had some strong interactions on NXT recently so this could be special. I would predict Bálor winning as this is his comeback match but never count out the King of Bros and the leader of the Stallion Batallion.

NXT Championship Number One Contender’s: Pete Dunne vs Killian Dain vs Damian Priest // I’m not that excited about this one because my god, Killian Dain is a slog to watch but Priest and Dunne are good so this should be good hopefully. Either way, as the only face in the match, I think the chances are that Peter’s winning here, unless they make the men’s match for all the marbles in which case, Priest vs Ciampa could be fun.

WarGames: Team Ripley (Rhea Ripley, Tegan Nox, Candice LeRae & Mia Yim) vs Team Baszler (Shayna Baszler, Io Shirai, Kay Lee Ray & Bianca Belair) // They’ve taken 7 very good wrestlers and Belair who is y’know, she’s mostly good and they’re locking them in a cage and letting them beat the tar out of each other. That’s a good thing, this will be a good thing to watch. I can’t see them having two babyface victories in WarGames but stranger things have happened. Either way, expect it to be either Yim or Belair taking the pin. Also, expect either Shirai or Ray to jump off the cage. Or both. Because that’s what the heels do.

WarGames: Team Ciampa (Tommaso Ciampa, Keith Lee, Dominic Dijakovic & ???) vs The Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Roderick Strong, Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly) // So who is the fourth man on Team Ciampa? Velveteen Dream, Kevin Owens, John Morrison, Rik Bugez? I don’t know who it’s going to be but I do know that for the past two years, Undisputed Era have made the WarGames match work better than it had any right to so expect this one to go long and hard, all day, all night. Regardless of who the mysterious fourth man is, unless there’s a swerve where they turn on their team, I see the faces winning to set up multiple title opportunities. And really, as Strong joined the Era in a mid-match swerve, it would be silly to do it twice. But once again, I’ve learnt with wrestling, never have hope that everything will go well.

All images and videos courtesy of WWE

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