NXT 2.0 is on your airwaves, ladies and gents! Come journey through two hours as the brand sets the battle lines for WarGames and makes it pretty clear what the brand will look like going forward. As per usual, show Claire some love on her blog, then come back here for what it all means.
Let’s talk NXT!
I’m Still #1
NXT 2.0 really is making this generational conflict the fabric of the brand. It was the basis for so much of the show this week, but none more prevalent than the two matches that bookended the two hours. We’ll get to the second in a few hundred or so words, but let’s start with the main event.
Carmelo Hayes defended his North American Championship for the first time. And he did it in a triple threat match with Pete Dunne in one corner, Johnny Gargano in the other, and Trick Williams by his side. Melo didn’t let the two NXT vets battle it out and pick the bones because he has too much ego for that.
Melo’s strategy was to apply beatdowns equally and without prejudice. Like another new school cat earlier in the show, Melo is compelled to prove he’s better than everyone else and belongs.
Gargano and Dunne eventually did the smart thing when they let their powers combine to neutralize the champ, but that only lasted but so long. Their old school mentality is hard to shake. Those two know of a very different wrestling world than their opponent, one where dog ate dog because apparently cannibalism was a thing.
Even when they have a chance to put the young cat down for the count, they can’t put aside their own disdain for each other to get ahead. Even for a little bit.
But one man who clearly doesn’t have that problem is Tony D’Angelo. Earlier, Tony let us know he put all his money on Melo for the win. So when it looked like Dunne had the champ right where he wanted him, D’Angelo made the save.
Not just to make sure his gamble paid off in the best way possible, but because Tony also has beef with NXT’s old guard. The Italian’s interference gave Melo the opening he needed to shoot and score.
From that point, all Hades broke loose. Grayson Waller and LA Knight, who legitimately fought backstage for almost two straight hours, spilled out ringside. You’ve seen wrestling so it was obvious where this was going.
Even more obvious when Grayson, Melo, and Tony were in prime pouncing position to injure Johnny Gargano, Mr. NXT himself.
A familiar tune played and the NXT champ made his way to the ring with chair in hand. Tomasso Ciampa came to defend his former best friend and bitter rival, along with his turf. The ring cleared, the old school cats stood tall and then Bron Breakker joined the reindeer games.
Breakker, who also fancies himself the leader of the new school, yelled “WAR GAMES” into a microphone, then he, along with Melo, Grayson, and Tony D, rushed the ring to fight Ciampa, Gargano, Knight, and Dunne.
And because WWE is always the most subtle of organizations, Vic Joseph proclaimed it’s old school vs. new school in two weeks at WarGames.
While LA Knight’s addition makes sense based on his age and background, his storyline integration as part of any team isn’t as smooth as one wants. BUT, the rest of this makes complete sense. Breakker and Melo’s team believe it’s a new day. Each of them said as much in different ways. Ciampa and Gargano’s team (most of them) says not so fast, young bucks.
The WarGames match means a lot to both squads and I’m curious how it plays out. Whoever wins, and how they win, will say a lot about where WWE sees NXT 2.0 going. But it also begs the question: Where do we go from there?
Last week, Grayson Waller talked greasy about DIY and did it all with his chest. DIY, what they represented and how they became a thing, are of the past, according to Waller. As far as he’s concerned, he’s just as good and deserves just as many props.
Guess who didn’t take too kindly to that?
If you said Tomasso Ciampa, then you clearly watched NXT last week. Thanks to Waller’s unkind words, he and the NXT Champion squared off this week in a good excellent match. Waller didn’t need to beat the champ so much as he needed to hang with him. But the champ needed to make an example of his challenger and put him away quickly. While he made good on the first part of that plan, the second part was, putting it mildly, less successful.
Waller started out looking completely overmatched but once he found his footing, it was clear Ciampa needed to take it seriously. For Ciampa, this was less about Waller and more about the entireNXT. Waller represents the new school but Ciampa believes there’s no school like the old school, and he’s the damn headmaster.
Ciampa hit his usual spots but it was Waller who surprised here, truly making the champion sweat and showing he ain’t no joke. In the end, after two earlier failed attempts, Waller fell victim to the Fairytale Ending.
But whew, that look on Ciampa’s face when it was over said more than any words I’m typing ever could. Waller made Ciampa work and whether or not he wanted to give it, Grayson Waller earned the champ’s respect.
