Ladders, ladders everywhere
NXT started its semi-new era tonight in an enigmatic way. Shawn Michaels, who I assume is now an on-screen authority figure (welcome back, Sheriff!) has stripped Solo Sikoa of his North American title. Why do you ask that? Because Solo was an unauthorized contestant in an unauthorized contest. The fans did not choose him, therefore the match results are void.
That means Carmelo Hayes lost the title to Solo for basketball reasons. WWE wanted a cliffhanger moment and something to talk about, so they put the title on someone they never intended to keep that title. For those of you who say they may have just found out today or in the past few days, NXT was pre-recorded this week, making it more than likely that removing Solo’s title was always the plan. Yes, it was a hellish moment, but now it’s completely pointless. All it did was create an opening for a ladder match in six weeks at Halloween havoc.
Do not get me wrong. I’m looking forward to a ladder match. Especially after the last time NXT held a ladder match for the North American Championship. But for that, Melo didn’t have to lose the title. Not only has Solo officially gone from the black and gold mark, his title win officially never happened. There’s a better way to do this if they don’t make title-enhancing hands look like a stunt.
But… what I do like is the fact that Melo is watching his game at this point. He and Trick went to the ring to have their conversation and Chase U interrupted him. A good tag match followed between Trick & Melo and Andre Chase & Bodhi Hayward. Watch this: Melo took the pin. Not Trick, but Melo. Andre Chase took a surprise win over Carmelo Hayes, proving that Melo is losing momentum in this ladder match to regain a title he never really lost. He’s so focused on Shawn’s dishonesty taking the title from him as punishment for breaking the rules—irony—that he found himself on the wrong end of a teachable moment.
Last week I mentioned that Melo is the main character of NXT. This week only underscores that fact for me.
JD McDonagh and Tyler Bate started their match perfectly: several pin-fall attempts illustrate how well they know each other. After they tried each other out, the fun really started. This NXT championship number one contender had everything I want in a wrestling match. Character-driven movement, back and forth action, third act almost falling, and the feeling that either competitor can win. Tyler didn’t come into the game overconfident or arrogant, but he aimed a little too high. In a fight where the opponent knows every move before it takes place, it makes sense to surprise him with the unexpected.
JD didn’t expect Bate to go for a Tyler Driver ’97, but he was prepared. JD blocked the move by risking his own body – perfect in character – with a headbutt and went for a great Spanish fly off the top rope. One Devil Inside later JD walked away with the win.
But he wasn’t happy about it. As JD and Bron Breakker go head to head, Ilya Dragunov made his triumphant return to Florida! He was sorely missed and immediately put himself in the championship picture. While Bron welcomed the extra competition, JD was boiling over the sound of Dragunov’s music alone.
This is a good thing because it gives Bron more to do, provides a very valuable foil for the seemingly unfazed JD, and makes everyone involved a little more interesting.
This was easily the game of the show and one of NXT’s best main events in quite some time.
Toxic Attraction and Ivy Nile & Tatum Paxley wrestled a solid match with a beautiful story. Toxic Attraction is on a mission for dominance as Ivy tries her best to hold her attention with all the Diamond Mine drama going on. Different bets for different people, and I bought it.
Ivy just couldn’t focus long enough to be her normal self, and she took the pin for her team while disappointing her partner.
There’s a better way to do this, right? WWE is usually For real on point when it comes to passing story beats so all the details are clear. But Damon Kemp is not yet skilled enough to carry that burden. Like last week, his delivery is stilted and unconvincing. He’s a work in progress, but maybe they’ve put him in a position to win?
Cora Jade and Wendy Choo have good chemistry together. They weren’t given much time—most of the matches on the show aren’t—but they obviously work well together. Wendy is a baby face that everyone loves and that makes her the perfect opponent for Cora. Cora won thanks to a DDT and Lash Legend attacked Wendy after the game. Lash working with Wendy is a good look for her on several fronts. Hopefully it will work.
Still a good team
The Cageside Slack came to an agreement: we’d rather see Tyler Bate as a cult leader than Joe Gacy. Bate looks good while Gacy… well. And why did Malik Blade wrestle in an argyle sweater vest and pants?! Steve Urkel had a better fashion sense than that.
Phew, fix it, Jesus.
Those things aside, this was a pretty good tag match that was all about showcasing the Dyad. Edris Enofe & Malik started strong, hitting the ring as sneaker shoppers on Black Friday, but when the Dyad slowed down, they ironically couldn’t keep up. The Dyad, without the Joe Gacy shenanigans, are still a dope team capable of really good games. This was another example because they just outsmarted and outsmarted Enofe & Blade.
More of that sharp tag action and less hugs with Gacy.
I can’t even talk about this ladder match qualifier between Grayson Waller and Oro Mensah. And I loved the match! Do you know why I can’t? Because Apollo Crews showed up with a bleeding eye. Yes, blood is dripping from his eye. Understandably, this stopped Waller and took advantage of Mensah. Mensah advances to the ladder match to Halloween havoc, while Apollo has another gimmick. As Stella pointed out, the guy has a new gimmick every week.
No, I don’t like it.
I know what NXT is doing with Nathan Frazer and Axiom. I totally get it. Win them over by wrestling some dope matches. But it doesn’t work for me. I barely know who these two are, other than they love comics and challenging each other. I just need a little more juice to get emotionally involved.
The main event really boosted this show. And the surprise return at the end put the cherry on top of the sundae. While some of the action over the two hours left something to be desired, and there’s still too much Gacy, the show ended very strong.
That’s my grade and I’m sticking to it. Your turn.