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WWE NXT TakeOver 31 live results: Finn Balor vs. Kyle O'Reilly

The WWE Performance Center's newly remodeled television set makes its debut as NXT TakeOver 31 takes place at the Capitol Wrestling Center tonight.

Kyle O'Reilly will be going for singles gold as he challenges Finn Balor for the NXT Championship. O'Reilly became the number one contender to Balor's title by defeating Cameron Grimes, Timothy Thatcher, Bronson Reed, and Kushida in a gauntlet eliminator match.

Candice LeRae and her husband Johnny Gargano are both set to challenge for titles tonight. The NXT Women's Championship will be on the line as Io Shirai defends her title against LeRae, who won a number one contender's battle royal to get the title shot. Damian Priest will also defend the NXT North American Championship against Gargano.

Isaiah "Swerve" Scott, who is the only person to pin Santos Escobar in WWE, will challenge for Escobar's NXT Cruiserweight Championship tonight. Plus, Kushida will take on Velveteen Dream.

Tonight's pre-show will begin at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time and will include an appearance by Rhea Ripley. TakeOver will then begin at 7 p.m. Eastern.

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The show opened with a montage featuring tons of old footage and stock photos of Capitol Wrestling. The promo showed a quote from Vince McMahon in 1977 putting over the quality of the WWWF product at the time. Once the vignette finished, a logo appeared onscreen for the CWC, or “Capitol Wrestling Center,” or what they’ve decided to call the venue. The CWC logo looks almost identical to the Cruiserweight Classic logo.

Damian Priest defeated Johnny Gargano to retain the NXT North American title

Gargano ran at Priest as the bell rang but stopped short before attacking. He looked scared. Priest through a spinkick and chased Gargano out of the ring. Gargano snuck back in and put a few boots to Priest until the North American champ responded with a spinning roundhouse kick. Impressive athleticism from Priest off the bat.

Gargano used an armdrag to whip Priest from the apron onto the floor; Priest did a front-flip and bumped hard onto the floor. It looked great. Gargano landed a tope suicida next, then worked Priest over more inside the ring.

Priest launched a comeback when he planted Gargano with a big modified flatliner. He later went for a Razor's Edge, but Gargano reversed on the way down into a sunset bomb. Priest stuck a big superman punch, then missed a spinkick, which allowed Gargano to lariat Priest to the floor. Priest then used his high spinkick to knock Gargano from the apron. He topped it off with a Razor's Edge onto the apron, then rolled Gargano back into the ring for two. The crowd outside started making lots of noise right here.

They traded high spots and nearfalls toward the end of this. Lots of instant replays. Gargano used Sliced Bread and a running lariat to the back of Priest's head for another two. Gargano taunted Priest and shot an imaginary arrow at him before Priest was able to again shift momentum and land a beautiful-looking sitout chokeslam for two.

When Priest climbed to the top for the finish, Gargano rolled to the floor. Priest decided to do a tope con hiro over the corner, but Gargano dragged security into the line of fire, which led to Priest taking out two guards instead of Gargano. Gargano landed a low blow in the commotion, then slapped on Garga-no-escape until Priest stuck his ankle on the bottom rope for a break.

Gargano tried knocking Priest from the apron onto the steel steps, similar to the bump Priest took on one of the last TakeOvers, but Priest reversed it and kicked Gargano in the face instead. He then spiked Gargano with The Reckoning for the pin. Priest retains his title.

KUSHIDA defeated Velveteen Dream via submission

KUSHIDA went after Dream before the bell and went to town. This was KUSHIDA’s first match on an NXT TakeOver according to the announce team. He dominated the first few minutes of this and looked great. Dream landed a cheap shot early and shifted the pace, moving the match back to the floor. He used a Randy Savage-esque axhandle from the top to the floor, then rolled KUSHIDA into the ring or a two-count. Dream dyed his hair gray tonight and it looks reminiscent of Don King’s. He did a bronco buster to KUSHIDA next, then screamed “Boo me now!”

