COOL POINTS: nXt TakeOver: Portland Review
Been a long time, been a long time, been a long, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time!
– Led Zeppelin, Rock and Roll
3 months since the last TakeOver and many more since this columnist last put together a post-show review. But there is a need to be filled and I’ve got a day off tomorrow, so the perfect set of circumstances have arisen for this Cool Points TakeOver review.
Usual divisional format will be kept, so you won’t see a chronological review, but each match will be addressed with the set-up, highlights and cool points as I saw them and possible directions for wrestlers moving forward to TakeOver: Tampa.
nXt Men’s Division
North American Championship: Keith Lee (c) vs. Dominik Dijakovic
Lee vs. Dijakovic: 1-1-2, all-time
Finally, we get a 5th match between these two, first with a title on the line and the first in many months that should break the tie between these two heavyweights. A deep respect has formed between them, which led to some tag team work in the fall. Most notably, they joined forces for WarGames with Tommaso Ciampa and Kevin Owens to defeat the Undisputed Era.
What has become the norm for these two is their incredible ability to take risks and perform high-flying manoeuvres, despite their size and weight. Tonight continued that trend.
Keith Lee defeats Dominik Dijakovic
3 cool points for Lee’s first successful title defense. He endured a heck of a lot of damage from Dijakovic, including the springboard front flip dropkick to Lee who was seated on the outside. His persistence paid off.
2 cool points for Dijakovic. He managed to break 2 pinfall attempts following powerbombs by Lee, including one where Dijakovic literally bounced off of his back, rolled over and up on to his feet. He also had a pretty sweet super Samoan drop on Lee, too. He threw everything at Lee and Lee either caught it, reversed it, or kicked out of it. No shame in losing this one.
Much respect to both wrestlers for their embrace and sign of respect at the end. This was definitely a match where the fans were supporting both big men, but, ultimately, it was Lee in whose glory we would bask.
Lee is North American Champion and unafraid of any challenger. Curious to see how the #1 contender will be chosen for April. Dijakovic has upped his credibility and ranking, wrestling in his first singles match at TakeOver.
Finn Balor vs. Johnny Gargano
Balor: 5-1 in nXt
Gargano: 2-1 since TakeOver: Toronto, 1-1 in tag matches
Mauro calls this a dream match and, for the present day, I would have to agree. It’s a match we thought would only be seen on the main brand, but Balor’s return to nXt on October 2nd opened the door to many possibilities.
On October 23rd, Balor beat up Gargano, following the North American Championship match where the eventual WarGames foes were brawling. Gargano was injured by this and it caused him to miss his first TakeOver in years. He repaid the favor by attacking Balor on December 18th, following Balor’s loss to Adam Cole in an nXt Championship match.
Finn Balor defeats Johnny Gargano with the 1916 DDT.
3 cool points for Balor. Balor with a beauty slingblade, on the outside, on Gargano to regain momentum in the match. His arrogance was on full display when he started doing push-ups during a submission hold by Gargano. Appreciated the modified figure-four leg lock where Balor kept goading Gargano to hit him, too. That’s the kind of character work that was missing the past few years as smiley-guy Balor.
2 cool points for Gargano. Gargano’s decision to attack Balor’s left arm was intelligent, but it may have also prompted Balor to do some limb targeting of his own, which is why Gargano found his knee being worked on in the second half of the match. The somersault senton to the outside sparked Gargano’s offensive thrust, which led directly to a slingshot DDT to the inside and near fall.
Balor backed up what he said he would do and has to be in the mix for the nXt Championship. I understand that he already had a #1 contendership opportunity against Adam Cole, but he has to be considered for TakeOver: Tampa. A win over Gargano merits opportunity.
Gargano’s in a tricky spot. As a former champion, he may easily be able to re-enter the title picture at will, but there’d likely be a #1 contender’s match to win for that. More to say on that in the next match.
nXt Championship Match: Adam Cole (c) vs. Tommaso Ciampa
Cole 7-0 as champion, 0-2 in tag matches
Ciampa 1-2 since returning from injury, 4-0 in tag matches
When Ciampa returned from injury, he immediately reminded Adam Cole and the nXt faithful that he wanted “Goldie” back. He had never lost the title, having to give it up due to neck surgery. While Ciampa rehabbed, Cole defended the championship successfully, playing a lead role in a golden year for the Undisputed Era.
Ciampa’s team defeated Cole’s team at WarGames in November, which gave Ciampa an additional claim on getting a title shot. He would have to wait though, after losing a #1 contender’s match in December to Finn Balor. His promos would continue to mention his desire for a championship shot and he got under Adam Cole’s skin enough that the champion would beat up on Ciampa, following a match against Balor
Adam Cole retains the nXt Men’s Championship over Tommaso Ciampa, thanks to a title shot to Ciampa’s head from Johnny Gargano, after a sustained interference by the Undisputed Era.
