Retro Recap: NXT TakeOver: Toronto (2016) – Review

As I write this we are just a few days away from NXT’s return to Toronto for the 2nd TakeOver show to come from the Air Canada Centre (now known as the Scotiobank Arena). But just as the name of the venue is different a lot has changed for the Black and Gold “developmental” brand of the WWE. So what better a time than now to look back at just what happened on the evening of 19th November 2016. It was of course the weekend of Survivor Series. Given that was a show headlines by Goldberg’s return match to the WWE against Brock Lesnar, combined with this NXT show, it ended up being one of the most memorable weekend’s in company history. It also was a weekend where I attended my first “indie” wrestling show with my good friend (and NXT confidant) Stefan. We got to see some random guys such as Adam Cole, Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly, a man now known as Dominik Dijakovic amongst many others… Wonder what ever happened to those guys. Anyway, I’m beyond excited to watch back and review this show. At the time watching I remember coming away thinking it was a great show, something that has become a beautiful constant for NXT TakeOver cards. Back at this time we were just settling in to the 5 match format of these shows that is still used to great effect, and just like TakeOver’s in 2019 this show’s card was STACKED!!! We had all Canadian match between Tye Dillinger (at the time of peak “10” chants era) against the GLORIOUS Bobby Roode, The finals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic that saw a very green Authors of Pain take on TM-61, Asuka defending the NXT Women’s Championship against a returning Mickie James, The Revival defending the NXT Tag titles in a 2 out of 3 falls match against a tag team called D.I.Y made up of Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa in a match that was… well I’ll get on to that later. And in our main event we had NXT Champion Shinsuke Nakamura defending his title against former champion Samoa Joe. So lets just hope this show was as good as I remember then!

The show started with a video that put over the wrestling history of Toronto before leading in to the card for this show. As always it was a great package. There were 12,649 fans reportedly in attendance for the show. And your commentators are the team of Tom Phillips and Corey Graves (who were excellent on this show, as they both were throughout their NXT runs), Mike Rome was the ring announcer.

Bobby Roode defeated Tye Dillinger 

If there was one way and one match you could put together in front of this crowd, in Toronto CANADA… then this was the match up to do it… The GLORIOUS Bobby Roode had a gospel choir sing him out, as he made a grand entrance typical of his time in NXT. Despite being the heel Roode was cheered as if he were the top babyface, which given he is billed from Toronto was hardly a shock but not something that was unusual even outside of Canada, given just how popular his character was at the time. The Niagara Falls-billed Tye Dillinger was given an unsurprisingly great ovation also. To put it into context how hot the ‘Perfect 10’ gimmick was at the time we were a little over 2 months away from Dillinger’s entry into the Royal Rumble match in the number 10 spot. If you made a tally of the amount of “10” chants during this match and all show and even into the next night at Survivor Series you’d lose count fairly quickly I’m sure. This match was set up after Dillinger had convinced Roode to be his partner in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournament, but Roode later abandoned and turned his back on him during their match when the going got tough. The match itself was very,very solid. They didn’t do much that was too complicated but what they did do was entertaining to watch, and given the crowd’s investment in both guys it made everything seem more of a bigger deal. There were ‘This is Glorious – Perfect 10′ chants at different points during the match, it went fairly 50/50 throughout but again the wrestling itself was good stuff. The best parts of the match for me were when Rood tried to mock Dillinger by hitting his Tye Breaker finishing move, and also the crowd going wild when Dillinger got in a Sharpshooter (which is seemingly the national wrestling move of Canada), only for the heel Roode to disappoint the crowd by getting to the ropes. Eventually Roode got the win with the Glorious DDT. It could be argued that in terms of a year long run in NXT Roode’s was the best booked one there has been. This guy was a MEGAstar in NXT and would win the NXT Title at the very next TakeOver show. Dillinger got a standing ovation and lots more ’10’ chants after Roode had left. A really strong good old fashioned ‘rasslin match to kick off the show.