KUSHIDA did a really good job at making this feel like a fight. We saw some of his flashy offense, but most of what he did here was simply brawl and shout. Awesome. He did the same move he used a few weeks ago to Dream, where he dragged Dream’s arm into the ringpost. He did it so hard that Dream’s glove flew off the first time.

Dream caught KUSHIDA with a sharp superkick to the face next, but KUSHIDA responded with an armbar. Dream slid to the floor and escaped, then used a power bomb for two, but KUSHIDA transitioned into the same armbar from here. Dream used strikes to break the pressure, then used the Dream Valley Driver and Purple Rainmaker from the top rope, but Dream couldn't make it to KUSHIDA soon enough for a pin; his hesitation cost him the three here. Dream climbed to the top again, but KUSHIDA dashed to the top and launched dream with an avalanche Hoverboard Lock but still couldn't get the tap. Dream went for another Dream Valley Driver and landed it, but this time KUSHIDA heldonto the hoverboard lock/kimura and tapped Dream immediately from here. KUSHIDA wins.

After the match, KUSHIDA didn't let up on Dream and kept striking him. He laid in hard palm strikes and elbows, then kept locking on arm submissions. This KUSHIDA is so much more interesting than who we saw in NJPW. Really good match all around.

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NXT aired a commercial for Halloween Havoc, which will air for the first time under the NXT banner on October 28. Check out the front page for more details on that.

Santos Escobar defeated Isaiah Scott to retain the NXT Cruiserweight title

All action from the get-go. Swerve landed a moonsault off the apron, then a corkscrew senton from the turnbuckle, then a Fosbury flop onto Escobar near the entrance. This was just a minute or two into the match, too. Swerevtastic, indeed.

Escobar was back in the match soon after and used a cool-looking tope through the ropes and crashed into the barricade and cage barrier set up at ringside.

Scott mounted his comeback after a few more minutes of punishment. After blocking a headbutt, Swerve unloaded, throwing body shots and a few kicks before he went on a string of high impact moves, including a rolling thunder flatliner.

Escobar returned the attack and did some sort of botched powerslam that was called a shoulderbreaker and got a two-count. Escobar's stablemates ran down to the ring to distract Swerve but Ashante Adonis came out and made the save, landing a twisting asai moonsault from the bottom rope to the floor, taking the rest out of the match.

Escobar landed a Phantom Driver for two, but again Swerve picked up the momentum and ramped up the pace again. There were tons of false finishes towards the end of this in Swerve’s favor, the most noticeable after Swerve landed a 450 splash for two.

Before the finish, there was a spot where Escobar and Swerve fell onto the apron and Swerve hit his head against the ringpost. He sold like he was knocked silly. Escobar then landed a double-underhook GTS, slamming Swerve’s face into his knee, and scored the win. Isaiah Scott looked awesome here.
 

Io Shirai defeated Candace LeRae to retain the NXT Women’s championship

These two complement each other so well. From the bell, these two were exchanging everything from holds to aerial maneuvers, and all within the first couple minutes. Both did dives to the floor only minutes in. No hesitation from either of these two, either; they were working from the trenches all the way through this.

LeRae slowed the pace midway through and worked the champion over with a few submissions and hard stomps. Awesome heel work from LeRae, really mean and hard-hitting in the ring.

After a few minutes more of this, Shirai came back after LeRae missed a senton which allowed Shirai to keep LeRae down with a double-stomp.

LeRae later intercepted Shirai from the rope and power bombed her, but Shirai no-sold it and stuffed LeRae with meteora in the corner. Lots of back and forth from here. LeRae landed a Lionsault in the ring for two. Shirai locked on a LeBell Lock, but LeRae reversed it into the Garga-no-escape submission until Shirai broke the hold. LeRae broke the hold and accidentally took out the ref here. While he sold, Shirai landed an air raid crash, then went for a moonsault. LeRae blocked it with her knees, which Shirai ate. Shirai then bowled over the ref, who was still selling, and knocked him to the floor.

