VENUE: WWE Performance Center (Orlando, FL)
COMMENTATORS: Vic Joseph & Wade Barrett
The first NXT of the Bron Breakker Era features the NXT debut of “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles as he takes on Grayson Waller in the main event. The feud between Pete Dunne and Tony D’Angelo reaches Vince Russo-level stakes as they battle in a Crowbar on a Pole match.
- NXT CHAMPION: Bron Breakker
- NXT WOMEN’S CHAMPION: Mandy Rose
- NXT NORTH AMERICAN CHAMPION: Carmelo Hayes
- NXT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS: Imperium (Fabian Aichner & Marcel Barthel)
- NXT WOMEN’S TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS: Toxic Attraction (Gigi Dolin & Jacy Jane)
- Xyon Quinn vs. Santos Escobar (*1/4)
- Cameron Grimes vs. Damon Kemp (NR)
- DUSTY RHODES CLASSIC QUALIFIER: Malik Blade & Edris Enofe vs. Joe Gacy & Harland (*)
- CROWBAR ON A POLE: Pete Dunne vs. Tony D’Angelo (**)
- Amari Miller, Kacy Catanzaro, & Kayden Carter vs. Indi Hartwell, Persia Pirotta, & Wendy Choo (*1/2)
- Solo Sikoa vs. Boa (*3/4)
- AJ Styles vs. Grayson Waller (**3/4)
-LAST WEEK: Bron Breakker defeats Tommaso Ciampa to become the new NXT Champion thanks to a combo flying bulldog/Steiner Recliner. YESSSS. EMBRACE YOUR INNER STEINER.
Samantha Irvin introduces the brand-new NXT Champion Bron Breakker to the ring to address the NXT Universe. HE’S EVEN EMBRACING THE RICK STEINER BARKS. I was a little leery of this guy leaning too hard into the Steiner stuff but that was days ago. I’m a new man now and this rules. Music dies and Breakker takes in the dueling “YOU DESERVE IT/NO HE DON’T” chants. Breakker compliments Tommaso Ciampa, thanking him for being an outstanding human being. Breakker knows he has big shoes to fill but he’s ready for this and warns anyone who wants to challenge him that he will prove why he earned this championship each and every week. Breakker drops the mic but his exit is interrupted by Santos Escobar, eyeing him and the NXT Championship as he heads to the ring. Oooo I’d watch a Bron Breakker/Santos Escobar match, let’s do that.
- JON’S THOUGHTS: Bron Breakker was the best choice for NXT Champion. Very happy with this.
Xyon Quinn vs. Santos Escobar [w/ Joaquin Wilde & Raul Mendoza]
The winner of this match will leave with Elektra Lopez by his side, a stipulation decided by her last week at New Year’s Evil. She’s only attracted to success.
Quinn attacks Escobar right at the bell, working him over in the corner and dropping him with a clothesline. Quinn rakes Escobar’s, uh, face across the top rope, Lopez looking on from a random perch in the crowd. Quinn throws Escobar across the ring and poses as the show moves to picture-in-picture. Escobar battles back with forearms but charges right into a back elbow; Quinn quickly shoots a look at Lopez and covers for the 1…2…not yet. Quinn tosses Escobar to the floor and tosses him into the apron (hardest ring part of the). Mendoza tries to interfere and gets tossed in the air,, distracting Quinn long enough for Escobar to finally gain offensive control. Escobar goes to work on the left leg, typing Quinn up and focusing his strikes to the thigh area.
Escobar grabs a leglock as the show goes back to full screen. Lopez has apparently made her ringside, giving her a front row seat as Escobar keeps working the leg. Escobar talks trash, Quinn throws a weak forearm and Escobar knocks him silly. Escobar lights Quinn up with a chop followed by a step-up kick. Escobar charges, Quinn drops him with a bodyblock and lays into him with strikes and a headbutt. Mendoza once again distracts Quinn, Escobar knocks him out of the ring. Escobar picks Quinn up to drop him on the steps but Lopez wordlessly stands in the way. Quinn attacks Escobar from behind and sends him back in the ring, then turns to Lopez who feels him up a bit. Quinn turns his back and Lopez KICKS HIM IN THE JEWELS, Mendoza rolls him and Escobar connects with a Phantom Driver for the 1…2…3.