4 cool points for Ciampa’s energy and aggression, which were on point tonight. Loved the charging hip attack on Cole into the barricade. It continued with his chain of clotheslines, capped off with a German suplex and a running knee smash into Cole against the ropes. The Air Raid Crash was a great throwback to WarGames, which got the crowd up on its feet, but Cole managed to get a shoulder up to break the count.
Even the draping DDT from the ropes, combined with the Fairytale Ending, the latter move he hit on Cole twice, but the referee wasn’t there to count the fall, due to the Undisputed Era’s interference.
4 cool points for Adam Cole, most notably his endless striking accuracy and resilience. During the match, he nails Ciampa with a vicious German suplex into the announce table. Ciampa’s neck snapped like he got whiplash and the commentary crew really hyped up the impact of that move. Beauty superkick on Ciampa as he was seated on the apron.
He took as well as he dished out though, getting powerbombed off of an announce table that didn’t break, which led to Ciampa powerbombing him a second time to break it. Those Ushigoroshis were devastating to watch too, but could not put Ciampa away.
Finally, the ending sequence where Cole hit 4 superkicks and a Last Shot on Ciampa should have certainly earned him the win on Ciampa. The amount of head shots in this match that did not result in a win was unrealistic and will only lend itself as fuel towards fans who decry this epic match type.
Instead, Cole depends on a slimy, heart-breaking decision by Gargano to screw over his best friend, aping Ciampa’s move from almost 3 years ago.
Clear direction for Tommaso Ciampa is to confront his pal, Johnny Gargano and ask what happened. This will almost certainly lead to another grudge match at TakeOver: Tampa.
As for Adam Cole, he is now the lone golden member of the Undisputed Era. Unless the Ciampa/Gargano feud gets thrown into the title picture, a #1 contender match will have to be booked by GM William Regal.
Finn Balor’s a natural pick. Keith Lee in a title vs. title match could work. They could even go Velveteen Dream or someone from Raw or Smackdown could show up and challenge Cole. Exciting times ahead for nXt.
nXt Women’s Division
Street Fight: Tegan Nox vs. Dakota Kai
Nox: 1-0 vs. Kai
Kai: 0-1 vs. Nox
Kai and Nox rehabbed injuries together at the WWE Performance Centre. When they both returned to action, they returned as stronger friends and tag team partners.
At TakeOver: WarGames, Team Kick was aligned with Rhea Ripley and Candice LeRae. Kai was originally not chosen to be in the match, but an injury opened up a spot for Kai to join them. When Kai’s turn to enter arrived, she attacked her friend, preventing her from competing in the match.
Since then, the two have brawled on and off, including at the Royal Rumble last month. For fans who have only been following TakeOvers, Nox and Kai have not resolved their anger towards one another, so this is a very logical match type to try and settle it once and for all.
Dakota Kai defeats Tegan Nox after Nox is bounced off a table in the ring by Mae Young Classic participant Raquel Gonzalez.
2 cool points for Kai who evens the series between her and her former friend, Nox. Kai’s attack of Nox during her entrance was priceless, exactly the kind of cheating move a heel should do. Her aggressiveness in slamming and kicking Nox into the ring steps brought an engaging energy to their match in the first few minutes. In the end, an unknown alliance with Gonzalez provides the assist she needs to get the win.
2 cool points for Nox. She hits a pretty sweet Molly-Go-Round (a la Molly Holly) mid-match. Unfortunately, she catches a thrown chair from Kai and awkwardly places her head behind it to receive a kick from Kai. Not smart.
Using the heavy chain, however, was very smart, and she did a number on Kai’s knee with it. She ought to have gone for the victory after the Shiniest Wizard, but, her desire for revenge led her to this poor outcome.
Also, I get that people will be disappointed the table didn’t break, but, to me, it looked nastier for Nox BECAUSE the table DIDN’T break.
Keep the feud going. Now that Gonzalez is involved, it’s easy to see LeRae backing up Nox. So tag matches are possible and a mix of singles matches. Will they get a TakeOver: Tampa match? I’d be surprised if they did. I think this feud will be settled on nXt TV.
Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Bianca Belair (#1c)
Ripley: 4-1 in singles competition, since her arrival to nXt
Belair: 5-2 in singles competition, since September
After losing a #1 Contender’s match in September, Belair had a strong showing in the January 15th #1 Contender’s Battle Royal. She won, eliminating Io Shirai last. These two women have been on opposite sides during WarGames and in the following weeks, too. Even when Ripley had a title defense against Kay at Worlds Collide, Belair showed up in the crowd, at ringside, to remind Ripley of who was next.
