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TJRWrestling WWE NXT Takeover Portland Preview (Cole vs. Ciampa, Gargano vs. Balor)

John: Welcome to the TJRWrestling WWE NXT Takeover Portland 2020 preview. It’s rare to have a Sunday night NXT Takeover show because they usually happen on a Saturday night, but WWE has decided to run with a Sunday show for this Takeover event. I think the main reason for it is because WWE likely knows they get more views for Sunday night PPV-style shows since that’s what WWE fans have been used to over the last 30+ years.

There are six advertised matches on the card and I expect a lot of terrific in-ring as usual for an NXT Takeover event. What I really like about this show is that nearly every match has a fresh feel to it. I’ve never seen Gargano vs. Balor in a WWE ring, Ciampa vs. Cole has been built up very well, the Tag Team Title match is fresh since the challengers are a new team and they’ve done well in building up Bianca Belair to challenge Rhea Ripley. Two of the matches that we have seen before are Dakota Kai vs. Tegan Nox in what was a short match on NXT a few weeks back and also Keith Lee vs. Dominik Dijakovic. Those two big men have wrestled many times in WWE as well as pre-WWE, but I’ll never tire of them having a match and it’s also their first time doing this on a Takeover show. It’s hard to pick what my favorite match is because I’m excited about so many of them.

The runtime of the show isn’t known right now, but a typical Takeover has five matches over 2 hours and 30 minutes. Some of them have gone over three hours in the past. I get the feeling that this show will be around three hours although we don’t know that for sure right now. The NBA All-Star game is also on Sunday night, which should draw a big audience especially due to the Kobe Bryant tributes they will have. I’m going to watch Takeover live most likely.

Please note: I am not writing a WWE NXT Reaction column this week. Check out Lance’s in-depth NXT review for insight into what happened. This week has been really busy for me and I need a break sometimes. Lance is already doing a great job reviewing it, so I think it’s okay if I sit out for a week.

Joining me for the preview are Kurt Zamora and Lance Augustine. Kurt was our long-time NXT reviewer on TJRWrestling while Lance is our current reviewer, so I wanted to bring them along to predict the matches with me. Let’s roll.

(Note: All graphics are from WWE. The banner up top is courtesy of our friend Melo Man.)

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

Kurt: At first blush, I feel this is setting up for Dunne to turn on Riddle. Dunne’s mannerisms have been great, playing off of Riddle’s personality. If they were to keep the team going, it works beautifully, and I think them as champs would be a hell of a lot of fun. The vignettes of them trying to get to Portland show that. However, I think it’s going to play out that Dunne really wasn’t that entertained by Riddle and was doing this because he felt it helped enhance his spot in NXT after moving over from NXT UK.

The great part about Undisputed Era not having all the titles now, it makes it easier to think the others can lose their titles now. I don’t suspect they’ll lose all the titles that close together though, so I’m going to stick with my Dunne turning heel prediction and UE retains.

Winner: Undisputed Era retains

Lance: This match is one that has been in the works for weeks now. The Broserweights won the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic and by doing that, also get a shot at the NXT Tag Team Titles. The last couple of episodes of NXT have had these two teams going at each other’s throats and it will culminate here.

There are basically two schools of thought. You could have the Undisputed Era retain the titles here and drag the feud out for a little bit longer, or you could also have the Broserweights win the titles and start the questions about the Undisputed Era’s eventual falling out. There is also the potential of Riddle and Dunne having a falling out, but I can’t see that happening. I will go with them to capture the titles.

Winners and NEW NXT Tag Team Champions: The Broserweights

John: This will be an outstanding match. I’ve been really impressed by The Broserweights in their matches, but also how well they have worked together in the ring as well. The segments they had on NXT TV this week as they tried to figure out how to get to Portland was pretty funny. They are working well together with Riddle as the goofball “bro” while Dunne is the guy that doesn’t smile. I also think it wouldn’t be a bad idea if they won the titles. I like O’Reilly and Fish a lot, but they’ve been holding the titles or in the title picture for a few years now. A little change once in a while isn’t a bad thing.

