In the final show before NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver, we saw a brutal back and forth between Io Shirai and Raquel Gonzalez, a high stakes Battle Royal, and a broken Roderick Strong try to find meaning in his wrestling career now Undisputed Era are no more. Two more matches were announced for next week’s PPV, Santos Escobar issued an open challenge, a Superstar was teased through vignettes featuring a dog, and so much more. First off, Cameron Grimes continued to tease Roderick Strong about the downfall of UE in a match-up to kick off the show.

Roderick Strong vs Cameron Grimes

As Grimes walked to the ring, he ran his mouth about keeping Undisputed Era alive. He showed off a new t-shirt that said “Grimes the System” on it, then revealed a new theme song that played the same message at the start of the old UE music. Strong ran out to him and clotheslined him from behind. He took him to the ring and continued to beat him down. Grimes fought back, but Strong was there waiting, unloading a big chop across the chest. Strong clotheslined him over the ropes, then landed a dropkick to the outside. He joined Grimes at ringside and continued to assault him. Grimes pushed him into the scaffolding as the show went to commercial.

After the break, Grimes tried to use some submissions to drain the life out of Strong. The physicality on display was incredible. Every time Strong fought back, Grimes was able to retaliate. Strong hit his signature backbreaker, but only got the two-count. Strong managed to hit a superplex off the top turnbuckle. He followed it up with a succession of punches off the ropes, but Grimes connected with a surprise Spanish Fly for a two-count. He reached into his trunks to pull out a UE armband as Strong hit an Olympic slam. As Strong was distracted by the armband, Grimes connected with a Cave In for the victory.

Winner: Cameron Grimes Rating: 8/10

Santos Escobar W/ Raul Mendoza & Joaquin WIlde vs Tyler Breeze

Santos Escobar stood in the ring and offered an open challenge. He said he represented a legacy, and the Cruiserweight division belonged to him. It belonged in his veins. Tyler Breeze interrupted and said he has had to work his ass off to be where he is. He then took up Escobar on the open challenge. Escobar started off strong with a basement dropkick into Breeze who was sat in the corner. He went for the Phantom Driver, but Breeze escaped and hit a couple of dropkicks of his own.

Escobar hit a picture-perfect dropkick, but Breeze was able to land a boot that dropped Escobar to the mat. He wrenched his leg against the turnbuckle, then took out Mendoza and Wilde outside the ring. As Escobar went running between the ropes, Breeze kicked him in the face which stunned him. After the break, Escobar beat down Breeze in the corner with some strikes and a running knee. He picked Breeze up on his shoulders and dropped him onto his knee, then trapped him in a surfboard hold.

Breeze fought back with some elbow drops to Escobar’s knee. He hit a spinebuster, then locked in a Sharpshooter. Escobar was able to grab the bottom rope. He booted Breeze in the face and followed it up with the Phantom Driver for the win. After the match, Wilde and Mendoza held Breeze as Escobar was about to attack, but MSK ran down to make the save. Grizzled Young Veterans then appeared on the big screen to cut a promo on both tag teams.

Winner: Santos Escobar Rating: 7.5/10

Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell vs Gigi Dolan & Zayda Ramier

Dolan did a decent job against Hartwell at the start, and even after Hartwell and LeRae fought back, Ramier came in and beat down Hartwell. LeRae tagged in and knocked Dolan off the apron. She stomped Ramier’s face into the mat as Hartwell hit an elbow drop off the rope to pick up the win. After the match, LeRae said they deserved to be NXT Tag Team Champions, and she was coming after Shotzi Blackheart and Ember Moon at NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver. Blackheart and Moon came down in the tank and accepted their match.

Winners: Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell Rating: 4/10

Zoey Stark vs Raquel Gonzalez W/ Dakota Kai

Gonzalez threw Stark into the corner and unloaded with some big strikes. Stark fought back and showed off her impressive athleticism. Gonzalez planted her face-first into the mat, but only managed a two-count. She locked in a savage submission on Stark, but Stark was able to break out. She knocked Gonzalez out of the ring then jumped over the ropes. Gonzalez caught her, but Stark escaped and drove her into the turnbuckle. Kai attacked her, which led to Stark clotheslining her over the barricades.

