This week’s WWE NXT episode featured the NXT in-ring debut of WWE legend AJ Styles, who faced off against the cocky Grayson Waller in the main event.
I really liked the New Year’s Evil special last week. It set the tone for the year ahead for the NXT 2.0 brand. There have been some growing pains in the last few months and there will continue to be as they try to feature different people every week.
A video package was shown of highlights from last week’s New Year’s Evil special with Breakker beating Ciampa to become the NXT Champion.
They went live to the Performance Center with the crowd there looking ready to go. The commentary team of Vic Joseph and Wade Barrett welcomed us to the show. Ring announcer Samantha Irvin introduced the new NXT Champion Bron Breakker.
Let’s Hear from Bron Breakker
Bron Breakker made his entrance with the NXT Championship around his waist while wearing a new Breakker shirt. Bron put the title shoulder as he prepared to do the promo while most fans were chanting “you deserve it” for him. Bron thanked Tommaso Ciampa for being a great athlete, a tremendous performer and an outstanding human being. Ciampa congratulated Breakker after the match, then he went to Bron’s dad (Rick Steiner – he did not say his name) and paid respect to him. Bron said he knows he has big shoes to fill, but he’s ready. Bron said that he likes that they don’t have bye weeks, they don’t have days off, they have to be there week after week to perform for the fans. Bron gave a shoutout to the locker room saying that every day he’s watching film, he’s training and he’s staying there while people leave early because he’s the NXT Champion. Bron said he’ll prove why he’s the champion each and every week. That was it.
Analysis: I liked the promo by Breakker showing a lot of confidence. He has been impressive and he’s easy to like. I’m a bit surprised that nobody interrupted the promo. The line about no days off isn’t really true since they are on only on TV once per week. I guess what he meant is they train every day, which is mostly true for weekdays.
Santos Escobar made his entrance with his Legado del Fantasma guys while having a staredown with Bron Breakker. Xyon Quinn was next in this match that is for Elektra Lopez, who is attracted to Quinn, but she’s part of the Legado family.
Santos Escobar (w/Raul Mendoza & Joaquin Wilde) vs. Xyon Quinn
Quinn was aggressive right away with a forearm to the head. Quinn decked Escobar with a clothesline while Elektra Lopez was shown watching the match. Quinn sent Escobar into the top turnbuckle. Quinn used both hands to toss Escobar across the ring like a hiptoss.
Escobar took control during the picture in picture break and hit a running shoulder tackle to the knee. Escobar set up the left leg against the turnbuckle leading to a running dropkick to the knee (along with a double leg slap). Escobar worked over Quinn with chops, then he charged and Quinn came back with punches to stop that momentum. Quinn with a headbutt, shoulder tackle and another toss across the ring. Quinn with a press slam on Escobar in the ring. Mendoza with a distraction, so Escobar knocked Quinn out of the ring. Escobar picked up Quinn on the floor, Lopez looked at Escobar and that allowed Quinn to get back up with a forearm to the back. Quinn sent Escobar into the ring followed by a punch. Wilde got on the apron, Lopez put her hands on Quinn’s upper body, Lopez nodded at Quinn and then Lopez kicked Quinn in the groin! Mendoza tossed Quinn into the ring, so Escobar hit the Phantom Driver for the pinfall win after 11 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Santos Escobar
Analysis: **1/2 A cheap win for the heel Escobar to show that his Legado allies are difference makers and are the reason he won this match. Quinn looks physically impressive, but a lot of his offense is basic stuff. The way this was booked likely means the feud may continue with Quinn seeking revenge for what happened here. It was booked well as a swerve-style finish.
Escobar celebrated with his Legado familia of Wilde, Mendoza and Lopez.
Tony D’Angelo did a promo saying he tried to be a nice guy, but Pete Dunne came at him, so tonight he said Pete is finished. Tony said that Pete is going to learn that Tony D is in charge.
