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  • Connor Ewens

Let's Review: NXT Battleground 2023

I have such a busy week so I'm going to keep this intro brief. This is the first Battleground PLE since 2017. A lot has changed since NXT Stand & Deliver at the start if April. Bron Breakker is now a heel, Indi Hartwell got drafted to the main roster so the Women's Championship is vacant, Alba Fyre & Isla Dawn got drafted up to the main roster and didn't drop their titles weirdly. I'll run down the storylines as we go. Another thing to keep in mind is that Battleground is running head-to-head with AEW Double or Nothing, partially. The first time two major US promotions have ran major events head to head in 34 years. That's pretty historic, even if the whole WWE vs AEW narrative is fan-generated. Let's prepare our weapons for war. Let's review.

29th May 2023- NXT Battleground

Wes Lee (c) vs Tyler Bate vs Joe Gacy for the NXT North American Championship

Tyler Bate has been previously feuding with Joe Gacy alongside Chase U. Gacy began targeting Wes Lee so Tyler Bate helped out. Gacy warned Wes that Tyler cannot be trusted, planting seeds of doubt about their alliance. This was further established when Bate revealed he was eyeing up Lee's championship, so Lee was happy to defend against both men. If Wes Lee wins tonight, he will have the most successful defences of the North American title.

The three men exchange pinfalls to start. Bate & Lee staredown and Gacy continues to instigate their fighting. The faces knock him outside and teased fighting until Gacy teases some more, so they go to the outside and attack him. They finally exchange blows on the outside, interrupted by a dive from Gacy. Bate chops Gacy, but he responds with a suplex. Gacy holds him a German suplex position, Wes Lee comes over with a sunset flip sending both men flying in a cool spot. Hurricanrana on Gacy by Lee. Bate & Lee exchange strikes in the corner. Bate hits exploder suplexes on both men, then a running shooting star press to Lee. Bate holds Gacy in an airplane spin whilst giant swinging Wes Lee. Clothesline by Bate. Bate & Lee exchange blows, Gacy powerbombs Lee. Bate misses a top rope elbow, Gacy hits a DDT then a reverse DDT. Gacy has Lee in the rings of Saturn, Bate has the chance to break it up but he let's the hold go on, a nice bit of storytelling. He breaks it up, misses a shooting star then HE is in the rings. Lee breaks it up with a stomp. They all exchange strikes. Both Bate and Gacy do their variations of a rope-rebound clotheslines but both miss Lee and Strike each other. Double Cardiac kick by Lee gets nearfalls on both men. They all exchange strikes. Lee holds Gacy in a sleeper but he escapes. Bate hits a Tyler Driver 97 for a 2. Lee his a Meteora for a 2. Bate is knocked to the outside. Lee dives on to him and returns to Gacy in ring and eats a uranage, but immediately follows with a Cardiac kick for the victory.

This was a very entertaining match, the perfect opener. Lots of fast paced action and floods of chemistry between all 3 guys. I liked the character development between Bate & Lee, hopefully their feud will continue because these can have some great matches together.

Wes Lee retains via pinfall (11:59)


Noam Dar (c) vs Dragon Lee for the NXT Heritage Cup

I love the Heritage Cup. It's similar to the ROH pure championship in a sense that it has a different set of rules that brings freshness to a card and opens up more booking opportunities. The cup is contested under British Round Rules. Matches are six 3-minute rounds with 20 second intervals, 2 out of 3 falls. When there is a fall, the round will end. In the event of a KO or DQ, the match will end instantly. If all 6 rounds are complete, whoever is ahead on falls wins. This is a match style that really favours technical wrestlers I think, which makes me ask why Dragon Lee is booked in this match. Noam Dar returned to TV in April, debuting for NXT with the Heritage Cup. He hosted the "Supernova Sessions" bragging in front of Dragon Lee which provoked him to challenge for the cup. If you don't count the United Kingdom Championship tournament, this is Dar's first appearance on a PLE since 2017, which is mental. He's so talented.

