Hello AW Universe,
A title change, a successful defence, and WrestleMania implications.
But it was the swerve at the very end of the night that stole the show.
Here is a full recap and reactions to an amazing TakeOver event from the Moda Center in Portland, OR.
Poppy performed “Fill The Crown”
Keith Lee d. Dominik Dijakovic to retain the North American Championship
Dakota Kai d. Teagan Nox in a Street Fight
Finn Bálor d. Johnny Gargano
Rhea Ripley d. Bianca Belair to retain the NXT Women’s Championship
The BroserWeights (Matt Riddle & Pete Dunne) d. The Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly) to win the NXT Tag Team Championship
Adam Cole d. Tommaso Ciampa to retain the NXT Championship
Keith Lee vs. Dominik Dijakovic
North American Championship
The Portland crowd was hot for Lee to start the match and, as the Mark Henry hosted video package promised, was a showcase of pure power and agility.
First Lee hit an impressive standing Hurricanrana; later, he caught Dijakovic as he attempted a Shoot Star Press to the outside, reversing it into a deadlift powerbomb. He dropping him with a standing German suplex, and was also commanding the crowd, silencing them while he hit Dijakovic with brutal double overhand chops.
But Dijakovic was up for the challenge, getting some revenge on Lee after the chops by sitting him down in one of the announcer’s chairs and hitting a senton from the top rope to the outside. He also hit an impressive Corkscrew Moonsault, both an avalanche Feast Your Eyes and a Spanish Fly, and flipped out of multiple Spirit Bomb, Big Bang Effect, and suplex attempts.
Lee ultimately got the win, as was expected, with a Big Bang Effect when Dijakovic was unable to lift Lee, selling the physical taxing the match had on them.
The match didn’t have the cleanest flow, with stops and starts in between the spots, but both men got a “hulk up” moment, establishing their strength– although I could’ve done without Dijakovic essentially no-selling a Spirit Bomb. But both men look good coming out of the match, with a respect angle between the two as they hugged and Lee gave the turnbuckle to Dijakovic to pose.
Dakota Kai vs. Teagan Nox- Street Fight
The match delivered on the violence that the stipulation promised with Kai getting the jump on Nox as she made her entrance, hitting her with an impressive DDT on the guardrail after getting speared through it.
Nox shockingly took an unprotected head shot with a trashcan lid, while Kai ate a jackknife German Suplex through the actual trashcan. The two beat the shit out of each other, with Nox using a chain to punch Kai’s Stone Cold Steve Austin knee and Kai hitting Nox with a modified Van Dam-inator.
Raquel González made her NXT debut, playing into the finish. She attacked Nox who was on the top rope, about to drop on Kai who was prone on a table with a steel chair around her neck, and attempting to drive Nox through the table, but glancing it off of her instead, but handing the win to Kai nonetheless.
The finish wasn’t great, as the table spot was probably botched– either by González herself or the table not being gimmicked properly– and it would’ve been nice just to see these women have a proper finish that could’ve given Kai the win while keeping Nox strong as they moved to on to their next chapter together. The in-ring storytelling that was being hinted at throughout the match, with Nox being conflicted over administering so much pain to her former friend, could’ve played into it costing her the match, and turning her more aggressive and unforgiving the next time they met.
Either way, these two put their bodies on the line and it was an excellent match. There’s still some juice left in this feud.
Finn Bálor vs. Johnny Gargano
As two of the best technical workers in NXT, this match was a clinic in mat wrestling, strong-style, pace, and high spots.
They started off the match with technical prowess, submissions, and rest holds, while it slowly built in pace and aggression. There were some spots on the outside near the beginning, but most of it was contained to inside the ring until the finish.
Bálor did some excellent heel work, focusing on Gargano’s legs and breaking him down with submissions and stomps, including a Dragonscrew on the corner ropes. Gargano was at his high-spot best, hitting Bálor with slingshot spears– once inside the ring and earlier on the apron– and a gorgeous leaping DDT on the apron. Gargano’s ability to hit these high-spots without it being an incoherent frenzy is something that a lot of wrestlers could learn from. The work around the announce table was awesome, with Bálor hitting the basement dropkick on Gargano, sending Johnny Wrestling into the guardrail, and gaining the momentum heading into the finish, where he ultimately got the win with a lovely 1916 DDT.
Bálor’s heel streak is perfect, and putting on a fantastic match with Gargano, getting the win, then heeling off on him after pinning him just builds more heat as he moves closer to another title run. Hopefully this isn’t the last one-on-one meeting between the two.
Rhea Ripley vs. Bianca Belair
NXT Women’s Championship
Honestly, this match left a little to be desired.
