wrestling / Columns

411 Wrestling Fact or Fiction: What was the Best Match at NXT Takeover: Portland?

February 21, 2020 | Posted by Jake Chambers
Finn Balor Johnny Gargano NXT Takeover: Portland WWE

Welcome back to the 411 Fact or Fiction – Wrestling Edition, I’m your host, Jake Chambers. Every week, Fact or Fiction poses statements on pro-wrestling history, culture and current events and then challenges writers to explain why they believe each statement is totally factual or completely fiction. No middle ground will be tolerated!

This week’s guest is: Justin Watry. You know him and you love him, a prolific columnist here at 411 who has branched out to podcasting last year with great success. Let’s see what bold takes he has about all the fallout from NXT Takeover – Portland!

Statement #1: Keith Lee vs. Donovan Dijakovic was the best match at NXT Takeover – Portland.

Justin Watry: FACT – It’s KEITH LEE and DOMINIK DIJAKOVIC! Yeah, the opening match was the highlight of NXT Takeover Portland. I said it on Twitter (@JustinWatry) while watching live and stand by it days later. The NXT Championship main event was very close but just fell short. I was one of the very first to be singing the praises of their matches on NXT television (411 Foresight Wrestling Podcast), so it was nice to see that intensity brought onto the main stage. While the winner was never in doubt (same with main event), it was the entire atmosphere that turned the bout from great to memorable. Doing so this early in 2020 and making it a Match of the Year candidate in February is tough to do. They did it.

Jake Chambers: FICTION – Not only have I felt like I’ve seen these guys run back this same match in EVOLVE, PWG and Beyond, but they’ve done it a couple of times in NXT too. There might be some slight variations, but it’s the same half-speed, “big” move-trading strategy with “shocking” kick outs; there’s no story to the in-ring component and there’s no outside-the-ring story between them after all these years either. NXT Takeovers were starting to feel very same-y before they had that weekly live show, but now it’s all getting really repetitive with the lack of strategy or storytelling, just this faux “fighting spirit” mentality over and over. For me, the best match was Dakota Kai vs. Tegan Knox because it at least did something different and surprised me with an ending… dumb ending, but at least it wasn’t the exact thing I was expecting to see like in the Lee vs. Dijakovic match.

Statement #2: You are looking forward to another match between Tomasso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano.

Justin Watry: FACT – I am! While they have had many battles before in NXT, it has still never officially felt like ‘the end.’ We were due for that 12 months ago but were robbed of it thanks to Ciampa’s unfortunate injury. It sucked. However, we are getting a second chance at greatness here. Thinking of Ronda Rousey vs. Becky Lynch at Survivor Series getting screwed up. A huge blow at the time but worked out for the best. I sense a similar situation here. With Gargano back to being a heel and Ciampa fighting for REAL revenge (he promised to his family he would win the title on Sunday), it works.

Jake Chambers: FICTION – Like Justin said, we never got an official end to their feud; however, nothing about the current dynamic between them ties up that storyline or really makes much sense. If they wanted to give us a satisfying ending, they should have brought Ciampa back as the ruthless backstabbing bad guy he was before. Their rekindled friendship last year was 4th-wall breaking nonsense with no real explanation, and now we’re supposed to cheer for Ciampa, one of the best heels NXT has ever had, as a hero against Gargano, probably the best natural babyface of the last decade? It’s dumb. Regardless, we’ll likely get the same style of match anyways, going about 40 minutes with both guys constantly kicking out of devastating finishers for the entire second half with a bro hug of respect to tie is all up neatly. Snore.

Statement #3: The mega-push Rhea Ripley had been getting over the past few months is well deserved.

Justin Watry: FACT – It is well deserved, but I would argue against the term ‘mega-push.’ More often than not, the people who receive the so called MEGA PUSH are ones who deserve it. The so called mega-push of a John Cena or a Roman Reigns was well deserved. Same with a Hulk Hogan or a Stone Cold or recently a Becky Lynch. There is a reason why a multi-billion dollar company backs you up. Rhea Ripley had an amazing run back in November, but the best was being saved for right now…and the icing on the cake will come in Tampa Bay when she defeats Charlotte Flair to remain NXT Womens Champion. As a guy who correctly nails nearly every prediction, mark that one down as well. Wooooo!

Jake Chambers: FICTION – Justin’s prediction proves to me just how wild of a push this is for Ripley, who a year ago was almost an non-entity and is now about to defend the “developmental” championship against the WWE’s most protected female superstar at the biggest event of the year. All of the stars of the past Justin lists as getting mega-pushes are wrestlers who put in years and years of hard work to get to a match like Ripely is being gifted here. This is almost Brock Lesnar or Ronda Rousey levels of ascension, and I’ve yet to see any evidence that Ripley has the in-ring talent, charisma or drawing power of those two. This mega-push, to me, feels way too quick and is likely destined to end like Fandango or Ryback in the long term, regardless of the result at Wrestlemania.

Fact or Fiction – Quick Hits
– one sentence is all you need for this FoF lightning round!

1. There will never be a bad NXT Takeover event.

Justin Watry: FICTION – The wrestling business is built on the phrase never say never.

2. You believe Dakota Kai and Tegan Knox really hate each other.

Justin Watry: FICTION – No explanation needed.

Jake Chambers: FICTION – All wrestlers might as well just hug in the ring and bow together after every match at this point.

3. Dolph Ziggler Sucks.

Justin Watry: FICTION – Nobody on weekly WWE television sucks.

