NXT 2.0’s September 2021 premiere was met with trepidation and apprehension. Under the helmsmanship of WWE’s executive vice president of global talent strategy and development Triple H, “Black and Gold” NXT was a cult favorite that had spawned a new breed of World Wrestling Entertainment wrestling. With his prioritization of female and international talent, and talent culled from the indies, in Triple H’s NXT these exciting acquisitions created a roster of hard-hitting, athletically credible talent that seemed primed to lead WWE’s “third brand” when the formerly WWE Network exclusive show launched on USA Network in 2019. Despite a slow start to his NXT career due to an injury that kept him off television for some time in 2020, second-generation luchador Santos Escobar seemed marked for a meaningful destiny during the “Black and Gold” days.
Santos Escobar in NXT
Faction Warfare on the Black and Gold Brand
His Legado Del Fantasma faction consisting of Raul Mendoza, Joaquin Wilde, and eventually Elektra Lopez was a sharp dressed backstage terror in the Hurt Business mold, eventually settling on a feud with hip hop inspired, edgy babyface clique Hit Row (Top Dolla, Isaiah “Swerve” Scott, Ashante Thee Adonis, and B-Fab). Apart from Legado, Escobar achieved the Cruiserweight Championship.
Despite being in contention for the North American Championship during Legado’s feud with Bronson Reed, Santos Escobar has yet to attain that title, or the NXT championship. Despite this, Escobar’s role in NXT 2.0 has been that of wily veteran who consistently puts NXT 2.0’s new crop of talent through their paces. Even without a substantial record of accolades behind him, Escobar’s charismatic presence and in-ring skills have helped ground the “new class” performers such as Carmelo Hayes, Xyon Quinn, and most recently, Bron Breakker.
In NXT 2.0’s early days, Escobar’s match for the North American title, which had long eluded him, against Scott served audiences with a dash of the acrobatic, athletically hard-hitting in-ring work that had made the former regime beloved by the more discerning pro wrestling fan. The encounter was gripping enough to make Hayes cashing in his championship opportunity won in the NXT Breakout Tournament on Scott, who had retained, a genuine shock.
The Quest for the NXT Championship
When Hit Row decamped for Friday Night SmackDown, beginning their brief tenure on WWE’s main roster, Legado were momentarily left without an adversary. Enter Xyon Quinn. There is an obvious spotlight on Quinn, as he is being cultivated as not only a bruising Goliath but something of a heartthrob. His rivalry with Escobar included a romantic subplot with Lopez, as speculation abounded about whether her loyalties lay with Quinn or Legado. During their January 11 face-off, Escobar carried the less experienced Quinn. The normally high-flying Escobar took punishing bumps at the hands of Quinn, selling him as the hard-hitting powerlifter that the new regime so dearly wants him to be. The match’s final minutes led to a victory for Escobar due to interference from Lopez, wrapping up the narrative on a note of unity for Legado.
With NXT Vengeance Day up ahead on February 15, Escobar is slated to face young, restless, edgy NXT Champion Bron Breakker. Opposite the gritty Breakker, Escobar excels, comfortable in his wheelhouse of sleek, foppish heel. That insouciantly malignant charisma was not lost on the February 8 broadcast of NXT 2.0 as Escobar faced off with not only Breakker, but a moonlighting Dolph Ziggler. While Breakker is most likely to retain the NXT title on February 15, there is no doubt that his bout with Escobar will be a major step in building his de riguer rep as a ‘fighting champion’ and coalescing his place at the top of NXT 2.0’s new class.
Santos Escobar in NXT – In Closing
With presence and personality that support a well honed character, and in-ring skills that make good opponents look better and smooths over the weaknesses of those who are still honing their craft, Escobar’s lack of accolades outside the Cruiserweight title belies his integral role in NXT 2.0. as a heel for all seasons, the perpetual adversary of newer talents carving out their place in the “New NXT”.
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