WWE Elimination Chamber 2021: Every Match Ranked

The first of two pointless stops on the road to Wrestlemania is behind us, and whether or not you liked this show depends on what you focus on. The majority of the matches were pretty good in terms of in-ring action, they all had something going for them. However, there were several booking decisions that I thought were either questionable or straight-up bad.

My main takeaway was the gigantic gap in quality between the storylines on Raw & Smackdown right now. Smackdown is kicking Raw’s arse creatively right now and has been for some time. If you want proof of that, you just need to look at the landscape for Wrestlemania. Smackdown has their top men’s title match sorted out in Reigns vs Edge, and while it’s yet to be confirmed, they’re pretty clearly building to Bianca vs Sasha. Then, on the Raw side, things are an absolute mess. Asuka was originally announced on the pre-show to be facing a mystery opponent after Lacey Evans was forced to pull out of the match only for it to never be mentioned on the main show, so we’ve got no idea what’s going on there. Then you have the several moving parts around the WWE Championship that could go any number of ways.

You’ve got one show with a clear creative direction and one that doesn’t know up from down, which is ridiculous considering they’re run by the same company.

Enough stalling, let’s look at the goings-on from last night.

6 – Roman Reigns(c) def. Daniel Bryan
(Universal Championship)

This was extremely disappointing.

I was excited going into this show, as I thought that there was room for some fantastic storytelling. I was hoping we would get a performance from Bryan worthy of himself from 2014, where he’d go in a massive underdog and put up a fight greater than the odds thought was possible before ultimately falling at the last hurdle. Instead, we got a match that was just…nothing, really. I’m not saying they should’ve gone 20 minutes, I’m not going to be that demanding, but would it be unreasonable to ask for 8? Not the one and a half we got.

It didn’t even tell that interesting of a story. I never at any point bought Daniel Bryan could win, so the drama of him catching Reigns in the Yes! Lock just didn’t land for me. That’s not just because I’m jaded either; take Bryan vs Lesnar from 2018 as an example. We all knew there was no way Bryan would win that match, but when he kneed Lesnar in the face and went for that cover, I BELIEVED it was possible. This match just didn’t earn that level of investment. It blew its load too early, and by the time Bryan passed out in the guillotine, I’d lost interest.

Now, if this was the start of a slow build to Reigns vs Bryan at Wrestlemania, I’d be on board with that, but given that WWE has announced Reigns vs Edge for Mania, that’s not happening. It’s not impossible Bryan gets added to the match, but I highly doubt that will happen. Instead, it’s probably going to blow off at Fastlane, wasting a money match WWE could’ve saved in their back pocket for a bigger show.

5 – John Morrison def. Mustafa Ali, Ricochet & Elias
(Winner gets added to the United States Championship Match)
(Kickoff Show)

This match is like a distillation of all the potential talent WWE has wasted. That’s the real problem with this match, the action was all good, I just didn’t care. I feel horrible saying that because all of these wrestlers are insanely talented, but WWE has pissed it all away with terrible booking over the past few years. You then hear reports that apparently Vince “sees nothing” in wrestlers like Aleister Black & Shayna Baszler, and it absolutely boggles the mind how this man even got to the position he’s in today.

Now I’ve got that off of my chest, this was a fun 4-way match, and given that the winner was always going to be the fall guy in the US title match, I think John Morrison was a good pick for that role.

4 – Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler(c) def. Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair
(Women’s Tag Team Championships)

This match was a little formulaic in several ways, but I still think it was an enjoyable watch.

I expected the rift between Bianca & Sasha to form more clearly during this match, so I was surprised to see that it didn’t really happen. I can see where the jumping-off point for it is, but the two women were on the same page and quite a joy to watch for the majority of the match. That’s not surprising given how great we know they both are, but in another time, I would love to see these two have an extended run as a tag team. Their connection feels so genuine (probably because it is), and their in-ring styles mesh wonderfully – all the more reason to be excited about the Wrestlemania match.

As I said in my predictions, the champions retaining was definitely the right call. Involving the tag titles in Bianca & Sasha’s upcoming feud would just be a needless complication, and I’d rather see Nia & Baszler do something interesting on their own at Wrestlemania. The finish was a bit odd, but it was a creative way to protect the faces. I don’t know where this thing with Reginald is going, but I’m liking it, for the time being, I only hope it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome.

3 – Riddle def. Bobby Lashley(c) & John Morrison
(United States Championship)

It happened so slowly I barely even noticed, but I’ve really come around to liking Bobby Lashley now. Ever since he stopped talking and/or kissing Lana all the time, he’s slowly been getting better and better. Now he’s this absolute destroyer of a man who wrecks everyone who comes his way, and it’s brilliant.

That said, he wasn’t the start of the show here. His dominance in the early portion of the match gave way to Riddle & Morrison really going at it around the middle. Neither of these men have got much of a chance to display their full potential since coming to Raw (or coming back, in Morrison’s case), and I think this is the best version of both these men we’ve seen in a while. Morrison played his role perfectly, although it does raise the question of how this match was supposed to go before Keith Lee pulled out.

