The SmarK Rant for NXT Takeover Portland – 02.17.20

The SmarK Rant for NXT Takeover Portland – 02.16.20

Live from Portland, OR

Your hosts are Mauro Ranallo, Beth Phoenix & Nigel McGuinness

North American title:  Keith Lee v. Dominik Dijakovic

We get the trash talk to start and Dijak grabs a headlock, but then they start throwing down right away and blocking each other’s stuff.  Lee snaps off a rana in a manner that someone his size should not be doing to win that battle, and they trade shots for a stalemate.  Dijak wants the test of strength, so Lee lifts him by his hand.  Dijak boots him to the floor and follows with a Fosbury flop, but Lee catches him and tries a powerbomb, which Dijak thankfully escapes.  He comes back with a suplex onto the apron, THE HARDEST PART OF THE RING, and back in where Dijak puts the boots to him and pounds him with forearms while laying the badmouth on him.  No need to injure the man’s self-esteem.  Lee fights out of a suplex and slugs him down, then follows with a backbreaker into a german suplex for two.  Dijak fights back out of the corner with a cyclone kick and goes up with a corkscrew moonsault for two.  Lee escapes the finisher and they slug it out with elbows as neither guy falls down, but Lee is angrier and hits harder until finally they both go down. Dijak recovers first and hits Lee with a clothesline to knock him to the apron as Mauro declares them to be “two superstars bigger than stacked exponentials”.  That’s pretty geeky even by his standards.  They fight to the top rope and Dijak hits Feast Your Eyes from the top, but that only gets two.  They slug it out and Lee pounces him into the turnbuckles, as Dijak bumps to the floor off that and tries to regroup.  Lee follows him out and gives him the double slap to the chest a couple of times, and that looks like it sucks.  So Dijak puts him in a chair and superkicks him, then goes up and hits him with an insane somersault dive onto the chair!  Back in, Lee catches him in the Big Bang, but Dijak escapes and superkicks him.  Lee overpowers the chokeslam and hits the Spirit Bomb, but Dijak WILL NOT GO DOWN.  Lee rolls him up for two and hits another Spirit Bomb, but that only gets two.  If Lee is winning, that should have been the finish.  Lee hauls him to the corner and goes up, but Dijak takes him to the floor to get a breather, and then they fight to the top, where Dijak gets a C4 for two.  He tries to finish, but Lee goes dead weight and Lee finishes with the Big Bang Catastrophe at 20:32 to retain.  Yeah, they missed the peak and went too long.  Still great but after that second powerbomb it was all going to be an anti-climax.  ****1/2

Street Fight:  Tegan Nox v. Dakota Kai

Kai wastes no time and ambushes Nox during her entrance.  Nigel:  “You’ve really gotta admire that.”  Tegan fights back and spears Dakota through the railing at ringside, but Kai DDTs her on the railing and gets two in the ring to start the match.  Dakota loads up the ring with PLUNDER and then throws her into the stairs and gives her a nasty head kick, but makes the classic mistake of trying to knock her out with a cricket bat and hits the post.  Never use a cricket bat in a street fight!  It’s the first thing they teach you!  Tegan puts a trash can on Dakota and cannonballs it, but that hurts her own back.  “Why not just kick it?” wonders Nigel.  Fine question.  Nox sets up a table on the floor and tries to suplex Kai through it, but that gets blocked.  Kai beats on her with a can lid and tries to boot her off the apron, but Nox escapes that and pounds her with a garbage can.  German suplex onto the can gets two.  I feel like high angle suplexes onto metal objects for easily injured people is a bad idea.  Kai gets a backcracker for two and they fight on the apron, where Nox faceplants her.  Back in, Nox goes up and Kai kicks her down, but Tegan chokeslams her and follows with a somersault senton for two.  Tegan sets up a chair and tries to superkick her on it, but Kai escapes and boots the chair into her face.  Back to the floor, and Kai sends her into the post and duct tapes her to the corner, allowing her to get a couple of running boots.  She grabs a laptop, but Nox steals it and goes to the bad knee with it, then finds a chain and beats on the knee with that.  She PIllmanizes the knee and follows with the Shining Wizard, but apparently she’s not done yet.  I feel like that might backfire on her.  So Tegan brings a table into the ring instead of going for a pin, and tries to PIllmanize Kai’s head.  But Raquel Gonzalez from the Performance Center runs down and slams Nox awkwardly on the edge of the table and Kai gets the pin at 13:25. That was a shitty finish to what was shaping up to be a great match despite all the smoke and mirrors, and the table bump looked terrifyingly bad.  Crowd had no idea who Raquel was and that really took the finish down, too.  ***1/2  Honestly, if they were going to use the “Get out of booking jail free” card on this one, it shouldn’t have been on a Takeover and should have just been a TV main event.  On a more superficial level at least, Dakota Kai looked hot and should keep that look from now on.

