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NXT Gold Rush 2023 recap & reactions: Bron breaks through

Seth Rollins defends his championship, a Gallus boy gets kidnapped, and Finn Balor gets the last word at NXT Gold Rush.

Dis Generation

There’s a generational theme with Gold Rush’s main event and the NXT Championship feud. Each involve an NXT vet coming back home. But Seth Rollins looks at the situation differently than Baron Corbin. Seth showed up because Bron Breakker challenged him. Breakker, still fine tuning his heel persona, didn’t need a win here as much as he needed a good showing.

And yeah, we got that and more.

The match started with a feeling out process. These two never danced together so that makes a lot of sense. Once they got that out the way, these two put on a very good match. Bron’s power against Seth’s technical prowess and agility made for, of course, a good styles clash. Seth nursed the ribs and Bron definitely worked them, but it rarely slowed down Seth’s offense.

The fact that he took high risks, like diving onto a prone Bron laid out on the commentary table, illustrated how seriously he took Bron. That enough spoke highly of Bron as a competitor and future cat on the main roster.

To that point, it’s time. I know Bron still has unfinished business with Ilja Dragunov, but he showed enough in this match. He can hang with the big boys and after challenging the biggest boy for one of the biggest titles, I’m not sure heights he might climb. Also? It took not one but two Curb Stomps to finish off Bron.

Seth got the W here but Bron looked great in defeat and even made Seth look better. They even ended the match in a way that circled back to Bron’s first match with Tommaso Ciampa when he lost because he went to the top rope. Beautiful storytelling all around, gentlemen.

BUT wait, there’s more.

The real story here is Finn Balor.

Yes, Finn returned to Florida and put hands to Seth. Finn said he wants no one else taking that championship and it’s on sight for Seth any time between now and Money in the Bank. I’m glad he kept his word and popped up at the end of the match, continuing the beating he started on Raw.

Melo & Trick Williams made the save, connecting back to both champions showing each other some love during an earlier backstage segment. I don’t believe this puts Finn and Melo at odds, but it does create the avenue if the territory ever chooses to venture down that road.

I have no complaints with this main event: Seth and Bron put on a fantastic match, Bron showed his growth, Melo got a rub connecting with the World Heavyweight champ, and they advanced the story between Finn and Seth.


Player’s Anthem

Carmelo Hayes has a point: The old school vs. new school debate in NXT is tired. And if that’s the only tune NXT played during this face-to-face between Melo and Baron Corbin, I’d throw something at my television. Well, not really. But I’d think about it.

Thankfully, NXT added a couple layers to that. Yes, Baron plays the old man yelling at kids on his lawn, but he also makes a point about longevity. Baron isn’t the guy. I don’t think anyone sees him as someone who ever reaches that position.

That said, Baron underlined the fact that his career, as unremarkable as Melo sees it, afforded him a lifestyle few in NXT can even fathom. Clown Happy Corbin? Cool. But know that gimmick put Baron in a million dollar house. There’s something about consistency and solid work. Baron provides that even if it’s not flashy or even fun to look at.

While the crowd didn’t necessarily respond to everything Corbin said, including the line about his hot wife or the alcohol Melo can’t afford, his words spoke directly to those fans and those of us at home. They even let him get in the last word, which isn’t usual for a verbal sparring session with the NXT champ.

It intrigued me if only because it’s a different spin to this story. Especially for Melo, who noted that he ran through vets and put their names in the rafters. Maybe there is something to learn from Baron. Maybe that lesson makes Melo a better champion.

Either way, I’m a lot more interested in this match than I was last week.

The Questions

What’s Mustafa Ali’s game? That question rolled around my head when he volunteered his guest referee services for the North American Championship match between Wes Lee and Tyler Bate.

Gotta imagine Wes and Tyler have the same question after the match.

Mustafa’s early antics almost derailed the match for me. I didn’t want a match filled with ref shenanigans that might take away from the action in the ring or ruin the flow. Luckily for me—and you—it didn't. At least not entirely.

I liked what we got but I do believe a match focused purely on the story between the two competitors creates a better match for these two. Especially because the match itself left me confused more than satisfied.

Late in the third act, Wes found himself on the wrong end of a possible count out. Rather than continuing his count, Mustafa jumped out the ring, dragged Wes to his feet, and literally slapped sense into him. After giving him a bit of a pep talk, Mustafa ran back into the ring and dragged Tyler to his feet, then gave the same pep talk.

Mustafa got Tyler to his feet just in time for Wes’ Cardiac Kick, which knocked Tyler back on his butt and ended the match with the 1-2-3.

Like I said, I’m not sure how I feel or even how the story wants me to feel at the moment.

Young Boy

As usual, I love big tag matches. This one between Briggs & Jensen, Hank & Tank, and Edris & Malik started a little slow and actually felt a little too serene. Chaos ensued once all teams got in the ring and all was right with the world.

But look, the real story here is Edris & Malik! They showed up big time and got the W. They always put together good matches and it seems after last week’s one-on-one, they’re getting a little boost and an actual story.

This is a great thing for NXT’s tag division as more dope teams equals more possibilities. And more possibilities means less mundanity.

Props to those two boys and I hope they show out against Gallus.

Feel No Pain

So we got an injury angle during Dana Brooke vs. Cora Jade. Dana hurt her knee early on and we got a match stoppage, complete with a stretcher. Cora mocked the injury, called her a faker, and just did the normal mean girl stuff one expects from NXT’s resident Plastic.

Dana showed guts getting off the stretcher and going back into the fight, but the knee just didn’t work. The ref eventually stopped the match once Cora slapped her in a Single Leg Crab.

I’m not sure why the injury angle or what it adds to Dana’s character at this point in the game. Cora acting like a jerk makes sense but the match overall, especially with one competitor on one leg, didn’t do much for me.


Raw Underground is back like it left something. Early.

Yeah I’m nonplussed about all that. Eddy Thorpe, who DJs on the side, and Damon Kemp are stepping into the Raw Underground arena in two weeks. And guess who stepped up to train Eddy?

Gabe. Stevenson.

Didn’t see that coming at all. That’s genuinely the most interesting part of this resurrection.

Ms. Jackson

Meta-Four didn’t get the victory last week but Jakara Jackson & Lash Legend took care of business this week. They tagged against Valentina Feroz & Yulisa Leon in a short but chaotic match. But great for reps for both teams while pushing this new stable along.

The Final Board

Von Wagner finally revealed all to Mr. Stone and us. He told the harrowing story about getting his skull fused as a baby, and all the emotional scars that came from that.

I’m not a huge fan of everything they’re doing with Von but the story worked for me. Even his reasoning for not talking about it makes sense. But, like all things, what they do with this matters most. Hopefully it goes somewhere or at least gets him over with the fans in a way he wasn’t.

This was a huge show. Besides everything else, we got several backstage segments, Tiffany Stratton interrupting Thea Hail’s celebration, Roxanne Perez jumping Blair Davenport, Nathan Frazer formally granting Dragon Lee a shot at the Heritage Cup, and Stacks kidnapping Joe Coffey! Stay out that NXT parking lot, everyone.

Thoroughly enjoyed this show from top to bottom. NXT delivered on its big promises for Gold Rush. And yeah, Bron is who we thought he was. So crown him.

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