***3/4 

Authors of Pain (Akam & Rezar) with Paul Ellering defeated TM-61 (Nick Miller & Shane Thorne) to win the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Final 

Oh Boy… The video played before this looking back at the tournament and it being dedicated to Dusty was really great… but as a match.. this was not so good. The Authors of Pain were still really green, they were a few months away from that series of matches involving them, The Revival and DIY that did so much for Akam and Rezar in-ring wise. TM-61 were a fine babyface act at the time, but they happened to be around and at their peak at a time when DIY were around so they didn’t stand a chance really. AOP were still undefeated at this point, but as a result of his constant interfering in matches it was decided by NXT GM William Regal that their manager Paul Ellering would have to be placed in a shark-cage above the ring for the duration of the match (something wrestling historians will know isn’t too unfamiliar for Ellering to have to do). Now I will say there was one really cool spot in this match, Shane Thorne had climbed the side of the structure that had been placed to hold the shark-cage above the ring, and of course when their is a structure around a pro-wrestling ring, somebody has to jump off it right? He did, and the crowd chanted ‘holy shit’ and loved it so credit to them for that. This was basically every big bad guys vs smaller little guys match you’ve seen, it was just… there,  for me. The finish would come when Ellering managed to drop a chain from his cage to the ring below, and it led to AOP hitting their Last Chapter double team finisher for the win. Triple H, William Regal and Dustin Rhodes (Goldust) came out to present the trophy to the AOP after the match, and for me seeing Dustin and Triple H raise the arms of two fairly new guys like Akam and Rezar was a great rub for them. AOP were green yes, but over the next few months they’d get to a great level with the help of some pretty incredibly talented in-ring dance partners. TM-61… not so much.

**1/2 

DIY (Johnny Gargano & Tomasso Ciampa) defeated The Revival (Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson) (C) in a 2 out of 3 Falls Match to become the new NXT Tag Team Champions 

This was a bit better than the previous tag team match put it that way. The story told tremendously well in the pre-match video and in the match itself was that DIY had come up from the very bottom and were now in the promise land, but just kept on falling at the final hurdle. The Revival were the asshole bad-guys that stood in the way of the valiant babyfaces. At the time it was widely agreed that Dash and Dawson were among the very best tag teams in the world, and their opponents were probably only behind Nakamura as the top babyface act in NXT of that period. The story of the early part of the match were both of The Revival targeting and isolating the smaller Gargano from getting a tag to Ciampa. The champions went 1-0 up as Gargano fell victim to a Shatter Machine. There was a tremendous move where Dash and Dawson were double-teaming Gargano, but Johnny Wrestling turned it around with an enziguri/DDT move that took both his opponents down. The crowd were loudly chanting “Johnny Wrestling – Psycho Killer (Ciampa’s nickname on the indies)”. They kept teasing the idea of a hot-tag to Ciampa and at one stage they made it, but the ref was distracted so didn’t see it. The Revival took advantage again by hitting (of all the moves, considering they are in Canada) ‘The Hart Attack’ that got a 2 count. Eventually Gargano tagged in Tomasso Ciampa and the crowd went absolutely wild. It was at this moment I realized just how tremendous a sympathetic babyface Johnny Gargano was and is, and Ciampa when he came in went ape-shit and ran wild on both Dash and Dawson and the crowd loved it. This is tag team wrestling booking 101, but done so simply yet so effectively. Ciampa hit a huge knee strike that got a 2 count and then 3 German suplexes not long after. Eventually DIY hit their superkick – Knee strike double team move on Scott Dawson to tie the match up at 1-1. By this stage the crowd were desperately wanting DIY to win and went wild again for Ciampa breaking up a nearfall. The crowd went equally wild for a small package by Gargano that got a 2 count, then we had an excellent sequence after that. Dash Wilder grabs the title belt, Tomasso Ciampa takes them from him, the ref has his back turned and now Scott Dawson has the belt, Gargano goes for a kick but Dawson uses the belt as a shield so Gargano kicks the belt which hurts him a lot, and then Dawson (who was busted open by this stage it looked like) he then threw the belt away as if nothing had happened. This once again was simple stuff done really well and it worked greatly. Gargano was then locked in by an Inverted Figure 4 leg lock as the crowd desperately and loudly chanted ‘NO’ for him not to tap, and were equally happy when he got to the ropes to break the hold. The rampant crowd chanted “JOHNNY WRESTLING” to encourage their hero, as The Revival (who are just THE best asshole heels) set up with the classic DIY pose ahead of doing their own superkick – knee strike combo move. However Wilder accidentally hit the superkick to Dawson, and to turn the tables DIY hit The Revival’s finisher the Shatter Machine, which again the crowd went wild for. Dawson jumped in to break up the pin after. With Ciampa and Dawson elsewhere, back in the ring Scott Dawson pretended to be down, but he surprised Gargano and rolled him for a pin, but he was holding the tights and the ref caught him and stopped the count which the crowd loved. Out of nowhere Dash Wilder came in and hit an incredible CHOP BLOCK (Yes this CHOP BLOCK was incredible) to Gargano which if you told me completely wrecked both his knees I’d have believed you. Both teams exchanged nearfalls until we got to the conclusion of the match, which was something else. Gargano was able to lock in the Gargano Escape on Dash Wilder, but as Scott Dawson went to make the save suddenly Tomasso Ciampa came in and put Dawson in an Armbar, so both of The Revival were in submission holds as the crowd lost their mind. Each of The Revival were pleading with one another not to tap out, but eventually they both did. The Toronto crowd exploded in delight. DIY had done it, and they celebrated with their newly won titles with the fans after the match.