Each man gets a corner cornerman for support and guidance. Dragon Lee has Nathan Frazer, Noam Dar has no one. Dramaaaaa. They begin working holds and submissions, Lee takes an early advantage with a headscissors and dropkicks but the round ends before he builds momentum. Oro Mensah has come down to support Dar now. Second round begins and Lee takes control again but is caught in a roll-up and Noam takes the first fall, bringing the round to a close. Third round now, Dar keeps his distance to gain an advantage. Dar hits some elbows, Dragon response with a knee and a kick. Lee hits a SWEET rana, jumping over the rope to Dar and sending him from the apron to the floor. Lee follows up with a big plancha. Dar avoids being pinned until the round ends. After the bell, Dar hits a rolling elbow and claims he didn't hear the bell. The referee doesn't disqualify him. Dar takes advantage in round 4 with a variety of kicks. Lee escapes a cross armbreaker, hitting a superkick and a texas cloverleaf. Mensah helps Dar reach the ropes, Frazer confronts him and gets pushed into the steps for it. Lee hits a headscissor and pins him to level things up, 1-1. Mensah drags Dar back to the corner. Frazer attacks Mensah, hitting a HUGE dive onto him. I've never seen such velocity in a dive. Both men are ejected by referees. Fifth round, Dar targets the knee but Dragon escapes. Lee tries another apron hurricanrana but Dar powerbombs him on the floor. That looked nasty. Dar hits a rolling elbow. Lee hits a Dragon suplex, then a sit-out powerbomb. Jakara Jackson & Lash Legend come out to assist Dar, Lash leathering Lee with a trash can. Nova Roller by Dar for the final fall and the victory.

Yeah, I wasn't feeling this one. I think the match type was really restricting for an athlete like Dragon Lee. They tried and the action was solid but ultimately I didn't find this too exciting to watch. Good call having Noam Dar win, I hope maybe he has better matches in the future, because the Heritage Cup is a great format, with the right competitors.

Noam Dar retains via pinfall (14:22)


Ilja Dragunov vs Dijak Last Man Standing

This is the match I'm most excited for on the card. Dragunov is one of my favourite wrestlers. I've actually met him, he's a really nice fella. Dijak has had a career resurrection, metamorphing from the trashy gimmick of "T-Bar" to his current cool guy phase. This feud has been bubbling over the last couple months and seemingly will be blown off here.

This starts immediately with big strikes exchanged by both men. Ilja goes for the Constantine special but fails. Dijak sends him to the outside, Dijak sends the steel steps into the ring. Brawling on the outside, Dragunov has control but he runs into a big boot. Dijak suplexes him onto the steps. Ouch. Dijak goes for a table, but as he's holding it upright, Dragunov launches himself at him, smashing through it and Dijak. Haven't seen that before. Already loving this. Dragunov has cut his chin on impact. Back in the ring the kick the piss out of each other. Dijak blocks a German suplex and Dragunov goes head first into the steps. OUCH. Dragunov reverses a move into a DDT, spiking Dijak onto the steps. Jeeeeez. Ilja puts Dijak in the corner, places the steel steps in front of him and hits a wicked coast to coast move. Dijak just gets up before 10 so Dragunov chops him to death. Dijak fires back but Ilja floors him with chops. They're both on the mat and Dragunov continues to throw chops. This is amazing. German suplex on Dijak, both men power up with intensity, Dijak chokeslams Ilja onto the apron. OOF. Ilja breaks the count holding the apron and they stare at each other. Dijak hits the feast your eyes, but Ilja manages to stay on his feet by falling into the corner. He's balanced in the ropes but he's out on his feet. Dijak is PISSED. He grabs a Kendo Stick and proceeds to slice him with strikes, demanding he stays down but Ilja refuses. After breaking the Kendo, Dijak grabs a chair and cracks it across the back. He goes for a running shot but runs into a forearm. Dijak is lying prone with his head above the chair. Dragunov stands on the steel steps and hits a flying forearm to the back of the head, knocking Dijak down for the count. Ilja just manages to get to his feet at 9 before falling again, winning the match.

This was fucking excellent. I don't think I've watched a match with so much use of the steel steps. They had a brutal match with both guys refusing to lose, throwing everything they have at each other. Dijak looked like a beast, Ilja looked like a killer. I hope Dragunov moves on towards maybe winning a championship sometime soon because DAMN he might be the best performer in NXT today.

Ilja Dragunov wins via referee decision (15:54)


-Duke Hudson is substitute teacher for Chase U. He's got a lot to do so he brings in Drew Gulak & Charles Dempsey to teach a class. They use Thea Hail as an example of how NOT to wrestle, which upsets her and she runs off crying. Hudson doesn't like this. He demands they come back next week with a better lesson, dismissing the class. This is a good potential feud. I'd love Gulak to launch a takeover of Chase U where he forces them under his strict regime. We also have a very Scottish interview with Noam Dar, and a hype promo for the next NXT PLE, Great American Bash.

