NXT TakeOver: Portland
February 16, 2020
Portland, Oregon
Moda Center

Watch: WWE Network

Meet our previewers

  • Jeff Hawkins: co-host of Shake Them Ropes, non-vulgar Jim Cornette-like crank, breaker of Garrett Kidney but refuses to buy him. Will be using Portlandia quotes
  • Garrett Kidney: co-host of Wednesday War Games, Jeff broke him so badly he’s now previewing NXT to put watching the show every week to good use. Has never watched Portlandia.

NXT North American Championship
Keith Lee (c) vs. Dominik Dijakovic

Hawkins: “You know what, I, I have to go to the bathroom again, I’ve been here that long.”

Keith Lee has been in NXT since early 2018. It seems like the only feud he has had is with Dominik Dijakovic minus the two weeks of the Undisputed Era jumping Lee and the North American Title match. There’s not a lot of complaining in that statement, it’s more of a “is this all they’re going to do with two guys who could do a hoss fight or take flight?” I’ve been live for two matches, one in Evolve, one in PWG. They’re spectacular, this one should be quite good, my question is, can they make any heat after they’ve been aligned? I don’t expect Dijakovic to win the title here, commentary will put him over huge as “giving the champ all he could” and it depends on if they follow up on that or it’s lip service Prediction: Keith Lee

Garrett: I desperately hope these two bring something new, something different to this match. Every single time they’ve wrestled they’ve done the exact same can you top this match. It was extremely impressive the first time, still pretty fun the second time and each time after that has produced diminishing returns. On a stage like Takeover I hope there’s an edge, an added intensity, some extra layer of emotion to take this from the same match we’ve seen four times already on NXT and produce something novel and special. Keith Lee just won the title, he shouldn’t and likely won’t lose it. Prediction: Keith Lee

Street Fight
Dakota Kai vs. Tegan Nox

Hawkins: “I will hold your hand and go out into the street and make us both get hit by a car that’ll push us into another car, and we’ll go back and forth all day, being hit by cars, holding hands real tight, and I will not let go.”

My favorite line of the go-home show was “Nox and Kai finally clash” when they fought last week and Nox won. What is the point of this match now from a storytelling perspective? Do it again, but have a stipulation? I’m still a fan of both performers, but the creative didn’t think this through. Loving Kai’s new black and white look and her constant sour puss. Always worry about Tegan Nox getting hurt again, but she’s had a knee brace thrown in her face, and friends tend to beat each other up better, so I’ll just sit back and enjoy the carnage. As for a result, color me suspicious that this will be used to get Kai away from Nox, be it Candice LeRae again coming in to help Nox or some new enemy for Nox to fight. My thought is on the latter, and since Nox already vanquished her foe, it’s probably the right move, so I’m going to say Dakota Kai wins due to third party assistance after a wild brawl. Prediction: Dakota Kai

Garrett: What a strangely built match. The initial turn at War Games was marvelously executed. Kai looked like a vicious killer and it looked like NXT had a hot feud on their hands – but slowly in the four months since then the air has been left out of the balloon. By the time they wrestled two weeks ago, the crowd didn’t care. What’s even more baffling is Nox won that match with the cathartic turn-about is fair play finish of using the knee brace. And yet for reasons beyond comprehension, the feud continues to a street fight. When these two had a pull-apart brawl on NXT this week, Full Sail was largely silent. A feud that should have helped elevate both wrestlers has more stuttered along to its merciful conclusion. That Nox hasn’t had the chance to cut a character-defining promo on Kai through all this is a complete failure of creative. Hopefully, their match is good enough to help redeem a little from this program for these two. Nox won the TV match Kai likely emerges victorious here. Prediction: Dakota Kai

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Finn Balor vs. Johnny Gargano

Hawkins: “We were just gone for a few minutes.”
“A few minutes is like a few months in dog years.”

This should be a monster feud, and it isn’t. Where did NXT go wrong? Was it Gargano’s journey through heeldom to brand loyalist babyface? His injury-time gone from television? The rebranding of Balor as a jerk and then just having him show up randomly? The whole “Johnny Takeover” thing here should be bigger. Finn’s meaning to NXT and why he wants the match should be bigger, and yet, third or fourth from the top, it feels like it’s positioned correctly. When they had one hour to fill, and time to edit, they’d have fixed all of this. Instead, it feels like between touring and two hours to fill, they forgot that in addition to matches and the occasional vignette, there needs to be a build. It’s fine that Gargano had a match versus Cameron Grimes because of something said at a live event, but where’s the hate from Finn? It’ll be a good match but like Gargano’s ascent, it might be so good that as we move on from it, we might not remember it (Gargano vs. Andrade was an NXT Match of the Year candidate that almost went forgotten that year). I assume this is leading to a stipulation match of some sort, so Finn will win. Prediction: Finn Balor

Garrett: There was a good hook here in the beginning. NXT’s past vs. NXT’s present. Balor’s turn was a good angle and featured the best Pele of all time, Gargano cost Balor his match against Cole before Christmas…and that’s about it. There’s been so little to sink your teeth into with this match. So little, in fact, Finn Balor was absent from the go-home show. Their face-off on last week’s NXT was a sad display of two wrestlers desperately trying to force tension and increase interest in a dispute that barely had a pulse. This match has been an afterthought on NXT TV. Hearing Johnny talk about how upset he was that he missed a Takeover and that he truly represents NXT made him feel like the walking embodiment of BRAND SUPREMACY. He is not a person but rather an arm of the corporate brand. As a result, he feels like the lamest character ever. Hopefully, they have a good match at least. Prediction: Finn Balor

NXT Tag Team Championship
The Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly) (c) vs. The BroserWeights (Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne)

Hawkins: “It’s not cookie time!”

