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WELLS’S NXT TAKEOVER: STAND AND DELIVER NIGHT 1 REPORT
APRIL 7, 2021
LIVE IN WINTER PARK, FLA. AT CAPITOL WRESTLING CENTER
SIMULCAST ON USA NETWORK AND PEACOCK
REPORT BY KELLY WELLS, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Announcers: Vic Joseph, Wade Barrett, Beth Phoenix
Tonight after NXT TakeOver, join me, Bruce Hazelwood and Nate Lindberg on PWT Talks NXT to break down the show with live callers and mailbag.
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-I fought with the Peacock app for much of the preshow, but I was able to catch the last two minutes of the one match presented, where budding star Zoey Stark defeated Toni Storm with a rollup. Mickie James was on the call with Vic for that one. After that, there was continued heavy sell for tonight’s main event of Io Shirai vs. Raquel Gonzalez, complete with an engaging sit-down interview with Gonzalez hosted by Samoa Joe. Then as I wrote that, Io Shirai got one with Joe as well.
-Hype for tonight’s slate of matches brought us to the top of the hour. I’m watching the ad-free version on Peacock.
-Alicia Taylor introduced Alice Cooper guitarist Nita Strauss, who played the national anthem on her guitar. She absolutely killed it and it wasn’t overlong. So far, so good.
-The stage was embellished with a large skull right at the center of the entrance with NXT carved in the head. Swords were at either side of the entrance as well. There were mini screens in the skull’s eyes that showed parts of tron videos for each wrestler in a cool touch.
(1) KUSHIDA vs. PETE DUNNE
Dunne entered first, then Kushida. The two went at each other quickly on the mat, then broke and reset. Both guys went for leg locks on the mat and reversed several times. the two transitioned to wrenching arms and reversed that several times as well. Dunne was ready for Kushida’s flip against the ropes and he slid outside and hit an x-plex on the apron. Dunne slid back in and hyperextended Kushida’s arm over the bottom rope in a spot I’m surprised we don’t see more often. Dunne locked in a brief complicated submission, then just stomped Kushida’s head to boos. The two hit their feet and started exchanging chops and palm strikes. Hiptoss/dropkick by Kushida. Dunne rolled out to the ramp side, where the event ramp was parallel with the ring. Outside, Kushida did his springboard back elbow, then ran the length of the ramp to kick Dunne and send them both back into the ring.
The two exchanged a couple of couple of shots before Kushida ran into an elbow and then a wrench of the digits by Dunne. Vic threw to split-screen, and the audio briefly went away but the announcers started talking right after on Peacock. The two exchanged a few more submission attempts. Kushida tried a cross armbreaker but got blocked. Dunne went for a submission on the mat but Kushida escaped. Kushida hit a dropkick to get some separation and both guys sold on the mat for the night’s first NXT chant.
Both guys hit their feet. Kick exchange. Kushida hit a corner dropkick on Dunne’s arm. To the other corner, Dunne hopped up, but Kushida knocked him down with a springboard off the mat. Kushida hit the Hoverboard Lock from the top and Dunne fought to a rope for a relatively quick tap. Kushida immediately worked into a different arm submission and Dunne used his leg to get to the rope this time. Kushida hit a knee and then went for another submission but Dunne rolled him up to break. The screen promoted NXT’s move to Tuesdays starting next week.
Dunne wrenched Kushida’s digits, then stomped them. Kushida hit a big right but sold the pain. Dunne took him down with some kicks, then hit Bitter End to finish.
WINNER: Pete Dunne at 10:38.
(Wells’s Analysis: That was a lot shorter than I thought it would be, but there are a lot of matches to cover tonight, and this one didn’t have any kind of issue other than both guys wanting to prove they were a better technical wrestler. Neither guy is likely to gain nor lose much either way, but it was nice enough to open with such a strong in-ring affair)
-Io Shirai arrived earlier tonight with Zoey Stark. Before or after that, Raquel Gonzalez and Dakota Kai did the same. Is Stark figuring into this match somehow? Weird to see her there otherwise.
(2) GAUNTLET ELIMINATOR – Winner gets a shot at the NXT North American Championship tomorrow
#1 Leon Ruff
#2 Isaiah “Swerve” Scott
Ruff’s music played, but he spilled out onto the ramp, having been attacked by Swerve. Ruff got the better of the exchange briefly on the ramp but Swerve regained control by dropping Ruff on the barricade. The bell still hadn’t sounded. Ruff rolled Swerve inside and went to a corner as the match apparently came back from a commercial break and the bell sounded. Very quickly, the action went outside and Swerve put Ruff on the barricade in the exact same way, then hit a running dropkick. Ruff managed a diving cutter off the announce table, then rolled Swerve into the ring and covered for two. Swerve reversed on a rope run and hit a tope. The two went up a corner and threw fists. Swerve wanted a piledriver but Ruff reversed to a rana high in the air. Both guys sold on the mat.
