1/11 NXT 2.0 REPORT: Hazelwood’s alt-perspective on Styles vs. Waller, D’Angelo vs. Dunne in “Crowbar on a Pole” match, Escobar vs. Quinn, Breakker appears, more

BY BRUCE LEE HAZELWOOD, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR

PHOTO CREDIT: WWE

SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

NXT ON USA TV REPORT
JANURAY 11, 2022
ORLANDO, FLA. AT THE CAPITOL WRESTLING CENTER
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
REPORT BY BRUCE LEE HAZELWOOD (@B_Lee253), PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR

Commentators: Vic Joseph, Wade Barrett

Ring Announcer: Samantha Irvin

Backstage Correspondent(s): McKenzie Mitchell

Tonight after the show, join the PWT Talks NXT crew to break down the show with live callers and emails.

STREAM LIVE HERE ABOUT 15 MINUTES AFTER THE SHOW CONCLUDES
•CALL: (515) 605-9345

•EMAIL COMMENTS/QUESTIONS: pwtorchnxt@gmail.com
•IF YOU DON’T LISTEN LIVE, DOWNLOAD OR STREAM THE FULL SHOW POST-RECORDING


[HOUR ONE]

-The show began with a recap video from last week’s New Year’s Evil main event NXT Championship match between then-champion Tomasso Ciampa and now-champion Bron Breakker. It was done to some rap in the style that’s come to define 2.0, also including some of the comments from the pre-match video that aired. It ended showing Breakker winning the Steiner Recliner and getting the nod from Ciampa. They showed his side plates being screwed into the title.

-Vic Joseph welcomed viewers to the Capitol Wrestling Center in Orlando as Samantha Irvin, the ring announcer, enthusiastically introduced the new NXT Champion, Breakker. He walked out full of energy, barking at the crowd. He entered the ring as Wade Barrett said he was in disbelief when he “kicked out of everything that Tomasso Ciampa threw at him.” Breakker took a mic as the crowd cheered for their new champion; a “You deserve it” chant started, countered with a “No you don’t” chant. Breakker said thank you to Ciampa to slight applause. Breakker said Ciampa is an unbelievable athlete, great performer, and outstanding human being. He said most people didn’t see it, but Ciampa grabbed him after the match and congratulated him, saying it’s Breakker’s time, then paid his respects to Rick Steiner. Breakker said he has big shoes to fill and he’s ready, loving that there’s no bye week. He said so, to anybody back there in the locker room that wants to come out and challenge him, know this: when you want to train, watch film, he’s already done it, and leave early, well, he’s staying. He said he will prove why he earned that championship each and every week.

Suddenly, Santos Escobar’s music hit as he made his entrance with Joaquin Wilde and Raul Mendoza, eyeing Breakker. Xyon Quinn then made his entrance. Elektra Lopez did not enter.

(Hazelwood’s Take: It was simple, concise, and didn’t ask Breakker to do too much. I still think he needs to develop levels to his promos, even if it’s just starting at 6 instead of 8 of 10, but he showed the confidence of being top champion tonight, and it seems like he just keeps improving.)

(1) SANTOS ESCOBAR (w/Legado del Fantasma) vs. XYON QUINN – Elektra Lopez leaves with the winner

Quinn hit a forearm, and the ref called for the bell after the attack. Quinn hit some bad looking shoulder thrusts in the corner, but his body punches looked better. Escobar pushed out of the corner, but Quinn landed a lariat. Quinn locked in a cravate (I love a good cravate) and dragged Escobar’s face across the top rope. He landed a big body shot in the corner, then hitting Snake Eyes to Escobar in another. Quinn cinched in a rear chinlock, then dragged Escobar’s face across the rope again. Quinn with a lot of corner offense in this match as he hit some more shoulder thrusts, a body shot, then a biel out of the corner. He posed as Joseph indicated a picture-in-picture (it’s split screen). Lopez was shown briefly before they cut to break. [c]

Again, using the USA streaming player, it did not go to split screen (Kelly Wells’ report may have action through the split screen). They returned with Escobar in control with a modified ankle lock. They showed Escobar hitting a tope during the break after Quinn launched I think Wilde into the air. Escobar set Quinn against the ropes and hit a running clothesline to the leg. Lopez was shown at ringside as Escobar scored a two-count. Barrett said Lopez looks for more in a man than a “bid, dark piece of hunk meat.” Escobar continued to attack the left leg as Barrett asked why Quinn doesn’t use his rugby background more in the ring (good question!).

