Making the case for each Iron Survivor participant’s chances to win


NXT’s second annual Deadline pay-per-view (or premium live event) is this weekend, and with it comes the return of the show’s signature match: The Iron Survivor Challenge.

As we saw last year, five men and five women will participate in respective 25-minute matches that combine elements from WWE’s old Scramble matches and Impact Wrestling’s divisive King of the Mountain match. Whoever leaves each match victorious will receive a world championship match.

In 2022, WWE avoided overbooking a match that seemed to invite that very temptation. Instead, the company highlighted several young wrestlers who became integral parts of the show. Shawn Michaels and company hope to do the same in 2023 with a fresh group of talent (especially on the women’s side).

Of course, it’s also fun to figure out who will win these Iron Survivor matches, and that’s what we’re going to do.

Men’s match

Bron Breakker-Case For: For someone who is one of the biggest names on the NXT roster, Breakker doesn’t have a strong case for winning this Iron Survivor match. Still, it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see Breakker return to the title picture. He last wrestled for the NXT Title in May, and he doesn’t have anything else going on narratively, so why not? Plus, WWE probably wouldn’t mind giving him another accolade to brag about.

Case Against: Breakker has outgrown NXT, but WWE’s hesitance to call him up too soon has kept him as the big fish in a small pond on the show. As such, he is more helpful as the relatively protected star who elevates select talent. That’s the role he’ll likely serve in this match, as there are more interesting candidates to win.

Dijak-Case For: Like last year, the winner of this match will probably get their title shot on TV. For a card-carrying upper midcarder like Dijak, that’s the ideal spot for him. Also, WWE’s M.O. is putting a match like Dijak/Ilja Dragunov on TV after squeezing as much interest as possible out of their PPV clashes.

Case Against: The “upper midcarder” argument works against Dijak just as much as it works for him. He’s usually tasked with putting over bigger names while still winning enough to make those losses mean something, similar to Bron Breakker but with more experience. So, it makes sense that those two could serve the same function in this match.

Josh Briggs-Case For: If nothing else, Briggs would be a fresh opponent for Dragunov, and he is a solid worker. Even though his ascent seems inorganic, his combination of size, skill, and youth is too tantalizing for WWE to not at least see how he does in this environment.

Case Against: Briggs’ SpeakingOut baggage should be more than enough to disqualify him from receiving any sort of push. Unfortunately, WWE (among other companies) has shown no willingness to do that. Aside from that, his status as a lighthearted midcarder probably means that the company will pass on giving him a big win so early in this discovery period.

Trick Williams-Case For: With his obvious charisma and improving in-ring ability, Williams looks like a potential main eventer. As such, he seems like the obvious candidate to become the Iron Survivor at Deadline. There’s only one other possible outcome for Williams in this match…

Case Against: With Carmelo Hayes set to probably lose to Lexis King at Deadline, he will finally turn on his friend. Now, the creative team could pull this off while giving Williams the big win, but for the betrayal to have the most impact, Hayes will have to cost him another chance at the NXT Title.

Tyler Bate-Case For: If Bate wins, we will get to see him wrestle Dragunov for the NXT Title. Need I say more?

Case Against: The only real argument against Bate winning is that Williams is the more correct option.

Women’s Match

Blair Davenport-Case For: WWE has built Davenport up as a menacing force in the women’s division. When you combine that with her lack of women’s title matches since last year, she seems due for a shot at the gold. Davenport is in this match to add some needed workrate, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t likely to win.

Case Against: Unfortunately for Davenport (and us), Nikkita Lyons is back. A feud with her will probably occupy much of Davenport’s upcoming screen time, which could keep WWE from giving her the win in this match.

Fallon Henley-Case For: WWE certainly sees something in Henley. If it didn’t, she wouldn’t have been in that long storyline with Kiana James. Sure, that angle wasn’t good (arguably the worst of the year), but it did cultivate a “so bad, it’s good” fanbase, and the fact that Henley came out on the other side of it in decent shape speaks well to her upside. Still, let’s put her in the “Sure, she could win, why not?” pile.

Case Against: That said, despite starring in a prominent storyline, Henley comes across as just another person on the roster. She’s alright in the ring and alright on the microphone, and that should give her a long career. However, will that cause her to get overlooked? That could very well happen here.

Kelani Jordan-Case For: Jordan should’ve won the Women’s Breakout Tournament, but the former standout gymnast will instead get a spot in the Iron Survivor match as the plucky upstart underdog. She has flashed some of her tremendous athleticism over the last few months, but we’ll see how she looks in a longer match. Her winning makes as much sense as anyone else in this match.

Case Against: WWE likely held off on having Jordan win the Breakout Tourney due to her being green (of course, so was the woman who beat her, Lola Vice), so they may make a similar decision at Deadline. She will have plenty of chances to win big matches, but this is more about seeing how she does on a bigger stage.

Lash Legend-Case for: In that silly “summit” segment on the go-home episode of NXT, Legend stood out as the most charismatic of the quintet. It took a while, but WWE has harnessed her outsized personality. More encouragingly, she’s starting to somewhat get it in the ring, though she’s still far from being a ring general. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if she emerged as a challenger for Lyra Valkyria.

Case Against: Even with her improvements as a wrestler, Legend is still far too inexperienced to consistently work TV matches (which is probably why she’s in a match that allows her to pick her spots). Unless she, at least, reaches a level where she’s reliable and can be carried by good workers, it will always make pushing her a tricky proposition.

Tiffany Stratton-Case For: The only former NXT Women’s Champion in the match, Stratton seems like the favorite to win. WWE sees her as a future star, so her winning this is more plausible than anyone else in the match. Plus, like Breakker, it would give her haughty character something to brag about for a few weeks.

Next. Trick Williams on his career-altering conversation with WWE NXT head Shawn Michaels. dark

Case Against: Stratton doesn’t need to win this match, nor does she need to be back in the women’s title picture. She will get back there soon, but for now, this is a good chance for WWE to see what they have in some of the other women. That’s better than cycling through the same 4-5 people.