#3 Bronson Reed
The countdown ended at the strange time of 3:08. Ruff tried a cross-body on Reed but Reed caught him and took him inside. Reed held up Swerve for a delayed suplex, and Ruff helped out with a cross-body. Ruff turned his attention to Reed and got splashed on his back. Reed dropped down on Ruff’s front just after. Swerve entered and the three all did some standing switches until Reed was on the back and suplexed both guys at once.
#4 Cameron Grimes
6:05 for the end of the countdown here. Grimes distracted Reed so he could get distracted by Swerve, and the two double-teamed Reed. Reed spilled out of the ring and Grimes gave Swerve some money. Swerve accepted it and put it in his pants, and the two turned to Leon Ruff in a corner and worked him over. They took turns giving Ruff uppercuts, then put him in a corner but both got struck by Ruff. RUff did his corner escapes from Grimes just to get caught and darted in the other corner on Ruff. Swerve tossed down the money angrily on Ruff for whatever reason. The heels cleared out Reed, who was trying to reenter, and kept up on Ruff. Ruff ran the ropes into a Grimes clothesline and then ate one from Swerve as well.
#5 Dexter Lumis
9:10 for Lumis. In the ring, something had happened and Swerve pinned Ruff at 9:46. Not ideal to have those moments offscreen during entrances. Lumis entered and hit springboard suplexes on both heels. Grimes left the ring and Lumis worked over Swerve. Bulldog for Swerve. Lariat. NXT piped in a “Dexter Lumis” chant as they do every week. Swerve exited and Reed entered. The two exchanged shots and Lumis wanted a fireman’s carry but the two exchanged some more reversals. Lumis tried to run Reed against the ropes but Grimes pulled down the rope and he spilled out. All four ended up on the outside as LA Knight’s music played.
#6 LA Knight
Knight booted Ruff on the ramp and kicked him to the floor as he did some mic time. He started cutting promos on each guy and Reed tossed him by his head into the ring. Knight begged for mercy as the match went to split-screen on USA. Grimes entered again and got laid out by Reed quickly, then dumped again after an Irish whip. Swerve entered and got whipped as well. Everyone cleared out but Reed and Knight, and Reed whipped Knight. Whip in the opposite corner. Knight evaded a splash and laid out Grimes, then saw Swerve on a top rope and ran there quickly to hit a superplex.
Dexter Lumis put the Silencer on Grimes, but Knight used the moment to roll up Lumis for the elimination at 15:37. Reed then took out Knight and pinned him at 16:08. Knight ended up outside the ring and Lumis put him to sleep with the Silencer to transition both guys into a new feud.
Into the ring, Swerve, Reed and Grimes exchanged shots and forearms. Each guy got a little shine for a moment and the three started tangling up into some fun spots they obviously spent quite a bit of time on. The heels ended up on the mat and Reed fell on them after a superkick and both guys sold.
Grimes and Swerve again agreed to work together and they took shots at Reed, who begged for more. Reed got to his feet and started giving both shots, but they superkicked him. Reed clotheslined Swerve but Grimes avoided it and hit a knee. Then the heels suddenly tried to eliminate one another and Swerve took out Grimes with a rollup and a handful of tights at around 19 and a half minutes.
Reed and Swerve exchanged some shots and Reed grounded Swerve, then went up. Swerve recovered enough for a running kick and he went out to the apron and rolled Reed forward to slam him in a very, very ugly way on the apron for a “holy sh*t” chant. Back inside, Swerve hit a 450 Splash for a long two count. Swerve stalked Reed and smacked him and still, a tired Reed begged for more. House Call kick by Swerve. Reed called for another and got it. Reed crumbled to the mat. Swerve got in Reed’s face and set up another, and Reed briefly fought it off and hit a third for a long two. Swerve worked over Reed’s left arm but Reed got to his feet. Big palm strike and a powerbomb by Reed. Reed planted Swerve to set him up for the Tsunami. He hit it for the win.
WINNER: Bronson Reed at 23:14.
(Wells’s Analysis: This match often committed the sin of guys just sitting outside the ring doing nothing, but it made up for it by giving Swerve a surprise featured spot so he was elevated even in defeat. Reed and Lumis were the only particularly believable winners here and my own preference was Reed, and Gargano in his current heel act should be able to do some really fun stuff with a monster like him)
-During the USA commercial, Peacock went to a hype video for the next match.