As things got into the final sections, there was plenty to enjoy. The action had a pace I enjoy, and all three men had their ‘almost’ moments coming up the finish. MVP’s crutch being Lashley’s downfall was a nice touch and a believable way to topple someone so seemingly monstrous as Lashley. I didn’t think they would pull the title change, but I’m glad Riddle is getting something worthwhile now. I don’t know where they’re going to go with it. As long as he doesn’t immediately lose it on Raw tonight, I’ll be happy.

2 – Daniel Bryan def. Jey Uso, Cesaro, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn & King Corbin
(Winner gets a Universal Championship Match)(Elimination Chamber)

While I don’t think either chamber match last night were among the best, they were definitely still worthy versions of the stipulation. Honestly, I think you could reverse the order I’ve ranked these and still think it was reasonable. I just think the other chamber match had a better middle section.

The action in this match was pretty much all great. Bryan & Cesaro were absolutely the correct choices to start things off, and their battle kept that early portion of the match interesting. Sami Zayn was easily the star of the show early on, his stuff before the match was as great as always, and his contributions once he actually entered the match were the scheming heelish beats we’ve come to know and love from the man.

Once Corbin & Zayn were out of the way is when I think things got really good. Having three faces going up against a single heel could’ve been a bit awkward, but it was paced really well and felt more like Jey Uso putting together a gameplan than overcoming any odds. The spot with Owens’ arm in the chamber door was something we hadn’t seen before and quite brutal when you think about it. This definitely feels like the end of Owens being involved with Reigns & Uso, which is a bit of a shame because he’s been terrific, but I’m also looking forward to seeing what he does next.

The final three was excellent. As much as I wanted Cesaro to win, he had a fantastic showing here. His work against Bryan was technical mastery, and he worked well (albeit briefly) against Jey. As I’ve said, I don’t think Bryan was the right pick to win, but the fashion in which he did it certainly gives me nothing to complain about. This underdog style of wrestling is what I (and I think many others) love him for, and this was just like the old days.

1 – Drew McIntyre(c) def. AJ Styles, Sheamus, Jeff Hardy, Kofi Kingston & Randy Orton
(WWE Championship)
(Elimination Chamber)

AND

The Miz def. Drew McIntyre(c)
(WWE Championship)
(Money in the Bank Cash-In)

This was my preferred chamber match out of the two purely because I thought it was more consistently entertaining.

The mix of different styles in this match worked well, and we moved through some different phases are people came in. Things were a bit slower to start off with between Hardy & Orton, but as soon as Drew got in there, things picked up significantly. Kofi did better than I thought he was going to as well, eliminating Orton, which was quite a surprise. I’m sure many of us were expecting The Fiend or Alexa Bliss to get involved with Orton somehow, so to see him just get eliminated so quickly like that was quite the surprise, especially as it would be another 15 minutes before anyone else got eliminated.

Once everyone was out of their pods, there was plenty of fun to be had. Drew facing off against Sheamus was great, and I hope they’re not done with each other yet, even if they wait until after Wrestlemania. Styles got a better showing than I was expecting too, and that spot with Omos ripping the back off of the pod was another unique thing and fit Styles well. Speaking of Styles, that finish was something else, easily one of the best Claymore kicks I’ve seen, ending things with a bang.

The main headline, though, happened after the match, where Bobby Lashley came down, wrecked Drew, which Miz used as an opportunity to cash-in Money in the Bank and win the world title. I’m slightly torn on this.

In a bubble, I’m happy to see Miz get another world title run; he definitely deserves it. However, this isn’t 2017 Miz, the best heel in the company. This is 2020/21 Miz, who has been booked like a chump for over a year. He & Morrison have been portrayed as the most ineffective wrestlers on the planet. They haven’t been able to beat anyone, even when it’s 2 on 1. It just seems like such a leap to make.

However, I’m pretty confident Miz is just a transitional champion. They showed hints of collusion between Miz & The Hurt Business, and the deal was almost certainly giving Lashley the first shot at the title. I’ll honestly be surprised if Miz is still champion come Wrestlemania, and there’s absolutely no way he’s walking out of that show with the title. I think Lashley is going to win that title soon – something I’m definitely in favour of – it’s just a matter of whether he gets it a Fastlane and drops it to Drew at Mania, or Drew gets it back at Fastlane, only to drop it to Lashley at Mania.

It’s all still up in the air and a bit of a mess, but I’m interested to see where it goes.

WWE Survivor Series 2020: Predictions & Analysis

We’re just a couple of days away from Survivor Series 2020 and I honestly couldn’t give less of a shit if I tried. The “brand warfare” stuff is boring at the best of times, but at least in previous years then been some proper intensity around it, and at least some semblance of a story. This year, it doesn’t seem like any of the wrestlers care about the matches and are still building to their own independent feuds.

There’s really no build to speak of, because instead of doing sneak attacks or running down Roman Reigns, Orton was too busy fighting off both Drew and The Fiend; only to lose the title and force us to build a new match in a week. The whole endeavour is entirely pointless and come Monday, it will scarcely be mentioned ever again. It’s a classic example of WWE creative having to put all their plans on hold because the calendar says it’s time for everyone to wear red & blue t-shirts while having matches with no steaks.

Still, let’s predict it anyway.

