top of page

WrestleWatch- NXT WarGames 2021

"WARGAMES!" Man, this year just didn't feel right without NXT General Manager William Regal bellowing out that phrase in his iconic style. Often imitated, never duplicated.

As I begin this article, I realise that this will be the final WrestleWatch for WWE for 2021. They have scrapped the annual TLC PPV- at least for this year- due to booking a PPV on the 1st of January 2022, Day 1 (although it'll actually be on the 2nd in Australia). WWE, for its many faults, lacklustre weekly TV shows and infuriatingly random "budget cuts", tend to get their shit together for PPVs/special events.

Which brings us to NXT WarGames. Conspicious by its absence is the branding of TakeOver- it appears with the emergence of NXT 2.0, that TakeOvers are no longer a thing. However, names aside, this certainly follows along in the tradition of WarGames events in NXT from years past. A concept first devised in WCW decades ago, War Games involves two wrestling rings surrounded by a cage. Within this setting, two teams do battle, with another member of each team entering at regular intervals. Once everyone is in, the match can only end by pinfall or submission. When the match arrived in NXT, the one alteration made was that the cage no longer had a roof- the original version was like a mini Hell In A Cell. That allows for spectacular high flying moves that modern wrestlers are prone to- Ricochet pulled off a double moonsault off the top of the cage a couple of years ago. I'd like to see Ric Flair pull that off! No, really, that's a hilarious visual. Where's my copy of WWE 2K...

This year's WarGames is centered around the feud between the "old guard" from NXT Black and Gold. The OGs. NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano, Pete Dunne and LA Knight. LA Knight is a bit of a cheeky inclusion, considering he debuted in NXT in 2021 just prior to the 2.0 re-branding, but he's certainly a veteran compared to everyone on the NXT 2.0 team. Fun fact- LA Knight, before becoming Eli Drake on the indies and Impact Wrestling, had a spell in early NXT (2013-2014) as "Slate Randall", primarily a jobber at Full Sail, but he was under a developmental contract.

The NXT 2.0 guys have made a colourful, Nickelodeon-esque splash since debuting on TV. Look, I like to make fun of the re-branding, the whole colour scheme and general presentation isn't for me, but I do flip-flop on whether I actually like the product or not. It's winning me over as time goes on with some of the new talent, led by Bron Breakker. The son of Rick Steiner, he has a total of 11 pro wrestling matches under his belt heading into WarGames, so he's something of a phenom, very impressive for someone so green. Also standing out is Grayson Waller, an Aussie wrestler FKA Matty Wahlberg, whose career I've followed since his rookie year on the indie scene. Making a big impact as well, Carmelo Hayes, who won the NXT Breakout Tournament and subsequently cashed in on Isaiah "Swerve" Scott- one of the biggest victims of the recent releases- to win the NXT North American Championship. And there's Tony D'Angelo, who I personally don't see much in, but people seem to like his stereotypical Italian mafia schtick.

In the other WarGames match, the women of NXT take centre stage. And in the women's division, the biggest story of NXT 2.0 is the rise of Toxic Attraction, led by former main roster WWE Superstar Mandy Rose, who took young ladies Gigi Dolin and Jacy Jayne under her wing. In a shift in direction and content in NXT/WWE, Toxic Attraction play into their sexuality through their character work. I don't mind this- one, as a straight man, yay, but also, it was weird how hard WWE leaned in the other direction for years after the Divas era, pretending everyone on screen is just a sexless being. Like "if we can't have bra and panties matches, men and women can't even look at each other on screen!" Total all or nothing deal.

Tangent aside, Toxic Attraction became a main focus on NXT 2.0 and gained some championship gold to go with it, with Mandy beating Raquel Gonzalez to win the NXT Women's Championship, and Gigi and Jacy winning a Ladder Match at Halloween Havoc to capture the NXT Women's Tag Team Championship. Throw the former champions in with the Toxic ones, chuck in some Dakota Kai and sprinkle in a little Cora Jade, and we have WARGAMES!

Let's do this!

The Show

The opening video highlights all the key matches on this show, the ones mentioned above, as well as Kyle O'Reilly and Von Wagner challenging Imperium for the NXT Tag Team Championship, Roderick Strong vs. Joe Gacy for the NXT Cruiserweight Championship, and Cameron Grimes vs. Duke Hudson in a Hair vs. Hair Match. Still super weird seeing the word "War" in a colourful rainbow splash. I like my violent wrestling matches looking dark and brooding, thank you. In a similar vein, never going to be okay with the Hell In A Cell painted red.

