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NXT recap & reactions (Mar. 21, 2023): Carmelo keeps his enemy closer

Carmelo Hayes & Bron Breakker don’t want to co-exist, Gallus sets up a triple threat tag match, and more on this week’s NXT.

I Gotcha Back

Thank whatever god to whom you pray. Carmelo Hayes and Bron Breakker both acknowledged the “can they co-exist” trope and said they wanted no parts of that this week. Trick Williams made a match where Bron & Melo faced off against Pretty Deadly. The shock came when Trick said “Bron Breakker” and not his own name. So why do it? Why put his best friend in a tag match with his upcoming opponent? Why not take the spot himself?

Trick gave a simple answer: Siding with Bron gives Melo a cheat code on how the champ moves. Now, one might argue doing commentary during a Bron match accomplishes that but this puts a spin on an age old, and kinda tired, wrestling storytelling device. Bron only accepted the match because he wants Melo at his best. He doesn’t want excuses, he doesn’t want anything less than Melo at 100 percent. And tagging with Melo ensures Bron plays Kevin Costner to Melo’s Whitney Houston.

Early during the tag match, Bron kept his word. When Elton and Kit tried taking the action outside and either tossing Melo into steel steps or the barricade, Bron interjected with the quickness. That ensured they kept the action in the ring for the most part and it remained a regular wrestling match. Meanwhile, Trick gets the Oscar of the night for looking deep in thought while scribbling notes in his notebook. Who doesn’t want to see Trick’s scouting report?

This played out much more interestingly than their contract signing last week as it put Bron in a much better position. He showed his strengths—pun fully intended—rather than amplifying his weaknesses. We even saw that these two really do work well together as a team, which solidifies their spots as NXT’s cream of the crop. Defeating former tag champs on their first night teaming together is kind of a big deal.

But what happens after this? Next week’s show provides one last chance at really selling this thing for anyone not already on board. The go-home show for the biggest event of the year normally has that much significance. I don’t think they finally throw hands at each other because neither man wants that. We got the tag match, we got the contract signing, and we already got dueling promos in the ring. It’s possible Trick mucks up the works somehow, as Bron alluded to this week. Trick might force Melo’s hand and the former A-champ may restrict his best friend from coming ringside at Stand & Deliver.


Honestly, I have no idea where this goes next week so I’m just grasping at straws. What about you, dear reader? Do you have an idea for the last angle before the big show?


LA Tiffany

Tiffany Stratton and Indi Hartwell got physical. Some of it possibly a result of bad timing, some of it coordinated. But I liked the end result in a match that had more strong moments than weak. I do wonder what this L means for Indi. She talked a lot of trash to Tiffany and invited her wrath.

The fact the lost this qualifier match for Stand & Deliver means she goes back to square one in kayfabe, but possibly in real life as well. NXT Anonymous caught her meltdown and brief brush with Zoey Stark. So, is Zoey next on the list? And by that, I mean next on the list to hand out an L. Indi gets another shot next week in a triple threat match for the final spot in that ladder match. Maybe she beats Ivy Nile and Sol Ruca. Or maybe, just maybe. she loses again.

Indi’s in this weird spot where important parts of her story led the territory and she never found her footing without those pieces. She seems lost in NXT so I can’t imagine what happens if she gets to the main roster.

It’s Not Business, it’s Strictly Personal

If Stratton and Hartwell got physical, then Ilja Dragunov and JD McDonagh almost killed each other. Surprising no one, these two killed it in my favorite NXT television match since I started covering the show. Just watch the clip or better yet, go find the match. This is what happens when two cats know each other over so many years through so many battles and work so well together. Even the non-finish didn’t bother me because I know exactly where it’s going.

Dragon Lee provided the one wrinkle. Lee finally made his proper NXT introduction as Wes Lee talked about his Stand & Deliver challenge. Wes picked Dragon as one of his five competitors. JD wants in but Ilja stood in his way.

