“F- you, Melo” chants from a standing Orlando audience brought Carmelo Hayes to the ring, opening tonight’s episode of NXT. “Not yet,” he said succinctly to nonstop jeers almost louder than those for The Rock.
He returned an hour later, symbolically sitting in the spotlight on a steel chair, accusing Trick Williams of crossing him first for eyeing the NXT Championship. “Did I attack Trick Williams? You’re damn right I did,” he said before Williams’ music played to a big reaction; it was a ruse from Hayes, who continued to disrespect his so-called “hype man” down the camera.
The first segment’s boos turned to barks after the Vengeance Day recap package for The Wolf Dogs, the winners of the 2024 Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. They bantered in jest, but everyone is behind Bron Breakker and Baron Corbin – who may have naturally turned for being too cool.
Nathan Frazer and Axiom vs Edris Enofe and Malik Blade
The Wolf Dogs join commentary after calling out The D’Angelo Family, who have been misrepresenting the tag division over teams like these. Blade and Frazer show superhero-like agility, and the latter in particular is a cardio machine. Blade makes a comeback with “freaky athleticism,” as guest commentator Byron Saxton says, and it’s a breakout match for his duo. Axiom hits a top-rope Spanish Fly on Enofe, followed by Frazer’s Phoenix Splash before the next break – where they’re still going hard. Consecutive near-falls get Orlando to its feet, and it’s Golden Ratio from Axiom that gains the victory in an amazing opener. This is the high-energy caliber of wrestling that NXT can, and should, thrive on.
Winners: Nathan Frazer and Axiom
Corbin and Breakker blindside the winners before The D’Angelo Family appears to a mild reaction. The Tag Team Champions accept a challenge for next week, so Breakker’s stay extends a little longer.
Fans boo the WrestleMania XL press event graphic and “we want Cody” chants ensue. NXT’s signature crowd manipulation isn’t even attempted.
NXT Champion Ilja Dragunov is in-ring, giving Trick Williams his respect before calling out Carmelo Hayes. “I will go beyond breaking you, you traitorous son of a b-!” says Dragunov with oomph. Instead, Dijak interrupts to “Melo called the cops” and “shut up, T-Bar” chants from a hyper crowd. They drown out Dijak’s message until a pull-apart brawl commences between the two familiar rivals.
Thea Hail and Jacy Jayne celebrate the success of the Ladies of Chase U calendar, and the latter advises playing “hard to get” with Riley Osborne.
Von Wagner joins Mr. Stone and his kids, regrouping after his Heritage Cup loss against Noam Dar. They convince Stone to relace his boots for a tag team match against Meta-Four.
Lexis King vs Riley Osborne
Chase University is alive and well as a revitalized Andre Chase and Duke Hudson accompany Osborne, who notices Hail missing from the student section. He has pretty offense, compared to King’s scrappiness, but distracted by love he falls to the Coronation for three.
Winner: Lexis King
Kehlani Jordan says she isn’t afraid of competition in a highlight-reel vignette, but Izzi Dame and Kiana James aren’t impressed. Brinley Reece jumps in to be annoying and is bullied into giving up her coffee. The segment is loudly booed, only because of the spotlighted appearance in-ring of Carmelo Hayes.
The “man has three faces” vignette that got social media talking plays again – evidently of Japanese folklore, but clues stop there. Another, more palpable, vignette plays for North American Champion Oba Femi, whose presence is unmistakable.
Thea Hail and Riley Osborne are still on for Valentine’s Day, and Jacy Jayne promises to give her pointers next week – in a sure-to-be unfunny segment.
Roxanne Perez vs Lola Vice
Perez logically hammers away at Vice, who cost her the NXT Women’s Championship at Vengeance Day after cashing in her Breakout contract. It’s much more logical than the main roster’s cash-in situation, but that’s a low bar. Perez makes a comeback after break, and Tatum Paxley tries to less logically cash-in the expired Breakout contract. Vice spin-kicks her off the apron, but the distraction allows Perez to connect with Pop Rox for the win.
Winner: Roxanne Perez
Lash Legend and Jakara Jackson are not sweating their upcoming tag match and neither are Noam Dar and Oro Mensah regarding Mr. Stone’s challenge. No Quarter Catch Crew interrupts the interview, questioning the match altogether for the “heritage” of the cup.
Fallon Henley and Wren Sinclair vs Meta-Four
Too many female personas in NXT portray feckless rookies, and Sinclair may be the worst offender. Opposingly, Lash Legend and Jakara Jackson are glowing as part of Meta-Four and control most of the match. Eventually, Legend pops Sinclair up for a powerbomb and the easy win.
Brooks Jensen catches up with Josh Briggs, and the former admits, “I’m lost without y’all.” Briggs slyly sneers, not showing remorse while shoving Jensen into the lockers for a wake-up call.
General Manager Ava accepts Jaida Parker’s request for a match against Adriana Rizzo next week. Ridge Holland waits his turn, and Ava suggests a gauntlet of matches against Gallus for him that are clearly disguised as time killers.
Ilja Dragunov vs Dijak
The competitors went to war last year and are now incredibly hitting harder. They exchange strikes, and Dijak is on top through picture-in-picture despite looking for Joe Gacy under the ring. He doesn’t hold back his boots and chops, but Dragunov turns the tide with a Driver into the turnbuckles and a top-rope senton. Their intensity can’t be understated while both harboring injuries to their nose and elbow respectively. But interrupting the brutality is indeed Gacy with the unseen interference, allowing Dragunov to cheaply capitalize with the H Bomb for victory.
Winner: Ilja Dragunov
Carmelo Hayes returns, attacking Dragunov from behind with a chop block reminiscent of Vengeance Day. He holds up the NXT Championship, possibly forecasting gold for Melo once again.
A very energetic crowd certainly helped, but Vengeance Day fallout felt legitimately buzzworthy. Heel Hayes is in his bag, and he delivered during each of his three segments. A lot of stories tonight were intriguing, but the Trick Melo Gang saga is cooking.