WrestleMania week is finally here, and before the big event at the weekend, the black and gold brand kicked off night one of their two-day extravaganza with five big matches. NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver has received some excellent build-up over the last month, and we’re ready to dive right in. The Gauntlet Eliminator match saw six worthy Superstars battling it out for a chance to face Johnny Gargano for the North American Championship tomorrow night, WALTER and Tommaso Ciampa faced off to see if the UK Championship would change hands, the Tag Team Championships were on the line as MSK, Grizzled Young Veterans, and Legado Del Fantasma fought for the gold, and Io Shirai defended her Women’s Championship against Raquel Gonzalez. First up, though, Kushida and Pete Dunne took each other on to see who was the better technical wrestler.

Pete Dunne vs Kushida

Dunne went straight for the triangle lock, but Kushida reversed into an armbar before they both got to their feet. Submission manoeuvres came thick and fast as both men tried to gain the upper hand. Dunne pulled Kushida outside and suplexed him onto the apron, then hyperextended his arm and wrenched it against the rope. They exchanged chops until Kushida hit a basement dropkick and Dunne rolled onto the ramp. Kushida hit a springboard elbow drop off the ropes and punted Dunne in the face. Back inside the ring, Kushida went for a Hoverboard Lock then a Pele kick. Dunne was able to snap the Timesplitter’s fingers, and after a brief comeback, the Bruiserweight worked on his left arm.

Kushida found some momentum and went after Dunne, and whilst it worked for a short time, Dunne stopped him in his tracks. Both guys were evenly matched, showcasing some great technicality throughout. Dunne climbed the turnbuckle and was knocked off by Kushida. He pulled him back up the turnbuckle and launched himself off whilst holding in the Hoverboard Lock. Dunne tried to fight him off and finally managed to grab the bottom rope. Kushida climbed up high and double-stomped Dunne’s arm, then locked in yet another Hoverboard Lock. Dunne once again got to the ropes, but his arm was severely damaged.

He snapped Kushida’s fingers then stomped on both hands twice. He connected with the Bitter End and picked up the win in an explosive start to the night. Gutted for Kushida as he fought a great fight.

Winner: Pete Dunne Rating: 7.5/10

Gauntlet Eliminator Match: Leon Ruff vs Isaiah “Swerve” Scott vs Cameron Grimes vs Bronson Reed vs Dexter Lumis vs LA Knight

Before the match, Leon Ruff came crawling out as Isaiah “Swerve” Scott walked behind him with a big smile on his face. Ruff suddenly got up and the two exploded on each other. Swerve dropped Ruff onto the barricade, but Ruff fought back and took the match in the ring as the bell finally rang. The action spilled outside once again, and Swerve dropped Ruff on the barricade for a second time. Ruff hit a twisting cutter off the announce desk and went for the pin inside the ring, but only achieved a two-count. Swerve hit a slingshot on the top rope which managed to disorientate Ruff. They climbed the top turnbuckle where Ruff hit a magnificent hurricanrana after reversing a powerbomb.

Bronson Reed headed to the ring as Ruff went for a crossbody, but was caught and thrown into the ring. Reed splashed Swerve in the corner and held Swerve in a hanging suplex as Ruff connected with a crossbody on Swerve. Reed hit a leg drop on Ruff, then squashed him under his colossal size with a banzai drop. Reed continued to dominate by suplexing Swerve and Reed at the same time. Reed stood in the centre of the ring as Cameron Grimes’ music hit and out he came.

Swerve hit Reed from behind as Grimes connected with a moonsault. He gave Swerve some money and the two worked on Ruff. Ruff fought back but was thrown into the turnbuckle with force by Swerve. Reed came in to even the odds, but Swerve booted him in the face as he stood on the apron. Grimes connected with a clothesline on Ruff as Swerve hit a clothesline of his own. Grimes and Swerve collided as Dexter Lumis headed to the ring.

As Lumis headed to the ring, Swerve pinned Leon Ruff as he became the first Superstar to be eliminated. Lumis launched Swerve off the top rope with a suplex, then did the same to Grimes. He cleaned the ring, leaving him to stand face to face with Reed. They traded blows until Lumis picked him up on his shoulders. Reed got off but was sent outside the ring. Chaos erupted as LA Knight made his way to the ring. He booted Reed as he walked out cutting a promo on Grimes and Lumis. He started to talk trash about Swerve but Reed grabbed his hair and threw him in the ring.

Knight booted Reed in the face and went for the shoulder charge, but was caught by Reed who hit a Samoan drop. Reed took out Grimes and Swerve before turning his attention to Knight. He squashed Knight as he ran at him then Irish whipped him hard into the corner. Knight hit a neckbreaker on Reed, powerslammed Grimes, then hit a superplex on Swerve. Lumis locked in Silence on Grimes as LA Knight reversed it into a pin and eliminated Lumis. Swerve, Grimes, and Reed triple-teamed Knight which led to Reed eliminating him. Outside the ring, Lumis locked in Silence and put him to sleep.

