By now, all of the conjecture about changes at NXT are not rumor, but fact. Its new, paint-splashed logo, heralded by rapper (and diehard pro wrestling fan) Wale’s new song, debuted on August 27. Its new direction, whatever that proves to be, debuts on NXT’s upcoming installment on September 14. This news has seemed like the end of a beloved chapter in WWE’s history for fans of NXT in its present incarnation. Just what is the ‘secret sauce’ of the black and gold brand? In The Tale of Genji, Japanese novelist Murasaki Shikibu wrote that fiction displays both the best of human nature, and the oddest. So, too, did NXT make a home for the best WWE had to offer of pure athleticism in pro wrestling, but also some of its oddest characters. Whatever is up ahead, the best and the oddest is what NXT had on offer on September 7’s episode.
NXT Looks Ahead to New Era
First, the oddest. The Indi Hartwell/Dexter Lumis romcom angle is marching toward the altar. Indi Hartwell’s bachelorettes decided to spy on Dexter’s bachelor party. Lumis, de facto future father-in-law Johnny Gargano, Drake Maverick, Odyssey Jones, Cameron Grimes, and a zombie referee who’s apparently been hanging around decomposing since Halloween Havoc enjoyed a day of ax throwing and laser tag. After Lumis’s ‘particular set of skills’ helped Johnny along at laser tag, the two finally bonded-which, an eavesdropping Indi got to see for herself. It was a good day for The Way, and another wholesome installment of a surprisingly charming comedic storyline.
September 7’s episode was also heavy on hard-hitting matches, as per usual for NXT. Its been, by her own admission, a hard three months for Ember Moon. She and tag partner Shotzi lost the NXT women’s tag team championships, then Shotzi decamped to the main roster and formed a new team with LeRae’s former partner Tegan Nox on Friday Night SmackDown. Singles matches have largely not gone Ember’s way, and September 7 was no exception when she faced former NXT UK women’s champion Kay Lee Ray. The contest was a close one, and Moon fought hard. Victory came close but eluded her when she reversed Ray’s attempt at a superkick, trapping her leg, rolling it over her shoulder, and hitting a powerbomb, covering for a pinfall win. But, Ray stayed alive, to Moon’s visible frustration, and got the win instead. Interviewed backstage by McKenzie Mitchell, Ember alluded that it was time for a change in tactics, one of the many moments on September 7’s show that seemed to look ahead to upcoming storylines-it remains to be seen if these angles will be followed up on given the brand’s change of direction.
The women’s division continued to deliver as Io Shirai and Zoey Stark defended the NXT women’s tag team championships against Kayden Carter and Kacy Catanzaro. The team’s momentum has been one of fits and starts since the inaugural Women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, but as of late they seem intent to prove that they are more than Tik Tok dance videos. The gutsy Carter and high-flying Catanzaro put up a strong fight, but a moment of hesitation on Carter’s part to cover Stark cost them their momentum. Carter tagged Catanzaro in, and positioned her on her shoulders to launch her into a splash on Stark from the ropes. This gave Shirai time to spoil Catanzaro’s cover on Stark with a flying dropkick. A dizzied Catanzaro attempted to fight to her feet, but Stark quickly knocked her down and propelled herself against the ropes to slide down into a modified shining wizard. With Catanzaro in position, Shirai hit a moonsault and covered for the win.
Tag team champions MSK also retained their tag team championship titles. Their high energy and impassioned teamwork won out over Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan’s brutal style. Not only were Lorcan and Burch unsuccessful in their bid for the tag team championships, their loss proved fatal to their alliance with Pete Dunne. Following Lorcan’s and Burch’s loss to MSK, Dunne and Ridge Holland brutally attacked their former comrades. It seems Dunne and Holland will be moving forward as a tag team, and perhaps Lorcan and Burch will do the same.
On the card for next week are Frankie Monet challenging Raquel Gonzalez for the NXT women’s championship, and a fatal four-way between Dunne, LA Knight, Tommaso Ciampa, and Kyle O’ Reilly to decide who will take on Samoa Joe for the NXT championship. O’Reilly, like Ember Moon, has teased a new attitude, that an unleashed version of himself is on the horizon. In the wake of Adam Cole’s debut with All Elite Wrestling, O’Reilly no longer has their synergy to rest on.
Black and Gold NXT often seemed like a promotion-within-a-promotion, a gritty and intimate setting where the stakes were high, the blood was real, and the competitors came from all ends of the global pro wrestling industry with their personal vision intact, no sacrifices yet made to the grinding wheel of corporate machinations. However, adaptation is how the strong survive. Whatever NXT evolves into, September 7’s NXT was a perfect example of its odd charm, of great wrestling and endearing eccentricity.