SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
WELLS’S NXT NO MERCY REPORT
SEPTEMBER 30, 2023
BAKERSFIELD, CA. AT MECHANICS BANK ARENA
AIRED LIVE ON PEACOCK
Commentators: Vic Joseph & Wade Barrett
Ring Announcer: Alicia Taylor
Torch subscribers can check out a VIP roundtable later as Nate Lindberg and I break down our thoughts.
-A cartridge of WWE No Mercy from Nintendo 64 is entered into a console, and it brings up the starting menu except with the NXT stars of today, in graphics fitting the time and characters in the polygon style, with matchups being selected to promote each of tonight’s bouts. It was a novel opening that got about five minutes. Vic invoked Dr. Dre by saying they were in “a state that’s untouchable like Eliot Ness.”
(1) BARON CORBIN vs. BRON BREAKKER
Corbin entered second and was on a motorcycle, which popped some. Though both have been heels, it feels like Corbin will be playing babyface tonight. Breakker sailed over the top rope with a swanton to open. The two brawled into the crowd as no bell sounded. Breakker tossed Corbin over the barricade, then laid out two “security” guys. Corbin clotheslined Breakker over the barricade and smiled as the crowd chanted for him. Corbin set Breakker on the announce table and sailed over with a senton, but Breakker moved. The table didn’t break. Breakker rolled Corbin into the ring and, once he checked on Corbin, the ref called for the bell.
Breakker remained on the offensive and blocked Corbin repeatedly into a corner. Corbin came of the second buckle with a clothesline for two. Corbin clubbed Breakker in a corner, then took him to another for an Irish whip. He slammed Breakker and covered for two. Lariat by Corbin. Ground & pound. Breakker snuck out of a fireman’s carry and hit a lungblower. Breakker mounted Corbin’s back and threw down clubbing blows. Breakker leaned on Corbin in a corner and ran in with a knee.
Action went up to a corner and, after some jockeying, Breakker hit a Frankensteiner. Powerslam by Breakker got two. Corbin got into it with a few shots and a DVD for two. Exploder by Corbin was reversed and Breakker tried to sit into a Steiner Recliner but Corbin reached a rope. Breakker ran the ropes and hit a Deep Six (with a double spin, so Vic said he’d call it a Deep Twelve). It got two. Both guys sold on the mat and glared at each other from across the ring. The met in the middle and exchanged rights for a yay/boo chant. Knees by both guys. Corbin hit a knee and went for End of Days but Breakker countered and rolled Corbin up for a near-fall. Pouncing lariat by Breakker, who posed to boos. He ran the ropes and blocked Corbin to the mat, and then dumped him to the outside. Breakker charged around the corner at Corbin, who caught Breakker and flapjacked him through the announce table, which broke this time. “NXT” chant.
Breakker speared Corbin on the outside and rolled Corbin inside. Breakker called for his finish but noticed Mr. Stone was on the top rope. Stone jumped onto Breakker, who caught him and threw him into a sea of security guys. The opening was enough for Corbin to hit End of Days to win.
WINNER: Baron Corbin at 9:32.
(Wells’s Analysis: This was these two meaty men at their best. Breakker has probably eaten too many losses, but once he moves north – which I believe will be soon (perhaps after he finishes his issue with Von Wagner) – these NXT losses won’t matter. Corbin gets the rare win in a feud. The crowd ate this up and seems very hot for the show)
-Earlier today, Tiffany Stratton and Becky Lynch arrived (separately, of course).
-The four-way match from Tuesday where Trick Williams earned his shot tonight was recapped. Earlier tonight, Trick and Carmelo Hayes did a tandem interview with McKenzie Mitchell. They gassed each other up ahead of their matches. Hayes said they were both walking out with championships on their shoulders.
(2) TRICK WILLIAMS vs. DOMINIK MYSTERIO (c) – NXT North American Championship match – special referee Dragon Lee
Lee was introduced. He had a black and white mask to match his referee uniform. Trick entered to a very strong reaction and the boos rained down on Mysterio. Alicia Taylor handled formal intros in low light. Lee reached for the belt after Mysterio’s introduction and Mysterio dropped it to the mat rather than hand it to him. Ha.
Mysterio hit a quick dropkick but Williams came back with some rights. Rope run and Williams ran through Dom and hit a dropkick. Mysterio rolled outside to slow the momentum. He grabbed his belt and started off, but Williams ran out and clipped him with a clothesline and rolled him back inside. Body slam by Williams, followed by a big clothesline. Once again, Dom bailed to boos.
