In this episode of Wrestling Night in America, PWTorch columnist Greg Parks breaks down both nights of WrestleMania with callers and emailers. Topics include the quality of the Firefly Funhouse match, the decision to put Charlotte over Rhea Ripley, the potential of wrestlers getting more creative freedom in the current environment, and more.
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WELLS’S NXT TAKEOVER: PORTLAND REPORT
FEBRUARY 16, 2020
LIVE IN PORTLAND, ORE. AT MODA CENTER
AIRED ON WWE NETWORK
REPORT BY KELLY WELLS, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Announcers: Mauro Ranallo, Nigel McGuinness, Beth Phoenix
-Charly Caruso got the show going with Sam Roberts and Mansoor. Sam went super lazy with his local heat, but that’s his thing. Mansoor got a very nice reception and he played along. He said it was an honor, but a shame he had to do it next to Sam Roberts. Mansoor said he was most excited for Dijakovic vs. Lee because there’s nothing more exciting than a meeting of two big, sweaty mastodons. They got to hyping the card, starting with Cole vs. Ciampa. The Balor-Gargano graphic got a much larger response, interestingly. Belair and Ripley was next, leading into a package running down Rhea Ripley’s rise to the top and the burgeoning feuds with Charlotte and Bianca. Mansoor pointed out that Bianca Belair has won the NXT Performance Center combine three years in a row. The crowd had a lot of fun cheering every word Mansoor said while vociferously booing Roberts.
Caruso threw to a video of The Broserweights arriving in Portland with their trophy, followed by Poppy and her band parking and entering the building. Given that her band is made up to be zombies, it was kind of banal to see them arriving in a limo. Mansoor noted that Poppy’s getup made her look like “the bad guy from Power Rangers, in a cool way.”
-Gargano-Balor hype package. Roberts pointed out the issue with awards like “Match of the Year” and “Feud of the Year,” noting that if Johnny doesn’t win those matches, why should he win awards?
-Replay of the Mark Henry hype segment for Keith Lee vs. Dominik Dijakovic from this past Wednesday. It was a really fun, original way to deliver final hype for a match. Roberts said Dijakovic had a lot to be angry about, but the anger wouldn’t be enough to take the championship from Keith Lee.
-The Tegan Nox-Dakota Kai feud was next on the docket. Mansoor said the match would get as ugly as Roberts’s suit.
-The Adam Cole-Tommaso Ciampa match was spotlighted last. Roberts said that when Tommaso Ciampa came back, NXT passed him by, because Adam Cole was driving the truck. Mansoor said there was a moment Ciampa was lost, but he needs this more than Adam Cole because without the Championship, something’s missing.
Caruso introduced the usual NXT announcers at the top of the ramp for the show.
(Wells’s Analysis: Mansoor brought good energy without the polarizing goofiness of Pat McAfee. Not sure what the endgame is for Mansoor in this spot, but it was nice to see him and he came off as confident and poised)
-Poppy performed at the top of the ramp.
(1) KEITH LEE (c) vs. DOMINIK DIJAKOVIC – NXT North American Championship
Champion entered first to a strong reaction. Dijakovic was treated politely in comparison. He wore a Kobe and Gianna Bryant hoodie. There were no formal introductions in the ring, a rarity for championship matches on NXT.
The two had a good look at each other without moving for the first 45 seconds. Lee wrung Dominik’s arm and Dominik reversed to a headlock. Rope run ended with Lee blocking a discus kick, eating a lariat and then hitting a huracanrana to a big reaction; Dominik helped out by selling surprise. At the center of the ring, neither guy who move the immovable object. Lee blocked a palm strike and wrenched the arm, then lifted up Dijakovic with seemingly little effort. Dijakovic chopped Lee but couldn’t break. Cyclone kick by Dijakovic, and Lee bailed. Lee caught Dijakovic on a tope con giro but couldn’t complete the slam as Dijakovic blocked. Dijakovic suplexed Lee onto the apron, kind of; it wasn’t pretty but was more awkward than dangerous.
