NXT Takeover 31

October 4th, 2020

Capitol Wrestling Center

Orlando, Florida

Watch: WWE Network

Meet the Reviewers:

Steve Case: This might not look like the strongest Takeover on paper, but at least there are some different directions and different faces in the mix here. Plus, this main event should at minimum be good and the ceiling could be old school Takeover great. Follow Steve @Coachcase44

Sean Sedor: Well, Sean promised to do this review with Steve if the NASCAR race at Talladega didn’t run long….but that’s exactly what happened. It finished just in time (minutes to spare), but in the most controversial way possible (stay off of NASCAR Twitter). Anyway, Sean is still on a high from that chaotic race, so he’ll do his best to give his thoughts on this Takeover, located in the…..Capitol Wrestling Center? You can follow Sean on Twitter @SASedor2994.

NXT North American Championship: Damian Priest (c) def. Johnny Gargano

Steve: The Capitol Wrestling video was pretty cool. The Capitol Wrestling Center just looks like Full Sail with a fence around it and the video screens. It’s different at least. The fence could be real cool if they use it creatively. I HATE the zoom fan video screens.

This match was a case of two wrestlers who are both very good (Gargano being great), but didn’t have the greatest chemistry. That said, their individual talents still managed to get this to being a strong match. I was concerned early, because things seemed to be very clunky between the two. It got better as it went on, leading to a few very cool sequences that might not have been the smoothest, but still managed to hit their mark. Unfortunately, like most Gargano matches these days, the match went way too long and had a little too much BS towards the finish. The finish saw Priest counter Gargano’s DDT from the ropes into the Reckoning to retain. I think if these two had another match they would have much better chemistry because they were both just a touch off. I doubt that will be the case, as Priest seems to be on the rise. ***1/2

Sean: So this Capitol Wrestling Center is inside the Performance Center. It’s got a bigger entrance stage, one screen on the side for the ThunderDome (much smaller than the actual ThunderDome, of course), and it looks like they’d got mesh fencing in front of the plexiglass surrounding the ringside area. It felt like they were pumping in a little too much noise here, but as a whole, I thought these two had a freaking great match. There was some really strong back-and-forth action throughout, and (I guess contrary to Steve) I thought these two worked very well together. Not to take anything away from Priest (a guy who I’ve been a fan of since he broke out in ROH three-and-a-half years ago), but I think we forget just how good Johnny Gargano can be in singles matches like this. Yes, the melodramatic nonsense over the last few years has certainly dragged him down, but when you put him in a straight singles match like this, he can still deliver. They did a nice finish tease with a nearfall off a low blow from Gargano after Priest took out a bunch of security guys on a dive, but Priest managed to survive that, and pinned Gargano following a rope-assisted Reckoning (whatever he calls that neckbreaker finisher he uses). A great opener. ****1/4 

KUSHIDA def. The Velveteen Dream

Steve: Normally Dream doing the Doc Brown cosplay would be fun. But nothing with Dream can be described as fun right now. KUSHIDA jumped Dream before his music stopped playing, wearing jeans and ready to kick ass. I love this KUSHIDA now that he’s turned the corner (….KIDDING). Really though, this new to NXT edge he has is the kind of stuff I want to see. His offense is smooth yet hard hitting and he really conveyed this edge. This next bit will be unpopular. For everything said about Dream, and deservedly so (the guy shouldn’t even be in the company), the guy is really good at being a despicable, sleazy, disgusting heel that you want to see be destroyed with every fiber of your being. Couple that with the fact that he seems to be a dirtbag human and competent in the ring, and you have the makings of a tremendous pro wrestler. This showed all of that as KUSHIDA would beat the hell out of him in between Dream ramping up the sleaze. The finish came with KUSHIDA doing a spanish fly like Hoverboard lock off the top rope. Dream countered into the Dream Valley Driver, but KUSHIDA held on to the submission, locking it in even deeper causing Dream to tap. This was a great match and the best KUSHIDA has looked in NXT. Post match, KUSHIDA warmed everyone’s hearts by attacking Dream after the bell, trying to tear his arm off. My guess is KUSHIDA might be next in line for the NXT Championship as a ruthless heel. ****

