By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne vs. Zack Gibson and James Drake in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournament finals: The best match of the night on either show. There wasn’t a lot of mystery regarding the outcome, as there was every reason to assume that Riddle and Dunne would go over to avoid the heel vs. heel tag title match at Takeover. Even so, both teams did a tremendous job from bell to bell. Riddle and Dunne challenging Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly. NXT Takeover: Portland looks great on paper.
Tegan Nox vs. Dakota Kai: They set the bar high for their grudge match with the awesome beatdown that Kai dished out when she turned on Nox during the WarGames match. They immediately set the right tone by bringing great intensity right from the start. The match was brief and it needed to in order for them to avoid losing any of that intensity. This was a good brawl from bell to bell, which is exactly what it had to be. The involvement of Candice LeRae gives Kai an out for losing and sets up the need for her to get revenge on LeRae in addition to continuing the feud with Nox.
Adam Cole and Tommaso Ciampa: I didn’t need to be sold on Cole vs. Ciampa, but this segment made me even more excited about their title match at Takeover. It’s cool that William Regal established that Cole had already signed the contract and didn’t care who he faced. There are definitely times when the Cole character hides behind Undisputed Era, but I like that we are seeing his character exuding confidence, even when faced with defending the title against his biggest threat. It was fun to see a bleeding Ciampa give into the crowd chant by signing the contract using his own blood.
Finn Balor vs. Trent Seven: The pre-taped angle that saw Balor threaten Seven while choking him with his car door was simple and very effective. The angle and match effectively showcased Balor’s mean streak. Seven was the right guy for his role, as he does a great job of selling and looking sympathetic. Heel Balor continues to be a million times better than smiling babyface main roster Balor.
Damian Priest vs. Dominik Dijakovic: A highly entertaining match. That said, I cringed when Priest hit Dijakovic with a Poison Rana from the ropes and it only led to a two count. Dijakovic was right back on his feet and hitting his finisher seconds later. I realize that there is less of an emphasis on psychology in pro wrestling today than ever before, but certain moves should be protected. And if a Poison Rana from the middle rope isn’t one of those moves then I don’t know what should be. All of that said, it wasn’t enough to spoil the strong effort from both men and I’m already looking forward to the next Keith Lee vs. Dijakovic match.
Shotzi Blackheart vs. Deonna Purrazzo: A decent showcase win for Blackheart. I’m not sure how I’ll feel about the toy tank she drove to the ring if we see it on a regular basis. It’s low budget and silly, and yet I must confess that I got a kick out of it. Blackheart is getting a push and I have no issue with her going over, but I hope the talented Purrazzo’s time eventually comes.
Chelsea Green vs. Kayden Carter: Carter has been impressive enough that one had to assume that she would be getting her first television win soon. And while the outcome of the match was surprising, I was actually hoping it would be a Green showcase and Carter’s win would come under better circumstances. Any win is meaningful for Carter, but how impressive is it to beat someone just getting started on NXT television, especially when the broadcast team reminded viewers that Green was eliminated from the Royal Rumble in just 12 seconds? I don’t know where this is going, but I wonder if they would have been better off having Green’s rough week be followed by Robert Stone debuting as her manager to then lead her out of the funk. As it stands, both Green and Stone look bad in the moment.