– Here’s a link to this episode on Hulu, should you want to see the entire Talk the Talk Challenge for yourself.
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– Be sure to follow our recap of NXT season 1 on its delightfully-organized tag page and catch up on any episodes you might’ve missed. In 8 weeks a ring gets destroyed and poor Justin Roberts gets so wrecked by a piece of neckwear that somebody loses their job. It’s the most violent thing that has ever happened. You have to read all of this to be ready for it.
Click through to enjoy the vintage Best and Worst of WWE NXT season 1, episode 8, originally aired on April 13, 2010.
Worst: As A Reminder, This Show Is Built Around Watching You Fail
Last week’s keg carry challenge convinced someone at WWE that the format of NXT should be 20% wrestling, 20% hype videos and 60% doofy reality show challenges, so this week starts off with the TALK THE TALK CHALLENGE. If you’ve never heard of one of those (what, have you been living under a rock?) Matt Striker gives you a “randomly assigned topic” and you have 30 seconds to improv a promo about it. As far as NXT challenges go — keg carries, obstacle courses, kissing contests — this one’s better at most.
The problem is that it’s the most hilariously rigged thing of all time.
Example #1: Daniel Bryan. If you’ve been following along with NXT season 1 you’ll recognize the season’s primary story arc as, “shame wrestling fans for knowing who Bryan Danielson was before NXT and make him look as awful as possible.” In retrospect we can justify it as them “building up sympathy” for him, but nope, he had the sympathy of anybody who cared already. All he got was ground to a nub so they could fire him unceremoniously. The good news is that he’s awesome, ended up back on the show and eventually thrived (after several years), but it says something about how awfully they treated him that I can watch this show four years later in the midst of his great pop culture popularity swell and still be enraged to the point of turning it off in almost every episode.
Here, Daniel Bryan’s word is “passion.” He has thirty seconds to cut a promo about passion. Before he’s been allowed to formulate one coherent thought, Matt Striker pipes in to tell him he’s off topic, then starts yelling YOU’VE GOT 18 SECONDS 17 SECONDS 16 SECONDS GO COME ON TALK ABOUT PASSION. That eats up about a third of his time and ruins whatever he was going for. They made him go FIRST. The worst part is that a bunch of other guys go off topic, too. Skip Sheffield doesn’t even mention the word he’s supposed to be talking about, and Striker just stands around with his thumb up his ass. But no, Daniel Bryan had to be interrupted, emasculated with a derisive “okay…” at the end from Striker and suffer Michael Cole calling him a worthless piece of shit before, during, and after his THIRTY SECONDS of mic time.
Unforgivably bad. If they hadn’t followed it with ten minutes of awkward brilliance I wouldn’t be able to write the rest of the column.
Best: They Dodged A Bullet With That Daniel Bryan Manliness Meter Gag, Though
Bryan got into a spell where he’d rank everything on a “Manliness Meter,” which sorta made him the Maddox of WWE developmental. Internet relic Maddox, not Brad. It was really bad, and maybe Bryan’s struggles in WWE have been the result of him yelling CHECK THIS OUT GUYS, THE DANIEL BRYAN MANLINESS METER, ALRIGHT at every creative meeting for four years and WWE facepalming until they could shoehorn him into a goat gimmick. So, thank for not making that a thing, everybody.
Best, Aka Oh My God The Worst: Justin Gabriel’s Epic Promo About Flowers
“All right Justin, your topic is flowers. You’re a likable guy! Just introduce yourself and flash those werewolf dimples and you’ll be fine. Matt Hardy taught you everything you everything he knows about cutting promos and he’s ONE OF THE BEST TALKERS IN THE HISTORY OF WRESTLING according to his autobiography.
NOPE. I have to break from Justin Gabriel inner monologue for a minute to express my sincere, everlasting love for his Talk The Talk Challenge promo about flowers. A lot of rookies got shitty topics — Heath Slater got cereal and his entire thing was C’MAWN MAN CEREAL ARE YOU KIDDING ME, I’M GONNA LIST SOME CEREALS — but Gabriel’s unexpectedly bad reception from the crowd and “stand-up comedian dying on stage” responses are amazing. One of my favorite NXT moments ever.
Here’s just a taste. If you look very closely, you can see the exact second his heart breaks.
“Talk about the rose, Justin. People LOVE cheering for indigenous growth!”
Best: David Otunga: Origins
David Otunga’s word is “sleep,” and he explains that sleep isn’t something the A-Lister David Otunga gets much of, because his mind is always racing. He doesn’t have time to sleep because he needs to be at the gym working harder than everybody else. How does he stay awake all the time, you might ask? He doesn’t say, but we find out a little later:
Coffee. David Otunga: Origins.Subscribe to UPROXX
Best: The Ringer
Did I mention that this episode of NXT takes place in London? And that they decided London was the place to do a Talk The Talk Challenge featuring 7 NXT rookies from various places and ONE BRITISH DUDE?
Wade Barrett gets the easiest-ever victory in the Talk The Talk Challenge, not only because he’s good on the mic, but because POPULARITY CONTEST. Also, he gets softballed the easiest words in the world … “blasé” in round one and “wind” in round two. In round one all you’ve got to say is “blasé? I’m NOT that!” It’s certainly an easier topic to work into a wrestling promo than “cereal” or “flowers.” What’s the best you can do with those? I’m gonna snap crackle and pop you? Watch my career BLOOM? Round two’s even easier, since Skip Sheffield ends up with “bubblegum” and Wade has a f*cking secondary move called the Winds Of Change.
