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NXT Takeover: Stand & Deliver Night One recap & reactions: And new

NXT returned last night (Apr. 7) from the Capitol Wrestling Center (CWC) in Orlando, Florida for night one of Takeover: Stand & Deliver. You can find the results at the live blog here.

Raquel González vs. Io Shirai

With a title reign of 300+ days heading into Takeover, Io Shirai was already on the short list of most dominant women’s champions in the history of NXT. If she could survive night one of Stand & Deliver and carry the championship to next Tuesday, she’d be tied with Paige for third in consecutive days on the top, second only to Shayna Baszler and Asuka. The rising star that is the tall, strong and powerful Raquel González would be the biggest threat to her rising up the record books, but no matter how many times she beat Shirai down last Wednesday, it was the champion who left standing tall headed into tonight’s main event.

Shirai busted out every last bit of offense she could attempting to extend her reign, even climbing to the top of the 20 foot tall human skull at the top of the entrance ramp for a flying crossbody, which I would have told her was ill advised given her knees seemed to crash INTO the ramp as González tried to catch her.

Nevertheless Shirai took her back to the ring for a top rope moonsault afterward... and González kicked out! They fought outside the ring until González hit her one arm powerbomb on the floor. She threw Shirai back in, mocked her, and hoisted her high in the air to hit it AGAIN and become the new champion. Very solid main event overall!

Tommaso Ciampa vs. WALTER

The title match was the main event and deservedly so, but on any other night this is the match I would’ve wanted to headline a Takeover card. Everything about both men exudes excellence in the ring. At his peak Tommaso Ciampa reigned as the NXT champion for 200+ days, but WALTER’s record setting and current reign as NXT UK champion is over 700 and counting. Ciampa’s epic promo last week was a warning to WALTER though, born from his own hard experience and years of injuries — the higher you climb, the harder you fall.

Even though it was strongly teased that Imperium would interfere on WALTER’s behalf, they didn’t actually need to... but it was close. Very close. Ciampa actually left WALTER’s chest bloody red from his chops, which is normally what we see him doing to his opponents, and he worked over WALTER’s right hand to the point he had difficulty throwing his own. At one point Ciampa was draped over the announce table when WALTER tried to throw one and he escaped, causing WALTER to break the top cover in half. It was obviously pre-cut but in the heat of the moment it was still an impressive sight. You can see it broken in the .gif below.

The NeXTras around the ring encouraged them to “fight forever” and even though that chant has become incredibly cliche I couldn’t help but agree this time.

Unfortunately the match ended in what was almost a let down. WALTER hit a pair of powerbombs and Ciampa kicked out even with almost three hundred pounds of weight on top of him, then WALTER took him out with a couple of chops and pinned him right as the same fans were chanting “this is awesome.” Was that the planned finish? Did they get their time cut? As great as the match was I wanted a stronger end to it than that.

MSK vs. Grizzled Young Veterans vs. Legado Del Fantasma

William Regal was forced to vacate the tag team titles after Danny Burch was injured while he and his partner Oney Lorcan were facing Finn Bálor and Karrion Kross. That lead us to night one of Stand & Deliver, where three different teams would meet in a triple threat to put gold around someone’s waist. MSK might have had momentum after winning the Dusty Rhodes Cup, but Legado Del Fantasma could easily have a run-in from their leader Santos Escobar, while the Grizzled Young Veterans are easily my favorite UK tag team — and quite possibly “sssssssoon” to be NXT tag team champions too.

I mean this in the nicest way possible but a lot of this match was a cluster, with each team interfering as they pleased and getting in and out of the ring as they liked, leaving it difficult to keep track of who was legal and which crew had the upper hand. It took a while for the dust to settle but eventually Legado del Fantasma was taken out of the equation (with Santos Escobar nowhere in sight, leaving them to fend for themselves) and MSK were able to recreate the finals of the Dusty Rhodes Classic with the Vets!

Ultimately MSK were able to effectively double team Zack Gibson. Nash Carter hoisted Gibson up, Lee jumped off the ropes and hit a cutter, and he promptly pinned Gibson to claim the gold! As much of a crazy match as it was, it was a FUN match to watch, with everybody seeming to be in the right place at the right time just as they needed to be. MSK’s victory was well earned in storyline and in the effort they put forth.

North American title #1 contender Gauntlet

The set up to get to this point was ridiculously absurd, but now that we’re here it’s time to find out which of six different men would “run the gauntlet,” earning the right to face Johnny Gargano for the North American title at night two of Stand & Deliver. The champion was not amused, but at least his “puplicist” was having fun ahead of the show.

The match didn’t feature any eliminations until Dexter Lumis arrived, after which Isaiah Scott quickly dispatched Leon Ruff. LA Knight was able to take out Dexter Lumis by pinning him while he was trying to put The Silence on Cameron Grimes. Lumis got his revenge by putting Knight to sleep after Bronson Reed squashed him like a bug for the pin. Grimes and Scott tried to work as an alliance to take Reed out (Scott had taken a payoff to work with Grimes earlier) but ultimately Scott betrayed him and got an inside cradle. It was all for naught in the end though because three house calls couldn’t put Reed away, and he went to the top rope and hit the tsunami splash on Scott to advance to Gargano tomorrow night!

Pete Dunne vs. KUSHIDA

Speaking of that gauntlet match though, Pete Dunne and KUSHIDA eliminated each other trying to gain entry into night one at Takeover. Having been left out of the North American title picture, the only thing they had left to do now was fight each other, possibly gaining a little bit of revenge and the unofficial title of “best technical wrestler” in the process.

Both men were hot to start at the opening bell and looked for immediate submissions. When that failed they had to settle for going move for move, hold for hold, counter for counter. KUSHIDA worked over the left arm and elbow, while Pete Dunne worked over his opponent’s fingers (nobody pulls that off as convincingly as he does). Both men were selling hard after a fiercely competitive battle, but in the end it was the BITTER END that got the job done. This was the official opener on USA Network and a fine start to the night.

Zoey Stark vs. Toni Storm

A late addition to the card saw Toni Storm and Zoey Stark face off on the Takeover: Stand & Deliver night one pre-show!

The Cageside Commentary Crew (#CCC) was enjoying the opening contest, but I honestly wish I could say the same. Nothing in the match seemed to flow. It felt like Zoey Stark was lost in the ring, looking for a cue from Storm as to what to do next, always hesitating for a second before going to their next spot. I’m not trying to hold it against her given her lack of experience compared to Storm, but the sloppy finish only emphasized it, as she somehow managed to block Storm Zero for one of the worst inside cradle roll ups I’ve seen in a while. At least the second rope suplex they did together looked alright.

Grade: B+

Other than WALTER vs. Tommaso Ciampa ending in a lackluster and disappointing way, there’s not that much to gripe about here. Zoey Stark and Toni Storm can be forgiven for a pre-show bout that wasn’t even announced until the day of the show, so even if they had more time to prepare it wouldn’t have been enough. Stark has a world of potential but there’s more than just doing power moves and looking strong to being a complete wrestler. She’ll get there given enough time. Toni Storm has been main roster ready for a while and should probably move on. KUSHIDA and Pete Dunne delivered from bell to bell, the three way for the tag titles got the job done, and the coronation of González means Shirai can go to Raw or SmackDown as well. Can either be used as well as Asuka, Shayna Baszler, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Charlotte Flair, et cetera? We can only hope.

Get up from your cageside seats and sound off below. See you Thursday night!