NXT TakeOver: Portland Preview & Predictions

The 28th NXT TakeOver takes place on Sunday February 16th at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon with the Pre-Show starting at 3:30pm PT/7:30pm ET on the WWE Network. The Moda Center has a capacity of about 15,000 for events with stages. This is the first NXT TakeOver on a Sunday, not including the NXT UK TakeOver in January. WWE has said that this is not a permanent switch for the event, but "an experiment" There are six scheduled matches and Poppy will perform live at the event as well as lend her songs "Fill The Crown" and "Anything Like Me" to the event. Poppy was last seen on NXT in October as she played Io Shirai to the ring for her match against Candice LeRae.

Below is a preview of each match and predictions based upon recent booking. In the comments, please share what you'd like to see at NXT TakeOver: Portland.

Adam Cole (c) vs. Tommaso Ciampa

Adam Cole won just about every accolade an NXT competitor could win this past year: match of the year, rivalry of the year, overall competitor of the year, male competitor of the year and he's the NXT Champion. Cole defeated Daniel Bryan on SmackDown and had a great showing against Seth Rollins on RAW last November before defeating Pete Dunne at Survivor Series in the biggest event of his career. It's hard to imagine what else Adam Cole can do in NXT that he hasn't already done. What makes Cole's year even more interesting is that he got to be in that rivalry with Johnny Gargano because of Tommaso Ciampa's injury before NXT TakeOver: New York which forced Ciampa to vacate the NXT Championship. Cole filled in for Ciampa better than anyone could've hoped.

Ciampa's road to recovery has been emotional, turning the most hated man in wrestling into a sympathetic figure that the fans admire. It's odd to see the man who was once known as Psycho Killer be cheered, but that's where we're at. Although Ciampa is much better as a heel, this moment feels like it may be his for the taking. As seen in the video above, Ciampa signed the match contract with his own blood after Cole split his head open with a microphone. Betting odds for the match have shifted to even as most are unsure of the outcome. It seems that one of these two men will go on to face Finn Bálor and the other is destined to face Johnny Gargano once again. Ciampa never got his big moment to go into WrestleMania weekend as NXT Champion. If Ciampa can defeat Cole here, he'll finally make his dream come true and right the wrong of the cruelly-timed injury that ended his reign prematurely. Cole has to find new wrinkles in his game as he tries to keep momentum while not having gold around his waist. What is the Undisputed Era like with no championships? The road to NXT TakeOver: Tampa will have the answer to that question.

Tommaso Ciampa via pinfall

Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Bianca Belair

Rhea Ripley's star is rising fast after her eye-opening performances on SmackDown, Survivor Series, WarGames, and Worlds Collide. Bianca Belair has been opening eyes as well with her strength and blossoming persona. Ripley's on a path to face Charlotte Flair WrestleMania weekend, but Bianca Belair isn't going to let Ripley walk all over her. This is Belair's moment to dip her toes into working as a heel. Look to Belair to show more aggression than she has yet as she works to elevate herself to the top of the NXT Women's division. With Shayna Baszler moving to RAW and Io Shirai's future with the company uncertain, Belair needs to make the most of this opportunity on a big stage to get the fans invested in her work. Belair got this title opportunity by winning the #1 contender's battle royal after press slamming Io Shirai to the outside for the victory. Having Ripley start her feud with Charlotte before her feud with Belair is finished doesn't do these women any favors, but both are skilled enough where they can make it work. Belair and Ripley have been working house shows together as they prepare for this match. Ripley needs to be presented as a top star that can defeat Charlotte Flair and Belair has the tools to shine Ripley up before her big moment.

Rhea Ripley via pinfall

Keith Lee (c) vs. Dominik Dijakovic

At PWG's Battle of Los Angeles 2017, Keith Lee and Dominik Dijakovic (then known as Donovan Dijak) put on a spectacle of a match that Dave Meltzer gave 5 stars. No one had ever seen two big men that could work the way these two could. It was like a WCW Cruiserweight match but with men 270lbs and larger. Both men were signed to NXT less than a year after the match and NXT got to work to put these two men together. Injuries to both men kept them apart. Their feud that started at the beginning of 2019 was paused until September/October of 2019 as both men traded victories over one another. Keith Lee delivered a star making performance at Survivor Series while Dijakovic waited for him in NXT. Lee followed his Survivor Series performance with a brief appearance in the Royal Rumble as he got time in the ring with Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman. After defeating Roderick Strong for the NXT North American Championship, Lee was challenged by Dijakovic. Keith Lee's star is rising fast and Dominik Dijakovic can help him in this match by turning out the best performance they've ever given. Expect both men to pull out all the stops as this will be the most important singles match of their careers. Lee and Dijakovic are changing what it means to be a big man in wrestling and this match has potential to top their BOLA 2017 match as the NXT crowd finally knows, respects, and loves Keith Lee.

