NXT TakeOver: Toronto
Watch: WWE Network
Air Canada Centre – Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The stage is set, and Toronto, Ontario gets to play host to the quarterly extravaganza known as NXT TakeOver. Just one night before the WWE proper takes over the Air Canada Centre, the talented wrestlers of NXT look to make their mark. On the stacked card, we’re going to be treated to an insane match in The Revival versus DIY in a 2 out of 3 Falls match, as well as the return of WWE fan favorite Mickie James as she challenges Asuka for the NXT Women’s Championship. It’s going to be wild, it’s going to be crazy, and it’s going to be downright amazing!
Bobby Roode vs. Tye Dillinger***1/2
Bobby Roode’s entrance still remains as one of the best things about the man. Aside from entering in some stylish as all hell robes, he gets the special entrance at TakeOver with a damned choir. I still have some chills as I’m typing that. I can’t think of a better way to open TakeOver: Toronto than to have the two native sons of Canada lock horns for supremacy. Dillinger starts things off with excellent intensity, ejecting Roode from the ring on both sides with clotheslines and chopping at his chest hard. In a wonderful bit of comedy, Bobby Roode throws his hands up signaling he wants no more punishment, which turns into a hilarious spot where he incidentally does the “10” taunt. The crowd decides to turn this into a giant rib, as every count is now a 10 count. I’m dying laughing because this happened not even two days ago when I saw NXT live in Boston. Roode works the match from that point on like a typical heel, slowing the pace down and trying to work Dillinger over with basic submissions, headlocks, and a neckbreaker. Dillinger tries to get back into things and following up a flurry of offense with a Tyebreaker, but Roode escapes and lures him back into the ring for a spinebuster. Roode delivers a thunderous, dare I say, glorious superplex to Dillinger that just looks absolutely nasty on impact. After Dillinger collides with the ring post, Roode executes a DDT and gets one-up on Dillinger.
Great opener, I’m just not really sure that the booking decision is one I’m a fan of. Roode is great, don’t get me wrong, I just feel like Dillinger has far more upside and more potential to him than Roode. This would have been an excellent time for them to pull the trigger on Dillinger, especially with how he’s taken essentially a doomed gimmick in the Perfect 10 and made it into a gold mine, but alas. I don’t get paid to make these decisions, so I’m sure there’s a good reason.
Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Finals: Authors of Pain (Akam & Razar) (w/ Paul Ellering) vs. TM61 (Shane Thorne & Nick Miller)***3/4
It wouldn’t be a WWE match without some sort of gimmick, and the gimmick here is that Paul Ellering is going to be locked in a shark cage for this match, which will be suspended above the ring. God am I glad I’m not Paul Ellering, because I would be scared out of my mind of being above the ring in a shark cage. Shane Thorne and Razar began to climb the structure that is suspending Ellering above the ring, and Rezar is thrown off by Thorne who then does an insane dive off of it. Thorne is currently in the running for nastiest bump of the night, as he does a 360 when his legs are yanked out from underneath him and smashes his head off the ring apron. Thorne eventually gets the tag off to Miller and Miller is on fire, throwing the Authors of Pain around left and right. Miller connects with a beautiful moonsault to Razar, but isn’t able to come up with the victory. Thorne & Miller have the number of the Authors of Pain thus far, as the lack of Ellering’s presence seems to be affecting them. Ellering drops a steel chain from the shark cage above the ring, and the attempt to use it is thwarted. The Authors of Pain connect with the Last Chapter, and with that, they are the winners of the 2nd annual Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.
Even without the presence of Paul Ellering, the Authors of Pain were able to defeat TM61 in an incredibly hard hitting and breakout match for both teams. I have no qualms about Authors of Pain winning because it accomplishes two things: 1) Authors of Pain are established to be even more dominant and 2) TM61 looks like a million dollars after the performance they turned out there. How many other teams have had the ability to take the Authors of Pain not only off their feet, but out of a match in general? None, until TM61. That says all that you need to know.
