The John Report: WWE NXT Takeover 31 Review

The John Report: WWE NXT Takeover 31 Review

Welcome to the WWE NXT Takeover 31 Review here on TJRWrestling. It’s the fourth WWE NXT Takeover event of 2020. There was no Kickoff Show match.

WWE NXT Takeover 31
From Capitol Wrestling Center at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida
October 4, 2020

The opening video package mentioned Capitol Wrestling Corporation with a letter that had Vincent J. McMahon’s name on it as President of the company. That is Vincent Kennedy McMahon’s dad and then it had something written by Vincent K. McMahon. They showed some clips Vince Sr. and Vince Jr. at some of the shows they produced together and this is the text that Vince Jr. wrote in that letter.

Yes, Vince wrote “Professional Wrestling” like that, but for the last 20+ years they push the “sports entertainment” phrase. Things change, pal. More info on the Capitol Wrestling Center name can be found here because WWE announced it earlier on Sunday.

Analysis: It’s a nice nod to the history of the company with Triple H honoring Vince McMahon Jr. and Vince Sr. as well.

There was a shot of WWE’s new Capitol Wrestling Center that is part of the WWE Performance Center. It’s basically a smaller arena that is surrounded by barricades plexiglass and some steel cages by the barricade. It looks pretty cool. I like the change for what will be NXT’s new home for the foreseeable future. There were some fans there that were all standing and some of the developmental wrestlers were surrounding the ringside area as well.

Analysis: It looks pretty cool. The Performance Center setup was tiresome, but I think this is an improvement due to more screens being prevalent, some better lighting and I like the stage setup as well.

The live shot showed some wrestlers and fans in the crowd. There were also video screens with fans watching from home. The play by play man Vic Joseph welcomed us to the show. Vic was joined by Wade Barrett (who was on commentary at home in California) and Beth Phoenix (who was on commentary at home in North Carolina). Throughout the show, you may notice two people sitting beside Joseph that were clearly not Wade and Beth. The woman sitting there had hair similar to what Sasha Banks has had in the past, but it was not her. It was probably just somebody that was part of production to help Joseph on commentary.

Damian Priest entered first as the NXT North American Champion. Johnny Gargano was the opponent and he’s a former North American Champion, so he was looking to win it for the second time.

NXT North American Championship: Damian Priest vs. Johnny Gargano

Priest had a big size advantage and hit a spinning heel kick early on. Priest sent Gargano into the ropes for a jumping back elbow for two. Priest tried a rope walk, Gargano sent him to the apron, Gargano kicked the knee and went for a Powerbomb off the apron, but then Gargano pulled the arm leading to Priest hitting the floor. Gargano with a suicide dive that sent Priest into the barricade. That bump looks a bit worse than before because there was some steel there. Gargano hooked Priest’s arms against the ropes while Priest was on the apron and Gargano hit a running dropkick for two. Gargano hit a senton splash off the middle ropes onto the body of Priest for a two count. Gargano is a smaller guy, but he doesn’t do moves off the ropes that much. Priest came back with some kicks to the body, the bell clap to the side of the head and a lifting flatliner. Priest with two running elbow smashes against the turnbuckle and he did it for a third time. Priest hit the Broken Arrow suplex into a slam for two. Gargano went for the rolling kick, Priest blocked it and hit a full nelson into a slam. Gargano countered a Razor’s Edge attempt into a sunset flip pin attempt for two. Gargano worked on the left knee by jumping onto it, they exchanged strikes, jumping kick by Gargano, Priest with a kick of his own and Priest hit a forearm to the jaw. Gargano shoved Priest left shoulder first into the ring post followed by a clothesline over the top to the floor. Gargano went for a suicide dive, Priest caught him and Gargano hit a superkick on the apron. Priest with a spinning kick onto Gargano on the apron to knock him down. Priest picked up Gargano with the Razor’s Edge onto the ring apron and that got a two count. Gargano hit a chop block to the back of the left leg again, then Priest hit a clothesline and Gargano came back with a kick to the head. Gargano with a counter into a standing Sliced Bread neckbreaker and a running forearm to the back for two. That was a cool sequence of moves.

