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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Notes – A Star Is Born, A Shocking Title Change, A Fun But Hollow Return For War Games (NXT Takeover Thoughts)
By The Doc
Nov 18, 2017 - 11:27:35 PM

”The Doc” Chad Matthews has been a featured writer for LOP since 2004. Initially offering detailed recaps and reviews for WWE's top programs, he transitioned to writing columns in 2010. In addition to his discussion-provoking current event pieces, he has written many acclaimed series about WrestleMania, as well as a popular short story chronicle. The Doc has also penned a book, The WrestleMania Era: The Book of Sports Entertainment, published in 2013. It has been called “the best wrestling book I have ever read” and holds a worldwide 5-star rating on Amazon, where it peaked at #3 on the wrestling charts.

QUESTIONS OF THE DAY: What did you think of NXT Takeover: War Games? Did you enjoy War Games? How would you rate the matches?

Just a few thoughts here. I thought it was a good show, but by no means an elite Takeover special. Check out LOP Radio's full review of the event!

Lars Sullivan Unimpressive

Lars Sullivan is a generic strong dude. I saw zip from him against Kassius Ohno in a match that would have fit better in the second quarter hour of the weekly NXT show during the lull between Takeover specials.

A Star Is Born...His Name Is The Velveteen Dream

Many will likely forget that The Velveteen Dream vs. Aleister Black was not the opener at Takeover: War Games because the hot match that got the crowd going for the rest of the night was the former Tough Enough competitor becoming a star right before our very eyes opposite one of the already established unique entities of NXT from Holland. I mentioned on “The Doc Says” podcast last week that, not being a regular viewer of the Wednesday NXT TV program, Takeover is my quarterly update for how things are going for Triple H and Co., and that I was intrigued to see what The Velveteen Dream was all about. It seemed like a character, when just reading about it, that Patrick Clark would have to work hard not to be swallowed up by, meaning that he would have to walk a very fine line to avoid being all gimmick and no fight; and, though I was blown away with his presentation of that persona - from the entrance to the theme music to the air-brushed tights (complete with the nostalgic resonance of the accompanying Warrior vs. Savage memories) to the flamboyant mannerisms - I was also impressed with his athleticism and command of the ring.

I loved the story that Black and Dream told between the ropes. “Say My Name” was code for “Show Me Respect,” and it fit the bout not just perfectly due to the tale on display, but thematically as well. This was Dream's chance to show the world what he was made of and he did just that. Credit of course to Black for another top notch Takeover outing; it is time to move him up to the main-event level. Overall, I thought it was the best pro wrestling match of the night (Doc's rating - ****)

Ember Moon Becomes NXT Women's Champion

The NXT Women's Championship bout was quite enjoyable for its ten-minute duration, a run-time that limited what they could do in all likelihood and influenced them to a very spotty, not particularly characterful match. To their credit, there were several sequences that were timed very well and turned out to be awesome as a result. What they lacked in thorough storytelling they made up for with innovation. The main takeaway probably should be that the division moving forward is in capable hands. There will be a steady stream of Takeovers for the next few months (one every other month), so how they position the talents will be a newsworthy item to follow in the next couple of months before the Philly show. (Doc's rating - *** ¼)

Shocking Title Win For Andrade “Cien” Almas

In what seemed to have all the makings for the match that would merely segue Drew McIntyre into a higher profile program heading into the Takeovers that would marry NXT to WrestleMania Season, Cien Almas shocked the world and became NXT Champion. Almas is a baller with an act that is clicking thanks to his new manager, offering a mouthpiece in compliment to his incredible physical charisma; he has been one of my favorite acts since his Takeover debut last spring and he has an excellent international reputation, so it is nice to see him stepping up further and getting his due. Wow. NXT Champion Andrade Almas. How about that...

The match itself was very good, bordering at times on great but never really getting to that echelon. Some of the maneuvers that they pulled off were spectacular and they undeniably earned the near falls of the night, but there was a tangible quality missing from the psychological aspect that dictated the flow of the performance. For the big move vs. big move format to fully click for me, I have to be simultaneously invested in the story being told...and I just wasn't invested like that, so the big moves were aesthetically pleasing but the story was too thin for them to hit their emotional mark with me. (Doc's rating - *** ¾)

**REVISION** - I went back and rewatched this match after I signed off last night and enjoyed it more the second time around. I would not necessarily change my rating - it's still a borderline four-star effort (maybe bump it the extra quarter star) - but I'll change my reasoning from feeling like it lacked psychologically to feeling as though it was one of those mid-card length semi-mains that perhaps would have benefited from two-to-three extra minutes so it could, stylistically, steer fully into epic match territory.

War Games Returns...Not Sure What To Make Of It

You know, I'm going to be uncharacteristically blunt here: I kind of struggled with War Games tonight. Last night, I was thinking about the production value of WWE and how that was one of the things that I was most intrigued to see from the return of NWA/WCW's signature gimmick – how would WWE camera work (and booking for that matter) differ from NWA/WCW, the production value for which limited even the best versions of War Games years ago. WWE, I surmised, was better accustomed to chasing down the big moments on one side of the ring while quickly catching others on the opposite side because of its history with the Royal Rumble Match. After watching tonight, however, I felt the same thing plagued NXT War Games, with its obviously fresh take on the concept, that harmed War Games 20-30 years ago; the production value was higher (though they still missed some things that a wider shot from further away would have better captured), but the fact of the matter is that War Games is kind of a mess aesthetically.

What we ended up getting was a fun cluster brawl that, kind of like the TLC main-event a month ago, was absolutely worth a watch and was reasonably well put together for what it was. All nine guys worked their butts off and deserve to be commended. In the end, there was just too much going on, too much choreographing, and too little real heat for the participants.

It is on that last point that I will focus the remainder of my thoughts. My favorite three versions of War Games, what I consider to be heads and shoulders above the rest, each featured a heel faction that everyone wanted to see get thrown into War Games with a group of babyface rivals hell bent on delivering comeuppance ('87 and '91 featured variations of The Four Horsemen and '92 featured The Dangerous Alliance). Should WWE ever decide to bring back War Games again, I would hope that it would center its reasoning around a comparable entity. Tonight's version just felt emotionally hollow, even though – again – it was a lot of fun and gave us carnage. (Doc's rating - *** ¾)

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