Show Reviews

NXT TakeOver: Portland Review

Shalene Hixon reviews NXT TakeOver: Portland.

The dust has settled from NXT TakeOver: Portland, and boy was it an emotional roller coaster.

With it being held on a Sunday instead of the usual Saturday, there was no main roster pay-per-view looming over NXT’s head. Instead, the black-and-yellow brand was able to shine on its own and put on another excellent show that we’ve all grown accustomed to.

Scores were settled, titles changed hands, and rivalries were renewed within the confines of the Moda Center. With all the craziness that happened, let’s not waste any more time and get right into my review of NXT TakeOver: Portland!

NXT North American Championship: Keith Lee (c.) def. Dominik Dijakovic

Kicking things off Sunday night was a battle of the big men, as Keith Lee defended his North American Championship against a familiar foe in Dominik Dijakovic.

The challenger had the advantage early on, but Lee made sure he never took full control. The two went back and forth, spending some time fighting outside the ring before things really started to pick up.

Each man pulled out all of the stops, including an insane Spanish Fly by Dijakovic from the top rope, but just couldn’t put the other away. Dijakovic tried to hit Feast Your Eyes twice until his back completely gave out. Lee capitalized by hitting Big Bang Catastrophe to retain the title.

Afterwards, he helped his rival to his feet and the two embraced while the crowd gave them a standing ovation.

Now that is how you kick off a show! If you didn’t know any better, you would have thought that was a cruiserweight match with all of the crazy moves both men used throughout. It was easily their best match to date and an absolutely fantastic way to start the night. Hopefully, this won’t be the last time we see these two throw down.

Grade: A+

Street Fight: Dakota Kai def. Tegan Nox

Then came the highly-combustible rivalry between two former friends.

Kai wasted little time getting things going, attacking Nox during her entrance. The two took the long way to the ring and the match was officially on. All hell broke loose shortly after, as each took turns punishing the other. We saw a variety of weapons, like a cricket bat, trash cans, duct tape, and of course, a table.

Nox went after Kai’s knee, starting by smashing it with a laptop from the announcer’s area. She continued the assault by wailing on it with a large steel chain, putting it in a steel chair and stomping on it, then hitting Kai with the Shiniest Wizard.

That could have been the end right there, but Nox wasn’t finished with her ex-best friend. She set up a table in the ring, put Kai on it, and then wrapped another chair around her neck. Before she could seal the deal, Raquel—formerly known as Reina—Gonzalez appeared and threw her on the table in a horrific-looking spot.

Captain Kota took full advantage and pinned Nox to pick up the win. Gonzalez then raised her arm, much to her confusion.

This was such a great match; there were several brutal moments that you want in a street fight and you could just feel the emotion, especially from Nox. They showed that while she’s known for being a happy-go-lucky good guy, she can reach deep inside and bring a ruthlessness that makes her a threat.

I was ready to give this one an easy A-, but then the ending happened. It wasn’t the fact that there was interference, it was WHO interfered that was the problem. Gonzalez is someone most fans have never heard of before, and it was obvious that the crowd was just as confused as Kai was after the match ended.

Hell, there were even a bunch of people on Twitter who thought it was Sonya Deville on the ring apron at first.

There was a time and place to introduce Gonzalez, but this wasn’t it. It took away from an otherwise great match. The only positive outcome of this is that it hopefully extends the feud between Nox and Kai, because I’d love to see them have another match or two.

Grade: B-

Finn Balor def. Johnny Gargano

Up next was the highly anticipated match between Finn Balor and Johnny Gargano.

Things started off a little slow, but picked up once Gargano speared Balor off the ring apron. They each took turns dishing out and taking their fair share of punishment. Johnny Wrestling was able to avoid the Coup de Grace twice and locked in the Gargano Escape, which Balor was able to get out of.

He couldn’t hit the 1917 and once again found himself in the Gargano Escape, but was able to reach the ropes to break the hold. The two fought for a little on the outside of the ring before Balor hit the Coup de Grace and a 1917 to pick up the victory.

Once the match was over, he did some trash talking to his fallen opponent to rub more salt into the wound.

Overall, it was a pretty good match that you would expect between these two competitors. Gargano is to NXT now what Balor was to the brand several years ago. Him losing won’t hurt him in the slightest, while The Prince’s win solidified him as a legitimate threat to anyone in the locker room.