Back in the ring, Dijakovic threw forearms at a grounded Lee and jawed at him in between. One big right staggered Lee, and Dijakovic set up Lee on the ropes for a chop. Dijakovic wanted a suplex but Lee fought out of it and threw lefts. A big one put Dijakovic in the corner, and Lee threw some shots and hit a neckbreaker, then a release German from the highest point possible for two. Lee picked up Dijakovic in a fireman’s carry, but Dijakovic escaped and hit a boot. Elbow by Lee, Irish whip, but Diakovic exploded out of the corner with a cyclone kick. Dijakovic went high, stepping on Lee on the way, and hit a very good-looking corkscrew moonsault for two. “NXT” chant from the very hot crowd.
Dijakovic wanted Feast Your Eyes, but Lee blocked. Dijakovic walked into some shots, and the two monsters exchanged shots and lariats but couldn’t ground the other. Each guy uncorked a big lariat and they slumped together to their knees. Back to their feet, Lee blocked a back elbow but Dijakovic hit a knee and a big lariat to finally take Lee to the mat. Lee got up on the apronand Dijakovic tried to put his head in the turnbuckle, but Lee blocked momentarily and tried to go up. Dijakovic followed and put Lee up on his shoulders in a fireman’s carry. Dijakovic hit Feast Your Eyes from the second turnbuckle for a long two.
Both guys hit their feet. Dijakovic threw elbows but he was running out of gas. He went back for momentum but Lee charged and pounced Dijakovic into the turnbuckle. Dijakovic bailed and Lee followed. Lee put some big forearms to Dijakovic, then draped him up on the barricade, shushed the crowd, and hit a double chop to a big reaction. He set up Dijakovic in one of the announcer’s chairs and did another. Beth said she got showered with perspiration.
Lee attempted to head back into the ring, but Dijakovic fought him off and sent Lee to the chair and hit a big superkick. Dijakovic went up to the top rope with Lee in the chair and launched into a huge senton perfectly on Lee; there was no margin for error here, as the chair was in the small opening between the two announce tables.
Back to the ring, Lee fought off Dijakovic and went for Big Bang Catastrophe, which was blocked. Both guys floated through chokeslams and Lee hit a massive Spirit Bomb, after which Dijakovic just popped up to a huge reaction. One more huge Spirit Bomb got a very long two and the audience (and I) were shocked at the kickout.
Lee got to his feet as Dijakovic continued to sell. Lee dragged Dijakovic near a corner and draped him over the top rope. Lee went up but Dijakovic shook off the cobwebs and tossed Lee to the outside and the floor. They went back to the same corner and jockeyed for position. This time, they went to the very top, where Dijakovic hit a Spanish Fly for two. Dijakovic wanted Feast Your Eyes but didn’t have enough left to lift Lee. Second try was also a no-go. Lee stood his ground and hit Big Bang Catastrophe for the win.
WINNER: Keith Lee at 20:21.
(Wells’s Analysis: This has to be the best of their many televised matches. It was good – very good, even – for the first ten minutes, but they broke out a lot of new spots in the waning minutes, with Dijakovic’s flying senton to the outside being the most memorable. These two are an absolute dream pairing, and while I know Dijakovic has to move on to something else now, I hope this isn’t the last time)
Lee offered his hand to a grounded Dijakovic after the match. Dijakovic took it and they stood up and hugged for a moment to cheers. Lee helped Dijakovic up a turnbuckle so he too could share in the post-match moment.
(2) TEGAN NOX vs. DAKOTA KAI – Street Fight
A short video package ran down the high and low times of Nox and Kai’s friendship. Nox entered first, and naturally, Dakota charged her on the ramp. Nox tossed Kai into a mesh wall, then speared her through a barricade at ringside. Kai suplexed Nox onto the barricade, then dragged her into the ring. The bell sounded and Kai covered for two. Kai was in a “King Kota” T-shirt and ripped shorts. Kai threw a bunch of plunder into the ring, and Nox came out and they fought near the steps. Kai missed with a – paddle? – at the post and Tegan charged. Tegan set up Kai by the steps, put a garbage can over her and hit a running senton. Oy, ugly fall afterward. Nox dragged Kai in and covered for two.
