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NXT recap & reactions (Nov. 16, 2021): Old dog, new tricks

WarGames is afoot, while Tomasso Ciampa has a lot to get off his chest about Bron Breakker and the rest of NXT 2.0.

Old School, New School Need to Learn Though...

The main tension in NXT 2.0 is between the old guard and the new guard. It’s the modus operandi for Carmelo Hayes, Grayson Waller, Toxic Attraction, and, duh, Bron Breakker. Tomasso Ciampa takes all of this personally. Why? Because what doesn’t Ciampa take personally.

The entire idea of 2.0’s new blood offends the man to his very core. While everyone (WWE management included) is looking for the new hotness, sometimes the old ways are the best ways. He doesn’t like Grayson Waller talking sideways on “Lashing Out with Lash Legend” about the blood, sweat, and tears he didn’t spend on his way to the top. Ciampa says Melo is shooting blanks, and he doesn’t believe anyone in that locker room can lace one of his boots, much less both of them.

And then there’s Breakker. Bron wants another shot at the title—shoutout to Lethal Weapon—and, more importantly, wants respect from Ciampa. This week, Ciampa made it clear as crystal that he doesn’t believe Bron is ready. Ciampa showed the footage from Halloween Havoc, insulted the man using Steiner math, and had the audacity to call Bron a puppy barking up the wrong tree. Steiner Bros. allusions aside, this was all about one man asserting his dominance over the field.

The championship picture is foggy because the man at the center of it doesn’t think his challengers can see him. Whether it’s on the mic, in the ring, or just when it comes to understanding what it means to be a wrestler. It’s a very meta storyline, while also representing the natural order of things. The young cats in NXT 2.0 are exactly what Ciampa used to be all those moons ago. But in his eyes, they’re not. They’re not in the same league, much less the same ball park.

Until he believes someone is worthy, that title isn’t getting defended. Bron is the obvious contender, but the question is what does the big man have to do to get the champion’s curiosity and attention.

When I Left You, I Was But the Learner...

This week, NXT 2.0 chose every bit of violence possible for its ending. What started as a grudge match between Dakota Kai and her former mentor, Raquel González, ended in a brawl setting up a WarGames match between a bunch of women who really don’t like each other.

But let’s deal with Raquel and Dakota first, shall we?

The match was two women who know each other really well trying to outsmart the other to no avail. No move was a surprise and there were counters aplenty, seemingly setting up a stalemate. Dakota went for a shovel under the ring—the same shovel she used against Raquel at Halloween Havoc and the same shovel Raquel promised to “bury” her with this week—and was stopped from using it. Before the ref could toss it out of the ring, Raquel latched onto it like a finger trap. Dakota begged for mercy but Raquel clearly wasn’t in the mood. Before the former NXT Women’s Champion decided which of her impulses was right, Toxic Attraction hit the ring because, remember, this is their show now.

Mandy x crew issued the patented wrestling beatdown on a defenseless González until Cora Jade, Io Sharai, and a hobbling Zoey Stark showed up to hold her down. And since you read the beginning of this section first, you know what happened when the show faded to black.

What I like about this story is different dimensions at play: Cora Jade wants a piece of Dakota. The same piece Raquel wants. Io and Zoey not only want their tag titles back, but revenge for putting Zoey on the shelf. And nobody likes Mandy plus she’s Queen of the Mountain, so there’s always a target on her back. Rather than putting the pieces together arbitrarily, this all feels natural and logical.

I might not like everything NXT does in its 2.0 form—and we’ll get to that later—but at least 99% of it makes sense.


Handy Horror

First off, shoutout to Trick Williams for rocking the Bad Boy jersey. If he can get me one, we’re friends forever.

Now, onto business. Tony D’Angelo picked up a proper quick W over Dexter Lumis with a cheap shot. And I immediately wondered why’d they even bother with the match. Then Trick and Carmelo Hayes hit the ring and my lightbulb went off over my head. Melo and Trick got their revenge for last week, crushing Lumis’ hand—the only hand he does anything with—with a chair.

This vicious act of sadism resulted in Johnny Gargano calling Melo out. And that resulted in Pete Dunne showing face to tell Melo to fallback. Then that resulted in the North American Champion, showing that massive chip on his shoulder yet again, challenging both men to a triple threat championship match next week. Trick, of course, loudly objected. But Melo shot his shot.

Hell Hath No Fury...

Last week, Xyon Quinn told Legado del Fantasma “thanks but no thanks.” More specifically, he said “nah” to Elektra Lopez. After he took Andre Chase to school, Xyon found out why that was probably not the best idea.

LDF attacked him before he got even a second to bask in his glory, leading to a surprise return of Santos Escobar. If this is done right, Xyon will work his way through the sub-bosses in LDF before getting to the head dude in charge, Streets of Rage style.

Solo Act

Remember when I said Indi Hartwell was more focused on her husband than her tag team? No need to check, I definitely said it. Trust me. Anyway, following Lumis getting caught red handed, Indi, obviously, had her husband’s health on her mind. Rather than throwing shade, Persia Pirotta told her best friend she had her back.

Persia then went out and put two women on her back before slamming them to the mat.

Pirotta beat Gabby Stephens & Jenna Levy with ease. For now, Indi’s lack of focus didn’t cost them. But eventually, it will.

Von O’Reilly

Look, I’ll keep it real here: Von Wagner and Kyle O’Reilly aren’t particularly entertaining, but they do have a magic together that works for me. And I think it’s because I’m into the story. Shocking, right? It’s the story of a guy learning to trust the only person willing to give him a helping hand. It has the added bonus of Imperium, two dudes clearly feeling themselves way too much and ready for a downfall. Briggs & Jensen were sacrificial lambs here to the larger picture.

We Have an Odyssey

For weeks, I yelled to anyone who would listen, mostly the people who read this space, that Jacket Time (ugh) needed another body to go against the Diamond Mine. Saints be praised because they finally did. Odyssey Jones was the difference maker here, in what was a fine match between six people who know how to get it done. And with the right finish.

Joe Gacy got involved with the Mine before the match and all I can say is, I don’t want it.


A joker is not the card you want to pull in most card games. They’re normally pulled out of the deck, just ask James Bond from that season five Simpson’s episode.

That’s my preamble to say we all drew the joker on this poker match between Cameron Grimes x Duke Hudson. WOOF doesn’t do it justice. NXT 2.0 is throwing a lot of stuff to the wall and seeing what sticks. I’ll let them know right now not only did that not stick, but the only place it should get thrown is the garbage bin. And then lit on fire. And then tossed into a pit. And then buried faster than Billy Gunn in 1999.

NXT 2.0 sped by this week. Every major story progressed as we built toward WarGames. It wasn’t perfect. I still have no idea what they’re doing with LA Knight, and the stuff with MSK and Grizzled Young Veterans isn’t working for me—one group is on an ‘80s movie quest, while the other is just trying to get close to Toxic Attraction—but this was a solid show. It won’t be everybody’s cup of tea each week, but this was my particular flavor of choice.

Oh, and the less said about that poker game, the better.

Grade: B

That’s my grade, and I’m sticking to it. Your turn.

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