The best professional wrestling match I have ever seen was a 2 out of 3 Falls Match. One of the two best WWE matches I’ve seen this year was a 2 out of 3 Falls Match. I’ve also seen last year a pretty incredible tag team match from New Japan. This match though… was everything I remembered it being. For a whole number of reasons this was one of the better tag team matches I have seen in WWE and NXT history. The standard of tag team matches in NXT has always been pretty high, but this was up their with the very best of them. The final fall in particular was unbelievably good. A BRILLIANT match.

*****

Jim Ross was pictured sat in the crowd ringside. Which in 2019 is… funny.

Asuka (C) defeated Mickie James to retain the NXT Women’s Championship 

This was right in the middle of Asuka’s dominant run as NXT Women’s Champion. I wont go on too much about it as I just talked a lot about this match in my blog covering Asuka’s time in NXT. I will note that Mickie was very popular with the crowd, and when Asuka came out she was even more over and the front row of the fans all were wearing Asuka masks when she came out which gave us a really cool visual. They had a tough job following the previous match but they did as good as anybody could have in this spot. It was really solid in-ring wise and towards the end got really good. Asuka acted more of a heel, and James played tough babyface as she stood up to Asuka’s kicks and strikes. Mickie James even got in a Muta lock that left Asuka screaming in agony before getting to the ropes. James got a 2 count after a flying press off the top rope and then hit the Mick Kick, only for Asuka to get her foot on the ropes to again stop her from losing. Eventually Asuka got the Asuka Lock in and after James did her best to get out of it she was left with no choice but to tap out. This was a decent match between two good professional wrestlers and without being spectacular it was somewhat similar to the opener of the show. Asuka rejected James’ offer of a handshake and a show of respect after the match. 

***3/4

They showed a split screen of the two men in the main event walking backstage. Both of them seemed very, very popular with the live crowd.

They showed an advert for the WWE 2K17 game, that then went into the slogan of ‘Fantasy Warfare just got real’ for the Survivor Series show the next night. The advert for the game and the show centered around the match between Brock Lesnar and the returning Goldberg. The match ended up being… memorable shall we say…

WWE Hall of Famer Pat Patterson was shown at ringside. Very popular man of course.

