For years, people asked for it – and on the latest Takeover, WWE (via NXT) delivered. We got Wargames. Sort-of. But it delivered – which is the most important thing!

Mauro Ranallo, Nigel McGuinness and Percy Watson are on commentary, as usual, and we’ve got an old-school style presentation as they cut the show-opening speech on the ramp. A bit like how Nigel and JR tried for that WWE UK special, just without the horrific green screen fail…

Kassius Ohno vs. Lars Sullivan
Sullivan – under this act – has lost to only two men in NXT: Oney Lorcan and Kassius Ohno. He’s run amok on TV, and this was the first Takeover for Lars and his mahoosive knee brace.

Of course, with this being War Games, we’ve got two rings for the whole night. A lot of this was just Lars laying into the former Hero, charging him with a shoulder block off the apron before dumping him onto that same apron. A kip-up was Kassius’ only hope though, and he was swiftly charged down again, before eating a pop-up powerslam for a near-fall.

A swandive headbutt from Sullivan misses though, and that’s the cue for an Ohno comeback, featuring a swift right hand and thunderous elbows… but Lars stayed on his feet! The Cyclone kick finally puts the big man down, but it just wakens the monster, who ducks a rolling elbow and hits a back suplex for the win. At five minutes, it was short, but a LOT of fun. Yes, you can whinge that Ohno’s not getting pushed, but he knows his role and made Sullivan look great in the time they had. ***

The WWE UK folks were on hand. Tyler, Trent, Mark and Wolfgang got some screen time after working the Texas house shows days earlier…

Aleister Black vs. Velveteen Dream
Gotta admit, when I watched the last go round of Tough Enough, I didn’t have the man who’d become Velveteen Dream pegged as the first one to make it to a Takeover. Yet here we are – a man who could reductively be pegged as TAFKA Prince Iaukea 2K17… and because it’s something massively different, it actually works.

The Dream’s gone all Rick Rude on us, having Aleister Black’s face airbrushed onto his tights. You know, because he’s creepy.

Aleister spent the early part of the match wrenching away with a hammerlock on Dream, before generally keeping him on the mat. A crucifix’d Octopus hold restrains Dream, as does a simple armbar, as the Velveteen Dream really struggled to get going… with a hiptoss to the floor not helping things.

When we got to the mind games, things started to kick off in Dream’s direction, as he was able to pound Black to the outside… and then psyched out the Dutchman with some more wackiness. A pair of superkicks nearly worked out well for Dream as he fell on top of Aleister for a near-fall, before he tied up Black in the ropes a la Andre the Giant as he demanded Aleister say his name.

Yeah, that’s not going to happen.

What did happen was another fire-up from Black, who wiped out Dream with an Asai moonsault for a near-fall, but Black Mass was avoided and Dream came back with a cartwheel death valley driver instead. Black barely gets up from that, so Dream tries for it again off the top rope… but Black escapes and just drills him with a knee trembler for another near-fall.

The back-and-forth resumes with a Sister Abigail-ish DDT from Dream that got him even closer, before he then found himself tied up in the ropes. Turnabout is fair play and all that! In the end, Black manages to whack Dream with Black Mass… and that’s the win after the performance of Velveteen Dream’s life. I went into this expecting a swift win for Aleister, but instead got a star-making outing from the least likely person. Velveteen Dream became a star in NXT from this one, mark my words. ****

NXT Women’s Championship: Nikki Cross vs. Kairi Sane vs. Peyton Royce vs. Ember Moon
They showed Asuka at ringside before this, as her successor got crowned in this four-way. Kairi Sane’s in this by virtue of winning the Mae Young Classic – a tournament that feels like it happened a million years ago… and sadly, it doesn’t feel like they’ve done that much with Kairi since then.

Billie Kay left Peyton Royce on the stage as the “Iconic Duo” decided they needed to do it “the right way”, I guess. Although from Peyton’s scared face, I doubt she was down with that…

They teased going straight to the “formula” of multi-way matches, but instead we had all four women going after each other from the off, with Ember planting Peyton with a snap ‘rana early on. We stay far away from that formula as Ember goes flying once more, before planting Nikki Cross with a powerbomb on the outside.

