As Michael Cole is always quick to remind us, Survivor Series is the one night a year when Smackdown Live and Monday Night Raw go head-to-head in a battle for brand supremacy. But up until now, WWE‘s third brand, the black and yellow one, has been kept out of the competition. That all changes this year though as for the first time, it’s NXT vs WWE at Survivor Series!!
…Well, sorta. It’s WWE vs NXT at TakeOver: War Games II!!
….Still not quite accurate. Let’s try this one more time.
It’s WWE vs NXT, on the Saturday of TakeOver War Games II, in a heated battle of League of Legends!
As much as fans have been clamoring over the thought of NXT sending a team to compete in both the men and women’s traditional Survivor Series matches or championship showcases (imagine AJ Styles vs Brock Lesnar vs Tommaso Ciampa OR Seth Rollins vs Shinsuke Nakamura vs Ricochet), this will be, at least for this year, as close as we’ll get to red/blue vs black and yellow warfare. And much like the interpromotional dream match of New Day vs The Elite that was made possible through Street Fighter, NXT and WWE will battle over a video game, the immensely popular League of Legends.
League of Legends, just LOL or League for short, is an online multiplayer battle arena game that allows players to choose from a variety of champions with unique abilities to compete against an opposing team or team of computer-controlled champions. The main goal of the game is to destroy the opposing team’s nexus, which is protected by defensive structures. Through the course of the game, players increase the strength and abilities of their champions by accumulating items and experience which is done through various methods.
LOL was created in 2009 and has steadily gained popularity ever since. By 2012, it was the most played PC game in all of North America and Europe and as of today, it consistently ranks first on both Youtube and Twitch in terms of hours watched of people playing the game. In 2016, the company estimated that over 100 million active players were engaging in the game on a monthly basis. League of Legends is also one of the largest eSports, having awarded almost $30M in prize money across 1,718 tournaments since 2016.
No prize money will be on the line this time, just bragging rights as two legends and heated rivals of the game lead their respective teams into battle.
It all started in late October when Austin Creed (WWE’s Xavier Woods), announced that UpUpDownDown would host the reignited rivalry of top LOL gamers, Tyler “Tyler1” Steinkamp and Michael “imaqtpie” Santana. A few days prior to Creed’s video, an angle was shot at an NXT TV taping that showed Tyler1 and imaqtpie leading their respective teams into battle. That footage was used for the second UpUpDownDown video in which Creed introduced the two captains and their teams.
Playing for Captain Tyler1 and representing NXT would be Adam Cole (Draven), Dakota Kai (Miss Fortune), Shayna Baszler (Illaoi) and Johnny Gargano (Poppy). Playing for Captain imaqtpie and representing WWE would be Cesaro (Sion), Tyler Breeze (Ezreal), Ruby Riott (Vi) and Seth Rollins (Teemo). Each player chose from one of 141 champions in LOL representing seven distinct classes: controller, fighter, mage, marksman, slayer, tank and specialist. These champions all have assigned roles, for example, Gargano on Poppy, Cesaro on Sion and Baszler on Illaoi, are playing as fighters/tanks whereas Rollins on Teemo, Breeze on Ezreal, Cole on Draven and Kai on Miss Fortune are playing as marksmen (the ad carry). Riott on Vi is the lone member of either team playing as an assassin.
To prepare their teams for the big showdown, the two captains ran them through League of Legends boot camps which included game strategy, practice sessions against bots and then real players.
Looking to redeem himself from previous losses to imaqtpie, Tyler1 said his team has a lot to prove as does the NXT roster as they look to defeat their main roster counterparts. He fell short of calling his team underdogs, but that was certainly the underlying message. The wrestlers started off taking bots, which proved to be a relatively simple task but when it came time for Team NXT to take on real players, there were definitely some struggles. But practice makes perfect, or in this case, at least makes better as the four were able to play cohesively and score the victory. By the end of the training session, Tyler1 felt pretty confident about his team’s chances saying “WWE doesn’t stand a chance.”
Next up was imaqtpie’s training session with Team WWE, where the five established their mission early: crush Tyler1 and crush NXT. imaqtpie took his team through the map based on their champions and where each would play. And not to put the pressure on his superstars, but imaqtpie said the build of Rollins on Teemo and Cesaro on Sion was practically a “guaranteed win.”
Seemingly the most experienced LOL player of the bunch, Cesaro’s research on his chosen champion paid off as he was the last man standing to help lead his team to victory. According to imaqtpie, Rollins played Teemo really well too as he executed his job of “running it down” in his lane. With a little more experience under their belt and better communication skills, the WWE foursome alongside imaqtpie, took on the real players but unlike their NXT counterparts, weren’t quite able to get it done.
One training session wasn’t going to be enough though and to keep his team in the game, Tyler1 hosted Gargano and Cole on his live stream. But unbeknownst to everyone else involved, Cesaro had gotten into the same game and won, only later to realize he had inadvertently ruined the NXT live stream. Cesaro apologized and then said he hoped they didn’t do the same to him when imaqtpie hosted Team WWE on his own live stream on Tuesday.
To continue to build hype for the matchup, WWE did what it does best by sticking the eight superstars and their respective coaches in the ring together for a contract signing-esque promo. Serenaded with chants of “Welcome Back,” it was Rollins who threw the proverbial first punch, stating, “the one big difference between Team NXT and Team WWE is that we moved on to bigger and better things while you guys are stuck down here. Pro tip boneheads, you all are in over your heads.” For the first time in a long time, Rollins found himself getting booed in an NXT ring.
It was Cole who took the mic next to remind Rollins and his teammates of what the fans there already knew and that was that “NXT is way better than the WWE.” If the “Yes!” chants from the crowd were any indication, Cole had it 100 percent correct.
The two teams continued to go back and forth much as WWE has done in the past with Survivor Series in-ring showdowns, most notably in 2016 when the two teams met, talked some trash, and then beat each other up. But this time, the two sides only teased a physical confrontation, opting to save the real battle for the League of Legends showdown.
While the competition itself has already been completed (it took place at those same NXT tapings), WWE will officially air all of the League of Legends action on the WWE Network at 10 AM ET on Saturday morning. So make sure to tune in to see if it’s Team WWE or Team NXT that walks away with the ultimate bragging rights.