Williams rolled Mysterio back inside and stepped over the second rope, and Dom kicked up the rope into Trick’s crotch. He kicked Williams to the floor and followed him out, beating Williams into the table and against the barricade. Mysterio rolled Williams back inside and threw some rights. Rope run and a knee by Mysterio for two. Mysterio worked a headlock and Williams fired up and elbowed his way free. Mysterio threw his own elbow to keep Williams grounded. To a corner, Williams missed and Dom dropped his neck on the top rope. Dom posed to boos and floated over to Williams for a two count. Mysterio got in Dragon Lee’s face again, apropos of nothing. Vic said Mysterio should forget about him because he’s calling the match fairly.
Williams fought back with some rights and he hit a dropkick that showed a ton of light with the camera catching it at the worst angle. Mysterio hit a backslide for two. Double clothesline in the middle of the ring and both guys laid out on the mat. Mysterio set up a thrust kick and Williams ducked. Lee ate the boot and went rolling from the ring. Booker blamed Lee for being out of positon. Williams hit an impact move and a new ref entered and he got just one. Williams sold frustration. Williams spin-kicked Mysterio and covered for two. The two went for headbutts together and both dropped to the mat. Dominik ran the ropes and the second referee got bumped. Dom and Trick went spilling out of the ring and Dom charged Trick into the post. Back inside, Dom missed a frog splash and Williams got another visual pin as he screamed for a ref. It was a little odd that Dragon Lee was still selling. Dom tried to use his belt on Trick, but Trick kneed the belt into Dom’s face and Lee recovered and made the three count, giving Trick the pin and the title.
WINNER: Trick Williams at 9:27.
(Wells’s Analysis: I genuinely expected Trick to gain something by losing and maybe start moving toward a program with Carmelo Hayes, but apparently that’s not the story tonight. Williams completes by far the biggest week in his career by winning a championship when he wasn’t even booked in this match five days ago.)
-Recap of the restaurant scene setting the stage for the four-way tag match tonight.
-Connor’s Cure spot.
-Joe Gacy got down on himself backstage (from last Tuesday). Ava tried to calm him and he yelled at her that the Schism was dead and said he had to find his purpose.
-Tiffany Stratton was shown stretching ahead of her main event Extreme Rules match.
(3) TONY D’ANGELO & CHANNING “STACKS” LORENZO (c) vs. THE CREED BROTHERS (Julius & Brutus) (w/Ivy Nile) vs. ANGEL GARZA & HUMBERTO CARRILLO vs. OUT THE MUD (Bronco Nima & Lucien Price) (w/Scrypts) – Fatal four way match for the NXT Tag Team Championship
The Creeds entered first and Booker put them over as a potential generational tag team. Garza & Carrillo were next, followed by Nima & Price, who walked low-rider bikes to the ring. The champs entered last for what’s finally their first defense of the titles. A bunch of “family” members in mostly ill-fitting suits shook their hands on the ramp during their entrance.
Julius & Garza opened the match. Garza went for a block that did nothing. Julius pretended a chop affected him and then shrugged it off. Action very quickly broke down and all eight guys got involved. Inside, Brutus was getting double-teamed by Nima and Price. Back kick by Price. Nima tagged in and looked to continue but there was a blind tag, forcing him out. Carrillo and Stacks went next and Stacks hit an inverted atomic drop and stomped Carrillo. Stacks tagged D’Angelo, who hit a hard knee on Carrillo. Garza tried to interfere and the champs fought off the heel team. D armdragged Stacks into Carrillo in one corner, and then Garza in another. Garza tagged in and the two took down D, who sold that his knee buckled. The ref called for medical, but the camera stayed on him so it’s almost certainly kayfabe. Stacks fought the Garza-Carrillo team, which took over on numbers. Carrillo hit a hard lariat as Booker said that Tony D is finished.
Garza & Carrillo continued double-teaming Stacks ad covered him for two. Nima tagged himself in, sending Carrillo out. Nima tagged Price and OTM double-teamed Stacks next. Prince stalked Stacks and hit a charging clothesline in the corner. Stacks tried to make a tag to the Creeds but couldn’t make it. The camera caught Ivy Nile laying out Scrypts on the outside. Nima and Price checked it out, allowing the Creeds to tag in and lay out all the heels. Julius hit belly-to-belly suplexes repeatedly, including on Nima and Price t the same time, all as Brutus had Garza in an ankle lock. Finally, Carrillo hit a springboard boot to break it up. It was bonzo gonzo again as all the heels went at Stacks. At the top of the ramp, Tony D fought his way through some officials to get back into the match. Hehad a knee brace on. He managed some offense but sold the knee after everything.
