The John Report: WWE NXT Takeover Portland 2020 Review

It’s time for the first NXT Takeover event of 2020. The last Takeover was WarGames in November 2019, so they have had three months to build to this show. I think the lineup looks amazing and Takeover shows always deliver great matches. It’s a Sunday Takeover show, which is rare, but that’s fine with me. Let’s see what they have in store for us this time.

WWE NXT Takeover Portland
From Moda Center in Portland, Oregon
February 16, 2020

There was a video package hyping up the show.

A singer named Poppy sang a song by the entrance area. I can’t say I’m familiar with it, but she’s got a unique look and sound. Good for her.

Keith Lee made his entrance with the NXT North American Championship for his title defense to open the show. The announce team of Mauro Ranallo, Nigel McGuinness and Beth Phoenix were shown on camera welcoming us to the show. Dominik Dijakovic entered as the opponent. They are familiar rivals that have also been allies recently. The Spanish announcers were shown at ringside as well.

NXT North American Championship: Keith Lee vs. Dominik Dijakovic

Lee was greeted with “oh bask in his glory” singing by the fans that appreciate the big man. They did a spot where they ran the ropes, Lee blocked a kick and Lee tried a slam, but Dijakovic shoved him off. Lee followed that with a hurricanrana, which drew applause since Lee is a 320 pounder. That’s impressive. Dijakovic and Lee did running shoulder tackles with neither guy able to knock the other man down. Lee grabbed the wrist, Dijakovic with a chop and Dijakovic hit a cyclone kick to the face to knock Lee out of the ring. Dijakovic ran the ropes, he jumped over the top, Lee caught him and they battled on the floor. Dijakovic with an elbow to the head followed by a suplex on the apron with Lee landing hard on the floor. They went back into the ring with Dijakovic hitting Lee with forearms, plus a boot to the face and Dijakovic hit him with a forearm to the jaw. Dijakovic with a forearm to the chest. Lee blocked a suplex attempt by grabbing the hands, Lee with punches, then a forearm to the face and a running forearm against the turnbuckle. Lee with a backbreaker and then a German Suplex-like slam that sent Dijakovic over onto his chest, but Lee didn’t bump too, so it was more like a slam. Dijakovic with a boot to the face, Lee with a corner slam and Dijakovic with a cyclone kick that knocked Lee down. Dijakovic stepped over Lee, then he went up top and hit a corkscrew moonsault for a two count. That’s very impressive for a 270-pound guy. Lee with an elbow to stop Dijakovic from doing more offense. They exchanged strikes, Dijakovic with a clothesline to the chest, Lee powered back with a clothesline and they hit double clotheslines that knocked them down to their knees. Dijakovic drove Lee’s head into Dijakovic’s knee and Dominik hit a clothesline to send Lee to the apron. Lee sent Dijakovic into the top turnbuckle, Dijakovic put Lee up on his shoulders on the middle ropes, Dijakovic slammed Lee off the shoulders and that got a two count. That was an incredible fall and a very believable nearfall.

Dijakovic with forearms as the fans chanted “this is awesome” for them. Lee ran out of the turnbuckle and gave Dijakovic the Pounce that sent Dijakovic into the turnbuckle. That move looks so impressive every time Lee does it. Lee with a lefty forearm to Dijakovic. They were outside the ring for longer than ten seconds, but the referee wasn’t counting them out. Lee with a two-handed, double chop to the chest of Dijakovic. Lee did another double chop to Dijakovic, the Dijakovic set Lee in the chair hit a superkick. Dijakovic went up top with a springboard somersault dive onto Lee on the chair to take them both down. That was incredible! Holy shit. The fans were going crazy for that as they should. Back in the ring, Lee lifted Dijakovic on his shoulders, Lee no sold the elbows, Dijakovic on his feet, a superkick connected and Lee blocked a Chokeslam attempt. Lee wanted a Chokeslam, Dijakovic countered, then Lee countered him and Lee hit a Spirit Bomb Powerbomb as Dijakovic got back to his feet. Lee hit another Spirit Bomb for two…and the crowd thought it was three, but it was just a two count. Holy shit what a nearfall. The fans chanted “fight forever” for them. They were both selling as if they were exhausted perhaps because they were. Lee was on the middle ropes, so Dijakovic managed to shove Lee over the top to the floor. Lee went back to the top for some reason, Dijakovic kicked him in the face and Dijakovic hit an Avalanche Spanish Fly slam off the top. They’ve done that before, but that always looks impressive. Dijakovic had trouble lifting up Lee, so he sold a back injury. Lee came back with the Big Bang Catastrophe (like a Jackhammer) for the pinfall win at 20:20.