Sean: Dream looks like he got electrocuted with that hairdo he’s rocking. I guess the idea is that he’s supposed to be an evil Doc Brown? Anyway, KUSHIDA is wearing jeans, and jumps Dream before the bell. I thought these two had a very solid grudge match, and I think that’s the key phrase here: grudge match. Both men played their roles perfectly here. KUSHIDA wanted to kill this man right then and there, while Dream played his role as the dirtbag heel very well (of course, we all know about the Velveteen Dream situation, so we don’t need to litigate that whole story in this review). KUSHIDA won the match with the Hoverboard Lock, and continued to attack Dream after the match. Apologies if my thoughts on this were a little scrambled, but for what this was, I thought it worked extremely well. ***1/2 

NXT Cruiserweight Championship: Santos Escobar (c) def. Isaiah “Swerve” Scott

Steve: So Halloween Havoc is the next Takeover Special. Take THAT Cody! Ugh. LUCHA UNDERGROUND FOREVER. Somewhere Killshot and King Cuerno are smiling. This match was tremendous. You thought these two might bring the goods in a big spot and they absolutely delivered. They started with some lucha transitions and grappling, then things picked way up. Scott was able to show off his athleticism and Escobar was precise and viscous throughout. We did get the expected run ins from Wilde and Mendoza to help Escobar, but Adonis arrived to run them off. We were then treated to a series of great near falls, including a beautiful Scott 450 Splash. The finish came when Scott was pushed on the apron into an uncovered ring coil in the corner, knocking him loopy enough for Escobar to drag him into the ring and hit him with his finish for the win. Not only did this really feel like it could go either way, but this was the rare case where the crowd noise helped the match. Not only were the trainees banging on the fence (which sounded great), but the crowd noise accentuated it to a point where it created as much of a raucous atmosphere as this company can have. You may not want to turn it up to 11 in a middle of the card match every time, but it worked here. Match of the night so far on what’s shaping up to be a damn good show. ****1/4

Sean: Before this match, we got a promo featuring Shotzi Blackheart promoting the October 28th edition of NXT TV as Halloween Havoc (sort of like how they used The Great American Bash as a special edition of NXT TV). About time they used that old WCW PPV name, to be perfectly honest, though it will be deemed a massive failure if they don’t use the giant inflatable pumpkin. Anyway, we had a Lucha Underground offer match for the NXT Cruiserweight Title, and it turned out to be an awesome bout. The action throughout was very strong, which isn’t much of a surprise, since both of these guys are really good wrestlers. I do feel that they (once again) pumped in too much noise here, and it just sort of reminded me how awesome this match would’ve come off with an actual crowd, particularly for the nearfalls and the spot where Raul Mendoza and Joaquin Wilde got run off by Scott and Ashante “Thee” Adonis (the former Tehuti Miles). There were some rough points in this one, and it felt like the match peaked with the 450 Splash nearfall where Scott nearly won (I think that should’ve been the finish), but this was still a very strong Cruiserweight Title match. I should note that I don’t follow NXT regularly, as I (of course) am a devoted AEW Dynamite watcher, but it felt like this was the time to have Scott win the title. Perhaps they’re building to Scott getting a third match and winning it then? I guess we’ll see where they go from here. ****

NXT Women’s Championship: Io Shirai (c) def. Candice LeRae 

Steve: This was 80% of a great match. These two have amazing chemistry and this was no exception. Crisp, hard hitting work that was escalating nicely and telling a good story leading to what was about to be the third match from this show on my spreadsheet…..until the ref bumps. Okay, that happens, it’s passable if they handle it well. Then Johnny Gargano came to the ring in a referee shirt and fast counted for Candice but Io kicked out. We got more shenanigans when Johnny argued with the ref and dropped the belt to Candice, who then hit Io with it for another nearfall. Io would soon hit a spanish fly into a moonsault for the pin. I have to respect the great work by these two, but the last few minutes of this match really took it down for me. ***½

Post match, TONI STORM appeared on the screen to seemingly challenge Io letting her know she is done drinking beers with Juice Robinson for now and coming back to NXT. Then, a mysterious biker rode her way into the CWC to confront Io. She pulled off the helmet to reveal herself to be a huge surprise in EMBER MOON! This is huge for the depth of the NXT women’s division, especially with the draft looming. You have to think Rhea is moving on, so these will be two great additions!