Escobar set Quinn’s left leg in the rope in the corner and hit a running dropkick to the leg. Escobar forced Quinn into another corner and hit a big slap across the chest, then a step-up enziguri. He set for a running corner attack, mocking Quinn’s power-up, but Quinn hit a big lariat then a discus headbutt (he sold the headbutt!). He hit another big biel out of the corner, then a running shoulder thrust to Escobar. He lifted Escobar to his shoulders, then tossed him off as he was distracted by Mendoza. Escobar used that to throw him over the top and to the outside. Escobar lifted Quinn in preparation to ram him into the post, but Lopez blocked the way. Quinn used the distraction to gain the advantage, then land a big right hand to Escobar on a tope attempt. They showed Lopez buttering Quinn up, then as he turned around, she kicked him in the groin to drop him. Mendoza rolled Quinn back in and Escobar hit the Phantom Driver for the victory.

WINNER: Santos Escobar at 10:32 (Phantom Driver); Elektra Lopez leaves with Legado del Fantasma

-They shifted to Tony D’Angelo, saying he only needs three ways to beat Pete Dunne. He said he tried to be nice and let Dunne off with a broken hand, but now he’s going to finish Dunne tonight. He said he just wanted a lousy mouthpiece, a trophy from WarGames. He then said some New York Italian slang that I’ve never heard, so yeah, there’s that.

-The announcers then cut to a video of Grayson Waller interfering in last night’s A.J. Styles vs. Austin Theory match, though Styles got the better by the end. They hyped the main event match.

-A Cameron Grimes vignette aired, showing him hitting the Cave In on a bunch of folks, then reiterating he’s going to start chasing gold. They cut to break. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: Once you get past the early parts of the match with Quinn’s unenthused shoulder thrusts, it was a decent match. There was just SO much corner work in this match; I’d hazard a guess and say 80 percent of the match was worked in the corners. I guess it’s a good way to help mask Quinn’s inefficiencies at this stage of his career, but the match became repetitive quick, even with Escobar as his opponent. The swerve here worked because of how much they’ve been trying to work the love angle between Quinn and Lopez, but you could see it coming months ago. Still, keeping LDF strong is the right call, though a potential shift to the main roster presents an interesting x-factor.)

-They returned with a Mandy Rose photo shoot in a pool with her title. Her tan was back here. A montage started with her in different poses. She said every side is her good side. She said her opponents couldn’t touch her, and she makes the NXT Women’s Championship hot. She said NXT 2.0 is all about Mandy. Rose ended by saying keep watching and keep staring because she knows you will.

-Damon Kemp was in the ring for presumably an enhancement match. Cameron Grimes’ music hit to a big pop. Yup, enhancement match coming! I’m liking Irvin’s ring announcing tonight.

(2) CAMERON GRIMES vs. DAMON KEMP – Singles match

Grimes shot a single leg, but Kemp hit a go-behind and took Grimes down. He blocked another single leg, rolling into an ankle pick. Grimes rolled it into an O’Conner Roll for a two-count, then hit an arm drag. They showed Malcolm Bivens watching from the entrance. Grimes kipped up from a head scissors, then told Kemp to kiss his butt. He then landed some stiff strikes to Kemp’s chest, but Kemp caught him in an overhead belly-to-belly as Bivens clapped and smiled.

Kemp yelled, then put Grimes in a rear chinlock. Grimes hit a snapmare counter, then a running forearm, another, and a running boot in the corner. He climbed to the top rope, then hit a big crossbody that Kemp was already falling for like Jinder Mahal. Grimes called for it, then hit the Cave In; Kemp may have been confused on how to take it because Grimes only landed with one foot.

