Amin’s NXT TakeOver: 31 Review: Finn Balor vs. Kyle O’Reilly for the NXT Championship


Welcome to Amin’s World of Wrestling coverage of NXT TakeOver: 31 from the Capital Wrestling Center in Orlando, Florida. The venue looked cool as they made the WWE Performance Center have a more energetic feeling to the show. They had an audience who were behind a chain-link fence and there was a video hall for a virtual audience. 

NXT North American Championship Match: Damian Priest vs. Johnny Gargano

The match began with a great counter exchange as Priest caught Gargano with a flying spin kick and followed with a back elbow for a near fall. Priest went for a Springboard but Gargano countered by yanking him to the mat. Gargano took control delivering a tope sending Priest into the fencing area. Gargano connected with a running dropkick, then followed with a somersault senton for a two count. 

Priest made a comeback planting Gargano with a flatliner and followed with a pair of leaping elbows in the corner. Priest connected with the Broken Arrow but Gargano kicked out at two. Priest called for the Razor Edge but Gargano countered by hitting the Code Red for a close two count. Gargano avoided the Cyclone Boot and rammed Priest into the ring post. The action spilt to the floor as Priest blocked a Tope and delivered a Razor Edge to Gargano on the ring apron.

Priest went for a leaping elbow but Gargano countered with a chop block. Gargano delivered a Superkick and followed with a standing Sliced Bread. Gargano connected with a sliding forearm but Priest kicked out at two. Gargano blocked a Chokeslam and applied a reverse Sunset Flip for a close two count. Gargano went for the One Final Beat DDT but Priest caught him and delivered a big Chokeslam for a close two count. 

Priest went to climb the turnbuckle but Gargano rolled to the floor. There was a crazy spot as Gargano pushed the security guards as Priest leaped over the ring post and delivered a running Tope Con Hilo to the floor. With the referee distracted, Gargano delivered a Low Blow and followed with a Superkick but Priest kicked out for another close two count. Gargano applied the Gargano Escape’s but Priest placed his foot on the ropes to force a break. Gargano caught Priest with a pair of Superkicks. Gargano went for the One Final Beat DDT but Priest caught him and delivered a draping Reckoning for the 1,2,3. 

WINNER: Damian Priest retained the NXT North American Title 

(Amin’s Analysis: This was a great opening match which featured lots of great sequences and close near falls leading to the finish. The tease of the steel steps in the background was a nice tease rewind back to Priest’s match with Balor at TakeOver: In Your House. Gargano is tremendous as he can put on a great match against any wrestler on NXT. A strong win for Priest who presents himself as star and establishing himself a fighting champion.) 

KUSHIDA vs. Velveteen Dream

Dream came out for his entrance but KUSHIDA attacked him before the bell rang. KUSHIDA took control yanking Dream down by the arm to the mat. KUSHIDA pulled on Dream’s arm. Dream made a comeback connecting with a flying clothesline to the floor. Dream rammed KUSHIDA into the fencing area. Dream and KUSHIDA had a big strike exchange bringing a big fight feel.  

KUSHIDA made his comeback stomping away at Dream. KUSHIDA grabbed Dream’s arm and rammed it into the ring post. Dream’s arm was placed in-between the ring steps as KUSHIDA delivered a running dropkick. KUSHIDA entered the ring as Dream caught him with a Superkick. Dream went for the Purple Rainmaker but KUSHIDA countered a cross-arm breaker. Dream broke free by rolling to the floor.

Dream poked KUSHDIA in the eyes and followed with a Powerbomb for a close two count. KUSHIDA charged but Dream countered with a Dream Valley Driver. Dream connected with the Purple Rainmaker but landed on his injured arm in the process. Dream went for cover but KUSHIDA kicked out at two. Dream went to climb the turnbuckle but KUSHIDA met him at the top.

KUSHIDA delivered a Super Spanish Fly and then transitioned into the Hoverboard Lock. The finish was awesome as Dream delivered the Dream Valley Driver but KUSHIDA maintained control of the Hoverboard Lock. KUSHIDA fully applied the Hoverboard Lock as Dream tapped. 


KUSHDIA attacked Dream after the match and then placed him in an arm bar as WWE officials came out to pull him back. KUSHIDA applied another reverse arm bar as Dream was screaming in pain. 

(Amin’s AnalysisLet me just say Dream was great here as sold like a pro and made KUSHIDA look like a star. This match was great and had the right finish for KUSHIDA winning cleaning with his Hoverboard Lock submission to establish his new character and present him as top star on NXT. This new version of KUSHIDA rules.

A commercial aired announcing NXT TakeOver: Halloween Havoc will take place on Wednesday October 28th and will be hosted by NXT Superstar Shotzi Blackheart. 

NXT Cruiserweight Championship Match: Santos Escobar vs. Isaish “Swerve” Scott

Scott showcased his great high flying ability early on connecting with a standing moonsault to Escobar on the floor. Escobar tried to move but Scott stopped with a corkscrew hilo to the floor. Escobar rolled the floor but Scott responded by connecting with a Fosbury Flop. A great start to the match. Scott went for an arm bar but Escobar placed his foot on the ropes to force a break. 

