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NXT recap & reactions (May 23, 2023): End of the road for Melo & Bron

NXT’s Battleground go home show solidifies the NXT Women’s championship match, and gives us one last shot at an interesting story for Carmelo Hayes and Bron Breakker.

Come Home with Me

After playing ping pong for weeks with Bron Breakker’s motivation and character going into his match at Battleground, NXT finally found a groove this week. And, more importantly, they played to Bron’s strengths. We got a taped segment with him explaining why he turned on Carmelo Hayes (doesn’t like passing the torch to someone he believes is beneath him), how he feels about the fans, and why he can’t wait to see Melo in the champ’s backyard. And he never once mentioned the NXT championship.

I still think it’s a bad look selling a championship match with an opponent not interested in said championship, but I at least understand why Bron wants to dismantle his opponent. Not doing that in front of a live audience worked wonders as well. We got a crisp, scary Bron. Not one tripping over his feet or struggling for an audible in front of a hostile crowd. Obviously he can’t do that forever, but you gotta crawl before you can walk and NXT previously did the big man no favors.

And then there’s Melo. The differences between his video and Bron’s video struck me. While Bron focused solely on beating Melo, Melo set his sights on coming home and all that entailed. We saw Melo doing radio spots, meeting fans, showing up at a Boston Celtics playoff game, and getting treated like wrestling royalty. He referenced Bron once but only when prompted on a radio show.

It’s usual good guy schtick but disconnected from what happened last week when they left each other laying in the ring. And doesn’t seem fitting for a guy Bron put in the hospital. On one hand, Melo soaking up the hometown love plays into Bron’s logic that Melo wants to show off for his city and fold under the pressure. On the other hand, it just feels out of sync with everything beforehand.

That feels like a symptom of a larger sickness: NXT not knowing what to do with this feud. I love seeing Melo get his props from his people, but I want to see the guy who defended his best friend even though his ribs disagreed. I want to see the guy who called out Bron without hesitation because beating him means more than anything else.

At this point, you’re either sold on the match or you’re not. NXT knows that, so this feels like them throwing up their hands. I’m sure the match will rock the world but, as I often say, these two deserved a lot better than this.


Rockafella (R.I.P.)

I’m labeling this match between Cora Jade and Lyra Valkyria “Rockafella” because it’s a very short song on Redman’s second album. Like that song, this match ended rather abruptly. But unlike that song, I didn’t enjoy the match. Actually, it barely got started before it ended!

Lyra hit Cora with an awkward looking roundhouse kick and that was that. Grand closing.

Cora took lots of umbrage with the loss and went after Lyra’s knee post match. First she used a chop block, then she beat that knee with a bat.

I guess the injury angle is why it ended so quickly and weirdly? I’m still confused, so please forgive me.

I’m Back

Reggie is officially back. Even with no Dana Brooke by his side.

Axiom took on Dabba-Kato and, surprisingly, took a L.

Dabba-Kato went off on Axiom post match until Reggie made the save. Reggie got the big man out of the ring with his usual acrobatics and theatrics, then initiated a convo with Axiom. Unforuntatley, they cut to Tony D’Angelo’s “interrogation footage” before Axiom and Reggie reached a resolution.

NXT has a recent history of not letting things breathe before moving to the next thing. This is exactly that.


So...we finally know why Tony D’Angelo is getting interrogated in a Performance Center office: Gallus.

That’s right, Gallus boys...will snitch. Apparently they turned into singers and got Tony D knocked last week, thus, putting him out of commission and putting the Family out of line for a tag team championship match.

On one hand, I get the heel thing behind it. But on the other hand...Gallus don’t strike me as snitches in the least. I don’t know what to think of it because it seems so against character. And since when do they shy away from a fight of any kind? Heel tactics in a fight? Most definitely. But heel tactics to avoid a match? That’s a Reed Richards stretch.

