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NXT TAKEOVER XXXI REPORT
OCTOBER 5, 2020
ORLANDO, FLA., AT CAPITOL WRESTLING CENTER
AIRED ON WWE NETWORK
REPORT BY MATT HUSTWAITE, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Announcers: Vic Joseph, Beth Phoenix, Wade Barrett
– A video package highlighting the McMahon family history in pro-wrestling dating back to the days of Capitol Wrestling aired. This legacy has now been recognised with the renamed Performance Center as the Capitol Wrestling Center. The package cut to the arena where the new design was showcased with an elaborate lighting display and shots of a mixed crowd of live and virtual fans.
(1) DAMIAN PRIEST (c) vs. JOHNNY GARGANO – NXT North American Championship match
Gargano charged at Priest at the bell, but bailed. After some stalling, Gargano eventually went at Priest. Priest took Gargano to the corner and unloaded on Gargano, culminating with a big boot. Priest continued to unload on a grounded Gargano. Both wrestlers ended up on the apron and Gargano yanked Priest to the floor. Gargano returned to the ring and hit a suicide dive on to Priest. Gargano launched Priest into the ring steps and then threw him into the new ringside barriers. Priest tried to make a comeback but Gargano brought him back into the ring, where he landed a big hit to Priest’s jaw and a dropkick while Priest was draped in the ropes. Gargano took to the middle rope and drove Priest into the mat for a two-count. Gargano applied a single-leg crab on Priest. Priest escaped the submission and mounted a comeback with a series of strikes, a Bell Clap and a Flatliner.
Priest hit Gargano with a flying back elbow and followed up with a Falcon Arrow for a nearfall. Priest blocked a kick from Gargano and rocked him with a forearm. Gargano reversed a Razor’s Edge attempt from Priest into a Code Red for a two count. Priest and Gargano went back and forth with strikes, and Priest scored with a springboard superman punch. Priest went for a Cyclone Kick but Gargano ducked and sent Priest into the ringpost and outside of the ring. Gargano went for another suicide dive, but Priest avoided getting hit. Gargano climbed back onto the apron and Priest hit a Cyclone Kick to Gargano’s knees.
The NXT run of high impact moves on the apron continued, as Priest got Gargano up and dropped him with a Razor’s Edge. Priest leaped at Gargano but was met with a chop. However, Priest quickly recovered and slammed Gargano. Priest went for the Reckoning but Gargano reversed it into a Sliced Bread. Priest kicked out of a Gargano pin attempt. Priest went for a chokeslam which Gargano reversed into a victory roll. Priest kicked out of Gargano’s resulting pin attempt. Priest avoided a One Final Beat and slingshot spear, and scored with a sitout chokeslam as the fans chanted “fight forever”. Priest went to the top rope but Gargano rolled out of the ring to recover. Priest then dove to the outside but took out some production crew members at ringside. While the referee was distracted, Gargano low-blowed Priest. Back in the ring, Gargano covered Priest but could only manage a two-count. Gargano put Priest in the GargaNo Escape submission. Priest made it to the ropes to force the break.
Both men ended up back on the apron and brawled atop the ring steps. Gargano hit Priest with a superkick once they returned to the ring. Gargano went for a One Final Beat but was blocked by Priest, who hit the Reckoning for the victory.
WINNER: Damian Priest at 18:45
– Priest recovered as his music played and he fired his invisible arrow into the new LED boards that run around the arena.
(Hustwaite’s Analysis: A great opening match. This was more of a coming-out party for Priest than his victory over Finn Balor was, even if the outcome was no surprise in this instance. Gargano was great as always, and I can see a return match between these two down the line.)
– Footage from earlier in the day was shown as Undisputed Era and Finn Balor respectively arrived at the arena.
– A hype video showing Kushida’s evolution since arriving in NXT was played, ahead of his match with Velveteen Dream.
