The SmarK Rant for WWE NXT 2.0 – 01.04.21
“NEW YEAR’S EVIL!”
So a word, if I may.
One of the things, among many, that bug me about NXT 2.0 so much is the tonal disconnect with the show. They inherited a lot of tropes and traditions from the black and gold NXT, one of which was the dark, edgy attitude brought in by the indie guys trying to recreate blood and guts old school wrestling for that fanbase. Which gave us “Wargames” and “Halloween Havoc” and “New Year’s Evil”, as well as cage matches and street fights and violent ladder matches. So now we have NXT 2.0, filled with young and relatively untrained new stars and apparently appealing to a younger demographic with bright colors and wacky cartoonish skits and characters. But it’s still WARGAMES and kendo stick street fights and horror-themed specials, and it just doesn’t mesh. A show with technicolor dreamcoat graphics and a recurring character who is found sleeping in the background should be FUN. So maybe, you know, lighten up a little bit on some of that stuff, NXT. Also pre-tape the show and cut it down to an hour while you’re taking my advice.
Live from Orlando, FL.
Your hosts are Vic Joseph & Wade Barrett
Unification match: Carmelo Hayes v. Roderick Strong
And so we come to the end of the Cruiserweight title’s latest revival, at least getting swallowed up into another title instead of just fading away and being forgotten like last time. They fight for a wristlock and Hayes puts him down with a dropkick, but Strong fights back with chops, which sends Hayes to the floor. So Roddy follows and continues chopping him, but he misses a charge in the ring and gets hung up in the corner, allowing Carmelo to put him down with a guillotine legdrop. They jockey for position and end up on the apron, where Hayes hits a DDT on the HARDEST PART OF THE RING. Back in, Strong catches him with a lariat for two. We take a break and return with Hayes in control via wristlock. Strong comes back with a backbreaker, not once, not twice, but THRICE. Hayes takes him down with a headscissors and spins into a crossface, but Strong reverses to the Stronghold, and Hayes reverses that to his own Boston crab. Strong powers out of that and goes back to the Stronghold, but Hayes kicks him in the jaw to escape. Strong puts him down with yet another backbreaker for two. They slug it out from their knees and Strong hits an Angle slam for two after battering him with elbows. Hayes rolls through a suplex attempt in the corner and turns it into a cutter for two. Strong with a small package for two. Hayes escapes a suplex and lands on his feet, hitting a superkick before going up, but Strong cuts him off with a superplex that turns into an X Plex in mid-air and I’m not sure what happened there exactly. Hayes goes up again and hits the guillotine legdrop, and this time gets the pin and the titles at 15:04. Finish was a bit out of nowhere and once again was the trope of “One guy takes a devastating move and then just hits his finish” but this was an excellent opener, better than anything on the PPV this weekend. ****
Earlier today Bron Breakker shows up, and AJ Styles stops by the dressing room to chat with Ciampa.
The Dusty Classic returns and that’s gonna be a trainwreck unless they can find a bunch of tag teams who don’t suck. See, that’s another leftover from the original NXT where you don’t need to do something again just because it was done before.
AJ Styles joins us to call out Grayson Waller, and Waller answers and calls AJ old and beat up. So AJ offers to let Waller test him out right now, but Waller declines and wants a match next week instead, and then they have a quick scuffle before Waller runs away. This was a standard WWE main roster “jibber jabber and then the heel backs off the match” segment where they’re trying to build it up as this big deal but it just doesn’t feel like it.
Meanwhile, Pete Dunne also wants a match next week, with Tony D’Angelo.
Meanwhile, Persia & Indi get roped into a six-man tag with Wendy Choo, who is the sleepy girl, after getting into a random argument with the KCs. This was incredibly fake-sounding all around as none of these people talk like real human beings. And really, that’s what we’re going with as a gimmick? She’s narcoleptic?
Imperium & WALTER v. Riddle & MSK
Barthel takes Carter down and works the arm to start, but Nash flips out of it and walks into an armdrag from Aichner. They slug it out and Carter takes him down with a rana, as Wes Lee comes in. Lee tries a moonsault and gets caught, as Aichner blasts him with a clothesline to flip him 180 degrees. So Riddle comes in and WALTER wants some of that, as they pound each other and Riddle goes down. Aichner comes in and drops elbows on him before going to a chinlock, but MSK double-teams Aichner with kicks and then dropkicks Barthel out of the ring. So then WALTER is like “Fuck it, I’ll do this myself” and comes in to kick everyone’s ass PERSONALLY, before hanging Lee in the corner for Imperium to double dropkick him out to the floor as we take a break. WHY IS THIS MAN NOT EVERY CHAMPION IN WRESTLING? Just put all the fucking belts on him, he’ll do it all himself. Back with Carter getting his ass kicked as WALTER continues putting the boots to him while Imperium takes out his tag partners. But he fights back with a rana and makes the hot tag to Riddle, who manages to fight back with suplexes on WALTER and hits a senton. Riddle runs wild and tries a double DDT on Imperium but they fight out, so MSK superkick them off the apron and we get a triple dive to the floor in an amazing spot. Back in, Riddle with a german suplex on WALTER and he channels some RKO, but WALTER hits the shotgun dropkick and a powerbomb for two. Imperium double-teams Riddle in the corner and Aichner hits a brainbuster for two, but Carter saves, so Barthel throws him out of the ring. This leaves Riddle alone, so WALTER tells them to finish him off, but Riddle escapes the Imperial bomb and suplexes WALTER again, allowing MSK to come in with their finisher and a floating Bro into an RKO on Barthel for the pin at 14:20. Dammit, why didn’t they just listen to everything WALTER told them to do? This was like an AEW Party Match and this is exactly the kind of fun and light-hearted stuff they need. And another great match on the evening. ***3/4
Meanwhile, Joe Gacy declares for the Dusty Classic with Harland.
