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NXT recap & reactions (Dec. 20, 2022): Melo says he’s got next

NXT finally plants seeds for the inevitable Carmelo Hayes and Bron Breakker brawl, but both men have obstacles in their path.

He Shoots...

Carmelo Hayes took Axiom lightly. At least initially. After taking Axiom down very early, Melo slapped him in the head a couple times and talked that trash like only he can. What Melo never saw coming was Axiom’s aggressive response, which involved a takedown and a few slaps of his own. That story pretty much ran through the match: No matter what Melo did or how much disrespect he tossed Axiom’s way, the masked man answered. The match really exemplified this the couple times Melo went for the Fade Away and Axiom countered with a dropkick or just moving faster than Melo thought possible.

Surprisingly, this match stayed on the mat more than in the air. That’s not a bad thing either, as it showed their versatility and within the story, it illustrated both men realizing that going blow for blow in the air might end in a draw. I always appreciate wrestlers showcasing different styles. Yes, they took high risks, like that test of strength while balancing themselves on the top rope, but we also got submissions and some psychology with Melo going after Axiom’s mask.

Ultimately, it came down to Trick Williams, as it usually does. After Axiom delivered a Hurracanrana from the top rope, Trick got physical with Axiom behind the ref’s back. Melo hit a Codebreaker, then finished it off with Nothing But Net. Good match and a good opener at that. Hopefully we see these two go at it one day with more at stake.

Axiom, rightly pissed, went after Trick Daddy post match. If that’s a future match, I’m less interested but hopefully both men keep it entertaining. I know styles makes fights, especially when they clash, but Williams and Axiom seem like a conversation between Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger.

(He Shoots Again...)

If Trick has his hands full with Axiom, that leaves Melo free. Enter Apollo Crews, who showed up for the first time since NXT Deadline. Crews stated his claim on another title shot but one man said “nah.” That man...well, look, you’re reading, so you know it’s Carmelo Hayes. Melo had some choice lines about Apollo’s vision and seeing a title even though he’s at the back of the line. He also said he has no problem adding a hall of famer to the list of names he’s put in the rafters.

I’m looking forward to this fight. More importantly, everything that comes after the match because this seems like Melo finally stepping into Bron Breakker’s world. Bron vs. Melo on WrestleMania weekend? Yes, please.


She Scores

Zoey Stark defeated Nikkita Lyons. I questioned Lyons’ status within NXT’s hallowed halls a couple weeks ago. While we’re not at a complete answer, we’re hopefully getting closer. Zoey cheated for the W. which means this feud probably isn’t over and Nikkita gets another shot. Taking L in that fashion saves her, so perhaps NXT brass still has big plans for Ms. Lyons.

The match itself was okay. Not a lot of time, but a lot of hard hitting moves showcasing just how much these two despise each other. I also give props for Zoey attacking Nikkita on the entryway.

The Champs Stay the Champs

Triple Threat tag matches run on pure chaos, so that’s what we got this week. Kayden Carter & Katana Chance defended their tag titles against Toxic Attraction and Tatum Paxley & Ivy Nile. Every time got a moment in the sun, which made me happy since I feared the women representing Diamond Mine might get left out. Toxic Attraction and the tag champs have serious beef. We know what those four can do with a championship on the line, but Nile & Paxley are new to that pressure. They wrestled a much more physical match because, well, Ivy is a powerhouse. But Diamond Mine’s representation also meant Jacy Jayne or Gigi Dolin didn’t have to take the pin. What I didn’t expect was Ivy taking the pin. She slapped Kayden in her a Compassionate Release, Kayden reversed it, and the ref counted three with Ivy’s shoulders on the mat.

All teams looked strong while the champs narrowly pulled out the W. That bodes well for the division and their reign.

Ivy & Tatum spoke on their loss in a later segment with the Bros. Creed at their side. To them, this is just the first step and there’s hope even in defeat. Julius & Brutus beamed with pride, until Sanga & Veer blocked that beam with their presence. Even now with both Creeds at 100 percent, Veer & Sanga still don’t trust their judgement. So next week, we get the Creeds in a match but not with Veer & Sanga. Well, okay then. At this point, we’re just dragging this thing on and I’m not sure why.

Hell of a Rub

New Day dominated Briggs & Jensen early with speed and cutting the ring in half. Kofi & Xavier showed confidence but perhaps too much confidence. Actually, the word is overconfidence. That overconfidence gave birth to the raw power their opponents exhibited. Briggs entered the match and manhandled both men, which gave Jensen just enough rest for his own power exhibition. Jensen took out both New Day members power moves on the outside and practically breaking them in half using the outside ring canvas as his weapon.

That shows the challengers had their chances. Weather overpowering the champs, putting Kofi in their tandem finisher—of which Kofi kicked out, and an incredible moonsault from Briggs. Watch the whole match but make sure you watch that moonsault. That’s a very big man with incredible athleticism.

