NXT Takeover: Portland: Predictions & Analysis

It’s been far too long since we’ve had one of these. I know World’s Collide happened and it was a very good show, but it just didn’t have the same feel or level of pure quality that a good old fashioned NXT Takeover event does. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but something about that show just didn’t quite click for me. Regardless, we’ve got this to get excited about, so let’s not spend too much time complaining.

Tegan Nox vs Dakota Kai
(Street Fight)

If I’m remembering correctly then I’m pretty certain this is the first time in quite a while that an NXT Takeover event has had more than one women’s match on the show. For a while, this was understandable, as there wasn’t much in the way of talent depth, but now looking at NXT Women’s division, the whole damn show could be women’s matches and it would be brilliant.

This match, in particular, has got me quite excited. I don’t really know much about Kai & Nox, but I’ve been getting quite invested in them since their feud began at Wargames. Now Shayna Baszler seems to be bowing out of NXT, there’s a lot of room up at the top for heels in the women’s division and I think Dakota Kai is going to be a great fit for that role. As for Tegan Nox, I just hope that NXT management has learnt from the mistakes they made with Io Shirai and keep Nox going as a believable face because as much as I’ve like Io since her heel turn, it very much felt like a move born out of desperation.

When it comes to picking a winner, this is a simple situation of picking who I think has the most to gain from the win right now, which is easily Dakota Kai. Although her heel turn was a good few months ago now, this is the first major match she’s had since it happened and it would be a bit of disaster for her to start taking major losses this early and there’s all the potential in the world of Tegan Nox to have a Gargano-Esque redemption story following a loss or two in the coming months.

Johnny Gargano vs Finn Balor

Out of all the matches on this show, I think this one has had the best build.

It was disappointing that we had to wait a couple of months longer than we expected to get this match thanks to Gargano’s injury, but they were able to recover the story well and I think a great deal of intensity has been added to the feud thanks to Balor’s new shift in character and Gargano’s hunger to re-prove himself. The history of Balor in NXT has been played into it, but what I think is most surprising is how starkly different Balor’s character is this time around, he truly feels like a different person to the one we’ve seen on Raw & Smackdown for the past few years.

Naturally, this match should be brilliant. While I’ve never been blown away by a Finn Balor match, I always find them very enjoyable and when he’s matching up with a wrestler like Gargano, I’m certain we’ve got a potential match of the year on our hands.

It’s a tough call as to who will win this one. Balor needs a solid win to cement his return, otherwise, he could quickly fall back into old routines. Though at the same time, I think Gargano is going to be a major part of major storylines going into Wrestlemania season (I’ll talk more on that in a little bit) and he really needs a big win after spending the past year having a bit of an underwhelming time. I’m picking Johnny Gargano because, unlike Balor, I actually have a pretty clear picture in my mind of what I think the next couple of months are going to look like for him and it requires a win here.

The Undisputed Era(c) vs Pete Dunne & Matt Riddle
(NXT Tag Team Championships)

It seems like such a weird thing to say given the men involved, but I’m really not feeling this match. Don’t get me wrong, I think Fish & O’Reilly are a fantastic tag team and both Dunne & Riddle are among my favourite singles guys in WWE right now, but I just don’t really buy them as a tag team. Unfortunately, there’s not much else they can be doing right now and if the Dusty Rhodes Classic achieved anything, it was highlighting the fact that NXT US has literally only one decent tag team in their ranks at the moment, so it was kind of necessary.

I’m sure this will be a brilliant match, but after so many years of the NXT Tag Team division being full of cohesive teams that felt like natural partners, to have two guys whose characters don’t align in the slightest (and not even in an “opposites attract” sort of way) seems like such a letdown.

Weirdly though, I kind of think they might win. It seems like Undisputed Era’s reign at the top of NXT is starting to crumble, so taking those titles away from them might be the direction they’re going in right now, not to mention that if Undisputed Era retains, then who have they got left to fight? Unless we’re just going to keep bringing in NXT UK teams for them to fight, the only direction we can go at this stage is rehashing old matches. The other possibility is that Riddle turns on Dunne, in order to inject some life into Riddle’s quickly stagnating character, not to mention there’s a bit of a lack of heels at the top of NXT right now thanks to Undisputed Era being the be-all and end-all of the division.