Finn Balor v. Johnny Gargano

They fight for the wristlock and Gargano gets a headlock on the mat, but Balor reverses to a headscissors and does some pushups to be a dick.  They trade rollup attempts and Gargano gives him an upkick from the mat.  They exchange chops and Balor tries the running chops, but Johnny gets his own and beats Balor down in the corner.  They head to the apron and Gargano spears him to the floor and sends him into the railing, but walks into a sling blade.  Back in, Balor gets a low dropkick for two and goes to a cobra sleeper, but Gargano fights out of it with a single arm DDT.  So that worked well, and Gargano continues working on the arm and SHOOTS THE HALF for two.  Johnny gets backdropped onto the apron and tries to recover with a high kick from out there, but Balor catches the leg and brings him in with a dragon screw.  Balor goes to work on the leg in the corner, but Gargano sends him to the floor and then catches him with a small package on the way in, for two.  Balor goes back to the knee with a reverse figure-four, but Johnny slugs out of that and comes back with an enzuigiri and front suplex.  They head to the floor and Balor nearly gets the DDT out there, but Gargano sends him into the stairs to escape and then follows with a somersault off the apron.  Back in with the slingshot spear for two.  Gargano tries the lawn dart, but Balor reverses into an inverted neckbreaker for two.  Balor stomps the crap out of him, but Gargano superkicks him on the floor and tries a slingshot DDT.  Balor counters to the 1916, but Johnny counters THAT to the lawn dart and they slug it out, leading to Balor hitting a Pele that results in Gargano falling on top for two.  They fight on the apron and slug it out, but Balor blocks the slingshot and goes up with a double stomp that misses, and Johnny slingshots in with the DDT for two.  They charge each other and slug it out again, but Gargano clotheslines him down and then walks into a sling blade.  They trade superkicks and Balor gives him the shotgun dropkick and goes up to finish, but the Coup de Grace misses and Johnny spins him into the Gargano Escape.  But Balor rolls out and double stomps him, and then Gargano rolls into another Gargano Escape in the middle, forcing Balor to make the ropes.  Balor bails to escape and Gargano follows with the shotgun dropkick into the railing to get some revenge, and the fans actually BOO HIM!  Fickle hipsters.  Johnny preps the Spanish table, but Balor suplexes him onto it instead and then jumps from the other table with a shotgun dropkick into the railing.  Back in, the Coup De Grace and 1916 puts Johnny away at 27:20.  This was another one that didn’t need 30 minutes, although it got insanely great in the last 15 minutes.  ****1/2

NXT Women’s title:  Rhea Ripley v. Bianca Belair

Whatever happened to all the stuff about how they weren’t going to call it the “NXT Women’s title” anymore?  Because they’re sure calling it exactly that tonight.  Anyway, this feels kind of pointless since we already know that the Wrestlemania match is Rhea v. Charlotte for the title.  Rhea takes her down and works the arm to start before getting some chops in the corner.  Belair stomps her down and goes to a neck vice, and a standing moonsault gets two.  Suplex gets two.  Belair with a full nelson on the mat, but Rhea fights out with a backdrop and a low dropkick.  Electric chair facebuster gets two.  She tries the Scorpion, but Belair escapes and sends her into the corner for two.  Spinebuster gets two.  They trade bitchslaps in the corner and Belair whips her with the braid and gets a gorilla press, but a handspring moonsault misses.  They trade finisher attempts and Rhea boots her down, but Belair gets a spear and they’re both down.  They slug it out and Rhea dodges the braid whip, but Belair backdrops her to the floor and follows with a dive that looked like it sucked to be Ripley.  Rhea dumps her on the stairs and they head back in and fight on top, where Rhea gets the Riptide to finish at 13:35.  They worked hard but never really clicked and the match kind of sputtered out after the dive and it felt like they just went home quickly.  ***1/4  Afterwards, Charlotte attacks Ripley and finally accepts the challenge for Wrestlemania to confirm what we already knew weeks ago.

NXT tag team titles:  The Undisputed Era v. The Broserweights

This feels like it needs to be a title change. Riddle leads the crowd in a rousing round of “How much fish could Bobby Fish fry if Bobby Fish could fry fish?” and this prompts a brawl on the floor.  Riddle throws kicks on O’Reilly and hits Fish with the rolling gut wrenches.  Over to Dunne, who comes in with a clothesline on Fish and some SMALL JOINT MANIPULATION on O’Reilly.  X Plex for Fish on the apron and then he X Plexes O’Relly onto Fish for good measure.  Back in, Dunne with more finger bending on Fish, but he gets caught in the heel corner and hit with a samoan drop from Fish.  O’Reilly comes in and beats on Dunne, and Fish slingshots in with a senton for two.  Dunne fights back and goes to the apron, but they sweep the leg out there and take out Dunne’s knee.  Back in, Fish works the knee, but O’Reilly accidentally boots him for the classic MALFUNCTION AT THE JUNCTION and it’s hot tag Bro.  Suplexes for all and Riddle runs wild and hits a GTS into a german suplex on O’Reilly for two.  Dunne with a powerbomb into Riddle’s knee for two.  The Broserweights try stereo dives, but Riddle hits knees and then Dunne kicks the post by mistake.  O’Reilly hits Riddle with two germans, but he no-sells and hits his own and then follows with a knee strike and both guys are down.  Riddle spears Fish on the floor and then Kyle in the ring, but Fish clips the knee and gets a suplex for two.  Riddle escapes the High Low and it’s back to Dunne, who slugs it out with Kyle and dives into an armbar.  O’Reilly reverses that to an anklelock, but Dunne gets his own and Riddle comes in with one on Fish.  Then Fish and O’Reilly reverse into a Scorpion deathlock and sleeper before Riddle runs them together to escape.  Dunne stomps the fingers on Fish and they set up a Doomsday Device, but O’Reilly breaks that up and comes off the top with a giant kneedrop on Riddle’s knee.  This leads into a kneebar and heel hook, but Dunne stomps the fingers to break it up.  Dunne slugs it out with O’Reilly again, but accidentally knocks Riddle off the apron.  He tries the Bitter End, but Riddle comes in and accidentally spears Dunne, and Chasing the Dragon gets two.  Dunne fights out of the High Low and Riddle makes the blind tag for the double superkicks and double knee strikes on Fish to give them the tag team titles at 17:10.  This was the perfect time and place to pull the trigger.  Kind of messy but still really fun.  ***3/4

