NXT TakeOver: WarGames, The Preview

By Nathan Bones @Fretlessnathan

On Saturday November 18th, WWE NXT will present their next instalment of the Takeover series from the Toyota Center in Dallas, Texas: NXT TakeOver: WarGames.

The show has built nicely and is set to reach a crescendo in Houston; with a guaranteed new women’s champion and the reintroduction of the demonic WarGames match. This tidy four-match card is set to be a barnstormer of a show and the perfect lead-in to Survivor Series.

Anchoring Takeover is the much-anticipated WarGames match: the first in WWE history and the first in a similar format since 1998. WWE recently released the somewhat-convoluted rules of the match, which may require some studying before bell time. As a primer, I’ve included them in the introduction.

In this article, I’ll go match-by-match; giving a quick overview of the build, what I think should happen in the match and my predictions for the winner.

Agree with me? Disagree with me? Want to discuss it further? Leave a comment below or find me on Twitter: @fretlessnathan

The rundown of the card is as follows:

Kassius Ohno vs Lars Sullivan

Aleister Black vs The Velveteen Dream

Singles match for NXT Championship

Drew McIntyre (c) vs Andrade “Cien” Almas (with Zelina Vega)

Fatal Four Way match for NXT Women’s Championship

Ember Moon vs Kairi Sane vs Nikki Cross vs Peyton Royce (with Billie Kay)

WarGames match

The Authors of Pain (Akam and Rezar) & Roderick Strong (with Paul Ellering)


Sanity (Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe & Kilian Dain)


The Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish)

WarGames match rules:

• One steel cage surrounds TWO rings.

• All three teams will be contained inside separate shark cages by the entrance way. A member from each team (as chosen by his respective squad) will start the match.

• After five minutes, the remaining members from one of the teams will be released from their shark cage and enter the match.

• When another three-minute period has elapsed, the remaining members from a second team are released from their shark cage and enter the match.

• Following yet another three-minute period, the final team’s members are released from their shark cage and enter the match.

• Once all three teams have entered the WarGames Match, a victory can be attained via pinfall or submission; NOT by submission or surrender.

So with that housekeeping out of the way, let’s get down to the preview!


The Matches

Kassius Ohno vs Lars Sullivan

The Build: Only made official on the November 8th episode, the match has had minimal build. Ohno has been at best middling (at worst, floundering) in NXT since the conclusion of his feud with former friend Hideo Itami in the summer. Seeking to prove himself worthy of a position in the top tier of he brand, he approached Regal for a match with the monster, which Regal approved. Sullivan however has been quiet of late, but was on a tear through the promotion; cruelly dispatching foes in a three on one handicap match, as well as making No Way Jose’s life a misery through various beatdowns.

What Should Happen: Given the stop-start push of Ohno since his return at the beginning of the year, it’s very difficult to envisage him defeating Sullivan; let alone even getting in a large amount of offense. He will likely be used as enhancement talent here.

Collecting the scalp of the former Chris Hero would certainly help build this monster and lend him credibility if the creative team can capitalise on it in the aftermath. Sullivan has the look and aura of a monster heel who needs a big win over the right heel to put him over the top. Sullivan going over is the logical move and the right move creatively.

Prediction: Sullivan easily and convincingly defeats Ohno; who deserves better… Pick: Lars Sullivan

Aleister Black vs The Velveteen Dream

The Build: The build for this one is as intriguing as it is odd. In some ways reminiscent of the original Goldust character from late 1995 to early 1996 (albeit with some of the more homoerotic elements stripped out); this is pure mind games. Starting in early September when he interrupted a promo by Aleister, the Velvet One has been pursuing Black to an almost-unhealthy degree. Interfering in his matches, wearing his jacket and imploring Back to “say his name”; for what reason? Perhaps the Dream will reveal his intentions…

By way of reply, Black has been characteristically taciturn; opting mostly for spot-on facial expressions and body language over mic work. Nonetheless, the lack of any extended physicality between the two has helped build the curiosity factor. Dream promises to make Aleister ‘say his name’; whereas the brooding Black will seemingly be more content in kicking the former Patrick Clark’s head off of his shoulders.

