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NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver Night 2 results and match grades

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NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver Night 2 results and match grades

NXT kept things rolling with Night 2 of TakeOver: Stand & Deliver.

The stakes were high on the second night: Four titles were on the line and a heated rivalry sat on top of the card as former Undisputed Era members Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly battered each other in an unsanctioned match. 

MORE: NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver Night 1 results, match grades

New champions were crowned and the show ended with violence that is worth going out of your way to check out.

Here’s how it all went down. 

Santos Escobar def. Jordan Devlin to unify the NXT cruiserweight championship

This match had been a long time coming after the pandemic prevented Devlin from defending his title in the U.S. Escobar picked up a version of the title and held onto it for nearly a year. This gave us a very Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels ladder match element in a unification between talents who had yet to meet in NXT. On paper, this looked as if it could end up being the match of the night, with contrasting styles and two excellent workers. 

It didn’t quite reach those peaks but it was a solid opener.

Escobar controlled the early portion of the match and the action slowly ramped up with more daring moves and counters. Things became more violent when a striking exchange ended with Escobar slamming his knee into Devlin’s face. Devlin executed a beautiful moonsault off the top of the ladder.

Legado del Fantasma assaulted Devlin as he was climbing the ladder. It felt wholly unnecessary and added nothing to the match, especially when Devlin recovered relatively quickly and tossed a ladder at Escobar to prevent him from reaching the titles. There was a Spanish Fly off the top of the ladders and, eventually, the wrestlers made their way back to the top with the titles within reach. Escobar head-butted Devlin off the top of the ladder to retrieve the titles and become the undisputed champion. A pretty good match, but it just didn’t hit the highs that these two could execute. 

Grade: B

Shotzi Blackheart & Ember Moon def. The Way to retain the NXT women’s tag team championship

The match didn’t have a significant build and may have suffered as the teams just didn’t jell early on. It wasn’t as if they didn’t work hard, but it just felt as if the match lacked an edge. They also seemed to hide Indi Hartwell’s inexperience well, but the champions ended up dishing out most of the noteworthy offense. 

And then we had an inadvertently dangerous spot that was the highlight of the match and could have ended terribly.

A tope suicida attempt by Blackheart drew an audible gasp as she flew right between Hartwell and LeRae and into the guardrail. Fortunately, Blackheart didn’t injure herself and Moon dove to the outside to take out The Way. 

The match ended with a double Eclipse from Moon that was punctuated by a senton bomb from Blackheart.

It was fine. Not bad, not great. Just fine. 

The bigger question is: How will NXT keep the women’s tag team division fresh considering that there are very few tag teams?

Grade: B-

Johnny Gargano def. Bronson Reed to retain NXT North American championship

The match felt like something that was inserted to fill time and make sure Gargano was featured on TakeOver despite not having a feud. 

That being said, Gargano is an absolutely stellar wrestler who rarely, if ever, falters, and Reed had his best match in NXT. 

There is no question that Gargano is the best wrestler to ever compete in NXT, and he continues to deliver whenever he’s called upon. Not to mention, he always brings out the best in his opponents. 

In the early going, Reed used his significant size advantage to stifle any attempts by Gargano to outwrestle his plus-sized opponent. Poisonrana from Gargano led to a Gargano Escape that Reed managed to maneuver out of. Reed countered the One Final Beat with a punch and launched Gargano into the ring with a Razor’s Edge. 

Of course, Austin Theory had to get involved by putting Gargano’s leg on the ropes during a pin attempt. Reed fought off both of them and showed off his athleticism with a suicide dive that annihilated Theory. Gargano tried to sneak in One Final Beat but was countered for yet another near fall. Reed got the upper hand in a battle of superkicks but a missed moonsault attempt was followed by Gargano crushing Reed with a pair of One Final Beat finishers to retain the title.

No story. No problem.

Gargano does it again.

Grade: B+

Karrion Kross def. Finn Bálor for the NXT championship

Kross has yet to have a truly great match in NXT while Balor’s run since returning agruably has been his best since he signed with WWE. 

Kross needed this match to be great and the psychology behind it allowed it to be his best match in NXT by a country mile.  

Interestingly Balor took it to Kross with a combination of strikes and submission wrestling for the first half of the match while the challenger struggled to keep pace. It was a surprising twist that suggested Balor entered the match with a game plan to neutralize Kross’ penchant for overwhelming his opponent with brute force. 

It was smart and a well-played tactic. Kross was forced to work from underneath as Balor picked his opponent apart. Each and every time Kross seemed to gain momentum, he was cut off by a submission attempt or a well-placed strike that damaged the undefeated monster.    

Balor again outsmarted his opponent with a counter Pele kick that led to the Coup de Grace, but Kross reversed the pin attempt into a chokehold that Balor escaped with a double stomp. 

