With an exhilarating night one already in the bag, night two of NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver promised to be an even bigger deal, what with two major co-main events heading things up; Karrion Kross challenging Finn Balor for the NXT Championship, while Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly prepared to go to war in an Unsanctioned Match to put their intense hatred of each other into a violent resolution.
Let’s go straight to the ring and get into it!
Ladder Match For The NXT Cruiserweight Championship: Santos Escobar vs. Jordan Devlin
After the excitement of night one of Stand & Deliver, night two needed to go big or go home, and they started as they meant to go on with this opening ladder match.
In a lot of ways, this was quite restrained for a ladder match. But it worked in the match’s favour, as the spots we did get actually hit harder because they were allowed that space to breathe and have an impact.
Devlin dominated early on until the ladder came into play and things seemed to move into Escobar’s favour. However, it was Devlin that had the more memorable moments on the rungs. Climbing up the ladder, Devlin saw Escobar approach and jumped down to catch him with a crazy DDT that looked incredibly smooth considering the coordination needed to make it work. Escobar had a nice moment, nailing a dive through the ropes and driving Devlin into a ladder, but Devlin soon came back with a picture-perfect moonsault from the very top of another ladder.
Mendoza and Wilde came out at this point and sent an ascending Devlin off the ladder to the outside before sending him into the ring steps. Escobar attempted his own ascent in the ring but Devlin managed to get back in and throw a ladder at Escobar’s back to halt that. Devlin climbed up the other side of the ladder but an Escobar headbutt sent Devlin into a ladder propped against the turnbuckles—and he landed HARD! Escobar continued to climb and pulled the titles down to claim the championship.
A good opener with some nice spots throughout. Escobar celebrating on the ramp with his son after was a nice moment too.
NXT Women’s Tag Team Champions Shotzi Blackheart & Ember Moon vs. The Way (Candice LaRae & Indy Hartwell)
I wanted to like this match but…it just wasn’t very good. LaRae looked good, to be fair, but the rest was very rough and ready.
The problem seemed to be that the match didn’t know what it wanted to be. It started off as an old-school tag match, with the challengers keeping Shotzi isolated in their corner and exchanging fast tags. But then Ember got the hot tag and it just became a little bit of a hodgepodge of spots. In particular, one moment Shotzi hit a dive to the outside and clearly missed BOTH members of The Way, hitting the barrier instead, looked pretty damn bad. Another spot, where Ember Moon power bombed all three of the other contestants in a chain from the top turnbuckle also looked clumsy.
An Ember double Eclipse, followed by a Shotzi senton, was enough for the champions to retain.
NXT North American Champion Johnny Gargano (w/Austin Theory) vs. Bronson Reed
I really enjoyed this one, the main reason being that they told a really nice little story in the ring here. From the off, Reed muscled Gargano around as Johnny TakeOver couldn’t compete against Reed’s strength. A desperation leaping shoulder block from the ramp back into the ring caught Bronson hard in the ribs, though, and exposed a vulnerability that Gargano could manipulate (no Vic, that smile on Gargano’s face wasn’t shock, it was the look of a man who had found a weakness to exploit).
Gargano took it to Reed with multiple attacks to the mid-section, including a nifty front face lock which he combined with hard knees to Reed’s ribs. But somehow Reed, holding his ribs, kept coming for Gargano, throwing the man around with astonishing power, including a lovely Razor’s Edge from the ramp back into the ring. Gargano finally got the big man in the Gargano Escape but Reed made the ropes.
There were a couple of hurricarana moments from Gargano where, I’m not sure if the issue was Gargano couldn’t handle Reed’s size, but they came off looking clumsy and Reed looked to cover with a powerbomb. That did detract from my enjoyment a little. Don’t do the spots if you can’t do them effectively
Austin Theory got involved, putting Gargano’s foot on the ropes. Reed did NOT like that, diving out onto Theory in another questionable moment—should he be able to do that if the ribs are hurt? I don’t think so, and a missed moonsault in the ring allowed Gargano the opportunity to nail two One Final Beat’s in a row to retain the title.
I had a few bugbears with this one (the botched hurricaranas, Reed doing dives when his ribs were hurt) but, unlike the women’s tag match, there was enough here for me to get invested in and excited by. A good, solid match and a generally great effort by both men.