Nox went out and got a table to cheers. She set it up outside the ring, then looked to suplex Kai out onto it, but Kai blocked and hung Nox on the top roped. Kai set up Nox on the apron and just pasted her with the trash can lid. Kai followed Nox into the ring and leaned on her to boos. Nox went for a face wash to knock Nox to the table from the apron, but Nox moved. Nox took control and beat Kai with the trash can, then hit a German on the trash can for two. Bad landing on that one as well.
Nox missed the Shiniest Wizard, and Kai backstabbed Nox for two. Kai and Nox met on the apron and Kai hit a back kick to put Nox on the floor. PK was blocked and Nox threw Kai to the apron, face first. Nox went up, but Kai threw up a boot to slow her momentum and went up the ropes with Nox, but Nox hit a chokeslam from the top and a Molly-Go-Round, which really excited Beth, got two.
Tegan set up a chair in the center of the ring, and showed hesitation. Kai snuck out of trouble, threw Nox the chair and then superkicked it. Nox bailed. Kai followed out and put Nox to the post. Kai found duct tape under the ring and taped Nox to the post, then hit a face wash, and another that broke the tape and Nox fell to the floor. Kai grabbed a laptop and Nox avoided it, then put it to Kai’s bad knee. She sold regret for a moment. Nox brought a chain out from under the ring, went in and bashed Kai’s bad knee with it. She Pillmanized Kai’s knee and hit The Shiniest Wizard, then backed up again with mixed emotions. She said she wasn’t done yet, and she went out and got the forgotten table and brought it into the ring. She set it up near a corner as Kai sold on the mat.
Nox put Kai on the table and grabbed the chair again. She set it up on Kai’s head to Pillmanize that and went to the top rope. Raquel (formerly Reina) Gonzalez hit the ring and took out Nox at the corner, and chokeslammed her toward the table – but fell short and it didn’t break. Kai covered for the pin. Raquel helped a surprised and wary Dakota Kai to her feet and raised her arm as Kai’s music played.
WINNER: Dakota Kai at 13:25.
(Wells’s Analysis: As often in these matches, the babyface’s bloodlust got the better of them and cost them the match. The Kai-Gonzalez dynamic should be good fun, and should be a good thing for both. I like a character like Kai having extra muscle to clean up after her and watch her back. The match had some imperfect moments, but definitely delivered on the Street Fight promise. Raquel Gonzalez is a live favorite of Tom Stoup from PWT Talks NXT, who’s seen a lot of her in Florida and loves her progress)
(3) JOHNNY GARGANO vs. FINN BALOR
A video package ran down the feud that was derailed by Johnny’s injury. Johnny entered first. As usual, both guys got good reactions. Finn’s intro ate up a decent amount of time. With four matches left to go with an hour of the two and a half hour show out of the way, something is going to have to be little more than an angle.
Balor threw Gargano from a collar-and-elbow position, then worked an arm until Gargano rolled him up. Reset to a test of strength, and Finn ended up pinning Gargano’s head between his knees until Gargano escaped and grabbed a headlock. Finn rolled out and put Gargano in a headscissors and did a few push-ups to boos. Gargano finally escaped and hit a dropkick, then hit a side headlock. Finn got to a vertical base but Gargano took him down with a couple of kicks. Gargano splashed Finn’s left arm, but Balor ran the ropes and took down Gargano with an axhandle, then covered for one. Dueling chant favored Balor about 60-40.
Chops by Balor in the corner. To another corner, another chop. To a third corner, Finn put forearms to Johnny’s ribs. Irish whips and chops, until Gargano blocked with a kick and threw chops of his own. Johnny put some lefts to Balor and briefly stomped a mudhole until referee Drake Wuertz broke it up. Both guys missed moves on the apron and finally Gargano hit a spear, taking both to the floor.
