The black-and-gold brand raised the bar again at NXT TakeOver: Toronto.
With five matches on the card and four titles up for grabs, NXT boasted another round of instant classics on the eve of WWE SummerSlam.
The Takeover before SummerSlam has a long track record of making history. And 2019’s addition to the NXT annals proved no different.
History was made and legacies were cemented. And, once again, the main roster is faced with the unenviable task of following it. Here’s our recap of all the action from NXT TakeOver: Toronto.
At the end of the kickoff show, NXT Commissioner William Regal gives an update on the 2/3 falls main event. If Adam Cole and Johnny Gargano go to a third fall, it’ll be in a cage. With barbed wire wrapped around the top. And weapons already tucked into the mesh.
Don’t worry, though, WWE isn’t reacting to AEW.
NXT Tag Team Championship — Street Profits (C) Vs. Undisputed Era
We start TakeOver: Toronto with Angelo Dawkins and Kyle O’Reilly doing some jawing in the corner. They open with some mat wrestling, with Dawkins using his side advantage to get the early advantage. Bobby Fish tags in and takes over on Dawkins. He whips Dawkins into the ropes, but Dawkins leap frogs it and hits a shoulder tackle.
Montez Ford tags in for the Profits, and he gets a quick missile drop kick on Fish for a one-count. Dawkins comes back in for a double axe-handle across Fish’s forearm. Frequent tags for the champs, as they keep up the attack on Fish’s arm. Fish gets back into it with some strikes to the midsection before throwing Ford to the outside. O’Reilly tags in and quickly clubs Ford on the back of the neck.
Ford fights back with some armdrags followed by a big dropkick. Dawkins tags back in, and the Profits set O’Reilly up for a wheelbarrow slam followed by a flapjack on Fish.
On the outside, Fish takes out Ford. Inside, Fish ducks under the ring to escape Dawkins, who makes chase. Fish tags back in, but Dawkins cleans house. While Dawkins is busy with O’Reilly, Fish hits a forearm to Dawkins’s head. The Era uses the numbers game to keep Dawkins on the ground.
Dawkins finally gets back to his feet, but the O’Reilly puts him back down. A backdrop gets Dawkins back into it, and he makes the hot tag to Ford who cleans house. A jumping lariat on Fish followed by a superkick to O’Reilly puts Ford in control. He gets a belly-to-back followed by a standing moonsault for two.
A spinebuster from Ford sets up a People’s Elbow attempt, but the Era grab his leg from the outside to break it up. Ford hits a urinagi (Rock Bottom) for two. Mauro makes a Hobbs And Shaw reference, ’cause he’s down with the kids. Fish and O’Reilly hit a catapult reverse DDT (I didn’t know that was a thing) on Ford for two.
Fish props Ford on the top turnbuckle and sets up for a superplex, but Ford chops him down to the canvas. Ford sets up for some acrobatics, but Fish crotches him on the turnbuckle. O’Reilly tags in as Fish hits the superplex followed by a leaping knee drop into the Achilles Heel submission hold. Ford makes the ropes, but Fish drops an elbow, and O’Reilly hits it again.
Dawkins runs in for the save, and nails Fish with a DDT. Everybody is down now, and Fish tags in Dawkins who destroys everybody. Dawkins hits an overhead belly-to-belly on O’Reilly, but eats a knee to the face. Ford makes a blind tag, and they hit the blockbuster, but Fish makes the save to break up the pin.
This is exhausting. In a good way.
A four-way slugfest ensues. It comes down to O’Reilly and Ford in the ring. Ford kicks both guys out of the ring and hits a leaping moonsault over the top to take out the UE. Dawkins spears O’Reilly and Dawkins, allowing Ford to climb up top to hit a frog splash for the pin to retain.
