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NXT recap & reactions (Jul. 4, 2023): Ilja chooses violence

The Creed Bros. say goodbye, Carmelo Hayes challenges the Judgment Day, and Ilja Dragunov gives Bron Breakker a very rude awakening on this week’s NXT.


I thought this section might get into Carmelo Hayes and the Judgment Day. There’s an hook there related to Judgment Day’s current drama, the state of the NXT Championship, and WWE truly integrating NXT into bigger storylines with bigger wrestlers.

And we’ll do that next week. But Bron Breakker’s promo that ended the show caught my attention. Besides the meta component that I think WWE does too much but nailed here, it showed Bron’s growth. I can’t imagine Bron cutting this (relatively) calm promo a few months ago. Not even when he made his heel turn. This built on his Raw promo last month. He showed menace, clarity, conviction, and used the audience’s reactions.

The long and short of it is Bron saw no new mountains. He climbed every peak and his match with Seth Rollins crystallized it all for him. While we never heard his ultimate point, I don’t need many guesses to figure it out. He wants a new challenge but clearly forgot about someone he attacked many moons ago:

Ilja Dragunov.

Ilja and Bron never got to tango because Dijak filled up Ilia’s dance card for quite a while. Ilja wanted the NXT Championship and saw Bron standing in his way. Ilja seems less concerned about roadblocks and pathways at the moment and just wants to fight the man who jumped him. I feel that.

How this feud plays out ultimately tells us a lot. Bron believes he’s the big fish in a small pond. If Ilja defeats him, then he’s at least one of several big fish in that same pond. It’s a weird if the guy’s whole storyline revolves around him moving on only for someone to come along and say otherwise, and might cut off Bron’s legs before he even finds them on the main roster.

But what about Ilja? He clearly wants that NXT championship eventually but I’m not sure losing a big feud with Bron strengthens his argument for a match with the champ down the line. That also touches on something related to Melo and Judgment Day, but I’m saving that.

I see lots of potential here between these two, and I really have no idea how it plays out. But it feels important and possibly a crossroads for both men.


Wild Out

It’s wild what the Creed Bros. do in the ring. Julius Creeds’ exploits need no further ink, but Brutus does more than just...drop bombs. This week, he hit a picturesque springboard somersault splash in their do or die match against The Dyad. He also took a mean spill out the ring when the Dyad turned him inside out in a semi Doomsday Device. On the outside of the ring!

It’s moves like that, combined with their storytelling ability (Julius worked a bad knee this week) that show why they’re leaving NXT for presumably Raw or SmackDown. Make no mistake, The Dyad cheated for this W. A “masked man” emerged from the crowd and butted heads with Julius. I’m using quotes because Joe Gacy’s absence felt conspicuous.

It’s time for Julius & Brutus. And Diamond Mine resembled a shell of its former self for quite some time. This also gives Ivy Nile more time for her own stories and more character development. Which is great for her and NXT’s women’s division.

The Creed boys add a different degree of homicide to the main roster’s tag team scene on the mic and in the ring. Their energy feels different compared with everyone else’s, and their move set breaks the mold a bit as well.

Props to Julius & Brutus. Can’t wait to see where they land and what they do.

Pop 4 Roc

Roxanne Perez had Blair Davenport on the ropes. Almost literally but not quite. Roxanne started the match before the bell rang, which longtime readers know I love. It shows urgency and establishes personal stakes in a beef. It’s appropriate for Roxanne and Blair because these two really don’t like each other and Roxanne owed Blair several receipts.

They only got about 15 minutes in but they did their thing within that time frame. Despite her early advantage, Roxanne let her emotion get the best of her at one crucial moment. And that’s the difference in the match for both characters: Roxanne is all emotion while Blair plays things cool and calculated.

Both women got physical and that played into the ending as well when Blair repeatedly needed Roxanne in the head and got the W.

Solid affair that sets the table for more.

If I Die 2nite

Baron Corbin is done with the gimmicks after last week. He dipped back into the Lone Wolf persona and it paid no dividends. So he wants to find something new and ditch everything we know about him. He’s tired of his status as “just good,” and even threw in a Cortės reference about burning all the boats and no going back. Fun times and props for the line.

I’m intrigued.

American Hustle

We all knew this, right? Mustafa Ali wants his shot at Wes Lee and he challenged the North American champ this week after defeating Tyler Bate in a very dope match. These two work well together but I also presume we got more coming from Tyler on this front. No way he just lets this title shot happen. Right? I’m asking a lot of questions!

Slum Beautiful

Kelani Jordan impressed with her gymnast background. It’ll take some time to truly get into her rhythm, flow, and character, but she showed promise against Tatum Paxley. And the way she hit the Stundog Millionaire made me smile.

I don’t know if she gains anything siding with Dana Brooke at this point but we’ll see how it works. Cora Jade challenged Kelani afterward, while also insulting Dana because of course. The match with Kelani happens on Cora’s time though, as most heels usually handle things. Apparently her time is next week.

Mama Said Knock You Out

I never dug Raw Underground but I got into NXT’s version. I really liked the atmosphere that contributed to the violence, as Eddy Thorpe and Damon Kemp fought. I don’t even know how to explain it, although I will point out Gabe Stevenson thinking his gold medals held magical powers like a Mario mushroom is the funniest thing I’ve seen in quite some time. The suplex showcase Gabe engaged in following Eddy’s TKO added to that violence. Just look at that clip! That’s wild. I don’t know, maybe it just caught me in a good moment this week.

No Song

Nope, I got nothing for As the Don Turns. Stacks visited Tony D’Angelo this week and denied betraying the Don. He said he made a deal with Joe Coffey that he said works for all of them: If he beats Joe next week, all charges against the Don go away. If he loses, then the Don stays in jail until trial.

As Tony aptly pointed out, that’s basically three on one. Which makes me think someone returns and helps Stacks. Perhaps Two Dimes? Because, yeah, this looks like an easy win for Coffey and Gallus.

The story is getting a little too goofy for me so hopefully they land this plane sooner rather than later.

The Promise

Lyra Valkyria is showing promise. She had her moments along the way but never really put it together. This feud with Jacy Jayne might do wonders for her as it relates to character and in-ring skill. They didn’t get a lot of time this week since the feud is no way over, but Lyra picked up the first W in chapter one.

Skinny Suge

The NXT champ chose violence: He invited Judgment Day to NXT next week. Finn Balor responded in kind and in the affirmative. I doubt he comes alone and I can’t wait to see it.

Stop the Violence

I’m still not on the Von Wagner train, but I give the man his due for getting over. Von demolished Big Body Javi this week after Big Body talked trash. The crowd loved it and seem fully on board the Von express.

Solid show packed with plenty of storytelling. Not all of it worked for me (the Family/Gallus saga) but most of it did. Plus, we got a big farewell to a bedrock NXT tag team. The Creeds left their mark in a hell of final match in the territory.

Next week looks hot as well, so what are you excited for?

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