NXT returns tonight (April 8) with part two of their TakeOver: Stand & Deliver event, streaming on Peacock.
The brand’s 34th TakeOver got started last night with six matches (read our recap & reactions to Night One here), and continues tonight with four title bouts and a fight so General Manager William Regal washed his hands of the whole thing.
You can find our predictions for both nights of TakeOver: Stand & Deliver here. Now let’s get you up to speed on the five matches on tap for Thursday night, and our big question for each one.
Finn Bálor (c) vs. Karrion Kross for the NXT championship
After his surprise return to the black-and-gold brand, it took The Prince a little while to find his footing. But wins on TakeOver undercards led him back to the main event, and since winning the top belt last fall, he’s shown no signs of relinquishing his spot. Names like Adam Cole, Pete Dunne, and Kyle O’Reilly have tried to knock him off. He’s fought back all challenges.
Thing is though, Bálor’s road to the top didn’t have to go through Karrion Kross. The lucha & Impact veteran arrived in NXT last year and proceeded to mow down some very impressive competitors. That culminated with dethroning Keith Lee. Unfortunately, a shoulder separation immediately ended Kross’ title reign. He picked up where he left off after three months of rehabilitation, dispatching names like Damian Priest & Santos Escobar. He still hasn’t taken a loss in WWE.
Finn knew he was coming, asking “what took you so long?” when the larger man showed up to challenge him after his last title defense. Since then, the champ got distracted by Kross’ partner Scarlett’s mind games (which was noteworthy, because Bálor was so good at staying out of Undisputed ERA’s drama while feuding with O’Reilly & Cole). That allowed the challenger to get the drop on him during their attempt to win the tag titles, but they’ve been on equal footing heading into tonight’s co-main.
The big question
Who’s aura is more intimidating at this point? Kross and NXT have done a lot of work to make him seem invincible again since his return, but it’s just not the same as it was when Scarlett first started telling us to “Fall and Pray” in his presence. Meanwhile, Bálor’s really settled into his badass tweener character. That, and the possibility of a main roster call-up that often looms over big TakeOver matches, makes this showdown more interesting than it might have been six months ago.
Adam Cole vs. Kyle O’Reilly in an Unsanctioned Match
How much time do you have?
Like past NXT epics, this feud has its roots in years and promotions. O’Reilly and Cole were crossing paths in places like CZW, Dragon Gate & Chikara back in the Aughts. They both arrived in Ring of Honor at the start of last decade, forming a tag team called Future Shock before spending a few years feuding over the ROH World title while they also forged separate paths in places like PWG and New Japan.
Kyle arrived in WWE shortly before his Floridian friend, but they both made their true arrival when Cole attacked Drew McIntyre at the close of 2017’s TakeOver: Brooklyn III. Since dubbing themselves Undisputed ERA along with Bobby Fish (and later Roderick Strong), the group captured every title in NXT. It culminated in fulfilling the “prophecy of gold” with all the members holding a championship, and Cole setting the record for the longest run with the main NXT strap in the brand’s history.
Cracks started to show in the ERA when Cole feuded with Pat McAfee. The group turned face and won at WarGames last November, but when KOR failed to take the title from Bálor – and then started to befriend him – Cole had had enough. After helping to save the Irishman from an attack by McAfee’s (former? We haven’t seen Pat in anything but video form in a while) team, Cole superkicked the champ and his teammate.
Since then, both men have made it clear the Undisputed ERA is over. Cole’s told the world how O’Reilly has always been second fiddle to him, and Kyle’s talked about how watching his former friend’s actions has shown him he wants to be a better man. They both agree they need to end the other one in order to move forward. After watching them try to do that all over the greater Orlando area for a few weeks, NXT General Manager William Regal let them have this match – provided they agreed not to hold the company liable if they killed each other.
The big question
Is this feud just getting started? Triple H & Shawn Michaels’ epic programs tend to span months, and multiple TakeOvers. Since it seems unlikely Vince McMahon is clamoring to bring a couple guys who are generously listed as six footers to the main roster, the only reason it wouldn’t continue is if there’s something to speculation about Cole leaving to join his girlfriend in AEW. Otherwise, buckle up, scripted fight fans… this is likely to be the successor to Gargano/Ciampa. But hopefully without the pauses for surgery.
Santos Escobar vs. Jordan Devlin in a Ladder Match to unify the NXT Cruiserweight title
Before the world changed, Devlin captured the recently rebranded (from WWE to NXT) purple belt at Worlds Collide in January of 2020. When the pandemic not only made it impossible for the Irish Ace to travel to the United States, but shut down NXT UK entirely for several months, Triple H & team had no choice but to hold a tournament to crown another Cruiserweight king.
Escobar won that, turning heel and introducing his Legado Del Fantasma faction with Raul Mendoza & Joaquin Wilde in the process. Both men have defeated all comers ever since (with the exception of Santos’ non-title program with Kross) while jawing at each other online. Devlin showed up in NXT Prime last month, and this match was made.
The finishing touch came when Hunter’s right-hand man Shawn Michaels interrupted a war of words between the two champ to slide a ladder in between. 21 years after HBK vs. Razor Ramon at WrestleMania X, NXT will hang their Cruiserweight title above the ring for a ‘Mania week version of that classic.
The big question
Which of these men does WWE have bigger plans for? Devlin’s star was on the rise, but in in addition to the COVID pause stalling his momentum, he was accused in the #SpeakingOut movement last summer. Devlin categorically denied the allegation, and whatever investigation the company carried out cleared him. Fans haven’t bought that when it comes to another NXT talent; will they here?
On the other hand, WWE cutting ties with Andrade – and losing interest with Angel Garza & Humberto Carrillo – opens the door for another person to be dubbed their next big Latino prospect. Could that be the former El Hijo Del Fantasma?
Johnny Gargano (c) vs. Bronson Reed for the NXT North American championship
He’s playing a manic goofball in his scenes with The Way, but when the time comes for Gargano to defend his title, he’s been all business. Johnny TakeOver faces a tough test tonight in the Colossal Aussie Bronson Reed, though.
The champ does have his own sizable advantage. He didn’t have to work an Eliminator Gauntlet match just to qualify for this one. Reed took quite a beating on Wednesday, especially at the hands (and feet) of Isaiah “Swerve” Scott. Gargano also has his dim-witted protégé Austin Theory on his side, although it’s not inconceivable The Way’s ongoing issues with Dexter Lumis could once again cancel out All Day.
The big question
Might it be time for Gargano to re-enter the NXT title picture? His current comedy heel schtick could work against either winner of tonight’s Bálor/Kross match-up, and his in-ring talents make him an appealing draw that makes any card more interesting.
Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell vs. Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart (c) for the NXT Women’s Tag Team titles
The current champs knocked The Way duo out of the Dusty Classic, but LeRae’s issues with both women go back further than that – especially when it comes to Blackheart. After failing to take the Women’s title from Io Shirai, Candice took out her frustrations on Shotzi and her tank.
LeRae & her mentee already had their sights set on the new Tag belts, but when Moon & Blackheart captured them on the night they were awarded to Dusty winners Raquel González & Dakota Kai, they had even more motivation. When González exited the tag scene to make her singles dream come true, the new champs needed a challenger. Voila!
The big question
Are they going to hot potato their newest belts again less than a month after introducing them? If not, how many times is the Poison Pixie gonna come up short in title matches?