Their admission enraged Stacks, who promptly helped the Creed Bros. as Gallus started a three on two beatdown after accepting Julius and Brutus’ challenge for a tag team championship match at Battleground.

When My Homie Calls

Wes Lee doesn’t know who to trust. He sat ringside for Tyler Breeze’s match against Eddy Thorpe. Solid match with two solid dudes. Thorpe still looks good and more matches with Breeze might do wonders for him.

But that’s not the story here. Neither is Tyler’s win. It’s the fact Joe Gacy attacked Tyler afterward and Wes, after a little hesitation, came to Tyler’s aid.

BUT, timeout..there’s more. Wes mistakenly punched Tyler, which caused enough commotion for Joe to send them both to the Upside Down.

And that’s the story of the match, isn’t it? Wes and Tyler let their emotions for each other get the better of them and Gacy picks their bones clean. Wes tried apologizing after both men recovered, but Tyler said nah. This is one time where Joe’s plan actually...worked.

Animal Instinct

Nathan Frazer and Noam Dar are dogs. They put on a clinic this week not just in the ring but using outside storytelling as well. Watch the match, watch it now. And peep how Noam got so worried about Dragon Lee touching his Heritage Cup that he lost focus and, as a result, lost the match.

I loved the match and like establishing Noam’s fatal weakness that might cost him at Battleground.

One on One

Hank Walker vs. Tank Ledger fittingly ended when both men crashed into each other in the middle of the ring. Hank got the W only because he rolled over first. I loved that bit, along with them entering the ring together.

But Bron Breakker showed up and cut all of that short. Once again, he speared people he deems unworthy and a waste of time. I’m not even wading into the meta territory on that one as it relates to this match, but I’m sure all you Cagesiders will have a field day in the comments.

A Most Violent Year

Gigi Dolin and Jacy Jayne chose violence.

Next week, we get the well-earned blow off to their rivalry with a weaponized cage match.

This is necessary escalation for their feud and taken to its logical place.

Their verbal session had its moments towards the end but it felt a little too rehearsed for me in the beginning. They found the groove, made the match, and got everyone hyped. Mission accomplished.


As my former podcast partner and I often noted, we’re Tiffany Stratton fans. Tiffany always had her persona down pat and, in my mind, understood her character better than most women on the NXT roster. Her in-ring work is catching up and she finally took the next step this week with a win over Roxanne Perez. A clean win at that.

A fun match between two good wrestlers with huge stakes. What more can we ask for?

These two really went to war, and that’s just the type of match I want with a title shot on the line. And I loved the fact that Tiffany missed the Prettiest Moonsault Ever the first time, which either set up a Roxanne win or a Tiffany win. Tiffany hit it the second time after reversing Roxanne’s Pop Rox attempt. All of that worked and is just solid storytelling.

My prediction for Battleground? Besides pain? Tiffany Stratton is your new NXT Women’s champion.

As an aside, the “hooded individual” attacked Roxanne after the match and vanished like a thief in the night.

Street Fighter

NXT did a marvelous job with Dijak and Ilja Dragunov this week. Much better than whatever that was last week. Infinitely better.

Dragunov attacked Dijak when the show kicked off, then Dragunov returned the favor. When Dijak hit the ring for the contract signing, Dragunov attacked him again and the two just battled until the show ended. And it was awesome.

Some things with Dijak are silly but when they just let him fight and choose violence, everything works. Ilja might be his perfect opponent.

Bring it on and put it in my veins.

The show got off to a very rocky start but picked up towards the end of its two hours. We got set up for next week, preludes to Battleground, and we’re one step closer to a new NXT Women’s champ. It’s weird we got no Chase U segment this week since they’re such a huge part of Tuesday nights and in the middle of a pretty engrossing story. Makes me wonder what’s going on with Andre Chase.

NXT is better when it slows down and lets the wrestlers find their rhythm, whether on the mic or in the ring. Once they consistently do that, the sky is the limit.

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