Sunday is, the second biggest wrestling show of the year. The night before WWE's big shows, though, the company treats fans to NXT TakeOver events. These are pay-per-view style showcases of WWE's "developmental" brand, NXT. I put developmental in quotes, because it's really more of a separate brand. NXT stars like Roderick Strong, Johnny Gargano and Adam Cole are as good as anyone on the main roster, and NXT TakeOver shows are arguably the most reliably excellent in all of pro wrestling.
NXT TakeOver: Toronto was a very good show, but a peg below the usual quality. There were no bad matches, although the NXT Women's Championship bout suffered from an uninterested crowd, and one outstanding match in Velveteen Dream vs. Pete Dunn vs. Roderick Strong.
Below is the full recap for the show, from end to beginning, as well as ratings (out of 5 stars) for each match.
Adam Cole retains NXT Championship
Main event time. The first fall is a normal match, the second a street fight. The third fall, if it comes about, will be announced by NXT General Manager William Regal. Gargano is out first with Wolverine-inspired gear. The crowd is hot for Adam Cole, bay bay, who is by far the crowd favorite.
The two begin with mat wrestling. These two have wrestled in two high-profile main events in the past 4 months, so the story of the match is that they know each other's offense so well. Counters on counters, in other words. Cole pulls Gargano outside and hits a wheelbarrow slam to the ring apron for the first big move of the match.
Cole locks Gargano in a reverse triangle choke in the center of the ring. Gargano counters with an ankle lock, but Cole counters with a forward roll, sending Gargano into the turnbuckle. Cole charges on Gargano, but Gargano counters with a belly-to-belly throw. Counters and counters and counters.
Gargano retains control with a roll-through kick and a fisherman's driver. Gargano ascends the turnbuckle and Cole shoots for a superkick, but Gargano doges and jumping stomps into Cole's leg. Gargano puts Cole in a figure four, but lets it go. Cole comes back with another wheelbarrow slam but sells his injured leg.
The two exchange kicks, and Gargano catches Cole with a sunset driver. Gargano flies off the top rope, but Cole counters with a codebreaker and a powerslam for a two count. The two exchange strikes and take each other out with a simultaneous clotheslines. Gargano attempts a suicide dive but Cole catches him with an enziguri. Cole goes for another wheelbarrow slam, but Gargano counters and sends Cole into the barricade. Gargano sends Cole into the ring and nails a top rope DDT. Two count.
Gargano goes for a mid rope spear but is caught with a superkick. Cole follows up with a brainbuster and gets a two count. Cole brings a chair into the ring. The referee takes it from him, but Cole punt kicks Gargano in the balls as the referee is disposing of the chair. Two count.
Cole chews out the referee and is hit with a superkick by Gargano. Gargano takes the chair and clocks Cole with it, getting himself disqualified. He then repeatedly whales on Cole with the chair as we enter the second fall, a street fight. Cole 1, Gargano 0.
The two brawl into the crowd. Gargano jumps off a barricade, and hits Cole with a superkick. He then jumps off one barricade to crash Cole through another barricade. The crowd chants for tables, and Gargano begins to undress the announcer's table. Give the people what they want. The two jostle for position, and Cole ends up being sent through the Spanish announcer's table. Gargano sends Cole back into the ring, then pulls out two tables out from under the ring.
Cole hits a shining wizard as Gargano re-enters the ring and follows up with an Ushigoroshi. The crowd chants "this is awesome". A chair gets set up in between the ring posts. Cole hits a superkick on Gargano, but Gargano counters Cole's next move and throws him like a lawn dart into the chair. Gargano puts Cole in a Gargano Escape, Cole taps. Cole 1, Gargano 1.
The third fall is a cage match. A cage garnished with weapons descends upon the ring. There are sledgehammers, tabes, chairs and even a fire extinguisher in the ring.
Cole and Gargano exchange strikes. Super kicks, clotheslines, more superkicks. Each grabs a Kendo stick and swing on each other, then hit superkicks on each other at the same time. The crowd is loving it. Gargano sets up one of the tables but is stopped in his tracks by a chair shot from Cole. Cole hits a backcracker on Gargano and sets two chairs up by a turnbuckle. He goes for a superplex but Gargano fights out with strikes. Gargano sprays Cole with a nearby fire extinguisher and hits a tornado DDT through the two chairs. It looked extremely painful for Cole. Two count.
Gargano climbs the cage to retrieve a sledgehammer, but Cole meets him on the ropes and fights for it. Gargano knocks him away and hits a sunset flip. Gargano gets a two count, then retrieves the sledgehammer. He attempts to hit Cole with it, but is met with a superkick. Cole gets a ladder, which was sitting atop the cage, and throws it at Gargano. Gargano dodges but eats a Panama sunrise piledriver. Two count. Cole sets up the ladder, jumps off and hits another Panama sunrise piledriver for another two count.