That was amazing. Absolutely amazing. *****
Candice LeRae Vs. Io Shirai
This match was set up when Shirai attacked LeRae at the end of Shirai’s women’s title match at TakeOver XXV. LeRae tried to make things right again on NXT a few weeks ago, but Shirai wasn’t having it. Next to Gargano vs. Cole, this is probably the hottest feud on the brand. Unfortunately, Vince obviously doesn’t watch this brand. So.
Mauro uses the word “Joshi.” Seriously, WWE isn’t reacting to AEW.
LeRae runs in and takes the fight straight to Shirai before the bell even rings. We get underway, and Shirai ducks under the bottom rope. LeRae gives chase with a baseball slide. She tosses Shirai back into the ring, but Shirai leapfrogs her and goes for a sunset flip powerbomb, but LeRae holds on. Shirai dumps her face-first on the apron.
A vicious suplex onto the announce table (which doesn’t break, by the way) leaves LeRae broken in a heap on the floor. That was brutal.
LeRae gets back in just short of being counted out. Shirai keeps up the attack and starts wailing on LeRae with rights and lefts, and the crowd boos pretty vociferously. A flapjack from Shirai followed up by a dropkick to the face gets two. LeRae gets caught in a headlock but fights her way up to her feet. Shirai lands on her feet after a headscissors takeover, and she puts the boots to LeRae. The Genius of the Sky stays grounded, locking the camel clutch on LeRae.
A running inverted spike piledriver gets two for Shirai. Seriously, why is she not women’s champion?
Shirai sets up a double underhook powerbomb, but LeRae manages a backdrop to escape. Shirai keeps up the attack and heads to the top turnbuckle. She goes for a missile dropkick, but LeRae dodges it. Chops and punches from LeRae get her back into it, and she hits a running back elbow into the corner followed by a brainbuster for two.
LeRae hooks the iron octopus, but Shirai makes the ropes. Shirai goes for a 619, but LeRae counters with a neckbreaker. LeRae takes a 619 to the back of the neck, and Shirai regains control until LeRae hits a tope into a DDT. That was cool.
A top rope double stomp to Shirai’s back gets two for LeRae. LeRae goes for another neckbreaker, but Shirai breaks free and hooks a crossface in the center of the ring, but LeRae rolls her over for a two count. A hard chop takes LeRae’s head off, followed by a German suplex then by a snap suplex from Shirai. Both women are down now.
Shirai gets up first and hits a double-knee in the corner. She heads up top, but LeRae follows her up only for Shirai to do a backflip to escape. LeRae sends Shirai face-first into the turnbuckle, but Shirai counters with a fireman’s carry, but LeRae hits a reverse rana for two. I’m exhausted again.
From the second rope, LeRae hits a swinging neckbreaker for two. Shirai hits a top rope avalanche, but it only gets two. Seriously, this is insane. Shirai starts to lose it because she can’t put LeRae down, and a slugfest ensues. LeRae gets a small package for two followed by a backslide, which is reversed by Shirai into a backbreaker. Shirai steps across LeRae and heads up top for a moonsault for two. And the Genius of the Sky decends further into madness at NXT TakeOver: Toronto.
She starts wailing on LeRae before hooking a koji clutch in the center of the ring. LeRae passes out, and Shirai picks up the win. This was great. Only thing holding it from classic was that I didn’t really buy LeRae’s comeback. But I love where they’re going with Shirai’s character. ****
NXT North American Champio — Wait A Minute
Matt Riddle comes out just as the North American title match is poised to start to call out Killian Dain. Dain rushes out from the crowd, and both guys go all slugfest outside the ring. Riddle gets pummeled, and the referees come out to break up the fight.
The referees and officials can’t keep them broken up, and they fight up at the entrance ramp, culminating in Dain hitting a running neckbreaker on Riddle through some tables underneath. To recap, this was a non-wrestling segment that actually pushes forward a storyline. I do hope the main roster writers were watching this while they hammer out whatever nonsense is going to go down with Reigns at SummerSlam tomorrow.
