NXT returned last night (Sun., Aug. 10) with their TakeOver: Toronto special. You can find all the results at the live blog here.
There was a big theme coming into this show and that was the possibility of Undisputed ERA winning all the men’s gold. The announcers talked about it all through the opening bout. And then NXT flipped the script.
In the first match of the show, Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish were unsuccessful in defeating the Street Profits, failing to win the tag team championships. And suddenly, there was no overarching theme to the show.
Not that they had to go with Undisputed winning it all, but losing that overarching theme was a tad of a letdown. Not one that made this bad by any means, but shows that have a thread throughout are often more memorable. After the first match, this went from having a big picture to a bunch of independent matches that were forced to stand on their own.
And for the most part, they did stand on their own, though the Women’s title match and even the main event could have their detractors - the former for losing the crowd at points with a slower style and the latter for being too over the top an epic than deserved.
The show was a rare TakeOver not to end with a tease of what’s to come. Often, Triple H’s territory will end the show with a glimpse of what’s next, which helps hype the following week’s tapings. This did not have that. Not that there isn’t something to watch for. We need to see how Adam Cole responds to his boys letting him down. Is he just happy about retaining his own title, or is he going to be angry at Fish, O’Reilly, and Roderick Strong?
But the way this show ended, with all the champions retaining and nothing obvious on the horizon, it takes a bit of excitement out of things.
Now let’s look at the matches:
Adam Cole (c) def. Johnny Gargano in the third fall to retain the NXT championship
Even good matches can be too long and that’s what we had right here.
This feud was never good enough to earn itself three TakeOver matches, let alone two 2 out of 3 falls matches. Despite never fully clicking, NXT continued to book these Triple H-style epics.
To their credit, they booked this match in a way that didn’t drag like it could have. The first fall, the “pure wrestling match”, ended when Johnny Gargano opted to use a chair that Adam Cole introduced, earning himself a disqualification.
In these multi-fall matches, they have two options. They can have a long match that two men would normally have if it were just a solo match or find an excuse to end the match earlier than makes sense. A DQ was the best excuse to go with. And Johnny finally used his head, taking the loss in order to take the advantage in the next match, which was the street fight.
He has never beaten Cole in a regular match so why not jump to the early advantage in the stipulation he picked? And it worked perfectly. Gargano almost completely controlled the action during the second fall.
The third match, the crazy cage (Ambrose Asylum?), was also up Gargano’s alley with his thirst for the hardcore style. This was the match I personally felt the time start to drag, but the crowd still ate it up, which is the most important thing. And they were creative in trying to up the violence.
It was Johnny’s propensity for violence that I found most interesting here. Adam Cole wanted to avoid this at all costs but Johnny was relishing in the cruelty. It wasn’t that Cole matched his violence to earn the victory. He just lucked out.
The champ was trying to run from Johnny Violence so he climbed the cage and both fell off through a table, and it was just Adam that was the one to roll over for the win.
For such a long match that the feud probably didn’t warrant in the bigger picture (more realistically, the first 2 out of 3 falls match in New York shouldn’t have had that stip), it ended up being rather enjoyable.
Shayna Baszler (c) def. Mia Yim to retain the NXT Women’s championship
Shayna Baszler needs a specific kind of babyface for her to really work. Kairi Sane was the perfect example. She’s a lovable babyface that fans were behind, which meshed so well with Shayna’s meticulous style.
Mia Yim does not fit that mold, and without a hot babyface, Shayna’s matches just don’t work as well. You could feel that here as the crowd was quiet for much of this match.
Not that it was a particularly bad match or anything. They told an interesting story of Mia being the kind of unpredictable that Shayna can’t handle. She crushed the champ’s arm between the ring steps and ring, giving herself a huge advantage. And she wasn’t above a cheap tactic or two, such as pulling the hair, to regain the advantage.