Dual Brand Battle Royal
(Kickoff Show)

Don’t get me wrong, I like a good battle royal, but given they announced this just 48 hours from the show, with no announced participants, I can’t think this is going to be thought through. They haven’t even specified if it’s men or women involved. I mean, given that there aren’t enough women on the roster of a 10-women tag match AND a battle royal, I’m assuming it’s the men, but you never know.

Much like with the Wrestlemania battle royals, there’s really no point trying to logic this one out. They never give it to anyone who you’d think would benefit from a win, it’ll just be someone they’ve never given wins to before now and probably won’t start after it’s over.

I think Smackdown is going to come out the overall winner of the night, and my predictions for the rest of the card dictate a Smackdown wrestler needs to win here. To me, that gives two potential candidates. The first is Daniel Bryan since he’s almost certainly about to be going after Roman Reigns over the winter, but given how he’s being booked on Smackdown, he doesn’t really need it. Instead, I’m simply going to go with who I want to win it, which is Big E.

The New Day vs The Street Profits
(Raw Tag Team Champions vs Smackdown Tag Team Champions)

A tag team match in WWE that I’m actually excited for? Well, colour me impressed.

I know WWE treat tag team wrestling like it’s not worth anything, but The New Day are at the point where they’ve got a bit of licence to get more time and the likes. In many ways, The Street Profits feel like New Day’s eventual successors. They’re perhaps not as funny, but Montez Ford is one of the most charismatic men on the roster right now and they seem to have perfected their ‘fast guy, muscle guy’ dynamic, which makes for some really entertaining in-ring work. Ultimately, it just depends on whether or not they’re given enough time. Although, given that the 5 on 5 matches tend to take upwards of half an hour, I’m not optimistic.

The problem I face with picking most of these matches is that the complete meaningless of the whole endeavour means there’s no real rationale for who should win. I honestly think I’d have better luck flipping a coin than trying to think it through. I guess I’ll go for The Street Profits purely because they’ve got more to gain from winning. No loss could hurt The New Day at this point in their careers and it would be a big win for the younger guys.

Bobby Lashley vs Sami Zayn
(United States Champion vs Intercontinental Champion)

I honestly don’t know what to say about this one. Sami Zayn’s done a better job of building it on Twitter than anything that’s been said on TV.

I don’t understand what the plan is for The Hurt Business. I mean, I know the real answer to that is that there isn’t a plan, but I don’t see a long-term goal for this faction anymore. It just feels like it’s going along with the only purpose of preserving Lashley’s US title reign, which has been pretty underwhelming as it is. What really gets me though, is that if there are no long-term plans for them, why on Earth have they been absolutely dominating Retribution every week? Does Vince just hate Mustafa Ali that much?

Sami Zayn’s been doing much better on Smackdown, but that feels more like by default. His charisma and promo ability are more than enough to carry whatever he’s involved in to be good, and as much as it’s easy to forget, he is a world-class wrestler. Sadly, there’s no way the outcome is anything other than Bobby Lashley winning. WWE management just doesn’t think a guy like Sami can beat a guy like Lashley, and I can’t see them changing their mind now.

Asuka vs Sasha Banks
(Raw Women’s Champion vs Smackdown Women’s Champion)

I would be excited for this match if we hadn’t already seen it a bunch of times this year. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it will still be good, these are two of the best women’s wrestlers in the world after all, but the shine is definitely off the apple by this point.

I went back and forth on this one a lot. On the face of it, it seems like Sasha would be the favourite, as she’s actually been on TV every week doing noteworthy stuff, unlike Asuka, who’s just been around and doing nothing of any importance. However, I actually think Sasha’s story is why she’s going to lose. Both Bayley and Carmella are still on Banks’ tail, and I could easily see them both getting involved in this match. Admittedly, it won’t be the best look for Asuka to win this way, but I think it’s consistent with her character. Sasha Banks caused her a lot of trouble over the summer, why should Asuka respect her now, just because Bayley turned on her?

Team Raw (Nia Jax, Shayna Baszler, Peyton Royce, Lacey Evans & Lana) vs Team Smackdown (Bianca Belair, Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, Natalya & Bayley)
(5-on-5 Elimination Tag)

And here we come to the elimination tag team matches. The matches that are sometimes utter brilliance, but 90% of the time are people getting pinned after one or two moves when they’d normally be a lot more resilient.

The biggest problem I have about the brand vs brand matches this year is how the teams have had absolutely no interaction with each other. Now, I’m not saying I wanted full-on brand invasions every week, I think we can all agree those are quite tiresome, but throughout the entire build, Drew McIntyre is the only person to appear on a brand that isn’t their own. On top of that, the booking of both teams has been so lop-sided. Team Raw have been interacting and telling somewhat of a story for the whole month, meanwhile, Team Smackdown didn’t even have a full line-up until yesterday.

Of course, just because Team Raw actually have a story, that doesn’t mean it’s any good. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing Lana get beat up as much as the next guy, but who cares? I don’t understand what they’re building up to here, is Lana going pull out a Dolph Ziggler level performance and sweep the Smackdown team? Or is Jax just going to keep beating the shit out of her? Given how they’ve treated Lana this year, I honestly think the latter is more likely.