Gargano set up in the corner, Priest avoided a superkick and Gargano countered into a pinning predicament where he sat on top for a two count. Gargano went for an attack off the apron, Priest blocked it and Priest hit his sitout chokeslam called South of Heaven for a two count. Priest went up top, so Gargano went to the floor. Priest with a running attack where he did somersault dive over the top to the floor, but Johnny pulled two random security guys in front of him and Priest knocked them down. That led to people coming out from the back to check on the two guys while the referee was also there. Gargano took advantage with a low blow, then back in the ring, Gargano hit a superkick and the referee was back in for a two count. That’s an awesome nearfall that was set up so well with the cheap tactics by Gargano. Gargano managed to take the big man Priest down with the Gargano Escape submission, Priest nearly got to the ropes and Gargano slapped the Gargano Escape submission on again with Priest getting his right foot on the bottom rope to break the hold. Gargano sent Priest to the apron where the bottom half of the steel steps were. Priest fought Gargano off with a forearm to the face. Gargano nearly knocked Priest off the apron and onto the steps, but Priest got him with a kick. Gargano came back with two superkicks to the face. Priest blocked the One Final Beat DDT off the ropes and Priest hit The Reckoning neckbreaker by the ropes for the pinfall win at 18:39.

Winner by pinfall: Damian Priest

Analysis: ***3/4 This was great with Gargano being very aggressive as the smaller heel against the bigger face. I liked the finish a lot because it put over Priest’s finisher as a big deal because he was on the defensive for several minutes, but once he hit that move it was all over. The more natural role for guys like these two is for Priest to be the heel and Gargano to be the face due to the size difference, but it was the opposite here. That makes it more challenging. They made it work, though. Gargano did the smart thing by working on the legs of Priest, who showed a lot of fire in making the big comeback and finding a way to win. With that said, I think Priest could have sold the leg a bit more, but you could also Johnny should have worked on the leg more. This was probably Priest’s best singles match in his WWE career. It’s not a surprise since Johnny is arguably the best in NXT in terms of match quality, so it was a good choice of an opponent to give Priest a meaningful title defense.

Post match, Priest celebrated with his North American Championship.

There were Earlier Today clips shown of Kyle O’Reilly arriving with Undisputed Era and Finn Balor also arriving earlier in the day.

A video package aired about Kushida’s feud with Velveteen Dream. This will be Kushida’s first Takeover match. Kushida has dealt with injuries in his NXT career, then he came back and had a rivalry with Dream after a cheap attack from Dream, who was the heel in this story. They ended up costing eachother matches after that.

Velveteen Dream made his entrance. There was a unique look to him as usual with some grey in his hair. While Dream was doing his posing, Kushida showed up in the ring to attack to show he was ready to go, so there was no full entrance for Kushida. Kushida worked over Dream with punches and kicks along with a kick to the chest that led to Dream bumping out of the ring. A referee showed up to start the match.

Kushida vs. Velveteen Dream

Kushida went for the armbar on the left arm, but Dream got to the ropes. Kushida wit ha hard slap to the face, then they left the ring and Kushida kicked Dream in the ribs. Kushida with a handspring where he sent his two feet into Dream’s face. Kushida hit a running armbar that drove Dream’s left arm into the mat. Kushida continued to work on the left arm, but then Dream managed to knock him down with a punch. Kushida left the ring, so Dream jumped off the top with a forearm to the head. Dream whipped Kushida into the barricade and back into the ring with Dream hitting an uppercut. Dream hit an awkward looking Bronco Buster on Kushida by the turnbuckle. That’s an odd move for him to do. Kushida worked over Dream with forearms, then he went off the ropes with a handspring, but Dream caught Kushida with a sleeper hold. Kushida backed him into the turnbuckle and hit a back elbow. They exchanged strikes with Kushida doing a running takedown, then punches, a hip toss and a low dropkick. Kushida stomped on the back of the left shoulder of Dream and then he stomped on the front of Dream’s left shoulder as well. Kushida grabbed Dream’s left arm and drove it right into the ring post. Kushida sent Dream’s shoulder into the ring post again followed by a dropkick into the steel steps, right into the left arm of Dream. Back in the ring, Dream came back with a superkick. Dream went up top with a lefty drop, Kushida caught him and pulled on the left arm, but Dream managed to get to the floor to get out of it. Dream did a thumb to the eye while the referee wasn’t looking. Dream with a Powerbomb for two, which led to another armbar by Kushida, who even bit on a finger. They both got back up and Dream hit the Dream Valley Driver in the middle of the ring. Dream went up top again while favoring the left arm and jumped off with the Purple Rainmaker elbow off the top, which led to a delayed cover for a two count. Dream hit a clothesline. Dream went up top again, but Kushida met him there and took him down with an armbar. Kushida slapped on the Hoverboard Lock on the left arm. Dream managed to get his foot on the bottom rope, but then Kushida rolled through while holding onto the Hoverboard Lock. When Dream tried the Dream Valley Driver, Kushida continued to hold onto the Hoverboard Lock and Dream tapped out to give Kushida the win at 13:02.

