The Prince earned the most impressive win yet in the second act of his NXT career, conquering Gargano in a seesaw battle at NXT TakeOver: Portland.
As two of the most prominent flag bearers in the brand’s history, Bálor and Gargano both entered intimately familiar with what it takes to steal the show at a TakeOver — and it was Gargano’s first since being put out of action for weeks by Bálor’s 1916 DDT on the steel ramp back in October.
Appropriately so, the bout’s opening minutes featured a series of one-upsmanship with neither man lacking in self-assuredness. Bálor was as arrogant as we’ve seen him, performing push-ups while applying a head scissors to his opponent.
Much of the encounter was a battle to control the bout’s pace. The Prince, opting for a more methodical tempo, largely neutralized Gargano’s right leg with a vicious dragon screw leg whip. From there, Bálor proceeded to expertly dissect the weakened limb with an encyclopedia of strikes and holds, convincingly reminding everyone of his technical wizardry.
But Gargano also scored a fateful blow on Bálor’s right arm, quickly turning the match into a battle of attrition. With both men’s stamina severely depleted, the match digressed, with the lone remaining question being who could dig deeper into their reserves.
It was Bálor. Withstanding extended time locked in the Gargano Escape on multiple occasions, NXT’s Prince capitalized when Gargano seemed to lose focus. Clearing the announce table for a high-impact maneuver he hoped would be a decisive blow, it was Gargano who had the table turned against him — literally.
Bálor dropped Gargano abdomen-first across a monitor on the table, then darted from the adjacent table to completely floor his foe with a John Woo dropkick.
Rolling Johnny Wrestling back into the ring and delivering perhaps the hardest-hitting Coup de Grace ever delivered, Bálor at last had Gargano exactly where he wanted him. He unleashed a hellacious 1916 DDT, finally connecting with the maneuver that had failed to hit on so many occasions earlier in the match.
Finn Bálor was already a world-class talent before his return to NXT. But this latest incarnation — The Prince? He may be even better.