WWE NXT 9/26/2023: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Welcome to Wrestling Inc.'s review of "WWE NXT," now inexplicably with more black leather! With the No Mercy premium live event around the corner, this week's go-home show had a lot riding on it — beyond the usual contract signings and last-minute face-offs, multiple championship matches had to be set up, from the Global Heritage Invitational finals, to a new contender for the North American title after the departure of Mustafa Ali, to Tony D'Angelo and Stacks Lorenzo considering their challengers over dinner. And as always with "NXT," there was a ton of stuff going on between the wrestling.

But of course, we can't talk about all that here. If you want to know everything that happened, you'll have to go check out our live coverage. If you want to know the things that stood out to the WINC staff as being either particularly egregious or particularly spectacular, this s the place to be. Here are three things we hated and three things we loved about the 9/26/23 episode of "WWE NXT."

Loved: Trick Williams Whoops Four Tricks In One Night (Ella Jay, WINC News Writer)

Last week, Trick Williams was approached by members of Schism and The Judgment Day in an attempt to reel him into their respective groups. However, Williams was adamant about setting himself up as a singles competitor following his recent separation from "NXT" Champion Carmelo Hayes. While last week's recruitment attempts initially felt counterintuitive to me, they have now seemed to further fuel Williams to take the next logical step in his singles quest — positioning himself in a championship picture.

Following his victory over Joe Gacy, "NXT" correspondent Kelly Kincaid asked Williams to share his thoughts on the upcoming 'NXT" title match between Hayes and Ilja Dragunov, which is scheduled to take place at No Mercy. Before answering, Williams subtly reminded Kincaid that he achieved an impressive victory over Gacy just moments before. Williams' response would lay out the groundwork for the events to follow, which included a meeting with Senior Vice President of Talent Development Creative Shawn Michaels and a key victory over Dragon Lee, Tyler Bate, and Axiom.

With the power of persuasion (and a little bit of luck) Williams secured himself a shot at the "NXT" North American Championship. In the process, he whooped not one, not two, not three, but four tricks, which surely elevates his budding resume as a singles competitor. Looking forward, Williams now turns attention to Dominik Mysterio, whom he will challenge for the title at No Mercy this weekend.

While Mysterio may have The Judgment Day in his back pocket, Dragon Lee, who has been named as the special guest referee, may enact some revenge on Mysterio during his title defense. This, in turn, may play into the favor of Williams, and possibly crown him as the new champion. The outcome of the "NXT" North American title match is still pending, but as of now, Williams' singles pursuits appear to be on the rise.

Hated: Untethered Feelings About The Strap Match (Daisy Ruth, WINC news writer)

As someone who is usually extremely invested in more hardcore stipulations, something just felt kind of off about Dijak and Eddy Thorpe's strap match. I don't know if it was because the strap seemed a little long (did I envision a Texas Bullrope Match in my mind, perhaps?) and kept the competitors pretty far away from each other, or the fact it was just dumped right in the middle of the show. There was no other place for it tonight, of course, between the fatal four-way to determine the challenger for Dominik Mysterio's North American title and Carmelo Hayes and Ilja Dragunov's contract signing main-eventing, but it just felt out of place on a really great go-home show, in my opinion. Forgettable, almost.

I also usually think of a strap match as the end of a feud. With this being the third match in their trilogy and Thorpe getting the win, you would think this feud would be over, even though Thorpe is down 2-1. That didn't turn out to be the case, with Dijak hanging him upside down from the turnbuckle and destroying him with his own belt, the same belt he used to beat Thorpe down in their second match. That, and the entire match happened in front of Thorpe's family, including his six-year-old niece. Is it me, or are we getting quite a lot of traumatized kiddos in WWE lately, between this and Chad Gable's daughters? If I was a WWE superstar, I wouldn't want my family anywhere near the ring.

Anyway, while the No Mercy card on Saturday is absolutely stacked and going to be great, this could have maybe opened that show? But I feel like it still would have been just as forgettable with how great that premium live event is shaping up to be. The entire feud between Dijak and Thorpe seems to be a victim of everything else going well across the "NXT" brand, which isn't a bad thing, but maybe this match should have just been a regular match — and also the solid conclusion of the feud.

Loved: Never change, D'Angelo Family (Miles Schneiderman, WINC senior lead news editor)

There was a lot of wrestling on this week's episode of "NXT." Several matches. Many of them with important stakes leading up to this Saturday's No Mercy PLE.

Yeah, that's great, literally who cares. None of that matters. What matters is that Tony D'Angelo and Stacks Lorenzo took the entire tag team division out for a traditional Italian dinner so they could discuss which of the other teams deserves to be the No. 1 contenders like gentlemen. It just doesn't get any better than that. This is exactly the kind of thing that has returned "NXT" to the top of the televised professional wrestling world. Last time "NXT" was this good, it was because it was actually good. This time, it's not good because it's good; it's good because it's incredibly dumb. And I think that's beautiful.

