By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Charlotte Flair, Rhea Ripley, and Bianca Belair: Flair’s return to NXT did as much for her as it is for the Riplay and Belair and the NXT brand. The Queen persona has grown tired on Raw and Smackdown. Neither brand’s creative teams seem interested in focusing on building matches that don’t involve the two women’s singles titles. So while Flair is positioned as a top star, she hasn’t had an interesting feud in ages. Seeing her in the ring with two of NXT’s finest made her feel fresh again. I didn’t expect to see the champion and her next challenger working together to rough up Flair and yet it felt perfectly logical.
Tommaso Ciampa, Matt Riddle, and Pete Dunne vs. Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, and Kyle O’Reilly: The DQ finish was disappointing, but they did a good job throughout the night of putting over the ruthless side of the Undisputed Era faction. The finish also set the table for the return of Velveteen Dream, who showed good fire while facing the UE members by himself. The “Call Me Marina” tights are obviously a sign that Dream is going after Roderick Strong. Will that match be added to the already loaded Takeover lineup?
Angel Garza vs. Isaiah Scott: I guess they wanted to make it clear that Garza isn’t exclusive to Raw. He strikes me as Raw ready, but so do a lot of NXT wrestlers, and with the show airing on USA Network that no longer matters as much as it once did. The actual match was highly entertaining and Garza going over was the logical call coming out of his appearance on Monday’s Raw.
Dominik Dijakovic vs. Killian Dain: A good win for Dijakovic over the monster Dain heading into his NXT North American Championship match with Keith Lee at Takeover. The Feast Your Eyes finisher looked impressive when performed on the monster. The post match angle with Lee coming out and exchanging words with Dijakovic before they shook hands was simplistic and yet is also a nice contrast to the build for the other Takeover matches.
Finn Balor and Johnny Gargano split-screen verbal exchange: The verbal sparring didn’t last long and yet they got over the intensity of their feud and everything they needed to. Heel Balor is so much more fun than main roster babyface Balor.
NXT Cruiserweight Champion Jordan Devlin vs. Tyler Breeze in a non-title match: I dug the way Breeze struck his usual pose only to have Devlin dropkick him out of the ring. The match was far more competitive than I anticipated and arguably went longer than necessary. I mistakenly assumed this would be more of a showcase win for the new champion. Still, it was a strong back and forth match and it was a treat to see Breeze working in a competitive match rather than goofing off as part of Breezango.
Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne opening: Riddle was at his playful best. You have no soul if you didn’t find humor in Riddle asking how much fish could Bobby Fish fry if Bobby Fish could fry fish. Stone faced Dunne continues to be a great straight man for stoner Riddle. Most importantly, they could get by with this humorous segment because Riddle and Dunne challenging Fish and Kyle O’Reilly for the NXT Tag Titles at Takeover more than sells itself on paper alone.
Mercedes Martinez vs. Kacy Catanzaro: A nice showcase win for Martinez. That said, I am surprised that Catanzaro isn’t being positioned as a star let alone fast tracked to Raw or Smackdown due to her background and freakish athletic ability.
None: What’s not to like? The match quality was high, the angles that built to Takeover were strong, and everything felt like it served a purpose. This was a very good show and NXT Takeover: Portland looks awesome on paper. My only minor concern is that Takeover: Portland could be a setup show for rematches at NXT Takeover: Tampa during WrestleMania weekend. That doesn’t mean Takeover: Portland will be bad by any means, but there’s a chance we won’t get as many clean finishes as usual.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Kenny Herzog discussing his journalism career, his new Outside Interference podcast, doing a feature story on CM Punk, pro wrestling in the pandemic, WWE talk on Retribution, The Hurt Business, Roman Reigns as a heel, and much more...