Winner by submission: Kushida

Analysis: **3/4 I’m a big Kushida fan and I’m happy that he won the match, but it wasn’t a great match. It was still good enough to call it a slightly above average match. The clash of styles hurt a bit. Plus, with all reports of Dream’s questionable actions in 2020, I’m less enthused to watch him in matches or to root for his success as a future star in this company. Kushida’s Hoverboard Lock is a deadly looking finisher and they have really put him over well of late. I think this feud was about having Kushida pick up a win over an established NXT guy. This was Kushida’s first Takeover match while Dream has been a part of many of those Takeover events in the past, so it meant a lot for Kushida to win.

After the match, Kushida continued the attack with punches and elbow strikes to the head. Kushida slapped on an armbar while pulling back on the left hand of Dream as well. Kushida let go, then he ran back and applied the armbar ago. Kushida left with an angry look on his face.

Analysis: I don’t think this was a heel turn for Kushida. I think this was a way to show his more aggressive side and to put over his submissions. It’s also a potential injury angle for Dream, who really isn’t featured on NXT as much as he used to.

There was a commercial for a Halloween Havoc themed episode of NXT on Wednesday, October 28. It will be hosted by Shotzi Blackheart.

Halloween Havoc returns Oct. 28

Analysis: That’s cool. I love the Halloween Havoc name from WCW back in the 1990s and the last one was in 2000, so it’s been 20 years since we have seen a show with that name. We have seen NXT bring back show names of the past this year. It’s fitting for the brand.

A video package aired to set up the NXT Cruiserweight Title match. This has been a long rivalry with Scott pinning the champion Escobar twice, but not to win the title.

Isaiah “Swerve” Scott entered first as the challenger. Santos Escobar made his entrance as the champion with a mask and a hat. He took off the mask as he went into the ring. Escobar was joined by his Legado del Fantasma buddies Raul Mendoza and Juaquin Wilde, but those two guys went to the back for the match.

NXT Cruiserweight Championship: Santos Escobar vs. Isaiah “Swerve” Scott

This is the first time the Cruiserweight Title was being defended at a Takeover show. Escobar with a headscissors that led to Scott landing on his feet followed by a spot where they were at a bit of a stalemate. Scott with a kick to the ribs, then Escobar knocked him down and Scott used his legs to send Escobar over the top to the floor. Scott hit a twisting dive off the middle ropes onto Escobar on the floor. Escobar was still on the floor, so Scott hit a corkscrew dive over the top onto Escobar on the floor. When they went back into the ring, Escobar bailed to the floor again. Scott bent the elbow of Escobar across the steel by the turnbuckle and they went back into the ring. Scott went for an armbar on the left arm, but Escobar was able to get out of it. Scott drove the left arm of Escobar against the middle rope. Escobar kicked Scott off the apron to the barricade. Escobar hit a suicide dive into the barricade/plexiglass area on the floor. Back in the ring, Escobar with a clothesline, a double knee attack and an elbow drop for two. Escobar worked over Scott with slap, a kick, Scott blocked a spit attempt and Scott hit several punches. Scott hit a discus lariat as the crowd got louder. Scott to the middle turnbuckle with a leaping uppercut to the back. Scott with a boot while on the apron, then another boot to send Escobar down and Scott hit a flatliner for two. Scott went up top, Escobar met him there and Scott got out of that with a dropkick to trap Escobar against the turnbuckle. Scott jumped up with a DDT off the turnbuckle for two. Wilde showed up, distracted the referee, Mendoza grabbed the foot of Scott and Escobar hit a shoulderbreaker into the knee for a two count. Escobar charged on the apron, Scott sent him onto the top rope, Escobar waited on the middle rope and Scott hit a hurricanrana onto Escobar onto the two guys on the floor. Scott got some help from Ashante Adonis, who took care of Mendoza and Wilde to get them out of there. Back in the ring, Escobar hit a superkick followed by the Phantom Driver for two. Escobar was shocked that it was only a two count with the announcers saying that nobody has kicked out of the Phantom Driver before that. Escobar was shocked by that. Escobar hit the three straight vertical suplexes known as the Three Amigos by Eddie Guerrero. Escobar went up top and went for a Frog Splash, but Scott moved out of the way, so Escobar hit the mat hard. Scott stepped on the left arm of Escobar, then he hit a running kick called the House Call. Scott went up top and hit the 450 Splash for just a two count. That was very close with Scott getting freaked out that it wasn’t enough to win. The fans chanted “this is awesome” for them. The action went to the apron, Escobar blocked a suplex attempt and there was a spot where Scott was trying to do a move, but then the back of his head hit the steel that connects the ring post to the turnbuckle pad. Escobar hit a double underhook into a knee that hit Scott in the face and that was enough for the pinfall win at 15:14.

