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    Wednesday, February 19, 2020

    The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: NXT Takeover: Portland

    NXT Takeover: Portland is done, and it was another top-grade event that had developed more interesting stories in the coming months. From what went down, it looks as if NXT will now play a big part in WrestleMania. Here's hoping both NXT championships get defended on the big show because as I see it, these aftermaths and rivalries are all headed towards the show of all shows.

    Without further ado, here are my individual thoughts of each match.

    Why, Johnny, Why

    While not my favorite match of the night, most Adam Cole matches automatically garner my undivided attention. Cole is really a complete package and to pair him up with someone as entertaining as Tommaso Ciampa will surely get everyone invested in the match. As expected, it was a top-quality bout that had the crowd on the edge of their seats. While I never doubted that Cole would retain, it was the manner in which he retained that is the important deal here.

    With Johnny Gargano seemingly veering over to the dark side again, it seems as if we're getting a redux of the Gargano/Ciampa feud albeit in a reversal of roles. I do wonder if it's enough to change my mind from burnout of this rivalry's, but it will be definitely interesting to see how it plays out.

    I personally think that Gargano might have snapped because who does Ciampa think he is? Ever since he broke his neck, it has always been about him. He came out after Johnny won the NXT Championship and acted like they weren't in a blood feud. I know this is all kayfabe, but if you think about it, has Ciampa ever apologized for all the agony he put Johnny through? See? If I was Johnny, I would still harbor that hatred.

    Moving on, with Cole still the champion, one might ask what's next. To be honest, there are less credible characters to vie for the championship right now so I would still consider Velveteen Dream and/or Roderick Strong to be in contention for the title eventually. It may not make sense at the moment, but at least it's a possible direction that they might take in the future.


    There's not really a lot to say about Bianca Belair vs. Rhea Ripley for the NXT Women's Championship. Both women are talented and being pushed to the moon (even more for Ripley than Belair) and they have similar skill sets (although I still believe Belair is the more talented one).

    If there's one important thing to note here, it's what happened post-match. For the first time in history, a Royal Rumble winner will be challenging for an NXT title. That speaks volumes and will make Ripley and the NXT Women's Championship an even bigger deal if she successfully defends against someone of Charlotte Flair's caliber.

    Meanwhile, I'm a little miffed that Belair lost another title match. After a dominant showing at the Royal Rumble (and at subsequent NXT shows), it seems she just can't catch her luck. However, I do have an idea to get her on the right track (and also to the main roster) in a big way.

    Considering how weak the rumored RAW Women's Elimination Chamber is, why not have Belair take someone out and insert herself in the match? Either take Sarah Logan or Natalya out as it's the only decision that makes sense. Actually, I'd prefer Natalya because we all know who's winning that Chamber match. In a sense, she could also have her first rivalry here.

    Bro For Gold

    I found that the NXT Tag Team Championship match gave me the most enjoyment for the night. From Matt Riddle's antics to everything in between, everything seemed like a perfect match and all facets of entertainment were covered. Comedy? Check. Athleticism? Check. Tag Team Psychology? Check. Entertainment? Check.

    I had actually predicted this wrongly because I thought Riddle and Pete Dunne were a temporary mash-up. Interestingly, while I did claim so, I had found their chemistry to be very high so it wasn't such a surprise that they gave the Broserweights the W. I'm also glad that they decided to give the entertaining Riddle some gold, so I think it works.

    On the other hand, with Roderick Strong recently losing the NXT North American Championship, and Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly also losing the NXT Tag Team Championships, is the Undisputed ERA slowly losing its luster? Where do they pick themselves up after this? Cole is the only champion in the faction right now so maybe that eliminates the possibility of a main roster call-up (or does it?).

    The Prinxe's Journey Continues

    Finn Bálor has really flourished on NXT. He's been putting up good matches and winning them as well—a far cry from his years on the main roster. While some people consider this a demotion for the first Universal Champion, I would say this actually helps NXT and WWE in the long run. We all get dream matchups, Finn rebuilds himself with victories, and the Superstars he faces all get that rub they need to shatter the glass ceiling.

    Am I glad that Johnny Gargano lost? No, not really. But I think this loss could factor into Gargano's descent into madness. I suppose this may also tie into the heel turn he pulled off during the main event. A man who lost his "return" match against a guy who took him out—that could just be the driving force to make him lose his mind and be reminded of his former glory.

    While it's obvious we're getting Gargano/Ciampa again eventually, the big question really is what's next for Bálor. I honestly think Bálor needs to eventually face off against Velveteen Dream only because I feel this is Finn's calling. I don't know how we build up to that point, but I hope it happens because it'll be a match for the ages.

    Fight Forever

    I know I nag on how this is Dominik Dijakovic vs. Keith Lee V (or is it VI?) but the two big men found a way to make this rematch into something more special. Interestingly enough, it didn't end up like the previous slugfest that the previous bouts were. For such large men, it was a pretty balanced effort of stiff hits, high-risk maneuvers, and dramatic pin situations.

    As an opening match, it was so satisfying that I think I'm okay with seeing this match happen again sometime—perhaps on the main roster in the future. I'm sure, by then, these two men will have reinvented themselves and their rivalry. Remember that their previous matches have been unstipulated face-offs. Imagine what they can do in a TLC or Hell in a Cell setting.

    In that sense, I'm glad Keith Lee seems to have fully recovered from career limbo and he's now being pushed strongly. As he retains the NXT North American Championship, I would want to see him face someone like Cameron Grimes next—that, or give him WALTER. Do it, you cowards.

    Battle of the Knee Braces

    Considering that the first match was a pretty solid affair, I can't say the same for Dakota Kai vs. Tegan Nox. I feel this is more a case of how it has been booked over the past few weeks rather than the actual match. I just thought it lacked the oomph I thought it needed. If I wasn't following NXT, I would think that it was Nox who was the villain here.

    Nonetheless, I don't think the feud stops here just yet. A (re)debuting Reina Raquel Gonzalez inserted herself towards the end of the match to align with Kai. It's not yet clear why she did so, but I suppose rebuilding the NXT women's division after Shayna Baszler's apparent departure would be a good enough reason to start introducing new players. I do like the dynamic that Kai/Gonzalez makes as Gonzalez towers over Kai.

    P.S. The finish of that match looked really sick, but also felt very botched. I do worry about Nox's well-being considering that she (and Kai) just recovered from injuries a few months back. This might not be a good look for Gonzalez if so, but I suppose she can just claim that she intentionally tried to destroy Nox.

    Grade: A

    Match to Watch: Broserweights vs. The Undisputed ERA (c) for the NXT Tag Team Championship

    Photos from WWE


    Miguel “The Migz” Llado is your master NXT reviewer at the Smark Henry offices. A lover of music, wrestling, videogames, and food, he lives his life tweeting his mind off (@the_migz) and ‘gramming random food items and locations (@tha_migz) while he pursues his musical career courtesy of his band The Mox (TheMoxGarageRock). You can also add him on PSN (MigzLlado) to show your WWE2K19 (or any PS4) skills. When not being a smark, he lives his life as an awesome architect, musician extraordinaire and armchair fantasy booker.
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: NXT Takeover: Portland Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Migz Llado
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