With Scarlett’s urging, Kross escaped an abdominal stretch and plowed Balor with a series of elbows until the champion was rendered nearly unconscious. With the momentum on his side and aware that he couldn’t allow Balor to get his second wind, Kross immediately hit a Doomsday Saito suplex and followed with a pair of brutal forearms to the back of the neck that finished the job.  

If Kross can have matches like this, then he’ll have a great run as champion. But it cannot be understated just how important the psychology was in shaping the narrative of the match. 

Grade: A-

Kyle O’Reilly def. Adam Cole in an unsanctioned match

This was easily the best-built feud heading into TakeOver as the former Undisputed Era members went to war.

The worst thing about the match was, by far, their new entrance themes. Woof. The other complaint is that it was a little long and was on the verge of wearing out its welcome. But O’Reilly gave his friend-turned-foe his comeuppance with a brutal finish. O’Reilly drove a knee wrapped in a steel chain into Cole’s head, which was perched on a chair.  

It took a while to get there, but once it picked up, the match ended up being solid but just a notch under spectacular.

As expected, Cole and O’Reilly battered and beat each other with no remorse. Well, maybe a little remorse. There were a lot more wrestling holds in this unsanctioned match than you’d expect in a blood feud between bitter rivals. 

Eventually, business picked up with chairs and chains being brought into the fray. The usage of the chain was creative as the duo used it for neckbreakers, backstabbers and submission holds. 

O’Reilly being conflicted over battling his former friend caused him to hesitate for a moment. But he snapped back into it and hit Cole with a brainbuster on top of the announcer’s table, which didn’t break. O’Reilly chased down Cole but was met with a monitor being slammed into his face. Cole brought a toolbox into the ring and attempted to use pliers on O’Reilly. When that failed, he tried to hit his opponent with a tire iron.

A strike exchange was broken up with a low blow from Cole. Cole knocked out the referee for chastising his attempted use of a chair, which was weird because the match was unsanctioned. Cole hit the Panama Sunrise but taking out the referee left him with nobody to count the pin. And then Cole called the referee stupid. And that was also strange. 

It was somewhere around this point that the match’s length was starting to be felt. Fortunately, they picked up the action just in time.

There was some back-and-forth on the outside until O’Reilly sank in a guillotine. But Cole drove O’Reilly through the entrance ramp floor. Cole nailed O’Reilly with a brainbuster on the steel steps and then rolled him back into the ring, but O’Reilly barely managed to lift a shoulder to avoid the pinfall. O’Reilly avoided the Last Shot and went for a heel hook. But Cole smashed O’Reilly with the chain to break the hold. O’Reilly countered the Panama Sunrise, hit Cole with a punt kick and followed with a last shot for a near fall.

The two battled again but Cole made the mistake of doing too much talking and not enough fighting. That allowed O’Reilly to return the favor with a low blow and complete the job with that violent finish.

The final stretch was great but the match could have lost a few minutes and been a little more violent considering the “unsanctioned” stipulation. 

Grade: B

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ESPN’s Holly Rowe speaks French and English in WNBA Draft interview; Twitter reacts

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ESPN's Holly Rowe speaks French and English in WNBA Draft interview; Twitter reacts

ESPN reporter Holly Rowe received many a “tres bien” from her confrères in media for conducting a bilingual interview with WNBA Draft pick Iliana Rupert, a France international, on Thursday night.

Rupert was chosen 12th overall by the Las Vegas Aces. With the draft being a virtual event for the second year in a row because of COVID-19, Rowe conducted the post-selection interview in an ESPN studio while Rupert was on camera remotely.

MORE: Why Paige Bueckers was ineligible for ’21 WNBA Draft

Rowe began the interview with “Bonsoir,” or “Good evening,” and asked Rupert in French whether she spoke English. Rupert responded in the affirmative and the interview proceeded in English.

“It’s always been one of my dreams and it’s amazing being recognized,” Rupert said. “I’m really happy to [represent] my country and I’m just excited to finally start this journey.”

After two more questions and responses in English, Rowe switched back to French for the interview’s conclusion, telling Rupert “Bienvenue,” or “Welcome,” to the WNBA. She also gave her regards to Rupert’s family.

Rowe’s media colleagues were quick with the compliments.

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‘It shows how exciting we can be!’ – Saka says Arsenal have real chance of winning Europa League after Slavia rout

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'It shows how exciting we can be!' - Saka says Arsenal have real chance of winning Europa League after Slavia rout

Bukayo Saka says Arsenal have a real chance of winning the Europa League after their rout of Slavia Prague, and claims their latest performance “shows everyone how exciting we can be”.

Arsenal bounced back from a disappointing 1-1 draw against Slavia in the first leg of their quarter-final tie at Emirates Stadium by picking up a comprehensive 4-0 victory in the Czech Republic on Thursday night.

Saka was among the scorers as the Gunners booked a last-four clash with Villarreal, and he is confident they can now go all the way in the competition after flexing their attacking muscles at the Sinobo Stadium.

What’s been said?

