Powell’s NXT Takeover 31 Hit List: Finn Balor vs. Kyle O’Reilly for the NXT Championship, Io Shirai vs. Candice LeRae for the NXT Women’s Title, Damian Priest vs. Johnny Gargano for the NXT North American Title, Santos Escobar vs. Isaiah Scott for the NXT Cruiserweight Title, Kushida vs. Velveteen Dream

By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)

NXT Takeover 31 Hits

Finn Balor vs. Kyle O’Reilly for the NXT Championship: The match looked great on paper and more than lived up to expectations. The various moves and holds were impressive, but I really appreciated the selling from both men in key moments. I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t a major Undisputed Era development, but I understand the idea of saving it for television if there is going to be one. I never thought I’d write this, but I would have preferred to have seen Pat McAfee rather than Ridge Holland take out Adam Cole at the end of the show. McAfee did a hell of a job at the last Takeover and I’m looking forward to seeing what he does for a follow-up, whereas the most memorable moment from Holland so far is the near miss with Johnny Gargano.

Damian Priest vs. Johnny Gargano for the NXT North American Title: A hot match, which is the norm for Gargano on Takeover events. Paul Levesque has been raving about Priest in his recent media calls and for good reason. Priest has delivered consistently in the ring with a variety of recent opponents. The NXT Power Couple taking losses on this show should lead to them being extra obnoxious… unless they are Raw or Smackdown bound via the draft.

Santos Escobar vs. Isaiah Scott for the NXT Cruiserweight Title: NXT is making the cruiserweight championship matter. It started with the tournament that Escobar won to win the title, and matches like this will make it feel on the same level as the brand’s other singles titles. Everything about this match worked aside from the clunky finish with Scott’s head coming nowhere near the turnbuckle or ring post. It’s a shame that it didn’t play out better, but it wasn’t enough to spoil this otherwise excellent outing.

Io Shirai vs. Candice LeRae for the NXT Women’s Title: The in-ring action was strong, and the character work by LeRae was great. LeRae did a nice job of showing a range of emotions during the match and the belt shot spot made me a believer in the possibility of seeing a new champion crowned. The post match video with Toni Storm was a fun surprise and I look forward to seeing her work with Shirai and Rhea Ripley. The reveal of Ember Moon as the mystery person from the recent videos was a cool payoff. The NXT women’s division is even more loaded.

Kushida vs. Velveteen Dream: I’ve never really grasped Kushida’s infatuation with the Back to the Future trilogy, and that’s coming from someone who enjoys the films. Dream mocking Kushida by sporting Doc Brown hair was equally odd. The actual match was entertaining. Unfortunately, it’s still uncomfortable to watch Dream matches and that feeling is not going to magically fade away. If there’s a good explanation for the #SpeakingOut allegations made against Patrick Clark then I wish either he or the company would share it.

NXT Takeover 31 Misses

None: Another terrific Takeover. The transformation of the WWE Performance Center studio into the Capitol Wrestling Center is a significant upgrade for NXT. The mix of virtual fans and actual fans provided a strong atmosphere. I still prefer AEW’s Daily’s Place home base during the pandemic, but the production team deserves credit for completely changing the look of the Performance Center (and finding a way not to annoy me with that giant f’n ceiling fan).


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