WWE Best Matches Of The Week: NXT Goes To War

WWE NXT, Rhea Ripley Credit: WWE.com
WWE NXT, Rhea Ripley Credit: WWE.com /

NXT’s WarGames event highlighted another week of awesome WWE action. Also, my thoughts on why the Matt Riddle experiment sucks.

This week’s Raw kicked off with a really clever segment between Randy Orton, Alexa Bliss, and The Fiend. We had not seen Wyatt be psychologically one-upped the way Orton did to him on Monday. We had a live hostage negotiation that saw the usually-controlling Fiend plead with Orton to relinquish Alexa, which he eventually did. Orton may have exposed a weakness that wasn’t 90’s WCW champions.

Speaking of WCW, did you all see that WCW account on Twitter claiming WCW is making a comeback next year? But it actually turned out to be some guy hyping up his e-fed on WWE 2K? Funny stuff.

Back to WWE, we had a *very* WWE match at the start of Raw. Jeff Hardy and Elias competed in the third-ever Symphony of Destruction Match, meaning they beat each other up with musical instruments. This match was a lot of fun and silliness mixed with the brutality you would expect from a Jeff Hardy match involving weapons.

Asuka remains directionless but that means little when she’s still such a bright spot of the show. She is entertaining in any context, and this week she was paired with Lana and hyped up her up as any good friend would; adding a new layer to the Lana storyline, that layer being that someone actually seems to like her.

Aside from the obvious surrounding Matt Riddle, he’s a disaster on TV. I don’t think the argument that he’s being fed crappy lines exists in this case because if you’ve watched Riddle outside of WWE, you would know that this is just who he is.

They want him to be this lovable dummy that is all business in the ring, but we already have R-Truth covering half of that ground while coming off a million times more likable than Riddle. The clear comparison is Rob Van Dam, and I would take offense to that if I were him.

RVD was never insufferable like Riddle is, the reason being the innate “coolness” he radiated that made his fans ride for him. You could chalk it up to the poor booking and writing on WWE’s part, but he may not even be worth saving.

Switching over to someone worth investing in; Keith Lee. Man, he is special. The triple threat main event on Raw made Keith Lee look like a big deal because of the evident fear he put in both his opponents. Lee is an athletic anomaly and I enjoy watching him casually perform unbelievable feats like leapfrogging over BOTH Styles and Riddle. Lee also used his opponents as human missiles, which is pretty cool, but it was just another day in the office for Keith Lee and his ungodly strength.

If you haven’t watched the new Keith Lee 24 documentary on the WWE Network I suggest you do.

The Undisputed Era’s “night out” vignette on this week’s NXT was enjoyable mostly for them being the Undisputed Era again in what felt like months. The suits, the confidence, their presence, the Undisputed Era is back, and barring anything catastrophic at WarGames, it is good to have them back.

I realized I’ve been stylizing Ever-Rise’s name minus the hyphen and I want to take this moment to apologize. I’m a fake fan, I know.

NXT UK is a tough watch because of how much WWE content there already is in the week but there’s some great talent in that roster to keep an eye on. Aleah James and Aoife Valkyrie impressed this week in their match and the underrated Alexander Wolfe is another reason to tune in to the latest from this show.

I hope I’m not offending anyone by saying that Roman Reigns is doing the best character work of any performer in WWE’s history. How could you not be impressed? I’ll say this every time I talk about this story but it needs to be said: Roman Reigns needs to get his ass beat.

The way he talked down Kayla Braxton for asking the hard-hitting questions was truly despicable. A shout out to Braxton, who’s visibly shaken by Heyman and Reigns whenever she interacts with those two strong personalities. Whether that’s a genuine reaction or not does not matter, because it adds to Roman’s overall cruelty anyway.

In the early moments of Roman’s turn, I never thought WWE would go this far with him. What many thought would be nothing more than some anti-heel behavior has quickly evolved into both sociopathic and abusive tendencies, and it’s been wonderful to watch them play out the way they have. Reigns is an incredible heel and is on the run of his life.

Elsewhere on the heel spectrum is Bayley. Though she lost this week, don’t expect that to shake her confidence. She made her way to the ring as pompous as ever, still wearing her Survivor Series captain’s armband. Things like that still make her very entertaining despite being championship-less and on a losing streak. I do think they are doing Bianca a disservice by having her face and possibly beat a less formidable Bayley, we will see how that goes.

I’m all in on Big E slowly becoming his own superstar. I can’t see the bowl of chalk surviving that long but I appreciate the effort in giving him his own thing. He’s a huge Wale fan, how cool must it be for him to make his entrance to the tune of one of his favorite artists? Give him the IC belt!

Sasha Banks and Carmella did great building their feud, but why must it always be about jealousy with the women of WWE? There have to be other motives they can think of.