WINNER: Cameron Grimes at 2:19 (Cave In)

-Joe Gacy said Harland and he would like to express their gratitude for the committee allowing them into the play-in match. He said this opportunity will not be squandered, and they’ll remember it for the rest of their lives. He said they would use this platform to demonstrate that everyone involved has an equal opportunity to win the Dusty Cup. He called out their opponents, Malik Blade and Edris Enofe, but said they’re in a safe space. He said though they’re rivals, Harland wants them to know they’re not rivals in life. They cut to break. Yikes. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: I was liking what I saw from Kemp, right until he hit a mid-match rear chinlock. The match wasn’t even 150 seconds! Show more of that amateur wrestling acumen instead of the Randy Orton Special. Other than that, a good enhancement match, and it’s clear Grimes is being set for a title match; I’m guessing North American in the summer.)

-They returned with a video of last week’s Von Wagner attack on Andre Chase and attacking the students, then the fans. These were all shown in still shots rather than video. Barrett said Wagner broke the cardinal rule. Joseph said they were provided a statement, saying Wagner was fined and suspended.

-Blade and Enofe were in the ring for the play-in match. They played a pre-recorded video where they said people are saying they’re not a real tag team, but they’re going to shock the world. Nice and quick. Gacy and Harland entered next.

(3) MALIK BLADE & EDRIS ENOFE vs. JOE GACY & HARLAND – Dusty Cup play-in match

Gacy and Enofe began the match. Gacy took a side headlock, then hit a shoulder tackle. He caught Enofe, then hit a spinning uranage for a one-count. Harland reached for the tag, but Enofe hit an arm drag to prevent it, then a rollup for a two-count. Blade tagged in, hit a big dropkick, but then they messed up a double team spot. They recovered well enough to hit a rolling axe kick it looked like from Blade, allowing Blade to score a two-count.

Blade leaped for a corner splash, but Gacy dodged and tagged in Harland. Enofe tagged in Blade quickly, and Harland just choked him a bit, then rammed him into a corner. He aggressively shoved his boot in to the back of his neck, then hit a running knee to the back. He grabbed Enofe and tossed him into the ring post, then began bashing Blade’s head into the top turnbuckle. He didn’t heed the five-count, the ref called for the bell, then backed away as Harland stalked him. Gacy stopped him witha  smile on his face, saying it was OK to Harland. They backed away as the winners of the match were left lying in a heap. Blade and Enofe then were announced as the victors and qualified, and celebrated.

WINNER: Malik Blade & Edris Enofe at 3:15 (DQ) to qualify for the Dusty Cup

-An Imperium vignette aired, saying they were built on integrity, discipline, and honor. Walter said all of their victories have been achieved by working harder than everyone else. I think Barthel then said it’s hard to explain their success to a country full of imperfect creatures. Aichner added some words, then Barthel said they present themselves with class, elegance, and sophistication. They ended saying the mat is sacred in unison.

-They showed Dunne in the back, inserting his mouthpiece and then making his way to the ring. They showed D’Angleo doing the same. They cut to break. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: I still don’t get why you take Parker Boudreaux and turn him into the angry, expressionless, silent beast. He seems to have more charisma than what he’s being allowed to show. I also don’t get the point of this match, except maybe to build an unlikely semi-finals or finals run for Blade and Enofe? I’m also wondering if they’ll work into the story how quickly Enofe was to tag out when Harland tagged in, making Blade take most of the damage.)

-Joseph welcomed viewers back detailing the rules of the match: whoever retrieves the crowbar can use it as a weapon. D’Angelo made his entrance first, acting up all of the Italian stereotypes we’ve come to expect with him. He entered and stared at the crowbar a bit before posing on the second turnbuckle. Dunne’s music hit to a good pop.

