By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
NXT 2.0 Hits
JD McDonagh vs. Cameron Grimes: The best match of the night and a throwback to the black and gold era. With Grimes coming off a loss to Bron Breakker while McDonagh is being built up as Breakker’s next challenger, there was no reason to think that McDonagh was going to lose this match. As such, it would be nice to see them run this match back at some point when the outcome is less predictable. The ring work was top notch and I enjoyed the way that McDonagh consistently targeted the left knee of Grimes throughout the match.
Cora Jade: This was the most important promo of Jade’s career and she nailed it. She ditched the skater girl look for something more mature, and then used good heel logic while explaining her turn on Roxanne Perez. The Madusa inspired moment where Jade threw her tag team title belt in the trash was an unexpected development.
20-woman battle royal for a shot at the NXT Women’s Championship: It wasn’t always pretty, but it was better than expected considering how many green wrestlers were involved. Zoey Stark winning in her return from a long injury layoff was a good move that immediately reestablished her as a player in the women’s division.
Roderick Strong vs. Damon Kemp: I loved the finish with both men being distracted by the big screen footage of Tony D’Angelo and his crew attacking Julius Creed and Brutus Creed. I assumed this was going to be used as an out that would see Strong and Kemp take a double count-out while they headed backstage to help their Diamond Mine faction mates. Rather, it was hilarious when Strong threw a leaping knee at Kemp and then pinned him before going to the back, only to question why it took so long for Kemp to get backstage.
Josh Briggs and Brooks Jensen vs. “Pretty Deadly” Elton Prince and Kit Wilson for the NXT UK Tag Titles: A quality tag team match. Prince and Wilson continue to be a good throwback team in terms of their in-ring style, and it’s no coincidence that Briggs and Jensen had their best match while working with them. The Fallon Henley spot was really good, and the finish with Briggs and Jensen hitting their finisher out of nowhere was really well done.
Xyon Quinn: Another good week on the mic. After some ups and downs, Quinn seems to be finding his groove with his “X Factor” persona. He is starting to click as a personality and I look forward to seeing his character evolve. It will be interesting to see if Quinn can hang in next week’s match with Apollo Crews.
Toxic Attraction: Mandy Rose and Jacy Jayne mocking the way WWE backstage interviewers gaze adoringly at wrestlers as they walk away from the interview set was a big Hit in my book.
NXT 2.0 Misses
Bron Breakker: This Miss isn’t about Breakker’s performance. He is actually doing tremendous work for a wrestler at this early stage in his development. The NXT creative forces need to position Breakker as a Drew McIntyre style babyface. McIntyre was the face and voice of Raw and Impact Wrestling during his championship reigns. He has the special ability to make viewers get behind his character while also making them feel good about the brand they are supporting. NXT desperately needs someone to play that role and Breakker is the obvious candidate. They had a great opportunity to do this a while back when Cameron Grimes said that Breakker could lose his championship and then end up on Raw or Smackdown the next week. Breakker really should have been scripted to dispute this rather than essentially nod along. Breakker obviously won’t be in NXT forever, but in the meantime he needs to make viewers feel like he wants to be there and that the brand is more than a stepping stone to his character. Paul Levesque was always good about making black and gold era fans feel like they were part of a movement. That’s missing from today’s NXT and Breakker strikes me as the right guy to help reestablish that vibe.
The Schism reveal their identities: Zack Gibson and James Drake ditched the bathrobes and revealed new looks and names. It was a nice move to use their new alliance with Joe Gacy to explain the latest of WWE’s awkward name changes. Even so, it’s so hard to be excited by anything involving Gacy character due to how badly he has been booked since he started his program with Bron Breakker. The creative forces refuse to give up on the dead end PC elements of Gacy’s character. Sure, it got them some headlines when the character was first introduced, but it’s not like it’s led to any actual heat from fans and it feels like an unnecessary burden.
Axiom vs. Dante Chen: A fairly flat debut for the Axiom character. His entrance was cool and the match was basic enhancement material, but the “mathematical superhero” concept is an eye roller.