Escobar took control after ramming Scott into the fencing area. Escobar delivering a Flying Hurricanrana and followed with a sliding elbow but Scott kicked out. Escobar talked smack as Scott responded by delivering strikes in the corner and followed with a big lariat. Scott connected with a rolling flatliner for a two count. Scott connected with a jumping DDT but Escobar kicked out at two. This is where Joaquin Wilde and Raul Mendoza came out.

Escobar delivered a shoulder breaker but Scott kicked out. Scott placed Escobar on the top rope, then delivered a Flying Hurricanrana onto Mendoza and Wilde on the floor. A brawl broke out as Ashante Thee Adonis brawled with Mendoza and Wilde to the back.  Scott went for a rolling flatliner but Escobar countered with a jumping enzuigiri. Phantom Driver was connected by Escobar but Scott kicked out for a great two count.

Escobar paid tribute to WWE Hall of Fame the legendary Eddie Guerrero as he delivered delivered the 3 Amigos.  Scott avoided a Frog Splash and nailed Escobar with House Call. A beautiful looking 450 Splash was connected by Scott but couldn’t keep the champion away. They battled for position against the ring apron as Escobar kicked Scott who landed against the exposed railing. Escobar followed by delivering a Butterfly Backbreaker for the 1,2,3. 

WINNER: Santos Escobar retained the NXT Cruiserweight Title 

(Amin’s Analysis: This was the one match on the show where the possibility of title change might happen but didn’t which I don’t mind as Santos Escobar is a tremendous wrestler as he presents himself a star. A tremendous showing from Scott who looked awesome in the match and will champion as some point. The involvement of Adonis was fine as this could lead to tag team match with Legado del Fantasma.) 

NXT Women’s Championship Match: Io Shirai vs. Candice LeRae

The match began with a great counter exchange as Shirai delivered a hip toss and followed with a cartwheel dropkick frustrating LeRae who rolled to the floor. LeRae delivered a Monkey Flip but Shirai landed on her feet. Shirai showed off her amazing athleticism early delivering a beautiful Springboard Moonsault to LeRae on the floor. 

A slingshot double knee by Shirai connected but LeRae kicked out at two.  LeRae blocked a reverse kick and delivered a back cracker for a two count. LeRae delivered a head scissors but Shirai landed on her feet. LeRae responded with a big lariat for a two count. LeRae connected with a rolling senton and a backbreaker for a pair of two counts. LeRae went for a step-up senton but Shirai moved and delivered a double stomp.

Shirai made her comeback connecting with a flapjack and followed with a Tiger Feint Kick. Shirai connected with a beautiful Springboard Missile Dropkick but LeRae kicked out at two. Shirai connected with a Butterfly Backbreaker, went to climb the turnbuckle but LeRae stopped her. There was an awesome sequence as LeRae delivered a Powerbomb but Shirai no sold and delivered running double knees into the corner.

Shirai delivered a German Suplex but LeRae responded with a Snap German Suplex playing off the spot from their NXT TakeOver: Toronto match. LeRae delivered Lionsault but Shirai kicked out at two for a close near fall. Shirai caught LeRae in a Crossface. LeRae broke free and placed Shirai in the Gargano Escape. Shirai showed she had the heart of a champion as she refused to quit and grabbed the ropes to force a break. Shirai fought back connecting with an Air Raid Crash and then went to climb the turnbuckle. 

Shirai went for her Over The Top Moonsault but LeRae got her knees up. LeRae  planted Shirai with her version of a Curb Stomp but the referee was out. Gargano ran out wearing a referee shirt, made a fast count but Shirai still kicked out. Gargano grabbed the title and handed it to LeRae. With the referee distracted, LeRae LeRae attacked Shirai with the title who still kicked out at two. LeRae went to climb the turnbuckle but Shirai countered by delivering a beautiful Spanish Fly. Shirai followed by climbing up the turnbuckle, delivered the most beautiful looking Over The Top Moonsault to LeRae for the 1,2,3. 

WINNER: Io Shirai retained the NXT Women’s Title 

(Amin’s Analysis: Let me say, I attended NXT TakeOver: Toronto live and saw LeRae and Shirai had the match of SummerSlam weekend. So my expectations were set high as this match didn’t reach that level and too be fair it didn’t have the same atmosphere which a full crowd in a stadium. Having said that, this match was excellent as LeRae and Shirai have great chemistry as they work so well off each other. I usually don’t like outside distractions but telling the story of doing things the Gargano Way, Johnny Gargano appearing worked in the match as they teased of LeRae possibly winning. But, NXT isn’t (Raw or SmackDown) so we rarely get lame distraction finishes on TakeOver specials. Shirai is my favourite, simply amazing, one of the best wrestlers in the world and has been showcased as a top star since winning the NXT Women’s Title. Overall, this was great and I enjoyed it a lot.) 