This is Ripley’s first title defense since Worlds Collide in January.
2 cool points for Ripley. Important for her to win this match tonight with everything building between her and Charlotte. Belair was stronger, but Ripley wrestled a little smarter and a little gutsier. Her offense, tonight, was not as noteworthy for me as Belair’s.
2 cool points for Belair. Belair’s play to her strength had fans oooing and aahing throughout this match, especially that straight-arm lift of Ripley from the turnbuckle, slamming her on the ground. Then, there was the somersault senton to the outside. Belair did not hold anything back, but when Ripley caught her off the turnbuckle, she was vulnerable to the champ’s finisher.
Post-match, 1 cool point to Charlotte Flair for giving her answer to Rhea Ripley for a Wrestlemania title defense. That’s a pretty big vote of confidence to equalizing the nXt brand with Raw and Smackdown for the Rumble winner to seek out an nXt Championship. Flair’s won the other titles so many times. I guess she wants to rack up the nXt title victories, too.
Ripley/Flair is set for Wrestlemania: Tampa. There will be a number of inter-brand visits between those two over the next 6 weeks.
For Belair, that’s her 3rd TakeOver where she’s left a championship match empty-handed. With the Women’s Division as full and talented as it is, she’ll be dropping down the rankings unless she can get a grudge match like Nox and Kai did.
nXt Tag Team Division
The Broserweights (Riddle/Dunne) vs. Undisputed Era (c) (Fish/O’Reilly)
Riddle & Dunne defeated Andrews & Flash Webster, Imperium, and Grizzled Young Veterans, from nXt UK to win this year’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. Along the way, they established excellent chemistry, gaining the nickname of “The Broserweights”. They have a broserweight vehicle (a gimmicked golf cart) upon which they drive and which carries their massive trophy.
Undisputed Era have had a very mixed 5 and a half months since winning the nXt Tag Team Championships from Street Profits on August 28. They’ve beaten The Revival, but, otherwise, have lost WarGames, a Dusty Rhodes semi-final against Grizzled Young Veterans and a 6-man tag against Ciampa/Lee/Dijakovic.
This title defense is yet another opportunity for O’Reilly & Fish to prove why they have been the gold standard in nXt for the past 3 years.
4 cool points for Matt Riddle. He went on an absolute tear in this match, dishing out double servings of pain to O’Reilly & Fish via exploder suplexes, sentons and knee strikes. He even went Goldberg for a bit with spears, but couldn’t finish with a jackhammer, due to a chopblock to the knee. It didn’t matter though because he finished strong and worked very well with Dunne.
4 cool points for Pete Dunne. His shining moments were his stomps on the hands of O’Reilly & Fish, and that finger snap he did on Fish while Riddle was absolutely writhing in pain, thanks to O’Reilly’s leg submission. That allowed Dunne to break the hold.
A minute later, he finger-snapped O’Reilly as well, disallowing a tag to Fish. But it was his kick out of the Undisputed Era’s tandem offense at the last second, keeping his team alive, that was the most important effort of his.
Two absolutely devastating superkicks later, and the Broserweights attained the tag titles, to a chorus of “Bros” from the Portland crowd.
3 cool points for the Undisputed Era who showed their usual cleverness, evading nasty kicks from their opponents and reversing submission holds into submission holds of their own. The ankle lock spot was very cool, and even though Riddle & Dunne reversed it on them, O’Reilly was able to get a Scorpion Deathlock back on Dunne. Well, until Riddle kneed him in the head before collapsing, thanks to Fish’s sleeperhold.
The collapse of the Undisputed Era’s “draped in gold’ program is almost complete. With that, there will be cries for a faction split, which would produce its own in-house feuds. I’m not certain we’re there yet, given the often-used rematch play and that Cole is still nXt Champion. So, there will be cries from O’Reilly & Fish for a rematch, likely before TakeOver: Tampa.
The Broserweights are riding an exciting wave of support from the nXt audience. I say let ‘em ride it as long and as far as it takes them. Natural next opponents include a rematch with the Era, Grizzled Young Veterans (Dusty Classic Finalists) and Forgotten Sons.
TakeOver: Portland was nXt’s first February special event since 2015. Without seeing any social media feedback, I’d wager that the show went over with fans, especially those who enjoy that epic, many false finishers match type.
Match of the night, for me, was the Broserweights vs. Undisputed Era. There’s really no equivalent for an exciting, well-booked tag match.
Lots to like from the first TakeOver of 2020. What’s your take? Something to share on those matches and events? Drop your cool points in the comments section or send me a tweet, and let’s talk nXt.
Have a great week!
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