(2) KUSHIDA vs. VELVETEEN DREAM
Kushida went after Dream before the bell could be rung. Once the match officially began, Kushida continued to control Dream, working over him on the mat. Dream made his way to the apron for a breather but was sent to the floor courtesy of a handstand double boot from Kushida. Back in the ring, Dream begged for mercy to no avail, as Kushida hit an inverted atomic drop. Kushida locked in an armbreaker. Dream managed to escape and hit a big boot before taking to the top rope and hitting a diving clothesline on Kushida at ringside. Dream sent Kushida into the ringside barrier and brought him back into the ring. Dream tried to pin Kushida but could only manage a one-count.
Kushida started to mount a comeback but was cut off by a Dream sleeper hold. Kushida drove Dream backward into the corner and hit a back elbow to escape the hold. Kushida grounded Dream and unloaded on Dream. Dream made it back to his feet and attempted a hip toss, which Kushida reversed into a cartwheel dropkick. Kushida hit a palm strike which led to a short-arm curb stomp. Kushida upped the aggression and continued to stomp away at Dream, before repeatedly pulling him into the ring post.
Dream managed to get away from Kushida but ended up in a Juji Gatame. Dream hit a powerbomb but Kushida immediately transitioned it into another Juji Gatame. Dream escaped the submission and hit a Purple Rainmaker for a two-count. Dream tried for another Purple Rainmaker but Kushida countered with a Spanish Fly into a Hoverboard Lock. Dream lifted Kushida into position and hit a Dream Valley Driver, which Kushida transitioned from into a Hoverboard Lock. Dream tapped out almost immediately.
WINNER: Kushida at 13:00
– Kushida locked in the Hoverboard Lock again and had to be pulled away from Dream.
(Hustwaite’s Analysis: This was a good match, but one that you couldn’t help but watch without considering the circumstances behind the scenes that relate to Dream. Considering how Kushida no-sold key moves of Dream, had a decisive victory and continued to attack Dream post-match, I can’t help but wonder if Dream is getting put on the shelf again. That said, it may have just been a showcase for the new, aggressive Kushida ahead of a more concerted push – which would be more than welcome.)
– A promo for the upcoming NXT Halloween Havoc aired.
– A hype video for Santos Escobar vs. Isaiah Scott played, their match for the NXT Cruiserweight Championship is up next.
(3) ISAIAH “SWERVE” SCOTT vs. SANTOS ESCOBAR (c) – NXT Cruiserweight Championship match
The match started out quickly as Scott avoided Escobar’s offense before the two wrestlers went back and forth with pin attempts. Escobar charged at Scott and hit a flying forearm. Escobar charged again but was backdropped by Scott to ringside. Scott came off the ropes with an Asai Moonasult. Scott quickly followed up with another splash and a Fosbury Flop. Scott covered Escobar who kicked out at two. After another pin attempt by Scott, Escobar turned the tables and landed a Capoiera Kick. Escobar launched at Scott with a suicide dive. Back in the ring, Escobar hit a Frankensteiner on Scott from the corner and followed up with an elbow drop. Escobar worked over Scott, who mounted a comeback with stiff punches and a clothesline. From the apron, Scott hit Escobar with a pump kick and came over the ropes with a rolling thunder for a nearfall. Scott got Escobar into the corner and hit a spike DDT for another two count.
Joaquin Wilde and Raul Mendoza ran in to distract the referee. Escobar hit a distracted Scott with a shoulder breaker, but could only manage a two count. Scott dropped Escobar on the top rope and hit a huracanrana, landing on Wilde and Mendoza. Ashanti ran in to even the odds, and ran Wilde and Mendoza to the back. In the ring, Escobar hit Scott with the Phantom Driver for a nearfall. Escobar hit the Three Amigos vertical suplex combo, but missed a follow-up Frog Splash when Scott rolled out of the way. Scott worked over Escobar’s arm, stomping and hyper-extending it. Scott hit a House Call and 450 splash for a nearfall. Scott went for a suplex, but Escobar blocked the move by holding onto the ropes. Escobar shoved Scott into an exposed turnbuckle and followed up with a double underhook suplex into a backbreaker for the victory.
