13,745 of the NXT faithful took over the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Canada for the 26th TakeOver event.
These quarterly showcases have long produced some of the finest wrestling in the world to the point where it is now expected that each one will feature a match of the year candidate.
The expectations may have been higher than normal this time around due to a rubber match between bitter rivals, Adam Cole and Johnny Gargano, happening on this night. The rest of the card appeared typically stacked too but did it live up to the hype?
Street Profits (c) vs. Undisputed Era (O’Reilly and Fish) – NXT Tag Team Championship Match
Result: Street Profits win via pinfall and retain the titles.
This may not have been the flashiest match of the night and it certainly wasn’t the best, but it was a perfect example of what tag team wrestling is all about. The action started off slowly, with O’Reilly and Angelo Dawkins trading heavy strikes, but as the match progressed the sense of urgency increased as did the pace.
Truly this was another highlight reel for Montez Ford as he showed once again why he is considered the brightest star in his team. Dawkins is no slouch but Ford has the tools to be a major player down the road and suitably it was he who picked up the victory for the Profits here. Already it is clear the Undisputed Era will not be draped in gold on this night.
Io Shirai vs. Candice LeRae
Result: Io Shirai wins via technical submission.
The build to this match was not overly exciting, and perhaps that is why the match itself failed to set the world alight. The problem is that LeRae has done absolutely nothing of note as a singles competitor since joining the black and gold brand and so it is hard to care about her in this rivalry.
That being said, Io did show signs of greatness in her new heel role. She was noticeably more aggressive and quickly took the fight to her former friend with a nasty Suplex onto the announce table.
This was a clumsy feeling affair to start off with and whilst it did improve, it did not reach much higher than mediocre. Though Shirai choking LeRae out instead of allowing her to tap was a very nice touch.
A brawl between Matt Riddle and Killian Dain filled the space between matches and allowed excitement to continue to grow for their feud despite them not having an actual match on the show.
Velveteen Dream (c) vs. Pete Dunne vs. Roderick Strong – Triple Threat Match for the NXT North American Championship.
Result: Velveteen Dream wins via pinfall and retains the title.
If you thought that this match was going to be anything other than sublime then you clearly haven’t paid attention to the work of these three extraordinary athletes. All three of them have brought their A-game at each and every TakeOver they have competed on, with Dream becoming one of the promotion’s breakout homegrown talents because of it.
Right from the start, the action was fast-paced but also each move fit perfectly with the corresponding competitor’s character. Velveteen was cocky and at times that led to his downfall, allowing the third man in the match to sneak up on him and remove him from the fray for a moment. Dunne was pugnacious as always and looked like he was out there to do damage. If this was the Bruiserweight’s attempt to make a statement upon his return to NXT then it most certainly worked. Finally, Strong had a far greater sense of urgency than the others. You could feel that he wanted this with each frantic attempt to gain the advantage and cover one of his opponents.
The three elements worked perfectly together from the opening bell all the way up to Dream stealing the victory from Roderick Strong at the last possible second.
Shayna Baszler (c) vs. Mia Yim – NXT Women’s Championship Match
Result: Shayna Baszler wins via submission and retains the title.
Shayna has been something of a surprise hit since joining up with NXT and is now undoubtedly the most effective heel in the company. Mia, on the other hand, has done nothing much of note in her relatively short tenure and certainly did not enter this feeling like a true threat to a dominant champion.
The match started off slowly, failing to click with the crowd, and it didn’t get an awful lot better. It seems a real shame to be so negative about two women’s matches on the same card, but this just did not work.
Both women are top level athletes and capable to putting on tremendous shows as we have seen in the past, but this was not anywhere near their best. A rematch is definitely not needed and hopefully Baszler’s decisive win points to there not being one.
Adam Cole (c) vs. Johnny Gargano- Two-out-of-three falls match for the NXT Championship
Result: Adam Cole win via pinfall with two falls to one and retains the title
The first match between these two men was awarded five and a half stars by Dave Meltzer. The second picked up five and a quarter stars. How could anyone possibly keep such a high achieving trend going? By being this damn good, that’s how.
The secret to a match such as this is to keep the story flowing between the three stages. Cole and Gargano managed to do that to perfection here as they sold the accumulated damage of each individual fall, using it to build up to a death-defying conclusion that capped off this feud in epic fashion.
Each man dodged, countered, and otherwise avoided all of their opponent’s moves in the early stages, showing that both have learnt from the previous wars. It would clearly take something out of character to gain an advantage and that is exactly what happened when Gargano sacrificed the first fall by grabbing a chair and purposefully getting DQ’d to weaken Cole. From there the violence ramped up and both competitors hit all of their big moves en route to the best match of the trilogy.
This is why NXT is considered the gold standard in Sports Entertainment and this is why TakeOver’s are must-watch TV.
Despite some unusually low spots in the form of the two women’s matches, this can be considered yet another successful outing for NXT. It seems inevitable that some major names are going to be called up very soon and so now is an exciting time to be watching NXT as we see a new wave of stars try to make their name. They will have a tough act to follow if this show is any indication.
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