Match 1: Women's War Games Match- Cora Jade, Io Shirai, Kay Lee Ray & Raquel Gonzalez def. Dakota Kai & Toxic Attraction (Mandy Rose, Gigi Dolin & Jacy Jayne) (at 31:22)

Thoughts: Slight mistake in my intro write-up, as I noted it was the former champions vs. Team Toxic, but one half of the former tag champs, Zoey Stark, is out with a knee injury, so Kay Lee Ray stepped in. A great replacement who had a hell of a performance, as did all the ladies in this match! Some odd psychology though as the babyfaces had the numbers advantage all the way through, which undercut the drama, with the "good guys" even mocking Toxic Attraction at one stage. But they sure brought the action in an exciting way. Lots of weapons, which some people dislike in WarGames/HIAC/cage matches, but if a match is no DQ, why wouldn't you bring in a bunch of weapons from a kayfabe sense?

Cora Jade got the spotlight of the match with a massive Swanton Bomb of the cage through a table. She landed awkwardly and appeared to dislocate her shoulder, staying out of the action for most of the remainder of the match. Jade did get the final pinfall, so a huge career moment for the 20 year old. Wade Barrett references popping champagne, but Vic Joseph reminds the Brit that she's too young for that. She can work, vote, enlist in the military... but she can't have a drink. America is weird. Anyway, very exciting way to kick the show off. NXT's women's division is in a good spot with the mix of tenured talent and new blood. (****)

A promo airs for Tiffany Stratton. Daddy's Girl. She's coming to NXT soon. She had a match on 205 Live a few weeks ago and seems interesting, with a gymnast background. Another young prospect at 21 years old. Making me feel old as shit.

A promo airs for Josh Briggs & Brooks Jensen. They're manly men that cook steaks and beat people up. Briggs seems to have some unresolved daddy issues.

Quick promo for Boa. Aren't these the kind of things you put on the NXT weekly shows? Feels like slightly pointless filler on a PPV/special event.

A recap of MSK's journey to meet the Shaman. We meet him on NXT on Tuesday. Okay, at least this is directly promoting a storyline and event rather than generic character development.

Backstage with Team Black & Gold. Johnny Gargano says it's his first WarGames "and might be his last". He signed a 10 day extension to get through WarGames, much like Adam Cole did earlier this year to get to TakeOver 36, and look where he is now. The veterans seem pumped for their main event match.

Match 2: NXT Tag Team Championship- Imperium (Marcel Barthel & Fabian Aichner) def. Kyle O'Reilly & Von Wagner (at 14:53)

Thoughts: Wade Barrett says at one point in this match, "I'm not sold on Von Wagner", and honestly, same. He doesn't do a great deal in this match, with O'Reilly and Imperium carrying most of the action, and because of that it was a very good match. Fabian Aichner deserves a shout-out as possibly the MVP of this match, hitting a beautiful double springboard moonsault on O'Reilly and a gorgeous cross body to the outside on Wagner. The finish sees Aichner showing off his power, as he lifts O'Reilly mid triangle choke into the Imperium Bomb for the win. Great effort, and post-match, Wagner turns on O'Reilly, but Kyle is ready for it, beating him down... and he throws up the Undisputed Era sign! Is O'Reilly leaving NXT too, or are they just playing into the online rumours? (***1/2)

A promo airs for WWE Day 1. Cool note, with the exception of Randy Orton and The Usos, every wrestler featured in the promo is NXT alumni. And Vince thought the system wasn't working...

A video airs for Ikemen Jiro. He's Style Strong, not Strong Style. Check out all his jackets! I actually dig the Ikemen. Second only to Grayson Waller for my favourite character in the new NXT.

Santos Escobar video package airs. I feel like WWE are anticipating a lot of new viewers for this WarGames show, the way they're going out of the way to showcase virtually every character on the brand who doesn't have a match here.

Interview with Escobar and McKenzie Mitchell. Escobar faces Xyon Quinn next week on NXT. He says that Xyon bit off more than he can chew, and when questioned about Elektra Lopez talking with Quinn, Lopez steps and says that she is a "grown-ass woman" and what she does in her time is her business.

