WWE NXT Stand & Deliver 2022
April 2, 2022
We’re in Dallas, Texas at the American Airlines Arena. This is the WWE’s first show of the weekend (unless you could Smackdown, which barely counts). I’ve not watched NXT for a long, long time but my main complaint was that it was just a bunch of guys I’d already seen on the Indies rehashing old feuds and nothing new was happening. I feel like WWE took that on board and the new NXT 2.0, with all the bright colours, is an attempt at going back to what NXT was to start with; a developmental territory and a place for young guys to learn. They currently have experienced champions, which feels like a way for them to teach their guys how to work “WWE style”. Will I like it? Let’s take a look. Hosts are Vic Joseph and Wade Barrett. I did not know Barrett had returned to WWE.
NXT North American Championship
Carmelo Hayes (c) vs. Solo Sikoa vs. Santos Escobar vs. Grayson Waller vs. Cameron Grimes
There’s already three guys in the ring. It’ll never stop being weird to me that Trevor Lee, who is a definitive Indies guy, is a WWE star. Only he and Hayes get introductions, which should tell you who has a shot at winning. I’ve never even heard of Carmelo Hayes. I didn’t realise how easy it was to completely ignore NXT until I stopped watching wrestling. Escobar (El Hijo del Phantasma) caught my eye in AAA and I watched Matty Wahlberg quite a lot in Australian wrestling and knew he was destined to be a big star.
On the outside there’s a bunch of other guys including the champion’s best mate Trick Williams. Waller has Sanga in his corner. He’s a gigantic Indian dude who’s been in developmental for years. The idea of this match is to do a bunch of high spots to get the crowd cheering stuff.
It’s pretty messy and there’s a lot of this sort of bullshit. The camera stays tight on the action so you can’t see the moving parts. Or lack of moving parts that make the match make no sense. There are certainly frighteningly violent high spots. That’s what the match is not short of. They try and get everyone involved so all the seconds get spots and the whole time you’ve got dudes lying around at ringside. I swear the more of these ‘TLC’ style matches they run in this company the worse they get. Hayes, the champ, does a stupid little basketball pose before his big chance to win. “Does he want to go viral or win the championship” is one of the nuggets of stupidity vomiting out of the commentary desk.
This is prime stupidity right here as Waller dives off a ladder outside the ring and goes through another ladder for no reason. Grimes runs up the ladder at an arbitrary moment to pull the belt down and win. As I get older I think this kind of match gets dumber and dumber. If you like a bunch of people falling off things with no flow or reason for any of it then this is probably up your street. I thought it was stupid. *½
Tony D’Angelo vs. Tommaso Ciampa
D’Angelo is some sort of cartoon character. Ciampa cuts an unreal promo about his injuries and his wife’s miscarriages.
The new NXT is starting to annoy me by this point. I liked it being all stripped back and raw compared to the main roster but now it just feels like the main roster only with less stars. Ciampa has his work cut out here, trying to carry the green D’Angelo through a capable match. Based on this match, D’Angelo isn’t TV ready let alone PPV ready. For Ciampa it’s one of those Ric Flair broomstick matches. He makes it all about him and his personal history in NXT from the HHH water spit to sitting on the apron slapping his back to pulling up the mats at ringside. D’Angelo is terrible. I know he’s green as grass but Ciampa literally drags him through this match. Because we’re on PPV they have to try and make it epic, which means having big spot/kick out deals. D’Angelo badly stomps on Ciampa’s head for the win and I laugh out loud that they booked that as the finish. Props to Ciampa for making this passable but D’Angelo is very bad in the ring. *¾
Get him on NXT’s TV gimmick. Have him work a bunch of matches. Get him on that Largo Loop. That’s the point of it. Get him TV ready. This isn’t TV ready. This is green and clumsy and not ready.
Post-Match: The crowd chants “thank you Ciampa” as he’s said this is it for him on NXT. Does that mean main roster? I don’t even know anymore.
Then Triple H comes out to give him a little father-son hug. What? They look nothing alike.
NXT Tag Team Championship
Imperium (c) vs. The Creed Brothers vs. MSK
I’ve never seen the Creed Brothers but they’re managed by Malcolm Bivens so they’re probably ok. Everyone else is talented former Indies wrestlers.
The Creeds are ok. Their inexperience is offset by them sticking to what they’re good at and laying it in on the strikes. If you can’t work then keep it snug. MSK do a bunch of complicated flips and Imperium hold it all together. It’s the first time on the show I feel they’ve landed the match making. Based on the rest of the show Aichner and Barthel are too good to be on NXT. They give me FTR vibes with how they work together and I’m sure that won’t go horribly wrong on the main roster. They do a good job in this match of making the big silly spots make sense. Barthel is brilliant at this. Positioning himself for a dive but in doing so making it look like he’s doing something else. Like checking on his partner or punching someone else. The finish is a little sloppy with Lee hitting a rana on Barthel into a Carter powerbomb.
Is this the still I choose to use after the allegations about Nash Carter, which caused his subsequent release and this match to essentially be expunged? Yes, yes, it is. Match was really good. I don’t like three way matches generally but this was well constructed and paid off nicely. ***¾
It’s been a while since I last watched a WWE show and jesus fucking christ there’s a lot of filler. Just a bunch of videos, promos, random people talking for no reason.
