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NXT Stand & Deliver 2023 recap & reactions: Melo shoots & delivers

New champs, old rivals, and a romance rekindled on NXT’s biggest show of the year.


When they write the story about NXT 2.0, the tale starts and ends with Bron Breakker & Carmelo Hayes. While the short-lived rebrand created a few stars and several dope moments, it’s those two who stood out above the rest. Excluding Mandy Rose, of course. When the 2.0 era, at least in branding, ended several months ago, NXT made their endgame obvious: Bron vs. Melo at the biggest show of the year for the biggest prize in the territory. Bron reigned supreme as 2.0’s champion, ushering the brand into a different philosophy and style than what came before. But anyone with even half a clue knew his future lied on either Mondays or Fridays.

Melo, on the other hand, still needed that validation. Yes, he reigned supreme as the A Champion with the North American title, but a championship reign as the guy solidifies his run and paves the way for his future. One thing painfully obvious, even if the storytelling only hinted at it, was is the fact Melo can’t be the man with Bron standing in his way. They either cancel each other out or Bron’s pedigree blocks out the sun. That made this match inevitable and its result rewarding.

As he often did during his North American championship reign, Melo tried wrestling his opponent’s style. Matching Bron strength for strength is a stupid move, which Melo learned the hard way very early. Bron, to his credit, stayed in his game. But the story settled on a tale of an immovable object vs. an unstoppable force. They worked psychology a bit with Bron targeting Melo’s lower back and Melo going after Bron’s right shoulder. yet neither of those moves really got either man that far.

At a certain point, with both men spent, they resorted to throwing bombs in the middle of the ring. Thankfully, they played it honest with Melo only withstanding but so many punches from Bron before falling to his butt and then throwing kicks. Again, you’re better off going blow for blow with Tony Montana than Bron Breakker.

But then came parts of the story that felt unnecessary. The ref ejected Trick Williams early after Trick saved Melo from possible destruction at Bron’s hands. That early decision made sense but then we got a third act ref bump for basketball reasons. While Melo tapped to a Steiner Recliner, Trick Willy appeared Randy Orton RKO style and nailed the champ with the NXT title.

See? That I don’t like. I don’t think Bron needs all that protection in the loss and moving to the main roster. Especially since Bron kicked out of Trick’s cheap shot. The hilarious part came when the crowd voiced their disapproval for the ref’s two-count. Even when cheating, the crowd loves Melo.

But I digress. The match continued, sans interference, and Melo won by exerting the one obvious advantage he has over Bron: quickness. He maneuvered his way out of a Military Press Slam, reversed it into a Codebreaker, and went to the top rope. From that point, Melo don’t miss.

While not the event’s best match, it still delivered on its high expectations. Less booking shenanigans with Trick and the ref give it a higher grade but hey, there’s nothing wrong with not attaining perfection when one firmly grasps greatness. And, of course, the bottomline is we have a new NXT champion, and his name is HIM.



For a couple weeks, I wondered about Indi Hartwell’s NXT career and WWE career overall. She seemed trapped in that endless “fits and starts” loop that dooms so many wrestlers to mediocrity or life in the mid-card. And even in this ladder match for the NXT Women’s championship, she looked like an afterthought. Yes, she definitely got her spots in and dished out punishment as good as she got, but this looked like Tiffany Stratton or Roxanne Perez’s night.

Roxanne specifically moved on a different level. She looked crisper, stronger, faster, and just steps ahead of the competition. Stratton showed off her raw power, and even Zoey Stark just womanhandled everyone, truly choosing violence for a match that calls for it.

But then a couple things happened. Gigi Dolin found herself at the top of the ladder with everyone spent and no one in her vicinity. But guess who popped up and ruined Gigi’s dreams? If you said Jacy Jayne then you either watched the event or took a great guess. Jacy knocked her former partner off the ladder and crushed Jacy’s WrestleMania weekend dreams. Obviously this thing between these two never settled, but picking this moment for Jacy only puts more heat on her and the feud itself. Smart move.

The next moment came Stratton found herself all alone too. Or so she thought. With everyone laid out on one side of the ring, Tiffany climbed the ladder and it looked academic. But the one person Tiffany ignored, the one person everyone ignored, the one person that only one Cageside member picked (see, Sean? Sometimes you’re right), and the one woman with the most on the line showed up at the very last minute: Indi Hartwell.

Indi pushed Tiffany off the ladder and onto the floor. With Indi all alone and with her dreams finally in her grasp, something still held her down. With all the energy spent during the match, along with all the physical punishment, Indi didn’t have much in the tank.

She stumped going up the ladder and it looked hopeless. In fact, that moment, along with Tiffany forgetting about her, illustrated her NXT career thus far: Always close but no cigar and forgotten about during big moments.

But in one of the best story moments of the night, and one of the best since NXT’s rebrand started 18 months ago, Dexter Lumis appeared seemingly out of nowhere as he usually does. Dexter slid under the ladder as his wife kept falling. Dexter gave her the thumbs up and put her on his shoulders as her climbed the ladder. InDex worked in unison. Indi grabbed the championship and celebrated while her husband made sure she got all of the spotlight.

Beautiful moment, great storytelling, and a great match to boot.

