December 28’s episode of NXT 2.0 marks the last episode of 2021, and also the proverbial go-home show before their special New Year’s Evil episode on January 4, 2022. NXT 2.0 has seen many changes since the NXT brand was overhauled in September 2021. Signature performers of the “black and gold” incarnation of NXT saw their screen time diminish considerably, while several new performers premiered. New Year’s Evil seems set to continue the trend of putting a spotlight on NXT 2.0’s “new class”, even enlisting some special appearances by members of WWE’s main roster. The matches on the card are largely consequential encounters, including:
Bron Breakker vs. Tommaso Ciampa for the NXT Championship:
This one was inevitable. The tension has been swirling between Ciampa and Breakker since the premiere of NXT 2.0. The formidable newbie has been eyeing Ciampa’s title from the off. Breakker is one of the most impressive members of the new class: his mesomorphic physique, bone-crushing move set, and feral charisma call to mind Goldberg, but a certain roughness around the edges hearkens more to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. As for Ciampa, he is the heart and soul of NXT: one of the crop of performers who were at the vanguard of Triple H’s vision that NXT find its place as WWE’s third brand, led by gritty indie veterans whose authenticity in the ring made NXT a sleeper hit with serious-minded pro wrestling fans. He’s beloved by the audience, and though it is written in the very blueprint of NXT 2.0 that Ciampa would pass the NXT championship onto the ferociously ambitious Breakker, it will be a bittersweet moment when it occurs on New Year’s Evil.
Conclusion: The time has come. Breakker will emerge from New Year’s Evil NXT champion, the first of the “2.0 class” to hold the honor.
Mandy Rose vs. Cora Jade vs. Raquel Gonzalez for the NXT women’s championship:
October 26’s Halloween Havoc was a good night all around for Toxic Attraction. Not only did Gigi Dolin and Jacy Jayne claim the NXT women’s tag team championships, but Mandy Rose secured the NXT women’s championship, as well. Toxic Attraction walked away from the event with every title in NXT’s women’s division. On January 4, Rose puts the women’s championship on the line against Cora Jade and Raquel Gonzalez in a triple threat. Jade and Gonzalez won the right to face Rose on December 28’s NXT 2.0 in a qualifying tag team match against Io Shirai and Kay Lee Ray. In recent weeks, Gonzalez has been a mentor figure to Jade, but now they are both vying for a shot at the belt. Rose revealed that she called for a triple threat to exploit the weaknesses she saw in Gonzalez’s and Jade’s seemingly strong bond as a team, their mutual ambitions for her championship. Standing on her own and fighting against both Rose and Gonzalez will be a coming of age moment for Jade, showing her as a competent competitor rather than the baby sister of the women’s division’s babyface corps.
Conclusion: Gonzalez has had her day as NXT women’s champion, and while there is certainly a spotlight on Jade she is not ready to carry a title just yet. Toxic Attraction would be weaker as a heel stable if Jayne and Dolin have gold but Rose loses hers’ so abruptly. Mandy Rose will retain, and Toxic Attraction will continue to dominate the women’s division.
Riddle and MSK vs. Imperium
Riddle was revealed to be the “shaman” that MSK were seeking in a series of vignettes. He’s been their mentor as they seek to regain their “mojo” after losing the NXT tag team championship to Imperium at Halloween Havoc. Riddle will join MSK in a six-man tag match at New Year’s Evil, facing off against Imperium once more.
This time, Marcel Barthel and Fabian Aichner will be joined by the imposing WALTER. It marks WALTER’s first appearance on the rebranded NXT. He lost the NXT UK championship at the final NXT TakeOver ppv, NXT TakeOver 36 on August 22, to rival Ilja Dragunov, in a rematch as highly regarded as their first encounter in October 2020. The end of WALTER’s reign as NXT UK champion marked the end of WWE’s longest championship reign in the modern era, of 870+ days.
Conclusion: Riddle is no joke in the ring, and while his presence fighting alongside MSK will no doubt draw some viewer interest, WALTER’s formidable aid to Imperium will most likely be more decisive, with Imperium coming out victorious over MSK once again.
Carmelo Hayes vs Roderick Strong, Unification Bout for the North American and Cruiserweight Championships
Carmelo Hayes quickly became one of the luminaries of NXT 2.0’s freshman class. He won the 2021 NXT Breakout Tournament, beating out Odyssey Jones, then bested Isaiah “Swerve” Scott for the North American Championship. The winner of his bout with Cruiserweight champion Roderick Strong will see the winner crowned North American champion. The Cruiserweight championship will be dissolved, unified with the North American title. Thus ends the Cruiserweight title that was once the raison d’etre of 205 Live, whose existence kicked off with the 2016 Cruiserweight Classic.
Conclusion: Strong previously held the North American title in 2019 for 126 days. However, with Hayes enjoying such a rapid ascent at NXT 2.0, it is most likely that the current, reigning North American champion Hayes will walk away from the encounter holding the unified incarnation of the belt.