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NXT recap & reactions (Dec. 27, 2022): No justice for Tony D’Angelo

NXT’s Don misses the mark in his championship match as Wes Lee takes advantage of a Dijak showing on the last NXT of 2022.

Prediction? Pain

Tony D’Angelo wanted more than just the NXT North American Championship. The Don wanted Wes Lee’s blood, and he spent most of their match dishing out punishment. Tony attacked Wes’ knee through dropping him on the commentary table, body blows to the leg, and even tried “sweeping” the leg after Stacks’ patented ‘80s advice. Tony knew he stood no chance wrestling Wes’ style or letting Wes get high. Just no way in hell he wins that match. And, for a good portion of the match, Wes obliged the Don. Wes slowed everything down with headlocks and submission holds, either as cover for a knee injury or out of pure pride. Either option is acceptable considering Lee’s 2022 and his mindset.

Based on all of that, I started typing Wes’ championship obituary. Even when Wes went after Tony’s rehabilitated knee with a couple leg snaps, he eased up. Almost like he went out his way to prove he’s not the guy Tony says he is after their last match put the Don on the shelf for months. I’m not sure if that was their intention, but that’s how I read it and it worked for me. Tony had no such qualms, and targeted that knee every time he needed an advantage. In fact, one might say that hindered him in the match’s final moments.

After that suplex to the table, Lee hobbled back into the ring and nailed a desperation DDT. Tony D went for the knee again, and then set his sights squarely on it the limb. D’Angelo went to the top rope ready to jump directly on Wes’ knee and not just finish the match, but possibly Wes’ career. Eye for an eye and all that. Along came Dijak, who attacked Stacks and caught Tony D’s attention. Wes capitalized on the distraction and finished the match with the W and a great cap for his ‘22.

For those of you with bad memories, Stacks ran up on Dijak last week for a closed-door meeting. We don’t know what happened behind said door, but Stacks told us earlier in the show that everything was peace. He told us he handled Dijak and that brand of justice won’t be a problem.

Yeah, about that.

Another solid match that capped a pretty entertaining night for the black and gold brand. I’m still down on Dijak but I remain open to new possibilities in the new year. Where does Wes go from here? It looks like Tony D and Dijak have business before Dijak maybe kinda gets to Wes. So what does the champ do in the meantime?

We shall see, but he needs a New Year’s Evil dance partner.


She is the Bar

Not going to bury the lede: Fallon Henley now owns her family bar, in full, and owes no debt. Wish someone did this for my student loans.

I dug this match between she and Kiana James. Both women went for big moves in hopes of finishing the match early, which made sense. James started the match outsmarting Fallon with a fakeout and then beat her down with clubs to the body. That’s key because Kiana’s “smarts” played a big role in the finish.

After exchanging blows and submission holds, the match ended when Kina tripped over Fallon. Yup, she tripped. Kiana went to the ropes and Fallon hit the mat. Kiana tripped over Fallon, hurting her ankle in the process, and Kiana finished with a running dropkick.

The intrigue, if you call it that, was Brooks Jensen’s allegiance. Earlier in the show, he clearly waffled when asked about his support. And during the match, he looked torn cheering for Fallon and even thought about interfering on Kiana’s behalf.

Part of me wishes they played that beat more with so much on the line for Fallon, but letting the two women duke it out for their story without male interference seems like the better move contextually.

Julius Shows and Proves

I love Julius Creed’s offense. The man exudes violence with every clothesline and every suplex, For me, the winning combatant between he and JD McDonagh was, to paraphrase Ja Rule, not even a question. Creed had more on the line and without a W, Sanga & Veer don’t grant the Brothers Creed that tag team match at New Year’s Evil. But the story is how Creed earned that W. JD dominated early, dissecting Creed and working on those arms. No arms? No suplexes. No arms? No clothesline. JD’s strategy made sense but, as he often does, JD underestimated his opponent. Julius nailed a Hail Mary suplex, which evened everything out. After going back and forth, JD missed on a moonsault, which gave Julius the massive window he needed. Julius fought through the pain for one final suplex and a clothesline for the W.

Sanga & Veer hit the ring, gave their approval, and finally announced their New Year’s Evil clash.

Within context of the story, I wanted more struggle from Julius. Grant it, they only had 15 minutes—if that—but I wanted more JD on top, which makes Julius’ eventual comeback and W sweeter.

Nap Time

If I have one criticism of Wendy Choo’s match against Cora Jade, it’s that it slowed down! Wendy rushed to the ring as soon as her music hit and threw hands. Which makes complete sense as Cora represents every bully she ever faced. I wanted a fight but they turned it into a wrestling match. A solid wrestling match, yes, but Wendy’s emotions and motivations called for a brawl with a tad more violence. Wendy got the W and showed that emotion as she walked to the locker room, yelling that Cora got what she deserved. Very true, but I’m not sure if this ends their story. If only because as someone rooting for Wendy, it felt a bit anticlimactic and I wanted more suffering on Cora’s part. That lights out match between Wendy and Tiffany Stratton is the type of flavor I needed. Still, solid match, but just missed that extra gear. Possibly saving this for New Year’s Evil and adding a stipulation fits the story better.

Writing Time

Reggie Scrypts confuses me. Not his ability, but his character. I really dug his match with Ikemen Jiro this week. Jiro went in with some aggression, so he set the tempo with strong style. But Scrypts...flipped the script and made Jiro wrestle on his terms. We got a lot of flips, high risk moves, and everything that makes Scrypts look strong. Jiro proved the perfect partner not only for his selling ability, but the fact he matched Scrypts’ offense with some of his own.