Winner by pinfall: Santos Escobar

Analysis: ***1/2 That was a very good, competitive match with several believable nearfalls and it sounded like the crowd was really into it. The finish was a bit flat, but I think it was done that way to show that Escobar was a bit lucky because Scott hit his head on the steel to set up the finish. I went into this match thinking Scott might finally be the guy to beat Escobar for the title and when he hit that sequence of moves with the 450 splash for two, I thought that was it, but it wasn’t the end of the match. I’m fine with Escobar retaining the title because he’s outstanding as the champion. I just thought it might be time for a title change. Perhaps Kushida is the guy to beat Escobar for the title.

Santos Escobar celebrated with the NXT Cruiserweight Title while Scott was down selling the big blow to the head that cost him the match.

Finn Balor was shown backstage looking at his NXT Title as he prepared to defend the gold in the main event.

The video package aired to set up the NXT Women’s Title with Io Shirai defending against Candice LeRae. The match was set up when LeRae won a battle royal to earn the title shot. The video featured Candice talking about how she was the big sister to every woman in NXT, but then she could count on her husband Johnny Gargano because they can depend on eachother. Shirai talked about how she was no stranger to facing Candice, but now she is facing a new Candice who takes shortcuts. Shirai said that the Gargano Way is not enough to beat Io Shirai.

Candice LeRae entered first as the challenger. Vic Joseph mentioned that they have met before at a Takeover in August 2019 at Takeover Toronto and they put it over as a great match. It was pretty awesome with Shirai winning that match. Io Shirai entered last as the NXT Women’s Champion. It was pretty cool to see ring announcer Alicia Taylor using the old school microphone from above.

NXT Women’s Championship: Io Shirai vs. Candice LeRae

Shirai with a hiptoss followed by a low dropkick with LeRae bailing to the floor. When LeRae was on the apron, Shirai went for a Powerbomb onto the floor, but she couldn’t do it because LeRae held onto the ropes and LeRae jumped onto Shirai to take her down. Shirai with two boots to the face followed by a moonsault off the middle ropes onto LeRae on the floor. Shirai makes it look so easy. Shirai drove her knees to the chest of LeRae against the turnbuckle. LeRae managed to avoid a kick by the turnbuckle and hit a Backstabber double knees to the back for a two count. LeRae with a headscissors takedown, Shirai landed on her feet and Candice hit a clothesline for two. LeRae hit a flipping neckbreaker for a two count. There was some stalling from LeRae, then she hit a running backsplash against the turnbuckle. I think LeRae said “slap me” so Shirai did and LeRae hit her back. LeRae sent Shirai into the turnbuckle. LeRae tossed Shirai across the ring followed by a suplex for two. When LeRae tried a corner charged, Shirai moved and avoided a senton. Shirai with a double foot stomp onto the chest. Shirai with running shoulder tackles, a flapjack into the mat and Shirai hitting the 619 kick since she idolizes Rey Mysterio. Shirai went up top with a missile dropkick for two. LeRae blocked a move leading to a senton to the back. When LeRae went for a springboard attack, Shirai kicked her in the ribs. Shirai hit a double underhook into a backbreaker. Shirai went up top, LeRae stopped her and hit a Powerbomb out of the corner, but Shirai came back with double knees into the turnbuckle. LeRae with a sunset flip pin attempt for two. Shirai with a strike to the face, then a German Suplex and LeRae hit her own German Suplex. LeRae with a Backstabber followed by a moonsault off the middle ropes for a two count.