To a barricade and Johnny threw chops. He rolled Finn into the ring, but Finn escaped to a different side. Gargano charged but Balor was ready and hit a sling blade. Running knee by Finn. Wuertz reached six and Balor took Johnny into the ring. Basement dropkick by Balor to the back of the head, and this was just a one count as well. Snap mare by Balor, who then put Gargano in a head and arm clutch (I had to take a cue from Nigel’s call there) and leaned on Johnny. These two are pacing themselves for a long one here.
Gargano got to his feet and threw some back elbows and took down Finn. He wrung Balor’s arm over his shoulder and rolled up Balor for two. To the corner, Gargano worked the arm and then charged Balor, who was ready. Balor hit a dragon screw leg whip over the top rope as Johnny went for an enzuigiri. Balor stalked Gargano and hooked up Gargano’s legs and drove his elbow into Gargano’s mediate cruciate ligament (again, thanks Nigel) until Gargano rolled up Balor to break.
Balor put Gargano into a corner and hooked one of his legs over the second rope, then stomped on it. He continued working on the left leg, Banzai dropping it as it was hung up on the bottom rope. The crowd is relatively muted for this after the flash and the violence of the first two matches, but it’s really good mat stuff. (All the same, I get why it was placed as kind of a come-down)
Balor wrenched Johnny’s left leg over one of his forearms in a kind of scorpion death lock. Johnny punched his way out and sold the bad leg. Gargano hit a step-up enzuigiri with the good leg, and a roundhouse, then a lariat. Balor bailed, and Gargano went for a tope. Balor caught Gargano and wanted 1916, but Gargano tossed Balor into the steps. Gargano went to the apron and hit a rolling senton on Balor. Gargano rolled Balor back into the ring and hit the slingshot spear for two. To the corner, Gargano stomped a mudhole, then picked up Balor for a chop. He set up Balor on the top for a bulldog, but a series of reversals ended with Balor taking down Gargano with an elbow to the chest for two.
Gargano rolled near the ropes and Finn used the top rope to get momentum and stomp on Gargano. Gargano bailed and Finn went for a basement dropkick that missed. Johnny brought Finn into the ring and bulldogged him into the corner. The angle was messy and the director wisely made a last-second angle change that saved it. Gargano hit a superkick for a long two.
Gargano was on the apron and Finn was in the ring. They exchanged forearms and each hit a step-up enzuigiri. Johnny wanted another slingshot spear, but Finn cut it off, went to the top and tried Coup de Grace. Johnny moved, hit a slingshot DDT and covered for two. Both guys sold on the mat and the crowd, mostly quiet to this point, were at the “this is awesome” point. The two stood across from one another, ran the ropes, and Gargano hit a big discus clothesline. Gargano set up for the DIY kick, but Balor broke it up with a sling blade. Balor charged into a superkick. Gargano charged into a sling blade. John Woo dropkick by Balor, who went up for Coup de Grace and missed again. Gargano hit Gargano Escape. Balor rolled into an escape and stomped Gargano, but Gargano caught him in the move again. Balor faded briefly but reached the ropes.
Balor bailed. Gargano followed and hit his own John Woo dropkick into the barricade. Johnny hit a front chancery and eyed the Spanish announce table. He threw off the cover but Balor recovered enough to slam Johnny on it instead (it didn’t break). Finn went up on the English announce table and ran into Gargano with another John Woo dropkick, sending Gargano into a barricade. “Holy bleep indeed,” Mauro responded to the crowd. Back in and the third time was a charm for Coup de Grace, now firmly a setup move. Finn called for 1916, and he hit it.
WINNER: Finn Balor at 27:22.
