NXT HITS & MISSES 5/3: Spring Breakin’ lends shine to NXT’s roughest acts incl. Tony D’Angelo, Nikkita Lyons, more

by Tom Stoup, PWTorch Contributor


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•Pretty Deadly poolside

If not for Vic Joseph’s frequent reminders, anyone would have been readily forgiven for not realizing this edition of NXT was billed as a special since Pretty Deadly’s open was about the only overt reach beyond what has become the weekly standard. On one hand the new tag champs were tasked with the unenviable task of shilling the evening’s card in full flaunting heel mode. On the other, if viewers still weren’t sure who Pretty Deadly is, you can bet they know now after a thorough showcase of character for the (yes) boys.

Verdict: HIT

•Cameron Grimes (c) vs. Carmelo Hayes vs. Solo Sikoa for the NXT North American Championship
It was a NXT men’s triple threat. We know how these go by now. The fast and furious pace leaves little room for story or character, and the action means nothing without those elements. The current state of NXT’s midcard title – around the waist of someone overdue a call-up who’s been written to abandon the elements of his persona that endeared him to the crowd – doesn’t bridge the gap.

Verdict: MISS

•Wendy Choo & Roxanne Perez torment Toxic Attraction

Those of us who’ve accidentally turned into tanning bed lobsters felt Mandy Rose’s pain here. With all the hallmarks of a “Borash Special” these vignettes again perpetrated the issue of too many immersion-breaking cuts between too many unbelievable camera angles. These issues can be partially forgiven, however, if the content adds to the – say it with me – story and character. In this case it did just that for all five acts involved as Choo and Perez relished the opportunity to undercut Toxic Attraction’s vanity, and all three members of the heel trio were game to get embarassed.

Verdict: HIT

•Indi Hartwell & Duke Hudson mourn

In what might have been a coda to or continuation of the InDex vs. Dusia saga, Hartwell and Hudson shared an interesting moment of silent sorrow backstage in acknowledgement of their kayfabe lovers’ recent releases. It was an unexpected moment that played to those in the know while risking the confusion of fans wise enough to remain outside the insidious jaws of the social media algorithm. Add the dash of humor that saw our players lured to rekindling their implied former romance before dashing it mid-swoon, and the brief insert just got over the hump.

Verdict: HIT

•Nathan Frazer vs. Grayson Waller

Frazer came off as winningly extemporaneous in his pre-match interivew, got a star-level entrance while being repeatedly acknowledged as a student of Seth Rollins’ Black & Brave Wrestling Academy, and nailed hope spot after hope spot in a captivating bout against one of NXT’s most engaging acts. It’s unfortunate, then, that Waller – who feels like a future NXT Champion but has remained directionless since galvanizing himself opposite Johnny Gargano – spent a majority of this time worrying about Andre Chase razzing him from the risers. Waller’s cocky and evasive heel schtick did go a long way, though, in getting viewers behind the widely unknown Frazer. With Frazer up to the task, yet another fresh talent was flagged as someone to tune in for.

Verdict: HIT

•Tony D’Angelo & Santos Escobar dinner

Joey Beans – or whatever D’Angelo’s pseudo-celebrity friend’s name is – has returned? After that last excuse for a performance? At least he was sleeping with the fishes before the end of the night, with a noticeably meager quantity of lines to deliver even for an over-produced pretape. This was another “Borash Special” and another in a single night that made chicken salad out of the you-know-what ingredients it had to work with. The D’Angelo character’s broad swings at mimicking “The Godfather” have elicited groans to this point, but it turns out this shred of a cinematic touch is all it needed to become fleetingly passable. As ever, we now look to the follow-through. The businessmen have verbally agreed to proceed in a businesslike manner, but their clash is of course inevitable.

Verdict: HIT

•Cora Jade & Nikkita Lyons vs. Lash Legend & Natalya

In an unsurprising crossover slot, Lyons already finds herself as the top draw in a match also featuring a visiting main roster wrestler and NXT’s current most-pushed female up-and-comer in Jade. WWE officials know why Lyons is popular, and they know it’s not her extremely raw wrestling skill. She’s not going to be a champion tomorrow, but we can expect she’ll be on Raw or SmackDown playing a Nia Jax-like role within the year. For now, tag matches are where she belongs. Being able to focus on her strengths while working on her weaknesses off-screen is the optimal circumstance here. As for Jade, she did a fine job generating sympathy. For Legend’s part, it was the former WNBA player’s weakest outing yet as she pulled about every punch and blatantly relied on the crutch of Natalya’s guidance. Due credit goes out to the Queen of Harts, who fulfilled her role leading the way for all three rookies as well as one errant camera operator.

Verdict: HIT

•Brutus & Julius Creed vs. The Viking Raiders

The Viking Raiders have struggled to live up to their own hype on WWE television and in 2022 find their booking and physicality decelerating further than ever, yet the rising Creeds managed to acquit themselves yet again as a pair worth investing in.

Verdict: HIT

•Alba Fyre follow-up video

While Kacy Catanzaro’s reasonable in-character explanation for her name update was left as an online exclusive, Kay Lee Ray’s rebranding as Alba Fyre has now received two favorable teases in as many weeks. The company’s investment in Fyre’s obvious excellence is assuring, the catalytic sparks from the dragging baseball bat are inspired, and the new moniker sounds great coming through Ray’s Scottish burr.

Verdict: HIT

•Bron Breakker (c) vs. Joe Gacy for the NXT Championship

Gacy warned we should be afraid of what he’ll do if he doesn’t win the NXT Championship, a sentiment that played as a promise his wanting character will be altered since he had no chance of going over Breakker. Then his entrance went black and white, which it has never done before, so Breakker flipping a comical on/off switch to resaturate our image before his own entrance came off far goofier than anything Wendy Choo has ever done. The bell-to-bell affair wasn’t cold, exactly, though certainly not as hot as one would want when its build involved the babyface’s beloved father being kidnapped. Breakker rose as far as he could given his admirable early experience level, but was held down by Gacy’s ceiling remaining well below NXT main event level. The appearance of whom we are led to presume are Gacy’s obscured druids before the fade-out does not an enticing cliffhanger make.

Verdict: MISS

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