By John Moore, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
NXT Takeover 31
Aired October 4, 2020 on WWE Network and pay-per-view
Orlando, Florida at Capitol Wrestling Center (WWE PC)
Scott Stanford and Sam Roberts handled the pre-show from the WWE Studios. The hosts hyped up the new “Capitol Wrestling Center” during the initial discussion. They then moved on to running down the matches on the Takeover card. The show cut to McKenzie Mitchell at the Capitol Wrestling Center, who announced that Damian Priest vs. Johnny Gargano was opening the show. She then sent things over to a video package for the Women’s Championship match.
After the video, they sent things to Rhea Ripley talking with Triple H backstage. Hunter informed Ripley that either Candice or Io will be ready for Ripley after tonight and he encouraged Ripley to go for contendership. They then cut back to Stanford and Roberts who gave their quick thoughts. After the quick commercial break, they cut to focus on the NXT Cruiserweight Championship title match, complete with a video package. They then ran through the rest of the matches in the same format.
The intro video focused on the history and rebranding of the “Capitol Wrestling Center” (The WWE Performance Center). The show then cut to the WWE Performance Center arena with a light show spotlighting the new setup. After the light show, they cut to the live set where there was a combination of live fans and webcam fans surrounding the arena. Vic Joseph, Wade Barrett, and Beth Phoenix were on commentary. Vic was the on-site commentator for the show…
1. Damian Priest vs. Johnny Gargano for the NXT North American Championship. Priest chased Gargano out of the ring with strikes to start the match. At one point Gargano escaped a Reckoning attempt. Priest gave Gargano a boot. Gargano kicked out of a pin attempt at two. Priest then worked on Gargano with joint manipulation. Gargano got the advantage after hitting Priest with a suicide dive into the chain link fence. Gargano locked Priest in a half crab. Priest gained momentum after a Tae Kwon Do combo followed by a nice looking flatliner.
Priest hit Gargano with a leaping back elbow and Falcon Arrow for a two count. Gargano went for a listo kick on Priest, but Priest blocked it and hit Gargano with a forearm. Priest went for a Razor’s edge, but Gargano reversed it into a Code Red for a two count. Priest and Gargano traded staggered punches and kicks. Priest hit Gargano with a springboard superman punch. Gargano ducked a Cyclone Kick and tossed Priest into a ringpost. Priest caught Gargano’s suicide dive but Gargano escaped. Priest ended up tripping Gargano with a cyclone kick to the knee while Gargano was on the apron.
Priest gave Gargano a (safe looking) Razor’s Edge on the apron. Priest went for a jumping move, but Gargano chop blocked Priest. Priest recovered and slammed Gargano to the mat. Gargano reversed a Reckoning into a Sliced Bread. Gargano hit Priest with a elbow smash to the back of the neck for a two count. Gargano reversed a choke slam into a victory roll for a nice nearfall. Gargano went for One Final Beat but Priest blocked it. Priest blocked slingshot spear and hit Gargano with a sitout chokeslam. Gargano rolled to the opposite side of the ring when Priest went high risk.
Priest went for a Tope Con Hilo, but Priest hit some production guys (independent wrestlers). Gargano hit Priest with a low blow punt while the ref was distracted. Priest kicked out at two. Gargano locked in the GargaNo Escape. Priest made it to the ropes for the rope break. Priest and Gargano were brawling over a set of steps at ringside. Priest blocked a One Final Beat and seamlessly turned it into a Reckoning for the victory.
Damian Priest defeated Johnny Gargano via pinfall in 18:39 to retain the NXT North American Championship.
