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411’s NXT Deadline 2023 Preview

December 9, 2023 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
NXT Deadline MIS Image Credit: WWE

Hello 411 guys, gals, enbies, and everyone else! Welcome to 411’s NXT Deadline 2023 preview! I’m Jeremy Thomas and tonight NXT is off to Bridgeport, Connecticut for their final PPV of the year. Tonight’s show will feature the men’s and women’s Iron Survivor Challenges, several titles on the line and more. We have seven matches tonight — including one on the pre-show — and they all have real potential to deliver a final big show of 2023 for the brand. Anyway, we have a lot to discuss so without further ado, let’s hop to to it!

Kickoff Show Match
Axiom vs. Nathan Frazer

Image Credit: WWE

This match was announced for the pre-show after Axiom and Frazer’s attempt to face each other was interrupted on NXT. There’s nothing fancy here in terms of the storyline; the bout was set up through a quick backstage argument and is clearly just an excuse to get a couple fast aerialists on the pre-show in order to hype up the audience. There’s nothing wrong with that, mind; I’m always down to see these two light up the ring, and they’re certainly going to get the audience in the mood for the show. But still, it is a bit of a throwaway match so as long as no one takes it too seriously and just lets the flippy guys flip, it should be well worth the watch.

As for who wins, it could easily be a coin flip for some as Axiom has the more unique character but Frazer likely has a bit more upside to him. Honestly, a loss won’t hurt either of these two but Frazer has been showing a more aggressive side to his character so I’m going to go with him in order to solidify that personality tweak. In the end though, we’ll all be the winners because if they get more than four or five minutes this should be a really fun match.

WINNER: Nathan Frazier

Carmelo Hayes vs. Lexis King

Image Credit: WWE

Lexis King was immediately inserted into the Carmelo Hayes and Trick Williams drama upon his debut, and I don’t think it’s done him a ton of favors. That’s not to say that King has been bad thus far; quite the contrary, I think he’s gotten off to a decent enough start. But the extra wrinkle to the tension between Melo and Trick hasn’t made the storyline more interesting; it’s just been a way to allow NXT to keep the story going for perhaps a little longer than it needed to be. And the way King was brought in in a “maybe he attacked Trick, but maybe he didn’t way” isn’t helping him either because the post-King twist of whether Hayes was still involved means that at best, King attacked Trick (in which case the new suspicion on Melo is pointless) and at worst, it was Melo all along (which means King is a sidenote in this whole thing).

Either way, I think we do have a legit match here and not some fakeout where they brawl and have to be broken up. If the bell rings, this will be King’s first really big test in the ring against an established, proven NXT guy. Melo is a top star in NXT for a reason and he’s obviously able to handle himself in the ring; barring unforeseen chemistry issues with King, he should be able to help bring an enjoyable match out of the newcomer. In the end I think that King gets the win here through some underhanded tactics, and Trick’s lack of involvement will be what pushes Hayes over the edge to where he finally turns on his longtime friend.

WINNER: Lexis King

Steel Cage Match
Roxanne Perez vs. Kiana James

Image Credit: WWE

Since losing the NXT Women’s Championship at Stand & Deliver last year, Roxy has been sidelined from her title chase by a number of heated feuds that have led to a more aggressive side to her character. I think it’s done her a lot of good, as battling Blair Davenport and now Kiana James have resulted in perfectly fine matches but have also let her step out of that plucky underdog character and get just a little bit of edge to her personality that she needed. Meanwhile, I have to give some credit to James, who has been stepping up her game in the ring and is somehow making her one-note character work.

That said, Roxy and Kiana have been fighting since October and it’s definitely time to end this feud at last. They should be able to make good use of the cage stipulation and deliver a solid match here, even if it won’t exactly stand among the all-time great cage matches (or even the all-time great cage matches in NXT). There is a definite argument to be made for the possibility that Cora Jade makes good on her teased return to cost her old friend/rival the match, but I don’t think revisiting that feud is going to help either woman. Cora is more likely to get involved with Lyra Valkyria or stick her nose in the women’s Iron Survivor Challenge somehow. If Cora doesn’t get involved here, I don’t see a good reasoning for a Kiana win so Roxy picks up the victory.

WINNER: Roxanne Perez

NXT North American Championship Match
Dominik Mysterio vs. Dragon Lee

Image Credit: WWE

Well, this WAS going to be Dirty Dom defending his NXT North American Championship against a different Lee, but Wes Lee sadly had to back out due to needing back surgery and will be out for the better part of a year. So instead, Dominik will face Dragon Lee with his dad in his opponent’s corner. Dom has essentially had the North American Championship for the better part of the past five months, minus a short three-day reign by Trick Williams, and it very much felt like Deadline was the point to take the title off of him. He’s done well with his title reign and working with the talent in NXT has helped his work quite a bit, but at some point the title does need to revert to an NXT regular and this seemed to be the right moment for that.

That said, we don’t have an NXT regular in this match. Dragon Lee is on Smackdown and Dom is pretty much wherever Judgment Day is at any given moment, and that changes the equation here. While a loss here by Lee would seem to be just repeating what happened previously when Dragon Lee challenged Dom for the title in Raw back in September, I don’t think a title reign by Lee is right at this time. It makes more sense to have this play into what’s going on with Santos Escobar having turned on the LWO. Escobar could easily show up at NXT Deadline and cost Lee the title to continue putting him over as a heel, giving Dom a chance to hold onto the title until the next NXT Challenger comes along. It’ll be a good match as long as there aren’t too many shenanigans, but with the last-minute unplanned opponent switch I don’t expect them to pull the trigger on a title switch.

