“A Wrestling Match, A Street Fight, and a Death Match Cage” – NXT TakeOver: Toronto Review

Welcome to Toronto, the location for the newest NXT TakeOver. The show promised a card that could see the Undisputed Era draped in gold if they played their cards right. They were in the Tag titles match against the street profits, Roderick Strong was in the triple threat to take the North American Title with Pete Dunne and Velveteen Dream and obviously, Cole had to defend his NXT Title against Johnny Gargano in a 2 out of 3 falls match, that could look like the 3 stages of hell. Plus, Mia Yim looked to upset Shayna Baszler and Io Shirai looked to claim her first victim as a villain. As you can see, it’s a packed show so let’s waste no more time and get into it!

NXT Tag Team Champions Street Profits defeated Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly) via Frog Splash

As is TakeOver tradition, the show opened with the NXT Tag Titles match. This was a contest between the top tier bad guys, the Undisputed Era and newly crowned champions the Street Profits. From the very start, the Street Profits had something to prove as O’Reilly and Fish were not going to take them seriously. What followed was a long, drawn-out brawl of athleticism, technicality and cunning as Undisputed Era did what they do best, target one half of a team. They did their usual mix of double team, striking and cunning numbers gameplays to take control of the match and wear down Dawkins. We got more creative spots from the Undisputed Era in their double team manoeuvres but, in the end, the Street Profits stood tall when the took out Fish with a Spear and hit the Frog Splash for the win. Despite their opponents being the more popular team, this felt like a proper coming-out party for the Street Profits as they had to up their game to hang with the Era. They hit hard, played it smart and even used their own minorly sneaky tactics to take advantage of the Era’s momentary lack of focus. Throw in the amazing feats of athleticism and you have a solid gold opener with a shock opener to start the show.

Io Shirai defeated Candice LeRae via Koji Clutch

This was absolutely vicious. Io Shirai’s new Joshi Judas (thanks Mauro Ranallo) character is a thing of beauty and the level of brutality on the show was next level. This new side emerged after one too many losses to Shayna Baszler causing her to snap and lash out in an extreme way. Then that violent side was let loose on Candice LeRae leading us to where we are now. LeRae didn’t wait for the bell to kick things off, going straight at Io. Once she was pulled back, Io bailed and baited LeRae into a Suplex onto the announcer’s table. That made the shoulder a target and Io took full advantage of this as well as throwing an excessive amount of stiff strikes, high flying moves and submissions. She may have dominated early on but Candice refused to stay down and started fighting back. She pulled out some incredibly sick spots of her own, hitting a Tope Tornado DDT and a series of devastating neck breakers. Candice also made herself the first person to kick out of the Shirai Moonsault. No one has been able to do that yet, meaning Shirai go creative and put LeRae to sleep with a Koji Clutch. Io sent a message tonight; she doesn’t need friends and will murder anyone that comes after her. This could have been the main event and no one would have argued with you. Absolute brutal brilliance.

A Surprise Brawl

Before the next match, we got a surprise appearance from a very angry Matt Riddle. He wanted a piece of Killian Dain after the Belfast Beast attacked him last week. Dain obliged and the pair fought, intermittently being stopped by security guards and referees. The pair fought up on the stage taking turns to get the upper hand and going for full mounts before culminating in a spot where Dain put Riddle and a poor security guard through some tables at the stage side. This is clearly going to be a powder keg feud that will be a lot of fun to follow. Both men are very angry and very good at what they do.

It should also be noted at this time that the camera panned to current EVOLVE Champion, Austin Theory, after the madness was over. This was an interesting move and given the usual meaning for these types of “oh look who’s here moments” could mean big things for Theory in the near future. We know EVOLVE and WWE have a working relationship given the NXT Talents working there and the recent hosting of the EVOLVE 10-year anniversary show.

NXT United States Champion Velveteen Dream defeated Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne via Purple Rainmaker to Dunne

So, Velveteen made his entrance with a bunch of cheerleaders, that’s how we started this match. That’s already a pretty high bar. The match itself, was even better as all three men went to war. There was no downtime as the match started at 100 and stayed there. Dunne and Strong relived some old beef, Dream kept trying to steal the show in his Mountie get up and everyone looked to outdo the other. It was a mix of spot fest, strikes and chaos as the action spilled everywhere. Dunne broke fingers, tried to break arms, nearly won with the Bitter End and ultimately became the punching bag for the finish. Dream was a victim to a “nutgrinder”, (thanks Steph) hit a Coast to Coast Elbow Drop and seemed to feel the need to prove his worth every second he was in the ring. He made his spots and strikes count, trying to take advantage of every situation. The MVP of the match though was Roderick Strong as he continuously trash-talked and showed some incredible fire, creativity and aided the set up of multiple double man spots. He tried to Strong Hold both Dunne and Dream at the same time, running forearms back and forth and a very frantic Backbreaker spree near the start of the match. What I’m trying to say is, there was no slack in this match, go watch it just like the rest of the show. All three men could have deserved that tile by the end of the match.

NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler defeated Mia Yim via Triangle Choke

I am torn on this match. It was the lowest match on the show by a margin but still wasn’t that bad. It was a little bit slow in places but that is to be expected when it’s a more submission focused match. Yim proved she was willing to live up to the baddie part of her nickname by breaking the rules when she needed to. She would pull hair, gouge eyes and used the ring steps to injure the arm of Shayna Baszler. Unfortunately for her, Baszler returned like with like, breaking her right arm. This then became a match of two one-armed women trying to fight. It was entertaining and cleverly structured but felt lacking for some reason. There were plenty of awesome spots like the Tarantula returning and a Top Rope Code Blue but even then it never quite reached the highest gear. It was good but not great. Yim is an excellent competitor for the title and definitely felt like a threat to Baszler but in the end, met the same fate as everyone else. She tapped out to a leg locked Triangle choke as Baszler couldn’t properly lock in the Kirifuda Clutch. It was a clever finish given the arm injury she had received. I hope this is the starter match for a programme as bar Io and LeRae, Mia Yim is probably the best competitor for the title right now. I’d like to see another match from the pair with better action and pacing.

Adam Cole vs Johnny Gargano Two Out of Three Falls (Three Stages of Hell)

Okay, here we go. I’m now going to try and break down this monster of a main event, stage by stage.

  • Stage One: Regular Wrestling – Adam Cole wins via DQ

The first fall was the regular wrestling match Adam Cole picked as his stipulation. This went on a bit too long but was full of baiting, dodging, reversing and set the targeted limbs for the rest of the match. Early on Gargano attacked the knee of Cole whilst Cole worked over the back of Gargano. We got apron spots, steps spots and a whole lot of Superkicks during this stage leading to some very dicey moments and near falls. Neither man wanted to stay down for the three-count or tap out to any of the attempted submissions. Cole nearly won with a Low Blow as he distracted the ref with a chair but Gargano kicked out. In the end, that chair would finish the stage as Gargano got bored and mashed Cole with the chair for a DQ. He then laid out Cole a bit more with the chair to make stage two easier. Overall this was a nice primer to the more violent sections but went on too long.

  • Stage Two: Street Fight – Johnny Gargano wins via Gargano Escape

Stage two was a devilish mix of arena brawling and weapons spots as a large portion of this stage took place away from the confines of the ropes. Johnny Gargano dragged Cole all around the crowd, introducing him to cups, rails and barricades as well as stopping to take a selfie with a fan. This stage also saw Cole go through the Spanish announce table whilst all the monitors were still in. There were multiple teases for tables and a range of chair shots before the stage was over. It was much shorter than the previous stage and ended with a Lawn Dart into a chair and the Gargano Escape. Johnny was able to secure the next fall, forcing the match to the third stage. The one I was looking to the most…

  • Stage Three: Death Match Cage – Adam Cole wins via Table Spot of Death

The final stage was picked by NXT General Manager William Regal. It seems he has a sadistic side as this was what I’m going to call the Death Match Cage for fear of copyright infringement. This was basically a steel cage, wrapped in barbed wire with weapons thrown everywhere. It was a violent spectacle that the wrestlers actually got to use. There were chair shots galore, high-risk cage spots, Destroyers from the ground and top rope and a whole lot of kendo stick shots. It was a war and actually felt more violent that the average TakeOver hardcore match. There were plenty of weapons unused but that couldn’t be helped. For what we got it was really damn good. The match ended with what I call the table spot of doom as both men were thrown from the top the cage as Gargano tried to claw Cole’s face off with barbed wire. Yes, you heard me, an NXT match almost had barbed wire. This was an excellent main event and Cole winning felt like the right choice to me. Both men gave it their all in a long, murderous match that saw both men nearly kill each other on multiple occasions. Now if only more WWE affiliated missions were like that.

So, there you have it, another NXT TakeOver come and gone. It was an amazing show with very few weak points. The Women’s title match may have been the lowest point of the show but even then, it was at least enjoyable and semi well-done. The tag titles match lit the fuse on a very hot crowd that continued to be lively the whole time. Io and Candice had the match of the night with the main event trailing a very close second. Once again, NXT has put on an amazing PPV that might end up out-shining the WWE show it precedes. I guess we’ll have to wait and see for that one. There are a lot of new angles that can emerge from this show despite no titles changing hands. The future, as ever, looks bright for NXT going into their next batch of storylines. I hope they produce another TakeOver with matches of the Io/Candice quality.

All pictures and videos courtesy of WWE and NXT

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.