Like Wrestle Kingdom and Wrestlemania before it, NXT TakeOver: Stand and Deliver is too big for just one night. On the first night of TakeOver action, the dominant Women’s Champion of NXT, Io Shirai, faces her biggest title challenger threat yet, both figuratively and literally, in the powerhouse, Raquel Gonzalez. Going all the way back to War Games, Gonzalez has made her goal of defeating Io Shirai very clear, and Shirai will have to pull out all the stops if she is to retain her title. The longest reigning NXT UK Champion (and longest reigning any champion of the modern WWE era) WALTER will also be defending his gold, as he faces off against Tommaso Ciampa in what is sure to be a brutal affair (and on a personal note, a match between two of my very long time favourites in all of wrestling).
Following the injury to Danny Burch, General Manager William Regal had no choice but to vacate the NXT Tag Team Championships. On the first night of NXT TakeOver: Stand and Deliver, three teams will battle to become the new champions, as MSK (Nash Carter & Wes Lee), El Legado Del Fantasma (Raul Mendoza & Joaquin Wilde) and The Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake) compete in a triple threat tag team match. Meanwhile Pete Dunne and KUSHIDA look to determine which of them is the best technical wrestler in NXT right now. Also on the card, the challenger for Johnny Gargano’s NXT North American Championship will be decided, as his six top contenders – Leon Ruff, Isaish “Swerve” Scott, Bronson Reed, Cameron Grimes, Dexter Lumis, and L.A. Knight – meet in an Eliminator Gauntlet.
+ Io Shirai (c) vs Raquel Gonzalez (NXT Women’s Championship): this was by no means the best match of the show, but this was another good match from Shirai against the improved-but-still-relatively-inexperienced Gonzalez. Gonzalez has looked like a beast over the last few months, and Shirai has been unstoppable in her championship role, so this had all the makings of a big title match. Some outside the ring stuff was meant to build excitement, but it took me out of it a bit, but the winner looked great, and the match capped off in spectacular fashion
+ MSK (Nash Carter & Wes Lee) vs El Legado Del Fantasma (Raul Mendoza & Joaquin Wilde) vs The Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake) (NXT Tag Team Championships): I am a big fan of the GYV, and this was a fantastic showing from them. All three teams were working at their best, and each team had something that the others didn’t, which made for a really visually impressive showing. Outside of one wonky decision in the middle of the match, this was a good match that really made the best of a crappy situation for the Tag Team Titles
+ WALTER (c) vs Tomasso Ciampa (NXT United Kingdom Championship): it has been a long time since I have been looking forward to a match as much as I was this one, and it delivered. This was violent, this was stiff, and this was incredible, as each man beat the ever-loving SHIT out of each other seemingly for my own personal enjoyment. The only complaint there could be is that I want more
+ Pete Dunne vs KUSHIDA: from the moment Dunne came out to a remixed entrance theme this was just fantastic, as anybody could have foreseen. These two claimed to be the best technical wrestler in NXT, and even after the match both men can still make that claim. KUSHIDA hit a few moves I have not seen in quite some time, and Dunne busted out a Tiger Driver into an armbar that was just beautiful before a final sequence that just looked brutal
– Leon Ruff vs Isaiah “Swerve” Scott vs Bronson Reed vs Cameron Grimes vs Dexter Lumis vs L.A. Knight (#1 Contender Gauntlet Eliminator): this was fine, but I have the same issue with it as all of these sort of matches: nothing matters until there are only two people left, and all six of these guys are losers anyway. I’m a big fan of Swerve, Reed, Grimes and Lumis, but Ruff is literally portrayed as a joke, and Knight got beaten cleanly by Reed just a few weeks ago, so his even being in the battle royale last week made no sense. This was nothing special, and the battle royale last week should have just led to a match with Gargano
– it’s a long standing complaint, but there is no need to do the United States Anthem before shows like this. Of the top three matches, only two of the competitors are actually even American, and considering this is broadcast worldwide – and is not even a “real TakeOver” – it just felt like pandering. Give the time to the wrestlers instead
Should you watch this event: Anybody looking at the card on paper could have told you that no match was going to be better than WALTER/Ciampa, and that was true. Still, the tag titles and Shirai/Gonzalez were both good for what they were, and overall this show was a great success.