NXT: TakeOver 31 was by all means a show that delivered and no match solidified this statement greater than the main event of Finn Bálor vs. Kyle O’Reilly. Within the confines of the newly rebranded Performance Centre now billed as the “Capitol Wrestling Center” in an ode to the companies roots these men put on an absolute clinic. In this saturated era of near falls, transitional super kicks, meaningless suicide dives and co-operative corner spots nothing is more refreshing than a good old fashioned wrestling match.
This match exemplifies why NXT has evolved from a developmental gameshow and has become the black and gold branded powerhouse you see today, this not only felt like a fight but it felt like a big ticket fight. One of the many things this match that was realistically always going to be a classic had going for it was simply the build, if you’ve kept up with the product you already know what to expect from “The Prince” Finn Bálor, he’s one of the most seamless main event level workers in the business today and he’s proven that through his matches in the UK, Japan and of course the USA.
As for Kyle O’ Reilly he has definitely built a level of respect for himself and he has torn the house down in various indie promotions but NXT has been the greatest level of exposure for him by far and during his time with the black and gold he’s only been presented as a tag team wrestler in Adam Cole’s shadow.
Kyle is fighting to prove himself a serious main event level title contender whilst Finn is here to solidify himself as the top dog. Fast forward to the entrances and it’s apparent from their body language and demeanour that both men are in an intense state of mind, this is going to be a fight and not even Kyle’s brash air guitar playing can sway that aura. Neither one of these guys are huge but Finn is dynamite kid levels of ripped and Kyle makes up for his less impressive physique with his swagger and obvious striking ability.
This match kicks off in the way a match realistically should, both men begin feel each other out and employ what feels like an endless amount of mat wrestling techniques. They’re jockeying for control and there’s so many beautiful small moments in these sequences that just add to the replay value of what is already the stand out match of the PPV. Finn is such a technician and his European strong style approach works wonders with Kyle’s proficient BJJ training, no move was wasted and everything seen here was done for a reason.
Finn scientifically dominated a large portion of this physically taxing matches offense as he methodically broke down Kyle targeting any exploitable limb or body part he could get his experienced hands on. This was in ring story telling at its finest, this was what this match should’ve looked like. Kyle was selling logically for the grappling machine Finn but Kyle was surviving everything Finn threw at him.
The sympathy for Kyle was building and about halfway through he took some vicious stomps and strikes to the gut including a spinning heel kick that landed flush as you could see the match getting away from Kyle. Finn really upped his nastiness during this match and there was no end in sight for the punishment he was bringing to Kyle.
You really felt for Kyle watching this especially with Finn boasting “I do this every night. This is no problem for me.” And you just wanted him to be that succesful underdog and get that recognition, gasping with a now bloodied mouth Kyle sold like crazy and just when you thought the match was going to be called Kyle started fighting back with a new found fury, now trying to return the damage done onto him Kyle clearly still fatigued and in pain slowly fought back again building momentum to the point where he pulled out a perfect Regal-Plex still registering the damage he had taken from Finn.
Kyle managed to kick out of a 1916 and landed two top rope diving knees of his own, Finn is finally in trouble here as Kyle is working the leg and pulls off a CM Punkesque corner knee lift which looked especially horrific as you see the crimson liquid seeping out of Finn’s lips. However after thirty minutes or so Finn manages to land the Coup De Grâce and retain his NXT Championship, one finisher and no kick out. That’s how you make something meaningful and this might be the best match of the year, the post match show of respect from men just further elevated Kyle as a serious contender and what more can you say about this match? It was superb.