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NXT recap & reactions (Jan. 25, 2022): I’m not a freak, I’m just comfortable

Carmelo Hayes has a new number one contender on his hands, and an NXT legend makes his triumphant return.

The Dusty Rhodes Classic rolls on this week, while we all wonder what the NXT Champion has to say about his newest challenger, Santos Escobar. Claire’s covering it all with her blog while I’m surmising what it all means in this space after the break.

Let’s talk NXT!

The Champion of All of North America

Remember last week when Tony D’Angelo and Cameron Grimes both wanted a shot at the North American Championship? Of course you do. You watched. I know you watched. Hence this number one contender’s match between the two, with Carmelo Hayes and Trick Williams watching from the Crow’s Nest. Yes, that’s what I’m calling it now. Maybe I have pirates on the mind, but it’s the perfect name for that perch in the corner of the Performance Center.

The match was fun and physical. The contest was a smooth affair save for one bad sequence where Grimes slipped on the rope going for quick moonsault. With a little more seasoning, both men can work out of a spot like that and not make it look choreographed. I mean, we know it is, but we like the illusion.

The story was obviously, first and foremost, getting a shot at Melo at NXT Vengeance Day. The second story, one that appeared out of nowhere, was the reappearance of Pete Dunne. Dunne showed up with what I believe was a Cricket bat, and slammed it across Tony D’s hand. Payback of course, and the most obvious sign their beef is still simmering.

Dunne’s interference allowed Grimes to take advantage, get the W, and set his sights squarely on Melo.

I’m not sure what level of escalation Dunne and Tony can ascend to after the crowbar match. I am sure, however, that I want to find out. And if Melo and Cameron can put on a match even half the caliber of Melo’s last title defense, then that’s worth the price of admission alone for Vengeance Day in a few weeks. Not a fan of that name, but hey, this is the same company that thought Great Balls of Fire was a thing to do.


Numbers Game

Tommaso Ciampa is back. Let’s not even bury the lede. How did we get here? Glad you asked. Allow me to recap.

Santos Escobar hates Bron Breakker for a lot of reasons. Yes, his family’s awful math skills are on that list. And as someone who also sucks at math, I empathize with Bron. It’s a heavy burden to carry, but carry it we must. The main reason Santos has nothing but hate for the NXT Champion, is the fact that he got that gold before Escobar.

Bron, of course, never shies from a fight or a war of words. The NXT champ came ready to fight but Escobar still wants to do it on his terms and his time. You know how this went. The other members of Legado del Fatansma got fed to the dog. And the dog did what dogs do to hired goons.

LDF challenged Bron to a tag match, provided he can find a partner. If not? Well, a handicap match suits them just fine.

As the credits rolled on another week of NXT 2.0, LDF approached Bron as he exited the building. Before Santos and crew got the chance to jump Bron into their gang, Breakker found his partner: Tommaso Ciampa. LDF backed off and the former champ and current champ dapped each other up as a sign of solidarity.

New Name, Who Dis?

WALTER is dead. Long live GUNTHER. I guess. We got an explanation from the man himself for the name change. GUNTHER represents a new beginning for Imperium. Cool.

Malcolm Bivens speaks for me, and possibly the lot of us, when he said GUNTHER is “an awful name.” Either way, Bivens doesn’t care what GUNTHER calls himself; he wants blood. Next week, Imperium faces the Diamond Mine’s Creed Brothers and Roderick Strong.

Dusty MSK

MSK wants their spot back. The tag team believes the best way to do that is to conquer the Dusty Rhodes Classic and grab that cup. That probably made the outcome of their match with Jacket Time daily obvious to anyone even slightly familiar with professional sports entertainment; the person/team with the story normally wins.

BUT, and it’s a big “but” for a reason, Jacket Time didn’t go down without a fight. NXT kicked off this week with an incredible tag match between two equally acerbating teams. Fast break offense from the first ding ding to the last, each team trying to outdo each other all in the name of a trophy.

This was another great match of the tournament, with Jacket Time proving themselves as more than worthy opponents for the former NXT tag champs.

Dusty Vets

Grizzled Young Vets put the hurt on Chase U’s Andre Chase and Bodhi Hayward to advance in the Dusty Cup. The match was fine. But maybe I’m spoiled after the last two Dusty Cup matches and expected too much.

Mutual Interests Tag Teaming

Sometimes, booking really isn’t that difficult. Kay Lee Ray wants Mandy Rose. Persia Pirotta and Indi Hartwell want all the smoke with Gigi Dolin and Jacy Jayne. Put them together and watch what happens.

And guess what? It was pretty dope. The most interesting aspect was whether or not KLR would keep her cool and not go off on Mandy. That happened for a while, but eventually their beef spilt over into the Performance Center. Pirotta got the W for her team, more than likely earning a tag team championship.

Meanwhile, Mandy has a lot to handle with KLR.

Better than the First Time

Tiffany Stratton’s second match on NXT was much better than her first. I’m sure a lot of that was due to Io Sharai as her opponent. Io got the win but Tiffany showed character and skill.

Taking it to the Streets

Something was off about this street fight. At least in the beginning. For a while, it seemed like Boa and Solo Sikoa needed to find their rhythm. That happened as soon as a fire extinguisher entered their street fight. From there, the two went back to the ring after doing a bit of fighting in the “back,” setting up a finish that might make a Dudley smile. Solo gets the W after a huge splash through a table, causing the piece of wood to practically explode.

Like I said, it started slow but ended really good.

Here I Come

Dante Chen and Duke Hudson continued their dance after the former interfered in the latter’s big match last week. Of course, Hudson got the advantage with a chop block to the back of Chen’s previously injured leg. Eventually, these two will...duke it out. And no, I’m not apologizing for that, nor do I feel any shame.

Oh and before I forget, Duke squashed Guru Raaj. Can’t make an omelette know the rest.

His Name is Sanga

Grayson Waller’s insurance policy is Sanga, “one of the biggest stars in Bollywood.” If LA Knight wants Grayson, he needs to go through Sanga first. Judging by the man’s height, size, and beard, that won’t be an easy feat.

This was a solid NXT 2.0 show. We got some good matches, a couple surprises, and a musical performance that wasn’t the best. I like Ollie Jay but this wasn’t her finest moment. But hey, can’t win them all, right? While the men’s Dusty Cup rolls on, we even seeded some stories for the women’s version. Io Sharai needs a new partner, while Cora Jade and Raquel González’s odd couple act might carry them to the promised land.

This show was packed with forward momentum and a sense of urgency. Always appreciate that out of my professional sports entertainment.

Safe to say NXT 2.0 knows what it is now. You’re either in or you’re out at this point.

Grade: B

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

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