I think long term, Dunne or Riddle can be the NXT Champion and maybe that happens later this year for one of them, but for right now, I’m digging their tag team…bro. I expect an excellent 15-20 minutes with the Broserweights leaving with the gold. The reason I listed this first in the match order is because I think it would be an incredible opening match, so I hope it starts off the PPV too.

Winners AND NEW NXT Tag Team Champions: The Broserweights (Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne)

 

Street Fight: Tegan Nox vs. Dakota Kai

Kurt: This is what NXT does better than any other company in the world, create strong secondary storylines for their women who aren’t in the title hunt. There’s no Lana and Liv Morgan fiasco going on here in NXT.

Dakota’s heel turn came out of nowhere at War Games and was perfectly done. I liked the fight they had at Worlds Collide, but did think it was a little bit of a mistake to not have them entered at the same time in the Royal Rumble. It would’ve put a lot of new eyes on this feud. Nonetheless, they’ve made this very interesting for going on three months now. The only problem I have with Tegan Nox is she doesn’t come across any different than Candice LeRae. That bubbly, “white meat babyface” that can get physical if needed. If Shayna is headed to RAW, then NXT is going to need another strong heel in the women’s division. With that said, I’m going with Dakota in what should be a fun match.

Winner: Dakota Kai

Lance: These two had a match on NXT TV a couple of weeks ago that fell completely flat. I thought that was the blow off match and was a little disappointed at the time. Looks like the powers that be had a different thought, so here we are. Dakota Kai has been aggressive since turning on Nox at NXT: Wargames, but with Nox picking up the win a few weeks ago, this one is a hard one to predict. You would think that if the endgame was this match happening, you would give Kai the win on TV and have Nox come out on top in the long run. With all that being said, I am picking Dakota Kai to win, because I have seen this 50/50 booking before.

Winner: Dakota Kai

John: This is probably the biggest matches of their careers so far because it’s a Takeover match between two former best friends. It’s a rivalry that has been built up since Takeover WarGames last November, which was three months ago. They have done well in terms of making it feel personal. Kai is a natural babyface in a lot of ways, but she has done a good job as a heel already. A win for Kai makes sense because they need to build up heel women in NXT and Nox beat Kai on the January 29 edition of NXT, so I think Kai is going to win here.

I don’t think this needs to be some long 20-minute match. I don’t know if they could keep the crowd into it for that long. I think going 10 to 13 minutes would be just about right. Since it’s a Street Fight, it will be important to make the heel Kai look more vicious by doing something big for the finish. I don’t think Nox will be hurt by the loss and I also think that they may have a third match between them down the road as well.

Winner: Dakota Kai

 

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

Kurt: Do we have any fans of “The Match Beyond” reading this? If we do, I thank you. If we don’t, then let me take you back to a time when I had a podcast on this site and had the chance to interview one Keith Lee. He had just started getting TV time on Ring of Honor, but I had been following him on the indy scene for awhile, and I called him the best kept secret in wrestling. Well… he’s not a secret anymore. A lot has happened since the last Takeover for Keith. The tremendous showing inside War Games, the “rub” from Roman Reigns at Survivor Series, going face to face with Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman in the Royal Rumble, and then claiming his first ever title in NXT by finally dethroning someone in Undisputed Era. The sky is officially the limit for Keith, and as we know, Keith is Limitless.

I’m taking nothing away from Dijakovic, as I don’t think anyone has better matches with Keith. When you finally put them on a Takeover together, there is absolutely no telling what they’re going to pull out. That video package they did with Mark Henry, showed you as much and was straight fire. Keith just has that rocket strapped to him finally, and there’s no slowing him down.

Winner: Keith Lee retains

Lance: If I had to pick a match that would be a lowkey one to watch, it would be this one. Keith Lee has been on fire lately and coming off one of the better runs an NXT star has had. He had a faceoff with the company’s top star in Roman Reigns at Survivor Series, had a strong run in the Royal Rumble match this year, and won the NXT North American Title from Roderick Strong in a great match a couple of weeks ago on NXT. Dijakovic hasn’t been too shabby himself, picking up an impressive win over Damien Priest to earn the title shot here.

Both men move well for their sizes and this match should be hard-hitting with a few surprises here and there. I can’t see them taking the belt off Lee so quickly, though.