I’ve gone back and forth on both of the tag matches all week, but I’m going to settle on Team Smackdown as the winners for this one, and I’ll take a punt and say Bianca Belair & Bayley will be the survivors. My thought is that Lana will get sick of Nia’s shit and somehow cause her to be eliminated, giving Smackdown the advantage they need to win, because at least that gives the tag champs something to do going forward from here.

Team Raw (AJ Styles, Keith Lee, Braun Strowman, Sheamus, Riddle) vs Team Smackdown (Kevin Owens, Jey Uso, King Corbin, Seth Rollins, Otis)
(5-on-5 Elimination Tag)

Once again, Team Raw has a bit of a story, Team Smackdown has just been largely doing their own thing in the build.

The stories between both of Raw’s teams are quite similar, but the difference is that the women’s team is only teasing falling apart, while the men’s team already did fall apart. It’s been a pretty boring story of people coming up with dumb nicknames for each other and arguing over who’s the captain, but at least Retribution got a win out of it. I think the focus has been all wrong, the people who need to be built like Lee & Riddle have been pushed to the background to serve Styles, Braun & Sheamus’ bickering and I couldn’t care less about any of it.

Ultimately, the fact that Team Raw already did their ‘falling out’ thing on Monday telegraphs pretty heavily that they’re going to pull it out of the bag and win on Sunday. If I were to guess, I think someone like Styles or Braun will be eliminated shockingly early and the rest of the team will pull together to bring it back. I’m going to pick Keith Lee to be the sole survivor for this one, because why the hell not? The fact is, no-one on Team Smackdown needs the win. Jey Uso looks great alongside Reigns no matter what, Rollins is about to take some time off to be a father, Owens isn’t in a great spot right now anyway, and I couldn’t care less about Corbin or Otis.

Drew McIntyre vs Roman Reigns
(WWE Champion vs Universal Champion)

I must admit, going from the least anticipated match on Wrestlemania 35 to the most anticipated match of Survivor Series has been quite the character transformation for both these guys.

Genuinely, this is the one match I actually have high hopes for. I think WWE is big on making both of these guys look like world-beaters and their brutal in-ring styles should clash in the best way possible, even if we do get a wonky finish. I know I moaned in the intro about only having one week to build this match, but the contract signing on Smackdown did a pretty good job of it. Drew has his usual simmering charisma to him, and Reigns was absolutely slaying on the mic.

Roman Reigns is definitely winning though. He’s been built up as someone truly unbeatable and there’s no way they’d waste that on a meaningless match like this. While it’s not the best look for Drew, he’s proven once already he can recover from a big loss and be absolutely fine straight after, so I’m not worried about that. You could have Jey, Orton or The Fiend get involved to protect Drew a bit, but even if they didn’t, I think Drew will be just fine.

So there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this post. Please, let me know what you think is going to happen on Sunday, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back this time on Monday, where I’ll be giving you my review of the show.

NXT Takeover: Portland: Every Match Ranked

Another Takeover, another great night of wrestling. I don’t think anyone would be surprised to discover that the show last night was just as good as they always are. I was worried the addition of a 6th match would mean that one of the matches get slightly shafted, but instead, the length of the show was simply extended to make room, which is fine with me and I don’t think 3 hours is too long of a show, especially when compared to Raw & Smackdown PPVs. So let’s not waste any more time and take a look at the matches.

6 – Dakota Kai def. Tegan Nox

Interesting how on one show we can have examples of two match-interferences, one of which was to the match’s benefit, the other its detriment, no prizes for guessing which one this was.

The action between Nox & Kai was great stuff, as I mentioned in my predictions, this whole build has done a great job of making both women seem like legitimate contenders in the women’s division and the brutality on display here has capped that off perfectly. I know I’m not normally a fan of weapons matches but I think this one kept the pace fast enough to hold my interest.

The interference at the end feels to me like a case of short-term loss for long-term gain, which is ultimately a good thing, but it doesn’t stop it from bringing this match down. It didn’t help that I – and seemingly the whole arena – had no idea who it was that interfered in the match, but I kind of like that, it immediately creates intrigue surrounding them and it lets them have a real ground-zero for a new character. That said, I’m not sure giving Dakota a lackey is the greatest idea, especially when you consider that we’ve already done that story very recently with Baszler, Duke & Shafir.

I have faith in the NXT creative team to make it feel like something different, however, until I see proof of that, I shall remain wary.

5 – Finn Balor def. Johnny Gargano

I know, I know. This match was fantastic, but there was so much good stuff on this show and I just couldn’t put this above the other matches from last night.

I think one of the main reasons I dropped this one is because it didn’t quite live up to my (admittedly, very high) expectations. I think because of Johnny’s injury, it lost a little bit of steam and the match as a whole just felt like it was missing something. What exactly that something is, I can’t quite put my finger on, but it dropped my enjoyment of the match just a bit.

That said, the match was still really good. I know people have soured on Gargano slightly, but I honestly don’t know where those people are coming from because I don’t think he’s lost a beat. These two matched up about as well as you’d expect them to and the action was, fast, hard-hitting and full of spectacle as a result.

Against, what I said in my predictions, I actually think Balor winning is the better idea now I’ve considered it. Gargano has had his status reinstated by what happened in the main event, so giving Balor this win to give him that boost in credibility after his return & subsequent heel turn was definitely the right way to go.