Reed, Grimes, and Swerve traded blows in the centre of the ring. Grimes threw Swerve to Reed, then superkicked Reed in the face. Grimes and Swerve teamed up to wear down Reed, but he fought back. Chaos erupted and it ended as Swerve eliminated Grimes after reversing a pin attempt. Reed climbed the turnbuckle and was rocked by a kick from Swerve. He then managed to slam Reed off the turnbuckle onto the apron. Swerve hit a 450 off the top rope, but Reed was able to kick out at the last second. Reed ate three House Calls in a row but was still unable to pick up the win. Reed hit a powerbomb, then a reverse powerbomb. He landed a big splash off the top turnbuckle to pick up the win. After the match, Gargano walked out and had some words for Reed.

Winner: Bronson Reed Rating: 8.5/10

NXT UK Championship Match: Tommaso Ciampa vs WALTER (C)

Ciampa came to the ring looking like his old self, signalling we were likely to see a return to the Psycho Killer. They locked horns as Ciampa managed to avoid a signature chop. Ciampa unleashed a flurry of strikes which knocked WALTER to the ground, but he got back to his feet and chopped Ciampa off his feet. He put Ciampa on the top turnbuckle and delivered another chop that sent him tumbling outside. Ciampa chopped at WALTER’s chest outside and was thrown onto the apron. Ciampa tried for Willow’s Bell, but it was too early and WALTER stopped it. Ciampa tried to pick up WALTER on his shoulders, and after failing to do so, he booted his injured hand.

WALTER was able to connect with a big boot which sent Ciampa to the mat. He locked in a half Boston crab and transitioned into an STF. WALTER was struggling to use his injured hand but still did some major damage with his huge boot. He hit a suplex off the apron into the ring, then drove a knee into Ciampa’s jaw. He threw an elbow into Ciampa’s jaw, and as it looked as though he was in control, the Black Heart hit a succession of clotheslines to try and knock him off his feet. He must have hit about fifteen until WALTER knocked him off his feet, but he got straight back up and finally knocked WALTER off his feet. He then connected with an air raid crash on WALTER.

Ciampa hit a Fairy Tale Ending, but could only get a two-count. WALTER locked in a sleeper hold then a release German suplex and a clothesline, but Ciampa kicked out of the pin. WALTER booted Ciampa in the spine, but Ciampa took him to the mat and locked in a submission on his injured hand. He stomped on WALTER, then unloaded with some big punches. Ciampa went for Willow’s Bell again, but WALTER escaped. WALTER stood on the apron and held Ciampa who was inside the ring and unloaded some chops. He climbed the turnbuckle, but Ciampa chopped him and climbed up.

Ciampa hit an air raid crash off the turnbuckle and went for the pin, but WALTER kicked out. Ciampa hit some big chops on WALTER, but the champion replied with some of his own. WALTER went for a pin but Ciampa kicked out. WALTER used his feet to twist Ciampa’s neck, then hit a powerbomb. Yet again, Ciampa kicked out. WALTER hit a half-Nelson suplex on Ciampa and one final chop to pick up the win. Easily the best match of the night so far. Imperium came to the ring to celebrate with WALTER after the bell rang.

Winner: WALTER (Still NXT UK Champion) Rating: 9.5/10

NXT Tag Team Championship Triple Threat Match: MSK (Wes Lee & Nash Carter) vs Legado Del Fantasma (Raul Mendoza & Joaquin Wilde) vs Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake)

Wilde, Lee, and Gibson started things off. Wilde and Mendoza showed their sublime teamwork on both Lee and Gibson. Gibson worked on Lee’s injured hand, but he got the tag and Nash hit the bronco buster. GYV cleared the ring, but Carter hit a crossbody on Gibson. Drake went for the pin on Carter, but only got a two-count. Drake delivered kicks on Carter in the corner, then stomped on his head in the centre of the ring. Drake knocked Mendoza off the apron, then hit a powerslam on Carter.

Carter managed to tag in and MSK unloaded on Drake. Carter jumped off Lee’s back and flew through the air to take out GYV. Legado Del Fantasma then dived out the ring and took both MSK and GYV out. With Carter in the tree of woe, Wilde and Mendoza jumped off two separate turnbuckles to deliver a dropkick and connected. Mendoza controlled Carter in the ring, then assisted Wilde with a springboard splash. Wilde continued to work on Carter in the ring as Lee climbed back up to the apron. Legado Del Fantasma delivered multiple clotheslines to Carter, a double suplex, and a lionsault by Mendoza. Drake came out of nowhere to almost get the pin on Mendoza. Carter finally tagged in Lee who took out Drake with a dropkick to the back of the head.

