– By popular demand, we’re starting season 2! If you haven’t been reading the vintage Best and Worst column, you can check out our review of every WWE NXT season 1 episode here. It’s been almost a full day since Justin Roberts was choked with his own tie, and things are about to get bad.
– If you’d like to go back and watch NXT season 2 episode 1 and follow along, something I absolutely recommend, you can find it on Hulu here.
– Share the column! Get the word out about the season 2 run-through, because we’re gonna need an army of support once season 3 hits.
Click on through for the vintage Best and Worst of WWE NXT season 2, episode 1, originally aired on June 8, 2010.
Before We Begin
Here is a field guide to your NXT season 2 rookies and pros.
Pro: The Miz
Rookie: Alex Riley
After an entire season dealing with a popular rookie who surpassed him in every aspect of the game, The Miz returned to NXT to Pro for an unpopular guy who can’t do anything. Meet Alex Riley, the “Varsity Villain,” NXT season 2’s David Otunga. He’s garbage in the ring, but he’s sort of charismatic, we guess! He’s the prototypical “late 2000s WWE Superstar,” that hairless, muscular, tallish white guy who gets covered in baby oil, gets a bad DDT finish and becomes ARROGANT YOUNG MAN, 2005-2010’s only gimmick. Sylvain Grenier and Chris Nowinski crammed into one guy.
Riley’s WWE career was just The Miz’s Rookie until he briefly broke away from Miz, faded into obscurity and became a pre-show analyst who wistfully talks about things he used to do with The Miz.
Pro: John Morrison
Rookie: Eli Cottonwood
For anyone who doesn’t remember him, John Morrison was a game show winner who returned to coach somebody else on a game show. Because, uh, WCW had been dead for years and WWE kinda lost its marbles when Benoit died, so without competition or a decent understanding of the independent circuit “constant game shows” was their only developmental idea. Morrison was popular, but had the mic skills of a fourth grader. He was great at parkour and could climb up and down a skyscraper with nothing but hops and spins, but couldn’t accurately hit a f*cking moonsault in 2 out of 100 tries.
Eli Cottonwood was very tall (over seven feet!) but kinda looked like a giant, melted Matt Hardy. He wandered through WWE developmental for years and was the original Luke Harper in the Wyatt Family, but then WWE signed actual Luke Harper and realized, “shit, we should hire people who can actually wrestle.”
Pro: Cody Rhodes
Rookie: Husky Harris
Cody Rhodes is the son of the American Dream Dusty Rhodes and the brother of Goldust. You can see him on most Raws, and in the background or pre-show of important events he should be the focus of. Husky Harris is the son of Mike Rotunda, aka IRS, and brother of former NXT Champion Bo Dallas. He showed up on Raw to join the New Nexus, but was punted in the head by Randy Orton and disappeared. At some point after that he wandered into a Louisiana swamp and was overtaken by a roaming, Frailty-style Bayou demon named Bray Wyatt. Bray Wyatt currently commands a squad of lamb mask-wearing cultist hillbillies and is amazing.
The story here is that Cody hates Husky because he’s fat. Yep, that’s what they’re going with.
This is the “make people on the Internet mad” pairing of season 2.
Kaval is Low Ki, a guy who has wrestled around the world for years and held everything from the PWG and ROH World Championships to the TNA X-Division and IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championships. He’s a “founding father” of Ring Of Honor and wrestled Christopher Daniels and the guy who’d eventually become Daniel Bryan their first main-event. His “Miz” is LayCool, a team of narcissistic Diva bullies who once literally split the Women’s Championship in half so they could be co-champions. They are one of my favorite things that has ever happened in the Divas division (“Piggie James” aside) and about 50% of the humor in revisiting NXT season 2 is watching hard-ass ninja Kaval march down to the ring to ♫ You’re not enough for me!/Just another man in love with me! ♫
Pro: Mark Henry
Rookie: Lucky Cannon
I did not know Lucky Cannon had a “real” first name until I took that screencap.
