NXT recap & reactions (March 14, 2023): Is Bron ready for Melo?

Society for Mutual Admiration

Source Breakker can’t agree with Carmelo Hayes on the mic.

The two finally signed their contract for the Stand & Deliver main event and verbal sparring for a bit. Bron was okay with Melo making the North American Championship the A Championship in his head because he knew he wasn’t ready for the NXT Championship, but he stumbled through parts and didn’t sound as convincing as his opponent.

For my last Raw In summary, I noted that Cody Rhodes’ superpower is his sincerity. The public believes him because he believes it and his conviction oozes from his pores. Bron doesn’t have that ability yet and they rarely use it this way. Yes, he has microphone skills and does his fair share of microphone work, but he rarely goes back and forth with anyone in this setting. And certainly not someone as polished as Melo in terms of understanding his character and believing every sentence.

I trace that back to his past feuds that didn’t prepare him for this moment from a character standpoint or really push his limits as a wrestler. Bron talks with his fists and feet, and he does it fluently, I might add. Putting him in a showdown with Melo in front of an audience that might not love him as much as they used to doesn’t sound like putting talent in a position to win. Accentuate his strengths instead of making him seem inferior to his opponent.

That said, the mutual admiration society that Melo and Bron belong to works because of the obvious tension. I’m not saying they really dislike each other, because I don’t believe that at all, but like Austin and Rock back in the day, they clearly see each other as competitors and that makes their moments together pop. Normally I’m against a feud where the two opponents talk about how much they respect each other and throw side punches, but they made it work this week.

But my thoughts still go to Los Angeles on April 1st. I’m not sure if that audience is giving Bron the flowers and applauding. Even this week, a pretty loud “save us, Melo” chant erupted as Bron spoke more. Whenever Bron goes to the main roster, whether it’s April 3 or months later, WWE needs to make him more rounded.

One trick ponies normally become glue when they appear Raw or SmackDown without much character or anything compelling about them. After 18 months, the NXT audience seems a bit bored, but that one Raw And SmackDown rush, special the after Mania public on April 3? In less than 5 minutes, Bron could be bbq chicken in their eyes.

Both Melo and Bron are ready for the main roster, but one is just a little more ready than the other. And in this game, that counts for a lot.


Home alone

Johnny Gargano started the show talking directly to Grayson Waller. Waller, it turns out, had other plans.

Vic Joseph interrupted Mr. Wrestling with the news that Grayson was at Johnny’s house. Because of course Grayson live-streamed it. It takes a very vain man to livestream his potential crime, but that’s great character for Waller.

Johnny stormed out of the arena and headed home where his wife and child waited in blissful ignorance. When he finally showed up, he and Grayson got into a very brutal fight outside Johnny’s “main roster” money house. The video speaks for itself, but I enjoyed seeing Waller’s cruel side. Johnny excels in vulnerability and Grayson excels in jerkiness. Mix the two together and honey, you got yourself a stew you get a little magic.

Pretty physical

This has been my favorite Pretty Deadly game since they appeared in NXT. They showed their physicality and continued to interact with Gallus every step of the way. That’s an important development for them as it takes them beyond handsome boys and shows adaptability to any style.

That said, the irony in the story is that they lose the match by reverting to their old habits. They even gained an advantage once! But cheating is in their blood and they paid the price for it. Gallus barely held out when the face team was in danger.

Gold stars all around with a great opening tag match that showed how versatile both teams are. After losing, Pretty Deadly herself decreed the hosts Stand & Deliver. I’ll allow it.

As for Gallus? Tony D’Angelo & Stacks set their sights on the NXT Tag Team Championships in another moving moment. Tony D believes Stacks needs gold after all his hard work and sacrifice to the family. I like these two.

First to the ladder

We’ll get into the Roxanne Perez corner later because I have different thoughts, but the long and short one is that she’s out of commission after she passed out last week. This gives us multiple qualifiers where the winners compete against each other in a ladder match Stand & Deliver.

Zoey Stark crosses the threshold first after beating Sol Ruca. Solid match where Sol showed improvement against a seasoned pro. Listen to me, but I actually think winning Zoey is the wrong move here. Yes, she’s more polished than Sol and adds a special presence, but we’re missing Sol in a ladder match. I think that’s a missed opportunity. I liked the game, but I disagree with the decision.

Diamonds are not forever

Tatum Paxley finally erupted. For weeks, Paxley felt like Ivy Nile’s unnecessary appendage. Even last week Ivy celebrated the Creed Bros.’ win without Tatum in tow. That said, the storytelling felt haphazard. We needed some key beats to get to this point, like Tatum asking to join Diamond Mine and showing us the aftermath. Or maybe show us what happens when Tatum tries to join the after party reindeer games.

