Damian Priest (C) def. Johnny Gargano – NXT North American Championship
If you carefully look at Gargano’s NXT career, the best matches he’s had always come against those around his weight class such as Ciampa, Cole, Ricochet and others. He’s shown to be more than capable of having great matches against people who are bigger, but they aren’t nearly flashy or heart-stomping. I guess we’ve been spoiled with enough super kicks over the years.
Anyways, this was a solid opener and I think may have been Priest’s best singles outing. At least from what I can remember, because Priest still hasn’t resonated with me as of yet. I do think Gargano did a great job in getting Priest’s offense over, and Gargano’s smaller size can make you appreciate Priest’s strength and athleticism much more. They kept the formula pretty basic with Gargano’s heel shtick and it resulted in a well worked opener. ****
KUSHIDA def. Velveteen Dream
Aggressive KUSHIDA is the best KUSHIDA. I loved the arm work throughout and the tenacity he showed. Truth be told, however, I think I would have been more satisfied if this was just a squash. A lot of the brawling was good, but I also thought a lot of it was just fluff. Dream played his role well and KUSHIDA was awesome in his. But this didn’t blow me away or anything either. ***
Santos Escobar (C) def. Isiah “Swerve” Scott – Cruiserweight Championship
Ever since Ali, Alexander, Murphy and Gulak moved onto greener pastures, I haven’t really been keeping tabs on the Cruiserweight division all that much because I don’t believe the superstars are as charismatic or as dynamic as those who came before them. But it’ll be matches like these that reel me back in.
This was a fantastic back and forth match with Scott’s storytelling putting it over the top. This match had the feel of those Ali/Murphy matches back in the day. Just awesome stuff all around. While I did think the finish was a bit awkward using the steel on the bottom turnbuckle (I personally wanted something more obvious), great effort by Santos and Scott here. ****1/4
Io Shirai (C) def. Candice LeRae – NXT Women’s Championship
I prefer their previous Takeover match because of the dynamic of Shirai being the heel instead of LeRae. Regardless, this was another very good match that got very tense. However, I have to dock a few points for the overbooked finish.
They did the whole Bayley/Asuka bit with Gargano believing putting on a referee shirt gives him authority in the match. It was an unneeded wrinkle which remains a nonsensical trope in wrestling. Gargano simply distracting the ref would have been better. Regardless, I’m not mad at what I saw. I was actually quite pleased. ****
Finn Balor (C) def. Kyle O’Reilly – NXT Championship
Kyle has always been one of my favorite performers, and I was waiting for the day his singles prowess would be showcased at a Takeover, because he’s earned this moment for a while. And boy did he not disappoint. This was an absolutely fantastic main event in which Finn and Kyle fed off of each other and delivered a classic.
Whether it was Kyle’s punishment taken to his ribs or Finn’s legs, this went from being a wrestling match to a battle of attrition. You could honestly believe Kyle would upset Finn because Finn’s finisher is with his legs that was being worked over.
Kyle just has a unique style about him that makes him such an elite competitor, and Finn’s tenacity was a great compliment to his. I’m so happy Kyle got this moment and I’m hoping this will be the first of many in the future. Cheers to a wonderful main event, and the most fun Takeover main event I’ve seen in a while. ****3/4
Best Takeover top to bottom I’ve watched in a while and arguably the best one this year. This card is filled with quality matches, a main event that delivered, and even a legitimate surprise in the return of Ember Moon, where we thought she had a troubling prognosis that would jeopardize her future. We also had a teaser for a future program featuring Ridge Holland.
I don’t have anything to complain about here. Takeover 31 gets a thumbs up.