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NXT recap & reactions (Nov. 21, 2023): Lyra overcomes the odds

A surprise Iron Survivor challenger, Lexis King strikes, and Xia Li goes for broke on this week’s NXT.

Can I Kick It?

Xia Li lost clean on the most recent Monday Night Raw. Grant it, that loss came from Becky Lynch and she really held her own, but it’s still a loss headed into a championship match. They put some heat back on Xia, and some suspense for the match, when she attacked Lyra Valkyria early during the proceedings. As Lyra walked to the ring for their match, Xia struck with a roundhouse kick. I figured that meant pushing the match back to Deadline, but apparently someone said “nah” to that. Lyra refused to wait, despite her wooziness and possible head trauma.

The Women’s NXT championship match went from a very early match to the main event. Which, in retrospect, was its proper placement the whole time.

I loved how they started the match. Boos serenaded Xia as she walked to the ring. Lyra walked in hearing nothing but adulation but she ran to the ring with purpose. She handed her belt to the ref while her music still played and begged him to ring the bell. She wanted Xia immediately and as soon as the bell rang, she attacked.

That’s how you start a match when one person has utter disdain for the other. Lyra almost got DQ’d choking Xia! The match started hot and kept that momentum going throughout. Xia continued what she started on Raw. She looked great and Lyra sold her head injuries really well. Once Lyra’s adrenaline wore off, Xia took control. And that made sense because Lyra got kicked upside her head and barely knew where she was.

They gave Xia more than enough offense and let her control the match while Lyra found her bearings. Xia went for big strikes and a lot of blows to the head, then added a sleeper for good measure. Just logical booking for a match like this.

That said, the night still belonged to the champ. This wasn’t a story about Xia taking advantage of her weakened opponent. Xia overcame the odds and showed her guts with this win.

This wasn’t the longest match but I really dug everything they did. A match you’ll read about later in this recap provided more flash but the storytelling here put this one over the top for me. Not the greatest match by any means but just professional wrestling 101. Sometimes the basics go a long way with me.


B-Sides

Dance Now

As I predicted, Chad Gable and Noam Dar wrestled my favorite Heritage Cup match. The added drama with Alpa Academy and Meta-Four ringside helped buttress all the action in the ring.

I liked the sudden death aspect although I’m sure I’m not the only one who saw that ending coming. Chad locked Noam in an ankle lock in the sixth and final round with the score tied 1-1. Now, before we even get there, know that Meta-Four helped Noam get his point thanks to their usual cheating shenanigans. That alone said that while Noam is tough, he needs help defeating Chad and even then, maybe that’s not enough.

While Noam screamed in agony as the clock counted down, Chad really pulled on that ankle and kept Noam in the center of the ring. The bell rang and Noam tapped after the clock hit zero.

I thought we might get a controversial finish here where Noam taps as soon as the clock hit 0 and maybe that was the thought. We didn’t get that but we got a few interesting things:

First, we’re probably getting a rematch because I can see Alpha Academy messing with Noam’s ego about this.

B, Alpha Academy vs. Meta-Four is potentially a really fun beef.

And lastly, Otis still has a thing for Lash and I’m still not mad at him.

Gold

I said taking the tag belts off Chase U actually helps everyone else since they have their own internal drama. We got a taste of that this week with Edris Enofe & Malik Blade vs. Angel Garza & Humberto Carrillo. And by taste I mean a tag match between teams clearly with their sights on the title and no larger drama overshadowing the championships or the chase. And it highlights more teams like these two.

A fine match that ended as soon as it started. Edris & Malik can’t really get anything going from a win standpoint, but they’re solid in the ring. That said, the right team won here. There’s an interesting redemption story with Angel & Humberto. Recommitting themselves to the game and doing it for their family history is compelling. In the end, they have a story while their opponents don’t. That makes picking the winner rather easy. Angel & Humberto made their intentions clear: they want the gold.

And right on cue later in the episode, they attacked Tony D’Angelo & Stacks after the champs ate dinner with their people. Angel & Humberto look dangerous and focused while The Family ate food and sipped wine all night. That’s a great contrast and the beatdown only underlines they’re hungry while the champs are taking things a bit easy.

Mighty Healthy

JBL picked Carmelo Hayes and Josh Briggs for his Iron Survivor Challenge qualifying match. Melo for obvious reasons and Josh because the big man reminds JBL of himself. I get it.

We rarely get Josh solo but he and Melo put on a really dope match. It boiled down to Josh taking it to another level and Melo not taking him lightly. And maybe 2021 or 2022 Melo puts this one in cruise control and they tell that story. But I liked what we got. Melo fought from underneath but never felt like the underdog. Why? Because Josh is a powerhouse and is incredibly agile for a big man. They weren’t completely smooth together, possibly because of the height difference between the two. But what worked really worked. Especially just showcasing Josh’s power. The standout moment came when the two battled outside the ring and Josh bounced Melo off the ropes, then clotheslined him when he boomeranged back into Josh’s arms.

Seriously, one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.

Funny enough, that reflected the ending in a way, with one big kingly wrinkle. Lexis King poked his nose in Melo’s business and distracted him just long enough for Josh to get the win with a powerful clothesline and a pretty moonsault that shocked the hell out of me.

I ranted about Lexis and all this jazz last week, so I won’t belabor the point. I don’t even want to guess where this is going because I’m still confused.

Josh qualified for the Iron Survivor Challenge and it’s looking like a match filled with big men right now. Josh, Dijak, and Trick Williams. A very different flavor than the last time NXT did this and I’m very intrigued by the possibilities.

Big Diamonds

Everything I just said about the size in the men’s match? The same goes for the women’s match. Lash Legend, Tiffany Stratton (not tall but a powerhouse in her own right), and now Blair Davenport.

Blair battled Thea Hail for this spot. Thea, notably distracted with the Chase U drama and Andre Chase’s absence, seemed a step slow.And I don’t say that as a criticism. I thought Andre wrestling distracted added something to the tag match against The Family and I think it worked here too. Thea’s always an offensive burst followed by defending herself or going for submissions, and that played well here given the circumstances.

When Thea got her chance at stringing together offense, she caught the Chase U student section sitting on their butts instead of standing on their feet. That threw her off her game and Blair took advantage for the W.

Props to NXT for elevating talent for this year’s Iron Survivor Challenge rather than sticking with the established cats. That makes for unpredictable finishes and new matchups.

Nutmeg

Dirty Dom interrupted Wes Lee’s promo this week but only because Wes mentioned his name. We all knew why Wes hit the ring so props to NXT for speeding up the process and not making us wait for the inevitable. Dom made his terms clear: Wes gets his rematch for the North American championship if he defeats three former champs in a Fatal 4 Way next week.

The champs? Cameron Grimes, Bronson Reed, and Johnny Gargano.

That sounds like an incredible match with very high stakes for one man. I do wonder what’s in it for the other three though. Facing three heels in this situation makes more sense. Especially if they had skin in the game. But there are only but so many North American champions so they gotta deal with the cards dealt.


NXT is...adequate this week. No huge announcements during the show or any earth-shattering moments or happenings. Just a solid wrestling show with a few things that didn’t work (everything with Von Wagner and Stone’s house), more questions about Lexis King, and a well-done main event.

What say you, Cagesiders?

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