Best: Antonio Cesaro, WWE’s Daisuke Sekimoto
Here’s why you should be paying 8 bucks a month to watch NXT every week: this week’s show started off with an Antonio Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn vs. Leo Kruger triple threat match to determine the new number one contender to the NXT Championship. No wacky overbooking, no general managers stepping in to make last minute stipulations … just three guys doing everything they can to win a wrestling match, and one guy being smart enough to use video game logic to win the match.
(You know, wait until somebody hits a finish, toss that person out of the ring, pin the guy who got finished.)
(I also would’ve accepted “hang the third guy upside down in the tree of woe and go for a pin, because the game never lets them out of it fast enough.”)
The highlight of the match was something they should be doing with Antonio Cesaro every week: a ridiculous feat of strength. Here, Cesaro gets to use the Daisuke Sekimoto memorial GERMAN SUPLEX EVERYBODY NO MATTER WHAT spot, throwing a German on Kruger while he’s got Zayn captured.
One of the things I love about NXT is how every match builds to something. It’s easy enough for me to say “hey, this was a great match, you should check it out,” but having been to the next set of tapings I know that where it GOES is SO, SO MUCH BETTER. So watch this one now, and hold on to your f**king butts for the payoff.
Worst: When “What” Chants Are All You’ve Got
Assuming you’ve actually watched the show (or are planning to, and are reading this column and don’t care about spoilers), Leo Kruger won the triple threat at the top of the show and gets an NXT title shot against champion Bo Dallas. I’m gonna go ahead and say that “Bo Dallas remains champion until that match” isn’t a spoiler, because Jesus, he’s wrestling Scott Dawson, one half of Impact Wrestling The Tag Team.
If you’re a regular reader of the column, you’ll know that D-Squared is a regular low point of the NXT experience, mostly because of how impossibly bland they are. They’re like Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch, except both guys are built like Trevor Murdoch and have the personality of Lance Cade. Their manager, Sylvester LeFort, is a shoot Frenchman who sounds and acts like a PRETEND Frenchman, and (as I will not stop saying) looks like rap album Macho Man Randy Savage.
He intros his guys in a thick French accent (and sometimes just French), and the crowd chants “what.” Normally NXT crowds aren’t bottom-of-the-barrel enough to chant “what” at people and are the best possible Big Leagues Crowd at going with the flow, but “what” chants are all Sylvester LeFort has. He’s terrible, his tag team is about eight times worse, and I should not be rooting for Bo Dallas to weakly belly-to-belly them into oblivion. But, welp, here we are.
Worst: Bo Dallas, Your Title Defense … Woof
I’m excited to see how the Dallas/Kruger title match plays on TV, because the heat for Bo in the building is OFF THE CHARTS. I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of a crowd so unified in their hatred for a pro wrestler who, if we’re being honest, isn’t really doing anything wrong. Pretty sure I started screaming the second Bo’s music hit, and didn’t stop until five minutes after he was gone. It’s an experience.
Kruger gets to show up after this match and rub his face on the NXT title like he’s my cat trying to bother me while I’m on the toilet, and … that’s actually a pretty good comparison for a Leo Kruger/Bo Dallas rivalry.
Best: Ric By God Flair
One of the special guests for this episode was none other than the NATURE WOO BY GOD MEAN GENE BOY WOO RIC FLAIR, putting over NXT and introducing us to his daughter Charlotte. I’ve gotten pretty good at disconnecting “Ric Flair the guy” from “Ric Flair the best wrestler ever,” so I’m not gonna give a Worst to Ric Flair on television.
(Impact does not exist in this dojo.)
Here’s something you might’ve not been expecting: Ric Flair’s daughter is really good.
Okay, so maybe “really good” is pushing it, but she’s a tall, muscular woman with a legitimate gymnastics background who looks comfortable in the ring and is aping JUST enough of her dad’s signature spots to make her instantly marketable. She doesn’t get to break out a lot of it in her debut match against Bayley here, but she DOES get to do that thing where somebody whips her into the turnbuckle and she flips over it to land on the apron, because OF COURSE SHE DOES THAT.
Her second match (against Sasha Banks, whenever that airs) is also really good, and features Charlotte breaking out the knife-edge chop. And ho ho ho man, she does it well. I’m really happy that at least ONE of Ric Flair’s kids turned out to be good at wrestling.
Fun fact: Charlotte is the only person on NXT (not counting Regal and Dusty Rhodes) to have appeared on Monday Nitro. Remember when Vince Russo went to Ric Flair’s house to make fun of his family?
(Try not to remember that.)