Samoa Joe defeated Shinsuke Nakamura (C) to become the new NXT Champion 

The story explained very well in the pre match video was that Joe respectfully asked Shinsuke for a rematch after Nakamura won the title in Brooklyn, and he agreed, before Joe came back out and attacked him from behind before slamming him on steel steps. This led to Nakamura being carried out on a stretcher. Joe went on a warpath through the NXT roster after that with his message of  ‘BRING ME NAKAMURA, OR HAND ME MY CHAMPIONSHIP’. This was until Shinsuke returned and laid Joe out before the rematch here. When Joe came out he got the “Joe, Joe, Joe” chants but mixed with some boos. They utilized a spotlight on Joe as he came to the ring and the closing shot of his entrance was a close up shot of his scary AF  face, it made him come across as an absolute bad-ass monster. Nakamura came out to a HUGE pop (the biggest of the show), he was played out by a group of violinists as the crowd sang along to the tune of his entrance music. If you didn’t know it before this entrance it made you know right away that Shinsuke Nakamura was a MEGAstar! The match itself got off to a very physical start and it didn’t let up for the entire match. The crowd seemed to be fairly split at one point, down to admiration of how good Joe was I think. Joe began to gain control in a big way as he just battered Nakamura and this seemed to kill the live crowd a little. Shinsuke though got  back into it with a series of kicks and knees, but despite that Joe went for his Muscle Buster finisher only for Nakamura to roll out of it and hit a Kinshasa… but Joe kicked out at 2! Joe then got a Coquina Clutch locked in, as the crowd chanted along the theme of Nakamura’s theme song to try and encourage him, and Joe eventually got a 3 suplexes in a row in all of different types (a german, a dragon and then another) which got him a 2 count. Later on Nakamura kneed Joe in the head to send him to the outside, and then outside the ring Nakamura ran back and set up for another Kinshasa but Joe got out the way and whilst the ref’s back was turned Joe punted Nakamura down low (I’m not giving this sequence enough justice in how I’m explaining it, but Joe was a super clever heel here). Joe then dragged Nakamura and hit him with a big Uranage onto the steel steps (the same move that had injured Nakamura some months back). Joe then got him back in the ring, hit the Muscle Buster and GOT THE WIN! In a HUGE shock Samoa Joe had regained the NXT Championship! The reaction of the crowd was one of near stunned silence, they did the Joe chants but aside from that it seemed nobody could believe that Nakamura had lost the title back to Joe in his first proper defense. The show closed with shots of Joe (who was busted open near his eye at this stage) looking like a madman with blood on his face, a scary gnarling look and the NXT Championship in his possession. A shocking conclusion to close the show, the top babyface had lost. It ended up forming part of a series of title matches the two would have in the weeks that followed. But this was a shocking result to say the least.

****1/2 

What’s funny is I feel now the show is done, exactly how I remember feeling when I watched it at the time. A great show of course, the tag team title match was out of this world, Mickie James has well and truly still got it, but I can’t believe Nakamura lost. But in that sense I’m a good kind of sad, it’s not that Joe isn’t believable, it’s more Nakamura is such a good babyface and it seemed with Finn Balor gone from NXT at this stage that Shinsuke would be the man to carry the brand going forward. But the bad bad Joe beat him. All our hopes had been dashed, but it’s how the story ends that matters, and as we’d find out in the weeks that followed this was only the middle of the Joe vs Nakamura feud. I really, really enjoyed this show and even the one match I didn’t like too much was fine for what it was and my expectations of it. As NXT has specialized in more and more in the years since, fans don’t mind if the bad guys win or you give them a shock result as long as you tell it well. And the story Joe and Nakamura told in that main event was excellent. In 2019 its hard for heels to get booed because people think they are cool, but here nobody was cheering Joe when he beat up their hero. And that you put down to Joe and Nakamura’s brilliance and Triple H’s excellent booking. 5 matches on a show that went around 2 1/2 hours, every match had a solid story and build going in and as a result the crowd were invested in each one (sounds like every NXT show right?). A GREAT NXT TakeOver, to the shock of nobody by now.

Josh.  

 

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