Mutual Admiration Society
Bron Breakker can’t go toe to toe with Carmelo Hayes on the microphone.
The two finally signed their contract for the Stand & Deliver main event and verbally jousted for a bit. Bron got in some good digs about Melo making the North American championship the A championship in his mind because he knew he wasn’t ready for the NXT championship, but he stumbled through parts and didn’t sound as convincing as his opponent.
For my latest Raw recap, I noted that Cody Rhodes’ superpower is his sincerity. The audience believes him because he believes it and his conviction emanates from his pores. Bron doesn’t have that skill yet and they rarely use him in this fashion. Yes, he has mic skills and does his fair share of mic work, but he rarely goes back and forth with someone in this setting. And definitely not someone as polished as Melo in terms of understanding his character and believing every sentence.
I trace that back to his prior feuds not prepping him for this moment from a character standpoint or truly pushing his limits as a wrestler. Bron talks with his fists and feet, and he does it fluently I might add. Putting him in a showdown with Melo in front of a crowd that might not love him as much as they used to doesn’t sound like putting talent in a position to win. Accentuate his strengths rather than making him look inferior to his opponent.
That said, the mutual admiration society of which Melo and Bron belong works because the obvious tension. Not saying they really dislike each other because I don’t believe that at all, but like Austin and Rock back in the day, they clearly see each other as competition and that makes their moments together pop. I’m normally against a feud where the two opponents talk about how much they respect each other and throw in side jabs, but they made it work this week.
But my thoughts still go to Los Angeles on April 1. I’m not sure if that crowd gives Bron the flowers and applauds. Even this week, a pretty loud “save us, Melo” chant broke out the more Bron spoke. Whenever Bron goes to the main roster, whether it’s April 3 or months later, WWE needs to make him more well-rounded.
One trick ponies normally become glue when they show up on Raw or SmackDown without much character or anything compelling about them. After 18 months, the NXT crowd seems a little bored but those Raw and SmackDown crowds, especially the after Mania crowd on April 3? In less than 5 minutes Bron might be bbq chicken in their eyes.
Both Melo and Bron are ready for the main roster but one of them is just a tad more ready than the other. And in this game, that counts for a lot.
Johnny Gargano set off the show talking directly to Grayson Waller. Waller, as it turns out, had other plans.
Vic Joseph interrupted Mr. Wrestling with news that Grayson was at Johnny’s home. Because of course Grayson live-streamed it. It takes a very vain man to livestream his potential felony, but that’s a great character touch for Waller.
Johnny bolted from the arena and headed home where his wife and child waited in blissful ignorance. Once he finally showed up, he and Grayson got into a very brutal fight outside Johnny’s “main roster” money house. The video speaks for itself but I liked seeing Waller’s vicious side. Johnny excels at vulnerability and Grayson excels at jerkdom. Mix the two together and
baby, you got yourself a stew you get a little magic.
This is my favorite Pretty Deadly match since they showed up in NXT proper. They showcased their physicality and hung with Gallus every step of the way. That’s an important development for them as it takes them beyond pretty boys and shows an adaptability to any style.
That said, the irony in the story is they loss the match thanks to reverting to their old ways. Even once they gained an advantage! But cheating is in their blood and they paid the price. Gallus barely held on as the face team in jeopardy.
Gold stars all around with a dope opening tag match that showed how versatile both teams are. After losing, Pretty Deadly decreed themselves the hosts for Stand & Deliver. I’ll allow it.
As for Gallus? Tony D’Angelo & Stacks, in another touching moment, set their sights on the NXT Tag Team championships. Tony D believes Stacks needs gold after all his hard work and sacrifice to the family. I love these two.
First to the Ladder
We’ll get into the Roxanne Perez angle later since I have several thoughts, but the long and short is she’s out of commission after passing out last week. As a result, we get several qualifying matches where the winners face each other in a ladder match at Stand & Deliver.
Zoey Stark crosses the threshold first after besting Sol Ruca. Solid match where Sol showed improvement against a seasoned pro. Hear me out, but I actually think Zoey winning is the wrong move here. Yes, she’s more polished than Sol and adds a particular presence, but we miss seeing Sol in a ladder match. I think that’s a missed opportunity. I liked the match but disagree with the decision.
Diamonds Aren’t Forever
Tatum Paxley finally erupted. For weeks, Paxley felt like Ivy Nile’s unnecessary appendage. Even last week, Ivy celebrated the the Creed Bros.’ win without Tatum in tow. That said, the storytelling felt haphazard. We needed some key beats to get to this point, like Tatum asking to join Diamond Mine and showing us the aftermath. Or perhaps show us what happens if Tatum tries joining in the afterparty reindeer games.
