October 5, 2020

NXT TakeOver 31 – REVIEW

The WWE Performance Center has been rebranded as the Capitol Wrestling Center. We’re told it will be a different feel to the ThunderDome, edgier and darker, but will include virtual fans.  There will also be a live crowd of around 100 comprised of talent, family and friends, and some fans. The live crowd will stay in pods in their groups and won’t be able to mix.

The Pre-show, with Scott Stanford and Sam Roberts, was fairly standard except for the fact they said Capitol Wrestling Center about a hundred times. It’s being tagged as a new start for NXT, I hope they don’t change too much. They showed a clip from Triple H’s Facebook Live earlier today with Rhea Ripley saying she would be waiting for whoever wins. Triple H agreed and told McKenzie Mitchell he sees Ripley at the top of the company in a few years. They also showed a clip of Adam Cole saying nice things about Kyle O’Reilly and how ready he is for the title. Triple H apparently (I didn’t watch) cast aspersions on Cole’s sincerity once he’d left. I think there will be an Undisputed ERA feud at some point, and this is probably the start of it, but I hope they don’t rush it.




Damian Priest def. Johnny Gargano

Kushida def. Velveteen Dream

Santos Escobar def. Isaiah ‘Swerve’ Scott

Io Shirai def. Candice LeRae

Finn Balor def. Kyle O’Reilly




The show opened with some footage about the Capitol Wrestling Corporation, the predecessor to WWE, from which the Capitol Wrestling Center draws its name. The introduction to the new set was all strobe lights, so impossible to look at, but one they disappeared it looks ok. It’s like RAW Underground and the ThunderDome had a grungy baby. The podded live crowds have a chainlink fence in front of the plexiglass, like the whole ringside area is in a steel cage. The screens of the virtual fans are arranged in solid walls, rather than a tiered effect, and are all dim, which honestly works much better for NXT.


Damian Priest (C) vs Johnny Gargano – NXT North American Championship match

It was revealed by McKenzie Mitchell on the Pre-show that Damian Priest requested they go first. He’s not happy about the way things ended Wednesday night (fair, considering Candice LeRae kicked him in the balls) and seemingly couldn’t wait any longer to kick Gargano’s ass.

They beat the hell out of each other. Damian Priest took the worst of the damage, but Gargano couldn’t keep him down when it mattered. I want a near fall count on this match because it felt like a lot. They threw absolutely everything they had at each other.

Damian Priest kicks Johnny Gargano
All photo credits: wwe.com

Priest accidentally took out two members of security when Gargano pulled them in front of him while Priest was in mid-air. While the ref checked on them, Gargano low-blowed Priest, but still didn’t get the pin. He got the Gargano Escape locked in, but Priest got to the rope. Priest looked to be out on his feet, but he blocked One Final Beat and delivered the Reckoning for the win.

Whatever happens in the NXT Women’s Championship match later, NXT’s ‘power couple’ will not be sharing gold tonight.


Kushida vs Velveteen Dream

Kushida attacked Velveteen Dream while he was posing on the turnbuckle and there was a brief pre-match brawl during which I can’t have been the only wondering that the fuck is going on with Velveteen Dream’s hair. Triple H said earlier that Velveteen Dream’s immaturity in his personal life sometimes affects his career, which is an odd way to describe sending dick pics to minors (do I have to say allegedly here in order to not get sued?). I’m slightly disappointed, although not remotely surprised, to see him on the TakeOver card at all.

Kushida wasn’t playing though and it was definitively his match to win or lose. The way he dragged Velveteen’s shoulder into the post, twice, and trapped his arm between the ring and the steps, looked brutal. But Velveteen Dream landed a superkick after that. And he got a thumb in Kushida’s eye when he slithered out of the ring in an armlock.

Kushida stamps on Velveteen Dream

A Dream Valley Driver was followed by a Purple Rainmaker, but he landed on the arm injured by the trips into the post. By the time he covered Kushida, he kicked out. When Velveteen Dream went up for a second Purple Rainmaker, Kushida followed him up and they came down in a Hoverboard Lock. Velveteen Dream delivered another Dream Valley Driver, but Kushida didn’t let go of his arm and Velveteen tapped.

Kushida wasn’t satisfied with the win, he went straight back to beating on Velveteen and slapped the submission back on. Officials got him away, then he did it again. He still looked reluctant to leave after that one, but he eventually did.


Santos Escobar (C) vs Isaiah ‘Swerve’ Scott – NXT Cruiserweight Championship match

This was great from beginning to end. That’s pretty much all I can say. It was exactly what you’d expect it to be in all the best ways.

Raul Mendoza and Joaquin Wilde ran down to help out on one of the many occasions Escobar was in trouble. Their distraction tactics landed Swerve in trouble, but he kicked out. They got to catch Escobar though, after he’d been crotched on the top rope and rana’d onto them. Ashante Thee Adonis appeared from nowhere and helped Swerve run them off.

