clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

NXT Heatwave 2023 recap & reactions: Lukewarm at best

Carmelo Hayes defends his championship, Tiffany Stratton gets four new challengers, and the worst kept secret finally comes to light at NXT Heatwave.


The most interesting thing related to Carmelo Hayes’ title defense came before the match. Trick and Melo spoke in the locker room with a little tension teased. Besides Trick eyeing Melo’s championship, we also got some miscommunication between the two on a supposed asterisk next to Melo’s win over Ilja Dragunov. Trick asked if Melo blames him for that but the champ quickly clarified that he doesn’t. While I don’t want a program between the two—and certainly not yet—it seems unavoidable.

For some reason, we got more drama there than the championship match. That’s not a diss towards Melo or Wes Lee; they were fine and the match had at least two very big moments: Melo’s Fade Away onto the commentary table and Wes’ Cardiac Kick that almost got him the title if not for his slow recovery. And I even like the story beat in the end where Wes dove towards Melo on the outside, missed, and sealed his doom. It visualized Wes’ hunger and possible recklessness while also cementing his downfall. He got so focused on going all in for the championship that he took an unnecessary risk.

But for the most part, this match didn’t move me. It’s actually indicative of the whole night: lots of potential with underwhelming results. Even when the match ended, it felt like an abrupt ending rather than an earned conclusion. I hate when matches end right when the wrestlers find their groove, and that’s what they gave us this week.

In fact, this recap and analysis is shorter than usual because I don’t wan to spend a whole lot of words or your time simply complaining. Plus, they gave me very little which to work.


What You Think of That

Trick went into this match with Ilja with something to prove. Whatever that “something” was, he accomplished his goal.

Trick and Ilja put on a clash for the ages with the age-old tale about “going the distance.” Trick showed it’s not crazy imagining him in the same ring with someone that accomplished. He took Ilia’s best blows and kept coming. It took two falling sledges from Ilja for the win, and one came from the top rope.

Perfectly, the match started with Ilja coming out like a buzzsaw. There’s no logical reason that this match starts with both men on equal footing. They showed Trick find his feet and earn his opponent’s respect in the process. They booked the match perfectly from beginning to end. Trick got stronger the longer the match went, testing Ilja’s resolve.

If I’m focusing more on Trick than Ilja that’s because I know what I’m getting with the latter. Trick is the mystery here and this represents his biggest match thus far. He looked good, sold well, and Ilja helped him out along the way.

Watch the match. If Trick takes this momentum and runs with it, there’s hope for him when/if he hits the main roster.

Don’t Stop (YG Party)

I never know what to write about these Heritage Cup matches. Mainly because I can’t get into them. I like them in theory but I don’t like WWE’s execution. There’s a “purity” they represent that WWE often spices up with their own ingredients. That’s why Meta-Four and Dabba-Kato interject while Nathan Frazer and Noam Dar go at it for multiple rounds. It’s a match based on in-ring storytelling, less so outside shenanigans. As anyone who regularly reads this space knows, I’m not above shenanigans. But putting them here only makes the juxtaposition between the two styles. And it sticks out even further when one realizes nothing else in NXT or on Heatwave works like this; it’s the odd duck.

I do think the Heritage Cup belongs with Noam since it gives Meta-Four a cause. They as a whole need that trophy more than Nathan. Hopefully now we get development from the other three members.

Blood Brothers

It’s not the Creed Bros. fault, but this “reveal” fell flatter than those pancakes I made in elementary school. None of you were there but trust me, they were not fluffy.

The problem is we all knew they hid under those masks! They gave away the secret weeks ago. Joe Gacy even spent an entire episode looking for traitors within his group! Then, for some reason, he just stopped. He kept letting the masked people hit the ring for Schism matches even though he knew about Brutus & Julius playing pretend.

So the audience already knowing deflates a potentially big moment when they Brothers Creed take off their masks and hold Ava hostage. Meanwhile, the whole thing makes Joe look stupid because he didn’t see this coming.

The cage match between the Creeds and the Dyad sounds dope, but I wish we got it here rather than the future. And maybe we get that if the people with pencils didn’t drag this out for far too long.

And those shocked faces from WWE’s social media team only make it more comical.

I Need Love

Lyra Valkyria & Dragon Lee got their wish: Dirty Dom by himself with no Rhea Ripley.

During their mixed tag match’s third act, Raquel Rodriguez showed up and pulled Raquel out of the match. Those two fought and Dom reached for his mami but got nothing in return. Dragon took advantage and pinned the North American champion. Not the best week for the champ.

I dug this match. Just a solid tag match that showcased Lyra and advanced Raquel vs. Rhea. Also firmly sets up Dragon Lee as the next North American champion whenever that day comes.

Table for 3

Well, that was certainly a thing.

Anyone excited about Baron Corbin vs. Von Wagner left disappointed since the match never happened. Baron attacked Von during the latter’s entrance and they just fought around the ring for a few minutes. Von went for the commentary table, they jostled back and forth over who gets to throw whom through said table, and then Bron Breakker speared Von into the next century.

Yeah, no thank you. Besides the fact that I don’t like the idea that Von seems more obsessed with putting people through tables than actually winning matches, this feels like something more appropriate for a normal Tuesday night, not Heatwave.

I wanted Bron vs. Baron but we seem destined for a three-way dance. I’ll take it but I can’t promise I’ll like it.

Ladies Brunch

The big news here is Roxanne Perez, Gigi Dolin, Blair Davenport, & Kiana James all want Tiffany Stratton’s championship. We got a segment where each woman, including Tiffany, showed their personalities. Roxanne killed all that noise and showed hands when she hit the ring. Next week, we get a four-way match with a number one contender spot on the line.

For my money, that spot belongs to Gigi right now. She and Roxanne are the clear faces but Roxanne doesn’t need a championship run right now. Or even a match. But perhaps this elevates Gigi, along with presenting a huge contrast between her and Tiffany. I also think that brings more out of Tiffany, who apparently caught Becky Lynch’s attention this week.

If they put those two in the ring together with microphones in their hands, Tiffany needs another gear. I hope she finds it.

Heatwave cooled me off in a bad way. While the show maintained a clear focus, only one match truly lived up to or exceeded expectations. Trick & Ilja set a bar that no one even halfway reached. Besides that match, everything here fits on a normal Tuesday night, which goes against the whole idea of branded episodes.

But we’ll always have Trick & Ilja.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Cageside Seats Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your pro wrestling news from Cageside Seats