What Should Happen: This has every chance of being the sleeper match of the night. Pitting an undefeated, enigmatic veteran striker (Black) against a young, athletically gifted and charismatic Dream is, to me; absolute booking genius.

Both men are largely untested in long-form matches under the NXT banner, but both can go and are fundamentally sound. I fully expect the two to tear the house down. This is particularly true if they’re given sufficient time and Black’s considerable striking arsenal is on full display. On that note (and given the talents involved) expect athleticism, excellent facials and theatrics aplenty. This seems sure to deliver pure entertainment; especially if Dream is able to his majestic purple rainmaker elbow drop.

Prediction: In real terms, the outcome of the match seems too close to call. This is testament to the very well-done ‘less-is-more’ booking they’ve employed here. This has given the Dream the psychological advantage over his more physically imposing foe. However, if pushed I’ll predict the still-undefeated Black to connect with head-spinning black mass for the win. Pick: Aleister Black

NXT Championship match

Drew McIntyre (c) vs Andrade “Cien” Almas (with Zelina Vega)

The Build: A rather workmanlike build palls over this match. One can’t help but feel that it smacks of ‘placeholder feud’, such as we saw with Hideo Itami and Bobby Roode back at Takeover Chicago earlier in the year.

The real story going in is that McIntyre is a babyface fighting champion, willing to take on (and defeat) all comers. Meanwhile, having built considerable momentum after hooking up with the excellent Vega, the entitled “Cien” feels that he’s been overlooked by the champion as a valid contender for the NXT gold. It’s an all-business feud going in, with Almas set to give “cien por ciento” in his pursuit for the belt.

Is Drew “McIntyre-ly” ready for him?

What Should Happen: The match looks set to be an intense, physical affair. Both men are preternaturally athletic and intense; with each more than capable of telling a compelling story in the ring. I expect to see an interesting clash of styles between the powerhouse Scot and the former La Sombra, as well as some sort of interference from Andrade’s manager Zelina; who is due some sort of comeuppance from her constant meddling. In the interests of even-handed booking Drew should ‘get his heat back’ over Almas after suffering a couple of beatdowns from him during the build.

Nevertheless, I feel that even though “Cien” been on a roll of late, he will likely be only a placeholder challenger for Drew’s strap. Arguably, it’s too early to take the belt from a babyface after Roode’s fairly lengthy run. By contrast, although Drew’s title reign has been unspectacular thus far, I would suggest he’s keeping the belt warm for a money feud with Adam Cole. This seems potentially set to culminate at ‘Mania weekend in New Orleans.

Prediction: After an absolute ‘slobberknocker’, McIntyre will get the clean win after a Claymore to Almas, thus retaining the NXT title. Pick: Drew McIntyre

Fatal Four Way match for NXT Women’s Championship

Ember Moon vs Kairi Sane vs Nikki Cross vs Peyton Royce (with Billie Kay)

The Build: With the title being vacant, the sense of anticipation is palpable as to who will lead the NXT women’s division into its next chapter. Knowing that there will be a new champion crowned in this sudden-death format will only heighten the drama.

The match has been built fairly smartly. Using one-off qualifying matches rather than yet another single-elimination tournament prevented viewer fatigue so soon after the Mae Young Classic. It also allowed all four women to be booked strongly and definitively as clear winners of their respective heats. Fittingly, perennial outsider Nikki Cross won a battle royal to assume her spot, after newcomer Taynara Conti cost the Sanity member a spot initially.

There have undoubtedly been wrinkles along the way, with all four looking evenly matched story-wise going in. For example Royce has a win over Nikki (with shenanigans), Sane has a victory over Royce and Ember bested wily veteran Mercedes Martinez on the November 8th episode of NXT. By way of retribution, Nikki bested Taynara on the November 1st NXT TV, but I would suggest we may not have seen the last of that situation. Asuka has left some very big shoes to be filled. Can any of these women walk a mile in them? Who will fall at the first hurdle?

