SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
NXT TV REPORT
MAY 23, 2023
WINTER PARK, FLA. AT THE CAPITOL WRESTLING CENTER
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
REPORT BY BRUCE LEE HAZELWOOD (@B_Lee253), PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
NXT Commentators: Vic Joseph, Booker T
Ring Announcer: Alicia Taylor
Backstage Correspondent(s): McKenzie Mitchell
Tonight after the show, join the PWT Talks NXT self-proclaimed “gang of idiots” (including me) to break down the show with calls and emails.
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-The show began with a video beginning with Lyra Valkyria, talking about how her ferocity will carry her past Cora Jade. Jade said NXT wants and needs her to be the champion and said all Valkyria will be doing is looking at the lights. Tiffany Stratton said she never asked to be the “it” girl of NXT, but things just happen. She called herself the center of the universe and called out Roxanne Perez (“Toodles!”). Perez said tonight’s not a fantasy and while Stratton is a moment-maker, Perez is a history-maker.
-Valkyria’s music hit. The title was on a table ringside, so she gave the obligatory pose with the title, eyeing it and smiling. Jade then entered with her black kendo stick acting too cool for school more side-eyeing the title.
(1) LYRA VALKYRIA vs. CORA JADE – Women’s NXT Championship tournament semi-finals match
They locked up and Jade took early control, then taunted Valkyria, who just responded with overhand strikes that showed light. Valkyria dodged a corner attack, then missed a springboard as she slipped. Jade quickly grabbed her, then Valkyria hit an small package, then a vertical suplex for a two-count. Jade tied up Valkyria in the ropes, hit a chop, then a running dropkick. Valkyria caught her foot, tripped her, then went for a stacked pin for a two-count. Jade hit a modified stomp to the back of the head, tying up Valkyria beforehand. She used the bottom rope to stomp on Valkyria’s back.
Jade cinched in a modified rear chin lock, but Valkyria fought out with strikes. She kicked a charging Jade, then hit a second rope dropkick. Both women were slow to their feet. Valkyria hit a combo of strikes ending with an axe kick and then a bridging Northern Lights, but Jade kicked out while holding on for a guillotine which she turned into a knee. She charged for the corner knee, but Valkyria caught her and hit a leg-capture exploder. Jade caught her, but Valkyria moved and hit a spin kick for the unceremonious finish.
WINNER: Lyra Valkyria at 3:40 (spin kick)
-Suddenly, Jade hit a chop block, then grabbed her kendo stick and waylaid the knee. An injury angle now muddles the near-lock of Stratton being the next champion.
-They showed Axiom and Dabba-Kato making their way, then showed a tale of the tape. Axiom is giving up more than a foot in height and a couple hundred pounds. [c]
(Hazelwood’s Take: Right when I was sure this meant Stratton was winning on Sunday, Jade took out Valkyria. I should have seen it coming when they came back from replay and both women were still in the ring. Now, does Greg Parks’ predicted triple threat happen because of a double count out or something? Does Jade step in for Valkyria and Perez win? I guess this keeps you watching for the whole show.)
-They showed Dijak arriving in the back. As soon as he crossed the threshold, Ilja Dragunov hit a leaping knee. He grabbed a chair and hit him in the back, then threw Dijak into the same garage door thing that Dijak slammed onto his chest a few weeks back. Dijak prevented it like he was bench pressing as a gaggle of officials came to break it up.
-Vic Joseph and Booker T said Dragunov is barking up the wrong tree (I think). Axiom made his entrance. Joseph threw back to Axiom taking out Scrypts three weeks ago, unmasking him (they called him Reggie!), and posing over him. Dabba-Kato entered next.
