Review – NXT TakeOver: Toronto

Tom Beasley, editor of The Popcorn Muncher, loves wrestling almost as much as movies. Here’s his review of the latest show from WWE’s developmental territory, NXT.

Shinsuke Nakamura defended his NXT Championship against Samoa Joe at NXT TakeOver: Toronto
Shinsuke Nakamura defended his NXT Championship against Samoa Joe at NXT TakeOver: Toronto

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it was that NXT stopped being must-see television. It was probably around the time of the brand split over on the main roster, which gutted the top-end of the developmental roster, robbing NXT of stars like Finn Balor, Bayley and American Alpha, who had been the backbone of the show. This left NXT with a rebuilding job to do, with NXT TakeOver: Toronto the first major task of the new era.

Prior to this show, I hadn’t watched NXT since the last TakeOver special in Brooklyn. With that in mind, did the show do enough to bring me back into the fold? Here’s my review…

 

Bobby Roode vs. Tye Dillinger

Bobby Roode took on Tye Dillinger at NXT TakeOver: Toronto
Bobby Roode took on Tye Dillinger at NXT TakeOver: Toronto

Both of these guys are immensely over with the WWE crowd for slightly odd reasons. Roode has a uniquely wonderful entrance, which was accompanied on this show by a gospel choir, and Dillinger has brilliantly tapped into the well-known maxim that wrestling fans love anything they can chant. They were helped here by the fact that they’re both from the Toronto area and got significant hometown pops.

The match itself was a very solid display from two performers who can wrestle in their sleep. Dillinger held up very well against a man with far more star power and television experience. There were some great near-falls on both sides, with a Dillinger victory looking plausible right up until the finish. This was a very good showcase for both men and, although Dillinger probably needed the win more, there’s no reason for Roode not to travel up the card as a result of his victory here.

(Grade: B+)

Bobby Roode def. Tye Dillinger via pinfall following an impaler DDT in 16:28.

 

Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Final: Authors of Pain vs. TM61

Authors of Pain won the Dusty Trophy at NXT TakeOver: Toronto
Authors of Pain won the Dusty Trophy at NXT TakeOver: Toronto

A look at the bracket for this year’s Dusty Classic makes it immediately clear why the tournament has not managed to match the hot competition that last year’s inaugural tournament turned out to be. This final featured two teams who, whilst solid in the ring, have not had much chance to make a connection with the fans. The oddball throwback addition of dangling Authors of Pain manager Paul Ellering above the ring in a shark cage was a further weird wrinkle to the bout.

TM61 were great fun throughout this match, pulling off some innovative high-flying moves. Authors of Pain, meanwhile, seem like slightly awkward big men without the intensity they need. This match was also seriously hurt by the fact that the Authors of Pain botched the planned finish involving a steel chain, which led to a rather chaotic final few seconds. It wasn’t a bad contest, but it didn’t hit the heights that we have come to expect from an NXT TakeOver event.

(Grade: C+)

Authors of Pain def. TM61 via pinfall following ‘The Last Chapter’ in 8:20.

 

NXT Tag Team Championship: DIY vs. The Revival (c) (Two out of Three Falls)

DIY battled The Revival at NXT TakeOver: Toronto
DIY battled The Revival at NXT TakeOver: Toronto

NXT has a proud history of excellent two out of three falls matches, particularly in the last year when we have seen American Alpha vs. The Revival and Sami Zayn vs. Samoa Joe. The Revival encountered the stipulation once again at NXT TakeOver: Toronto, defending their tag belts against Johnny Gargano and Tommasso Ciampa, known collectively as DIY. Simply put, this was a phenomenal match. It immediately enters the conversation for ‘Match of the Year’ as a masterclass of selling, psychology and pacing.

It was The Revival who won the first fall with a stunning counter in which they transformed Gargano’s slingshot spear into the ‘Shatter Machine’. Gargano and Ciampa won the second after their combo knee strike and superkick, subsequently forcing both men to tap out for the third and final fall. There were some heart-stopping false finishes in the match and Gargano really won over the audience as babyface in peril for a large portion of the match. This was also further proof of Revival’s status as great heels, using old school distraction tactics and subtle shortcuts to further their chances.

This match was simply wonderful and was a fitting way for DIY to finally climb the mountain. For Revival, though, the next step after NXT TakeOver: Toronto is surely to make their way to the main roster and dominate the tag division there. If any team is going to topple New Day, I can see Dash and Dawson being the men to do it.

(Grade: A+)

DIY def. The Revival via submission to win 2-1 in 22:19. NEW CHAMPION

 

NXT Women’s Championship: Asuka (c) vs. Mickie James

Mickie James returned to take on Asuka at NXT TakeOver: Toronto
Mickie James returned to take on Asuka at NXT TakeOver: Toronto

Mickie James hadn’t stepped into a WWE ring since she was released in 2010, until NXT TakeOver: Toronto when she made her return to take on Asuka. The Women’s Champion had complained of a lack of competition in the NXT women’s division, right up until the former six-time WWE Women’s Champion answered the call. She has not missed a step at all, putting on a great match with the Empress of Tomorrow.

James frustrated Asuka from the start, countering the Japanese stars quickfire strikes and landing some stiff shots of her own. Asuka rose to her toughest challenge to date, making James suffer in submission holds and not allowing her to stay on top for long. The two women seemed evenly matched and the contest was building to a terrific conclusion, but the submission finish came rather abruptly and left the match to end on a rather sour note. Hopefully James will stick around because there’s plenty she can give to WWE.

(Grade: A-)

Asuka def. Mickie James via submission with the Asuka Lock in 13:07.

 

NXT Championship: Samoa Joe vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (c)

Shinsuke Nakamura hits Kinshasa on Samoa Joe at NXT TakeOver: Toronto
Shinsuke Nakamura hits Kinshasa on Samoa Joe at NXT TakeOver: Toronto

Samoa Joe has become a stalwart of main events on NXT shows, with NXT TakeOver: Toronto marking his fifth successive headline match. He regained his title yesterday night after securing a shocking pinfall win over Shinsuke Nakamura, which just about nobody saw coming. It was a solid, if unspectacular, match, which has been par for the course when it comes to Joe during his NXT run.

This was a stiff battle of hard strikes and crunching offense from start to finish. Nakamura bloodied Joe after landing a vicious ‘Kinshasa’ to the side of his head and Joe laid out Nakamura with a brutal STO on the steel steps. The slow pace made the bout a little tepid compared to some of the other matches on the card and the finish seemed a little muddled, but it was brave booking to have Nakamura lose. Hopefully that means he’ll be showing up at Survivor Series tonight. We can dream, right?

(Grade: B+)

Samoa Joe def. Shinsuke Nakamura via pinfall following the muscle buster in 20:12. NEW CHAMPION

 

Verdict

NXT TakeOver: Toronto was a good show packed with solid wrestling action. It did, however, expose the rather thin state of the current NXT roster. Even with only five matches, the show felt like it was pushing the roster to its limit and using up every ounce of star power. NXT is going to have to work on building new stars because those of its past are on the way out.

(Overall Grade: B+)

 

What did you think of NXT TakeOver: Toronto? Let me know in the comments section.

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