NXT North American Championship — Velveteen Dream (C) Vs. Roderick Strong Vs. Pete Dunne
Dream’s NXT TakeOver: Toronto entrance is assisted by the Toronto Raptors dancers, all dressed as mounties (with the Mountie’s theme, no less).
All three guys jaw in the center of the ring. Strong dumps Dream over the top rope early and goes after Dunne. Dunne fights back quickly, hitting a stiff lariat to put Strong down. He goes after Strong’s fingers, but Strong escapes only to get dumped from behind by Dream. Now it’s Dream and Dunne facing off, until Strong drags Dunne under the apron.
So we’re back to Dream and Strong, and Dream goes for the sharpshooter, but Strong fights it off. Dunne makes it up to the apron, and he whips Strong into a dropkick from Dream. Dream holds Strong down, and Dunne takes out Strong’s fingers. They double team Strong to put him over the top, and now we’re getting Dream going up against Dunne for real. Dunne hooks a headscissors, but Dream escapes only to get caught in a cross armbreaker. Dream puts Dunne’s shoulders back for a one-count, but Dunne goes for the Bitter End. The champ escapes, only to get crotched into the post by Strong.
All three guys brawl on the outside, and he slams Dunne on top of a prone Dream. Strong shoves Dunne back in the ring for a two count. He pulls Dunne up and hits a belly-to-back for two before hooking in a variant of a surfboard submission hold. Dunne escapes, and they slug it out. Strong gets the upper hand and hits a pump handle backbreaker for two.
Dream comes from out of nowhere and hits a double axe-handle on Strong. A pendulum backbreaker is followed by a second rope elbow from Dream, who hooks in a sharpshooter (I see what you did there, Dream). Dunne, in turn, comes from out of nowhere and comes off the top rope for a double-stomp on Dream to break it up.
On the outside, Dream and Dunne go at it until Strong hits a wrecking ball dropkick on Dream. Dunne hits a moonsault on Strong, and now everybody’s down on the outside.
Back inside, Dunne throws Dream into Strong before hitting a German suplex on Strong for two. Strong and Dream start to double team Dunne before slugging it out with each other. Dunne joins the fray, and all three guys are punching it out. This is madness. All three guys have a round with their respective finisher. Dream heads up top, but Dunne uppercuts him back down.
Dunne goes for a superplex, but Dream fights free only to have Dunne go after his fingers. Strong joins the fight at the top turnbuckle and hits an Olympic Slam on Dunne. Dream goes flying to the other side of the ring, and everybody’s down again. Strong punches Dream out of the ring, but Dunne locks in the triangle. It’s to no avail, as Strong lifts him into a powerbomb. Dunne locks it in again, but Strong make the ropes. Dream goes coast-to-coast on both guys from the other side of the ring! He didn’t quite make it all the way, but that was still cool.
Strong is the first guy to his feet, and he does a running clothesline across both guys while they’re draped on the top rope, and then he hooks a double Stronghold. Doesn’t make much sense, but it looks cool. Strong has to let go, but he’s the only one standing. He goes to hook it in on Dream, but Dream fights it off. Strong tries to go after Dunne, but gets his fingers cinched. Dream hits a superkick on both guys and lifts them both up. Strong breaks it up with a running knee, but Dunne gets both of their hands and breaks their fingers.
Dunne hits the Bitter End on Strong, but Dream cuts off the referee’s count. That does not go well for Dunne, who kicks the crap out of Dream and hooks on an Indian deathlock before stomping Dream’s head into the mat. That was brutal. He goes for a punt on Strong, but Strong kips up and they slug it out. The Bruiserweight runs at Strong but gets locked in the Stronghold, only to get dumped by Dream. Dream hits the Dream Valley Driver on Dunne, but Strong rushes back in and dumps Dream before hitting a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, but Dream rushes in from out of nowhere for the pin to retain at NXT TakeOver: Toronto.
