Minutes to Bell Time

I Was There: NXT TakeOver War Games 2019

NXT TakeOver WarGames 2019

Chapter 9

I Was There – NXT TakeOver War Games 2019

Event: NXT TakeOver War Games 2019 – I Was There

Location: Allstate Arena

Date: November, 23, 2019

Headline: The Undisputed Era vs. Tommaso Ciampa, Keith Lee, Dominic Dijakovic, and a Mysterio Partner (Kevin Owens)

Miles from Home:  734 Miles

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Plans Change

During AEW’s Revolution Pay Per View back on February 29th, the company announced that this week’s Dynamite would feature the debut of a new type of match called Blood and Guts. While the name “Blood and Guts” is new, the match concept has a history dating back to 1987. Indeed, if the WWE didn’t get the intellectual property of WCW with their 2001 purchase, then Blood and Guts would simply be known as War Games.


Since COVID-19 has resulted in a global pandemic, AEW has moved this week’s Dynamite from New Jersey to an empty arena in Jacksonville, FL. Sometime in the last week, AEW also decided to cancel the debut of Blood and Guts. The AEW twitter released a message on behalf of Tony Khan:

Our goal every week with AEW Dynamite on TNT is to produce great shows for our fans, and I believe we do. We felt especially motivated to serve our audience this past Wednesday night given what the entire world is coping with, and hopefully we gave them a well-deserved escape during these trying times. Everyone at AEW is very proud of what we delivered and humbled by the response and the kind words we’ve received from fans and partners throughout the world. Thank you! We plan to continue answering that calling with live weekly shows every Wednesday night on TNT, but the time and circumstances aren’t right for the card we had planned next week for Blood and Guts. That show will happen when the time is right.

Since all of the world’s pro wrestling is getting canceled, I haven’t attended a live show recently to feature in the column. Based on the Pro Wrestling world’s anticipation for Blood and Guts, I decided to dust off a relateable live show experience from 2019 when I traveled to Chicago for Survivor Series Weekend. Over that weekend, I saw the 34th and 35th edition of War Games!

The War Games Tradition


Before we look to the present, I think its always good to spend a couple of moments on the past. Just long enough so we can understand how we got here. The “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes is credited with the invention of the War Games concept with the first War Games match occurring on July 4, 1987 at the Omni in Atlanta, GA. Finding a good replay of that match isn’t easy, but I found one on Daily Motion if you’re interested in watching it. Otherwise, most of the (non-house show) War Games matches are included in the DVD set pictured above that WWE released in 2013.

WCW used War Games consistently from 1987 through 2000. According to wikipedia, there were 11 War Games matches in 1988, but WCW did skip some years (1990 and 1999). Sadly, after the purchase of WCW, WWE left War Games dormant for close to two decades.

WWE brought it back in 2017, updated the rules, and has made it part of NXT TakeOver during Survivor Series Weekend. The rules were updated for a modern audience by removing the top of the cage and making it a 4 on 4 match. Since the resurrection in 2017, War Games have been some of the best WWE matches each year. The four matches so far have earned a minimum of 4 and a quarter stars from Dave Meltzer. Of course War Games has always been a top performing match. The second match in 1987 earned 5 stars and so did the WCW WrestleWar matches in 1991 and 1992.

NXT TakeOver War Games 2019 – I Was There

Authors Note: WWE refers to War Games as a single word, “WarGames.” I started this post writing War Games as a single word, and I just hated myself for it. Its written that way in a lot of places on-line too. I checked at least one reliable news site and saw that they referred to it as War Games. I looked through their archives and noticed that they always have spelled it that way (dating back to 1987). I’m with them. 

TakeOvers in General

In a time of 4 and 5 hour wrestling shows with over 10 matches that don’t mean anything, the NXT TakeOver concept is a true blessing in the industry. The events typically have four matches (sometimes 5) and the whole show runs about 2.5 hours. In most cases, the four matches are of high quality and you don’t experience any fatigue whether watching at home or live. The same can’t be said with some of the main roster shows.

War Games 2019

Each of the two War Games matches went long (in a good way). This card featured the first ever women’s War Games match and helped catapult Rhea Ripley to superstar status. Aside from the betrayal angle between Dakota Kai and Tegan Nox, the highlight of the match was watching Io Shirai climb to the top of the cage and moonsault onto Candice LeRae. I took a picture of Io standing on the cage, and I included it below. Just imagine her backflipping off. It was amazing. I want more Io Shirai in my life.

The second War Games was the main event and featured the Undisputed Era vs. Tommaso Ciampa, Dominik Dijakovic, Keith Lee and Kevin Owens as the mystery partner. The image of Tommaso Ciampa hitting Adam Cole with the air raid crash from the top of the cage through a table has left an imprint on my brain. If you were watching at home, the camera panned to Britt Baker with both hands on her cheeks in the crowd. Mauro Ranallo of course named her and referred to her as Adam Cole’s girlfriend. Considering Britt Baker is an AEW contracted wrestler, it sort of lit the wrestling world on fire and caused a bunch of joking for the next several weeks. I remember a Dynamite where the crowd panned to Hikaru Shida in the crowd after a high spot. Shida held both hands to her cheeks in the same way Britt did at TakeOver. We definitely had fun with it.

I guess the ultimate question is, would I go back for another War Games? Another TakeOver? I wouldn’t hesitate. TakeOvers are typically better than the WWE show that follows on Sunday. If you’re a fan of great wrestling, put TakeOver on your bucket list.

