Review: NXT TakeOver: Toronto (2019)

NXT Tag Team Championships: Street Profits © v Undisputed Era

Profits v Era

I predicted the Undisputed Era beforehand due to the Street Profits’ appearances on the main roster, but I was more than happy to be wrong, with their charisma endearing them so much to me. I noted in my preview how tag team wrestling is something I don’t love, but NXT always show me exactly how good they can be when utilised properly. The crowd were torn between the two teams, which does show how well the two teams have been booked (this was a regular theme throughout the night). We were even teased a Rock Bottom but it never came to be, which even made me boo out loud, so it worked. If the main event didn’t exist, this would be the best match on the card, and for someone who doesn’t like tag team wrestling to say that, it proves just how good this match is.

Pre-match prediction: Undisputed Era

Winner: Street Profits, by pin fall

Rating: * * * *

Single: Io Shirai v Candice LeRae

LeRae v Io

I was expecting a far more comfortable victory for Io Shirai, with her destroying Candice LeRae to establish how good she is, but we were given a more 50-50 contest and I think it worked.

I remember hearing a lot of praise for Io Shirai before she joined, but her team with Kairi Sane and her match against Shayna Baszler never really made me fall in love with her, and that was due to her lacklustre character. Now, as a heel, I love Io Shirai. Her cocky demeanour, her brass character, combined with her in-ring skill, just makes her so much more investible. She celebrated everything, she taunted at every opportunity, and despite Candice channelling her husband’s bravery, she managed a solid victory, which should hopefully lead her back into the NXT Women’s Championship picture.

Pre-match prediction: Io Shirai

Winner: Io Shirai, by submitting Candice LeRae

Rating: * * * ½

NXT North American Championship, Triple Threat: Velveteen Dream © v Pete Dunne v Roderick Strong

Dream v Dunne v Strong

The Velveteen Dream came out to the mounties music. That’s one way to endear yourself to the Canadian fans.

This match was what I wanted, but nothing too amazing, which was a little disappointing. Pete Dunne was vicious, and I hope he’s on the main NXT roster to stay, because he already feels too big for NXT UK. His dislocating of fingers looks brutal and makes me shudder, so it’s doing something right. I did enjoy the storytelling and felt the commentators did a solid job of reminding the audience (it is something I forgot) that Strong joined the Undisputed Era by betraying Pete Dunne. It didn’t play too much of a factor, but it did enough to add that extra layer to this match.

Velveteen Dream managed to win by breaking up Strong’s pin fall and stealing it for himself, which was a clever way to end the match. Good, but could have been better.

Pre-match prediction: Pete Dunne

Winner: Velveteen Dream, by pinning Pete Dunne

Rating: * * * ½

NXT Women’s Championship: Shayna Baszler © v Mia Yim

Baszler v Yim

The crowd were very quiet for this match, in what was easily the lowest quality match on the card. This match did nothing to endear me to Mia Yim, and I feel the crowd felt the same. Ranallo called Baszler ‘One of the most sadistic competitors’ and while that is a rhetoric thrown at many superstars, with Baszler I feel it’s adequate. The lack of interference hindered Yim, I believe, as she has no excuse to fall back on (if she lost due to interference from the Horsewomen then it could have billed to a more impressive showing after Yim eradicates Baszler’s friends). Much like what has happened with Shirai, Yim, I believe, needs a more solid character and a few rivalries to really showcase what she can do, because she has the ability to one day be the NXT Women’s Champion, but today wasn’t that day. She eventually tapped out to a triangle chokehold, as her hands were in pain.

Pre-match prediction: Shayna Baszler

Winner: Shayna Baszler, by submitting Mia Yim

Rating: * * ½

NXT Championship, Two-out-of-Three Falls: Adam Cole © v Johnny Gargano

Cole v Gargano

Wow. Just, wow. I didn’t want to establish a five-star match early on in my wrestling reviews until I watched enough to work out what truly makes a five-star match. And as the first fall ended (with Johnny Gargano choosing to get himself disqualified by attacking Adam Cole with a steel chair in the first fall, a standard match), I was adamant this was not going to be a five-star match. But, my word, the storytelling, the wrestling, the chaos, the drama, the length (this match went about an hour in total), everything just came together to make a fantastic match that absolutely deserved the rating.

The first fall was a standard match, as Cole wanted to out-wrestle Gargano, and their in-ring chemistry was evident for all to see. The regularity in which they’ve wrestled was shown with their counters to most moves. Cole brought in a steel chair and while the referee was distracted hit a low blow on Gargano, but it was still not enough for a three-count. As mentioned, Gargano eventually used the chair to get himself disqualified, leading into the second fall (Gargano had previously chosen a street fight stipulation) where Gargano just assaulted Cole throughout the arena (even briefly taking a selfie with a fan). This eventually came back to the ring and Gargano locked on the Gargano Escape and Cole tapped out.

During this time there was a great call by the male announcers where Ranallo got a move prediction wrong, with Cole choosing to make a different move despite setting up something else, but the commentators cleverly realised that if they were predicting the wrong move, then so would Gargano.

The third fall was previously announced by William Regal to be a steel cage match, but a cage with barbed wire wrapped around the top (so escape was impossible) and weapons scattered everywhere. Kendo sticks, barbed wire, tables, ladders, sledgehammers, steel chairs and a fire extinguisher were among a variety of weapons used throughout. This match was as brutal as that sounds, with chants of ‘ECW’ very much needed. The finish ended when Cole and Gargano fell off the top of the cage (where a board was planted to allow them to stand) and landed onto two tables (a rough looking spot) with Cole managing to gain a pin fall by rolling over onto Gargano. What a match. And I loved how the Undisputed Era didn’t play a role at all, ending their rivalry in conclusive finish (even if the pin fall was somewhat lucky).

Pre-match prediction: Adam Cole

Winner: Adam Cole (Cole won first fall by disqualification, Gargano won second fall by submission, Cole won third fall by pin fall).

Rating: * * * * *

Overall, a very good TakeOver show (as they often are), with only one sour match being there but that’s more than compensated for with that main event. I was worried about another Cole v Gargano match but my word was it something to behold. The tag team match at the start was very entertaining, as was Shirai’s new character and the triple threat (on the main roster, they’re match-of-the-night candidates, which tells you all you need to know about their quality), despite them falling short on the night. The brawl between Matt Riddle and Killian Dain (where a ‘security guard’ took a table spot) was an extra something and the commentary throughout was great. From Ranallo and McGuinness. Beth Phoenix was atrocious throughout. They correctly told us how the crowd felt (unlike the main roster who try to hide away from any positive reaction for a heel) and perfectly added in excitement and storytelling. Everything commentators should do (just not Phoenix, who just shouted ‘wow’ throughout).

Match ratings, in descending order:

Adam Cole v Johnny Gargano: * * * * *

Street Profits v Undisputed Era: * * * *

Io Shirai v Candice LeRae: * * * ½

Velveteen Dream v Pete Dunne v Roderick Strong: * * * ½

Shayna Baszler v Mia Yim: * * ½

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