Sean: I still have my mind on this NASCAR finish from earlier. If you want to see REAL Twitter Drama, just open up your Twitter app, search “Yellow Line” or “Yellow Line Rule”, and watch the explosions (NASCAR Twitter is on fire right now). Anyway, these two had an awesome match at NXT TakeOver: Toronto II last year (a program that, at the time, was the catalyst for the heel turn/character change for Io Shirai), so I was expecting nothing less coming in. Unfortunately, we got WWE main roster shenanigans, which definitely took the match down a peg. It was basically a carbon copy of the Asuka vs. Sasha Banks match from Extreme Rules a few months back (the referee gets taken out, and the heel’s partner comes out with a referee shirt to count the pin), with the only difference being that the babyface ultimately prevailing in the end. I guess they wanted to get the Gargano/Candice heel act over, but did we really need this? The action in-ring work was very good throughout, and again, the fact that Io prevailed over the attempted screwjob was nice (I suppose), but still, why can’t you just let these two wrestle? They had a great match before with no BS? We did get some good news after the fact, as both Toni Storm (who I guess is back in the US?) and Ember Moon (who was revealed as the mystery biker that was returning to NXT in a story that’s basically a carbon copy of a story that TNA did with Tara in 2010) are back in the NXT women’s division, and made it clear that they’re both coming for Io Shirai’s title. That’s cool, particularly for Ember Moon, who’s been on the shelf for ages with an ankle/achilles injury. ***1/2 

NXT Championship: Finn Balor (c) def. Kyle O’Reilly 

Steve: I loved this match. It was a bit long and the ending came out of nowhere, but everything around that ruled. Both men were focused in their attacks throughout, Kyle on the knee and Finn on the midsection. Finn rules as an ass kicking vicious heel. His work since the turn has only gotten better and better, and he really might be the best WWE wrestler this year. Kyle was tremendous as always. I love his offense. He’s so smooth and believable with everything he does. Both sold the beating throughout, which really helped the build throughout the match. In the end, it seemed like like just took one too many shots to the midsection, and a coup de gras finished him off, allowing Finn to survive the challenge. The finish came out of nowhere, but didn’t take away from the tremendous pro wrestling main event these two had. ****½

Post match, Balor shook Kyle’s hand in respect. Then Ridge Holland carried a beat up Adam Cole to the ring and dumped him over the railing, for some reason. I guess the whole group is turning face now? Weird way to end what was one of the better WWE/NXT shows this year.

Sean: I can safely say that, even with some minor issues here and there, this TakeOver has been much better than watching my Philadelphia Eagles continue to be trash on the football field this season. As for this main event, I was SUPER excited to see Kyle O’Reilly finally get his chance in a main event position in NXT. On short notice for sure, but long overdue. When the dust settled, Finn Balor ultimately retained his NXT Title after hitting the Coup de Grace on O’Reilly. While the finish was never really in doubt (Balor wasn’t losing the title after he just won it a few weeks ago), the goal was to establish O’Reilly as a future guy in NXT, and I think they accomplished that goal. They started off with some typical back-and-forth early, but things took a turn when O’Reilly took a shot to the gut from Balor (off a spin kick, from what I can recall). At that point, Balor went to work on O’Reilly (who did a great job selling the damage) before O’Reilly made his comeback, and we got into the strong closing stretch.

If this match took place in another promotion (like AEW or New Japan), I feel like we would’ve gotten a time limit draw here. I mainly bring that up because there was a point in the middle when I thought to myself, “is this going the time limit?”. Then I remembered that WWE doesn’t believe in time limit draws. I honestly don’t have any issues with O’Reilly losing (he wasn’t going to win the title), but a time limit could’ve added another element to this. What did take the match down a tad for me was the finish, as the Coup de Grace seemed to come out of nowhere. Part of the reason why I wasn’t expecting it to be the finish was because Cole kicked out of it in his title match with Balor several weeks ago. I guess they built to it well with Balor attacking the midsection of O’Reilly, but still….it just didn’t feel like the finish to me. Regardless, this was a great match, and both guys did an excellent job. The show went off the air with the reveal that Ridge Holland (who I legitimately thought was Pat McAfee for like two or three seconds), of all people, took out Adam Cole, which was…..strange, but we’ll see where it goes from here, I suppose. ****1/4