“It was fantastic from start to finish. We did it for all the fans, they all deserve it for all the support they give us. We are really happy to progress,” the Arsenal winger told BT Sport.

“We showed real character. The first one was disallowed, Emile deserved a goal, we kept going and got the first one again. We pretty much killed the game in the first half.

“In the first leg we played well but weren’t clinical, credit to the manager and coaching staff, the way we set up, pressed, they couldn’t get out.

“It shows everyone how exciting we can be, when we play like this it is so amazing to be involved in. We have a chance of going to the final and winning this competition, it is up to us. We look forward to the next opponent.”

Arsenal put Slavia to the sword

The Gunners went at their Czech opponents right from the first whistle in the second leg clash, and found themselves in front after just 18 minutes when Nicolas Pepe dinked the ball into the net after being teed up by Emile Smith Rowe.

Alexandre Lacazette then doubled the visitors’ account from the penalty spot after Saka was fouled in the box, and the teenager got his goal moments later when he cut in from the right-wing before firing the ball low past the goalkeeper at his near post.

Lacazette added extra gloss to the final scoreline with a trademark finish 13 minutes from time as Arsenal progressed to the semi-finals 5-1 on aggregate.

What’s next?

Arsenal will now turn their attention back to the Premier League, with a home fixture against Fulham scheduled to take place on Sunday.

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What pressure? Arsenal sweeps Slavia Prague aside to set up a reunion with Emery

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What pressure? Arsenal sweeps Slavia Prague aside to set up a reunion with Emery

Slavia Prague 0-4 Arsenal: Match statistics

What was all the fuss about?

It was billed as the game that would define Arsenal’s season, a night that could even shape Mikel Arteta’s future at the club.

The pressure was supposed to be on against Slavia Prague but within 25 superb minutes, the Gunners were in cruise control.

Last week’s 1-1 draw at Emirates Stadium had left the Gunners with a very simple equation going into the second leg of their Europa League quarterfinal in the Czech capital: score a goal.

Arteta’s side knew failure to find a way through a Slavia side that was unbeaten at home in all competitions this season would send it crashing out of the tournament and leave an already disappointing season in tatters.

Serious questions were being asked of the players after the way in which they threw away a lead in the closing stages of the first leg to hand Prague the advantage going into Thursday night’s return fixture.

But in the space of six scintillating first-half minutes, those questions were answered in emphatic style.

The brilliant Emile Smith Rowe had already had a goal ruled out for the tightest of offside calls before Nicolas Pepe gave the visitors the lead on 18 minutes, thus canceling out Slavia’s away goal.

Alexandre Lacazette then struck from the penalty spot three minutes later to make it 2-0 on the night before Bukayo Saka added a classy third goal – all within 24 minutes of the game getting underway.

It was game, set and match Arsenal before we had even reached the half-hour mark.

Even in his wildest dreams, Arteta would never have imagined such an impressive start from his side, especially with his captain and talisman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missing due to contracting malaria while away with Gabon on international duty.

This was a major statement from his side and another example of why there is genuine belief within the club that things are heading in the right direction under the Spaniard.

Getty/Goal

The abject performances throughout November and the majority of December may have led to a hugely disappointing Premier League campaign, but the improvement since Christmas has been undeniable.

Since beating Chelsea 3-1 on Boxing Day, Arteta’s side sits fourth in the form table, with only Manchester City, Manchester United and West Ham picking up more points.

And now the Gunners have booked their spot in the Europa League semifinals, where they will meet Unai Emery’s Villarreal.

Clearly, there is still much for Arsenal to improve on and failure to go on and win the Europa League will more than likely leave it facing up to a season without European competition for the first time in 25 years.

For a club of Arsenal’s stature, that is not good enough, but there are still plenty of reasons for optimism and they were all on show as Prague was blown away in its backyard.

Arsenal’s homegrown youngsters have been the catalyst for the improvement since Boxing Day and one again they led the charge – with academy graduates Smith Rowe and Saka proving far too good for the Czech champions.

Immediately after seeing a goal ruled out for offside, Smith Rowe waltzed through the Slavia defense before working the ball to Pepe, who showed wonderful composure to score his fifth Europa League goal of the season.

Saka then took center stage, winning a penalty, which was converted by Lacazette, before scoring the third himself with a fine finish from the edge of the box.

At that point, the game was done and dusted. Arsenal had done its job and it cruised through the remainder of the quarterfinal, with Lacazette putting the gloss on a fabulous night’s work with a fourth goal on 77 minutes.

All eyes now turn to the semifinal against Villarreal and the return of Emery, the man Arteta replaced just over 16 months ago.

Emery led Arsenal to the Europa League final in 2019 and now he is the man standing in their way of repeating the trick two years later.

A return to the Champions League is now within touching distance for Arsenal. Just three games stand between the Gunners and a seat back at Europe’s top table.

They went to Prague with their season on the line and they return to London with the dream still alive.

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