Winner by pinfall: Keith Lee

Analysis: ****1/2 This was an incredible match full of so many great moves and a lot of believable nearfalls that led to the crowd getting hotter as the match went on. Lee winning made sense since he has only had the title for one month. I thought the best spot in the match when Dijakovic hit a springboard somersault dive onto Lee on the floor. That was one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen in NXT and it came from a guy that’s 270 pounds. They work so well together. I think there were a few slow spots in the match where they were taking too long to set up some spots, so that’s why I’m not going higher with the rating. Maybe if they shaved off three to five minutes it would have helped too. It’s still an excellent match that I would recommend to anybody that didn’t see it.

After the match, Lee helped Dijakovic to his feet and they hugged as a sign of respect. Lee told Dijakovic to pose on the ropes to bask in the glory and the respect from the crowd. Lee posed in the ring with his title.

Analysis: I wonder if Dijakovic turns heel soon because I think it might be hard for him to move up the card as a face. I think as a bigger guy, he can do well as a heel.

Tommaso Ciampa was shown getting ready backstage for his title opportunity.

Bianca Belair was also shown in her locker room getting ready for her title match.

A video package aired to set up Tegan Nox vs. Dakota Kai. They were best friends since June 2017, then Kai attacked Nox at Takeover Wargames last November and that set up this match.

Tegan Nox made her entrance. Dakota Kai attacked her before they could get down to the ring. They went brawling into the crowd where Nox tackled Kai through the barricade. Kai hit a DDT on the barricade. They went into the ring to start the match.

Street Fight: Dakota Kai vs. Tegan Nox

Kai was in a t-shirt and jean shorts while Nox was in more traditional wrestling attire. Kai threw trash cans and trash can lids into the ring. Kai sent Nox into the steel steps, Kai wanted to attack with a cricket bat, Nox moved and Nox hit a dive on Kai on the floor. Nox threw a trash can in Kai’s face that led to a two count in the ring. Nox brought out a table from under the ring, which led to a lot of cheers from the crowd. Kai sent Nox throat first into the top rope followed by Kai hitting Nox with a trash can lid to the head. That sounded very loud. Kai set up Nox on the apron by the table that was near the ring, Nox moved and Nox kicked Kai in the face several times. Nox with a garbage can attack to the back of Kai. Nox gave Kai a German Suplex with the back of Kai’s head hitting the middle of the trash can for a two count. Ouch. Kai avoided a knee and then flipped over with a double knee attack to the back. They battled on the apron with Kai hitting a back kick and then Nox sent Kai face first onto the apron. Nox went up top, Kai hit her with a knee and Nox hit a Chokeslam off the top. Nox hit the Molly Go Round somersault dive tribute to Molly Holly for a two count. The fans were chanting for both women. Nox brought a chair into things, Kai moved, Kai with a kick and then Kai kicked a chair into Nox’s face. Kai whipped Nox into the ring post. Kai got duct tape and tied Kai’s right arm to the turnbuckle. Kai hit Nox with two running kicks to the face. Nox used a laptop to hit Kai in the right knee that Kai had surgery on and a brace was on it. Nox grabbed a steel chain from under the ring, which she used to hit Kai in the right knee. Nox stomped on the steel chair onto the right knee of Kai. Nox hit the Shiniest Wizard running knee on Kai, but she didn’t cover and said that she isn’t done yet. Normally when a wrestler hits a finisher, then doesn’t cover it usually means a loss is coming.

Nox grabbed the table that was on the floor and brought that table into the ring. Nox set up the table in the ring. Nox put Kai onto the table in the ring and she wrapped a chair around Kai’s throat. Nox went up top and she was attacked with a punch by Raquel Gonzalez, who was a standout at the WWE Performance Center and she was in a Mae Young Classic tournament before. Gonzalez grabbed Nox and slammed her into the table, but the table did not break. That was a rough landing with the table not breaking. Kai rolled over to cover Nox for the cheap win at 13:24.

