NXT Takeover: Stand & Deliver Review

This is my first ever article on The Story Arc, so real quickly I just wanted to say hi. Hello! My name is Joseph and I’ve been friends with all The Story Arc writers for a few years now and decided to finally write my own article for the wrestling show I’ve been very hyped for, NXT Takeover: Stand & Deliver.

    NXT’s Quality Since Its TV Deal and That Pandemic Thing

Overall, I would say NXT is my favorite wrestling brand in WWE and just in general. I love the look and atmosphere of the shows, the storylines are some of my favorites, and it also has some of my favorite wrestling and wrestlers ever. With that said, it is clear that the modern era of NXT, started by its move to USA Network and solidified by the Pandemic and its competition with AEW. NXT having to be counter-programming to AEW has definitely weakened the show’s weekly storytelling, and the lack of fans gave a serious hit to the atmosphere of the show. While most of the wrestling was still good, it’s safe to say NXT was nowhere near the level it once was.

I made sure to say was, because I feel at this point the show has greatly improved in quality. Things started getting better around Takeover: 31. The wrestling seemed to get back to the great quality that wasn’t quite there for In Your House or XXX. The storylines had started getting better too. The main things I was into were everything with the Undisputed Era, Team Pat McAfee, and Finn Balor. I also thought Gargano and LeRae had really started to understand their new characters around here, and Io Shirai was a great Women’s Champion. Things had just been getting better, and by the time NXT got to the buildup for this show, I would argue that they had gotten to around the quality they were at before moving to USA Network. Plus, the show is planned to move to Tuesday after this show which is another good sign of things changing for the better. There are obviously still some issues with NXT. People like Velveteen Dream still work there and there are very few pure babyfaces, but overall I am optimistic about this show’s future. Does Stand & Deliver continue that optimism? Or, does it crash the momentum NXT has been riding? Let’s find out!

Night One

    A note on the two-night format and the look and sound of the show

Really quickly I wanted to mention that I liked the look of the Capitol Wrestling Center for this show. There isn’t a whole lot that can be done for the set as the CWC is fairly small, but the little additions were a nice touch. The chain-link fencing on top of the webcam fans was a nice touch of atmosphere, the additional fans is probably a bad idea though admittedly did make the show better, and the skull by the entrance way was the perfect blend of NXT’s combination of silliness and actual coolness. The commentary has been really good and this show continued that. Vic Joseph and Wade Barret may not be as good as Mauro Ranallo and Nigel McGuinness, but their chemistry with each other and Beth Phoenix is nice to listen to. I’ll also add that I liked all of the live performances and music NXT had for this show. NXT has been getting dangerously close to turning me into Triple H when it comes to music.

On its own, the two-night format of Stand & Deliver was alright. It did somewhat take away from the explosive feeling of Takeover where so much good stuff happens in such a brief amount of time, but both nights were able to retain this feeling at least a little bit so I can’t complain too much. The bigger issue was that it helped increase the insanely large amount of content WWE was putting out this week. There was an important show every day of Wrestlemania week and it made keeping up with everything incredibly overwhelming. I hope that this isn’t something NXT does again, but I also wouldn’t be outraged or anything.

    Zoey Stark vs Toni Storm

This pre-show match doesn’t have any build to it for me to talk about. It is just two women who have been on TV fairly frequently but didn’t get a match for the main show. I thought they were able to work pretty well together. Toni Storm is always great so I was happy to  see her here, and Zoey Stark may be new but NXT has been promoting her quite a bit and her matches have all looked good so far. These two meshed well despite not having a whole lot of time and no build. Stark ended up winning by countering the Storm End into a roll-up which I think was the right call. Stark can keep building herself as the new person to keep an eye on and Toni Storm didn’t lose anything from taking the loss. There isn’t anything particularly special worth noting in the match, but there was also nothing bad that happened.

Score: 2.5/5 stars

    Kushida vs Pete Dunne

After a very good and very NXT national anthem performance, we get our first main show match in Kushida vs Pete Dunne. Those names alone are enough to get me invested in this match, but there was a little bit of build. Kushida at one point says he’s the best technical wrestler in NXT, next week Pete Dunne tells Kushida that he is actually the best technical wrestler in NXT. When they both fight in the North American Title battle royal, they eliminate each other and do some fighting outside of the ring.

