WWE NXT TakeOver: Portland Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction, Highlights

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2020

WWE NXT TakeOver: Portland Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction, Highlights

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    Credit: WWE.com

    The Superstars of NXT took center stage Sunday night at TakeOver: Portland, a stacked live event special headlined by Adam Cole defending the NXT Championship against Tommaso Ciampa and Rhea Ripley putting her women's title up for grabs against Bianca Belair.

    With a card that also featured The Undisputed Era's Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly defending against The Broserweights' Pete Dunne and Matt Riddle, as well as a red-hot grudge match between Johnny Gargano and Finn Balor, the brand again promised its passionate fanbase an action-packed, noteworthy precursor to its massive show on WrestleMania Eve.

NXT North American Championship: Keith Lee vs. Dominik Dijakovic

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    Credit: WWE.com

    A live performance of both "Fill The Crown" and "Anything Like Me" by Poppy gave way to the opening match of the night, the latest chapter in the intense rivalry between heavy-hitting heavyweight Keith Lee and Dominik Dijakovic, the latter's NXT North American Championship up for grabs.

    Lee struck first early, impressing his opponent and the Portland fans with a hurricanrana. Dijakovic answered with a suplex onto the ring apron and down onto the floor. The challenger sought to gain a sustained advantage, but the champion fought out of another suplex attempt and unloaded with a forearm to the face. A standing, release German suplex followed for a two-count.

    The action continued back-and-forth, the competitors exchanging strikes about the body. A massive, nasty clothesline by Dijakovic downed Lee. Up top, the challenger delivered an avalanche Death Valley Driver for a count of two as fans showered the competitors with chants of "NXT!" Lee recovered and caught a charging Dijakovic with a massive pounce, sending the back of his head crashing into the turnbuckles. 

    The competitors spilled to the floor, where the challenger unloaded with a big knee, superkick and somersault plancha from the top rope to Lee on the floor. Back in the ring, Lee no-sold a chokeslam. Dijakovic no-sold a spirit bomb, much to the chagrin of the champion. A second spirit bomb by Lee earned a dramatic near-fall.

    The fight moved to the top rope, where Dijakovic delivered a huge Spanish Fly for another heart-stopping near-fall. He tried for the Feast Your Eyes, but his back gave out, allowing Lee to catch him with the Big Bang Catastrophe for the successful title defense.

         

    Result

    Lee defeated Dijakovic

        

    Grade

    A

        

    Analysis

    For a match defined by its no-selling, it was Dijakovic nursing his back in the closing seconds of the contest that led to the finish.

    The lack of selling was to be expected based on their previous encounters, and there is nothing wrong with that. A heavyweight war of attrition between two guys familiar with each other, it needed to stay true to the feud to that point. It did, providing the fans in Portland with a dramatic battle in which the winner may never have been in real doubt, but fans still watched from the edge of their seats with every referee count.

    That is a testament to the performers, their chemistry and their ability to recognize what fans want and how to provide it while building on their previous matches.

    It was a brilliant way to kick off the show with a win for one of wrestling's hottest superstars.

Street Fight: Tegan Nox vs. Dakota Kai

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    Credit: WWE.com

    The intensely personal rivalry between Dakota Kai and Tegan Nox came to a head in the night's second match, a Street Fight between the former best friends. Kai attacked during Nox's entrance, not giving the babyface an inch in the cumulative match. She brutalized her one-time bestie all the way to the ringside area, but a missed cane shot sparked Knox's comeback.

    Kai slowed her with a nasty trash-can-lid shot to the face, but Knox recovered and delivered a German suplex onto said trash can for two. Kai delivered a Scorpion Back Kick, to which Nox responded by dropping her opponent face-first on the ring apron. Another kick by Kai stunned Nox on the top rope, but the babyface channeled Kane with a super chokeslam. A Molly-Go-Round, shades of the great former women's champion, earned Nox a two-count.