WINNER: Santos Escobar at 15:20
(Hustwaite’s Analysis: Escobar exposed the turnbuckle very early in the match, so it was a nice piece of psychology to have that pay-off for the finish. No surprises that this was a great match, considering their history outside of NXT. They were smart to not give away too much though, leaving the door open for another match down the line and, hopefully, the storyline resolution of Swerve finally overcoming the odds to claim the title. Escobar is a star, but Scott really shone also as he emoted throughout the match.)
– Kyle O’Reilly and Finn Balor were shown backstage preparing for their NXT Championship match.
– A hype video for the NXT Women’s Championship match aired.
(Hustwaite’s Analysis: This package was so well done that you’d think this was a feud that had been simmering for weeks, not days.)
(4) IO SHIRAI (c) vs. CANDICE LERAE – NXT Women’s Championship match
Shirai hit LeRae with a hip toss and sent LeRae to the outside with a dropkick. Once she recovered, LeRae returned to the ring and was met with an armbar takedown from Shirai. LeRae took another powder at ringside. Shirai dove to the outside but LeRae countered the move. However, Shirai quickly regained control with a Tiger Feint. Shirai climbed back onto the apron and hit an Asai Moonsault. Shirai brought LeRae back into the ring and hit slingshot double knees. LeRae turned the tide with a backstabber but could only manage a two-count. LeRae tried for another pin after hitting a clothesline and neckbreaker, but Shirai kicked out again. LeRae hit a blockbuster and covered Shirai for another two-count. LeRae changed tack and worked over Shirai with an armlock. LeRae hit a backbreaker and covered Shirai for a two-count. LeRae tried to pin Shirai twice more after a suplex. LeRae went for a senton but Shirai avoided the move and fired back with a flapjack. LeRae fell into the ropes and Shirai hit a 619. Shirai hit a slingshot dropkick for a nearfall. LeRae managed to hit a facebuster but landed on Shirai’s knees when LeRae attempted a lionsault.
LeRae and Shirai ended up in the corner and LeRae hit an underhook backbreaker. LeRae hit a powerbomb, but Shirai was able to come back and hit LeRae with a running meteora. Shirai hit LeRae with a German suplex and LeRae fired back with a suplex of her own. LeRae hit Shirai with a backstabber and followed up with a lionsault for a nearfall. Shirai applied a crossface which LeRae managed to reverse into a pin attempt. LeRae applied the GargaNo Escape on Shirai, who eventually made it to the ropes to break the hold. LeRae accidentally knocked the referee down as the rope break occurred. With the referee down, Shirai was able to hit the Air Raid Crash. Shirai immediately went to the top rope and attempted a suplex but hit the referee, who had only just returned to his feet as she came down.
LeRae hit the Wicked Stepsister and Johnny Gargano ran out in a referee shirt and tried to count the pin. Gargano and the referee argued, while LeRae took advantage of the distraction to hit Shirai with the title belt. LeRae covered Shirai for a nearfall. LeRae took to the top rope, but Shirai cut her off. Shirai hit the Spanish Fly and a moonsault to score the victory.
WINNER: Io Shirai at 16:40
– Toni Storm appeared on the big screen and declared that she was coming back to NXT.
– As Shirai took in Toni Storm’s message, the mystery person from the Call of Duty style vignettes arrived on a motorcycle. They walked out onto the stage and revealed themselves as Ember Moon.
(Hustwaite’s Analysis: A good outing from these two, although the last-second kick out spot is feeling a little overdone tonight. The silliness at the end with Johnny Gargano wasn’t really necessary, especially since it ultimately became overshadowed by the returns of Toni Storm and Ember Moon. The return of these two wrestlers is exciting, but there are now a lot of mouths to feed in the loaded NXT women’s division.)
– McKenzie Mitchell interviewed a very amped up Ashanti. He spoke about making a statement and how he dislikes Legado del Fantasma.
– A hype video for the Finn Balor vs. Kyle O’Reilly match for the NXT Championship aired.