NXT title:  Adam Cole v. Tommaso Ciampa

They trade hammerlocks to start and Ciampa tosses him and tries for the draping DDT already, but Cole escapes.  Back in, Ciampa with the headlock on the mat to control and he fights off Cole’s attempts to reverse out.  Ciampa with chops in the corner and he blocks a backstabber in the corner, but Cole takes him to the floor and hits a pump kick out there.  But then he stops and pats himself on the back, literally, and Ciampa beats the hell out of him as a result.  We call that one “pulling a Barry Horowitz”.  They fight to the other side at ringside and Ciampa hits a knee strike on the apron as Cole rolls away again.  Ciampa drops him on the railing and follows with another knee strike and a running knee into the timekeeper’s area that destroys Cole.  Ciampa tries a powerbomb on the announce table, but Cole gives him a sick wheelbarrow suplex into the edge of the table instead.  The replay thankfully shows it was much safer than the bump taken by Ciampa would indicate.  Back in the ring, Cole goes to work on the neck with a neckbreaker and a headscissors on the mat.  Cole goes up and Ciampa tries the Air Raid Crash off the top, but Cole brings him down with a backstabber for two.  Ciampa with a backslide for two, but Cole gets an enzuigiri and goes up, then lands on a dropkick from Ciampa.  Ciampa comes back with clotheslines and a german suplex, then follows with a knee strike on the ropes to set up a torture rack powerbomb for two.  Crucifix into a rollup gets two for Cole, and he follows with an ushigoroshi on the bad neck for two.

They head to the top and trade chops up there, but Ciampa wins the battle with the Air Raid Crash for two.  They head to the floor and Ciampa powerbombs him on the Spanish table, with nothing breaking.  Except maybe Cole’s back.  Yikes.  So Ciampa does it again, this time breaking everything, including the monitor via Cole’s head.  YIKES.  Back in, Cole comes back with a superkick, but Ciampa hits Project Ciampa for two.  They slug it out and Cole hits him with a pair of pump kicks to put him on the floor, but he follows with a dive and Ciampa hits him with a knee on the way down.  But then Ciampa gets caught with a DDT on the way in, and Cole hits another ushigoroshi for two.  They slug it out and Cole batters him with superkicks and the Last Shot, but Ciampa wisely rolls to the ropes while selling.  So Cole follows him to the apron and tries Panama Sunrise, but Ciampa hits the Air Raid Crash on the apron, THE HARDEST PART OF THE RING.  Cole escapes the Fairytale Ending on the floor and jumps off the announce table with the Panama Sunrise, but throws Ciampa into the ring and walks into the draping DDT as a result.  Fairytale Ending gets two for Ciampa.  Cole takes him down with a crossface, but Ciampa gets his own and Cole makes the ropes.  Cole escapes to the floor and Roderick Strong takes the ref while the other goons run in and destroy Ciampa, and that gets two for Cole.  Cole misses the Last Shot and Ciampa throws him onto the pile and hits Strong with the draping DDT, then dives onto the Era on the floor to take them out himself.  But back in, Cole hits three superkicks and the Last Shot for a heart-wrenching two.  O’Reilly takes the ref and gives Cole the belt, but Ciampa bumps the ref by accident and then hits the Fairytale Ending with no one to count.  But Johnny Gargano shows up and takes the belt for himself, then nails Ciampa with it, and Cole retains at 33:22.  Well so much for DIY 2.0.  Not a big fan of the gaga and screwjob finish, but the match was fantastic otherwise and had me jumping up and down in my seat at the various points where I was supposed to be.  ****3/4

Overall, a great night of wrestling with some finishes that I would call “questionable”.  Plus the other issue with NXT lately is that they decide they HAVE to go 3 hours and then stretch out all these matches to fill that time instead of just letting them run to whatever time works best.  But this was still pretty great and gets a solid WATCH IT thanks to a great crowd and three classic matches on a six match card.