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NXT recap & reactions (Mar. 31, 2021): Stand before you deliver at Takeover

NXT returned last night (Mar. 31) from the Capitol Wrestling Center (CWC) in Orlando, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.

A 12 man what-the-WHAT now?

In a match easily as convoluted as TNA’s reverse battle royal, William Regal announced his own 12 man battle royal for NXT this week. Once the first six men are eliminated, the last six fight for the right to enter a gauntlet match next week. The order they are eliminated is the order of entry, so the sixth man out has to go first at Takeover and vice versa. The winner of that gauntlet gets Johnny Gargano for the North American title on the SECOND night of Takeover. Got it? Good. Now here’s what happened in our main event.

Roderick Strong left the Capitol Wrestling Center before the match got underway, meaning the 12 man gauntlet was already down to 11. Isaiah Scott and Leon Ruff got into a brawl before the battle royal could even officially get underway, and when we came back from commercial everyone was in the ring except for Pete Dunne. Here’s how we got from 11 down to 6 — Malcolm Bivens grabbed Jake Atlas’ leg for a distraction so he’d get eliminated, but his client Tyler Rust came flying over the ropes a second later. Bronson Reed knocked Austin Theory to the floor with his butt (seriously) and from his back he kipped up to land on his feet which ELIMINATED HIM (dumbass). KUSHIDA and Pete Dunne got into a brawl and simultaneously spilled over the ropes to eliminate each other, setting them up for a Takeover match next week! That left us with just six men after the commercial break.

The graphic above tells you the who and the what, but not the HOW. Bronson Reed manhandled both Leon Ruff and Isaiah Scott, tossing them with ease since they were so focused on each other. Knight formed an alliance with Grimes, and when that wasn’t enough to eliminated Reed, Lumis pitched in to get him over the top. Grimes offered Knight and Lumis a fat wad of cash to eliminate themselves, so Lumis decked him with a right him and both men tossed Grimes out. Lumis and Knight fought back and forth on the apron, Knight attempted to spear Lumis but went through the MIDDLE rope, and since it’s an over the top elimination that meant he was still in it. Lumis on the other hand HAD gone over the ropes when he landed on the apron, so Knight just yanked him off to win the match. That’s a pretty lame finish but if I’m being honest with you all it’s exactly what a cock heel should do.

Roderick Strong vs. Cameron Grimes

Speaking of things set up on NXT last week, Cameron Grimes attempted to use his “stonks” money to buy the intellectual property of The Undisputed Era from Roderick Strong. It’s not clear that Strong would even have the rights to sell it, that would probably belong to Adam Cole, but he answered that inquiry by dropping Grimes with a punch. Grimes had his chance for revenge this week, but with his brotherhood crumbling around him, Strong would be in no mood to give Grimes any satisfaction.

Grimes tried to tempt Strong one more time with a honey pot full of money, but blew the deal by holding up a t-shirt that read “GRIMES THE SYSTEM” and playing an entrance video to go with it. An enraged Strong ran out of the ring to maul Grimes on the ramp before their match had even begun! The bell rang the moment they both got back in and their back and forth war of chops, kicks, forearms & fists ran through the first commercial break.

Roderick Strong was held in check for a little while by Grimes, but eventually he got on offense with a back breaker and a superplex, and just when he seemed to have the upper hand with crisscross forearms, Grimes cut him off and pulled a foreign object out of his trunks — an Undisputed Era armband. Strong knocked it out of his hands without even seeing what it was, but became transfixed by it to the point that Grimes was able to easily hit the Cave In and pin him for three.

Tian Sha scheduled for a tag team match?

Kayden Carter and Kacy Catanzaro have had enough of Tian Sha, the mysterious faction whose leader Mei Ying whipped Xia Li and Boa into merciless killers, and Ying apparently accepted their challenge for a fight on Wednesday night. This left more questions than answer though. Who would accompany her to the ring? What kind of match would it be? Was Mei Ying actually the artist formerly known as Karen Q?

