WWE NXT 8/15/2023: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Welcome to Wrestling Inc.'s review of "WWE NXT," which is clearly still green but is getting rave reviews from the WINC coaching staff! Tuesday was a big night for the developmental brand — fresh off its biggest ratings success in two years, could the show sustain such numbers without a Judgment Day appearance announced ahead of time? "NXT" did announce a big match in the form of Wes Lee vs. Dijak, with the winner getting a shot at Carmelo Hayes' "NXT" Championship on next week's "Heatwave" special. We also knew we were getting Dana Brooke vs. Blair Davenport, Trick Williams vs. Drew Gulak, and The D'Angelo Family vs. Schism with the "NXT" tag team titles on the line.

Of course, there was so much more than just those matches, as "NXT" continues to be the WWE show with both the weirdest nonsense and, consistently, some of the best storytelling, both inside and outside the ring. Check out our live coverage for the full breakdown of Tuesday's happenings, but what did we actually think of that storytelling this week? Here are three things we hated and three things we loved about the 8/15/23 episode of "WWE NXT."

Hated: Biting the hand that Creeds

We actually mostly enjoyed the "NXT" tag team title match between Schism and The D'Angelo Family. A lot of it was based around Stacks Lorenzo as the face in peril, which should be the foundational blueprint for D'Angelo Family matches — as we've mentioned in this space before, Lorenzo is a fantastic underdog, and when he gets going on offense, he throws himself at his opponents with delightfully reckless abandon. This might be a strange comparison, but he reminds us a little bit of a popular independent wrestler who retired about a decade ago (the better to devote his time to his orphanage) and certainly never became one-half of the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Champions.

Anyway, while the match was enjoyable enough while it lasted, the finish was insanely boring, with Schism losing because the Creed Brothers dressed up in Schism outfits and interfered. And then ... that's it. They just interfered again, and nothing else really happened. The storyline essentially wasn't advanced at all, which isn't exactly ideal in the finish to a championship match. Not only that, but it kind of makes Stacks and Tony D look bad, because they're still early in their title reign and they're already picking up defenses on interference finishes. And it's not even their feud!

It probably won't happen on "Heatwave" next week because the card is already pretty stacked, but we can't wait until this Schism/Creeds feud is over. Maybe after that we can release Zach Gibson and James Drake back into the wild. And then maybe Schism can go away forever. That would be cool.

Loved: NXT's better half

"NXT" usually has at least two women's matches every week (like a proper 2023 wrestling promotion) but it's not every week you see two women's matches as good as the ones we got Tuesday night.  We really, really enjoyed Dana Brooke vs. Blair Davenport; while it would probably be presumptuous to call this Dana Brooke's best WWE match, at the very least it's up there. Brooke has always wrestled like what she is — a Performance Center product who's also legitimately tough and has something to prove — and that meshes really well with someone like Davenport and all her independent experience. Brooke's current character arc, in which she is spiraling faster and faster toward psychotic heeldom, is also allowing her to bring more aggression and dynamism to her in-ring work, two things Davenport has had for a while now. The result was a match that, while short, looked absolutely brutal, and it advanced the storyline with the finish, which saw Brooke's protege, Kelani Jordan, stop her from hitting Davenport with the ring bell, inadvertently causing Brooke to lose — a development that is already driving Brooke further over the edge, as evidenced by the look she was giving to Jordan's hand as it rested comfortingly on her shoulder.

Meanwhile, we could probably write a whole essay on how much we continue to love the Chase U story, but it was furthered this week by Thea Hail vs. Jaycee Jayne, a match set up by Andre Chase to try and get Thea back on the winning track and maybe stop being so mad at him after TowelGate. We were even more impressed by the in-ring work in this match than in Brooke/Davenport; Thea's anger has transformed her typically energetic style into something raw and impactful, and Jayne was clearly matching her vibes. They lit into each other in this one, and after certain other WWE women's matches we watched this week, it was really nice to see two women just flat-out trying to break each other's bones. And of course, the finish was brilliant, with Chase trying to help Hail again, this time by putting a turnbuckle pad back on, but only managing to distract Hail and allowed Jayne to roll her up for a much-needed victory. So now Thea, who was already hilariously acting as though she thought Chase might throw the towel again at any moment, is more angry with him, not less. It's so good.

Neither was match of the night (we'll get to that) but give the women's division their flowers this week. The performers were awesome, and both stories are increasingly compelling (and oddly similar in several ways). Which is more than we can say for some of the stuff the guys did.

Hated: Some of the stuff the guys did

From two really good women's matches, we transition to two thoroughly mediocre men's matches.

We understand why it happened, but man, watching a guy like Drew Gulak, who would have WWE Championship reigns under his belt in a just world, lose to Trick Williams, a guy who is still clearly on the greener side (and who appeared a few times in this match to be visibly afraid of making contact with his opponent) is kind of depressing. Trick needed the win heading into his match with Ilja Dragunov, and Gulak made him look decent enough in the process, but as it stands, we're a little worried about how he's going to look at "Heatwave."

In other news, while we appreciate the gag of running a video package saying Dabba-Kato is coming back "soon" and then having him come back later in the same show, the return itself was a massive low point for us. Tyler Bate vs. Joe Coffey was fine if you're into extremely "NXT UK" matches with basically no build that get interrupted before the finish so a really big guy can beat up both sides. We do not count ourselves among those lucky few.

And by the way, is there a reason Tyler Bate isn't on the main roster yet? It's getting a little insane at this point. "WWE Raw" is out here structuring itself entirely around JD McDonagh, and Tyler Bate is still in "NXT." Madness. Rank madness.

