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NXT recap & reactions (Jan. 16, 2024): New year, old challenger

Trick Melo gang face a crossroads, Lexis King attacks, and Roxanne Perez survives for the prize on this week’s NXT.

Frequency Change

I got a bone to pick with NXT this week. It might get long but I ask you to walk with me for a bit.

I love the concept behind this week’s women’s battle royal. Absolutely love it. Letting the last four wrestlers duke it out in a Fatal 4-Way is smart. The wrestlers are already in a rhythm, it accentuates old feuds, and possibly moves a couple new ones forward. And it’s even better when the battle royal itself delivers like this one did.

Certain beefs stopped some from fully competing and that hurt them in the long run. We possibly saw Lola Vice & Elektra Lopez dissolve their partnership when the former stabbed the latter in the back. Blair Davenport possibly put her name on a couple other sh*t lists because she thrives at that sort of thing. While I might quibble with Lash Legend not getting into the final four, the way she exited continues this trend from the Iron Survivor Challenge where she’s this close but someone or something unexpected happens that throws her off her game. Literally in this case.

And we got our first big Kelani Jordan sighting of 2024 and she lasted all the way to the Final Four. Plus, Fallon Henley and Kiana James proved they’re destined to be in each other’s way for only God knows how long. Those three, plus Roxanne Perez filled out the ring and squared off for a shot at the women’s NXT championship.

And here’s where my bone picking starts: Why is Roxanne the number one contender? This isn’t a knock on her at all because I love Roxanne. It’s just a boring choice when they had the chance to make someone new. If not Fallon, Kiana, or Kelani, then give the shot to one of the other women in the match. But of the four, Kelani and Fallon are more exciting options given the fact the other two already got their title shots or moments with the belt.

When given the chance to do something new, they chose something safe. And for all the money in my pocket, I can’t figure out why. Maybe this is part of the Lyra & Tatum story. I can see a world where an “accident” befalls Roxanne and Tatum or someone else takes her place. I can also see a match happening between Roxanne and Lyra that ends after several shenanigans. But none of these ideas excite me or feel fresh.

It’s a new year and the challenger for this championship at NXT’s first PLE of the year is the former champion. Even writing that sentence put me to sleep. Let’s do something new for a new year instead of already reaching for a retread.


B-Sides

Dazed and Confused

On one hand, I didn’t fully expect Carmelo Hayes & Trick Williams to take an L this week. They’re the bigger names, they actually have a story, and putting them in the tourney just to lose in the first round sounds silly. On the other hand, well, they got that story. And as it stands, I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop under the turned table that Melo slams over Trick’s head. With those two minds occupying my head, I expected some slight dissension during their Dusty Classic match with Malik Blade & Edris Enofe.

Nah, that’s not what happened.

These two were on the same page. They wore matching colors, they synced up their entrance music, they came with a few tag tandem moves, and Melo even let Trick get the pin! But apparently that’s part of the whole plan, which I’ll get to in a bit. First, Edris & Malik looked fantastic. I keep waiting on NXT to figure out what to do with these cats and even in defeat, it looks like we might be at that point soon enough. Besides making a great kayfabe showing, their moves packed more aggression and crispness. The audience loves their offense and they’re technically sound. They need more microphone time and actual characters, but doing their thing when the bell goes ding isn’t the problem. They put on a show with two NXT heavy hitters, carried their weight, and got the crowd thinking they might pull off the upset.

Speaking of said heavy hitters, that other shoe possibly dropped when Ilja Dragunov returned. The champ apologized to Trick for the New Year’s Evil mishap and promised him a championship shot at Vengeance Day. That’s great! That’s also the same event where the Dusty Classic finals take place. Trick faces a crucial decision if he and Melo move forward in this tournament: fight for the tag championship or accept Ilja’s challenge for the big belt. Apparently, he chose both. We’ll see how that works but something tells me not that well.

Crazy

Tatum Paxley came out dressed like Lyra Valkyria. Didn’t quite move like Lyra as she suffered a few minor missteps during the match. There’s a way to play that off as her character’s overzealousness and lunacy, but it’s something to watch. Story wise, the irony came in the ending. Lyra rightly wondered about Tatum’s trustworthiness. But it was Lyra who accidentally kicked Tatum. Tatum’s limp body fell on top of Elektra Lopez, giving her team the W over Elektra & Lola Vice.

Loser

Two things: Chase U losing is absolutely the right call here. They’re in the middle of a story about Jacy Jayne taking over. Gotta get them extra low to make their eventual rise mean something.

B, watch this match. Watch it now. Joaquin Wilde leaves me speechless every time he his the ring lately. Words won’t do it justice. But of the first two Dusty Classic matches of the week, this one topped the list. Look at the video! Then watch the match.

Critical Beatdown

You like physical matches with big men? Well Dijak vs. Trey Bearhill is your huckleberry. How’d we get this match? Well, Trey and Eddy Thorpe conversed about their fights, shared heritage, and the NXT jerks. Dijak heard his name and came running. The 1980s vigilante got in Trey’s face, and this being wrestling, a match ensued.

It was ugly but not in a bad way. Trey moves well for his size and knows how to slap meat.

The match also gave us some Joe Gacy. Now, I’m not a fan of everything happening with Gacy at the moment if only because it makes no sense. And I’m sure part of that is the point but I like a doctor recovering from a malpractice lawsuit, I have a finite amount of patience. I did love him dressed in the old WWF commentary jacket and giving us a “what a maneuver!” line. I don’t quite understand getting him involved in the match through headbutting Dijak but Dijak still winning the match. Joe interfering protects him in the loss, gives Trey a big win, and still allows for the eventual Joe and Dijak brawl we got at the end of the match.

Either way, Lexis King attacked Trey after the match, which also makes sense given their brief history.


The one thing I didn’t really dig into is Oba Femi’s first promo as North American champ. The dude’s got potential but needs to chill on chuckling between sentences. He was fine and showed the potential but needs a bit refinement. That’s also how I felt about NXT this week. A fine episode with some good things but didn’t stick the landing. Vengeance Day is shaping up nicely, which is the big positive I’m taking from this episode.

What say you, Cagesiders? Is Roxanne the right choice for a championship match or no? And if not her, whom?

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