Winner and STILL NXT North American Champion: Keith Lee

John: This will be another awesome match on this show. There’s a lot of history between Lee and Dijakovic from their pre-WWE days along with many matches in NXT together. There’s not much of a story of seeing who the better man is between the 300 pounder Lee and the athletic 6’8” big man Dijakovic. I really hope they get a chance to have a special kind of match. The phrase “steal the show” gets thrown around in wrestling a lot, but I assure you these guys can do just that.

As for the result, I’ll go with Lee to win because it’s still early in his title reign. I think the three of us can all agree that he should continue his reign as the champion. I’m not sure what heel he might feud with long-term, but I look forward to seeing Lee continuing to grow in NXT. Perhaps they could him push so far that he can win the NXT Title later in the year as well to become a double champion. Then again, I think WWE has visions of Lee on Raw or Smackdown in a few months too, so I’m not sure what his future holds. I’m excited about it, though.

Winner: Keith Lee

 

NXT Women’s Championship:Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Bianca Belair

Kurt: There’s a question asked of us later on, which match do we care about the least? Least is a subjective word when you have 6 high profile matches that you know will deliver in their own way. If I have to answer, it’s this match. I fully admit, I didn’t get the appeal of Rhea Ripley originally, but she has produced some compelling TV lately and I’m definitely coming around on her. I love Bianca, partly because she’s a Tennessee Vol (#VFL) and partly because her character is so damn unique and charismatic. So with all that said, I think this match is going to be a lot of fun. It’ll be physical and we’ll see feats of strength we may never have seen before in a women’s match. The problem is, and the reason I pick this as what I care about the “least”, is it’ just too predictable. EVERYONE knows it’s Ripley vs. Charlotte at Mania. Belair does not figure into that equation at all. So the match is all well and good, but I can’t fully invest in something that is so predictable.

Winner: Rhea Ripley

Lance: Rhea Ripley and Charlotte Flair look to be on a collision course for Wrestlemania. Why do I bring this up? Because I don’t think there is any way a title change happens here, unless they plan on doing a three-way match at Mania. Ripley, Flair, and Belair did have a face to face confrontation on an episode of NXT, so I guess it isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility. I’ll just go with my gut though and say everything will go according to plan.

Winner and STILL NXT Women’s Champion: Rhea Ripley

John: I think in terms of building to the match and the promos, Belair has done an excellent job of showing that she belongs. However, I don’t think anybody watching this match is going to think that Ripley will lose since WWE has already involved Charlotte Flair in this story. Belair had an impressive showing in the Royal Rumble and I can see her on Raw soon joining husband Montez Ford. I don’t see her winning this title. Ripley won the title less than two months ago from Shayna Baszler and I see Ripley as a long-term champion that might hold the title for six months or more. They should have a good match that’s competitive, but I don’t know if the crowd will get into Belair having a chance to win here.

I think Charlotte Flair will be there. After the match, I expect Flair to go in the ring to officially announce that she is challenging Rhea Ripley for the NXT Women’s Title at WrestleMania. If you announce it on Sunday instead of Monday at Raw, it creates more buzz for this Takeover event. That’s a good thing in the long run.

Winner: Rhea Ripley

 

Johnny Gargano vs. Finn Balor

Kurt: This, to me, is the true main event of Takeover. I know that the NXT Title closes out the show, and I understand the story of Ciampa getting Goldie back, but this match is the one that has the most heat heading into Takeover for me. The story of who is or was the face of NXT, plus Balor’s transformation into a cutthroat heel has been a lot of fun to see. The waiting game of Gargano getting healthy and cleared to compete has really added to this angle and has made me really want to see this match. The term “Dream Match” gets thrown around a lot, but if we’re getting a motivated Balor, which we haven’t seen in quite awhile, then this is absolutely a “Dream Match.”

I expect them to get a ton of time and steal the show. Both guys could use the win, but I have a match in mind for the main event of Takeover: WrestleMania, and Finn Balor is in that prediction. So with that, I’m picking him to win in a very hard fought match.