If Kushida and Pete Dunne wanted to prove they are the best technical wrestlers in NXT, they at the very least made a believer out of me. These two exchanged holds to absolute perfection. I always have a soft spot for fast-paced and competitive chain wrestling so this made me happy. Later on, Pete Dunne would snap Kushida’s arm back in the ropes which looked like it hurt. That move made me realize just how hard and fast it looked like these two were going. Since this was night one, we would get a commercial break during the match. While I was watching on Peacock, I was a bit nervous that the commercials would hurt the flow of the night one matches. Fortunately, I didn’t feel the matches particularly slowed down during the commercials. Once we come back we would see Pete Dunne focus on Kushida’s fingers like no one but Pete Dunne can. Kushida would sell the fingers for the rest of the match and eventually won with the Bitter End. This was a great match with great opponents. I think I would have preferred Kushida winning this match so he had momentum going into his much-deserved win of the cruiserweight title. That being said the match was so good that I think he had enough momentum regardless.

Score: 4/5 stars

    #1 Contender for the North American Championship Gauntlet Match

Hello, NXT’s midcard. Pleasure seeing all of you here. The competitors in this match all qualified by being the last six in the battle royal qualifier. The order of entry was determined by the elimination order of the final six. There were several stories going into this match. Leon Ruff and Isaiah “Swerve” Scott have been feuding over Leon Ruff being handed opportunities. LA Knight and Bronson Reed have been feuding over jackets and debut losses. Cameron Grimes is really rich now. I loved this character before he became rich and I’ve loved him even more after he became rich. Dexter Lumis has been kidnapping and seducing the current champion Johnny Gargano’s kids. I can understand why people can’t get into Lumis’s antics but he’s someone who I just can’t help but stay interested in and I’m always left interested in what he’ll do next. With all these various storylines I had enough interest in what everyone would be doing going in.

This match can be split up into three parts. First, there was Swerve throwing Ruff out to the ring and attacking him. Reed would enter next and got to even things up for a little bit. Grimes would then come out, work with Swerve, and eliminate Ruff. I thought this was a good continuation of the Swerve and Ruff feud with both having great moments to shine. Grimes continuing his character of buying everything and everyone is also always nice to see. The second part of the match was mainly a showcase for Reed, Lumis, and Knight. Once Lumis enters he and Reed have a great big meaty men slapping meat segment. When Knight comes out he gets to cut his signature great promo before getting interrupted by Reed which got a laugh out of me. This highlights my favorite part of this match, that being every competitor getting their moment in the spotlight. Once Lumis, Knight, and Grimes are eliminated we get to the third part of the match. A one-on-one between Swerve and Reed. 

This was definitely the best part of the match with both guys giving it their all. I think it might’ve worked better with Ruff going the distance and trying to slay the giant but Swerve is great so I can’t complain. Reed gets the win and has a stare-off with his opponent for tomorrow, Johnny Gargano. There were some slow parts that I skipped over in this match, but overall it was good with every guy getting a chance to do something and the right person winning.

Score: 3.5/5 stars

    Walter (c) vs Tommaso Ciampa

In terms of pure wrestling, this is the match I was looking forward to the most on this show. This feud started when Tommaso Ciampa’s new tag team partner, Timothy Thatcher, was found missing. Ciampa assumed Imperium was to blame and attacked them, only to then be greeted by Walter’s entrance. They beat the hell out of him and later Ciampa decides that he wants Walter’s lady (the UK Championship). I’m so ready for this.

Knowing Walter, I watched this match with a lot of anticipation for the first chop, to the point where the first missed attempt literally had me brace for impact. Walter’s chops, along with Ciampa’s neck are the main stories in this match. Walter targets Ciampa’s neck with its history of injury, but something interesting happens with Walter’s chopping hand. At one point when Walter goes to chop Ciampa, he instead hits Ciampa’s elbow. This ends up taking that hand out of commission until he goes for another chop by the announce table. Walter ended up slicing the top part of the table in half which both looked amazing and hurt Walter’s hand even more. Walter’s main offense has been taken out, so he now has to spend his time focusing on Ciampa’s neck. 