Winner by pinfall: Dakota Kai

Analysis: ***1/2 It was an intense match from before the match even began. I thought Nox was tremendous as the babyface that kept coming back while showing her vicious side as well. Kai did some good things as the heel, but I would have liked to see her be a bit more creative with her offense. The finish was not what they wanted since the table failed to break, but I like that Kai went for the pin right after because it’s not like Nox needed to take another bump after that. I’m just glad that Nox appeared to be okay because that was a rough landing. I had Kai winning in the predictions because Nox beat her in a TV match. This result made sense even with the cheap finish.

After the match, Gonzalez went into the ring and Kai was confused about what happened. Gonzalez raised Kai’s hand as the winner of the match, so it showed that Gonzalez was on her side.

Analysis: It looks like a new alliance even though Kai acted like she didn’t know what Gonzalez was doing there. Gonzalez is a taller, athletic woman so she can be something of a bodyguard for Kai in the future.

There was a commercial for WWEShop items.

It was announced that the next NXT UK Takeover will take place at the 3 Arena in Dublin, Ireland on April 26th. That should be great.

There was a video package for Finn Balor’s match against Johnny Gargano that started in October and now we get the match.

Johnny Gargano entered first to a good pop from the crowd. Finn Balor is a heel, but the fans still love his entrance with the arms in the air posing. This is my favorite match on the card.

Finn Balor vs. Johnny Gargano

They did some mat wrestling for about a minute with Balor slapping on leg scissors around the head followed by some push ups for some taunting. Gargano got back up with a dropkick. Gargano with an armdrag, a jumping kick and a roll through into a dropkick. Gargano hit a rolling kick to the jaw. Balor came back with a running forearm to the face. Balor with hard chops to the chest. Balor with running chops, then Gargano came back with some chops of his own and some punches. Gargano with a running Spear on Balor on the apron. Gargano sent Balor into the barricade where a fan was wearing a Young Bucks shirt. That’s an elite shirt. Gargano charged at Balor on the floor, Balor with a Slingblade neckbreaker and Balor with a running forearm. They went back into the ring with Balor slapping on an armbar, Gargano broke free, Balor with a chinlock and Gargano with a single arm DDT to take down Balor. Gargano pulled on Balor’s arm against Johnny’s shoulder. Balor sent Gargano to the apron followed by a dragon screw leg whip while Gargano was on the top rope. That was a unique spot as Balor followed up with a running kick to the back of the left leg. Balor stretched on the left leg of Gargano, who got out of it and Balor stomped on the back of the head.

Balor jumped onto the back of the left leg of Gargano followed by a leaping attack on the left leg two times. Gargano managed to kick Balor out of the ring, then Balor went back in with Johnny getting a cradle for two. Balor rolled through with a submission where he locked up the left leg of Gargano on the mat. Gargano came back with a step up enziguri kick to the head, backbreaker, front suplex, a roundhouse kick and a running clothesline. Balor went to the floor, Gargano tried a suicide dive, Balor caught him, Balor wanted the DDT on the floor, but Gargano managed to shove Balor into the steel steps. Gargano hit a rolling senton off the apron onto Balor on the floor. They went back into the ring with Gargano hitting a slingshot Spear for a two count that is the usual outcome for that move. Gargano tried picking up Balor, but Balor came back with an elbow to the chest to knock down Gargano for a two count. Balor stomped on Gargano’s face repeatedly, Gargano to the floor, Balor’s dive missed because Johnny moved and Gargano hit a superkick to the face. Back in the ring, Balor blocked a DDT, but Gargano came back with a lawn dart into the turnbuckle. They exchanged kicks, Balor hit a Pele Kick and Gargano landed on top for two count. The fans chanted “NXT” for them. Balor and Gargano punched eachother repeatedly followed by each man hitting a jumping kick to the head. Balor sent Gargano against the ropes, Balor jumped off with ropes with a double foot stomp, but Gargano moved and Gargano hit a jumping DDT for two. They were at around 20 minutes now.