(Wells’s Analysis: It was clear early, and even not-so-early, that these guys were tabbed with a lot of time. As a result, it didn’t get into a quick gear, but remained an honest wrestling match. While the early part of the match served as a comedown from the previous chaos, it worked itself back into an important match with some high spots and strong ring psychology. Finn tends to have a lot of similar major matches, but this was a huge departure from that, and both TakeOver legends brought it. I still wonder what match or matches will have to suffer from a time standpoint. The tag championships and both singles championships remain; something is going to be an angle and I feel like only Ciampa-Cole is immune)
-Cathy Kelley, in her final NXT appearance, interviewed Roderick Strong. He said the tag champs will finish the Loserweights and Cole would show Ciampa why he’s the greatest champion of all time. Cole: “Now you can leave, Cathy. GO.”
(4) RHEA RIPLEY (c) vs. BIANCA BELAIR – NXT Championship
Champ enters second; again, great reactions for both. Formal introductions took place in low light. Belair, who’s been highlighting black authors on her twitter feed lately, had “Black History in the making” written on her flashy new gear.
Collar and elbow. Neither could out-power the other. Collar and elbow again, and Rhea wrenched Bianca’s left arm and leaned on it. Bianca grabbed the hair but Rhea back-elbowed her. Waistlock takedown by Belair, but Rhea backed Bianca into a turnbuckle. Bianca went for an Irish whip, reversed, and Rhea hit a dropkick from the corner. Rhea too had new gear with green and white flashes in addition to the usual black.
To the corner, Rhea put thrustkicks to Belair. Chop. Another chop put Bianca down. Bianca fought out of another corner and dropped Rhea on her back. Dueling chant was very close to 50-50, which would have been unheard of before Belair’s fantastic last month. Belair grabbed a headlock and Rhea tried to punch her way out, but got tossed to the mat. Standing moonsault by Bianca got two. Rhea powered out of a delayed suplex, but Belair hit a second one, which was awkward as they fell to a neutral side, and covered for two.
Full nelson by Bianca. The camera caught Bianca’s parents at ringside. Interesting. Rhea popped up for a couple of quick lariats. Cravat and knee strikes by Rhea, then a dropkick. Rhea put up Belair and hit an electric chair drop for two. Rhea put up Belair in that standing sharpshooter and spanked her a couple of times; Bianca rolled through and then went for a leverage pin for two. Spinebuster and matchbook cover by Belair for two. She went for another cover for two.
To the corner, Bianca set up Rhea and threw some slaps. Rhea returned fire from a seated position on top. Palm strikes from both, and the crowd got into it. Bianca whipped Rhea with the hair and the crack was as loud as it gets. Belair gorilla-press slammed Rhea into the center of the ring and stalked her. Handspring moonsault found knees. Rhea wanted Riptide but Bianca escaped. KOD attempt and Rhea wriggled free. Rhea threw a boot and Bianca hit a spear. Both sold on the mat for a moment.
Bianca and Rhea got to their knees and threw hands. “Women’s wrestling” chant. Superkick by Rhea in the center of the ring. Forearm by Bianca. Bianca missed a whip with her braid and Rhea charged, but Bianca back-bodydropped Ripley to the outside. Serious air by Rhea there. Bianca hit a tope con giro. Action broke down outside the ring and Rhea worked the ribs.
Back in, Bianca put Rhea out to the apron. Rhea went up and brought Bianca up, and went for a sunset bomb. Bianca held on, but Ripley yanked Bianca away from the buckle and hit Riptide to finish.
WINNER: Rhea Ripley at 13:31.
After the match, Charlotte blindsided Rhea and took her out. She took the mic: “So, I thought about it…and I’ll see you at WrestleMania.” She put Rhea to the mat once more, then held up the NXT Championship. As Charlotte was about to leave ringside, she also grabbed Bianca, outside the ring, and tossed her into the steps.
