In the first NXT TakeOver event to be broadcast live from Canada, the second annual Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic reaches its conclusion, and Shinsuke Nakamura defends his NXT Championship against the man he originally beat for the title: Samoa Joe.
I had a feeling that Bobby Roode’s theme music would kick off this show, as well as be accompanied by a big entrance. I loved the choir being there to sing, and Roode’s entrance at Takeover‘s is now cemented as a must see part of the show. Can’t wait to see this at a Wrestlemania one day, which is exactly where Roode belongs. Graves sold the entrance as the best thing he’d ever seen, which was damn entertaining.
The crowd were hot for this match, even chanting “this is awesome” before either man had made physical contact with each other – possibly a slight exaggeration at that point!
The match started at a quick pace, with Tye Dillinger aggressively taking control. There were lots of quick camera cuts during this sequence, which each hit leading to a different shot. I’m guessing it was done to make the fight seem more cinematic, but it just made me disorientated, if I’m honest.
There was a lot of ringside action, until Roode finally took control, slowed it down, and moved everything back to the ring. Crowd behaved throughout, largely cheering for the babyface Dillinger over villain Roode. Both men had gimmicks that just worked with the crowd, irregardless of them both being Canadian.
I thought Roode had it when he pinned Dillinger and put his own feet on the ropes for leverage, but the referee spotted it and broke the pin. The continued attempt to weaken the super kick saw it get used by Dillinger, but not be enough to put Roode away. Crowd were hot as hell now, and it added to the match, although chants of “fight forever” were a little silly.
A lovely DDT by Roode won him the match. I enjoyed this. It was a good, solid, PPV match, and Roode looked a star throughout. Crowd over exaggerated at times, but they did add to the match.
The Authors of Pain
(Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic – Final)
There was a very impressive dive from high up some scaffolding, with Shane Thorne dropping down onto both members of the Authors of Pain. That’s one for the NXT highlight reel.
The visual of Paul Ellering suspended in a cage above the ring was great throughout, and felt very old school. Despite the cage supposedly preventing him from interfering in the match, Ellering was able to drop a chain down into the ring. The chain ended up being thrown into the crowd, which I’m guessing was unintentional, but probably could have been a nice little money earner for a fan had it hit them clean in the face!
Authors of Pain got the win after hitting The Last Chapter, becoming the winners of the second annual Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. Goldust was out to present the trophy to them, which was a nice chat again, but I wish they could have got Cody Rhodes back for the presentation too.
Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa
The Revival (C)
(2 out of 3 falls for the NXT Tag Team Championships)
All the talk ahead of this match was that it would likely steal the show, given how well both teams performed against each other at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn II. The crowd were really up for it too.
The Revival bagged the first fall. Nothing fancy or complicated in those early stages, just good wrestling. Ciampa evened it up, via pinfall, to make it a tie. Next pin would win it, and the fans were chanting “this is awesome.” They weren’t wrong.
Gargano landed a sweet DDT on Dawson, after jumping over the top rope into the ring, and transitioning it straight into the DDT. This was followed by some good throwbacks to their match from August 2016, with some foul play by the Revival leading to Gargano’s leg being hurt, followed by him being locked into a submission hold. I love throwbacks like that, particularly when you know it isn’t going to finish that way this time, which it didn’t; Gargano reached the rope.
I loved every false finish that followed, with each one genuinely feeling like it could be the end of the match. Dash accidentally super kicking Dawson, and then turning into a double team manoeuvre, really felt like the end, but Dawson broke up the pinfall. Even Graves thought that was going to be it, and I love Graves on commentary so he even made me think it was over. Dash then used the tights to try and get the final fall, but the ref caught him. Fans in attendance were eating this up, and for good reason.
Ciampa and Gargano got the win when they looked both Dash and Dawson in submission holds, forcing both men to tap out at the same time. Perfect way to have your champions surrender their titles, and a great way to start Ciampa and Gargano’s reign. Perfect image to use for the future, when Dash and Dawson were locked in those submission holds.
Time for The Revival to move up to the main roster, I think. They’ve done their job here, and the tag team division is in good hands.