I don't even know where to start with how much I loved this. Brutus Creed being the only one who's super into the food, even going so far as to say it's better than his mom's cooking? His brother Julius playing the straight man, except for that one part where it's time for him to wave his fingers at his chin and say "business" in a way that would be stereotypical if it wasn't the worst attempt at an Italian accent this side of "Inglourious Basterds?" The fact that Angel Garza and Humberto Carrillo have tattoos of mauling scars where their mauling scars should be, and other characters are now acting like they were canonically asleep for a month? The newly-christened Out The Mud and their simple attempt at strong-arming their way into a title match, only to be reminded that the D'Angelo Family actually does include a bunch of grizzled extras wielding crowbars?

Yeah, you're right — the part has to be the Family itself. D'Angelo and Lorenzo oscillate wildly between committing to these bizarre characters and playfully mocking them. They make terrible jokes that are sometimes met with laughter and sometimes with awkward silence. They're the kinds of characters that make segments like this possible — segments that make people embarrassed to be watching wrestling, but also make wrestling worth watching. I raise my glass to you, "NXT." Never get less dumb.

Hated: Bron Breakker and Baron Corbin Brawl Again ... and Again ... and Again ...

I am already of the opinion that WWE consistently has too many pull-apart brawls across "NXT," "WWE Raw," and "WWE SmackDown," but having three of them in one episode, between the same two people, for a feud that to me doesn't call for it, is a little bit too much.

Following Baron Corbin's win over Josh Briggs, Bron Breakker appeared, and things became physical quickly, which led to security and officials running down to the ring to pull them apart. Nothing special, but not doing any harm. The same can be said about their brawl backstage — albeit a little redundant — but by the time they got into yet another spat into the parking lot of the WWE Performance Center just before the show went off the air, I had just about enough. While I don't mind that Breakker is a regular for closing segments, I wasn't exactly jazzed to see a second pull-apart brawl with him and Corbin, the only difference being that a car was used in this one (nobody tell CM Punk).

I can confidently say that I prefer Breakker and Corbin as heels, and I understand using the pull-apart brawl trope to create hype for matches and make them feel big. However, this is a perfect example of what their entire program has felt like to me: a lackluster and transitional feud to keep both men busy while creative figures out what comes next for them.

Hated: Thea Hail is just like everyone else now (Ross Berman, WINC news writer)

Thea Hail was one of the central hooks for this week's "WWE NXT," and while the chipmunk-voiced cheerleader might be in need of maturing, her new look was a black leather regression. With its black leather straps and stark black makeup, the look has the diminutive star looking like someone put Rhea Ripley and Julia Hart in a blender. It's woefully derivative of wrestlers that fans can currently watch on other programs, and that's the kind of comparison that only makes one realize they're not watching the original.

Every single independent promotion has at least one young talent who — lacking an identity of their own — steals from more popular wrestlers until they feel like a generic amalgamation. Dusty Rhodes used to call these kinds of people "walk behinders," because they're too comfortable in the shadow of people with more drive and personality than them. There shouldn't be "walk behinders" in the promotion that Dusty built; it should be chock-full of young developmental talent doing whatever they can to stand out, which is what makes it that much more disappointing that a charismatic performer like Hail is threatening to blend into the pack.

While Hail is still the talented wrestler who won over fans in the first place, showing her usual flair in her win over Dani Palmer, wrestling is an aesthetic business, and the sudden lack of personality in her gear left this writer underwhelmed. For now, I'm going to give Hail — and "NXT" — the benefit of the doubt and hope that this is a mere story beat, Hail chasing a trend on the way to figuring out who she is, rather than establishing her new normal.

Loved: Trick Melo Strain (Schneiderman)

If I'm being totally honest, I didn't love the Carmelo Hayes/Ilja Dragunov contract signing segment as much as I was hoping to. It was fine, don't get me wrong, but it veered slightly into the more generic brand of wrestling promo for my taste. "I'm going to beat you"/"Well I'm going to beat you," etc. There wasn't enough of the mutual respect dynamic that made their initial championship feud so spicy, and it can be hard to really sell a babyface vs. babyface feud without something along those lines. Hayes' closing line about how he thinks Dragunov would be a great champion, just not as good as him (wow, mic drop, Melo) was indicative of this blandness, and fell extremely flat as a result.

THAT HAVING BEEN SAID, there is one extremely spicy thing still going on in this segment: the specter of Trick Williams and what at this point I have to assume is the imminent explosion of Trick Melo Gang. Williams wasn't part of the contract signing and his name was only mentioned once, but that one mention — Carmelo accidentally dropping Trick's name as part of a list of men that Dragunov has beaten who aren't as good as Melo — was the highlight of the segment, and you can tell by how Ilja reacts and how the crowd reacts that it's a big deal. Even though Trick wasn't there in the ring, he really was. He's the reason for this entire "crisis of confidence" storyline, after all, and this is all clearly building to a program between the two. The only question is when, and in what form.

"NXT" moved heaven and earth on the No Mercy go-home show to get Williams onto that PLE, and in a title match, no less. Now, the results of his match and Hayes' match form the spine of the entire event. Will Trick lose his title match, then cost Melo his championship? Will Trick lose while Melo wins, making Trick slowly more resentful, dragging this thing out until Mania season? Will Trick win and Melo lose, suggesting it could be Hayes who eventually gets jealous and turns? Or will they both win, and pose together to close the show, with just one shot of Trick's gaze lingering on the "NXT" title? There are really a lot of directions WWE could go with this, and all the options are intriguing — and that right there is the kind of story that makes me care about your show on Saturday.