WWE NXT No Mercy 2023: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Welcome to Wrestling Inc.'s official review of the latest "WWE NXT" premium live event, No Mercy! With a little help from the main roster, No Mercy boasted a pretty stacked card for an "NXT" show, with five championship matches — three of which involved "Raw" and "SmackDown" talent like Dominik Mysterio, Butch, and Becky Lynch. The show was also set to blow off or launch the next chapter of several major storylines, including the grudge feud between Bron Breakker and Baron Corbin and the continuing evolution of the relationship between Carmelo Hayes and Trick Williams.


Of course, the question here is, will WINC's writers and editors show No Mercy any mercy? Well, we definitely will show it some mercy. In fact, showing wrestling events about 50% mercy and 50% no mercy is kind of our thing in this space. If that's not for you, our No Mercy live coverage is a different animal, of course, since it's entirely objective and the concept of mercy isn't one it really engages with. In terms of which parts of this show received our commendation and which parts we condemned, we only reveal that in the form of three things we hated and three things we loved about No Mercy 2023.

Loved: Brian Pillman Jr. owning his heritage (Jon Jordan, WINC news writer)

It was reported quite some time ago that Brian Pillman Jr.'s time in AEW was up, and shortly thereafter, that he was signing with WWE and reporting to the Performance Center. Very little news broke thereafter and no wheels were set in motion as to what he'd be doing under the WWE umbrella, which led me to wonder whether or not this would be a total repackage deal. After all, there's plenty of history of WWE with McGillicuttying the Hennigs of the world and Breakkering the Steiners, and it's not like his run in AEW (or anywhere else prior) set the world on fire. Pillman could very well be looked at as a gifted athlete, not quite finding his way in the squared circle, just being given a fresh start — maybe completely (with a name like Dave Dungeon or something).


Then, on Tuesday's episode of "WWE NXT," a thinly-veiled vignette aired showing a man sitting down to switch the channels on an old box television, first to a largely unidentifiable local news broadcast, then to an old clip of a Cincinnati Bengals training camp, and finally, to the familiar voice of Jim Ross welcoming the audience to WCW Saturday Night. If you put those pieces together, you might land on Brian Pillman Sr. — and you could have already been pretty confident that you knew where this was headed.

On "NXT No Mercy," the vignette aired again. At first, I thought, "Cool, the Pillman thing." But after Ross' welcome, the channel changed again, to a clip of Charlotte Flair. Then to a clip of NXT's Brooks Jensen. Then Jey Uso. Then Jimmy Uso and Solo Sikoa. Then Von Wagner, Randy Orton, Dominik Mysterio. What do all of these wrestlers have in common? Second generation superstars. And then the spot cuts to a shadowed figure very clearly wearing a t-shirt with a tiger on it.


He's Brian Pillman's kid, Brian Pillman Jr. And that's who is coming to "NXT" TV. Just as it should be. Whether it worked out or not in AEW doesn't matter (not a lot works out there, to my mind). To stand in the face (and the shadow) of that sort of legacy requires bravado on the part of both the performer and the company, and I'm thrilled that he's embracing it as he takes the next step in his wrestling career. He may not be "The Loose Cannon," but that's probably a good thing. He's Brian Pillman Jr. And I bet he knocks this run out of the park.

Hated: So much mercy for the main roster (Miles Schneiderman, WINC senior lead news editor)

On the surface level, Saturday was a decent night for "NXT," which regained the North American Championship from around the filth-encrusted waste of "Raw's" Dominik Mysterio and successfully prevented Butch from taking the Heritage Cup to "SmackDown." That having been acknowledged ... man, they really went out of their way to make sure everyone knew how much better the main roster stars were than the "NXT" stars, huh? Yes, Dirty Dom and Butch both technically lost their title matches, but they were both extremely well-protected in the process. Mysterio got beaned by the championship belt on the final knee strike from Trick Williams (which I actually liked, because it played into (a) how he won the title, and (b) Williams' involvement in the first Hayes/Dragunov title match) and Butch got distracted by Gallus beating up Tyler Bate on the outside before eating Joe Coffey's All The Best For The Bells finisher and then losing to Noam Dar. Throw in Becky Lynch beating Tiffany Stratton for the second straight time and it really seems like a message is being sent: The main roster is still better than you.


And look, if you think the main roster should be presented as generally better than "NXT," fine. But that doesn't excuse the worst of Saturday's transgressions, which was giving Baron Corbin a pinfall victory over Bron Breakker. Corbin might be more of an "NXT" star at this point than a main roster guy, but he's still a guy who was on the main roster for a long time before recently coming back — his whole stupid "Burn the Ships" character presupposes that we're familiar with his main roster work, it's not like we're supposed to have forgotten about it. And while Breakker was also somewhat protected in defeat by the appearance of Robert Stone, just getting distracted isn't as helpful in that regard as getting hit with the title or a finisher. It's legitimately insane that Breakker, one of "NXT's" most promising rising talents, couldn't be given a strong win, or even a win at all, over a guy like Corbin, whose entire job these days should be putting over younger talent.


It's one thing to want your main roster guys to look good. It's another thing to give fully half your PLE card schmozzy interference finishes that spoil the match's momentum just because the older guy beat Kurt Angle once.

Loved: Trick Williams finally gets a moment of his own (Liam O'Loughlin, WINC news writer)

For the past two years, Trick Williams has been the Robin to Carmelo Hayes' Batman. While it's hard to describe a man who stands at 6'4" as a sidekick, Williams was clearly the second-string member of Trick Melo Gang, generally standing ringside to support his partner's continued singles success within "NXT."