Anyway, Mark Henry is the World’s Strongest Man and had just started ruling when ECW left SyFy and was replaced in its timeslot by NXT. He was saddled with one of the very worst rookies in NXT history, Lucky Cannon, and spoiling Lucky’s SECRET ORIGIN story here would be doing you a disservice. We’ll get to that when he gets a hype video. He’s a “former sheriff’s deputy from right here in Florida,” though, if you need a reason to immediately hate him. Besides “his name is LUCKY CANNON.”
Note: I believe Lucky Cannon is a thing you can get in Final Fantasy VII.
Pro: Kofi Kingston
Rookie: Michael McGillicutty
If 50% of NXT season 2 humor is watching Low Ki enter to sassy Divas music, the other 50% is this guy. Before he was Curtis Axel he was MICHAEL MCGILLICUTTY, a third generation star with a super famous WWE dad who was absolutely not named “McGillicutty.” His incompetence and hilarity in this season is the stuff of epic legend, and the entire reason I chose to recap NXT past season 1. His first ever ring entrance involves him irrationally turning around as he walks down the ramp, like he’s trying to Tornado Punch nobody. <3 <3 <3
McGoobersnatch is accompanied to the ring by his pro Kofi Kingston, who will teach him how to never, ever advance in his career.
Sorry, that’s Showtime Percy Watson. He’s doing a Norbit gimmick. When Alex Riley looked up NXT in the dictionary he saw a picture of Eddie Murphy. But next to that was a picture of Percy Watson doing a Norbit gimmick on WWE TV. His pro is MVP, Montel Vontavious Porter, the “highest paid signee in the history of Smackdown.” He was brought in with a Terrell Owens gimmick, which is more or less Norbit but for football. MVP started out as one of those next big thing types (like Mr. Kennedy), but eventually lost his way, mired in nothingness for a while and ended up beating poor homegrown talent at the Impact Zone. Uh, like Mr. Kennedy. At least MVP had a stint in Japan between WWE and TNA. The only place Kennedy went was a Buffalo Wild Wings.
I’m sure we’ll talk about it a lot, but Percy Watson is one of those guys who seemed absolutely made to be a WWE Superstar, and then just nothing. Let us learn a lesson before we even begin, children: the one thing you can’t come back from is a Norbit gimmick.
Pro: Zack Ryder
Rookie: Titus O’Neil
Nowadays, Titus O’Neil is known as a charismatic guy who is secretly great on the microphone and a competent tag team wrestler. When he started on NXT he was brutally awful and couldn’t wrestle a lick or speak into a microphone without embarrassing himself. Zack Ryder is everything I just typed but in reverse.
And now, NXT season 2. LIVE THROUGH THIS.
Worst: Zack Ryder Gets Six Words Into The Season Before He Messes Up
Oh, Zack Ryder. We’re going to have a lot of fun this season, aren’t we? These are the first words out of his mouth: “Hey Zack Pack! Here’s my new Pro … Titus O’Neil!”
At least he didn’t call him his “Proski.” Michael Cole and Josh Mathews briefly discuss Zack not deserving to be a Pro on NXT and fill the walk-down time with one of the words conversations ever:
“Woo woo woo, bro.”
“Zack Ryder calls himself Woo-Z because he makes the ladies woozy.”
Josh really should’ve added “using Rohypnol” to the end of his factoid. A few seconds into the opening tag match Zack is on the apron yelling DO THE DOG BARK at Titus, and that’s 100% of his coaching advice. SEE YOU ALL ON NXT SEASON 3, STARTING RIGHT NOW.
Worst: And Now It’s Just A Popularity Contest
Remember last season on NXT where it started out as a “revolutionary television concept” where rookies would be ranked on criteria such as win/loss record, strength of opponents and “the It Factor?” Remember how a few weeks into the show WWE realized it didn’t have the attention span to treat sports-entertainment like sports and started randomly eliminating people via “WWE management?” NXT season 2 goes even farther down the THIS IS NOT LEGIT rabbit hole by announcing a new voting setup … 50% of the vote will be determined by a Pros Poll, and 50% will be determined by YOU, the WWE UNIVERSE! Applause!
Long story short, this is WWE saying “sure, vote on this, we’ll take it into consideration” but still maintaining enough kayfabe creative majority to do whatever they want. After the Daniel Bryan debacle, I guess letting fans think voting for Low Ki would do something was a decent way to drag the smarts back in and keep them dangling.
