On this week’s episode of NXT 2.0, the brand’s creative team went in with one primary goal: get Grayson Waller over as the most hated man on the roster after beating up the departing Johnny Gargano at the end of last week’s show.
Aside from that, the show’s runtime was dedicated to building up Bron Breakker and Cora Jade as respective contenders to the men’s and women’s world titles and spotlighting the newer talent with showcase matches. Some of these matches and angles worked while others missed the mark.
These are the things that went right and went wrong on the Dec. 14 episode of NXT 2.0.
Right: Cameron Grimes beats Duke Hudson in a No Holds Barred match
Even though the Hair vs. Hair match would’ve made for an acceptable conclusion to the Cameron Grimes/Duke Hudson feud, fans got another chapter of this rivalry on this week’s NXT 2.0 in the form of a No Holds Barred match.
This is usually a spot where WWE would go the “50/50 booking” route, but it thankfully avoided that by scripting Grimes to win clean after Caving In a seated Hudson’s chest to score another win over his nemesis and punctuated the end of this story by removing Hudson’s amateur wrestling headgear and wig to reveal his bald head.
Given how ridiculous this feud was, it’s nice to see it come to an end here with a good match.
Wrong: Most of what they did with Grayson Waller
WWE clearly believed that giving Grayson Waller the big moment by taking out Johnny Gargano on Gargano’s last night in the company would give the young man a significant boost as a heel. In the short-term, it has, but also needed to lay the groundwork to help Waller maintain that heat he generated from assaulting Gargano.
So far, not so good in that regard.
Let’s get the good out of the way: Waller turned in a fine effort in his first big promo since the attack. However, it was a promo that more or less sounded the same as his other heel promos. Those orations are fine if you’re a lower midcard pest heel, not so much for someone who’s clearly being positioned as a top heel.
Him attacking LA Knight off-screen also did nothing to help shake the dork vibes Waller has, as the idea of imagining him handing out such a beating is still a stretch despite the Gargano attack.
Right: The latest Ivy Nile showcase match
Seriously, why are they bothering building this women’s division around Mandy Rose when Ivy Nile is on the roster. Sure, she’s still green and has yet to cut a promo (not that she needs to with Malcolm Bivens as her manager) but it’s not like Rose is giving great performances in either of those categories, and Nile’s charisma and presentation jumps off the page by comparison.
This match with Amari Miller ran longer than Nile’s other matches, but the Diamond Mine member acquitted herself well before putting Miller away with her impressive dragon sleeper.
Wrong: Cora Jade’s build as Mandy Rose’s next challenger
Yes, Cora Jade is selling a shoulder injury with the idea that her barely getting by her opponents while nursing the ailment will get her over as tough and resilient, but at some point, she’s going to need to win matches with something other than a roll-up, especially roll-ups that happen after her opponent distracts themselves (like Dakota Kai did in her match with Jade on Wednesday).
All the roll-up finishes do is paint Jade as a fluke challenger (worse yet, a fluke challenger to MANDY ROSE) which will give WWE little quality information as to whether she can be a top star in the women’s division.
If nothing else, though, at least Rose hasn’t thrown a pie in Jade’s face for heat.
Right and Wrong: Bron Breakker pins the Cruiserweight Champion
WWE mostly had the right idea with the Bron Breakker vs. Roderick Strong match. It allowed Breakker to get a win over a credible competitor as part of his journey to earning another NXT Championship match and pairing the still-inexperienced son of Rick Steiner with a top-level worker like Strong helps with his progression as a wrestler.
One problem though: Roderick Strong came into this match as the NXT Cruiserweight Champion.
Knowing that Vince McMahon and Bruce Pritchard have more of a hand in booking this product, this harkened back to their usual tendencies of having champions lose non-title matches for no reason and using the Cruiserweight Champion to put over the star heavyweight (because those cruiserweights are so small, you see). It makes the champion look like a stepping stone for the “real” stars as opposed to a star in and of themself.
The idea was sound on the “make Breakker look strong” end, but WWE surely could’ve found someone else to put the touted prospect over.