Gargano doges a shining wizard and chokes Cole with a Kendo stick, but Cole bites Gargano's hand. Gargano gets the sledgehammer, though, and smashes it into Cole's guts. Gargano sets up two tables and a ladder, then ascends the ladder. Cole rolls off the table, though, but gets smashed with a Kendo stick. They find themselves on the top rope. Gargano hits a sunset flip piledriver. Two count.
Both climb up to another table set up atop the cage. They both fall, crashing through one of the tables setup in the middle of the ring. Cole rolls over Gargano, scoring the three count.
Rating: 3.5 stars. Amazing action, but very long and also preposterous. There were many cool moves, but the last third of the match just felt like moves for moves sake. The crowd did love it, though.
Shayna Baszler submits Mia Yim
Legit MMA fighter Baszler takes Yim to the mat with an armbar attempt. Yim fights back, scoring a cannonball in the corner. Yim attempts a suicide dive but is blocked by Baszler, but Yim manages to send the champ into the steel steps.
Back in the ring, Baszler turns the tide with a takedown and a hard kick to the back of the head. These two are having a tough time capturing the crowd, who are tired out after the exhilarating triple threat. Baszler continues to beat down Yim, and puts her in a wicked-looking shoulder lock. Yim fights out by pulling on Baszler's hair, but Baszler shuts Yim down with a clothesline.
Yim counters out of another submission, this time with a thumb to Baszler's eye. Yim mounts a comeback, hitting strikes and a belly-to-belly suplex. Crowd. Is. Dead. Yim tries to wake the arena up with a suicide dive. Yim follows up with a tornado DDT. After eating a knee from Baszler, Yim locks in a tarantula submission on the ropes.
The crowd wakes up briefly for Yim as she manages to hit an avalanche code blue powerbomb. She tries to keep the momentum, but Baszler catches her in a Kirifuda clutch. Yim fights out, stomps on Baszler's elbow and puts her in an armbar. Baszler, aka the Submission Magician, counters back into the Kirifuda clutch and transitions into a triangle choke. Yim taps out.
Rating: 3 stars. Good wrestling here, though Yim could have been crisper. Mostly hurt by zero crowd heat.
Velveteen Dream beats Pete Dunn and Roderick Strong
Velveteen Dream's entrance is always a TakeOver highlight. This time it was more eclectic than usual, mixing a tribute to Canadian wrestler The Mountie with breakdancers representing the NBA Toronto Raptors. Why not? And remember, kids, the Mountie always gets his man.
Roderick Strong kicks off the match by socking Dream, who tumbles to the outside. Dunn starts working on Strong's fingers, as he is known to do, when Dream fires back by clotheslining Strong out of the ring. Strong pulls out Dunn, leaving Strong and Dream in the ring.
Strong, the bad guy, finds himself in between Dream and Dunn. They take turns beating him around and the crowd starts chanting for Velveteen Dream. Strong gets sent to the outside and good guys Dunn and Dream start grappling. Dunn catches Dream with a flying armbar, but Dream fights out.
Strong gets back in the mix, taking both Dunn and Dream to the outside and hitting backbreaker after backbreaker on both. Ranallo calls Strong the Messiah of the Backbreaker. Very accurate. Strong brings Dunn into the ring and works him over.
After a few minutes Dream reinserts himself with a top-rope axehandle onto Strong. Dream gives Strong a backbreaker of his own. Dream, as a homage to Canada's own Hitman, puts Strong in a Sharpshooter. Dunn breaks the submission up with a missile dropkick.
Dunn and Dream take to the outside. Strong hits Dream with a wrecking ball dropkick, and Dunn hits Strong with a moonsault. All three are back in the ring. Dunn german suplexes Dream, and then suplexes Strong onto dream. Two count on Dream.
The three exchange awesome strikes and get an "NXT" chant for it. They then exchange slams for a "this is awesome" chant. The three end up on the top rope. Strong avalanche Olympic Slams Dunn, who pulls Dream down as the trio all crash together. Strong sends out Dream. Dunn snatches a triangle choke on Strong, but Strong counters into a backbreaker. Strong goes for a tiger bomb, but Dunn counters into a triangle choke. Strong pulls Dunn into the corner. Dream hits Dunn with a coast-to-coast elbow drop. Awesome.
Strong ties both men up on the ropes and hits a flurry of elbow strikes. He puts both Dunn and Dream in a Strong Hold boston crab simultaneously. We love Roderick Strong.
After some back and forth, Dunn simultaneously cracks both Strong and Dreams fingers. He scores a Bitter End finish on Strong, but Dream breaks up the pinfall. Strong puts Dunn in a Strong Hold, Dream breaks it up and throws Strong out of the ring. Dream hits Dunn in a Dream Valley Driver, Strong throws Dream out of the ring. Strong nails a suplex-backbreaker on Dunn and goes for a pin.
Dream breaks it up with a top-rope elbow drop and covers Dunn for the 1-2-3.
Rating: 4.5 stars. Fantastic match. All three guys are excellent. Roderick Strong is particularly excellent.