NXT Women’s Championship
Mandy Rose (c) vs. Cora Jade vs. Kay Lee Ray vs. Io Shirai
Did this show really need another multi-person match? Also, why is Io Shirai still on NXT? She’s been here for FIVE YEARS. What’s she going to learn now?
The same applies to Mandy Rose. Is she ever going to be the wrestler you want her to be? She’s worked for WWE for eight years. “If Mandy wins should she be considered among the best NXT has ever produced?” asks Vic Joseph. I’ll field that one mate. No. Absolutely not. Hope that’s clear. KLR and Io have snippets of a great match in between the bits of the match that are ruined by the other two. I’ve never seen Cora Jade before and she needs a lot of work. She looks very green. At 21 years old, there’s time to improve. That’s the good news. She does work her way into the match although her technique isn’t on the level of even Mandy Rose. Her best moment is the Canadian Destroyer on the apron and that’s all on KLR for taking it. Rose finishes Io with a running knee to retain. Mandy Rose isn’t a disaster but most of the quality moments of this match were on either Kay Lee Ray or Io Shirai. ***
Gunther vs. LA Knight
Or WALTER vs. Eli Drake from my perspective. “Gunther” has lost a bunch of weight. I guess he just lives in the gym now he doesn’t have to do anything else. It’s a shame he’s been saddled with that name. I had no idea Eli Drake was in NXT. As the match progresses it shocks me how normal WALTER looks. It’s like they’ve taken the size away, which is what made him scary and special and just left another dude. WWE has this incredible ability to suck the specialness out of people and leave you with cutter cookie variations on the same thing.
WALTER got over in the states by killing people with chops. So, naturally, they’ve taken that away. All of Knight’s power moves are so much less impressive due to WALTER’s weight loss. They do some fun stuff, usually involving the ropes, and WALTER finishes with a powerbomb. I found this quite dull to be honest but at least both wrestlers were competent so that’s a step up on some matches on this show. **½
Dolph Ziggler (c) vs. Bron Breakker
Bron is Rick Steiner’s son and they reference it all the time. So, why is he not called Bron Steiner? Breakker, with two K’s, is a fucking stupid name. He comes out here with a chainsaw and cuts an X in half. Of course the chainsaw looks like it was used to carve up Rainbow Brite. Why does everything in this company have to look like unicorn puke?
It’s notable that a veteran like Ziggler is now champion down here so he can teach upcomers to work that patented “WWE Main Event Style”. Can’t have anyone working differently. Everything has to be the same. You need to fit into a little WWE shaped box. Bron is raw and doesn’t fit into that box yet. So when Ziggler goes for one of his patented “WWE Main Event Style” spots Bron drops him on his head. It’s a sketchy, untidy main event. Ziggler manages to hold it together. As a 41 year old who’s spent his entire adult life working for WWE he naturally feels at home here. Bron reminds me of a young Goldberg (probably the moveset). He has a few moves that look cool and should probably be working short matches to gain experience. Ziggler has to bust out his whole routine here, which is nice to see because we never got that big Ziggler run on the main roster. You’ll be shocked to learn chunks of it are straight out of the Shawn Michaels playbook. I do like him exposing a turnbuckle early in the match and it only coming into play right at the end, when he’s desperate and leads right into the superkick finish. ***¼
How the mighty have fallen. The NXT brand used to be the watch word for excellence in North America. They would regularly go out there to upstage the main roster and gleefully do so. I don’t know what’s happened in the training to result in this newfound mediocrity but it’s pretty sad to see. I reckon I’m probably undervaluing the opener due to my own personal dislikes in wrestling but the rest of the card I think I’m rating entirely fairly. At what point has NXT ever had a six-match PPV card where nothing hits four stars? The closest they got here was a decent three-way tag match carried by talent they’ve plundered from the Indies. They’ve clearly got an idea of what they want to do with this reboot but it’ll take time to get back to glory days of old. Who on this show would you be super psyched about appearing on RAW or Smackdown and getting into it with a big star? Ciampa maybe but they’ve wasted his best years on carrying this brand and now he’s broken you’re calling him up to work a bunch of low card TV and 200 tour dates a year?
It would be wrong to say that I don’t hate WWE because I clearly do but they don’t help themselves. How are people supposed to grab that brass ring when they want everyone to be the same? Same build. Same style. Same colourful attire. Same promos. Same bumps. Same selling. Same matches. Part of the joy of wrestling is how different it can be. I watched JD Drake wrestle Bandido in a mock lucha style earlier today. It was brilliant. I watched Tony Deppen and Biff Busick beat the shit out of each other the other day. That was brilliant. I watched Cole Radrick and AKIRA kill themselves by rolling around in broken glass the other day. That was brilliant. With WWE you’re only going to get one thing and if you don’t like it….here comes more of the same.
It reminds me of something a writer said about WWE. Vince McMahon is like that uncle you only see at big family get togethers because he’s a bit weird and work obsessed. And he’s there piling mashed potatoes onto your plate. “I don’t like mashed potatoes Uncle Vince”. “Of course you do” and he keeps piling them on there. That’s the WWE viewing experience and it has been since 2002. Nice to see somethings never change.