LeRae worked over Shirai with slaps to the face, but then Shirai countered her into a Crossface submission on the mat. LeRae nearly tapped, but she fought out of it and got a pin attempt for two. LeRae slapped on the Gargano Escape submission and then Shirai managed to get to the bottom rope to break the hold. The referee was counting at LeRae to break the hold, then she inadvertently knocked the referee down with a forearm to the face. Shirai hit the Air Raid Crash slam. Shirai went up top and went for the moonsault, but LeRae got her knees up. Shirai bumped into the referee, who bumped to the floor. LeRae stepped on the back of Shirai to drive her face into the mat and she covered. Johnny Gargano, who is Candice’s husband, went out to the ring to count the pin fast and Shirai kicked out. The announcers questioned the legality of that. Gargano grabbed the NXT Women’s Title, the referee got back into the ring, yelled at Johnny, who handed Candice the title. While Gargano took the referee shirt off, LeRae hit Shirai with the NXT Women’s Title, she covered, the referee counted and Shirai kicked out. LeRae went up top, Shirai met her up there and hit a Spanish Fly slam off the top. Shirai hit the Over the Moonsault off the top for the pinfall win to retain her title at 16:44.

Winner by pinfall: Io Shirai

Analysis: ***1/4 A good match with some cheap things going on to hurt the quality of the match a bit, but the action was still impressive by both women. Since LeRae is an over the top heel with Gargano, it made sense that they would try something cheap to try to win, yet Shirai was able to overcome it and hit her signature moves for the win. This is another match where I thought a title change is possible, but that’s okay. Shirai is an awesome champion. Most Shirai matches at Takeover are better than this. That’s not a knock on Candice at all because there were a lot of cool moments in the match. It’s just that the finish of the match and how it was booked hurt the quality of the match, in my opinion.

Post match, Io Shirai posed in the ring with her NXT Women’s Title. There was a video on the screen featuring Toni Storm. Toni said she wanted to let everybody know that Toni Storm is back in NXT and she’ll be turning this place upside down. Storm said that she will show everybody that it will be Toni Time and she’ll see us around.

Analysis: That’s a good thing for sure. Toni Storm is very talented and I think she’ll be a good fit whether she’s a heel or face.

There was a video with green lighting of a motorcycle driving around the WWE Performance Center. The person that was on the motorcycle went into the building while Io Shirai was still in the ring watching on the screen. The person on the motorcycle walked onto the stage, took off a helmet and revealed it was Ember Moon with a fresh new look.

Ember Moon shocks the NXT Universe with epic return: NXT TakeOver 31 (WWE Network Exclusive)

Analysis: That’s cool with me. She has been out of action for a full year with a major foot injury and I assume she’s ready to return to the ring. Ember had a lot of success in NXT in the past, so it’s fine with me to see her back there. I wish she did more on Raw when she was there, but some wrestlers are just better off in NXT and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Ashante Adonis was interviewed by McKenzie Mitchell backstage about how he helped Isaiah Scott earlier in the ring. Adonis said he was sick of seeing those guys cheating. Adonis did a promo saying it was all about him and that it was showtime.

The video package aired for the NXT Championship match. Finn Balor was the NXT Champion while Kyle O’Reilly won the Gauntlet Eliminator Match to earn the title shot.

Kyle O’Reilly was shown walking backstage with his Undisputed Era buddies Roderick Strong, Bobby Fish and Adam Cole. They all hugged O’Reilly backstage and then Kyle made his entrance for his first shot at the NXT Title. Finn Balor was up next as the NXT Champion. There’s no demon attire in case you’re wondering, but that’s not a surprise because it’s been a long time since he has used that look. They stood in the ring for the championship introductions.