Back inside the ring, Stark booted Gonzalez in the thigh, then hit a running knee into her jaw for a two-count. Stark hit a neckbreaker off the top turnbuckle, but again only managed a two. Gonzalez managed to get back in control to deliver a one-armed powerbomb to pick up the win. Poor Zoey Stark. She has constantly impressed but has yet to pick up a win. After the match, Shirai ran out and attacked Gonzalez. Gonzalez slammed her into the barricade and walked off.

Winner: Raquel Gonzalez Rating: 7.5/10

Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter vs Xia Li & Mei Ling W/ Boa

Catanzaro jumped on Li’s back but was thrown off. Carter and Catanzaro exchanged tags multiple times to wear down Li, but she was too powerful for them. She went for a suplex, but Catanzaro locked in an inside cradle for a two-count. On the ramp, Mei Ling stood up from her throne. Carter walked towards her as Ling grabbed her throat with one hand and choked her out. In the ring, Li hit a spinning kick for the victory. This was awful. Since Mei Ling appeared and Xia Li turned badass, the feud with Catanzaro and Carter has turned stale very fast.

Winner: Xia Li Rating: 4/10

Gauntlet Eliminator Qualifying Battle Royal Match: Isaiah “Swerve” Scott vs Leon Ruff vs Bronson Reed vs Tyler Rust vs LA Knight vs Jake Atlas vs Pete Dunne vs Kushida vs Cameron Grimes vs Dexter Lumis vs Austin Theory

Ruff surprise attacked Swerve before the bell. He clotheslined him over the top rope and was about to dive over, but Swerve hid behind the announcer table. After the break, the remaining Superstars kicked off the match. Jake Atlas was the first to be eliminated after being distracted by Malcolm Bivens. Rust was then eliminated by Swerve. Lumis was stood in the corner watching over everyone else fighting for a place in the Gauntlet match at TakeOver. Reed knocked Theory outside but he didn’t land on his feet. He flipped onto his feet and became eliminated.

Dunne took out Swerve and Ruff. Kushida squared off with Dunne as they traded blows. Both men reversed submissions until they fell over the top rope with Kushida still locking in the Hoverboard. After the break, it was announced Pete Dunne would face Kushida on night one of TakeOver: Stand & Deliver. Gargano headed to commentary as the final six fought to decide their place in the Gauntlet match. Swerve and Ruff fought in the corner, as did Reed and Knight. Lumis was still stood watching. Reed managed to throw Ruff out of the ring, followed by Swerve.

Reed almost threw Knight out of the ring, but Grimes teamed up with Knight to get rid of Reed. Lumis joined in to get Reed eliminated. Grimes offered Knight and Lumis money to win, but they both attacked him and threw him over the top rope. Lumis landed a back body drop on Knight after a couple of big punches. Knight almost eliminated Lumis. He dived through the ropes and pulled Lumis off the apron to eliminate him and win. Yes, LA Knight wins, and what made it better was Gargano and Knight squaring off against each other at ringside.

Winner: LA Knight Rating: 7/10

What Else Went Down

– A video package aired of Karrion Kross training for his match with Finn Balor at TakeOver: Stand & Deliver.

– WALTER featured in a video package where he called Tommaso Ciampa a shell of his former self, and that he was going to beat him at TakeOver.

– Johnny Gargano was backstage being interviewed about the Battle Royal and said Regal made the wrong call. Austin Theory asked him if he remembered the finger poke of doom, to which Gargano mentioned how it killed the business. However, Gargano said that on night two, if Theory won, he’d use the finger poke himself to retain the championship. A nice reference to the downfall of WCW, but it seemed a bit weird given Bischoff is being inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. Still, that’s how Vince McMahon rolls.

