Courtesy of WWE

Triple H and NXT have built a winning event featuring bothing wrestling and MMA, the latest coming at TakeOver: Toronto. 

By Justin Barrasso
August 11, 2019

NXT delivered another standout show at TakeOver: Toronto, proving once more how the brand has perfected the industry’s modern day pay per view style with the TakeOver series.

Unlike virtually every other promotion, including WWE’s main roster, pay per view cards are designed to highlight the majority of the roster over the course of three-to-four hours. But by infusing elements of pro wrestling with MMA, particularly by incorporating the most successful parts of UFC pay per views, NXT has created a hybrid unlike any other active product in the industry. The TakeOver cards showcase five elite-caliber matches, consistently leaving viewers wanting more, which was again the case on Saturday night in Toronto at the Scotiabank Arena.

Amidst the constant speculation that NXT is going to air a live show on FS1 this fall, Paul “Triple H” Levesque spoke following the show to discuss TakeOver: Toronto.

“I thought the pacing of the show was right tonight,” said Levesque, who oversees NXT and has helped elevate the brand from developmental to WWE’s third brand following Raw and SmackDown. “You want a little bit of everything, and to me, that’s what makes the shows great–the variety.”

Headlined by a best-of-three falls match between NXT champion Adam Cole and challenger Johnny Gargano, the card set the standard for a packed wrestling weekend that also includes WWE’s SummerSlam, New Japan’s G1 Climax, and Ring of Honor’s Summer Supercard show.

The three falls were all wrestled under different constructs, with the first being a prototypical wrestling match, a street fight for the second, and a cage match for the third. Cole won the first fall via disqualification, but Gargano evened the score by taking the second fall by submission. The third and final fall was decided in a barbed wire steel cage adorned with weapons, and came to an end at the 51-minute mark with Cole surreptitiously landing atop Gargano after a brutal fall from the top of the cage onto a table.

PWInsider’s Mike Johnson opened the post-show press conference with a question regarding the implied violence in the main event, which was positioned as a hardcore, end-all match between Cole and Gargano. Johnson asked if the match contrasted a recent statement from WWE CEO Vince McMahon, who said during his July 25 second quarter 2019 earnings call that WWE will not do “blood and guts and things of that nature, such as what is being done on our new potential competitor.”

“There was nothing in that cage that you haven’t been seeing in WWE consistently,” said Levesque amidst an exchange where he and Johnson both articulated their contrasting views. “There was nothing in there that you had not seen.”

The card opened with the Street Profits successfully defending their tag team titles against the Undisputed Era’s Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly. Comprised of Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins, who started teaming together in 2016, the Street Profits proved that they can outshine two talented veterans in a marquee match-up.

“What is the limit to the Street Profits?” asked Levesque. “There isn’t one. That’s the reason you see them on Raw every week—they’re so entertaining. They’re still the NXT champions, they’ll still be in NXT, but when you’re that entertaining, you get different opportunities.”

Velveteen Dream also defended his North American championship on Canadian soil, delighting old-school fans by paying homage to The Mountie during his entrance and through his ring attire.

Unlike The Mountie, whose claim to fame at SummerSlam was a loss to the Big Boss Man in a “Jailhouse” match in 1991, Dream was successful in a triple threat match against Pete Dunne and Roderick Strong.

The show also featured two women’s matches, with new-look villain Io Shirai brutalizing Candice LaRae in her victory, while NXT women’s champion Shayna Baszler continued her reign of dominance with a submission over Mia Yim.

“The women’s division is on an interesting wave,” said Levesque. “Io Shirai had a breakthrough performance tonight, but I think Candice did, as well. Mia Yim’s a factor. When you look at what’s coming behind them Dakota Kai, Tegan Nox, Rhea Ripley, Toni Storm in the UK, Chelsea Green, Deonna Purrazzo, you have all these women chomping for an opportunity.

“There are a lot of women with a lot of talent, and it’s an exciting time with a lot of opportunities for these women to shine.”

Amidst a still-developing future with nonstop speculation that NXT will potentially air its weekly program on FS1 as soon as this fall, NXT made its case as to why it is the top brand in pro wrestling–and did so in a convincing manner.

“There is a lot of talk, a lot of speculation, a lot of things being put out there,” said Levesque. “We’re just weighing through everything and seeing where stuff’s going to go. Right now, NXT is on Wednesdays on the Network, and we’ll see from there.

“It’s become the third global brand, and there’s a desire to see it. There are a lot of opportunities and choices where we can go, and we’ll see where’s the best.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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