LeRae used a curbstomp and pinned Shirai next, but the ref was still selling on the floor. Johnny Gargano then ran out with a ref’s shirt and tried counting a fast three, but still Shirai kicked out. Gargano then rushed to the floor and grabbed the title belt. “It’s hers!” he shouted, pointing at his wife, LeRae. While he argued with the ref inside the ring--the ref had been revived by now--he slipped the championship belt to LeRae, who decked Shirai with the belt. LeRae pinned Shirai but, again, she kicked out. Moments later, Shirai was able to land a picture-perfect avalanche Spanish Fly, then landed moonsault for the win. Great stuff from both here, and match of the night so far.

Toni Storm appeared on the monitors next, where she said she’s back: “It always has, and always will be, Toni Time,” effectively calling Shirai out.

While Shirai was still in the ring, we saw another vignette on the screen. Someone drove to the Capitol Wrestling Center on a motorcycle, then came onto the entrance ramp. Former NXT Women’s champion, Ember Moon, made her return, looking slightly more Mad Max: Fury Road than before, with a new haircut and makeup. She didn’t say anything though she didn’t have to. Nice double surprise after this one.

We cut to a quick promo with Ashante Adonis talking about his “rich-ual” before the main event.

NXT Championship match: Finn Balor vs. Kyle O'Reilly

Compared with the rest of tonight’s card, this started off much slower. It was a deliberate choice and it instantly made this feel a little more special, a bit more of a “main event” feel from the beginning.

Balor controlled much of the earlier part of this match. He used a stiff basement dropkick on O’Reilly early. Later, Balor blasted him with chops in the corner until O’Reilly found an opening and unloaded strikes onto Balor, hard kicks and elbows, then used two rolling butterfly suplexes and a double-arm DDT to even the out odds.

Balor slowed things down again midway through this, once using a modified camel clutch and then a few hard kicks to O’Reilly’s body. O’Reilly as de facto babyface in this worked well.

O'Reilly bled from the mouth late in this. He took some very hard shots. Balor locked O'Reilly in a sharpshooter at one point and O'Reilly just barely made it to the ropes for a break.

After Balor landed a Pele kick, O'Reilly unleashed a desperation flurry of strikes and laid Balor out with a running lariat. He then locked out a realistic-looking guillotine choke, then eventually moved to an armlock, which Balor stomped his way out of. Really good tension from here.

Balor landed 1916 next, but O'Reilly kicked out after a two-count. When Balor went to the top for a diving double stomp, O'Reilly knocked him from the ropes and started using Dragon Screw legwhips on Balor, ripping his knees across the middle rope. Next, he transitioned from an achilles' lock to a modified heel hook, then to another achilles' lock. Very authentic grappling from O'Reilly here and it really added drama to this. Balor sold like his ACL or hamstrings were torn after he broke the hold.

Balor started acting like he couldn't stand up, but he was faking, then took O'Reilly down with a quick takedown and a double stomp. After more quick back-and-forth, which saw O'Reilly use a brutal flying kneedrop, Balor was able to land one more double stomp, a huge one, and then put O'Reilly away with Coup de Grace from the top for the emphatic win.

NXT production caught a great shot of Balor after the match, his mouth now bloodier than O'Reilly's. One of the best main event matches I've seen all year from any company. Awesome, hard-hitting pro wrestling, nothing more or less.

As Balor and O'Reilly celebrated in the ring together, Ridge Holland appeared in the crowd with Adam Cole draped over his shoulder. He stared at O'Reilly and the rest of Undisputed Era, who were ringside by now, then tossed Cole over the barrier onto the floor. Cole sold like he'd just been in a car wreck or something. Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish started yelling for people to come out and help Cole. Balor looked along from the ring, concerned, although he denied knowing what happened while Fish and Strong were yelling. The TakeOver broadcast ended here, the program fading to black before we found out anymore details.

Final thoughts:

This was one of the best TakeOver's of the year so far, and felt closest to a "normal" TakeOver in 2020 than the others have in terms of quality and overall feel. The last two matches were the highlights, for sure, and it'd be wise if you're a fan of the product to watch those two immediately if you haven't done so already. Though that's not to say the rest of the card was a bust. Everything was above-average on the undercard in some way, though KUSHIDA vs. Velveteen Dream was exceptional. "NEW-SHIDA" was really fun to watch, and I look forward to seeing more of what they do with his character going forward.