2019 NXT TakeOver: Toronto results, recap, grades: Cole, Gargano deliver another instant classic

WWE’s invasion of Toronto began Saturday night with NXT TakeOver: Toronto, marking the second time the company’s so-called developmental brand put on its signature show in the Great White North. With a short five-match card — as per usual — fans saw NXT deliver greatness once again with an epic cap to one of the best trilogies in the history of professional wrestling in Adam Cole vs. Johnny Gargano.

CBS Sports was with you the entire way Saturday night updating this story with complete results, grades and analysis from the show. Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast — State of Combat with Brian Campbell — for a full preview of WWE SummerSlam and instant analysis Sunday night recapping the show and NXT TakeOver: Toronto.   

NXT TakeOver: Toronto results, grades

Tag Team Championship — The Street Profits (c) def. Undisputed Era via pinfall to retain the titles: Fueled by a late rally and a spectacular series of high spots from Montez Ford, the Street Profits defended their titles in this high-energy opener. The booking proved somewhat surprising considering Ford and Angelo Dawkins’ new weekly role as backstage provocateurs on Raw. After working from underneath for most of the match, a hot tag to Dawkins welcomed the chaos. Ford hit a top-rope blockbuster on Bobby Fish, which forced Kyle O’Reilly to dive in and break the pin. But after a late tope con hilo from Ford took out both of the heels outside the ring, Dawkins used consecutive spears to floor both of them inside of it. Ford followed with a frog splash on O’Reilly for the 1-2-3. Grade: B

Io Shirai def. Candice LeRae via submission: In nothing short of an instant classic, this non-title women’s match showcased equally the crossover star potential of both competitors. This one not only had the foundation of a great story thanks to Shirai’s surprise heel turn, it was overflowing with intensity, high spots and non-stop drama from shortly after the opening bell when Shirai suplexed LeRae onto the announce table. Despite her relatively short time in NXT, it wouldn’t be hyperbole to call Shirai a frontrunner for best women’s wrestler in the world after this match, especially with the added swagger and viciousness she showed as a heel. But LeRae turned out to be the perfect dance partner in this one to consistently sell so many spectacular moves before rallying back. The spot of the match came when Shirai hit an insane Avalanche Spanish Fly from the top rope but could only get two. A pair of additional dramatic near falls followed until Shirai applied the Koji Clutch head scissors to put LeRae to sleep. Grade: A

Matt Riddle, Killian Dain brawl: Between matches, Riddle charged through the crowd and hit the ring, formally challenging Dain to a match. Within moments, Dain similarly entered through the crowd and began brawling with Riddle. Once again, Dain got the best of Riddle as officials separated them. However, Riddle chased Dainn up the entrance ramp and hit him with a Superman punch, Rain-trigger and V-trigger. With Dain down, Riddle hit a couple WWE officials with knees as they attempted to remove him from the scene. This allowed Dain to gather himself and hit Riddle with a flying crossbody. The two continued to brawl until Dain — with Riddle on his back — jumped off the stage through a pair of tables.

North American Championship — Velveteen Dream (c) def. Pete Dunne (via pinfall) and Roderick Strong to retain the title: Sometimes it’s the tiny details that matter most. This one had all of them in a chaotic yet expertly booked match. Littered with fun sequences and dramatic pinfall saves, all three came tantalizingly close to winning the match multiple times. Strong was the in-ring workhorse in this one, including his applying of a creative double Strong Hold. But Dunne came the closest to breaking through when he hit his Bitter End finisher on Strong late in the match only to have Dream distract the referee before diving in to prevent the count of three from happening in this no-disqualification affair. The finish was creative as Dream hit his Dream Valley Driver on Dunne only to be thrown over the top rope by Strong. Dream would get the last laugh, however, as he jumped back into the ring from the top rope with a Purple Rainmaker to prevent Strong’s pin before scoring his own on Dunne. Grade: A-