John’s Thoughts: A great match as per Takeover tradition. It’s easy to assume that Priest would go over, given it is his first title match and he’s just starting to pick up steam as a babyface act. I wouldn’t mind seeing them go back to this with Gargano going over, whenever they’re willing to go with the Gargano-LeRae title reigns (if that’s the direction they want to go in). On another note, so far so good with the new look. I brought up in the last Takeover audio review with Jason Powell, when we were reviewing the Thunderdome debut on Smackdown, that I wouldn’t mind seeing a hybrid Thunderdome-live fan experience. So far, that’s providing a great athmosphere and I’m looking forward to see how this develops during the show…
A hype video aired for Kushida vs. Velveteen Dream aired…
Velveteen Dream made his entrance first. He was wearing Doc Brown themed gear, presumably as a contrast to Kushida’s Marty McFly gear…
2. Kushida vs. Velveteen Dream. Dressed up as Marty McFly, Kushida didn’t make a traditional entrance, and immediately attacked Dream before the bell. Once separation happened, the bell rang. Kushida worked on Dream with the ground game. Kushida knocked Dream off the apron with his handstand double boots. Kushida hit Dream with a side slam. Kushida caught Dream wtih a enzuigiri. Kushida locked Dream in a arm trap armbreaker. Dream recovered and hit Kushida with a big boot. Dream went to the top rope and hit Kushida at ringside with a diving lariat. Kushida worked on Dream with methodical strikes.
Kushida went for a flurry of strikes, but Dream slowed down Kushida with a sleeper hold. Kushida escaped by backing Dream into the corner and hitting him with a back elbow. Kushida took down Dream and went for the ground and pound. Kushida reversed a hip toss into a cartwheel dropkick. Kushida caught Dream with a rising palm. Kushida then hit Dream with shortarm curb stomps. Kushida turned over Dream and continued with the curb stomps. Dream struggled to fight back, but Kushida then yanked Dream several times into the ringpost.
Dream separated himself from Kushida and went for a dive, but Kushida reversed it into a Juji Gatame. Dream hit Kushida with a power bomb, but Kushida no sold it into a Juji Gatame. Dream used punshes to escape the submission. Dream hit Kushida with a Purple Rainmaker. Dream sold the right elbow due to prior damage. Kushida kicked out at two. Dream went for another, but Kushida recovered and hit Dream with the Spanish Fly into a hoverboard lock. Dream ended up managing to lift Kushida into the Dream Valley Driver. Kushida no-sold the driver and rolled immediately into the Hoverboard Lock for the submission win.
Kushida defeated Velveteen Dream via submission in 13:00.
Kushida attacked Dream after the match and then put Dream right into the Juji Gatame. The referees tried to separate the two, but Kushida kept going back to attack Dream. Once the multiple refs got between them, Dream was crying for Kushida to stop. The show then cut to commercial…
John’s Thoughts: Uncomfortable outside distractions aside, this was the best Velveteen Dream match in a long while. There was just a good story told here, as opposed to Dream just going through the motions like a lot of his matches. It’s easy to build a story around Kushida’s straightforward gameplan of softening up his opponents arms. It’s also cool seeing the character development for Kushida. They’re stressing that he’s a more aggressive person now, and he’s handling his end very well in expressing that aggression.
A NXT Halloween Havoc commercial aired…
Vic Joseph noted that Halloween Havoc was happening and pointed out that we haven’t seen that show since the WCW years. They cut to a video package to hype Santos Escobar vs. Isaiah Scott…
Isaiah Scott made his entrance first. Beth Phoenix noted that Isaiah used to be a masked luchador himself before WWE (as Killshot in Lucha Underground). Santos Escobar made his entrance wearing a sombrero and El Hijo Del Fantasma mask as his pre-match gear. He was flanked by Raul Mendoza and Joaquin Wilde, who wore dapper suits…
3. Santos Escobar (w/Joaquin Wilde, Raul Mendoza) vs. Isaiah “Swerve” Scott for the NXT Cruiserweight Championship. Scott avoided Escobar’s initial moves. Escobar and Scott then traded quick pin attempts. Escobar hit Scott with a superman forearm. Scott backdropped Escobar to ringside and hit Escobar (barely) with a Asai Moonsault. Scott hit Escobar with a Phoenix Splash to ringside. Scott went back to the ring to hit Escobar with a Fosbury Flop. Escobar kicked out at two. Wade Barrett noted that he thinks it’s a mistake that Scott is trying to showboat to Escobar.