Grade: A-

NXT Women’s Championship: Rhea Ripley (c.) def. Bianca Belair

A fight for the top prize in the NXT women’s division was up next, with Rhea Ripley defending her title against a game Bianca Belair.

Each woman showed off her strength and athleticism early on, until things broke down into an all-out slap fight. Belair ended that by using her signature braid to tattoo Ripley right across her torso. She then took control after hitting the champion with a spear, sending her flying over the top rope to the floor below, and nailing her with a tope con hero.

Ripley regained momentum and attempted to hit her challenger with a sunset powerbomb off the top rope. Belair thwarted the danger momentarily, until she got caught and was hit with the Rip Tide. The Nightmare pinned her and retained the NXT Women’s Championship.

But her victory was short-lived, as Charlotte Flair rushed the ring and blindsided her. The Queen grabbed a mic and accepted Ripley’s challenge for a title match at WrestleMania 36. Then, as she was making her way out of the ring, she grabbed Belair and threw her into the steel steps for good measure.

It was a great match that made both women look extremely good. I just wish it was a little bit longer; that would have really put it over the top in my opinion.

Now we finally have Flair’s answer, but her attacking Belair gives me a bad feeling that this might turn into another triple threat. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if anything comes of that in the next several weeks.

Grade: A-

NXT Tag Team Championships: The BroserWeights (Matt Riddle & Pete Dunne) def. The Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish) (c.)

The Undisputed Era’s reign of terror over the NXT tag team division came to an end at the hands of the BroserWeights.

O’Reilly & Fish had control early on, until one inadvertent move swung the momentum completely in Riddle & Dunne’s favor. The unlikely duo had the champs’ number almost the entire duration of the match, having an answer for any offense thrown at them.

But The UE targeted Riddle’s knee, with O’Reilly ready to put things away by locking him in a knee bar. However, Dunne was able to make the save and keep their championship hopes alive. They were finally able to hit Fish with a heel kick/Bro to Sleep combo to capture the titles.

It was a solid tag team match from start to finish. I was honestly surprised to see O’Reilly & Fish lose the titles here but then again I shouldn’t be, considering how popular Riddle & Dunne are as a team. It’ll be interesting to see where the tag team division as a whole goes from here, especially with TakeOver: Tampa Bay right around the corner.

Grade: A-

NXT Championship: Adam Cole (c.) def. Tommaso Ciampa

Finally, we got to see Ciampa’s quest to get Goldie back come to an end at the hands of an unlikely source.

From the get-go, it was apparent that the former champion was on a mission; he took it to Cole for a good portion of the match and rarely let up. The champion wouldn’t go down without a fight, however, and gave it to Ciampa as much as he took it. Perhaps the best example of this was him sending the challenger back and neck first onto the announce table, which was without a doubt the scariest moment of the night.

Cole wasted little time working on Ciampa’s neck, but no matter what he did, he just couldn’t put The Blackheart down for the three count. The two shared countless near falls until they both fell out of the ring. Roderick Strong then made his way onto the ring apron and distracted the referee while Fish & O’Reilly hit Ciampa with a High Low.

But even that, plus three superkicks and a Last Shot, wouldn’t stop him. Cole had no answer and it looked like this was finally going to be Ciampa’s moment.

Until it wasn’t.

The referee was inadvertently knocked out of the ring and everything went out the window. Cole hit Ciampa with a low blow, but was on the receiving end of one after attempting to hit the Panama Sunrise. Ciampa hit the Fairytale Ending, but there was no one to administer the three count.

As he was reaching for the NXT Championship, Gargano showed up at ringside and took the belt out of his hands. He then blasted his former friend with the belt as the referee was crawling back into the ring. Cole fell on top of Ciampa for the pin and narrowly escaped Portland with the title.

This one was definitely a wild ride from start to finish. There were so many instances where it looked like Ciampa was walking out with the title, with each near fall adding to the suspense. The Gargano turn was definitely unexpected, and who knows if this sets up a triple threat match in Tampa Bay.

If it reignites the Gargano & Ciampa rivalry, I wouldn’t really know how to feel about that just yet. But one thing’s for certain right now, Cole is still your NXT Champion.

Grade: A

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