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NXT recap & reactions (Dec. 21, 2021): Shark in the water

New Year’s Evil takes shape as the Tommaso Ciampa and Bron Breakker make it official.

And here we are, friends. The last NXT 2.0 before Christmas. New Year’s Evil is on the horizon, so it’s time to put Voltron pieces in place to assemble. Show Claire all the love in the world for her blog, then come back here for the extra commentary.

Let’s talk NXT 2.0!


Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang

Tommaso Ciampa still doesn’t think Bron Breakker is ready. The two will tango at New Year’s Evil for the NXT Championship, but the champ made it clear as crystal he thinks his young challenger isn’t up to snuff.

Ciampa opened the show in the middle of the ring doing a lot of talking for himself and for his opponent. Ciampa knows what Bron will say because he was Bron. So when Bron comes to the ring, Ciampa doesn’t even let the young cat get a microphone.

Disrespectful.

Ciampa says Bron definitely earned his second shot at the title. But he did his best to get into his challenger’s head. Ciampa threw out a lot of names of past NXT champs, juxtaposing their years in wrestling vs. Bron’s. Cats like Ciampa, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens put in at least 20 years before sniffing the NXT title. Meanwhile, Bron’s only wrestled about 20 times. 20 years to 20 matches is like comparing a candle to the sun.

In the end, Ciampa just doesn’t think Bron is up to the challenge because he choked the first go round.

To further his point, the champ slapped his challenger, his version of a cold dose of reality.

That didn’t go well, because. well you know what Bron looks like.

Bron snapped, lifted Ciampa over his head and for a few brief moments, we saw genuine fear on the face of the man thought to be fearless. His mind games didn’t work. In fact, they probably had the opposite effect. Bron played mind games of his own when he didn’t slam the champion onto his head or back. It wasn’t about getting physical; it was about showing just how simple it is for Breakker to, well, break the champion if he so chooses.

In a poetic touch, Bron flipped Ciampa’s words from last week, telling the champ there’s blood in the water and “this shark” is going to eat him alive in two weeks. Anyone who knows Jaws or Deep Blue Sea knows sharks are at their most ravenous when there’s blood in the water.

Ciampa drew said blood with the simple act of proving he can.

It was a great way to start the show, establishing the idea that Bron won’t fall for Ciampa’s usual tricks. Ciampa will need to hit a different gear if he hopes to walk away with Goldie in his arms in two weeks.


Extracurriculars

Lethal Weapon

Pete Dunne wants no association with the young cats of NXT 2.0. While they’re all around his age, he’s cut from a different cloth. As such, his feud with Tony D’Angelo has more to it than just the normal back and forth. D’Angelo disrespected Dunne several times, and that’s just not done.

Their match was about power vs. technique. Tony wanted to pound Dunne into submission, while Dunne wanted to systematically dissect the goodfella.

Tony, the bad guy, eventually did what bad guys do. He got desperate and went for a crowbar. Seriously, why is a crowbar at ringside?

Anyway, the move backfired, providing Dunne an opening to finish his opponent off and get the 3 count.

But the last image this week was of Dunne on the floor, writhing in pain. Why? Because that crowbar came back into play. Tony D isn’t one to take losses lightly. Tony took it to the Bruiserweight post-match, using the commentary table as a weapon and then, finally, going back to the crowbar.

Dunne tried to break Tony’s fingers the entire match so Tony returned the favor in kind and slammed Dunne’s hand dominant hand with the crowbar.

This feud isn’t over and Tony D, who played the tweener role for a while, is firmly aligned as the bad guy in the eyes of the crowd.

Not the best main event but the post-match scuffle opens some interesting doors for both men.

Die Hard

I love when a street fight, indicating a blood feud, starts before it “officially” starts. Dakota Kai and Raquel González got busy before they even got to the ring, and that said more about their beef than words ever will. And I love words! These women fought backstage, fought outside in the rain, and were forced to the ring so someone could ring a bell. But the physicality didn’t lighten up once they were in front of a crowd.

They used trash cans, steel steps, chairs, the commentary table, and everything that wasn’t nailed down. Raquel got the win in a match she pretty much dominated. This was billed as their last encounter, and maybe it’s time for Kai to hit the blue or red brand. With Kai officially out of her way, Raquel set her sights on Mandy Rose.