    A momentary display of remorse from Nox allowed Kai to blast her with a superkick and follow by kicking a chair in her face. With the Welsh competitor stunned, Kai taped her wrist to the turnbuckle and delivered a pair of kicks to the face. Nox recovered, blasting Kai's injured knee with a laptop. Using a steel chain, she pummeled the knee and then stomped it in a steel chair.

    The Girl with the Shiniest Wizard uncorked one of her trademark maneuvers and retrieved a table from the floor. She splayed Kai out on it and trapped her head in a chair. Nox climbed the ropes, but the debuting Raquel Gonzalez dropped her across a table that failed to break. Kai recovered, crawled over and picked up the pinfall victory.

        

    Result

    Kai defeated Nox

        

    Grade

    A

        

    Analysis

    Given the emotion surrounding the program, this needed to be appropriately brutal, and it was. The strikes were hard, the use of weapons was tonally appropriate and the intensification of the action as the match drew to a close was perfectly executed.

    The debut of Gonzalez not only gave us the necessary heel victory but also created a nice cliffhanger that will have fans tuning in Wednesday for the reason.

    Best of all, Kai endured the ass-kicking her character deserved but, in great heel fashion, still managed to pull out the tainted victory. She will brag, fans will hate her for it and the opportunity for another match between the two will present itself, presumably in time for the TakeOver: Tampa event.

Johnny Gargano vs. Finn Balor

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Chants of "both these guys" spilled from the stands as Finn Balor and Johnny Gargano measured each other up at the bell. Early arrogance from Balor gave way to strikes from the first universal champion in WWE history, but Gargano answered by lighting up his opponent's chest with a flurry of chops. He followed with a big spear on the ring apron that left Balor stunned and the crowd applauding Johnny Wrestling's offensive.

    Gargano looked to follow up with a running dropkick, but Balor caught him mid-sprint with the Sling Blade. As the action returned to the ring, Balor established control. Commentator Mauro Ranallo iterated Balor's history in Japan and his knowledge of different styles as he grounded Gargano with a submission attempt.

    The babyface fought out and targeted the left arm of his opponent, looking to set up a submission of his own: his trademark Gargano Escape. An ill-fated charge into the ropes, though, saw Balor deliver a dragon screw leg whip with Gargano trapped in the ropes. The chess match of joint manipulation continued with Balor targeting the left knee of his opponent.

    Gargano rolled through with an attempted kick, but Balor stopped him, twisted his legs into a painful deathlock and looked for a submission as the crowd alternated chants in support of the performers. The gritty babyface pushed through the pain and fired off a comeback. He looked for a tope suicida, but Balor caught him and set up for the 1916 DDT. Gargano escaped and sent his opponent back-first into the steel steps. A rolling senton to Balor wiped out the heel on the floor.

    The slingshot spear from Gargano earned him a two-count. Balor recovered, delivered a Final Cut and scored a near-fall of his own. Frustrated and relentless, Balor stomped away at the face of Gargano. A missed dive, though, earned him a big superkick from Johnny Wrestling. Gargano delivered a lawn dart into the corner, but Balor answered with a Pele Kick. When he did, Gargano fell directly on top of him for a cool false finish.

    The pace picked up considerably. Balor delivered the John Woo dropkick and set up for the Coup de Grace, but Gargano dodged it and applied the Gargano Escape. Balor did, in fact, escape, and delivered a double stomp. Gargano countered back into his signature submission, but Balor made it to the ropes, necessitating the break.

    On the floor, Gargano called back to the dropkick from Balor that instigated the rivalry, delivering his own and sending The Prince into the guardrail. The babyface eyed up the announce table, teasing a 1916 DDT of his own onto it. Balor countered and dropped his opponent sternum- and rib-first onto the table. From there, he followed with a running dropkick that sent Gargano off it and into the guardrail, again one-upping Gargano.

    The Coup de Grace and 1916 DDT earned Balor the win.

         

    Result

    Balor defeated Gargano

        

    Grade

    A+

        

    Analysis

    What a frickin' match!

    The counter-wrestling, the storytelling and the jaw-dropping finale helped make this an early Match of the Year contender. Balor was at his arrogant and ruthless best, while Gargano was the resilient, vengeful babyface who fell just short of achieving what he had hoped to.

