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NXT Takeover: Portland – New champions, new challengers, and a rivalry comes full circle

NXT Takeover: Portland – New champions, new challengers, and a rivalry comes full circle!

Welcome to the Pacific Northwest, as for the first time ever, NXT Takeover culminates from Portland, Oregon! We have an absolutely stacked card tonight, as all four championships are on the line. Without further adieu, let’s dive right into the action!

Keith Lee vs. Dominic Dijakovic – NXT North American Championship

Two of the most agile big men in NXT (or the world, for that matter) collided in what was a fantastic opener. Every time these two face off, they always pull off something innovative and spectacular for guys their size. Tonight, they lived up to that expectation.

Lee and Dijakovic started off with a show of strength, as the two behemoths ran the ropes and traded shoulder tackles, with neither man budging. Keith gets the upper hand after leap-frogging over a charging Dijakovic and dropping him with a hurricarana! Lee continues control until Dijakovic hits a cyclone kick to Keith’s jaw, causing him to roll out of the ring. Dijakovic goes for a Fosbury Flop, but Lee catches him in mid-air! Dijakovic works out of the hold, and plants Lee with a suplex on the ring apron.

Back into the ring, and the monsters are trading stiff blows and kicks. Dijakovic drops Lee with another cyclone kick, then goes to the top rope and flies off with a corkscrew moonsault! WOW! Amazing agility from a man that size! Lee gets back up to his feet and they continue taking hard shots at each other, until Lee takes Dijakovic out with a Pounce into the corner turnbuckle.

Outside of the ring, Lee takes Dijakovic out with the Grizzly Magnum chops, then sets him in one of the announcer’s chairs, and hits him with the chop again. Dijakovic gets up, hits Lee with a forearm strike, and plants Lee into the same chair with a superkick. Keith is staggered, and Dominic is climbing to the top rope. What in the world is Dijakovic doing? He comes flying off the top rope and lands a hellacious senton onto a seated Keith Lee! Mamma Mia!

Both guys make it back into the ring, Lee plants Dijakovic with a Spirit Bomb, but Dominic bounces right up and Keith has to hit him with a second Spirit Bomb for a 2.99 count! “Fight Forever” chants are thunderous in the arena as both guys are working to the top rope, when Dijakovic brings Lee down with an Avalanche Spanish Fly! Dijakovic tries to lift Lee up for the Feast Your Eyes, but his back gives out, and Lee hoists Dijakovic up for the Big Bang Catastrophe to pick up the win!

Winner and STILL NXT North American Champion – Keith Lee

Amazing showing from these guys as usual. There were a few spots we’ve seen before in this rivalry, such as the Avalanche Spanish Fly. But man, they brought the fight to another level in this one with the hard hitting forearms and kicks, and that Flying Senton from Dijakovic was absolutely NUTS! Great opening match! Tremendous show of respect from Keith Lee, as he helps Dominic Dijakovic to his feet and prompts him to stand in the corner and get his due respect.

Street Fight: Dakota Kai vs Tegan Nox

This blood feud starts off hot with Dakota Kai attacking Tegan Nox during Nox’s entrance, and the battle goes throughout the arena before finally making it into the ring for the match to officially begin. After that, this brawl goes crazy and the ladies battle their way back outside the ring and they go digging for plunder from underneath. Dakota even manages to find a cricket bat, which she swings directly at Tegan’s head! Thankfully she misses, and the bat shatters against the ring post.

Brutality and physicality ran amok throughout this match, with each woman trading shots from trash cans, steel chairs, lids, and even a laptop! Nox drops Kai with a German Suplex onto a trash can, which looked painful, as Kai is folded up like a lawn chair.

Outside the ring, Kai whips Nox into the corner post, then finds a roll of duct tape and fastens Tegan’s arm to the corner turnbuckle, and proceeds to land two running kicks to Nox’s face. Tegan grabs the laptop and smashes it into the surgically repaired knee of Kai to slow her down. Under the ring, Nox then finds a length of steel chain and chases Kai down in the ring before wrapping the chain around her own fist and bashing Kai’s knee with it. Nox then lays Kai out with the Shiniest Wizard, but doesn’t go for the pinfall. She’s not done with Kai yet.