Last week, Persia Pirotta handled some light work for her tag team while Indi Hartwell tended to her fallen husband. This week, Indi claimed she was focused and ready to
wrestle sports entertain as they were in tag team competition with Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter.
The funniest part of the whole ordeal was Persia telling Indi she could sit this one out too. Persia really figured she could Catanzaro and Carter by herself? Disrespectful!
Indi isn’t focused. She spent most of the match looking at her ring finger and got pinned because she isn’t focused. How much longer can Persia stand for this?
Return of the Mac
Guess who’s back? Santos Escobar. After attacking Xyon Quinn last week, the Legado del Fantasma leader participated in a squash match my guy Malik Blade. Seriously, that name is just awesome.
This morphed into a standoff between LDF, Kyle O’Reilly & Von Wagner (henceforth known as Von Reilly Wagner), and Imperium. Even though it started with Elektra Lopez seemingly continuing their beef with Xyon Quinn, so it wasn’t the smoothest transition from one story to another.
Imperium did their normal foreigner heel schtick. You know, insulting the crowd for being stupid and only knowing one language, along with their general smugness. LDF and Von Reilly Wagner will battle next week for a chance to dethrone the NXT tag champs at WarGames.
Hold it Down
I really liked Cameron Grimes’ promo. Why? It felt real and not like something someone wrote for him. Doesn’t mean they didn’t, but passion is hard to fake and clearly, Grimes felt every word. It also established why someone like Duke Hudson rubs him in every wrong way possible.
Grimes was told his entire life that he’s a joke and worthless, the same things Hudson tells him on the regular. Last week, Duke went too far when he cut Cameron’s hair and embarrassed him on national television just for being, according to Duke, unworthy.
At WarGames, we’re getting a hair vs. hair match with Cameron in one corner, and Duke in another. Oh, and Duke will have locks of Cameron’s hair by his side in a plastic bag.
Mandy Rose had one job: Beat up Cora Jade and keep her out of WarGames. Rose failed thanks to an outside distraction courtesy of Kay Lee Ray, who brought a baseball bat to a fist fight. Cora Jade scored a quick rollup, while the team of Jade, Io Sharai, and Raquel Gonález found their fourth woman in Ms. Ray. NXT’s self-proclaimed queen wasn’t happy about it, but it was her own fault.
Joe Gacy and LA Knight walk into a wrestling arena. They don’t have a match because Grayson Waller attacks Knight on his way to the ring. And then there is Gacy, standing all by his lonesome, on the mic doing his usual thing. Along comes the Mine with Diamonds on their mind with their dislike of Gacy in tow. Then Gacy starts talking his internet babble and nearly derails the whole show.
His eyes on the title of Cruiserweights now, Gacy talked a good game about shame. Then Roderick Strong struts, his chest all a puff, as he falls for the obvious game. Gacy the heavy vs. Roderick the cruiser for the title is on at WarGames. A fight almost broke out but then Harland showed up and then Bivens said peace and good day.
Ivy Nile is a beast. I don’t know what they’re doing with her other than show she’s a beast but as of now, it’s nothing but squash matches for Diamond Mine’s first lady. This was was no different as she put Yulisa Leon away quicker than a Star Wars fan rolls their eyes at that Darth Vader scene in Revenge of the Sith. You know the scene.
2 Dope Boyz
Briggs & Jensen bested the Grizzled Young Veterans in a fun if unremarkable tag match. The story here is how GYV keep hustling everyone in and outside of the ring, but it didn’t work this time. James Drake faked a knee injury the way soccer and basketball players flop. And it almost worked until he tried to kick using that same supposedly hurt knee. Nah.
NXT 2.0 is Attitude Era lite. That’s not a diss, just an observation of what they want the brand seemingly wants to be. In this episode alone, we got a prison rape joke courtesy of MSK, a Tiffany Stratton vignette that showed everything but her face, a lot of talking segments, very short matches that set up other stories or more talking, and a show that moves so fast one might notice things that don’t quite add up. All of that, plus their emphasis on “edginess” and emphasis on sex all add up to WWE dipping their toe in that late 1990s water.
Some will love that, some won’t. They’re still putting the character puzzles together to make that type of TV truly pop, and maybe one day we’ll get there. NXT, even in 2.0 form, isn’t putting on bad shows, but it’s not the home for wrestling purists it used to be.
Time will tell how bold that strategy is, Cotton.
That’s my grade and I’m sticking to it. Your turn.