(4) PETE DUNNE vs. TONY D’ANGELO – Crowbar on a Pole match

Both men looked at the crowbar of course, then ran to the corner. D’Angelo stopped and punched Dunne in the face, a good okie-doke. However, Dunne hit a few chops, then countered a vertical suplex into a standing Kimura. Dunne then took D’Angelo down and stomped on the left arm. He went to climb, but D’Angelo brought him down. He lifted Dunne into a bearhug, but Dunne caught him in a front facelock and stomped on the arm again. D’Angelo stopped Dunne from grabbing the crowbar, then landed body punches. He then hit a big leg-capture suplex out of the corner, launching Dunne into the air; the strength was impressive.

Dunne was able to drag D’Angelo to the corner, then stomped away at his head. The crowbar dropped a bit, but Dunne didn’t grab it before D’Angelo got to him. He then hit a Falcon Arrow, bringing Dunne into the ring from the apron. They cut to break. [c]

D’Angelo was working the left, hitting a one-armed slam to Dunne as they showed weapons around the ring. Joseph said the ref did a good job of reminding the wrestlers only the crowbar is legal. Dunne fought out of his predicament with a bunch of kicks, then a neckbreaker. Dunne grabbed the left had for another stomp, landing a third (televised at least). Dunne grabbed the left arm again and snapped it over his shoulder, then landed a fourth stomp, this one to the shoulder.

[HOUR TWO]

Dunne went for the crowbar, but couldn’t detach it from the chain. D’Angelo brought Dunne to the mat and hit a German, flipping Dunne. D’Angelo then grabbed the crowbar. He missed his first swing, then his second, which caught it on the rope. Dunne kicked the arm, then grabbed the crowbar. He missed, then missed again as he hit the pole as D’Angelo went to the floor. He dragged Dunne out and hit a belly-to-back on the apron. He went and retrieved the crowbar.

He went back outside trying to shove it into Dunne’s mouth. Dunne fought off, but D’Angelo targeted the hand. He missed, then Dunne landed an enziguri. He then landed a knee to the arm, broke the count, and rolled D’Angelo inside the ring. Dunne grabbed the crowbar and used his neck to put it against D’Angelo, but D’Angelo rammed him into the corner and hit a crowbar-assisted neckbreaker for only a two-count.

He then stomped on the left hand of Dunne, grabbed the crowbar, and drove it into the hand. He went for another neckbreaker with the crowbar, but Dunne hit a big forearm and three enziguris in the corner, then a stomp to the hand and a kick to the head. He grabbed the crowbar, missed, landed on his feet from a German, hit a drop toehold, then locked in a STF with the crowbar between the teeth. D’Angelo hit a back elbow to fight out.

D’Angelo grabbed a chair, but Dunne stomped the hand. Dunne hit a flying triangle armbar, working the fingers, but D’Angelo hooked the bottom rope with his leg to break the hold. The exchanged forearms, but D’Angelo took Dunne down near the chair. He tossed Dunne face-first into the pole the crowbar was hanging from, then landed a crowbar shot across the chest for the pinfall victory.

WINNER: Tony D’Angelo at 13:11 (crowbar to the chest)

-McKenzie Mitchell was in the back with Waller. She asked about the main event. He said the key phrase is the main event, where he’s destined to be and permanently staying after beating Styles tonight. He said maybe he goes to Smackdown on Friday and smack Roman Reigns and Shinsuke Nakamura around. He said he makes moments wherever he goes, and said tonight will be another Grayson Waller moment. She threw back to the announcers.

-Persia Pirotta, Indi Hartwell, and Wendy Choo were shown in the locker room getting ready. Choo woke up, did some squats, then headed off for their match. They cut to break. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: An interesting match where every rule applied except the crowbar part. It was weird seeing a sub broken up by the rope even though a weapon was legal. More interesting is the result. It continues the story from WarGames, but I’m not sure if D’Angelo should be going over Dunne at this point. Depth being a different discussion, Dunne has so much more to give than being D’Angelo’s first big trophy, at least this early. I’ve been more high on D’Angelo than the PWT Talks NXT crew, but still, I think this is a bit questionable.)

