|Let’s get petarded in here
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Some Takeovers get remembered for the former: KO going KO on Sami at the tail end of [R]Evolution, the founding trioka of the Undisputed Era completely obliterating DMC’s title win at Brooklyn the Third, Johnny earning the Triple Crown at last year’s New York event followed by Adam Cole gaining it and Goldie at the follow-up, XXV. Some Takeovers, obviously, get remembered for the latter: New Orleans set a bar so high a couple years ago it’s the unofficial measuring stick for all Takeovers, and is still not only remembered fondly as a seminal event in NXT history but as possibly one of the greatest wrestling PPVs ever, full stop. New York is beloved similarly, though maybe with not as much fervor, and if that’s in the discussion it feels safe to also toss some hosannas to the Dallas event.
So while Portland may not have had an immediate contender for MOTY – and that’s season to taste for a fan giving how uniformly excellent the wrestling was for 3 hours – the picture above, the moment before impact that made me a middle-aged Negrodamus, is undoubtedly going to be one of the tentpoles of NXT history for years to come and possibly for as long as they’re what one of the only two newly minted champions on the show would call A Thing.
Just like that, a match is made for Tampa, though whether or not we’re going back to the stipulation wheel is something for the next few weeks to figure out.
After Poppy’s performance, there was a moment some fans were waiting for for years: Keith Lee and Dominik Dijakovic kicking off a Takeover with a great match that stuck out its chin and dared the rest of the card to swing. (Some might argue that as good as what was to come was, nothing matched up to the heights of this match. Don’t agree with the argument, but it is an easily understandable one.) If you’ve seen them fight, you know what this was going to be: something that nodded at their prior matches while evolving them as well – counters to things not previously countered, new moves – and multiple moments where you just crack up laughing, because that’s what happens when your brain is trying to make sense of something that your eyes have seen that technically just happened yet still seems to somehow exist in an uncanny valley or video game but is very real. The craziest thing about this match is that it looked like Keith was legitimately shaken after taking a suplex throw into the apron oddly and the match slowed way down for a couple minutes for him to get his bearings fully yet it didn’t stop the match from being great; conversely, even though the ending seemed to temporarily close their rivalry, there is still somehow improbably room for them to still improve on it. Three final things:
a) Don’t read about me outlining the match, watch the damn thing
b) When’s the rematch?
c) And the other question I always have after they fight: why don’t you guys form a full-time time and obliterate everyone else off the face of the Earth?
1) Keith Lee d. Dominik Dijakovic to retain the North American championship (Big Bang Catastrophe –> pinfall)
Normally, this would be the spot of death after such a scorching opener; women are wrestling, and it’s not even the title match. But au contraire, mon freres. First of all, the PDX crowd was loud and proud all night long; NXT almost assuredly will bring another TO back in the next few years as a result of their voiciferousness. Secondarily, the former Team Kickers engaged in the street fight with all the vitriol that the stipulation should come with, and if Randy Orton’s getting deserved plaudits for his emergence of portraying emotionally conflicting then Nox should get it too for this match. Multiple times she looked like she was near tears, or confused. It never stopped her entirely from going on the offensive but it happened enough for it to be a major thruline during the match. And like every good babyface finding out that they have blood lust, it turned out to cost them. She clocked Kai with the Shiniest Wizard, had the aforementioned pathos, then put Kai on a table and wrapped a chair around her neck. Whatever she was going for is lost to the sands of time, as
Reina Raquel Gonzalez came out off the side of a milk carton and chokeslammed Tegan from the top. To make things worse than the understandably tepid reaction, the table didn’t break. Kai sold shock about this turn of events after Gonzalez was raising her hand in victory. Outside of getting a bigger name to emerge, the ending got its point across even if it left people cold. Moreover, it gives Nox another obstacle to overcome as she tries to get a rubber match against her ex-bestie. It was the “worst” match on the card so it was only very good. They’re called Takeovers because Embarrassment Of Riches is hard to fit comfortably and attractively on shirts.
2) Dakota Kai d. Tegan Nox (Reina Gonzalez super chokeslam -> pinfall)
As part of becoming God’s E-Fed over the past few years, sometimes things in NXT get hyped up as dream matches when they’re not; what they really are is first-time affairs that the higher ups want to give a little bit more shine to.
But then, there was this.