Women’s Championship — Shayna Baszler (c) def. Mia Yim via submission: This is how you tell a story. For whatever Yim appeared to lack in terms of star power or legitimacy in comparison to Baszler’s recent title opponents, she more than made up for with guile and dastardly ways. Yim had the champion on the ropes for the majority of this match mostly because her character was determined to play dirtier than the brand’s top female heel. Yim used the ring stairs to work over Baszler’s arm, constantly pulled hair and even gouged an eye. She also came within a second of winning the title after hitting an impressive Avalanche Code Blue from the top rope. Baszler ultimately gutted out the victory by reversing an armbar into her Kirifuda Clutch finisher before transitioning into a triangle choke with her legs to force the tap. Grade: B

NXT Championship —  Adam Cole (c) def. Johnny Gargano 2-1 to retain the title (2-out-of-3 Falls Match): Cole defended his title against Gargano in a 2-of-3 falls match for the second straight meeting. The first fall, chosen by Cole, was a wrestling match. The second fall, chosen by Gargano, was a street fight. The third fall, chosen by general manager William Regal, was an inescapable steel cage lined with barbed wire and filled with weapons.

Fall 1 — Cole (c) def. Gargano via disqualification in a wrestling match: The stipulation produced a lengthy opening fall filled with dramatic near falls. It also produced a surprising ending as Gargano eschewed referee’s warnings by using a chair on Cole to purposely lose the opening fall in order to gain a potential advantage for the remainder of the match. Cole, who sold an injured right knee throughout, nearly had the match won late when he initially grabbed the chair but used the distraction of the referee taking it from him to hit Gargano with a low blow but could only get two. His subsequent argument with the referee set up the finish as Cole turned around and walked into a superkick before Gargano began to beat him down with the chair. Cole leads 1-0

Fall 2 — Gargano def. Cole (c) via submission in a street fight: This street fight stipulation, chosen by Gargano, turned out to be the perfect setting for the spectacular spots it created. Gargano followed up his chair attacks by beating Cole up through the crowd before placing him a chair and pushing him into the arena soundboard. Gargano continued the beating by splashing Cole through the timekeeper’s wall before backdropping him through the announce table. Despite a rally and a near fall from Cole via a Shining Wizard and ushigoroshi onto a chair, Gargano tossed Cole like a lawn dart into a chair that was pinned in the corner. A Gargano Escape attempt followed, which produced a tap out to even the match. Gargano ties Cole 1-1

Fall 3 — Cole (c) def. Gargano via pinfall in a steel cage weapons match: It was announced that only pinfall or submission could decide the match, not escape. After a cage was lowered with a gluttony of weapons attached to the wall for the third fall, nothing short of mayhem was promised. Boy, did it ultimately deliver. Tasked with an almost impossible mission of maintaining the match quality of their first two TakeOver bouts while authoring something new and memorable, Cole and Gargano were willing to sacrifice their bodies to make sure this five-month rivalry enters the pantheon of greatest rivalries of the modern era. The third fall was filled with violence and fireworks, prompting “this is awesome” and “fight forever” chants from the crowd just minutes in. Gargano took advantage of everything from chairs and a sledgehammer to a fire extinguisher, which he used to blind Cole before hitting a tornado DDT from the second rope onto a chair for a dramatic nearfall. Cole landed a pair of insane Panama Sunrises — one from the second rope and a second from atop a ladder — but couldn’t put Gargano away. 

This third fall succeeded in delivering an unforgettable final image to this feud with the finishing sequence as both competitors fought over a piece of barbed wire atop the cage before falling through a pair of tables inside the ring. Cole had enough wherewithal to fling his arm atop Gargano to record the pin to retain his title. Cole was carried out of the cage by his Undisputed Era brethren and finished the night as the lone faction member with a world title, which suggests a call-up isn’t likely. While this trilogy bout likely didn’t top their all-time great first meeting at NXT TakeOver: New York over WrestleMania weekend in April, it came astonishingly close for how varied each fall was and how spectacular the final moments played out. Cole wins 2-1 to retain the title — Grade: A+