What Should Happen: With the title being vacant, the sense of anticipation is palpable as to who will be leading the NXT women’s division into its next chapter. Given the fact that this is a Fatal Four Way and considering the competitors involved, expect a hard hitting, fast paced, competitive contest.

Arguably, as a character babyface (as she’s recently been positioned) the unorthodox Nikki doesn’t need the belt; she can easily exist in her own bubble outside of any title feuds. Similarly, I feel that Kairi is still too unfamiliar to the NXT audience and requires some seasoning from a character standpoint, such as the product dictates.

It’s not all doom and gloom for the Japanese star though; expect a big win for her come TakeOver: New Orleans. This leaves the logical winner to be Ember; who, considering the face/heel weighting of the roster should play at least a tweener here, potentially turning full heel. This could perhaps be achieved with an attack on the white-meat babyface Sane. Here’s hoping this will flesh out Ember’s character work, which has dragged somewhat behind her in-ring prowess since debuting last year.

Prediction: Nikki Cross will continue her ascent as popular, plucky underdog antihero in the vein of Mick Foley; crashing out heroically (whether by table bump or outside interference from Taynara Conti).

Kairi will dazzle us all with her “titanic” elbow, but miss out on scoring the fall.

Ultimately, I feel Ember Moon gets the win after displaying some corner-cutting, heelish tactics; pinning Peyton in the process (who seems bound for the main roster). Her possible heel realignment should set up fresh programmes with any number of upcoming talent from the Mae Young Classic and the existing NXT roster. Pick: Ember Moon

WarGames match

The Authors of Pain (Akam and Rezar) & Roderick Strong (with Paul Ellering)


Sanity (Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe & Kilian Dain)


The Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish)

The Build: At TakeOver: Brooklyn III, Sanity defeated The Authors of Pain to win the NXT Tag Team Championships. In the immediate aftermath, Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly attacked all four competitors.

Over the subsequent weeks and months, more layers have been added to the storytelling and all three teams have been ferocious in their pursuit of the other. Adam Cole debuted and formed The Undisputed Era with O’Reilly and Fish. Leading from the front, he has already battled Young and Strong in singles competition; even attempting (unsuccessfully) attempting to recruit Roddy to his cause. Aside from the weak reasoning of attaching Strong with AoP, all teams look good going in and have a genuine grievance with each other; whether for reasons of titles or pride. This discord and mistrust will only add to the sizzling chemistry in the cage.

By William Regal announcing the return of the WarGames concept in a bid to restore order between the warring factions, the level of excitement has been raised from ‘lukewarm’ to ‘nuclear’ in one fell swoop. If this is Triple H pandering to nostalgists, smarks and lapsed fans: more pandering, please…

What Should Happen: After the rules were released, it can be argued that the match has the potential to be overbooked and unnecessarily complicated; not least due to the use of the shark cages and the staggered entry format. That said, here’s hoping that the execution of the rules will be far slicker in practice than on paper.

If nothing else, the sheer novelty of the return of the WarGames concept and resulting spectacle will be enough to keep the hardcore fanbase of NXT on the edge of their seats throughout.

I foresee Adam Cole bumping as if his life depends on it. His meddling and scheming has served as the catalyst for these layered feuds and by rights he should be laid out on multiple occasions during the match. Nevertheless, I feel this will serve as his ‘coming out party’ on the NXT brand and have him pegged as the possible star of the match.

Prediction: For me, the outcome will should fit with NXT’s logical booking philosophy. The ‘Era need a big win to put them over the top as a powerful, cerebral pack of jackals to be feared; in the manner of the nWo, or dare I say: Bullet Club.

By contrast, Sanity should be protected as the reigning tag champs; a loss here could damage their credibility. What’s more: AoP are likely leaving for the main roster shortly, so sound booking would dictate that Akam and Rezar should avoid taking a pinfall if they’re not going over.

Therefore I feel it only logical that weak link Roddy eats the pin from Adam Cole here after a stellar bout to remember. Pick: The Undisputed Era


This is shaping up to be a stellar card and I hope you’ve enjoyed my preview. I’m sure it will stir up some debate.

Enjoy the show!


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