Maybe because it’s been clear since the Monday Night RAW after Royal Rumble that Ripley was destined to meet Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania but it just never felt like Ripley and Belair had much chemistry in this one. No doubt, the two had some wicked spots, including Belair hitting a senton on Ripley onto the outside, but Ripley getting to the outside looked like a bit of a botch, with her landing right on her feet– a good way to tear an ACL– and Belair’s senton wasn’t beautiful. They did exchange some brutal stiff slaps and Ripley ate a hair wipe to the ribs, but the finish wasn’t original, with Ripley hitting yet another Rip Tide off the top turnbuckle for the win.
We did get the Charlotte Flair attack after the match, as she officially accepted the match at WrestleMania, while soaking up the heel heat from the NXT crowd as she attacked Ripley and then Belair while on her way out.
So is the trade between NXT and RAW unofficially Flair for Baszler…?
The Undisputed Era vs. The BroserWeights
NXT Tag Team Championship
This match was incredible, with the finish a lovely, welcome surprise.
Matt Riddle is always so impressive with his kicks and suplexes: including exploders, Germans and, the most beautiful move in pro wrestling, Northern Lights into a bridge. Pete Dunne did some of his more unique joint manipulation spots in this one, getting out of the corner as Fish held him back from breaking up O’Reilly’s submission on Riddle and then stomping on O’Reilly’s hand as he leapt off the top rope.
But the impressive thing is just how much chemistry the BroserWeights have together in such a short period of time. I’m convinced that the original plan was never to have these two go this deep into a program as a tag team, but the magic was so right that the bookers had to pull the trigger on them winning the titles.
The false finish with Dunne eating a spear from Riddle off of a miscommunication and The Undisputed Era hitting their tandem finish, only for Dunne to kick out, was a perfect showcase of what solid in-ring storytelling can do; the inexperienced babyfaces were hot, but their short time together may have finally proved to be their downfall. But it wasn’t. Dunne kicked out, Riddle got back in the ring, and after a powerbomb and some stereo kicks later, they were the new tag team champs.
But there has to be some credit given to the (now) former champions, as O’Reilly and Fish sold the false finish so well, and put in awesome displays of tandem moves, suplexes and submissions.
It will be interesting to see how The BroserWeights run as tag champions, and what it means for The Undisputed Era moving forward.
Adam Cole vs. Tommaso Ciampa
This one was a slow-burn, but oh my, did it ever explode at the end.
The two started off with some holds and corner work, before Cole’s heelish tactics of trying to escape the ring caught up to him. Ciampa took the fight to the outside and it quickly assumed a Street Fight-feel, in the early going when Cole hit Ciampa with a Wheel-Barrow German Suplex onto the announce table, and later when Ciampa reversed a Panama Sunrise on the apron into an Air Raid Crash, only for Cole to reverse a Fairytale Ending on the outside to hit a Panama Sunrise off the announce table onto the floor.
It was after the Wheelbarrow Suplex spot on the announce table that Cole took the momentum back into the ring, focusing on Ciampa’s injured neck. That was the story for most of the match after that, with every one of Cole’s moves focusing on Ciampa’s neck with neckbreakers and sleeper holds. This match had a different feel than the others on the card, as it was a pure blend of grappling and brawling.
With O’Reilly and Fish dropping the tag titles to The BroserWeights, it seemed that the story of The Undisputed Era’s demise was being told, particularly as Ciampa fought all them off and hit Cole with a Fairytale Ending; it seemed like it was going to be a story of overcoming adversity and reclamation of his precious “Goldie” for “The Blackheart.”
But it was not to be. Hitting the ring in his finest #DIY shirt, Johnny Wrestling seemed to be coming to help his tag partner. Instead, he yanked “Goldie” away from Ciampa and– after a moment of consideration– struck Ciampa with… her? and handed the win to Cole.
It was an unexpected end to an already incredible match, and event, something that Triple H loves to do. There’s only one title left in The Undisputed Era stable, but arguably it’s the most important one. Clearly now Ciampa and Gargano are heading into a rivalry together, so it’s anybody’s guess who will be the next in line to try and end Adam Cole’s 257 day run as champion.
Once again, Triple H and co. displayed just how to build a perfect card; six matches stretched over three hours, all with time to breathe and pace themselves.
Perhaps surprisingly, the Women’s Championship was the nadir of the night, though it was still a great match on a loaded card, while the Tag Team Championship was a hot and the main event had the best finish, but Bálor/Gargano was the best match start to finish.
The Gargano turn was completely unexpected, and it’s moments like it that make pro wrestling its very best.
This week’s Wednesday Night War is going to be very interesting.