NXT builds to future with solid ‘Takeover: Portland’

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Adam Cole still stands tall as NXT champ after “Takeover: Portland,” but the big story coming out of the event is … we get more Ciampa-Gargano.

The outside interference from Johnny Gargano that helped Cole retain in the main event against former NXT champ Tommaso Ciampa sets up another installment in the Ciampa-Gargano feud that produced the best series of matches in WWE in years.

There was a little buzzkill with the finish at the end of a classic match between Cole and Ciampa. The storyline going in revolved around how Ciampa had never lost the NXT title, which he’d had to surrender after going on the shelf to have neck surgery last March.

That put a planned Ciampa-Gargano main-roster feud on the outs.

Which may have been for the good of both performers. This time last year, NXT was still a WWE Network exclusive, and now the brand has weekly exposure to a much wider base of fans on USA as part of the Wednesday Night Wars.

And after a brief run of more Vince McMahon-style booking, NXT is back to its roots in terms of presentation, as was evident with last night’s “Takeover: Portland,” which felt more like a New Japan show with longer, methodically-paced, athletically-logical matches featuring numerous near-falls and false finishes.

The other headline match, pitting Gargano and former NXT champ Finn Balor, played out to an emotional climax, with Balor getting the fall, and an ostensible claim to be the new #1 contender for Cole.

You’ll note that none of the four top guys is north of 200 pounds, which would have them getting buried by McMahon on his “Raw” and “Smackdown” brands in favor of bigger “bohemoths,” as he was known to call them back when he was a play-by-play guy on the company’s broadcasts.

Bigger isn’t always better.

Story by Chris Graham


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