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NXT recap & reactions (Apr. 11, 2023): Melo doesn’t get what he wants

One team gets new challengers, another possibly breaks up, the women’s division is at war, and Carmelo Hayes gets his first challenger.

Now You’re Mine

Carmelo Hayes has his first opponent but it’s not the one he wants. Melo started the show with his sights set on one man: Bron Breakker. Melo made it clear that Bron didn’t pass him a torch; he took it. The people don’t want Bron as the number one guy anymore and the “Meeeelo” echoes throughout the Performance Center made their choice clear as crystal. Melo asked, no, he ordered Bron take the fourth spot in the number one contender match for the NXT championship.

Bron made his presence felt later but Melo found himself faced with three challengers immediately: Dragon Lee, JD McDonagh, and Grayson Waller. Keep reading and find out why Bron forfeited his spot but the important part is Duke Hudson took his spot.

I went through a couple configurations here. While Dragon Lee is incredible and presents a challenge for Melo, along with a lot of potential for dopeness, he’s a face. Duke, even with his inflated ego, is also face adjacent because everyone loves Chase U. That left JD and Grayson as the only viable options because Melo vs. a heel made more sense than putting the new number one good guy in the territory vs. another good guy for his first title defense makes no sense.

So how did everything play out?

The match itself truly delivered. JD and Dragon put on a show. That’s not a diss against Grayson and Hudson, but more a commentary on their styles. They work great together and outshine everyone else pretty easily. Duke is a meaty man and Grayson is a sneaky heel. They’re not flashy or even making an attempt.

That said, that actually played into the ending as well. While Dragon wowed everyone with an incredible Liger Bomb on Duke, but Grayson snuck in, dropped Dragon with an Ace Crusher, and pinned Duke for the W.

Grayson let everyone else do the hard work and he stole it in the end while acting like he won the championship that night. If there’s an Achilles Heel in his game, it’s that he always takes shortcuts. That alone makes him the perfect foe for Melo’s first feud while Bron does...other things.


Break Ups 2 Make Ups

First off, Fallon Henley, Kiana James, Alba Fyre, and Isla Dawn wrestled a fun opening match. They told a timeless story of two challengers slowly getting on the first page and seeing their possibilities. Alba & Isla dominated early but the challengers scared them once they worked together rather than working against one another.

However, they match rarely put the champs in jeopardy with close counts or anything like that to make me believe a title change might happen. Those elements add drama to title matches, but maybe this match had its own drama without that so they opted against it. And by drama, I mean Brooks Jensen’s absence.

Before the match, Kiana dropped the bomb that Brooks wants nothing to do with Fallon & Josh Briggs right now. But then they brought Brooks in during the third act and it felt kinda sloppy. For one, his truck pulled up to the Performance Center several minutes before he showed up ringside.

That timing begs the question: What did he do between showing up and getting to the ring? Because he ran out of the locker room like a bat out of a hell. Was he doing his taxes? It is that time of year.

And then once he got there, he went for Kiana’s bag and begged Fallon to use it after Fallon got the advantage during the match. Yes, it was still two vs. one, with Fallon in the ring and Kiana hurt outside the ring, but Fallon put both her opponents on the mat and had the momentum. And, of course, Brooks only made everything worse.

Brooks distracted Fallon, her opponents recovered, and they finished her off in the middle of the ring.

It does look like Briggs & Jensen are officially over as Brooks attacked his partner and walked out carrying Kiana. I’m into this soap opera, sue me.

Bad, Bad Man

Big Booty Nephew interrupted Chase U’s MVP ceremony because he’s disrespectful. I love it. Rather than come out at the top of the show and address Carmelo Hayes and the rest of Melo’s contenders, Bron picked this moment because he believes Chase U is beneath him.

He also gave Duke Hudson his spot in the number one contender’s match because he believes the NXT championship is a curse on his career. That’s interesting and I want some follow-up on that.

Oh and Duke is hilarious. After Bron pulled a sucker move and Speared Andre Chase, Duke looked left at the students, looked right at the MVP trophy. Looked left, then looked right. Looked left, and then darted right and bolted out the ring. He wanted no static with Bron and didn't even check on Andre. Fantastic.

The Watcher

Damon Kemp scouted Eddy Thorpe during Eddy’s match with Big Body Javi. Javi flexed a more serious approach but Eddy got the W. Curious whether Javi gets anywhere being more than comedic relief or if he becomes even more comedic relief now that he claims he’s more than comedic relief.

Thorpe still looks good and moves fluidly in the ring. I don’t think he needs Damon at all but we’ll see how this turns out.


Tiffany Stratton and Sol Ruca look great in the ring together. Their varied backgrounds made this match look like a martial arts fight at times, a wrestling match at others, and a battle of wills all the way through. Some may not vibe with that, but it worked a lot for me. They work well together and I can see NXT going back to this well when Sol gets more experience under her belt.

Tiffany won, as she should, but Sol did well for herself.

Time’s Up

I wasn’t really feeling Cora Jade’s promo this week. Her “insults” didn’t sound nearly as insulting as her facial expressions conveyed, And she didn’t sound natural delivering anything. The segment picked up when Lyra Valkyria showed up and gave Cora a sparring partner. And then it really hit the next level once Cora slapped Lyra and things got physical.

I like Cora better when she’s showing how she’s the mean girl rather than telling us.

It’s Over

Ilja Dragunov defeated Von Wagner. Duh. Did anyone really think otherwise? Von gave Ilja some competition early on but it went from that to a drubbing pretty quickly. That means Mr. Stone and Wagner must now go their separate ways. Let’s shed a couple tears in their honor.

Dijak approached Dragunov afterwards and these two might get extremely physical and stiff with each other when the time comes. Dijak’s gimmick still irks me to no end but I like him in the ring quite a bit.

Black Coffee

Joe Coffey got extra physical with the debuting Tank Ledger. Tank looked good and loses nothing taking the L here. Gotta make Coffey look good, and he did.

BUT, the match wasn’t the point. This served as a prelude to a brawl between Gallus, the Dyad (still here!), and Diamond Mine. Next week, Gallus defends their titles against both teams in what I’m sure will reek of violence.

Another enjoyable two hours this week. We got more insight into Gigi’s story, a Roxanne Perez sighting, Pretty Deadly and the Family kept their beef cooking, and movement in the Woman’s division towards a contender for Indi Hartwell’s championship. Plus? They set the main event for Spring Breakin’, which goes down in two weeks. Wow, time flies. Let’s hope the next two weeks are on this same level or above it.

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