NXT TakeOver 31 is on Sunday, so this is the last chance to build hype for the show. To that end, Finn Balor and Kyle O’Reilly have a face to face and Io Shirai teams with Damian Priest to take on their TakeOver opponents Candice LeRae and Johnny Gargano. The other announced match is Shotzi Blackheart versus Dakota Kai which was set after Blackheart eliminated Kai from last week’s Battle Royal.
WWE confirmed earlier today that ‘as a result of Candice LeRae’s attack last week’ Tegan Nox has suffered an ACL tear. No information about severity or course of action was attached to the announcement, so maybe we’ll hear more tonight. Hopefully it’s not a bad one because if it is it could have serious implications for her future. How many times can a knee be repaired and recover?
Shotzi Blackheart def. Dakota Kai
Cameron Grimes def. Ridge Holland (DQ)
Kushida def. Tony Nese
Adam Cole def. Austin Theory
Kayden Carter def Xia Li
Candice LeRae & Johnny Gargano def. Io Shirai & Damian Priest
Commentary told us it was a night all about champions and challengers for TakeOver, then started the show with a match featuring neither.
Shotzi Blackheart vs Dakota Kai, with Raquel Gonzalez
Shotzi Blackheart has momentum at the moment and she looks to be having a great time of it. Every match she’s in is a fun match because she gives the appearance of having fun. In a strictly one on one match, Blackheart would have had a much easier night, but the presence of Gonzalez on the outside is a difference-maker even if she doesn’t get involved.
Of course, Gonzalez did get involved. She got up on the apron and held Blackheart’s attention to allow Kai to gather herself, which meant Blackheart took a backbreaker she could otherwise have avoided.
When Gonzalez stayed out of it, it was a very good match except for the scary bit. Shotzi Blackheart tried to walk up the turnbuckle while she had Kai in a headlock, but it ended up with Kai kind of sort of suplexing her onto her neck on the apron. It looked truly horrific and the ref spent some time checking on them while we got three replays.
When she dragged herself back into the ring, Raquel Gonzalez tripped her. Rhea Ripley ran down and tackled Gonzalez into he steps and post. It rattled Kai’s concentration and Gonzalez was still arguing with the ref when Blackheart stepped away from her kick in the corner and folded her up for the win.
Shotzi Blackheart got the hell out of there before Gonzalez could get to her.
Isaiah ‘Swerve’ Scott still believes he’s better than Santos Escobar, and he’ll come out on top on Sunday. Escobar thinks Swerve is a parasite. He promised their match at TakeOver will be fair, but ‘surprisingly’ Swerve finds that hard to believe. It’s pretty clear they neither like nor respect each other.
I really want Swerve to win it, but either way, the match should be incredible.
You never hear much from Kyle O’Reilly. He’s mouthy in defence of Undisputed ERA, but you don’t hear him advancing his own cause. That’s probably why he was the subject of a Prime Target video package. It was a joy of a package… you should watch it.
The update on Tegan Nox didn’t reveal any further details, except that Johnny Gargano thinks it’s karma for his broken tv.
Cameron Grimes came to the ring to say that he wasn’t in the best mood because he had all the chances last week then it was all taken away. But he can cheer up. He’s making up his own match and calling it the Cameron Grimes Invitational Stepping-Stones to the Moon Match.
He introduced the small and lightweight opponent, and took him out immediately with a Cave In. The second one was thrown onto, and then off, the stage by Ridge Holland.
Holland got in the ring and headbutted Grimes, then the bell rang.
Cameron Grimes vs Ridge Holland
This wasn’t a match. It was just Holland beating on Grimes then stamping on him until he got disqualified.
Austin Theory had an interview, at his request. He’s upset that he wasn’t in the gauntlet match and he still thinks he’s all that.
Kushida said moving his family to the USA has been a difficult adjustment but now he can concentrate on the ring. Injuries held him up and made him impatient but it’s time to see the real him. At TakeOver, Velveteen Dream will be his stepping-stone into the core or NXT. And the new Kushida is VICIOUS.
Kushida vs Tony Nese
The match followed Kushida’s promo package and was a good demonstration of the viciousness of which he spoke. Nese started things off by showing Kushida his bicep and Kushida set about destroying him. It wasn’t that simple, of course, Nese is too good to get squashed. But in all honesty, it wasn’t that far off and Nese tapped out to the Hoverboard Lock after only a couple of minutes.
Velveteen Dream appeared on the big screen after the match and said some stuff about Kushida the spotlight being too bright for him
Cameron Grimes was bitching and whining backstage, looking for William Regal. He ran into Dexter Lumis, so I guess he’s back from injury. Grimes probably shouldn’t have called him a freak.