All eight guys were involved again, with two guys up on each turnbuckle. Every babyface hit a superplex on a heel simultaneously in a crowd-pleasing spot. The faces rolled the heels out of the ring and the babyfaces met in the middle of the ring. They slugged it out until Nima and Price got involved to double-team Tony D for two. The Creeds set up their finisher but Garza & Carrillo broke it up. Brutus sent them from the ring and hit a Brutus Ball on Garza, Carrillo and Nima. In the ring, the champs hit their finisher on Price to win.
WINNERS: Tony D’Angelo & Channing “Stacks” Lorenzo at 12:04.
(Wells’s Analysis: As messy as you’d expect, but for whatever reason, this mess worked for me in a way many multi-man matches don’t. I’m glad the titles didn’t change hands in this environment and also glad that all teams got at least some level of shine for whoever’s going to be next in a 2-on-2 setting)
-Another hype segment for what’s likely to be Brian Pillman, Jr.
-Trick and Melo met in the back and celebrated. Williams said there was one more W to get tonight. Melo went back to preparing for his match.
-Becky went through the back, looking for weapons for the main event later.
-The Global Heritage Invitational, leading to Butch getting a shot at the Heritage Cup tonight, was recapped.
(4) BUTCH (w/Tyler Bate) vs. NOAM DAR (w/Oro Mensah & Lash Legend & Jakara Jackson) – NXT Heritage Cup rounds match
A graphic ran down the rules for anyone new to the format. Alicia Taylor handled formal intros.
ROUND ONE: Collar and elbow. Butch worked a wristlock and Dar reversed. Quick reversals ensued as the action went to the mat. They got back to their feet and again jockeyed for position. Both guys missed big kicks and Butch missed the stomp on the fingers. Reset. Rope run and a block by Butch. Combo kicks by Dar took Butch down. Rope run and Butch hit a knee and did his shrug. Butch tied up Dar on the mat and worked his joints. Dar fought off the submission holds until the bell sounded. Dar hit a sucker elbow at the final moment.
ROUND TWO: Dar started on the offensive and covered for two. Dar tied up Butch in the ropes and draped him, then kicked him in the head for two. Dar took Butch to a corner and rained down elbows. Dar hit a few lariats and Butch got into it with a big knee. Butch dropped knees onto Dar’s upper arm. Shining wizard by Butch and Dar went to the apron, where Butch clubbed him like Sheamus would. The ref got caught up with some outside people and Mensah kicked Butch, opening him up for Dar to hit his finisher for the first pinfall.
FIRST FALL to Dar at 2:20 of the second round
ROUND THREE: The two collided in the middle of the ring and sold on the mat. Dar went to the outside and Butch hit a moonsault on him there. Butch rolled Dar inside and Meta-Four got in his face. Bate showed up and they backed off. Dar rolled up Butch in the ring for two. Butch went high and Dar hit an overhead kick as he sailed to the mat. Butch hit the Bitter End.
SECOND FALL to Butch at 1:58 of the third round
ROUND FOUR: Butch controlled early and threw repeated elbows on Dar on the mat. Bate was getting psyched on the outside. Dar reversed a leg hold and trapped Butch in a sleeper. Butch got to his feet and Dar trapped him in an armbar. Butch reversed to his own armbar. Reversals came fast and furious for a few moments. Butch stomped his way free of Dar and hit an x-plex for two. Butch sold for a second before chopping Dar a few times. To a corner, Butch went up but Dar kicked him down. Dar hit a suplex for a very long two. Dar went up and Butch trapped him in a scissors/armbar and time expired as Butch furiously pointed out that Dar was knocked out. He didn’t get the decision.
ROUND FIVE: Both were slow to start. They exchanged palm strikes, chops and kicks. Dar took the upper hand with a strong back elbow for a long two. The pace was very slow as Dar sold the effects of the match to this point. Dar went high and Butch hit a step-up kick and a superplex for two. Action went to the apron, where Dar hit a brainbuster. Lash Legend rolled Dar in so he could make the cover for two. Butch stomped Dar and had him set up for the spot on the fingers. Time expired but Butch stomped him anyway.
ROUND SIX: Butch had the upper hand with rights and lefts. He hit a snap suplex and some big kicks. In the corner, Mensah again hit a cheap kick. Nova Roller got a long two. Tyler Bate jumped at Mensah and took him out. Butch hit a Tyler Driver ’97 and got two. Butch went for the Bitter End and Dar fought it off. Butch separated the digits and hit the Bitter End and Dar kicked out. Butch worked an armbar. On the outside, Gallus jumped Bate. Butch hit a plancha on both guys. Back iside, Jackson and Legend distracted the ref long enough for Gallus to hit their finisher on Butch. Dar slunk in for the victory.