That finishing sequence was insane. Most of this match was insane. There were some issues balancing out which two guys were going to go at it at any given time early on. That’s to be expected in a triple threat. Nevertheless, this was awesome from start to finish. ****1/2
NXT Women’s Championship — Shayna Baszler (C) Vs. Mia Yim
If Baszler’s reign doesn’t end at NXT TakeOver: Toronto, I’m going to start seriously questioning Triple H’s sanity. She’s fine, she’s good. But enough already. It shouldn’t necessarily be Yim, but it needs to be somebody else.
Headlock to start, and Yim pulls the hair for an early advantage only to take a palm to the face. Baszler puts Yim down on the mat, but Yim returns in kind. The champ pulls Yim down, though, and locks in a submission hold. Yim rolls through, but Baszler doesn’t let go of the hold, forcing Yim to reach for the ropes. She makes it, and the hold is broken up.
Yim gets an armdrag and locks in an armbar, but Baszler fights out of it. She whips Yim into the corner, but Yim fights back with a rana followed by a cannonball in the corner. Baszler goes to the outside, and Yim goes for a tope but eats a forearm midair and goes crashing to the floor. Yim recovers, though, and puts Baszler shoulder-first into the stairs. She pins Baszler’s arm behind the steps before dropkicking them, driving them into Baszler’s arm.
Back inside, Baszler kips up and hits a kick to the back of Yim’s head, but she’s still favoring the arm. She hits Yim with a running knee in the corner and is now literally beating Yim down with an arm behind her back. How strong does she really need to look, WWE?
Baszler pins Yim down and tries for punches, but she can’t use the right arm. She stomps Yim’s arm, and both women are back on equal footing. It’s been a while since I’ve seen 50-50 booking enacted in the middle of a match. Baszler cinches in an armbar. I never get tired of Shayna Baszler armbars, let me tell ya. A stiff kick from Baszler gets two for the champ.
Yim goes back to the hair and gets a two-count before laying in a kick to Baszler’s injured arm. I’ll give her credit, Baszler is selling the hell out of the arm injury. Baszler hooks Yim’s injured arm, but Yim gouges the eye to break free. A backdrop driver from Yim puts both women down on the mat. Yim starts laying in throat-punches and follows with a release belly-to-belly. Baszler seeks a breather on the outside, but Yim follows her with a tope. Back inside, Baszler eats a tornado DDT, and the challenger gets a two-count.
Baszler gets in control after Yim botches a kick in the corner. The champion goes for a suplex, but Yim fights free and drops the champ face-first into the turnbuckle. Yim goes up top, but Baszler follows her and goes for a top-rope suplex, but her arm gives out. The challenger hits the Code Blue but it only gets two. I really thought that was going to be it.
Both women are down now, and Yim gets up first. She goes straight after Baszler’s bad arm but Baszler locks in the clutch. But Yim goes after the injured arm to escape and stomps on it. Yim locks in an armbar but Baszler escapes it and hooks the clutch. The challenger breaks the clutch briefly, but Baszler recovers and locks it in for the submission. Sigh.
The slow spots were too slow, and — again — Yim is still too green to win the title. But this has to stop soon. ***1/2
NXT Championship: 2 Out Of 3 Falls — Adam Cole (BAY-BAY) (C) Vs. Johnny Gargano
Each fall in the NXT TakeOver: Toronto main event carries a different stipulation. It’s basically the three stages of hell match between Austin and Triple H from 2001. But with WAY better wrestlers.
First Fall: Straight Wrestling
Gargano has Wolverine-themed trunks this time around. Neat. Both guys are tied up early, and Gargano puts Cole down on the mat. Cole breaks free, and they continue to feel one another out in the early going. This is some amateur stuff going on, and it’s really impressive. Both guys tease a superkick, but both see it coming. They lock up again, and Gargano hits a back elbow on Cole before hitting a rana off the top rope. He clotheslines the champ over the top and follows with a dropkick through the ropes.
