By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
NXT 2.0 Hits
“Pretty Deadly” Elton Prince and Kit Wilson vs. Julius Creed and Brutus Creed vs. Grayson Waller and Sanga vs. Raul Mendoza and Joaquin Wilde vs. Josh Briggs and Brooks Jensen in a gauntlet match for the vacant NXT Tag Titles: This match and Friday’s AEW Rampage match between Jon Moxley and Wheeler Yuta were very different and yet the goal of each match was the same. Moxley won on Rampage and Pretty Deadly won the NXT Tag Titles in this match, but both matches were all about making the losers shine in defeat. In this case, the Creed Brothers went the distance and became the true faces of the NXT tag team division. We’ve seen the formula before with a wrestler or a team going to the distance in a gauntlet match only to have fresher opponents beat them in the end, but it was really well done here. The Creeds came out of this looking great, and Pretty Deadly are set up nicely as the unworthy and/or flukey NXT Tag Team Champions. Bonus points to NXT creative for bringing back the old school Royal Rumble approach of showing the teams pulling their entry numbers from the backstage hopper.
Cameron Grimes vs. Solo Sikoa for the NXT North American Championship: This match got the show off to a great start. Grimes always delivers in the ring, and Sikoa has quickly proven that he can hold up his end of things when he’s booked against quality opponents. Distraction finishes are overdone in WWE and NXT, but it worked nicely in this case in terms of protecting Sikoa and leaving the door open for an eventual rematch, while also putting heat on Carmelo Hayes and Trick Williams.
Natalya and Cora Jade: Okay, this Hit is mostly for Natalya. The WWE Performance Center crowd that often stands out for all the wrong reasons was here here in giving Natalya a hero’s welcome. She seemed genuinely moved by the reaction and it felt like a rare real moment from Natalya rather than the one-dimensional character she’s played over the years. I wish I could say the same for Jade, who lost me with her over the top awestruck routine that consisted of her acting like a schoolgirl while waving at Natalya repeatedly. I get the idea that Jade is the longtime fan who idolized many of the WWE wrestlers, but the performance felt forced and I just didn’t buy that this normally confident beyond her years character would suddenly become such an over the top fangirl. Natalya’s attack on Jade ended the realness that we saw from her and put her right back into heel mode. Even so, I really like the idea of a feud between her and Jade, and everyone in NXT who works with Natalya is sure to benefit from doing so.
Von Wagner vs. Ikemen Jiro: It’s a shame that Wagner was thrown on television before he was ready. He was a terrible babyface who cut terrible promos and had a terrible look. Wagner is now a strong heel, Robert Stone does the talking for him, and Wagner has improved his look by growing a beard and adding new gear. Had this more polished version of Wagner just shown up on NXT television, there would be a lot of good buzz about him. Don’t let the rough start distract you. Wagner has a lot of work to do, but he’s on the right path now.
Bron Breakker and Joe Gacy: A soft Hit for the uneventful follow-up to NXT’s latest kidnapping angle. I guess Gacy just let Rick Steiner out of the cage and no one bothered to press charges? As silly as that was, the performances of Breakker and Gacy were solid. Breakker expressed fitting frustration, while Gacy delivered his usual quality mic work.
NXT 2.0 Misses
Mandy Rose vs. Dakota Kai for the NXT Women’s Championship: A rare clunky match involving Kai. Rose is doing a nice job as the leader of Toxic Attraction from a character standpoint, but she still struggles once the bell rings.
Xyon Quinn vs. Draco Anthony: Whatever Quinn showed early in his NXT 2.0 run has faded away. He looked like just another guy during this match even though it was all about him going over strong.