NXT 2.0 airs tonight (Aug. 2) from the Performance Center.
Can you go home again?
A lot of rumors have circulated about changes to WWE’s creative direction since Triple H took the helm last week. Some of the more intriguing ones involve NXT, and a possible rollback of aspects of the 2.0 revamp the brand underwent last year.
Could we see fewer 1980s-style gimmicks and more wrestlers playing wrestlers? Will he cast a wider net for talent, including more people with wrestling experience outside of NXT in addition to those with raw athletic talent coming in via the NIL program? Do folks who didn’t meet Vince McMahon & John Laurinaitis’ standards of muscle and beauty stand a better chance in WWE with The Game overseeing talent recruitment & development?
A late addition to tonight’s line-up provides Haitch with an opportunity to make a statement about his vision for NXT: After WWE’s Twitter account wished him a happy birthday yesterday, NXT’s A-Champ Carmelo Hayes responded by saying he’s going to celebrate by issuing an open challenge for his North American title.
Hayes has flourished in 2.0, but he’s a holdover from the Triple H-run NXT. He worked several years on the Northeastern indie circuit before WWE signed him in early 2021. His character isn’t splashy, he’s a cocky athlete anxious to prove he’s better than everyone else (kind of like Hunter’s best friend Shawn Michaels, one of a handful of holdovers backstage from the black-and-gold era).
A bigger Melo push alone could signal a shift to different NXT. But what if his challenge was answered by one of the bigger stars in the history of the brand? What if “Rebel Heart” played in the PC tonight while Hayes was in the ring awaiting his next challenger?
Johnny Gargano’s been waiting and watching while enjoying being a first-time dad. Returning tonight would generate a lot of buzz, particularly with fans who’ve drifted away since NXT went technicolor — and without doing away with everything the show’s become over the last 11 months, a lot of which works.
It wouldn’t have to be a long stay on Tuesday nights, either. Gargano could work just one match and make statement. But even if he does an entire program with Hayes, it could still just be a stepping stone to the main roster. Heck, he could even pull double-duty and show up next Monday when his old partner/nemesis Tommaso Ciampa gets a United States title shot in Johnny’s hometown of Cleveland.
Triple H already brought back one wrestler he was higher on than his father-in-law in Dakota Kai. Making Johnny Wrestling the second on NXT would quickly put his stamp back on all of WWE’s television programs.
The rest of the title scene
We’ve already got an Haitch guy in the NXT championship. JD McDonagh will move on from anatomy lessons for a summit with Bron Breakker on tonight’s show. He’ll try to take Bron’s belt at Heatwave in two weeks.
Along with Breakker, the act most associated with 2.0 is Toxic Attraction. Mandy Rose’s NXT Women’s title won’t be on the line until she faces Zoey Stark at Heatwave, but someone who’s seemed lost for the past year gets a chance to knock Rose down a peg tonight. Can Sarray get on track with an upset over the champ? And will TA’s Gigi Dolin & Jacy Jayne become three-time NXT Women’s Tag Team champions when they battle Kayden Carter & Katana Chance, Yulisa Leon & Valentina Feroz, and Ivy Nile & Tatum Paxley for the vacant straps? Putting one of the other teams over — especially perennial runners-up Carter & Chance — would be welcomed by fans frustrated by Rose & company’s domination of Tuesday nights.
The NXT Tag Team titles are already on The Creeds, and act that would have fit in well in the black-and-gold era. Will Diamond Mine’s feud with Tony D’Angelo’s Family, or the Roderick Strong-led group’s own internal issues, cost Brutus & Julius tonight against Tony D & Stacks? Or could a Legado Del Fantasma revolt hurt The Don, possibly with the return of Santos Escobar?
WWE’s United Kingdom show could get a boost with Hunter back on the throne. The NXT UK Tag Team championships are already in Florida, and around Josh Briggs & Brook Jensen’s waists. But Pretty Deadly can’t be happy about that, especially after they let Fallon Henley distract them during a title match two weeks ago.
Other stuff to keep an eye on
- Solo Sikoa and Von Wagner have already brawled everywhere. Tonight, they end their rivalry in a match where Falls Count Everywhere.
- Melo’s man Trick Williams keeps messing with Wes Lee, last week costing him a match against Grayson Waller.
- After beating Xyon Quinn, the man who cost him his first match against Giovanni Vinci, Apollo Crews might want another shot at the Italian fashionista. But Vinci has his own issues with the recently returned honorary Chase U student body member Nathan Frazer.
- Roxanne Perez wants revenge against her former friend Cora Jade, and Jade has a chip on her shoulder about everybody.
- Elsewhere in the women’s division: Kianna James doesn’t approve of Nikkita Lyons, Wendy Choo is woke up mad about Tiffany Stratton, and Lash Legend & Alba Fyre hate each other.
- Joe Gacy and Schism are still threatening to include everyone... starting with Joe Gacy.
What will you be looking for on NXT tonight?