4 – Rhea Ripley(c) def. Bianca Belair
(NXT Women’s Championship)

This match is actually a really great look into how far Bianca Belair has come over the past year.

When Belair got a title shot against Baszler this time last year everyone viewed it as an opportunity to proves she belongs in the uber-high quality of the NXT Women’s division and she succeeded. Now, a year later she has another opportunity and it’s clear that she’s easily on par with any other competitor in the NXT locker room. In an era of NXT where the majority of stars are wrestlers who come in with a wave of indie support & hype behind them, looking back I’ve loved watching Belair become the fantastic performer she is today.

I had a lot of fun watching this match. Rhea has settled into her role as champion so easily that it only further proves how worthy of a successor she is to Shayna Basler’s crown. The chemistry here was stellar and there was such a wonderful sense of flow to the whole thing that kept my attention ticking over from one spot to the next. I don’t really have anything special to say about it, it was yet another great performance from two great performers and I’m very excited about what Rhea & Charlotte have in store going into Wrestlemania.

3 – Adam Cole(c) def. Tommaso Ciampa
(NXT Championship)

Oh! That’s the direction they’re going in, alright, you’ve got my attention.

This match was exactly what I’d hoped it would be and honestly, I think that’s the best thing I can say in its favour. This easily had the strongest story going into it and both guys feel like huge stars in both their presence and in the ring. There was a subtle brutality to this match, even though there wasn’t a great deal in terms of big “OMG” spots. Probably helped by that fact that Ciampa looks ripped, this felt like a real hard-hitting fight between two men who genuinely despise each other.

Despite Ciampa’s overwhelming presence and being the one with all the steam behind him currently, Cole made sure that he wasn’t forgotten as the champion and just in general, this match really cemented both of these guys as two of the biggest stars NXT has ever had. This fed into the finish, where we got a bait-and-switch with the interference, as Cole used all his greatest hits in terms of using underhanded tactics to try and win the match. The Undisputed Era getting involved, the low blow, the ref bump;  it felt like a real swan-song for Cole’s title reign and right up until Gargano showed up, I was certain Ciampa was going to win.

Gargano’s arc over the past three years has been so interesting to watch, it’s like when Ciampa’s around, Gargano just can’t help but become the worst version of himself. It’s almost like some kind of deeply ingrained trauma inside his mind that just turns him into a completely different person whenever Ciampa gets involved. There are so many pieces involved here and I’m not sure exactly how they’re all going to come together, but I’m very excited for wherever this whole thing ends up.

2 – Matt Riddle & Pete Dunne def. The Undisputed Era(c)
(NXT Tag Team Championships)

In my predictions, this was easily the match I was the most negative about and when it comes to the character stuff, I stand by what I said. I liked the caddy they drove themselves & the trophy out on, but I was not a fan of the “Fish” stuff. I understand why other people would find it funny, but it’s just really not for me. When it comes to the in-ring stuff, however, that’s the kind of stuff I live for.

In the past, I criticised the fact that Riddle & Dunne have a distinct lack of chemistry in the ring and while I still wouldn’t say it was perfect here, it was absolutely much better than it has been in previous matches. This match was back-and-forth the whole way through which is where I think tag matches are at their best, there was never a chance to settle into the groove of the match because as soon as one team established control, it somehow got broken and stuff started going mental again.

Something I think this match did particularly well was towards the finish when it kept me guessing as to who was going to win right up until the referee hit for three. It continued that form that I talked about earlier, I was never allowed to settle into the finish which meant that the excitement just kept building and building until Dunne & Riddle finally got the win. Despite what I said in my predictions, I’m actually glad the titles changed hands here because I think a shakeup in the tag division is absolutely in order because it’s really lacking in major talent right now. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get on board with their odd-couple pairing, but as long as they keep churning out matches like this, I really don’t mind.

1 – Keith Lee(c) def. Dominic Dijakovic
(North American Championship)

So THIS is what an all-out hoss fight is supposed to look like…I like it!

Quite simply, these guys went all-out and unleashed just about everything they could possibly think of to do and it was just fantastic fun to watch. it proves that big-guy fights don’t have to be slow, plodding affairs full of tests of strengths and grunty pushing. This match had such a different feel to everything else on the show, it was able to have an incredible sense of spectacle to all the big spots, while still maintaining a sense of a hard-hitting fight.

Not to mention, it helped to make an absolute star of Dijakovic. I know most of the NXT faithful know that he’s a great wrestler, but this was his first match on a big show like Takeover and I’ll be very surprised if he didn’t turn some heads. I could sit here listing all of the awesome spots that filled this match, but let’s be honest, you’ve already seen the gifs. I didn’t even know it was possible for people the size of Lee & Dijakovic to pull off some of the stuff they did last night, but quite frankly, I’ll never see gravity in the same way again.

It had just about everything you could want from a big match like this (both figuratively and literally) it was loud, proud, impressive and, most importantly, an absolute blast to watch, easily the best match of the show.

That’s all folks! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this article, please let me know what you thought of the show, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back on Saturday, where I’ll be running down the best speeches from Doctor Who!

