The SmarK Rant for NXT Takeover Stand & Deliver – Night 1 (04.07.21)
Live on the WWE Network without commercials, from Orlando, FL. Gotta say, I was very impressed with how seamless the non-commercials were on this show and it felt like a regular PPV, so kudos for that before we even get started.
Your hosts are Vic Joseph, Wade Barrett & Beth Phoenix
Pete Dunne v. Kushida
Dunne charges in and they fight for an armbar right away, and then trade kneebar attempts before Kushida switches to the arm. They head to the floor and Dunne suplexes him onto the apron, THE HARDEST PART OF THE RING, and follows with the SMALL JOINT MANIPULATION as he snaps the wrist on the ropes. Yeow. Back in, Dunne starts throwing chops, but Kushida fires back with kicks and a seated dropkick to put Dunne on the floor. They fight on the ramp and Kushida springboards off the ropes with an elbow and then charges for a running punt to the head to put Dunne back into the ring. But then Dunne dives into a standing armbar, but Kushida reverses to a hammerlock and they’re at a stalemate. So they chop each other and then Dunne snaps the fingers again, but Kushida takes him down with a cradle DDT for two. Kushida stomps him down, but Dunne reverses to his own curb stomps and puts him down with a forearm for two. Dunne misses an enzuigiri and Kushida takes him down for a cross armbreaker, but Dunne stomps the arm and tries his own, and Kushida reverses out of THAT before they finally hit each other and both guys are down. They fight up and trade headbutts, then Kushida dropkicks the arm and chases Dunne up the ropes before hitting him with a somersault kick to bring him down and following with the Hoverboard Lock. Dunne makes the ropes, so Kushida does a nasty hammerlock combined with a cross armbreaker, trapping both arms, so Dunne uses his foot to make the ropes again. Kushida jumps into another Hoverboard, but Dunne makes the ropes again, so Kushida traps the arm again and takes him down, and Dunne falls on top for two. Kushida takes a swing and Dunne grabs the hand and snaps the fingers again, and now Kushida can’t use his punches. So Dunne stomps the fingers, kicks him in the head, and hits the Bitter End at 10:37. Smoking hot opener here with Dunne constantly out-smarting Kushida and using the ropes to his advantage. ****1/4 Gotta love Kushida selling his mangled and grizzled hand afterwards, too.
#1 Contender Gauntlet Eliminator Match
We start with Leon Ruff and Swerve Scott as they fight on the floor before the bell, and Ruff tosses Scott into the railing and bounces off the barricade. Swerve beats him down, however, and they head into the ring for a missile dropkick from Ruff, but they head to the floor again and Scott suplexes him onto the railing and follows with a dropkick. I’m still not seeing the upside to turning Swerve heel to be honest. Ruff fights back with a cutter off the announce desk, which gets two in the ring. Swerve slingshots him in the ropes to cut him off, and they fight to the top, where Ruff gets a rana to escape a powerbomb. Next up is Bronson Reed at #3, but Ruff dives at him and fails badly. Reed hits Swerve with a corner splash and a delayed suplex, but Ruff comes back in and turns it into a Rockerplex in a nice spot. But then he attacks Reed and gets squished. Ruff was looking really good in the opening minutes when he was going toe to toe with swerve, and it’s weird that they’d immediately have him revert to the geeky jobber role against Reed like that. They all pile up for a human centipede version of a german suplex, which is more artistic than faithful to physics or common sense, and Cameron Grimes is #4. Grimes comes in with a moonsault on Reed before pulling out a wad of cash to bribe Swerve. Maybe he can upgrade the recording studio he always does promos from. So Swerve and Grimes double-team Ruff and hurl him around the ring and it’s all pretty dull. Dexter Lumis is #5 as Swerve pins Ruff to at 9:54 to eliminate him. Lumis hits Reed with a DDT on the way into the ring and teases another showdown with Grimes before hitting everyone with suplexes and a bulldog on Swerve. They actually have the temerity to pipe in fake chants for Lumis, too. Lumis and Reed trade slam attempts and Dexter clotheslines him to the floor before tumbling out with Grimes, and LA Knight is the last guy in at #6. So what was the point of having it be a gauntlet if they all just ended up in the ring anyway? Well except Ruff but who cares about him. So Knight does a promo on the way to the ring and talks s--- about everyone, but Reed attacks him on the way in and hits him with a samoan drop, then runs wild on everyone and gets his s--- in before Knight catches him with a neckbreaker out of the corner. And