Wrestling Review: NXT TakeOver: 31 (2020)

A new take on an old arena, the Capitol Wrestling Centre at the WWE Performance Centre will play host to the thirty-first entry in the NXT TakeOver chronology. Four championships will be on the line, with the match card headlined by a first time ever meeting between Finn Balor and Kyle O’Reilly for the NXT Championship in a match 15 years in the making. Io Shirai will defend her Women’s Championship against Candice Le Rae, while her husband, Johnny Gargano, will contend for the North American Championship, as LeRae and Gargano seek to become the first husband and wife title holders in NXT. The dominant but underhanded Cruiserweight Championship, Santos Escobar, will also be in action, as he defends against Isaiah “Swerve” Scott, whilst a grudge will be settled when the new and vicious KUSHIDA faces the Velveteen Dream.

+ Finn Balor (c) vs Kyle O’Reilly (NXT Championship): though partly mentioned in their match build up, it’s still funny to me that we are to expect KOR can’t go in singles competition, considering the dude has competed at the Tokyo Dome for top titles before. Both men left this bloodied and definitely bruised, but we all knew it would be like that. KOR’s jiu-jitsu skills were a real highlight, but the speed at which both guys could hit their moves or transition from holds and strikes made this easily the best NXT Championship match in a very, very long time, especially for anyone a bit sick of the Ciampa/Gargano/Cole style
+ Io Shirai (c) vs Candice LeRae (NXT Women’s Championship): this was fine, but clearly overshadowed (or intended to be overshadowed) by the aftermath. Shirai has been the best women’s champion NXT has had since Asuka, if only because she’s such a good underdog and overpowering champion at the same time. LeRae only ‘earned’ this match through a recent battle royale, so forgive me if I wasn’t overly hyped for the lack of story, but LeRae has played an enjoyable if not entire convincing bad guy as of late. A few re-used plot lines from other shows did also dampen the effect of what happened
+ KUSHIDA vs Velveteen Dream: KUSHIDA looked like an absolute beast in this match, and this is worth watching for him alone. Dream is best when he is carried, and he was absolutely carried here. This was the absolute best KUSHIDA has looked since coming to NXT, and the new bad guy Dream was a great character for him to do battle with here, especially as he was dressed as the Doc Brown to KUSHIDA’s Marty. Like many other matches, though, it did seem to go on a bit too long
+ Damien Priest (c) vs Johnny Gargano (NXT North American Championship): much like the recent Gargano/Keith Lee matches, the big good guy versus the smaller bad guy is something that Gargano makes believable, because he’s just such a smarmy piece of crap. Priest has really become a start since winning the championship, and this was a good match. That said however, it did go on a bit longer than it should have, with several false finishes that only make both guys look bad for reasons I have gone over at length before

Santos Escobar (c) vs Isaiah Scott (NXT Cruiserweight Championship): this was a lot of fun. The wrestling itself was fine, but the expected shenanigans and a slightly botched ending left a bad taste in my mouth. This was probably the weakest match of the show, unless you really didn’t like the Women’s Championship match
– overall, every match went on that bit too long, and

> I watched this on delay, so I was actually able to get some screenshots.
> There was an unused Roderick Strong theme for his solo matches as part of the Undisputed Era, and I was hoping Kyle O’Reilly may get something similar. All the members of the SAnitY got specialised entrance themes, and that’s something I always love

Should you watch this event: The main event match between Finn Balor and Kyle O’Reilly is absolute must-see, but you can probably take or leave the rest. Every match beside the main event had something about it that I didn’t like and kept it from being great, and overall this was a show that felt like it was trying to make itself feel more important than it was.

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