I guess Skip could’ve went for the “I’m here to kick ass and chew bubblegum” line, which might’ve won him the contest. I’M HERE TO YEP YEP YEP AND WHAT IT DO, AND I’M ALL OUT OF YEP YEP YEP. Instead, as the video illustrates, Skip just says “bubblegum? Shooooot” until his time runs out. I DON’T EAT BUBBLEGUM, ALL I EAT IS CORN. HAVEN’T YOU READ MY VEST.
Ugh all I wanna do now is write Skip Sheffield bubblegum promos.
Best: Heath Slater, Future Bastard
The first real match of the show, almost half an hour in thanks to the promo challenge and an extensive look at Extreme Rules, is Christian vs. Wade Barrett. The important (read: not important at all) thing here is another NXT Rookie Origins story: Heath Slater learning how to cheat.
Christian has the match in hand and is ready to spend the next 40-50 minutes applying the Killswitch on Barrett. Chris Jericho tries to sneak into the ring and distracts Christian, which allows Barrett to capitalize and set him up for Wasteland. Heath Slater reaches into the ring and grabs Barrett’s foot, distracting HIM long enough for Christian to escape, pin Barrett and win the match. And sure, Slater’s interference here is totally justified — Jericho started it, and Barrett was going to get an unfair victory if he didn’t do something — but it’s a slippery slope, and Slater realized he could just CHEAT to win matches instead of working hard and trying. Now he’s 1/3rd of a multinational rock band in leather pants who don’t play music and routinely lose to a pair of twin Puerto Rican matadors and their anthropomorphic bull-midget. Like I said, slippery slope.
Also weird: everybody in this match is SUPER ORANGE except for Slater, who is pale and wearing bright purple trunks that reflect light weird and make ALL of him look purple. Motherf*cker looks like Soda Popinski at ringside.
Worst: The Susan Boyle Of WWE
Miz berates Bryan backstage for his assy performance in Talk The Talk, calling him the “Susan Boyle” of WWE … all the talent, but none of the star power. This is the future star of The Marine 3 and Christmas Bounty talking to you, Bryan! He doesn’t think you’re good enough for ACCESS HOLLYWOOD. GET IT TOGETHER.
You know what sucks, though? At this point, even Daniel Bryan fans are like, “listen to him, show a little star power,” because we are brainwashed into thinking everything WWE tells us about how wrestling works is true. Remember when Otunga and Michael McGillicutty were a successful, multi-time champion tag team and Jerry Lawler broke them up by standing up at the announce table and berating them for not having “personalities?” So instead of beating him up or talking about their track record as performers they STOPPED TAGGING and went off and tried to “get personalities?” They thought he was RIGHT.
Best/Worst: The Most Disappointing Match In NXT History
I was gonna say “in WWE history,” but then I remembered Bryan/Sheamus at WrestleMania.
But no, Daniel Bryan takes on BILL FREAKING REGAL and it’s AWESOME … for like 80 seconds before Regal knees him in the head and pins him clean. They clearly want it to be good and are working with the time they’re given, busting out gross suplexes and European uppercuts while the announce team completely ignores them, laughing about how Bryan’s a “sycophant” and has no personality. He seriously throws a DRAGON SUPLEX and it is completely no-sold by Josh and Cole.
That’s where the whole “they’re not doing this on purpose” comes into play. They might do it on purpose NOW, now that they know Bryan’s a marketable commodity and merch machine who everybody loves, but back here they’re just taking a dump on a dude for fun. It’s the worst. It doesn’t build sympathy, it just makes him look like a chump. Even his great stuff gets ignored. Like watching pro wrestling in that gremlin on the wing of a plane episode of The Twilight Zone.
I would pay good American cash money to see a Bryan vs. Regal rematch on NXT now.
Best: A Cameo From The Doctor And His Companion
“I wish he’d regenerate into somebody who doesn’t smell like this.”
Worst: Darren Young Avoids The One Thing That Would’ve Made Him Interesting
On the Smackdown before this episode, Punk confronted Darren Young about joining the Straight Edge Society and ordered him to have his head shaved. Young refused, which led to a backstage confrontation at NXT and the signing (via NXT GM CM Punk?) of Young vs. Luke Gallows. If Gallows wins, Young has to shave his head and obediently follow the Straight Edge Society. If Young wins, his “sins are forgiven.”
What do you do with that stipulation? A boring, last place rookie with a horrible haircut is wrestling a main-rostered WWE superstar who’s supposed to be a physical threat. Shaving Young’s head and turning him into a follower of Punk’s seems like the entire point of their pairing. You have Young fight hard but ultimately lose to Gallows, maybe with a little cheating involved, right? NOPE. You continue to illogically protect Young, the guy you gave a roll-up victory over #1 ranked rookie sadsack Daniel Bryan, by giving him a roll-up victory over a guy who should’ve mauled him. So now Young’s still just Young, there’s totally unnecessary dissension and “disappointment” in the Straight Edge Society and nothing changes.
Next week: Darren Young stops a Dalek invasion by rolling one of them up from behind.