This turned the match into hand vs neck and I loved it so much. On top of that, there were other great moments like Ciampa spending almost all of a commercial break hitting Walter with clotheslines, Ciampa hitting an Air Raid Crash from the 2nd rope, and just the hard-hitting offense in general. After working Ciampa’s neck for a while, Walter can hit one last chop with his bad hand and is able to get the win. I was initially disappointed by this ending but after thinking about it for a while I grew to love it. Walter just needed one more chop from his almost dead hand, and after destroying Ciampa’s neck, he finally got that opportunity he needed. I loved this match from bell-to-bell and I would highly recommend it. This is easily the best match of night one.

Score: 5/5 stars

MSK vs Grizzled Young Veterans vs Legado del Fantasma

This match’s build started with the 2021 Tag Classic. MSK was able to beat the GYV in the finals and got themselves a match for the tag team championships. Unfortunately for the duo, Wes Lee ended up hurting his hand which meant that the title shot had to be delayed a bit. Even worse, Danny Burch ended up getting an even worse injury which meant he and Oney had to vacate the titles. With MSK cleared for action, and no tag champions for them to face, this triple threat tag team match was made for the vacant titles.

The thing I liked the most about this match is that these three teams work really well together. MSK is the perfect babyface tag team no matter what the NXT crowds will have you believe. GYV and LDF are also great heels. I think that the parts that were just GYV and MSK ended up being the most engaging parts, but that’s more because of the two teams’ history and not because LDF isn’t as good. I was originally concerned that I wouldn’t be able to get too invested in this match because of its placement right after Walter vs Ciampa but that didn’t happen to me. These three teams were able to work at a fast pace that had me engaged the entire way through. The best part of the match and one of my favorite parts of the night is when Wes Lee is just about to tap to the GYV, but Nash Carter is able to get into the ring and stop him. Nash Carter is then also put into a submission. Nash ends up passing out but Wes Lee is able to power out. This whole sequence had me on the edge of my seat. We later get an awesome WarGames style spot of MSK and GYV slowly walking towards each other from opposite ends of the ring. MSK is eventually able to get the win and the tag titles. I think the right team ended up winning. MSK has been on a serious hot streak since debuting and putting the titles on them was the right call. Overall I loved this match. LDF did kinda feel like third wheels but the parts that featured them were still really good. Everything else was great.

Score: 4.5/5 stars

    Io Shirai (c) vs Raquel Gonzalez

If NXT had a year-end award for the most improved wrestler, I would easily vote for Raquel Gonzalez to win it. When she first debuted at Takeover: Portland, all I saw her as was some muscle for Dakota Kai and nothing else. As time has gone on, Gonzalez has gotten to have great matches with other women, most notably Rhea Ripley and Mercedez Martinez as well as getting a pin on Shirai at WarGames. NXT has done a great job at building Gonzalez up to this night to challenge Io Shirai. When that time came, Shirai challenged Gonzalez intending to face her toughest opponent yet. The rest of the build to this match was Gonzalez and Shirai beating the absolute piss out of each other. Some of my favorite parts of the build include Gonzalez throwing Shirai through a wall and Shirai still managing to come back and hit a dive off the top rope. If you want me to believe your wrestlers are mega-tough badasses, this is how you do it.

The match started with Gonzalez demonstrating her abilities as a dominant powerhouse. Dakota Kai would try and interfere but got thrown out very quickly leaving us with a straight 1v1 matchup. We’d get more power from Gonzalez as well as Shirai’s high flying agility. Shirai would be able to get on top for a while and eventually got on top of the skull at the entranceway and jumped off of it onto Gonzalez. I loved the setup of the camera slowly panning up to Shirai and the jump ended up looking amazing. This was another one of the best spots of the show. Shirai would get Gonzalez back into the ring and hit her finishing Moonsault. Gonzalez ended up kicking out. While expected, this helped make Gonzalez look incredibly strong as that is not a move people kick out of. Later on, Gonzalez would hit Shirai with her excellent one-armed powerbomb and got the win. This was a very good match that helped make both competitors look strong, but especially Gonzalez. I think she has the potential to be a great women’s champion if her reign is done correctly.