(3) TOMMASO CIAMPA vs. WALTER (c) – NXT UK Championship match
Challenger entered first. Walter entered without Imperium. Ciampa sat on top of a corner as Walter wiped his feet and entered. Imperium and Timothy Thatcher were all absent but I can’t imagine that remains the case throughout. Alicia Taylor handled formal intros. There was an info screen on both guys. Ciampa’s intangible was “psychotic” and Walter’s was “unbeatable.”
The two circled a bit. Psycho Killer/Let’s go Walter dueling chant was 70% or so for Ciampa. The two exchanged some holds and Walter backed Ciampa to a corner, where Ciampa transitioned to a brief headlock. Ciampa struck quick and often, then backed Ciampa to a corner and threw fists and stomped a mudhole. Ciampa had shaved off all the gray hair he’s been getting so he’s back to the look of the version of him we know best.
Walter draped Ciampa over a corner and hit a vicious palm strike, then went up the corner and stomped him until he fell all the way to the floor. Walter followed him out and the two exchanged punches. Walter set up a palm strike against the table and Ciampa moved. Walter wrecked the hood that goes over the desk and the announcers sold Walter’s strength. Ciampa worked his way into a near Willow’s Bell but Walter fought it off and the two got back into the ring. More stiff shots by both guys. Ciampa tried to lift Walter a couple of times, who held a cravat for just a moment but Ciampa fought out using Walter’s bad hand and kicked it a few times. Rope run and a huge boot by Walter, who took a breather after laying out Ciampa.
Walter snapped a half-crab on Ciampa while continuing to sell the right hand. Ciampa worked his way out but Walter hit another boot to put Ciampa down in a corner. Walter leaned on Ciampa in a corner to boos. Ciampa slipped outside and Walter waited for him there. Walter suplexed Ciampa back into the ring, then kicked at him and begged him to get up to more boos. Ciampa got in a chop but Walter took him down with a knee to the head. Walter hit a huge right to a kneeling Ciampa and made sure to sell the pain a bit. Ciampa was able to hit a clothesline but he didn’t take Walter down. A second, third and fourth weren’t enough. A running lariat wasn’t enough. A flying lariat wasn’t either.
Ciampa continued running the ropes and still couldn’t ground Walter. Finally he got Walter up against the ropes and he kept up the lariats in a spot that went on a surprisingly long time (this was the USA commercial segment). Finally Ciampa took him down and he hit Air Raid Crash for two. Walter was able to plop down on Ciampa during a powerbomb attempt for two. Ciampa got the slam he wanted and got two. Ciampa ran the ropes into a Walter sleeper. Walter hit a German suplex and a huge lariat for two.
Walter wanted a powerbomb but Ciampa fought it off and bit Walter’s bad hand. Walter kicked Ciampa’s spine, but ran into a Fujiwara armbar that Ciampa transitioned into work on Walter’s bad digits. Walter reached the ropes but Ciampa used as much time as he had. Ciampa stomped Walter against the ropes, then held him for repeated forearms, again as long as the ref let him. Ciampa wanted Willow’s Bell but Walter slipped out of the ring to the floor to avoid it. Walter clubbed Ciampa over the top rope from the apron. Ciampa trapped Walter’s hand and punched it against the top rope and Walter laid him out with a headbutt. Walter went up and Ciampa followed. Ciampa worked it into Air Raid Crash from the top for a near-fall. “Fight forever” chant.
Ciampa chopped Walter, who was on his knees. Again. Walter hit his feet and Ciampa chopped him again and again. Walter’s pasty skin was reddening considerably. Walter caught a chop and grounded Ciampa for a leverage two count. Walter twisted Ciampa’s head between his feet, then hit a couple of powerbombs for a two count. Walter hit a release suplex. Stiff chop and done.
WINNER: Walter at 16:58.
(Wells’s Analysis: These two are an incredibly intriguing matchup given the level of violence promised, and they made good on that promise. This was brutal and mean throughout, and both guys showed a willingness to maim the other to achieve the goal. Walter was never going to lose his championship in this spot, but that didn’t take away from the match for me at all.)
Walter walked up the ramp and met his Imperium brothers, who flanked him for the pose. Walter again sold the pain from the hand before they walked off. Nothing for the Thatcher saga tonight.
-We got a recap of the dog from last week, again running to his owner, who was in the ring. Again, we only saw her boots (I know with 99% certainty who this is, and if you don’t know but want it spoiled, listen to PWT Talks NXT). The screen said “Franky Monet: Coming next Tuesday”
-During the USA break, Peacock went to a backstage interview with Bronson Reed. Johnny Gargano stormed in to ruin the fun almost immediately and he told Reed he’d better fill up his gas tank, because he’s fresh as a daisy. Reed stared at Gargano as he took off.