(2) AXIOM vs. DABBA-KATO – Singles match
Axiom looked right at Dabba-Kato and showed no fear as his foe smiled. Axiom went for evasive leg kicks, then an enziguri as Joseph said there will be an update on Tony D’Angelo. Axiom flipped out of a chokeslam, kicked the knee, but then got caught with one big slap to the chest, flooring him. Dabba-Kato then sent him outside easily and followed. Axiom hit a chop that was no-sold, then ate one against the announce table. Dabba-Kato then military press slammed Axiom over the top rope from the floor, but ate a dragon screw in the ropes on the way back inside. Axiom then attacked the leg and hit a springboard kick to the leg. He hit some kicks to the chest, but charged for the Golden Ratio only to be literally chopped down in mid-air. A two-handed sit-out chokeslam garnered the victory for Dabba-Kato, then he attacked Axiom after the match with corner strikes and a running splash. Suddenly, Reggie flipped in (missed the attack as Dabba-Kato was too far), then dodged Dabba-Kato to force him outside. I guess we have a new partnership, maybe tag team with Axiom and Reggie. The crowd chanted for Reggie. Axiom was skeptical of Reggi’s motivations.
WINNER: Dabba-Kato at 1:56 (two-handed sit-out chokeslam)
-They showed D’Angelo in an interrogation room via the camera in the room. A bald White dude entered and asked why his name keeps coming up in ongoing investigations. D’Angelo said he’s an upstanding member of society. He then showed D’Angelo a video from an “informant” that we weren’t able to see. Is Stacks the rat? D’Angelo said it’s dark and grainy, it’s hard to tell, but says it’s not him. Another detective entered and in a bad acting performance, said he has some new information the other detective might want to see regarding D’Angelo. [c]
TONY D’ANGELO’S INTERROGATION
They returned with a video of Bron Breakker saying Stand & Deliver was the culmination of his run as Men’s NXT Champion. He said you have to against the best-of-the-best to prove yourself as they showed the victory for Hayes. They then showed Breakker turning heel the next Tuesday by attacking Hayes and Trick Williams. Breakker, back in the video, asked what the last year got him – all the autographs and appearances and matches – just passing the torch? He said he’s “about to burn this bitch down.” Breakker mocked being “cut from the same cloth” and said “we ain’t the same!” and that he finally woke up. He said anyone can be him, but no one “can be me.” He said he’s not coming to witness a homecoming, but for Hayes’ family to witness a massacre. Joseph and Booker T then hyped the title match for this Sunday.
GALLUS IN-RING PROMO
They cut to the ring where Gallus were already inside. They were bathed in a green light the entire time, which was absolutely freaking annoying. Gallus said the card on Sunday is stacked. Joe Coffey said D’Angelo is “sustained” and said they don’t think we’ll see him for a very long time, so they were the “informants.” Mark Coffey said they haven’t got any calls from The Creed Brothers. Mercifully, The Creed Brothers’ music hit. Brutus, with his increasingly outlandish hair, stood there and smiled as Julius said it sounds like Gallus doesn’t want a challenge and that tonight, they’re saying this to their faces: title match Sunday. Mark said easy, they get it, they’re all hyped up and want the titles. Brutus stumbled on his words and said they’re out of surprises. Wolfgang said they’ve had more fights than the Creeds have had dinners. Julius said the four of them will fight (there were five with Joe), then Joe hit a cheap shot. The numbers game was too much. As Mark and Wolfgang went for their finisher, Stacks rushed the ring and took out Mark. A six-man may be coming.
(Hazelwood’s Take: That was a painful segment to watch.)
-McKenzie Mitchell was in the back with Wes Lee asking about his awful last Tuesday. Lee said he knows everyone is looking out for themselves, but, “Damn, I thought I could really trust Tyler!” He said maybe he just needs to stop letting people get close to him. Mitchell then brought in Tyler Bate. Lee said to save it and walked away before Bate could say anything. Bate said challenging for the title doesn’t change how he feels about Lee having the utmost respect, but he said that’s not the same for Joe Gacy.
-Eddy Thorpe made his entrance for his match with Bate. [c]
-They returned with congratulations to John Cena for Fast X, and Batista for Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3.
-Bate was in the ring as they came back.