NXT Takeover: Portland: Predictions & Analysis

It’s been far too long since we’ve had one of these. I know World’s Collide happened and it was a very good show, but it just didn’t have the same feel or level of pure quality that a good old fashioned NXT Takeover event does. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but something about that show just didn’t quite click for me. Regardless, we’ve got this to get excited about, so let’s not spend too much time complaining.

Tegan Nox vs Dakota Kai
(Street Fight)

If I’m remembering correctly then I’m pretty certain this is the first time in quite a while that an NXT Takeover event has had more than one women’s match on the show. For a while, this was understandable, as there wasn’t much in the way of talent depth, but now looking at NXT Women’s division, the whole damn show could be women’s matches and it would be brilliant.

This match, in particular, has got me quite excited. I don’t really know much about Kai & Nox, but I’ve been getting quite invested in them since their feud began at Wargames. Now Shayna Baszler seems to be bowing out of NXT, there’s a lot of room up at the top for heels in the women’s division and I think Dakota Kai is going to be a great fit for that role. As for Tegan Nox, I just hope that NXT management has learnt from the mistakes they made with Io Shirai and keep Nox going as a believable face because as much as I’ve like Io since her heel turn, it very much felt like a move born out of desperation.

When it comes to picking a winner, this is a simple situation of picking who I think has the most to gain from the win right now, which is easily Dakota Kai. Although her heel turn was a good few months ago now, this is the first major match she’s had since it happened and it would be a bit of disaster for her to start taking major losses this early and there’s all the potential in the world of Tegan Nox to have a Gargano-Esque redemption story following a loss or two in the coming months.

Johnny Gargano vs Finn Balor

Out of all the matches on this show, I think this one has had the best build.

It was disappointing that we had to wait a couple of months longer than we expected to get this match thanks to Gargano’s injury, but they were able to recover the story well and I think a great deal of intensity has been added to the feud thanks to Balor’s new shift in character and Gargano’s hunger to re-prove himself. The history of Balor in NXT has been played into it, but what I think is most surprising is how starkly different Balor’s character is this time around, he truly feels like a different person to the one we’ve seen on Raw & Smackdown for the past few years.

Naturally, this match should be brilliant. While I’ve never been blown away by a Finn Balor match, I always find them very enjoyable and when he’s matching up with a wrestler like Gargano, I’m certain we’ve got a potential match of the year on our hands.

It’s a tough call as to who will win this one. Balor needs a solid win to cement his return, otherwise, he could quickly fall back into old routines. Though at the same time, I think Gargano is going to be a major part of major storylines going into Wrestlemania season (I’ll talk more on that in a little bit) and he really needs a big win after spending the past year having a bit of an underwhelming time. I’m picking Johnny Gargano because, unlike Balor, I actually have a pretty clear picture in my mind of what I think the next couple of months are going to look like for him and it requires a win here.

The Undisputed Era(c) vs Pete Dunne & Matt Riddle
(NXT Tag Team Championships)

It seems like such a weird thing to say given the men involved, but I’m really not feeling this match. Don’t get me wrong, I think Fish & O’Reilly are a fantastic tag team and both Dunne & Riddle are among my favourite singles guys in WWE right now, but I just don’t really buy them as a tag team. Unfortunately, there’s not much else they can be doing right now and if the Dusty Rhodes Classic achieved anything, it was highlighting the fact that NXT US has literally only one decent tag team in their ranks at the moment, so it was kind of necessary.

I’m sure this will be a brilliant match, but after so many years of the NXT Tag Team division being full of cohesive teams that felt like natural partners, to have two guys whose characters don’t align in the slightest (and not even in an “opposites attract” sort of way) seems like such a letdown.

Weirdly though, I kind of think they might win. It seems like Undisputed Era’s reign at the top of NXT is starting to crumble, so taking those titles away from them might be the direction they’re going in right now, not to mention that if Undisputed Era retains, then who have they got left to fight? Unless we’re just going to keep bringing in NXT UK teams for them to fight, the only direction we can go at this stage is rehashing old matches. The other possibility is that Riddle turns on Dunne, in order to inject some life into Riddle’s quickly stagnating character, not to mention there’s a bit of a lack of heels at the top of NXT right now thanks to Undisputed Era being the be-all and end-all of the division.

There are compelling arguments for both scenarios and I honestly can’t say that I think either one is more likely than the other, so I’m instead going to go with what I want to happen and pick The Undisputed Era to retain.

Keith Lee(c) vs Dominic Dijakovic
(North American Championship)

For the longest time, I was not a fan of Dijakovic he seemed to me like just another hoss that didn’t bring much to the ring other than a fairly impressive physique. Over the last few months, those assumptions I made of him have been utterly destroyed as he’s put on some great matches with wrestlers of all shapes and sizes.

Combine a guy like Dojakovic with someone like Keith Lee who, I don’t think it’s much of an exaggeration to say, has it all. He was criminally underused for the longest time in NXT and Survivor Series finally woke everyone (myself included) up to the fact that he’s an absolute beast and a brilliant wrestler that deserves the world. Now Lee has himself a championship, I can’t think of a better way than to show off just how good he can be than by putting up against one of his best opponents in NXT right now.

These two have fought several times before and it’s always been great stuff, their chemistry is impeccable and they’re always able to add something new to their matches so that it doesn’t feel like they’re stepping over old ground. Now they’ve finally been given the opportunity to put it all on a much bigger stage, I can’t imagine they’ll waste it. I’m expecting big things from this one, both from a literal and metaphorical standpoint.

