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NXT recap & reactions (Jan. 11, 2021): Warmed over and not loving it

Of all the things I watched this week, this show is definitely one of them.

Guess what? It’s NXT 2.0 coming at you live! Claire is on blog duty, as per usual, so show her the requisite amount of love and then come back here to walk through the show with me.

Let’s talk NXT!


Phenomenal Duh

I get Grayson Waller’s schtick. I don’t find it exciting or interesting, but I understand it. Waller is the young cat talking down everything and everyone that came before him. And while it doesn’t work for me, the man is despised in Florida with the intensity of 1000 suns.

But the man put on a good match with AJ Styles because unless your name is Omos, it’s hard to not have a good match with AJ. Grayson, as a character and a wrestler, never looked out of his depth. Waller hung with AJ step for step and wasn’t thoroughly embarrassed. Did he lose? Of course he did. Duh. But there’s no shame in losing to AJ Styles, especially when you make him work and get a bit of a rub from AJ in the end.

Thankfully, AJ got a bounce back from consecutive sonnings on national television. Styles played the role of a chump for weeks, so this match meant as much to him as it did to Waller. Which was a nice touch.

The key moment of the match was the aftermath. Like I said, AJ gave Grayson his props. But then the Phenomenal One introduced Grayson to his friend, LA Knight. It feels like Knight was last seen months ago. With his face turn complete, he’s now ready to finally engage with Waller and get their delayed feud in gear. This thing with AJ always felt like a detour or stand-in for what was supposed to happen with LA, which is probably why AJ and Grayson reeked of slapdashery.

LA is now one of the last remnants of team Black and Gold. With Tommaso Ciampa defeated, Johnny Gargano “retired,” and Pete Dunne sleeping with the fishes, (spoiler for those who didn’t skip this section) I’m curious about Knight’s standing in NXT and within WWE overall. If Vince and co. really believe in Waller, then Knight is going down. If they’re unsure or Vince changes his mind because he doesn’t like the way the sun hit his expensive car tomorrow morning. then Grayson gets retooled and Knight lives another day.

But I digress. AJ and Grayson wrestled the best match of the night and it wasn’t even close. And believe me, that’s not as much of a compliment as you might think if you didn't watch the show.


Extracurriculars

That Girl is Poison

Poor Xyon Quinn. The man took his eye off of Santos Escobar to have what he thought was a tinder moment with Elektra Lopez. I say thought because after Ms. Lopez caressed Xyon’s arms and told him to get back into the ring, she kicked Quinn in his nether regions. Santos picked up the pieces—not literally—and finished Xyon.

Solid match, nothing mind blowing. It was a little too slow at moments and felt like both men were figuring each other out. But the story doesn’t seem finished here. Xyon will want revenge and of course the world wants an explanation from Ms. Lopez. Was this really payback for Quinn rebuffing her initial invitation to join LDF?

Grimey Mine?

Cameron Grimes says 2022 is the year he finally goes “to the moon” with NXT gold by his side. Damon Kemp was, to take a phrase from Shaq, BBQ chicken tonight. Grimes roasted him, toasted him, and burnt him to a crisp.

BUT, the most interesting bit of business was the appearance by one Malcolm Bivens. Was he scouting Grimes? Or maybe it was Kemp? With the Diamond Mine down one member thanks to the recent ‘deavors season, so clearly Malcolm is looking to replenish. While the match wasn’t much of anything—purposefully—the real intrigue is what Mr. Bivens has up his considerably long sleeves.

The Champs is Here

The new NXT Champion kicked off the show this week. In typical Bron Breakker fashion, it was a lot of bark. a lot of bass in his voice, and a claim that this is now his yard. He issued a challenge to anyone in the back but let them know whatever they’re doing, he’s doing more. It was standard fare but definitely disappointing that no new challenger immediately present himself. Here we are one week into the new guard in NXT 2.0 and the new champ is rudderless.

Oh but he’s not the only one who spoke to the NXT faithful. Carmelo Hayes stepped to the ring before this week’s main event and did what Bron did earlier. Melo rubbed salt in Roderick Strong’s wounds, and also told the locker room he’s ready, the A champion, etc etc. you know how this goes.

Remember when I said Cameron Grimes is going for gold this year? Of course you do, I just said it. I mean, it’s right above this section. Grimes met Melo and Trick before the main event bell and told the champ he wants a North American Championship match. We’ll see how Melo responds next week. I suppose.

Not Exactly a Dusty Classic

The play-in match of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic ended in a DQ. Why you ask? I’m glad you did. Harland went too far, refusing to obey the ref’s 5-count. As a result, Edris Enofe and Malik Blade move on. Harland and Gacy’s story so far means this was the right call, even if it cheapened us out of a good match. Enofe and Blade are walking the path of many before them: A brand new team with little to no experience as a unit wishing on a star to go far. We shall see.

But I’m not feeling the play-in match for such a prestigious tournament coming in the form of a throwaway. Sets an awful tone and leaves a not so great taste.

Bagwells and Crowbars and Chairs, Oh My

First off, the idea of anything “on a pole” conjures memories of late-era WCW for me. Not to mention the worst aspects of that entire era of professional sports entertainment wrestling. That said, props to Tony D’Angelo and Pete Dunne for having a brutal, violent affair worthy of a match featuring a freaking crowbar as its prized possession.

Dunne’s ability to wrestle any and every style came in hand. Tony isn’t going to do chain wrestling and put on a technical masterpiece; it doesn’t fit his character and he’s a brawler. With that in mind, this match definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Especially if you’re a black and gold NXT die hard. The ending, with Tony D slapping fire out of Pete with the crowbar, will probably rub a lot of people the wrong way also.

Maybe it’s me, but this match also feels like a changing of the guard for 2.0, with Tony asserting himself as the brand’s new muscle.

Toxic Vignettes

We got a few vignettes highlighting Toxic Attraction. And at first I wasn’t sure why. Obviously, they rule NXT’s Women’s division right now. They’re the cocks of the walk if you will. But don’t we already know that? Conspicuous by their absence is Gigi Dolin and Jacy Jayne. The tag champs are MIA, so maybe this is a way to keep them fresh in our minds?

As for Mandy, Kay Lee Ray took notice of the fact the champ isn’t in the building for anything other than takings pics for IG. With bat in hand, she destroyed the cameras, and made it known she wants to take a swing at Rose.

Six Women Enter a Ring...

Not much to say here other than Indi Hartwell is getting her groove back. Indi, Persia Pirotta, and Wendy Choo squared off against Amari Miller. Kacy Catanzaro, and Kayden Carter. Seriously, the match barely started before it ended. Indi got the pin for her team, while Briggs and Jensen watched backstage because they’re feeling Kacy and Kayden.

Meh.

Oh it Ain’t Over Motherf...

I knew this wasn’t the end of Solo Sikoa and Boa. This match felt too sudden and not the right venue for whatever bad blood brewing between the two. The double countout finish makes all the sense in the world. But on a night with not that much wrestling, it’s another wasted match.


Let’s just get to it: This was not a fun way to spend two hours on a Tuesday night. This was the least enjoyable two hours since NXT 2.0 became a thing, with very little wrestling, and a surprisingly slowly paced show that lacked a sense of purpose and energy. I understand AJ Styles is a huge deal and needs to main event, but the brand new champion needs to show up in more than one segment. The play-in match for the Dusty Rhodes Classic needs meaning and not exist as fodder for Joe Gacy and Harland’s madness. I could go on but if they didn’t put forth the effort, why should I?

For the first time in forever, NXT 2.0 felt like a bland episode of Raw or SmackDown. Maybe that was the plan all along.

Grade: D

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