WWE NXT 2.0: What went wrong on the first night of the relaunch

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If you’re a sports fan, particularly a sports fan who cheers for a struggling team, the debut of the retooled NXT — a.k.a. NXT 2.0 (3.0 if you count the weird faux reality show in 2010) — felt very familiar.

Much like a team that brings in a new general manager and infuses the roster with younger (and cheaper) players while phasing out the established names, the new NXT decision-makers — led by (sigh) Vince McMahon and Bruce Pritchard — are taking a similar approach.

In a sense, it’s exciting to see the new faces establish themselves on the show. However, the creative team’s execution of these introductions needs significant work, because reusing ineffective main roster strategies won’t help these youngsters get over.

So, with that out of the way, let’s look a where WWE specifically messed up this past Tuesday.

These are the three things that went wrong on the debut of NXT 2.0

“Honorable” Mention: Pulling Franky Monet vs. Raquel Gonzalez from the show- And the abuse of the “card subject to change” disclaimer in NXT has begun. The company at least published a YouTube video to explain why the match didn’t happen (which is more than what the main roster does), but it still sends the message that there’s no point in getting excited for advertised matches because “plans could change”.

“Honorable” Mention: Tony D’Angelo vignette- The new era of NXT means more “characters”, which means more one-dimensional caricatures that were teleported from a mid-2000s episode of SmackDown.

“Honorable” Mention: Bron Breakker pins LA Knight- Yes, the new name for the former Rex Steiner is awful, but the potential is there, and having him beat a known name in his debut is a good way to debut him. However, having him pin someone who is wrestling for the NXT Title later in the night (and doesn’t have much cache in NXT) is foolish. Just have him beat someone else.

“Honorable” Mention: The wedding as the main event- Just in case you wondered how this new NXT was going to go, having the Indi Hartwell/Dexter Lumis wedding close the show should tell you everything you need to know about what to expect.

Replacing Kyle O’Reilly with Von Wagner in the NXT Championship match

Hey, would you like to challenge for the NXT Championship? Well, apparently, all you’ll need to do is show up at the last minute to run off two heels who were already successful in beating up their intended target! No need for things like “wins”!

Indeed, the NXT creative team used a Ridge Holland/Pete Dunne beatdown to write Kyle O’Reilly out of the NXT Title match and replaced him with the man who “saved” him, Von Wagner. Sorry for anyone who was excited to see O’Reilly in that match.

Now, the idea of putting Wagner in this match isn’t the worst thing in the world; every debut doesn’t need to be a squash. But having a wrestler with no televised matches to his name and no prior background information tossed into a match where the brand’s top title is at stake undercuts the premise that this is a belt that only the best of the best can compete for, let alone win.

To be fair, the young man looked impressive when he got the chance to shine.

A DQ finish leads to a six-woman tag team match

The Kacey Catanzaro, Kayden Carter, and Sarray vs. Jacy Jayne, Gigi Dolin, and Mandy Rose trios match was a fun clash that established the latter three as a group to watch out for. Everything that came before that match, however, painted a grim image of what’s to come every Tuesday.

This started out as a tag match between Catanzaro, Carter, Dolin, and Jayne, but as the babyfaces appeared set to win, a now-brunette Rose pushed Catanzaro off the ropes to trigger the disqualification. Sarray then made the save for her friends (refreshing for a WWE show), which then led to the six-woman tag.

Booking two weeks of storyline progression in one night makes no sense. Why not have Rose help her stablemates win, have all three attack Catanzaro and Carter after the match, have Sarray make the save, and then do the trios match next week? That option at least gives fans a week to get excited about seeing these groups face one another and doesn’t include a lame non-finish.

Carmelo Hayes and Trick Williams turn heel by…attacking another unlikable heel

Well, it’s nice to see that the “turn babyfaces the fans like heel” trope is alive and well in NXT, with Breakout Tournament winner Carmelo Hayes becoming the latest casualty of this trend.

Now, this isn’t to say that Hayes as a heel won’t work — he’s more than talented enough to pull it off — but the crowd reaction to him clearly shows that they have no interest in booing him. It didn’t help that they tried to cement this turn by having him and his new heater, Trick Williams, attack Duke Hudson. You know, that arrogant heel with no redeeming qualities. Were there no other babyfaces available to take this beating?

Next. WWE NXT: Tommaso Ciampa wins NXT Championship for second time. dark

We’ll see how Hayes acclimates to wearing the black hat in the coming weeks, but this wasn’t a good start to his run.