Balor and Gargano had a standoff from across the ring, they ran the ropes leading to Gargano hitting a discus clothesline. Balor came back with the Slingblade neckbreaker, but Gargano hit a superkick, Balor with another Slingblade and the running dropkick sent Gargano into the turnbuckle. Balor went up top, he jumped off, Gargano moved and slapped on the Gargano Escape submission in the center of the ring. Balor tried to roll to the ropes, but Gargano swung him back around the other way. Balor hit a standing double foot stomp on Gargano. Gargano went for the Gargano Escape submission again on the left arm, but Balor crawled to the ropes to break the hold. Balor left the ring, so Gargano followed up with a running dropkick that sent Balor into the barricade. Gargano looked at the Spanish announce table and the referee asked what he was doing. Balor picked up Gargano and slammed him stomach first onto the announce table. Gargano didn’t remove the monitors so Johnny may have taken one to the ribs. Balor ran across the announce tables leading to a dropkick into the barricade. The crowd chanted “holy shit” for that. Indeed. Balor sent Gargano into the ring, Balor went up top and hit the Coup de Grace double foot stomp. That looked vicious. Balor picked up Gargano and hit the 1916 DDT for the pinfall win at 27:20.

Winner by pinfall: Finn Balor

Analysis: ****1/2 Outstanding match as expected. Balor hit all of his signature moves to end the match in a decisive way. It was really even up until that, so I think they ended it that way because it puts over Balor stronger if he wins the match after hitting several of his big moves in a row. There were a lot of believable nearfalls throughout and Gargano nearly won with the Gargano Escape as well. The intensity in the match was great the whole way because they made it feel like a fight for 25 minutes instead of two guys going long just for the sake of going long. Considering how good that match was when it was their first WWE match, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to see them have rematches. I picked Balor to win because I thought they wanted to keep him strong long term while Gargano can lose any match without losing weak. Balor winning makes him look more dominant and focused. I think it was the right call to have Balor win.

A commercial aired for Velveteen Dream vs. Roderick Strong on NXT this Wednesday. That should be a win for Dream.

Roderick Strong was interviewed by Cathy Kelley with his Undisputed Era buddies in the locker room. Strong did a confident promo talking about how great they are and how they’ll win. Cole told Cathy to leave.

Analysis: It is Cathy’s last day after four years with WWE. She asked for her release and she’s moving on from WWE because she wants to do other things. Good luck to her.

A video package aired to set up NXT Women’s Champion Rhea Ripley vs. Bianca Belair. There’s not really a heel in this story and they have also involved Charlotte Flair, who might challenge for the NXT Women’s Title at WrestleMania. (Spoiler: Flair will do that.) The story is that Ripley isn’t looking past Belair, but she thinks she will go right through Belair.

Bianca Belair made her entrance first. Belair had “Black History in the making on her robe” and has it on her gear. That’s pretty cool by her. Rhea Ripley looked confident as always as she brought the NXT Women’s Championship down to the ring. They stood in the ring for the championship introductions.

Rhea Ripley vs. Bianca Belair

They are both faces, so there’s not much of a story that way. They battled over an armbar early, Ripley with a kick to knock Belair down and Ripley hit two clotheslines. Ripley with a dropkick. Beth put over how talented these women are already while noting that Ripley is only 23 years old and Nigel said he didn’t even start wresting until he was 23. Ripley worked over Belair with chops followed by a hard forearm to the chest. Belair pulled Ripley off the turnbuckle for a takedown. Belair whipped Ripley down by the hair followed by a standing moonsault. Belair picked up Ripley for a suplex, then had difficulty holding her up, Ripley told her to do it again (I think) and Belair suplexed Ripley, but it was not a normal landing. That just didn’t work. Ripley with a knee uppercut followed by a running dropkick. Ripley had Belair on the shoulders followed by a face first slam for a two count. Ripley used her hands to hook the legs of Belair, who fought out of it and kicked Ripley into the ring post. Belair with a rollup followed by a spinebuster into a pin attempt for a two count. Belair set up Ripley on the top rope, Ripley with a hard slap, Belair with a hard slap and then they took turns hitting eachother with hard slaps. Belair used her hair to whip it into the ribs of Ripley. Belair held Ripley above her with a press slam on Ripley. The fans chanted “EST” for Belair and they showed her parents in the crowd. Belair tried a moonsault, Ripley got the knees up and they fought out of finishers. Ripley with a jumping kick, but then Belair came back with a Spear. Belair and Ripley exchanged punches with fans chanting “women’s wrestling” as Ripley hit a kick and Belair with a forearm. Ripley with a kick to the shoulder. Ripley charged right into Belair, who gave her a back body drop over the top to the floor. That was a rough landing, but Ripley looked to be okay. Belair hit a somersault dive over the top with Ripley doing a good job of stepping up to be there to break her fall. That looked great. Ripley got back up with a slam that sent Belair into the top of the steps. Back in the ring, Ripley charged, Belair moved and Ripley sent Belair into the top turnbuckle. They battled over a suplex on the top rope, Ripley grabbed the hand for the pumphandle and Ripley hit a spinning Riptide slam on Belair for the pinfall victory at 13:30.