Keith Lee via pinfall

Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish (c) vs. "The Broserweights" Pete Dunne and Matt Riddle

Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish have held the NXT Tag Team Championships for the majority of the time they've been active competitors in NXT. They've been the greatest heel tag team in NXT since The Revival and they are faced with their biggest challenge yet with the unlikely team of the Broserweights (it's a thing now). Riddle and Dunne have been absolutely golden in every segment they have together on TV. The seriousness of Dunne coupled with the silliness of Riddle has made for some great comedy outside of the ring. Inside the ring, Dunne's technical British style of wrestling is a fantastic compliment to Riddle's MMA-based offense. This pairing has allowed both men to showcase their personalities to the NXT fans as they move up the ladder in WWE. Triple H has glowed for years when talking about Dunne and Riddle. Riddle's TV segments have done particularly well with the coveted younger demographic and he continues to make waves on the internet as he calls out Brock Lesnar and Goldberg. Rumors have swirled the past several months around Riddle having heat backstage, but after getting name dropped by Edge as someone the legend would like to wrestle and Triple H clarifying on the NXT TakeOver conference call that WWE would have put a stop to Riddle's challenges if they didn't want him to make them, it's clear Riddle is someone NXT wants to become a big star. This match will give the former UFC star and British standout an opportunity to show that they can wrestle comedically and competitively and a loss here for The Undisputed Era won't kill their heat. Riddle and Dunne don't need to be tag team champions for long, but their story together is too good for it to end now.

The Broserweights via pinfall

Dakota Kai vs. Tegan Nox

Former best friends, Dakota Kai & Tegan Nox, have both had their NXT careers marred by injuries. Kai had been a beloved babyface who weathered tormenting from Shayna Baszler throughout her NXT career and seemed poised to take the next step in her growth as a top star in NXT. When Kai wasn't picked to be on a WarGames team, she attacked Mia Yim backstage and took her place on Nox's team with Candice LeRae & Rhea Ripley. At WarGames, Kai turned on her teammate and best friend (Nox) by attacking her and targeting her surgically repaired knee to the shock and dismay of the crowd. When Mia Yim healed up, she challenged Kai to a match to get revenge on her attacker. Kai defeated Yim using an exposed turnbuckle for some extra help. Tegan Nox stepped up to challenge Kai on the January 29th edition of NXT, and with a little help from Candice LeRae taking a steel chair away from Kai, Nox defeated Dakota Kai to get revenge on her for her betrayal at WarGames.

Kai and Nox will meet again in a street fight. WWE released a four part series on Tegan Nox's comeback on their WWEPC YouTube channel this week showing they have big plans for the star from Wales but NXT's women's division is a little light on heels right now and Dakota Kai is stepping up to become the #2 heel behind Io Shirai as it seems Shayna Baszler has moved on to RAW. With Candice LeRae getting involved in the last match between these two, it seems like WWE is building to a feud between Dakota Kai & Candice LeRae. Expect Kai to torture Nox in this street fight as she builds heat to take on LeRae. This won't kill Nox's momentum completely as she got her win on Kai on the 29th, but Nox's next feud is less clear as she is still getting back into the flow of things in NXT after returning from such a devastating knee injury. Kai will defeat Nox, but expect Candice LeRae to get involved with Kai sooner than later.

Dakota Kai via pinfall

Finn Bálor vs. Johnny Gargano

The prodigal son has returned to NXT to take on Johnny TakeOver. Finn Bálor was the first top guy in NXT to take the brand outside of Full Sail. Bálor's leadership helped the NXT talent and production staff as WWE learned how to run smaller shows in non-traditional venues like an independent wrestling company. When Bálor left NXT in 2016 he was immediately placed into a top position on RAW as he became the first Universal Champion in WWE history by defeating Seth Rollins at SummerSlam. Unfortunately, Bálor would have to relinquish the title the next night on RAW due to injuries he suffered in the title match. Bálor never quite regained Vince McMahon's favor after the injury and has been kept out of the top spot in WWE since. In Bálor's absence, Johnny Gargano has become the leader of NXT. A veteran presence that has turned out great matches with every wrestler on the roster no matter what style they work. Gargano has declared in multiple interviews that he has no desire to work RAW or SmackDown because of how much he loves NXT. In the past, NXT was viewed as a developmental brand that wrestlers get "called up" from to go to RAW or SmackDown. NXT has evolved to a third brand for WWE that is a sport-focussed alternative brand to the entertainment-focussed RAW and SmackDown brands. This clash will announce the new era for NXT.

Bálor has more to prove than Gargano in this match, but no one has delivered more consistently on the big stage than Johnny Gargano. Expect multiple false finishes and an amazing story told in the ring by two of the best in-ring performers in wrestling. This very well could be the match of the night as Bálor works his way back to becoming the top guy in NXT.

Finn Bálor via pinfall