Finally we’re down to two for a while as Kairi Sane chopped Ember into the corner, before Peyton came back into the equation… not once has this felt like “two in, two out” or whatever they usually do. They get rid of Peyton to get us back to Moon and Sane briefly, with a Sane spear keeping the Aussie down… at least until she returned to spark off a Tower of Doom.

Nikki Cross had been conspicuous by her absence, but she didn’t break up the cover from there as she instead flew back in with a crossbody to the other three. A swinging neckbreaker nearly does it for Cross, but the cover’s broken by Moon… earning her a neckbreaker too, this time draping off the top rope.

Royce tries to capitalise with a Fisherman’s suplex, but Sane broke up the one-handed suplex (there’s a reference three people will get), before stacking up Cross and Royce for the crushing elbow drop. For some reason, the ref didn’t count a pinfall attempt from Peyton on top of the pile, and Sane only gets a two-count after all that. What he did count though was the pin after Ember caught Cross and Royce with a double Eclipse, and after coming up short against Asuka… Ember Moon wins the big one! A hell of an action-packed match here, but in my picky mind, I’d have gone for Peyton Royce here… someone diametrically opposed to Asuka. Whether Ember gets those comparisons will be seen. ****

Speaking of Asuka… she presented Ember with the title belt afterwards.

NXT Championship: Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Drew McIntyre (c)
McIntyre won the NXT title at the last Takeover show… but from watching the weekly TVs, he’s done virtually nothing in 3 months. Compared to Andrade Almas, whose career has had a resurgence since being paired with Zelina Vega, and this is like night and day in terms of trajectory here.

From the off, there was a bit of weirdness as Almas was flagged as being smaller than Drew. So we’ve a valiant, plucky underdog we’re meant to hate? Gotchya. Especially when Zelina Vega tried to interfere early on, but her ‘rana off the apron’s stuffed by Drew, who then fended off a sneak dive from Almas. Eventually the onslaught wore down McIntyre, as Almas took over with a rope-hung armbar, but Drew gets free and throws his way back into it, using chops, punches and a suplex… but Almas never fell too far behind, and an inverted tornado DDT almost gets the former Ingobernable the biggest win of his NXT tenure.

Problem was, Andrade kept up the pressure, and found a reverse ‘rana stuffed and turned into an inverted Alabama Slam… and the same again looked to be happening with a plancha ‘rana, although Almas managed to drill McIntyre into the ringpost with it afterall. An attempted superplex from the champion’s blocked as Almas fired back with a double stomp then some blasting knees into the corner, but Drew’s back just as hard with a powerbomb as they traded near-falls.

A paintbrush-like chop stuns McIntyre, as Almas nearly rolled him up for the win, before falling to a Futureshock DDT for another near-fall. Almas still stays in it though, drilling Drew with more knees after stuffing an attempted avalanche Air Raid Crash… and then we get the interference from Vega, who nailed the spike ‘rana as Almas had the referee distracted on the outside.


Back inside, Andrade rushes in for a hammerlock DDT that isn’t quite enough, and Drew responds with a monstrous Claymore kick that flipped Almas inside out! Vega gets involved again as she puts her charge’s foot on the rope, before he ducks a second Claymore kick as Drew sent himself onto the apron.

Nigel McGuinness on commentary surmised that Drew’d hurt himself with that, but fate quickly intervened as a second hammerlock DDT off the top rope would seemingly tear Drew’s bicep… and be enough for Andrade to win the big one! This was an epic encounter, completing the storyline rehab of Almas – and bring to an end a rather disappointing reign for Drew. If that bicep injury is serious, then he’ll be waiting a while for his own personal comeback story. ****¼

War Games: SAnitY (Eric Young, Killian Dain & Alexander Wolfe) vs. Undisputed ERA (Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish) vs. Authors of Pain (Akam & Rezar) & Roderick Strong
Okay, let’s get the nit-picks out of the way, This wasn’t “genuine” War Games. We’ve still got two rings, and a cage surrounding the pair of them, but there’s no roof, since that’s apparently too close to old-school stuff.