They showed Grayson Waller trying to attack AJ Styles on Monday’s Raw, but Styles fought him off.
A video aired about Cameron Grimes wanting to go for gold in 2022. It was the same video they showed last week.
They showed Mandy Rose in a bikini by the pool as she posed for photos with her NXT Women’s Title. Mandy said that this is how she celebrates. She told the photographers to get her good side and then said that every side is her good side. Rose said that you tune in because NXT 2.0 is all about Mandy. Rose told us to keep watching, keep staring and said she knows we will.
Analysis: Great. Look at her. Enough said.
Damon Kemp was in the ring. His real name is Bobby Steveson and he’s the brother of Olympic Gold Medallist/WWE Superstar Gable Steveson, but they have given him a different name.
Cameron Grimes got a nice pop from the crowd as one of the most popular guys on the NXT brand.
Cameron Grimes vs. Damon Kemp
Grimes took control with an armbar takedown, then Kemp applied a leg scissors to the head. They showed Malcolm Bivens of Diamond Mine scouting, likely for Kent. Joseph talked about Kemp’s amateur career as Kemp sent Grimes into the ropes. Grimes jumped off, Kemp caught him and hit and hit an overhead suplex. Grimes with a forearm along with a corner dropkick. Grimes went up top, jumped off and connected with a cross body block. Grimes hit the Cave In stomp to the chest for the pinfall win in just over two minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Cameron Grimes
Analysis: *1/2 A showcase for Grimes to give him a win. I’m all for a push for Grimes in the months ahead. Kemp moved around well while hitting a couple of moves. I think Kemp would be a good fit with the Diamond Mine group.
Cameron Grimes spoke into the camera saying no more games and he’s coming for the gold.
Joe Gacy and Harland talked about how they have an opportunity to qualify for the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Tournament. Gacy said that no matter the size, skills or experience, everybody has the opportunity to win the Dusty Cup. Gacy said that Harland wants their opponents to know that while they are rivals tonight, they are not rivals in life.
They showed highlights of Von Wagner beating up Andre Chase and then Wagner beat up some “fans” sitting ringside. The announcers said that Wagner was fined and suspended for his actions.
Edris Enofe & Malik Blade vs. Joe Gacy & Harland
This was a play-in match for the Dusty Cup meaning the winners are in the tournament.
Gacy knocked down Enofe with a shoulder tackle and a forearm to the head. Gacy hit a spinning uranage slam for two. Enofe with a hiptoss followed by a rollup attempt. Enofe with a jumping knee and Blade tagged in with an impressive dropkick on Gacy. Enofe back in, Blade with a neckbreaker, while Gacy was held by Enofe, and Harland was shown looking angry. Enofe with a corner splash attempt, Gacy moved and Harland tagged in against Blade. Harland picked up Blade and drove him into the turnbuckle. Harland with a running knee against the turnbuckle. Harland drove his knee against Blade’s head against the turnbuckle. Harland tossed Enofe into the turnbuckle. Harland held Blade’s head against the turnbuckle while driving his forearm to the face, so the referee counted to five and called for the disqualification. It went about three minutes.
Winners by disqualification: Edris Enofe & Malik Blade
Analysis: * Lame finish. It was not exactly a great match, but it furthers the story of Harland being a madman that didn’t obey rules. I liked some of the offense by Enofe and Blade, so I hope we see more of the mas a team.
Post match, Harland intimidated the referee while Gacy put his hands on Harland’s shoulder and led him away.
It was announced that Enofe and Blade gained entry in the Dusty Cup tournament. They were excited about it.
There was a video showing the Imperium trio of WALTER, Fabian Aichner & Marcel Barthel training together. They ripped on society while saying they are not like you. To them, the mat is sacred.
Tony D’Angelo made his entrance for this Crowbar on a Pole Match. Pete Dunne was up next with his left hand taped up to sell the attack that Tony did against Dunne’s hand three weeks ago.