You can lose by countout, so Gargano throws Cole back in the ring only for Cole to roll out on the other side. He tries to drag Gargano out, but Gargano follows him and tosses him knee-first into the ring apron. The challenger tosses the champ back in just to ram his knee in to the apron again. Gargano continues to attack the knee and locks in an inverted figure four, but Cole makes the ropes. But Gargano uses the ropes to hyperextend the knee. Cole breaks free but eats a kick to the side of the head. A forearm from Cole gets him back into things. The champ drags Gargano out and hits a wheelbarrow slam into the apron.
Cole hits a neckbreaker and drives a knee into Gargano’s injured back. Another neckbreaker gets a one-count for the champ. He cinches a headscissor headlock on the mat, but Gargano bridges up for a two count. Cole doesn’t break the hold, though. Gargano grabs Cole’s bad knee and reverses into an ankle lock, but Cole sends Gargano face-first into the turnbuckle. Cole goes to the second rope and jumps, landing on the bad leg. Gargano sends Cole’s leg into the corner with a belly-to-back throw.
Both guys get to their feet and slug it out. Gargano rushes Cole in the corner, but Cole reverses only to eat a spike from Gargano for two. In the corner, Gargano lays in the punches before hitting a chop block to Cole’s knee. The challenger locks in the figure four. Cole makes it to the ropes to break it up. The champ lifts Gargano into a fireman’s carry, but Gargano escapes only to take a wheelbarrow suplex for two. Cole goes for a suplex, but Gargano escapes over the top, and Cole kicks him in the back of the head. An enziguri from Cole is met with a kick from Gargano. Cole goes for the Panama Sunrise, but Gargano reverses into a sunset driver for two. This is crazy. And it’s just the first fall.
Cole goes for the sunrise again, but he can’t carry it with the bad knee. Gargano dives, and Cole hits a codebreaker into a Michinoku driver for two. Both guys slug it out on their knees. They get to their feet and trade slugs and superkick attempts before taking one another down with a dual running lariat. Gargano tosses Cole to the outside and tries to follow with a dive, but the champ catches him with a kick to the head in mid-air. Cole goes for the wheelbarrow again, but Gargano reverses. The challenger hits a DDT for two. Gargano eats back-to-back superkicks followed by a shoulderbreaker for two.
The champ puts Gargano in the corner and lays in the boots. Referee pulls him off, and Cole heads outside to grab a chair. The referee takes the chair, and while he’s getting rid of it, Cole hits a low blow for two. Cole grabs the chair again and sits in the ring, taunting Gargano. The champ folds the chair and teases swinging it before throwing it in the corner. After arguing with the referee, Cole eats a superkick. Gargano hits Cole in the back with the chair and loses the first fall by disqualification. 1-0, Cole.
Second Fall — Street Fight
The second fall begins immediately, and Gargano swings away with the chair now that it’s legal. Cole escapes to the outside, so Gargano chucks it at his face before hitting a tope suicida. The champ tries to escape over the barricade, but Gargano gives chase. They brawl in the crowd for awhile, with Gargano hitting a double axe-handle in the stands. Gargano continues to drag Cole all over the arena and goes for a suplex before Cole fights back with a right hand. But he eats another superkick. Easy with the superkicks, guys. Let’s not let this turn into an AEW tag match.
Gargano props Cole in a rolling chair and throws him into the production area. Cole bounces back, but Gargano spears him from the top of a table through the barricade back to the ringside area. Gargano tears apart the announce table and sets up for a double underhook, but Cole rakes the eyes to break free. The champ goes for an underhook suplex, but Gargano backdrops him through the Spanish announce table. Gargano finally tosses Cole back into the ring before pulling a pair of tables out from under the ring. He slides them both inside, sparking a “Johnny Tables” chant from the crowd.