Both men were note perfect for their characters. It had the hallmarks of starting with chain wrestling before evolving to the crazy supercharged signatures and finishers that it took to end the bout. As easy as it would have been for him to do, Finn never cheated in the bout. You could see Johnny get increasingly frustrated for obvious reasons as the match went on, but he’d hide it from time to time with wry chuckles and smiles. It really felt like the platonic ideal of a match, even if the brief limb work sort of went out the window when the big bombs went flying. In addition to the character notes mentioned before, what really made the match sparkle for me was the manner in which it ended. Johnny hit the Woo dropkick to send Finn into the barrier (to a loud mixed reaction, but we’ll get there) and looked like he was setting up a 1916 of his own on the floor to close the circle. This not being the Prinxe who lost to Lashley 17 weeks in a row, Balor flipped the eff out and hit in order a gourdbuster on the Spanish announce, a Woo dropkick from table to table to send Johnny off the SAT and into the barricade, snuffed him with a Coup then drilled a 1916 and pinned him in such a manner while covering his face that if the former Universal champion had sneezed he would’ve made Johnny his Candice. Especially given the results of the main and the fact Cole is only a few weeks away from surpassing Balor’s record for lengthiest title reign in Full Sail, it’ll be interesting to see what the results of a rematch with Cole would be with Gargano presumably off the board to keep him from winning the belt back. Who would the fans cheer in that? Does it matter? Either way, it must be said: Prince back, y’all.
3) Finn Balor d. Johnny Gargano (1916 –> pinfall) in the Match of the Night (YMMV)
Bianca was clearly Doomed from the start – before, really – but it didn’t stop her from showing up and showing out in a Black History In the Making robe. I saw some vitriol from some sections of black NXT fan Twitter about the result and Bianca losing another title match, but both last year against Shayna and here, her winning wasn’t the move for long-term applications and she got the plurality of the Royal Rumble to help boost herself higher in the troposphere. While the match went double digits long it also felt like another five minutes could have been garnered out of it. Either way, this was all a prelude to Charlotte showing up, laying Rhea out, and accepting the WrestleMania match which should also be a barnburner. Hopefully Bianca gets to do more than tread water, as eventually – barring her getting a quick “callup” – she’ll get her turn with the gold soon and long enough.
4) Rhea Ripley d. Bianca BelAir to retain the NXT Women’s World championship (Riptide –> pinfall)
The tag title match! Just reminding myself of its existence makes me question if I bestowed MOTN honors on the right bout. Then again I had a similar thought with regards to the opener. Takeovers, man. There was some foolishness pre-match with Riddle leading the crowd in a Bobby Fish singalong, then the champions went after them in the aisle and a Pier 4 broke out. The match felt ragged while still being in the pocket the whole time, building a Jenga on a plane with some turbulence that somehow never toppled over. Per the prelude, there wasn’t a signature moment that the match had, but it was an instant classic and you could feel it as such down the stretch, especially with multiple red herrings of Riddle accidentally taking out or neutralizing Dunne before redeeming himself with a blind tag before the then challengers unfurled a bevy of tandem offense before winning the titles. Again, this is a match you want to watch instead of reading an outline about it. And again, to reiterate prior thoughts: when’s the rematch?
5) the Broserweights d. the Undisputed Era to win the NXT World Tag Team Championships (Bro 2 Sleep/jumping enzuigiri combo [Owen 2 Sleep?] –> Riddle pinfall Fish)
About the main: I liked it in real time. When the “betrayal” happened, it made me love the match, and not just because I saw that cab coming down Broadway with the doors open. It was because – perfectly, hilariously, and I assume intentionally – a mirror of Johnny’s title victory in New York. Ciampa kicked out of everything Cole threw at him, up to the point where his response to getting Panama Sunrisen into the floor was Willow’s Bell and the Fairy Tale Ending. (Again, good thing the “heel turn” showed up, because while I didn’t feel the vitriol many felt about that sequence it was again perfectly understandable.) He fended off all the Era interference even after eating a HiLo on the floor. He kicked out after three superkicks and the Last Shot, then responded to getting kicked in the balls with a pretty quick and equal response when Cole went for another in-ring Sunrise. He hit the Ending again, but the ref had been bumped and that opened the door to the interference he fended off. Let us also note at this point that during the Cole/Gargano rematch and title change, Cole feinted at the interference to distract Johnny but never deployed it. It’s just another grace note to add to Finn unilaterally merking him three matches prior.
Anyway, it happened and the crowd was livid. It’d be nice to see a visual representation of their anger on a scale of one to my best friend stabbed me in the back out of nowhere, then got me fired, then spit on my wedding ring and threw it into the crowd then beat me in two consecutive matches after I accidentally handed him the inanimate object he cares about more than me as a human being and his former best friend thus sending me into an emotional spiral so deep and lasting that even in my last moments as a babyface years after the betrayal in a loss to a different fuckface I was wearing Carnage-inspired gear.
Everyone’s favorite thing to say after a heel turn is Why, [X], Why?
6) Adam Cole d. Tommaso Ciampa to retain the NXT World Championship (Gargano “heel turn” –> pinfall)
= – =
Takeover: Portland, for what will probably be the first of several. It wasn’t the GOAT, but being GOAT adjacent is nothing to sneeze at. The $64,000/whatever USA paid to get them Question now is this: what’s Tampa going to do to follow this?
Well, besides defibrillating Old Faithful.