So Night One of NXT’s WrestleMania week show, Stand & Deliver, was a bit of a mixed bag. Sure there were three definitively stellar matches, but the main event Women’s Title match was a touch of a letdown. And the Gauntlet Eliminator match had some really fun moments (most of them between Bronson Reed and Isiah “Swerve” Scott in the final moments), but felt too much like a space filler.
I was really excited for a two night long Takeover, but perhaps NXT still excels at five match shows where they can maximize their drama and action? Perhaps night two will settle this for us!
I don’t usually comment on Pre-Show material, but I will here because, hey, Breezango! Love those guys. It’s so weird that between them they have ONE title under WWE, and it was a short tag team reign. They were in a match with Killian Dain and Dave Maverick here to see who will get to lose to MSK for the NXT Tag Team Titles, and they didn’t even win that.
Justice for Tyler Breeze.
To open Stand & Deliver, we got a concert from Poppy, who I would never have heard of it weren’t for NXT. It was a catchy song, though, and I kept humming it to myself through the first half hour of the show.
Cruiserweight Title Match
I was surprised that those in attendance were SO behind Santos Escobar here.
This is one of those matches that was really good, but never really felt like it hit “great” territory. I almost want to say that the stipulation may have hurt these guys. They never really seemed to feel comfortable with the ladders aspect of things. The ladders more seemed to hinder them and become an obligation to them than enhance the match.
Did I say it never hit “great” territory? It did at least once, actually. Jordan Devlin hit maybe the most amazing moonsault I have ever seen in my life from the very top of a ladder. Not only must that be insanely difficult to balance and push off, but it was a GORGEOUS moonsault on top of it. Massive props to Devlin for that.
So Santos won, and… is the endgame here to retire the Cruiserweight division and rename it the Santos Escobar Forever And Ever Division? Who is even left for him to face at this point? He’s destroyed EVERYONE.
Unless… KUSHIDA is about to get pushed down to those ranks. That feels like a demotion, and yet… I am whetting my own appetite for Santos/KUSHIDA.
Women’s Tag Title Match
I love Ember Moon. That is all. I will never not at least appreciate anything she does.
NXT has too many underappreciated women, actually. Dakota Kai, Candice LeRae, and even Ember when you factor in her main roster run… doesn’t it feel like all of them should have had more accolades by now? They are just held under the tier WWE decides is for the top women. There are The Horsewomen, Asuka, Io, a few others… and then there are these ladies.
I want NXT to create Trios titles and give Dakota, Ember, and Candice the straps for the rest of time. Not even Women’s Trios titles. Just intergender. And they still get them.
What? I haven’t talked about the match yet?
It was adequate. A perfectly above average match. Nothing really stood out, but it worked. All four members are, at the least, competent, and they have grown to have good chemistry. I enjoyed it, but it felt negligible.
Now give the ladies those Trios titles.
North American Title Match
The show really started to pick up here because oh look… Johnny Gargano had another very good Takeover match. Ho-hum.
They played the formula of Bronson’s strength against Johnny’s cunning really well, and I was pleasantly satisfied with this match. I wish Reed had a bit more going for him as a character to make me care what he does, because he is getting to be impressive in the ring.
So this was good. To this point, the show was fine. But it was all leading to the huge double main event. How did those go?
NXT Title Match
This was a good match that told a spectacular story, so it gets credit for that. It will get even more credit if NXT goes the right direction in the follow up.
So Balor came into this match with commentary really over-selling the whole “DEEP WATERS” storyline. Finn wanted to make the match go long so that his cardio would triumph over Kross’ strength.
And Finn came in with a good plan. He was laughing and taunting Kross to start, trying to get the big man to blow up early by expending energy in a rage. And when he got his hands on Kross, he went to town on Kross’ previously damaged shoulder (as per night one: I LOVE ARM WORK).
But ultimately, Finn was too cocky and was maybe playing with Karrion too much, and Balor would drop the title to the challenger.
So far, it all went according to plan if our goal is to tell a great angle!
What I’d like to see next–where I think this needs to go–is Finn saying “Well, I was too full of myself and I underestimated a monster opponent. I tried to tease the bear, and the bear got me. But now I know what I have to do”.
And then we get Karrion Kross vs The Demon.
NXT Finn has really proven that Balor is far, far more than a good hand with an occasional awesome entrance. But after years of its gathering dust on the shelf, Kross should get the honor of being the guy to force Balor back into that zone.
Do it, NXT! Finn just pulled Kross’ best NXT match out of him, and going this direction would only improve it.
Do I have a down despite really loving how this went as an arc? I do! Why are finishers awful nowadays? Karrion won with, like, a forearm shot? Did he transplant Lex Luger’s arm onto his? I thought his choke-out move was lame because I don’t even like that from Samoa Joe or Shayna Baszler or Roman Reigns. But this is somehow a step down! Just… a forearm to the head. Pow.
Not for me, thanks. Kross is a huge dude. I want to see him chuck people around to win matches.
No matter what you call these matches–Unsanctioned, Lights Out, whatever–I never love the concept. It’s one of those ideas that spits right in the face of whatever is left of kayfabe. “We as a company can not possibly allow for the level of brutality that you want! So we won’t… by also letting you use the main event spot and our officiating crew and our cameramen and our air time”.
But hey, the referee got to wear street clothes! So bonus for him.
First note: Neither Kyle nor Adam’s new themes is anywhere near the banger than the UE song was. Their feud should evolve into custody rights of that music.
Second note: WWE still makes bloody amazing video packages. The pre-match hype video for this was brilliant. Big thumbs up.
Past that, this was an objectively fantastic match that just felt like a lot of nuts spots and ideas from two guys with great chemistry who didn’t mind if they accidentally murdered each other. I always feel like, in wrestling, eventually ALL OF THE SPOTS will be taken. Like, we’ve seen bloodfeuds before, and we know how a lot of it goes. But this still managed to impress and feel properly devastating.
Kyle’s shoulder twitch kick-out was something I feel we should have seen more often by now. It really sold the brain buster on the steps while still allowing the match to continue.
If I had a least favorite moment? It’s that Cole introduced a chair with the Undisputed Era logo on it, and no one made an “Undisputed Chair-a” joke. IT WAS RIGHT THERE.
And yeah, a two-night Takeover Event that had a fair amount of ups-and-downs was absolutely salvaged by the last two matches, both of which did exactly what they needed to. Cole and Kyle was brutal and intense. Balor and Kross told the right story.
Even with… you know… that forearm shot. I never liked Wade Barrett’s Bullhammer or whatever it was called, either. And don’t get me started on The Judas Effect. I want “moves”! Not “strikes”.
Hey, two of the best matches across the shows were ended with a forearm shot and a chest chop respectively. Weird.
Get better finishes to your best matches, guys.
(This is where I get all geeked up on in the comments and everyone comes in with their “Um, ACTUALLY, strikes are more realistic and would actually be a better blah blah blah” and I can only retort with “Power bombs are more awesome than forearms, I don’t care about realism!”. Except in my Unsanctioned matches. Damn. I just trapped myself. Abort!)
Well now we get a night off, but I’ll be back for both nights of WrestleMania where, like, three matches hopefully don’t end on kicks to the gut or a punch to the thigh or whatever. I hope you all enjoyed the Stand And Delivers (… Stands And Deliver?) as much as I did!
Until then… take care!