Finn Balor Beats Johnny Gargano at WWE NXT TakeOver: Portland

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2020

Photo credit: WWE.com.

Finn Balor defeated Johnny Gargano in a heated grudge match at NXT TakeOver: Portland in Oregon on Sunday night.

The physicality on display showed how much Balor and Gargano wanted to best each other.

That running dropkick on the outside was the prelude to the end. Balor delivered the Coup de Grace and then the 1916 for good measure en route to the win.

The bout was a long time coming, as the Irishman turned heel by attacking Gargano on October 23, shortly after his surprise return to NXT. Because Johnny Wrestling was nursing an injury, however, their match didn't happen until Sunday.

It initially looked as though Balor had his sights set on Adam Cole and the NXT Championship, and while he did eventually receive a title match, his first target in NXT was Gargano.

The beatdown Balor handed to Gargano kept the NXT Triple Crown champion out of action for several weeks and allowed The Prince to enter into a quick feud with Matt Riddle, which he won.

The Prince then beat Tommaso Ciampa and Keith Lee in a Triple Threat match to become the No. 1 contender for the NXT Championship.

Just when it seemed like the Irishman was on the verge of beating Cole to become a two-time NXT champion, Gargano returned with a vengeance and interfered to prevent his rival from coming out on top.

That further intensified the rivalry between Balor and Gargano, and it led the latter to accept the former's challenge for a match at NXT TakeOver: Portland.

Although it was one of the few bouts on a stacked Portland card without a championship on the line, it can be argued Balor vs. Gargano was the most highly anticipated one because of the storyline that preceded it.

Also, the two men had never faced each other in a singles match before Sunday, and many have considered them a dream matchup for as long as they have both been employed by WWE.

On top of that, the match had potentially huge stakes since Balor and Gargano are never far away from the main-event scene in NXT. That meant many considered their clash to be a de facto No. 1 Contender's match.

While it isn't guaranteed that Balor earned another shot at the NXT title with his win over Gargano, it was a huge momentum builder, and it speaks to how highly brand founder Triple H thinks of the Irishman in terms of his ability to be a top heel in NXT.

                

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