Cageside-a-Maniacs, this match only left us with more questions than answers. Mei Ying never got into the ring, and Xia Li was sent down to face Carter & Catanzaro in what appeared to be a handicap match. Then in the middle of the match, Kayden Carter got fed up with waiting for a hot tag, so she decided to go up to the top of the entrance ramp and get into Mei Ying’s face. Ying choked her UNCONSCIOUS and left her laying, and back in the ring Xia Li hit a spin kick to knock Catanzaro down and pin her for three. The announcers were confused and so was I. This was a hot mess.

Raquel González vs. Zoey Stark

After being power bombed and pinned on NXT a week ago, Zoey Stark was out for revenge against Raquel González, but González was in no mood to lose her momentum heading into Takeover where a title shot at Io Shirai would finally give González her chance to ascend to the top of NXT’s women’s division.

Stark tried her best, and got a lot more offense than I’d expect given that González should look strong going into a title match next week, but in the end she hit the powerbomb and pinned Stark again. Io Shirai ran out from the back to continue a brawl that took place backstage before the match, but González threw her into the barricade and left her in a heap as Dakota Kai pulled her away to the back. At least González got most of her heat back before the match and the segment were over.

Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell in action

WWE went out of their way to promote “The Way” would be in action last night, but didn’t even bother to name who their opponents would be. They were certainly barking at tag team champions Shotzi Blackheart and Ember Moon on the last episode, but were they biting off more than they could chew with only a week left until Stand & Deliver?

Their opponents were already waiting in the ring — Zayda Ramier (formerly from Booker T’s Reality of Wrestling) and Gigi Dolin (formerly known as Priscilla Kelly... yes, THAT Priscilla Kelly). Even though we know they were there simply to be fed to The Way, it’s safe to say that Ramier got a little bit of shine in, showing just why WWE signed her to be on NXT.

In the end though Ramier was hit by a elbow to the back from Hartwell and pinned for three. Candice LeRae started talking about what she “deserves” and making demands on behalf of herself and Hartwell, so Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart rode out on the tank and accepted, promising to “TCB” (take care of business) at Takeover: Stand & Deliver.

Santos Escobar’s open challenge

A cocky and confident (interim) cruiserweight champion vowed to prove he’s the man who “runs the bingo” in WWE NXT. I didn’t know we had gone to the 2300 Arena in Philly! He dared any wrestler to step up to his open challenge, and to my surprise “Prince Pretty” Tyler Breeze was the one who knocked. He was actually rolling too as we headed into the commercial break, having wiped out Joaquin Wilde and Raul Mendoza on the outside to prevent Legado Del Fantasma from doing much to help.

Escobar was back in control when the action resumed, but Breeze got on a roll and ended up on top giving some ground and pound to Escobar, then working over his left leg every way that he could. He even put Escobar into a Bret Hart-esque Sharpshooter! Unfortunately when Breeze tried to seal the deal with an Unprettier, Escobar blocked it and kicked him in the head, then finished the match with Phantom Driver. Legado del Fantasma tried to attack Breeze three on one, but MSK ran them off, and then the Grizzled Young Veterans cut a promo on the Titantron to remind us all of the match for the vacant tag titles at Takeover.

The best thing about the Takeover go home show was...

A stellar promo by Tommaso Ciampa on WALTER.

And coming in at a virtual tie right behind him was...

Io Shirai relentlessly brawling with Raquel González over and over again until she finally got the upper hand right as the show went off the air.

Grade: C+

I really wanted to like this show but it felt to me like they ran out of gas too early last week and just coasted downhill toward Takeover this week. They had so much time to fill that we got a video package recapping everything that happened between Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly seven days ago, and some little dog named Franky was running all over the Capitol Wrestling Center to tease the arrival of a woman wearing stiletto boots on April 13th. I was not as amused by this as everyone else seemed to be.

Get up from your cageside seats and sound off below. See you in seven days!

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