Accreditation Continued

Well, well, well. Duke Hudson finally showed his true colors: black and red. Before we get there though, let’s talk about a few crucial moments in the story.

First, Tyler Bate and Duke bumped heads once or twice, foreshadowing a collision that seems unavoidable because wrestling.

Secondly, Ava made her NXT in-ring debut! Ava didn’t get much time with Thea Hail, but she showed some potential in the very short time she received. Not enough to make an impression, but just enough to look like she belongs. Hopefully we get more of her in the future even if that doesn’t come in matches with Thea. And why is that you ask?

Thirdly, Duke flirted with the dark side. While I never bought into the idea that he believed whatever Joe Gacy whispered into his ear, it at least built on Duke’s previously acknowledged frustration. Schism put down each Chase U member, and Tyler, one by one, with only Hudson remaining. Duke launched back into the ring and put himself between Schism and his school. Gacy held the wolves at bay and tempted Duke with membership and a t-shirt, no doubt right on par with the serpent whispering into Eve’s ear if you believe in that sort of thing.

Duke put on the Schism merch and took their side in a standoff that looked like Chase U’s demise. In the least shocking, but very emotionally rewarding move, Duke ripped off the Schism shirt, attacked Schism from behind, and the rest of Chase U joined in the attack with four simultaneous “Chase U” stomps. Very dope moment that signified the beginning of the end for Joe and co.

Chase U lives another day and for now, Duke looks fully onboard.

Coffey on Top

The Gallus boys seemed overconfident going into a match with the odds stacked against them. Then Joe Coffey showed up and provided the “why.” The match didn’t do much for me because it really didn’t get that much time. We got a few fun spots, but nothing that felt worthy of this event. And maybe that’s because of the time, plus the twist ending. Joe showed up, wrecked Tony D’Angelo, and then Gallus flattened Stacks for the W.

Gallus boys, still on top but not without some help.

Cardiac FTW

There are certain matches that defy words. And certain matches that live up to all their insurmountable expectations. The five man dance for the North American championship is one of those matches. Wes Lee, Ilja Dragunov, JD McDonagh, Axiom, and Dragon Lee put on a perfect match. Perfectly paced, laced with story, filled with violence, and several moments not thought physically possible on this planet.

I can give you clips but truthfully, fire up Peacock and watch it. Just know Wes pinned Dragunov to retain, Dragunov and McDonagh almost let their hate for each other blind them to the bigger picture, and Axiom vs. Dragon Lee needs to happen not now but right now.

Standing ovation for everyone involved.

This is The Way

Thoughts and prayers for Grayson Waller’s back. Seriously. I said beforehand that even a loss puts Waller on firm footing. After his unsanctioned match with Johnny Gargagno, Waller is on incredibly solid ground. He showed another level of violence, sadism, and fortitude as well. Johnny wore his emotions on his sleeve, starting early with a super kick right to Waller’s dome before the bell rang when Waller tried a sneak attack with a chair. That emotion carried over into the rest of the match, most notably when Candice LeRae got involved.

Now, adding Candice at ringside with their baby Quinn might not work for everyone. It’s exploitative to the core but professional sports entertainment wrestling never shies away from it’s ridiculous roots. Waller goaded Candice before the match and during the match, so with no rules, it makes complete sense that Candice exerted herself because she doesn’t need her husband to fight for her when she’s more than capable. I liked the moment and loved her tearing up Grayson’s body with a kendo stick.

Eventually, Waller’s back, along with his ego, just gave out. Once he set Johnny on the commentary table and took his sweet time climbing the top rope, that was it. Johnny moved, attacked, and then hoisted Grayson on his own petard with a Powerbomb through that same table. After a little back and forth, Johnny’s emotion erupted in the form of several chair shots. The best moment? Johnny wrapping a chair around Grayson’s neck like a horse collar and then hitting that chair with another chair. Grayson spun like the Tasmanian Devil before collapsing in the middle of the ring. No escape from the Gargano Escape and that was it.

And yeah, that happened.


Kiana James & Fallon Henley lost their tag titles to Isla Dawn & Alba Fyre. A foregone conclusion for anyone paying attention, but the “how” raises questions.

Kiana needed help as she and Fallon struggled. She begged Brooks Jensen to give up her purse. Traditionally, Kiana finds plunder in said purse, so Brooks knew the deal. But a beleaguered Fallon and Josh Briggs told Brooks “nah.” Repeatedly. With Kiana distracted and no equalizer on her side, Isla & Alba took care of business.

While Briggs, Jensen, Kiana, & Fallon stood together at the end of the match, even without championships, one wonders whether Brooks blames his two best friends for this loss. One also ponders what this means for Kiana & Fallon’s tenuous partnership. Kiana never realigned herself as a face just because of her partner or her other partner; she’s still a heel. It was only a matter of time before her ways clashed with Fallon’s ways. Throwing Brooks in the middle makes for an interesting story. While the match itself felt adequate, the drama after proved juicy enough for interest.

If you’re into that kinda thing.

Stand & Deliver did its namesake. I made that same joke last year but hey, if they keep doing their thing, the joke works. Even if NXT didn't put on a flawless show, they still executed at a very high level. Great appetizer for the rest of the weekend with three new champions, several interesting stories going into NXT’s next phase, and Bron officially passing the torch as he heads to the big time.

Grade: A-

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

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