Winner by pinfall: Rhea Ripley

Analysis: ***1/4 They did a good job in this match although I don’t think it got to that next gear where I can call it great. It was a predictable match with Ripley getting the decisive win as you would expect. Belair got to show off her athleticism several times throughout the match including that somersault dive over the top to the floor. It wouldn’t shock me if Belair gets moved to Raw soon since husband Montez Ford is there and WWE clearly likes her after a dominant performance in the Royal Rumble match. Ripley continues to be booked in a very strong way, which is the right move to continue to build her up as a big star.

After Ripley’s win, Charlotte Flair attacked Ripley from behind with a forearm to the back. That drew a lot of boos for the cheap shot. Flair said she thought about it and told Ripley: “I’ll see you at WrestleMania.” That means Flair vs. Ripley at WrestleMania is a go for the NXT Women’s Title. Flair also hit the Natural Selection neckbreaker on Ripley. Flair dropped the title on Ripley and left. When Flair left the ring, Flair saw Bianca on the floor, so Flair whipped Belair into the steel steps. Flair left to the back with the crowd booing her.

Analysis: I expected that to happen as I wrote in my preview of the show. It gives NXT a big WrestleMania moment by having Flair challenge Ripley for the title at WrestleMania and it was very effective as well. I’m also happy for Flair getting to be a heel again because that’s the best role for her. Flair throwing Belair into the steps makes me think there will be something between them too. It wouldn’t surprise me if Belair is still in the title picture and maybe they’ll do a triple threat at WrestleMania because Triple H talked about it on the post-show saying Belair could still be in the title picture.

Flair sets WrestleMania showdown with Ripley: NXT TakeOver: Portland (WWE Network Exclusive)

A commercial aired for the WWE Network documentary series about the Ruthless Aggression era. I reviewed the first episode already right here on TJRWrestling, so check that out here.

There’s no video package for the NXT Tag Team Titles match. Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish of the Undisputed Era entered with the titles for another Takeover title defense for them.

The Broserweights duo of Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne drove their golf cart into the ring with the Dusty Rhodes Cup since they won that tournament to earn this title shot. Riddle and Dunne had on “How much fish could Bobby Fish fry if Bobby Fish could fry fish?” Riddle said they had one question. Riddle read the question on the shirt. There were even graphics supporting the question. Fish sold it like this silliness pissed him off.

Riddle leads NXT Universe in “Fishy” sing-a-long: NXT TakeOver: Portland (WWE Network Exclusive)

O’Reilly and Fish went after Riddle and Dunne in the aisle. That led to a brawl around the ringside area until they got settled and went into the ring.

NXT Tag Team Championships: The Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish) vs. The Broserweights (Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne)

There was some mat wrestling early with Riddle hitting suplexes on Fish. Dunne tagged in with a stomp onto O’Reilly’s arm, then a suplex on Fish on the apron and then he suplexed O’Reilly onto Fish. The heels took over with Fish slowing down Dunne and O’Reilly tagging in with a leg sweep to knock down Dunne. Dunne tried to fight out of the heel corner, but O’Reilly pulled the left leg against the ropes and Fish kicked the leg of Dunne to continue the attack. O’Reilly tried a running kick on Dunne while Fish held Dunne, but Dunne moved and O’Reilly kicked Fish off the apron. Riddle got the tag with jumping kicks, exploder suplex on O’Reilly and exploder suplex on Fish. Riddle hit Broton splashes on both guys, then a fisherman’s buster, a go to sleep knee to the face and a German Suplex for a two count. Dune hit a Powerbomb on O’Reilly for a two count with Riddle hitting a kick to the back. Dunne with a moonsault on Fish on the floor, but when Riddle tried a senton off the top, O’Reilly got the knees up. Fish missed a kick on Fish because Fish ducked and Fish kicked the ring post. O’Reilly with two German Suplexes, Riddle with a knee, a German Suplex, O’Reilly with a roaring elbow and Riddle hit another rising knee to knock Kyle down. The fans chanted “NXT” as both guys were down. Riddle hit a Spear on Fish on the floor and Riddle hit a Spear on O’Reilly as well. Fish went back in with a chop block to the back of the knee of Riddle, then a DDT by Kyle and a release German Suplex by Fish got a two count. Riddle with a double rising knee on both opponents. Dunne tagged in with a hammerlock submission on O’Reilly, then Dunne with a roundhouse kick and an armbar submission, but O’Reilly rolled through into an ankle lock. Riddle went into the ring as Dunne and Riddle each slapped on Ankle Lock submission holds. O’Reilly slapped on a Sharpshooter, Riddle with a knee to the face of Kyle to break that up and Riddle dropped to the mat with Fish on his back. All four guys were down, so the fans cheered them.