NXT Championship: Finn Balor vs. Kyle O’Reilly

They did some mat wrestling early with each guy trying to get the advantage and then squaring up in the ring. Balor grabbed a side headlock to ground Kyle, who hit a belly to back suplex, but Balor held onto the side headlock. When Kyle got out of it, Balor tried a sunset flip, Kyle grabbed the arm and Balor got to the ropes. Kyle with an armbar, Balor couldn’t get out of it right away and then Kyle did a trip that sent Balor to the mat. Kyle with elbows to the ribs, then a running knee to the back and another armbar. After dealing with the armbar for over one minute, Balor hit a dropkick to the face followed by a kick to the back for two. Balor stomped on the left arm leading to an armbar along with a Balor jumping on the left arm. They got back to a standing position with Balor hitting a hard chop to the chest and he wrenched the left arm across the top rope. Balor whipped Kyle into the ropes leading to a running chop and he did it twice. Kyle got some momentum back with a running knee to the ribs. Balor with a chop, Kyle with a kick to the chest, knees to the body, then a sweep kick and Kyle was fired up. Kyle with a forearm to the jaw, Kyle with two double underhook suplexes and a DDT for a two count. Kyle with hard kicks to the left leg, then Balor with a forearm, Kyle with a forearm and Balor with a hard spinning kick to the ribs that led to O’Reilly going down in pain. Balor stomped on the ribs of Kyle so that the referee could check on Kyle and that led to a running kick to the ribs by Balor. There was a hard whip into the corner with Kyle taking the bump sternum style like Bret Hart. Balor continued working over the ribs with a kick to the right side. Balor with an elbow to the ribs for a two count. Balor went for an abdominal stretch, but Kyle countered it with a hiptoss. Kyle hit a running knee to the ribs followed by O’Reilly hooking the legs/arms for a bridging back suplex for a two count. They were both selling while on the mat. Balor came back with an elbow drop to the chest into a two count. Balor with a Slingblade neckbreaker and Kyle came back with a running dropkick to the left knee. Balor slapped on an abdominal stretch and the bloody mouth of Kyle was more visible now. Kyle with a kneebreaker into a kneebar submission. Balor slapped on the Sharpshooter submission, but it was not locked in that well and Kyle was able to get his hand on the bottom rope to break the hold. Balor stomped on Kyle and kicked him in the ribs to keep him down as the announcers talked about if the referee had to step in to save Kyle from himself. Kyle with kicks to the body, Balor with an overhead kick and Kyle bounced off the ropes with a clothesline. Both guys were down selling again as the fans made noise in support of them.

Kyle with a hard kick to the chest, Balor caught the foot and Kyle with a hard slap. Kyle slapped on a guillotine choke and a running knee. Kyle hit a brainbuster for two leading right into an armbar again. Balor stomped away on Kyle’s face to break free. Balor went back to working on the ribs with two forearms to the back. Balor picked up Kyle for the 1916 lifting slam for a two count. Balor slowly went up top, so Kyle kicked the leg to knock him down. Kyle did a dragon screw leg whip against the top rope and then Kyle did it to the middle rope too. Kyle went up top and jumped off with a knee drop into the chest. Kyle went up top and did a knee drop to the left knee of Balor. Kyle slapped on the Achilles Lock as he wrenched back on the left foot of Balor. Kyle got a hold of both of Balor’s legs as he wrenched back on them and Balor was screaming in pain. Balor teased tapping out, but then he grabbed the bottom rope to break free. Kyle with a kick to the back of the leg, then Balor went down and was selling a left knee injury. Balor tripped up Kyle leading to a double foot stomp to the ribs or liver, which the announcers kept mentioning. Kyle charged in with a high knee, then a German Suplex and Balor came back with another double foot stomp to the ribs. The crowd was really getting into it now. Balor went up top and he jumped off with the Coup de Grace double foot stomp to the ribs. Balor covered O’Reilly for the pinfall win at 28:32.

