NXT TakeOver: Toronto
November 19, 2016
About five minutes after we parked our car and began walking over to the Air Canada Centre for NXT TakeOver Toronto, I came face to face with Dean Ambrose.
Totally serious, by the way. We were getting ready to cross the street and I was looking at some bearded guy, wearing a black wool hat who kept spitting on the ground. About 10 seconds later, it registered in my brain that it was Ambrose!
I quickly turned on the camera function on my phone and, as we crossed the street, I called over to The Lunatic Fringe to see if he'd take a quick picture with Canadian Bulldog Jr. and I. But as I called "Dean! Dean! DEAN!", he kept walking over to a nearby parking lot, presumably to get his car. Had it only registered thirty seconds earlier, I would have actually met The Lunatic Fringe!
Now.... Bulldog Jr. isn't a huge wrestling fan. The pre-show matches (Rich Swann vs. Kona Reeves, No Way Jose vs. Eric Young and the six-woman tag team match) didn't do much to change that, but both of us were taken by the... well, Glorious entrance of Bobby Roode. The choir, the robe and Roode's hometown crowd made this entrance something very special.
In fact.... it can be argued that the opening (broadcast) match of Tye Dillinger vs. Bobby Roode was the best match on the show. Some may disagree with that, but both Ontario-based wrestlers were incredibly over with the crowd, with the Toronto fans alternately singing the Glorious song, and chanting "10!" - something that continued on throughout the night.
TM-61 vs. The Authors Of Pain was an okay match, including some sick spots from the winch that raised Ellering's shark cage, but it definitely didn't feel like the finals of a big tournament. The biggest pop here was when Goldust, Triple H and William Regal awarded The Authors Of Pain with the Dusty Rhodes trophy.
Although it started off slowly, DIY vs. The Revival told a fantastic story, and was well served by the two out of three falls format. Both Tomasso Ciampa and Johnny Garano have this innate ability to play with fans' emotions, which isn't something you see all the time these days. A huge reaction when DIY won the gold, including several in my section who were actually wearing DIY shirts.
While Mickie James had a tremendous reaction as a returning competitor, nothing compared to the reaction Asuka got. The match was full of great psychology, including the two competitors mockingly hold the ropes for each other. When Asuka won and refused to shake Mickie James' hand, that also got a great pop from the crowd. This was probably as close to Bizarroland as Toronto got on this particular evening.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Samoa Joe was everything people hoped it would be and more. Nakamura's entrance was spectacular, with multiple violinists playing him to the ring, and Joe came across as the ultimate bad ass.
The match was incredibly hard-hitting and I think many of us were shocked to see Samoa Joe over. Both of these guys should be on the main roster yesterday.
Overall, this show was just tremendous fun. The five-match format for the main show (and a few dark matches beforehand) made it easily digestable, and everyone had enough time to tell their stories properly. Four of the five matches were definitely worth seeing, and the fifth TM-61 vs. The Authors Of Pain) had its moments.
The NXT brand has really come into its own in just a few short years, and the Toronto crowd was super into the product. The arena certainly wasn't as full as it will be for Survivor Series tomorrow night (a portion of the arena was sectioned or tarped off), but there was a very good, very vocal crowd on hand.
Huge thumbs up from where I sit... even if I didn't get to meet Dean Ambrose in person.