Meanwhile, Mandy Rose is in a helicopter for her entrance. It’s been done.
Meanwhile, Elektra Lopez is still playing coy about what’s going on with Xyon Quinn. So next week, it’s Quinn v. Escobar and the winner goes home with her.
NXT Women’s title: Mandy Rose v. Cora Jade v. Raquel Gonzalez
During Cora’s entrance, there are digital figures doing skateboarding in the video wall behind her, and those graphics are more believable as real human beings who can skateboard than Cora is. Raquel’s mom jeans gear is not particularly flattering, I’ll say that. Raquel attacks both women and blocks a Cora headscissor attempt, but Cora takes her to the floor. Mandy works Cora over on the apron, but Cora does a somersault off the apron onto Raquel, and then Mandy sends her into the stairs. Back in, that gets two. They all fight on the floor again and Cora gets a sloppy rollup on Mandy for two, and then Raquel takes them both down with a samoan drop as we take a break. Back with Cora getting a sunset flip on Mandy for two, but Mandy hits her with a clothesline for two. Jade gets a rana on both of the others, but Raquel takes her down with a backbreaker. There’s lots of chaotic action here but there’s no actual storyline to the match so far. Raquel dumps Jade and chases Mandy to the back, hauling her back in and making a comeback, but Mandy runs away again. She comes back in with a codebreaker on the ropes for two and we get some SHOCKED TWO COUNT FACE even though that wasn’t a particularly big move. Raquel kind of shakes Mandy in the way you’re apparently not supposed to shake a baby according to “doctors”, but she hits the chokeslam and Cora saves. So now Cora dumps Raquel and her big move is a rollup attempt, but Mandy blocks it for the pin at 12:38. This was NO GOOD, just a complete mess from start to finish. * And really, her big move to win the title was supposed to be a schoolgirl rollup? She deserved to get pinned for that.
Meanwhile, Boa is seeing things in his reflection. This is leading to a match with Solo Sikoa next week for some reason.
Meanwhile, Riddle bids farewell to MSK for now, but the Creeds vow to win the Dusty Classic and note that MSK can’t get a title shot at Imperium unless they win that tournament. So Imperium is just not going to defend their titles for the next two months then? Good deal for them.
Andre Chase joins us for some reason as I’m ready to just get to the main event already. He’s glad that Harland didn’t throw his unnamed student off the roof last week, because that would have been terrible for enrollment. But then Von Wagner interrupts and woodenly tells us about how NXT is the “Von Wagner watch party” and this is just the worst scripted promo garbage. And then Von beats up Chase and beats up his geek student and a planted member of the audience before security hauls him off. Oh my god, stop trying to make Von Wagner happen, IT’S NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN.
Meanwhile, Cameron Grimes recaps his 2021 and vows to start chasing gold instead of green. God help us, he looks way better with the trimmed beard and shorter hair.
Next week: Crowbar on a pole match. Yeah.
NXT title: Tomasso Ciampa v. Bron Breakker
Enough screwing around, time to pull the trigger or else let him go to the main roster already. Bron kicks a big Styrofoam X to show what he thinks of algebra. Ciampa hits him with chops and Bron LAUGHS at him and quickly takes him down and rolls him into a delayed suplex. Ciampa bails to think it over and tries to haul Bron out, so Bron hauls him in with another suplex. Bron works the back, but Ciampa rakes the eyes to slow him down and slugs away in the corner. Bron shrugs that off and hits him with a Breakkerline, but Ciampa dropkicks him and then Bron misses a bodypress and lands on the floor. Ciampa follows with a dive as Vic informs us that only two people have held the title longer than Ciampa, and one of them is Finn Balor! Well that second guy must be pretty impressive too! They slug it out and Bron gets a corner splash and catches Ciampa with a spinebuster. To the top, but Ciampa crotches him and hangs him in the Tree of Woe for some abuse. Ciampa goes to finish but Bron fights back with another spinebuster and a standing moonsault for two. Bron goes up and Ciampa brings him down again, this time with a bump to the floor, and Ciampa follows with a running knee out there, where it hurts more. Back in, Bron spears him and they’re both out. Breakker comes back first and tries his press slam, but Ciampa reverses into the draping DDT for two in a sequence that was a tad awkward. Ciampa takes him down with a half crab, but Bron makes the ropes to breakk, so Ciampa pulls up the mats like he’s Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania III. Didn’t work out so well for Hulk there, either. Bron stops him with an Alabama slam through the announce table, and back in for the press slam, but that gets two as Ciampa is in the ropes. Bron pulls him off the ropes, but Ciampa uses the ropes for the nutshot and hits him with a knee on the apron. Two more knees set up the Fairytale Ending, but it gets two. They fight to the top and Bron fights him off this time and hits a flying bulldog, and then puts him in the Breakker Recliner and Ciampa taps at 15:31. I dunno, it didn’t seem like they got the crowd reaction they were wanting from that one, even with Ciampa playing heel for the whole match. Having Bron go that long felt like a mistake and the match kind of meandered in the middle, especially when Breakker had to sell. It wasn’t BAD, but this wasn’t the big torch-passing moment he needed. **1/2
Regardless, the unification match and six-man are definitely must-see this week and completely overshadow any of the other crap they put out around them. Big thumbs up for the show this week, as they had two great matches and everything felt important and notable for once.