(3) TYLER BATE vs. EDDY THORPE – Singles match
Lee joined commentary with a serious look on his face as he bore down Bate. Booker T asked if he feels like he’s been played and Lee said in a way since Bate could have let him know right away. Thorpe and Bate traded holds with Thorpe taking control with a side headlock and a takeover. Bate rolled him back twice for quick pins, then back up to their feet. Bate broke out and hit an arm drag, but that began another sequence of quick moves and counters. They reset and Thorpe hit a go-behind. Bate threw him off, then hit a dropkick off of a Thorpe rope run. Bate went for the airplane spin, but Thorpe slid out. Thorpe then hit a 360 crossbody off of a Bate rope run. Bate then hit an inside cradle for a two-count, but ate a big chop. A snapmare led to a stiff PK to the back of Bate, then Thorpe put on a seated arm lock.
Bate, big red spot on his chest, fought to his feet, but was brought right back down. Thorpe then transitioned into an abdominal stretch. He added some punches to the ribs for more damage. Bate eventually worked his way out and hit three uppercuts. Thorpe hit a spin kick to the gut to create space, but Bate hit a big knee and then second rope diving uppercut. A t-bone suplex led to a kip-up and running shooting star for a two-count. Bate when for the Tyler Driver ’97, but Thorpe flipped out. Bate went for the rebound lariat, but Thorpe kicked the arm. Bate then came back and hit a second attempt into the Tyler Driver for the victory. Lee reluctantly clapped.
WINNER: Tyler Bate at 5:02 (Tyler Driver ’97)
-After the match, Joe Gacy attacked Bate. He sensed Lee coming and dodged so Lee hit Bate. Lee checked on Bate, allowing Gacy to hit an Upside Down to both men. He held up the North American Championship as Ava smiled from ringside.
(Hazelwood’s Take: A fine, fine match. If you weren’t sold on Thorpe yet, a match with Bate is about as good as an opponent you’ll get to showcase Thorpe’s skills. For where they’re at right now – one on the Battleground card and one not – the decision makes sense. It also showcased both men’s skills well.)
-Mitchell was in the trainer’s room with Valkyria. She asked about the knee. Valkyria said the knee is bruised and swollen, but she doesn’t feel any tears or ligament damage and said no matter what, she’ll be fine and ready for Battleground. Mitchell asked who she wants in the finals and Valkyria said Perez, saying Perez is the best in NXT.
-They showed Noam Dar making his way with the Heritage Cup, then Nathan Frazer. Pray for my hands. [c]
-They returned with a video of Bate pushing away Lee during the break. Lee responded with a push. They argued and Lee angrily left the ring, bumping Bate’s shoulder.
-Dar was shown infatuated with his Heritage Cup, placed on the same table as the Women’s NXT Championship earlier, before entering the ring. Nathan “John Oliver” Frazer was next. Joseph hyped Dar vs. Dragon Lee on Sunday for the Heritage Cup.
(4) NOAM DAR vs. NATHAN FRAZER – Non-Heritage Cup title or rules singles match
Was Dar’s chest always that hairy? Huh. They locked up and Dar took the left arm, holding on through repeated roll through attempts. Frazer did get a side headlock, but Dar countered into one of his own. Frazer sent Dar on a rope run, who dodged a leapfrog, but had his kick dodged and Frazer taking him down a side headlock takeover. Dar used the hair to force Frazer into the ropes, but Frazer dodged a high kick and took Dar down once again with the side headlock. He held that for a bit before Dar made his way to his feet, breaking the hold with a gut knee. Frazer had several rope runs where he sidestepped Dar and eventually landed a one-legged dropkick to send Dar outside. [c]
Thank the wrestling gods for a commercial break during this match and that Kelly is doing the PLE on Sunday. Dar was in control as they returned. Frazer fought to his feet, but ate an uppercut. He dodged a corner attack, but Dar kicked out Frazer’s leg as he went for a top rope springboard, catching his throat on the top rope. Dar looked like he was going to do the rope hung DDT like Randy Orton, but dropped Frazer and kicked him instead.
