WWE presented NXT Takeover 31 from the brand new Capitol Wrestling Center, which was previously the Performance Center. WWE rebranded the PC to provide a completely new experience for the fans, which will be the start of a new journey for NXT.
The Takeover was thrown together at the last minute, which is quite different from how NXT usually puts together their marquee shows. With less than a month to build the stories for this show, NXT managed to present a show filled with tremendous matches.
With just five matches on the card, the show flew away like a pleasant breeze. We look at how the show went down and give our thoughts and analysis on the latest offering from the third brand.
NXT North American Championship: Damian Priest (c) vs. Johnny Gargano
The challenger had the momentum early on in the match and delivered a dropkick followed by a senton to Priest. Priest got back into the match with a flatliner.
Priest’s attempts for Razor’s Edge were blocked by the heel, who threw him into the post. Priest recovered to hit the Razor’s Edge on the apron.
Gargano took advantage of the distraction and hit a low-blow, followed a superkick but Priest kicked out. Priest somehow escaped the Gargano Escape and survived another round of superkicks to hit a modified version of Reckoning to retain his title.
Result: Damian Priest def. Johhny Gargano
Analysis: Damian Priest has grown into the role of a strong babyface pretty well, similar to Drew McIntyre on the main roster. Gargano is known as Mr.Takeover for a reason and delivered yet another memorable encounter for the title he previously held.
Priest looked tremendous in this match and took everything Gargano had to offer, but some strong booking gave him the win.
Kushida vs. The Velveteen Dream
Kushida kept up his ultra-aggressive persona from recent weeks and attacked Dream even before the bell rang. Kushida targetted Dream’s shoulder and pushed it into the ring-post, weakening the former North American Champion.
Dream went for the Purple Rainmaker but Kushida countered with the armbar. Dream survived and gouged his opponent’s eye, followed by the Purple Rainmaker, but his injured shoulder got in the way.
Kushida locked in the Hoverboard Lock but Dream hit the DreamValley Driver. Kushida kept the submission applied to grab the win. Kushida ruthlessly attacked Dream after the match to assert his dominance.
Result: Kushida def. Velveteen Dream
Analysis: This was a solid match from a storytelling perspective, which has been the new-found aggression in the superstars. Kushida finally feels important in NXT, with a win over one of the biggest stars on the roster.
The post-match attack indicated another match in the offering, which should possibly be with the addition of a stipulation to add to the aggression.
Cruiserweight Championship: Santos Escobar (c) vs. Isaiah ‘Swerve’ Scott
Escobar took control early on in the match and asserted his dominance on Scott. Escobar hit a Frankenstiner, but Scott rallied a comeback with several moves culminating in a DDT for nearfall.
Legado del Fantasma ran interference, which shifted the momentum back to the heel. Ashantee Adonis helped out Scott, but Escobar hit a superkick followed by a Phantom Driver. Scott kicked out of Escobar’s finisher.
Escobar hit the Three Amigos but failed to hit a Frog Splash. Scott hit House Call but this time his opponent survived his finisher.
Escobar eventually hit a underhook shoulderbuster to win the matchup.
Result: Santos Escobar def. Isaiah ‘Swerve’ Scott
Analysis: This was yet another strong performance by the two stars, who have feuded all summer for the title. Scott looked incredible despite coming short yet again, while Escobar winning the match cleanly in the end was a solid way to establish him as a dominant force.
Adonis and Scott will most likely join the tag-division of the brand in the coming weeks.
NXT Women’s Championship: Io Shirai (c) vs. Candice LeRae
Both the stars went at it right from the bell, trying to gain an upperhand. Shirai hit a springboard moonsault to the outside and kept up the attack. Another moonsault attempt by Shirai was countered by LeRae with a sitout powerbomb.
Shirai broke out from the Gargano Escape and hit an Air Raid Crash, but LeRae got her knees up in time, as the referee got knocked out.
Taking advantage of the distraction, LeRae hit her finisher but with no referee in sight, Gargano entered the ring in a referee shirt. Despite Gargano’s fast-count, Shirai kicked out. Gargano brought the title in the ring, and LeRae hit the champ right on the face with the belt, but Shirai surprisingly kicked out again and eventually hit her trademark moonsault for the win.
Post-match, Toni Storm appeared on the giant screen and announced her arrival to the NXT brand. Ember Moon returned as the mystery champion, in a completely new avatar.
Result: Io Shirai def. Candice LeRae
Analysis: This was a great encounter with tremendous false finishes. LeRae had two distractions to capture the title, but Shirai refused to give up, which was yet another piece of strong booking on the show.
The addition of Storm and Moon adds more firepower to what was already the best division of any brand in wrestling currently. Shirai, LeRae, Storm, Moon, Rhea Ripley,etc. is a division filled with high-quality matchups.
NXT Championship: Finn Balor (c) vs. Kyle O’Reilly
O’Reilly used his mat-game and took down the champion in the early moments of the match, but Balor rallied and hit a dropkick. Balor then showcased his mat-based skills and grounded the challenger.
O’Reilly kneed Balor in the abdomen and went back to targetting champ’s left arm, and delivered a barrage of suplexes.
The two kept trading strikes and tried to submit each other out, but soon the pace increased as they landed big strikes.
Balor hit a 1916 and looked to finish his challenger off with the Coup de Grace but didn’t get it. O’Reilly attacked the injured knee and locked in a heel hook, but Balor broke it and in a final burst of energy, hit the Coup de Grace for the win.
Post-match, Balor and O’Reilly showed respect, before Ridge Holland attacked and “dropped off” Adam Cole out of nowhere.
Result: Finn Balor def. Kyle O’Reilly
Analysis: This was a perfect match, filled with everything a wrestling encounter must look like. It started off with old-school mat-based wrestling, gained some pace in the middle, as both the stars looked to inflict as much pain as possible.
Balor winning was never in question, but O’Reilly showed great resilience and looked like a legitimate challenger rather than a tag-team specialist getting a chance in the big leagues.
Ridge Holland’s attack was quite interesting, and surely warrants a push into the upper mid-card for the new star.