Dunne tagged in, stomped on the hands of Fish and hit a roundhouse kick. Riddle tagged in, Fish shoved Dunne into the ropes when Riddle was up top. O’Reilly took out Dunne on the floor, Fish with a superplex off the top on Riddle and O’Reilly trapped Riddle in the ring with a kneebar submission. Dunne pulled on Fish’s fingers and Dunne stomped on O’Reilly’s left hand to break up the finish. O’Reilly battled with Dunne, who accidentally knocked down Riddle. Dunne pulled on the fingers of O’Reilly, Riddle back in and he hit a Spear on Dunne by accident when O’Reilly moved. Riddle was sent to the floor leading to the Chasing the Dragon double team move and Fish covered Riddle for just two. Riddle tagged back in, rising knee to Fish, double team powerbomb on O’Reilly and Riddle put Fish on the shoulders leading to a kick by Dunne along with a knee from Riddle and Riddle covered Fish for the pinfall win and they are new champions…bro. It went 16:58. The crowd popped huge for the finish.

Winners by pinfall: The Broserweights (Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne)

Analysis: **** It was an exciting tag team match with a big moment by doing the title change with the babyface beating the very successful heel team. I thought it would end up being a bit better than it was, but that’s not a knock or anything like that. They still told an interesting story with The Undisputed Era coming close to winning a few times, but Riddle and Dunne kept on coming back for more. I predicted a title change because it just felt like the right team at the right time since Riddle/Dunne have worked so well together.

The team of Riddle and Dunne celebrated with the titles as the fans cheered them. It is Riddle’s first championship win in WWE. That’s great to see…bro.

A commercial aired for the next NXT Takeover on April 4, 2020, so that’s less than two months away. That’s also the night before WrestleMania on April 5.

There was a plug for Keith Lee as a guest on WWE Backstage this Tuesday on Fox Sports 1.

It’s video package time for the main event with NXT Champion Adam Cole defending against Tommaso Ciampa.

Tommaso Ciampa entered to a good pop as the rare babyface in a championship match. Ciampa has had a lot of heel success in NXT, but now as a babyface making his comeback from serious injury, he’s a good guy in NXT. Adam Cole entered alone as the NXT Champion as the fans chanted “BAY-BAY” and “Boom” right on cue when it came to that time in the song. The wrestlers stood in the ring for the championship introductions.

NXT Championship: Adam Cole vs. Tommaso Ciampa

The fans were chanting for both guys as the match began. They were going for moves, there were counters and Cole bailed to the floor. They battled over a side headlock, Ciampa with a slap to the face and Cole hit a shoulder tackle. Ciampa blocked a kick leading to Ciampa grabbing a side headlock. Ciampa had “Blackheart” and “Goldie” on his knee pads as Ciampa knocked down Ciampa with a punch. Ciampa managed to avoid a backstabber attempt, then they left the ring and Cole hit a jumping knee. Cole mocked Ciampa by clapping and patting himself on the back. Ciampa was pissed off by that, so he sent Cole into the steel steps, then the ring post and a running knee by Ciampa against the barricade. Ciampa did his self clapping and pat on the back routine, which led to cheers. Ciampa tossed Cole back in the ring, but Cole bailed to the floor and Ciampa hit a basement dropkick. Ciampa hit a running knee on Cole, who was on the apron and then Cole went to the floor again. Ciampa set up Cole across the barricade leading to a running kick and then he held his arms up as if he kicked a field goal in an NFL game. Ciampa unloaded on Cole with hard chops, then Ciampa charged and hit a running knee that knocked down Cole after he was sitting in a chair. Ciampa kissed the bald head of a fan at ringside. I don’t know if he knew the guy, but he’s a fellow bald man so Ciampa must felt okay doing it. Cole teased a move through the table, Cole avoided a move, Cole with a kick and Cole gave Ciampa a wheelbarrow slam that sent the back of Ciampa’s neck into the edge of the announce table. That was a huge bump for a guy with neck injury history, but it went as well as it could and the referee checked on Ciampa to see if he was okay.

