WWE NXT TakeOver 31 Takeaways: The orchestrators of Adam Cole’s attack

WWE, Adam Cole (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images)
WWE, Adam Cole (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images) /

WWE NXT TakeOver 31 is in the books, and here are the five biggest takeaways from another awesome show.

TakeOver Specials always deliver, and WWE NXT TakeOver 31 was no exception despite the short build to the show.

In some ways, this edition of TakeOver overdelivered. Take the main event, for example. We all knew Finn Balor and Kyle O’Reilly would put on a banger, but those two somehow exceeded our expectations in their barnburner of an NXT Title match.

Here are five takeaways from TakeOver.

Ember Moon should be a heel after WWE NXT TakeOver 31 return

Or “heel”, since NXT like to blur the lines with some of their characters, such as NXT Champion Finn Balor who is essentially his own character vs. a heel or a face.

Ember Moon made her return at TakeOver after Io Shirai successfully retained the title against a potentially Raw or SmackDown-bound Candice LeRae.

Prior to the Pay Per View, WWE was teasing a mystery wrestler at the show. It seemed like Bo Dallas could that person, and Robert Roode was speculated before showing up on Raw to answer Drew McIntyre’s open challenge.

It’s safe to say Moon’s return was a welcome surprise for us all. Seeing her healthy is the most important thing, and we’re all excited to watch one of NXT’s best wrestlers ever to step back between the ropes.

She was an amazing babyface in NXT, putting on classics with Asuka and Shayna Baszler. But I’d love to see her with an edge as a heel, feuding with the likes of Shotzi Blackheart and Io Shirai.

Io Shirai showed she is going to be the company’s most dominant champion at WWE NXT TakeOver 31

Since winning the title at NXT TakeOver: In Your House, Io Shirai has shown fans of the Black and Gold brand why she’s long been regarded as the best wrestler in the world when it comes to what she can do inside ring.

She’s also blossomed as a character, because, like Finn Balor, she gets to be in that kind of in-between area. And that should set up her feuds with Toni Storm and Ember Moon – both of whom announced their returns at TakeOver 31 – nicely.

But the way Shirai defeated Candice LeRae still stands out to me. She kicked out after Candice cheated and then kicked out of a fast three-count by faux ref Johnny Gargano doing his best Bayley impression.

Basically, she’s unstoppable. No amount of cheating can beat her. It’s going to take a top-notch competitor throwing everything they have at Shirai in order to take her down as champ. There isn’t a stronger champion in WWE right now, and that’s saying something considering who is holding titles on SmackDown and Raw. The wins will keep on coming.

After WWE NXT TakeOver 31, Damian Priest is a made man

Damian Priest and Johnny Gargano kicked off TakeOver with a great match. It took me a little bit of time to get into the match, but once the first nearfall hit, I was hooked. Gargano is always ready to have a great match at TakeOver, and a lot of wrestlers have their first breakout performance when they face Gargano in a TakeOver special.

The North American Title win and ensuing hot tub moment at TakeOver 30 was great for Priest, but this title defense against one of NXT’s best stars ever was a lot more meaningful.

Priest is being positioned as one of the next big stars on the Black and Gold brand, and he passed an important test at TakeOver 31. It’s going to be awesome to see how he carries that title over the coming months.

Kyle O’Reilly confirmed he is a capable singles star in WWE NXT TakeOver 31’s main event

Adam Cole is a charismatic superstar who is one of NXT’s best wrestlers ever and the longest-reigning male champion in the brand’s history. He would be a major star on either Raw or SmackDown, too, and is no slouch in the ring.

But Kyle O’Reilly has a great deal of potential as a singles competitor. He showed it in the main event of NXT TakeOver 31 against Finn Balor, delivering on the match’s hype – and then some.

O’Reilly and Balor bloodied each other and kicked the hell out of each other, with KOR pulling out some absolutely ingenious moves. He even brought out the Regalplex on Finn!

Charisma, in-ring prowess, and comedic chops (air guitar, anyone?). Kyle O’Reilly has it all, and this isn’t the end of his main event story on the Black and Gold brand. There will be more big matches for O’Reilly in the future, and fans are fully invested in the Undisputed Era member’s singles career.

Ridge Holland didn’t attack Adam Cole to close WWE NXT TakeOver 31 on his own

One of the biggest talking points after the show has to do with something that didn’t occur in the ring. After Finn Balor defeated Kyle O’Reilly in the main event, we saw Ridge Holland, who has been getting a push as a new superstar on the Black and Gold brand, emerge and dump Adam Cole into the ringside area. The assumption there is that Holland beat up Cole to send a statement to the Undisputed Era, raising his own stock to another level through these heelish actions.

But it was interesting to note that this occurred after we were all on high-alert that Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish would betray Kyle O’Reilly in some way to cause an Undisputed break-up. And it’s also worth noting that Roddy, in particular, seemed to raise his voice and “act” the most, suggesting he was trying to hide that he was truly partially behind the attack.

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As for me, I don’t think Ridge Holland did it alone. He played a role in it, but he was an opportunist working on behalf – or alongside – the orchestrators Strong and Fish. After all, who can trust Roddy after what he did to Pete Dunne in 2018?