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NXT recap & reactions (Jan. 31, 2023): The calm before the vengeance

Vengeance Day go home show packs a heel turn, friendly competition, and meaty men slapping.

Whew, it’s been quite the few days in the world of professional sports entertainment wrestling. This is the last NXT before Vengeance Day, so things get serious before the territory invades Charlotte, North Carolina.

Claire has you covered with all the details fit to print, while I analyze, decipher, and deconstruct.

Let’s talk NXT!

College Try

The Chase U story fascinates me. I know I’m not the only one waiting for the other sneaker to drop when it comes to Duke Hudson. And for the past couple weeks, it looked like that finally happened. NXT Anonymous caught Duke on camera saying things hurtful behind Andre Chase’s back.

JD McDonagh took pity on Duke for playing on a losing team. And then Duke walked out on Andre during a tag match! But it turned out Duke requested a tag team championship match for he and Chase. The New Day granted that request under the condition that Chase U defeats two other teams on the NXT before Vengeance Day. Surely, the sneaker drops here, right?

In another twist, at least for me, the answer is no! Chase U took on The Dyad, and Malik Blade and Edris Enofe in a very fun and chaotic triple threat tag match. The Dyad, the only true heels, often looked like the more well-oiled machine because that gives the babyface a pretty big obstacle.

Earlier in the match, Andre Chase found himself all alone against The Dyad with no one to tag because Joe Gacy’s boys took out everyone. But even then, Hudson looked like getting back on the apron was the last thing on his mind. Which looked extra shady. And maybe that moment comes back to haunt Chase at Vengeance Day, but it seemed irrelevant on this episode because of everything that followed.

Edris & Malik, who keep getting better, got busy and took out The Dyad with high risk maneuvers, tandem offense, and sheer power. The more The Dyad looked out of sorts, Chase U gained strength. I say that literally because Andre Chase summoned Hercules’ strength for a double powerbomb off the top rope that sent The Dyad and Enofe tumbling down in the middle of the ring.

After Andre fired up the Chase U section with a little call and response beatdown, the end started looking clear but I wasn’t sold. But I knew Chase U had it in the bag the minute Ava Raine got involved and Thea Hail said “nah.” Thea is dynamite in a bottle and it’s a big deal that someone finally stepped up to Ava.

Duke and Andre took over from that point, hitting the Fratenizer tandem move, and getting their date with destiny at Vengeance Day. The fact that their tandem moment came at the end of the match and when it mattered most tells the story of their partnership. I still don’t trust Duke. I think this whole thing blows up and these two go one-on-one at Stand & Deliver, but I hope I’m wrong.

Not because I’m enamored with the story, but because I like when any story plays against expectations and subverts. Maybe Duke really is down for the cause and the team. Maybe this is a meta thing about not excepting change or allowing growth from people we already pegged as villains. All of that would be cool.

That said, Chase U becoming NXT tag champs feels right.


Big Strong Wow

Ever so often, we get matches that defy words. I know I can't do them justice so I tell you to watch the match. Axiom vs. Tyler Bate is one of those matches. Stop what you’re doing now and watch it. Two evenly matched cats with different styles and a ton of respect between them. They wrestled in the name of friendly competition, much to Damon Kemp’s chagrin.

And...nope, I’m not doing it. Just watch the match and the clip provided above these words.

Meaty Men Slapping...

Cue the Big E gif. The Creed Bros. squared off against Indus Sher...finally. And it didn’t disappoint for the most part, but I wanted more time. As much build up towards this match, and as big as the men are, this really needs a big stage. Luckily for us (or just me) the ending sets up a future encounter.

The Creeds played the speed game while Veer Mahaan & Sanga slowed everything down. They went high impact but very methodical and often cut the ring in half, isolating Julius Creed from Brutus Creed as Julius took most of the minutes. The highlight? Julius powerbombing Veer. It was truly a sight and if you see nothing else from this match, make sure you see that.

Jinder got involved, Ivy Nile got in his face right on the ring apron but apparently at the wrong time. Julius collided into Ivy after Sanga reversed his Irish whip. Julius sat stunned after realizing he hurt Ivy and Brutus immediately rushed to her side. That left his brother all alone in the ring and Indus Sheer got the win thanks to a lariat followed by a mean choke slam.

What of Indi?

Indi Hartwell wrestled Zoey Stark this week and you know what? I have no idea what they’re doing with Indi. Every time it looks like she might get a push and go on a roll, they yank her back to earth. Zoey dominated this match. Sure, Indi got some stuff in and it wasn’t a squash, but it’s hard coming away from this match with any impression other than Indi isn’t on Zoey’s level, at least in kayfabe. Sol Ruca made the save after Zoey went agro on Indi post match, which furthers a beef between these two. Also seems like Sol is taking Indi’s spot in the NXT pecking order.