Crowbar on a Pole Match: Tony D’Angelo vs. Pete Dunne
There was a crowbar on a pole by the turnbuckle. The wrestlers can retrieve it and use it. It was the only legal weapon you can use in this match.
It started with Tony getting a punch to the face, but then Dunne worked him over with an armbar to the mat. Dunne went for the crowbar, Tony stopped it and Dunne got a takedown leading to a stomp to the head. Tony hit an impressive Exploder Suplex across the ring. Tony tried for the crowbar, Dunne stopped that and Dunne stomped on Tony’s head. They battled by the apron, Tony got a hold of Dunne and hit a Falcon Arrow slam. They went to break.
Tony was in control as he wrenched on the left hand. They showed other weapons on the floor saying that the wrestlers went to use them, but the referee made it clear only the crowbar can be used. Dunne hit a neckbreaker followed by a stomp to the left arm. Dunne stomped on the left arm again. Dunne got close to getting the crowbar, but Tony caught him and hit a German Suplex with Dunne flipping over to his stomach for the bump. Tony managed to retrieve the crowbar. Dunne wit ha kick to the body, then Dunne got the crowbar and swung it, but Tony moved, so Dunne smashed the steel with it. Tony pulled Dunne out of the ring and hit a suplex on the apron. Tony tried to choke Dunne with the crowbar, Dunne avoided an attack and Dunne hit a jumping kick to the head. Dunne with a double knee stomp on the left arm. Dunne sent Tony back in while the referee was counting them out, but they got back in the ring in time. Dunne put the crowbar in the mouth of Tony, but Tony drove Dunne into the turnbuckle and Tony hit a neckbreaker with the crowbar for two. Tony stomped on the injured left hand of Dunne. Dunne came back with a forearm, then three kicks to the head, double knees to the arm and a roundhouse kick to the head. Tony went for a suplex, Dunne landed on his feet and Dunne applied an STF while using the crowbar in the mouth. Tony did a backhand with the crowbar to break it. Tony grabbed a chair, therefore took it away and Dunne went for a triangle choke pulling on the fingers. Dunne got to the rope to break the hold. Tony tackled Dunne with Dunne’s back hitting the chair that was in the ring. Tony sent Dunne into the pole by the ring, Dunne sold it like he hit the pole and then Tony hit a crowbar shot to the head (or left shoulder) for the pinfall win after 13 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Tony D’Angelo
Analysis: **3/4 It wasn’t a great match by any means, but I’d call it average. Even though the chair wasn’t legal in the match, they did that spot with Tony tackling Dunne on the chair, so it was still a bump on a chair. One more bump into the pole and then the crowbar shot by Tony was enough to get the win. I thought Dunne might win since he was attacked by the crowbar a few weeks back, but I guess the point of the feud was the put over the “new” guy Tony. I know Dunne has had a tryout on the main roster, so maybe they’ll put him in the Royal Rumble or something leading him to being on Raw or Smackdown. I don’t know if that’s the plan.
Tony D’Angelo celebrated the win as they showed the replay of the final three spots of the match. Tony mocked Dunne with a shoulder shrug that Dunne likes to do.
Grayson Waller was interviewed by Mckenzie Mitchell. Grayson said he’s in the main event where he belongs, then he bragged about how he was on Raw, so maybe he’ll go to Smackdown and slap around Roman Reigns and Shinsuke Nakamura. Waller said that in his match with AJ Styles tonight, he’ll create another Grayson Waller Moment.
The team of Indi Hartwell, Persia Pirotta and Wendy Choo (the sleeper) were getting ready for their match.
Mandy Rose was shown doing a photoshoot in a studio while wearing a pink bikini and holding her NXT Women’s Title. Mandy talked about how Toxic Attraction was about three sexy, successful women. Gigi Dolin and Jacy Jayne spoke about how sexy they are, how they kick ass in the ring and how they break hearts outside of it. They talked about how Mandy’s on top of her game while there’s not a tag team that can touch Gigi and Jacy. Mandy said to follow the crowd because everybody watch their every move. Mandy said they aren’t just Toxic Attraction, they are the attraction.