Scott hit Escobar with a Body Slam. Escobar got to under the bottom rope for the break. Escobar hit Scott with a Capoiera kick to turn the tide. Escobar then hit Scott with one of his signature suicide dives. Escobar hit Scott in the corner with a Frankensteiner and elbow drop for a two count. Escobar worked on Scott with methodical offense. Scott turned the tide with hard punches. Scott fired up the crowd with a stiff lariat. Scott hit Escobar with a pump kick from the apron. Scott hit Escobar with a Rolling Thunder Paydirt for a two count. Scott tangled Escobar in the corner and then spiked Escobar with a DDT for a two count.
Wilde and Mendzo ran out to distract the referee and Scott. Escobar hit Scott with a shoulderbreaker and got a two count. Scott lifted Escobar and crotched him on the top rope. Scott hit Escobar with a huracanrana, but Wilde and Mendoza caught him. Ashanti the Adonis ran out and fought the rest of Legado Del Fantasma to the back. Escobar hit Scott wtih the Phantom Driver finisher. Scott kicked out at two for the nearfall. Escobar hit Scott with the Three Amigos. Scott then rolled away to avoid a Frog Splash by Escobar.
Scott then stomped on Escobar’s arm to hyperextend it. Scott hit Escobar with the House Call Kick. Scott hit Escobar with the 450 for a great nearfall. Escobar held on to the ropes to block a half and half suplex. Escobar shoved Scott away and right into the ringpost. Escobar then hit Scott with a double underhook suplex onto his own knee to pick up the win.
Santos Escobar defeated Isaiah Scott via pinfall in 15:14 to retain the NXT Cruiserweight Championship.
John’s Thoughts: As expected, these men delivered. I’ve seen them have a ton of great matches dating back to their long feuds in Lucha Underground, so I know the high quality was there. This was the first time we really saw that high quality in WWE. What’s good, is they can go back to this down the road if and whenever they want to put the title on Scott, but at the same time, I wouldn’t mind seeing several others built up (like maybe someone like Drake Maverick?) to be potential candidates to take the title off of Escobar.
Vic Joseph thanked Corey Taylor for providing the song “Culture Head” as the theme for Takeover…
Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish were shown sparring backstage. Finn Balor was sitting down in his locker room, psyching himself up. They cut to a video package to hype the Women’s Championship match…
Candice LeRae’s pre-match gear was pixie queen themed. Io Shirai wore her usual Kamen Rider Zero One themed gear. Alicia Taylor handled the formal in-ring introductions for the championship match…
4. Io Shirai vs. Candice LeRae for the NXT Women’s Championship. Io caught Candice early on with a hip toss and front dropkick, sending LeRae immediately to ringside to reset. Shirai hit Candice with a armbar takedown. LeRae avoided Shirai’s boot by retreating to ringside again. Joseph reminded viewers that these two women wrestled last year at Takeover. LeRae reversed a dive at ringside. Shirai came back with a short Tiger Feint, followed by an Asai Moonsault.
Shirai hit LeRae with a slingshot double knee at ringside. LeRae countered Shirai in the corner with a backstabber for a two count. LeRae caught Shirai with a lariat for a two count. LeRae hit Shirai with a blockbuster for a two count. The next minute or two consisted of LeRae working on Io with methodical offense. Shirai countered a senton which allowed Shirai to recover. Shirai hit LeRae with a few tackles and flapjack. Shirai hit LeRae with a 619. Shirai hit LeRae with a slingshot dropkick for a two count. LeRae hit Shirai with a facebuster and senton. Shirai got teh knees up during LeRae’s lionsault attempt.
LeRae hit Shirai with a underhook backbreaker in the corner. LeRae hit Shirai with a power bomb. Shirai recovered and hit LeRae in the corner with a running meteora. Shirai hit Lerae with a German Suplex. LeRae came back with a German Suplex. LeRae hit Shirai with a backstabber. LeRae hit Shirai with the Lionsault for a two count. Shirai reversed LeRae into a Crippler’s Crossface. LeRae broke the move with a rollup. LeRae locked Shirai in the GargaNo Escape.