NXT Heavyweight Champion Finn Balor vs. Karrion Kross (w/Scarlett)
A quick note: the video package and the entrances before the match really added to the big fight feel going into this one. Great job.
This one was a slow burner for sure, but I got a lot out of this match. There was a bit of an old-school feel to it and there was great psychology on display. Balor seemed to underestimate Kross, smiling right in his face and giving him a hard slap at one point, to which Kross erupted in response. Had Balor not been so flippant, it might have saved his title…
Early on, Balor led Kross into charging into the corner, missing Balor and hitting the ring post. Balor quickly leapt on the hurt joint, remembering that this was the shoulder that was previously injured and put Kross out for several months. At some point, Kross hurt his liver too, so Balor worked that into his game too, hurting the shoulder with arm bars and locks whilst throwing hard body shots to soften up the mid-section and the liver region.
Kross would come back, bringing the power game into play, but Balor kept on the shoulder and liver to retain the advantage. And this is where that flippancy from earlier in the match came into play. Balor nailed the Coup de Grace double stomp but instead of going for a normal cover, he chose to cover Kross with his back to Kross’ body instead. Kross used this as an opportunity to lock in the Straight Jacket choke, Balor only getting the break with the ropes. Although Balor managed to get some more offence in, Kross was in the zone now. He counted a twister submission with a barrage of blows to the back of the head and neck, instantly draining the life visibly out of Balor. Indeed, Balor looked dead on his feet as Kross broke out a Northern Lights suplex and the Doomsday Saito, and two stiff forearms to the back of the head were enough to put Balor out of his misery and re-crown the technically undefeated champion, Karrion Kross.
Your mileage will vary on this one, but I genuinely loved it. It was perhaps Kross’ best NXT match to date, they told a compelling story that was psychologically sound and, although I didn’t predict Kross to win, I’m not upset by his victory. Now he gets to have the reign he was supposed to have the first time.
Unsanctioned Match: Kyle O’Reilly vs. Adam Cole
Well now…this one was a grind to get through. I know, I know, I’m miserable and I don’t like fun. I’m laughing as I’m typing this because I know loads of people will have really enjoyed this one, so the issue is more likely with me than you, dear reader, but I just couldn’t get into this, not at least until the last 10-15 minutes or so.
What was the stumbling block for me? Well, the build-up had been so well done and so heated, that I’d really bought into the story and was looking forward to a mega-heated war here. But the heat seemed strangely lacking. For comparison, look at Rosa-Baker on Dynamite or Omega-Mox at Revolution (before the explosion fail, of course). You really believed these people wanted to kill each other. Here, the action didn’t feel hesitant, apart from one moment where O’Reilly seemed to have doubts about planting Cole’s head into the ring steps, but considering the build, I just didn’t feel like these were two people that wanted to destroy each other so much, they had to give them an Unsanctioned Match with which to do so.
In fact, there was little need for the long length of this match. There was a sense that the action was being dragged out from spot to spot, but in actuality, you could probably cut the first twenty minutes or more of the match and not miss anything really essential.
Admittedly, I did like the last 10-15 minutes. Cole and O’Reilly falling through the ramp was a great spot, as was the ending, where O’Reilly balanced Cole’s neck on the edge of a chair and then dropped a chain-wrapped knee from the top rope to get the win. I also liked when both men used the chain to assist their submissions, Cole with the figure four leglock and O’Reilly with the choke. Cole nailing O’Reilly with the TV monitor was a nice moment too. But it was all too little in the end.
I don’t want to put down either performer; I thought they both worked hard and those welts on O’Reilly’s back looked nasty. It’s just they could have told a much better story than the one they ended up telling. A missed opportunity.
The second night of Stand & Deliver was more of a mixed bag than the previous night. Such is the risk with a two-night event, but there were things I definitely liked here. The opening ladder match and the North American title matches were both really good encounters, and Kross and Balor put on a great bout that saw Kross reclaim the title he had never been beaten for in the first place.
The women’s tag match was easily the worst match of the two nights, which is a shame. More of a shame was that the Unsanctioned Match couldn’t live up to expectations. Sometimes you can’t force drama, but that’s what it felt like here. A long match does not an instant classic make.
Overall though, Stand & Deliver was a very successful event, featuring a killer first night and some gripping action on the second. Plus, we had two major title changes. I think it’s fair to call the event a real success overall.
I’m not confident it will at all, but now NXT has thrown the gauntlet down, will WrestleMania be able to compete?