    The high-impact offense meshed perfectly with the submission-based tone of the match's midsection.

    Balor needed the win here to advance to the next level of competition, while Gargano loses nothing in defeat, as we have witnessed many times over the course of his career. The question now is whether the disrespect shown by Balor after the bell is enough to bring about another chapter or if both will move on from each other.

NXT Women's Championship Match: Rhea Ripley vs. Bianca Belair

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    Credit: WWE.com

    The NXT Women's Championship took center stage in the next contest of the night as Rhea Ripley defended against Bianca Belair, the prospect of a potential spot on the WrestleMania card against Charlotte Flair hanging over the contest like a heavy cloud.

    Back-and-forth action early gave way to a nasty chop by Ripley that flattened The EST. Belair answered, downing the champion and unloading with a flurry of stomps about the body. A modified suplex gave way to a full nelson, the challenger seated across the lower back of her 6-foot tall opponent.

    The Nightmare fought back into the match, delivered a series of knees to the face and dropped Belair with a facebuster out of an electric chair. Ripley applied a submission, but the challenger fought out and sent her shoulder-first into the ring post. A spinebuster earned her a near-fall and stunned the Aussie.

    The competitors unloaded on each other with a wicked array of slaps before Belair lashed Ripley with her ponytail. A gorilla press slam out of the corner followed as the challenger began to roll, her parents watching excitedly at ringside. The champion countered a leapfrog with a boot to the midsection, and Belair answered with a spear that brought both women to their backs.

    Belair recovered and dumped Ripley over the top in a scary spot before following with a tope that wiped her out on the floor. The champion recovered and sent Belair into the ring steps.

    Back inside, The EST countered a sunset flip powerbomb from the top rope, but Ripley powered her down with the Riptide to retain her title.

    After the match, Charlotte Flair attacked the triumphant champion and accepted her challenge for a match at WrestleMania.

          

    Result

    Ripley defeated Belair

        

    Grade

    B

        

    Analysis

    Much like Ripley's match against Toni Storm at Worlds Collide a month ago, this felt perfectly good for three-quarters but lacked the definitive end it deserved.

    The action was fantastic and really showcased two young performers coming into their own. Ripley and Belair rose to the occasion, proved they belonged in the moment and had the fans hanging on every high spot and near-fall. Hopefully, the rather lackluster finish means the issues between the two are far from over.

    The attack by Charlotte, which included a cheap shot on Belair, may suggest just that.

    Maybe, The EST gets herself a spot in the 'Mania title match?

NXT Tag Team Championship Match: The BroserWeights vs. The Undisputed Era

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    Credit: WWE.com

    The improbable rise of The BroserWeights culminated in a tag team championship opportunity Sunday night as Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne challenged The Undisputed Era's Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish.

    The popular team's quest for gold nearly ended in disappointment, though.

    Late in the match, a double submission spot popped the crowd. The champions countered their opposition's onslaught and had them reeling when Dunne collided with Riddle, knocking him off the apron. Moments after, The Original Bro caught The Bruiserweight with a spear, nearly costing their team the titles.

    The makeshift team fought back, fired off a series of double-team attacks and earned the most unlikely championship win, much to the delight of the Portland faithful.

         

    Result

    The BroserWeights defeated The Undisputed Era to win the titles

        

    Grade

    A

        

    Analysis

    O'Reilly and Fish are tag team royalty. Their in-ring excellence has carried the NXT tag team division for the last two years, all but guaranteeing a show-stealing tag title bout at every TakeOver event. They have been the standard-bearers and the very best this brand has to offer.

    With that said, it was time to make the switch.

    The mismatched team of Dunne and Riddle has already created some humorous moments, and their chemistry is undeniable. They are a fun babyface team consisting of competitors who could believably come together to defeat the very best NXT has to offer. More importantly, they bring about a freshness the division could probably use.

