After every NXT Takeover it seems like I say to myself: “that was the best Takeover yet.” Yet, every Takeover, I end up with my jaw dropped at how NXT continues to top its previous products. This edition of NXT Takeover came from one of the greatest wrestling cities of all-time, Portland, Oregon. It opened with a performance from Poppy but still jumped into the in-ring action relatively quick as Keith Lee and Dominik Dijakovic capped one of the greatest series of matches in NXT history in a major, hard-hitting way. In probably my favorite match of the night, the two behemoths showed off an unbelievable display of athleticism as Lee ultimately retained his North American Championship. With unique spots such as the use of a desk chair, these two ended up awing the crowd. Just look at this unbelievable senton?
Don’t get me started on how on cue the commentary was. In the first match alone, Mauro referenced the Incredible Hulk, Gorilla Monsoon, Playboy Buddy Rose, among other things while Nigel was quoting saying “I could feel the percussion in my chest.”
Dijakovic was one of my personal favorites on the Independents and has certainly ended up being one of the biggest breakout candidates when NXT moved to 2 hours.
Next, NXT finally set a precedent for women’s matches that don’t involve a title being on the show. This will be key at Takeover Tampa, but Nox and Kai killed it. I loved every single part of the match Tegan Nox and Dakota Kai put on tonight, with vicious yet unique spots in an industry where pretty much everything has been done. The trash can lid imploding was a throwback to eras gone by, and the table was introduced and wasn’t used for a solid ten minutes, with impeccable street fight psychology. Inject this match and this program into my veins, because Dakota Kai and Tegan Nox are about to be the next big thing for women’s wrestling. The end of the match saw the debut of one Reina Gonzales, renamed Raquel, who I’ve seen live a bunch and the NXT audience is in for a treat. I’m interested in where they go from here, and would love for them to fight in a cage in Tampa Bay (which I’ll be at live). 15 minutes really can go a longer way in wrestling than the modern wrestling fan realizes.
The next was 30 minutes of brilliance, as Johnny Gargano delivered Finn Balor’s best match since he faced Neville on NXT. There are no two better talents in NXT right now from a pure work rate, and that showed. While it wasn’t the match I was most looking forward to, it signified that Balor can still be a top 5 performer in the world like he was in NJPW. But, once again proved that Johnny Wrestling brings the best out of everybody. I would’ve liked to see less slingblades, but that’s a minor gripe. Balor going over was the right call. The Sami Zayn fan in me did laugh when they said Finn was the man who “put NXT on the map.”
Rhea Ripley defended the NXT Women’s Championship against Bianca Bel-Air in a hard hitting match that ended rather abrupt? I’m a huge fan of both and Ripley’s been untouchable on a meteoric rise, but this was my least favorite match of the night. I love everything about what followed, however, when Charlotte Flair attacked Ripley to answer her challenge for WrestleMania. I’m not a big Charlotte fan and that’s well-documented, but her and Ripley will put on a clinic and it’s something fresh. Charlotte hasn’t been in NXT for 5 years, and has worked with Bayley and Becky so much that neither are interesting matches for WrestleMania. This gives Ripley a big WrestleMania match and helps put NXT on the same pedestal as Raw and SmackDown. I don’t think Rhea should defend at the next Takeover, which is fine because Nox and Kai can continue their program to represent the women’s division.
In our fifth match of the night, we had our first title change. Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne put on a tag team clinic with Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly. I’m going to go ahead and say this, but over the past 10 years, there is a not a tag team better than ReDRagon, and that’s fact. These four put on a show and the BROserweights surprised the world becoming NXT Tag Champions. As a big fan of all 4, I was conflicted. I think Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne are by far the best thing on NXT right now, but I don’t know how long I want them to team. I also wanted UE to hold the belts until WrestleMania weekend. But I’m curious to see where they go from here.
In our main event, it was a doozy. Adam Cole (baybay) and Tommaso Ciampa killed it for 35 minutes. Ciampa took a number of finishes, a lowblow and an onslaught from the Undisputed Era. Adam Cole went through a table, numerous finishers and a number of different things that caused damage. While I think there were a few too many false finishes, it built riveting drama. When Tommaso Ciampa hit the final fairytale ending, we thought he was about to join Shinsuke Nakamura and Samoa Joe as the only 3 2x NXT Champions. He was about to go on a reunion tour with Goldy. But the referee was down, Ciampa went to grab the title and his DIY partner Johnny Gargano hit him with it, heating the NXT faithful. Adam Cole went for the pinfall, got the victory and celebrated with the Undisputed Era. But, the real headline is that one of the greatest feuds in wrestling history has been reignited. Johnny, who is well overdue for a character refresher, is now heel on a beloved Tommaso Ciampa. The roles have completely reversed from when Ciampa was the most hated guy in wrestling.
All in all, a very fun show that had WrestleMania implications, shocking rivalries re-visited and 6 phenomenal matches. There’s a lot of ways they can go from here to build to Tampa, but if I have the book, this is my card for Takeover Tampa:
1. Tegan Nox vs Dakota Kai inside of a steel cage.
2. Keith Lee (c) vs Dominik Dijakovic vs Killian Dain vs The Velveteen Dream vs Damian Priest vs Roderick Strong in a ladder match for the North American Championship.
3. Jordan Devlin (c) vs Tyler Breeze for the NXT Cruiserweight Championship.
4. Tommaso Ciampa vs Johnny Gargano.
5. The BROserweights (c) vs Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish for the NXT Tag Team Championships.
6. Adam Cole (c) vs Finn Balor for the NXT Championship.
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