NXT TakeOver War Games Results:

  • Pre Show: Angel Garza defeats Isaiah Swerve Scott by pinfall in 7:36 after hitting him with the Wing Clipper.
  • Women’s War Games Match: Rhea Ripley, Candice LeRae, Dakota Kai, and Tegan Nox defeat Shayna Baszler, Bianca Belair, Kay Lee Ray, and Io Shirai by pinfall. Rhea Ripley used her signature move, Riptide, to put Shayna Baszler  through a chair to score the win.
  • Triple Threat Match to determine who faces Adam Cole at Survivor Series: Pete Dunn defeats Damien Priest and Killian Dain.
  • Matt Riddle vs. Finn Balor: Finn Balor defeats Matt Riddle
  • Men’s War Games Match: Tommaso Ciampa, Dominik Dijakovic, Keith Lee, and Kevin Owens defeat The Undisputed Era.

Recommendations and Tips


WWE does not sell the same merchandise during TakeOver as they do during their other shows. If you want the event specific merchandise, then you need to go to the merchandise stands each day. It also continues to hold true that unless you want instant gratification, you should buy most merchandise on WWE.com versus the merchandise stand with the event specific merchandise being the exception. We ended up with three event shirts that weekend with two of them coming from the War Games event. In addition to “I Was There,” NXT also has F.T.M.F. on the back of their shirts. I’m sure they’re going for “Follow that My Friend,” but you can decided if M.F.  stands for something else.



If traveling from out of town to an event at the Sears Center, do fly into O’hare as opposed to Midway airport. The arena is basically across the street from O’hare, so it is super handy. For a couple of reasons, I also really recommend staying at the Residence Inn. We were here for the full four day Survivor Series experience, so having a hotel with a full size refridgerator made a difference. It also provided us with a lot of living space so my wife and I could work during the day on Friday and Monday without bothering each other. The other great thing about this hotel is the fact that you can easily walk to the arena in 5 minutes. You will walk by all of WWE’s trucks and what appears to be personal buses for the established talent.

Since the hotel has a complimentary breakfast, we went down the first morning to get some food. In the middle of picking out some fruit, Walter walked up next to my wife. We had already seen him across the room, and she made a comment about him not being as big as she thought. When she got back to the table, she quickly corrected herself. She also had a brief conversation with Keith Lee and Mia Yim. As for me, I saw Shayna Baszler and quickly walked in the opposite direction. In real life, she looks just as much the badass you see on TV. In any event, we tried to be respectful and not bother the wrestlers that we saw at the hotel. Of course they had to stay somewhere.

Pro Wrestling Tees

We don’t go to Chicago without dropping in for a visit at Pro Wrestling Tees. Let’s be honest though, its way more than a visit. This is where I blow my “uniform” budget for the year (see picture below). If your fandom extends to New Japan or AEW, Pro Wrestling Tees has a good selection of merchandise available in the store and a whole lot more on-line including the Minutes to Bell Time logo T-shirt (available here). WWE does not do business with Pro Wrestling Tees, but you can easily get your hands on legends merchandise including Bret Hart and Steve Austin. You can’t walk to the shop from the Allstate Arena area, so I recommend driving (Address: 2344 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60647). It can take 20 minutes or an hour depending on traffic, so consider that when you head to the shop.


Getting pizza before the show is easy as long as you like Chicago Style. My hands down favorite Chicago Deep Dish is Lou Malnati’s, and I’ve done extensive research. If you’re in the mood for a different brand, Giordano’s is another well established chain in Chicago. The people most likely to favor Giordano’s are the cheese people. In my time, I have found that different people favor different parts of the pizza. Some people look for an outstanding crust and others seek a brilliant sauce, but there is a large contingent that just wants the cheese. While I might consider them an offshoot, Giordano’s doesn’t even call themselves deep dish. On their website, they say “stuffed:”

The recipe for Giordano’s now-famous stuffed pizza is one that has evolved over 200 years. Its creation began in a small northern Italian town near Torino, Italy. Mama Giordano was famous around town for her exquisite cooking. Of all her renowned dishes, her most beloved meal was her “Italian Easter Pie”. Mama Giordano would serve this double- crusted, cheese stuffed masterpiece on special occasions. This pizza pie became a sacred tradition in the Giordano family and a legend in the town of Torino. Years later, Italian immigrants Efren and Joseph Boglio moved to Chicago to start their own pizza business. The brothers introduced their Mama’s recipe for stuffed pizza. In 1974, on Chicago’s historic south side, Efren and Joseph opened the first Giordano’s in the world.

Eating a slice of Giordano’s is an experience you really must have to appreciate. Like all pizza, I love it, but you’ll have to judge for yourself.

Venue for NXT TakeOver War Games 2019 – Allstate Arena

As mentioned, the coolest thing about the Allstate Arena is the location, and this awesome mural that you need to seek out. It shares a parking lot with the Residence Inn, a bunch of restaurants, and even a Target. If you get an opportunity to go one a four day excursion (Smackdown, TakeOver, PPV, and Raw), this place is easy. A couple of tips though:

Multiple Merchandise Locations

We found multiple merchandise locations, but after experimentation decided that the stand next to 110 seemed to work faster. There is also a bunch of food vendors nearby, so one person in your party could hit the merchandise line while the other grabs a soda. If you’re not feeling beer or soda, you can get an Iced Tea or Coffee from the Dunkin Donuts nearby the merchandise stand.

Careful with Your Seat Selection

Here’s something else, we went to four different shows. We don’t know why, but our seats for Survivor Series were physically smaller than our seats for the other shows. We sat in 111 for War Games and those seats were very good. The seats for Raw and Smackdown in 110 were also good. Those Survivor Series seats were in section 112, so avoid those if you can.

View From My Seat for NXT TakeOver War Games 2019

See the photo below.

NXT TakeOver War Games 2019: My Instagram Posts

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NXT TakeOver War Games 2019 Graphics

NXT TakeOver War Games 2019NXT TakeOver War Games 2019 NXT TakeOver War Games 2019  NXT TakeOver War Games 2019

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