Gallus (Wolfgang & Mark Coffey) (c) vs The Creed Brothers (Brutus & Julius Creed) for the NXT Tag Team Championships

Gallus have previously beaten the Creed Brothers in numerous matches, but they've got themselves another opportunity. Pretty confident this will be their last opportunity, Gallus need some fresh competition though the pickings are slim in NXT.

We begin with some wrasslin' as both teams jockey for control of the match. The Creeds hit knee strikes and a back suplex to Mark. Brutus hits a double axehandle and continues to beat up Mark Coffey. Wolfgang comes in and hits a hotshot to Brutus. Knees to the back of the head of Brutus then a submission. Mark tags in and continues to wear down Brutus. They exchange forearms, Mark hits a kitchen sink knee then tags Wolfgang. Wolfie crossbodies Brutus and locks in a Cobra Clutch. Mark comes in and hits a second rope shoulder block. Brutus finally gets some space with a suplex but Wolfgang prevents a tag. Julius finally gets a tag and hits a barrage of suplexes followed by kip-ups, which I enjoyed a lot. Overheads & belly-to-belly's galore. Mark fights out of a double team scenario and knocks Brutus who's on the turnbuckle. Julius eats a double chokeslam. Brutus dives with a top rope cannonball-like move. Both teams square off, the Creeds hype each other up and the teams brawl. Joe Coffey tries to get involved but Ivy Nile at ringside trips him, he gets clotheslined out the ring. Ava Raine comes out and decks Ivy. Gallus hit their finisher for the 1-2-3.

This was a solid tag match, nothing amazing but the work was good and well executed. It'll be interesting to see what's next for all parties. I'd like to see more from Joe Coffey in future he's a very talented fella. I imagine the Creed Bros & Ivy Nile are going to enter a feud with the Schism after that attack.

Gallus retained via pinfall (9:33)


-We'll find out who has been attacking women on NXT this coming Tuesday. New debut? Returning star? Someone who's already on the roster? We'll see.

Lyra Valkyria vs Tiffany Stratton for the vacant NXT Women's Championship

After the decision to call up Indi Hartwell to the main roster, we have no Women's Champion! Luckily we got ourselves a nice little tournament to fix the issue. Tiffany Stratton has been rising in popularity recently, she defeated Gigi Dolin & Roxanne Perez to get to the finals here. Lyra Valkyria defeated Kiana James & Cora Jade. After her last win, Cora Jade got revenge by targeting her knee which becomes a big part of this match.

Tiffany, the stuck up heel, gets some great support from the fans here. They shove each other and exchange holds. Valkyria gets some nearfalls. They run the ropes and Valkyria goes for a leapfrog but clips Tiffany and lands on her injured knee awkwardly. This actually looked like a botch and if it was they did a great job turning it into part of the story. If this was planned, it was brilliantly executed. Lyra hits back with a monkey flip and an arm drag, Stratton regroups on the outside. Lyra goes for a dropkick through the ropes but gets caught and planted on the apron. Stratton wacks the hurt knee into the post. She removes the knee brace and continues to work over the injury. Kneebreakers and Dragon screws by Tiffany. They're talking about how she aspires to be like Charlotte, I can definitely see that. Tiffany has a brutal kneebar and transitions into the Muta lock. Lyra prevents another dragon screw by slapping her, but misses an enziguiri. More knee work followed by a stretch muffler. Tiffany goes for a figure four but Lyra turns it into a pin for a nearfall. Lyra is trying and failing throughout to try get a quick pin to end the match. Stratton runs into an elbow and Valkyria hits a missile dropkick. They exchange change strikes, Lyra takes control with a few kicks. 2 northern lights suplexes by Lyra. She goes for a third but its blocked, Tiffany runs into a brutal enziguiri. Lyra with a dropkick then a crossbody Stratton who's outside the ring. Back inside, another crossbody but Tiffany rolls through. She goes for a Samoan drop but its reversed into a crucifix bomb! Very nice. More knee work by Stratton. They struggle for control until Tiffany hits two big double knees for a nearfall. She goes for a handspring back elbow in the corner, Lyra catches into a German! Lyra goes for the roundhouse but the knee gives way. Stratton hits a rolling hills, follows with a springboard moonsault but Lyra rolls away. Lyra hits the roundhouse kick for a close nearfall, foot on the ropes. Lyra goes for a sunset flip powerbomb from top rope but Tiffany holds on. She hits a hurricanrana, then the rolling hills and finally nails a beautiful moonsault to win and get the championship!