Adam Cole came to the ring to talk about Undisputed ERA. He went through their history and achievements and wanted people to know nothing has changed. After he got that out of his system, it turned out he was pissed off about Austin Theory’s comments about Kyle O’Reilly. He called Theory out, and he got him as far as the stage but Theory didn’t want to come to the ring. Cole threatened he’d get beaten down where he stood if he didn’t get in the ring, so we got a match.
Adam Cole vs Austin Theory
It’s not often I dislike someone enough to make me prefer Adam Cole, so props to Theory for that. No complaints about that as an impromptu match. Theory kept the arrogance up to the last, and he backed most of it up as well. Most, but not all. He had a couple of solid opportunities to pin Cole, but he couldn’t make them stick and succumbed to the Last Shot.
Cole put his head through the ropes, post-match, to look into the camera and say, ‘Kyle O’Reilly was born ready. Nobody wants this more and nobody has earned an NXT title shot more. On Sunday at TakeOver Kyle is going to shock the world, but he’s not going to shock me.’
Damian Priest and Io Shirai aren’t worried about the Garganos. Damian Priest called them the rock stars of NXT, she agreed. He said she’s cool as hell. She said he’s not bad.
Kayden Carter, with Kacy Catanzaro vs Xia Li
I enjoyed this. Beth Phoenix said it was a nice clash of styles and she was right. They’re both quick and athletic. Li is more dynamic and aggressive. Carter is more fluid and bouncy. Li was particularly aggressive tonight. She’s clearly frustrated by her recent run of results and was determined to take it out on Carter. Kayden Carter was less keen on that idea. The result could have gone either way, they were rolling around trying to make a pin stick and Carter’s did.
After the match, Carter and Catanzaro tried to help Li up and be sportsmanlike, but Li shoved Carter over and shrugged Catanzaro off, then left.
Shawn Michaels officiated the face to face with Finn Balor and Kyle O’Reilly. It started off very respectful. Balor had a lot of nice things to say about O’Reilly. O’Reilly called Balor out on believing he could beat him. Balor wanted to know if Undisputed ERA were going to show up with O’Reilly. Instead of saying no, O’Reilly said it wasn’t about Undisputed ERA, it was his moment.
There is no power struggle in Undisputed ERA, according to O’Reilly. Which obviously means there will be at some point. O’Reilly doesn’t consider himself the underdog, he’s confident he can win.
For a face to face, it was remarkably civil and with a healthy dose of respect in both directions. As his final word, Balor said he believes O’Reilly has everything he needs to become NXT Champion, and he would if the title was on anyone else.
Io Shirai & Damian Priest vs Candice LeRae & Johnny Gargano – Mixed tag match
I hate these pointless champion vs challenger matches and I’m annoyed they’ve migrated to NXT from the main roster.
Damian Priest and Io Shirai rushed the ring during their entrance and had the Garganos scrabbling to the outside. It’s a shame this was a mixed tag, because it would have been a superb intergender match. There was plenty of mixing it up though. Gargano got kicked in the head by Priest (around Shirai, it was quite impressive) for preventing Shirai landing double knees on his wife. And going into a break Shirai dived over the top rope onto the Garganos from Priest’s shoulders.
It was fun, within the constraints of a mixed tag which are always a bit disjointed. Io Shirai got a dropkick and a punch in on Johnny Gargano. And he took Shirai’s moonsault after saving LeRae. The ref wouldn’t count so she tagged Priest in, but while the ref was shooing her out of the ring, LeRae hit Priest with a low blow. Io Shirai chased her around the ring and Johnny Gargano delivered One Final Beat to Damian Priest for the win. While Shirai was arguing with Gargano, Candice LeRae snuck up on her and got her with a backstabber.
With both champions down, Johnny Gargano grabbed the title belts and got down on one knee to present the women’s championship to LeRae.
The trouble with matches involving champions and challengers just before an event is this, there is no good result except a screwy finish so you know that’s generally what you’ll get. No one in the ring can afford a clean loss in the final match before a title bout. However, in this case, it’s entirely plausible that we’ll get approximately the same finish at TakeOver. I hope that doesn’t happen.
TakeOver looks like a decent show. There’s no tag team title match, and Tyler Breeze was missing from Fandango’s skit last week, so I’m not sure if he’s sick or injured or if the card was just full already. There are no tag team or multi-man matches on the card at all this time, it’s all single’s matches.
The card for TakeOver 31 is:
Finn Balor (C) vs Kyle O’Reilly – NXT Championship match
Io Shirai (C) vs Candice LeRae – NXT Women’s Championship match
Damian Priest (C) vs Johnny Gargano – NXT North American Championship match
Santos Escobar (C) vs Isaiah ‘Swerve’ Scott – NXT Cruiserweight Championship match
Kushida vs Velveteen Dream