NXT Stand And Deliver 2023 Results & Review (01/04/2023)
By Mick Robson
Here we go with the biggest weekend of the wrestling year! It's Mania weekend, baby! I'm only one man and can only cover so much, but I'll do my best to cover the bigger WWE stuff. I'll need to go back at some stage to watch yesterday's ROH Supercard of Honor, and I heard that even AEW Rampage was a bit of a sleeper show this week, so that might be a fun way to spend an hour.
Yesterday, I did catch Smackdown and the 2023 WWE Hall of Fame. Rey Mysterio is one of my all time favourites, and his induction was great. Konnan absolutely killed it in his speech inducting Rey, and the man himself got us all in the feels talking about the sacrifices his wife Angie made to support him. Who TF is cutting onions... and also, they snuck in a little storyline build with Dom refusing to stand to acknowledge Rey during his entrance and then walking out with the Judgment Day. Greatness.
And as far as Smackdown goes, hearing Cody Rhodes rap California Love in LA was a GOAT moment. The rest was decent, if unspectacular build for the Show of Shows. Really, at this point, the work is done. We just need to get there. As I write this, it's about 3 hours until WrestleMania Night One starts.
But we're here to cover the big NXT show of the weekend. NXT isn't quite in its Black And Gold glory days, but it's developed into something new and viable following the failed Nickelodeon NXT 2.0 re-brand. The talent was never REALLY the problem, it was more the presentation, which has been tweaked to be a hybrid of the old and new, and the more green talent of 2.0 has had the time to grow and improve, elevating the product as a whole.
Two big examples of that are Bron Breakker and Carmelo Hayes. Breakker was positioned as a big deal from the first moment NXT was branded 2.0, and quickly ascended the card to become champion and standard-bearer. A second generation athlete, the nephew of Big Poppa Pump Scott Steiner, Breakker is an explosive, powerful young athlete, proving to have a natural aptitude for pro wrestling after transitioning from football. Carmelo Hayes was an independent standout before coming into NXT through the Breakout Tournament, winning over crowds with his speed, flash and charisma. He spent a good amount of time as NXT North American Champion while Bron did his thing as NXT's top dog. At Stand & Deliver, they collide in the main event.
Elsewhere on the card is championship matches and multi-mans aplenty, trying to get plenty of wrestlers a payday, but I want to highlight the feud between Grayson Waller & Johnny Gargano. I've got a lot of love for Waller, seeing him work small crowds on the Aussie indie scene during his rookie year, all the way through the ranks at PWA, to signing with NXT and working his way up the card with his athleticism and brash personality. While Bron & Melo were at the top of the young prospects, Waller was right there with them, constantly looking for "viral" or memorable moments. One such moment came when he beat the hell out of Gargano, sending him out of NXT and WWE for close to a year. After Waller spent some time antagonising Gargano's hero, Shawn Michaels, Gargano made his NXT return, and the unsanctioned grudge match is on!
Let's do this!
I'll be damned, we had the return of pre-show matches here! They've done away with them in recent times, but as I mentioned above, this is quite a loaded- verging on bloated, honestly- card.
Match 1: Chase U (Andre Chase, Duke Hudson, Thea Hail) & Tyler Bate def. The Schism (Joe Gacy, Rip Fowler, Jagger Reed & Ava Raine) (at 11:09)
Thoughts: Pretty fun all the way through. The feud between Chase U & Schism has been good undercard stuff for several weeks on NXT- the spooky Schism gimmick doesn't do a lot for me, but balanced against the quirkiness of Chase U, seems to have found its place. Kept a fast pace due to the 8 person format, good story with Duke Hudson feeling conflicted before exploding with babyface fire. And we saw Ava's first official TV match- her role was nothing outstanding, but baby steps. Feel good win sets a nice tone for the show. (**3/4)
We see Indi Hartwell & Gigi Dolin make their entrances for the Women's Championship ladder match.
Match 1: NXT Women's Championship Ladder Match- Indi Hartwell def. Roxanne Perez (c), Zoey Stark, Tiffany Stratton, Gigi Dolin & Lyra Valkyria (at 17:02)
Thoughts: Well, damn! That was a result I was not expecting. Indi 's been in a gatekeeper role for so long, and when her entrance was confined to the pre-show, I thought, "Well, that guarantees Indi's not winning this thing". I thought Tiffany, Zoey, or outside chance of Roxanne doing the underdog thing to retain. But I did always think the ladder match stipulation was a means to get the belt of Perez without her having to eat a pin. As for the match, absolute high spot chaos- really hope Tiffany is okay after taking a flip bump to the floor without a single person catching her. Zoey had a few cool moments, and we had a little bit of story intertwined in there with the moment of Jacy Jayne costing Gigi Dolin the match. Well done all around. (****)
Match 2: NXT Tag Team Championship- Gallus (Wolfgang & Mark Coffey) (c) def. The Creed Brothers (Julius & Brutus) & Tony D'Angelo & Stacks (at 8:11)
Thoughts: A member of every team legal at once in this triple threat tag team match, which is a good call... always bugged me that past triple threat tags only saw two people legal on most occasions. This allowed the action to stay fast and furious, although it wasn't as high octane as the ladder match, giving the crowd a little chance to breathe. The Creeds continue to show amazing agility for men their size, both hitting moonsaults to the outside. A big Tower of Doom spot is botched, but never mind- we get a returning Joe Coffey to factor into the finish with a big lariat. Decent stuff, but not going to steal the show, nor do I think it was really designed to. (***)
Our hosts of Stand & Deliver, Pretty Deadly, are standing outside Bron Breakker's locker room. They argue over who should knock to get a word with him, but ultimately they're too scared to do it.