Dar stomped on the left hand, then the right. He stomped on the left ankle, then the right ankle for a two-count. Dar hit some elbows to the top of the head from the corner, standing on the bottom rope for leverage. Frazer and Dar then traded blows, but Dar sidestepped and landed a flush Superman forearm to buckle Frazer. Dar then cockily did some stuff only to be caught with the second rope moonsault DDT a la A.J. Styles from Frazer. Frazer then beat on Dar’s head, before sending him into the corner. Dar sent him to the apron, and this time he avoided the kick from Dar and landed a springboard lariat. He then landed a modified spinning neckbreaker, almost using a vertical suplex form.
Frazer then climbed the top for a phoenix splash, but rolled through as Dar moved. Dar caught a kick, then rolled with the enziguri to lock in an ankle lock. Frazer forced him into the corner, but Dar came back a question mark kick to the back of Frazer’s head and locked in an armbar. Frazer worked out of it and landed a superkick though Joseph said crescent kick, which it was not, for only a two-count. The two punched each other in the middle of the ring, then Frazer hit rapid chops. Dar hit a quick Superman punch, then a big spinning back elbow (Judas Effect or Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson). Dragon Lee made his way and started posing with the Heritage Cup. This drew Dar outside. He pushed Lee, then turned back into a tope. Frazer put him back inside and went for and hit the phoenix splash.
WINNER: Nathan Frazer at 12:56 (phoenix splash)
-Mitchell was in the locker room with several wrestlers in the back, asking Dragunov why he attacked Dijak. He said it was so Dijak could feel the pain he felt last week, which was actual torture in story. As he was about to say his catchphrase, Dijak entered the locker room and it took the entire flock of wrestlers to keep them apart.
-A special look at Carmelo Hayes’ homecoming is next. [c]
(Hazelwood’s Take: A fun match with lots of counters, grappling, and some of the expected fast stuff, too. A good chunk I missed because of the commercial and no split-screen, but I’m sure the entire thing was fun. Not a big fan of the distraction finish, but it does give Frazer a much-needed big victory and continues to build heat for Sunday’s Dar-Lee match in the battle of three-letter last names. I wonder if Frazer makes his call to face the victor of Sunday’s match.)
CARMELO HAYES HOMECOMING SPECIAL LOOK
A video played of Hayes appearing on a lot of local media and wrestling media, hyping up Battleground and his title reign. One of the interviews was highly produced with the camera angles, but not all. Hayes was having his hair braided as he discussed what the area means to him. They showed him entering Kowloon’s for a delicious looking meal of Chinese food and to sign a picture to put up on their wall. He called Boston the city of champions and it’s only fitting he comes back home as the champion. They showed him at a Celtics game (not looking good in Game 4!) and then some more interview responses. He said he doesn’t think Breakker is ready for him and that Breakker is walking into a hostile area. He put over Breakker’s physical traits to end the video.
-Hank Walker and Tank Ledger made their entrance together for their match…against each other.
(5) HANK WALKER vs. TANK LEDGER – Singles match
They shook hands and locked up. Booker T said this is not productive as far as being a tag team; maybe this is Josh Briggs and Brooks Jensen’s way to cause dissension? Probably not. The two hit each other with running shoulder tackles, unable to make the other budge while tending to their hurt shoulders. Ledger finally took the initiative and forced Walker into the corner, but Walker returned the favor and hit a big slap across the chest. Ledger countered a slam attempt by ramming Walker into the corner, then hitting a big bodyslam. He did a cartwheel for some reason and hit a running splash. He told Walker to punch him, then they traded blows. Walker hit the Oklahoma slam this time, then the two men hit rope runs and simultaneous crossbodies. Walker quickly rolled over and gained the victory. Huh. As Walker checked on Ledger, Breakker entered and speared the hell out of Walker, then to Ledger. He said something into the camera that I couldn’t make out and exited the ring.
WINNER: Hank Walker at 2:41 (crossbody I guess)
-Diamond Mine was in the back as Stacks came in only for Brutus to make a bad sleeping with the fishes joke. Ivy Nile was there and looking happy at the thought of sending Gallus back to Scotland. Stacks said they’ll still be outnumbered and maybe they can work out an arrangement. They said no, but Stacks took no hard feelings as Julius promised them the first title shots should they win. [c]
Gigi Dolin made her entrance for a promo, but there was no response from the crowd.
