This Saturday night on WWE Network, WWE’s “third brand” known as NXT presents NXT Takeover Toronto. It’s a show that features rematches of great bouts from the last Takeover event in August, some newcomers stepping up, a battle of two Canadians and the WWE return of one of the company’s greatest Women’s Champions ever after six years away.
I like the NXT brand a lot because it is about the simple things in wrestling. An example of that is they spend a lot of time giving their performers elaborate entrances that are a part of the show. Think back to NXT Takeover Brooklyn when Shinsuke Nakamura entered the arena with a violin player and it took about five minutes to get into the ring. Bobby Roode’s “Glorious” gimmick has become the most popular entrance in NXT and he’s supposed to be a heel, but it’s so hard to boo that guy’s song.
It’s been three months since the last Takeover show, giving the rivalries on this show a lot of time to build. That makes it different from Raw and Smackdown, which often feature rushed storylines so that WWE has enough matches to fill out their PPVs. Think of Rusev vs. Roman Reigns as an example. We saw them wrestle at least five times in the last three months. Joe vs. Nakamura have had one televised match in the same time and that was at the last Takeover.
If you read my Raw review column regularly here on The Comeback, you know that one of my biggest complaints is how often they book champions to lose in non-title matches. Do you know how many non-title losses NXT Champion Shinsuke Nakamura and NXT Women’s Champion Asuka have? The answer is zero.
When people talk about the champions on this show, they put those wrestlers on a pedestal because they are presented as megastars who are going to be tough to beat. When they lose, whether it’s at this show or somewhere else, it’s going to be treated as a big deal because both Nakamura and Asuka have never lost in NXT. I also think it’s cool that NXT is a truly global brand by having two Japanese champions at the same time.
As for the tag team division, there are two huge tag matches on this show with something on the line in each match. The tag title match has been built up so well, as the challengers get a rematch at the gold they almost won the last time they had a title shot. There’s also the second-ever Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic finals, which has been an interesting journey with two fresh teams matching up.
My excitement level is especially high for this show because I live about two hours away from Toronto, so I’m going to this show as well as Survivor Series. Raw is in Toronto too, but I’m probably going to skip it and go home by that point because I doubt Raw will touch those two other shows in terms of quality.
As is the case with any NXT show, there are always questions about when a talent might be called up to join Raw or Smackdown in the near-future. In previewing all the matches, I’ll try to shed some light on that as best I can. The main roster call ups tend to be pretty random, so it’s just a case of offering up an educated guess.
Here’s a look at the five announced matches for NXT Takeover Toronto.
NXT Championship: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Samoa Joe
This is a rematch from NXT Takeover Brooklyn in August when Nakamura took the title from Joe. I liked that match a lot and I think they can top it because they’ve worked together a lot in live events in the last three months. Their chemistry should be strong.
In terms of a storyline, it’s been basic with Joe wanting to get his title back. They have had several brawling encounters with Nakamura even doing a stretcher job at one point to put over the violence that Joe can unleash on an opponent. I would have liked to see them add a stipulation to the match such as Last Man Standing or just make it a Street Fight, so they can do creative stuff instead of just having another regular match. In NXT, they don’t do stipulation matches as often as they do on the main roster.
Nakamura should win the match, which will likely receive 15-20 minutes. It’s going to be very physical since both guys are at their best working the “strong style” that Nakamura helped make famous in Japan. The match will likely see Joe working on the leg of Nakamura for much of it to weaken the kicks and knee strikes that Nakamura does all the time. Look for Nakamura to come back and finish him off with his Kinshasa knee strike.
As for what happens to them after the match, I think Nakamura moves on to a new challenge (more on that later) while Joe could debut on Raw or Smackdown as soon as next week. Either show could use a 16-year veteran who has wrestled all over the world. He’s been effective as a face and heel in his career as well. I’d put him on Raw. Bring Joe up to Raw on the day after Survivor Series to start a rivalry with Roman Reigns or Seth Rollins. Maybe he can be an ally of Kevin Owens. Just do something with him to make him stand out right away.
I think Nakamura’s main roster debut should be at the Royal Rumble. Start him on Smackdown two days after that and he should help the star power on that show. Putting them on opposite shows makes the most sense to me.
Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura wins
NXT Women’s Championship: Asuka vs. Mickie James
This match has a unique feel to it because it was set up when NXT General Manager told Asuka she has found a great opponent for her. That led to a Mickie James promo that appeared on the screen during a NXT event, with Asuka smiling at the possibility of working against the former five-time Women’s Champion and one-time Divas Champion Mickie James. Asuka has held the Women’s Title since April 1 at NXT Takeover Dallas, but it could be argued that this is her biggest test.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve been a friend of Mickie James for about seven years now. I help to run her website, help with her social media and had her on my podcast that was just released this week talking at length about her WWE return. Needless to say, she’s very excited and I think the crowd in Toronto is going to love them. It won’t just be me chanting “welcome back” to her. She deserves to be there and the fans know it. I hope that she can get a full-time WWE contract again and be a regular on Raw or Smackdown because there are a lot of fresh matchups for her. She also brings credibility and depth to the table, which is sorely needed.
I’m a huge fan of Asuka because she’s a badass who has won over the fans with her incredible kicks and submission moves. She doesn’t talk much, but once that bell rings, she commands your attention because of the aura she has in the ring. I could see her working more of a heel style in the match, due to the crowd likely wanting to cheer James a lot. That would probably make it a better match if it’s more of a face-heel dynamic.