Winner: Finn Balor

Lance: The blood feud between these two will culminate in a match that has the potential to steal the show. Balor has been on top of his game ever since coming back to NXT and has been the perfect heel foil for the ultra babyface in Johnny Wrestling. Gargano has been looking for revenge ever since Balor turned on him and hit the 1916 DDT on the ramp that put him out of commission. If they give them the proper amount of time, we all know these two will tear the house down.

This was probably the most back and forth pick for me and it was hard to narrow down a winner. You could have Gargano win for the feel-good moment after the big injury angle or have Balor win to keep the heat he has built up the last couple of weeks. I will pick Balor to win here and keep his momentum moving forward and keep the story between the two burning hotter than ever. I am only semi-confident in the pick, though.

Winner: Finn Balor

John: This is the match I’m most excited about. That’s not a knock on the other matches because I think this is an outstanding show from top to bottom. From the moment Balor turned heel by attacking Gargano on the October 23 edition of NXT, I have wanted to see this match. It didn’t happen in November because of Gargano’s injury, so now we’re here four months later and we finally get to see a match that I’ve never seen in a WWE ring.

Balor has been tremendous as a heel, both in terms of promos and his matches. Balor was a face during his entire WWE run before that heel turn. After watching him as a heel, which is a role he portrayed well in Japan for many years, it’s clear to me that Balor might be more comfortable as a heel. I think his matches might be better as a heel too. Gargano is the most natural babyface in NXT due to his ability to sell a beatdown and always finding a way to come back. He reminds me of Daniel Bryan in a lot of ways, but what the luxury of NXT gives Gargano is the chance to have longer. Nobody has had more Takeover matches than Gargano and a lot of those matches have been over 30 minutes, which this match might be too. Balor has had a lot of good to great matches in WWE. I’ve reviewed so many of them. I don’t think Balor has had that true, match of the year classic match, but this could be it and I think he knows it too. I’m excited for both of them.

It’s hard to pick a winner. My friends above both picked Balor probably because he has been on fire as a heel, so it makes sense for him to win. However, the longer-term story is that this is Gargano coming back for revenge after being attacked in a cheap manner by Balor four months ago. DO we get the babyface comeback win or the heel keeps the momentum? I really don’t know. I think the Balor pick makes sense and that they probably want to get the NXT Title on him this year since he’s fully back in NXT again. I’ll go with Finn, but it wouldn’t shock me if Johnny wins either. That’s what is good about this match too. You don’t know who is going to win, so that will make all the nearfalls add to the drama. Get excited about this match, my friends. It’s going to be excellent.

Winner: Finn Balor

 

NXT Championship:Adam Cole (c) vs. Tommaso Ciampa

Kurt: While I might not feel this is the true main event of Takeover, I take nothing away from this match. What Ciampa has done to not only come back healthy from a serious neck injury, but to do it and come back in the best shape of his life, is something that is beyond incredible. His story of wanting Goldie back is something that everyone can understand and rally behind him as he fights so hard to accomplish his goal. On the other side, Adam Cole has become this paranoid heel, feeling the grip he had on the company with his group and all the gold, slipping out of his fingers. It’s created quite the dynamic that I feel is really going to tell a tremendous story in this match.

As I stated earlier, while it’s great to see Undisputed Era start to crack a little under the pressure and lose one of their titles, I don’t think they’re going to lose all the titles in quick succession. It would be a great moment and conclusion to the story for Ciampa to reclaim the title he never lost, but that main event for Takeover: WrestleMania that I’m picturing has Finn Balor taking on Adam Cole. The two biggest stars of NXT on the biggest weekend of the company. It just makes too much sense to me.

Winner: Adam Cole retains

Lance: This is the match that Ciampa has been clawing his way back for. He was the NXT Champion before having to forfeit the belt due to a massive neck injury that put him on the sideline for the better part of a year. Before that though, he was involved in a rivalry with Johnny Gargano that led to multiple 5-star rated matches over that said title. Ciampa always delivers on Takeover shows and I don’t expect this time out to be any different.

Adam Cole also has had multiple 5-star matches since being in NXT and his run as champion has been memorable. He is the leader of one of the best stables in wrestling currently and had delivered quality matches every time out. Cole is the type of superstar that could carry NXT for as long as he wanted too, but ultimately, I believe he would get lost in the shuffle on the main roster. Let’s hope that my prediction for this match doesn’t prove to be his NXT swan song.