That said, I think it’s quite easy to pick Keith Lee as the winner here. He’s only just won the title and he’s got all the momentum in the world right now, so losing the title like this would be an absolutely terrible move. Admittedly Dijakovic does need a big win to fully legitimize him, but that win can’t be at the expense of Lee.

Rhea Ripley(c) vs Bianca Belair
(NXT Women’s Championship)

When this match was first announced, I really wasn’t interested. I adore Rhea Ripley and thought her title match against Baszler was one of the best matches of last year, but this felt like such a placeholder match it’s believable. I mean, I still stand by that a little bit, there’s no way Bianca’s winning this match, but the build has been exciting enough so that I am actually interested in seeing the match play out now.

A large chunk of this switch in opinion was Belair’s great performance in the Royal Rumble a few weeks ago, she went on an absolute tear and reminded me that she is actually just as good a talent as any other wrestler in the NXT women’s division at the moment. There was also that great promo on NXT TV last week where she inserted herself in-between Charlotte & Rhea’s bickering and reminded everyone that, despite Charlotte’s insistence that she wasn’t a threat, she’s could easily take that title from Ripley and be staring Charlotte down at Wrestlemania soon.

That said, there’s absolutely no situation in which she takes the title away from Ripley on Sunday. Ripley is absolutely the biggest star in NXT right now, she’s only just won the title and now she’s got a Wrestlemania match against Charlotte Flair looming in a couple of months. Rhea Ripley is keeping that title around her waist and nothing anyone says will convince me otherwise.

Adam Cole(c) vs Tommaso Ciampa
(NXT Championship)

Ooooh boy, this is gonna be a good one. Ever since Ciampa returned I have been gagging to see this match, so now it’s finally happening, I am sufficiently excited.

Cole has been a fantastic champion during his reign, all of his matches have been must-watch and this will absolutely be no exception. WarGames proved that Ciampa hasn’t lost a beat during his time away from the ring so this match should do nothing but reaffirm his status as the best of the best. The build to this match has been great too, it’s clear that Cole and The Undisputed Era can sense that Ciampa might spell the end of the Golden Prophecy so they’re attacking with all their might to try and beat him down before the match and hopefully that’ll carry over into the match itself too.

While I’m not entirely confident in this pick, I feel fairly certain Tommaso Ciampa is going to pick up the win here for two major reasons. For one thing, it feels like the culmination of his return & redemption story to sit atop the NXT throne once again, but also, with an NXT Women’s title match already being planned for Wrestlemania, I think it’s likely that we’ll see the men’s title get the same honour and quite simply there is no bigger NXT Title match for Wrestlemania than us finally getting the finale in the Ciampa vs Gargano saga, one year after the match was cruelly taken away from us. I think seeing that match at Wrestlemania would mean so much to both guys and everyone like me who’s seen the whole story unfold from the beginning and in order for that to happen, Ciampa has to take the win here.

NXT Takeover: WarGames III: Every Match Ranked

So that’s another NXT Takeover in the bag! As always, it was a great show with some fantastic wrestling, but it felt a little weird compared to other Takeovers. The pacing of the show was a bit off, which is probably due to having two WarGames matches so it meant that the two pure wrestling matches in the middle got a little buried. It seemed to me like the crowd was noticeably quieter than usual for the non-WarGames matches, so I think in future, having two of that match on a single show might be a bit much.

That said, the show was still a quality night of wrestling, so let’s not waste any more time and get to talking about it!

5 – Angel Garza def. Isaiah “Swerve” Scott
(Kickoff Show)

Despite the fact I’ve been making an effort to watch NXT TV (almost) every week, both of these are guys who have managed to largely slip under my radar. I know who Isaiah was, but I didn’t know much about his wrestling ability and I didn’t even know what Angel Garza looked like until he showed up to wrestle here.

So as it stands, this was a good first impression for me of both of these guys. Like most people from the Performance Center, I thought they had great chemistry, carried the time they got really well and I felt that if they had the opportunity, then they could’ve carried another 10 minutes or so without breaking much of a sweat. Unfortunately, it was still a pre-show match which meant that it didn’t get the time it needed to be a truly excellent match – hence it’s placement in last – but that shouldn’t take away anything from how enjoyable this was to watch.

4 – Rhea Ripley & Candice LaRae def. Shayna Baszler & Io Shirai & Bianca Belair & Kay Lee Ray
(WarGames)

A lot was going on in this match.

First off, there was Dakota Kai’s sudden insertion into the match and subsequent heel turn, which was great, but also not in some ways. For one thing, the turn itself was really obvious, so obvious in fact, that I convinced myself there’s no way it could happen because it was just too damn obvious. That said, I’m glad to see that Dakota Kai is finally getting a sense of character to her, because until now she’s been a very generic babyface that’s a good wrestler, which is great, but not very interesting compared to the character-filled roster that is the NXT Women’s division and it should help boost Tegan Nox’s stock as a face going forward. My only worry is that being a heel not named Shayna Baszler in the NXT Women’s division right now generally means you’ve got somewhat of a low ceiling for your character because you can’t exactly challenge for the title.

