NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver Night 1
April 7, 2021
WWE Performance Center
Orlando, Florida

Watch: Peacock & WWE Network (Non-US)

The Magic Writing Girl has returned to do something she didn’t expect: review a brand she had sworn off. She has decided to take in NXT this weekend in hopes of rekindling that magic it once held over her and she hasn’t felt in so long. Night 1 (as well as Night 2) has the potential to achieve that effect. Stacked shows with a variety of matches that can whet one’s appetite for high-caliber pro wrestling. I am way more amped up for tonight than I have been for previous NXT events and I am hoping to be spending the next two hours living it up and fangirling the hell out. 

Pete Dunne def. KUSHIDA

HOLY SHIT THIS OPENER RULED! Almost immediately into this event, my tits refused to be calm. This was high octane, no bullshit filler, sprint in the best and most awesome way possible. Why the hell did it take so long for this KUSHIDA to arrive in NXT. This match had no let-up. They took it to each other almost immediately and it never stopped from there. For those of us who have forgotten exactly how amazing KUSHIDA is, we are starting to be reminded once more of this fact. This match definitely put several more exclamation remarks on this reminder. The speed, the grappling, the back and forth, on point, on pace, in the ring and in my face. Folks, this is how you open a damn show. This is the kind of opener you want, especially for attempting to return fans such as myself. You grab the audience immediately and make it clear they are in for a rocking as hell night. You remind them why you tune in to these events. If this match couldn’t get a grip on you and convince you to watch the rest, I don’t know what pro wrestling can. A hair over 10 minutes, this match is once again an example of it’s not the time given, but how you maximize the time you have. They maximized their minutes, accentuated the action, and clicked in and engaged each other. Watch this shit. ****1/4

Six-man Gauntlet Eliminator Match
Bronson Reed def. LA Knight, Leon Ruff, Dexter Lumis, Isiah “Swerve” Scott, Cameron Grimes

Elimination Gauntlets can be a slog. They can have peaks and valleys of highs and lows depending on which wrestlers are currently facing off and how they are formatted to go. The one thing that helps this match is it isn’t “one person loses and gets replaced with a new person”. It just keeps having people enter and filling up the ring. This allows for the momentum to keep going and for engagement to rarely decrease. That’s an advantage, and it allows this match to be enjoyable. While I predicted Scott previously, watch this match smacked in the back of the head Leroy Jethro Gibbs style how stupid of a prediction that was. Bronson Reed is totally the best call and he was awesome in this gauntlet. He was impressive throughout, he ruled, and I had zero problem at the end of it with him winning.  He also just seemingly comes off as a real good guy, and with so many not-so-good guys getting their spotlights in wrestling lately, it would be nice if a good guy finished first. This was fun. Everyone else in this match got moments to shine and even the people I normally am not high on (Lumius and Knight) did enough to satisfy me. The final two of Scott versus Reed was excellent and enjoyable and gave this match a satisfying conclusion. We’re two for two on this show! ***1/2

NXT United Kingdom Championship
WALTER © def. Tommaso Ciampa

I knew before this match even began that this was going to be my jam. This was one of my most anticipated matches of this two-night event. Before the match even begins there is already a feel to it. A tension in the air as they stare each other down. Let not stand on ceremony here, this fucking ruled. This is the hard-hitting, hard-pace, and two hard asses facing off style of wrestling I live and breath for. This is the “I grab my nearest plushie and grip it tight in nervous energy style wrestling” as two competitors beat the shit out of each other. This girl doesn’t need a constant diet of this, but this girl definitely craves it and needs that carving sated. WALTER is one of my absolute favorites in pro-wrestling. There is very little chance I’ll look at a WALTER match and think, this won’t be worth my time. On the rare occasions this happens, trust me, it’s not WALTER’s fault. He is the dominant and long-lasting champion we need in wrestling. Sure, the pandemic aided in that a bit, but there is a sincere air of who the fuck can beat him and I love it so much.

Ciampa was on fire. The Blackheart in a level of full force I was wondering if he could ever return to. This is the most motivated and engaged I’ve seen him in a while. His selling and offense had extra ompf and urgency in it. This is perhaps one of his best performances. I enjoyed his performance in this match for more than I ever enjoyed him in any Gargano affair. Hard hitting action with an excellent pace. I really wish we had a legit major crowd for this show instead of the Pandemic manufactured reactions/sound we ended up with. It deserved it. I felt pumped up just watching it. This match made me believe Ciampa could win even though rationally I knew he wouldn’t. A fight, a contest, a brutal outing and excellent top-notch work from two great wrestlers. One wrestler who you can always count on, and one returning to that level I’ve been waiting for him to return to. Fuck folks, stop reading this shit and go watch this if you haven’t. I have a star rating fear, screw it I’m overcoming that fear. I sincerely doubt anything at WrestleMania will top this. *****