Welcome to the Darkside

Isla Dawn and alba Fyre completed a spooky ritual together, completing her heel turn. I like both of them separately so I’m very curious how this story plays out with them on the same team. And, of course, how they manage the eventual breakup.

Live and in Living Color

Two things standout about the interview between Roxanne Perez and Toxic Attraction. First, Gigi broke ranks and let the cat out the bag when she said “I” instead of “we” as it relates to becoming NXT Women’s champ. And two, I like when Roxanne realized talking over Toxic Attraction wasn’t happening. So, rather than going toe to toe with two people verbally, she let her fists talk for her. It’s indicative of the match itself.

While Gigi and Jacy are busy congratulating themselves or competing with each other, she just wants a fight. The moment made her look strong, dominant, and smart. She emotionally manipulated Gigi and Jacy into thinking they stumped her and hurt her feelings. Then she attacked when they least expected it.

Stevie’s Here!

Stevie Turner made her NXT debut against Dani Palmer. And she looked good dominating with a mean pump kick, a pretty DDT, and a Side Effect finisher that looked very powerful. Stevie’s persona doesn’t completely work for me, but she’s not boring and I like what I saw in the ring. Let’s keep it going.


Apollo Crews stood on a Charlotte rooftop taking about his visions. One thing raised my eyebrow. Crews said if Trick Williams gets involved, he’ll get handled. And then someone appeared in shadow just long enough to get my attention and my curiosity. Crews snapped out of it as if he saw a ghost. So yeah, seems like there’s a surprise coming at Vengeance Day.

If any cagesider knows who that is or has a great guess, please drop it in the comments.

Drew’s Shortcuts

Charlie Dempsey and Drew Gulak put on a wrestling match. Which makes sense given the way both men present themselves. We got headlocks, takedowns, submission holds, sleepers, and just a lot of mat wrestling. It wasn’t all that way; Gulak hit Dempsey with a pump kick as the match wound down, but then found himself right back in a Chicken Wing.

With Hank Walker cheering on his teacher while standing a little too close to the ring, Gulak used Dempsey’s own momentum, lunged Dempsey off his back, and right into Hank’s head. That provided Drew the opening he needed for a schoolboy pin and win.

I really liked the match but didn’t like the finish. I get that it continues the story of Drew being an awful teacher and this toxic relationship with Hank, but the match’s quality deserved a more meaningful ending and a less cheap one.

Justice Served?

I throw in the question mark because a match between Dijak and Von Wagner feels like my kryptonite. I’m just not into these two, although I understand why Dijak needs a match before his North American championship match. No argument here at all. I’m not sure if wrestling Von Wagner is the wya to do it. It is, however, a good excuse for a hoss fight. But this wasn’t even a great hoss fight! Dijak got the win while Wes Lee sat at the commentary table, but I just didn’t care. There’s something that doesn’t connect with me about these big men. However, I do like the fact Wes instigated this match and played both men like fiddles. It shows his smarts, adaptability, and resourcefulness. Wes tried selling Dijak as this huge threat prior to this impromptu match but I just don’t buy it. The presentation doesn’t relay that info to me, meaning it’s a lot of telling and not showing.

Sounds like NXT is on the same wavelength when it comes to Von Wagner’s character. Later in the episode, Robert Stone asked the million dollar question: Who is Von Wagner? He’s big, he growls, but that’s all he knows about the guy and it’s all anyone knows. Stone wants to know who Wagner is and that’s the only way he can make it to the next level. If we don’t know who he is, we don’t care and right now, Stone doesn’t even care.

Stone followed all of that with Jerry Maguire’s famous words: help me help you.

THANK YOU! Geez, that’s the one complaint I have about the guy. He’s dull as dishwater and I know nothing about him therefore nothing he does in the ring matters.

Who Hurt Ms. Lyons?

McKenzie Mitchell gave an update on Nikkita Lyons and then provided a thorough crime scene examination. Someone took Nikkita out on the NXT’s last episode. And almost every woman in the locker room is a suspect or at least an eyewitness. I like whodunit mysteries and it gives the entire locker room something to do. Zoey is the obvious suspect but I hope for a bigger reveal than that.

Very few things truly excited me about this show. I didn’t find much to complain about either, but nothing really floored me. Maybe it’s also just the penalty of expectations because the last couple days spoiled us as wrestling fans. Especially Saturday.

I am a lot more intrigued about the tag team championship match now than I was a week ago, so that’s a plus.

Grade: B

That’s my grade and I’m sticking to it. Your turn.

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