Best: AJ Lee Returns To NXT, Gets To Be Smart Again
A rumination on the effectiveness of AJ, from this year’s Best and Worst of Money in the Bank column:
I watched the show with former Cleveland-area pro wrestler Crew Spence, and he pointed out that while small wrestlers are a valuable part of the pro wrestling scene (he’s one himself, after all), AJ is SO little that it’s hard for him to take her seriously. I didn’t agree with him until he pointed out that when she bumps it doesn’t make noise, and now that’s all I can see. Seriously, pay attention to it … when she lands, the ring doesn’t move and it doesn’t make a sound. She’s legitimately what, 60 pounds? She bumps her ass off, but the normal human weight necessary to make wrestling sounds happen just isn’t there. When Kaitlyn jumps and land, shit moves.
Of course, that’s not really AJ’s fault or anything, but it’s crazy distracting. Objectively, Kaitlyn should be able to wreck her in a heartbeat, but since AJ’s the heel now she’s got to control the match and win almost all of it, so you’ve got this tiny baby-sized person who couldn’t shake the ring if she dove into it headfirst from the top rope beating the mess out of a 160-pound shoot bodybuilder. Imagine a Daniel Bryan match where Bryan puts Mark Henry in a bunch of standing hammerlocks and Henry can’t do anything about, and just lies around helplessly. It’d be pretty cool, probably, but you get what I’m saying.
This is the difference between NXT and the main roster. On Raw, or on pay-per-view, AJ is forced to fit her square character peg in a circular hole and be the “bitch Diva,” confined to a moveset of clubbing forearms, hairmares and chinlocks. Unable to do anything that would “show up the boys” or make one of the Bella Twins furrow their brows. On NXT, AJ Lee gets to be AJ Lee, a fully-formed wrestling character who is able to overcome her obvious flaws (her size and strength) by using her greatest asset: her mind.
The match was Bayley was fun, because it made so much sense. In the beginning, AJ underestimated Bayley because she’s The Chris Farley Show The Wrestler. That allowed Bayley to sneak in some offense and eventually go on a tear, putting AJ down with some power moves like a big knee drop and bearhugs in the corner. Realizing her mistake, AJ adapted … she took advantage of Bayley’s innocence and gullibility by playing hurt. Bayley’s all, “OH GOD I HURT A PERSON I LIKE” without stopping to think “I dropped a big f**kin’ knee with the INTENTION of hurting her, because I’m a wrestler and hurting other wrestlers is in my job description,” so AJ takes her out, knees her in the face and gets the win.
What results is a quick but not-especially-easy victory for the Divas Champion. It makes Bayley look good because she could, in theory, bludgeon the little champ to death if she got serious and wanted to. It was two independently-established characters coming together and having the match they logically should have, and it was a beautiful little thing.
Also, Bayley, girl, you need to call me.
Best: RUINING MY ENTIRE LIFE
The only backstage segment the live crowd got to see during the entire show was Tyler Breeze’s first backstage interview with Renee, so the upside of going back and rewatching the edited-together episodes on Hulu is seeing all the pieces we missed. For example, Tyler Breeze asks Random Developmental Diva if she wants to take a picture, she says “sure,” and he tells her that no, he wants her to take a picture of HIM. When he rudely shoos her away, he finds out that he’s been photobombed and reacts in the best way imaginable. The exact quote:
“Are you serious?? Who photobombed my PICTURE?? They’re ruinING … my entire liiIIFEE!!”
And then he storms away. I love you, Tyler Breeze. I don’t care if your PWI 500 ranking made less than zero sense.
Best: Suggested Jobber Team Name: “Hacki-Zak”
The Ascension match was what you’d expect it to be (The Road Warriors coming out to Castlevania music and mutilating jobbers) (okay, one Road Warrior and one Gut Check contestant), but I’m giving it a Best because of NXT’s colorful, interchangeable jobbers. Ron Hicks! It’s like somebody ran Lucky Cannon through a car wash! Michael Zaki! Love little fat-bodied, hairless bald guys? Tired of the 20,000 trying to make it on the indies right now? Here’s another one!
Worst: CJ Parker Is Horrible, But At Least Renee Is Here
I applaud NXT for trying out something new with CJ Parker — updating his character from “gay Carlito” to “hippie” — but he just doesn’t have it. He’s nothing special in the ring, his gimmick only works when it plays against better or more interesting characters and his name is still a Baywatch character.
The good news is that Renee Young is here to ask the important questions:
1. who are you
2. why are you being such a weird asshole to people backstage
Best: Tyler Breeze Is Legitimately Hurt By The Photobombing
Tyler Breeze interrupts them by doing the angry version of his entrance, where he brings up the photo that is making him mad on his phone and glares at it angrily as he stomps down to the ring. Glorious. Then he goes into FULL ERIC CARTMAN and uses the funniest, weirdest voice to express his sincere confusion and anger at CJ Parker’s photobombing obsession. He gets a little too handsy and Parker pretends like he’s gonna punch him, and Breeze flinches so hard he actually flies out of the ring. I will take a hundred CJ Parker matches if they end with Tyler Breeze. Renee corpsing at Parker’s “CHILLAX, HOT BOI” is also great.
Biggest-ever Worst to the one bad apple in the NXT crowd who yells FAGGOTTT at the 21:38 mark. I wish I’d heard that and kicked the guy’s ass in the Full Sail parking lot.