GIGI DOLIN IN-RING PROMO
She said she’s not shy about the broken home she grew up in or how her brother and her had to learn the hard way about addiction because of their parents. She said they never knew what a stable family felt like until NXT, and then Jacy Jayne tore her down when she would have done anything for Jayne. She said she’ll do anything to her now. Jayne interrupted from above the crowd, walking along a part where no one was sitting. She said Dolin’s best moments were riding shotgun to her and that she outgrew Dolin, carrying her through every single match they had. She said everyone knew she was destined for bigger and better things solo. Dolin said it’s funny Jayne wants to move on when Dolin’s been at the center of Jayne’s attention the whole time just so Jayne isn’t remembered as the third wheel. Jayne said she beat Dolin and embarrassed her in front of her brother. Dolin said Jayne won the match, but needed eight stitches and that she won at Roadblock, so to settle this right now. Jayne said go ahead, pander to the crowd and the troll fanbase on social media that eat up her “tragic, depressing, pathetic Instagram stories.” She called for the match to be next week, but in a steel cage match. The crowd popped (why?). Dolin said she doesn’t pander to anyone, but wears her heart on her sleeve because she’s real, unlike Jayne. She called Jayne a fake ass bitch (Jayne just smiled). Dolin said a weaponized steel cage match, so they’re bringing it back.
(Hazelwood’s Take: I BEEN ready for this to be over. The last weaponized steel cage match in NXT was Pete Dunne aka Butch vs. Tony D’Angelo on February 15, 2022.)
-A video played of Luca Crusifino, calling out Von Wagner from in front of the Orange County Courthouse. [c]
-They returned with a video on the Heritage Cup, highlighting British wrestlers and going over the rules of the British Rounds matches. Six rounds, a fall ends a round, 20-second break between rounds, DQ or KO ends match, and a tie after six rounds goes to the champion. Dar was hyped as the most successful Heritage Cup winner as I think the only two-time winner. Good video.
-NXT_Anonymous showed Dar in the back with Oro Mensah, asking Mensah for help to keep Frazer away. He said a number one always needs a number two. Mensah said absolutely not. Suddenly, Jakara Jackson and Lash Legend walked by, mocking him with something I couldn’t hear.
-Crusifino was already in the ring in a button up vest and tie.
(6) VON WAGNER (w/Mr. Stone) vs. LUCA CRUSIFINO – Singles match
I think Joseph called Crusifino the “legal eagle.” He basically is dressed like Constable Corbin only in a cutoff. Wagner just immediately rushed and took it to Crusifino. Wagner hit a big kick and drew “Wagner” chants. Crusifino dodged a corner attack and hit some offense, including a hip toss-neckbreaker that was smoothly done. He beat on Wagner in the corner, but ate some strikes and a back elbow. Wagner was sent outside as Crusifino dodged a rush, then went out to Stone, who was in a hounds tooth suit. He took the picture from Stone’s pocket and laughed. Wagner rose behind him, angry. He laid out Crusifino outside, then back inside just mauled on him against the ropes and failed to heed the five-count. Wagner threw Crusifino into the barricade, but as he went to powerbomb him onto the table, Stone persuaded him against the move…momentarily. Suddenly, Crusifino was jackknifed onto the table, which didn’t give. Joseph had to sit on the barricade to avoid the interaction.
WINNER: Luca Crusifino at 2:38 by DQ
-The detectives came back inside and then arrested D’Angelo. They read him rights. D’Angelo yelled that he knew his rights.
-Stratton made her entrance for the main event match of the evening and to determine who will be opposite (for now) Valkyria on Sunday. [c]
-They returned with a promo for Night of Champions and their “triple main event,” which, if you say so I guess.
-Joseph then announced the weaponized steel cage match is official for next week. Perez made here entrance as she, too, eyed the title that was once hers.