(Wells’s Analysis: A month ago, this impending match had no sizzle and it didn’t seem like Bianca had any chance to win. Given all that’s happened since, I feel they could have gone either way with this, as it feels like Rhea and Charlotte may not have needed the belt to make the match seem important. I was relieved to see Charlotte also attack Belair; instead of being quickly shunted to the side, there’s still somewhere for this story to go before it gets to WrestleMania)
(5) BROSERWEIGHTS (Matt Riddle & Pete Dunne) vs. UNDISPUTED ERA (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly) – NXT Tag Team Championship
Torch VIP subscriber Brian Alston is at Moda Center tonight, and tweeted out a pic of the merch table, where a new “How much fish could Bobby Fish fry if Bobby Fish could fry fish?” shirt is being sold. The champs entered first because there’s no rhyme or reason to any of this. The Broserweights entered on their little car, both wearing the exact shirt I just made a point to call out.
Matt Riddle grabbed the mic. “Bro. The Broserweights have one question: How much fish could Bobby Fish fry if Bobby Fish could fry fish?” He led the crowd in a sing-song of the same. On the big screen, a sing-along follow-the-bouncing-ball thing started with a fish as the bouncing ball. The champs charged and the four brawled outside the ring. Riddle and O’Reilly rolled into the ring to start.
Riddle hit a waistlock takedown, then threw feet until O’Reilly hit one of his sweet kicks to escape and tag. Fish threw some knees as the crowd sang “Riddle’s gonna smoke you.” Riddle caught Fish and made a tag. He hit a powerslam on Fish. Dunne flipped Riddle onto fish and continued in the ring. Rope run and Dunne cut off Fish. O’Reilly tried to charge the ring and got hit with the ugly elbow-stomp spot. Dunne laid waste to the champs with X-Plexes as went back into the ring after Dunne and leaned on him. To the corner, Fish cut down a moonsault attempt by Dunne by kicking him off, then made the tag. Kicks and jumping knees by O’Reilly got a pop of respect.
Fish tagged in again and stomped Dunne’s midsection. Dunne threw elbows to both UE guys until Fish hit a Samoan Drop. Tag to O’Reilly, who worked knees until he posed for too long and Dunne grabbed a leg. Quick tag to Fish who kept Dunne in the UE corner and threw punches and knees. O’Reilly back in. Knees. Fish back in. Action spilled out and when Dunne tried to get back in the ring, O’Reilly hit a dragon screw over the rope. Fish was lega and took Dunne into the ring and worked the left leg. Tag again. O’Reilly went for a face wash but Dunne ducked and Fish got hit. Riddle made the hot tag and crushed both guys. Exploders and Bro-tons for both. PK for O’Reilly. GTS and German with a bridge for two. The audience was awake again.
Tag to Dunne; tandem offense with a slam by Dunne for two. Riddle tagged back in. He went up for a Floating Bro but O’Reilly put up the knees. On the outside, Dunne and Fish destroyed one another. Ripcord knee by Riddle was blocked. Final Flash, German. O’Reilly hit a knee but Riddle hit one as well. “NXT” chant. Riddle grabbed O’Reilly’s leg but O’Reilly fought out and tagged. Riddle speared both UE guys. Riddle put up O’Reilly for a suplex but Fish charged and they double-teamed. Fish covered for two. Tag to O’Reilly. Knees for both UE guys. Dunne tagged in and leaned on O’Reilly with his standing submission, but O’Reilly broke free. Axe kick by O’Reilly. Russian armbar by Dunne, reversed, and reversed again for an ankle-lock. Riddle cut off Fish with another anklelock. Reversals on both sides. O’Reilly had Dunne in a crab but Riddle, with Fish on his back, threw a knee at O’Reilly to break that up.
Reset as all four guys sold. Fish tagged in but Dunne hit a release German and stomped the digits. Riddle tagged in and went up. Fish broke up a doomsday device and Fish hit an avalanche suplex on Dunne. O’Reilly put a kneebar on Riddle and Fish cut off Dunne in a corner. Dunne wrenched Fish’s fingers and then hopped over him onto O’Reilly’s hand, steadying him on the mat, and broke it up. “This is awesome” chant.
