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NXT recap & reactions (Aug. 29, 2023): The challenger is here

Tiffany Stratton knows who’s got next, Carmelo Hayes hears footsteps, and the Creeds are officially reinstated on this week’s NXT.


First off, the main event rocked my world. This is one of those “go watch it now” matches. They delivered something worthy of a spot for a championship.

Sorting the women into their respective feuds at the start made sense. It reestablishes beef and adds layers to the match. Roxanne Perez and Blair Davenport went toe to toe in the ring while Kiana James and Gigi Dolin fought outside the ring. They didn’t do this long but I liked the touch. Roxanne easing up on Blair and going after Gigi also demonstrated her newfound aggression and want. She wants her spot back and knows she can’t ask for it, which provides more continuity after her approach to last week’s promo segment where she let her fists talk.

If it sounds like I’m focusing on Roxanne a lot more than Kiana, the actual winner, it’s because the match centered on Roxanne. She got the big moves, she got the big moments, and nothing moved without her. Gigi Dolin came second on that list, which also makes sense. Gigi wants singles gold, along with proving she’s better off without Jacy Jayne; she needs that championship for validation.

And all that is why the eventual outcome soured me a bit. I like Kiana in spurts but I’m not looking forward to her wrestling Tiffany Stratton. Not even a little bit. I love the way Kiana won the match even though I think it’s the wrong call. She let Roxanne do the dirty work and snuck in to pick the meat off the bones for the clean pin on Gigi and the win. Brilliant and fits with her character. But, yeah, I don’t have high hopes for this championship match.

Besides Kiana’s status as the weakest link in this match, and Tiffany’s stagnation as champ, it’s heel vs. heel. I’m not rooting for either woman and that always sucks for a championship match. Face vs face has its complications too but I at least like both competitors. This? Not so much.

So to recap, Tiffany vs. Kiana might underwhelm technically with little or no emotional investment. That sounds like a mess waiting to happen.


Pain Pressure Paranoia

Carmelo Hayes is feeling it this week. He carried this pressure on his shoulders for a few weeks now but it looks like it finally broke. Melo talked to the Street Profits about this supposed asterisk on his over Ilja Dragunov. He even confronted Trick Williams about it but not for the reason you might think. Rather than blame Trick, he asked his best friend if he thinks he can beat Ilja. Trick hesitated but only because of confusion. He sees no issue and wonders why Melo even acknowledges the whispers and naysayers. But Trick’s hesitation preyed on Melo’s insecurity.

Wes Lee made everything worse when he dropped a video telling Melo that he wants another shot. More importantly, Wes said that Wes beat Wes, and deep down, Melo agrees.

We ended the week with Melo watching that video and walking into Shawn Micheals’ office without even knocking. Does he want a triple threat? Probably. Is is the best move? Probably not. But much like his North American title run, Melo can’t help himself. Very interesting story and character beats for a guy normally so sure of himself and self-assured.

Doubt, especially self-doubt, is a powerful enemy.

Let Da Monkey Out

While I never like the idea of wrestlers fighting for “reinstatement” getting an entrance music complete with music, I really enjoyed this steel cage match between the Brothers Creed and the Dyad. And they told a fun if slightly predictable story. The execution made it joyous because that always matters at the end of the day.

Schism jumped the Creeds during their entrance and took Brutus out of commission. That put Julius vs. Dyad all by his lonesome. Oh, and Joe Gacy locked the cage.

Julius held serve and got in some good offense. The man Powerbombed one Dyad member with one hand while locking the other in an ankle lock. That’s impressive on any level. Julius’ power, speed, and unique offense always makes me ponder him going dolo one day and doing big things.

But I digress.

No shock when Brutus came back but he switched things up. Rather than fight Joe for the key or ask the ref to unlock the cage, he ripped the door off the hinges. That visual made it a moment. From there, it got academic. The Creeds did what they do, hit big spots, including a double Brutus Bomb, and got their spots back.

Poetically, Ivy Nile rejoined her boys while Ava walked away from hers. So we’ll see what happens but hell of an opening match. Even if the story that got us here lacked so much in its execution, the match delivered.

Loaded Bases

I kinda dig the basis of this thing between Dijak and Eddy Thorpe. It’s all about a fight over toughness. Simple and effective for people who fight in tights.

Their short match this week delivered on some of that “tough guy” promise but Dijak cheated, hitting Eddy with a a loaded fist. This ain’t over yet. I think these two have potential together.

A Tour of the Neighborhood

Well that was fast. Pete Dunne defeated Charlie Dempsey in the first Global Heritage Invitational Match. Always good seeing Pete back in NXT, and I hope he gets far.

Meta-Four sat ringside in the Toxic Lounge section. And on the real, it just made me miss Toxic Attraction! I do like Meta-Four though but just taking the chance to shoutout Toxic Attraction.

U Got a Problem?

Dana Brooke & Kelani Jordan have a problem. This match started before anyone rang a bell when the Street Profits and The Family caught these four women brawling backstage. Once Kelani found herself all alone after Dana got tossed outside the ring, that spelled the end.

Dana screamed a lot after the match, continuing this “new Dana” thing. They need more subtlety and character though because right now, it’s just Dana screaming a lot with little or no reaction from Kelani. Make it matter, especially if they want Kelani to get a buzz from this.

Bells of War

I enjoyed this Heritage Invitational Match much more than the first one. Nathan Frazer and Joe Coffey present very different styles. And I need that for a tournament like this because everyone can’t be the same type of cat. That’s why I liked the finish; Joe won and that’s the right call. Nathan getting caught up in a Gallus distraction of his own making gives him a bit of an out and speaks to his overconfidence too. But it also means we won’t see Nathan vs. Noam Dar, which works completely for me. No diss to either man but let’s introduce some new blood into the NXT’s Heritage Cup scene. A tournament gives that opportunity along with envisioning different people vs. the champ.

Speaking of the champ, he’s also got his hands full with Ilja at least somewhat. Meta-Four talked a lot of trash during Ilja’s promo and poked their nose into someone else’s business. So as of now, before Ilja gets back to Carmelo Hayes or runs through Noam, he gets Oro Mensah.

Really enjoyed the show this week. The shorter matches never outstayed their welcome, the Street Profits teased a match for the NXT tag titles (where’s Lashley?), and we moved several pieces forward. Even got Thea Hail skipping class and going out with Jacy Jayne...Thea doesn’t play a convincing heel yet but she’ll get there. As for the show itself? Very few if any complaints.

What say you, Cagesiders?

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