2 out of 3 Falls for the NXT Tag Team Championship: The Revival (Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder) (c) vs. #DIY (Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa)*****
There’s an incredibly high chance that we’re about to witness two things here: the crowning of new NXT Tag Team Champions, and the Match of the Night. Dash and Dawson have run absolute roughshod over the tag team division, and with good reason too. There’s been no better team in the division over the past year than The Revival, but if there’s a close second, then it’s unquestionably Gargano & Ciampa. Gargano takes a Shatter Machine out of NOWHERE for the first fall of the match-up. When I say no where, I mean absolutely out of the blue. Gargano tried to use a slingshot spear, and within the first four minutes of the match, we’ve already seen a Shatter Machine and a pinfall for The Revival. Now. DIY is facing a major uphill battle, where they now need to win two falls straight. Much like the TakeOver: Brooklyn matchup, Dash & Dawson are dominating the hell out of Gargano. The Revival try to cut Gargano off from getting to Ciampa, but Gargano takes both members of them out with a beautiful kick to the head and DDT combo. The Revival connects with a Hart Attack while Ciampa has the referee distracted, but fails to come up with the pinfall. Ciampa is FINALLY tagged in, and he comes in with some white hot fire against the proud southern boys. Ciampa goes for the first fall for DIY after a trio of Germans and a knee to the side of the temple, but Dawson still has too much fight left in him. Dawson is finally put down for the pinfall by the knee/superkick combo from DIY, and this is where it gets interesting. The Revival and DIY are now evenly matched, until Dash and Dawson pull out a nasty uppercut and German suplex combo which almost seals the deal on this contest. Gargano fights off The Revival at all costs, narrowly escaping out of the corner and almost coming up with the pinfall. Dawson is thrown the NXT Tag Team Championship from Wilder, and when Johnny goes for a swift kick to the side of the head, the tag title comes into play, slamming off the shin of Johnny Gargano. With blood trickling down his face, Dawson locks in a knee bar, and with everything he has Johnny Gargano narrowly manages to reach the ropes. Dash and Dawson attempt to make a mockery of DIY, using their own finishing move to win the match, but Gargano and Ciampa take advantage of a Wilder superkick to Dawson and connect with the SHATTER MACHINE. Holy hell. This match is OFF THE WALLS. Dawson plays possum and tries to come up with a pinfall while grabbing a fist-full of tights, but the referee catches him. Ciampa is taken out on the outside, and Wilder connects with a VICIOUS chop block. Wilder and Gargano trade near falls in the center of the ring until Gargano locks in a submission. Ciampa cuts off Wilder and gets the arm bar. THE REVIVAL TAP OUT! I REPEAT: DASH AND DAWSON TAP OUT! JOHNNY GARGANO AND TOMMASO CIAMPA ARE TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS!
Oh, My, God. How can you NOT love tag team wrestling? How can you not love The Revival? How can you not love Johnny Gargano as a scrappy underdog? This is, without a doubt, THE tag team match of the year thus far. Callbacks, near falls, drama, everything you could possibly ask for in a match-up from a storytelling and a technical presence was there. If you watch only one match out of this TakeOver, you need to make it this match. You will not be disappointed.
NXT Women's Championship: Mickie James vs. Asuka (c)****
Much as there was, for a long time, no equal for The Revival, Asuka has been presented in the same light. Has there really been anyone who can rival Asuka? Is there anyone who can take her off her game and dismantle the mysterious killer instincts that Asuka possess? Enter Mickie James, one of the most dominant female competitors in the history of the WWE. In the early going, the answer would be that James has the arsenal to do so, forcing the champion to do something we’ve never seen her do: retreat. After trading some one-upmanship with Asuka, Mickie James essentially gets her brick knocked off her body via a German suplex and is out cold on the outside of the ring. Asuka is now victimizing Mickie James, laying into her with brutal strikes and Mickie James keeps begging for more. Mickie James locks in a Muta Lock on Asuka, and for what I believe is the first time ever, Asuka is incredibly vulnerable. Mickie James has been on top of her game and is bringing it to Asuka in a way that nobody has before. For everything that Asuka has brought to Mickie, Mickie has had an answer. Mickie connects with a Mick Kick and Asuka barely manages to get to the ropes and break the pin. Asuka tries to lock in the Asuka Lock on Mickie James, but Mickie James is able to evade it for a solid minute or two before Asuka eventually locks it in and seals the deal.