Swerve rana's Escobar onto Mendoza and Wilde

Swerve kicked out of the Phantom Driver… actually, they both kicked out of everything. Are we going for a near fall record tonight? Swerve banged his head on the post when they were fighting on the apron and knocked himself wobbly. One painful-looking double underhook knee to the face later, Escobar retained the title.


Io Shirai (C) vs Candice LeRae – NXT Women’s Championship match

That cruiserweight match was a tough one to follow. Even with a limited live crowd (which did help the atmosphere), there was a distinct energy drop. That’s a shame because it was a good match between two extremely talented wrestlers. Everyone knows Io Shirai is one of the best in the world. But I think a section of NXT viewers underrate Candice LeRae because they’ve only really seen Mrs Gargano. They did a bit of flying around, which helped pick things back up and is right in Shirai’s wheelhouse.

Candice LeRae delivers a backbreaker to Io Shirai

The Gargano Way has given LeRae an edge she wasn’t displaying before, and it suits her. Unfortunately, it also apparently comes with shenanigans.

Candice LeRae accidentally hit the referee with her elbow when forced to release a Gargano escape. While he was down Shirai went for a moonsault and accidentally made contact with him and sent him out of the ring.

LeRae delivered the Wicked Stepsister, but the referee was still on the floor. Johnny Gargano ran down wearing a referee’s shirt over his gear, which looked like he just forgot to put trousers on, but Shirai kicked out by then. Gargano went and got the title belt to give it to LeRae but the ref got back into the ring and argued with him. LeRae hit Shirai with the belt during the argument. Shirai still kicked out.

Johnny Gargano argues with the ref while Candice LeRae prepares to hit Io Shirai with the title belt

LeRae went to the top but Shirai followed her up there and brought them down from via a Spanish fly. Then Io Shirai went back up to finish things off with a moonsault.

Toni Storm appeared on the big screen to congratulate Shirai on retaining and to inform her that she’s back in NXT and coming for the title. Shirai seemed happy with that. Then we got a night vision style video showing someone arriving by motorbike. They walked onto the stage wearing a helmet and took it off for the big reveal. Ember Moon has returned to NXT.

Ember Moon


Ashante Thee Adonis said he helped out because he has a lot of respect for Swerve and he’s sick of Legado del Fantasma. It sounds like he has big plans for himself.


Finn Balor (C) vs Kyle O’Reilly – NXT Championship match

I’m so conflicted about this. Kyle O’Reilly is an incredible wrestler and totally deserves to hold the NXT Championship. BUT this is Balor’s first defence and I feel like he needs a long title run for credibility’s sake. He’s not had the most compelling or convincing return to NXT. True to his word, O’Reilly left the rest of Undisputed ERA backstage, and there was no interference in the match. This was his night to shine.

Kyle O'Reilly kicks Finn Balor

As was widely predicted, this was great. I would say Kyle O’Reilly proved his doubters wrong, but I’m not sure he had any. Everyone knows how good he is, don’t they? Well, if they didn’t, they do now. He suffered in this one and bled for it, but they both did. We were promised a MOTYC and that’s what we got (in the moment anyway, these things always need a second watch to be sure).

This was one of those matches where you can come up with a bunch of hyperbole and vagueness, or you can write a match report of epic proportions detailing even a fraction of what actually went on. I’m tired, so you get the hyperbole. We got the stiff strikes (and some of it looked very stiff indeed), the technical stuff, the psychology, the submissions, and the near falls, and it was all great.

Balor was bleeding heavily from the mouth by the time he delivered the Coup de Grace for the win. After the celebrations, Balor, selling his injuries like he’d been hit by a truck, helped O’Reilly to his feet and said a few words. Then O’Reilly raised Balor’s hand.

While they stood together Ridge Holland was shown the other side of the barricades with an unconscious Adam Cole over his shoulder. He dumped Cole at ringside and had disappeared by the time the rest of Undisputed ERA arrived to call for medics.

Ridge Holland with Adam Cole over his shoulder




Final word

I’m surprised that the cruiserweight title didn’t change hands tonight. I was expecting the women’s title to change hands, but the return of both Toni Storm and Ember Moon makes Shirai keeping it make more sense. Those are some tantalising matches. It’s great to see Ember Moon back, especially considering the speculation that her injury was career-ending. Of course, we have to see how much of the women’s division will be robbed by the Draft to prop up the much weaker main roster divisions.

It says a lot about this TakeOver that no titles changed hands and it was still an incredible show. The new set has been christened with the best TakeOver since the pandemic hit. I would like someone to do a near falls count for the show though because it felt like there were a hell of a lot.

In Triple H’s post-show media call (thanks to the tweet reports of Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful) he said that Finn Balor has been sent for an x-ray of his jaw and Kyle O’Reilly was being evaluated, which isn’t a huge surprise.

NXT will be doing Halloween Havoc on October 28th. Shotzi Blackheart advertised it during the show.


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