Shirai got to the ropes for the break. LeRae accidentally hit the referee on the separation. REF BUMP!!!. Shirai hit LeRae with an Air Raid Crash. Shirai missed a moonsault and hit the referee again. REF BUMP!!! LeRae ended up hitting Shirai with the Wicked Stepsister. Johnny Gargano ran out and tried to count the pin, after putting on a referee shirt. LeRae kicked out at two. Wade Barrett noted that he doesn’t think that putting on the ref shirt qualifeis Gargano to be a referee. Gargano brought the belt into the ring. While Gargano was arguing with the actual referee, LeRae hit Shirai with a belt shot. Shirai kicked out at two.
Shirai caught LeRae with a palm strike at the top rope. Shirai hit LeRae iwth a Spanish Fly. Shirai hit LeRae with a moonsault for the win.
Io Shirai defeated Candice LeRae via pinfall in 16:45 to retain the NXT Women’s Championship.
After the match, Toni Storm appeared on the crowd video wall. Toni announced that she is going to be back on NXT. She ended the promo by saying that NXT will be “Toni Time”…
The show cut to the outside of the Capitol Wrestling Center with the night vision filter. They showed the mystery biker lady entering the arena. The person took off their helmet to reveal that it was Ember Moon. The show then cut to quick WWE Shop ads…
John’s Thoughts: LeRae and Shirai put on a good match here. That said, I thought the match did have a large amount of no-selling of big moves for no reason. That held the match a bit back. I also think the match was overshadowed by the two returns after the match. Two great returns though and a huge boost to the NXT women’s division, an already stacked division that some would argue as the best women’s division in all of pro wrestling. The Ember Moon surprise was a good one. I’m pretty sure that she was off the radar for a lot of people, but the hints all made sense and the payoff should be good. Hopefully she’s fully healed because I remember it being said that her recent injury could have been career ending.
McKenzie Mitchell interviewed Ashanti The Adonis backstage. Ashanti was hyperactive, talking about how much Legado Del Fantasma annoys him…
John’s Thoughts: Maybe he could slow down his promo about 10%, but I like that he’s getting a repackage at least. Ashanti is the former Tehuti Miles, who has been having storylines on 205 Live. I’m guessing his appearance in the Cruiserweight title match has to do with some of his 205 work. It would help if the commentators or someone would tell us what he’s been doing because I’m pretty sure that 205 Live is one of WWE’s least watched shows sadly, especially since they don’t have much of a roster at this point.
A Finn Balor vs. Kyle O’Reilly hype video aired…
Entrances for the main event took place. Alicia Taylor handled the formal ring introductions…
5. Finn Balor vs. Kyle O’Reilly for the NXT Championship. I chuckled a bit when Wade Barrett’s accent pronounced Balor’s finisher as the Coup de “Grass”. Balor and O’Reilly started off the match with chain wrestling. They both traded guard positions. Balor took down O’Reilly a few time with side headlock takedowns. O’Reilly hit Balor with a back suplex, but Balor kept control of the side headlock. O’Reilly recovered and hit Balor with a running knee to the kidney. O’Reilly kept Balor under control with a hammerlock.
Balor escaped and hit O’Reilly with a sawed-off shotgun dropkick. Balor locked O’Reilly in a modified Fujiwara Armbar, while also mocking O’Reilly’s signature air guitar. Balor kept O’Reilly under control with a hammerlock. Balor chopped O’Reilly around the ring with chops. O’Reilly got to his feet, where he hit Balor with Muay Thai clinch knees. O’Reilly hit Balor with a CQC combo. O’Reilly hit Balor with two Double Underhook Suplexes into a Underhook DDT for a two count.
Balor fought off O’Reilly’s Muay Thai clinch combos. Balor caused O’Reilly to writhe on the ground after a gut kick. Balor kept after O’Reilly with the referee making sure to separate the two just in case of a TKO situation. Balor gave O’Reilly an Irish Whip into the corner, which O’Reilly sold like he got shot. Balor gave O’Reilly a boot to the gut to cause O’Reilly to crumple. Balor worked on O’Reilly’s lower back with a Camel Clutch. Balor hit O’Reilly with a springboard elbow for a two count.