Santos Escobar defeated Xyon Quinn via pinfall (10:37)
- JON’S THOUGHTS: Elektra Lopez chose correct. First time I’ve watched a full Xyon Quinn match and man he did absolutely nothing for me. No personality, felt like he just started wrestling last week. Santos did what he could but I felt every second of this match. (*1/4)
–Tony D’Angelo tells Pete Dunne he’s finished tonight.
-LAST NIGHT: Grayson Waller attacked AJ Styles during his match on Monday Night RAW.
-NXT Women’s Champion Mandy Rose celebrates her successful title defense with a photoshoot. Every side is her good side.
Cameron Grimes vs. Damon Kemp
Grimes and Kemp trade holds to start, Grimes rolling him up for a two-count and settling into an armbar, Malcolm Bivens watching from the aisle. Grimes comes off the buckles, Kemp catches him on the way down and connects with an overhead suplex. Grimes escapes a chinlock and takes control with a string of offense leading into a flying crossbody and a one-foot Cave-In for the 1…2..3.
Cameron Grimes defeated Damon Kemp via pinfall (2:20)
- JON’S THOUGHTS: Goofy Cave-In at the end but the match itself was a lot of fun. Kemp got more offense than I was expecting, apparently he’s an accomplished amateur. Respect. I hope Grimes gets stuff to do in 2022, he’s consistently entertaining. (NR)
–Joe Gacy thanks the committee for allowing he and Harland to participate in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. They will use the platform to demonstrate that everyone has an equal opportunity to win the cup. Their opponents tonight are in a safe space and while tonight they’re rivals that does not make them rivals in life. K.
-LAST WEEK: Von Wagner beats up Andre Chase and random folks in the audience until officials and refs kick him out of the arena. Joseph reads a statement: Wagner has fined and suspended him for an unspecified amount of time.
2022 DUSTY RHODES CLASSIC QUALIFIER
Joe Gacy & Harland vs. Malik Blade & Edris Enofe
The winner of this match gets a spot in the 2022 Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. Gacy asked for the opportunity on behalf of he and Harland because they wanted to “earn” the opportunity out of fairness. Blade and Enofe like their chances if their interstitial pre-recorded comments are to be believed.
Gacy backs Enofe into the corner, Enofe ducks a cheapshot and grabs a waistlock. Gacy counters out and drills Enofe with a spinning uranage for a two-count. Harland tries to make a tag, Enofe yanks him back into the center of the ring. Gracy grabs a front facelock, Enofe counters into a roll-up for a one-count. Blade tags in and connects with a dropkick and slows it down with an armbar. Enofe tags back in and he and Blade throw down some awkward double team moves that only gets them a two-count. Hey they tried. Enofe misses a corner splash and finally Harland gets the tag. Blade tags in and Harland immediately muscles him around, stopping to bring Enofe into the ring to throw him into the post. Harland keeps the corner assault going and the ref calls for the bell.
Malik Blade & Edris Enofe defeated Joe Gacy & Harland via DQ (3:14)
- JON’S THOUGHTS: Well hey I didn’t see that coming. Blade & Enofe showed off a little chemistry together but it seems like they’re still trying to feel it out. They could get pretty good together if NXT keeps them together long enough. (*)
Harland stalks the ref, who pleads that he was doing his job. Gacy backs Harland off and they leave. I guess Blade & Enofe are in the tournament.
-VIDEO: Imperium (WALTER, Fabian Aichner, & Marcel Barthel) look down on lazy fat Americans, and do not care about congratulating themselves. To them the mat is sacred. Cool.
–Pete Dunne and Tony D’Angelo head to the ring for the Crowbar on a Pole match next!
CROWBAR ON A POLE
Pete Dunne vs. Tony D’Angelo
D’Angelo wanted Dunne’s mouthpiece as a trophy from War Games, Dunne did not take kindly to this so D’Angelo injured his hand with a crowbar. You know, mafia sh*t. This has led to a CROWBAR ON A POLE MATCH, where the weapon will be legal once it’s been retrieved.
