NXT North American Champion Keith Lee def. Dominik Dijakovic
I absolutely love the chemistry these two have and their series of matches last year was incredible, but I always bummed they never got a chance to work their magic on a TakeOver special. They finally were able to do that here and they did not disappoint. This was an exceptional opener with both guys going all out and the crowd giving them multiple standing ovations throughout. Yes, they kicked out of a bit too much and the finish came off as a bit lame in comparison, but seeing Lee and Dijakovic do so many crazy feats of athleticism will never got old and thus the non-selling for some of the stuff didn't bother me too much. It got a bit out of hand in the main event, but more on later. Back to this bout, though, I enjoyed every second of it. Props to them for another instant classic. The show of respect from both them afterward was a cool visual.
Dakota Kai def. Tegan Nox in a Street Fight
Although I was disappointed NXT blew off their first encounter on TV a few weeks ago, this more than made up for it. Kai attacking Nox on the stage beforehand was a nice touch and the action only escalated from there. You could feel the bad blood between the two as they battered each other with everything in sight and put their bodies through hell in an effort to reign supreme. For the first-ever women's Street Fight in NXT history, this kicked ass. The feud was on the verge of cooling off after all the odd booking in recent months, but they sucked me back in with this hotly-contested clash. The finish was a bit flat because of how no one knew who Reina Gonzalez was (I'm not sure who else they could have put in that spot), but that Gonzalez planting Nox on the mat from the top turnbuckle looked brutal. I like the idea of Kai having a heavy and it's a smart way to introduce Gonzalez to NXT TV. She's been with the company for years, having competed in the inaugural Mae Young Classic three years ago.
Finn Balor def. Johnny Gargano
One of my favorite things about this show was how every match was different from the last. Lee vs. Dijakovic was, for all intents and purposes, a spot-fest (but not in a bad way) while Nox vs. Kai was an emotional war. This also felt personal, but they didn't need weapons to make it a storytelling masterpiece. Both guys have been TakeOver MVPs over the years and thus it should come as no surprise that this was so stellar. They brought the best out of each other as Balor was extra aggressive and revved up the intensity while Gargano played the babyface role to perfection (despite being booed by a vocal portion of the crowd at various points). It helped that it could have gone either way, but in the end, Balor secured the victory. I was thinking how this hurts Gargano since he hasn't won at a TakeOver since last April, but it made sense by the time the event ended.
NXT Women's Champion Rhea Ripley def. Bianca Belair
I felt bad for Ripley and Belair because there was virtually no way they were going to top those first three matches, not to mention that the outcome of this was fairly predictable. There's still time for Belair to be added to the WrestleMania 36 match between Ripley and Charlotte Flair (which was made official afterward), but I prefer one-on-one, personally. As for this match, it was well wrestled and they put forth an excellent effort. It's not a matchup I'll go back and watch down the road, but they did their best considering the circumstances. I'm looking forward to Ripley vs. Flair, but I'm curious how that will affect the TakeOver show the night before.
The BroserWeights def. Undisputed Era to Win the NXT Tag Team Championship
It's amazing how depleted NXT's tag team division is yet any match involving Undisputed Era is as good as gold (no pun intended). They always deliver on the TakeOver stage and this was one of their most exciting outings to date. Granted, Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne are the definition of a makeshift tag team, but they work so well together that I hardly mind it. Not only are they hilarious outside of the ring, all of their matches have been outstanding so far. I've said it before when it comes to these two teams but I'll say it again: This was tag team wrestling at its finest. The BroserWeights picking up the titles was a fun moment, but the question now is where they go from here outside of an obvious rematch. NXT needs more tag teams. Do they bring some in from the main roster, NXT UK, the independent scene or just make some more themselves?
NXT Champion Adam Cole def. Tommaso Ciampa
I can completely understand the criticisms people had about this when it came to all the kick-outs, and quite honestly, I agree. It got to a point where it was just ridiculous. I mean, Cole hit a Panama Sunrise (a.k.a. Canadian Destroyer) on the outside and Ciampa simply rolled right back into the ring moments later. That was silly. It reminded me a lot of the first match between Gargano and Cole at TakeOver: New York, and although I didn't mind it much then, it became a recurring issue in their subsequent matches. Here, it was on another level to where both guys were basically unbeatable. I'm all for creating suspense and an electric atmosphere (which is what this had), but they need to cool it with the constant finishers because it hurts the psychology of the matchup big time. I predicted that Cole would retain his title, but no one could have seen that swerve coming with Gargano costing Ciampa the championship. It's an interesting development, but to anyone upset that NXT is revisiting that rivalry again, keep in mind that they never finished their feud last year due to Ciampa getting hurt. They can finally blow it off over WrestleMania weekend this year, this time with the roles reversed.
What a spectacular show. I'm still partial to TakeOver: New York (partly because I was there and I maintain that it was a near-perfect event), but this has got to be in the conversation for best TakeOvers of all-time. I had my gripes about the main event and the women's title match wasn't anything special, but on the whole, TakeOver: Portland was phenomenal. Five of the six matches were at least four stars or higher in my opinion (for anyone who cares about that sort of thing) and there were a handful of surprises with new tag team champions being crowned, Gonzalez officially debuting, and Gargano turning on Ciampa. Better yet, I have no clue what they have in mind for TakeOver: Tampa for the most part, meaning anything can happen between now and then. These three hours were tremendous and, needless to say, well worth your time.
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