NXT’s latest Takeover special took place at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario on Saturday night. This is the second Takeover event to take place in Canada following the first Takeover: Toronto event in November of 2016. This show was headlined by the third straight NXT Championship encounter between champion Adam Cole and challenger Johnny Gargano in a two-out-of-three falls match. Elsewhere, Mia Yim stood up as the latest challenger to NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler and the Street Profits defended their NXT Tag Team Championships against former champions, The Undisputed Era.
Street Profits (C) vs. The Undisputed Era
The Street Profits have developed some great chemistry over the last few months as champions and have really grown into their own as a popular tag team at the Full Sail arena. I really like the best of both worlds each of the men bring with Angelo Dawkins throwing around members of the Undisputed Era and spearing both Fish and O’Reilly into oblivion while Ford can seem to soar through the air on frog-splashes and executing standing moonsaults. The latter even showed off a good bit of swagger in attempting to break out a “People’s Elbow” halfway through the match. This paring of styles reminds me of the “strongman and the high-flyer” pairings in the same vein as Two Dudes with Attitudes or Kane and Rob Van Dam.
O’Reilly focusing on Achilles-based submission moves and both members utilizing tag-team moves to double-up the reigning champions was another example why Fish and O’Reilly have been two high points on NXT television over the last three years. Again, they showed they can put on a great match with nearly any team their put in the ring with, with a good deal of thanks due to their opponents here as well. This was a really fun back-and-forth match that was a perfect call to get the crowd invested in the show right out of the gate.
Winner: Street Profits Time: 16:55 Rating: 3.5 Stars
Candice LeRae vs. Io Shirai
I was shocked by the decision to turn Shirai heel back in June, but I’m certainly enjoying the new black-clad twist on the most recent runner-up in the Mae Young Classic. Having Candice immediately run after Io before the opening bell was a great idea to start the chaos off early before Shirai scored the first major blow by executing a suplex on the top of the announcer’s table. This was a really straight-forward match-up of a good-natured white meat babyface versus a budding heel delving more and more into darkness and insanity. LeRae would kick out of seemingly every reverse 619 or bridged-German suplex and Shirai would wail incredulously wondering what it would take to assert her dominance. Io’s new leg-scissors submission almost literally choking the life out of LeRae was an excellent ending to this match. I’m so glad these two were given a great amount of time and were able to put on a very, very entertaining match.
Winner: Io Shirai Time: 15:00 Rating: 3.5 Stars
Velveteen Dream (C) vs. Pete Dunne vs. Roderick Strong
I know I mentioned this back in June, but I think this rings even more true here in August: I think that Roderick Strong should be in consideration for “Wrestler of the Year” in 2019. This man has put on stellar tag team (Undisputed Era vs. War Raiders at Takeover: Phoenix) and singles matches (Strong vs. Matt Riddle at Takeover XXV) on WWE Network events and NXT TV for three years now. Tonight, he showcased why he’s in that conversation in my opinion by throwing out backbreakers on backbreakers on both Dunne and Strong. He even broke out a Strong Hold on both his opponents at the same time in an impressive fashion. Elsewhere, I really liked the decision to have Velveteen Dream distract the referee from counting when Dunne had the match won clean as well as the champion swooping in from seemingly flying in from nowhere to swoop in and retain his championship. In between that and Dunne’s usual finger-breaking antics, this was a nice and fun match between three of the best workers on the NXT banner.
Winner: Velveteen Dream Time: 17:24 Rating: 3 Stars
Shayna Baszler vs. Mia Yim
While I enjoyed this match, this just felt like another chapter in the Baszler saga that felt a little too much like the others. In this formula, the babyface tries to play mind games with Shayna (tonight in the form of hair-pulling and fish-hooking Shayna’s mouth), Shayna injures one of her opponent’s arms and weakens the babyface’s offense immensely before Shayna’s opponent tries to go tete-a-tete and deliver a similar injury back. The babyface gets a good bit of offense rising up toward the match’s climax before Shayna locks in the Kirifuda, causing the babyface to tap out. Don’t get me wrong, I liked this match and both women added a bit of technical working to add in some interesting moves, but this was just okay compared to other matches Shayna and Mia have had with other opponents. No Shafir and Duke and a slower pace did this match no favors in terms of drama.
Winner: Shayna Baszler Time: 14:35 Rating: 2.5 Stars
Adam Cole (C) vs. Johnny Gargano
As soon as you noticed that these two were going to have roughly an hour to work through their two-out-of-three falls match, you knew this match was going to be a classic. These two have put on two of the best matches all year through four falls and over one hour of in-ring work. They had a heavy task ahead of them if they wanted to top their previous encounters.
The first fall resembled many of their previous encounters with both men feeling each other out and delivering particular strikes to weaken certain extremities (like Gargano targeting Cole’s right leg throughout the first fall). The decision to have Gargano get himself disqualified in order to exact more damage before the second bout was some slick thinking on the part of the usually straight-arrow former champion (although it’s usually a move reserved for heels). While the first fall was very back-and-forth, Gargano dominated the match during the second fall after wailing on Cole with a steel chair. I enjoyed the funny spots of smashing a souvenir soda on Cole’s head and throwing him into a storage case on a rolling office chair, but this to me was the least interesting of the three bouts. But hey, in hindsight, this made fall three all the more exciting and dramatic.
After the rest of Undisputed Era showed up at Takeover: New York and Takeover: XXV, I was happy with the decision to go with a weapons-clad cage match for the final and decisive fall. This allowed for both men to continue to hammer away at each other until someone gave out or someone (this time being Cole) being able to find one last gasp of energy to make a cover for a pin. These two whipped each other senseless with chairs (at one point, Gargano tornado DDT’ed Cole on top of a set-up folding chair, which looked very painful and very dangerous, but really cool). I loved the use of the cage and the various weapons attached to it like the fire extinguisher, sledgehammer and barbed wire. I’m pretty convinced that these two are made of rubber because a lesser man would not be able to walk after the match’s final 15 minutes. Before I forget, can we talk about that ladder-top Panama Sunrise? Fantastic.
And then, you had the ending, which to me is one of the most spectacular bumps ever taken in NXT history with the two men falling a good 15 feet through two tables. That spot was the perfect ending of this match after kicks, submissions, weapons shots and everything in between. Both men were completely exhausted by the time they made it to the top of the cage, and it looked like they gave everything they had in the final fall. It was hinted after the broadcast that this might be Gargano’s last hurrah in NXT. If it is, what a hell of a way to end his time on the black and gold brand.
Winner: Adam Cole Time: 46:41 Rating: 4.5 Stars
Overall Thoughts: Think about the last time there was a “bad” Takeover special. Can you think of one off the top off your head? I sure can’t. NXT rarely has a bad show, and while this wasn’t “bad” per se, it just wasn’t one of my favorites as of late despite many well-booked matches. Match of the night honors go to the main event of Cole and Gargano for putting on a near-hour-long spectacular while Baszler-Yim was my least favorite of the night for being rather formulaic and not offering anything new for either woman’s character.
Final Takeover: Toronto Rating: 3.5 Stars