Next he starts tossing chairs into the ring. Gargano finally comes back inside and takes a Shining Wizard from Cole. The champ backdrops Gargano onto a propped up chair for two. Ouch. Cole sets up a chair between the ropes in the corner and tries to throw Gargano head first into it. Gargano breaks it but takes a kick to the shin. Cole goes up top, but Gargano picks him up and spikes him into the chair before locking in the Garga-No Escape for the submission to knot the match at two falls apiece. 1-1, tie.
Third Fall — Cage Match
The cage starts to come down. Cole looks absolutely terrified. Gargano has never looked happier. These guys are absolute pros, man.
Among the weapons littered throughout the mesh in the cage: Chairs, kendo sticks, handcuffs, and I’m pretty sure I see a couple of fire extinguishers. Well, I’ll be. The crowd starts an “E-C-W” chant. Come on, folks, Vince doesn’t like that gory crap. Cole goes for a kendo stick right off the jump, but they start slugging it out. Gargano gets a quick clothesline and yanks a kendo stick off the cage but eats a superkick. Cole does the same and receives the same. They start whacking away with the kendo sticks before hitting a double superkick.
Gargano sets up a pair of chairs. He starts climbing to retrieve a ladder that’s propped on the corner of the top of the cage. A reverse rana from Gargano leaves Cole propped in one of the chairs, and Gargano hits a superkick for two. Have I mentioned that this is insane? The challenger sets up one of the tables in the corner, but Cole fights back with a chair. He whacks Gargano over the back before climbing to retrieve another chair. Gargano pulls him down, but Cole reverses and throws the challenger face-first into the chair. Cole goes to choke Gargano with a kendo stick and hits a backstabber, driving the stick into Gargano’s throat. It gets a two-count.
The champ props up a couple of chairs and sets Gargano up on the top turnbuckle. He tries to suplex him, but Gargano sticks his foot in the mesh to block and throws Cole off. Gargano unhooks the nozzle of one of the extinguishers and sprays it in Cole’s face before hitting a tornado DDT on the chairs. Did that just happen? Gargano swings away with the kendo stick, but he spots a sledgehammer. As he tries to pry it free, Cole races up top to meet him. Gargano switches it up and powerbombs him off the side of the cage for two. The challenger goes for the sledgehammer again and pries it free.
He rushes at Cole with it but eats a pair of superkicks. Cole goes up top to retrieve the ladder and throws it toward the mat. Gargano dodges, but Cole hits the Panama Sunrise, which only gets two. Cole sets up the ladder and leaps to hit the Panama Sunrise, but it still only gets two. The champ can’t believe it. Cole sets up a chair yet again and sets Gargano up for a Pilmanizer, but Gargano breaks free and hooks the kendo stick under Cole’s chin. The champ bites Gargano to break free. Gargano finally gets his hands on the sledgehammer, but Cole jumps to wrest it away from him. They fight over the hammer, but Gargano hits Cole in the gut with the sledgehammer.
Gargano drags the table and sets the ladder up in the corner behind it. The sets up a second table and drapes Cole across it. Gargano scales the ladder, but Cole rolls off the table. The challenger follows and whacks Cole with the kendo stick again. Gargano climbs the turnbuckles and hits a Canadian Destroyer for two! This thing has been going on for 55 minutes now.
The challenger empties a bag full of brass knucks and bolt cutters. He heads up top and snips a spool of the barbed wire surrounding the top of the cage. Oh, holy hell. Cole tries to escape the cage, and both guys wind up on a platform that’s conveniently placed across one corner of the top of the cage. They slug it out for a bit before Cole hits a uranagi off the top of the cage through a table. The champ winds up on top, and the referee counts to three, and Adam Cole retains. 2-1, Cole.
Holy. Living. Crap. *****
Best NXT TakeOver ever.
Two perfect matches bookending the show, and some good-to-great stuff in between makes that a no-brainer. It’s getting to a point where it’s difficult to imagine if there even is a top for NXT.
NXT TakeOver: Toronto isn’t just the best TakeOver ever. It may well be one of the best pay-per-view level events of all time.
All images courtesy of WWE.