NXT 2.0 Is Still Finding Its Footing

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On October 5th’s episode of NXT 2.0, WWE’s developmental brand began building up to its first pay-per-view since its remodeling: The Halloween Havoc event on October 26.

The main event is set, as Bron Breakker answered Tommaso Ciampa’s challenge.

The rookie is seeking the NXT championship in earnest. Given that Breakker has been obviously eyeing the title since NXT 2.0’s debut? The match comes as little surprise.

The revamped incarnation of NXT is now a few weeks old, and its too early still to say just what sort of aesthetic it is aspiring to.

The Black and Gold version of NXT gained a cult following. Not only for the way its production? But for how it mirrored the intimacy and athleticism of indie wrestling. Some of its established players are still hanging around, but are awash in a sea of newcomers. Breakker’s and Ciampa’s nascent feud is one example of how the new arrivals and veterans are sizing each other up and taking each other on as the “paint splash” in NXT continues to gel.

Elsewhere? The heavily-pushed Toxic Attraction stable accomplished the near-impossible: facilitating a face turn for Raquel Gonzalez. Her transformation into a sympathetic character began in the waning days of Black and Gold NXT, when tag team partner/henchwoman Dakota Kai turned on her and revealed that she had masterminded their alliance to pave her own way to the NXT women’s championship. Kai has been MIA since NXT 2.0 unveiled. Gonzalez’s transformation was cemented when Mandy Rose, Gigi Dolin, and Jacy Jayne jumped her after she retained the NXT women’s title against Franky Monet on September 29. October 5 saw her forming and impromptu and tentative alliance with women’s tag team champions Zoey Stark and Io Shirai.

NXT 2.0 is banking a lot on Toxic Attraction, and especially on Mandy Rose’s new persona. A match for the women’s championship between Rose and Gonzalez seems imminent.

Gonzalez’s last challenger, Monet, violently displaced newcomer Cora Jade’s opponent to face Jade in the ring, but Jade was victorious. Jade is billed as the youngest member of the roster, at 20 years old, and just as prominently featured as her youthful age is her relationship with Trey Baxter. Indi Hartwell  had a segment making cheeky innuendos about her honeymoon with kayfabe husband Dexter Lumis. It seems that the new touches of backstage romance are part of NXT’s new, edgier content. But its troubling that female performers seem to be bearing the brunt of these storylines.

Women in wrestling have come a long way since being featured mainly as the wives/girlfriends/valets of male performers. So why go backwards, especially on a show that once touted its women’s division as the best in the world?

Von Wagner and Kyle O’ Reilly had a terse conversation that seems to be the seed of a reluctant partnership. Whilst newbie Wagner “rescuing” O’Reilly, the seasoned veteran pro wrestler and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu grappler, from Pete Dunne and Ridge Holland was a bit contrived, their locker room conversation, in which O’Reilly expressed that he was reluctant to trust and alluded to the recent implosion of the Undisputed Era, had just enough promise to be the beginning of an ‘odd couple’ partnership in the vein of Mansoor and Mustafa Ali.

As NXT 2.0 continues to gel? Its new arrivals and the remaining performers from the days of Black and Gold NXT are feeling each out. As well-in fledgling alliances like Wagner’s and O’Reilly’s, or as adversaries like Breakker and Ciampa.


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