There are compelling arguments for both scenarios and I honestly can’t say that I think either one is more likely than the other, so I’m instead going to go with what I want to happen and pick The Undisputed Era to retain.

Keith Lee(c) vs Dominic Dijakovic
(North American Championship)

For the longest time, I was not a fan of Dijakovic he seemed to me like just another hoss that didn’t bring much to the ring other than a fairly impressive physique. Over the last few months, those assumptions I made of him have been utterly destroyed as he’s put on some great matches with wrestlers of all shapes and sizes.

Combine a guy like Dojakovic with someone like Keith Lee who, I don’t think it’s much of an exaggeration to say, has it all. He was criminally underused for the longest time in NXT and Survivor Series finally woke everyone (myself included) up to the fact that he’s an absolute beast and a brilliant wrestler that deserves the world. Now Lee has himself a championship, I can’t think of a better way than to show off just how good he can be than by putting up against one of his best opponents in NXT right now.

These two have fought several times before and it’s always been great stuff, their chemistry is impeccable and they’re always able to add something new to their matches so that it doesn’t feel like they’re stepping over old ground. Now they’ve finally been given the opportunity to put it all on a much bigger stage, I can’t imagine they’ll waste it. I’m expecting big things from this one, both from a literal and metaphorical standpoint.

That said, I think it’s quite easy to pick Keith Lee as the winner here. He’s only just won the title and he’s got all the momentum in the world right now, so losing the title like this would be an absolutely terrible move. Admittedly Dijakovic does need a big win to fully legitimize him, but that win can’t be at the expense of Lee.

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

When this match was first announced, I really wasn’t interested. I adore Rhea Ripley and thought her title match against Baszler was one of the best matches of last year, but this felt like such a placeholder match it’s believable. I mean, I still stand by that a little bit, there’s no way Bianca’s winning this match, but the build has been exciting enough so that I am actually interested in seeing the match play out now.

A large chunk of this switch in opinion was Belair’s great performance in the Royal Rumble a few weeks ago, she went on an absolute tear and reminded me that she is actually just as good a talent as any other wrestler in the NXT women’s division at the moment. There was also that great promo on NXT TV last week where she inserted herself in-between Charlotte & Rhea’s bickering and reminded everyone that, despite Charlotte’s insistence that she wasn’t a threat, she’s could easily take that title from Ripley and be staring Charlotte down at Wrestlemania soon.

That said, there’s absolutely no situation in which she takes the title away from Ripley on Sunday. Ripley is absolutely the biggest star in NXT right now, she’s only just won the title and now she’s got a Wrestlemania match against Charlotte Flair looming in a couple of months. Rhea Ripley is keeping that title around her waist and nothing anyone says will convince me otherwise.

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

Ooooh boy, this is gonna be a good one. Ever since Ciampa returned I have been gagging to see this match, so now it’s finally happening, I am sufficiently excited.

Cole has been a fantastic champion during his reign, all of his matches have been must-watch and this will absolutely be no exception. WarGames proved that Ciampa hasn’t lost a beat during his time away from the ring so this match should do nothing but reaffirm his status as the best of the best. The build to this match has been great too, it’s clear that Cole and The Undisputed Era can sense that Ciampa might spell the end of the Golden Prophecy so they’re attacking with all their might to try and beat him down before the match and hopefully that’ll carry over into the match itself too.

While I’m not entirely confident in this pick, I feel fairly certain Tommaso Ciampa is going to pick up the win here for two major reasons. For one thing, it feels like the culmination of his return & redemption story to sit atop the NXT throne once again, but also, with an NXT Women’s title match already being planned for Wrestlemania, I think it’s likely that we’ll see the men’s title get the same honour and quite simply there is no bigger NXT Title match for Wrestlemania than us finally getting the finale in the Ciampa vs Gargano saga, one year after the match was cruelly taken away from us. I think seeing that match at Wrestlemania would mean so much to both guys and everyone like me who’s seen the whole story unfold from the beginning and in order for that to happen, Ciampa has to take the win here.

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