D’Angelo catches Dunne with a surprise right hand, Dunne counters a suplex attempt with a standing hammerlock with a bodyscissors. Dunne wrestles D’Angelo to the canvas and connects with a stomp to the back of the head. Dunne goes for the crowbar, D’Angelo peels him off the buckles, Dunne counters a suplex attempt with a front chancery; Dunne brings him back to the canvas and once again stomps him in the back of the head. D’Angelo prevents Dunne from grabbing the crowbar, connecting with a series of punches followed by an overhead Exploder suplex. D’Angelo almost gets the crowbar, Dunne pulls him off and stomps his head repeatedly and goes for the crowbar (which has fallen further down the pole) but D’Angelo stops him and both men are down as the show goes to commercial.
D’Angelo is control as the show returns from commercial, weapons revealed all around the ring. Ref has stopped them from being used though as the only one that can be used is a crowbar and ONLY if it’s retrieved from the pole. Fair enough. Dunne stomps D’Angelo’s left arm, stomping the joint and snapping it across his shoulder. Dunne stomps the elbow once again and connects with a kick, then goes to the crowbar but D’Angelo pulls him off and into a release German suplex that turns him inside out. D’Angelo pulls the crowbar down and it’s GO time. Dunne dodges a couple of shots and gets control of the steel but D’Angelo bails to the floor, barely avoiding a shot that reverberates off the pole. D’Angelo pulls Dunne to the floor and drops him spine-first on the apron. D’Angelo rolls back in and gets the crowbar; Dunne avoids getting his hand smashed and connects with a jumping knee strike. Dunne follows up with a kneedrop to the arm then breaks the count so he can roll D’Angelo back in. Dunne stuffs the crowbar in D’Angelo’s mouth, D’Angelo squashes him in the corner and connects with a crowbar-assisted swinging neckbreaker for the 1…2…Dunne kicks out! D’Angelo stomps Dunne’s previously injured hand and takes the crowbar to the knuckles. Dunne counters a neckbreaker with a forearm to the back of the head, following up with a series of kicks. Dunne gets the crowbar, D’Angelo tries a German but Dunne lands on his feet, trips him up, and applies a CROSSFACE WITH THE CROWBAR. Dunne and D’Angelo fight over a chair, ref removes it, Dunne locks in a triangle choke while bending back the fingers. D’Angelo gets to the bottom rope to force a break. The two trade shots, D’Angelo drops Dunne on the chair then sends him head-first into the pole and finishes him off with a crowbar to the face for the 1…2…3!
Tony D’Angelo defeated Pete Dunne via pinfall (9:58 shown)
- JON’S THOUGHTS: I live in a world where Tony D’Angelo has a win over Pete Dunne, that’s crazy. They really did dismantle Triple H’s NXT. Match was okay for what it was. (**)
–McKenzie Mitchell interviews Grayson Waller, who promises to create another moment in tonight’s main event.
–Indi Hartwell & Persia Pirotta are shown getting ready in the locker room. Their partner, Wendy Choo, wakes up, does some squats, then heads to the ring.
–Toxic Attraction gets another segment to talk about sexy they are, this time focusing on Gigi Dolin and Jacy Jane. They aren’t just Toxic Attraction they are THE attraction.
Amari Miller, Kacy Catanzaro, & Kayden Carter vs. Wendy Choo, Indi Hartwell, & Persia Pirotta
This match was made during a backstage segment last week, Choo being drafted in as a tag team partner despite being asleep during the whole argument. Choo comes to the ring in a onesie and bunny slippers, apparently still trying to wake up and get ready for the match.
Miller takes out Hartwell and Pirotta, Carter and Catanzaro take flight as well and stand tall. Josh Briggs & Brooks Jensen are shown watching backstage, Carter covers Hartwell for a two-count. Carter pulls Hartwell to her side, Hartwell whips her into the corner but Carter turns it into a dropkick to Pirotta. Hartwell and Carter connect with double forearms and drop to the canvas, Choo gets the tag and shows off some wrestling chops, including a cartwheel forearm and overhead suplex on Miller for the 1…2…Catanzaro breaks it up, Pirotta makes her pay with a sit-out powerbomb. Carter drops Pirotta, Hartwell drops Carter, Miller drops Hartwell. Pirotta gets the tag and connects with a sit-out TKO, Hartwell tags in and connects with an elbowdrop for the 1…2…3!
