This Sunday night live on the WWE Network, NXT will present its’ latest Takeover special. Based on the reaction, you would think this pay-per-view (whatever you want to call it) is going to stink and be the worst show of all-time. Their steam on Wednesday nights has been taken away most weeks, and the hype is admittedly fairly lower than usual. The build was fairly thrown together, there isn’t even a cool tag line, and of course, we are still in the empty arena phase.
All of that is true.
This column will explain why none of that will matter, and this Takeover will result in not only quite a few special moments for fans but also be a turning point for NXT…
Mystery Vignette – Let’s just start right at the top of the list for fan speculation. NXT has been airing these weird promos about somebody (male or female) taking back what is theirs. Returning to their roots. Coming back to their home but in a different setting. A whole lot of mumbo jumbo. Honestly, I am not the guy to be breaking down the verbiage for this. I don’t pin point little clues and deep dive into this stuff like others. I just take what I see and go from there. The bottom line is NXT is about to get a new or returning star. On a show that will need a little bit of pizzazz, I welcome the addition! Now who is it? Bobby Roode is a former main event act in NXT and held their top prize. He was a strong candidate, as he had been rumored to be coming back soon. Well, he popped in on Raw for the main event last Monday. Guessing it’s not him anymore. A popular pick is Bo Dallas, which I say “UGH!” to. No thanks. Talk about a massive disappointment. I fear it is him but would rather not waste time even talking about him. How about Melina? She is rumored to be coming back. I know, I know…never was in NXT. Cool. The vignette did mention returning to a ‘new’ kind of home, so perhaps it makes sense? Again, I’m not good at deciphering crap like this. Ember Moon was also a name I saw. Nope, far too injured. I LOVVVVVVVVVVE her, so make no mistake, that’d be awesome. However, it is not happening, due to her health. In the end, I am ready. Should make for a really cool moment. Makes you wish crowd reactions…sigh…
NXT Cruiserweight Championship – Santos Escobar has been the reigning champion for awhile now. A little ho hum if we are being real. However, all of that changes once he steps into the squared circle. His challenger this weekend will be the one and only Isaiah “Swerve” Scott. If you want a potential sleeper of the evening, look no further. These cruiserweights can fly baby. They know how to have a good match. Both of these guys may be battling over the Cruiserweight Title right now…but they are so great that the sky’s the limit. Especially Santos right now. He has his character DOWN PAT! I will look for him to retain, but this is not the weak spot on the card. it just may be the highlight.
Kushida VS Velveteen Dream – I have never seen Kushida wrestle before signing with NXT. If that offends you or riles you up, I don’t care. I do not follow much outside of WWE (and NXT also obviously). When he signed and was brought in, I went to look up things that I should be looking for. Most of the reviews were all about his greatness. How awesome he is. How he is a can’t miss star. Well, it’s been a little over a year since Kushida showed up in NXT. I know he had time off at one point, but I am still waiting to see this star. No doubt he has impressed in every outing. All the glowing praise and junk though? Still waiting. The GOOD news is it finally appears that NXT is behind him and giving him a little bit of an edge. Perhaps a new attitude is just what he needs. I have been liking his more aggressive side. Big fan. It only amps up even more as he is facing The Velveteen Dream on Sunday. That dude always shows up at Takeover with a special entrance and a special outing in the ring. Take these two, throw them in a blender, add a little spice for flavor and boom! Another big Takeover selling point.
North American Championship – Damian Priest is defending his title against Johnny Gargano. If you have not been following NXT as of late, these two have stolen the show on a consistent basis. Not inside the ring but outside of it. Since becoming North American Champion, Priest has developed this kinda cool “The Rock” vibe to him, where he is a definitely a face, but he is happily cocky, flirty, over the top and in your face about it. Been working for him. As for Gargano, yes, he is still in NXT, and yes, he is staying put. He has been trying to get his power couple thing going with his wife Candice LeRae. She will also be battling for gold on this show (more on that alter). The two have skits where we go to their house and have a little dinner party each Wednesday. Pretty funny stuff. They are obviously delusional heels. Why it works is because they can back it up with their in-ring skills and have the tenure, so fans know it is not just all BS talk. On the final NXT episode before Sunday, Gargano and Candice posed with the titles, as if to predict a changing of the guard. Usually that spells doom for challengers on the actual pay-per-view…yet, we just saw Sami Zayn do the same on Smackdown before Clash of Champions and deliver on that days later. It happens folks. There is NO rule that states the wrestler who stands tall before a PPV loses on the PPV. I broke that theory down in a column years ago. Doesn’t exist. That is what makes this atchup so interesting. While Gargao and LeRae would love to be married couple with two belts, I am not sure Priest is quite ready for lose the North American Title he just won. Time will tell.
NXT Womens Championship – Io Shirai will wrestle Candice LeRae at Takeover 31 this Sunday. As noted above, this is all about one married couple looking to carry gold and flaunt it in everybody’s faces. Io has been a dominant champion and isn’t going to go down easy. With Rhea Ripley still out there as the ultimate challenger, I do wonder if it’s only a matter of time before she gets her rematch for the title…or if she is purposely being left in the background until the WWE Draft next week. Hmmm, ever think of that? Either way, I do believe that NXT needs a little bit of shaking up going forward. The Karrior Kross injury left such a big hole in the program, as he had been THE man for the past few months. NXT was all Kross, and when he got injured the night he won the main title, it was devastating. The Keith Lee call up to RAW hurt, but that had been expected for awhile now. NXT was planning for it. There was no planning for Kross to go out, especially since that also left out Scarlett. Ouch! The tag title scene needs a bolt. Ciampa and Adam Cole are waiting in thw wings for their next feud. Dream was once a promising act that has completely fallen apart. A lot of things going on right now clearly. The Kross thing was such a big blow that LeRae shocking the world here may not be the worst. The only hesitation is it feels like if she wins, Johnny Gargano kinda has to also. That makes me think no titles for the married couple unfortunately. Like I said, they have been so good in their roles as of late. Toss up folks! Heads for Io, tails for Candice. Call it in the air…
NXT Championship – Yes, this was thrown together last minute. Yes, this has only had one total show of build. Yes, this will likely be a predictable outcome with Finn Balor retaining the NXT Championship over Kyle O’Reily. Yes, I am well aware of that. HOWEVER, can you ask for a better ‘filler’ match than freakin’ Balor and O’Reily? Good grief. Even if this is rushed and a last minute deal, look me in the eye and tell me these two won’t tear the house down! Everybody reading this column knows how good Finn Balor is in NXT. Everybody reading this knows how good Kyle O’Reily has been in every kind of setting. With his new face persona and a story of being the underdog being his side, watch out! I am expecting a 20-30 minute classic that only NXT can deliver. O’Reily and Balor will have a great main event. If you tune in for one thing this Sunday, make sure it is for this. When you add in the entire Undisputed Era breakup tease (Adam Cole laid it on thick Wednesday) and the mystery star returning, this is the very definition of MUST SEE. Championship match, excellent brand, two mat technicians, a potential stable falling apart, and a mystery return or debut. Um, yeah. Sign me up for that! What more could you ask for?
NXT Always Delivers – Go and find me a terrible Takeover. Go ahead. I will wait. The fact of the matter is NXT has built up the BEST track record in all of wrestling for the past six years. Since the WWE Network launched, the one guarantee in this industry is NXT Takeover will give us all a fantastic show. They have kept that up since moving to the USA Network and have even kept that up since the world shut down six months ago. Do NOT doubt NXT. Don’t do it. You will look foolish, after the roster knocks it out of the park like always. This Sunday night. NXT Takeover 31 – be there and be square.
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