Carmelo Hayes, the WWE Romance Champion, was a favourite.
To quote the great NBC comedy “The Good Place,” the first showdown between “NXT” Champion Carmelo Hayes and #1 contender Ilja Dragunov was intense and, if we’re being honest, sexually charged. Is it possible that we feel this way because Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi are going to work together again on “AEW Dynamite” this week? Yes. It is, yes. But there really did seem to be some vibes between Hayes and Dragunov, even if they were the “not on purpose” kind that happen when men talk to other men about how strong they are in wrestling. Don’t believe us? Go back and re-watch the part.The crowd can even feel it.
Anyway, that whole thing aside, the champion and the challenger had a good segment this week. Trick Williams tried to blame The Judgement Day’s knowledge of the numbers game for his loss last week, but Hayes was quick to blame Dragunov for interfering. It’s nice to have the cocky, superior Hayes back. His title match with Bron Breaker before he turned heel was way too respectful, and Hayes has been struggling to keep his edge ever since. As smooth as Dragunov is in the ring, he is just as smooth on the mic. He accuses Hayes of being all numbers and no feelings, which gets Hayes to talk about the pressure and meaning of holding the “NXT” title. It was good stuff for getting across how important their title match at the Great American Bash was. And as a secret romance book, it turned out to be even better, since Dragunov kept stepping in to protect Hayes from heels like Schism, even though Hayes didn’t want to be protected by him. This means that if Dragunov and Hayes are going to end up together, Dragunov will have to stop being so watchful and Hayes will have to get over his fear of being too dependent on Dragunov.
What? Are we the only people who can see this? Joe Gacy said, “We can all feel the tension.” I mean, really?Hayes’ nickname on the indies wasn’t “Christian Casanova” for nothing.
Hate: The tag team category, which is bad for romance.
So Angel Garza and Humberto Carrillo are finally back on WWE TV (without the Los Lotharios name, which should have been a warning sign), They have a fast-paced, high-flying match against Nathan Frazer and Dragon Lee. This is the kind of match you’d show an AEW fan if you wanted to show them that WWE also sometimes tries to have high-workrate fights, they lose ONE very close match, and Carrillo turns on Garza and breaks up the team? What’s going on? You couldn’t keep using these guys as a tag team of seasoned veterans, so you had to break them up. Maybe tomorrow we’ll be able to see that it will be better in the long run for both of them, but right now it doesn’t look that way. Since January, this was their first team match on TV that wasn’t a battle royal. You’d think “NXT” would take some time to remind the viewers who these guys are before sending them off on their own.
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Even worse, this wasn’t even the only breakup of a tag team in this show! Bronco Nima and Lucien Price’s first match on “NXT” was a pretty big letdown, mostly because it wasn’t really about them. Instead of giving Price and Nima a trash match against “local talent” or something similar, “NXT” put them in a match against Axiom and Scrypts. The story was that Axiom didn’t really want to be in a real tag team, which made Scrypts less excited about the idea. It’s a good idea that could have gone on for a while. We especially liked how Axiom was so bad at tag team wrestling that he didn’t know what to do when Scrypts did the very basic “arm wrench, tag out, pass off the arm wrench” move. Instead, the story moved quickly into the next phase when Scrypts turned on Axiom, giving Price and Nima the win in their first match. So, with these two, we’re back to where we were in May, right? What was the point of all of this if Scrypts was just going to turn heel again at the end? We don’t mind sadness if there’s a good reason for it, but it seemed like the “NXT” writers didn’t know where to go next, so they went backwards instead.
Disliked: Maybe stop WWE
When it comes to low-level feuds that don’t seem to know where they’re going, we don’t know what to think about Gigi Dolin vs. Kiana James this week.Women’s wrestling gets picked on unfairly a lot in online wrestling places, and we don’t want to add to that, but we have to say that Dolin and James’ match on Tuesday was bad. Even though it wasn’t all their fault, because the feud was set up badly (the match happened in the middle of a random show 12 days before the Great American Bash, which made the whole thing seem unimportant), the performers didn’t help. Both women looked like they weren’t really into it the whole time, and we don’t know what James is doing in the ring these days. She used to feel like one of “NXT’s” biggest gems just waiting to be polished, but for some reason, she now seems to lack punching ability. Don’t get us wrong, Dolin wasn’t great in this one either, but James stood out more of the two.
When it came down to it, the problem wasn’t that the fighters looked tired or that the match moved slowly as a whole. The problem was that there wasn’t a story hook. Dolin is meant to be the bullied outsider taking on the popular mean girl, and it seemed like they were going more in that direction last week, but none of that happened in this match. The only thing that added to the story was the paint that may or may not have been in James’ purse, but all that did was make the judge look like a huge idiot by letting the wrestlers hit each other with the purse in plain sight. When the only thing you can think of to build your match around is what’s gone wrong in the fight so far, you get what you deserve. We don’t know if this is the end of the story or not, but at this point, we’d almost rather both women move on to something else because this isn’t making anyone look good.
Everything else in the women’s section was great, too.
Aside from Dolin vs. James, we were very interested in everything else that happened in the women’s division of “NXT” this week, even the strange gymnastics video that Dana Brooke and Kelani Jordan did. It was so strange. We’re not sure if the next show with Brooke vs. Cora Jade in a kendo stick match or whatever will be interesting to watch, but screw that, give us more of these amazing gymnastics music videos.Gymnasts help each other out!
