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NXT recap & reactions (Sept. 21, 2021): Friends close, a lot of enemies closer

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While 2.0 finds its footing, Tommaso Ciampa keeps his head on a swivel

Tonight, NXT 2.0 comes to you live from the place it normally comes to you live from! If last week’s episode acted as a series finale to the NXT we all knew and love—complete with a wedding—then tonight’s episode was the true premiere of 2.0.

Why, you ask? Well, you’ll have to keep reading to find out, but don’t forget to put eyes on Claire’s engaging play-by-play.

Let’s talk NXT!


Bron Breaker is Your Hook Up...

Bron Breaker sounds like his father and uncle. I mean, of course he looks like them, but his vocal inflections and tones are eerily similar. Bron is representative of this episode of NXT: young, brash, taking shots at anyone above him, and ready to step up.

Tommaso Ciampa kicked off the show with his own “state of NXT 2.0” address. Hugging Goldie like a gold bar, he lauded the talent in the ring behind him, the fans in front of him, and proclaimed NXT 2.0 is now the “A show” in WWE. Before all the feels were felt, Cameron Grimes, LA Knight, Pete Dunne, and Ridge Holland staked their claim to Goldie. Everyone chose violence and chaos ensued. The four men left in the ring were Dunne, Holland, Breaker, and Ciampa. Breaker, as someone who no doubt watched a lot of wrestling growing up, did the only logical thing and challenged Holland & Dunne to a tag match with Ciampa by his side. Quicker than you can say “Teddy Long,” the match was made.

Ciampa started the match and, duh, tried to do a lot by himself. He and Breaker are an uneasy alliance at best, but also Ciampa just likes to fight. But he could only do but so much before he made the tag and Breaker went wild. He even pulled out a Steiner Recliner that apparently we can’t call by its proper name. His fire rejuvenated Ciampa, while making Dunne and Holland realize the only way to win was to get dirty.

Tommaso Ciampa put an end to that and those dirty tricks came back to haunt the Brits as Kyle O’Reilly came to the ring and extracted his own revenge with Holland’s baton in hand. After Holland got tossed back into the ring while being worse for wear thanks to Kyle, Steiner Breaker lifted Holland over his head like a bag of peanuts, and dropped him to the canvas.

1-2-3.

This was the best match of the night, which isn’t saying much since there weren’t a lot of matches. However, it put the pieces in play for the most notable storyline in NXT 2.0: Everyone wants the NXT Championship. Bron, with the crowd chanting his name and clearly feeling himself, didn’t want to hand the belt over to Ciampa. Like I said, an uneasy alliance at best. Ciampa looks like a man who learned from the Corleone school of business by keeping his friends close and his enemies closer.

There’s a target on his back and every young gun in NXT is looking right at him. Bron, for the moment, just happens to have the best shot. The grizzled vet fending off the young lions is classic story to tell. When NXT feels out enough of these characters, specifically Bron, it might be genuinely compelling.

For now, Bron is a mountain of muscles and a lot of fun to watch in the ring. If the plan is to make him the champ, he’s got to be a lot more than that. Here’s hoping.


That Dynasty Sign

Kushida never stood a chance. Yeah, yeah, I know, he walked in as champion and went to work on Roderick Strong’s left arm like a surgeon. But he had no shot. For the past few weeks, the story was the Diamond Mine tipping the scales in his favor or the favor of anyone else in their camp.

Even when someone thinks they have the upper hand, as Kushida did in this match, the odds are never in their favor. And as any Hunger Games fan will tell you, you need those odds to have a shot to even survive, much less win.

Kushida fought his heart out. He and Roderick put on a technical wrestling clinic the second the bell rang. The Cruiserweight champ found an opening with Strong’s shoulder and attacked it like a Rottweiler. But six beats one every single time, even if one of those six can only use one arm. Malcolm Bivens kept Roderick in the game when it looked like the challenger was ready to submit, and the rest of the Mine got their licks in on the champ when the ref was distracted. When it was all said and done, we crowned a new Cruiserweight Champion.

Before he could take his victory lap, Grayson Waller stepped up to take a shot at the new champ. Diamond Mine suspiciously agreed. Something tells me more chicanery is a foot, so Waller better not bring a knife to a fight with six guns aimed at him.


Extracurriculars

Kay Lee’s Journey

I felt bad for Amari Miller. She’s fresh to NXT, wanted beef with Kay Lee Ray to tell the world she’s here now, and stepped into the “home of NXT 2.0” with all the confidence in the world. She gave it her all though! But this was Kay Lee’s night. Amari got enough offense in though to show some fire and loses nothing by taking the L to Ray.

Say Hello to Dante Chen

Dante Chen debuted tonight against Trey Baxter. Grand opening, grand closing for Mr. Baxter. Thanks for coming, homie. Dante has a unique finisher that looks cool and, more importantly, looks like it hurts. A lot.

Unity on the Moon

Allow him to reintroduce himself his name is Joe! Joe Gacy, dressed like a white collar worker, unveiled his 2.0 attitude. He seems like he’s part therapist, part motivational speaker. The inherent conflict of a wrestler who seeks to create peace and unity is an interesting one. If WWE is smart, they’ll lean into making him their version of Peacemaker. I’m sure John Cena won’t mind.

Even after taking the quick-ish L to Cameron Grimes, he wanted to shake hands and hug it out. I don’t know if it will work, but it’s definitely different and has potential.

We Can Go Blow for Blow like Evander and Bowe

Hit Row set a trap for Elektra Lopez and Legado del Fantasma. After Ms. Lopez dispatched Anna Scheer without breaking a sweat, she put B-FAB’s name on her lips. Hit Row, of course, but without B-FAB in tow. This is wrestling, so obviously she popped up behind Lopez and her boys. Cue the beatdown and then the boys breaking it up.

I’m more interested in this beef now than Santos and Isaiah “Swerve” Scott. Next week, we’ll see them go at it in a No DQ match. Bring it on.

Not Even Ulysses Can Save Them

Odyssey Jones beat two men. Two men. Convincingly. This was an old school way to get a big man over, while further Jones’ beef with Andre Chase aka NXT’s Bobby Knight.

Toxic Attraction is a Thing

This segment was off. This was the chance for this group to carve out their identity with a unique voice. Instead, it sounded stilted and like the first draft of a script. Or maybe it was the lack of personality behind any of their words. Either way, Toxic Attraction isn’t off to the best start and really needs someone who can talk. Because, yeah, this ain’t it.


This was a lot in two hours. Mostly, it was introducing us to new wrestlers, forgotten wrestlers, or new segments. NXT is in a weird spot right now, doing the best it can to introduce so many characters and their motivations and only having two hours a week to do it. There were some bumps in the road tonight, besides the Toxic Attraction thing which was just...yeah, regrettable. Some segments had too much going on, while others didn’t give enough context. Then there were others, like Trey Baxter and Cora Jade, that piqued my curiosity.

The crowd’s energy and the fire the young cats showed helped gloss over some of the rough spots, but it’s going to be a few weeks before this show really finds its sea legs.

Grade: B

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