-They returned with another Rose photo shoot, this time in a staged area, which led into a Toxic Attraction vignette that entered on Gigi Dolan and Jacy Jayne, the NXT Women’s Tag Team Champion. It was another well done video, aside from the obvious attempts at titillations.

-Pirotta and Hartwell were in the ring as Choo finally made her way in her pajamas, night mask, and body pillow. Amari Miller made her entrance first, then Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter, who came through the crowd after shooting off fire extinguishers or something.

(5) INDI HARTWELL & PERSIA PIROTTA & WENDY CHOO vs. AMARI MILLER & KACY CATANZARO & KAYDEN CARTER – Six-woman tag team match

Hartwell and Miller began the match; Choo was laying in the corner with her pillow while holding the tag rope. Miller hit a tope through the second rope to Hartwell, and she nearly over rotated. Carder hit a crossbody off the top, then Catanzaro hit a tornillo as well. They showed Brooks Jensen and Josh Briggs watching in the back. Back in the ring, Carter hit a modified Sister Abigail to Hartwell for a two-count. Hartwell tried fighting off Carter to make the tag, then seemed to remember she’s bigger and stronger. She sent Carter into her corner, but Carter took out Pirotta. Both women then knocked heads as Choo was sipping her drink.

Choo tagged in, dodging Miller with a stretch. She hit some strikes, then hit an overhead suplex after sending Mileer off of the ropes. She hit a cartwheel clothesline, then another suplex for a two-count. Things broke apart. The heels hit power moves as the faces countered with precision moves. Choo then kicked off Miller and tagged in Pirotta. She lifted Miller, tagged in Hartwell, then slammed her into the mat. Hartwell hit a top rope elbow drop to the back for the victory. They posed in victory, Choo with a big smile

WINNER: Indi Hartwell & Persia Pirotta & Wendy Choo at 3:39 (elbow drop)

-They showed MSK in the back as they came upon the Dusty Cup trophy. They said it was more beautiful than they remember and as Riddle said, the comeback is always better than the setback. They started naming tag teams in the division, then Elmo and Rocco (haha!). Dakota Kai then approached, saying WE won it as she reverently looked at the trophy. She slinked away after speaking about success. They said don’t put that evil on us Dakota Kai.

-They showed Solo Sikoa taping his wrist, emphatically in the back, as he said he doesn’t care which of Boa shows up. They cut to break. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: WE NEED MORE WENDY CHOO!)

-They showed Kay Lee Ray in the back with a green bat as she came upon the end of Rose’s photo shoot. She said Rose can show up for photo shoots, but not to defend the title. She then took the bat and her boots to all of the camera and lighting equipment there. Good for her!

(6) SOLO SIKOA vs. BOA – Singles match

The match began immediately as they cut back. Sikoa took it to Boa in the corner with chops, but Boa hit a spin kick, then a bunch more to the chest. He tossed Sikoa outside, but Sikoa reentered quickly and took Boa down, hitting him with mounted punches. A big chop floored Boa, then an uppercut open palm. Boa rolled outside, but then rammed Sikoa into the ring post head-first. He rolled Sikoa back inside the ring and began working the left leg. He landed two stomps to the chest, then multiple knees while holding onto the Irish whip. He hit a butterfly suplex for a two-count.

Boa was cut above his left eye, probably unintentionally. He cinched in a rear chinlock as Sikoa was bleeding from his mouth. Sikoa fought out, catching a kick and landing a bunch of strikes. He landed a leg trip and then a running senton splash. He then hit a Cactus Jack clothesline as both men went to the outside. Barefoot, Sikoa might want to be careful on those spots. He then tossed Boa hard into the steel steps, then both men were counted out as they continued beating on each other. They fought into what appeared to be a staging area, then behind some curtains.

WINNER: Double count out at 3:40

-Mitchell was in the back with Styles as she asked him about the match that just happened. Styles said they went at it and that’s what he loves about NXT. He said that passion is infectious to everyone except Waller. She said Waller is confident and Styles said it’s nervous confidence. He said the Waller Effect ends tonight. He said his Georgia Bulldogs won the national championship last night, and he’s going to ride that momentum to win the Rumble match. She hyped the main event.

