For the first time ever, the Pacific Northwest will play host, as NXT TakeOver: Portland emanates live from the Moda Centre in Portland, Oregon. The main event of the six match card will see the recently returned Tommaso Ciampa finally get his chance to win back “Goldie”, the NXT Championship, from Adam Cole. Meanwhile, two of Cole’s Undisputed Era stablemates must defend their NXT Tag Team Championships, when Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish face off against the newly christened BROserweights, the unlikely odd-couple pairing of Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne. Rhea Ripley will need to face one more challenger on her Road to Wrestlemania, as Ripley defends the NXT Women’s Championship against Bianca Belair, while two other of NXT’s deep Women’s Division will face off in a street fight, as former friends turned bitter rivals Tegan Nox and Dakota Kai go to war. Rounding out the card are Johnny Gargano and Finn Balor in a long-time-coming grudge match, and two behemoths, Keith Lee and Dominik Dijakovic facing off for the NXT North American Championship.
+ Johnny Gargano vs Finn Balor: this was perfectly fine, and perhaps even as good as you may have expected, but it just went on far too long. This felt like the blowoff, and I guess it probably was, but it was also their first match. This certainly was not bad, but it didn’t reach the heights I feel were intended
+ Tegan Nox vs Dakota Kai (Street Fight): I was extremely invested in this, with both women performing at their best, including some of the most effective facial expressions you’ll ever see, and was willing to call it my match of the show – all until the final moment completely fell flat. The match itself was nothing but a positive but that ended deserves a negative spot of its own
+ Keith Lee (c) vs Dominik Dijaokivic (NXT North American Championship): at running the risk of being overexposed, these two have had a phenomenal series of matches over the past year or so, and this was the perfect culmination of this rivalry (if it indeed is a culmination). Both men have phenomenal agility for their size, and that was on full display in this PWG-style match up… but I hope we don’t see them face each other again any time soon
– Adam Cole (c) vs Tommaso Ciampa (NXT Championship): I’ve not been shy about my disdain of the forced epic, 30+ minute title defences NXT has put on since the early Gargano/Cole feud. Maybe it was because I Was watching this quite late, or maybe it is just because I’ve seen this all before, but this match did absolutely nothing for me. Cole works best when he can be the ‘bully’ type of wrestling bad guy, and a guy like Ciampa just does not play off that well at all, especially since Ciampa is essentially still a bad guy himself, just now going after other bad guys. I don’t think there was anything unique in this match, and while I would have saved this first time pairing until the Wrestlemania weekend Takeover show, I am almost glad they just got it out of the way quickly
– The Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly) (c) vs The BROserweights (Matt Riddle & Pete Dunne) (NXT Tag Team Championships): I am well and truly sick of these thrown together teams being shown to be just as good as, if not better than the established, long-term and experienced teams (which, to be fair, is not an NXT issue as much as a WWE issue). I am a long time fan of reDRagon (and Fish, in particular, often gets overlooked) so I was well and truly on their side here. This was another good match on a show of good matches, and it just didn’t stand out in any way from previous Undisputed Era title defences
– Rhea Ripley (c) vs Bianca Belair (NXT Championship): with the impending Charlotte/Rhea match all but confirmed for Wrestlemania, this was a huge waste of Bianca Belair. The match was very half-assed, through no real fault of the competitors, but this could just have easily been the first face off between Rhea/Charlotte or some other non-wrestling segment
– the ending of the Tegan Nox/Dakota Kai street fight was simply not good. Whatever the intent was, it fell completely flat and this match did not deserve such sloppy storytelling
Should you watch this event: Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa and Adam Cole (featuring the rest of The Undisuted Era) are all fantastic, but they have been involved in the same sort of stuff for what feels like an eternity now, and I want something new. I don’t know how many more of these same old song and dance routines NXT will put on until something changes, but that cannot come soon enough.