Nox rolls out and grabs a table and brings it into the ring. Tegan lays Dakota out on the table and goes up to the top rope. Before Nox could leap down onto the prone Kai, Raquel Gonzalez runs down and attacks Nox, tossing her in the air with one arm and planting her on the table, which did not give. Nasty looking spot here, as Gonzalez didn’t get Nox dropped in the right spot, which caused Tegan to catch only the edge of the table before crashing into the mat. A bewildered Kai crawls over and pins Nox to take the win.

Winner – Dakota Kai

The victory for Dakota Kai makes sense, after Tegan Nox picked up the win in their TV match a couple of weeks ago. The addition of Raquel Gonzalez gives Kai a pseudo-bodyguard to be her muscle as this rivalry continues. Thankfully, Tegan was OK after that hellacious bump she took at the end of the match.

Finn Balor vs. Johnny Gargano

Finally, we get the match we’ve wanted since October. “The Heart of NXT” vs. “The Prinxe”. Lots of good chain wrestling to start the match, as Gargano continues to show why he is one of the best pure wrestlers on the planet. Action spills outside, where Gargano attempts to hit the shotgun dropkick on Balor, only for Finn to lay him out with a Slingblade.

Continued back and forth offense back in the ring, as neither man seems to get the upper hand over the other. Amazing sequence midway through the match as Balor blocks a DDT attempt from Gargano, but Johnny launches Finn into the corner turnbuckle with a Lawn Dart. Continuing to exchange kicks and reversals, Finn drops Gargano with a Pele Kick, which causes Gargano to fall on top of Balor for a two count.

Finn is inside the ring and Gargano is on the apron, with each man trading kicks and strikes before hitting simultaneous Enzuigiri kicks, laying each other out. These guys are so similar in their offense; it’s almost like looking into a mirror. Balor gets the upper hand, and attempts a double foot stomp on a prone Gargano, who is hanging over the middle rope. Gargano dodges the stomp, and plants Finn with the jumpover DDT for a close fall.

After breaking free from the Gargano Escape submission, Balor rolls out of the ring. Johnny gives chase, and Finn drops Gargano on the Spanish announce table, leaving him prone. Balor stands atop the English announce table, then charges at a standing Gargano and nails the shotgun dropkick, launching Gargano into the barricade! WOW! What a spot!

Balor rolls Gargano back into the ring, then climbs up top and hits a vicious Coup de Gras foot stomp, followed up by the 1916 DDT to score the win.

Winner – Finn Balor

This match was exactly what I expected from these two superb athletes. Lots of technical wrestling to start the match, then picking up the intensity as it progressed. Balor picking up the victory is the right call, as a loss for Gargano doesn’t affect his standing in NXT. The victory for Finn can allow him to move into the NXT Championship picture heading into Wrestlemania weekend in Tampa.

Rhea Ripley vs. Bianca Belair – NXT Women’s Championship

Going into the night, this match was probably the most predictable of the entire card. But that didn’t take away from what these women brought to the contest. Rhea started off with a very arrogant, almost cocky attitude about her, while Bianca was fired up, and out to show that Ripley shouldn’t overlook her.

Once the match settled in, however, Ripley’s confidence began to wane as Belair brought the fight and stood toe to toe with the champ. Trading hard forearm shots and chops, Bianca managed to pull Rhea off the top turnbuckle for a takedown. Belair attempted a standing suplex on Ripley, but had trouble lifting Rhea up and nearly dropped her on her head. It’s clear that Bianca is used to competing against smaller opponents, and being able to lift them with ease. That wasn’t the case here.

Belair drops Ripley with a stiff spinebuster, then sets Rhea up on the top turnbuckle again. Ripley counters with a hard open-handed slap across Belair’s face, and the women start trading slaps before Bianca uses the patented hair whip across the midsection of Rhea. Bianca then hoists Rhea up with an overhead press and drops her face first into the mat. THAT’S the strength we’ve come to expect from the E-S-T!

