NXT TakeOver: Portland
February 16, 2019
Moda Center
Portland, Oregon

Watch: WWE Network

Meet our reviewers

Rich Kraetsch: The face that runs the place, co-host of the VOW Flagship Podcast. Follow him @voiceswrestling and subscribe to our Patreon at voicesofwrestling.com/patreon for hours of bonus audio. 

Steve Case: The man who once lovingly and with 1000% confidence called Takeover “the surest thing in wrestling.” For quite awhile now, NXT has felt soulless and lifeless, with very good to kind of great wrestling. The NXT of old is dead and gone and the last Takeover was a good show, but at or near the bottom of the Takeover lexicon. The build to this show has been less than stellar, but hopefully what it can be on paper shines through. Follow him @coachcase44

NXT United States Championship
Keith Lee def. Donovan Dijakovic

Rich: Admittedly I wasn’t a huge fan of the prior Lee/Dijak matches. It wasn’t that I didn’t like or enjoy them, I just didn’t see them as these transcendent MOTY-level battles. I even had the pleasure of watching these two face-off love and even then, I left thinking it was fun and impressive but not necessarily great. That’s how I felt again tonight. I’m not one to usually complain about spot fests or guys just doing moves to do them but, well, that’s what these matches feel like to me. The point of the match quite literally “big guys do flips and shit.” While I appreciate and admire the effort and remain impressed by what these guys can accomplish in the ring, I just don’t care. The first few times you see a big man flip through a move or do a backflip over the top rope, it stands out, it shocks you, you can’t believe what you’ve just seen. The 7th-8th time, eh, not so much. Despite the tremendous effort from both the whole thing comes across soulless, empty and ultimately worthless. *** 

Steve: For those who are only familiar with the NXT matches these two have had, this probably blew your mind. For me, who was blown away by their matches in PWG and other matches on the indies, this was PWG-lite. It never got to their matches on the independent scene, but these two still brought it and had a great match here. These two threw bombs and showed off their elite athleticism. Lee was very impressive early, dominating with his power and throwing in a rana for good measure. Dijakovic had the biggest spots though, with a nutty corkscrew senton, as well as a springboard senton to Lee sitting in a chair outside. Things picked up big time once they got back in the ring, with both men throwing everything they had at each other. After some good back and forth, Lee was finally able to put Dijakovic away. The crowd was going nuts for this and it was a great way to open the show. It might have been PWG-lite, but it was still a tremendous match. Easily their best in NXT. ****1/4

Street Fight
Dakota Kai def. Tegan Nox

Rich: If you choose to ignore their mundane, way-too-short TV match from a few weeks ago this has been one of the best-built feuds in recent NXT memory. Kai, embarrassed at being exiled from the Women’s War Games match in November, turned on her best friend who refused to speak up or stick up for her. It’s a simple and relatable story that has become all too rare in today’s pro wrestling scene. Since then these two have tried to kill the other with backstage attacks, sneak assaults, knee braces and more. They had a TV match a few weeks ago but again, we’re going to forget that happened, okay? Cool! Here the two ramped the brutality up to 10 and had one of the better plunder matches I’ve seen in some time. The weapons were relatively run of the mill but all of the attacks were targeted (typically to both women’s repaired knees) and all seemed to have an extra bit of oomph on it from the added emotion of the feud. It helps that these two are real-life best friends and in wrestling, as unique an industry as it is, best friends usually do the best job of hurting one another. The finish, which saw the returning/debuting Reina Gonzalez (now Raquel González) cost Nox the match, was a bit of a letdown but it didn’t cloud an otherwise great match. I loved this. ****

Steve: I was into this feud until they blew it off on TV in 4 minutes. It didn’t take them long to get me back into it though. Five seconds into Teagan’s theme and Kai attacks her from behind. They then begin trying to destroy each other. Teagan looks like a million bucks and Kai’s heel turn has been tremendous. I didn’t see much in either of these two prior to this feud but I see it now. They are using guard rails, trash cans, the steps, cricket paddles, duct tape, laptops, chains and chairs and really laying it in. The hatred jumped off the page here and that’s a credit to the effort these two put in here. Being best friends in real life probably helps that. Teagan looked like an absolute killer and star in this. She can be a future champion. I liked that Teagan had her beat, but wanted to punish her more. If that had led to Kai getting the best of her leading to a third match, that would have been just fine. Then someone called Raquel Gonzalez happened for some reason. Just…why? This was still a great street fight and could have gone up there with the best of the women’s division. The run-in leading to the finish took it down from that level. ****