(5) FINN BALOR (c) vs. KYLE O’REILLY – NXT Championship match
Balor and O’Reilly went back and forth with a chain wrestling sequence to start the match. O’Reilly looked to take the upperhand with a back suplex, but Balor held onto a side headlock. O’Reilly eventually escaped the hold and hit Balor with a knee shot to the kidney. O’Reilly applied a hammerlock, which Balor escaped to hit O’Reilly with a shotgun dropkick. Balor applied an armbar and taunted O’Reilly. Balor transitioned into a hammerlock before taking O’Reilly to the corner to chop his chest. O’Reilly fought back with a combo of knee strikes. O’Reilly hit back-to-back underhook suplexes, followed by a DDT for a two-count. O’Reilly went for another Muay Thai combo but Balor fought him off. Balor dropped O’Reilly with a kick to the gut. The referee hovered, appearing to be looking for a TKO situation, as Balor worked over O’Reilly. Balor sent O’Reilly into the corner with a big Irish Whip and kicked O’Reilly in the gut again. Balor turned his attention to O’Reilly’s back with a Camel Clutch. Balor covered O’Reilly for a two-count after a springboard elbow.
O’Reilly rallied and hit a suplex for a nearfall. O’Reilly went for a DDT but Balor countered into an Eye of the Hurricane. Balor hit a slingblade, but O’Reilly blocked an attempted Shotgun Dropkick with a dropkick of his own to the leg of Balor. Balor quickly regained control, locking in an abdominal stretch as O’Reilly began to bleed from the mouth. Balor applied a sharpshooter. O’Reilly managed to make it to the ropes to break the hold. Balor stomped O’Reilly while taunting him. O’Reilly looked out of it, but started to mount a firey comeback nonetheless after taking a shot to the face. O’Reilly hit a clothesline and countered an attempted 1916 from Balor into a chokehold. O’Reilly hit a brainbuster for a nearfall, and rolled through into an armbar. However, Balor was able to block the submission and stuck his boot into O’Reilly’s face to escape the hold.
Balor scored a two-count after hitting a 1916. O’Reilly dropped Balor on the top rope and hit a pair of dragon screws. O’Reilly landed a slingshot knee to the chest of Balor and continued to target Balor’s chest with a diving knee. O’Reilly applied a kneebar and transitioned into a heel hook. Balor made it to the ropes to break the hold, but favoured his knee as he got back to his feet. Balor put O’Reilly down on the mat and gave him a double footstomp. O’Reilly tried to hit a suplex but Balor reversed it into another footstomp. Balor took to the top rope and hit the Coup de Grace. Balor covered O’Reilly to retain the championship.
WINNER: Finn Balor at 28:30
– The camera showed a close-up of Finn Balor who was now bleeding from the mouth like O’Reilly. Highlights from the match were shown as the announcers put over the match as breakout performance from Kyle O’Reilly. The camera cut back to the ring where Balor was looking down at O’Reilly. Balor helped O’Reilly to his feet as a sign of respect. Ridge Holland suddenly appeared in the front row, with a prone Adam Cole over his shoulder. Holland dumped Cole over the barrier to ringside and left before O’Reilly and the rest of Undisputed Era could get there to check on Cole. The show ended with Undisputed Era calling for help.
(Hustwaite’s Analysis: That was not what I was expecting at all, although I am pleased to see some new blood injected into the upper tier singles scene in NXT. I was very surprised that we didn’t see the unraveling of Undisputed Era, but I am sure we will still see that down the line. The match was outstanding, with O’Reilly proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that he belongs in the main event singles scene. It’s kind of crazy to think that this is O’Reilly’s first big match as a singles wrestler, such was how well he fit in. The storytelling was top-notch and the wrestling was world-class.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: Yet another top quality NXT Takeover show, proving that the in-ring talent is so strong that this roster can overcome rushed booking. Hopefully, the need to rush with short timeframes between Takeover events doesn’t become the norm. The wrestling was excellent from top-to-bottom, and there were enough “moments” to make this a newsworthy show. I wasn’t sold on the Capitol Wrestling Center setup when I saw the preview clip on Twitter, and I’m still not quite sold now. I had enjoyed the relative simplicity of Full Sail compared to the Thunderdome, and now NXT just looks like “Thunderdome-lite”. However, the lighting sequence for the championship match introductions was very nice, and once the audio mix of the fans is tweaked, this new era of NXT presentation is something I’ll no doubt get used to.