Analysis: Great again. I guess they didn’t have anything else for Toxic Attraction to do, so we get a photoshoot from Mandy as well as comments from the group. That’s fine with me. I’m interested to see who emerges as challengers for the group as well.
Amari Miller, Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter vs. Persia Pirotta, Indi Hartwell & Wendy Choo
Choo’s gimmick is that she likes to sleep, she’s dressed in pajamas and even has a pillow at ringside with her. Miller with an armbar on Hartwell while Choo was sleeping on the pillow. Miller kicked Hartwell out of the ring, then Miller hit a suicide dive and then the babyfaces each tagged in. Carter jumped off the top with a dive so Kacy did a twisting dive over the top to the floor. They showed Briggs & Jensen watching since they like Catanzaro & Carter. Back in the ring, Carter with a twisting slam on Hartwell. Carter hit a running dropkick on Pirotta on the apron. Carter and Hartwell hit eachother at the same time. Choo finally tagged in against Miller. Choo with kicks, then a clothesline and a belly to belly suplex. Choo with a cartwheel into a corner splash and an overhead suplex for two. Kacy broke up the pin, so Pirotta hit a sitout Powerbomb on Kacy. Hartwell with a spinebuster on Carter. Miller with a double knee attack on Hartwell. It was back to Miller and Choo, who was sleeping in the ring. Choo kicked Miller away, Pirotta tagged in and hit a slam off the shoulders into a Cutter. Hartwell jumped off the top with an elbow to the back called Pretty Savage for the pinfall win after four minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Persia Pirotta, Indi Hartwell & Wendy Choo
Analysis: *1/2 The gimmick of Choo is ridiculous and I don’t think it’s going to work that well long term, but she’s clearly talented in the ring based on what she did in that flurry of offense. She was impressive when she got going. I get NXT wanting people to have gimmicks, but I think the sleeping gimmick is lame. Anyway, good win for Pirotta & Hartwell as well.
They showed MSK in the backstage area where they looked at the Dusty Rhodes Cup. They said they are going to run through every team in NXT to win it all again. Dakota Kai walked up to them saying she won the Dusty Cup and then said that “they” won it. Kai said that nothing defines friendship more than success.
Solo Sikoa was shown taking his wrists saying he didn’t care what version of Boa shows up – let’s get it.
Kay Lee Ray was shown walking around with a bat where she was told that Mandy Rose was doing a photoshoot, but it was all done. Kay Lee Ray said she can do a photoshoot, yet she can’t defend the title. Kay Lee Ray destroyed the set with the baseball bat and said “sorry” to end it.
Solo Sikoa vs. Boa
Boa with a spin kick, then kicks to the body and Solo got a trip leading to repeated punches. Solo decked Boa with a punch that knocked him out of the ring. Boa sent Solo into the ring post. Back in the ring, Boa delivered kicks to the legs, then stomps to the chest and knees to the body. Boa hit a double underhook suplex across the ring for a two count. Boa slapped on a chinlock, Solo fought back with punches, a sweep kick and a senton splash. Solo with a clothesline that sent both guys over the top to the floor. Solo sent Boa to the steel steps. They fought by the commentary table and Boa sent Solo into the ring as the referee counted them out. It went about four minutes.
Match Result: Double Countout
Analysis: *1/2 It was decent action with a dumb finish. Nobody likes double countout endings. I assume it leads to a match that’s possibly a Street Fight or something with weapons. Solo should win this feud.
