The 2023 WWE Draft brought up more NXT wrestlers at once than ever before: Alba Fyre and Isla Dawn, Indi Hartwell, Apollo Crews, Zoey Stark, JD McDonagh, Cameron Grimes, Von Wagner, Xyon Quinn, Pretty Deadly, Indus Sher, Odyssey Jones, Katana Chance and Kayden Carter, and Grayson Waller. It’s a batch that helped carry NXT through a rocky 2.0 period, and including current champions, the list of names will leave the white-and-gold brand in a rebuilding phase.
Drew Gulak vs Wes Lee (c) – North American Championship
The inevitable win for Lee will break the all-time North American Championship defense record according to commentary, as Brits Charlie Dempsey and Tyler Bate take each corner respectively. The cornermen scuffle eventually, and Lee delivers the cool Cardiac Kick for victory in a somewhat off opener – maybe a product of clashing styles. But Lee continues holding down the fort, making sure the midcard is a reliable constant.
Winner: Wes Lee
A vignette for the NXT Women’s Tag Team Champions Alba Fyre and Isla Dawn send a message to challengers Katana Chance and Kayden Carter – all being called up to Smackdown and RAW imminently. The champions claim they’ll be taking the titles with them, hopefully merging with the equally stagnant WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships.
Trick Williams is alone in-ring with a microphone, which is sink or swim for the charismatic sidekick of sidelined champion Carmelo Hayes. With nobody to bounce off of, the “Trick Willy” package is incomplete, but super senior Bron Breakker interrupts shortly after. “Bron Breakker sucks” and “whoop that trick” chants ring over the argument, where a challenge between them is made for next week.
JD McDonagh is interviewed backstage but cut off by NXT Heritage Cup Champion Noam Dar, who encourages harming opponent Dragon Lee. The creepy coldness will translate well onto “Monday Night McDonagh,” but tonight is one last exhibition.
Gigi Dolin vs Jacy Jayne
A match months in the making follows the Toxic Attraction split that occurred despite a slim women’s tag team roster across brands. Dolin’s brother is sitting ringside, tying into her backstory that’s driven this rivalry. Jayne is split open ringside but after shoving her opponent’s shoulder into the post gains the pinfall victory in a relatively short bout. The attack continues post-match, and surely the image of bloody Jayne will be printed onto a t-shirt.
Winner: Jacy Jayne
Axiom vs Scrypts
Another rivalry culminates tonight, and Scrypts jumpstarts the match from out of nowhere. He flips off the announce table and turnbuckles to showcase his undeniable athletic ability, but the actual wrestling skills noticeably fall behind. Axiom eventually counters a 450 with an incredible superkick, and the Golden Ratio puts it away before a handshake attempt. Scrypts delivers a right hand, but Axiom fights back, removing his opponent’s mask to reveal Reggie – who is thankfully going back to the drawing board.
Back at Big Daddy’s bar, the reconnected Brooks Jensen and Josh Briggs thank each other for fighting through their drama. He gives financial advice and turns down two girls’ drink offers, wrapping up a satisfying character arc for the country boys who will presumably carry the NXT Tag Team division going forward.
Dragon Lee vs JD McDonagh
“You deserve it” chants are directed towards McDonagh as Booker T puts over his “fave five” member on commentary. It’s all Lee as Noam Dar appears ringside, but McDonagh of course turns the tide in picture-in-picture. Lee delivers a great outside dive and top-rope double stomp before trading big strikes on the apron, where McDonagh comes back with a Driver. The masked man beats the count at nine, and the following exchange brings Orlando to its feet with “NXT” and “this is awesome” chants. A top-rope Spanish Fly and Brainbuster precede an insane kick out from Lee, who takes out Dar before falling into McDonagh’s errored finisher for victory. Despite a rocky finish, McDonagh deservedly wins one of NXT’s best weekly matches in recent memory to a standing ovation.
Winner: JD McDonagh
Kayden Carter and Katana Chance hype each other before their last NXT match and embrace in a hug. Their bright cheesiness will fit well on Monday Night Raw.
“Do this for them, and then do something for you,” Ava Raine says mysteriously to Joe Gacy before his match. If he wins, Schism gets an NXT Tag Team Championship match against Gallus.
Footage recaps attacks to Nikkita Lyons, Wendy Choo, and Sol Ruca that cover for their actual injuries. Who, apparently not the training regimen, is to blame?
Joe Gacy vs Joe Coffey
One former disgruntled wrestler has been freed from NXT, and it’s now time to free Rip Fowler and Jagger Reed. Speaking of which, Diamond Mine watches the monitors backstage as Schism and Gallus accompany their respective corners before things break down. “He hit me!” deceives Ava Raine in uncomfortable irony, as Coffey is distracted enough to receive Gacy’s handspring lariat for victory.
Winner: Joe Gacy
Tank Ledger and Hank Walker hype up Dani Palmer before her debut. “Do you wanna watch Dani’s match? She’s up next,” offer the duo to 6’6” Oba Femi who isn’t interested.
Eddy Thorpe is approached by Damon Kemp in the Performance Center. “Young boy, I said I liked you. Don’t make me put an end to the hype before it even starts,” says Kemp.
Dani Palmer vs Tatum Paxley
The former gymnast Palmer makes her NXT television debut, possibly filling the women’s division void left by the Draft and multiple injuries. She connects with a top-rope frog splash for victory in a very okay debut, which however relied heavily on acrobatics.
Winner: Dani Palmer
Andre Chase cancels class after last week’s match with Bron Breakker, but slimy Duke Hudson steps in. “No more pop quizzes at Chase U!” says Hudson, who is killing it every week.
Mr. Stone looks back at a photo album of Von Wagner’s father Wayne Bloom until he comes across an infant photo of the NXT free agent. Wagner doesn’t want to talk about it – photos showing a massive scar encompassing his head – before storming off.
Katana Chance and Kayden Carter vs Alba Fyre and Isla Dawn (c) – NXT Women’s Tag Team Champions
Considering both teams are going to RAW and Smackdown respectively, the future of the NXT Women’s Tag Team Championships are uncertain. They brawl ringside before the bell rings, but the challengers eventually gain the upper hand preceding picture-in-picture. Both double-team finishers are broken up before a weak exchange of strikes, but a double Spanish Fly livens it up. A cool assisted Gory Bombs gives the win to Fyre and Dawn, and commentary acts surprised that the championships are headed to Smackdown as if they’d remain on NXT either way.
Winner: Alba Fyre and Isla Dawn
Super super senior Dijak sends a message to Ilja Dragunov after slamming a garage door onto him, and they’ll compete one-on-one next week. After, Trick Williams daps up Apollo Crews in the parking lot, who gives him praise before heading to RAW.
NXT Women’s Champion Indi Hartwell is in-ring on crutches following an ankle injury at Spring Breakin’ last week. She reminisces about The Way, the InDex wedding, winning the title at Stand & Deliver, and finally fighting back from the ankle sprain. But she announces a tournament to crown a new NXT Women’s Champion at Battleground before kissing her belt goodbye. “Now I just need to figure out how I’m gonna get out of this ring,” she says as Dexter Lumis appears from underneath the ring for the sure-fire InDex reunion pop. A brawl commences between a dozen women’s wrestlers in light of a new opportunity, closing out tonight’s episode in a pull-apart scrap.
Besides an outstanding match between JD McDonagh and Dragon Lee, the in-ring quality of tonight’s card was very underwhelming. NXT is losing a good amount of talent, and this episode didn’t leave a hopeful impression.