NXT recap & reactions (Jan. 3, 2022): New Year’s Evil countdown

Happy New Year, NXT faithful! New Year’s Evil is around the corner, which means this go home show has a lot on its shoulders. How’d they do? Read Claire’s blog for all the details and then read this space for some translation.

Let’s talk NXT!


He’s on Fire

If anyone, for reasons beyond understanding, feels Carmelo Hayes isn’t ready for the NXT championship, use his match with Apollo Crews as exhibit A as to why you’re sadly mistaken.

These two cats went for almost 25 minutes in NXT’s opening match and set the performance center on fire. It wasn’t just the power vs. narrative speed, but they deployed psychology as well. When Melo wasn’t using his speed advantage, he spent most of the match working on Apollo’s left knee. From a character standpoint, I didn’t see the point. Going toe to toe with Apollo on the power tip is a bad move; wearing him down didn’t really connect with me either when Melo is easily faster and quicker.

But it worked since it adds another dimension to Melo’s game. He’s not all about flashy moves and it shows he has no problem working various styles depending on whatever the match needs. He wrenched Apollo’s leg on the rope purely out of desperation but capitalized on the opening.

The leg wrench, the single leg Boston crab, and then allowing Apollo to hurt himself purely through instinct all played in the match’s finish. Apollo clearly favored his leg in the closing minutes, Sure, he hit an enzuigiri, but it was one of those “final gasps” moves and he landed right on that bad knee. Trick Williams saw his partner needed help, so he hit the apron, took a clothesline meant for Hayes, and bought Melo some time.

Then we got one of the coolest shots of the night when both Apollo and Melo went for knee lifts but Apollo moved just a tad quicker. And, thankfully, Apollo used his right knee. After putting Melo in a German Suplex and a military press, Crews went for a standing moonsault. But Melo missed and Crews landed right on that bad knee.

It was academic from there as Melo hit a Codebreaker, then finished the match with Nothing but Net.

Great match with both men shining and Crews making Melo look really good and more than ready for the next level.

Bronovan

Bron Breaker tried. He really tried. It’s not easy keeping one’s cool around Grayson Waller, especially with Waller instigating. But that’s what he did on The Grayson Waller Effect. Well, for most of it. I kept wondering about the next turn to illustrate Bron getting into Grayson’s head. They established Grayson is smarter than Bron over two weeks, but this week was all about giving Bron some sort of upper hand and showing more character depth.

Waller believes that putting Bron in Hulk Smash mode works in his favor. I’m not sure I buy that but okay, sure. The problem is we’ve done that with Bron before, most notably with Joe Gacy in a feud I wish I forgot about. I’m not sure how Bron is getting angry helps Grayson and after this week, NXT doesn’t seem sure either.

Like I said, Bron kept his cool for most of the week’s main event segment. He gave Grayson props for his viral moments and for how skillful he is at getting under someone’s skin. But then Bron said those viral moments are all for show. Bron doesn’t believe Waller can get the job done when push comes to shove as it often does in wrestling. No matter how many people talk about Waller’s antics after New Year’s Evilthe one thing they’ll talk about with Bron is him remaining NXT champion.

Waller didn’t like that. He also didn’t like Bron taking over his show and ending it on his terms. So, of course, echoing a move from Gacy’s playbook, Grayson brought Bron’s dad into the conversation. Bron doesn’t like being told that he’s simply copying his dad. He controlled his anger the first time saying he loves his dad so it doesn’t matter. But Grayson kept going and eventually Bron made him eat those words. He knocked him out, slammed him to the mat, then hit him incredible dive over the top rope after Grayson rolled out of the ring. Oh, and he did it with a cell phone in his hands for his own viral moment.

Bron is a freak, and no, I don’t want him to holler if he hears me.

While that looked great and Bron diving over the top rope is a stunning visual, this build feels undercooked. That’s not anyone’s fault really based on the small amount of time they had for this program; NXT Deadline was barely a month ago. But something that started interesting with the Bret Hart steel plate move quickly moved to pedestrian. Again, that’s a function of reality but possibly another sign that this is just a pit stop on the road to Carmelo and Bron.

That is the Grayson Waller effect.


Extracurriculars

Well, that was a thing

Look, this Dijak thing doesn’t float my boat. This week, besides his match with Stacks, we saw what happened once he kidnapped Stacks last week. I love a certain type of ’80s action movie and that’s clearly the aim here. The whole aesthetic reminds me of a Canon film, but one of the boring ones. And if you know Canon, then you know a boring Canon film is sinful. He kidnaps the man, beats him up, then leaves him the handcuff keys so he can…leave? I’ll give NXT props for at least closing the loop on one of their kidnapping plots because people usually just go missing then show up like nothing happened.

Anyway, the match wasn’t much to write home or anything else about, and it only served as setup for Tony D’Angelo vs. Dijak. So, yeah, we’re getting that at New Year’s Evil. Let it be quick, that’s all I ask.

The winner gets their shot at Wes Lee for the North American championship. That means Dijak wins, doesn’t he?