Score: 4/5 stars

    Night One Score

Night one was a great show. The card was ordered in a way that kept my engagement and all the matches on the show ranged from good to amazing. Overall I thought night one was the stronger night, but I’ll get into that more when talking about night two.

Score: 4.5/5 stars

Night Two

    Breezango vs Killian Dain and Drake Maverick

This match was made just before the show, so there is no build to speak of. It’s a number 1 contender’s match for the tag titles that MSK just won. The main story was Breezango coming out as pirates and Drake Maverick wanted him and Dane to also be pirates. Hilarity ensues. Seriously though I find both of these tag teams funny so I had a good time watching this match. Dane got to show off how great of a powerhouse he is and won by power bombing Maverick onto Fandango for the win. Good match all around and a good choice for a pre-show match. After this match and when the show started, we would get a Poppy performance which I thought was very good.

Score: 3/5 Stars

    Santos Escobar (c) vs Jordan Devlin (c) 

This match started getting set up back when the pandemic first started. Current cruiserweight champion Jordan Devlin was stuck in Europe and was unable to defend his championship. For some reason, NXT decided to have an interim cruiserweight champion instead of just taking the belt off of Devlin. Santos Escobar ended up becoming that interim champion and I think it’s fair to say that he’s been the best cruiserweight champion yet. He’s actually been booked in storylines and his long reign helped give the belt some prestige that I don’t think it’s had since at least when Neville won it back in 2017. Jordan Devlin would eventually be able to make it back to the US and would challenge Escobar to unify the belts. A wild Shawn Michaels would appear and decided to make this a ladder match. I don’t want to dwell on this too long, but it did affect my enjoyment of this match so I will bring it up. I don’t like that Jordan Devlin is on this show. He was one of the people named in #SpeakingOut and unless I’m missing some details, I haven’t been given any reason to doubt what Devlin’s accuser has said.

All that being said, both of these guys are very good at wrestling. On top of that, both of these guys wrestle well together. Everything they were doing felt very smooth and crisp. With this being a ladder match, there were also great spots involving the ladders. Some highlights were a great-looking Spanish Fly, an excellent moonsault off the ladder by Devlin, and Devlin taking a great bump where he fell through a ladder propped up by the ring corner. The other members of Legado del Fantasma would come out to attack Devlin but were set back by Escobar in what I saw to be a display of cockiness. Once they were away Devlin would take that final bump through the ladder and Escobar would grab the belts to win which was the right call. The spots I mentioned were all very good, and these two do wrestle well, but there was some stuff holding back my enjoyment of this match. There’s the situation with Devlin I already mentioned, plus I felt the match was a little bit slow-paced. Outside of the very good spots, I didn’t feel any of the action was too memorable. Maybe I just came in with the wrong expectations for this match, but I felt a bit bored between spots. I can understand people rating this higher, but for me the highest rating I can justify giving this match is…

Score: 3/5 stars

    Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart (c) vs Candice LeRae and Indi Heartwell/Lumis/Wrestling

NXT has one of the best women’s rosters in the world. I think, of anyone, they can handle having a good women’s tag team division. That being said, I was pretty disappointed by the introduction of these titles. I feel like the best course of action would be to have had Ember and Shotzi be the winners of the Dusty Cup and then be crowned the inaugural tag champs. I understand that Gonzalez needs momentum going into her match with Io, but I think making it to the finals and losing in a great match would be better than her winning the dusty cup, losing to Baszler and Jax, and then losing the NXT tag belts after an hour. Anyway, once Moon and Blackheart won the titles they were challenged by The Way and we got our match.

One thing I want to mention is that all four of these women had great entrances and in general a great look and character. LeRae and Hartwell have a great dynamic as members of The Way and Moon and Blackheart have a chaotic energy that I will never cease to love. I don’t have too much to say for the match itself, however. Not to say the match was bad or boring, just that I don’t think anything too noteworthy ended up happening. One part that I remember well is when Blackheart dived out of the ring onto The Way, she kinda flew between them and it looked like she came very close to crunching her neck against the barricade. I think Shotzi Blackheart is awesome, but I also feel like I have to start a prayer circle for her neck any time she wrestles. At the end of the match, Moon would hit a great Eclipse on both members of The Way to retain their title which I think was the right call. This was the right call and I’d personally be okay with Moon and Blackheart holding the titles for a while. Despite the rocky start, I do have optimism for the NXT Women’s Tag Titles because of great wrestlers like the ones in this match.