Both women trade finisher attempts, before Ripley downs Belair with dropkick. Bianca rolls through the contact, and levels Rhea with a spear. More punches and kicks are exchanged, then Ripley charges at Belair, who tosses Ripley over the top rope with a back body drop. Ripley nearly lands on her feet, which was nearly a mistake, as her feet slipped from underneath her. That easily could have been a twisted ankle, or worse. Belair follows up with a somersault dive over the top rope, downing Ripley.

Back inside the ring, Ripley sends Belair into the corner, where they battle for a suplex from the top rope. Ripley gains wrist control, hooks in the pumphandle, and drops Belair with a spinning Riptide to score the victory and retain her title.

Winner and STILL NXT Women’s Champion – Rhea Ripley

Immediately after the match, Charlotte Flair attacks Ripley from behind and lays her out with a forearm shot to the back of the head. Flair grabs a microphone and says, “I’ve thought about it, and I’ll see you at Wrestlemania.” Flair then hits the Natural Selection on a prone Ripley, poses with the NXT Women’s Championship, and leaves the ring. Charlotte isn’t done though, as she grabs Belair and throws her into the steel steps before she leaves.

The response from Charlotte came a little earlier than I expected, but it makes perfect sense for her to do it now, after being goaded by Ripley for the past few weeks. After the attack on Belair, I can see Charlotte coming to Full Sail a few times between now and Wrestlemania, including a match with Bianca on the way. Charlotte working as a heel is much better suited for her, as well.

BROserweights vs. Undisputed Era – NXT Tag Team Championship

In what many of us considered the “Match of the Night”, Pete Dunne and Matt Riddle faced off against Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish in a hard-hitting, physical match-up for Tag Team supremacy. Coming off their victory in the Dusty Classic, Dunne and Riddle are undefeated as a team, while O’Reilly and Fish attempt to keep the cracks in Undisputed Era from widening.

Physicality outside of the ring broke out as Matt Riddle led the Portland crowd in the question that has become a popular t-shirt: How much fish could Bobby Fish fry if Bobby Fish could fry fish? The UE boys heard enough and attacked the BROserweights at the entryway and the two teams brawled outside before finally getting the action into the ring.

Riddle and Fish exchanged mat wrestling techniques before Matt hit a series of suplexes on Bobby. Dunne tags in and drops O’Reilly with a suplex onto Fish. After UE take control of the match, they isolate Dunne in their corner, before Pete ducks a kick attempt from O’Reilly, who mistakenly plants his foot in his partner’s face. Riddle makes the hot tag, and comes in with his patented flurry of kicks, exploder suplexes, and Broton splashes.

From here, the action never stops, as each team trades momentum.  O’Reilly has Dunne locked in the Sharpshooter, and as Riddle attempts to break up the submission, Fish tackles him and mounts his back. Riddle powers through, hits a knee strike on O’Reilly, then drops to the mat, planting Fish. All four men are laid out as the “NXT” chants thunder throughout the arena.

Fish drops Riddle with a Superplex, which allows O’Reilly to lock in the kneebar submission. Dunne attempts to get in to break up the submission, but Fish traps him in the corner. Pete splits Bobby’s fingers, then stomps Kyle’s fingers to allow Matt to break free. Dunne goes to snap O’Reilly’s fingers, and Riddle tries to spear Fish, but accidentally hits Dunne!

O’Reilly and Fish hit the Chasing The Dragon double-team on Dunne for a two count, then Riddle tags back in. Matt hits the rising knee strike on Bobby, then hoists him up for the Bro To Sleep/Enzuigiri combination, leading to Riddle pinning Fish for the victory.

Winners and NEW NXT Tag Team Champions – The BROserweights

What. A. Match. So much action back and forth, I had a hard time catching my breath. This match could have gone either way, but if the story of the Undisputed Era’s prophecy crumbling is true, then it makes sense for O’Reilly and Fish to lose the titles here.

