Can you believe this is the last full week of January? 2023 just started and we’re already one month down. That also means we’re just a couple weeks away from Vengeance Day, so NXT has some work to do.
Claire documents that work punch for punch while I analyze and make it make sense.
Let’s talk NXT!
Can’t Knock the Hustle
All throughout this episode, we got overt signs that Toxic Attraction was past tense. Jacy Jayne and Gigi Dolin gave separate interviews explaining why they were done with each other. It’s actually the best both women sounded since Mandy Rose’s forced Florida exit. Was it a ruse? It didn’t seem like it, which is a testament to both women.
All of that toxic behavior spilt over into their summit with NXT Women’s champion Roxanne Perez. Booker T tried moderating but Jacy and Gigi just couldn’t help themselves. They threw insults at each other, said a lot of things I wouldn’t dream of saying to anyone, much less a former best friend, and elicited a bunch of oohs from the crowd as if they were a bunch of 4th graders. Perez enjoyed every moment of it and crowed how this might actually be a triple threat match at Vengeance Day instead of the two on one match she anticipated.
Then when it looked like a fight might break out between Jacy and Gigi, they smiled in each other’s faces and, well, you see the video.
Geno and I discussed whether this was always the plan or if Jacy and Gigi are just two toxic people who needed to get all of that out their systems and lucked into a moment where they caught the champ off guard. While I like that version, I know the music Shawn Michaels likes to play. He’s a huge fan of the angle where it looks like a group is imploding and the members can’t stand each other until we see the truth in a big reveal during the third act. It’s something he and Triple H did in DX, it’s what he and Mike Tyson did before WrestleMania 14, and it’s something the NWO did a lot in their heyday. I bought it not only because of how both women sold it, but all the other stuff happening with Toxic Attraction at the moment.
Playing into that behind the scenes drama and using it as subtext for a breakup, along with the desire for NXT gold just makes sense. Even if I didn’t bite, I still think it’s a smart play. Especially because it puts the champ in true jeopardy.
My only hope is that there’s not another turn and we find ourselves wondering whether Gigi & Jacy can coexist during the championship match. I don’t see Roxanne losing but I’m very curious how she overcomes the former tag team champs who, for now, are reading from the same sheet music.
If you were on the internet Monday, January 24, you saw the video Grayson Waller and a bunch of other NXT wrestlers posted of the skirmish between Grayson and Bron Breakker. We got the follow up on this episode in the form of a pull-apart brawl. Grayson hit the ring with his replica NXT belt, complete with velcro, while an enraged Bron stood in his locker room watching on a monitor. Yeah, well, that wasn’t going to last long.
Bron made his way to the ring followed by a sea of NXT wrestlers and officials. They tried getting between Bron and Grayson, emphasis on tried. It worked for a while but there’s only but so much holding back of Bron one can do before he turns into the Hulk. And then...well, words won’t do it justice so just watch the video.
Yeah, that happened. A very cool moment that solidified Grayson firmly in Bron’s head and makes him formidable as a result. I really hope this cage match chooses violence at Vengeance Day.
Last week, I guessed Isla Dawn might come to Alba Fyre’s side in her match against Kayden Carter & Katana Chance. A commenter said Dewdrop, another good guess. I was kinda right, but we’ll get to that. When Alba needed a partner, Sol Ruca answered the bell. Literally.
Alba, of course, reluctantly accepted. She really wanted this match to herself and it showed in the early going. No willing tags on her part, and a scowl on her face. But Sol proved herself to Alba through her agility and moveset. If anyone can run the fast break offense with Chance & Carter, it’s Ruca.
But the match changed once Carter came in with a hot tag towards the end. That’s when Carter & Chance hit Alba with one of their patented double teams from the top rope as Carter hung Alba out to dry on the ropes while Chance followed with a double stomp to her back. After surviving a pin count. Alba finally gave her partner a willing tag. Sol came in hot while Katana tossed Alba to floor, puts her in a headscissors, and Alba crashes into the steps. Sol checks on her partner, and, sadly, takes her eyes off the prize.
Sol then found herself on the wrong end of a neckbreaker 450 splash combo, and that was all she wrote for this one.
