NXT 2.0’s creative direction was clarified Tuesday with its Halloween Havoc show.
WWE’s sub-brand decided to put the Halloween-themed IP to work in 2020, which included the “Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal” gimmick match. The company has used this to spice up a regular NXT episode, treating Havoc as a special show. Two titles changed hands on Tuesday’s edition, and both the new champions plus the retaining ones told us a lot about the direction NXT 2.0 will take in the coming months.
NXT IS ALL-IN ON TOXIC ATTRACTION
After the first few weeks of NXT 2.0, it seemed the company’s strategy was to throw as many new faces at the crowd as possible and hope something clicked. There were two exceptions. One was the clear push for Bron Breakker. The other was the new faction, Toxic Attraction. The repackaged Mandy Rose, Gigi Dollin and Jayne were given prominent microphone time from the start of the re-designed show.
That effort came to fruition last night as Rose captured the NXT Women’s Championship from Raquel Gonzalez, not long after Dollin and Jayne won the NXT Women’s Tag Team titles. Putting all the gold on Toxic Attraction makes them the biggest stars in the women’s division.
NXT also left itself with plenty of options. Gonzalez lost due to interference from former partner-turned-enemy Dakota Kai. That means the former champion will be embroiled in a grudge feud in the future instead of chasing Rose. Nearly any babyface female on the roster could become Rose’s next challenger.
Io Shirai seems the best choice if they want Rose to continue to improve in the ring, but that matters less without house shows. One match every week or two will not make a lot of difference, so they could put her in with anyone.
As for Dollin and Jayne, NXT 2.0 has more female tag teams than the main roster does. That’s a low bar to jump over since RAW and SmackDown had breakup fever over the last few months, but it’s still true. Either of the teams in the ladder match could be credible challengers (if Zoey Stark is okay after limping through a lot of the match on a bad knee or leg).
BRON BREAKKER’S TIME IS COMING, IT’S JUST NOT HERE YET
The finish of the Tomasso Ciampa-Bron Breakker NXT title match surprised many. The company seemed to have strapped the proverbial rocket to the back of Breakker. Many thought he’d take the title in Tuesday’s main event, but instead he lost to Ciampa.
The loss will not hurt Breakker in the least. The match was worked to feature Breakker’s explosiveness and power. Ciampa’s size worked to Breakker’s strengths and Ciampa’s selling was top-notch. We had only seen Breakker steamroll opponents until this match so seeing him sell was new to everyone. Commentator Wade Barrett even noted it, saying last night it was the first time we’ve even seen Breakker in pain. LA Knight might have objected to that, but the point was fair.
The young star acquitted himself well in the match and will continue to be a top babyface for the brand. He didn’t need to win the title just yet. Ciampa is over with the NXT crowd and can help elevate others in the coming months.
It would be even better for Breakker’s character to win the title from a heel who had taken it from Ciampa. That would give him the triumphant moment in front of a united crowd cheering him on. There’s little doubt that time will come. In the meantime, Ciampa can help bring along other young prospects.
THERE WILL BE SKITS. MANY SKITS.
With young talent bound to make some mistakes, one way to control it is with skits and video packages. With those, you can always go back and do another take as opposed to live action. We saw plenty Tuesday that fit with the Halloween Havoc theme.
Segments for next week were set up during Halloween party skits, such as Tony D’Angelo securing a guest spot on Lashing Out and a poker video coming involving Cameron Grimes and Duke Hudson. Both of those will likely be pre-produced, allowing the talent the luxury of multiple takes.
We also saw the skits featuring Carmello Hayes and Trick Williams going through Dexter Loomis’ house of horrors set up a match with them against Loomis and Johnny Gargano. Expect more of these videos in the coming weeks to establish characters in a controlled environment.
EMBRACE THE FLAWS
We knew this going in, but the days of top indie talent having great matches are over. Both the weekly NXT 2.0 show and the TakeOver specials that will be coming are going to feature truly developmental talent. That means there will be mistakes. There will be botched spots, there will be awkward moments.
Watching NXT 2.0 will be like being a fan of a minor league baseball team. You know the effort will be there as they try to impress the top brass. You know they are hungry to get to the next level. You also realize sometimes they are going to drop the ball.
Halloween Havoc had some moments of hesitation. It had pure misses (seriously, a dozen lumberjacks around the ring but not one of them catches Nash Carter or Marcel Barthel). It had slips, although Ciampa and Breakker worked right through it and recovered quickly.
To truly enjoy NXT 2.0 now, it’s best to approach it with the mindset of seeing future stars go through their growing pains on national television. You won’t be getting Takeovers that churn out the best matches of the month anymore. Instead, perhaps one day in the future you’ll see these prospects as polished workers in top matches. That is when you can think back and say you remember seeing them before they could do all this in the ring.