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NXT TakeOver: Portland preview - Different Night, Same TakeOver

TakeOver: Portland is the next in the series of NXT’s TakeOver shows. It’ll emanate from the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon.

Same TakeOver, Different Night

This is the first time a TakeOver is on a Sunday night.

While it maybe shouldn’t have, the new night had me thinking this would be formatted more like a WWE pay-per-view than an NXT TakeOver. That maybe they were trying something new given the new landscape with NXT competing head-to-head with AEW every week. Maybe they felt airing it like a WWE PPV would make it appear more legit.

And up until last Wednesday, it really felt it would go this way. They had six matches and a clear two they could have added (Velveteen Dream vs. Roderick Strong and a cruiserweight title match). All would have been appropriate for the card.

An eight match card going well over three hours is not NXT’s style. It’s WWE’s style. It’d be a show that ran long enough to tire out the audience and force certain matches to get cut for time. So it was a bit of a relief when the two matches they could have added were instead advertised for next week’s episode of NXT.

The reason this is even worth noting is that ever since NXT went two hours, people worried it would no longer be like the NXT we prior enjoyed. That it would just become another Raw or Smackdown. But six months into their new format, it hasn’t happened. The style of booking is the same. And while we’ll get occasional wrestlers from Raw or SmackDown making an appearance, they’re usually those with history with the promotion. It’s still the same NXT at its core.

Eschewing a main roster WWE-style PPV is just another example of them still doing things their way despite their new weekly format.

Now let’s take a look at the card itself, with a brief rundown of each match and then the impact that match can have in the world of NXT. We’ll ask what’s at stake, but we’re looking at more than just the gold in the line.

Adam Cole (c) vs. Tommaso Ciampa for the NXT championship

Tommaso Ciampa returned to NXT on their first live 2-hour show on USA after he missed half the year due to cervical spinal surgery. And he wanted his title, who he affectionately refers to as Goldie, back.

Cole had a slew of people gunning for his title such as Matt Riddle, Finn Bálor, and Keith Lee. But Ciampa was the man who never actually lost it. It was that career-threatening neck injury that forced him to relinquish it. Now he’s more focused than ever to take back what is rightfully his.

Ciampa targeted the entire Undisputed ERA to get Cole to agree to the the championship match. Then Tommaso put the champ through a table and signed the contract in blood.

Now Adam Cole needs to deal with a laser-focused, violent Tommaso Ciampa.

What’s at stake?

Pretty much the entire power dynamic on NXT

As long as Adam Cole holds the NXT title, regardless of if the rest of his crew hold secondary gold, the Undisputed ERA are on top. But when he loses it, the ERA lose their status. That would make for a very different looking NXT.

Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Bianca Belair for the NXT women’s championship

After storming onto NXT prime late last summer, Ripley has been unstoppable. She finally did what no one else could and defeated Shayna Baszler to win the championship and end Baszler’s long reign. The signaled a changing of the guard with Baszler going to Raw and Ripley now the standard bearer of the division.

Bianca Belair won the right to face her in a battle royal. But unfortunately for The EST, that’s not the story. The story is Ripley challenging Royal Rumble winner Charlotte Flair for a WrestleMania match.

The Queen has yet to make her choice. A visit down to NXT to possibly do so ended with her being laid out by both champion and challenger. This leaves the shadow of Charlotte looming over this match.

What’s at stake?

A WrestleMania match

If Charlotte challenges for the NXT title, it’s not going to be at TakeOver: Tampa. She won the Royal Rumble. It will be at WrestleMania. Rhea will be in that match. The only question is if they want to work Bianca in as well. How they book this match will indicate that.

Finn Bálor vs. Johnny Gargano

This is one of the two grudge matches on the card tomorrow.

Finn Bálor returned to NXT the way we remembered him - the smiling good guy. But that wasn’t the case.

He was actual Prince Bálor, the angry, self-serving wrestler that many got to know in Japan. Finn revealed that when he blindsided Johnny Gargano with a Pelé Kick after standing at his side, making it seem like he was going to ally with Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa in a brawl against Undisputed ERA.