WarGames was a fun show, but it was a bit exhausting. My only problem with the match type itself — WWE’s version of it, at least — is that there’s a clear effort being made to fit everything they possibly can into the match, making it a match that peaks well past a time it should have ended at.

Compared to what they accomplished last year, this was a weaker attempt at WarGames. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the brutality dished out but my favorite match of the night may come as a surprise.

These were the best matches of the week:

5. SmackDown: Daniel Bryan, Rey Mysterio, & Big E vs. Dolph Ziggler, Shinsuke Nakamura, & Sami Zayn

This was a match featuring the current Intercontinental Champion and former champions to honor the first one ever, the late Pat Patterson. This 6-man tag was a sort of reprieve from whatever stories these 6 were involved in if any, but it was welcome. The match took on a house show structure, wherein the heels bumped cartoonishly and the faces were overtly heroic and happy.

Still, the competitors made sure to contribute their individual styles to make this match a banger. Frankensteiners and Brainbusters were part of the fast-paced action this match presented. My favorite spot was Rey attempting his springing bulldog off the mat but being stopped mid-move by Sami Zayn, who then turned it into a Blue Thunder Bomb (one of the coolest moves ever).

4. WarGames: Team Candice vs. Team Shotzi (WarGames Match)

Bonus points for Shotzi’s brand-new tank; all the points for the tank actually shooting a dart at the cage wall, scaring the life out of Dakota Kai. As mentioned earlier, the matches this year were spot showcases, but that doesn’t take away from the spots themselves. The highlight from a story standpoint was Team Candice’s efforts to keep Io Shirai, the final entrant for Team Shotzi, from entering the match.

This led to the moment of the night with Shirai, standing on top of the cage and adorning herself with a metal trash can like it was a suit of armor, diving off the top of the cage and onto the sea of her opponents and teammates. There was a nasty and audible crunch on Shotzi’s ladder Senton and an even more disgusting sound coming from the finish of the match that saw Raquel powerbomb Shirai onto a ladder, breaking it in half. A salute to them for putting it all on the line.

3. WarGames: Johnny Gargano vs. Leon Ruff vs. Damian Priest (North American Championship Match)

Though it was unconventional, they might have made a star out of Leon Ruff. That’s not to say his own talent and charisma weren’t capable of doing that, but making him a champion with immediacy and allowing him to appear as a real threat to the pecking order at NXT legitimized him. Evident by my tone, he lost. But I hope Ruff remains a fixture on Wednesday nights.

Leon Ruff’s nimble athleticism is among some of the most stunning I have ever seen. I can’t believe the ease he moves with and lack of hesitation. After Priest launched Ruff through a panel of the barricade surrounding the ring, it seemed like the match would continue without the champion, but he would make a heroic return and come close to a victory. Gargano won after more Ghostface shenanigans, but I’m blown away by Leon Ruff.

2. WarGames: Undisputed Era vs. Team McAfee (WarGames Match)

MORE VIOLENCE. Kyle O’Reilly and Pete Dunne did an awesome job with the match’s opening sequence. That was the calm before the violent storm that was to follow. I like it when wrestlers come to the ring with weapons connected to their gimmicks. Danny Burch’s gimmick is that he’s British, so here he comes with the cricket paddles. Jokes aside, the paddles were a fun new weapon, especially for those experiencing kendo stick fatigue.

There was a good story being told here. Like McAfee had been claiming for weeks, maybe the Undisputed Era was done, and that narrative behind the match made it more interesting the more Cole and his boys looked like they were facing adversity. Babyfaced Era is interesting because we had never seen it in the ring until now. It may still take some getting used to because they were so entertaining as cowardly ego-driven maniacs, but they still demonstrated some of that charm that has made them so popular.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate the fact that Oney Lorcan was in the main event of a TakeOver. The false finishes made the closing stretch suspenseful but its physical nature was the highlight. Tables were broken, bodies flew from the top of the cage, and chairs were used as landing pads. For sadists like me, this was an awesome match.

1. WarGames: Dexter Lumis vs. Cameron Grimes (Strap Match)

You may be surprised, you may be not. But this was the most appropriately-timed, purely fun match of the night for me. It’s like Grimes and Lumis were made for each other. Grimes’s down-south twang and his overt arrogance pairs well with Lumis’s cold and menacing demeanor makes for some really entertaining interactions between the two. Grimes’s cowardice over the last few weeks invoked by Lumis’s presence made the strap match stipulation intriguing.

Next. NXT TakeOver WarGames Takeaways. dark

Despite being the man devoid of feeling, Lumis does a great job selling. It reminds me of the earliest version of Undertaker in the way that Lumis remains solemn while projecting pain. The match was entertaining from start to finish and they absolutely put each other through misery with not only the strap. Grimes is a fantastic wrestler but my favorite thing about him is that he’s just funny as hell. I hope we haven’t seen the end of their feud after Lumis’s decisive victory.