O’Reilly recovered and hit Balor with a Regal Plex for a two count. Balor countered a DDT into an Eye of the Hurricane for a two count. Balor hit O’Reilly with a Sling Blade. Balor blocked a Shotgun Dropkick with a low dropkick to Balor’s calf. Balor locked O’Reilly in abdominal stretch. O’Reilly was bleeding at this point, from the mouth. After counters were traded, Balor locked KO in a Sharpshooter. O’Reilly crawled to the bottom rope for the break. Balor trash talked O’Reilly while delivering aggressive boots to O’Reilly.
O’Reilly sold a dazed look, which turned into aggression. O’Reilly ate a boot to the face, only to power through and get to his feet. O’Reilly took a forearm to the face, which he responded to Balor with the Nigel McGuinness rebound lariat. KO reversed a 1916 into a Guillotine Choke. KO hit Balor with a Brainbuster for a two count. O’Reilly rolled right into an armbar, but Balor kept his hands clasped to block the submission. Balor escaped by grinding his boot into O’Reilly’s face.
Balor hit O’Reilly with 1916 for a two count. O’Reilly crotched Balor on the top rope. O’Reilly hit Balor with a dragon screw on the top rope and second rope. Kyle O’Reilly hit Balor with a slingshot knee to Balor’s chest. O’Reilly hit Balor with a diving knee to Balor’s knee. O’Reilly locked Balor in a knee bar, which he transitioned to a heel hook. After a good minute or so, Balor got to the bottom rope. Balor sold his knee when the separation happened. Balor dragged O’Reilly to the mat and hit him with a standing double footstomp. Balor reversed a suplex right into another footstomp. Balor hit O’Reilly with the double footstomp for the victory.
Finn Balor defeated Kyle O’Reilly via pinfall in 28:28 to retain the NXT Championship.
Balor was bleeding from the mouth after the match. Beth sold this as a breakout performance for Kyle O’Reilly. The commentators ran through highlights from the match. O’Reilly was selling his ribs/gut after the match. Balor helped O’Reilly to his feet out of respect for the grueling match both men went through. The WWE Signature flashed on the screen to show that the show as about to end, but the camera cut to the crowd area where Adam Cole was being carried by Ridge Holland. Ridge Holland dumped the injured Adam Cole to ringside. Bobby Fish, Roderick Strong, O’Reilly, and some referees went to check on Adam Cole to close the show…
John’s Thoughts: A wonderful Takeover main event that also served the purpose of breaking Kyle O’Reilly into the main event of the singles division. I’m actually really glad they decided to hotshot O’Reilly into the main event picture, given he’s proven in the past that he has main event upside. This match was nice! Because it’s O’Reilly’s first real match as a singles wrestler, it’s totally fine that he lost; but the dude took the world champion to the limit in close to 30 minutes. You also know that a 30 minute match is really good when it didn’t feel like it dragged through 30 minutes. I liked the style of this match too. This wasn’t your usual Adam Cole or Johnny Gargano slow build main events either. This was very snug, stiff, and practical.
Interesting to see Ridge Holland being shot right into a feud with either O’Reilly or Adam Cole too? That’s a bit quick? I’m not as confident of Holland being able to hang up there with the featured acts of NXT at this point, but maybe he has something we haven’t seen yet? I’m just not sure. Let’s see if O’Reilly and Cole can carry him to some credible programs. As per usual, this Takeover delivered in-terms of the usual in-ring delight. Mixed thoughts at the moment on the live crowd, but I don’t totally blame WWE on this one. The fans in the arena didn’t seem that energetic. The spectator PC wrestlers really were finding their groove the last time they were used (but it took them some time to get good as well, so I won’t totally blame the Capitol fans). Overall a good show. Jason Powell and I will be by soon with the audio review for the show, also coming out to non-members as the Boom podcast.