The match will probably be a win for Asuka although I expect James to get a standing ovation after it’s over. I feel as though the long-term plan will be to put the Women’s Title on Ember Moon. I think it will be at the NXT Takeover event in Orlando prior to WrestleMania 33 next year. It could be at the NXT event before the Royal Rumble, but the WrestleMania show seems more likely. The one thing I do know is that when somebody does beat Asuka, it will be a huge moment because of how strong she has been built up.
Women’s wrestling is as strong as ever in WWE these days. Look for Asuka and Mickie to raise the bar even higher with an incredible match on Saturday night.
Prediction: Asuka retains the NXT Women’s Title
NXT Tag Team Championships 2/3 Falls Match: The Revival (Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder) vs. #DIY (Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa)
I think this might be the match of the night. I know that’s a tough prediction to make, considering the other matches on the card, But if you look at what they did at NXT Takeover Brooklyn, then you should go into this match with high expectations like I am.
That match was a classic, old school wrestling tag team match. The heel champions The Revival, a favorite of WWE Hall of Famer Steve Austin among others, cheat at every opportunity and work so well together as a team. They worked over the leg of Johnny Gargano for much of that match. It looked like the face team of #DIY would make the comeback to win the titles, but they fell short. The feud continued over the last three months and now they get one more match with the two out of three falls stipulation in place.
A title change is likely because Gargano and Ciampa have won the crowd over after starting as a team in NXT over a year ago. They put on great matches all the time, they wrestle an exciting style and I think they deserve to have a big moment. When these teams wrestle, they always seem to come up with the most exciting near-falls. Look for plenty of those, but in the end, I think the challengers walk away with the titles.
I think both teams will stay in NXT for the foreseeable future. Both teams are easily skilled enough to be on the main roster, but I worry if they would be used right. Look at how former NXT Tag Team Champions like The Ascension and Vaudevillains barely have a role on Smackdown right now. Keeping them both in NXT until WrestleMania season at least seems like the right move.
Prediction: Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa win NXT Tag Team Titles
Tye Dillinger vs. Bobby Roode
Oh, Canada. That’s what I think of when it comes to this match. They’re two Canadian boys who grew up in areas just outside of Toronto (Roode in Peterborough, Dillinger in Niagara Falls) and both are going to be loved by what will be a hometown crowd for them.
To give you an idea of how much we Canadians love our local guys, you should know that when I saw Roode wrestle Eric Young at a House of Hardcore show in Niagara Falls in May, the match stopped so we could sing “Oh, Canada” during the match. That was with about 1,000 fans at a local indy show. It wouldn’t shock me if that sort of thing happens on Saturday night with 18,000 fans start singing the anthem when these guys face off.
The backstory is that they teamed up in the Dusty tag team classic, Roode turned on Dillinger and now we have a match. Even though Roode’s the heel, his “Glorious” theme song and entrance will lead to the fans cheering him heavily, so I doubt he’s going to come across as a heel during the match.
Dillinger is a guy who could use a win because he’s been in NXT for a few years. The “Perfect 10” gimmick he has could take off if he won more often. If he won this match, it would be the biggest win of his career, which goes back over a decade to when WWE first signed. He was released and brought back a few years ago. Dillinger’s main roster-ready now in terms of his skills, that’s for sure.
I think Roode’s going to win because he will likely be the next challenger for Nakamura’s NXT Title. I even think he’ll be the guy to beat Nakamura for that title. Roode will be 40 years old next year, but he’s still fresh in WWE and somebody that can carry the title for a while. He’ll need to win this match to get to that next level. Dillinger’s stock will still rise just for being in a competitive match with somebody like Roode.
Prediction: Bobby Roode wins
Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Finals: TM-61 (Nick Miller and Shane Thorne) vs. The Authors of Pain (Rezar and Akam) with Paul Ellering suspended above the ring in a cage
This is a match that features more of the “new” talent that’s been brought to NXT this year. TM-61 is an Australian tag team that worked together for about six years before going to WWE. Authors of Pain are less experienced performers that were hired because of they look the part of pro wrestlers, so they’ve been booked as a dominant team. They’re the heels in the match with manager Paul Ellering suspended in a cage above the ring to prevent interference.
I’m going with the Authors of Pain to win since they are an undefeated team that has dominated everybody they’ve been in the ring with. With Gargano & Ciampa winning the Tag Titles in my prediction earlier, it would make sense to put them in a feud since the Authors of Pain beat them in the semifinals of this tournament.
Both teams have bright futures. They will both be Tag Team Champions at some point with the Authors of Pain winning those title early next year. This will be a good showcase for both teams.
Prediction: The Authors of Pain win the Dusty Rhodes Classic Tag Team Tournament
This will be a great show if you love the in-ring performance aspect of pro wrestling. Often times, these NXT shows don’t run major angles or do things to advance storylines that match. It’s usually just about putting on matches that the fans love. It’s more for the hardcore wrestling fan that is more likely to watch every Raw, Smackdown and NXT show every week. For the fans that only watch Raw and/or Smackdown, maybe it won’t appeal to them as much.
There could be more matches added to the show. The last NXT Takeover show in Brooklyn had six matches, so they could add something to the show like a win for Ember Moon just like they had in Brooklyn. If Austin Aries and Hideo Itami weren’t injured, they would probably be in a match at this show.
NXT Takeover Toronto takes place this Saturday night on WWE Network with a 8 p.m. ET start time. It takes place one night before Survivor Series, which I’ll preview later in the week. I’ll be back tomorrow with a look at this week’s Raw.