New Day won the match because of course they did and their experience but this is the best match for Briggs & Jensen since stepping into NXT. If New Day’s sole responsibility as the tag champs in this division is elevation, then mission accomplished tonight.

Speaking of Terrible Segues...

Fallon Henley and Kiana James finally have a match. Kiana paid all the back taxes Fallon’s family owed on their bar and Henley wasn’t happy. So she challenged Kiana to a winner take all match for the bar next week. I like both women in the ring so I’m down but the bar story just isn’t doing it for me.

Good Time, Not a Long Time

We got an Oro Mensah hype video. Oro, walking through a nightclub, explaining how he blends wrestling and music.


I love Booker T interviewing Roxanne Perez. Their connection made this segment feel authentic and emotional. Roxanne explained her thinking on challenging Mandy Rose last week, attributing it to something Booker told her many moons ago: bet on yourself. It’s a nice story beat that covers the reality behind the scenes. I’m not sure what a Roxanne Perez title reign looks like but I do hope we get more from her other than the girlhood dream backstory. If anyone knows better than to keep playing that note, it’s Shawn Michaels.

Goldberg & Bret

Grayson Waller wanted his own Roxanne Perez moment. Waller called out Bron Breakker very early this week, and found out Bron wasn't around. In fact, Bron wasn’t even in Florida. Grayson didn’t believe it, and kept searching for Bron all night. But he also said even if Bron’s out of town, it doesn’t matter, because it’s 2022 and he can watch NXT anywhere in the world. Waller told the champ to meet him in the middle of the ring at the end of the show, and sure enough, Waller showed up in the middle of the ring in the closing minutes.

Bron pulled up and then actually pulled up. The champ bulldogged his way to the ring and went for a spear. Except he didn’t get up. Much like Bret Hart back in the day, Grayson had armor under his attire, meaning Bron knocked himself out going for that spear.

Waller did this for one reason: prove he’s smarter than Bron. While I’m not a fan of reusing the Goldberg/Bret thing from WCW, I do like Waller showing his smarts since that’s truly the only way he has a shot against Bron. He’s not faster and he’s certainly not more powerful, so using his brain is really the only advantage he has. This presents a different challenge for Bron but I’m not sure if it convinces anyone that Waller has a shot at winning. At least it didn’t convince me.

A Woman of Her Word

Isla Dawn promised a week from hell for Alba Fyre. She wasn’t lying. Isla surprised Alba like a bully on the playground when she spit mist in her face before Alba’s match. The “doctors” cleared Alba for her match against Sol Ruca...only the match never happened because Isla attacked Alba during her entrance. Not just an attack; she beat Alba’s hand with her own bat, possibly breaking it. So, yeah, if you like violence and want more of Alba Fyre vs. Isla Dawn, then this was all you. I do like Isla’s psychotic malevolence here.

It Ain’t the Holidays without a Schism

Odyssey Jones, Edris Enofe, & Malik Blade tried hitting the town. I say tried because Ava Raine stopped them midway. They invited her to party—possibly at the same club Oro frequents—and she spit a lot of pseudo-spiritual babble about them chasing fleeting feelings etc etc. If you’ve heard one cult speak, you’ve heard them all. The rest of Schism joined her and issued a challenge. So, yeah, this is a thing that’s happening. If it wasn’t draped in the Schism cloak...then maybe it’s a yes.

On Behalf of the Don

Tony D’Angelo gets his shot at Wes Lee’s title next week. But he wants Dijak firmly on the sidelines and nowhere near that match. He sent Stacks on a mission: Apply pressure on Dijak and keep him out of the Don’s business until after the match. We never saw how that went for Stacks, but we did see him go into Dijak’s locker room after reciting everything he had in mind to tell the big man. I’m guessing it didn’t go well for him though, so maybe his body turns up in the parking lot next week.

Hank & Drew

We still don’t know why Drew Gulak showed his face in NXT, but we do know Hank wants prime position under his learning tree. Gulak admires Hank’s “zeal” and possibly his spunk, so he invited Hank to wrestling seminar next week. NXT does a lot most weeks, and this is an example of something better left on the cutting room floor, even if it’s a short segment.

Cheater, Cheater

Elektra Lopez finally got her hands on Indi Hartwell after Indi’s devastating axe kick last week. Short match, not very much chemistry between the two, but Elektra did use brass knucks for the cheap win. I always appreciate a good brass knucks spot. Also, Booker called Elektra a brick house, so yeah. The Commodores would be proud.

Whew, this was a packed show. We got a lot of backstage stuff with a few good matches in between and a couple matches that didn’t do much for me. This felt like the show you do before everyone goes home for Christmas break, while laying down as much track as possible before New Year’s Evil. Solid outing, but needed trimming.

OH! Before I forget, we got a Chase U segment too. Everyone gave Andre Chase presents, but Duke, schemed someone out of their gift and presented it as his own. So, clearly, he’s not adhering to the Chase U ways as everyone else believes.

Grade: B

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

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