Black Christmas

Yeah, about that.

Cora Jade wants her shot at Mandy as well. And she has a compelling case. Mandy’s ears were burning because she appeared on the tron from parts unknown—in Florida—and told her challengers they get their shot at New Year’s Evil—the PPV, not the very dope horror flick—in a triple threat match.

This being wrestling, Jade and Gonzalez should’ve expected a surprise attack. They didn’t, and the rest of Toxic Attraction left them laying.

Me thinks there’s a tag match in between these four women in the not-too-distant future.

Silent Night, Deadly Night

Trick Williams tried. He really did. Dexter Lumis just tried harder. The two put on a fun match, with a guest appearance from Roderick Strong, but Trick was silenced after trying to cheat his way to a W.

Speaking of Strong, we’ll get him and Melo at New Year’s Evil in a title unification match and I’m looking forward to it. It’s time for the Cruiserweight title to go the way of the Dodo.

Jingle All the Way

I talked about how much I’m enjoying NXT’s tag scene. The way Jacket Time and Briggs & Jensen integrated themselves into the match between the Brothers Creed and Grizzled Young Veterans continued the interconnectedness of the division. Nothing happens in a vacuum and every team wants to topple the other for the Imperium at the end of the rainbow.

And in typical “we hate each other” fashion, the match devolved into utter chaos as all teams involved destroyed each other until referees pulled them apart. I love it.

It’s a Wonderful Life

The adventures of MSK and Riddle continue. Riddle is showing up at NXT next week when MSK calls out Imperium and I can’t wait to hear how Randy Orton feels about it. My guess is, not great.

Scrooged

Von Wagner looked particularly angry this week, but it didn’t stop him from taking an L from Edris Enofe. About time Enofe gets a W! Robert Stone was ringside, still scouting Wagner. I guess he was happy with the post-match beatdown Wagner issued to the man who defeated him.

What are we doing with Enofe?

A Christmas Story

Elektra Lopez lost the biggest match of her career tonight. Why? Xyon Quinn distracted her.

Let’s get this out the way first that this powerful woman, who acknowledges she’s in the biggest match of her career, getting distracted because of a man, reads funny. I’m a fan of moving that story forward but let’s not have the woman look incompetent because her crush shows up. K? Thanks.

Elektra took her eyes off Io Sharai when Quinn came to the ring with mistletoe in his mouth, handed out ass whippings to two members of LDF, and stood on the apron with mistletoe raised over his head.

Santos Escobar wasn’t feeling this, so he rushed to the ring and broke up the kiss before we got to see the sparks fly. Grinch.

Die Hard 2

Last week, Harland threw Brian Kendrick down a flight of stairs. This week? Joe Gacy demanded an apology from Harland. Brian Kendrick is stepping back in the ring next week to give Harland the most formal apology he can think of. No, it won’t come with a tailored suit, but I’m sure it will involve a boot in an ass.

A Christmas Carol

Grayson Waller is doing all he can to piss off everyone within a 30 mile radius. Indi Hartwell, Dexter Lumis, and, of course, AJ Styles. AJ stepped into the Performance Center this week to confront Mr. Waller. AJ sees a bit of himself in the cat obsessed with social media, but doesn’t think he’s quite there yet. AJ was ready to fight but Waller, as the heel, was not. In fact, he mentioned several times that AJ looks lonely without Omos behind him. Rather than fight Styles this week, Waller wants to wait. Clearly, Waller’s plan is to let Omos destroy AJ and he’ll pick the bones dry. AJ is the past and Waller wants everyone to know he’s the present and future of this business.

The segment didn’t do anything for me although Waller is definitely getting heat from the crowd. He’s the actual toxic attraction.


While this show wasn’t on the level of last week’s edition, it was solid. New Year’s Evil is shaping up nicely, and we’re a few weeks away from (presumably) a brand new champion, fully solidifying NXT 2.0’s new direction. Not all the matches worked for me and that’s mostly because they didn’t get the time to shine. The street fight was the highlight and no one else came close to matching it.

Still, points for being an interesting show that moved plot forward.

Grade: B-

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