On a more serious note, the part with Blair Davenport and Roxanne Perez was good for reasons that had nothing to do with each other. The Paul Levesque government has made these interviews where the two feuding wrestlers talk into a camera from different places a mainstay. They don’t usually work, but this one was very effective. Davenport is a great promo, and we really like how instead of just yelling at each other and stopping the segment, Davenport actually made Perez so angry that he had to walk away. That’s some great heel work, and it’s very interesting how “NXT” is making the Perez character nervous and worried after her early success. If their Great American Bash match is half as good as what has come before it, it will be talked about for a long time.
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But of course, Thea Hail is still the crown jewel of the women’s division. The rest of Chase U is still pulling for her to beat Tiffany Stratton and win the women’s title. This week, Hail fought Elektra Lopez in a short match that was much better than Dolin vs. James because Hail won and Dolin didn’t. The best thing about Hail is that she always looks and acts like her character, especially when she is fighting. She moves like she doesn’t have much control over her body. Her arms and legs flail around randomly and hang in the air behind her when she does something as easy as an Irish Whip. She wrestles in the same way that her character walks and talks (or, more correctly, runs and screams), which makes her more likeable. She’s a living, breathing machine for making people feel sorry for her. She’s the kind of person you’d want to be friends with and risk your life for because you know she’d do the same for you. She always acts like her role, which is really impressive given how young she is.
But Stratton is no slouch on the mic either, and their fight this week was a lot of fun. Stratton agreed to give Hail a rematch, but she wouldn’t agree to the submission match rule until Hail’s unstoppable Kimura Lock forced her to. We’re most excited about Hail vs. Stratton at the Great American Bash, mostly because we want to see Hail act on a PPV stage. She probably won’t win the title, but she’ll still be Thea Hail, and that’s enough.
Return of the Don WWE was great.
This week, we’ll say one bad thing about the D’Angelo family story. At least for us, the long film package that shows how Tony and Stacks pulled off their plan against Gallus was completely unnecessary. Guys, we’re just along for the ride. You don’t have to try to fill in every story hole, because we don’t really care. Do you know what’s important to us? In one scene, Stacks and the rest of the D’Angelo family, played by a group of well-dressed and overly dramatic extras, stand in the ring to welcome the Don home. Next time, skip the excuses and get to the point.
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Except for that one thing, we loved everything about this plot on Tuesday, from Tony getting out of jail to find Stacks waiting for him to Mark Coffey being put through a table of appetisers. Along with Chase U, the D’Angelo Family is the “NXT” act that feels most like the old days of the brand, before the WWE Network and the Takeover Era turned it into a super-indie, back when it was just a place where the weirdest stuff could get over as long as the performers worked hard enough and the fans bought into it. And you know they’ve bought in when someone who calls himself “The Don of NXT” and is a clear-cut gangster and murderer is welcomed back like a winning hero. At Great American Bash, we really want Tony and Stacks to win the tag titles from Gallus. These guys have put their hearts and souls into an idea that is fundamentally and gloriously stupid, and they should be honoured for it.
Benny the Bumper from the yard says hello, Tony informs Dominik Mysterio as they cross paths backstage.1,000,000 GOLD STARS.
Dominik Mysterio, the North American Champion, was not liked.
This week, Dominik Mysterio beat Wes Lee to win the “NXT” North American Championship. We have a lot of different thoughts about this. On the one hand, it’s great that Dom has a singles title. It will make him and Rhea Ripley an even more annoying power couple, and it’s not the worst thing in the world that “NXT’s” best-looking title belt will be shown off on “Raw.” From a certain point of view, we can see why you would do this, especially since you’re trying to make The Judgement Day the biggest and most important move in WWE after The Bloodline.
On the other hand, though, this is pretty bad. This is the second week in a row that a member of The Judgement Day has beaten one of “NXT’s” reigning singles winners, and this time the title changed hands. We don’t like how this makes “NXT” look in the WWE hierarchy, and we don’t like the idea of a main roster performer having “NXT” gold. The last time this happened, the title was retired in a combination match, and the time before that, Solo Sikoa lost this title right away for no clear reason. It just doesn’t feel good if you like this show and the people on it, especially since Lee could have used someone else beating him after 11 successful defences and nine months as king. Like, that guy’s title reign had become kind of a big deal, and “NXT” could take advantage of that by giving the title to an up-and-comer like Eddy Thorpe, Dragon Lee, or maybe even this weird new Baron “Only what you take with you” Corbin, if it had to be a former main roster guy, and really boosting his stock. Instead, Dominik Mysterio puts an end to Lee’s rule. Is he going to keep coming back to the show regularly?(We hope so, since he’s the king now and we want to see more of Ripley giving Lyra Valkyria tough love.) Are they really going to have Dominik fight Mustafa Ali at the Great American Bash? Is that something that goes on?
Once more, we can kind of understand why they did it, and maybe everything will turn fine, but we can’t help but wonder whether someone backstage saw that Jack Perry was competing against HOOK for the FTW Championship on “Dynamite” on Wednesday night, thought about a chickens*** heel running around with a lower-level title and being annoyingly proud of it to get heat, and thought, “What if we did that too, but a day earlier?”