NXT TakeOver: Toronto card shaping up with Nakamura making first championship defense

Shinsuke Nakamura will make his first NXT championship defense against Samoa Joe at NXT TakeOver: Toronto. @WWENXT

After a short lull period following SummerSlam and TakeOver: Brooklyn II, NXT has returned to form over the past few weeks as the first round in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic continues and the road to Toronto becomes clearer.

Two of the biggest matches for NXT TakeOver: Toronto have already been announced on various WWE social media platforms. The long-teased and anticipated rematch between Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura, as announced by William Regal, is a natural main event for the show, and with their brawl throughout the arena on the most recent episode of NXT, the build to this match should be spectacular.

The NXT women's championship bout was a much harder match to see coming, as few, if any, of the women currently on the NXT roster have been made to seem ready for this kind of match. Just as they brought in Jushin "Thunder" Liger for a one-off appearance at the original TakeOver show in Brooklyn, they're bringing in a ringer to square off with Asuka in Toronto -- one with whom WWE fans should be quite familiar.

Mickie James hasn't been in a WWE ring since April 2010, but she brings with her the kind of résumé and gravitas that no in-house opponent could have provided. The special "one-time only" element should add to the show, and allow some of the up-and-coming women in NXT to have the chance to work a match that moves them further up the ladder as a believable counterpart to the seemingly unstoppable Asuka. James, who was under WWE contract from 2003 through 2010, wrestled in TNA, where she became the first (and only) woman to have held the WWE women's, WWE Divas and TNA Knockouts championships. She had a child with wrestler Nick Aldis (better known as Magnus) in September 2014, and the pair married on Dec. 31, 2015. James started wrestling again on the independents earlier this year and now heads to Toronto to face off with the undefeated NXT women's champion.

The rest of the card is shaping up quite nicely as well.

  • Liv Morgan's conflict with the Australian duo of Billie Kay and Peyton Royce has been well-done so far, but it remains to be seen how this all pays off. It seems likely to become either a multiway match, or a tag team encounter down the line, but there seems to be some genuine heat forming between these three.

  • Following their respective betrayals of their Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic partners, Bobby Roode and Andrade "Cien" Almas both look to be positioned to face off with their former partners in Toronto. Roode and Tye Dillinger's partnership never seemed likely to last, while Almas made a heel turn that finally elicited a proper reaction from the Full Sail crowd when he betrayed Cedric Alexander. Almas went so far as to "soak in" the boos as he fell to his knees at the top of the entrance ramp, and this move should work wonders for the progression of his character.

As for the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, the tournament bracket has been set up for any of a number of different outcomes with a likely final match taking place in Toronto. If The Revival make a deep run, the tag team titles might not be defended, but if they go out before the semifinals there's a very real possibility of a tag title defense on Nov. 19. It seems unlikely that neither The Revival nor DIY (Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa) make it through to the final on their side of the bracket, and if that does play out, a rematch of the show-stealing title match from Brooklyn could easily attempt to do the same thing in Toronto.

DIY, The Revival, Authors of Pain, SAnitY, TM61 and all-star pairings like Kota Ibushi and T.J. Perkins, who replaced the injured Hideo Itami, each have arguments to ultimately hoist the trophy at the end of this tournament.

SAnitY made an impressive debut on this week's episode of NXT, and their entrance music and lighting are another inspired turn by CFO$ and the WWE production crew. The reveal of Eric Young as the leader elicited a big reaction from the crowd, and the gimmick offered instant credibility to Alexander Wolfe and Sawyer Fulton as a tag team. Nikki Cross is a wild card in the group, but her aggression and wrestling ability should serve her well.

Roderick Strong made his debut during this most recent set of NXT tapings. It couldn't come at a better time for Strong and presumptive Dusty Classic tag team partner Austin Aries, who've done great work both as a team and as opponents over the course of their independent careers. Strong's role going forward in NXT is a little harder to pin down, but an announcement of his signing coming from Triple H can't be a bad thing for his prospects.

Here's my projected final card for NXT TakeOver: Toronto:

  • Shinsuke Nakamura versus Samoa Joe (NXT championship)

  • Bobby Roode versus Ty Dillinger

  • Asuka versus Mickie James (Women's NXT championship)

  • Liv Morgan and Ember Moon versus Billie Kay and Peyton Royce

  • Andrade "Cien" Almas versus Cedric Alexander

  • Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Final

  • DIY versus The Revival (Tag team championship)