NXT No Mercy 2023 Review (01/10/2023)
By Mick Robson
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I'm going to be real with y'all- I haven't watched NXT regularly in a minute. I'm one of those fans who loved NXT Black & Gold, and was really put off by the NXT 2.0 re-brand. I continued to watch through a lot of it, almost exclusively to keep tabs on rising Aussie talent like Grayson Waller and Indi Hartwell. Since they've been called up to the main roster, NXT basically disappeared from my weekly viewing. At first, me not liking NXT was because of the re-brand. Then it was that a lot of talent were very green and the product wasn't very good. In 2023, from what I've seen, a lot of that green talent has finally gotten the necessary reps and are getting pretty good- but there's SO MUCH wrestling content out there, something's gotta get the axe. I'm one of those awful fans that doesn't believe in the tribalism and enjoys WWE and AEW for the most part, and follows the Aussie scene, so that basically fills up my quota for the week.
I happened to give this NXT PLE a shot because, one, it's a PLE, and two, I had a free day. Typically, Sundays are UFC days, but they didn't run a show this week, so that gave me the time to give NXT another shot. I've heard the online discourse that NXT has quietly become one of the better wrestling shows out there, let's see how accurate that is!
Let's do this!
Match 1: Blair Davenport def. Kelani Jordan (at 6:38)
Thoughts: A decent way to kick off proceedings, nothing special but appropriate pre-show fodder to warm the crowd up. Blair Davenport is the former Bea Priestley, and this was my first time seeing Kelani Jordan. She busted out a couple of cool moves- including a handspring attack in tribute to the recently released Dana Brooke, and a tornado cutter. Ultimately, the more experienced Davenport got it done after getting her knees up on a split-legged moonsault and hitting what looked a little like a falcon arrow. Would like to see Davenport higher in the women's division, and Jordan certainly has potential, seemed charismatic and confident on the bigger stage.
The opening video for No Mercy was absolutely awesome. It's a homage to the classic N64 No Mercy video game, which has been faithfully recreated using blocky N64 graphics for the NXT Superstars, as well as Vic Joseph doing the voice over of "Dig Diggity Dog". I saw it on social media prior to the show and instantly loved it.
Match 1: Baron Corbin def. Bron Breakker (at 9:33)
Thoughts: One of my big unpopular wrestling opinions is that Baron Corbin is pretty good, and I regard him as one of the PC's biggest success stories- from zero wrestling experience, to blowing up in a 5 minute match with Bull Dempsey on a TakeOver, all the way to have quality PPV matches with the likes of Roman Reigns. In a similar vein, Breakker has come a long way in 2 years of wrestling, and they managed to make a heel vs. heel match compelling, as they began by brawling around the arena for a bit before getting in the ring to officially start the match. We get a big spot where Bron looks like a monster, as he charges at Corbin, who absolutely spikes him through the announce table- only for Bron to sit up, Undertaker-style! The finish protects Bron while giving Corbin something of a needed win- Mr. Stone runs in and dives at Breakker, only to get caught and press slammed to the outside. The distraction allows Corbin to hit End of Days for the win!
Star Rating: ***1/4. Wild, quality hoss fight. Bron is ready for the main roster, but it was a smart move turning him heel, as he seemed poised to move up as a Super Cena/Big Dog Roman Reigns type. The NXT crowd turned on that presentation before the call-up though, forcing a little course correct, and Bron seems far more comfortable and natural as the bully, jock heel. As for Corbin, it's a tad jarring seeing him in this "elder statesman" role, but I suppose he did debut on the main roster over 7 years ago now. Shit.
Match 2: NXT North American Championship- Trick Williams def. Dominik Mysterio (c) (at 9:28)
Thoughts: The build to this was a mess, with it originally being scheduled to be Mustafa Ali facing Dirty Dom, but Ali was part of the mass firings that took place last week, forcing NXT to cobble something else together. Dom is slowly putting it together in-ring- he's not his dad, but he's found his place as a snivelling heel, looking to take every shortcut possible, constantly getting in special ref Dragon Lee's face, possibly in the hopes of causing a DQ. We get shenanigans with ref bumps, and Mysterio looks to use the title belt as a weapon, only for Trick to blast Dom with a flying knee for the win!
Star Rating: **3/4. Definitely weird seeing Dom as the veteran in the match, but he's come a long way. I thought Mania was by far his best outing against Rey, but didn't give him much credit considering the opponent and the stage. Time to admit he's improving. Trick looked comfortable in his first high profile spot, clearly highly athletic and had the crowd firmly behind him. It's a standard WWE booking trope for the last minute replacement to win, so they don't feel like a downgrade, and Dominik has a little out seeing as Mami wasn't there. Trick is no longer Melo's sidekick!
Quick video with Joe Gacy. He's talking to himself about everyone being gone. Ava pipes up behind him saying she'll still there. Gacy responds that the Schism is dead and that he needs to go and "find his purpose". Well, now that Grizzled Young Veterans appear to be done with WWE, that unceremoniously ends the stable, which was one of the more painful elements of NXT viewing in my experience.
