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NXT recap & reactions (Jan. 30, 2024): Mind playing tricks on me

The Dusty Cup Finals are set, Lola Vice takes a stand, and the War Dogs strike on the final NXT before Vengeance Day.

Sparring Minds

Double Vison

First off, Trick Williams’ finishing move is called The Trick Knee. That’s amazing and it better stick.

Secondly, and possibly most important, he’s woking double duty at Vengeance Day. He and Carmelo Hayes won a fun opening tag match against LWO, but that felt like a foregone conclusion. With the outcome never in doubt, I paid attention to Melo & Trick. Did they show dissension? Were they on the same page? Did they show more cohesion than that mash-up theme they have, which sounds like nails on a chalkboard?

I saw no signs of beef, which is weird considering the frostiness Trick showed on the SmackDown before the Royal Rumble. Both men addressed it afterwards and it seems like everything is squashed. Melo truly believes he’s right about Ilja Dragunov playing mind games. Like I said last week, I’m on his side. And the way this go home show ended put me more firmly in Melo’s corner.

Trick and Ilja did the usual face-to-face thing. When Ilja cut through Trick’s facade and Trick got real, that’s when things got at least a little interesting.

They both made good points: Ilja knew Trick wouldn’t wrestle him unless he’s 100 percent. No one forced Trick to accept the championship mat at Vengeance Day and potentially double book his evening. Ilja played mind games with Baron Corbin because the WarDog made it personal. Trick is a tad unfocused and maybe that’s how Melo wants it (I’m on the guy’s side but that’s still a fair point).

And then it happened. They shook hands and Ilja hugged Trick, just like he hugged Baron. I mention that because Melo cited that example for Ilja’s head games.

The War Dogs eventually hit the ring, which necessitated Melo saving his partner. After fending off Baron & Bron, Trick turned his attention back to Ilja while Melo looked on in the background. But not at Trick. He kept his focus squarely on the Mad Dragon.

For a guy who vehemently denies playing mind games, Ilja seems like he’s doing exactly that. Saying he's not playing mind games is in fact a mind game. At least the way Ilja handles things.

I always thought I knew exactly where this thing with Melo & Trick ended. Now I’m not so sure. But maybe that’s just a me thing. Perhaps it’s so obvious that I’m falling for the territory’s head games and second guessing my initial instinct.

Either way, I’m partly intrigued and partly ready for it to end. We’ve done this “will they or won’t they” thing with Trick Melo Gang way too long now. Stand & Deliver is right around the corner, so now feels like as good a time as any to either start Shawn Michaels’ favorite “good friends, better enemies” storyline or put the belt on Trick while he and Melo live amicably.


Girl Goodbye

Elektra Lopez did the favors on her way out (?) of the territory. Lola Vice got a decisive win against her former partner and friend, who recently rejoined her Legado Del Fantasma brethren.

That’s it. Short and sweet.

Crazy Drunken Style

The ballad of Tatum Paxley continues and it’s...yeah it’s a doozy. Besides talking to a photo of her and Lyra Valkyria, she spent almost as much time paying attention to Lyra sitting ringside during her match with Roxanne Perez.

And, of course, she lost. Tatum attacked Roxanne post match and, shockingly, Lyra pulled Roxanne off her. While I don’t think the two are in cahoots, I now see an opening for that development.

Apollo Kids

I’ve watched Saved by the Bell enough times in my life to spot one of their plots a mile away. Chase U getting a new lease on life thanks to a Women of Chase U calendar? Straight out of Saved by the Bell. For those who don’t remember, Zack Morris, he of Zack Morris is Trash fame, took pictures of his classmates without their permission and created a Girls of Bayside Calendar. Why? Besides the fact he’s trash? Because he took over the failing student store and figured the calendar sales might change their fortunes.

I’m not mad at NXT for resurrecting this because everything with Chase U is endearing. It’s also kinda sweet watching Jaycy Jayne become part of the family and truly care about people. Chase U is still a thing and Jacy is an official member.

Top marks all around.

Just Kickin’ It

I wondered why Fallon Henley walked around the NXT locker room unscathed. She ran up on Arianna Grace and Wren Sinclair, stopped the former from giving the latter bad advice, and even did some stretching in her locker room. After her run in with Meta Four last week, I just assumed the worst for her on this episode.

And then it finally came during her match with Arianna. Fallon took control early but Arianna came back with some power. She looks good exercising that strength and has quite the vicious streak.

The kicker, pun intended, came when Fallon wrestled back control and looked like she might get the W. Meta Four interfered courtesy of Jakara Jackson distracting the ref and Lash Legend pump kicking Fallon into this weekend. Fallon got some revenge during Noam Dar’s Heritage Cup match, but just a little.

This feud continues and I’m really looking forward to it.

This was a weird go-home show for me. It felt uneven with things that truly mattered for Vengeance Day mixed with things that don’t. Then they threw in that Heritage Cup match that really only served one purpose: Von Wagner slamming someone through a table because although he says he wants to win a championship this year, he seems perfectly fine losing and slamming through tables.

NXT does two types of goofy. One works for me, one doesn’t. The Chase U stuff hits me in my sweet spot while everything with Dijak and Joe Gacy bored me to tears. One is knowingly goofy while the other takes itself way too seriously. But those two things on the same show illustrate my conflicting feelings this week. I loved these video packages for The Family and OTM. But pretty much anything with Lexis King is leaving me wanting right now.

Oh and before I wrap up, Ava is finding her voice as the GM. That’s a good thing for the show and her career.

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