WINNER: Dominik Mysterio (STILL NXT North American Champion)

NXT Championship Match
Ilja Dragunov vs. Baron Corbin

Image Credit: WWE

If you had asked me when Ilja Dragunov won the NXT Championship back in September at No Mercy who I would have wanted to see him defend the title against, Baron Corbin would have been nowhere near my list. Corbin has had a strong run in NXT thus far, but I generally haven’t wanted to see him anywhere near the title picture. And yet, this feud has been quite good for the most part. Corbin has been able to make the rivalry personal by targeting Dragunov’s family situation where his wife and son are far away from him, and it’s both made Ilja a bit vulnerable and brought out a new heated side to the champ. And Dragunov has risen to the task, cutting some strong promos opposite Corbin.

That’s all led to this match, which should be fun because Dragunov brings out the best in all of his opponents. Corbin will be able to control large portions of the match, but Dragunov’s legendary capacity to absorb punishment will come into play. Even if I’m far more interested in this match than I thought I would be, there is virtually no way that Corbin comes out with the title win here. Dragunov is carrying the banner for NXT right now and while Corbin can heel it up with the best of them, we don’t need Corbin AND Dominik holding the all men’s singles gold on the brand. Dragunov survives Corbin’s worst and puts the Lone Wolf away in what is probably the easiest prediction of the night.

WINNER: Ilja Dragunov (STILL NXT Champion)

Women’s Iron Survivor Challenge
Tiffany Stratton vs. Lash Legend vs. Blair Davenport
vs. Kelani Jordan vs. Fallon Henley

Image Credit: WWE

I love the Iron Survivor Challenge match, mostly for how they need to explain the overdone rules multiple times in the leadup to these bouts. I would expect WWE to outline the ruleset at least four times on Saturday between the pre-show and the main card, and I’m probably low-balling it. But as convoluted as the rules are, they also worked surprisingly well last year in the match’s first iteration. A second go-around should always be smoother in theory, which gives me high hopes that the matches will deliver even more this year.

These kinds of multi-person matches are always a process of elimination to predict, and the women’s Iron Survivor is no exception. We have three people I really enjoy seeing in the ring, one that I think is fine (Henley) and one who I haven’t enjoyed but has admittedly shown some marked improvement in her past few matches (Legend). That said, Legend is not ready to win a match of this caliber by any stretch and while I like Henley fine, she’s not likely to get the win either. I would consider Blair Davenport to be a favorite, except that we have the Nikkita Lyons factor that is likely to play out after Lyons returned on Tuesday’s NXT seeking revenge on Blair for putting her on the shelf. Kelani Jordan could be an upset win considering how new she is to the roster, but my gut is going with Stratton because she’s the biggest star in NXT out of the people in this match and a rematch between Lyra Valkyria and Stratton is something I won’t mind seeing at all. Stratton makes her way back toward the Tiffy Top with a win here and becomes Valkyria’s next potential challenger.

WINNER: Tiffany Stratton

Men’s Iron Survivor Challenge
Dijak vs. Trick Williams vs. Josh Briggs vs.
Bron Breakker vs. Tyler Bate

Image Credit: WWE

Similar to the women’s match, predicting the men’s match is an process of elimination. We have five guys who can go here; Josh Briggs is the eyebrow-raising competitor but he adds a different wrestling style to the match that should serve the stipulations well. That said, he’s certainly not getting the win here, especially considering the competition he is up against. Bate is always a threat to get a title match and I appreciate how WWE has been able to keep him as such despite his being nowhere near the title picture for quite some time. However, he has the feel of being the guy who WWE put in here because he can deliver some big crowd-pleasing spots as opposed to someone with the momentum to take home the win.

That brings us down to Dijak, Trick Williams, and Bron Breakker. Two of these guys have outside factors that can (and probably will) cost them in Eddy Thorpe and Carmelo Hayes. Thorpe wants revenge against Dijak for hurting his ribs and it would be easy to have him come out to go after Dijak. Trick, meanwhile, could easily fall when Melo turns on him in revenge for not being there earlier in the show. The trigger to send Melo and Trick into a full-blown feud needs to be pulled sometime, and now seems like the best chance if they want to make that a big story heading into WrestleMania (and Stand & Deliver) season. That leaves Bron Breakker, who has been needing something exciting to do in NXT for a while. He seems ready for the main roster but WWE hasn’t moved him up yet, so putting him in a last title program against Dragunov would be a strong way for him to go out of NXT and that makes him my pick to win the match.

WINNER: Bron Breakker

And that’s all we have for NXT Deadline! It should be a fun show as long as the main bouts fulfill their potential. Thank you as always for reading and remember that we will have live coverage of the show courtesy of Thomas Hall right here on 411mania.com. I’ll see you all later as I have to run, but before we do, a moment of Zen to honor Chase U in the midst of their difficult times as of late…

Image Courtesy of WWE

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NXT Deadline, Jeremy Thomas