Match 3: NXT Tag Team Championship- Tony D'Angelo & Stacks def. The Creed Brothers, Angel Garza & Humberto Carrillo and OTM (Bronco Nima & Lucien Price) (at 12:07)
Thoughts: Bit of a clusterf**k, but as clusterf**ks go, it was pretty fun. It was my first time seeing OTM, who didn't stand out a great deal to me beyond their weird entrance, where they slowly pedalled some kind of low rider bikes to the ring? They had GTA inspired graphics, so I guess they're meant to be some kind of street thugs or something. The Creeds were impressive throwing fools around, Stacks & D'Angelo have come a long way with the fire and intensity they displayed between the ropes, and Carrillo and Garza appeared energised with more serious gimmicks than they had as Los Lotharios. Shout out to Ivy Nile who smashed Scrypts (who was managing OTM) with a big dropkick off the stairs. Bodies flying everywhere, and although D'Angelo appeared hurt at one stage, he was able to return for the big finish. All's right in The Family.
Star Rating: ***. I didn't write this review in real time, and really struggled to recall a lot of signature moments, but of the ones I did, it was mostly the Creeds suplexing everyone in sight. Hopefully they get more spotlight in the weeks and months to come.
A vignette airs which includes someone watching football clips and WCW Saturday Night on an old TV. We can vaguely see a mullet and a tiger striped shirt in the reflection of the TV, likely a vignette for Brian Pillman Jr. Unfortunately, from seeing him in AEW, he hasn't got the charisma or ability of his old man. WWE will milk the second-gen thing though.
Match 4: NXT Heritage Cup Rounds Match- Noam Dar (c) (w/ Meta Four) def. Butch (w/ Tyler Bate) (at 15:54)
Thoughts: Dar continues his run as a snivelling heel with back-up- basically a Scottish Dirty Dom. Except the ladies seconding him aren't muscle mummies/mommies/Mamis like Rhea Ripley. The match style with the rounds allowed a more serious, focused Butch, giving us something closer to the old ways of the Bruiserweight- quite frankly shocked that Triple H never changed his name back to Pete Dunne. We had some close calls with submissions and Butch showing his nasty side with a strike after the bell- the rounds format worked well in that sense. Meta Four were able to revive Dar in between rounds, but Butch seemed in control- until the interference of Gallus, who took his head off with the ref distracted. Dar retains the Cup.
Star Rating: ***1/2. Good use of the match type and a reminder of what a badass Butch/Dunne can be. Noam Dar is really catching on as a heel with his band of followers, potentially setting up for someone to eventually clean house on him and his faction.
We stop in with Vic Joseph & Booker T at the commentary table. Dig diggity dog. Joseph announces that the Iron Survivor Match will return at Deadline (that was a lot of fun last year with my boy Grayson Waller winning). Halloween Havoc will also be a two-week event across NXT episodes.
Match 5: NXT Championship- Ilja Dragunov def. Carmelo Hayes (c) (at 21:04)
Thoughts: Gotta say, was pretty surprised at this result! Not the quality of the match- they had a banger at the Great American Bash show as well. But I thought Melo was in for a much longer NXT title reign than that. Dragunov beat the absolute hell out of Hayes and Melo gave it right back. It really became a war of attrition down the stretch. Strikes a plenty, and with Melo showing a lot of heart, it became clear than Ilja needed something extra to put this one away- and he found it with a Super H Bomb from the top rope, essentially KOing Melo for the win!
Star Rating: ****1/2. They touted the youth movement here, noting that both men were in their 20s. Slightly cheeky given that Dragunov is 30 in a week, but still technically correct. An absolute battle of wills for sure, and good for Carmelo as it showed his willingness/ability to get a little rugged, he's athletically smooth and has a lot of finesse, but here he showed that he's able to get down in the trenches if the situation calls for it. One of the best matches we've seen this year... and it's not even the main event!
Main Event: NXT Women's Championship- Extreme Rules- Becky Lynch (c) def. Tiffany Stratton (at 20:19)
Thoughts: Alright, it's scary how good Tiffany Stratton is. Two years in the game, and she wrestles with the crispness and intensity of someone with 5 times her experience. Becky led the dance as they brawled around the arena with a little Attitude Era style. Tiffany got busted upon hardway, but didn't let it bother her as she threw herself around the place with reckless abandon. We saw both a handspring elbow and a somersault senton through the barricade, a Swanton to the outside through a table- although it "I am the table"d- and another Swanton in the ring for a great near fall. It's like Jeff Hardy and Trish Stratus had a kid. Becky kept attacking the arm, but Stratton showed off her power, technical ability and ring awareness in avoiding it. In the end, it was one risk too many that did Tiffany in, as she missed the Prettiest Moonsault Ever and took the Manhandle Slam on a stack of chairs to end it.
Star Rating: ****1/4. Massive test for Tiffany Stratton, and she rose to the occasion. One of the times you can get some victory in defeat, with a relative rookie taking WrestleMania main eventer Becky Lynch to the limit. Tiffany brought the appropriate amount of intensity for such a match, and while she wasn't perfect- she basically no sold moonsaulting on a stack of chairs to go to the finish, for example- she's still an exciting prospect. Becky also took some big bumps and sold her ass off, and NXT can enjoy her star power for a little while longer.
One of the strongest shows NXT has put together in quite some time. The one-two punch of the top title matches was *chef's kiss*. Several of the NXT talents now look main roster ready, but I'd rather see patience exercised with them- only call them up if there's concrete plans, otherwise it's a waste of talent. The two top matches are more than worth a watch, I may watch them again myself for the enjoyment of it. And don't sleep on Baron Corbin and Bron Breakker.
Overall Score: 8.5/10
Until next time, keep killing it as always!