This feels like a big show for NXT. It has already been announced that Becky Lynch and Tiffany Stratton will be getting the main event spot here, and that is a big, big spot for Stratton. She wants to show that she is the future of the WWE women’s division, and this is the next step in doing so.
On top of that, though, the NXT Championship is on the line as Carmelo Hayes defends against Ilja Dragunov in what could be a Match Of The Year candidate. Bron Breakker and Baron Corbin are looking to beat the hell out of each other in a slobberknocker. Trick Williams looks to take the NXT North American Title from Dominik Mysterio. The NXT Tag Team Titles and the NXT Heritage Cup are on the line.
Time to see if the actual show lives up to the hype.
Mechanics Bank Arena. Bakersfield, California.
Here we go.
Baron Corbin vs Bron Breakker
I love the kayfabe line of thinking for this match going on first. An entire army of officials couldn’t keep these two apart as they fought all over creation, so you have to give them the first match tonight, because you won’t be able to keep them apart all night here, either.
Before the bell rings to start the match, both men are brawling throughout the crowd. Makes sense.
This was the expected hoss battle that it needed to be. Both men were dropping bombs on each other from the start, and to make things even better, it doesn’t look like Corbin and Breakker are done with each other yet. Corbin looks as motivated as we’ve ever seen him look, and of course, Bron is Bron, building his way up to a future WrestleMania main event.
If we can get another match like this, sign me up. If Seth Rollins and Shinsuke Nakamura weren’t using it at Fastlane next weekend, I’d say we could get a Last Man Standing Match between Baron and Bron, but either way, I’m looking forward to the continuation of their feud. 3.5 Stars
Dominik Mysterio vs Trick Williams – NXT North American Title Match (Special Guest Referee: Dragon Lee)
It isn’t often that we see a Dominik Mysterio match where he is the grizzled veteran, but here we go. Actually, outside of WrestleMania 38, where Dom and his father teamed up against The Miz and Logan Paul, I don’t think Dom has ever been in a match where he was facing someone with less in-ring experience than him.
This match was something that happened. Actually, it wasn’t bad, necessarily, but there wasn’t a ton to it. It seems like most of the match was spent on shenaniganery with multiple Ref bumps, first taking Dragon Lee out, and then taking his replacement out, only for Dragon Lee to return for the end. It just didn’t seem like NXT had enough confidence in either Dom or Trick to have any sort of real match against each other here. It didn’t help things that this was originally supposed to be Mustafa Ali’s title shot before he was seemingly released out of nowhere. 2.5 Stars for what we got, I suppose.
Tony D’Angelo & Channing “Stacks” Lorenzo vs The Creed Brothers vs Lucien Price & Bronco Nima vs Angel Garza & Humberto Carrillo – Fatal Four-Way for the NXT Tag Team Titles
Lots of different styles in this match, and they were all on full display at times. The first half of the match was a bit slow at times, mainly as we got to see the different teams coming in and out and doing their thing. Things picked up considerably in the second half, though. A lot more rapid-fire action, with plenty of stretches that were hard to keep track of.
While this certainly isn’t the best that the NXT tag team division has looked, this still shows the level of talent that the current division has, with multiple directions that things can go in. 3.5 Stars
Noam Dar vs Butch – British Rounds Rules Match for the NXT Heritage Cup
I’ve said it before, and I’ll continue to say it… even though the match quality is almost always high, I don’t think North American fans are ready for these British Rounds Rules matches. Obviously, it works on that side of the pond, but fans here still seem confused about the rules and how jarringly different the matches are from “regular” wrestling matches.
There were a lot of quiet stretches, where the crowd didn’t really seem to know how to react. When Butch was on offense, they picked things up a bit, but they weren’t reacting to the end of rounds or the drama that it was supposed to bring.
As expected, the match itself was fun. Also as expected, there was a lot of interference from the Meta Four group, as well as some extra interference from Gallus. You’re really running into “overbooked” territory when it’s a singles match that features a total of nine people being involved. 3.25 Stars, because that’s a lot to deal with, and a lot of it really distracted from the match itself.
Carmelo Hayes vs Ilja Dragunov – NXT Title Match
This is one of the biggest and most anticipated rematches in recent NXT history. Here’s to hoping it lives up to the high expectations I have for it.
The verdict is in… the match definitely lived up to the high expectations I had. My goodness. Like their match at Great American Bash two months ago, this one started off with Dragunov trying to exert his will on Melo, beating and battering him with the types of strikes that have made him one of the most dangerous men in the business. Also like their Great American Bash match, this one picked up steam at a rapid pace in the second half. Melo knew what it took to defeat Dragunov, so he dug deep in his bag to try and retain his title. Ilja knew that his best wasn’t enough last time around, so he dug deeper in his bag to try and figure out a way to defeat the champion.
I said their last match was 4.5 Stars, and this was just as good, if not better. To play it safe, I’m going to give this one 4.5 Stars, as well, with the belief that I’m probably going too low there. I know some people that gave the GAB match the full 5 stars, and I am now fully expecting to see the same grade given to this one by a bunch of folks.
Becky Lynch vs Tiffany Stratton – Extreme Rules Match for the NXT Women’s Title
I am a huge fan of both women in this match, but NXT did them zero favors by having them follow the match that just took place.
In a super wild rarity for a women’s match under the WWE umbrella, Tiff ended up bleeding from the temple mere moments into the match as both women were brawling in the crowd. Planned or unplanned, it’s so weird to see women bleeding in WWE matches.
I hate to say it, but… this match wasn’t very good, and it appears to be mostly on Tiffany Stratton’s shoulders. Actually, let me fix that, as it’s a bit harsh. The match was good, but it was nowhere near where it could’ve been. There were a handful of spots where Tiff’s timing was off by a mile, leading to Becky having to stand there and wait for her, or even audibly coach Tiff to get to the next spot. We even got a lame spot with a baseball bat wrapped in obviously fake barbed wire. It looked like something they bought at Spirit Halloween this weekend, and Stratton ended up with zero marks or scratches on her leg after being nailed with the bat. If you’re not going to use real barbed wire in a match, there’s no fucking point in having barbed wire involved. It makes everyone look dumb.
I think the last few minutes of the match helped to save the rating, bumping it up a bit. Once they got beyond all of the awkward spots, they really took things to the next level. Not quite enough to fully save it, but enough to help, for sure. This definitely shouldn’t have been the main event, though. Not after what was planned for Melo and Dragunov. 3 Stars
A Match Of The Year candidate and a few other fun matches. Not too much to complain about here. I’ll be back again tomorrow night for AEW Wrestle Dream.