Winner by pinfall: Finn Balor

Analysis: ****1/2 Awesome main event. It was an excellent match that was very physical from the moment it began. The first half of it was probably too slow for some people, but I don’t mind it because it’s part of telling a story of a long, grueling match. There was definitely a Japanese strong style to feel to the match with each guy hitting strikes, then the other guy would come back for more and it was very even throughout the match. O’Reilly did a very good job of selling the ribs injury throughout the match while Balor was favoring the knee. What I love about a match like that is that it feels like a fight and not just two guys pretending to hit eachother. That’s the kind of pro wrestling that I like to see. It was competitive the whole way, there were moments where it felt like Kyle might win even though I was pretty confident in assuming that Balor would win. They worked very well together. I think if it was a bit shorter it would have been better, but I can understand why they want as long as they did to put over how grueling of a match it was. It would have been nice to hear this with a regular NXT crowd to hear if they would have been into the match by supporting O’Reilly or if the slow pace of the match would have hurt. I think most NXT crowds would have been into it especially in the last ten minutes. This was one of the best matches of the year. I wouldn’t rank it ahead of AJ Styles vs. Daniel Bryan on Smackdown a few months ago, but it was probably one of the best NXT matches this year, especially in terms of singles matches and matches at Takeover in 2020.

Post match, Balor was bleeding from the mouth as the referee put the title around his waist. They showed replays of the key spots in the match.

Balor walked over to O’Reilly, who was still down on the mat holding onto the left side due to the injured ribs. Balor walked over to O’Reilly, grabbed his hand and pulled him back up. O’Reilly held up Balor’s hand.

Analysis: There is a report from the Wrestling Observer Radio show that the match ended a few minutes early due to Balor’s jaw injury. I hope Finn is okay.

While that was going on, Ridge Holland was shown behind the barricade with Adam Cole on his shoulder. Holland dumped Cole over the barricade, then stared right at O’Reilly/Balor and Holland left. Cole was coughing while selling as if he was beaten up by Holland. O’Reilly left the ring to check on Cole while Strong and Fish also went out there to check on Cole. Balor said he had nothing to do with it. They all wondered what happened to Cole. That was the end of the show.

Analysis: It’s no secret that the NXT brand has high hopes for Ridge Holland and that appearance to end the show lets us know that his big push is happening sooner rather than later. The other thing to think about is that Holland attacked Cole, but not Strong or Fish. The rumors are that Strong and Fish will remain heels while Cole and O’Reilly are the faces when the group splits up, so there could be a story where Holland’s attack was because Strong and Fish set Cole up. I don’t know. There are a lot of ways it could go.

This event had a run time of 2:25:36 on WWE Network. The last Takeover went 2:23:37, so it was similar to that.

 

Five Stars of the Show

  1. Finn Balor
  2. Kyle O’Reilly
  3. Johnny Gargano
  4. Damian Priest
  5. Io Shirai

 

Final Thoughts

It gets an 8 out of 10.

This was a great show from top to bottom with five matches where the shortest match was around 13 minutes and the longest was just under 30 minutes. There were five singles matches, four of them for titles and none of the titles changed hands even though I thought there might be a few title changes. There wasn’t a bad match on the show. I also liked the unique look of the new NXT Capitol Wrestling Center as well.

The best match was clearly Balor vs. O’Reilly and it was one of the best WWE matches this year, but I also think that some fans may not have liked it as much as me because of the slow pace to it. I really liked how it was done. The opener between Damian Priest and Johnny Gargano was very good as well because it elevates Priest by beating a top NXT guy like Gargano. Kushida picking up a big win was cool to see. I think the women’s match was well done with Shirai beating LeRae to retain her title, but their 2019 Takeover match was better mainly because this finish was not clean. I’m glad that Toni Storm and Ember Moon are going to be part of the women’s division as well. I thought there might be a title change somewhere on this card, but there wasn’t. NXT shows are not easy to predict and that’s okay with me.

I have it rated as the second-best Takeover of the four Takeover events this year with the February event in Portland as the best. I have this event slightly ahead of the last two Takeover shows since the pandemic hit.

Here is my ranking of NXT Takeover events in 2020 so far (out of 10):

NXT Takeover Portland (February 16) – 9

NXT Takeover 31 (October 4) – 8

NXT Takeover In Your House (June 7) – 7.75

NXT Takeover XXX (August 22) – 7.5

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John Canton

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