Her plan worked well. She rendered the Kirifuda Clutch useless because of all the damage Shayna’s arms sustained. But Baszler credits herself as a Submission Magician and was able to call an audible, using her legs for a triangle choke to get the win instead.
It was a solid story, one that was set up prior to the match. But the feud never had that spark.
It’ll be interesting to see who is next to challenge Baszler. A plucky underdog, like a returning Dakota Kai who has history with Shayna, would be my choice.
Velveteen Dream (c) def. Pete Dunne & Roderick Strong to retain the North American championship
The theme to the North American title match was chaos.
Triple threat matches are always crazy, but this one was booked so no man was out of action for too long. And because of that, every man had to worry about his attempt to win getting interrupted. This played out the entire time and there were some impressive ways they broke up various pinfalls or submissions.
This match also benefited from the unique characters - the flamboyant Dream, the bruiser Pete Dunne, and the cocky ass Roderick Strong.
The mix of the great characters and the chaos of the match made this an enjoyable affair.
Io Shirai def. Candice LeRae
This match was so important for these women. Both Io Shirai and Candice LeRae have had an uninspiring runs on the NXT brand. Candice has played the role of Mrs. Gargano more than she has a wrestler. And when she has been a wrestler, it hasn’t been in anything significant. On the other side, tonight was Io’s first non-DQ single’s win in NXT so...
This match needed to be good, for both Candice to show why she’s considered a top women’s worker and for Io to cement her new persona.
Thankfully, it was.
Io got the attack in prior and then worked over Candice’s neck most of the time. Meanwhile, LeRae had to survive much of Io’s offense. But she kept kicking out and coming back, even kicking out of Shirai’s moonsault. That displayed a never say die attitude necessary for a true blue babyface. And this forced Io to go to a submission for the win, which works better for a heel anyway.
Io was legit the first strong opponent for Candice LeRae, so she could finally start to show how good she is. It’s a tough loss to take, and they’re going to have to work hard to build her back up from losing her first real match after being on their TV for years. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they just send her to the main roster. But NXT is particularly good at building people back up after they’ve been down for too long. Hell, they recently just did so with the Street Profits, who continually lost all their marquee matches until their climb to the titles.
Io’s heel persona is easy to like, which is something they’re going to have to work hard to overcome. This crowd had no problem cheering for the villain here. But she does it better than she did babyface and it’s a character that has some legs - and finally a marquee win.
The Street Profits (c) def. the Undisputed ERA to retain the NXT tag team championships
Opening with fire tag team matches have become a staple of TakeOvers and this was no different.
These two teams are fantastic and started the show hot with yet another tag match that’d be tough to follow. All of these men are stars. Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish are both fantastic heels and we’ve seen them (or sometimes Roddy in Bobby’s stead) put on incredible performances in the tag scene over and over. It’s like they can’t have a bad match.
On the other side, you have the Street Profits, who went from meandering to a convincing top tag team in a short order. Montez Ford has it, with charisma and talent. And Angelo Dawkins found his place and is not just Ford’s buddy.
It was another baller tag match which we’ve come to expect but never take for granted on TakeOver.
Matt Riddle and Killian Dain brawl
They went out of their way to make sure that Matt Riddle was not left off the show, telling us what they think of the Bro. This was a short but fun brawl to hype us for this eventual match.
I’ve always been a fan of Riddle more when he’s pissed than when he’s a goof. And Killian Dain has brought that side out of him. The eventual match they have should be fantastic. I’d consider a no DQ match for these two to settle their issues.
TakeOvers are always fun and this was no difference. I have a feeling this will go down as one of the more forgettable ones given no titles changed hands and nothing monumental happened. The main event ended up being enjoyable despite a somewhat underwhelming program, but part of me misses the days TakeOvers would have 5 matches in a bit over two hours.
You’ll never go wrong sitting down to watch a TakeOver and this definitely does not change that. But this one felt a bit underwhelming relative to all the other TakeOvers. So still good, but not the greatest.
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