    The miscommunication spots hint that the gleeful union will not last forever, nor should it. Dunne and Riddle are more valuable as singles stars than as a tag team. For now, though, it is a team that works and will hopefully lead to more enjoyable matches, segments and angles in the weeks and months to come.

NXT Championship Match: Tommaso Ciampa vs. Adam Cole

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Adam Cole sought to continue what has become, arguably, the greatest NXT Championship reign in the brand's history as he entered the arena for TakeOver's main event. To do so, he would have to overcome a Tommaso Ciampa driven by the desire to regain the title he was forced to relinquish because of injury. Their individual goals fueled the marquee bout of the evening's show.

    Ciampa delivered the first big blow of the match, hanging Cole up on the guardrail at ringside and delivering a nasty knee lift to the face. A series of chops to the chest followed and a running knee to the face sent the champion crashing into the timekeeper's position.

    Cole turned the tide with a wheelbarrow suplex into the announce table, Ciampa's head and surgically repaired neck crashing along the edge of the structure. The champion grounded his challenger and worked the injured body part.

    An alert Ciampa countered a Panama Sunrise attempt with a dropkick that caught Cole in mid-flight. A flurry of clotheslines and a German suplex gave Ciampa momentum while a torture rack bomb earned him a two-count.

    The fight headed to the top rope, where Ciampa delivered a massive Air Raid Crash for a dramatic near-fall. On the floor, Cole tried for a powerbomb onto the announce table, but Ciampa fought out and delivered one of his own. The champion bounced off the table, which did not break, as the crowd erupted. A second powerbomb led to Cole obliterating the table and the fight returning to the ring.

    Project Ciampa earned the challenger a near-fall and left him in disbelief. Cole responded moments later with a tope, but Ciampa had it scouted and cut him off. Back in the ring, Cole earned a near-fall off a ushigoroshi. He followed with the Last Shot a minute later, but Ciampa crawled to the safety of the bottom rope to avoid defeat.

    Ciampa delivered the Air Raid Crash again, this time to the ring apron. Cole answered with a Panama Sunrise on the arena floor, further damaging the neck of his opponent. The challenger popped up, though, and delivered Willow's Bell. The Fairytale Ending seemingly finished Cole off, but the champion shot his shoulder off the mat just before the three-count.

    Late in the match, Roderick Strong, Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish all interfered, but Cole still failed to put away Ciampa. He followed up with the Last Shot but again could not keep his opponent down.
    Ref bumps, more interference and a low blow ensued as Cole looked for any way to leave with his title reign intact. Ciampa caught Cole with a low blow of his own, added another Fairytale Ending and had the champion pinned for a count of at least 15.

    The lack of a referee prevented the coronation, though, and a shocking betrayal by Johnny Gargano moments later ensured earned Cole the tainted victory.

         

    Result

    Cole defeated Ciampa

        

    Grade

    A

        

    Analysis

    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    "Shocking" may not be the word for Gargano's betrayal, at least to anyone who has been paying attention to his saga with Ciampa over the last two years. The relationship between the team formerly known as DIY has been one of twists, turns and a roller coaster of emotion. There have been heel turns, reunions, more betrayal and in between a series of defining matches.

    Gargano's turn here was not "shocking," at least not from the standpoint that it happened. It was shocking, though, in the sense that NXT officials appear content to let those two write yet another chapter in their story. This, just as it appeared as though the brand may be moving on from that particular rivalry for the time being.

    Given the amount of time that has been invested in the story, one has to hope that Triple H and those in charge of crafting the story understand how important it is for them to put an exclamation point on the epic rivalry with one last great match. And, perhaps more significantly, how vital an injection of freshness will be to ensuring fans can muster enough emotion and energy to watch the familiar foes battle one more time.

    If not, the feud will limp to a conclusion rather than sprint to the ending the performers and fans deserve.

    As for the match between Ciampa and Cole, it was great for the first two-thirds before overbooking bogged it down a bit. Still, the psychology surrounding Ciampa's neck was strong and played off an injury everyone was familiar with, making it far more believable that the champion could exploit it all the way to victory.