The great AJ Styles was interviewed by Mckenzie Mitchell. Styles said that he loves the passion that the NXT superstars have. Styles ripped on Waller saying that the Waller Effect ends tonight. AJ said that 2022 is his year, his Georgia Bulldogs won the National Championship on Monday night and he’s going to win the Royal Rumble to go on to headline WrestleMania. Styles said it all starts when he shuts Grayson Waller’s mouth.
They showed Carmelo Hayes beating Roderick Strong to unify the North American & Cruiserweight Championships. Now it’s just the North American Championship while the Cruiserweight Championship has been retired for now.
Carmelo Hayes and Trick Williams were shown arriving in a fancy car. Trick Williams told a guy to keep the car there because they’ll be right back.
Solo Sikoa and Boa were shown fighting in the warehouse while referees were there to try to stop it. They hit eachother with weapons and Solo threw Boa over an equipment case. When Solo went for more, Boa shot a fireball into Solo’s eyes. Boa was shown with black/white face paint on his face.
The commentary team was shown saying Von Wagner’s suspension has been lifted and his fine has been paid. Wade Barrett wondered who did that.
Analysis: There were teases of manager Robert Stone working with Von Wagner, so that could be where they go with it.
Let’s Hear from Carmelo Hayes
Carmelo Hayes had the NXT North American Title around his waist while Trick Williams was there with his buddy. Melo’s hat said “Unified Melo” on it. Trick wanted the fans to make some noise for the North American Champion. Trick said when Melo has gold, they both have gold. Trick said they’re like peanut butter and jelly, like Shaq & Kobe, like Trick Williams with big booty women. Hayes stopped him saying they had things to get to.
Hayes said that last week he had one of the toughest challenges of his career against one of the toughest opponents, Roderick Strong. Hayes poured some empty bottle of liquid out for the Cruiserweight Title with the idea being they “poured one out” for the title. Hayes celebrated saying that “I am him.” Hayes said that he’s got more accomplishments than he’s got months in this company. Hayes said that numbers don’t like and Melo don’t miss. Melo said he is the walking cheat code, the history-maker in the physical form and he is the most scintillating champion ever in NXT. Melo said that because the championship is around his waist, the NXT North American Championship is the A Championship. Melo said that’s how it is and that’s how it’s going to be.
Analysis: Carmelo Hayes is one of my favorites in NXT. Hayes is better in the ring than he is at promos, but he is improving in the promo department and I like the confidence he shows every time he speaks.
AJ Styles made his entrance while Hayes and Williams were still in the ring. Hayes and Williams stared at Styles, who walked past them and went to the ring for a match. Styles is in action up next.
Analysis: A match/rivalry between Styles and Hayes would be amazing. I hope it happens.
Carmelo Hayes and Trick Williams went back to the parking lot to their car, but the security guy didn’t have the keys. Cameron Grimes had the car keys. Grimes said that in 2021 he would have been doing donuts in this Bentley. Grimes told him in 2022 he’s coming for that championship and he’s going to the moon.
Analysis: I’m all for that rivalry. Hayes and Grimes should have great matches together.
Grayson Waller entered for singles action in the main event. The fans booed him.
AJ Styles vs. Grayson Waller
The fans were doing chants for both guys where they were supportive for Styles and saying that Waller sucks. Styles got some kicks to the legs, Waller with a punch and Styles hit a backbreaker. Styles with a body slam followed by a knee drop. Waller sent Styles into the middle turnbuckle, then he connected with a jab, but when Waller bounced off the ropes, Styles hit a dropkick to send him out of the ring. To the apron, Waller tripped up Styles and Waller hit a neckbreaker off the middle rope. Waller slid under the bottom rope leading to a clothesline on the floor. They went to a picture in picture break.