When the Broserweights started to happen, it seemed like the plan was that Matt Riddle would be Matt Riddle until Pete Dunne couldn’t take any more of the foolishness. Now we’re getting a road trip with Mr. Hand and Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High by way of Bobby and Gorilla on Prime Time Wrestling….and it feels like it’s helping both guys. I also probably thought there would be some nice bookend where Pete screws over someone else to get the tag team titles like the end for Takeover: New Orleans. Now I’m not so sure. The problem with Fish and O’Reilly right now is they feel like bad guys #3 and #4 in Cobra Kai in that they feel like the bad guys before the big bad guys. They’re playing a Revival-like role, and that’s great, but they’ve taken a backseat to Cole and Strong. With another Takeover two months away, one of the titles needs to change hands to make it feel like there’s forward motion, and I think it’s going to be the tag titles so we can heighten the absurdity of the tag champs who are oil and water. Prediction: The Broserweights

Garrett: NXT finally allowing Matt Riddle to be Matt Riddle has finally brought something to NXT that they’ve been desperately lacking: some semblance of personality. Dunne and Riddle’s straight man/funny man routine has been a breath of fresh air on NXT, injecting a little bit of charm and whimsy into a largely loud, self-serious show. As great as Fish and O’Reilly are, they’ve long since run out of teams to work with and the tag team division has stagnated around them. This should be the best match on the show and only one team should win. Prediction: The Broserweights

NXT Women’s Championship
Rhea Ripley © vs. Bianca Belair

Hawkins: “Between the two of us, there’s four breasts”

Bianca Belair is in the worst possible position to be in when you’re a WWE talent- the person they really like that is gaining momentum, but there are other plans right now and also someone else for whom they have reserved the rocket. It was a problem for Braun Strowman and Dean Ambrose respectively who then ended up in a strange limbo. On the main roster, when they broke off from faction warfare, this was the exact position of Becky Lynch in that three-way “feud” that was really Sasha and Charlotte, but they needed someone to beat. You knew the moment someone needed a bigger win, and the moment passed. Rhea Ripley’s push from Survivor Series until now has been one of the better NXT success stories in the last couple of years. It appears she’s going to get a big match with Charlotte at Wrestlemania though I still think Charlotte never having a big arena Takeover match to put on her resume (Brooklyn was that odd Fatal Four Way Emma accidentally won due to a concussion), that might be on the bucket list. The end of NXT screams Belair losing because she laid out the champ, but I’m really leaning towards a non-finish or Charlotte interference that turns that match into a three-way as well, just as Becky was slotted into the Sasha/Charlotte feud, and probably for the same purpose. The thought is that by adding Belair to the match, Charlotte makes two stars. Prediction: Non-finish

Garrett: They have quite the predicament here. Charlotte vs. Rhea is clearly the direction and probably for very good reason. It’s the biggest star of NXT vs. one of the biggest stars of Raw. It’s a no brainer. Bianca Belair has thrown a spanner in the works. From her tremendous performance in the Royal Rumble to stealing the show when in the ring with Charlotte and Ripley two weeks ago, it’s clear she’s having a moment. Equally, Rhea has plateaued a little since winning the title, as WWE is increasingly having her talk when she really never should. She should be a badass who says nothing and beats people up. There is only one mold for a champion in WWE after all and if you’re not a great promo, you’ll suffer badly. So, in theory, Belair winning is probably the right move. She probably won’t though. Prediction: Rhea Ripley

NXT Championship
Adam Cole (c) vs. Tommaso Ciampa

Hawkins: “Please, please, win! Meow, meow, meow!”

When the Undisputed Era came together, it was good for NXT. NXT had lacked a good heel stable on the male side, the women had already had the BFF’s which helped build both Sasha Banks and Charlotte by way of Bayley. It got heightened with “the prophecy” of them holding all the titles. It felt very Four Horsemen in tone. The problem with WWE’s unimaginative storytelling where every angle is about corporate politics or “I’m the best” is that they don’t expand on such stories. It’s just the next person who wants to be the face of the division or says “you haven’t beat me.” The Undisputed Era is just there to attack four at a time and get beaten back by one person or to interfere. Tommaso Ciampa’s story is at least interesting–had the title, got hurt, had to give up the title, came back earlier than people thought and now wants the title back. His tweener personality also makes him interesting because it’s actual character motivation that he only cares about the title because of the personal connection versus “just having it” or “it means I’m the best.” Ciampa is getting the title back, just not here, it’s going to be a moment. My guess is the Wrestlemania weekend Takeover will be the “moment” one and Ciampa falls short here and we get the real build starting Wednesday, but I could also see Ciampa failing because Velveteen Dream is being coronated and going through the Undisputed Era to do it. Either way, while I think it’s the more interesting choice, Ciampa isn’t winning the title here. Prediction: Adam Cole

Garrett: On a show full of undercooked and underdeveloped matches, we have our main event! Cole has run out challengers but Ciampa hasn’t really been lighting the world on fire since his return. The build to this has been very paint-by-numbers World Title match with little real spark or energy – the highlight of the whole thing being accidental blood during the contract signing. Hopefully, the match itself walks the line between NXT overindulgence and the classic Takeover matches of the past to over-deliver on the build. Given another Takeover is coming up ‘Mania Weekend I’d imagine they’ll want a ready-made main event and Ciampa vs. Balor ticks that box. Prediction: Tommaso Ciampa