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NXT TakeOver: Toronto preview - Faction Dominance

NXT is back tomorrow (Aug. 10) with TakeOver: Toronto, emanating from the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. We’ve already made our predictions and you can find those here.

Now it’s time to look at the card. We’ll run down the matches, discuss the main roster implications, and ask one big question pertaining to the match.

But before we get into that, there’s something about this TakeOver that makes it unique. And that’s teasing an event we don’t see often today:

Faction Dominance

The Undisputed ERA has been a thing since Adam Cole ran onto the scene at TakeOver: Brooklyn III in 2017, attacking then champion Drew McIntyre. For a while they ran as a three man group with Cole joined by Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly. Then at TakeOver: New Orleans in 2018, Roderick Strong joined the group by betraying Pete Dunne (something he may very well pay for tomorrow).

Roddy’s addition made them a four man group that could feasibly hold all the men’s titles given they have a top guy, a midcard guy, and a tag team. And at this TakeOver, they have a chance to walk out doing just that.

Factions still exist in WWE but not like we used to see them. On the main roster, they’re mainly trios such as the Shield, the New Day, and the Club/OC. This four man group who can focus on a different aspect of a card was more common a decade or so ago with teams like Evolution, DX, and the Nation of Domination.

These were the groups that would try to take over the entire promotion by holding all the titles. It’s a tool that opens the promotion up for some fun stories about others trying to wrest control from this power group (or watch that group unable to handle the power and break apart from the inside).

Now NXT finally has a group that can do just that. Cole can walk out NXT champion. Fish and O’Reilly can walk out as tag team champions. Strong can walk as North American champion. A group named Undisputed can actually be undisputed.

While the main roster has some of this currently with the OC holding the tag titles and US title on Raw, and the New Day holding the WWE title and tag titles on SmackDown, having all the men’s titles in a smaller pond will make the ERA feel like a super faction.

It shouldn’t surprise us too much that we see this more in NXT (SAnitY was a true faction in the sense they had a tag team, singles star, and women’s star, but never got off the ground like the ERA) given the guy who runs it has been part of multiple factions in DX and Evolution. Hopefully, the creative will go all the way to reward us with this heel super group, one that happens to be super over, so we can see how the rest of the roster responds.

Because that’s... something that would be really cool.

Now onto the matches!

Adam Cole (c) vs. Johnny Gargano in a stipulation ridden 2 out of 3 Falls match for the NXT championship

This is the third, and likely final, TakeOver main event between these two. When it’s all said and done, we will likely have seen a total of 7 falls over three shows.

At TakeOver: XXV, Cole bested Gargano in a standard, one fall wrestling match. And he followed up by doing what he does best: obnoxiously gloating about it. This time, by doing that to Johnny’s family and friends.

The Panama City Playboy traveled to Cleveland, Ohio to be a minor d-bag to Johnny’s parents at their pizza place prior to traveling to the school where Gargano trained and told the students who look up to him there that they’re all worthless. Not the most villainous actions, but rather obnoxious. Very on brand for Adam Cole.

Cole tried to continue antagonizing the former champ by setting up a title match between himself and one of those AIW students, Twan Tucker. But Tucker wasn’t buying it and brought Johnny with him to Full Sail. The match never happened and instead Gargano and Cole brawled.

William Regal set up a two out of three falls match (again) for TakeOver, this one where the men got to pick a stipulation for one of the falls. Johnny chose a street fight because he learned to like such a stipulation when feuding Tommaso Ciampa. Adam chose a standard wrestling match because he’s already had success with it against Gargano. If they go to a tie, William Regal will unveil the third stipulation.

Main Roster Implication:

Johnny can’t be long for NXT at this point. Even winning the title, he felt lost after Tommaso Ciampa left due to injury. Now that he’s lost the title, there’s really nothing to do. MAYBE if Tommaso has a quicker than anticipated return from injury, they could do something together to tie up the loose ends of that story, but even then, it’s time for Johnny to move on.

If Adam Cole lost, maybe he’d move up, but I doubt he’s moving up alone. And I doubt he’s losing. But this very well could be Gargano’s last TakeOver match.

The Big Question:

What’s the third stipulation?

This has not been announced yet, but surely we’re going to three falls. After watching a street fight and then a regular match, what’s next? It would have to be something different than those. It probably won’t be a cage match as that will be given away by the huge cage hanging over the ring. Maybe a ladder match? Or maybe Regal makes the third fall a 2 out of 3 falls match so we can get up to 9 falls total in this series.

Shayna Baszler (c) vs. Mia Yim for the NXT Women’s championship

While Shayna was finishing up her feud with Io Shirai, Mia Yim was battling Bianca Belair. The Blasian Baddie defeated the EST of NXT twice in three matches, putting her in position to challenge for the Women’s championship.

But she had to convince Shayna to take the match first.

Mia did that by viciously attacking both Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke, friends and henchwomen of the champ. That drew out Baszler, who opted to take the match. The champ is confident that under the bright lights of TakeOver, Mia’s street fighting style won’t hold up. Mia claims Shayna can’t prepare for her. We’ll find out who’s right tomorrow.