Io Shirai was interviewed inside the ring as Toni Storm appeared on the screen. Toni noted it’s “Toni Time” and she’s back on NXT and will be seeing Io around. We weren’t done yet as a green tint appeared on the screen as someone was shown arriving to the arena on a Motorcycle. Io looked pleasantly surprised as Ember Moon returned to NXT. 

(Amin’s Analysis: This was pleasant surprise as not only we will be seeing Toni Storm on NXT but Ember Moon is coming as well. This is great as Io Shirai and Toni Storm had great matches on WWE TV. The bigger surprise was seeing Ember Moon who’s a tremendous wrestler as she had one of my favourite matches against Asuka at TakeOver: Brooklyn 3. I look forward to seeing Moon and Shirai wrestler as they will have awesome matches. This was well done.)

NXT Championship Match: Finn Balor vs. Kyle O’Reilly

The match began with some great mat wrestling as Balor and O’Reilly battled for position. O’Reilly delivered a backdrop suplex but Balor maintained control of the side headlock. O’Reilly took control delivering a sliding knee to Balor. O’Reilly went for a sunset flip but Balor rolled through and delivered a basement dropkick for a two count. There was a funny spot as Balor pulled on O’Reilly’s arm while mocking his air guitar. Balor took control connecting with his signature running chops in the corner.

O’Reilly responded delivering a pair of double underhooks, maintained control and delivered a DDT for a two count. They had a strike exchange as Balor delivered a mid kick as O’Reilly went down. Balor took control as he went for a Camel Clutch, then worked over O’Reilly abdominal area. Balor went for an abdominal stretch but O’Reilly countered with a hip toss. O’Reilly connected with a running knee and followed with a bridging Regal Plex but Balor kicked out at two. Balor responded by delivering a Final Cut for a two count. 

Balor connected with a Slingblade, called for a Woo Dropkick but O’Reilly responded with a basement dropkick. O’Reilly was bleeding from the mouth. O’Reilly went for a knee bar but Balor countered into a Sharpshooter. O’Reilly grabbed the ropes to force a break. There was a great sequence as Balor delivered a Pele Kick but O’Reilly responded with a Rebound Clothesline for a double down.

Balor went for the 1916 but O’Reilly countered into a guillotine and followed with a Brainbuster for a two count. Balor broke free of an arm bar delivering stomps to O’Reilly. Balor connected with a reverse 1916 DDT but O’Reilly kicked out at two. Balor went to climb the turnbuckle but O’Reilly stopped him and delivered a pair of Dragon Screws against the ropes. O’Reilly climb the turnbuckle and delivered a flying knee to Balor’s knee.

O’Reilly applied a heel hook, then transitioned into a reverse Heel Lock. Balor refused to quit as he grabbed the ropes to force a break. Balor responded by delivering a double stomp. There was a great spot as O’Reilly delivered a German Suplex but Balor no-sold it and delivered a double stomp for a double down. Balor was also bleeding from the mouth. Balor climbed the turnbuckle and delivered a Coup De Grace for the 1,2,3. 

WINNER: Finn Balor retained the NXT Title 

(Amin’s Analysis: This was awesome and pro wrestling as it’s best as Balor and O’Reilly worked a tremendous match which was completely different from everything else on the show. Just awesome strikes, sequences and great detail of selling and working over specific body parts in a match. Balor has been awesome since returning to NXT last October and is the right person to lead the brand as champion. An awesome showcase for Kyle O’Reilly who’s also an excellent wrestler as he got to showcase his skills on a TakeOver main event. Would be great if this leads to an O’Reilly babyface turn and we see more single’s and maybe championship matches on NXT. A must watch match.) 

After the match, Balor stared at O’Reilly and raised him up to his feet. Balor and O’Reilly shook hands. O’Reilly raised Balor’s hand as the closing graphic appeared on the screen. Suddenly, Ridge Holland appeared holding Adam Cole on his shoulders. Holland placed Cole on the floor as Bobby Fish and Roderick Strong came out. Fish, O’Reilly and Strong checked on Cole as they asked Balor what happened as the show came to a close. 

(Amin’s Analysis: This was an interesting way to close the show and build interest heading into the next episode of NXT on Wednesday night. They placed Ridge Holland in this closing spot as they have high hopes for him who’s looks great and has talent. Let’s see where this lead as it could lead to both Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly turning babyface and possibly splitting away from Bobby Fish and Roderick Strong. Let’s see.) 

Overall Thoughts: NXT TakeOver: 31 was a tremendous show from start to finish as the show featured some great pro wrestling matches. The main event and the Shirai/LeRae matches were my personal favourites. KUSHIDA was also a standout on the show. The show also featured big returns from Ember Moon and Toni Storm who now join an already amazing NXT Women’s Division led by Io Shirai. The closing moments with Ridge Holland was interesting and let’s see where this angle leads. Overall, an excellent show.

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