Alba walked away pissed with a cold stare for her partner. And who should appear but Isla Dawn, who seemingly walked out with Alba Fyre.
I enjoyed this match and still want to know what’s happening with Alba and Isla. Sol is getting better but still needs to fill out that moveset, which I believe she will in time.
Banana in the Tailpipe
What I liked most about Tiffany Stratton v. Indi Hartwell, besides Tiffany’s moonsault finisher, was Indi attacking Tiffany before the bell rang. Indi’s newfound attitude, combined with her dislike for Ms. Stratton’s entitled behavior, made attacking early the smart move narratively. I like the chemistry between these two, and Stratton looked better than she did the last time we saw her in the ring.
Stratton faked a knee injury, which got Indi off of her. While the ref checked on Tiffany, a trainer rushed out of the locker room. But it turns out the whole thing was a hustle. Tiffany’s knee magically healed and she took advantage of Indi’s mercy. Indi took a forearm to the face, got hoisted on Tiffany’s shoulders for a Finlay roll, and took a beautiful moonsault from the top rope that showcased Tiffany’s gymnast background.
I’m still not sure what the plan for Indi is in NXT. She changed her attitude but the success isn’t coming. They clearly have bigger plans for Stratton so maybe this is just a case of two people going in very different directions. That said, this was a solid match that, based on the ending, possibly sets up a rematch down the line.
JD McDonagh, clearly no fan of Gen Z, doesn’t like participation awards. McDonagh isn't high on my list (as a persona) but I’m with him here. JD crashed Thea Hail’s celebration ceremony celebrating her lone NXT victory. JD talked trash about Thea, Chase U students, and Andre Chase. You know Andre Chase, so you know he wasn’t having any of that. He stays ready so he never has to get ready.
I want to focus on the match’s third act. JD went for the Devil Inside not once but twice. And both times, Andre countered. Once with a knee lift and then with a beautiful Destroyer, But Chase didn’t get the W off the Destroyer as he pinned McDonagh too close to the ropes. Chase, down but not out, went to the top rope but lost sight of his opponent. JD backed into the ropes, Chase lost his balance, and JD’s third attempt at the Devil Inside proved successful. JD takes a trip to the pay window.
BUT, the story here is Duke Hudson. When JD interrupted the ceremony earlier, he talked about Chase U’s lack of success while expressing that he knew Duke felt him on that one. So when Chase lost his balance and the end was near, Duke walked out. This was a nice follow-up on the words NXT Anonymous caught him saying about Andre Chase. It looked shady but later, Duke said he only left because he wanted a talk with Shawn Michaels. Duke demanded Chase U get a spot in the Fatal 4-Way match. Shawn told him to talk to the New Day. After the New Day expressed their pleasant feelings for Chase U, they granted Duke his wish.
Duke lives to fight another day but this implosion is coming. Right? Right??!
As is the pattern with NXT, the Fallon Henley & Kiana James vs. Ivy Nile & Tatum Paxley tag match wasn’t a long one. But it also didn’t need to be because the intrigue lied in whether or not Kiana and Ivy would get along. They got off to a rough start with some initial friction on who starts the match, and then exchanged some extra physical tags. But when Ivy put Fallon in her submission lock, Kiana pulled Ivy’s hair to break the hold. That same Kiana tripped Ivy up when the latter ran the ropes, and then took Tatum out of commission, which left Fallon with an advantage against Ivy and ensured her team picked up the W.
This interests me if only to see whether or not Kiana is keeping it a buck or if she’s faking the funk. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop but what if there is no shoe? Maybe at Vengeance Day when they take on the tag champs for a shot at the titles. Hmmmmm.
The match itself won’t make anyone’s best of list but the soap opera is juicy. And props to NXT for going the opposite direction here because Ivy & Tatum looked like a team on different pages while Kiana & Fallon looked like an oiled-machine. Not well-oiled but just enough to get from point A to the gas station.
Gulak vs. the World
Leave it to Drew Gulak to find himself and Hank Walker in a tag match against the Creed Bros. all because he got way too physical in a fun sparring session. The tragedy is he left his partner out to dry in a fight that he picked.
