TakeOver is not long from now as I type this! So let’s go quick and dirty with my predictions for tonight’s show! Here’s the NXT TakeOver 31 Preview!
NXT Cruiserweight Championship: Santos Escobar (c) vs. Isaiah Swerve Scott
It’s about damn time we got a Cruiserweight title match on a TakeOver. Been calling for that for like a whole year now, and they have a very worthy match-up set for it’s debut on the grand stage. Santos Escobar has really felt like a star in recent appearances and Swerve Scott is one of the most abundantly talented guys on the NXT roster which is really saying something. These two should have a spectacular bout but I don’t feel like we’re at the end of this title reign at all. Santos Escobar to retain.
Kushida vs. Velveteen Dream
I have, more than a few reservations about Velveteen Dream sticking around. Thinking about it, I wonder if they’d make a different decision with it if they weren’t in the middle of a wrestling war… either way, on the bright side, Kushida is finally trending upwards. He’s wrestling like the Kushida I used to know. Both of these guys are at a transition period but really, Kush is the one who’s looking for his first big break here and I think it’s overdue as is. Hopefully they know that. Kushida over – builds him towards likely challenging Escobar in the future, I’d love that.
NXT North American Championship: Damian Priest (c) vs. Johnny Gargano
I always appreciated Damian Priest but compared to a lot of other guys in NXT, he was never really one of my favorites. But this face turn has done him a lot of good. He’s a naturally cool figure and he’s leaning on that a lot more, and he’s also gotten to shown off a technical side that I’ve never seen from him. Definitely feels more complete right now. And going into TakeOver against Johnny Gargano is a surefire way to have an awesome match, so he should have a lot of momentum coming out of this. Damian Priest to retain.
NXT Women’s Championship: Io Shirai (c) vs. Candice LeRae
I still fondly recall the battle these two had back at TakeOver: Toronto 2019. We were still in the seemingly endless reign of Shayna Baszler at the time, which meant we were seeing a huge drought in great women’s matches at TakeOvers. Io and Candice provided a major bright spot though, having easily the best women’s TakeOver match that year. And now they have a very, very real chance to one up themselves and have the best of this year as well. I do genuinely do think these are the two greatest wrestlers in the division and it wouldn’t be a shock at all if this were MOTN. Prediction-wise, I’m in a weird place. I do think Candice will win it eventually, it feels like she’s next… but I don’t think Io’s ready to drop it yet. I suppose for now, Io Shirai to retain.
NXT Championship: Finn Balor (c) vs. Kyle O’Reilly
This Kyle O’Reilly push really feels like it came out of nowhere, doesn’t it? Supposedly it’s been in the works for a long time but you could’ve fooled me. They’ve done as good a job as they could in the last few weeks though, Kyle looked very strong coming out of that Gauntlet Eliminator, and the character pieces have made him look real good. Still… there’s uh, there’s just no way in Hell, right? If they actually want to promote him on that level I have no issue with that, but you need more than two or three weeks of booking him like a top singles guy to make that happen. He doesn’t feel remotely on the same level of Finn Balor and is still atleast a few months away from getting there. Finn Balor to retain.
I am curious if there’s some sort of foulplay afoot here though, there’s something very suspicious about all this. Adam Cole being 100% supportive of O’Reilly going after the title was a nice surprise but it also feels too sincerely friendly for WWE. People just aren’t that wholesome in this company, especially not when you’ve largely been heels for your entire run. Some think this might be impetus for a split in the UE… we’ll see. It’s all just too sudden for me to call it on this night, though.