Speaking of character development though, if you had told me earlier this year that Rhea Ripley, a woman who felt so damn natural as a heel would become the coolest and most believable face woman in NXT I never would’ve believed it, but here we are. Since showing up and getting in Baszler’s face, she’s been pretty good as a babyface but this match put that stock through the roof, I found it so easy to root for her throughout this whole thing and her general demeanour gives off these really cool vibes that I can totally get behind.

The match itself was ok. I felt that the earlier segments weren’t carried as well as they probably could’ve and even once the pace built up, it ground to a halt when every woman in the ring had to spend about 5 minutes staring at what Dakota Kai was doing. However, once that was over and done with, it recovered quite nicely, the huge spots weren’t there, but I think that just let the women be a bit more creative with their offence and I absolutely loved the finish.

The multiple high spots just before it were a great way to make things at a fever pitch going into the finish and having Rhea Ripley outsmart the wrestler who has been consistently presented as the most intelligent wrestler in all of WWE was fantastic. I love the way Rhea basically just called Shayna’s bluff and used the handcuffs – something Shayna intended to hamper Rhea – as the key to her victory; it was such a clever finish and only added to what I talked about regarding Rhea’s face persona. When Shayna & Rhea inevitably have their singles feud, I want more of this.

3 – Finn Balor def. Matt Riddle

Wow, Finn Balor’s actually a great heel wrestler, who knew?…hmm? Everyone who ever saw him wrestle in Japan? Oh, well alright then.

This match was pretty much what I expected it to be, it was two high-quality, pure wrestlers doing some high-quality pure wrestling. The match was perhaps a little slow in pace that I would’ve liked, but it served to give everything a greater impact, which I think is quite important to Riddle’s style of offence.

This whole thing was more or less Balor re-establishing himself as the brilliant wrestler that he is, which is something that I think was sorely needed after the problematic time he had on the main roster. In that area, I think it was a success, watching Balor in this match felt refreshing and it felt like he was a new character, unlike the past year or so on Raw & Smackdown where he’s not felt the least bit important.

This won’t go down as one of the greatest one on one matches in Takeover history by any stretch, but this was a match that had a specific goal that it needed to accomplish and that’s exactly what it did.

2 – Pete Dunne def. Killian Dain & Damian Priest
(Winner gets an NXT Championship match at Survivor Series)

Well, this match had a bit of everything.

This match definitely went on a bit of a journey it started out kind of slow (not counting the opening burst of kicks) which I would normally say was a bad thing, but in this case, I think it was necessary. Even though this was only the second match on the show, the crowd were a tad tired following the opening WarGames match and it seemed like this match had been structured with the specific intention of slowly ramping things up in order to bring the crowd back into it and ensure they weren’t dead for the rest of the show. Whether that’s true or not, it’s definitely what happened.

Other than that, this was a really well balanced Triple Threat match, it felt a bit like Dunne was carrying the thing at some points, mostly down to the fact that he was almost one of the two men active in the ring, but both Priest and Dain got ample chances to show their stuff and I’m excited to see more of their stuff going forward, especially Dain.

You could argue that Dian or Priest winning would’ve been better in the long run, since both of them are trying to either establish or re-establish themselves, however in the short term, Pete Dunne vs Adam Cole is 100% the right match for Survivor Series, that match is going to be killer.

1 – Tommaso Ciampa & Keith Lee & Dominick Dijakovic & Kevin Owens def. The Undisputed Era
(WarGames)

The NXT Wargames matches have always had a really nice balance between ridiculous high-spots and a fast pace with a high work rate and this match was a good example of that. This match made sure to not let the pace slow down early on, a feeling that was definitely helped with Ciampa being the first man in the ring and each additional wrestler felt like it only added to the feeling of slowing increasing chaos.

I was worried going into this that Undisputed Era was going to come out of this looking a little weak ahead of Survivor Series if they lost here, however, past-me is an idiot and doesn’t understand how WarGames works. I forgot how much you get the feeling that every wrestler in the match has gone through hell by the time you get to the end, so a loss inside of it doesn’t make anyone look weak in the long-run.

Kevin Owens being the 4th man was such an awesome surprise. I know a lot of people were predicting it, but I didn’t think it was going to happen. This show has been a great look into how people moving across from Raw or Smackdown to NXT is going to really help everyone involved. Not only that, but this has now created a bunch of questions for tomorrow night at Survivor Series, as Kevin Owens is officially a member of Team Raw, so now there’s a whole world of possibilities in terms of what he could do.

The action in the final segment of this match was top-notch, I got the feeling that both teams were trying to go for as high-impact stuff as possible to end things quickly, it added a sense of urgency that was quite lacking from the women’s WarGames match earlier in the night. This made for a fun finish where every member of Undisputed Era went through tables, including, ending with Adam Cole being dropped through two tables off of the top of the cell by Ciampa.

It struck the right balance between spectacle and wrestling, the surprise entrant hit the mark and the action as a whole was really fun to watch the whole way through, that’s about all I could ask for from a match like this.

And that’s it! Those were my thoughts on NXT Takeover: WarGames III! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this review, please let me know what you thought of the show either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo! Finally, make sure to come back tomorrow, where we’ll be capping off this weekend of wrestling with a review of Survivor Series!