Jake Chambers: FACT – Never liked Dolph, and I’m glad the rest of the critical mass seems to have finally caught up with me.

¡SWITCH!

Statement #4: Nothing in wrestling looks dangerous anymore.

Jake Chambers: FACT – The evolution of wrestling as an “art form” and not “magic” has removed all danger from the viewing experience. Everyone is just performing cooperative moves and it shows. That can be thrilling and highly athletic, but it’s not dangerous. Nobody looks like they’re getting hurt anymore, which was part of the magic of pro-wrestling in the first place. In fact, if any match even looks remotely dangerous, there will be an outcry on social media about how the culprit wrestler is unprofessional. Paradoxically though, we all want to be shocked and strain to praise things that seem dangerous but never really look it. Clips from this 1950s match between Buddy Rogers and Lou Thesz have been making the rounds on social media lately, and it’s shocking how a pro-wrestling match used to look more like a fight and less like the ballet we see today.

Justin Watry: FICTION – The fall Tegan Nox took on Sunday night from the top rope looked dangerous. The suplex Ciampa took on the edge of the announcer’s table looked dangerous. The kicks from Matt Riddle/Pete Dunne and/or anybody from The Undisputed Era look dangerous. The ridiculous moves from Dominik and Keith from the opener looked dangerous. I could go on and on here, and that was JUST from NXT Takeover Portland. If we factored in WWE Raw, Smackdown, NXT, pay-per-views and every other promotion in the world, there are tons of other examples. A lot of that may not have the same effect once you are “in the know,” but that doesn’t take away from the immediate moment you groan or cover your eyes.

Statement #5: You would pay for the Network if the WWE sell off their PPV rights to another “major” streaming outlet.

Jake Chambers: FICTION – I’d definitely be torn, since I enjoy the NXT Takeovers and the weekly NXT UK so much more than the WWE PPVs anymore, but they also come together in my subscription fee. Would I pay $9.99 (~ish) for just the NXT shows though? Honestly, I don’t think so. The world is now so saturated with wrestling and subscription services that my money would be better spent elsewhere, where, such as the DDT streaming service in Japan that’s now adding NOAH shows, Independent Wrestling TV adding Smark Mark Video content, or even ROH which seems to be on an interesting upswing with the new booking stylings of Marty Scurll and a promise of adding that full DVD library soon. Maybe if WWE brought back Hidden Gems, I might be persuaded to stay.

Justin Watry: FACT – Considering I subscribed to the WWE Network on day one and instantly re-watched the awesome Invasion 2001 pay-per-view, you might call me a WWE homer. I would argue against that, but ten bucks for all things WWE is way too good of an offer to pass up. If the PPV events are elsewhere or included for a little more, whatever. None of us want to go back to the days of throwing together 40 or 50 bucks every few weeks for a three hour wrestling show. That was a disaster in hindsight. Once the WWE Network was launched, all of our problems were solved. Anything that keeps us in the price range AND get all of the archives is gravy. You don’t know how good we have it now unless you lived through the 1990’s and 2000’s dealing with all the monthly pay-per-views and that pesky cable bill…

Statement #6: The rumoured Wrestlemania match for John Cena against Elias sounds good.

Jake Chambers: FACT – I’m happy to get any match at this point from the greatest WWE superstar of all time. There is no doubt in my mind that Cena could have an excellent match with Elias, and I think the promo/song battle leading up to it would be pretty awesome too. Of course, there’s a list of potential dream matches for “Big Match” John at the event, from the workrate (Bryan), to the first-time ever (Goldberg), to the impossible (Punk?), but any Cena is better than no Cena.

Justin Watry: FICTION – Good is not the word I would use. How about underwhelming? How about disappointing? How about filler? John Cena vs. Bill Goldberg, John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan, John Cena vs. The Fiend, John Cena vs. Roman Reigns, John Cena vs. Seth Rollins, John Cena vs. CM Punk, John Cena vs. AJ Styles, John Cena vs. Kurt Angle or John Cena vs Lars FREAKIN’ Sullivan?!?! Heck, team up John Cena and Nikki Bella again. They could beat The Miz and John Morrison for all I care. John Cena making quick work of Elias for the third year in a row is a big YAWN! I love Elias and his act. I am a huge John Cena fan and have him on my Mount Rushmore of Wrestling. However, we saw it already and with such a stacked roster, there are much better options. All this tells me is Cena may not be able to do anything TOO physical due to his Hollywood obligations. Think back to The Rock at WrestleMania 32. A match in the official sense but not really a match. I’d honestly accept Elias vs. Cena because it fits the Wrestling 101 Playbook of past star versus current star but like Kurt Angle vs. Baron Corbin last year, it would leave a lot to be desired.

Thanks again to the always wonderful Justin Watry for taking part this week! Be sure to follow him on Twitter and look out for his next podcast right here at 411mania!

Next week we are back to the Road to Wrestlemania Fact or Fictional Invitational Tournament. The first round is over and the results are in, the semi-finals will be:

Kevin Pantoja vs. Steve Cook
Jeremy Thomas vs. Len Archibald

In all four weeks, the winner of the reader’s poll was also the winner of the majority of votes in the secret poll of the six non-competing writers. I want to thank Dino Zee, Tony Acero, Bryan Kristopowitz and Ken Hill for all taking part and making the first round a rousing success! Click on their names to go back and relive their excellent performances!