Riddle and Dain
The NXT North American Championship match was in the process of being hyped when Matt Riddle stormed the ring. He wants Killian Dain, who attacked Riddle at a recent episode of NXT. Dain comes out through the crowd and the two brawl. They end up on the stage, where Riddle drops Dain with a Kenny Omega-influenced ripcord knee.
Security then gets involved, and Riddle starts taking them out. Dain smashes Riddle with a cross body and then starts taking out security guards himself. Damn, these guys are just trying to do their job, fellas. Riddle slaps on a sleeper hold, but then Dain grabs him and jumps off the stage, crashing both of them through a table.
Io Shirai vs. Candice LeRae
Io Shirai, newly heel Genius of the Sky, takes on Mrs. Wrestling Candice LeRae in the second match of the night.
This is a personal issue type of match. Best friend betrayed type of thing. So it starts off hot, with LeRae going straight for Shirai before the bell rings. They brawl to the outside. Shirai destroys LeRae with a suplex onto the announcer's table. LeRae almost gets counted out, and we're only about a minute into the match. The announcers are expounding Shirai's newfound villainy and viciousness. And, as if it needs to be said, Maruo Ranallo is such a great announcer.
LeRae tries to fight back with a hurricanrana, but Shirai flips out of it. Shirai spikes LeRae with an Air Raid Crash slam. Shirai continues to pound on LeRae, but misses a missile dropkick which allows LeRae to mount a comeback. LeRae scores a brainbuster, and then puts Shirai in an octopus lock submission. Shirai attempts a 619 but LeRae counters into a neckbreaker.
Shirai manages to hit a successful 619, but LeRae hits back with a tope DDT. A bit sloppy, but still impressive. LeRae nails a double foot stomp from the top rope for a two count. LeRae gets caught in a crossface but counters out, and the two exchange german suplexes. Shirai wins that one, with a beautiful bridged german suplex. Dueling chants now from the crowd, half of whom like Shirai and the other who are into LeRae.
Shirai picks up LeRae fireman's carry style, but LeRae counters with a reverse hurricanrana and follows up with a top-rope neckbreaker. Two count, and the crowd chants "this is awesome." The two end up on the top rope again, but this time it's Shirai with offense: an avalanche spanish fly.
The crowd chants Mama Mia in tribute to Ranallo who, as noted, is great.
Backbreaker in the center by Shirai, who then lands a moonsault. LeRae kicks out, making her the first woman in NXT to do so. Shirai locks LeRae in a new submission, what looks like a reverse triangle choke, and puts LeRae to sleep.
Rating: 3.5 stars. Both women worked very hard, but LeRae was a cut below the awesome Shirai.
Street Profits defeat The Undisputed Era
The show opens with a promo explaining that the story of the night is The Undisputed Era, which consists of Adam Cole, Roderick Strong, Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly, have a chance to all end the night as champions. The first match of the show is the first chapter in that story: Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish challenge for Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford's NXT Tag Team Championships.
O'Reilly, who sadly did not thrill the crowd with any air guitar during his entrance, starts off with Dawkins. Dawkins overpowers O'Reilly at first, but O'Reilly gets an ankle-pick takedown and tags in Fish. Lots of tags in and out from both teams in short order. Ford and O'Reilly end up the legal men for a nice exchange (Ford looks like he's been watching Kota Ibushi matches), but then Ford tags in Dawkins.
Fish takes out Ford on the outside, and the Undisputed Era hit some tandem offense on Dawkins. The Undisputed Era exchange tags, wearing down Dawkins on their side of the ring. Classic tag team rasslin'. Dawkins fights back, and Ford gets the hot tag. Lots of acrobatic offense from Ford, who is a crazy athlete. Ford lands a spinebuster on Fish, and then goes for a People's Elbow but is stopped by O'Reilly. Ford takes out O'Reilly, and then hits Fish with a Rock Bottom. This gets a "Rocky" chant from the crowd.
Fish manages to get a tag, and The Undisputed Era hit gnarly double-team german suplex on Fish. O'Reilly puts Ford on the turnbuckle and slaps on a leg lock. He and Fish briefly double team Ford, but Ford fights back. He can't overcome both though, and ends up being taken to the center of the mat. O'Reilly puts on an Achilles Lock, teasing a finish, but Dawkins manages to break it up.
Ford tags in Dawkins for a second hot tag. Dawkins runs wild on The Undisputed Era, brother, but ends up eating a knee from O'Reilly. O'Reilly puts on a Guillotine headlock on Dawkins, but Ford flies from the top rope to catch O'Reilly with an awesome blockbuster.
Both teams end up exchanging blows in the middle of the ring. Very good stuff here. O'Reilly and Ford end up alone, the legal men. All four men find their way back to the ring. Dawkins spears both O'Reilly and Fish, then Ford hits a huge frogsplash on O'Reilly for the pin fall.
No clean sweep for you, Undisputed Era.
Rating: 3.75 stars.