All of that changed Saturday night at No Mercy, however, with Williams finally earning a moment of his own by defeating Dominik Mysterio to claim his first championship in WWE. In an entertaining match filled with shenanigans and ref bumps, Williams would come out on top and become the new "NXT" North American Champion, pinning the main roster second-generation star with a raised knee strike and a three-count from special guest referee Dragon Lee.

While there's still plenty of room for improvement for Williams, who is far from the finished product from an in-ring perspective, his connection with the audience and undeniable star power has seen him skyrocket to the top of "NXT" as a singles competitor in recent weeks. Mysterio's recent run in "NXT" has breathed new life into his character and allowed The Judgment Day member to further hone his craft against fresh opponents — but the plan should have always been to elevate a star of the future, and that's exactly what happened in Bakersfield.


Hated: Can the Heritage Cup please go away now? (Jordan)

I think this Heritage Cup stuff has gone much further than anyone ever thought it should, and while the names to have captured the trophy (the real one or the fake one that was there for a bit) don't deserve any discrediting, Saturday showed us that we can do without this thing on premium live events. On the show, Noam Dar and Butch (Pete Dunne in bad disguise) put it all out there for six rounds (SIX!) with Dar coming out on top after interference from not just his Meta-Four stablemates but also from Gallus. But the different rules and the point system and the length and complexity of the match took something away from a hot crowd, and was awfully hard for me to explain to my septuagenarian father-in-law sitting next to me. (But I guess that part is my problem.)


It can easily be argued that there are too many titles in "NXT," WWE, or pro wrestling in general already, so why do we need this trophy on top of it all? Answer: We don't. Compromise: We can, so long as it stays part of the variety show that "NXT" is (and any good wrestling show should be). It's a legitimate prize to fight for, but on an event such as tonight's No Mercy, as close to a TakeOver as we've gotten since Portland in early 2020, it took away from an otherwise excellent show.

And that's not to say that the wrestling between Dar and Butch wasn't good — of course it was — it's just that it didn't fit in the flow of this card. The crowd, lively for most of the night, sat on its hands for much of this one, maybe because of the janky format. I just don't think it works. And I'd rather we had Dar against actual Pete Dunne in an actual pro wrestling match any day.


Loved: Melo might miss, but Dragunov wins big (Daisy Ruth, WINC news editor)

There's a new czar of "NXT" and boy, did he sure prove himself big-time with a decisive victory over now-former "NXT" Champion Carmelo Hayes. Ilja Dragunov, a former "NXT UK" Champion, did not let off the gas during No Mercy Saturday night. He looked impressive, and he certainly deserved that victory. The first phrase I thought of when the match concluded was "slobberknocker."


At one point in the match, I found myself wishing Hayes was getting a little more offense in, before realizing that the story of the match was about just how much he could take. Hayes took a darn good beating and looked strong doing so — Dragunov threw everything at him, even dropping a coast-to-coast in there, and Melo just kept kicking out. I personally think they gave the match just enough time, to where the brutal beatdown of Hayes made sense but was not overly excessive and damaging to his character.

The little brofest between Hayes and Trick Williams to end the broadcast was very sweet, in my humble opinion. While I personally would have enjoyed a copyright bug fakeout for another star's appearance (WHERE. IS. JADE?!), this was really endearing. It also has me wondering what's next for Hayes and Williams moving forward, now that only one is wearing gold. Will Hayes' confidence be damaged even more after that loss?


Sounds brutal on my end, but I'm looking forward to "NXT" on Tuesday to see where this story goes, and I'm also extremely interested to see who Dragunov's next challenger will be. I would even argue that Hayes deserves a rematch so he can get a few more licks in on Dragunov before taking another loss and moving on, maybe even up to the main roster.

Hated: Jaded for all the wrong reasons (Schneiderman)

Okay, I don't want anyone to think I didn't like Becky Lynch vs. Tiffany Stratton. I really enjoyed that match. It was relatively tame WWE-style hardcore (which is all the hardcore I need most of the time, personally) with minor but clearly unplanned bleeding from Stratton, which you never love to see but which does, admittedly, give this stuff a little spice sometimes. I thought Stratton looked awesome in this match, probably the best work I've ever seen her do, and there were numerous spots I enjoyed immensely — the best ones being the shopping cart being used as a weapon and Lynch pulling out the typical black bag of thumbtacks, only to reveal that it actually contained broken pieces of Barbie doll. Not only was that more thematically appropriate, but any parent will tell you that small plastic toys are infinitely more painful than thumbtacks. SHE'S HARDCORE.


Anyway, none of the hate here is for the match; the match ruled. But I have to be honest, after they announced the women's title was the main event, I was really expecting Jade Cargill to show up at the end. I know, it's dumb to hate something for not being what I'd hyped it up to be in my head, but I just thought it made sense. And beyond that ... look. I will never complain about women getting the main event spot, and Becky was the biggest star on this show, period. I get it. But Carmelo Hayes vs. Ilja Dragunov was AWESOME, and it was Ilja finally winning the title! Wouldn't that have made more sense as a main event if we weren't getting Jade?

And the worst part about it is, after Becky won, they cut to a little backstage scene between Trick Williams and Hayes before the show went off the air. JUST MAIN EVENT WITH HAYES VS. DRAGUNOV IF WE WEREN'T GETTING JADE, WE WOULD HAVE FORGIVEN YOU AND YOU CLEARLY WANTED TO ANYWAY.