My friend told me to watch this because he was at the show and his big bald head was all over the hard cam and sure enough there he was making faces like a daftie behind Funaki and Asuka. I was really only intending on watching a couple matches, but I wound up just watching the whole thing.
Kassius Ohno v Lars Sullivan
Cool little hoss fight. It only went about six minutes, but they laid it in and gave you what you want out of two beefy guys laying into each other. Some of the strikes were pretty great, especially those two elbows to the back of the head, a couple of Ohno's forearms and one straight right that Lars took right on the button. I haven't really followed NXT closely, but I remember folk talking about Sullivan at the time like he could be NXT's answer to Strowman. Has he faded off the map since then? Because I sure don't remember hearing much about him recently.
Aleister Black v Velveteen Dream
This was fucking dynamite. Velveteen Dream is my favourite guy in NXT by a distance and I like Black fine, so I had some expectations for this and they absolutely delivered. I loved Dream in this so much. The tights! The early going with Black controlling via the arm was really neat. He wasn't about to be thrown off his game by Dream's nonsense and I liked how he basically schooled him. The little "mind games" sequence after that was just great stuff. Sometimes that kind of thing can come off a bit hokey, but both guys have such unique charisma that it totally worked. Dream's facial expressions, initially at being ignored, then at being fucked with in equal fashion, were amazing. And yeah, every single thing he did in this ruled. Loved how he bumped for Black's strikes. Loved how he was obsessed with Black saying his name. Loved how that obsession had him yelling shit at the ref' like "ask him to say my name!" or "say my name!" while he had Black in a camel clutch. LOVED the swivel hips from the top rope where he sold the back. That's one of my all-time favourite spots and I'm all for someone channeling the spirit of Rickie Rude. Basically loved everything he did. They kind of teetered a bit into no-selly back and forth towards the end, but it wasn't egregious and Black catching Dream with Black Death as he was yet again telling him to say his name was a great finish. There's that obsession again, getting him in hot water.
Ember Moon v Kairi Sane v Peyton Royce v Nikki Cross
I'm not one for a fatal fourway, but I thought this was more than fine. Everyone got to hit their spots, the moves that kept someone out the picture for extended periods of time generally looked buyable (that powerbomb on the floor to Cross especially, good grief) and the crowd were into it. There were moments where a couple women had to stand around waiting for an incoming dive, but these are concessions you need to make with this kind of match. I was a fan of Nikki Cross going buck wild on folk, nothing fancy, just frantic swatting about the face. She's around the same age as me and went to Glasgow uni so there's a good chance I spilled a a pint of whiskey over her in Bamboo a decade ago (I did not go to Glasgow uni, but I did drink pints of whiskey in many Glasgow nightclubs). Royce's mannerisms were very girly girl and I liked how she juxtaposed that with elbowing people in the face, even if the elbows didn't look good. Sane is my favourite of the four and her top rope elbow drop is killer, but it feels like she's been a bit of an afterthought since winning the May Young Classic. She lasted like three minutes in the Rumble and I'm not sure what she's been up to since.
Drew McIntyre v Andrade Cien Almas
This might actually be the first McIntyre match I've watched since he came back to WWE. Unsurprisingly he's still really good. He didn't necessarily work as straight powerhouse to Almas' flier, but they did pepper in some really cool strength spots, including the awesome front-facing Alabama Slam as a counter to the reverse rana. I don't have much of an opinion on Almas one way or the other. Don't love him, but I don't dislike him and he has plenty of flashy offence that manages to look like it's actually designed to hurt. I did like how he had to improvise here and there or Drew would just keep plucking him out the air and slamming him. Vega is such a fun second, though. She's always shouting directions, sneaking in and involving herself. That spike hurricanrana was really cool and I'll always pop for a manager saving their client by putting a foot on the rope at the last second. Pretty nasty finish as well.
Adam Cole, Kyle O'Reilly & Bobby Fish v Authors of Pain & Roderick Strong v Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe & Killian Dain (WarGames)
What the fuck is this referee's spray tan all about? It's honest to god Oompa Loompa orange. Who's responsible for applying this to him? How did that conversation go? "Don't scrimp with that stuff, I want you to make me look like...like a secret that's burning to be told!" It was outrageous! Anyways, this isn't your daddy's WarGames, but as far as bloodless iterations go I thought it was closer to Fall Brawl '94 than Fall Brawl '98. And Fall Brawl '94 ruled so yeah, I dug this plenty. It never felt full on chaotic like I wanted despite there being a thousand guys in it; they basically stuck to the one ring even when everyone was in there because...I don't really know why. They just did. In fact the only time a couple guys took a wander into the other ring was to do a German suplex off the top rope through tables and it about scalped Alexander Wolfe. But I thought it did manage to feel crazy enough, they did lots of fairly wild shit without getting too cutesy, and everyone got a chance to shine at some point. I'm not really sure who had my favourite performance, but Killian Dain is a big fat dude who bulldozed everyone and swallowed a key after locking the door, which was sort of goofy considering it's WarGames and the cage is locked anyway, but fuck it, maybe the fact he didn't know that made it even BETTER. Possibly. He also hit a Van Terminator which was pretty insane. I've never cared much about Adam Cole, but he felt like the biggest star in this by some margin. The 'Adam Cole Bay-Bay' chant is obviously over, but even beyond that I wouldn't expect it to be very long now before he gets called up to the main roster. Plus he was really good in this. He wasn't always interested in mixing it up unless he knew his buddies were around, which is really what you want in a guy who's supposed to be playing chickenshit, but when it came right down to it his team won because he was resourceful and pulled it out in the clutch. By golly I think I might be becoming an Adam Cole fan. For a first time WarGames in WWE, with all the modern WWE-isms that go along with that, I thought this was a decent success. I'd be into another one if it was for a title or something was at stake.