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NXT Battleground 2023 recap & reactions: The Melo dynasty has emerged

Carmelo Hayes gets a hometown welcome, Tiffany Stratton makes history, and Ilja & Dijak barely survive NXT’s latest big event.

The Dynasty (Intro)

Carmelo Hayes x Bron Breakker II didn’t reach the highs of part I, but it felt more consistent. Despite the fumbling on the overall story, the in-ring tale made for a straightforward good guy vs. bad guy framing, which helped everyone and hopefully does wonders in the long run.

Before we get into that thought, shoutout to Bron for saving Melo’s life on a Suicide Dive attempt. Melo either misjudged or tripped on the middle rope but he owes his existence to Bron’s quick thinking and great hands. While we’re talking about Bron, I did the new ring gear. Dig the new intro. But I don’t like the mask, which makes him look like a Disney character, nor do I like the fact his video still sports the multicolor aesthetic. If he’s “meaner than evil” then make him look the part fully. And let me take him seriously. That mask does the exact opposite.

But I digress.

Like I said, the clear alignments worked wonders for the style. Melo played David to Bron’s Goliath while nursing that rib injury he sustained several weeks ago. Matches like this either provide the champion a crucible or sell us on the fact that either man might win. I never believed the latter but it definitely delivered on the former.

Bron completed his assignment with flying colors. He tormented Melo’s back and ribcage throughout the match, taunted him, insulted the crowd, and hit a hellacious spear in mid-air as Melo dived towards him. The fact they did the mid-air spear spot again—and it looked even better—speaks to their timing and how well they work together.

Melo plays vulnerable remarkably well, but I want to see him do that against someone not as big as Bron. It’s easy playing David when Goliath is, well, Goliath. But can he do it against a relatively normal sized mammal? Shawn Michaels developed that skill during his solo career and it served him extremely well. With Bron a distant memory, Melo has to find that same gear.

If I’m not talking about the match itself enough, it’s because they delivered. You know what to expect with these two in the ring. When the bell rang and Melo celebrated his decisive win in front of his hometown, my mind drifted to Goldberg’s favorite two words. No, not “how much?!”

Who’s next?

My brain feels fried after covering so much wrestling this week so I’m drawing a blank, but everyone else seems preoccupied at the moment. They’re either a part of a tag team or feuding over the North American Championship. Or dealing with their own mid-card drama, like Duke Hudson and whatever happens with Andre Chase.

The other problem is Melo fought a lot of these dudes as North American champ, or on his way to the big title. How do you truly make his championship reign fresh. If, as Vic Joseph stated, the Melo Dynasty begins now, how does NXT make that story the biggest thing in the territory?

I don’t have the answers to any of those questions because I’m not on WWE’s payroll. And even if I did work for them, I’m not sure the extra money in my bank account changes the fact I’m stumped.

I’m less worried about where they go with Bron. NXT has plenty of good guys and he needs more work asa heel. As Cameron Grimes once said, Bron is good regardless. Melo presents a tricky equation, but one Shawn certainly understands: A smaller guy with a ton of talent who probably works better as a heel but the crowd loves him. Dijak sounds like a great opponent but putting him in a championship match after losing a Last Man Standing match sounds illogical.

Whatever happens, I look forward to the ride. Bron and Melo gave us two affairs worth talking about. Let’s hope that streak continues with the champ’s next opponent.


U Gotta Love It

Listen...I expected nothing less than a dope triple threat with these three and that’s what I got. Wes Lee, Tyler Bate, and Joe Gacy put on for their respective cities.

They got the tension between Wes and Tyler out the way early when Joe instigated shortly after the bell rang. Of course he went a little too far because...well, you’ve seen him. That let the air out of the balloon between the two former friends and they turned their attention to Joe. I initially disagreed with that choice since I always favor drawing out the drama. But it actually worked here for some reason I can’t quite quantify.

We got big moments from all three men: Tyler carrying Joe on his back while putting Wes in the Airplane Spin, Joe catching both men with inverted DDTs, and Wes knocking out his challengers with double Cardiac Kicks. He didn’t get the victory there—way too soon—but it looked fantastic.

Wes eventually retained with a Cardiac Kick to Joe’s face, truly cementing his legacy as one of the greatest North American champs in NXT history.

Horse & Carriage

The first time I heard “Horse & Carriage,” I didn’t know what to say.

That’s how I feel after watching the Heritage Cup match between Noam Dar and Dragon Lee. The format just didn’t work for me. There’s a way it can work but it didn’t move me here. It came off goofy in moments.

Oh but then they overbooked it too. Oro Mensah showed up as Noam’s corner man, which makes sense. Noam approached Oro a week or two ago and Noam turned him down.

But then we go the finish: Jakara Jackson appeared out of freaking nowhere, distracted the ref, and then Lash Legend made her presence felt. Lash interfered on Noam’s behalf, and as a result, the Heritage Cup keeps its same residence.

So, with all that said, it looks like Noam started a new stable with Oro, Lash, and Jakara. You know what? I don’t hate it. I’m all about giving people things to do and putting them on television. But like any big development, the details matter. Hopefully we get a compelling reason why these four joined forces.

That’s the one thing in the whole match that got me truly interested. Dragon and Noam clearly know what to do in the ring, but the format didn’t serve them well.

4 Alarm Blaze

Nope. Not even attempting a summary here or some high-minded thought. Dijak vs. Ilja Dragunov in a Last Man Standing match rocked my world. If you love violence and aggression, it should rock yours too. Ilja won but at a huge cost. Not a lot of big spots either. Just beating each other senseless with weapons and their bodies.

Roll Out (My Business)

I feel for the Creed boys. This looked like their night. Their tag match with Gallus didn’t go long but both teams made every move count. Yet, the story hinted that the Creed’s moves counted more. Julius is brilliant on the hot tag and Brutus feeds off that energy perfectly.

But then we got Ava.

Ava changed the whole complexion in the third act. She put hands on Ivy Nile, distracted Julius, and the Gallus boys did the rest.

Obviously this sets up more between Ava and Ivy, though I wish NXT got more consistent with this feud, but I believe we also get some more Schism on Diamond Mine action. Ava’s now causing the Creeds and interfering with the Mine’s plans. She won’t mind her business so it’s time they show her what happens to nosey people.

Fun match, albeit brief, but that seemingly didn’t matter.

Rising to the Top

I worried how competitive they booked this match between Lyra Valkyria and Tiffany Stratton. Thankfully, NXT produced a compelling match that gave Lyra a great look and made her look strong even in defeat. But Tiffany winning that championship is 1000 percent the correct move.

As predicted by anyone with two eyes and half a brain cell, Lyra’s knee betrayed her. Slowly but surely, Tiffany targeted it, and the two women worked a very smart match from that point going forward. Well, almost.

Lyra, nursing that knee after taking a lot of damage, went for chain suplexes at one point and that made no sense to me. With the knee hurting her that much, it didn’t make sense that she chained together moves that not only put more pressure on her knee, but also broke up the ref’s count. Immediacy is the name of the game with one leg, and I didn’t get that immediacy in that moment.

Other than that, NXT got the best of both worlds: Lyra’s position looks better after this match and Tiffany, who keeps impressing, is the new champ. And there’s just enough room there for a rematch down the road if they so choose.

Besides the Heritage Cup, I enjoyed this whole event. We got a big development, finished off some feuds, crowned a new Women’s champ, and pushed further on towards the next time NXT emanates from Florida.

Do yourself a favor and watch Dijak vs. Ilja right now though. That alone is worth an A.

Grade: A

Agree or disagree?

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