I can't tell you the last time that I watched NXT. I was a casual viewer of the brand back in the black and gold days (who wasn't?) and the anti-WWE feel (despite it being a WWE product) that it had. NXT felt different, looked, different, and offered a product that was distinct.
Then came NXT 2.0 and all of its colors (and Vince McMahon's influence) and I was out.
These days, the brand is sort of just there for me. I'll turn it on on a Tuesday if it's a last resort, or the thing I'm very much into is on commercial. But tonight, your boy randomly took a chance on NXT No Mercy. And after it left the air, I was not only entertained but somewhat interested in the product going forward.
I'm not saying I'm returning to black-and-gold levels of interest, but tonight was good enough to have me take notice of Tuesday nights.
Here are some quick notes on NXT No Mercy 2023:
- WWE's business is booming. I know we hear and read that all the time, but it really hits home when you find yourself watching an NXT Premium Live Event on a Saturday night, and the building is full.
- I LOVED the entrance. Sure, NXT going through the WWE's recycling bin of old event names and reusing them is kind of cool for this Millenial fan, but using No Mercy and throwing a nod to the legendary N64 video game? I was SO IN after the opening video package.
Also, kudos to the fan who had the sign that looked like an updated N64 No Mercy video game box. That ruled.
- The video package for Baron Corbin vs. Bron Breakker quickly caught newbs like me up to speed on why they are meeting. And again, if things like this are happening on Tuesday nights, I'm definitely missing some good stuff.
NXT Corbin is definitely a different deal than main roster Corbin. This guy felt cool (again) coming out with the motorcycle and biker look. I haven't seen too much of Breakker other than a few times, but it should be said, that those Steiner genes run heavy.
This was a great opener, and in an age of garbage and no DQ matches without builds, this felt personal. Corbin picks up the win, and in doing so, again, feels non-groan-able.
- Again, I'm. not overly familiar with Trick Williams, but he seems like a fan favorite. Dom Mysterio is well, likely one of the biggest heels in pro wrestling right now. This one felt fun, but a bit wonky with the screwy finishes with refs.
A small note is the main screen showing the "And New" graphic which serves as a tremendous pullout shot of the moment. Good stuff.
- The four-way tag match felt off in the early goings but then picked up steam as we moved toward the finish. To be honest, none of the tag teams really stood out to me. I won't judge too much as that is unfair as a fairly new viewer, but nothing here overly moved me. OK finish, OK match. Not sure I connected with anything.
- I found myself quickly punching in "Heritage Cup in the Google Machine on my phone when the video package started on this one. In a world where championship belts are abound, a "Cup" felt unique and new - and somewhat unique enough that it felt intriguing.
The rules and the match very much remind me of Impact's "Grand Champion" idea back in the dark times of Impact Wrestling. The round system can be a great storyteller if done correctly. Or it can be a huge flop if it isn't. I thought Butch and Noam Dar pulled this off. It was different. It was fun. I'm okay with "different" in pro wrestling.
I did wish there was less outside interference, but I feel as if it played into the story of Dar's character. Am I correct?
I don't know much about the "Heritage Cup" but it would be cool if it is rarely defended.
- I've heard a lot about Carmelo Hayes. The only Ilja Dragonov match I've ever seen was with him and Gunther (then, WALTER) leaving me on the edge of my chair.
Sidenote: I love Gunther.
Regardless, this was an absolute banger! The story of the match was amazing, with Hayes' resilience. I also very much enjoy the finisher which is the H-Bomb. In a professional wrestling world where fancier moves are overdone and mean less, it's nice to see simple hard-hitting ones return - and most of all, protected. I'll slightly get down off my soap box...
I'm intrigued enough to see where this goes. And the Hayes and Williams story feels like it's just starting.
- We then get Tiffany Stratton vs. Becky Lynch to close the show in what was a really good hardcore match. Very enjoyable. And I pretty much came away with the thought that Stratton is a star in the making, and the idea that she held her own with Lynch on this stage is very telling of that projection.
The hardcore match hit the usual spots we've come to love. Kudos to some of the bumps and risks taken and endured as well.
I'm so intrigued with Becky Lynch and her time here at NXT.
- Finally, so much props to the NXT commentary team - they were great tonight.