Editor's Note: The following is an opinion-based preview and reflects that of the writer and not of our website.
Welcome, cats and kittens, to the new version of NXT: NXT 2.0.
Did you ever wonder what it would be like if NXT was just like every other WWE product? Would it still be fun? Would it still have great wrestling and compelling (if, at times, overwrought) stories? Or, would it be a place replete with manic Kevin Dunn camera cuts and very little of what you used to love? Folks, I have news. It is very, very much the latter. The things that are bad are seriously bad, but that’s because I am still comparing them to the NXT I fell in love with where the bad was still fun and it didn’t make you want to change the channel.
However, not everything is all doom and gloom. There are some notable standouts. If Carmelo Hayes and Trick Williams aren’t stars yet, just give it some time. Malcolm Bivens getting weekly screen time has almost made 2021 bearable. But the best thing to happen in this version of NXT is Young Steiner, aka Bron Breakker. What an absolute rocket this guy is. Going from never being on screen to multiple main events in such a short time is kind of staggering.
In the past, the people fast-tracked have come in with a ton of indie cred like the Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura and Kevin Owens types. Bron has wrestled a grand total of 11 matches total on TV and is already this good. For someone to be this good while being this inexperienced is unprecedented. The sky is truly the limit for the big bad booty nephew.
Sunday night: some good and some bad! Never forget that even though life is pain and we continue to exist in a hellscape, soldier on, we must. And I will soldier through previewing this card.
It's time for WWE NXT WarGames.
Women's WarGames match: Raquel Gonzalez, Io Shirai, Cora Jade and Kay Lee Ray vs. Dakota Kai and Toxic Attraction (NXT Women's Champion Mandy Rose, NXT Tag Team Champions Gigi Dolin and Jacy Jayne)
Rose rules so hard. She’s not the best in ring talent, but she is certainly not bad, regardless of what a large portion of the wrestling Twitter echo chamber would have you believe. She has the best V-trigger in the business and that is not up for discussion. Kenny Omega could never. I simply have no time for Rose slander, so miss me with it. She came in and added immediate credibility to Dolin and Jayne, and does not look out of place as the Women’s Champion.
The team of faces in this match really do transcend the term 'thrown together.' Is KLR someone I’m supposed to root for? Her greatness notwithstanding, but come on. Talk about going against someone’s natural alignment in Jade. What exactly is she supposed to be? Is carrying a small skateboard and being obsessed with CM Punk a personality? And then, there's Gonzalez and Shirai.
Both WarGames matches feel rushed and disjointed which makes me sad. These matches are brutal for the wrestlers to go through and it’s a real bummer that all 20 people involved are going to put themselves through hell for something that means so little. Specifically, I am sad that Shirai is going to take more insane bumps for something that means this little. What a curious use of such an incredible talent.
Toxic Attraction is clearly being pushed as the main female group of NXT 2.0, so they get the win here.
Hair vs. hair match: Cameron Grimes vs. Duke Hudson
Why, exactly, are we doing this? Grimes, someone who got a butler gimmick over in roughly two weeks, can’t make this work. God help him because he’s doing his best, but he can’t work miracles. A hair vs. hair stipulation is especially dumb when only one person has long hair. Hudson (who is tall) has the hairstyle where you point to a picture of it on the wall of SuperCuts and say ‘Give me that.'
And why exactly are we leaping to something that usually blows off feuds that mean something? They certainly aren’t done after *checks notes* someone getting mad over a poker room or something? I don’t even know if that’s right and I truthfully do not care. This is so dumb that I’m done writing about it. Grimes wins, but who cares?
NXT Tag Team Champions Imperium (Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel) vs. Kyle O'Reilly and Von Wagner in a title match
NXT has become such an afterthought that I forgot Imperium were the champs. As I was putting this preview together, I was confused this wasn’t a triple threat. Who knew some embarrassing parents had so much stroke they could get MSK off TV? This is a reminder that the worst type of fan is all of them, especially me.
This match is just kind of weird. Why is it even happening? O'Reilly's contract is up this month and Wagner is already getting airtime on SmackDown as Adam Pearce’s bodyguard. Does this really sound like a team that’s about to get strapped up? I assure you, it does not. Regardless of whatever happens in O'Reilly's future, he has been one of the most memorable performers that never got an extended singles run at the top of the card. Kyle, I love you and I hope that whatever comes next is exactly what you want and need. Let me be your Doom Boy.
Imperium retains. Bye bye Kyle. :(
NXT Cruiserweight Champion Roderick Strong (w/ The Diamond Mine) vs. Joe Gacy (w/ Harland) in a title match
Malcolm Bivens, my god. Why are you so perfect? Somehow, some way, you have managed to bring Catch Point into WWE and bless you for that. Diamond Mine is such a good way to introduce some of the ‘"real athletes" that NXT is going to feature moving forward. The man formerly known as Big Stoke can handle the heavy mic work and get the group over without the in-ring talent having to worry about any of that. They can just go out, bust ass, and look good. It’s a wonderfully simple formula and shows the value of a real, actual manager. And there are very few managers as good as Malcolm Bivens.
As sure as I am about Bivens, I am really confused by Gacy. The gimmick is intentionally weird, but he’s doing his absolute best to get it over. His commitment certainly can’t be questioned, but I just don’t know if it’s any good. I don’t even know if it’s supposed to be good. I do know that it, most likely, is in service of getting Harland over. Before Harland was name-neutered by the fed, he had name recognition. People knew who he was and it was his name that got him signed. There were Brock Lesnar comparisons, pictures with Eva Marie, etc., etc., etc. There are plans for this guy and we probably can’t say the same about Rod Strong or Gacy.
Look, the Cruiserweight title hasn’t meant anything since it was brought back. This is probably a way for Roddy to drop the belt and have it be repurposed into something else. What that something is, I have no earthly idea. But it will be something. Gacy goes over and wins gold.
Men's WarGames match: Team Black & Gold (NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano, Pete Dunne and LA Knight) vs. Team 2.0 (Bron Breakker, NXT North American Champion Carmelo Hayes, Grayson Waller and Tony D'Angelo) (w/ Trick Williams)
A full eulogy requires far more time and far more Internet pixels than I have available. If this really the end of the Black & Gold era of NXT, let us remember it for the incredible moments it gave us, rather than its abrupt, undeserved end. Many times, I have written that I don’t have a romantic relationship with wrestling. It was never there for me like it has been for so many others. It was never a beacon in the darkness. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love it and NXT really ignited that love in me. I remember losing my shit when PAC got signed. I couldn’t believe it when Kevin Steen and El Generico went to the company. Guys I loved and only got to see on DVD or on demand were going to a place where I could see them all the time. How could I not love it?
NXT was the type of wrestling that resonates with me. The matches were great and meant something. WWE is a company that is fixated on creating moments and the moments NXT created are some of the most iconic in the last ten or so years of modern wrestling. Bayley and Sasha in Brooklyn. Shinsuke Nakamura’s Dallas debut. Finn Balor bringing out the demon. The return of WarGames. Asuka’s entire NXT run. DIY’s triumph over The Revival in Toronto and later, their destruction. I could go on forever, baby.
NXT was beautiful and nearly perfect and proved that there was a market for just good ass wrestling on American television. Would AEW exist without NXT proving there’s an appetite? Sure, probably. But NXT paved the way for an alternative. They showed what a real wrestling TV show could be, and they changed wrestling forever. It’s sad that the end is here, and it’s sad that it’s going out with something resembling a whimper, but eventually the end comes for us all.
2.0 beats 1.0. The end of the era is here.