TORONTO -- The first time Samoa Joe won the NXT championship, it came in surprising fashion, as he defeated Finn Balor during an NXT Live Event in Lowell, Massachusetts, in April. His historic second title was just as shocking.
Joe ended Shinsuke Nakamura's unbeaten streak within WWE on Saturday and threw NXT's future for a loop when he regained the title by pinfall at 20 minutes, 12 seconds, in the main event of NXT Takeover:Toronto at the Air Canada Centre.
The ring entrances provided everything you would need to know about how differently the two superstars go about their business. Joe swaggered to the ring with all the confidence in the world; then he watched on as Nakamura employed 10 different violinists to play his theme song.
Once the introductions were made and the title was held to the sky, their similarities became quite clear, as well. Each men swung their fists and forearms with reckless abandon and accurately conveyed how much their characters despise each other within the storyline.
The action spilled out into the crowd, with Joe taking the brunt of it. There was little space for either man to catch a breath in the early going, as every ounce of energy Joe and Nakamura had was poured into laying their opponent to waste. Joe grabbed his first significant edge for a few moments during this sequence, which included a step-up Enziguri kick in one corner and an STO in another.
Samoa Joe worked the knee for some time and continued to wear down Nakamura's base (and primary weapon -- the Kinshasa) with a kneebar. It took Nakamura several minutes to escape, and all that rolling out of the ring earned him was a tope suicida to the face, as Joe dove through the middle rope to the outside.
Joe recorded the first near-fall of the match, but as has been the case throughout his WWE run, damage only seemed to inspire Nakamura. With a few knees and a corner strike, Nakamura regained control, albeit briefly, because Joe seemed to have an answer for every sequence. He countered with a powerbomb, which led directly into a modified Boston Crab and then an STO.
Neither man yielded an inch for most of the match, and it felt right for all these two men have put each other through in the buildup. Both of their finishing moves failed to connect, and even when Nakamura finally hit his Kinshasa, it only drew a two-count. Joe couldn't quite convert a sleeper hold into a Coquina Clutch choke.
A cross-armed German suplex combo gave Joe another near-fall, but as soon as he got up from that sequence, Joe was clearly bleeding from the side of his nose. Nakamura seemingly all but knocked Joe out with a knee to the back of the head, which also sent him tumbling out of the ring. But it would be that ringside area that would ultimately be Nakamura's undoing.
Joe eventually hit a low blow while the referee's back was turned, followed by an STO onto the steel steps and a Muscle Buster in the ring to earn the pinfall, silencing the Toronto crowd.
Nakamura's first loss changes things dramatically at the top of NXT. Instead of Joe being written off the brand and sent onto Raw or SmackDown -- as many expected -- a third showdown between Joe and Nakamura becomes inevitable. Nakamura's in-match antics aren't quite as forgivable without the perfect record. And while many would hope that one (if not both superstars) will soon be on the main roster, Joe's second title reign keeps the top rivalry on NXT white-hot for the near future.
For full match recaps and ratings from NXT Takeover: Toronto, click here.