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WWE NXT preview (Nov. 23, 2021): Strange bedfellows

NXT 2.0 returns tonight (Nov. 23) live from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando!

Advertised for the show:

  • Carmelo Hayes (c) vs. Johnny Gargano vs. Pete Dunne for the North American championship
  • Mandy Rose vs. Cora Jade (non-title)
  • Tommaso Ciampa vs. Grayson Waller (non-title)
  • Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter vs. Indi Hartwell & Persia Pirotta

As usual, here are our five questions about NXT tonight:

1) Assuming we’re getting a men’s WarGames match, how are we getting there?

As my man Marcus has been pointing out in his reviews, there’s a definite Old School vs. New School vibe to 2.0. A lot of this comes from NXT champion Tommaso Ciampa, who talks about how his challengers - who all seem to be recent arrivals - need to earn their shot.

That was the set-up for his scene with Bron Breakker last week, and for his match with Grayson Waller tonight. There are also elements of that to the North American title scene, which gives us this week’s Triple Threat between champ Carmelo Hayes and challenger Johnny Gargano & Pete Dunne. Throw in LA Knight, who is now telling us he doesn’t need any of the accoutrements of fame & fortune he’s been rocking since arriving in WWE, and we’ve got the makings of a four on four that could be decided in two rings under one cage: Breaker, Hayes, Trick Williams & Waller vs. Ciampa, Gargano, Dunne & Knight.

But they’re odd teams, featuring dudes who would shouldn’t get along on both sides. The rivalry between the former #DIY tag partners is the stuff of NXT legend. Neither man ever got along with the Bruiserweight. FKA Eli Drake’s been a heel since arriving in WWE, and really only fits on the Old School team by virtue of being older.

On this prospective Team 2.0, Breakker would be partnering up with a bunch of heels. Which I guess makes sense, since the man he’ll eventually take the NXT title from is essentially doing the same.

This possible booking would drive home the fact this year’s WarGames wasn’t plotted out as far in advance as usual, but it also makes for some interesting new dynamics in the match. It would serve to further both the men’s singles title scenes, both as they exist now and moving forward, since everyone has potential future opponents on their own and the other team.

It’s unorthodox, but not as strange as another alternative...

2) Joe Gacy x Diamond Mine?

Last week, before taking an L from Jacket Time & Odyssey Jones, we got a scene hinting that Diamond Mine manager (and all-time great Twitter follow) Malcolm Bivens and Joe Gacy might do some business together.

The Inclusive One already has one strange bedfellow in the mysterious monster Harland, and teaming up with Bivens & Cruiserweight champ Roderick Strong’s technical wrestling/MMA stable would be even stranger. But it could set-up an undercard WarGames match if they want to keep Ciampa and Hayes (or whoever hold the NA belt come Dec. 5) free for other matches. Roddy, Gacy, Harland & Duke Hudson vs. Ikemen Jiro, Kushida, Odyssey Jones & the new look Cameron Grimes?

Look, I told you there were some weird teams in the old Duder’s head.

3) Who gets the last spot on the babyface women’s team?

Another thing the second men’s WarGames option would do is keep the spotlight at next month’s event on Toxic Attraction. Whether or not it’s a smart one, that’s been a priority for the technicolor version of NXT.

Women’s champ Mandy Rose, Women’s Tag titleholders Jacy Jayne & Gigi Dolin vs. Io Shirai, Raquel González, Cora Jade & a yet-to-be-determined partner could be the main event in two weeks. If it is, filling out the babyface team with Rose’s likely next challenger makes sense. Kay Lee Ray doesn’t have a lot of ties to that squad, but she’s been a late addition to WarGames matches before. And hey, it would fit with the somewhat thrown together nature of this year’s edition of the event.

4) Does Lash Legend wrestle?

Two of the possible WarGames team members got time on “Lashing Out” last Tuesday. It’s become a reliable story engine for 2.0; not my favorite (that would probably be MSK’s PG rated Cheech & Chong routine), but better than my least (Poker Showdown, anyone?).

Will any of those stories involve the host, though? So far, wrestlers like Tony D’Angelo have just passed through the Wendy Williams-esque talk show en route to things that have nothing to do with Legend. That’s fine, I guess. But you’d think WWE hired the nearly six-foot collegiate basketball standout for something more than that.

5) Is this a good idea?

To wrap up this “things that make you go, huh?” edition of Cageside’s NXT preview...

Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter’s rave culture gimmick is a head scratcher for a few reasons, one of which is that some percentage of your audience isn’t comfortable in a sea of humanity while the world’s still dealing with a pandemic.

But setting that aside, even in healthier times I don’t think this works? It strikes me as another “how do you do, fellow kids?” pitch that probably should have been left in the writer’s room. And this is subjective, but it doesn’t make me want to cheer Catanzaro & Carter. I don’t doubt there’s some elements of the performers’ personalities in the characters, but their delivery doesn’t help me want to follow their lead. And audiences — at least those outside of the Performance Center who haven’t been watching & following Kacy & Kayden for a while now — are probably more likely to boo a pair of EDM club queens, right?

I’m old though, so what do I know. But then, NXT’s audience is old too, so...


Give us your questions and answers in the comments below. Then join us in our live blog, and we’ll see what Qs and As tonight’s show gives us.