That said, during their triple threat tag match against Kayden Carter & Katana Chance and Isla Dawn & Alba Fyre, Tatum Ivy still shocked my system. And they made the turn mean something since Tatum punched Ivy, threw her back into the ring and changed the direction of the game. Tatum practically fed her former partner to the wolves and as a result, Alba & Isla are now the number one contenders for the NXT Women’s tag team championships.

The road to get there felt sloppy, but the end results felt meaningful. Plus, we made it a fun match with chaotic triple threat action.

Batman x Joker

First, and I know I’ve said this before, but whoever changed Ilya Dragunov’s theme music is a war criminal. Straight up and down, they belong in the hedge.

Now that that’s out of my system, let’s look at what happened between Dragunov and JD McDonagh. Both men grabbed microphones and narrated their respective versions of this year’s dance to and around each other. JD quoted the Joker saying he believes they are destined to do this forever. Dragunov, of course, strongly disagreed, because like Edge at Judgment Day, he is tired. JD also said like a scalpel to the eye, it’s hard to look at.

They can’t all be winners.

The talking stopped and they fought like two men tired of each other. That brawl went into the locker room and continued despite the officials breaking them up….

Closed challenge

It even made it into Wes Lee’s open challenge! JD went for Lee with gold in mind only for Dragunov to tell him “nah” and the punches continued.

Of course, they represented only one facet of a major brawl for a shot at Wes. And unfortunately for the challengers, the match never took place because no one got a chance to enter the ring. Well, neat anyway.

Axiom was almost there, but…SCRYPTS interrupted him. Yes, crypts. After weeks away, the masked Reggie is back with his sights set on Axiom.

NXT Anonymous happened to catch Wes talking to Shawn Michaels backstage. Shawn loves Wes but hates the chaos caused by the open challenges. Wes wants all the smoke because he still has this chip on his shoulder and needs to prove himself. Shawn disagrees, but Wes says Shawn in particular knows what it’s like to win and just feels more pressure to compete.

It’s an interesting angle for Wes and also foreshadows his possible demise. He wanted 10 opponents Stand & Deliver which… yes, no, not happening. Instead, Shawn negotiated a Fatal Five Way and Wes chooses the five.

I can’t wait for this, but I’m so invested in Wes’ story right now too.

Second to the ladder

Gigi Dolin defeated Kiana James and hit her ticket to Stand & Deliver. They only got about six minutes, but Gigi continues her hot streak. I actually expected some interference from Jacy Jayne since they interviewed her earlier. Yes, she had one arm in a sling and said she was taking time off due to a separated shoulder, but I still believed! But if Jacy really is off duty for a while, it makes sense to put Gigi in a title match on the biggest stage. Even without seeing the third member of this ladder match, I put my money on Gigi. She’s ready for the big belt and her ascension brings a fitting end to the Toxic Attraction story.

But there are also problems in paradise for the Women’s tag champions. Fallon Henley and Josh Briggs broke into Kiana’s office and found potentially incriminating evidence. Apparently, Kiana developed this relationship with Brooks in order to work her way into a tag team with Fallon for tag team gold. And she meets or dates a cat named Sebastian. With Fallon snooping out of the building, Kiana was left all alone and vulnerable after her loss. Alba & Isla took advantage and only left the scene when Brooks showed up.

Brooks, Kiana, Fallon and Josh met backstage after the match and frustratingly Fallon and Josh didn’t reveal anything about their findings. If there’s a good time for the reveal, it’s during a discussion about who was wrong for not showing up for whom and the added pressure of a championship game on Stand & Deliverbut it’s strange that Fallon just keeps that information to herself, given her animosity towards Kiana and her love for her friend.

Dragon Sighting!

NXT continues to slowly roll Dragon Lee. Last week they showed him in the audience and this week he did a backstage interview. Interesting moves indeed.

Pursue Ava

After everything seemingly went left in Chase U, this week’s edition saw Andre chase mending fences. Or at least try. Chase shined here, giving a moving speech about the importance of Chase U and how it affected his life. He also noticed how it affected Duke Hudson’s giving Duke a passion he lacked during his days as a card shark battling Cameron Grimes. Chase can handle the serious as well as the comedy, and I hope NXT uses him more in the former role. Ava Raine showed up after Andre’s speech, just creepy and getting into Duke’s head, but Chase owned this segment and this moment.

Really enjoyed NXT this week. A LOT happened, but the two hours passed like pulp over a kitchen table. Two more weeks until Stand & Deliver and I can’t wait for the litter pair shows.

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