Dunne and O’Reilly exchanged strikes. Knee to the chest by Dunne. O’Reilly threw knees but Dunne escaped. Riddle it the ring and accidentally speared Dunne. UE hit Chasing the Dragon on Dunne for a very long two. Had me fooled. Dunne fought off both guys and Riddle made a blind tag. Riddle cleared out Fish with Final Flash and the faces cleared him out. Tandem finisher on O’Reilly finished.
WINNERS: The Broserweights at 16:59.
After the match, Riddle did the belt-biting thing Pete always did, as well as the self face-punch.
(Wells’s Analysis: The late “dissension” spots were enough to make me guess. There were a couple of spots where it looked like the faces were going to split, as good as it’s been, but in the end they took the titles like it seemed like they would for a while now. Good action, but practically pedestrian given the great action of the night)
(6) TOMMASO CIAMPA vs. ADAM COLE (c) – NXT Championship match
WWE has given every indication that this would end at half past the hour, as always. That’s six minutes away as the video package starts. Ciampa entered first. When Cole hit the ring, Ciampa as usual stared down the belt. Formal introductions happened in low light. It’s half past the hour now.
“Psycho Killer”/”Adam Cole” dueling chant was even. Collar and elbow. To the ropes, clean break by Ciampa. Headlock by Ciampa. Reverse by Cole. Shoulder tackle by Ciampa. Ciampa wanted Willow’s Bell but Cole bailed. Ciampa chased and hit a snap mare into a headlock. Several reversals later, Ciampa hit a headlock again. Cole got to his feet and then the corner to break. Ciampa put Cole down with a forearm. Irish whip, reverse, and Ciampa yanked Cole outside. Cole hit a flash knee on the outside to get something out of the crowd, which was pretty gassed (it turns out two and a half hours was always the way to go).
Cole did the Ciampa clapping bit and Ciampa made him pay for it. He put Cole in a barricade, then did the clap spot himself. He rolled Cole into the ring and Cole escaped out the other side. Cole went for a step-up enzuigiri, but Ciampa saw it coming and moved (a common thread throughout the match). Cole went out again to boos, and tried to call for time. Ciampa threw down Cole over a barricade, then ran over to him and hit a knee. Ciampa set up Cole on a chair in the timekeeper’s area and threw chops. He charged and hit a knee. A fan went for a high five. Ciampa stared at the guy, and instead gave him a big kiss on the forehead. Ha. Big pop from the guy and the crowd.
Cole avoided a step-up enzuigiri and instead hit a release German on Ciampa into the announce table. Ick. Cole rolled Ciampa in for two. Neckbreaker by Cole. Cole threw knees into Ciampa’s back. Cole trapped Ciampa’s head with his legs, looking for a tap. Ciampa bridged into a two count to break, but Cole kicked Ciampa in the face. Cole went up in a corner and dragged Ciampa with him. The two exchanged blows and Adam Cole wanted a sunset bomb. Ciampa held on, but Cole hit Ciampa with a backstabber as the announcers sold the damage taken by Ciampa so far.
Cole hit a headlock. Ciampa got to his feet but Cole gave Ciampa a knee. Backslide by Ciampa for two. Ciampa put Cole on the apron for Willow’s Bell. Cole blocked. Ushigoroshi blocked. Superkick, but Panama Sunrise was countered by a jumping knee by Ciampa. Both guys sold for a moment. Ciampa threw forearms and a lariat. Another lariat. Three, four, five, six. Then a German suplex and a running knee. Ciampa picked up Cole and hit a torture rack bomb for two.
Both guys rolled into crucifixes. Two for Cole. Cole hit a big knee on Ciampa followed by an Ushigoroshi for two. Cole set up Ciampa on the second turnbuckle for Panama Sunrise, but Ciampa blocked. Chops and forearms. Ciampa instead held on and hit Air Raid Crash from the top for a long two, with the kickout possibly given away by Mauro laying it on really thick.