Score: 3/5 stars

Johnny Gargano (c) vs Bronson Reed

The build to this match itself was pretty much just the creation of last night’s gauntlet match. So instead of talking about the storyline, I’d like to talk about how much I love Johnny Gargano and The Way. The Way is probably my favorite faction in wrestling right now. One reason is that all four members are amazing wrestlers, but especially Johnny Gargano and Candice LeRae. Gargano consistently has great matches both in and out of Takeover and there have been no exceptions since his heel turn. The other reason I love The Way is that they are all great characters. I was one of the people unsure of how a fully heel Gargano and LeRae would work. Little did I know the answer would be they work hilariously. Every time one of them has a promo, from hating wheels to celebrating Christmas it easily becomes one of the highlights of any NXT episode.

The match started with a cool camera shot of Reed giving a death stare to Gargano. Once the action got going we got to see a lot of great big man doing big man moves from Reed. This included a cartwheel that will always impress me. Reed being able to stay on his feet after Gargano hit his slingshot spear was also a highlight. Gargano would spend his time focusing on Reed’s ribs to hopefully negate his power and make his finishing splash less effective. Around here I felt the match was a bit slower-paced than I would’ve liked but it would speed up right after I made a note of that so I can’t complain too much. Near the end, Austin Theory would try to get involved only to have his shirt ripped off in return. Reed would then miss his splash attempt and Gargano hit him with Two Final Beats for the win. I know a lot of people were saying that Reed should’ve won. This would’ve been okay in my book, but Gargano and The Way have honestly been one of the best acts in NXT so I’m perfectly happy with them holding onto the North American Title. I also think Bronson Reed looked very good in this match so I don’t think he loses much by losing. Another good match by two very good wrestlers.

Score: 3.5/5 stars

    Finn Balor (c) vs Karrion Kross

When Karrion Kross first won the NXT Championship at Takeover: XXX, I was mostly uninterested. His character and presentation were undeniably cool. The problem was I didn’t really see him as the top champion that the NXT producers did. On top of that, his match against Keith Lee wasn’t anything special. That would be explained a little bit when we learned that Kross injured his shoulder and would be forced to vacate the title. I obviously felt bad for Kross though I didn’t feel like I was missing out on a great title run. While he was gone Finn Balor would have another great run with the title.

I was excited to see Kross once he was ready to come back. I knew his title match was coming which I wasn’t initially very excited for. Once we got to see him in action again my opinion started to change. I think the main cause of this is that they finally let Kross talk. He started feeling like an actual character and not just a menacing villain. By the time Kross would challenge Balor I was legitimately excited for him to be champion. The two had a good feud before the match with mutual respect that was broken by Finn accidentally falling into and knocking over Kross’s… manager? Girlfriend? Whatever.

The match started with both guys getting a flurry of offense in. Once this happened the opponent on the receiving would simply laugh at them. This exemplifies why I liked this match. It is just two very cool guys being very cool. The match was surprisingly even throughout which was unexpected but good. For me, it helped make sure that Kross was able to keep up in a match and wouldn’t just be doing squashes. By the end, Kross was able to withstand a Coup de Grace and escape the Koji Clutch to hit Balor with two Northern Forearms to win. This was a really exciting match with a lot of surprisingly back and forth offense. By this point, I was already sold on Kross as NXT Champion, but this match reassured me that he will have a good run on top.

Score: 4/5 stars

Kyle O’Reilly vs Adam Cole: Unsanctioned Match

This is the match I was looking forward to the most throughout all of Wrestlemania week. I would say the story for this match started back when Adam Cole lost the NXT Championship at Great American Bash back in July of 2020. Looking at more recent events so this doesn’t go too long, Kyle O’Reilly had slowly befriended NXT Champion Finn Balor through mutual respect gained from matches they had together. Led by Kyle O’Reilly, the Undisputed Era helped Finn Balor after his match at Takeover: Vengeance Day when he was being attacked by mutual enemies Pete Dunne, Oney Lorcan, and Danny Burch. Once the bad guys had been cleared out O’Reilly would help Balor up and make it very clear he’d just love to have him join the UE. O’Reilly, Balor, Strong, and Cole are all standing in a line when Cole superkicks Balor and then superkicks O’Reilly.

