One of NXT TakeOver 31's marquee matches is the NXT Championship match between Kyle O'Reilly and Finn Balor, and the hype is high after O'Reilly overcame several other big-time stars for the chance at the title. O'Reilly and Balor then met up for a war of words earlier this week, which only rocketed the hyper train further. O'Reilly has accomplished quite a bit in NXT already, but he's never been this close to the vaunted NXT Championship. ComicBook.com had the chance to speak to O'Reilly about his match against Balor as well as being looked at as the underdog and if a future Championship reign would include a match against his Undisputed ERA teammate Adam Cole.
O'Reilly has been upfront about his respect for Balor, and crazily enough this will be the first time they've battled in the ring in NXT. O'Reilly has been anticipating this matchup though for quite some time and is coming in prepared.
"It's funny because I feel like I've been preparing for this match for a really long time because Finn is a guy I've admired from afar, for a while," O'Reilly said. "I've been watching his stuff for years. I mean, what's not to like about him? He's great. He's entertaining, he's tremendous in the ring. And as a performer, you sort of have these guys that you keep tabs on. You keep your eye on. You always sort of think in the back of your mind, man, I'd love to have a match with that guy and start thinking of ideas and things you could do. That's kind of what it's like with me and Finn. It's a match I have been looking forward to for a really long time."
"I consider myself a bit of a student of the game. I'm always watching footage and I'm always sort of tackling the mental aspect of what we do. And so the fact that this match is happening is unreal to begin with and then to put it in the main event to TakeOver for the NXT Championship, I mean, it's like all the stars have aligned perfectly for me and I couldn't be more excited," O'Reilly said.
One of the things O'Reilly addressed this Wednesday was his perceived underdog status going into this match, and while he doesn't agree with that in the least, he is going to use that to his advantage. That said, he is focused on far more than having a great match.
"I'm going to use the fact that people see me as an underdog use that as an advantage. I mean, in WWE, NXT somehow, someway, the underdog always ends up surprising people," O'Reilly said. "I still don't think I'm the underdog, but if that's what I'm being looked at as, I'll embrace it and I'll make the most of it. That said, I know after this Wednesday, especially, people are really looking forward to this match. Saying, Oh, it's going to be a great match to this, that and the other. But I honestly feel having a great match is just a by-product of me stepping into the ring. I'm really not interested in having a great match. I plan on beating Finn as quickly and efficiently as possible and that's just how it's going to have to be this Sunday."
Holding the NXT Championship comes with a great deal of responsibility to the brand, and O'Reilly is ready to hit the ground running and embrace everything that comes with the title.
"Absolutely. Being the only three-time NXT Tag Team Champion, it means a lot to me," O'Reilly said. "I prided myself on being a tag team competitor for a long time, but before I came to NXT I was a tag team competitor and I was also successful in singles. I was able to juggle being a tag guy with being a singles guy. So really, I'm not looking at this as being any different. I know after Sunday, when I'm the new NXT champion, I will be able to still be a tag guy. I will be able to handle the responsibilities of being a Champion. Since winning the Gauntlet Eliminator, it's just the nonstop interviews and media. It's been, I mean, I'm not going to lie, a little overwhelming."
"But I understand that's just par for the course when you're a main event guy in this company, you carry those responsibilities, and this is something I've wanted my entire life," O'Reilly said. "I prepared for this. Growing up, you read all the books of all the guys you admire and they tell you about the grind and how hard it is, the media, the nonstop go. That's just something you prepare for when you chase this dream job. That's just what's going to come with it. So I'm 100% ready for that responsibility and I think I'll do a good job with it."
O'Reilly has experienced major success with Undisputed ERA, and throughout Adam Cole has been in his corner, as Austin Theory most recently learned. Cole and O'Reilly have been friends and allies for a long time, and O'Reilly has taken plenty of notes from Cole's incredible title reign.
"I was just telling Adam the other day to go back to what I was just saying about the responsibilities, and I just have such a huge respect for him in the way he carried this company on his back for the last two years with him being champion, him being a main eventer, him being a top guy," O'Reilly said. "I mean, it's one thing to have the main events and have the TakeOvers and the classic matches, but to juggle the responsibility of being a Champion and appearances and interviews and... man, I never really thought about it as much until I became the number one contender. And I was telling Adam, 'Dude, it blows my mind that you kept up this schedule for as long as you did. And it's inspiring, man.' And he looked at me and said, 'Dude, you are so ready for this. You've never been more prepared and I know that you can handle it.'
"So, man, just having his support, it really does mean the world and gives me so much confidence and motivation because like you said, it's true. We've been friends for a long time and our careers have sort of mirrored each other," O'Reilly said. "Since our first meeting, since our first match, it's like our careers have just been completely intertwined for better or for worse. And just to see the way he's handled everything and the champion that he was, I think it's really going to help me in the long run."
While O'Reilly and Cole are best friends, they have been on opposing sides in the past before their days in WWE and NXT. So if O'Reilly becomes NXT Champion, we had to ask if he sees himself facing Cole for the title at some point.
"You make a good point. We have fought each other in the past and been bitter arrivals and dare I say, enemies. But man, that's just the past. Really, we've both grown up so much as individuals and performers. It's just different now, man," O'Reilly said. "I honestly don't think we will ever fight each other again. He's genuinely one of my best friends along with Roderick Strong, along with Bobby Fish. I can't picture a universe in which I'm the NXT Champion and Adam's gunning for me. I can't picture that man. This is going to be the golden prophecy version two. Maybe Adam becomes the North American champion again. Maybe Roddy and Bobby become the tag team champions. This is my time to be the NXT Champion and they know that, they respect that and they honor that. And so the Undisputed ERA, man, it's a true team in every sense of the word because there is no jealousy, there is no bitterness among us. We support each other 100%. And when I'm the champion it won't be any different."0comments
O'Reilly will get his shot at the NXT Championship at NXT TakeOver 31, which you can watch live on WWE Network starting at 7 PM EST.
You can catch live coverage of the event on ComicBook.com and as always you can talk all things NXT with me on Twitter @MattAguilarCB!