I thought about just writing an expletive for this section. And I don’t think anyone who saw Carmelo Hayes vs. Ilja Dragunov would begrudge me that honor. Yes, Ilja and Melo amazed and astounded. They topped their Great American Bash match by several leaps and bounds. But I thought of a few scribbles that convey why this match worked for me.
I wondered if this was Melo’s story or Ilja’s. Now, in every match, at least if done well, the winner and loser have a story to tell. Sometimes it’s about the heel achieving their goal while the face sees another mountain in front of them. This match, however, set the stakes early: It’s either about Melo regaining his confidence or Ilja finishing his business. When the match started, it looked like the former. Ilja came out the gate hotter than me my freshman college year when I realized someone gave me a 6 A.M. speech class. Yes, they scheduled classes that early. And speech no less. Who musters energy to talk that much that early, much less give a whole speech?
But I digress. Melo looked lost and out of sorts. Ilja coming the that hard and staying on top of him only kept that confidence down. They told a nice story early with Melo getting dragged down and rebuilding himself over time. Booker T said something insightful: Melo’s technique and skill won’t help all the time; eventually, you have to fight. Ilja fought Melo and although it took a while, Melo eventually fought back.
That’s when everything changed and even the match perspective changed. Rather than focusing on Melo getting his groove back, it transitioned to Ilja’s perseverance. Both men dished out their best, with Ilja dropping two H-Bombs, including one from on high. But Melo kept coming.
Then it happened. the thing that Ilja asked during the contract signing: What happens to Melo when he shoots but misses?
Melo went for the Nothin’ But Net. And he missed. Ilja surprised Melo with a clothesline counter. Ilja went to the top rope and hit another H-Bomb from up top, and got the W.
I didn’t see the titles changing hands right now and I can’t say I’m for it right now. Obviously, that depends on the future, but in the moment, this match rocked. Just an incredible showing from both men. Ordinarily, this means Melo moves to the main roster but there’s obviously business here with Trick Melo Gang, and an eventual rematch with Ilja. Do those two things intertwine? Me think so.
Watch the match. Watch it now and watch it repeatedly.
I saw barbed wire bats. I saw broken Barbie dolls. I saw chains. And a fire extinguisher. Oh, and tons of chairs. Like, a lot of chairs.
Becky Lynch vs. Tiffany Stratton Part Deux had it all. Fun, violent match with big spots and showed, once again, that Tiffany can hang with the big dogs. Becky won—duh—and set her eyes on Tegan Nox sitting ringside but clap for Tiffany here.
I loved the way this match started. Baron Corbin and Bron Breakker brawled so much on the recent NXT episode that they tore the house down. Literally. It makes complete sense that two men who fought that hard continued that fight the minute they locked eyes. It seemingly took 10 minutes before they got in the ring and the bell actually went ding.
Even from that point, the war continued. If the higher ups at WWE want more proof Bron is ready for the main roster, this hopefully provides them everything they need. Less about holds and moves and more about just providing a believable fight with one of WWE’s veteran hands.
I like the finish too. Mostly because I didn’t see it coming. And when it happened, it felt so obvious. Bron looked ready for another W but Mr. Stone showed up out of nowhere. Stone leapt off the top rope, fully aware what might happen, and sacrificed his body for a bigger purpose. Bron caught him, because of course, and launched him outside the ring. That momentary distraction gave Baron the opening for an End of Days and a big victory.
The finish gives Bron an out, Baron gets the win—Vic Joseph using the burn the boats metaphor and calling Bron the biggest boat Baron’s burnt sounded weird—and we set up a grudge match between Von Wagner and Bron. While I’m not particularly interested in that, I recognize the Performance Center crowd will go insane for Von when he returns.
I fell for it. I bought Tony D’Angelo’s injury and really worried about the guy. Stacks played the victim for a while as Out the Mud & Los Lotharios smartly took advantage. But then Tony came back with the Steve Austin knee brace. They really got me. And it worked because of Tony’s real past with leg injuries. The match went to another level when Tony returned, as the Family and the Creeds teed off on the bad guys.
Despite taking the pin, Out the Mud looked good. Not quite as good as their opponents, but they showed promise. I didn’t expect Lucien Price to take the pin since they’re so new. But perhaps that newness makes the loss easily forgettable.
I don’t know if Fatal 4 Way, which provided several chaotic moments, needed the extra story there with Tony’s injury. I didn’t dislike it, obviously, but I don’t know that it added anything to a match that practically sells itself.
Trick Williams is your new North American champion. I really don’t need to say anything more than that. I will, but I don’t need to. Several ref spots, which seem reasonable given Dom Mysterio and Dragon Lee’s beef. Dom accidentally superkicked Dragon. And yes, it was an accident. Then Dom took out the replacement ref too! That one looked purposeful. Dom truly wanted either a DQ or planned on stretching the match out enough where Trick showed frustration and lost focus. The irony is that Dom’s shenanigans precipitated his downfall. With the ref out of the way, Dom grabbed his belt and went for Trick. But Trick’s knee collided with that belt and Dom’s face. 1-2-3.
But eventually, Trick got the W. Not a five-star match by any means but a solid affair that took care of a lot of business. Dom and Dragon are set for another battle in their war, while Trick gets his first title. That means more matches for Trick Willy, and that’s a good thing.
Unsurprisingly, Butch and Noam Dar not only put on a dope match but went the distance. We got the full six rounds here with Noam getting the win 2-1. But that’s not the story.
As the clock counted down in round six, Gallus interfered. They took out Butch’s insurance policy in Tyler Bate, then Joe Coffey finished off Butch and helped Noam get the W.
Gallus vs. the Brawlin’ Brutes sometime soon? Yes please.
The vignettes alone make it all worth it.
I predicted Gigi Dolin interfering in Kelani Jordan vs. Blair Davenport. That part I got right. But I expected that interference during the match, not after.
Kelani got a good showing. They gave her enough offense and helped her not look overrun, but exhibited her inexperience against someone like Blair. It’s a good showcase before the Women’s Breakout tourney, which probably bodes well for Kelani’s immediate future.
Gigi, however, clearly has Blair on her mind. We finally get their match on the next NXT episode!
Very fun night with solid and fun matches, with the best coming towards the end. We got a show with something for everyone that advanced stories and set up others. But those last two matches really put everything on a different level. They clearly showed why both matches earned those spots.
What say you Cagesiders?