Apparently Trickin’ Really Isn’t Easy

Axiom defeated Trick Williams because of course he did. The right man won, and Trick represented himself very well. We don’t get Trick Willy in the ring often but when we do, he’s always entertaining and understands his role.

After taking his L, Trick invited Melo into the ring for an Axion beatdown. Crews limped to the ring for the save, which means we might get a tag match between these four men before the month ends. Trick is the weak link in that equation if that’s the route they’re going, I’m curious how it plays out.

LET THEM FIGHT

I thought Toxic Attraction’s promo was the main thing for this segment. Then they both challenged Roxanne Perez. So I’m thinking okay, that’s the thing I’m writing about. Nope.

Out came Indi Hartwell stating her claim to the Women’s NXT championship. Then Cora Jade. Then Nikkita Lyons. Than Zoey Stark. Than Wendy Choo. Each woman insulted the other, challenged Roxanne for her championship, and expressed just how much they needed that belt around their waist. The one comical part about it is how they all emerged from the crowd. But it’s the kinda comical thing that works in wrestling.

Thea Hail, always present in the Chase U section, stood up and basically yelled “FOOD FIGHT!” All the women entered the ring, followed by every woman in the locker room. A pier six brawl unfolded and the crowd erupted. We all love a good fight, right?

Roxanne Perez, the apple of everyone’s eye, showed up with an announcement: At New Year’s Evil, twenty women will compete in a battle royal for a number one contender spot and a championship match at Vengeance Day.

Whew, that’s a lot. I’m always down for a battle royal, so let’s do it.

The Fire Rises

Wow. So, Alba Fyre and Isla Dawn started their “match” during that big brawl with the women’s locker room. I use quotes around the match because this was as extreme as advertised. They fought outside, fought in the backstage area, and eventually got back to the ring. Tables, chairs, NXT logos, toolboxes, and office chairs were all fair game.

The key moment came at the end. Alba positioned Isla on a table outside the ring before climbing the top rope. Isla got up, smiled, and then lied back down. Dawn willingly took Alba’s senton, which served as a setup for a KLR Bomb through the table. The latter actually broke the table when the former somehow didn’t. Alba won the match but I don’t believe she won the war. Isla has a plan and seems to want all the fire Alba offers. And the smoke as well.

Violence Hype Package

We got a hype video for Sanga & Veer vs. the Creed Bros. The former wants respect while the latter wants a fight.

I’m already sold on this and the package didn’t add anything new to the story. A sit down interview with both teams though? That I could get with in a major way.

Big Body Losses

Still love Javier Bernal. Such an entertaining cat. He and Oro Mensa wrestled this week because Big Body Javi interrupted Oro’s interview and promoted his Christmas album. Yup, several days late and several dollars short.

Javi took the L because he should. Oro looked good though. But another match where neither man had enough time to really get busy. And, frankly, there’s too much on NXT this week for this match to stand out even a little bit.

School of Hard Knocks

Andre Chase didn’t take kindly to seeing Drew Gulak instructing his students. So much so that he challenged Gulak to a match this week. Gulak, with Hank at his side, defeated Andre by submission. And, of course, took it a bit too far. I’m still not sure what they’re doing here with Gulak, but I do want more answers. Charlie Dempsey took off his sling during the match and challenged Gulak…who promptly said Hank would kill Dempsey at New Year’s Evil.

New Year’s Evil is going to be a long show. Geez.

For those who missed it earlier…

Just leaving this here. Another backstage angle is brewing with more voyeurism and secrecy. NXT certainly has a type.

Kiana Says What’s Good

Kiana James and Fallon Henley looked like they buried the hatchet this week. Kiana congratulated Kiana on her win and wished her luck in the upcoming battle royal. Then she told Brooks to text her later.

All of this is too good to be true, right?

SOS

Schism ran up on New Day. The Dyad questioned why Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods interacted with every NXT tag team except them. They believe Kofi and Xavier are ducking them. Kofi and Xavier say that’s not the case. In fact, they’re ignoring the Dyad because the entire group looks like “extra from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.” Yeah, I get that.

Joe Gacy stepped to Kofi and Kofi issued a challenge.

They put on a pretty good match too! Gacy gets better every week and Kofi is Kofi. The highlight of the match wasn’t Kofi taking out both members of the Dyad on the outside of the ring or the fact Gacy made Kofi sweat. It was Xavier and Booker T going at each other on commentary. Xavier had the line of the night when he noticed that Bokker was talking a lot lately but he doesn’t see Stevie Ray anywhere.

Kofi got the W and after the match, Pretty Deadly put it all out there. Tired of running errands for New Day for a title shot, they opted for a gauntlet match at New Year’s Evil. Pretty Deadly takes on three teams to prove they deserve a rematch.

I love it.


This was an eventful go home show. They front loaded it with the big things, tapered off in the middle, then ended with another big thing in the end. I’m less thrilled about Grayson and Bron now and wish both men got more time to truly make this story pop. But, alas, in the physical universe we occupy, it cannot be done.

Grade: B

That’s my grade and I’m sticking to it. Your turn.

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