Match 3: NXT North American Championship 5 Way Match- Wes Lee (c) def. Axiom, Dragon Lee, Ilja Dragunov & JD McDonagh (at 19:17)
Thoughts: Easily the match of the show. These 5 men set a breakneck pace, underpinned with the blood feud between Ilja and JD for a stylistic change-up, and this match really had everything. It was the NXT televised debut of Dragon Lee, and he had some fun moments, including hitting a hurricanrana on JD onto the floor that wipes out Wes in the process. However, I think the standout was Axiom, who had some crazy crisp moments, including the Golden Ratio kick mid flip on Wes, and a crazy springboard backflip DDT on JD. In the end, the champ squeaks by after intercepting Ilja mid Torpedo Moscow with the Cardiac Kick, but his 4 challengers pushed him to the absolute limit in this one! (****1/2)
Back to Pretty Deadly, who are now thinking about getting a word with Carmelo Hayes in front of his locker room door. Trick Williams walks out and gives them crap about their fashion choices. Meh. I don't think Pretty Deadly are really adding a lot to this show as "hosts".
Match 4: Unsanctioned Match- Johnny Gargano def. Grayson Waller (at 18:12)
Thoughts: We see Candice LeRae with baby Quill in the front row, so you know this is going to be emotional and shenanigan-filled. Waller tries to jump Gargano with a chair but is greeted with a superkick, followed by a suicide dive, setting an intense tone immediately. In the chaos, Booker T gets knocked on his ass, which is pretty funny. They waste little time getting weapons, and boy, does Waller cop it. Suplex through a row of chairs. Belted with the kendo stick. Powerbomb through the announce table in a nice callback to when Waller did the same to Gargano in sending him out of NXT. Waller has some moments with giving out some brutal chair and kendo stick shots of his own. Powerbomb through a table of his own too. Big time Coast to Coast through Gargano and a trash can. Towards the end, Candice jumps the rail and belts Waller with the kendo stick too. Gargano gets nasty, wrapping a steel chair around Waller's head and smacking him with another one, before locking in the Gargano Escape for the tap. Suitably violent and fitting finish given the way the story had played out. I think, if anything, Waller's stock rises in defeat, and my money is on a main roster call-up at some point this week- perhaps Smackdown to avoid the Miz or Theory comparisons. As for Gargano, this puts a nice bow on his NXT run, and may have caught the eye of newer viewers who missed Gargano's first NXT run and wondered what the fuss was about since his return on the main roster. (****1/4)
Post-match, we get a reunion of The Way on the stage. No Austin Theory though. Awww. Beautiful moment.
Bit of a backstage argument between Gallus and D'Angelo & Stacks, which Pretty Deadly find themselves in the middle of.
Match 5: NXT Women's Tag Team Championship- Alba Fyre & Isla Dawn def. Fallon Henley & Kiana James (c) (w/ Brooks Jensen & Josh Briggs) (at 8:41)
Thoughts: Cards on the table, I completely forgot this match was happening. After Gargano vs. Waller, I was all ready for the big Bron vs. Melo match. It might be because the Henley/James/Jensen soap opera drama has overshadowed any real build to the actual match. It seems like Kiana is manipulating Brooks with her sexy sexiness, and Brooks is too lust struck to see anything else. That said, his buddy Briggs and Henley get through to him, when James asks Jensen to pass her handbag- presumably with some kind of weapon inside- but the hesitation allows Isla & Alba to strike with a backstabber into a Swanton Bomb for the win. Also, an honourable mention to how GOODT Isla Dawn was looking! Garters doing the Lord's work there. Ahem. Yeah. Match was decent, but again, overshadowed by the external drama. (***)
Main Event: NXT Championship- Carmelo Hayes (w/ Trick Williams) def. Bron Breakker (c) (at 16:10)
Thoughts: Much like Vengeance Day, I felt like this championship match, while good, didn't live up to the high standard set by the other big matches on the card. It might be because Bron's explosive style is better suited to slightly shorter matches, or because Bron's opponent is more popular than the big babyface champ, despite playing heel. We saw it a bit in Charlotte, with a vocal portion of the crowd supporting Grayson Waller, but here, the people really LOVED Melo, but he still had heel tactics, with Trick getting involved but getting ejected. Bron had some big moments with his Steiner offence, including a top rope bulldog and a very good-looking Frankensteiner, but in the end, a ref bump allows Trick to get back involved and hit Bron with the title belt. Shortly after, Nothing But Net connects, and we have a new champion! (***1/4)
Post-match, Bron presents the NXT title belt to Carmelo and gives him a show of respect with a fist bump. Seems like a pretty clear changing of the guard, and I fully expect the former champ to make his official main roster debut on the Raw After Mania, after his cameo appearance a year ago.
Going purely off match ratings for a second, I rated 3 out of the 6 main card matches 4 stars or higher. While this isn't Black And Gold, and these NXT PLEs aren't officially called Takeovers any more, those matches had a Takeover-esque vibe. And atmosphere counts for a lot of the rest, and the crowd in attendance definitely had some of that Mania weekend energy to give. The rest was either decent filler, or in the main event's case, just slightly under-delivering for its spot. I think it's off-set a bit by the result, which is definitely the right one to make the people happy, and Bron can go on to be a main roster wrecking ball, hopefully opposite less "cool" heels than he's had to face recently. And really, I can see Melo effortlessly transitioning from here to being a top babyface. I don't know how long Shawn and company can ignore the pops he's gotten in recent times.
All in all, a high quality outing to set a positive tone. Now for a little down-time before Mania Night One!
Overall Score: 8/10
Until next time, take care.