Loved: Extremely dumb nonsense

No, we don't mean extremely dumb nonsense in the "let's keep Tyler Bate in developmental for half a decade" sense, we mean it in the "the ghost of Humberto Garza came to Angel Garza and Humberto Carrillo in their dreams and told them to stay together as a tag team or something" sense."NXT" is always good for some dumb bulls***, and we got three dumb bulls*** segments this week. One was the Ghost of Humberto; another was a full-on political address from Mustafa Ali, which seemed similar to an idea he claims WWE spiked in 2021. That idea, some video of which Ali shared at the time, was darker and more racially charged than this new one — the 2023 version involves Ali basically just campaigning to be "NXT" North American Champion, and it's more funny than anything. The original was both darker and deeper, with Ali lamenting the racism he experiences despite being born American, but also pretty clearly setting up the character to be an America-hating heel despite the fact that he's telling actual nuanced truths. We're almost glad the character got scrapped before Vince could get his hands on it. This new version is less subversive, but also funnier, and Ali is already rocking the promo work. We can't wait to see more.

Finally, we got another "Nathan Frazer does John Oliver, badly" pre-taped talk show segment, which was interrupted by Noam Dar, still claiming to be Heritage Cup Champion and apparently broadcasting from the Moon. Frazer does decent enough work in segments like this, we suppose, but Dar is really the straw that stirs the drink when it comes to this storyline. He's just so good at become a complete weirdo; the man has a gift. We kind of hope he does win the Cup back, because where does Dar go if you officially take away the object of his obsession?

Anyway, it was all stupid nonsense and we loved it a ton. More of this please, all the rest of the wrestling.

Hated: BarVon

The promo segment between Baron Corbin and Von Wagner was okay overall, despite the fact that Corbin keeps making such a huge deal out of the fact that he transitioned to a Generic Villain gimmick. We like this thing that's developing with Von Wagner putting people through tables, and Corbin taking credit for driving Gable Steveson out of WWE was legitimately funny. But for all that there were some positives, the thing we don't understand is ... why is any of this happening?

We understand that Corbin's dance card is currently empty, but Wagner's is not. He still has a thing going with Bron Breakker, who, as it to drive the point home, showed up after the fact to confront Corbin and be like "Hey man, I still have a thing going with Von Wagner." VonBron was already pretty great the way it was; did we really need to add BarVon to the mix? And furthermore, if we're not doing VonBron 2 at "Heatwave," why does Wagner (much less Corbin) need a match at all? We can't help but notice that there are currently zero all-female matches on the card next week, with the Rhea Ripley/Dominik Mysterio vs. Lyra Valkyria/Dragon Lee mixed tag being the closest thing so far. Women's champ Tiffany Stratton says she'll be around next week, but we couldn't ditch the Big Tall Dude Parade and set up a women's title match instead? Was it really that important that we get Baron Corbin on the card?

Honestly, the match itself should be pretty decent, because Corbin is decent at what he does and Wagner seems to be developing nicely. But if all we wanted was white guys having good matches with virtually no build at the expense of more TV time for women, we'd watch AEW.

Loved: It might be time to acknowledge that Wes Lee is a superstar

Sometimes all you need to hook viewers and get them invested in your story is be the absolute best at literally everything you do. See, it can't be that hard?

We're not sure if anyone else has been seeing what we're seeing with Wes Lee, but if they weren't already on board the Wes Train, they were probably won over this week. First, he had an absolutely phenomenal match with Dijak, a match in which Dijak worked over Lee's arm, Lee worked over Dijak's leg, and both "injuries" contributed directly to how the match played out, as they should. It was a great showing for both men, but especially for Lee, who, after winning the match and the title shot — and having run into Carmelo Hayes signing autographs backstage earlier — went back to confront Hayes and demand he sign the contract right there and then. When Hayes didn't agree right away, Lee swept the photos off Hayes' autograph signing table, folded it up and dragged it down the ramp and into the ring so the entire world could address the matters at hand.

Amazing. 10/10 already. And yet, somehow, it got better.

Lee is incredible in the ring in general, and he was again Tuesday night, but he's also a legitimately fantastic promo. How often does that combination come around? He's kind of like what LA Knight fans think LA Knight is, but actually isn't. People talk about Knight as though his promo style feels very natural, like something a real person would say and how they would say it, despite the fact that Knight is basically a billboard character brought to life by ChatGPT. Lee, however, actually does deliver promos that feel natural. He was astounding on the mic this week, to the extent that we suddenly desperately need him to beat Hayes next week (he won't, but we need him to). Don't get us wrong, Hayes was great too, directly challenging Lee's mantra that he can always do the things people tell him he can't do by flat-out saying "You can't beat me" and quoting the chorus of TLC's "Waterfalls," but it was Lee who stood out and shined. And then to follow it up with the casual double foot-stomp through the table just because you can and it looks cool? Yeah, this is how you get people invested in your characters and storylines, guys; take notes.

If "Heatwave" was a PPV, Hayes vs. Lee itself would be worth the price. They have so much history together, all wrapped up in the secondary North American title, and we have no doubt that there will be innumerable references and callbacks. For now, we're just sitting here amazed that Wes Lee turned out to be great at literally every part of wrestling. We've always loved him, but this week's episode cemented that love, strengthened it, and made us believe that maybe he can do anything. If somebody walked in right now and started pitching a story that ended with Wes Lee dethroning Roman Reigns, we would at least give it some thought.