Match 3: Hair vs. Hair Match- Cameron Grimes def. Duke Hudson (at 10:24)

Thoughts: This started as a rough brawl in line with the heated feud to this point, and then eventually evolved into both men showing their technical skills. Grimes hit a beautiful moonsault for a near fall, and the 6'5" Sexton/Vink/Modra/Hudson hit a belly to belly on the outside that almost got him a countout victory. After more high impact stuff from both men, Grimes ultimately reversed a Razor's Edge into a rana, then a roll-up, pulling the tights for good measure. We get a cheeky little head shave, causing Duke's cheerleader Wade Barrett to proclaim, "Lady Luck is a bitch!" (***1/4)

Another skit with the Grizzled Young Veterans. They're trying to hustle people to get free food. Hey, that's a straight up replay of a segment from a couple of weeks ago! Lazy.

Replays of Catanzaro & Carter and Draco Anthony hype packages air.

Promo for NXT New Year's Evil special episode. January 4, 2022.

Backstage with Team NXT 2.0. They all seem confident and amped up, but don't get promo time like the Black & Gold crew got.

Match 4: NXT Cruiserweight Championship- Roderick Strong def. Joe Gacy (at 8:27)

Thoughts: The 205lb weight limit was waived for this match, as the 240lb Gacy challenged Strong for the title. It created an interesting dynamic, because Gacy could hit harder than most of Strong's opponents, but he's also deceptively agile. And we had the x-factors of Diamond Mine and the imposing Harland at ringside. Gacy got a moment where he wiped out the Creed Brothers with a tope con hilo, then Harland looked to take care of Ivy Nile, but Gacy stops the monster from inflicting damage on the young lady. However, that may have disrupted the challenger's focus, as shortly after back in the ring, Strong hits the flying knee, followed by the End of Heartache to retain the title! (***)

Another Ikemen Jiro video airs. He eats ice cream and pizza, then has to rush to the toilet. We hear diarrhea sounds and screaming. Vince humour all over...

Backstage, McKenzie Mitchell interviews Kyle O'Reilly. He says to Wagner that if he thinks that Kyle didn't see that turn coming, he's even more stupid than he looks. He challenges Wagner to a steel cage match on NXT on Tuesday. Rushing to the match tells me that Kyle hasn't re-signed...

Main Event: Men's WarGames- Team NXT 2.0 (Bron Breakker, Grayson Waller, Tony D'Angelo & Carmelo Hayes) def. Team NXT Black & Gold (Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano, Pete Dunne, & LA Knight) (at 38:11)

Thoughts: A long match, but never boring in my book. Like the ladies match earlier, this had its fair share of weaponry, and Team 2.0 was aided by Carmelo's associate Trick Williams at ringside. Eventually, Dexter Lumis crawls out from under the ring and chases him off, sharing a thumbs up with Johnny Gargano in the process. And speaking of Gargano, this definitely seems like his swan song. He came out to his old "Rebel Heart" theme, his attire was a special mash-up of his TakeOver attire over the years, and he started the match and worked the whole thing.

Cool part about this was seeing everyone get something to shine with. The veterans often made the rookies pay their dues, and Pete Dunne laid into Grayson Waller pretty hard, but Waller got a huge moment of the match where he hit an elbow drop from the top of the cage on LA Knight through a table. We got a little DIY reunion, with them hitting their signature move, and finally Bron Breakker pinned Ciampa to win the match, setting him up for another shot at the NXT Championship. Fantastic main event, top marks all around! (****1/4)

Overall Thoughts

The two WarGames matches carried this show. Everyone involved in those matches gave 100%, not one of them had a bad performance. You had to predict the 2.0 guys going over Black & Gold to hammer home the brand reset, and it's looking like Gargano and possibly O'Reilly are out the door, so it'll be interesting to see how the young guys do without the veterans guiding them through. Then again, Gargano & O'Reilly could be swerving everyone. We should find out this coming episode of NXT. But the middle of this show wasn't completely TakeOver worthy, even if it started and finished very strong. NXT 2.0 is still finding its identity, and although it's starting to hit more than it misses, it still feels a good step or two below what it was.

Overall Score: 7.5/10

Until next time, take care,


    Like what you read?

Donate now and help me

provide fresh news

and analysis for my readers   

PayPal ButtonPayPal Button
Who's Behind The Blog
Image of Mick Robson, founder of The Arena Media

Mick Robson is a freelance writer from Australia. A lifelong fan of pro wrestling and MMA, he endeavours to bring that passion through his coverage in news, reviews and opinion pieces.

  • Patreon
  • Facebook
  • Twitter Basic Black
bottom of page