Worst: The Opening Tag Team Match
1. I wanted to screencap Starship Pain so you could see how far he actually gets from connecting. I mean, unless brushing your hair against their sternum as you spin away from them and land dick-first on the canvas constitutes connecting. I never understood why Morrison couldn’t just pull guys out a little more. He’s like, “sure, let me put them as far in as possible so they’re hugging the ring post, that makes total sense for this move where I’m springboarding backwards toward the middle of the ring by spinning.” The Worm is the Tiger Driver ’91 compared to Starship Pain.
2. I’m not sure why, but WWE decided to open NXT season 2 with a tag team match featuring the four worst wrestlers on the show: John Morrison, Eli Cottonwood, Zack Ryder and Titus O’Neil. It’s like the CPU randomly picked David Otunga four times. They plod through some stuff, Ryder yells for Titus to do the dog bark and then we take it home. Cottonwood’s offense is to stand around stemming like an autistic kid and throwing a big boot.
3. After the match, Matt Striker asks the WWE Pros (read: The Miz) what they think about John Morrison’s rookie. Miz says he isn’t impressed, and they don’t ask anybody else because what’re they supposed to say? Also, can we figure out a way to vote off Morrison?
Best: Alex Riley Honestly Did Have Potential
If Matt Striker didn’t exist, Alex Riley would be the least likable person in the history of NXT. His character is so unbelievably easy to hate … a privileged, college educated jock white guy who has gotten everything he’s wanted his entire life, has no empathy or compassion and just assumes he’s going to win the show because that’s the status quo. In a WWE Universe that had JUST gotten Daniel Bryan, Riley was the cardboard cutout wrestler from 2006 that nobody asked for and we already had a hundred of. He was OH YOUR FAN SUPPORT CAUSED WEIRD CHAOS IN SEASON 1? ENJOY THIS WORTHLESS RINGER in flashing letters.
Seriously, how could you not hate a guy who says, “I drive nice cars. I have nice clothes. My parents are great!” His PARENTS ARE GREAT. I HATE YOU AND YOUR STUPID FUNCTIONAL WASP PARENTS, ALEX RILEY.
It’s actually kind of a shame that Riley’s character went from brown-nosing, “correct” NXT Rookie to “additional man,” because that’s the career trajectory that stuck him at a pre-show table nodding his head and laughing when Booker T’s prediction for everything is “we’ll have to watch WWE® brand programming to find out!”
Best: Husky Harris
My revisionist opinion on Husky Harris is going to be insufferable, just warning you about that.
When I watched the show to first time, I thought Husky was horrible. This was based almost exclusively on the fact that his name was “Husky Harris,” and how it made him sound like someone who’d be giving Cindy Brady a hard time at school on The Brady Bunch. I was also probably furious at NXT season 1 for everything it did and unable to like anyone I hadn’t seen wrestle at the Murphy Recreational Center in Philadelphia. In retrospect, Husky was weirdly adorable and RULED in the ring … here’s this chubby guy who can hustle, smashes into you whenever he moves and builds his offense around jumping higher than physically possible and crushing you with his huskiness. He can’t buy regular-fitting jeans at department stores and he’s gonna kick your ass about it!
On top of that, his story with Cody is kinda compelling. The base is that Cody doesn’t like him because he’s fat and Cody’s a vain a-hole, but before their tag match against MVP and Percy Watson Cody reveals that Husky reminds him too much of his dad. That’s DEEP. It’s especially deep when you fast forward and realize that Cody’s dad’s the one responsible for personally changing Husky Harris into one of the best gimmicks we’ve seen in a decade while Cody remains essentially unchanged and in the same spot on the card.
The match itself is pretty entertaining, if only for MVP visibly teaching people how to work (watch him pull Husky up and re-bodyslam him to position the Ballin’ Elbow for the hard cam) and Percy Watson almost having his guts rearranged by Husky’s senton. Percy’s obviously supposed to roll out of the way, but he rolls INTO it by accident and pays for it. That’s what happens when you work a Norbit gimmick, Percy, you get crushed by the person in the fat suit.