The finish definitely had an odd execution to it, but the match itself did exactly what it needed to do. It was short, compact, and Mickie looked fantastic. Asuka was made to look vulnerable, which adds a layer to Asuka that we’ve yet to see to this point. What’s next for Asuka, though, is anyone’s guess. Can they find someone to take down the dominate champion? Mickie tries to offer her hand as a sign of respect, but the cocky and brash champion refuses her hand and instead raises the NXT Women’s Championship. This was easily Asuka’s best match while part of the women’s division, and this comes from someone who loved her clashes with Emma.
NXT Championship: Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. Samoa Joe***3/4
Aside from me being upset about the multiple violinists that, let’s face it, were bad, I haven’t got a whole lot to say about this match. The beginning is an all out brawl, as to be expected. It appears both men realized that their Brooklyn effort fell flat on it’s face, and they’ve certainly showed that in the early going here. The intensity and pace of the match is just that much better. Instead of Samoa Joe try to work over Nakamura with a submission or a headlock, he’s actively trying to destroy this man with punishing strikes and maneuvers. Joe is sticking to a very concrete gameplan right now: targeting the biggest weapon that Nakamura has and trying to disable that knee. Stands to reason that if you take that out, you take out the Kinsasha. This match, thus far, is what the first meeting between the two should have been. The first match should have been a vicious, outright brawl. Despite the intense amount of damage done to the knee of Nakamura, he utilizes it as best he can and floors the challenger with a raining flurry of kicks and knee strikes. They don’t call him the King of Strong Style for no reason. Joe eventually regains dominance and oddly enough, we’re seeing Nakamura play the face in peril way more than expected. Nakamura tries to connect with a Kinsasha but ends up slamming his knee off the turnbuckle, Joe follows it up with a chop block. Joe tries to set up the Muscle Buster, but Nakamura escapes and hits a Kinsasha for a near fall. In a pretty cool spot, the crowd is singing Nakamura’s theme to try and keep him into the fight. Joe, however, connects with a German, a dragon, and a chimera suplex which is an impressive combination. Joe is also now bleeding from above his eyes. After being brutalized and sent to the outside, Joe takes advantage of the referee being distracted and kicks Nakamura below the belt, slams him onto the steel steps on the outside, rolls him back into the ring and connects with a Muscle Buster to seal the deal as Nakamura is laid to rest and Samoa Joe becomes a two time NXT Champion.
I’m a little bit conflicted about that match. Here’s the thing, folks. Samoa Joe has been in the title picture for a straight year right now. The only other person I can think of who has been that overused in a top challenger spot? Seth Rollins. There’s really only two things that I could see leading to Joe winning the NXT Championship back here: Nakamura failing a drug test or Nakamura being called up. The other possibility would be a write-off due to injury, but I feel like that would have been a bigger story if it were the case. Now the issue is who in the blue hell do you have face Samoa Joe? Who is going to beat this guy for the NXT Championship? There’s always a possibility that Nakamura will win the title back in Osaka, but who knows. I hope NXT has a good answer for that, because now they’ve made the NXT Title picture far more complex than it ever had any right to be or needed to be.
NXT TAKEOVER: TORONTO
Must See - 8.5/10
One of the biggest questions on everyone's mind, including my own, was whether NXT TakeOver: Toronto had the ability to surpass it's Brooklyn counterpart. With the dust settled and the hype died down, I absolutely believe that every match on this card delivered more as a whole than the TakeOver: Brooklyn card did. While there are some real head-scratching moments here, with Joe winning back the NXT Championship and Roode going over Dillinger, it's an enjoyable show with great action that won't send you off on a bathroom break anytime soon. If you have to choose one match to watch, the 2/3 Falls Match between DIY & The Revival is your choice.