Welcome to the Performance Center, ladies and germs! I’m your host this evening and Claire is your other host. Read her thoughts, then come back here for the analysis of all the action!
Let’s talk NXT!
The Dusty Finish
Who does Toxic Attraction fear most? That’s the question one must ask when looking at Wendy Choo & Dakota Kai in one corner and Kay Lee Ray & Io Shirai in the other. While all women in the division can lay claim to big beef with the trio, but KLR and Io have a list possibly longer than anyone else. Possibly. Not to mention, it’s obvious Toxic Attraction wants no static with Io and KLR.
Toxic Attraction was ringside to witness the finals in the Dusty Cup, with the winner getting a shot at their coveted tag titles. It should go without saying it was the match of the night. Which makeshift team would compliment each other the best? That’s the other question going into the Dusty Cup Finals since both teams came together strictly for the tournament. Wendy Choo and Dakota Kai used their weird energy and unorthodox style to throw their opponents off their game a tad.
One nice character moment was when Wendy used a pillow to stop Io from attacking Dakota. It sounds silly, yes, but it was followed by Wendy showing her athleticism as she ducked one boot from Io, got knocked down a second time, and managed to get right back up and into the match again. A character like Wendy Choo is hard to do but in the right hands, it’s really dope. These are the right hands.
As the match continued, each team got stronger and found their cohesion. There’s the aforementioned pillow block and Io’s missile dropkick into Dakota to breakup Wendy’s pin attempt on KLR. The precision and timing of that move, along with understanding the domino effect it would cause, was beautiful storytelling along with just good looking wrestling. That was actually the beginning of the end for Wendy and Dakota. Io eliminated Dakota from the match with a backbreaker, creating a two-on-one situation.
Wendy tried to put up a fight long enough to give her partner a second wind, hitting a Side Effect on Io and focusing on Kay Lee Ray. But that little bit of time was all Kay needed to regain her composure, get the upper hand with a headbutt followed by a KLR Bomb, and tag in Io, who finished the job with a beautiful moonsault.
We got the ding ding, and your 2022 Dusty Cup winners are Io Shirai and Kay Lee Ray. Toxic Attraction, at their most toxic, sauntered to the ring to “congratulate” the winners. At this point, KLR and Io revealed this tournament was never about the tag titles; it was always about the NXT Women’s championship. Therefore, as a result of this win, they’re exercising their right to challenge for Mandy Rose’s belt, turning Cora Jade and Mandy’s championship match at Stand & Deliver into a fatal four way.
Now, I don’t have the legal acumen to determine if this is within the rules, but it’s wrestling. The rules are made up as we go and it’s not as if NXT has a GM or WWE official ruling the roost these days. Carmelo Hayes is booking matches on the fly so, sure, I suppose this works.
It’s an interesting way to get these two women into the title picture but also makes me feel like part of the entire tournament was a waste of time. If we’re just making up stuff on the fly, why not add them to the match without them tagging together for weeks and going after a prize in vain that other teams truly wanted. On the other hand, it adds intrigue to a fatal four way when two of the women are now a legitimate team with a plan. How long can they coexist when the big gold belt is on the line? Will Cora and Mandy form an uneasy alliance just to give either a chance to survive? Like I said, I’m two minds on this.
If the match at Stand & Deliver...delivers, then it’s all worth the convoluted way we got here.
There’s something about NXT where cats who are good wrestlers, like Dolph Ziggler, seem rejuvenated. Robert Roode is one of those cats as well, because he looked fantastic against Bron Breakker this week. Bron spent most of the match in jeopardy, playing the typical babyface role. One of Bron’s strengths, besides, ya know, his actual strength, is that he’s really good at playing the good guy. Bron can sell a beating and make a guy like Roode, who rarely looks great these days, look like the force he was back in his Black and Gold glory days. Dolph Ziggler was thrown to the back early, making this an actual one-on-one match.
Roode had one mission: Soften up Bron for the NXT champion. Nothing more, nothing less. Big Bob also embarrassed the former champ by imitating his uncle’s posing, flexing, and signature moves. It was a nice heel thing to do while providing us a vision of what it looks like when someone lords over Bron and pokes the really big bear.
Bron eventually got his comeback. Shoulder blocks, front kicks, a Steiner suplex and a spear. But none of that was enough to put Roode away. Like I said, NXT does something different to these guys.