This match got a bit messy at times in terms of pacing towards the end, but seeing Julius hit a standing Shooting Star Press, then seeing Brutus follow it with a standing moonsault was fantastic. I will give the match props though for making me think the Creeds might lose. More importantly, that the L would come at Hank’s hands. Hank hit a nice transition from a Wheelbarrow into a cross armbar submission. It was a very pretty moment from the man called Hank. That was about the moment his partner checked out because Charlie Dempsey showed up.
Gulak jawed with Dempsey while also “coaching” Hank. Obviously, Hank was no match for the former tag team champs by himself, so his team took the L. A frustrated Gulak berated Hank after the match but c’mon, bruv. That’s on you. When does Hank get the message and dump Gulak? When do Gulak and Dempsey finally lock up in the ring?
No answers to those questions but we do finally know when we’re getting the Creeds vs. Indus Sheer: next week. The Creeds thanked Ivy for putting up with their crap and getting them back to normal. Indus Sheer & Jinder Mahal walked out and issued the challenge, which Ivy accepted on behalf of her boys.
Still Cheating and Trying
Elektra Lopez wanted Valentina Feroz ringside for this one. After Feroz refused to cheat last week, Elektra decided more teaching was the answer. And that’s exactly what she did during her match with Wendy Choo. The match started pretty evenly but eventually, Wendy took control. Oh, and shoutout to Booker T and Vic Joseph for dodging Wendy’s pillow after Elektra launched it towards the commentary table.
But I digress. Once Wendy got a slight advantage, Elektra went for the brass knux in her trunks. Valentina tried getting the ref’s attention to snitch but she actually helped Elektra because the distracted ref missed Ms. Lopez deck Wendy.
Elektra gets the W and told Valentina that it doesn’t matter how you win, just that you win. Valentina wants friends but Elektra wants to win.
Stevie Turner makes her NXT debut next week! This was a weird segment where McKenzie thought she was conducting an interview with Stevie...only Stevie was in her studio. Rathe then let McKenzie ask questions, Stevie let “fans” submit questions and she answered those.
A segment like this is weird but McKenzie’s so good at her job that she sold the whole thing beautifully.
4s a Crowd
The NXT tag team championship match at Vengeance Day is now a Fatal 4-Way between Gallus, Pretty Deadly, the New Day, and Andre Chase & Duke Hudson!
What of Nikkita
Nikkita Lyons and that damn knee. Someone assaulted Lyons in that dangerous parking lot and it looks like she might be headed back to the injured list.
Mean Girl is Not Going Shopping
Cora Jade is sick of Lyra Valkyria. Lyra stuck a feather in Cora’s locker, which isn’t the same as sticking it in her cap. I assume that’s a bad thing because these two are fighting next week.
Who’s the Boss?
Tony D’Angelo and Stacks hit a Florida Italian restaurant and talked business. Tony has something, or someone, in mind for Stacks’ first task as an underboss.
The Questionable ‘80s Flick Continues...
Wes Lee met Dijak in the D man’s undisclosed, smoke-filled location. Funny how whenever we show this Dijak universe, the DIU, as it were, we get the grainy CRT filter.
Wes is ready for the Vengeance Day challenge and Dijak is ready with corny one-liners.
Still Wonder Why He Needs a Haircut
Last but not least, Apollo Crews went to Carmelo Hayes’ barbershop, purely to mess with Melo. Seriously, as Trick pointed out last week, Apollo is bald. He doesn’t need a cut. Beard trim? Sure. But a cut? No, sir. Anyway, Melo and Trick showed up and things didn’t get violent. That set is only but so big so they really had no choice. After some verbal sparring (Melo said he’s the better and younger version of Apollo, Apollo said he might be the past but the past predicts the future) they agreed to a best two out of three falls match at Vengeance Day. Not trying to gas it or anything, but this might be the match of the show.
Much like last week (and most weeks) they packed a lot into two hours. One thing I’ll always give NXT is that the show never sits still. It reminds me of Attitude Era wrestling in terms of pacing, which sometimes works in its favor and sometimes doesn’t. We got a lot of set up for Vengeance Day and next week’s show, with some solid wrestling in between all of that and an entertaining closing segment.
That’s my grade and I’m sticking to it. Your turn.