(4) MSK (Nash Carter & Wes Lee) vs. LEGADO DEL FANTASMA (Raul Mendoza & Joaquin Wilde) vs. GRIZZLED YOUNG VETERANS (Zack Gibson & James Drake) – Triple Threat match for the vacant NXT Tag Team Championship
Entrance order was how I listed them above. Gibson, in a rare turn, didn’t bring a mic. All three teams stopped and looked at the belts on a podium on the rampway.
Lee, Wilde and Gibson to start. “Legado” chant. Raul quickly tagged in and got a “Raul” chant as he and Wilde worked over both guys. Mendoza covered Lee but Gibson broke it up and went at Lee himself. Lee fought out of a slam and made a blind tag. MSK teamed up on Gibson in their own corner and Carter hit a bronco buster. Gibson fought off both of Legado and Drake tagged in and the two cleared everyone from the ring and apron. Gibson ate a cross-body from Carter so Drake could get in a shot for a two count. Drake worked over Carter with lefts and then stomped him in the corner. Snap mare and more stomps from Drake and another two count on Carter. Drake worked a headlock and then cleared Wilde from the apron before leaning in for another two on Carter. He wrenched Carter by the nostrils. Carter floated over a suplex attempt and tagged. Lee tagged in and there were significant boos for the hot tag from the NXT crowd, who aren’t exactly known for taking well to new acts for a while. Legado finally got back in it and all six ended up outside after some Legado topes. “NXT” chant.
Legado worked over Carter in a corner. They put him in the tree of woe and hit huge dropkicks from the two near corners and Gibson broke it up. Legado stomped Gibson into oblivion and dumped him as the match went to a USA commercial break. In the ring, Mendoza covered Carter for two. Rope run and Mendoza hit a dropkick. Double-team and Wilde covered for two. Snap mare and a knee to the back by Wilde. Running cross-body for two. Wilde held back Carter from making the tag, meant to be a hot tag but this crowd is just not playing along with face-heel alignment other than the moments that WWE has piped in boos for Legado. That’s what happens when a faction are the coolest guys on the roster.
Legado continued to double-team Carter in their own corner with lariats and frequent tags. More piped-in boos as the crowd behind the action clearly cheered. Mendoza laid out Carter and Drake finally hit the ring and rolled up Mendoza for two. Lee made the tag and he started itting kicks on both heels to more visual boos and thumbs going down. He hit a plancha on both guys and the piped-in “MSK” chant was obviously not picked up at all. MSK did their double-team splash and Carter covered Drake for two. Lee tagged in again but Gibson hit him from the outside. GYV wanted Doomsday Device on the floor but Carter put a knee to Drake. Legado took control briefly and Lee laid out both. He hit an exploder on Drake and then tried to go up, but Gibson double-chopped his neck and held him in place for a Drake dropkick. Shankly Gates by Gibson. Carter tried to make the save and Drake held him. Lee tried to tap but Carter got into it and stopped it just longenough for Legado to get involved. Legado double-teamed GYV and they paired up for an impact spot on Lee, where Mendoza covered Lee for two.
Again, everything broke down for two separate brawls. Drake and Gibson hit Doomsday Device on Wilde. MSK double-teamed Mendoza to take him out. Visually the match was down to GYV and MSK. They faced off across the ring. The audience chanted “Gibson” so WWE quickly piped in “This is awesome.” Carter fought off Ticket to Mayhem and hit a double-cutter. He tagged Lee and the two hit a double blockbuster to win the titles.
WINNERS: MSK at 15:24.
(Wells’s Analysis: They got some cheers at the end but it was still visually clear that people weren’t all about that ending. I thought this was ill-advised to do so early and not give them a longer journey, and this audience turning on them is making it look like that might have been the call. Having to overcome a loss and win against just one team probably would have done them a world of good. With that out of the way, this was an excellent triple-threat and when certain teams were out of it, it felt motivated and honest rather than contrived.)
-The announcers ran down the card for night 2 of TakeOver tomorrow. Vic also mentioned that Poppy would be on hand to perform. She’s got a great track record with NXT appearances.
-They showed Sarray in the audience with Stephanie McMahon.
(6) IO SHIRAI (c) vs. RAQUEL GONZALEZ (w/Dakota Kai) – NXT Women’s Championship match
Champ entered second. Alicia Taylor handled formal intros at 11 to the hour. Their intangibles were “powerhouse” and “fearless.”