Still, we got this cool visual before it started.

Then we got a screen of rules. Yep… it’s not quite TNA-level, but it’s still a lot.

We started with Eric Young, Adam Cole and Roderick Strong. That’s quite the three-way match… and yes, it’s confusing as all hell seeing Strong as an “honorary” member of the Authors. Complete with their camo gear… Those first five minutes saw all three men move from ring-to-ring, but there’s little going on in those opening stages as the “team leaders” (for want of a better term) picked their spots wisely… and by wisely, I include “Adam Cole crotched the other two” as he kept his opponents in different rings.

At the five minute mark, an Elimination Chamber-ish light show revealed the next entry… was from the Undisputed ERA. But instead of one man per go around, we got both O’Reilly and Fish in, as this became 3-on-1-on-1 for the next spell, allowing the ERA to lay waste for a few moments as Young and Strong were forced to survive as pinfalls and submissions wouldn’t count until everyone was in the ring.

The Authors of Pain were out next, meaning that Eric Young was going to be going the distance. Bobby Fish tried to hold the cage door closed to keep the AOP out, but it lasted… seconds as the former tag champs did what they did best. Throw around smaller dudes. Cole and O’Reilly got thrown from ring to ring, before the AOP Biel’d Strong into the pile that they’d built up. Impressive! That time on the run ended swiftly when SAnitY entered the match – and now “the match beyond” got going!

The hell? Alexander Wolfe went all Big Bossman on us with a nightstick, whilst Killian Dain brought in more plunder in the form of chairs, bins, Singapore canes, chains… and eventually, a table. Well, this is one way to make it more modernised – all the plunder, for all the reactions! Wolfe splats Fish through a trash can, before Killian Dain swallowed the key to the cage? That’s going to play hell with the Northern Irishman’s insides! Especially when he delivered a shotgun dropkick to the AOP in the corner as the match remained remarkably easy to follow, considering we had 9 bodies involved.

Dain continued to be shown as a monster, blocking a cane shot from Adam Cole, before withstanding some double-teaming from Bobby Fish, who then had Cole dumped onto him with a Michinoku driver for a near-fall. The traditional big lads’ Samoan drop/fallaway slam combo follows, and although Dain came close in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania earlier this year, but I’d wager this outing did more for his stock…

Things broke down into a Parade of Moves that Houston appreciated, including a double Chasing the Dragon… but it takes more kicks from Kyle to keep the ERA in the game, but we were far from done. Dual ring Super Colliders, with the ERA sandwiching Dain gets the AOP a near-fall… a death valley driver onto Akam from Eric Young… and then all of Roderick Strong’s backbreakers.

We get an even wackier double Tower of Doom that Adam Cole somehow avoids and tries to escape the cage – teasing a forfeiture as Alexander Wolfe decided to dish out an avalanche suplex to one of the AOP through a pair of tables. Topping that, Dain goes airborne himself, with a Coast to Coast dropkick to O’Reilly. No. That is NOT a typo…

Adam Cole thought he’d outsmarted everyone… but Roderick Strong was left standing and rushed up to the top of the cage for a superplex into the pile of bodies below! Dain gets wiped out moments later with the Last Chapter – a springboard clothesline and Russian legsweep combo – onto a sheet of metal that bridged the two rings, and the Parade resumes as the match entered its final furlong, with the three team leaders going toe-to-toe.

A Singapore cane shot from Cole left Young down… but the Canadian’s able to reach for a chair… but it’s no use as a Shining Wizard through a chair puts EY down, and the Undisputed ERA get the win! Perhaps a bit of an underwhelming finish after all of the carnage we’d seen, but this was amazing to see. With any luck it’ll not be the only time this format appears on WWE/NXT TV – but ideally in a better-built story, rather than two factions and a thrown-together trio! ****¼

Takeover was business as usual – show-stealing stuff the day before a big WWE PPV. With Survivor Series looking to go over six hours long (including the pre-show), it looks like it’ll take some doing for a bloated main show to top this! Five matches, with the worst of them being good… yep, this is a show you ought to go out of your way to see!