Scrypts got the win, which I get. But then he returned Jiro’s jacket. Well, he draped it over Jiro’s motionless body. Scrypts’ offense makes him exciting in the ring but they gotta work on the characterization.

Alba Fyred Up (Get it? I’m sick, cut me some slack.)

Alba challenged Isla Dawn. She wants her next week in what sounds like an extreme rules match, which makes complete sense based on the fact Isla tried blinding Alba and tried breaking her hand. That feels reasonable.

Isla is down for an “extreme resolution” as this is just another “step” in her twisted plan for Alba.

Peace to the Vikings

Lyra Valkyrie’s second match took a different complexion than her first. She wrestled Lash Legend this week, and Legend showed flashes. Legend always shows flashes, but she’s still learning. The two messed up a couple exchanges, including Lyra countering whatever Legend planned with a DDT. Vic Joseph, phenomenal at his job by the way, noted the DDT wasn’t pretty but it was effective. That’s a great call on his part as a commentator but yeah, both women need more reps. BUT, and this is a big but, both women showed a lot and Lash proved with more time, she might stand tall as an effective heel.

Lyra got the W, which isn’t a shock, but unlike last week, they made her work for it.

Well, That’s One Way...

Mandy Rose’s absence spoke volumes the last time NXT came into our world. Mostly because they kinda didn’t acknowledge it. This week, we got Jacy Jayne and Gigi Dolin in a pre-recorded segment not saying Mandy’s name but talking about their greatness and lamenting their failures. They built an empire and now they’re going after the people who brought that empire to its knees. They showed Mandy’s loss to Roxanne Perez, so that person might be her. The women’s NXT tag champs might also be the targets. Or maybe all three.

They really miss Mandy’s presence. It’s not Jacy or Gigi’s fault, and maybe they’ll figure it out over time, but this package just showed how valuable Mandy was to the whole Toxic Attraction thing. If you ask me, and you probably didn’t but I’m writing, they need a replacement. It’s probably stunt casting, but Nikkita Lyons fits seamlessly into that role in terms of presence and charisma. But, hey, let’s give them a chance.

Four Roots...

Three things stood out in the six-man tag between the Schism and Edris Enofe, Malik Blade, & Odyssey Jones. One, Odyssey Jones is a problem. He’s an agile big man who uses his body effectively, and knows the meaning of a hot tag. Two, Ava Raine yelling at Booker T mid-match that Schism is the definition of living your best life. Which, yeah, creepy and weird. Thirdly, the storytelling. The tag match remained even until Schism focused on the big man after finally realizing they stood no chance against his power and quickness. With Jones out of the ring, Schism took turns with suicide dives, each man trying in vain because the big man didn’t go down. In fact, he swatted the first couple attempts like they were flies at a cookout. But, eventually, it was too much for even Odyssey, and he went down.

From that point, Schism took care of Enofe & Blade with a dual Doomsday Device, followed by a trip to the Upside Down.

Odyssey felt like he let down his team, but Enofe & Blade gotta hold their own. A very fun match that delivered on its promise, while further establishing Schism.

Shoutout to the cat rocking a Maximum Carnage era Spider-Man tee while sitting behind Booker T. I’m not a fan of that era in the least bit, but Todd McFarlane’s art remains beautiful.

Melo Trick Gang

Trick Williams and Carmelo Hayes stood by for a backstage interview. As always, Trick entertained with a rhyme and said his size 15 will kick Axiom back to Comic Con. Melo called his shot for winning the NXT championship in ‘23, but only after dealing with Apollo Crews next week. Looking forward to both matches.

Poor Bron

Bron Breakker recovered from from last week’s Bret Hart maneuver. In fact, he made it clear he wanted Grayson Waller this week. Unfortunately, Grayson wasn’t there but he sent Bron an obnoxious video from Australia. Grayson acknowledged he can’t compete with Bron physically on any level, but he’s smarter than the champ. And next week, we get a contract signing on a very special Grayson Waller Effect.

Oh, and Bron destroyed the television that coincidentally appeared in his locker room right when McKenzie threw to Grayson’s video. Lucky, right? I’m curious how Grayson plays up his smarts in the next couple weeks, and how Bron counters that with some intelligence of his own.

Gulak Hype

Drew Gulak held his invitational with Hank playing the background. Drew illustrated holds on his three students. Everything went pretty smoothly until Drew got to Myles Borne, who Drew noted is one of his best pupils. Drew clearly took that progression personally because when he slapped on the Gu-Lock and didn’t let go after Borne tapped. Hank intervened and Drew eventually broke the hold but with a crazed look in his eye. In comes Dempsey, who says he wants to make an example with one of Drew’s students. Me thinks that student might be Hank.

Speaking of Hype...

Roxanne Perez got a backstage interview where she referenced the target on her back. She’s ready for all comers but knows it won’t be easy. This is fine for now but I do hope we get more from Perez than the generic babyface character and promos as her reign continues.

A very sound and solid show closing out 2022. Even as someone pretty sick, this kept my attention and helped me forget that I feel like crap! That’s the best compliment for any show. A lot of setup for next week and New Year’s Evil. so we got a little intrigue as well as stories that don’t seem quite over yet.

Grade: B

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

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