WWE NXT TakeOver 31 Preview & Predictions

Tonight, Sunday October, 4th at 7:00 PM ET (Preshow at 6:30 PM ET) WWE presents NXT TakeOver 31 from the Capitol Wrestling Center. Earlier this morning, Triple H told Sports Illustrated that NXT is temporarily moving from Full Sail University to the remodeled WWE Performance Center that will be now known as the Capitol Wrestling Center. A little over a year after NXT debuted on USA Network and doubled the length of its weekly show to compete with AEW Dynamite head-to-head in a ratings battle we're seeing a lot of the same players but in very different roles. NXT is at its best when it builds long feuds and focuses on the in-ring product more than the entertainment aspect but the brand has been thrown off its game over the past year as it tries to compete with AEW instead of focussing on what made NXT great in the first place. NXT doesn't need a complete rebuild, it just needs to refocus to become a hot brand once again.

NXT 31 touts a card that appears to be a return to form for the brand: catering to die-hard wrestling fans. The NXT Tag Team Champions, Breezango, are a glaring omission from the card, but the NXT tag division is the weakest it has been in five years and it will take some time & investment to rebuild it. The main event of this show is a very curious one in the WWE Universe because Kyle O'Reilly has been almost exclusively a tag team specialist but now he is challenging Finn Balor for the NXT Championship. It seems as if NXT is banking on the idea that die-hard fans will already know that Kyle O'Reilly has been ROH World Champion and PWG World Champion; two independent promotions world-renowned for their high standards for their in-ring product.

Below is a preview of the card with predictions of the outcomes based upon recent booking. In the comments, please share which KUSHIDA & Kyle O'Reilly singles matches NXT fans should check out and your predictions for the event – including who you think will be the returning Superstar tonight.

Finn Balor (c) vs. Kyle O'Reilly

In the video above, you can hear straight from Kyle O'Reilly: this is a dream match for him. Kyle O'Reilly has had eye-popping singles matches in Japan against KUSHIDA & Shibata in addition to some great matches with fellow UE member, Adam Cole, in Japan and in the US. Kyle O'Reilly is the biggest untapped resource in NXT and he's finally getting his opportunity. O'Reilly is faced with an insurmountable opponent in the rejuvenated NXT Champion, Finn Balor. Balor carried NXT on his shoulders outside of Full Sail on their first American tour and now he's back in his place as the top guy of NXT and he is ready to carry the brand once again.

We haven't seen Kyle O'Reilly wrestle as a face in NXT outside of the Gauntlet Eliminator match he won to earn this opportunity, so expect some new wrinkles to his game in the ring and a change in demeanor. O'Reilly sells as good or better than Dolph Ziggler, so be ready for some GIF-worthy moments in this match. Hopefully O'Reilly gets more opportunities to get more comfortable on the mic, his humor and demeanor are reminiscent of Christian and that could be developed to help flesh out his persona as the audience gets to know him as a singles competitor. O'Reilly will put up a fight in what is sure to be one of the best matches of the year but Balor is going to hold onto the NXT Championship through the rest of the year as the face of NXT.

Finn Balor via pinfall

Io Shirai (c) vs. Candice LeRae

When these two ladies wrestled at TakeOver: Toronto in 2019, Candice LeRae was a very different person. Io tapped Candice out in a breakout match for both women. A little over a year later, Io is a dominant champion who has a pinfall victory over Sasha Banks and feud with Charlotte Flair waiting for her when Charlotte comes back.

After watching so many other women hold the NXT Championship, LeRae has changed her attitude and her look, adopting a more aggressive style that mixes in some heel chicanery to get the job done. Shirai has successfully defended her title against Dakota Kai & Tegan Nox and recently had an amazing TV match with Shotzi Blackheart. LeRae will need every move in her arsenal and some shenanigans to get the job done against Shirai. Remember: Shirai was the one who betrayed LeRae in the first place over a year ago. Payback is coming for Shirai.

Candice LeRae via pinfall

Damian Priest (c) vs. Johnny Gargano

This summer has been the most consistently good Damian Priest's matches have been so far. Now it's time for Priest to wrestle Johnny TakeOver. The most interesting story of this match is "Can Johnny give Damian Priest the match of his life?" Gargano's best matches are against opponents that are closer to his size and Priest is nearly a foot taller than Gargano. With Candice taking the gold in her match against Io, it will push Gargano to look once again towards the NXT Championship and an eventual rematch with Finn Balor. Priest will find a way to win against Gargano and will hopefully gain even more swagger to his growing persona.

Damian Priest via pinfall

Santos Escobar (c) vs. Isaiah "Swerve" Scott

Santos Escobar (formerly King Cuerno of Lucha Underground) has been dominant since his debut on NXT in April. Escobar and his group Legado del Fantasma are determined for Lucha Libre to be taken seriously and not portrayed as a "House Party". Triple H loves a good heel faction that wears dress clothes, so Legado del Fantasma looks like they have a bright future in NXT. Scott is the only Superstar with a victory over Escobar and he would totally win here if Raul Mendoza and Joaquin Wilde aren't on the outside. Escobar promised a fair match with Scott but Escobar has yet to have a fair match. Scott has been beaten down for too long and is too good not to overcome here. Escobar and Legado del Fantasma will get their win back soon but Scott's night is tonight.

Isaiah "Swerve" Scott via pinfall

KUSHIDA vs. The Velveteen Dream

Since arriving in NXT a year and a half ago, KUSHIDA hasn't seemed like the same wrestler who set NJPW on fire in matches with Will Ospreay, Kenny Omega, Hiromu Takahashi, Ricochet, & Kyle O'Reilly. NXT programming has been pumping out the idea of a more aggressive KUSHIDA coming and we will see that in full force in this match. Velveteen Dream's career has dramatically changed from where it was one year ago as the audience is now having difficulty connecting with Dream because of Patrick Clark's actions outside of NXT television. WWE clearly has a lot of belief in developing Dream to be a top star, but the obstacles of Patrick Clark's conduct outside NXT TV will follow Dream until it is addressed or if WWE and Dream can make the audience forget it ever happened. KUSHIDA has a lot to give and he will be dealing in this match. Look for KUSHIDA to pick up the victory in a physical match as he works his way up the card in NXT.

KUSHIDA via pinfall