NXT TakeOver Portland is on Sunday, so this episode is packed even fuller than usual. Either Angel Garza or Lio Rush will be Jordan Devlin’s first NXT Cruiserweight Championship challenger. We’ll find out which tonight. Candice LeRae faces Dakota Kai ahead of Kai’s Street Fight against Tegan Nox at TakeOver. Undisputed ERA put Kushida in a bin last week. This week he gets a match against Adam Cole to get some payback. Johnny Gargano and Cameron Grimes go one on one before Gargano faces Finn Balor in Portland. We’ll get all the build to the TakeOver matches. And we should find out who’s first on Velveteen Dream’s hitlist after his return last week.
Roderick Strong def. Bronson Reed
Dakota Kai def. Candice LeRae
Johnny Gargano def. Cameron Grimes
Lio Rush def. Angel Garza
Bianca Belair def. Santana Garrett
Adam Cole def. Kushida
Roderick Strong opened the show, striding to the ring with purpose and demanding a mic. He was there to call out Velveteen Dream for having Strong’s wife and son’s pictures on his tights when he came back. It was disrespectful and crossed the line to make it personal, so Strong is going to hurt him. He demanded an apology. He got Bronson Reed instead.
Reed said Velveteen Dream isn’t the only one Strong has a problem with, and they were going to fight. So they did.
Roderick Strong vs Bronson Reed
Commentary mentioned that only Strong and Adam Cole were at NXT this week. Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly were off doing media for TakeOver. And with Cole having a match of his own tonight, Strong really was on his own.
This was a match where Strong could have done with some backup. It was almost all Bronson Reed in the early going, and what little offence Roderick Strong did get made no impact. It looked like it was going to need either a lucky break, a cheap shot, or a mistake on Reed’s part for Strong to pick up a victory.
He got the lucky break, after a fashion. Velveteen Dream’s music hit when Strong had taken control of the match and caused him to be on the receiving end of a suicide dive from Reed. Bronson Reed went to the top to finish Strong off with a frogsplash but Roderick Strong timed a knee to the face perfectly as Reed descended, and got the pin.
Velveteen Dream appeared on screen after the match and did a really weird promo offering to ‘take care of’ Strong’s wife if anything ever happens to him. It was definitely personal, I’m just not sure if it was good.
» The BROserweights road trip to Portland is a thing. Part one ended with them being pulled over by the police and being left on the side of the road with the trophy while the car was towed because neither of them has a license.
» Angel Garza and Lio Rush argued during Garza’s pre-match interview. Funnily enough, they both think they’re going to win and go on to get their championship back.
Candice LeRae vs Dakota Kai
This was, as expected, a bad-tempered affair. They were friends before Dakota Kai turned and LeRae and Nox are still close. It might not have had quite the intensity of the Kai and Nox feud, but Dakota Kai seemingly just wants to hurt people.
Candice LeRae was bleeding from the nose from a stray kick by halfway through, but it was a good match nevertheless. LeRae got close to submitting Kai with a Gargano Escape, but after she’d been stuck in it for much too long for comfort, Dakota Kai reversed it and got the roll-up victory.
LeRae started stalking Kai around the ring after the bell. Kai grabbed the bell after smashing LeRae’s head into it and hit her in the stomach with it. Tegan Nox appeared before she could do any more damage and started pounding on her ex-best friend. Officials separated them and dragged Kai away but Nox got free and launched herself at her again. Eventually, they managed to hold Nox back long enough for Kai to be removed.
Johnny Gargano vs Cameron Grimes
Grimes and Gargano got into an argument backstage last week, which led to William Regal setting tonight’s match. Gargano was in the mood to make Grimes tap, so he went for submission after submission for the first half of the match. It was a supremely confident Johnny Gargano. He paraded Grimes in front of the crowd and chopped him against the barricades when they took a trip to the outside, but got caught trying to DDT Grimes while getting back into the ring and dropped on his face.
It turned into a very good match, and Gargano did eventually get his wish. He tapped Cameron Grimes out with the Gargano Escape. After the match, Gargano yelled a warning message to Finn Balor into camera.
