NXT TakeOver: Stand and Deliver title analysis — back at the Kross roads

I went back and forth with this and in the end decided to go ahead and write some thoughts on NXT TakeOver: Stand and Deliver — the TakeOver so massive it needed two nights.

The black and gold brand was at a crossroads at the end of TakeOver 30. Karrion Kross completed his undefeated streak to capture the NXT title from Keith Lee.

I hated this result for several reasons:

  • Kross dominated Lee in the buildup to the point that Lee had to win to get some of his heat back.
  • For over a year, Lee had been on this path to become champion. He’d stood tall and was built up as a future super, superstar becoming the first NXT star to hold both the NXT and North American titles at the same time.
  • Lee vacated the North American title and in hindsight looked like an idiot for giving up one belt before he needed to defend it.
  • This was the standard kick you and don’t let the door hit you on the way out writing a character off so they can appear on the “main roster.” Two days later, Lee debuted on RAW.
  • Kross seemed out of his element and weaknesses as a main event/champion were on full display.
  • And finally, Kross separated his shoulder meaning he wasn’t going to be able to defend the title he just won forcing yet another title vacancy.

This actually worked out alright for NXT as this allowed Finn Balor, arguably NXT’s hottest act, to reclaim the title he wore during NXT’s ascension to must-watch status.

With his tweener mindset, Balor proved a fluid champion capable of fighting any star. His first major opponent was Undisputed Era’s Kyle O’Reilly. Their initial encounter was eye-opening and propelled O’Reilly to breakout singles star status.

In a subsequent rematch, Balor and O’Reilly had another classic encounter seemingly setting the stage for O’Reilly to climb back up to contention one final time and take the title from his rival.

Along the way, Balor struck up an uncertain friendship with O’Reilly that seemingly caused some tension with the Undisputed Era. Balor would go on to have another memorable build and match with Pete Dunne before the fissures in the UE blew wide open with Balor in the middle.

This was intriguing stuff. Would O’Reilly bring his former rival Balor into a new look Undisputed Era to fight Adam Cole? Was it all just a misunderstanding with the UE? Or an elaborate hoax to have Balor drop his guard and lose the title?


Chalk up the need to speed through the slow burn booking as a means to start laying the table for Stand and Deliver. Balor successfully defeated Cole with no UE shenanigans only for Kross to show up declaring his intention for the title he never lost.

Since his return, Kross was back to his normal super strong booking. He decimated Damian Priest on Priest’s final appearance before turning up on the main roster. This would be the third decisive send off match Kross enjoyed after choking out Dominik Dijakovic and Lee previously.

In a street fight with Santo Escobar, Kross withstood the onslaught of Escobar and his two henchmen to stand tall again. Kross isn’t some unique physical specimen like a Batista or Bobby Lashley so his tearing through the NXT roster so quickly didn’t make a ton of sense.

At least after dethroning Lee, there were some viable face contenders.

The build to Balor/Kross for Stand and Deliver was alright. Kross promised Balor wouldn’t drown him in the deep waters while Scarlet chanted her spells. All along, Cole vs. O’Reilly was being given preferential status and attention.

Time to Kross to Stand and Deliver. Balor has been so locked in he’s brought out the best in all of his opponents. This was no exception. The layout of the match was solid with Balor picking apart Kross with submission and wear down moves.

To his credit, Kross does a solid job selling Balor‘s offense, but the match needed a surprise and a twist we couldn’t see coming. Instead, Kross ate all of Balor’s big moves before overwhelming him with forearm smashes en route to becoming a two-time champion.

The big problem is where does Kross go from here? NXT’s face roster is decimated after the call-ups of Lee, Dijakovic and Priest. Kross has already battered Balor, crushed Ciampa — who already lost to Walter — and feeding O’Reilly to Kross so soon feels like a terrible mistake.

Bronson Reed? He lost to Johnny Gargano for the NA title. Dexter Lumis? Maybe that could be interesting, but the face pantry is barren in NXT.

Maybe the better route would have been to have Balor barely escape with the title while Kross finds a new dance partner to take his rage out on.

This gives Balor time to go through the predominantly heel-heavy roster. A Balor/LA Knight feud could have been fun and Balor/Swerve Scott would have been ready for the highlight reels. Balor could have helped Austin Theory get back some credibility after playing Gargano’s comedic sidekick and there’s still that final shot for O’Reilly.

NXT’s immediate future seems shaky with Kross as the maniacal unstoppable champion fighting against weak face challengers. Raquel Gonzalez is the far more intimidating devastating heel champion as the women’s division has plenty of viable contenders for her to decimate.

Maybe it’s better after all that NXT is moving to Tuesday nights. With Kross as champ, there wasn’t much of a chance of the black and gold having a shot to Stand and Deliver in the Wednesday Night War.

Photo Credit: WWE.com

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