Finn Balor vs. Johnny Gargano

Rich: Johnny Gargano is one of my favorite wrestlers of all-time but man does he seem so out of place in NXT. Honestly, both Balor and Gargano feel like vestiges of a past when NXT as a brand felt more consequential and like a true developmental brand as opposed to just the third brand of WWE. Balor is one of the most accomplished TakeOver participants ever with a 9-1 all-time record while Gargano on this night participated in his 16 (!) all-time TakeOver match. There’s been 31 TakeOvers in NXT history and Gargano has had a match on 52% of them. At this point, he’s the 24-year-old that still drives down to every other weekend and gets drunk at his old college frat. Everyone thinks it’s cool because he’s a nice dude and he helps buy everyone alcohol but there’s also a sense of “what is this guy doing here? Doesn’t he have a job or something?” You think someone of Garagno’s talent SHOULD have something better to do but in actuality, he doesn’t. Triple H smartly knows that Gargano is dead to rights the second he makes his way to the WWE main roster so he protects one of his greatest assets. Unfortunately, like the 24-year-old who drives two hours every Friday night with a 30 pack of PBR and a handle of vodka in his trunk, it’s starting to get embarrassing. This match, like many in the NXT/NXT UK universe, overstayed its welcome after peaking earlier in the match. I still enjoyed what I saw but the last five minutes of the match seemed unnecessarily tacked on and featured table spots, barricade tropes and eventually, a Finn Balor victory. Technically everything was well done here as two all-time great workers came together for a tremendous match that undoubtedly overstayed its welcome and suffered for it. ****

Steve: I’ve never been a huge Balor guy of any form really. He’s very good and sometimes great, but I’ve never considered him to be one of the best. I haven’t been a huge fan of what he’s done since coming back to NXT. I just can’t buy into him being a badass heel. Gargano hasn’t had too many high profile matches in awhile, so I’m sure he’s itching to do everything to steal the show here. Over/under 10% body fat in this match? Contrary to what I stated earlier, Finn was really oozing the smarmy, cocky heel charisma here. One of the things I never liked about Balor was he’d work the same match no matter the situation. Heel, face, demon, prince it was always the same. He was vicious throughout here. The way he worked, the aggression, and his face screamed viciousness. There was a quickness and snap to everything that you used to see all the time in NXT. This was one of the best Balor matches I’ve seen in WWE/NXT. Gargano had a ton to do with that, as he was his usual, big match tremendous self. This was all about the new Balor though. This was intense, well worked, and never got dull. If this is the Balor we get from here on out, he needs to get the rocked back to the top. This ruled. ****1/2

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

Rich: Ripley redeemed herself after a stinker against Toni Storm at World’s Collide. This was perfectly worked for both women’s talent as Belair was able to show what makes her so special and Ripley, when in control, looked like an absolutely unbeatable monster. It’s a shame Belair may never reach the top in NXT but the cream will eventually rise to the top and at some point in her WWE career, she’ll be a champion. Unfortunately, Ripley is the star now and has the chance to be THE biggest women’s star in the company. Likewise, she’s on a path towards WrestleMania against Charlotte so while a very good match there was absolutely no doubt who would win. ****

Steve: This was easily Rhea’s best match since winning the title. Both these women are top tier stars in a WWE women’s division that’s more loaded than it’s ever been. This match needs to get run back in a few years at Wrestlemania or one of the big four shows on the main roster. These two tore into each other. The back body drop Rhea took to the floor followed by Bianca doing a tope to follow her is a spot that I’m not sure more than 5 women on the roster can do. This was every bit as good as the street fight (due to the mouth fart finish of that match) but for entirely different reasons. Rhea got the win after countering a top rope spot into the riptide. Charlotte then showed up and attacked Rhea before challenging her to a match at Wrestlemania. Before Charlotte left, she also threw Bianca into the steps. Don’t be surprised if that works itself into the picture later on as well. ****

NXT Tag Team Championship
Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne def. The Undisputed Era © 