» Adam Cole had a very shouty backstage interview about how he’s going to beat Kushida and Tommaso Ciampa and that he’ll stop at nothing to do it.
» The second part of the BROserweights road trip had them peddling a swan boat while Matt Riddle tried to figure out how to get them to Portland. Pete Dunne didn’t throw him over the side, but it looked like it was close.
» Next week Roderick Strong goes one on one with Velveteen Dream.
Angel Garza vs Lio Rush – Number One Contender’s match for the NXT Cruiserweight Championship
Angle Garza was not messing about this time, the stripper pats came off as soon as the bell rang. Lovely match. Blink and you’ll miss at least three things kind of pace pretty much throughout, but you couldn’t expect anything else. Garza has a vicious streak too, and that was on display in places.
Rush delivered a Final Hour to the outside, which looked like it could have been a mistake because it took almost as much out of him as Garza. He followed it up with another in the ring, but Garza got his knees up and hit Rush with a superkick. It looked like Rush was out and Garza went for the Wing Clipper, but Lio Rush shifted his weight and got Garza’s shoulders down for the win.
After the match, Jordan Devlin met Lio Rush on the stage, congratulated him then warned him he didn’t fancy his chances.
That match will take place next week.
» Mark Henry narrated the hype package for Keith Lee versus Dominik Dijakovic. I liked it a lot. Every Dijakovic versus Lee match has been great and it’s going to be extra good at TakeOver with the North American Championship on the line.
Bianca Belair vs Santana Garrett
This was Bianca Belair’s chance to prove she’s ready for her title match against Rhea Ripley on Sunday. She took it, quickly. Garrett didn’t stand a chance and was pinned off the K.O.D.
After the match Belair sounded off about Ripley overlooking her and Rhea Ripley came out and assured her she isn’t looking past her she’s looking right at her. And at NXT TakeOver Portland she’s going to go right through her. Belair went to punch her but Ripley sidestepped and smacked Belair in the face. Bianca Belair didn’t miss the second time. She contacted with the punch and followed up with a K.O.D. to the champion.
» In the final segments of the BROserweight road trip, they stowed away in Triple H’s private plane, in the luggage hold. Dunne wasn’t in on the plan. He was helping Riddle get the trophy in the luggage hold and Riddle shoved him in and climbed in after him.
» Tommaso Ciampa talked us through the footage of him handing the NXT Championship over to Triple H last year and what was going through his head then talked about how he feels about Sunday’s match, addressing his comments to Adam Cole. He’s ready to take his life back.
Adam Cole vs Kushida
I’m sorry, I know he’s really very good and all that, but I’m just never going to like watching Adam Cole. Obviously, the match was great. Of course it was. It’s an interesting choice to put the champion in a match a few days before TakeOver, especially with a submission specialist like Kushida, and especially when the challenger gets the night off. But he’s reaping what he sowed, and I’d much rather see Ciampa as champion anyway.
Kushida worked Cole’s arm over a lot during the match, and might even have made him submit if Cole hadn’t been too close to the ropes. Damage was done though, so we’ll see if that’s a factor on Sunday. Kushida may feel like he got his revenge, but he was unable to get the win – as if the NXT Champion was ever going to lose a random non-title match going into a title defence. A Last Shot against the run of play got Cole the win.
Tommaso Ciampa made his way to the ring after the match, in slow motion. He got in the ring and stood nose to nose with Cole to say, ‘NXT TakeOver Portland, I take my life back’. Cole said, ‘Over my dead body’, and that was the end of the show.
It’s weird having a TakeOver as a Sunday standalone rather than as part of a PPV weekend, but it’s probably time. TakeOvers have been far more consistent than PPVs in terms of quality.
The card for NXT TakeOver Portland is:
- Adam Cole (C) vs Tommaso Ciampa – NXT Championship match
- Rhea Ripley (C) vs Bianca Belair – NXT Women’s Championship match
- Undisputed ERA (C) vs BROserweights – NXT Tag Team Championship match
- Keith Lee (C) vs Dominik Dijakovic – NXT North American Championship match
- Dakota Kai vs Tegan Nox – Street Fight
Next week there is already Jordan Devlin versus Lio Rush, and Roderick Strong versus Velveteen Dream on the card.