WWE NXT TakeOver: Portland 2020 Review

Lots of firsts with this PPV. First time in Portland, first time NXT has a PPV on a Sunday (usually they’re on a Saturday right before a significant WWE PPV), first time Keith Lee defends his North American Championship, and the first NXT women’s street fight.

Keith Lee v Dominik Dijakovic

What got us here: Ooh man, if you haven’t seen their recent series of matches, I highly recommend you get to that ASAP. Their first match alone made me a HUGE fan of both of these men. Their story leading here has been fascinating and well done: From rivals to allies to tag team partners leading to Keith Lee winning the championship back to rivals with mutual respect. NXT not only shows they know how to tell long term stories well, but they also know how to listen to their audience who definitely influenced these two from a one-off throwaway match to rivals that could both easily defeat the other any given night.

Keith Lee v Dominik Dijakovic
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What went down tonight: Keith Lee retains the belt. These two don’t have matches, they make magic. Their chemistry is just insane together that had this match lasted 30 minutes longer, I would have stayed gripped to the edge of my seat. If I had to make one complaint it would be that their need to give this a face/heel match-up feel. Whether true or not, the rule of thumb is that face v face matches don’t have the excitement that they used to in previous generations. But not only did the DIY v Mustache Mountain at the NXT Worlds Collide PPV prove that wrong, but so have these two in their previous series of matches – so NXT’s insistence to give Dijakovic a heel edge for this match felt unnecessary.   

What happens next: For the time being, I don’t see a rematch happening any time soon. This was a great way to wrap up their rivalry for the time being, and it seems only a matter of time before Keith Lee gets called over to Smackdown or Raw (his Survivor Series performance alone proved his rightful place as a future Hall of Famer), so I expect him to lose his title at the Takeover during WrestleMania weekend to allow him to pass the torch before his ascension. Long term, I can see these two chase each other whenever either holds a belt since they know they have each other figured out.

Tegan Nox v Dakota Kai

What got us here: Former best friends turned bitter enemies. Fan-favorite Tegan Nox was double-crossed by Kai at the biggest shock of NXT Takeover: War Games – not to mention the biggest heel turn in years. That turn made Kai a breakout star after being an underwhelming (and misused) face since getting signed, and since then she’s been used beautifully like winning in a fantastically sneaky way against Candace this last Wednesday night.

Tegan Nox v Dakota Kai

What went down tonight: Dakota Kai wins thanks to outside interference from Raquel Gonzales. I don’t know how I feel about street fights. Post-OG ECW with their bloody hardcore matches (which are uncomfortable to watch since we know more about the long term consequences of concussions nowadays), they just don’t have the same effect on a PG platform. They tend to feel sluggish and the pacing usually kills the energy in the arena. That said, minus the frustratingly anti-climactic conclusion these two gave it all, and I just loved the storytelling to this match. I’m torn at the ending – while I’m happy that Kai keeps slipping in shady wins, I wish we didn’t have the new arrival be the reason for it. I want to feel the win was cheated in a clean way – if that makes sense. 

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What happens next: Like the opener, if these two keep a bitter series going at this caliber, I would be very ok with that. It had an element of Andrade v Gargano’s sensational bitter feud. While the “main roster” seems to be struggling in their women’s division, NXT constantly shows their women’s division is stacked with excellence.

Johnny Gargano v Finn Bálor

What got us here: Not much, honestly. It feels like when Finn decided to come back to NXT they took what has been talked about as a dream match and used it to debut Finn’s much-welcomed heel turn. But other than “you kicked me in the head, Finn” and “oh yeah well you deserved it, Johnny,” there isn’t much else to the lead-up. But here’s the thing when it comes to these two: They’re both so good, they didn’t need anything other than that to get us here.

Johnny Gargano v Finn Bálor

What went down tonight: Finn wins. I’m going to get so much heat for this, but this match did nothing for me. I’m a HUGE fan of both of these guys, and there were some BRUTAL spots, but I don’t know why this didn’t connect for me. Maybe the placement of the match? Had it been the opener (which I had assumed it would be) maybe it would have gotten me more into this dream match.

What happens next: Hopefully they’ll go on to face other opponents. These two are favorites of mine, but after this match, I just don’t want to rehash it again and again.

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Bianca Belair v Rhea Ripley

What got us here: Rhea beats a formerly unstoppable Shayna to win the title (who has since been called up and is now a vampire, I guess?), and recently challenged Charlotte Flair for WrestleMania, leaving Bianca to feel underestimated despite being the EST of NXT and – more recently – Royal Rumble.

Bianca Belair v Rhea Ripley

What went down tonight: Rhea retains the belt, then Charlotte comes out, destroys both women, and accepts the match. I loved the match. These women are the top of the card right now, and Bianca is so good that she almost doesn’t even need to hold a title to be seen as a legit dominating force (SERIOUSLY, go watch her amazing showing at Royal Rumble). And it made perfect sense for Charlotte to come out at the end, but the fact this worked so well made the Nox/Kai finish seem even more anticlimactic. Did we really need a run-in for both women’s matches?

What happens next: Rhea goes on to face Charlotte at WrestleMania, Bianca starts a program with someone else or gets called up to Raw (where her husband is). She deserves the latter, but it might not be her time yet.

Undisputed Era v The Broserweights 

What got us here: 2019 found the UE dripping with gold. Already, Roddy has lost his belt to Keith Lee, and this night is ominous for the rest of the faction with many gunning for them. Meanwhile, Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne won this year’s Dusty Classic to earn this shot at the NXT Tag Team Championship.

Undisputed Era v The Broserweights

What went down tonight: Riddle and Dunne win the belts. Despite my annoyance that the tag team division almost annually is undermined by two single wrestlers without active programs being smushed together as a team and winning the tag team tournament over established teams, these two guys are beautiful together – and their skits are hilarious (though the Fish sing-a-long today felt…meh). This match had everything in it you’d hope it would and then some. Just beautiful. 

What happens next: I assume there will be rematches – which I’m all for – leading to UE being called up as a faction after WrestleMania.

Tommaso Ciampa v Adam Cole (Bay Bay)

What got us here: Tommaso was the NXT Champion but had to give up the belt for neck surgery that kept him sidelined for 7 months, while Cole won the belt and has been the long-running champ.

Tommaso Ciampa v Adam Cole (Bay Bay)

What went down tonight: Cole retains after help from UE and, surprisingly, Gargano. I loved this main event. Loved it. These two are just pure money and you felt every hit, every emotion, every desperation to win. Perfect main event… until Johnny’s confusing turn that I don’t quite get. We’ll see the justification for it soon, I’m sure, but I’m hoping it has logic and it’s not a Finger Poke of Doom shock for shock value’s sake.

What happens next: Like the tag team, I’m assuming they have a rematch on the NXT PPV WrestleMania weekend and Tomasso gets Goldie back, allowing the entire UE faction to get called up to Raw or Smackdown sans gold.

So what did YOU think of the show? Let us know in the comments!

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