That said, Tatum ditching Ivy during their triple threat tag match against Kayden Carter & Katana Chance and Isla Dawn & Alba Fyre still shocked my system. And they made the turn mean something since Tatum pummeled Ivy, threw her back in the ring, and changed the match’s direction. Tatum practically fed her former parter to the wolves and as a result, Alba & Isla are now number one contenders for the NXT Women’s tag team championships.
The road getting here felt sloppy but the end results felt meaningful. Plus we got a fun match out of it with chaotic triple threat action.
Batman x Joker
First off, and I know I said this before, but whoever changed Ilya Dragunov’s theme music is a war criminal. Straight up and down, they belong in the hague.
With that out of my system, let’s get to what transpired between Dragunov and JD McDonagh. Both men got on microphones and told their respective versions of this years long dance towards and around each other. JD quoted the Joker saying he believes they’re destined to do this forever. Dragunov forcefully disagreed of course because much like Edge when dealing with Judgment Day, he’s tired. JD also said like a scalpel to the eye, it's hard to watch.
They can’t all be winners.
The talking stopped and they brawled like two men sick and tired of each other. That brawling went into the locker room and persisted despite officials breaking them up....
It even spilled into the Wes Lee’s open challenge! JD went for Lee with gold on his mind only for Dragunov to tell him “nah” and the punches continued.
Of course, they represented just one facet of a major brawl for a chance at Wes. And, sadly for the challengers, the match never happened because no one got a chance to enter the ring. Well, cleanly anyway.
Axiom almost got there but...SCRYPTS interrupted. Yes, Scrypts. After weeks away, the masked Reggie is back with his sights set squarely on Axiom.
NXT Anonymous coincidentally caught Wes chatting with Shawn Michaels backstage. Shawn loves Wes but hates the chaos brought about from the open challenges. Wes wants all the smoke because he still has this chip on his shoulder and need to prove himself. Shawn disagrees with all of that but Wes says Shawn of all people know what it’s like to win and only feel more pressure to compete.
It’s an interesting angle for Wes and also foreshadowing his possible downfall. He wanted 10 opponents at Stand & Deliver which...yeah, no, not happening. Instead, Shawn negotiated a Fatal Five Way and Wes picks the five.
I can’t wait for this but also I’m so invested in Wes’ story now.
Second to the Ladder
Gigi Dolin defeated Kiana James and punched her ticket to Stand & Deliver. They only got about six minutes but Gigi continues her hot streak. I actually expected a Jacy Jayne interference since they interviewed her earlier. Yes, she had an arm in a sling and said she’s taking time off as a result of a separated shoulder, but I still believed! But if Jacy is truly out of commission for a while, putting Gigi in a title match on the biggest stage makes sense. Even without seeing the third member of this ladder match, I put my money on Gigi. She’s ready for the big belt and her ascension fittingly ends the Toxic Attraction tale.
But there’s also trouble in paradise for the Women’s tag champs. Fallon Henley and Josh Briggs broke into Kiana’s office and found some potentially incriminating evidence. Apparently, Kiana engineered this relationship with Brooks just to worm her way into a tag team with Fallon for tag team gold. And, she’s meeting or dating some cat named Sebastian. With Fallon snooping out of the building, that left Kiana all alone and susceptible after her loss. Alba & Isla took advantage and only left the scene when Brooks showed up.
Brooks, Kiana, Fallon, and Josh met backstage after the match and, frustratingly, Fallon and Josh revealed nothing about their findings. If there’s a right time for the reveal, it’s then during a discussion about who was wrong for not showing up for whom and the added pressure of a championship match at Stand & Deliver, but it’s odd Fallon just keeps that info to herself given her animosity towards Kiana and her love for her friend.
NXT keeps slow rolling Dragon Lee. Last week they showed him in the crowd and this week he did a backstage interview. Interesting moves indeed.
After everything seemingly went left in Chase U, this week’s edition saw Andre Chase mending fences. Or at least trying. Chase shined here giving a moving speech about Chase U’s importance and how it affected his life. He also noticed how it affected Duke Hudson’s, giving Duke a passion he lacked during his days as a card shark fighting Cameron Grimes. Chase handles the serious just as well as he handles the comedy, and I hope NXT uses him more in the former role. Ava Raine showed up after Andre’s speech, just being creepy and getting into Duke’s head, but Chase owned this segment and moment.
Really enjoyed NXT this week. A LOT happened but the two hours moved like pulp across a kitchen table. Two more weeks until Stand & Deliver and I can’t wait for the nest couple shows.