– A small dog which looked like Taya Valkyrie’s Pomeranian was shown looking at the Performance Center. The dog appeared, later on, this time finding its way inside and running past a CWC sign. Once again, the dog was running through the training centre in another video. Finally, the Pomeranian walked up to a female, but we could only see her boots. Text appeared on the screen that said, “see you April 13th. Franky.” This could very well be Taya Valkyrie under a different name, and I can’t wait to see her.

– A video aired last week of Gonzalez slamming Shirai into the table. McKenzie Mitchell was shown asking her after it happened if she was concerned she may have made a mistake. Shirai said that was why she picked her. As Raquel Gonzalez made her way to the ring, Shirai stopped her. They went after each other and Gonzalez slammed her into a crate, leaving NXT officials to check on her.

– Roderick Strong was walking out of the building. Mitchell asked him where he was going, and he said he was done. She asked him what he meant, and he said he was done with all of it. No, Roddy. Don’t leave.

– Kushida was being interviewed when Dunne interrupted.

– A deep dive video aired featuring the feud between Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly. It did an excellent job of hyping their match at TakeOver: Stand & Deliver and highlighting their long friendship through various promotions. It was pretty upsetting showing the downfall of UE and their friendship, but I am so ready for this match.

– Shirai attacked Gonzalez whilst she was being interviewed, but again, Gonzalez beat her down. She threw her through some plasterboard backstage.

– Tommaso Ciampa cut a promo from his normal sanctuary backstage. He said he was reminded of his journey and his story. He talked about how people think he’s changed after his neck surgery, and he acknowledged he has changed. However, he said he’s rediscovered his black heart and will knock WALTER off the top of the mountain. A fierce and personal promo from Ciampa. Man, I hope he wins.

– A video aired that featured Finn Balor talking about his upcoming match with Karrion Kross. He said Kross would choke, and he would walk out as NXT Champion once more.

– After the Battle Royal, Io Shirai came to the ring and called out Gonzalez. The two women went at it, as the women’s locker room tried to pull them apart. Shirai hit a moonsault on Gonzalez and loads of other female NXT Superstars.

After The Bell

What an explosive show. Io Shirai and Raquel Gonzalez’s brawling throughout was a high point. I have a feeling Gonzalez is going to pick up the win, though. LA Knight winning the Battle Royal was awesome, and if he faces Johnny Gargano we are going to be in for one hell of a match. Tommaso Ciampa wouldn’t cut a promo like that to just lose to WALTER clean, so I have a feeling Thatcher is going to turn on him and join Imperium. It was sad to see Roderick Strong look so defeated. I’d be happy if Bobby Fish came back and they became a tag team, giving him focus again.

Cameron Grimes is awesome, and as much as I’d like to see him wear the North American Championship, it would be good to see him shift his focus to the big league. There were no appearances from Karrion Kross or Finn Balor, but that only made the match feel more special. The same goes for Kyle O’Reilly and Adam Cole. Nothing more needs to be said. We just need the matches, and I’m so excited for next week.

Star of the Show: Raquel Gonzalez (again) Overall rating: 8/10

“NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver” Final Card

Night One

  • Kushida vs Pete Dunne
  • 6-Man Gauntlet Elimination Match: Isaiah “Swerve” Scott vs Leon Ruff vs Bronson Reed vs Cameron Grimes vs Dexter Lumis vs LA Knight
  • NXT UK Championship Match: WALTER (C) vs Tommaso Ciampa
  • NXT Tag Team Championship Match: MSK vs Legado Del Fantasma vs Grizzled Young Veterans
  • NXT Women’s Championship Match: Io Shirai (C) vs Raquel Gonzalez

Night Two

  • NXT Women’s Tag Team Championship Match: Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart (C) vs Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell
  • NXT North American Championship Match: Johnny Gargano (C) vs Winner of the Gauntlet Match from Night One
  • NXT Cruiserweight Championship Unification Ladder Match: Santos Escobar (C) vs Jordan Devlin (C)
  • Unsanctioned Match: Kyle O’Reilly vs Adam Cole
  • NXT Championship Match: Finn Balor (C) vs Karrion Kross

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