Tonight, NXT Takeover 31 took place from the newly unveiled Capitol Wrestling Center in the WWE Performance Center. It was a new era, new look, new attitude but they are honoring the past. Before we dive in, here are the results of Takeover 31:
-Damian Priest defeated Johnny Gargano to retain the NXT North American Championship
-Kushida defeated The Velveteen Dream
-Santos Escobar defeated Isaiah “Swerve Scott to retain the NXT Cruiserweight Championship
-Io Shirai defeated Candice LeRae to retain the NXT Women’s Championship
-Finn Balor defeated Kyle O’Reilly to retain the NXT Championship
The opening match was for the North American Championship between Johnny Gargano and Damian Priest. This was Priest’s first Takeover as champion since winning it in the Ladder Match on the last Takeover. Priest has really grown as a performer over the last year but Gargano has also grown as a heel since turning earlier this year. Gargano was such a great test for Priest. There are performers like Gargano, Adam Cole and Finn Balor who just bring out the best in everyone they face. Gargano brought out the best in Priest tonight. With Priest retaining over Gargano, he continues to solidify himself as a major player in NXT.
One match that was very confusing to me at first was Kushida going against The Velveteen Dream. I knew Kushida had turned heel but couldn’t tell if Dream was heel or face. By the end of it, Dream was working as a face again. I personally love this new side of Kushida. The aggression, the nastiness and they attitude. I would love to see Kushida get in there with either Damian Priest or Finn Balor, and challenge for one of the championships in NXT. I’m also really not sure what direction they’re taking with Dream. He’s had injuries and allegations thrown at his way over the last year so it’s hard for me gauge where they are going with him. This was a very physical match that showed everything that Kushida can be as a heel. I think his future as a heel is bright.
For the first time ever, the NXT Cruiserweight Championship was defended on an NXT Takeover. Santos Escobar has been reigning over the Cruiserweight Division for quite some time. This match really set the bar high for future Cruiserweight Championship Matches on Takeover events. Even though Isaiah Scott didn’t win the championship tonight, I do believe he will be champion at some point. With Escobar reigning supreme, I wonder how long before Mendoza and Wilde go after the NXT Tag Team Championships. They have been feuding with Breezango and Imperium as of late so it’s just a matter of time before they get a shot.
There has been a lot of talk of new attitudes and new aggression over the last year. We’ve seen it with Johnny Gargano, Finn Balor, Kushida and others. Io Shirai changed her attitude late last year and Candice LeRae did it earlier this year. The Gargano Way is a newfound stuck up, better than you attitude that has been very entertaining at times since it started. Shirai and LeRae are two of the best performers that the Women’s Division have. They know how to tell a story. People who watched LeRae’s performance tonight shouldn’t be shocked. We have seen her shine prior to coming to WWE and tonight she shined the brightest she ever has tonight. Io Shirai may have retained the NXT Women’s Champion but the Gargano Way continues to be one of the best stories in NXT. After the match, Toni Storm announced her returned to NXT and Ember Moon shocked the world by being the mystery person in the vignettes that NXT has been airing over the last few weeks. The Women’s Division continue to get bigger and brighter and it has no signs of slowing down.
The Main Event featured Finn Balor defending the NXT Championship against Undisputed Era’s Kyle O’Reilly. For the casual NXT and WWE fan O’Reilly has just been a tag team wrestler during his time in NXT. If you were to dig deeper into O’Reilly pre-NXT than you would know that he’s one of the best singles wrestlers on the planet. This match had everything. Submission, high-flying hard hitting and even some blood. Balor and O’Reilly left everything in the ring tonight. I think the world found out just how great Kyle O’Reilly is and always has been. Finn Balor stands tall, O’Reilly gets his moment to shine and Ridge Holland ends the night by taking out Adam Cole. It left us hanging with a lot of different questions, which is always a good thing to do.
NXT Takeover 31 was phenomenal from start to finish. I honestly have no complaints on how the show went. I don’t think NXT has ever had a bad pay-per-view. There may have been times the booking might have been off or there might have been one bad match, but overall there has never been in a bad show. The first show in the Capitol Wrestling Center set the bar pretty high. I am glad they started to use the term “pro wrestling” again. That’s what NXT is. It’s old school, gritty, exciting, and physical the way pro wrestling should be. NXT continues to be the best of the three brands in terms of wrestling quality and tonight proved that to be true.