(NXT Women’s Championship)
Mickie looked in great physical condition here, especially given it wasn’t too long ago that she had a baby. Her and Asuka probably competing at similar weights, which must be nice for Mickie after all that “Piggie James” nonsense from the end of her last run with WWE.
Both women had nice back and forth at the start, and we saw Asuka thrown off her game in a way we haven’t really seen previously, especially given her only competitive matches so far have been with Bayley, and she largely controlled those fights. That said, her suplex to Mickie on the outside of the ring was brutal, and Mickie looked like a hit and run victim at ringside. She wasn’t moving.
When she eventually made it back into the ring, she was on the receiving end of some stiff kicks from Asuka. Mickie sold these damn well, and then screamed at Asuka to “Come on!” Without question, Mickie was loving working a proper match in a WWE setting – this kind of thing just didn’t happen back in the final few years of her last run.
The crowd were split, but I’m a Mickie James fan (always have been), so I was rooting for her. The odds of her taking the title from Asuka were obviously very slim, but they certainly made the match more competitive than you’d expect. She started to take control, and when I say ‘take control,’ I mean she had an answer for everything Asuka threw at her and then proceeded to beat the holy hell out of the current champion.
Mickie got some near falls, and a good submission attempt, but the way Asuka has been built up the past year, you just knew she wasn’t going to go down that easily. Out of the blue, she was able to lock Mickie in a submission hold, and the challenger quickly tapped out to give Asuka the win.
Asuka refused to shake Mickie’s hand afterwards, which surprised the crowd, but I’m hoping it’s all part of her slow turn. This match had Asuka on the back foot for most of it, which we haven’t seen in her WWE career thus far, but it was the right way to go. Mickie was built as the veteran here, and being a former WWE Women’s Champion, it added legitimacy to those career honours of Mickie’s (especially given some of those reigns came during less than stellar years for the women’s division).
She might look a little older in the face now, but Mickie James is in great shape, and can still go in the ring. That was a superb match, and one of James’ best in her career. If she’s willing, I’d get her signed up to a deal right away, and get her working with some of the greener women in the company. There’s a case to be made to put her with the NXT women, a lot of whom are new to being on TV, but I personally think she could do a great job on the main roster.
Shinsuke Nakamura (C)
I should confess that I don’t quite understand Nakamura’s mannerisms during his ring entrances. Maybe I’m missing something?
Anyway, the main event started hard and fast, which suited the story they’ve been telling the past few months with these two. Once Samoa Joe was able to weather the storm, he went in hard on Nakamura. Without question, Joe is the best booked big man they’ve had on NXT, even ahead of Kevin Owens.
The crowd chanting “10” to each count the ref made whilst the men were outside the ring was really annoying. This stunt got pulled during NXT Takeover: London, and was a big distraction then and was no different here. There’s just no need for it, and takes your attention away from the action the guys are putting on in the ring.
When Nakamura took control again, it was a proper babyface fightback, and he put Joe down a fair few times. Near falls, but it never felt like he was going to win. In what is becoming an NXT Takeover tradition, Joe got cut the hard way, and was bleeding on his face. No attempt from the referee to clean it up, so lessons were clearly learnt at NXT Takeover: Dallas, when the main event was almost ruined by the attempts to clean up a cut on Joe’s head.
A low blow at ringside, followed by getting driven down onto the steel steps and then a muscle buster inside the ring, led to Nakamura being pinned for the three count, and Samoa Joe getting a win that absolutely no one in the arena expected him to get. He’s also the first man to ever win the NXT Championship twice, which is quite an honour.
Everyone expected Joe to be making his way to RAW or Smackdown Live after this match, so the outcome was a big surprise, which is exactly why it was perfect. People will be talking about that title change for many weeks and months to come.
This match was very strong, and had to follow some really good title matches that were on the show before it. It lived up to the hype, and outdid their match at the last Takeover. No idea where they go from here, as I thought we were going to be headed for a Roode/Nakamura title feud, but I like not knowing – it’s better when things are unpredictable!
Match of the Night:
Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa vs. The Revival
NXT TakeOver: Toronto Final Score: