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NXT recap & reactions (Sep. 5, 2023): The Man is coming around

Carmelo Hayes books a match, tag team turmoil, and Bron does something so awful that the cameras didn’t even show it on this week’s NXT.

Baggage Handlers

I stand corrected. Tiffany Stratton and Kiana James created a solid championship match that set off NXT. Kiana gave Tiffany her best match since winning the title. They moved fluidly, got a little physical, while both women wrestled just a tad differently than what they usually give us. They didn’t wrestle a long match but it told a beginning, middle, and end, complete with Tiffany going for Kiana’s bag and opting for the DQ. Of course, that didn’t work, but she still found a way to cheat her way to a W when the ref missed her raking Kiana’s eyes.

I initially disagreed with Tiffany kicking out of the 401(K)...but then Becky Lynch showed up on the screen after Tiffany got her W and it made sense. If she’s putting her championship on the line against Becky next week, then making her look as strong as humanly possible is paramount. They did that in this short time and now she gets Becky.

On the real? Let Becky win. NXT’s women division feels rudderless at the moment. Let Becky run it for a while, create great matches, and make someone on her way out. Essentially, let her do what Dolph Ziggler did a couple years ago. Plus, there’s nothing on Raw for Becky right now. Trish Stratus is out of the picture and they’re separating her from Rhea Ripley. Let her work in Orlando for the time being.


The Day You’re Mine

I wanted to talk about Ilja Dragunov vs. Oro Mensah because I dug it. Oro rarely gets the chance to get serious in the ring anymore but he showed he still has that gear. And he got some character growth in as well, mocking Ilja at a point. He paid for it, yeah, but that’s one of the perks that comes with a faction.

Ilja won, yes, but they booked a competitive match that made Oro look a lot better after the fact than he did beforehand.

But the real story here is what happened after the match. Wes Lee hit the ring and told Ilja his time is now. He even promised Ilja the first shot at his championship after he defeats Carmelo Hayes. They bickered a bit but then Melo came out and set the record straight.

All that stuff I wrote last week about Melo letting pressure get to him and hearing voices? Yeah, that’s over with. Remember when he barged into Shawn Michaels’ office last week? Shawn not only booked a number one contender match between Wes and Ilja, but he convinced Melo that there is no asterisk on his W against Ilja. And the same goes for his match with Wes; they both took risks and Melo took advantage.

That’s wrestling and that’s the game. The person who makes the fewest mistakes normally wins. I do wish we got more out of that from Melo but I appreciate him going to his wrestling daddy for advice. Melo is a chip off the old heartbreak kid block. But there’s a bit more here too and it involves Trick Williams.

Ilja confronted Trick because he believes Trick lied to his best friend. Ilja says Trick knows Melo can’t beat Ilja, and then gave him a very weird ultimatum. Trick has two weeks to either stop lying to Melo or stop lying to himself. Ilja said it with all types of threat in his voice but I’m not sure what he’s demanding or asking Trick to do. Someone catch me up if they caught it.

Next week though? Wes vs. Ilja and the winner gets Melo at No Mercy. Fantastic. I can’t wait.

Oh! And Ilja’s old theme music is back. I’m not sure if he used it last week but I noticed it here and I’m overjoyed.

The Score

I wish Nathan Frazer and Duke Hudson got more time for their Heritage Invitational match. Not that they didn’t do a lot with a little, but I liked what I saw and think they had another gear. Very different styles, completely different characters, and contrasting approaches for the Heritage Cup.

Duke tried overpowering Nathan, thankfully. A man that size wrestling Nathan’s style hardly works for me because it negates their biggest advantage. But Nathan used that power against Duke, reversed a Razor’s Edge, and took advantage.

Big W for Nathan as the Heritage Cup Invitational moves forward.

Stand Strong

Tyler Bate got the victory over Daba Kato. Smart move and smart match. Not long at all, but Tyler attacked Daba before the bell went ding. Once again, logical booking given the size discrepancy between the two and the stakes.

But props to Tyler for not only lifting Daba on his shoulders but then spinning him around multiple times. I didn’t count but the fact that he spun him around even twice is amazing.

A perfect showcase for the Big Strong Boy.

Count Me Out

It’s always hard writing about matches that aren’t really about the match. When we have Dragon Lee and Mustafa Ali wrestling for a shot at the North American champion with said champ refereeing, it’s about that.

That said, Ali and Dragon did the damn thing. Minus one slight hiccup towards the end, they wrestled a clean match. But the intrigue stayed with Dom. He called it down the middle 99 percent. But that other one percent? That made all the difference in the world.

After slow counting Dragon’s pin attempt, he hit a super quick count for Mustafa’s next pin attempt. And that was that. Of course Dom never wanted Dragon. And he always wanted this match just to pick his next opponent.

For his troubles, Mustafa knocked him out after the match because that’s not how he wanted the win. He isn’t giving it back, of course, but still.

This makes me think Dom defeats Mustafa somehow some way and sets the stage for Dragon vs. Dom down the line. That’s the big match with the most emotion and story given their respective backgrounds and opposing views on Rey Mysterio. It’s the son Rey always wanted vs. the son he wish never existed.

Mob Ties

Butch and Axiom gave us the best match this week. Bar none. And it felt like the perfect moment for a tie-in the Heritage Cup Invitational. These two battled to a stand still and it added more drama while effectively illustrating how much this cup matters. When neither wrestler gives up even an inch, that says it all.

Butch got another point in his grouping but he felt horrible about it. Even that works wonders for any tournament.

Watch the match, thank me later.

Three Stories High

Thea Hail showcased more of her new attitude this week. This time, with Jacy Jayne firmly in tow. They did little character stuff with Thea, like Jacy telling her to tone down the energy and drop the bullhorn. Gigi Dolin looked on in disbelief. In fact, the only reason we got Thea vs. Gigi is because the latter offered some unwelcome advice to the former. As Jacy’s former friend, she knows a hustle when she sees one. Blair Davenport came out of nowhere and agreed with Gigi but since those two still have issues, that harmony only lasted so long.

I’m curious if Thea grows into roll or if her looking this uncomfortable is the point. I’m guessing it’s the latter. She wants to be Jacy but she’s not.

But the big thing here, besides the match itself, is Blair attacking Gigia and helping Thea get the victory. I like Blair vs. Gigi a lot because that screams violence and aggression. Let’s do that.

Bear Meat

A great few days for fans of meaty men slapping meat. Bron Breakker and Von Wagner added their names to the meat pantheon with nothing but violence and meat slapping. And while Bron won, the whole thing felt dedicated to getting Von over. I think they succeeded.

Couple key moments.

One, Von reversing the Steiner Recliner. Bron sold it beautifully and it showcased Von’s strength.

B, Bron spitting on Von. And I don’t mean a little dribble either. That man hacked a loogie at Von and it was brilliantly disgusting. That set off Von and caused a chain reaction of violence. Starting with repeated Kendo stick strikes and ending with Bron going headfirst through the NXT set. Oh, and of course, Bron got tabled.

Lastly, the ending. Bron won the match and then kept going. Things apparently got so nasty that once he picked up the steel steps and slammed them on Von, the camera cut to black. We still got audio and we heard the crowd’s reaction along with Baron Corbin on commentary shocked that Bron actually did it. It’s up top, you saw it.

He smashed the stairs on Von’s head. The cameras cut it but it’s not hard putting one and one together. Even for someone like me who sucks at math.

They’re really making next week must see television, aren’t they?

Solid show. The rhythm felt a little off since they got to a lot of important stuff early, but that left more room for the main event so I understand the sacrifice. I didn’t touch on the NXT tag team scene but just know that the Creeds reinstated the Diamond Mine dojo, invited all the teams for a get together, and hell broke loose. Is anyone shocked at that?

Next week is stacked in what might be their best show of the year, at least on paper.

What say you, cagesiders?

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