NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver @Capitol Wrestling Center, Orlando, Florida, April 7 and April 8, 2021
In a packed week of wrestling, it would take something special to stand out, especially during WrestleMania week. But that is exactly what NXT’s Stand & Deliver event promises to be. For the first time ever, the black and gold brand presents a two-night TakeOver event. But with so much grappling over the span over seven days, is it worth checking out? Andy Spoors is here to give us an emphatic answer…
Widely considered as the highlight of pre-covid WrestleMania weekends, NXT TakeOver events have long been considered a fan favourite. Streamlined and laser-focussed cards juxtapose the often bloated and sprawling ensembles laid on at the grandest stage of them all.
NXT more often than not adheres to the old adage of always leave them wanting more. In true 2021 bizarro fashion, an opposite ‘leave it all out there’ approach sees NXT offer up their first two-night TakeOver.
Each night has an even split of five matches featuring a who’s who of the brand, as well as every Championship on the line.
Unlike some of the matches on WrestleMania, every match has had time to breathe and develop into rivalries. Sure, some have had a longer than others but even the most recently announced bouts have stand out talents that can make up for any shortcomings in the build when they step into the ring.
From the technical generals, Kushida and Pete Dunne literally falling into a rivalry during a battle royal, to the newly minted NXT Women’s Championships being contested, everything seen on recent episodes of NXT has had a purpose.
It’s what sets it head and shoulders above its dazed & confused big brother Raw and even its maturing big sister SmackDown.
Even when backed into a corner through injury or Covid-19 outbreaks, NXT has barely broken stride to course correct. Look no further than Karrion Kross, after a rapid rise to become NXT Champion last year, he was forced to relinquish the title due to a shoulder injury. Finn Balor stepped up, grabbed the ball and has never looked back since.
Stellar matches against Pete Dunne, Kyle O’Reilly and Adam Cole turned what should have been a short reprieve from Raw or SmackDown into one of the best title reigns in NXT history. The story has no come full circle as Kross looks to regain what he never lost.
The seeds of Undisputed Era’s spectacular implosion were planted months ago, and the resulting Adam Cole vs Kyle O’Reilly could grant the brand another rivalry for the ages akin to the Ciampa vs Gargano clashes of 2018.
Even the match promo visuals feel more spectacular and force you to sit up, take notice and care about what you are watching.
The rise of Raquel Gonzalez has been nothing short of remarkable and her main event status was secured as far back as November when she pinned NXT Women’s Champion lo Shirai at WarGames.
With big names like Becky Lynch, Charlotte and even Bayley all absent from the WrestleMania card at the time of writing, both Raw and SmackDown could benefit from Shirai’s presence to legitimize a division in jeopardy of crumbling.
In what is sure to be a wince-inducing slugfest, Ciampa challenges Walter for the NXT UK Championship. The match could easily be one for the ages and no doubt leave the WWE Universe furiously tweeting in appreciation, it does feel like a misstep to have also announced Walter vs Rampage Brown for NXT UK Prelude, just 24 hours later for the same title.
There could of course be a sting in the tail, but unless it is directly addressed it seems a shame to effectively spoil any chance Ciampa has of winning the belt due to the logistics of NXT UK’s tapings.
Mouth-watering matches round off the rest of the card. A triple threat Tag Team Championship standoff could be the sleeper hit of the two nights with every single competitor more than capable of pulling off something special.
A ladder match to determine the one true Cruiserweight Champion, finally pits Jordan Devlin against Santos Escobar. Bad timing and travel restrictions had cut Devlin off from the US with Escobar crowned interim champion. The only gimmick match on the card, expectations seem to be sky high for a modern-day classic.
Even the future of the brand is addressed within the North American Championship scene. Multiple storylines and rivalries will collide in a showcase of the depth of talent NXT currently possess.
It’s impossible to predict what five matches might have been selected for a one-night show had fans been allowed to attend as normal, but after a gruelling 13 months for everyone this is the show we deserve.
Full NXT Takeover: Stand & Deliver Card
NXT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: Finn Balor (c) vs. Karrion Kross
NXT WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: Io Shirai (c) vs. Raquel Gonzalez
UNSANCTIONED MATCH: Adam Cole vs. Kyle O’Reilly
NXT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP TRIPLE THREAT MATCH: Grizzled Young Veterans (James Drake and Zack Gibson) vs. Legado Del Fantasma (Joaquin Wilde and Raul Mendoza) vs. MSK (Nash Carter and Wes Lee)
NO. 1 CONTENDER’S SIX-MAN GAUNTLET ELIMINATOR MATCH: Bronson Reed vs. Cameron Grimes vs. Dexter Lumis vs. Isaiah “Swerve” Scott vs. LA Knight vs. Leon Ruff
NXT NORTH AMERICAN CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: Johnny Gargano (c) vs. TBD Winner of the Gauntlet Eliminator
NXT UK CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: Walter (c) vs. Tommaso Ciampa
NXT CRUISERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP LADDER MATCH: Jordan Devlin (c) vs. Santos Escobar (c)
NXT WOMEN’S TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart (c) vs. The Way (Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell)
Kushida vs. Pete Dunne
Images used courtesy of WWE.