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NXT WarGames Preview: NXT’s past vs. NXT 2.0’s future

NXT 2.0 WarGames

NXT’s first big show away from its usual time-slot—they’re not really pay-per-views—since the NXT 2.0 re-branding is Sunday at the Capital Wrestling Center. NXT WarGames breaks away from the “TakeOver” moniker used for years. The name change goes with the overall theme, the present and future trying to break away from the past.

Using WarGames matches as the hook means they must force alliances that don’t always make sense to get the teams together. We see that in both the men’s and women’s matches this year. We’ll also see two title matches and a Hair vs. Hair match.

This show will be Beth Phoenix’s final appearance on NXT 2.0 commentary. Phoenix will be staying with WWE but will not be part of the weekly broadcast team going forward. That’s unfortunate, as Phoenix has done well in her role. WWE announcers are told to say some pretty ridiculous things and use unnatural verbiage, but Phoenix sells those well. Her banter with Wade Barrett can be enjoyable at times, also.

Let’s take a look at Sunday’s WarGames card.

WARGAMES MATCHES

Since the two primary singles titles are not on the line, the WarGames clashes will be more about establishing or cementing future top challengers.

The theme for the men’s match is the Black and Gold team versus the NXT 2.0 team. The idea here is the old school NXT team will face off with a group the company hopes will be stars in the future. NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano, Pete Dunne and LA Knight will take on Bron Breakker, Carmelo Hayes, Grayson Waller and Tony D’Angelo.

This feels like a win for the new guys. With Ciampa as the champion, this match is a natural spot to make Breakker the unquestioned number one contender. Putting over the Black and Gold team runs counter to the company’s messaging regarding NXT 2.0 being all about the future.

There has been very little talk of the DIY reunion with Gargano and Ciampa, which leads one to believe WWE is hedging its bets in case Gargano leaves when his contract is up shortly after this show. If Gargano takes the pinfall loss, it will be a strong indication he’s on the way out.

Knight hasn’t been with NXT all that long, but he’s older and a capable worker so he was put in with the others. Breakker’s presence with a group of heels makes little sense aside from the generational gimmick.

There are a few green guys here, but the NXT 2.0 team is talented and no one person has to carry it. The Black and Gold team is loaded with terrific workers. This match should be quite good. Look for NXT 2.0 to get the victory here, with Breakker as favorite to get the final pin.

For the women, it’s Toxic Attraction and Dakota Kai facing the babyfaces. Raquel Gonzalez joined up with Io Shirai and Cora Jade. Zoey Stark would have been the fourth, but a knee injury at Halloween Havoc sidelined the talented star. They hastily shoehorned Kay Lee Ray into the spot.

Toxic Attraction, meanwhile, has been getting one of the brand’s biggest pushes over the past few weeks. WWE is trying to attract a younger demographic with NXT Women’s Champion Mandy Rose, Gigi Dolin and Jacy Jayne. Dakota Kai was put in the fourth heel spot due to her feud with Gonzalez.

This match will be interesting but could be a struggle at times. There are several women in this one who aren’t experienced in a match like this. Shirai, Ray, Kai and Gonzalez will work hard—and they’ll have to.

Truly, the result could go either way. They could use the match to continue the hard push for Toxic Attraction. Still, overall it feels like a babyface win to give Rose a top challenger. It would be a surprise for Rose to lose the fall, but whoever gets the win will move to the front of the line for a shot at her title.

TITLE MATCHES

Imperium (Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel) will defend their NXT Tag Team titles against Kyle O’Reilly and Von Wagner. We’ll find out just how much they believe in Wagner here.

Wagner has been improving week by week. He’s not good yet, but he’s headed in the right direction. Teaming with O’Reilly and wrestling men such as Aichner and Barthel will help. Booking him like he’s intelligent, which they did on the go-home show, will also go a long way in getting fans behind him.

The match should be great when O’Reilly is in. It will be up to Wagner to step up and show he belongs with the rest.

As for the Cruiserweight title match, champion Roderick Strong was thrown into a sudden feud with Joe Gacy. The story is Gacy using buzzwords such as weight-shaming and gender bias in regard to the title.

There have been rumors the WWE is considering dropping the championship entirely, but it could also change it to include others besides smaller guys. Anyone who has followed wrestling knows Vince McMahon and John Laurinaitis have an aversion to smaller workers, so this seems likely.

The way this was thrown together makes it feel as though they’re ready to give the title to Gacy and then redefine it. It’s also possible Strong could retain with the story continuing on past WarGames. With the entire Diamond Mine faction on one side and Harland on the other, there are plenty of opportunities for interference or a cheap disqualification finish here. Hopefully they avoid that.

HAIR VERSUS HAIR

The buildup to this match between Cameron Grimes and Duke Hudson has been strong. What began with silly poker skits developed into something better when Hudson cut off some of Grimes’ trademark beard and hair.

Grimes cut a promo the following week in which he toned down the strutting and grinning and talked seriously of how his hair is part of his identity and his roots. He emphasized how humiliating the attack was for him, making this feel like a true grudge battle.

This match is Grimes’ to carry. Hudson hasn’t shown much in the ring so far, but Grimes is a good worker. Can Hudson keep up?

Whoever gets their head shaved, they need to be careful. Remember, Kurt Angle lost one of these and his hair never grew back.

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