They went back into the ring with Cole getting a two count followed by a neckbreaker. Cole wrapped his legs around Ciampa’s throat to keep him grounded. Cole went to the turnbuckle, Ciampa went after him, Cole with a superkick to trap Ciampa against the ropes and Cole hit a backstabber on Ciampa for a two count. Cole slapped on a headlock, Ciampa with a backslide pin for two and Cole hit a step up enziguri to the head. Cole jumped off the ropes, but he was met by a dropkick on Ciampa. Both guys were down selling the pain from that sequence. The momentum was back in Ciampa’s favor with some offense that included a clothesline, German Suplex, a running knee to the back and Ciampa hit a Torture Rack Bomb off the shoulders for a two count. Cole got a crucifix pin for two, Cole with a kick followed by a rising knee to the face. Cole with the Ushigoroshi on the neck of Ciampa for a two count. They battled on the top rope with Cole going for a move, but Ciampa held onto his legs and Ciampa hit an Air Raid Crash off the middle ropes for a two count. The crowd was quiet for a few minutes, but they popped big for that. They left the ring with Cole hitting a superkick. Ciampa fought off a Powerbomb by Cole and Ciampa gave Cole a Powerbomb onto the Spanish announce table at ringside. The table did not break. The referee checked on both guys. Ciampa picked up Cole again and gave him a harder Powerbomb that broke the table. Back in the ring, Ciampa hit a running knee while against the ropes. Cole with a superkick, Ciampa with a clothesline and Ciampa hit the Powerbomb into the knees called Project Ciampa for just a two count.

The fans really got into the match with “fight forever” chants. Ciampa and Cole exchanged strikes, Cole with two bicycle kicks to knock Ciampa out of the ring and Cole went for a suicide dive, but Ciampa blocked that with a jumping kick. Ranallo noted that Cole doesn’t normally do that move with Nigel saying it’s late in the match, so maybe Cole thought he could hit it. Good announcing work there. They went back into the ring with Cole hitting a piledriver like move off the ropes and then the Ushigoroshi cradle suplex onto the knee of Cole for a two count. Ciampa was grabbing his neck to sell the injury. The fans were chanting for both guys. Cole with two superkicks and a Last Shot running knee to the back of the head of Ciampa. That led to Ciampa rolling to the bottom rope and hugging it to prevent himself from being pinned. Ciampa blocked Panama Sunrise and gave Cole an Air Raid Crash onto the unforgiving apron. That led to some “holy shit” chants from the crowd. Cole countered the Fairytale Ending on the floor with a back body drop on the floor. Cole jumped off the announce table leading to the Panama Sunrise flipping piledriver on the floor. That was a brutal spot. Back in the ring, Ciampa hit a draping DDT and Ciampa hit the Fairytale Ending for one…two…and no! Wow. I thought that was it and so did the crowd, but Cole got the right shoulder up. Ciampa looked frustrated that he couldn’t win with that. Cole slapped on a Crossface submission to work on the neck injury, but Ciampa fought it off and Ciampa slapped on the Crossface submission. Cole crawled to the bottom rope to break it. There’s Roderick Strong of the Undisputed Era at ringside to distract the referee. That led to Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish to show up at ringside with a high-low kick on Ciampa on the floor. It took them nearly 30 minutes to interfere. Cole covered after that and Ciampa got a shoulder up at the two count. Ciampa launched Cole over the top onto O’Reilly and Fish on the floor. Ciampa gave Strong a DDT and Ciampa hit a twisting dive onto the UE guys on the floor. Back in the ring, Cole hit three superkicks and another Last Shot running knee to the back of the head for one…two…and no again! It’s just a two count as Ciampa got the shoulder up. O’Reilly put the NXT Title on the ring apron, Ciampa kicked the title out of Cole’s hands and Cole shoved Ciampa into the referee to knock him out of the ring. Cole with a low blow on Ciampa, then Cole went to the ropes and Ciampa kicked him in the balls. Ciampa hit the Fairytale Ending on Cole again leading to a cover, but there was no referee there as the fans counted past three and kept going as Ciampa looked frustrated. Johnny Gargano showed up at ringside, the NXT Title was in the ring and Gargano took the title from Ciampa while staring right in his eyes. Gargano hit Ciampa with the NXT Title leading to a bump by Ciampa back into the ring and Cole covered Ciampa. The referee recovered to count the pinfall win for Cole at 33:23.