And maybe that’s why Roode ultimately lost. He went away from his game plan and paid the consequences. For the entire match, Roode stuck with a low impact but effective ground game. When none of that worked, including a Glorious DDT, Big Bob got desperate. We all know what desperation often leads to. Roode’s high risk attempt backfired as he leapt right into the arms of one Bron Breakker and was immediately poweslammed through the mat.
Bron won the match but definitely paid the price. He was beat up in the match and taken out by a Dolph Ziggler-superkick post match. There’s no shame in Roode taking this L, especially because he looked good in defeat and did the job like a good goon should.
Good match and Bron keeps getting better every week.
So, NXT refs are blind as bats. Tony D’Angelo and Dexter Lumis sports entertained this week but that wasn’t the story. The drama between Indi Hartwell and Persia Pirotta took center stage. Dusia, as Persia calls her budding relationship with Duke Hudson, was the start of Dexter’s ending.
With Dex on top of Tony D and with a victory almost in hand, Duke Hudson distracted the big man, allowing Tony to go for his crowbar. But wait! Indi snatched it before Tony got his hands on it, only to have Persia take it for...basketball reasons.
The two got into a tug of war, Tony grabbed the crowbar and was spun around right as Dexter approached the goodfella. The ref apparently didn’t see Dexter get smacked with a CROWBAR that’s not exactly the size of a bag of peanuts. Score one for the made guy, while the soap opera that is In-Dex and Dusia turns.
Solo Sikoa defeated Roderick Strong in our first match this week, with Santos Escobar watching from ringside. It was a good opener with a lot of violence as the two men exchanged headbutts, knees to the gut, Samoan Drops, and a whole bunch of fists. No clue who Santos was looking at but I’m sure we’ll get more info on that next week.
Speaking of Turns...
Tony D’Angelo, fresh off his victory, called out Tommaso Ciampa. Tony gloated about getting the drop on Ciampa last week, which, of course, perked up Ciampa’s ears. When his new not-so-great theme music hit, Tony turned to the entrance ramp. Apparently, Tony doesn’t actually watch wrestling because Ciampa was right behind him and got the drop on his Stand & Deliver opponent. And he promised a world of pain for that first weekend in April.
Grayson Waller defeated A-Kid in a relatively quick match for a spot in the North American championship ladder match. With Solo Sikoa and Grayson now officially in the match, Carmelo Hayes declared Cameron Grimes, A-Kid, and Roderick Strong will duke it out for the final spot.
And then Trick Williams said he’s going after “the A-Momma.” I chuckled heartily.
Text Message Mystery
Who defaced Diamond Mine’s locker room? Who?! That’s the question. After The Creed Brothers dominated Grizzled Young Veterans in short order, their attention turned to the big screen in the Performance Center. Hooded assailants tagged their locker room in graffiti and taunted the Brothers Creed with text messages. It was a weird look because that’s not how texting works but okay, NXT, I’ll go with it. They promised to go after the Creed boys again and told them “Don’t Cry.”
Intriguing. Weird but intriguing.
I know I say this a lot, but there are a lot of matches in NXT that aren’t really about the match. The matchup between Elektra Lopez and Fallon Henley wasn’t really about them. They’re both still working out the kinks, which is another explanation for the shortened match. But they also don’t get quite enough time on the show to truly get better. Catch 22.
Ultimately, this was a prelude to beef between Legado del Fantasma and Briggs and Jensen. The two teams brawled into the crowd, so yeah, this is happening. Elektra picked up the W, too.
That’s all. GUNTHER slapped the hell out of Duke Hudson’s chest during their very brief match. It echoed throughout the arena. Duke put up a bit of a fight but he was no match for The General.
Duke accepted this challenge after Dexter called him out. Well, in the way that only Dexter can, through art. Duke immediately regretted it, Persia was in agony, while Indi was all smiles with a thumb in the air.
While GUNTHER stood tall with his Imperium brethren, LA Knight made his way to the ring, talked a lot of trash, and issued a challenge to GUNTHER at Stand & Deliver—using his fist—and a brawl ensued. MSK came out to even the odds, and a six-man tag was setup for next week.
A LOT happened on NXT 2.0 this week. A whole lot. The pace never slowed down, even when we got backstage segments or video packages. There was a good flow to the show, and the sum of the parts were never greater than the whole. Stand & Deliver is really looking promising.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Your turn.