Rich: This absolutely rocked. Four all-time great pro wrestlers coming together for a great tag match that blended classic tag team wrestling but modernized it to the present day. Undisputed Era has such ridiculous chemistry and timing that you’d swear there are four members of the team. Their uncanny ability to appear at JUST the right time to break up a pinfall or fly in out of camera to disrupt the action is second to none. As far as Riddle/Dunne, look I’m all in on the buddy cop chemistry of this duo. Will they drive it into the ground eventually? Oh I’m sure but let’s just enjoy it for now. This is one of those go out of your way to see it type matches that could get some down ballot Match of the Year talk at the end of the year. And it wouldn’t be unwarranted. Tremendous and simple pro wrestling. ****1/2

Steve: I think I’m the only person who finds the Riddle/Dunne stuff kind of stupid. Riddle makes it charming, and deadpan Dunne is always fun, but it really is on the line of too goofy for me. Coming in on the Brosierweight-mobile? Fun. The “How much fish..” joke? Not fun. Fetch isn’t going to happen. Not only did Bobby Fish embrace the gray, he looked really off and slow through most of this. I don’t know if something happened during the match or if all his injuries are catching up, but he just didn’t look like himself. O’Reilly really needs a single run at some point, and if some of those matches could include Matt Riddle, I’ll be very happy. Matt Riddle had a hot tag for the ages in this, destroying both Fish and O’Reilly with knees, germans, and brotons at an unbelievable pace. This wasn’t quite to the level of past tag matches on Takeovers, but it was still a pretty great match. They really had me after the consecutive bumps Dunne and Riddle gave each other and UE hit Chasing the Dragon on on Dunne. I thought for sure that was it and we were heading for a Dunne/Riddle program. That was a tremendous nearfall. The Brosierweights then hit a sick looking finisher and took the titles to a HUGE crowd pop. The comedy might not always hit, but these two bring a freshness to the tag mix that is much needed and will no doubt continue to have some tremendous matches with anyone they are put against. ****

NXT Championship
Adam Cole © def. Tommaso Ciampa

Rich: This match WAS really good. The first 15-20 minutes had me hooked and saying “Look I know I talk some shit about NXT main events being too overdone and exhausting but this has been tremendous.” Then this match lasted another 20 or so minutes, featured numerous run-ins and step-for-step recreations of Cole vs. Gargano at TakeOver: New York, about 37 more kickouts, a ref bump, a heel turn, a bunch of table spots, a Canadian Destroyer off a table onto the floor, numerous moves on the apron, a bunch of camera shots of guys grabbing their heads after a kickout… I can go on but you get the picture. NXT main events try so hard to fit into the mold of the Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels WrestleMania matches forgetting that what those matches so special was that there was no mold. Those matches were unique and different and broke from the trend so heavily that it was (pun somewhat intended) a shock to the system. Now, NXT and NXT UK try to bottle that energy on each TakeOver and it’s become such a tired trend. Every NXT match is designed to feet like an epic, once-in-a-lifetime, I can’t believe what I’m seeing moment and match but that’s just unsustainable. Sometimes we just need a good A to B pro wrestling match that doesn’t overstep its bounds and doesn’t try to make itself an epic. Look no further than the tag match prior. This wasn’t it though. To make matters worse the finish saw Johnny Garagno turn on Ciampa and cost him the match and the championship via a belt shot. Why Johnny, ever the risk taker, waiting 40+ minutes, 52 kickouts and a ref bump into the match to decide to run in and cost Ciampa the title? Who knows. Look on the bright side, we get ANOTHER Ciampa/Gargano feud! Excited? Yeah. Me neither. There were elements of a great match in here but the entire package represents so much of what’s wrong with modern NXT and why the company fails to capture the same energy and spirit it once did. ***

Steve: This was a really good title match for the first 20 minutes. They did a lot, but it was all done well and the crowd was real into it. Then the Undisputed Era got involved. Then we had a ref bump. Then evil Johnny stabbed Ciampa in the back and cost him the title. I don’t like getting invested for 20+ minutes only for it all to be rendered meaningless due to overbooking. So now we get heel Johnny and face Ciampa, which is fine. I was a lot more into their feud than most, and the fact that it’s not for the title means it can exist in its own world. Who’s next for Cole though? Balor is a heel, so it can’t be him even if it should. Velveteen Dream? Possibly, but it seems his issues are with Roddy for the foreseeable future. Maybe the intrigue will get them above 800k viewers on Wednesdays. ***1/4