Winner by pinfall: Adam Cole…BAY BAY

Analysis: ****1/4 A very good match with a shocking result. Cole and Ciampa worked very hard here, but it felt like they stretched this match out a bit too long. I think the first half of it was average, the crowd didn’t really care about it and then in the last ten minutes, it was insane with some of the stuff they were doing. Both wrestlers deserve a lot of credit for stepping up the intensity when it was needed, they sold the nearfalls on their faces and the crowd really bought into it in those final few minutes. One of the spots that I didn’t like was when Cole hit the Panama Sunrise piledriver on floor and Ciampa quickly recovered with a DDT soon after. They should have had Ciampa sell that more, maybe get a two count out of it and then go on. Instead, Ciampa barely sold such a devastating move. I was also genuinely concerned for Ciampa due to the number of crazy bumps he was taking to the neck. I’m sure Ciampa trusts Cole as much as anybody, but it was still rough to watch considering what Ciampa has gone through in his career. I’m surprised they would go 30+ minutes considering Ciampa’s injury history, but hopefully he was able to get through it okay. I thought something in the 20-25 minute range was more likely.

Post match, Johnny Gargano was shown walking up the aisle alone with a serious look on his face. Ciampa was down in the ring. The Undisputed Era celebrated with Cole as they sat on the ring apron and that was the end of the show.

Analysis: I didn’t expect Gargano to turn heel on Ciampa like that, so they gave us a surprising ending that can re-ignite NXT’s best feud ever with Ciampa as a face this time while Gargano can be the heel. Gargano is such a great natural babyface, but if they want him back as a heel then I’m sure he’ll do well. The story between them is so long that it’s easy to start it back up again with Gargano being able to say he’ll never trust Ciampa. I have no problem with more Ciampa vs. Gargano matches in our future.

It would make sense for Cole to face Balor at the next Takeover in April, but I don’t know if they should do a heel vs. heel match. It may not be a bad thing to add a third person to the match. Velveteen Dream could be in that spot or some other babyface wrestler like Keith Lee. They have a lot of options.

This event had a run time of 3:05:44 on WWE Network.

 

Final Thoughts

It gets a 9 out of 10.

It was another outstanding NXT Takeover event with four matches that I rated at four stars or above (out of five), which means they were excellent. I thought the Lee/Dijakovic match was probably the best of the night although there wasn’t much of a storyline there. I liked Balor/Gargano just as much with the same rating and I like that Balor was booked to win in a decisive manner. The work by Cole/Ciampa in the main event was great especially in the second half after the slow first half. However, people are going to forget all the amazing nearfalls because of the heel turn by Gargano on Ciampa. I thought it was booked well. The Tag Team Title match was very good too with a result that pleased the crowd as much as anything on the show. Nice win for the Broserweights there.

The two women’s matches were good, but not great. That’s what is keeping the show from getting an even higher score. Ripley’s win over Belair was hurt because nobody thought Belair was going to win. I thought Kai’s win over Nox was an intense match that had a cheap ending, so that hurt the match a bit.

My predictions for the show were very good since I got the first five matches correct. I got the NXT Title match wrong because Ciampa lost due to Gargano and I didn’t see that coming at all. I don’t mind Cole as champion, though, so that result is fine with me.

NXT Takeover shows always deliver quality wrestling. I think going just over three hours with six matches is perfectly fine. If the main event was ten minutes shorter it may have helped, but that’s just a minor thing. The Portland crowd was energetic most of the night. They loved the show and I did too.

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John Canton

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