For those watching Sunday’s NXT TakeOver, prepare to witness the match Kyle O’Reilly has been waiting for his entire life.
O’Reilly steps into the ring for the biggest moment of his career when he challenges Finn Balor for the NXT Championship. Primarily known as a tag team wrestler, especially with his outstanding work partnering with Bobby Fish, a hefty portion of the WWE audience has yet to see O’Reilly in a meaningful singles program—until now.
“This is the opportunity I’ve been working to receive for a long time,” said O’Reilly. “I haven’t had a lot of singles matches in NXT, so I’m going to make sure people remember this one.”
The qualities that allow O’Reilly to shine in a wrestling ring are not related to the pomp and circumstance typically associated with WWE’s superstars. Instead, over the past 15 years, he has succeeded through his commitment and passion to his craft. He puts an overwhelming amount of thought into his matches, which will be on display as Balor is forced to wiggle and wrestle his way out of the endless array of submissions O’Reilly has planned.
”That’s just a product of my jiu-jitsu, I’m always hunting for submissions,” said O’Reilly. “I take a lot of pride in realistic, hard-hitting wrestling. There are a lot of vulnerable parts of Balor’s body, and you’ll see that in my transitions throughout in the match.”
A proud student of the game, O’Reilly won the number-one contender gauntlet match two-and-a-half weeks ago, and he now has his shot at fame in a TakeOver main event against Balor. This won’t be the first time he challenges in the main event for a title, but it will be the first time in years that it has happened.
Prior to this TakeOver, O’Reilly last made a significant main event impression in 2016 when he defeated Adam Cole at Final Battle for the Ring of Honor Championship. Due to a contract dispute with ROH, he dropped the title back to Cole at the first chance possible, which took place in the middle of the card at the following month’s Wrestle Kingdom show for New Japan Pro Wrestling. But opportunity emerged amidst that frustration, as O’Reilly learned that there was genuine interest from WWE.
He also learned the worst piece of news in his entire life. O’Reilly’s biggest fan, his mother, had terminal cancer.
O’Reilly, or Kyle Greenwood to his family, left Japan and returned home to British Columbia, Canada, where he remained with his mother until debuting that summer with NXT.
“It was a really complicated situation with Ring of Honor, but it worked out that I got to spend a good chunk of that year of my year back home with my mom,” said O’Reilly. “I didn’t debut in NXT until July, so I spent that time back at home. When I made my debut in NXT, for her to see that, it was really special.
“The day she passed away, that was the night Bobby and I won the NXT Tag Titles. She passed away three minutes before the show started. My family said she wanted to see the match, but I know she did.”
With the spirit of Janie Greenwood forever breathing air into his soul, O’Reilly plans on again making his mother proud at TakeOver.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do this without her,” said O’Reilly. “I know she’ll be watching, and this match is for her.”
Pro wrestling and sacrifice are intrinsically linked. O’Reilly knows all about that connection, with nights spent missing family—and his two beagles, Hank and Molly—during the sleepless nights on the road or abroad in Japan spent running down a dream.
“If you’re going to chase this dream as far as you can, then sacrifice is going to be part of it,” said O’Reilly. “I remember reading Mick Foley’s autobiography about how he slept in cars. During my first solo cross-country drive, which was for a Ring of Honor dark match, I slept in my car and went to sleep thinking about how Foley’s book was in my glove compartment. Sacrifice is part of the game.
“The trips to Japan are long and grueling, but I love this and I’ll never complain. I am here at the right place at the right time. I’ve had a lot of help, too. You don’t make it far in this business without people having your back. The sacrifice is certainly worth it, and I’m happy to do it.”
The match against Balor takes place in Orlando at NXT’s brand new Capitol Wrestling Center, a much shorter trek home to see Hank and Molly.
“My wife and I, we’ve had them for a substantial part of our lives,” said O’Reilly. “They go crazy when I get home from the grocery store after a half-hour, let alone when I’ve been in Japan for two-and-a-half weeks. Seeing them after a big match, sprawling out on the ground while they lick my face and pee the floor in excitement, it’s one of my favorite things.”
There is still so much for wrestling fans to learn about O’Reilly. The first lesson takes place at Sunday’s TakeOver. Both he and Balor have history in Japan, where Balor’s star shines significantly brighter. But the heart and determination of Reilly will catapult this wrestling match from good to great, and he is hungry to finally show the world why he belongs on this stage.
“I wrestle with all my being,” said O’Reilly. “That’s the way I treat every match, and this one is no different.
“I’m going to bring that smash-mouth style, the one that’s made me successful. I’m going to surprise the world on Sunday at TakeOver.”