then Knight gets his s--- in on everyone, but Lumis randomly slams Grimes and puts him in the choke, and Knight rolls him over and pins him at 15:56 to eliminate Lumis. Everyone hits Knight with stuff and Reed pins Knight at 16:21, which has Wade Barrett pretty upset in a funny bit. And then Lumis takes out Knight with the choke to set up the feud we were ALL waiting for, I’m sure. Reed fights off Scott and Reed and they do some nice three-way spots and all three guys are out. Reed comes back and fights off both heels, but Swerve and Grimes turn on each other and Swerve rolls up Grimes and pins him at 19:28. BOO! So Reed beats on Swerve and goes up, but Swerve gives him an ugly slam from that position and onto the apron, THE HARDEST PART OF THE RING. That looked like it legitimately sucked. Isn’t Ricky Steamboat around to explain how he was forced into retirement? Or Shawn Michaels? Back in, Swerve gets two and hits Reed with a pair of running kicks to the head before talking some trash, but Reed fires up, so Swerve kicks him in the head again for two. Swerve decides to randomly go for an armbar, but Reed powerbombs him and goes up with the flying fat f--- splash for the pin at 23:22 to win the title shot. I wasn’t into this one, as it was needlessly overcomplicated in true NXT fashion and all OVER the damn place for most of the match. **1/4 Also LA Knight does not fit in here at all. And I’m a big Eli Drake fan but this is the wrong place for him.
NXT UK title: WALTER v. Tommaso Ciampa
Now this is the REAL Godzilla v. King Kong battle of the night. Wade’s take on Ciampa’s revenge plans: Family softens you up. That’s true, I have mellowed out a lot in the years since marriage. But, according to the tale of the tape, Ciampa is “Psychotic”, which I have to question whether it’s a legitimate diagnosis. Wouldn’t that violate HIPPA laws if so? I mean they won’t even tell us when people have concussions, but they’re going to reveal mental issues to build up a match? They fight for the lockup to start and Ciampa beats him down in the corner, but charges and walks into a chop that knocks the grey out of his beard. They fight on the floor and WALTER takes a swing at Ciampa and chops the desk instead, which I’m shocked only breaks the graphic on top. WALTER suplexes him onto the apron and they head back in the ring, where WALTER beats on him with forearms, but Ciampa blocks a chop and fights back with his own. He goes for a slam and WALTER blocks it, so Ciampa goes after the hand. So with the chops slowed down, WALTER just kicks Ciampa in the face instead. Fair enough. WALTER takes him down with a half crab and tries to turn it into an STF, but the hand is still hurting from chopping the desk, so he lets go and boots Ciampa in the face again. Unfortunately they show a closeup of the obviously gimmicked breakaway piece of the desk where he chopped it. Should have left it alone, guys. WALTER puts Ciampa down with a knee and steps on his face, you know, for fun, but Ciampa fights back with clotheslines as WALTER wobbles but won’t fall down. So he just keeps throwing them and throwing them and throwing them, finally leaving WALTER draped on the ropes in desperation, and then he keeps throwing damn clotheslines before WALTER finally just chops him. But he hurts the hand in the process, so Ciampa hits him with the Air Raid Crash for two. Ciampa wants the Fairy Tale Ending, but that’s not happening, and WALTER reverses for two. But Ciampa hangs on, hits the move, and that gets two. WALTER recovers on the ropes, so Ciampa hits him with a knee, but WALTER catches him with a sleeper and then turns it into a german suplex and follows with a lariat for two. WALTER tries to hurk him up for a powerbomb, but Ciampa bites the fingers and takes him down for an armbar while bending the fingers and WALTER makes the ropes. Ciampa beats on him while he hides in the ropes, which is very un-WALTER of him, and WALTER bails to the floor to escape. WALTER fights his way back in and goes up, but Ciampa brings him down with an Air Raid Crash for two. They trade chops and I mean CHOPS, and WALTER finally takes Ciampa down and stopms on his face in frustration before powerbombing him twice, for two. WALTER continues on the neck, but suddenly just hits a sleeper suplex and a chop to finish at 17:00. Aw, that was disappointingly abrupt. Usually they miss the peak by a few minutes, but this one stopped JUST when it was ready to move into the last gear and it kind of sucked the air out of the crowd it felt like. ****1/4
NXT tag team titles: MSK v. Grizzled Young Veterans v. Legado del Fantasma
