The final NXT pay-per-view of 2023 has arrived.
Another edition of Deadline means another set of Iron Survivor Challenge matches to crown new #1 contenders for the NXT Title and the NXT Women’s Title.
Speaking of that NXT Championship, Ilja Dragunov defends it against Baron Corbin in a match that guarantees to be extra physical after Corbin decided to bring up Ilja’s personal life during the build. Not that Dragunov needed an excuse to have extra physicality in his matches, mind you.
On paper, this looks like a fun show. Let’s see how it turns out.
Dominik Mysterio vs Dragon Lee – NXT North American Title Match
This was a really good choice for a match opener. After a show-opening segment with Shawn Michaels and CM Punk got the crowd amped up, putting Dominik Mysterio out there means that the crowd is only going to continue being loud.
This was a lot of fun. Dragon Lee is exciting as all hell to watch, and Dominik continues to get better and more confident as the weeks go by. He’s really putting in some good work. I would have to look up some things to be sure, but this could very well have been the best singles match of Dom’s career so far. He and DL had ample opportunities to look good here. It wasn’t a super long match at just over ten minutes, but it also didn’t overstay its welcome, and they were able to pack a lot into their allotted time. 3.75 Stars
Kelani Jordan vs Lash Legend vs Tiffany Stratton vs Blair Davenport vs Fallon Henley – Women’s Iron Survivor Challenge
Matches like this are usually going to go one of two ways. Either there are going to be a ton of falls, with many of them happening after regular moves that never win actual matches, or there’s going to be a lack of falls altogether that allows for some extra drama to build up.
With the younger, inexperienced talent involved in this match, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that there were some wonky moments here. Nothing too egregious. Just things like a missed strike here, a mistimed spot there, and so on.
With that said, this was fun. Chaotic, hectic fun. All five women got a chance to shine, but I think Tiffany Stratton and especially Lash Legend are going to be the most remembered here. Stratton’s athletic ability continues to make her look like a million bucks in her matches, and Lash has some of the freakiest strength we’ve ever seen from a woman in this business. 3.25 Stars
Carmelo Hayes vs Lexis King
The crowd was surprisingly quiet for this one. I would assume it’s because many of them don’t really know Lexis King, if he’s any good, what he can do, etc.
This was fine for what it was. The former Brian Pillman Jr. isn’t quite on Melo’s level, but at the same time, as Booker T pointed out on commentary here, Melo was wrestling like his mind was elsewhere. Kayfabe, of course, but yeah, this wasn’t quite the HIM version of Carmelo Hayes that we’re used to seeing. Sure, that means the match quality takes a hit here, but with the story being told, it makes perfect sense. 3 Stars
Trick Williams vs Dijak vs Tyler Bate vs Josh Briggs vs Bron Breakker – Men’s Iron Survivor Challenge
Random thought, but I always forget that Briggs is listed at 6’8″. You take a look at him and see that he’s really tall, but it keeps catching me off-guard to find out he’s THAT tall. He could have a bright future with the company.
Trick Williams is over. O-v-e-r, over. There’s no way the plan was ever supposed to be him becoming a breakout megastar on his own, but that seems to be what is happening. Carmelo Hayes is still an incredible in-ring talent, and his future is insanely bright. Trick, though, has the potential to be special if he continues to put all the pieces together to form a full puzzle.
What a match. Amazing performances by everyone involved. My only concern is based on something I mentioned during the women’s Iron Survivor. That match saw a total of seven falls in 25 minutes. This one saw a total of 15 falls in 25 minutes, which is overkill. On the bright side, most of those falls came after finishers or heavy bombs, so it’s not like we’re seeing roll-ups and simple moves getting pins.
So much fun here. 4.25 Stars, which might be underselling things a bit.
Roxanne Perez vs Kiana James – Steel Cage Match
I really appreciate NXT’s attempts at giving Roxanne Perez a bit of an edge to her character. My biggest issue with it is that I’m not fully buying it. Some different colored ring gear isn’t going to prevent her from looking like someone’s little sister, and she still comes across like a really sweet person. We see that a lot in this sport. Someone can’t play a heel properly because they’re too nice in real life, or someone who can’t play a face convincingly because they’re too much of an asshole in real life. It is what it is.
The match was okay. Not bad. Both women worked hard. I’m just not sure anyone cared enough about this feud to warrant a Steel Cage Match. That, and the crowd might have been worn out after the previous match, as they were really quiet for most of this one. 2.75 Stars
Ilja Dragunov vs Baron Corbin – NXT Title Match
Dragunov gets a lot of praise, and rightfully so, for being one of the best pro wrestlers on the planet. One thing I wish he got more credit for is his selling ability. When he’s getting beat up in a match, he looks and sounds like he’s getting beat up. It all comes across as natural, without sounding cartoonish. His selling might be his best trait.
As expected, this was a super physical match. Both men are heavy hitters, and they unleashed their arsenals here. Some will undoubtedly complain because the match was a bit on the slower side with Corbin on the offensive, but I won’t. Was Corbin utilizing a Lucha-style offense and flying all over the ring like Blitzkrieg in WCW? No, of course not. He doesn’t need to, though. His offense worked against Dragunov, and it was good. I don’t think Corbin is getting enough credit for this run in NXT. He has been having some really good matches, and he has been able to make himself and all of his opponents look great in the process. This was another case of that happening. 3.75 Stars
Another solid night of action from NXT. We may never see the brand like it was in its Takeover heyday, when it seems like every match on those cards was in contention for Match Of The Night, but shows like this are still very, very entertaining. I’m not complaining.