NXT Battleground 2023 (5/28/2023)- Lowell, MA
NXT NORTH AMERICAN TITLE MATCH: Wes Lee(c) vs. Tyler Bate vs. Joe Gacy (w/Ava)- 9/10
Holy f*ck. I understand if what I’m about to say might be a bridge too far for you (or even if you’re a TNA die-hard who finds it outright sacrilege), but this match reminded me of the Unbreakable three-way. Obviously, there was the dynamic of the two smaller dudes and one larger dude, but they also had that same beautiful crispness of their execution (even on the complicated three-way spots), and they did the same wonderful job of never letting you forget that this was a three-way by not keeping anyone down on the outside for too long. They also had their own story of Gacy trying to manipulate the two friends Lee and Bate into fighting each other so that they wouldn’t team up on him.
Also, on a “small details” note, I loved that when Gacy did his big dive, he didn’t put his arms up in the air to celebrate, in order to avoid doing anything that might result in the crowd cheering him any more than was inevitable.
WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH VIDEO PACKAGE- excellent
NXT HERITAGE CUP MATCH: Noam Dar(c) vs. Dragon Lee (w/Nathan Frazier)- 7/10
Oro Mensah came out after the first round to act as Dar’s second. Dar grabbed the lead with a roll-up in round two. Dragon Lee controlled round three, but Dar took control back with the help of a cheap shot at the end of round three. Dragon Lee won a fall in round four. The seconds had started fighting during round four, and were ejected after they brawled into the ring during the break. Dar won in the next round after interference from Lash Legend and Jakara Jackson (Jackson distracted the referee, and Legend came out of the crowd and hit Dragon Lee in the back with her bucket).
LAST MAN STANDING MATCH: Ilja Dragunov vs. Dijak- 9/10
This was exactly what you would expect: Pure brutality, with Ilja Dragunov being the best babyface ever, fighting through all of the pain to get the win. They took some time early to get Ilja stitched up after he started bleeding, which felt silly for a Last Man Standing match, but it worked with the characters involved. Ilja wants to fight as much as possible, and Dijak wants to cause the maximum amount of pain. An early blood stoppage would have satisfied neither of them.
CHASE UNIVERSITY SEGMENT- dumb
Duke Hudson brought in Drew Gulak and Charlie Dempsey to teach the students what not to do. They belittled Thea Hail by showing footage of her losing. Thea stormed out of the room. Hudson told them off for making a student feel bad. He told them to have a better lesson plan next week, and told someone else to go check on Thea.
MCKENZIE MITCHELL INTERVIEWS NOAM DAR & HIS CREW- meh
Dar was very annoying. He got right up to the line of making me want to fast forward, but didn’t cross it.
NXT TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH: Gallus (Mark Coffey & Wolfgang)(c) (w/Joe Coffey) vs. the Creed Brothers (w/Ivy Nile)- 6.5/10
Gallus won after interference, including Ava attacking Ivy Nile on the outside.
They teased some sort of reveal on Tuesday of who has been “wreaking havoc in the women’s division.”
LYRA VALKYRIA WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH VIDEO PACKAGE- good
NXT WOMEN’S TITLE TOURNAMENT FINALS: Lyra Valkyria vs. Tiffany Straton- 8.5/10
Valkyria was the babyface with an existing injury and Straton was the heel relentlessly working it over. Classic building blocks for a tremendous match, and that’s what we got here. The crowd was almost completely behind Straton, even though she is the heel.
NXT TITLE MATCH: Carmelo Hayes(c) (w/Trick Williams) vs. Bron Breakker- 8/10
Hayes was the underdog babyface with injured ribs. Breakker was a great heel with all of his trash-talking. That spear out of midair was amazing. Hayes has real star babyface potential, but that will require Vince McMahon to look past his height, which will really only happen if the crowd forces it, and even then only grudgingly.
This was a tremendous show from NXT. Who’d have thought that on a weekend where both WWE and AEW had PPVs, it would be NXT who would put on the best of the bunch, and by a wide margin as well? I have heard enough about the weekly NXT show to know that watching it will only frustrate me, but after this show I will certainly be keeping up with the storylines more closely on a weekly basis (probably via podcasts) and will make their specials appointment viewing.
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