What's up Craft Brewed Sports Nation? Anthony "Tank" Mansfield here, and I am going to be covering all things MMA and Pro Wrestling for CBS. I am a fan of WWE, UFC, Impact, Bellator, NJPW, CZW, PWG, AAW, Rockstar Pro, AAA, Lucha Underground, Shimmer, Shine, etc. so look for this blog to cover a wide range of combat sports and sports entertainment topics. I've been a pro wrestling fan for over 3 decades and have watched the global rise of MMA since Gerard Gordeau head kicked Teila Tuli's teeth into the fifth row. In short, if there is an interesting story that involves sweaty, shirtless dudes or women in spandex, I'll be writing about it. So ring the bell because it's time to talk about the return of....
Old school wrestling heads like me have been wanting to see this match in the WWE since they bought out WCW in 2001. The rumor going around the mill is that Vince McMahon hated the idea of the match because like most things, if it wasn't invented in the WWE, Vince doesn't get it and thus doesn't care to get it. Thankfully Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Paul Levesque), the head of NXT, was a big fan of NWA/WCW in the '80s and grew up watching Dusty Rhodes, the Road Warriors, and the 4 Horsemen wage blood-soaked battles inside of the double cage match that is War Games and decided to finally bring it back. While I doubt we'll see any crimson masks, I believe that NXT's young talent on Saturday will collectively bust their asses to live up to this....
and hopefully we don't see any of this...
For right now though, let's put a pin in the War Games match and talk about the rest of the card instead.
Kassius Ohno vs. Lars Sullivan
I don't have high hopes for this one. The story here is Ohno thinks he should be in the NXT Championship picture (and he fucking should be because he is one of the best wrestlers in the past 15 years). Sullivan is the new monster on the block that smashes jobbers and makes faces...and well, that's about it. If you judged this match on looks, then you'd say we have ourselves a good old-fashioned hoss fight with both of these behemoths tipping the scales over 275 pounds, but unlike most big men Ohno can legit wrestle any style. Chain wrestling. Power moves. Flips. Dives. Strong Style strikes. Lucha. The man can literally do it all. Sullivan on the other hand...did I mention he makes faces? I did? Fuck. I expect Ohno to do the heavy lifting here by leading Sullivan through the match and making him look way better than he is in the process. I really hope that Ohno gets the win, but my brain says NXT isn't done building Sullivan up as a monster yet, and a big victory here would do wonders for him.
Aleister Black vs. The Velveteen Dream
This is a weird pairing of dance partners but it is what it. The Velveteen Dream's character is that he is sort of like if Prince went to the gym instead of riding purple motorcycles around Minneapolis. Black, on the other hand, is a dude from the Netherlands who is into Satan, Hardcore bands, kickboxing, and trying to cover ever inch of his body in tattoos. Take a wild guess who I am cheering for in this one. I'll give you a hint....
VD keeps telling Black that he is going to make him say his name, but I don't see that happening. Look for Aleister to add another victim to his list of opponents have fallen to the Black Mass as he continues his upward assent into the NXT title scene.
Ember Moon vs. Kairi Sane vs. Nikki Cross vs. Peyton Royce (with Billie Kay) for the NXT Women's Championship
One of the things that I love about NXT is that they build their wrestlers up to the point that it's really hard to tell who is going to win or loss a big match, and this is a perfect example of that. NXT's women's division is now in the post-Asuka era as she left undefeated and forfeited the title to move to the main roster on RAW. Because of this, a power vacuum has been created that these 4 women are trying to fill. Ember Moon was groomed as the woman to end Asuka's streak but came up short every time. Nikki Cross started off as a wild, bug-eyed psychopath that screams and bites the ropes in Sanity, but she has become so much more. She is hands down the most underrated woman on the NXT roster with her high impact style and willingness to take any crazy bump. Peyton Royce (with Billie Kay) is great at playing the spiteful pretty girl that doesn't have time for you, but my interest in her quickly wanes once the bell rings. Finally Kairi Sane took the WWE by storm by winning the Mae Young Classic with her insane off the top rope elbow drop that gets higher then Joey Diaz. Seriously look at this fucking elbow drop....
I don't know who wins this thing. I think there is a compelling argument to be made for any of these 4 women to walk out of Houston with the strap. Ember is a great worker, but her promos are always flat, and she forgets that she is supposed to be a werewolf. Plus she is working in her home state, and WWE loves to have wrestlers lose in their hometown/state. I'd like to see Nikki get it, but she kind of has the same vibe as Asuka in that she isn't much of a talker and instead tells her story in the ring. The exact same thing can be said for Kairi Sane. While I don't really care about Peyton, it would make the most sense for her to get a cheap win here with help from Billie Kay. It's always more interesting when heels hold a championship belt and it's been a long time since a true heel has held the NXT Women's title. This could eventually lead to them splitting up as Billie's jealously and Peyton's paranoia to keep the belt would inevitably drive them apart.
Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Andrade Almas (with Zelina Vega) for the NXT Championship
This match hasn't even happened yet and I am already frustrated by it. Drew McIntyre is everything the WWE brass (cough Vince McMahon cough) loves. He is a huge, muscle bound, good looking guy that has ok matches. He is much better as a heel but currently he is playing the role of the good guy champ. Across the ring from him will be Andrade Almas, one of the best workers in NXT. Even when he started out with that fucking terrible suspenders/fedora gimmick, once he was in the ring, he was pure fire. I expect Almas to make McIntyre look like a million bucks and eventually eat a Claymore for the 1...2...3.
The Authors of Pain (Akam and Rezar) and Roderick Strong vs. Sanity (Alexander Wolfe, Eric Young and Killian Dain) vs. The Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly) in WAR GAMES
And in your main event of the evening we see the return of WAR GAMES!!! This feud started at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III when Sanity defeated the Authors of Pain for the NXT title and then both teams were attacked afterwards by Fish and O'Reilly. Cole later debuted that night by attacking McIntyre and then moved onto fighting Strong as both men are essentially vying for the No. 1 contender spot. Good guy Roddy is willing to work his way through the entire roster to get there while smug asshole heel Cole doesn't want to wait in line and is trying to jump straight to a title shot.
This should be a lot of fun and this match is overflowing with talent. Cole, Fish, and O'Reilly have been 3 of the best indie workers in the world over the past 2 years. Killian Dain is an athletic big man that makes everything he does look brutal. Eric Young is a polished vet and I've never seen a bad Roderick Strong match. I am a little worried about Akam, Rezar, and Wolfe because they are not nearly as talented/seasoned as the other men in the match. I am also interested to see what they do to get around one of the biggest parts of War Games: blood. War Games used to be used as the blow off for major storylines back in the day and were incredibly violent. While I doubt anyone is going to blade, I could definitely see someone getting busted open the hard way as all of these guys are going to be throwing some super heavy shit.
At this point it makes the most sense for The Undisputed Era to get the W. Roddy and the AOP are an odd pairing and it doesn't make sense for either of them long term. Sanity has done far more then I ever thought they would. Their crowning achievement was winning the tag titles but after that their really isn't a story left to tell with this group. The Undisputed Era has just arrived on the scene in NXT and a win here would instantly make them the most powerful faction in NXT. I could see Cole holding the NXT title and O'Reily/Fish holding the tag belts come Wrestlemania weekend.
What do you think about the card? Leave your comments below or in the Craft Brewed Sports FB group.