With all those factors coming into play I think that Ciampa will win the match and recapture the title he never lost. I have already mentioned the seeds potentially being planted for an Undisputed Era break up in the very near future, and I think Cole’s loss here sparks it. This will be a back and forth affair with the UE getting involved in some way. Both men have the goods to deliver and I believe they will, given the ample amount of time. Knowing how NXT usually books things, I think they get the time spot on here. I believe that Goldie is coming home.

Winner and NEW NXT Champion: Tommaso Ciampa

John: I’m going with the title change here. Cole has held the title since June 1, 2019 so it’s been nearly nine months for him. Ciampa never lost the title and he was forced to give it up due to injury. That comeback story is easy to tell while also feeling fresh because this time Ciampa will be the champion as a babyface instead of his great heel run. It should be an outstanding match like both men have had at numerous Takeover shows with Johnny Gargano as the opponent. As great as it is to see Ciampa back, I don’t want him in a 30-minute match doing apron bumps on his surgically repaired neck or anything crazy like that. Be smart about it, please.

A loss for Cole could also lead to changes for the Undisputed Era. I don’t know if they will get moved to Raw or Smackdown after WrestleMania, but it’s certainly a possibility. If Cole and O’Reilly/Fish lost their titles on this show as well (I predict they will) then the group that had four members holding titles to end 2019 would have nobody holding titles after this show. That can lead a lot of stories whether it means the group is broken up (I hope not) or they move on to other things.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Ciampa had a short reign as champion if he wins. I think Balor is going to win the title from him soon and then NXT can build up a babyface long term like Gargano, Lee, Riddle, Dunne or even Velveteen Dream as the guy to take the title from Balor. There are a lot of good options there. For this match, give me Ciampa for the win as the new NXT Champion.

Winner AND NEW NXT Champion: Tommaso Ciampa

 

BONUS TOPICS!

The Match I’m Looking Forward To The Most

Kurt: This is a tough call, but gotta stick with my guy Keith Lee defending his North American Title.

Lance: Balor vs. Gargano and Cole vs Ciampa

John: I like a lot of the matches, but Balor/Gargano stands out the most to me.

 

The Match I Care About The Least

Kurt: As stated previously, Ripley vs. Belair.

Lance: Tegan Nox vs. Dakota Kai.

John: Nox vs. Kai. I’m glad they are getting the spotlight on a show like this. I just don’t anticipate as much as the rest of the matches.

 

Longest Match

Kurt: Balor vs. Gargano.

Lance: Probably Cole vs. Ciampa for the NXT Championship, but I could see Balor and Gargano getting a lot of time as well.

John: I’ll go Balor vs. Gargano topping 30 minutes. It might be Cole vs. Ciampa, but I’d rather not see Ciampa do crazy bumps for that long considering his injury history.

 

Shortest Match

Kurt: Nox vs. Kai.

Lance: Nox and Kai most likely, but I could see Lee and Dijakovic having a war that doesn’t go too terribly long.

John: I think it will be Nox vs. Kai at about 12 minutes or so.

Excitement Level on a Scale of 1-10 (1 being low, 10 being high)

Kurt: NXT having the weekend to themselves, feeling like this will go past the typical 2.5 hours with such a loaded card, I’m going a solid 9.

Lance: I am a 10 on this show. This has the potential to be one of the best Takeover events in history. The lineup is stacked from top to bottom, so we will just have to see if they can deliver.

John: I will go 9 with a lot of optimism on a show that I think could be really special. The match quality should be outstanding especially in the four men’s matches. That’s not me hating on the women’s matches. I just think the four men’s matches are all likely to reach four stars or above in my ratings and I’m not sure if the women’s matches will be at that level. NXT is on a roll right now. I’m excited about this show.

In Closing

John: I’ll be back with a review of WWE NXT Takeover Portland on TJRWrestling.net on Sunday night, so check that out during the show or after it’s over.

Our Twitter handles are: Kurt Zamora – @KTankTJR

Lance Augustine – @Collectiveheel

John Canton – @johnreport

If you want to send an email, send it to me at mrjohncanton@gmail.com as well. Thanks for reading.