He hit a tope con hilo on Gibson, flipped over the rope to take out Legado Del Fantasma, then hit a Pele kick on Drake. MSK hit their flip/push drop on Drake but only got the two-count. Mendoza hit a twisted suplex on Drake as Lee knocked both guys on their backs. Gibson held Lee’s hand against the turnbuckle which allowed Drake to boot it against the post. Gibson locked in Shankly Gates as Drake tried to submit Carter. Mendoza broke up the submission attempt as Legado Del Fantasma cleared the ring. Mendoza went for the pin on Lee after a double team move, but only got a two-count.

GYV hit a Doomsday Device on Wilde as MSK squashed Mendoza with a dropkick onto his sternum from up high. GYV stood face to face with MSK as they brawled in the centre of the ring. Carter hit a double cutter then tagged in Lee. They hit a corkscrew blockbuster to pick up the win as Gibson was pinned. What an incredible match. All three teams were electric, but MSK were outstanding throughout. Regal came out to present them with the belts.

Winners: MSK (New NXT Tag Team Champions) Rating: 9/10

NXT Women’s Championship Match: Raquel Gonzalez W/ Dakota Kai vs Io Shirai (C)

Gonzalez started strong by hitting a big boot on Shirai. Shirai hit a hurricanrana off the top rope and a crossbody into the corner. She followed it up with some chops and a dive through the ropes. Kai got on the apron and attacked Shirai, but the referee saw it and sent her to the back. Shirai hit a heel to Gonzalez’s chest, then a moonsault from off the apron. Gonzalez wasn’t phased as she launched Shirai into the turnbuckle. Gonzalez flipped Shirai off her shoulder and slammed her into the mat, then continued to dominate. Shirai was suffering as Gonzalez hit multiple elbow drops, but she was able to kick out of a pin attempt.

Gonzalez locked in a submission on her shoulders as she stretched Shirai’s body. Shirai was able to hit a hurricanrana and a double stomp, then shortly after a 619 and a springboard missile dropkick. She almost got the pin, but Gonzalez kicked out at the last minute. Gonzalez went for the one arm powerbomb but Shirai reversed into a crossface. Gonzalez escaped, so Shirai went for a moonsault off the turnbuckle onto the ramp, then hit a running double knee. From out of nowhere, Shirai hit a crossbody off the 20ft skull at the top of the ramp. Both women lay motionless on the ramp until Shirai brought Gonzalez in the ring and hit a moonsault, but she kicked out.

Gonzalez hit a one-arm powerslam on the outside of the ring. She rolled the champion in the ring and hit a huge lariat which sent Shirai flipping through the air. She hit another one arm powerbomb to become the new NXT Women’s Champion. A dominant performance from Gonzalez. Shirai did all she could, but it wasn’t enough.

Winner: Raquel Gonzalez (New NXT Women’s Champion) Rating: 8.5/10

What Else Went Down

– Earlier in the day, Io Shirai was seen arriving with Zoey Stark who had picked up a win against Toni Storm on the pre-show, and Raquel Gonzalez walked in with Dakota Kai.

– A recap of Ciampa and WALTER’s feud aired before their match.

– Another promo aired featuring Franky Monet aka Taya Valkyrie.

– Bronson Reed was interviewed backstage. He said it had been 14 years of hard work and tomorrow he was finally going to beat Gargano. Johnny Wrestling walked in and told him to fill up his gas tank because he was as fresh as a daisy.

– Before the main event, a video package aired showing the build-up to the match.

Stephanie McMahon was shown at ringside with Sarray.

After The Bell

This was a solid start to NXT’s two-day TakeOver. Every match was fantastic, but Ciampa and WALTER had the standout for me. As disappointed as I was to see Ciampa defeated cleanly, it made sense. WALTER is unstoppable, and I’m not sure who’s going to end his almost two-year reign. The opener was great, but Kushida should have won. It wouldn’t have made Dunne any less of a badass, and it would have made Kushida look better than he currently does in the company. The Gauntlet Eliminator was explosive, with every Superstar playing their parts beautifully. Bronson Reed was phenomenal, but I’m surprised Lumis and LA Knight weren’t there until the end. Still, Reed and Gargano are going to have a war tomorrow night.

The tag team triple threat was chaotic, fast-paced, and pure poetry. It was hard to keep up with what was going on as all three teams were on fine form. So happy for MSK. They deserved to win after all they’ve endured recently. As for the main event, Shirai did all she could, and despite a valiant effort, the better woman won. I’m excited to see what this means for Gonzalez now. Does Dakota Kai turn on her for an opportunity to become a Women’s Champion? Will Shirai get a rematch? Is someone like Xia Li, Franky Monet, or Sarray going to be the one to face Gonzalez first? Whatever happens, Gonzalez was amazing tonight, and I can’t believe we’ve got another one tomorrow. I love wrestling. If you’ve yet to read mine and the wonderful Steph’s predictions for NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver, you can have a read right here.

Star of the Show: Raquel Gonzalez Overall Rating: 8.5/10

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