May 30, 2023

NXT Battleground 2023 (5.28.23) review 

NXT Battleground 2023 (5.28.23) review 


May 28, 2023 


We’re in Lowell, Massachusetts at the Tsongas Center. Hosts are Vic Joseph and Booker T. I hated the NXT show at WrestleMania weekend but I’m coming in prepared here. I’m going to close my eyes when matches aren’t happening and hopefully the vibrant colour pallet and quick cuts don’t make me vomit. Good news; this is only six matches and runs at 2h30m. That’s perfect PPV territory length wise.  


NXT North American Championship  

Wes Lee (c) vs. Tyler Bate vs. Joe Gacy 

Wes has held this longer than anyone…bar the now cancelled Velveteen Dream. Ditching that weird loser Zachery Wentz has worked out wonders for Wes. Tyler Bate’s gear has gone a bit…odd. It’s one thing to have tiny pants but longer boots maybe? Tiny boots, tiny trunks is a bad look imo. I generally don’t like triple threats but they have a nice mixture of talent in this. Wes Lee is the super athletic flier, Bate the technical stud and Gacy the big slobbering clobberer. Tyler’s tiny strongman routine got mega over in WWE before the pandemic and then they just forgot about him? He had some pretty hyped up matches in 2022, so maybe I just wasn’t paying attention. Which is entirely possible.  


There are some bits in here that I don’t like but overall, it’s a well put together three-way. Joe Gacy is one of the weirdest character studies ever in wrestling. I used to watch him in CZW like 16 years ago, and he never struck me as anything special. The first time I thought he might actually have ‘it’ was when I saw him in wXw and he’s improved dramatically since then. Wes Lee wipes out Tyler with a proper insane dive, with Gacy beached on the top rope, and then takes out Gacy with the Cardiac Kick to retain. This was very good but felt like it had a higher gear and only hit it near the end. ***½.  


Interesting that this was better than anything on the main roster the previous night and leaned on three experienced guys from the Indies. Weird huh?  


NXT Heritage Cup  

Noam Dar (c) vs. Dragon Lee 

I’ve never even heard of this ‘title’, which is held under old British rules. It’s very odd seeing WWE even attempt to do a match with rules so far away from their conventional ones. Apparently, it’s been around since late 2020. Which shows you how hard I unplugged on wrestling during the summer of that year, and how little buzz NXT now has.  

I’ve always liked Dragon Lee and he shows some solid technical work on the mat. Dar is obviously strong in that department. This is my shit. In R2 Dar pulls out a sneaky cradle to lead 1-0. I would have preferred him to cheat, as the heel, but putting the face 1-0 down is sensible. Dar also gets in a cheap shot at the end of R3 after being dominated throughout it. The work starts to get a touch sloppy in R4, which is unfortunate. Dragon Lee ties it up out of nowhere, using his explosive offence. In R5 they work in Dragon Lee’s dive over the ropes rana and it’s ‘countered’, which involves Lee dropping straight onto his head on the floor. Urgh, that is a horrendously dangerous thing to do. I don’t even know what the plan was? A powerbomb on the apron probably? To make the match even worse, a bunch of women run in for a cheap heel duke. This fucking sucked. R1 was brilliant and then Noam Dar just completely fell apart and shit the bed.  


Putting Noam Dar over Dragon Lee is a war crime. Mexico should invade Scotland. It would improve the food and the football, to be fair, they should welcome their new Mexican overlords.  


Last Man Standing 

Ilja Dragunov vs. Donovan Dijak 

Now this, this has potential to kick ass. Dijak was brilliant on the Indies without ever getting that big run anywhere. He’s overdue a big push. Dragunov is one of my favourite wrestlers. He has a few spots that I don’t like but otherwise he rules. He’s just a complete lunatic. 

They start out just leathering each other and I’m in a happy place. Ilja does some dumb 619 bullshit and Dijak kicks him in the face. Yes mate, kick the nonsense out of him! I wish Big Dust was still alive to commentate on this. THEY BE CLUBBERIN TONY! Ilja tries some other shit looking dive off the ring steps and Dijak kicks him the face again! Dijak is killer spelled backwards. No wait, that’s Kajid. I was close. Ilja then hits Torpedo Moscow, THROUGH A TABLE. That could legitimately have been the finish after like 3 minutes. I love Ilja’s selling in this. At one point he looks like he’s holding a broken jaw in place while dishing out chops. His chin is all busted open.  

Dijak gets all fired up and starts no selling and Ilja smiles back at him. HE LOVES THIS SHIT. He’s all LET’S FUCKING GOOOO. There’s lots of snarling and pulling faces.  

