Team Candice (Candice LeRae, Toni Storm, Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez) def. Team Shotzi (Shotzi Blackheart, NXT Women's Champion Io Shirai, Ember Moon and Rhea Ripley) in a WarGames Match
Man, where do I even start with this? What a wild WarGames match. I had my reservations a few weeks ago about there being a women's WarGames matchup this year because it didn't feel necessary at the time, but boy, was I wrong. All eight women went out there and killed it. There were a ton of crazy spots from Shirai jumping off the top of one of the cages in a trash can, Gonzalez putting Shirai through a ladder in the middle of the two rings on the steel, and especially Moon's Eclipse onto Moon on the chair. The execution on that last one especially was incredible. This was pure mayhem and I loved every second of it. I fully expected Team Shotzi to win so Blackheart could get revenge on LeRae for destroying her tank, but I'm perfectly fine with them dragging out that feud a little longer. Gonzalez pinning Shirai for the victory was huge for her and sets her up as next in line for an NXT Women's Championship opportunity.
Tommaso Ciampa def. Timothy Thatcher
The Ciampa vs. Thatcher rivalry kind of came together on a whim, but damn did I enjoy this battle. It was so different than anything else on the show, and while their respective styles may not be for everyone, I found it to be a fun, hard-hitting and highly physical affair. They beat the holy hell out of each other and Thatcher seemed to gain Ciampa's respect in defeat. I've seen talk from fans that these two could become a tag team and I'd be down for that, but I'd also be equally open to them having a rematch inside the Fight Pit and Thatcher winning that. He's terrific in the ring but can never win whenever it matters most, at least not since defeating Matt Riddle earlier this year.
Dexter Lumis def. Cameron Grimes in a Strap Match
The last Strap match NXT did back at The Great American Bash in July with Lumis and Roderick Strong exceeded my expectations, so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised this was also enjoyable. Granted, it was probably the weakest match on the show in my opinion, but they made the most of the stipulation and it played into the theme of their storyline with Grimes constantly trying to escape Lumis. There were some cool moments, but I'm ready for this rivalry to be over. I like Lumis, but Grimes has grown on me this year as well and I'd like to see him go back to building momentum of his own.
Johnny Gargano def. Leon Ruff and Damian Priest in a Triple Threat Match to Win the NXT North American Championship
The NXT North American Championship picture has been all over the place in recent months, but it's been chaotic in a good way with these three coming into TakeOver. It was widely reported that Ruff becoming champion was designed to be a joke and I guess we now know that was true seeing as how he lost the belt back to Gargano here. That said, this was a tremendous Triple Threat that was all action from bell to bell. Ruff felt like he was on Gargano and Priest's level throughout and Priest showing hesitation toward beating up Ruff was well done. The only thing I could have done without was the overbooked finish with the group of Ghostface-masked men interfering. Austin Theory being revealed as Gargano's partner in crime this whole time was logical, but what about the rest of the group of guys? The last thing NXT needs is their own version of RETRIBUTION, so hopefully that was a one-and-done. Gargano can and should have a hell of a reign as champion, but there really wasn't much of a reason to take the title off of him in the first place.
Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Kyle O'Reilly, Bobby Fish and Roderick Strong) def. Team McAfee (Pat McAfee, Pete Dunne and NXT Tag Team Champions Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch) in a WarGames Match
There was obviously going to be some repeat spots from the opener, but I thought this was just as fantastic in a different way. The women's WarGames was more hardcore-based and it worked in that respect, whereas the men's WarGames took more of a storytelling approach and that worked, too. The first half isn't much more than an extended beatdown of the babyfaces, but the execution was exceptional as it built to a phenomenal final stretch. In only his second appearance in the ring on a TakeOver special, McAfee was once again the MVP. From the Swanton off the top of the cage to beautiful-looking moonsault to kicking out of the Canadian Destroyer (which I didn't mind too much because that was what he lost to against Adam Cole at TakeOver XXX), he had a stellar showing here. Even though his squad came up short, I sincerely hope he'll be sticking around because he has been one of the best parts of the program since his return in October. One nitpick that I had was that either the Bitter End from Dunne to Cole on the chair or the End of Heartache from Strong to Dunne should have ended it, because O'Reilly's jumping knee to Lorcan on top of the chair didn't look as impressive in comparison. Otherwise, this was a wonderful piece of business that proved that WarGames hasn't worn out its welcome just yet.
In addition to everything I wrote about above, we also found out that Finn Balor will be on NXT this Wednesday (finally!), Karrion Kross is on his way back soon (woo!), and that there will be a special episode of NXT TV on January 6, 2021 called New Year's Evil (huh?). In other words, this was a loaded and newsworthy show. I still don't think having two WarGames matches in one night is the right call, but both bouts delivered this year and the undercard was entertaining on the whole as well. We also got a new champion crowned and the return of Austin Theory. This was an easy thumbs-up show, even though it probably won't win my vote for TakeOver of the Year. The three hours flew by more than any episode of Raw you'll see in 2020.