Main Roster Implication:

As soon as Shayna Baszler loses, we’ll be looking for her on the main roster. But I honestly don’t think she loses here. I don’t see Mia going to the main roster if she doesn’t win the title. I more see her going to the back of the line like Bianca Belair did.

The Big Question:

How does Mia look afterwards?

Mia has been Shayna’s least exciting challenger for a while. Not that this build hasn’t helped develop her character, but it’d be surprising to see her take the title. If she wins, obviously she’ll look great. But if she loses, will they do that in a way that elevates her regardless? Honestly, they did not do that at all for Io Shirai, and Bianca Belair didn’t come out of her feud with Shayna looking better than she did going into it. Can Mia avoid that fate if she takes the L here?

Pete Dunne vs. Velveteen Dream (c) vs. Roderick Strong for the North American championship

Roddy Strong picked up a pin over Velveteen Dream in a six man tag team match, putting him in the title conversation. Dream, however, did not deem Roddy worthy.

When they went face to face, former NXT UK champion Pete Dunne interrupted, making his intention to claim the title known (without saying a word). GM William Regal then made this a triple threat.

Main Roster Implication:

It doesn’t feel like any of these three men are destined to hit the main roster immediately. Roderick Strong won’t be going up alone - only as part of Undisputed ERA. Pete Dunne just got back to NXT Prime and feels like he’ll be there for a bit until they need him back in NXT UK, which they’re still building. Velveteen could go up, but he’s been passed over a few times. NXT could use a star of his caliber to possibly feud with Adam Cole in the top title picture.

The Big Question:

Who takes the pin?

This is an interesting match because both the returning Pete Dunne and current champion are top of the card. If Roddy wins, who takes the pin? Does the returning former UK champion take the pin, protecting the champ? Or do they want to keep the returning Dunne looking stronger and have Dream take the pin?

The Street Profits (c) vs. The Undisputed ERA (Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish) for the NXT tag team championships

It’s a simple story here. The Profits defeated the Forgotten Sons and then the Brit-Am Brawlers, leaving the ERA the last top team standing.

They made it official just a couple days ago with a great contract signing where the Street Profits made the claim that they have to win because ERA is the best tag team in NXT history. This feud has allowed the Profits to flex their serious side and they’re very good at it.

Main Roster Implication:

With Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins already hanging out backstage every Monday night, a loss here will have everyone wondering if they’re going to move up to the main roster full time. The rumor is that they’re still an NXT team and that isn’t some call up, but we’ll see if that holds true if they lose the titles Saturday.

Much like Cole and Strong, I don’t see Fish and O’Reilly going up to the main roster alone.

The Big Question:

How hard is this to follow?

Tag team matches are guaranteed barn burners at NXT TakeOvers. And some match is always tasked with having to follow it. Despite it never happening, I’d debate putting this match on second to last (usually the Women’s title match is second to last). The NXT title match is going to be LONG (probably too long) so they’re going to have to cool down to start anyway. It’d be long enough to earn back the crowd after a hot tag team affair.

Candice LeRae vs. Io Shirai

Last TakeOver, Io failed to win the NXT Women’s title from Shayna Baszler. It was partially due to her own lack of preparedness when she tried to use a move that was so easily reversed into the Kirifuda Clutch.

In that match, Candice LeRae had Io’s back, limiting the effectiveness of Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke. Of course, Shirai still lost and then went ham on Baszler with a kendo stick. When Io was granted a rematch against Shayna in a steel cage, Candice offered to have her back again.

And Candice helped out again when the Horsewomen inevitably interfered on Shayna’s behalf. But Shirai lost the match anyway and then snapped. Her rage focused on her pal Candice LeRae, laying in a beating on her friend.

Since then, Shirai debuted new music and a new look to go with her heel persona. Candice got a small measure of revenge when she attacked her new foe in the beginning of her scheduled match against Kacy Catanzaro, but Io escaped without much damage.

Main Roster Implication:

It feels like neither of these women are heading up to the main roster soon, but the main roster could use some new blood in their divisions, so you never know. Candice is a likable babyface who is already seasoned enough to work the main roster. But if she wins here, that likely means an NXT Women’s title shot in the future.

Io could go up to the main roster as a heel or babyface, but risks following in her friend Kairi Sane’s footsteps and getting lost immediately.

The Big Question:

Who wins?

The question feels like a cop-out, but this is a match where both women really cannot afford a loss. Io Shirai just turned heel. A new persona taking a loss so quickly really undercuts the character. But on the other hand, Candice hasn’t had a single marquee win during all of her time in NXT. It’s gone from being Johnny Gargano’s wife, to some wins over lower midcard talent, to suddenly being Io Shirai’s friend. Losing this match would leave her NXT resume at meandering and it would be tough for her to come back from if they ever have any real plans for her on this brand. If Candice loses, they should probably just consider using her on the main roster.

We’ll learn the answer to the questions posed at TakeOver: Toronto, airing tomorrow night at 7 ET on the WWE Network. We’ll have to wait and see the main roster implications. As we wait for the show, let us know below which matches you’re most looking forward to and what questions you’re wondering the most about the card. And then join us tomorrow for all your Takeover: Toronto coverage.

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