WINNER: Noam Dar at 2:33 of the sixth round (12:51 total time between the bells)
(Wells’s Analysis: A fun affair with the heel side raising their numbers until they finally had enough people to beat Butch. Butch didn’t take the championship but apparently he isn’t done with NXT, as he and Bate seem destined to tangle with Wolfgang and Mark Coffey in the near future. Butch beat Joe Coffey to get here, so this was pretty well constructed)
-This December 9th, NXT: Deadline will again feature the Iron Survivor Challenge.
-NXT Halloween Havoc will be a two-week event this year.
-Recap of the Hayes-Dragunov feud which has mostly relied on contrived accidental attacks.
(5) CARMELO HAYES (c) vs. ILJA DRAGUNOV – NXT Championship match
For Hayes’ entrance, he had the jerseys of the people he’s beaten up on the screen again. Alicia Taylor did intros.
Big boot by Dragunov to open. Dragunov beat Hayes into a corner and stomped him around the ring. Dragunov chopped Hayes down in a corner and worked a waistlock. Hayes elbowed himself free but Dragunov chucked him to the apron and booted him to the floor. He fired up to a pretty good reaction, though there were some boos as he’s facing NXT’s most popular full-timer. Hayes got back into it with some rights and chops. Hayes kicked Dragunov in a corner and hit a corner block, then missed a springboard lariat, allowing a huge lariat by Dragunov.
Lost my feed for about two minutes. Hayes hit a palm strike and both men sold on the mat. The two slugged it out on their knees, then got to their feet and kept it up. Quick reversals led to an enzuigiri by Hayes. Springboard bulldog by Hayes got a long two. Hayes considered his next move and charged Dragunov, who caught him and hit a German suplex that Booker strangely called a belly-to-belly even after Vic called it correctly. He held on for a second. Hayes tried to break the grip of Dragunov and he finally reversed for a standing switch. Rope run and Hayes rolled around on Dragunov until he hit a bulldog for two.
More jockeying led to a big knee by Dragunov. Powerbomb by Dragunov. Both guys sold on opposite sides of the mat. Dragunov went to the top and blew a kiss. He jumped down and Hayes almost trapped him, but Dragunov deadlifted him into a Death Valley Driver into a turnbuckle. Dragunov went up again hit a coast-to-coast dropkick. He covered for two. Hayes recovered and the two battled in a corner. Hayes tried to go up but Dragunov struck him down to the apron. Dragunov hit a suplex and fired up. He was bleeding hard from the head. He went for Torpedo Moscow but it was thwarted. H-Bomb got two. Dragunov stomped Hayes and went up in the corner. He hit another H-Bomb for two. Dragunov yelled out in frustration. Vic said “I almost said a four-letter word I’m not allowed to say.” The crowd had him covered with a “holy shit” chant.
Dragunov waited for Hayes to get up and went for Torpedo Moscow. Hayes hit a superkick for two. He sold for a bit as Dragunov crawled for the apron. The two went out to the apron together and threw some kicks. Hayes set up a suplex and instead made it a cutter out to the floor. Dragunov yelped in pain that sure sounded legit. The ref started the count and Hayes rolled Dragunov inside and went up. He ran into a Dragunov clothesline. Dragunov, in agony, crawled over to the corner and went high. He went to the top for one more H-Bomb and…got the three?! New champion!
WINNER: Ilja Dragunov at 21:03.
Ilja helped up Melo after the match for a handshake and hug. Ilja, in his intense way, showed respect to the outgoing champ.
(Wells’s Analysis: Between this not being the main event and the thing with Trick and Melo, I didn’t come into this thinking a change was possible, but when Trick won the North American Title, I wondered if this was a sign that Ilja would take this one. Ilja dropped some hints as well as he fought with so much championship determination that you could see that this might be the story. An absolutely excellent match that raises the stock of both men, as high as that stock already was)
-Programming note: a family emergency (my family) popped up at the outset of the Dragunov-Hayes match. I’ll be finishing the show but our VIP PLE Roundtable will be recorded tomorrow, to go up by tomorrow night, so look for it then.
-Hype for the main event.