(7) ROXANNE PEREZ vs. TIFFANY STRATTON – Women’s NXT Championship tournament semi-finals match
Stratton taunted Perez for being small, but Perez immediately shoved her off. She had to jump to get the hand for the test of strength, where Stratton forced her into a pin. Perez then used her experience to land a few nifty pin attempts before cinching in the side headlock. Perez tried a shoulder tackle, but Stratton no-sold, so Perez immediately picked the leg. Perez went for a head scissors, but Stratton cartwheeled out. Perez kept at it with pin combo counters, but Stratton used the hair to force Perez into the corner. Perez hit a back elbow, then rolled through a second rope attack to land an arm drag on Stratton. Stratton was visibly frustrated.
She let it out with a stiff shot to the face and then began working the left. Perez went for her spinning head scissors and sent Stratton outside. Perez went for a lope, but Stratton caught her on the shoulders. Perez slipped out and forced Stratton in the apron. She went to the top rope, but Stratton took out her leg with a shot and Perez fell to the outside. [c]
Stratton was in control as they returned, but Perez countered her and hit a big running dropkick to send Stratton outside. This time, Perez hit the lope not once, but twice. Perez climbed the top and went for a crossbody, but Stratton rolled through and caught her into the You Can’t Escape, but rolled through the PME as Perez dodged. Perez hit a Thesz press and then a running uppercut. Stratton sidestepped and hit a sky high sit-out spinebuster for a near-fall. Stratton set Perez across the top rope, then climbed the tope for a superplex of some kind. Perez blocked and hit an avalanche rana for a near-fall.
Perez landed some body shots and then a bunch of shots to the back. Stratton countered the side Russian leg sweep by slamming her into the mat. Perez countered a powerbomb into a rana pin, then Stratton for a sunset pin. Perez then hit the leg sweep for a two-count. Booker T thought Perez was taking too much time. She hit the spin kick and went for Pop Rocks, but Stratton bucked her off like Jayne did the other week. However, this time, Stratton bucked her off into the ropes throat-first. A You Can’t Escape-PME followed.
WINNER: Tiffany Stratton at 9:39 (You Can’t Escape-PME)
Joseph then hyped Battleground, beginning with Stratton vs. Valkyria, Lee vs. Gacy vs. Bate, Gallus vs, The Creed Brothers (all for titles), Dijak vs. Dragunov in last man standing, Dar vs. Lee for the Heritage Cup, and Hayes vs. Breakker for that title, six matches total. Valkyria and Stratton were arguing over the title as Perez watched from the entrance. The hooded and masked figure attacked Perez from behind and ran off. Dijak’s music hit as he came out looking for Dragunov, who attacked him from behind. Dragunove went for Torpedo Mokau on Dijak against the steps, but Dijak moved. He then tossed Dragunov over the barricade and signed the contract. Dragunov came back over as Dijak beat on guards. Dragunov got on the attack, a huge chop sending Dijak over the barricade. He then signed the contract. Dragunov then took out security as well only to eat a big Dijak boot. Dijak grabbed the steps, but Dragunov kicked him and Dijak fell onto the steps. Dragunov leaped off the steps to land a huge Superman hammerfist, then stood on the steps smiling at a snarling Dijak to end the show, well, more of the hype for Battleground and WWE’s history in the area ended the show.
(Hazelwood’s Take: With Valkyria’s win earlier – and even with the injury angle – Stratton’s win was all but foretold. She should be the next champion and something I advocated for last week because of her inarguable advantage as a character to go along with ever-improving in-ring skills. The match was the best of the mini-tournament – not a shocker – and now they found a way to put Perez into a feud without being involved in the title picture. I still say it’s Tatum Paxley, but we shall see.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: This show had two main goals. One of those was the booking of the tournament, and the other goal was to build for the matches on Sunday. In those regards, tonight was a success. Was every segment good? No, and that Gallus-Creeds segment was awful. Dolin-Jane was, at best, lackluster. The matches were good, though, even accounting for the short opener. Bate vs. Thorpe, Dar vs. Frazer, and Perez vs. Stratton are the standouts, but each match served their functions.
Tune into PWT Talks NXT (the link is fixed, I checked!) for more thoughts and to talk to Kelly, Nate, and me.