Ilja’s arm gets ruined with kendo stick shots. The welts and bruises on there are sickening. I couldn’t even tell you what the finish is, which is perhaps the weakness of this match. Ilja just beat on Dijak until he stopped moving. Bar a little twitching of the fingers. Dragunov came out of this feeling like a massive star and if they’d let them go truly to a sickening next level after those kendo stick shots and done the kind of shit Foley and Triple H did in 2000, this would have been an epic match. As it stands, it’s a little under that elite tier but not because of a lack of effort. Both guys were excellent here. Dragunov is surely made now. ****½ 


That’s in my top 3 for MOTY so far. Will it win? I’m sure not sure but it’s in the conversation.  


NXT Tag Team Championship 

Gallus (c) vs. The Creed Brothers 

Gallus are Mark Coffey and Wolfgang. They’ve also got Joe Coffey out here. I hate all of them. I would wish them to fuck off back to Scotland, but Scotland doesn’t deserve that. I don’t much care for the Creed Brothers but at least they’re fun. They’re a bit like the Steiners only nowhere near as good. They do a ‘break down into a scrap’ thing and Wolfgang is exposed in ways I never thought I’d see a WWE wrestler be. He is terrible. Everyone gets distracted by women on the outside and Gallus win. Shit match.  


Joe Coffey is the only talented guy in this unit and he’s out on the floor? I don’t get it. But then, put him in the ring and he’ll be sending unsolicited dick pics to the whole crowd. No one wants to see your cock, Joe, put it away.  


NXT Women’s Championship 

Lyra Valkyria vs. Tiffany Stratton 

Indi Hartwell have to give up the belt when she got called up. I don’t see why they couldn’t have her put someone over on the way out? I know they called up Asuka back in the day without her jobbing but that was part of her gimmick and reputation. Indi only held the belt for a month.  

Valkyria has always been a decent wrestler and would be the sensible choice. However, Stratton (of Stratton-Oakmont) is the one WWE want.  

She’s really irritating and can talk, a lot. What’s she had, 40 matches? I know it’s developmental but come on. They do a killer spot here, where Valkyria gets clipped on a leapfrog and lands hard on her bad leg. It’s so subtle, I’m shocked it’s happened in this ring. However, this turns it into a limb match. It takes experience to know how to do this. I’m immediately worried.  

Should I be though? Stratton goes after that bad wheel like fucking Ric Flair. Valkyria does a great job of selling it all. It helps that she’s smaller and weaker and injured. She has that babyface vibe here. I like how she struggles to launch off that leg and doesn’t get the normal height on stuff. Making yourself look worse to make the match better is a rare trait in wrestling.  

There are things wrong with Stratton. She does a weird little run up to kick Valkyria in the corner. She needs to know to either run the ropes or not bother running at all. You need space to build up impact. She also bumps the roundhouse where Valkyria literally falls over in the middle because of her bad leg. Stratton’s timing is often just that little bit off. Even leading up to the finish it’s not right. That said, for someone this green she did great here. Valkyria was awesome. For me, she should be made with that performance. She’s made Stratton look significantly better than she is. The leg work in this was good. I am shocked. ***½ 


NXT Championship 

Carmelo Hayes (c) vs. Bron Breakker  

This is a re-match from Mania NXT, which I hated. Bron looked like a fucking nerd for shaking Carmelo’s hand after he was cheated out of the strap. They at least turned him heel the week after. 

Hayes does much better with his babyface fire in this and the heel/face dynamic has been fixed from the ropey first match. They have the temerity to work a leg match, right after the leg match. Bron tries to hide this fact behind suplexes and verbally abusing Boston. Bron does a great job of dominating the match, like a Lesnar style performance. Bron is so good in this match, in his role, it makes Hayes look so much worse because he can’t really keep up. I’m not sold on his strikes at all. His pump kick always looks like it’s going to miss. Melo is great at lucha style takedowns and high spots but that’s it. Is that enough for a champion? For a main event? They use his strengths quite well though. His springboard into the Spear is awesome. That should 100% be the finish. It was so cool. Hayes drops a leg across the back of Bron’s head to retain. This was much better than Mania weekend but also not that great. ***¼  


The 411: 

This was a better show than Stand or Deliver, which I thought was awful. A couple of the matches were very decent, and Dragunov/Dijak was great. NXT still feels like it’s not the hot ticket it used to be but at least this was a step in the right direction.  I thought 4/6 matches landed, which is a way better hit rate than main roster this weekend. 

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