Kickoff: Angel Garza def. Isiah "Swerve" Scott
Interestingly enough, in the five-plus years TakeOver specials have been a thing, we have never gotten a match on the Kickoff show until now. Maybe because they felt four matches on the card was too little and wanted to include the Cruiserweights? Regardless of the reason, this was fun. Both guys have been killing it lately on NXT TV, so I was surprised it was as rough as it was at certain points. Garza winning was the right call as his feud with NXT Cruiserweight Champion Lio Rush clearly isn't over yet.
Team Ripley (Rhea Ripley and Candice LeRae) def. Team Baszler (NXT Women's Champion Shayna Baszler, NXT UK Women's Champion Kay Lee Ray, Io Shirai and Bianca Belair) in a WarGames Match
I loved almost everything about this as I don't think it could've been executed any better. The early goings were solid, but once it was Dakota Kai's turn to hit the ring, she instead turned on Tegan Nox and viciously targeted her previously injured knees. We all saw the heel turn coming from a mile away (especially after Mia Yim was found laid out backstage beforehand and had to be replaced by Kai), but I was shocked it happened when it did. The rest of the match saw the babyfaces battle back successfully while taking a ton of punishment from heels. These ladies did some insane spots and further proved why NXT has the strongest women's division of any other at the moment. It was slightly unrealistic that they'd overcome the four-on-two odds, but it didn't bother me that much. Plus, Ripley pinning Baszler should set her up for a shot at the NXT Women's Championship sometime soon. My only other nitpick of this was that I would preferred to see it slotted as the main event of the show (though I understand why it wasn't due to the reveal of Team Ciampa's fourth man). What a fantastic piece of storytelling this was.
Pete Dunne def. Damian Priest and Killian Dain in an NXT Championship No. 1 Contender's Triple Threat Match
This match was just added to the TakeOver card on Tuesday, but these three have been feuding with each other for at least a month or so. The crowd was quiet in the beginning and toward the end, but I appreciated that Dunne, Priest and Dain had something to fight for so the fans had a reason to care about what they were watching. They worked well together and produced a quality Triple Threat, but there was no need for this to last as long as it did. I'd argue it would have been better if some of the time was shaved off. Dunne earning the opportunity to compete for the NXT Championship at Survivor Series made the most sense.
Finn Balor def. Matt Riddle
It's hard to believe that this marked Balor's first televised match since losing to "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt at SummerSlam three months ago. Needless to say, he hasn't lost a step, and Riddle was excellent as always here. Neither guy really revved up the intensity like I thought they would, but it was an entertaining outing, nonetheless. With a little extra spark, this could have been a barn burner. Riddle can easily absorb this loss, and truth be told, I could certainly see them colliding in a rematch on an upcoming episode of NXT. On a side note, there hasn't been any injury update on Johnny Gargano as far as I know, but hopefully he'll be cleared to compete soon enough so we can finally get that match with him and Balor.
Team Ciampa (Tommaso Ciampa, Keith Lee, Dominik Dijakovic and Kevin Owens) def. Undisputed Era (NXT Champion Adam Cole, NXT North american Champion Roderick Strong and NXT Tag Team Champions Kyle O'Reilly & Bobby Fish) in a WarGames Match
What I liked most about this match was that it didn't needlessly drag on the same way Undisputed Era's first two WarGames matches did. The layout was strong, the pace never slowed down, the crowd was constantly invested in the action and everything mattered. That might have been due to how there was already one earlier in the evening, but either way, it was a smart decision to keep it on the shorter side. This entire thing built to who Team Ciampa's fourth man would be, and boy, they did not disappoint. As soon as Owens' music hit, the arena exploded. What a moment! I saw a handful of people pitch that as an idea after Undisputed Era attacked Owens on Monday's Raw but didn't think it was an actual possibility. It was perfectly logical from a storyline standpoint, though it remains to be seen whether Owens will be full-time in NXT going forward or not. That unbelievable bump from Ciampa to Cole to end it summed up how wild this was on the whole. Of course, Ciampa vs. Cole for the NXT Championship should coming sooner rather than later.
Another TakeOver special, another two thumbs up from yours truly. Seriously, it's going to be newsworthy when one of these TakeOvers doesn't deliver, assuming that ever happens. That isn't to say this was one of the best installments of all-time or even this year alone, but the two and a half hours flew by and I enjoyed everything I saw. We can argue all day long about which WarGames match was superior, but they were both tremendous and eliminated my doubts about two being overkill. The WarGames gimmick doesn't feel nearly as watered down as Hell in a Cell does at this point, so I hope they can continue to maintain its mystique as an annual event going forward. No championships were defended, but between the WarGames matchups, Kai's heel turn and Owens' return, it's safe to say this show is well worth your time. Survivor Series on Sunday will have a lot to live up to.
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