As for Riddle and Dunne, they’ve been so fun to watch ever since being paired together going into the Dusty Classic Tournament. For a rag-tag team that was thrown together solely for that purpose, they have meshed extremely well, and their in-ring chemistry is top notch. Plus, they’re hilarious together outside of the ring! Congrats to the new champs!

Adam Cole vs. Tommaso Ciampa – NXT Championship

Daddy’s home, and he wants Goldie! A very focused and intense Ciampa comes into this match to reclaim his “life”, while Cole attempts to hold onto the only gold that Undisputed Era still hold.

This match tells a fantastic story, beginning with Ciampa being in control for the opening minutes. Keeping Cole grounded, Ciampa slaps him across the face to assert his dominance. Cole manages to get out of the ring and down Ciampa with a knee strike. This infuriates Ciampa, who then sends Cole into the steel steps, then the ring post, and finally into the barricade. Tommaso follows with his patented clap and pat on the back, which shows Ciampa is in firm control.

Cole gains control by dropping Ciampa with a wheelbarrow drop across the announcer’s table. It’s a scary spot to see on a guy who had serious neck surgery last year. Thankfully, Ciampa is OK, but Cole takes charge in the match. Back inside the ring, Cole drops Ciampa with a neckbreaker, followed by a superkick and a backstabber, again targeting the surgically repaired neck.

The third act of the match sees the pace quicken drastically. Ciampa drops Cole with an Avalanche Air Raid Crash, but Cole rolls out of the ring. Cole attempts a powerbomb, but Ciampa reverses it and drops Cole with a powerbomb of his own on the Spanish announce table. Stiff landing for Cole, as the table didn’t break. Ciampa goes for it again, and explodes the table with Cole’s body after a second powerbomb.

More action outside of the ring after some exchanges inside, as Cole hits the Panama Sunrise on Ciampa on the outside. Brutal spot! Willow’s Bell DDT from Ciampa, followed up by Fairytale Ending, but Cole kicks out. Ciampa locks in the Crossface submission, but Cole manages to get to the ropes to force the break. Roderick Strong is out to distract the referee, allowing O’Reilly and Fish to attack Ciampa. They toss Ciampa back into the ring, but Tommaso kicks out of a pinfall attempt from Cole. Ciampa tosses Cole over the top rope onto O’Reilly and Fish, drops Strong with the draping DDT, then goes flying over the top, taking out the rest of UE.

Back in the ring, Cole hits the Last Shot on Ciampa, but only gets a two count. O’Reilly tosses the title into the ring, but Ciampa kicks it from Cole’s hands. Ciampa gets shoved into the referee, who falls out of the ring, allowing Cole to low-blow Ciampa. Cole goes to the top rope, but is met with a kick to the groin by Ciampa, who hits another Fairytale Ending, but there’s no ref to count the pin.

Johnny Gargano shows up at ringside to support his DIY partner. Ciampa sees Gargano, then eyes the title belt. As Ciampa reaches for the belt, Gargano grabs it, pulls it away, and hits Ciampa across the head with the title! What are you doing, Johnny?!? Ciampa falls, allowing Cole to crawl over and get the pinfall as the referee gets back into the ring.

Winner and STILL NXT Champion – Adam Cole

Afterwards, Undisputed Era pose in the middle of the ring as Johnny Gargano is shown walking up the entryway. Totally unexpected sequence of events to end the match. I’ve begged to see Ciampa vs. Gargano again, since we were robbed of that match last year. Now it seems we will have it, with Gargano playing the dastardly heel this time around. Fantastic way to close out what was an amazing card, top to bottom!

Final Thoughts

Looking over this card going into tonight, there was no doubt in my mind that this had the potential to be the best Takeover in history. Every single match delivered 100%. Some of the outcomes had me scratching my head at first, but in hindsight, they make sense. They told amazing stories in the ring, and set up even more stories to be told going into Takeover: Tampa.

Is the Undisputed Era’s time in NXT coming to a close? What happens with Tegan Nox and Dakota Kai now that Kai has some back-up? Why did Johnny turn his back on his closest friend? Who’s next in line for the NXT Championship? It’s pedal to the metal on The Road to Wrestlemania!

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