I really liked this match. When you take into consideration Valkyria is only an 8 year pro and Stratton is only a 2 year pro, these two put on a phenomenal match for beyond expectations. I was close to giving it 4 but I had a couple draw backs. Valkyria could have sold the knee a bit better, like she shouldn't be doing a sunset flip from the top without her knee buckling. Also I totally understand that Stratton is a stuck up heel and you can tell she was holding emotion back upon victory, but just let it out! I'd much prefer her to break character and show emotion than pull a Jack Swagger face of zero emotion. Outside of that, a wonderful match they should be proud of. I see huge things in Tiffany Stratton's future if she continues this meteoric rise.

Tiffany Stratton wins via pinfall (16:01)


-Gigi Dolin vs Jacy Jayne in a Weaponised Cage match on NXT next week. I'm sorry, but why the fuck is this not on the PLE? A feud with emotional weight and fan investment with a big match type to be held on TV? I know they need some big matches in TV but I dunno, they haven't had a PLE match yet. Hopefully we're building to a big rematch at Great American Bash.

Carmelo Hayes (c) vs Bron Breakker for the NXT Championship

This has new intrigue now that the heel/face dynamic has switched. After losing the title at Stand & Deliver, Bron Breakker turned heel and decimated Melo & Trick Williams. I think the heel turn is a great move for Bron, I think we're going to see him really up his game now. Hayes successfully defended the title at Spring Breakin' against Grayson Waller and challenged Breakker to a rematch. Breakker accepted, and here we are.

Not sure how I feel about the wold mask Bron is wearing now, I think ill warm up to it. Melo is a hometown hero so he gets a good reception. Melo goes for an early advantage targeting the knee. Bron fires with some shoulder blocks but eats a kick, then another, falling to the outside. Melo goes for a big dive but botches and nearly lands right on his face. Luckily Bron just about breaks the fall and he's fine. The fight near the apron, here Bron accidentally backhanded a fan when selling which was amusing. Trick Williams approached him and checked the fan was fine, which he was. What a nice bloke. Bron begins to dominate now. Slams and a hip toss, sending Melo back outside. Bron beats on him, taunts Trick before getting on the apron. Melo throws a kick and blatantly misses but Bron sells anyways, hitting a springboard leg drop for a nearfall. Submission by Hayes but Bron escapes and follows with a Breakkerline. Bron taunts the crowd throughout. He really sounds like his papa. Belly to belly followed by some push-ups. Now we're definitely seeing more comparisons to his lineage. Bron throws Hayes around like he's nothing. Melo gets to the top rope, Frankensteiner! Multiple clotheslines followed by German suplex. He sets up a recliner but Hayes escapes. Melo reverses a suplex into a DDT. Hayes gains some momentum but can't keep Breakker down for even a 1 count. Suplex cutter from Melo. Melo reverses a gorilla press into a gutbuster. Melo does a springboard and gets absolutely MURDERED by a spear from Breakker. Jesus fuck, I haven't seen a spear so devasting in years. Probably spot of the night. Gutwrench suplexes by Bron. Melo fights back with a pin attempt and kicks. Mell hits a flying DDT, then hits Nothing But Net to win! That was abrupt.

This wasn't as good as their first encounter. I have mixed feelings on this. First, Breakker looked like a beast and that's what I want. He felt like a prototype of Brock Lesnar and that's exactly how he should be portrayed. Some moments in this match were great, especially THAT spear. But I feel the booking weak here. Melo got his ass beaten for the entire match, and it would have made sense if he managed to pull off a fluke win. Instead, he got a few moves in and his finisher come abruptly and Bron lost clean. Then again, probably good for Melo to get a clean win when his last win was cheap. You see my confliction? Also Melo didn't feel on the ball as usual, maybe nerves got to him? But he botched a couple moves and didn't show of such a crisp display as we usually expect. I think I like this enough to give it a good rating but I am a bit disappointed.

Carmelo Hayes retains via pinfall (14:15)


Overall- 67.5%

I enjoyed this show very much, it flew over. I was let down by a couple of the matches but they were still competent to good. There wasn't anything bad on here. The opener was hot, Dragunov & Dijak tore the house down, the women's title match was fantastic. Plenty of stuff to enjoy here.

MOTN- Ilja Dragunov vs Dijak

What did you think of Battleground? Thanks for reading this article, I will get round to reviewing AEW DoN soon when I have some free time. I'm at a festival this time next week so after I review New Japan Dominion I'll be taking a wee break. Until next time, see ya.


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