NXT Tag Team Championship
MSK def. Grizzled Young Vets and Legado Del Fantasma

Three-way tags can be great, they can also be a mess. With these three talented teams in there though I had high hopes it would be great. MSK rules, let’s get this out of the way. It’s odd, I never could get into them like many could in the independents, but it’s clicking now for me. They rocked this match and were its best component to its success. That’s not a knock on Del Fantasma or the GYV, they brought their talents to the table and placated my desire for damn good wrestling. But to me, for me, this was the MSK show. MSK performed so well that halfway through this I regretted my initial prediction and found myself rooting for them to win. I leaned forward and got into this match because of them. I felt myself getting behind them and egging them on to seal the deal and win those vacant championships. They at long last, won me over, and they did it in a promotion I had abandoned and moved away from. How can I not end up rating this match positively?

I’ve gushed over MSK for an entire paragraph, but GYV and Legado Del Fantasma are slouches. They didn’t just show up for the ride as it happened, they grabbed the wheel at various times and took control of the action and we are all better for it. Legado Del Fantasma was the real wake-up call for me. I need a one-on-one title match between MSK and Legado Del Fantasma, I think it would be fantastic. Great match. If you hate three ways you’ll probably feel this was down a few pegs from what it could’ve been in a straight-up one-on-one, but trust me, this brought the goods. I said these can be great, and they can be a mess, but they kept the mess to a minimum which allowed for the great to stand out and shine. Drama, action, suspense, octane energy, and legitimate stakes that felt like everyone gave a damn about. MSK is now our tag team champions, and they should be easy to root for as they now go up against any and all challengers thrown against them. I can’t wait. ****

NXT Women’s Championship
Raquel Gonzalez def. Io Shirai © 

Before the match, we have a SARRAY sighting. Hello there!

The match had a legit main event big fight feel before it started. The tone and mood felt right. Io Shirai is the dominant champion, Raquel who has been built up over the past year or so with big wins, big moments, and comes off as a legit threat and worthy challenger. I was so ecstatic this was the main event for night one. I was extremely pleased they wasted no time going at it. A hair over twelve minutes long, shorter than we may be used to for main events, but every minute is worth it. Every minute is action, used wisely, and we get a full and complete match. Does a small part of me wish we had several more minutes. Absolutely, but in the end, I was not missing them. Shirai was excellent, here she was excellent once more with her energy and ability. Flying all over the place, showcasing she is the genius of the sky. When on the defensive putting over her exhaustion and pain from Gonzalez pounding and painful offense. Shirai does everything she can to accentuate and enhance the presence of Raquel, who already has one hell of one.

Raquel is dominant, punishing, relentless. She takes her lumps and then returns the favor in ways that made me grimace. She is a badass, the badass of the women’s division I crave. She rag dolls and pushes Shirai around and it rules. Every movement, every move showcasing, announcing I belong in this spot. I don’t question it, she does. Action rarely stalls, they take it too each other using the best of their styles of wrestling to take out the other. Shirai delivers, she always does, hopefully she always will. In her final main event as NXT Women’s Champion she puts on a worthy conclusion to her reign. A performance, of many, she can be proud of. I hope her future is as bright as it should be, as it deserves to be. In the landscape of WWE that is never for certain, but I’ll cling to hope for her. The spot you’ll know most about, and see shared over and over again is her leap from the top of the entrance skull. Don’t be fooled, there’s more to her performance than that one spot. She does everything she can to go out in a memorable fashion.

 

How about Raquel? This is how you properly start your reign. Looking confident, looking dominant and resilient. Taking everything the now former champion throws at you and then standing tall in the end with the now former champion lying before you. Shirai was her awesome self, but Raquel rose to the occasion. We know she belongs, she knows she belongs, and now she’s where she worked her ass off to get, the top of the division. It rules, it generally rules. I hope she’s dominant as hell. I hope she gets some mostly one sided victories. I hope whomever beats her has to practically exhaust every inch of themselves to do so. The person who finally bested Shirai should be a damn near unbeatable force that the division becomes more and more desperate and helpless to dethrone. Give me all of that. GIVE IT TO ME. I remember, I remember when Gonzalez came out to help Dakota Kai and everyone taunted her by claiming they didn’t know who she was. Well we know who she is now, she is NXT WOMEN’S CHAMPION! LONG MAY SHE REIGN! **** 

Final Thoughts

It’s perhaps two years since I felt this way about a TakeOver. I won’t declare the magic is back, but this is a step in the right direction. This show is an excellent offering, nothing skippable, everything enjoyable. A four-star main event that ushers in a new women’s champion. The match of the night, and a chance to be match of the weekend is Ciampa/WALTER. The opener was the type of opener this show needed, and you can’t sleep on either the gauntlet or three-way affair. Do not bet against night one of NXT TakeOver Stand & Deliver. This show is great, and I’m glad I watched it.