Dragon sat ringside during the affair and, of course, found himself involved in the finish. The match spilled outside and JD threw a punch at Dragon and Ilja bumped into him accidentally. Wes, Randy Orton style, came from nowhere and attacked everyone with a huge Swanton. So, yeah, Ilja and JD get the two spots in the North American championship match. If you’re counting at home, that leaves one more spot. And next week, a battle royale decides who goes to Stand & Deliver for a shot at the title.

I love it. Fantastic chain of events all around.

Unsanctioned Business

Big Body Javi catching Johnny Gargano’s wrath worked for me. Why? Because Javi is great at his job and plays the fall guy perfectly. But that’s not the most important thing. Johnny came with a contract for an unsanctioned match at Stand & Deliver. Grayson says he’s only signing it next week if Johnny stays out of the building.

Escalating the feud to this level works. Grayson crossed the line last week going to Johnny’s house and that’s not even mentioning their history. When someone steps to someone’s family, a regular wrestling match just feels insufficient. We know Johnny works well in these situations but this is another proving ground for Grayson. He displayed a vicious side last week but it must magnify for an unsanctioned match. Especially one with Johnny Gargano. Does he have a gear that sustains that violence for an entire match? We shall see.

Oh and Grayson rocking a Candice LeRae t-shirt turned everything up several notches. Props to him!

That Was Unexpected

Lyra Valkyria and Ivy Nile wrestled a quick but impressive match. That wasn’t the surprising part. I really expected a Tatum Paxley interference. The camera cut to her watching the an actual locker room and not weirdly. But that was it. And that’s not a bad thing either because I like a clean finish for a match with this much weight on it shoulders. Lyra fills a spot in the NXT Women’s championship ladder match at Stand & Deliver, and that’s the right call. Ivy has Tatum on her radar, and that story needs resolving before she goes elsewhere. Especially since, as she said this week, Tatum’s moves caught her off guard. She always considered her a part of Diamond Mine even though Tatum felt otherwise.

Tag Team(s) Back Again

Gallus hanging out at a bar makes me smile. The fact other teams go to this bar and break bread and potentially pool sticks with them makes me smile even wider. The Brothers Creed showed up this time and challenged the tag champs to a match at Stand & Deliver. After a game of pool and darts, Gallus agreed.

But then Tony D’Angelo and Stacks showed up with tag team business on their minds. Stand & Deliver gets a triple threat match for the NXT tag titles.

Risked it All

Call me crazy but the debate between Chase U and Schism entertained me. It furthered some character development too. Duke Hudson showed his lack of belief in the university, Thea Hail conquered her fears in a very motormouth way, and Tyler Bate made an appearance as well. I questioned whether Tyler’s passionate Chase U defense meant he enrolled a couple weeks ago. But when Andre Chase challenged Schism to a match at Stand & Deliver, he said “Chase U & Tyler Bate.” Bate has a weekend pass for the school, which brings me back to my college days at St. John’s. Shoutout to Coach Pitino and please bring some glory back to SJU hoops.

Anyway, Duke upped the ante and made it worth Schism’s while when Joe Gacy rightly pointed out Schism owns Chase U in the ring right now. If Chase U & Tyler lose, Schism gets the school.

This makes me nervous as it might mean the end of Chase U with how Duke carries himself at the moment. And I just don’t want that.

Secrets & Lies

Fallon Henley threatened to blow up Kiana James’ spot this week. She almost made it to Brooks too, but Isla Dawn & Alba Fyre cut her off at the past with “magic” and then physicality. I like to think the magic was a flash grenade but it looked more like a light flash with a firecracker sound effect. So, one might say they...blinded her with science.

Kiana came to her partner’s rescue and asked that she get the chance to tell Brooks herself the bad news about Sebastian. While the tag champs have their issues, Fallon granted that request. And you know what? I like that moment between both women. Besides the fact that Kiana had her back, it showed mutual admiration and some growth on Fallon’s behalf to let Kiana talk to her boyfriend. It’s a little thing but I do enjoy subtlety.

Stand & Deliver might rock my world on April 1. There’s a legitimate chance it overshadows WrestleMania night 1. We have almost everything in place with this episode with only a few puzzle pieces waiting on the side. I enjoyed this week as a solid build the next step. And it got me excited for next week, which is always a good sign.

But that’s my story and my feelings. What say you?

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