-They played an in-depth video recap of last week’s North American and Cruiserweight Championship unification bout from last week. It was the best match on a card of good matches that saw Carmelo Hayes unify the titles to become the Unified North American Champion. They showed a Bentley arrive as Hayes parked in the middle of the lot with Trick Williams as his passenger, exiting the vehicle to enter the arnea. He gave the keys to security, saying they’ll be right back. They cut to break. [c]

-They returned with Sikoa and Boa still fighting in what Joseph said was the warehouse. Sikoa threw a chair at Boa, then threw him into equpiment. Boa then shoved Sikoa into a laundry crated. Sikoa grabbed a trash can lid and bashed Boa, then tossed him over some equipment crates. As he went to grab Boa, the camera cut to in front of Sikoa as a fireball hit his face (remember Keith Lee’s fireball to the face!?). They showed Boa with his face pain standing over him.

-They cut to the announcers as Joseph said Wagner’s fine was paid and suspension lifted. Barrett asked who paid the fine, and Joseph had no answer.

CARMELO HAYES IN-RING PROMO

Hayes and Williams were introduced, then made their entrance. Williams said first things first, everyone needs to get out of their seat to make some noise for the North American Champion. Williams said when Hayes ha gold, they both have gold. He said Trick and Melo go together like peanut butter and jelly, like Shaq and Kobe, like Melo and Big Booty Wyndham (I think?). Hayes interrupted, then said last week he had one of his toughest challenges against one of the toughest opponents of his career. He said he wanted to take a moment of silence for Strong’s Cruiserweight reign. Then poured one out saying rest in piss.

He then hyped up saying make some noise. He said since he got the ball, it’s been nothing but first downs and touchdowns and he’s not passing no time soon. Williams said no passing? Hayes said he knows what he means. He said numbers don’t lie and Melo don’t miss. He said he is the walking cheat code, the history-maker in walking form, and the most scintillating champion ever in NXT. Hayes said you could call it the NXT Unified North American can we talk for a minute so I can know your name Championship if you want, but since it’s around his waist, it’s the A championship so you can step up or get stepped on. He threw down the mic and posed as his music played.

-Styles’ music played for the main event match to a good pop. Hayes looked annoyed his celebration was interrupted. Hayes and Williams walked up to Styles and gave him lip; Styles just went to the ring. They cut to break. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: I would really, really like a Hayes-Styles singles match. I feel like that would be a great way to try and pull out some the Aughts TNA Styles to keep up with Hayes. It could also be a great story told in the ring through gestures and facial reactions.)

-They showed Hayes and Williams asking for their keys, but Grimes had the keys as he leaned on the car. Grimes said he’s going to keep it straight: he’s going for the title and going to the moon. My prediction was off by several months.

-The announcers then hyped the first round of the Dusty Classic next week.

-Styles was in the ring as his music was still playing. Waller’s music hit to LOUD boos as he made his entrance; again, he knows his assignment and keeps nailing the assignment. He looked a bit hesitant at first, maybe the moment dawning on him, but he cockily danced in front of Styles.

(7) A.J. STYLES vs. GRAYSON WALLER – Singles match

Styles lectured Waller a bit, then they circled. Waller faked a leg kick, then put his chin out with his hands behind his back before retreating to the ropes. Waller smiled, then locked up with Styles; Waller has a few inches in height on the Georgia bulldog. Styles took a side headlock, but Waller reversed with one of his own. He wrenched and wrenched, then took Styles over. Styles rolled it into a quick pin, then into a hammerlock on the feet. Waller broke out and taunted, only to get a leg kick in return.

Styles worked Waller in the corner, then landed a elbow to the neck. He grabbed the left leg and kicked the hamstring of Waller, then a pendulum backbreaker. Barrett said Waller is finding out there are levels to this game. Styles rammed Waller’s head into two different top turnbuckles, then hit a bodyslam and leaping knee drop for a two-count. Waller baited Styles into the corner and grabbed the tights to force Styles into the turnbuckles.