Wendy Choo, Indi Hartwell, & Persia Pirotta defeated Amari Miller, Kacy Catanzaro, & Kayden Carter via pinfall (3:40)
- JON’S THOUGHTS: Not sure what they’re trying to do with Wendy Choo but putting an adult in a onesie and having Vic Joseph talk about how she’s embracing her inner child is F*CKING NOT IT, GROSS. Choo made it work as well as she could FWIW, but I didn’t find it all that funny. (*1/2)
–MSK (Wes Lee & Nash Carter) hype themselves up for the 2022 Dusty Rhodes Classic, naming off teams they’re going to beat to win the event once again. Their list also includes an Elmo and Rocco reference because they’re hip and in tune with pop culture. Dakota Kai shows up to say weird stuff, MSK thinks they’re being hexed. Very unfunny.
–Solo Sikoa tapes his fists and is ready to fight Boa, be it regular Boa or EVIL BOA.
–Kay Lee Ray destroys Mandy Rose’s photoshoot set, which is SUPER RUDE as I doubt the photographers had anything to do with it.
Solo Sikoa vs. Boa
It’s Normal Boa for this one and the match starts without any entrances. Sikoa controls the first minute, Boa regroups and sends Sikoa crashing into the post. Boa connects with a series of knee strikes into a double underhook suplex for the 1…2…Sikoa kicks out. Boa slows it down with a chinlock, Sikoa bleeding from the mouth. Sikoa escapes the hold and flattens Boa with a senton, then sends himself and his opponent out to the floor with a clothesline. Sikoa throws Boa into the steps, Boa sends him into the announce table and post as the ref calls for the bell.
Solo Sikoa and Boa fought to a double countout (3:38)
- JON’S THOUGHTS: These two did NOT hold back so it ended up being a lot more fun than I expected. Sikoa is gonna drown in those Uso chants though, poor guy. Sad we didn’t get DEMON BOA, show could use some personality this week. (**)
Sikoa and Boa continue brawling to the back, their battle not yet over.
–McKenzie Mitchell asks “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles about what just transpired. Styles loves the energy and passion of NXT which is why he’s excited to be here. He vows to put the end to the Waller Effect tonight, and also vows to win the Royal Rumble and headline WrestleMania.
-LAST WEEK: Carmelo Hayes defeats Roderick Strong to unify the North American & Cruiserweight Championships.
–Carmelo Hayes and Trick Williams arrive to the arena in…some sort of fancy car, I don’t know autos well. He addresses the NXT Universe next!
-The Solo Sikoa/Boa fight has been spilled into the warehouse of the Performance Center, hitting each other with all sorts of weapons and whatnot. Sikoa throws Boa behind some production boxes then gets dropped with a FIREBALL. DEMON BOA COMPLETE WITH FACEPAINT EMERGES. YESSS. SO DUMB. YESSSS.
-Joseph announces that Von Wagner’s suspension has been lifted and his fine has been paid off. Oh.
North American Champ Carmelo Hayes gets introduced to the ring, flanked by Trick Williams. Williams does a lil’ hype and comedy, Hayes interrupts as they have some business to get to. Hayes pours one out for Roderick Strong’s Cruiserweight Championship reign then quickly launches into a celebration. Hayes says he has more accomplishments than months in NXT, two things are true: numbers don’t lie and MELO DON’T MISS. Hayes says he’s the walking cheat code, a history maker in the physical form, and the most scintillating champion ever in NXT. Hayes says that since it’s around his waist, the North American Championship is THE A CHAMPIONSHIP.
Hayes drops the mic and gets to celebrating…only for it to be interrupted by the entrance of “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles for the main event. Hayes and Williams try to talk trash but Styles ignores them and continues to the ring.
