In what has unquestionably been the hottest calendar year for WWE's unofficial third brand in NXT, the promotion's fifth and final TakeOver card of 2018 once again delivered fireworks. Despite a main event that seemed to drag at times, Saturday's TakeOver: WarGames II card from Los Angeles -- one night before Survivor Series inside the Staples Center -- NXT continued to make the argument that it's not just the best pro wrestling brand within WWE, but possibly the world at large.
Johnny Gargano, who following up on the prompt from NXT announcer Mauro Ranallo, might as well call himself "Johnny TakeOver" from this point forward as he took part in his fifth sensational match of the year against Aleister Black. Yet it was the NXT title match between Tommaso Ciampa and Velveteen Dream that stole the show on this night, and might've previewed what the future of the main roster could look like.
It's incredible to think that TakeOver was able to provide so much entertainment with just four matches over a three-hour card, yet even if Saturday's card was the worst of the five over this calendar year (depending upon one's preference), it was still better than all but a small handful of main roster pay-per-view shows over that same time period. NXT's roster is as deep and talented from top to bottom as it ever has been with the sleek and simple TakeOver formula operating at a near immaculate level in terms of consistency and quality.
CBS Sports was with you the entire way on Saturday, updating this story live with results, analysis, grades and highlights from the big show. Keep on scrolling to see the full slate of matches along with the latest results and highlights from the event. And be sure to listen to our preview of Sunday's Survivor Series event below.
NXT TakeOver: WarGames 2 recap, grades
Matt Riddle def. Kassius Ohno via pinfall: After Ohno interrupted Riddle's interview during the kickoff show, the former UFC welterweight opened TakeOver by entering the ring to cut a promo on him. Out came Ohno to tell Riddle, "You are too stupid to know you are not supposed to be out here right now and too stupid to know you're not ready for TakeOver." Ohno then asked for a referee to start an impromptu match. Riddle instantly landed a running knee for the disappointing squash win in a segment meant to introduce Riddle to new fans. Grade: D+
NXT Women's Championship -- Shayna Baszler (c) def. Kairi Sane in 2 of 3 falls to retain the title: One of WWE's most underrated feuds of 2018 turned in yet another memorable chapter. Sane attacked off the opening bell but was soon overcome from interference by Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir while the referee was distracted. Baszler instantly applied her rear-naked choke to force the tap in the first fall.
The second fall saw Sane pull even following a pair of huge spots that began with an insane counter spike DDT on the ring apron. Sane then hit an elbow off the top rope onto all three heels outside the ring before hitting her elbow finisher inside of it for the pin. The last fall saw mayhem break out as Dakota Kai ran in to brawl with Baszler's sidekicks. Out came Io Shirai to even the numbers, and she hit a picture-perfect moonyault off the top rope onto the floor (and early candidate for spot of the night). But after Sane followed with another elbow from the top rope, Baszler deftly countered into a rollup for the 1-2-3. Grade: B+
Aleister Black def. Johnny Gargano via pinfall: Come for the story and stay for the insanely stiff strikes. In a match that might as well have taken place in Japan due to its heavy use of "strong style" physicality, Black gained revenge against the increasingly deviant Gargano for a mysterious attack that became NXT's prevailing storyline over the past month. Gargano also closed out what has been nothing short of a spectacular 2018 with standout TakeOver matches against Andrade Almas, Tommaso Ciampa (three) and now Black.
Gargano found himself on the business end of so many stiff knees and kicks, including a striking standoff in the center of the ring that was nothing short of ill-advised. Even his late suicide dive attempt outside the ring was met with a knee to the face from Black that brought "Mama Mia" chants from the crowd. Gargano, who played mind games throughout, eventually begged Black to finish him before ducking Black Mass and getting two on a rollup attempt. Black then hit a spinning knee and removed his knee pad for a step-up version. The finish came off a pair of Black Miss kicks with Black holding Gargano's limp body up after the first one before uttering, "I want to absolve you of your sins." A chilling finish to a sensational match. Grade: A-
NXT Championship -- Tommaso Ciampa (c) def. Velveteen Dream via pinfall to retain the title: Dream's pursuit of NXT's most prestigious title may have come up short despite a series of tantalizingly close near falls, but the statement he continues to make regarding his longterm future was heard loud and clear. The 23-year-old phenom entered the ring dressed like Hollywood Hogan and hilariously mocked both the legendary heel's moves and mannerisms throughout the match. Dream wasn't simply all about shtick on this night, however, as he used his typically sensational aerial skills and in-ring swagger to complement Ciampa perfectly in what was an epic title match.
The high spots were too numerous and incredible to list, as were the false finishes that teased the idea that Dream was leaving with gold. In the end, Ciampa overcame a suplex over the top rope, Dream Valley Driver (both in and out of the ring), a DDT onto the title belt and a flying elbow to keep his reign alive. The final kick out of Dream's finishing move saw an anxious Dream then miss a second flying elbow onto the floor. When he crawled back onto the apron, Ciampa hit a DDT onto the steel partition connecting the two rings for the pin. From the psychology to the theatrics, this was par for the course on why NXT is so great. Grade: A
Pete Dunne, Ricochet & War Raiders def. The Undisputed Era via pinfall in WarGames: Heavy on dangerous spots and gritty effort from all eight participants, the return of a reimagined WarGames for the second straight year seemed to lack the character to make it all worth it. The 47-minute match dragged on for 15-20 minutes too long, and the feud which served as the centerpiece for it wasn't necessarily hot enough to necessitate it even happening. Still, Ricochet helped give WWE yet another highlight for the NXT legacy reel with an insane 630 splash off the top of the cage for the biggest moment of the match.
The 2018 version of WarGames saw a return to the original format of the old NWA and WCW match of the 1980s with each team alternating members until all eight had entered the double cage. The Undisputed Era, which gained the advantage due to a win on last week's NXT episode, seemed to have the match all but won after Bobby Fish used the lock from his shark cage on the stage to keep Pete Dunne inside his while the heel faction cleaned house in the ring. Eventually, a group of referees used bolt cutters to free Dunne and the NXT U.K. champion tossed a gluttony of weapons inside the ring to summon the start of the WarGames portion of the match where a single pinfall or submission would decide the outcome.
Fish speared Rowe of the War Raiders through a table set up between rings for a big spot, and Hanson later splashed Kyle O'Reilly through a different table from the top rope. All eight men later combined for a suplex/powerbomb that saw wrestlers thrown from the top rope as well as the top of the cage. Ahead of the finish, the crowd popped for a lengthy staredown from both teams which led to a hockey fight between the two rings. Adam Cole nearly won the match with a running knee on Dunne for two, but after Cole missed a second attempt, Dunne hit the Bitter End and Ricochet instantly followed with a splash from the top rope before both pinned Cole for the win. Grade: C
NXT TakeOver: WarGames 2 highlights
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