Shirai charged and got snatched out of the ring and tossed. Shirai had special event lime green gear, a big departure from the usual mostly-black gear. Shirai got blocked on a rana but scissored her legs on Gonzalez’s head. To a corner, kick by Shirai. Shirai went up and hit a huracanrana. Corner cross-body by Shirai. Shirai stomped down and wanted her double knees, but Gonzalez caught them. Shirai reversed and dumped Gonzalez, then hit a cross-body to the outside. Shirai went to a corner and Dakota Kai got involved. Referee Darryl Sharma threw out Kai. Gonzalez tried to grab Shirai and yank her to the floor, but Shirai hit a pendulum kick and laid out Gonzalez outside. Shirai went to the apron and Gonzalez recovered and grabbed Shirai and darted her into a post. Inside and Gonzalez covered for two.
Gonzalez slammed Shirai for two. Shirai threw some body shots and set up 619 but Gonzalez cut her off and dropped Shirai on the top rope and covered her for two. Gonzalez dropped some elbows and covered for two. Gonzalez wanted a suplex and Shirai rolled through and hit some chops. Gonzalez caught a chop and swatted Shirai to the mat. Gut-wrench and Gonzalez worked Shirai’s arms as Shirai was over her back. Shirai flipped backward out of it and hit a rana and a double stomp. Both women sold for a moment. Shirai didn’t connect on 619 as Gonzalez wasn’t in the right place to take it, so she improvised and hit it on the next attempt. Shirai rolled up Gonzalez for two.
Shirai went up and Gonzalez grabbed her, looking for a chokeslam, but Shirai reversed and worked a crossface. Gonzalez’s leg was in the rope and the ref had to ignore it so they could set up Gonzalez’s fight to kitty-corner rope. Gonzalez bailed and Shirai hit a moonsault to the higher ramp on the entranceway. Gonzalez went up the ramp partway and Shirai hit running double knees. Gonzalez got up and looked around for Shirai. The camera panned out to show Shirai was on top of the skull at the top of the ramp, and she hit a cross-body from the skull. Both sold for a good while as the show gave us a lot of replays of the move.
Shirai dragged Gonzalez to the ring and set up Over the Moonsault. It got two. Vic called it “Moon Over Moonsault.” Oh, Vic. Gonzalez went out and Shirai followed but got booted. Gonzalez chokeslammed Shirai on the floor. Back inside and Gonzalez stalked Shirai. Shirai hit an uppercut but Gonzalez ran the ropes for a huge lariat. One-arm powerbomb and Gonzalez won the championship. After the win, she got pyro and a lot of smoke for her celebration. The show went off at five past the hour.
WINNER: Raquel Gonzalez at 12:55.
(Wells’s Analysis: Going in, there was a lot of doubt about who would win this match, but the way the match was worked gave it away for me as I thought Gonzalez would have to completely dominate to save face if she was losing after this big push to the top. Gonzalez is a well-protected monster, but she still doesn’t have the legitimacy of Rhea Ripley in the average fan’s eyes, so it’ll be interesting how well she does carrying the championship. I completely agree with going all the way with this push, even if Raquel is still essentially a work in progress. Io has been essentially defined by the championship for a very long time, so her next move should be interesting as well)
FINAL THOUGHTS: The last time NXT wedged in a seemingly last-minute TakeOver, it didn’t particularly come off as a big event. Tonight, the set, the fanfare, the preshow chatter and everything else really made it feel like an important event. It was nice to have the option to watch on Peacock, although I don’t know what that’s going to do to the final head-to-head ratings battle.
Without hesitation I’ll call out Walter-Ciampa as match of the night, though each one brought something to the table. I didn’t love some of the early minutes of the Gauntlet Eliminator with so many guys staying outside for no kayfabe reason, but they got to a pretty interesting place in the end. I ended up picking all the winners correctly last week except for MSK, who were certainly booked to be in a place to win, but I so strongly disagreed with doing it right away that I bet against them. Hopefully the WrestleMania weekend crowd is some of the problem here, and a more conventional crowd will allow them to have a stronger run. All that said, we still don’t know much about them other than the fact that they’re high-energy guys and one is wrestling to honor the memory of his father, so a bit more characterization would’ve helped before tonight as well.
All in all, though it’s much harder to recap a TakeOver show, I appreciated the chance to take a week off of the (normally) frantically-paced NXT weekly show and cut straight to the meat. Tomorrow, we’ll do it all over again. Check out PWT Talks NXT tonight or stream tomorrow. After the show tomorrow night, we’ll be recording a VIP Roundtable with the usual three of us that will go up late tomorrow night. Cheers.