As the weeks go on Cole would make it very clear that this wasn’t a small disagreement. This was the moment the UE ended. Cole and O’Reilly would try to find any opportunity to kill the other. This is because they both see each other as the one who killed the UE. Cole blames O’Reilly because he saw O’Reilly trying to bring in Balor as the death knell for the UE. O’Reilly blamed Cole for the whole superkick thing. Strong tries to keep the group together until O’Reilly and Cole make it very clear to him via words and actions that that’s not gonna happen. We get some excellent exchanges of words between the two. Cole said that O’Reilly is only capable of being the lapdog to whoever the top champion is. O’Reilly said that he was able to become a better person since joining the UE and that while he sold his soul for the group, it’s time for him to get it back. This has been one of my favorite builds to a match in a long time so I was incredibly excited for this match if it wasn’t obvious already.

Before the match, we got one of my new favorite video packages ever that was the perfect blend of cinema, drama, and pure hype that I always want from any package. Having the security guards keeping them separate was a great touch as well as the referee just wearing black. The only thing I didn’t really like about the pre-match hype was the new theme songs we got. Kyle O’Reilly’s is alright though I hope more can be added to it to make it more memorable. Adam Cole’s, on the other hand, is even more generic and I couldn’t get into it at all. Hopefully, he gets a song that actually has a boom in it.

This match is incredibly long. 40 minutes to be specific. For a lot of people, the match went on too long and that hampered their enjoyment of it. I never really felt that at all. For me, a match is “too long” when I start getting bored or getting actively taken out of the experience because the wrestlers won’t wrap things up. I never felt that with this match. From start to end I was invested in everything Cole and O’Reilly were doing. One of my favorite parts was the use of the metal chain. Having it bring extra damage to punches and kicks was great and using it to enhance a figure-four was the perfect amount of silliness. We’d then get the best use of the chain when Cole used it to clothesline O’Reilly which looked super painful. There would then be really good spots and attacks with chairs in the ring where Cole would focus a lot on O’Reilly’s neck. Later on, Cole would smash O’Reilly through the stage in what was my 2nd favorite spot of the night and match. On the way back to the ring Cole hid a brainbuster on top of the ring steps as a fuck you to necks across the world. When pinned, O’Reilly had the weakest kick out ever which made me get excited. Cole would set up a chair in the ring upside down and the legs were sticking out. O’Reilly hits Cole with a low blow, gets to the top rope, wraps the chain around his leg, and does a diving knee drop onto Cole’s neck and back while Cole is leaning on the legs of the chair. This would be the best and final spot of the night as O’Reilly would get the pinfall right after. I obviously couldn’t mention everything that happened in this match so I would seriously recommend checking it out. Everything felt brutal and emotional which is just how I like my wrestling. It is my favorite match of night two, Stand & Deliver as a whole, and the entirety of Wrestlemania week.

Score: 5/5 stars

    Night Two Score

Night two was also a very good show. It wasn’t as good as night one but didn’t take away anything from that night. The last two matches were great, and the matches leading up to them were also good so I can’t complain.

Score: 4/5 stars

Final Thoughts

Overall, I thought this was a great show. There wasn’t a bad match in sight and quite a few great ones. I don’t think I would consider this one of the best Takeover’s ever, however. I prefer having one night of Takeover even if having two nights allowed more talent to get time on the show. This show helped keep my optimistic feelings of NXT and with the weekly show finally moving to a day it can have all to itself, I think the future is bright for the black and gold. 

Overall Score: 4.5/5

About the Author

I am Joseph, also known as TheJoseph. I’ve known the writers of The Story Arc for a long time. Some I’ve known for like 6 years at this point. I’ve also watched wrestling for 11 years now so hopefully I kinda knew what I was talking about for this article. You can follow me on Twitter @thejoseph100 if you’d like. I don’t tweet much but I like to think I have a good retweet game. Anyway, thanks for reading this! Hopefully I’ll be able to takeover The Story Arc again in the future.

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