I don’t really get the need for Fantasma here, as the other two were already in the finals of the Dusty Classic and would be the logical choice to just rematch for the tag titles here. Wllde and Mendoza double-team Wes Lee in the corner to start and Wilde stops to dance while Mendoza gets two. Gibson comes in and works on Lee’s hand, but MSK double-teams Zack in their corner, but then GYV double-team Nash Carter and clear the ring. Joseph has a weirdly specific stat, noting that the Veterans could join the Freebirds as the only team to win vacated tag team titles twice. I mean, there for sure has to be more teams who have done that first of all, but also what a weird thing to put someone over for doing. MSK double-teams Drake with kicks and put him on the floor, then follow with a dive, but Fantasma also gets dives onto everyone on the floor. Back in the ring, they hang Nash in the corner and hit stereo coast to coast dropkicks on him for two, but Gibson makes the save and gets tossed. Fantasma double-teams Nash and Wilde gets a bodypress for two before they bring Nash into the corner and double-team him with corner clotheslines. He finally fights them off and makes the hot tag to Wes Lee, who clears the ring with dropkicks and hits Fantasma with a dive on the floor. Back in for a handspring Pele kick on Drake and Nash moonsaults Drake for two off that. They set up for the finish, but Gibson breaks it up and Fantasma double-teams Carter with a double-team suplex. Lee clears the ring again and goes up, but Gibson traps his hand in the turnbuckle and Gibson dropkicks it, then locks in a wristlock while Drake tackles Carter and chokes him out. So at this point, Lee is trying to tap out, but Carter grabs the hand to prevent it, so that’s somehow not a submission. Barrett rightly points out what b------- that is. But then Fantasma breaks all that up and THEY do after the hand of Lee and hit him with a wacky double-team kick for two. The Vets hit Wilde with a Doomsday Device on the floor and MSK take out Mendoza, and MSK has a showdown with the Vets again in the ring. And MSK does their double-team blockbuster on Gibson to finish at 15:32 and win the tag titles. This was a lot of action but there wasn’t any real story to the match and it was just a bunch of stuff done at high speed. Done well, but I didn’t feel any real investment in the match or the teams. The bit with Wes Lee’s injured hand would have been a cool finish, but it ended up going nowhere. ***1/4
NXT Women’s title: Io Shirai v. Raquel Gonzalez
Logic would say that Io’s reign has gone long enough and it’s time to switch the title. Raquel beats on Shirai in the corner to start and puts her down with a big boot, but Io escapes a powerbomb with a head kick and makes the error of pointing to her head to indicate intelligence. That’s always the kiss of death. She hits Raquel with a headscissors and throws chops in the corner, but Raquel bails to the floor to escape and Io dives onto her. She follows with a moonsault, but Gonzalez runs her into the post and that gets two. She follows with a backbreaker into a slam for two. Gonzalez necks her on the top rope for two and puts her down with forearms before wrapping Io up with a backbreaker submission. Io reverses out of that with a rana and into a 619, and a Code Red gets two. Shirai goes up and Raquel tries to chokeslam her down, but Io rolls into a crossface and Raquel makes the ropes. They head to the floor and Io moonsaults her and follows with a running double stomp on the ramp. And then Shirai dives off the giant skull at the entrance with a bodypress, which is a nice visual but it’s not really the right match for it. Back in the ring, Io gets the moonsault for two and we get our first SHOCKED KICKOUT FACE of the night as Raquel bails to the floor. Io follows and Raquel hits her with a big boot and chokeslams her out there. Back in the ring, Gonzalez puts her down with a lariat, but the overrun goes so long that it suddenly cuts off my DVR’s recording. So I go to the WWE Network online to finish the show and Raquel wins the title with the chokeslam at 13:00. See, NEVER POINT TO YOUR HEAD! It always backfires in the end. Raquel has improved a lot and it was time to pull the trigger on her, and Io worked her ass off to give her a good title win. ***1/2
A really good show carried by the opener and the WALTER-Ciampa battle, although I guess it depends what you’re looking for in a show to determine who won the final Wednesday war. I’m giving the win to NXT because the finish of Dynamite left a bad taste in my mouth, and I think they’ll win the last ratings battle as well.
Later tonight: It’s part 2 and this time I have no prior engagements with other promotions, unless I decide to watch Impact instead I guess. I won’t be depending on the DVR for part 2, though, as I’m sure the 2 hours allotted are a mere suggestion.