-Carmelo Hayes & Trick Williams try to get the keys to their car back but Cameron Grimes has them. Grimes tells Hayes he’s coming for the North American Championship and he’s going TO THE MOON.
“The Phenomenal” AJ Styles vs. Grayson Waller
Waller messes with Styles to start, daring him to take the first shot and hiding in the ropes to force a break. Waller brings Styles to the canvas with a side headlock, Styles briefly turns it into a pinfall attempt then gets back to a vertical base for a break. Styles brings Waller around the ring, laying into him with strikes and focusing his attack on Waller’s left leg. Styles connects with a scoop slam into a kneedrop, covering but only getting a one-count. Waller chops Styles in the corner, Styles responds with multiple chops of his own, Waller counters as suplex with a straight right, Styles responds with a dropkick that sends Waller to the floor. Styles hops to the apron, Waller trips him up and connects with a neckbreaker across the middle rope and a SLIDING BASEBALL SLIDE LARIAT as the show moves to picture-in-picture. Back in the ring Waller grabs a cravat, bring Styles down to one knee. Styles tries to break out, Waller grabs the hair and throws him to the canvas. Waller goes back to the cravat, working to wear the Phenomenal One down as NXT returns to full-screen.
Styles escapes the hold with palm strikes, Waller responds with a knee strike and decides to soak in the boos instead of making the cover. Waller talks trash, Styles responds with right hands. Styles follows up with rapid-fire strikes and a diving mini-Phenomenal Forearm. Styles splashes Waller in the corner and hits an Ushigoroshi for the 1…2..Waller kicks out. Waller grabs the ropes to stop the Styles Clash but gets knocked off the apron for his troubles. Waller drops Styles across the top rope and follows up with a rolling forearm and a flying elbow for the 1…2…Styles kicks out. Waller misses a splash, Styles can’t get a German so switches to the Calf Crusher instead! Waller screams and struggles but manages to get to the ropes. Waller surprises Styles with a sunset flip for the 1…2…Styles kicks out, Waller connects with a sit-out fireman’s carry slam for the 1…2…Styles gets the shoulder up. Waller signals for the Styles Clash, Styles counters with a backdrop. Waller rolls out of the ring to avoid the Phenomenal Forearm then quickly slides back in for a stunner and the 1…2…STYLES KICKS OUT AND WALLER CAN’T BELIEVE IT. Styles slides under a superplex attempt and drops him across the buckles. Waller escapes the Styles Clash, Styles hits a Pele Kick followed by a Brainbuster. Styles revs the crowd up, calls his shot, and connects with the PHENOMENAL FOREARM for the 1…2…3!
AJ Styles defeated Grayson Waller via pinfall (14:14)
- JON’S THOUGHTS: This felt like the classic early days of Full Sail NXT where the main roster star would show up to main event (and beat) one of the NXT standouts. Grayson Waller got way more offense on Styles than Bo Dallas did on The Big Show though, that’s for sure. Match was good, Waller held his own fine but he didn’t really stand out or anything outside of his entrance. That dumb dance he does makes me want to scream so he’s doing his job there at least. (**3/4)
Styles gets on the mic after the match and tells Waller he’s good but he’s not Phenomenal. Styles then says it’s not over yet and introduces Waller to one of his friends: the returning LA Knight. Knight lays into him in and out of the ring, throwing him clean across the table as Styles cheers him on. Knight clotheslines Waller to the floor and stands tall with Styles as the show concludes.
I really dug New Year’s Evil so I wanted to see if regular weekly NXT was going to be worth my time. I’m not going to say I hated the show, because I didn’t, but this was what the youths would call “mid”. Perfectly Acceptable Wrestling with nothing sticking out as being really worth the time other than I guess the Styles/Waller main event. But hey at least they had a dude manifest a fireball. There’s at least that. We’ll see if I keep this in the rotation; NXT very much feels like a “recap if I have nothing else going on” thing more than dependable coverage.
- MATCH OF THE NIGHT: AJ Styles vs. Grayson Waller
- FAVORITE MOMENT: Evil Boa throwing fireballs. My lizard brain can’t help but get pumped for fireballs.