NXT TakeOver: Portland, had a card containing four highly anticipated championship matches. The BroserWeights sought to dethrone The Undisputed ERA, Bianca Belair challenged NXT Women’s Champion Rhea Ripley, Keith Lee battled Dominik Dijakovic for the North American title and Tommaso Ciampa looked to reclaim “his life” (the NXT Championship) from Adam Cole. That’s not to forget Poppy’s musical performance, a Street Fight and Finn Balor vs. Johnny Gargano!
It was a big night with a lot of things that went down; so here are my top 5 favorite moments of the show.
5. A Nearly Perfect Street Fight
At tonight’s highly-anticipated TakeOver, Tegan Nox and Dakota Kai engaged in a beautiful and vicious war. The two former best friends turned bitter rivals beat the holy hell out of each other. The Girl With The Shiniest Shining Wizard showcased a darker and more relentless side to Kai after all of the betrayals.
Both superstars delivered a great match, only tarnished by the shocking debut of Raquel Gonzalez. Of course, it made complete sense for Kai to gain the tainted victory but I would have preferred to see a conclusive finish to the match.
4. A Colossal Masterpiece
Nearly a year since Keith Lee and Dominik Dijakovic faced each other one-on-one on NXT; I had been counting down the days until these two warriors would do battle over the North American Championship. Lee and Dijakovic have battled in some of the most awe-inspiring and downright insane contests that defy the levels of gravity; this one was no different.
I couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing, from the flips to the insane maneuvers, to the breathtaking near-falls. This match was absolutely incredible and the NXT Universe was red-hot which made it feel even more special. I’ve said this a million times but I swear these two powerhouses are incapable of having a bad match.
The question now, is who is next to step up for the North American Championship? The field is wide open for new challengers and I’m excited to find out who that will be.
3. A WrestleMania Triple Threat?
Bianca Belair and Rhea Ripley put on one hell of a women’s NXT Championship match. Both competitors risked it all to walk out of Portland with the prestigious gold. The EST of NXT delivered a breakout performance tonight and the small attack from Charlotte Flair was proof of that. Why else would Flair take her out at ringside after the match?
Ripley was always going to retain there’s no question about that, Flair was going to accept her challenge but possibly adding Belair into the mix was a little shocking. Nothing is certain; and perhaps this was just a way for Flair to add more heel heat. It certainly does appear that the NXT Women’s Championship could become a triple-threat-match.
2. The Ultimate Betrayal Costs Goldie
Heading into this weekend’s TakeOver event, one of the most highly-anticipated matches was Tommaso Ciampa challenging Adam Cole for the NXT Championship. This time last year, Ciampa was forced to relinquish “his life” due to unfortunate serious neck surgery. Spending time on the sideline allowed his DIY partner, Johnny Gargano, to win the title.
Everyone clearly remembers the special moment at TakeOver: New York where Gargano, Ciampa, and Candice LeRae were hand-in-hand in celebration. Johnny Wrestling would lose it at the next event and had his fair share of rematches. Fast forward to the first edition of NXT on USA, when “Daddy came back home” and stared a hole right through Cole.
In what was in my opinion, one of the most brutal and physical, and terrific NXT Championship matches in the history of the brand, Cole and Ciampa tore the house down. Hatred and malice were on full display every second Ciampa appeared to be regaining Goldie. The leader of The Undisputed Era used every trick in the book to maintain his stranglehold on his title by utilizing all of UE’s help.
A familiar face appeared out of nowhere, a confidant, a brother, a former tag team partner came to even the odds. Luring Ciampa into a false sense of security, Gargano blasted his former DIY partner with Goldie and Cole successfully defended his title. Leaving the NXT Universe completely shocked once again.
The wars these former tag team partners and friends have endured helped elevate the black and gold brand but we’re also so disgustingly brutal that at times were hard to watch. It almost bears to ask the question of what else does this story have to tell? How much hatred does Gargano truly have for Ciampa and where will this twisted and sadistic rivalry turn to next?
1.The Prinxe Does Not Miss
When you think of the word NXT, two names simultaneously come to mind: Johnny Gargano and Finn Balor. Both superstars have carried this brand to new heights and left their blood, sweat, and tears in the middle of the squared circle. Balor, the longest reigning NXT Champion, and Johnny Wrestling dubbed Johnny TakeOver. Two men nearly equal on every level; and a dream match for the ages that was absolutely bound to happen sooner than later.
The storytelling up to this point had been so incredible, even Gargano suffering the injury and postponing the match only made the NXT Universe crave it that much more. It was so incredibly difficult to decide whether this match or the North American Championship would be placed at number-one. Both contests were so beautifully well-written that I don’t believe they could have been any better. Unlike Keith Lee and Dominik Dijakovic, nobody knew who would win this one.
Balor and Gargano were on a collision course to prove who was truly the standard-bearer of NXT. Johnny Wrestling was on full display showcasing his impeccable technical and aerial talents. The Prinxe on the other hand, demonstrated his ruthless and vindictive side cutting off the babyface at every turn.
Gargano upped his game and kicked the aggressiveness into another gear to match with his adversary even going so far as dropkicking Balor through the barricade reminiscent to The Prinxe’s shocking heel turn. In the end, though, Balor finished off Johnny TakeOver with a Coup de Grace that shot through Gargano’s heart like daggers.