By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
NXT Takeover Stand & Deliver Night One Hits
Io Shirai vs. Raquel Gonzalez for the NXT Women’s Championship: Shirai and Gonzalez had their work cut out for them when it came to headlining a strong show. They were more than up for the challenge. Shirai was awesome with her usual flashy offense and especially when it came to selling for Gonzalez. It’s been fun to watch Gonzalez go from feeling like the muscle for Dakota Kai to reaching her potential as a wrestler. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Shirai in terms of whether she’s moving to Raw or Smackdown or sticking with NXT.
Walter vs. Tommaso Ciampa for the NXT UK Championship: Can someone launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to move Walter, his friends, and his family to the United States? I can’t blame the guy a bit for wanting to remain based on his home continent, but it sure is fun when he comes to North American based NXT. There was no reason to expect a title change and yet I still enjoyed every second of the match. And I’m definitely looking forward to today’s Walter vs. Rampage Brown title match that will stream on today’s NXT UK Prelude show.
MSK vs. Grizzled Young Veterans vs. Raul Mendoza and Joaquin Wilde for the vacant NXT Tag Titles: All three teams worked at a crazy pace and produced a hell of a match. I was legitimately surprised to see MSK go over, as I thought the creative forces might be better off making viewers wait for the big payoff by keeping them in chase mode. But no complaints, as the Wes Lee and Nash Carter have breathed new life into the NXT tag team division. It’s refreshing to see them pushed as the elite team that they are rather than as a mid-card comedy act that they were for far too long in Impact Wrestling.
Leon Ruff vs. Isaiah Scott vs. Bronson Reed vs. Cameron Grimes vs. Dexter Lumis vs. LA Knight in a six-man gauntlet eliminator: A hot gauntlet match with some excellent work from the various participants. Ruff took a hell of a beating during his time in the match and got things off to a strong start. Scott going from bell to bell, yet losing to Reed protected him and even came off like a breakthrough moment. More than anything, I was pleased to see Reed go over. The most likely alternative seemed to be Lumis winning and challenging Johnny Gargano tonight. And while there’s definitely a place for the Lumis character, I’m far more excited about seeing Reed challenge for the NXT North American Championship on night two.
Kushida vs. Pete Dunne: A terrific opening match. I love the technical style, and I’m openly begging for a best of seven series between these two. And why not? Both men are highly regarded within NXT, yet the creative forces often struggle to come up with meaningful storylines for them.
Toni Storm vs. Zoey Stark: A nice pre-show match. Stark scored the biggest win of her NXT run. I was surprised that it happened on the pre-show rather than being saved for television, but no complaints. It will be interesting to see if this becomes a feud rather than a one-off match. The overall pre-show was well done. I liked the straight forward, sports-like approach. I entered the pre-show feeling a little underwhelmed regarding WrestleMania week, but the pre-show got me fired up about this show. In other words, mission accomplished.
NXT Takeover Stand & Deliver Night One Misses
None: I would hate to see NXT water down Takeover by going with two-night specials on a regular basis, but the depth of the brand is on full display this week. As good as this show was, there’s a really good chance that night two is even better.