Hello AW Universe,
This Sunday, NXT hosts its latest TakeOver event, live from the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon where we’ll see two former best friends try to tear each other apart in a Street Fight, what should be an athletic contest, and three title matches.
Here is a full preview of all the matches on the card.
Rhea Ripley vs. Bianca Belair
NXT Women’s Championship
This is undoubtedly going to be a phenomenal match, with many believing it could very well steal the night. Belair went over on Ripley on the go-home episode of NXT, first beating Santana Garrett then standing tall over the champion. This is usually not a good sign when it comes to winning the actual match, and in fact– though the cadre of promos tries to suggest otherwise– this is likely just a placeholder match before Ripley goes on to defend her championship against Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 36.
That being said, Belair has been given a strong push, beginning with her long run in the Royal Rumble match, to her essential squash of Garrett on Wednesday. If the in-ring storytelling is done correctly, Belair can still come out looking incredibly strong even in defeat, while Ripley retains the title and moves on to her feud with Flair as we head closer to WrestleMania.
Finn Bálor vs. Johnny Gargano
Going back to NXT has been wonderful for Bálor, as his heel turn back to “The Prince” has been his best character work in a long time. Johnny Gargano is a cornerstone to NXT, and will be looking to continue his moniker of “Johnny TakeOver.”
The only problem with that, is Bálor is way too hot during this latest heel turn to be cooled off and Gargano can eat a loss in an ultra competitive match and still look strong moving forward. It also seems like sooner rather than later, Bálor’s going in find himself in the NXT title picture again, and this would do well to start pushing him towards that.
Keith Lee vs. Dominik Dijakovic
North American Championship
A match that will be just as Mark Henry described in the video package from Wednesday: two big men who can move like cruiserweights going at it. Like Belair, Lee had a star-making moment in the Royal Rumble match, impressing Brock Lesnar with his size and stepping toe-to-toe with the WWE Champion.
Dijakovic has been on a push since November, when he competed in the WarGames match and he beat Damien Priest in a excellent match to earn this opportunity again Lee.
Dijakovic an impressive specimen, and has an incredible career trajectory ahead, but so too does Keith Lee, and the reigning champion just has way too much momentum behind him at this point to drop the title and have his push derailed. Like the Women’s Championship match, this will be a competitive bout, with both men coming out looking strong.
But this is also going to be another victory for Keith Lee.
The Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly) vs. The BroserWeights (Matt Riddle & Pete Dunne)
NXT Tag Team Championship
The unlikely duo of “The Original Bro” Matt Riddle and “The Bruiserweight” Pete Dunne first won the Dusty Rhodes Classic to earn their title opportunity. They also produced some fantastic video packages of them trying to get to Portland.
Fish and O’Reilly are part of the dominate Undisputed Era, a foursome that once held all the gold on NXT. But though they went on a backstage rampage at Full Sail Arena two weeks ago, it feels as though the cracks are starting to show in the once mighty faction, and their dominance over the Black and Gold brand feels to be waning.
There’s a good chance that there was never really an intention to have the BroserWeights go on a run past this weekend, but they seem to have caught lightning in a bottle with the chemistry between Riddle & Dunne, and will want to pull the trigger on them. It also just feels like there’s a desperation underpinning the Undisputed Era right now, one that’s trending more towards loss rather than victory.
Dakota Kai vs. Teagan Nox
Former friends turned blood rivals. It’s one of the best to-go pro wrestling storylines to tell, and this one is likely going to be no different. Kai of course is the heel here, after turning on Nox at TakeOver: WarGames and costing her former best friend her chance to compete in the WarGames match.
Hopefully they can bring all the violence and aggression that the stipulation on this match demands, and go all out on each other. At the same time, it seems a little early for this feud to already have its blow-off match, so maybe they keep something in the can for a Steel Cage or Last Woman Standing match eventually. That’s what it feels like, so the heat has to stay on the treacherous Kai for Nox to earn her vengeance down the line, maybe during WrestleMania weekend.
Adam Cole vs. Tommaso Ciampa
One is desperately clinging onto his tenuous hold as the king of the NXT mountain.
The other is coming to take back his “Goldie.”
Many believe that while this is set to be an intense match, Cole is unlikely to drop the title until WrestleMania weekend. That could be true, but Ciampa has been on a crusade to reclaim the title he never lost. As is the case for nearly any match on any TakeOver card, this is going to be a fantastic match, with emotion and high-spots.
But, the iron grip that The Undisputed Era has held on NXT started to loosen once Roderick Strong dropped the North American Championship to Keith Lee, and by the time the NXT roster leaves Portland after TakeOver, the faction’s reign of terror will be over, having dropped all of their gold.
Then having “The Blackheart” run a program with Finn Bálor after “The Prince” defeats his #DIY tag partner with be a feud made for darkness.
NXT TakeOver: Portland is live on the WWE Network on Sunday 16 February at 7pm EST.