Around the Loop: NXT ‘TakeOver’ Toronto Preview

Coming off the heels of my last column, which may have been a little (just a smidge, really) on the negative side of things, it is my pleasure to turn my attention to this weekend’s NXT TakeOver in my old home town of Toronto, Ontario, Canada! Not only am I super excited for this event just on principle, but I will be there on hand and in person to join in what promises to be another stellar night of wrestling from the black and yellow brand.

Candice LeRae vs Io Sharai – Since coming up short in her title match with Shayna Baszler, Io Sharai has undergone a look and attitude change to freshen up her character. Gone are the colourful mask and deer in the headlights smile, replaced with all black and a mean attitude. Facing off with her is Candice LeRae, who looks to have a bright future as a top female babyface for the brand. Both of these ladies can go and the lead-up physicality has been stiff, violent stuff.

NXT needs to shine a new babyface contender for the women’s title, but they also need to keep heat on Io and her new persona. Its a toss-up as far as who goes over. If Candice gets the win, I would expect her to be next in line for a shot at Baszler and the title, providing she gets past Mia Yim later in the night.

North American Championship: Velveteen Dream (C) vs Pete Dunne vs Roderick Strong – While I was already marking out hard just knowing I was going to catch Velveteen Dream live before the main roster gets their hands on him, the addition of the Bruiserweight to this match has me jumping out of my seat before the opening bell.

The speed and transitions that Roderick Strong brings to this match will set a breakneck pace for the other two performers, but I fully expect to see Dream and Dunne rise to the occasion. The blend of Velveteen’s main event moveset and the finger-snapping, strong style grit of Dunne will provide both a compliment and a contrast to Strong that should make for a contest with plenty of snap.

I expect Strong to go over in this one by pinning Dunne, setting up a continuation of their feud dating back to the 2018 Dusty Cup and allowing The Dream to move on to the main event picture without taking an L in the process.

Tag Team Championships: Street Profits (C) vs The Undisputed Era (Fish and O’Reilly) – With the rushed main roster elevation of the Viking/War/Raider-Experience, The Street Profits have done an outstanding job of stepping up to the plate and heading the tag division at a time when it is lacking some of its usual depth. After their sensational win in the four-team ladder match at TakeOver XXV, Dawkins and Ford have held their own in excellent contests with both The Forgotten Sons and the Brit-Am Brawlers, Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch.

Here at TakeOver Toronto, the Profits will have to work their asses off to hang with two of the best in the world in Fish and O’Reilly, a pair of former two-time NXT tag champions.

With The Street Profits being featured regularly in RAW in backstage segments, it seems like only a matter of time before they are brought up full time. I’m looking at UE to regain the belts here and for the Street Profits to move up to RAW to help bring the swag to the main roster tag division.

Women’s Championship: Shanna Baszler (C) vs Mia Yim – The challenge of booking a women’s division around a champion as strong and believable as Baszler is that, at some point, someone has to be elevated to a point where they can beat her. Mia Yim is not that someone. Despite having the rocket strapped to her and being a really strong worker, Yim is not on Baszler’s level.

I expect the Submission Magician to continue her dominance of the NXT women’s division until Ronda Rousey makes her return to the main roster and we get the long-fabled Horsewomen vs Horsewomen match. Losing now would mean she either challenges for a third run with the belt or gets the call-up now and risks suffering the same fate as Asuka and Ember Moon.

NXT Championship (two out of three falls): Adam Cole (C) vs Johnny Gargano – The last time TakeOver came to Toronto, I got to be there to share in the feel-good moment that was DIY defeating The Revival to become NXT Tag Team Champions. Since then, Johnny Gargano has been the centerpiece of the NXT main event scene, delivering classic matches with the brand’s top stars culminating in his WrestleMania weekend win over Cole to win the title. That win led to the rematch, where Cole claimed the belt setting up this rubber match in the 2/3 series.

This match will feature a street fight for one fall, a traditional wrestling match for the second, and a third as yet undetermined stipulation for the third. Based on their previous outings, I expect this match to be the best of the weekend with both guys showcasing just how fantastic they are at what they do.

The challenge facing NXT creative, specifically Shawn Michaels and Triple H, is how much longer can they keep Johnny Wrestling safe from the main roster and a part of the NXT experience? Gargano is one of the best in the world. In a different time, his arrival on the main roster would be something fans of his work, like myself, would be eagerly anticipating. However, at his size, and with Vince McMahon still behind the wheel, imagining Johnny’s main roster fate is a cause of much anxiety. That said, how many TakeOvers can he main event before the NXT fan base turns on him in favour of a fresh act?

As tough as it will be for me to take off my Johnny Wrestling shirt revealing the “Bay-Bay” shirt underneath, I have to predict that Adam Cole retains in this match, leading to a show-closing visual of the entire Undisputed Era fulfilling his prophecy and dripping with gold.

From bell to bell, there is nothing better to me than an NXT TakeOver. Every match means something and the fans eat up every drop. For anyone that has been to a Toronto show before, you know our crowds are loud, fun and have a solid heel bias when it comes to who is getting cheered. I can’t wait to settle into my seat and jump right back out of it as the men and women of NXT deliver the goods yet again.

So, until the nWo survey says “one more for the bad guys,” I’ll see you marks around the loop.

NXT TakeOver Toronto takes place at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto Saturday, August 10. It can be viewed live on the WWE Network. The kick-off show starts at 6:30 PM EST and the main card begins at 7:00 PM EST.

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