Waller hit a few chops in the corner, but Styles turned it around and hit chops of his own. Waller countered and hit a stiff right, but then was hit by Styles’ perfect dropkick (still the best in the game, maybe only Okada topping his). Waller went outside, dodged a springboard, then took out Styles’ leg as the latter landed on the apron. He entered the ring and hit a neckbreaker on the second rope, sending Styles to the floor. Waller acted like he was going for a tope, but slid out and hit a huge lariat. They cut to break. [c]

Waller had Styles in a cravate as they returned (another one!). Styles fought out, but Waller hit a leg lariat and taunted the crowd. He trash talked Styles, but Styles responded with punches. After a rope run, he kicked Waller in a counter, slipped off of Waller’s shoulders, then landed his patented striking combo and sliding forearm. The crowd rose to their feet in anticipation of the climax of the match. Styles hit a corner clothesline and an ushigoroshi for a two-count.

[OVERRUN]

Styles went for the Styles Clash, but Waller grabbed the ropes and went to the apron. Styles knocked him off and to the floor. Styles went for the springboard and landed the forearm to the outside. He tossed Waller back inside and set for his finisher. Waller rolled to the apron, then hung up Styles on the top rope. He came back in and landed a discus forearm. He climbed to the middle rope, hitting a froggy bow for only a two-count. Waller measured Styles, recovering in a corner, but Styles sidestepped a corner splash. Waller countered a German suplex, but Styles rolled into the Calf Crusher in the middle of the ring. Waller crawled to the ropes and grabbed the bottom one to break the hold.

He grabbed his knee, selling the damage, as the crowd chanted “NXT.” Styles grabbed the left leg, kneeing it, but Waller hit a sunset flip for a two-count. He then hit a fireman’s carry bomb for a two-count. Waller was still favoring his left knee on his feet, then went for the Styles Clash. Styles tossed him as a reversal, then set for the Phenomenal Forearm. Waller slid out of the ring then hit a Stunner as he reentered for a two-count (smooth spot)! Waller hit his leg, still favoring it, then lifted Styles to his feet.

He lifted Styles to the top rope, looking for a superplex. Styles blocked, then slipped under and took out Waller’s feet. He kicked the gut, but Waller slid out of the Styles Kick. Styles hit the Pele kick, then a quick brainbuster that stunned Waller. Styles went to the apron and signaled for the finish. He landed the Phenomenal Forearm for the clean pinfall victory to a good pop from the crowd. Joseph said all due credit to Waller for stepping up in the main event and giving it his all. They showed replays after the match.

WINNER: A.J. Styles at 14:13 (Phenomenal Forearm)

-After the match, Styles took a mic and said since Waller took that ass kicking, he’s good, but not phenomenal. He said Waller’s night is not over yet, then introduced him to one of his friends: L.A. Knight’s music hit to a big pop. Waller reacted in shock and fear, running into the ring only to be stopped by Knight and beat to a pulp on the inside and outside. Knight sent Waller into the announcers (who got away in time), then continued to beat on Waller. He clotheslined Waller over and to the outside by the entrance. The show went off the air with Waller looking scared and Styles and Knight teasing tension only to hug. Knight and Styles posed in opposite corners.

(Hazelwood’s Take: Waller continues to impress with his growth in the ring. The psychology of the match was great, with Waller thinking he had all of the counters and reversals lined up only to, as Barrett said, realize there are levels to the game. A great main event to end the “season premiere” of NXT 2.0 and the first real episode of 2.0 in 2022 since NYE was a special episode.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: I think 2.0 is finding its stride. There seems to be less overextending of certain wrestlers’ abilities and talents, particularly in shortening promos and making them concise. I like the stories being built throughout, though I do think having Grimes challenge so early means he will lose yet another title match as it’s too early for either man to lose the match. I do like how Rose is able to maintain a presence on the show without being on the show proper, but at a certain point, it gets stale. I do think the other top champions in Breakker and Hayes are being booked well, but that has a lot to do with them being on the show every week. I wonder if there will be any teases of Rumble match entries over the next few weeks.

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