He continued to attack Gargano to the point it caused Johnny Wrestling to miss the next TakeOver. That was insult and injury because Gargano takes pride in representing NXT on every TakeOver he can. Bálor took that from him.

Johnny TakeOver returned to distract his foe during an NXT title match, allowing Adam Cole to hold onto his title.

That set the stage for this and the build has been heated, with Johnny claiming that while Finn went and failed on the main roster, he was there taking NXT to places Bálor never could. Finn is letting it be known he’s out for blood.

What’s at stake?

Finn’s second NXT run

While a loss here in no way hurts too much, Bálor’s been very protected in his run as the villainous Prince Bálor. His one L is a loss to the champion due to a distraction. A legit, no excuses loss tomorrow would weaken his facade just a bit. I don’t know what their long term plan with Finn is. Do they plan to bring him back up to the main roster at one point with this character? A main event run in NXT? Both would be greatly helped by keeping his loss record to a minimum.

Undisputed ERA (Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish) (c) vs. The BroserWeights (Matt Riddle & Pete Dunne) for the NXT tag team championships

The odd couple pairing of Matt Riddle & Pete Dunne ended up finding the chemistry to win the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. This earned them the right to challenge for the tag gold.

While there’s not much to this story, there is something to this complete opposing personality tag team of the BroserWeights. They have great chemistry in the ring and out. Their journey to Portland last Wednesday was wildly entertaining.

Perhaps they’re destined to break up and feud with each other. But they probably should run a bit longer with this dynamic.

What’s at stake?

The strength of the tag division

They were able to hide it by using a bunch of UK teams in the Dusty Classic, but the NXT tag scene is weak right now. The Undisputed ERA are really the only established team. Perhaps they bring in the Grizzled Young Veterans to help bolster it, but right now, a BroserWeight win would add another team to the ranks as they work on rebuilding the division.

Keith Lee (c) vs. Dominik Djiakovic for the North American title

Keith Lee and Dominik Dijakovic have been fighting each other on and off for a year. It’s a rivalry that’s earned each other their respect. They’ve even teamed up a few times since. But throughout that, they never finished their best of three series. Things kept getting in the way.

They’ll get that now. Dominik defeated Damian Priest to earn the right to face Lee for the North American title. We’ll finally get that TakeOver match between them.

What’s at stake?

The next step for Dijakovic. There’s no doubt that Keith is winning this. But this match could help Dominik in what the next chapter is for him. Does he start showing a heelish side to go down that path? Will this leave him in a position where he can jump into something else or will he be left in limbo?

Tegan Nox vs. Dakota Kai in a street fight

In our other grudge match on the card, two former best friends will clash for a second time.

This stems from WarGames, when Dakota Kai betrayed her team and attacked her best friend Tegan Nox, even targeting Tegan’s knee, which has historically been a big issue for her.

Nox was out for a bit while Dakota feuded with Mia Yim, a feud where she came out looking worse than she did going in. Tegan finally returned in that #1 contenders battle royal, but Kai cost her that as well.

That led to a match on NXT television a couple weeks back that Tegan won. However, the use of her knee brace, which Kai had been brandishing as a weapon, is likely what set up this second match.

What’s at stake?

Dakota’s heel run

Listen, this hasn’t been the best feud. The way they laid it out after the heel turn, which itself was very well done, was a bit baffling. First, Kai pretty much lost a feud to Mia Yim, who hasn’t been in any significant program since. Then instead of going with Tegan returning to get revenge, she instead was placed in the battle royal and Kai cost her that match. Their match on TV was very good, with Nox winning is pretty strong fashion.

Because of all that, Dakota really needs the win here to move forward as a heel. She’s been very good at the role, but the booking has done her zero favors. It’d be foolish to pull the plug on it, but she can’t lose both matches to Tegan.

NXT TakeOver: Portland will air tomorrow at 7 PM ET on the WWE Network. What will you be looking forward to when NXT invades the northwest?

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