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3 Big Takeaways from NXT - May 2, 2023: Hello, and Goodbye

Following a WWE Draft that saw important roster members and even a few champions move on to the main roster, a new era begins for NXT

Well, here we go.

After an unprecedented talent raid in this year's WWE Draft, NXT kicked off this week's episode by looking for the next group of names to step up. The third brand has a handful of champions and established names from their recent programming that are now RAW and Smackdown-bound. Women's Champion Indi Hartwell leads a talented list of graduates that includes Grayson Waller, Pretty Deadly, and fellow titleholders Isla Dawn & Alba Fyre - the women's tag champs.

However, the cupboard is certainly not left bare because of those departures. NXT is the gift that keeps on giving for WWE, and they never have problems discovering new talent. That was on display tonight, as we could basically bear witness to the next generation of top faces on the brand.

Needless to say, a lot of questions need to be answered until NXT as a whole can move forward - particularly surrounding the top of the women's division. This show was a big step in that direction for the brand. Here are five things that stood out in this very transitional episode of NXT on USA:

#1 - Wes Lee and Tyler Bate are close to colliding

It was another successful title defense for North American Champion Wes Lee, who has been riding a wave of momentum in recent months. He's clearly marked for stardom eventually on the main roster after being forced into a solo act. After the dissolution of his former tag team, he's stepped up and is developing more of a character to go along with his stunning physical capabilities.

Much of his immediate development looks like it will come in the form of a feud with his current friend, Tyler Bate. The former NXT UK Champion accompanied Lee to the ring for his win over Drew Gulak. But, as the two were standing next to each other, Bate was not-so-subtly eyeing the title belt. Expect a falling out over the gold pretty soon.

Bate was criminally underrated during his time with WWE's former fourth brand, and now he's shining brightly here in the States. This should turn out to be a pretty entertaining angle featuring a couple of guys who can do just about anything. Seeing them excel in a hard-fought program could do wonders to elevate them both.

While it's always hard to see a friendship fall apart, the NXT faithful won't mind it here. These two promise to tear the house down once the jealousy and envy finally boil over.

#2 - Closing Time

With all due respect to the performers involved, can we please lose these 'barroom segments' that feature Brooks Jensen, Josh Briggs, and Fallon Henley drinking unlabeled beer?

Not only are they acted with the skill of a 1980s after-school special, but the characters involved aren't that interesting, to begin with. None of the performers look particularly comfortable or confident in attempting to portray these personas. That's a shame, too, because these three deserve all better. Especially Briggs, who many critics and media members had earmarked for stardom just a few years ago.

Longtime NXT fans have tolerated this shift to a more storyline-based product. One that has moved away from the gritty, pure wrestling action of its heritage. Vignettes like this have become a huge part of the programming, as evidenced by the corny opening to Spring Breakin'. The audience might not necessarily care for it, but they have accepted it as just part of NXT's evolution.

And that would all be just fine... if these 'entertainment segments' actually did achieve their goal of being entertaining. Instead, they end up being uncomfortable and a chore to watch.

Instead, we get a cringe-worthy attempt to recreate the environment if your local honky tonk. The setting is fake, but the portrayal of the characters is worse. The childish dialogue that these three talented stars are being given is a waste of their time. And for that matter? The viewers' time, as well. PLEASE - shoot the light out and shut the bar down. It's way past closing time there.

#3 - Indi Hartwell leaves behind the title, but re-discovers her past

In a very cool ending to the show, NXT put a twist on a traditional 'champion's goodbye'. Indi Hartwell, still wearing a protective boot on her leg, came to the ring to say her farewell and relinquish her title.

The most intriguing storyline going forward here looks to be who will emerge from the top contenders - who will all now vie for the NXT Women's Championship. The ladies all brawled to close out the show.

But that wasn't the best part.

Much of Indi Hartwell's rise to prominence in NXT centered around her involvement with Johnny Gargano, Candice LaRae, and The Way. The faction also included the brash, young Austin Theory and the silent but dangerous Dexter Lumis. Right away, there was something there, and the creative team found a little bit of magic in two underrated stars.

As Hartwell concluded her promo and placed her title belt in the ring... Dexter emerged from underneath the apron. Like a knight in shining armor, he returned to carry her to the back, and into the next phase of her career.

The good girl-bad boy dynamic between the bubbly Indi and the almost comatose Dexter was comedy gold. Adding in Gargano and LaRae acting as pseudo-parents to Hartwell throughout the whole courtship, some of the funniest segments of the 'new' NXT were born. All of the performers involved turned what could have been a total cheese fest into

That's why it had to warm the hearts of Hartwell's fans to see things come full circle for her during her almost too-perfect moment. Kudos to the WWE creative team for connecting all the dots on this one and even hinting at a reboot of their relationship on the main roster. If that's how things transpire, then it will be a great way for Hartwell to come through the door in WWE: With a built-in storyline that will immediately endear her to the audience.

As much as many may have written her off just a couple of years ago, Indi is now poised to make a big splash at the next level. It's possible that in just a handful of years, we will look back at this as a defining moment in a decorated career. With the trajectory she's currently on, Indi Hartwell is a surefire RAW or Smackdown Women's Champion someday.



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