(6) BECKY LYNCH (c) vs. TIFFANY STRATTON – Extreme Rules match for the NXT Women’s Championship
The pre-match stuff was pretty long heading into the main event. The crowd, hot all night, was here for Becky. Becky entered second, then went back and rolled her shopping cart full of plunder to the ramp. Stratton caught her there, but Lynch got the upper hand. Lynch put on a hard hat and headbutted Stratton with it a couple of times. Lynch got three or four kendo stick shots in. Stratton tried to escape through the crowd and Lynch followed. They fought up some steps. A planted fan gave Lynch a gold chain and she started using it on Stratton. Stratton was already bleeding from up and to the right of her right eye. Stratton got a shot in and then used the top segment of the steel steps on Becky. Stratton suplexed Lynch on the floor. Stratton checked the blood on her head and, seeing it on her hand, she looked genuinely annoyed.
Stratton laid out Becky in the ring and went out for weapons, then strangely returned without any and leaned on Becky on the mat. Stratton went back outside and got a tool box. She first used the closed box on Becky’s midsection, then opened it and got a large wrench, which she swung at Lynch’s midsection. A crowbar to the back was next. Stratton rolled up a chain on her fist and took a shot at Lynch. Lynch ducked a hammer blow and the hammer went flying in the corner. Sidewalk slam by Stratton got two. The crowd chanted “We want tables” and Stratton said “How about a chair?” as she picked one up. She trapped the chair in between the top two turnbuckles. After some jockeying, Lynch charged Stratton into the chair. Lynch went up and hit a missile dropkick. Stratton bailed and Lynch hit a basement dropkick. Lynch went out and laid out Stratton, and then ran her shopping cart into her. Becky shoved Tiffany into the cart and charged her into the steps.
Lynch rolled Stratton into the ring, allowing the ref to check on Stratton quickly as she brought in a bag full of Barbie doll parts to mock Stratton. She backdropped Stratton onto the pieces and covered for two, then spanked Stratton with some plunder. Lynch threw out doll parts at Stratton, who deflected them with a trash can lid. Quite a few parts went into the crowd. Stratton got in a big shot with the lid, then went to the apron, where Lynch neutralized and draped Stratton, then put a trash can on her and splashed down. Stratton fought off the next attack and hit a spinebuster on the can.
A large number of chairs were set up in the ring and Lynch slammed Stratton onto them. She tried a headscissors, but Stratton rolled out and bombed Becky on the steps. Back inside, Stratton covered for two. Action spilled outside again and Becky took the upper hand. She got a table, eliciting one of the night’s biggest pops. As she started setting it up, Stratton showed up with a kendo shot. She tossed Lynch aside and finished setting up the table. She went looking for Becky under the ring, where Becky waited with a fire extinguisher. Becky also got a gimmicked barbed wire bat and swung it at Stratton’s leg. Stratton neutralized Lynch against a barricade and hit a somersault splash against it, breaking both of them through.
Action went to the announce table, where Lynch set up Stratton and stood up there with her. She wanted the manhandle slam but Stratton pushed her down into a chair and then kicked her through the barricade. Stratton set up Lynch on the regular table and hit a swanton, but went slightly too far. They went spilling over, though the table broke to some degree. Back inside, Stratton hit another swanton for two.
Lynch went to the outside, and Stratton went high for her moonsault. She missed and Lynch immediately hit the manhandle slam. Back inside, Lynch covered for two. Stratton slammed Lynch onto the chairs and went high for the moonsault, but Lynch moved and Stratton went face-first into the pile. Manhandle Slam on the pile of chairs was enough to end it.
WINNER: Becky Lynch at 20:18.
(Wells’s Analysis: Extreme Rules matches aren’t my jam, but they loaded up with spots and did a lot of familiar ones in slightly new ways. The two really made it look like a blood feud (even literally, much earlier than one would expect) as Lynch became the only main roster star to walk out of this match with gold, though it was possible we’d have three. The match easily warranted its main event spot, which was no guarantee after the semi-main.)
-Trick Williams and Carmelo Hayes met in the locker room. Trick consoled Melo and said “you’re still Him.” No tension was teased.
FINAL THOUGHTS: A few matches here had boom-or-bust potential and really outdid expectations; the tag match was chaotic fun and the Bron-Baron match was a revelation. The top two matches predictably delivered in a big way and we now have the intrigue of a new champion in Ilja Dragunov, a new dynamic in the Trick-Melo Gang, and the question of how and where Becky will drop the NXT Championship match as she’ll be defending it on the main roster as well as down in Florida. 2023’s major NXT shows have kind of run the gamut of very strong to perfunctory, but I think this one had enough going for it to be one of the better ones of the year, match for match. A VIP Roundtable will go up before tomorrow night and we’ll get together on Tuesday for PWT Talks NXT to see the fallout. Cheers.