Waller was in control with a jumping side kick. Waller charged, Styles held onto the ropes, Styles with a kick followed by the strike blitz including a clothesline and a running forearm. Styles hit a corner splash followed by a Ushigoroshi slam off the shoulders onto the knee. Styles went for a Styles Clash, Waller managed to get to the ropes, so Waller went to the floor after that. Styles jumped over the top with a forearm on the floor. Waller with a neckbreaker sending Styles across the top rope. Back in the ring, Waller jumped off the middle rope with the elbow drop for a two count. Waller charged, Styles moved and Waller hit the turnbuckle. Styles tripped up Waller leading to the Calf Crusher submission, but Waller managed to crawl to the bottom rope to break the hold. Waller was able to recover with a sunset flip for two and then Waller hit a sitout spinebuster for two. Really good nearfall there. Waller teased a Styles Clash, then AJ backed out with a back body drop. Styles with a forearm, Styles went to the apron and jumped off, but Waller rolled out of the way to get out of it, so Waller went back in and hit an impressive Stunner for two! Great nearfall there. That was the best nearfall of the match. Styles slipped out of Waller trying a move by the ropes, then Styles hit an impressive Pele Kick and a brainbuster by Styles put Waller down. Styles went to the apron, Waller back up and Styles hit the Phenomenal Forearm for the pinfall win after 15 minutes. The fans loved that.
Winner by pinfall: AJ Styles
Analysis: ***1/2 A clean win by the babyface Styles in what was a competitive match with Waller looking like he had a chance to win a few times. This was exactly what it needed to be where they got about 15 minutes, Waller came close a few times and then Styles found a way to put him away. There were some really good nearfalls near the end like when Waller hit that Stunner to rock Styles. There might be people saying the veteran Styles should put over the younger guy, but I don’t think they had to do that. What they did here was what I thought they’d do. I don’t think Waller is hurt by the loss because he came close to beating one of the best wrestlers ever while Styles did what he intended by shutting up the big mouth Waller.
Post match, Styles was in the ring and told Waller (who was on the floor) that he’s good, but he’s not phenomenal. The fans liked that line. Styles said it’s not over yet and introduced him to one of his friends.
LA Knight made his return after Waller attacked him in the parking lot. Waller went into the ring, Knight went after him and punched him repeatedly. Knight punched Waller out of the ring and tossed Waller onto some chairs at the commentary table. Back in the ring, Knight with two clotheslines including a shot that sent Waller over the top to the floor. The fans cheered for Knight. Styles and Knight shook hands and hugged. They posed on the turnbuckle to the cheers of the crowd. That ended the show.
Analysis: It was a good spot to bring Knight back since he’s had issues with Waller in the past. Styles was in NXT just to have the Waller feud and match, so they did a nice job transitioning the story over to Knight, so to speak. I liked Knight more as a heel in the past, but in this story, it makes sense for him to be the face against Waller. That’s probably a feud that Waller can win.
Here’s a post-show promo with Styles and Knight.
Three Stars of the Show
- AJ Styles
- Grayson Waller
- Tony D’Angelo/Pete Dunne
This week: 5.75 out of 10
Last week: 8
It was mostly just an average show with a strong main event that saved the show a bit because it was weak in terms of in-ring action before that Styles/Waller match. The return of LA Knight going after Waller was booked well. I like the future tease of a Hayes/Grimes feud because they are two of the best in NXT, so I’m looking forward to that rivalry. No complaints from me about the Mandy Rose videos. That’s for sure.
Some of the other stuff wasn’t that interesting like the Crowbar on the Pole match likely was weaker than if they had a regular match. I think the Wendy Choo gimmick is lame although clearly, she has talent in the ring. They had some bad match finishes like Harland getting disqualified and then there was a double countout on the same show. The Escobar/Quinn match was heavy on story, but the action was just average.
It was fun having the great AJ Styles in NXT for a few weeks leading to this match. I doubt he’ll be back again soon, but I like the idea of using a Raw or Smackdown wrestler to have a mini-feud with somebody in NXT once in a while. Why not? It lends some star power and it’s good for the NXT wrestler whether they win or lose.
Thanks for reading. Go Los Angeles Rams, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs. My contact info is below.