Action went outside again. Superkick by Cole. He picked up Ciampa for a powerbomb, but Ciampa reversed and hit Cole with one of his own on the Spanish announce table, which is apparently made of adamantium tonight because it still didn’t break. Ciampa wanted another, and this one finally broke the table to a big pop. Back to the ring. Running knee from Ciampa. Ciampa wanted another knee but Cole blocked with a superkick. Lariat by Ciampa. Project Ciampa got a very long two as a third match crossed the twenty minute mark. Both guys sold on the mat as the crowd cheered the match.
Ciampa got up first, and both guys threw fists and kicks. Bicycle kick, and another, by Cole sent Ciampa outside. Tope by Cole (that’s rare) but Ciampa was ready and threw up a knee. Back into the ring, Cole held Ciampa between his legs and spiked him to the ring. Ushigoroshi for two. To their feet. Kicks by Cole. Last shot, but Ciampa rolled to the ropes and held on to avoid trouble. Both guys went up. Cole wanted Panama Sunrise on the apron, but Ciampa caught him and hit Air Raid Crash on the apron instead. “Mamma Mia” and “Holy sh-t” chants rang out.
Fairytale Ending was blocked by Cole with a back bodydrop. Cole went up to the English announce table and hopped down to hit Panama Sunrise. Ciampa rolled in and fought off Cole with a draping DDT. Ciampa hit Fairytale Ending and I was so convinced that I almost stopped my timer, but it got two. Ciampa got to his feet, but Cole yanked him down into a crossface. Ciampa escaped and put a crossface on Cole, who fought to the ropes to break.
Roderick Strong hit the ring to distract D.A. Brewer. With Brewer tied up, Fish and O’Reilly hit High-Low on the other side of the ring. Cole covered Ciampa for the one…two…NO to a big pop. UE stayed at ringside. Cole missed the Last Shot and Ciampa backdropped him to his mates. Willow’s Bell for Roddy. Tope con giro for the rest. Back in, Cole hit a couple of superkicks, and then Last Shot for a ridiculously close near-fall. It’s two past the hour now, so any kickout defies belief.
Kyle O’Reilly handed the NXT Championship to Cole, then distracted Brewer. Ref bump. UE took Ciampa out but he fought them off. Fairytale Ending got a visual pin on Cole with no referee. Johnny Gargano hit ringside and as Ciampa went to grab the Championship, Johnny yanked it away. Johnny pasted Ciampa with the belt, and Ciampa fell back and got rolled up by Cole to continue his championship reign. Gargano was wearing his DIY shirt.
WINNER: Adam Cole at 33:24.
(Wells’s Analysis: That’s as much of an overbooked, Attitude Era-style main event they’ve ever done. Lots of fun, particularly toward the end, as it didn’t seem like the show could possibly could continue any longer. I’m all for giving all these matches their due, though I did feel the length toward the end. Cole’s championship reign is at 260 days, about a month from the record, so he’s likely to take that down at this point. Now in addition to the Lio Rush-Jordan Devlin and Velveteen Dream-Roderick Strong matches tabbed for Wednesday, an explanation from Johnny Gargano is the hook for the show. Gargano has been on kind of rocky footing with the Full Sail crowd since his temporary turn in the last Ciampa feud, but it seems the brass don’t want to fight it anymore and we’re likely to see some more Ciampa-Gargano, and possibly a triple threat on WrestleMania weekend.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: It’s hard to say exactly where things will go with Johnny seemingly turning heel again, but it should provide some intrigue on a brand that spends too much time being predictable. This was an extremely strong wrestling show, with all matches getting a decent amount of time, and there were more angles by far than usual. The Broserweights provided the only title change of the night, so UE holding all the gold is old news, though Cole still stands tall on top. I have a Triple H conference call in a few moments followed by a live PWT Talks NXT post-show, and you can call in using the phone number at the top in about 30-60 minutes, depending on the length of the conference call.