– 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.
Worst: Now ‘Michael McGillicutty’ Makes Even LESS Sense
The second rookie hype video is for Michael McGillicutty, and it didn’t do a lot to explain why they gave Mr. Perfect’s kid such a stupid handle. It’s not a Husky Harris situation where they briefly mention his dad and that’s it, they put emphasis on his lineage. It’s basically all he’s got. He’s all, “my grandfather was Larry The Ax Hennig. My father was Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig. My name is MIKE MCGILLICUTTY.”
WHY IS YOUR NAME MCGILLICUTTY, BRO? In what universe is “Joe Hennig” not the perfect name for JOE HENNIG, SON OF MR. PERFECT? You don’t bring up Cody Rhodes and call him BOBBY FTIZSIMMONS. I’ll never understand this. And hell, when they started calling him “Curtis Axel” it at least made sense … he was “Curtis” because of his dad and had “Ax” in his name because of his grandpa. Same thing they did with Rocky Maivia. That’s fine. Honor everybody. You are not honoring anybody by retconning your blue chip third generation star as STEVE SUGARBOTTOM.
Best/Worst: If We Watch The Rookie B-Show On SciFi, We Probably Watched Raw
The Best here is the previous night’s debut of THE NEXUS, Wade Barrett’s grand idea to take all 8 NXT rookies, put them together in a shit-kicking stable and have them dismantle everyone and everything in their path. I included it at the end of last week’s retro report. It was wonderful, even if it resulted in Daniel Bryan getting fired for realsies for emasculating Justin Roberts.
The Worst is that they spent a full 10 minutes of a 40-minute season premiere by replaying the Nexus formation and attack in real-time. If we’re watching this throwaway rookies vs. jobber pros game show on the science fiction channel, don’t you think we saw the ending to Raw? The most talked about ending to Raw WWE’d had in years? Recap it because it’s important to your narrative, yeah, but don’t turn NXT into Raw AM. Get one of your crack production guys to throw a Placebo track behind it and wrap it up in three minutes.
Worst: Matt Striker Is The Worst
Every episode of NXT should involve a rookie going into business for themselves and shooting on Matt Striker. Not with words, with punches. Elbows. Something. Just double-leg that smug motherf*cker and punch him until he’s unconscious. Striker starts off season 2 of NXT with the same “setting you up to fail” attitude he pioneered in season 1, asking rookies questions to get them mic time, then immediately mocking, interrupted or condescending on them to prevent them from growing or connecting.
He asks the various rookies what they think of the Nexus attack on Raw, and most of them take a safe route. Husky says he’s here to win NXT and doesn’t care, Percy Watson gets the crowd behind him by saying the Nexus was cowardly, etc. Some of the rookies try a creative approach … Alex Riley starts sneezing, with the payoff being that he’s allergic to Striker, and Striker just bulldozes right over it. He doesn’t even let Riley finish the bit and pulls the microphone away, telling him he’s “done.” And yeah, it’s not really funny, but Striker’s job is not to put himself over these guys. He’s the HOST. He should be doing everything in his power to make us care about each and every one of the new guys, whether they’re worth his efforts or not.
Best: Titus Makes It A Win
Look at the look on his face. He has no goddamn idea what he’s saying.
Striker asks Titus what he thinks about the Nexus attack, and the big man responds with the quote that has followed and haunted him since: “My thoughts. My thoughts are that season 1 come out here and try that with one of us. My thoughts. My thoughts are. If you gonna fight, make it a fight. And if you wanna win? (long pause) Make it a win.”
For whatever reason, Michael McGillicutty thought he was a Def Jam comedian during NXT season 2 and tried to respond to everything with cutting, sarcastic comments. The problem is that he’s got no comedic timing or observational skills, so he just says stupid shit and makes himself look bad. When it’s his turn to comment on the Nexus he responds with HEY FIRST OF ALL ANSWER THE QUESTION, A WIN IS A WIN AND DID YOU JUST SNEEZE IN THE MICROPHONE, WHAT IS THAT
WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH THESE ROOKIES, I MEAN WHO ARE THE AD WIZARDS THAT CAME UP WITH THAT ONE
Striker just pulls the microphone away from him because he is an insufferable prick, but hey, McGillicutty wrestled at WrestleMania last weekend and Striker hung out with Kim Chee and the Boogeyman or whatever at WrestleCon, so f*ck him. Plus, we got an entire season of McGillicisms, so missing out on the further thoughts of Steve Sugarbottom is not so severe.
Worst: WORST ENDING EVER
The NXT season 2 pros respond to the Nexus attack from Raw by ending the premiere with an unprovoked attack on the rookies. Not the Nexus rookies, mind you, these new kids who just showed up and tried to make it a win. Suddenly, these do-gooders like Kofi Kingston are violently attacking innocents to “prove a point,” and it’s as morally uncomfortable as I’ve ever been watching WWE. Why is this happening? How is this a good message? I get that you have to have respect for the veterans, but they didn’t do anything. WWE arbitrarily pulled some guys up from developmental and slotted them into a game show. How is beating the hell out of them for nothing “welcoming them” to the WWE or teaching them a lesson?
I hated it. I hate it now. I also hate that the season 2 rookies went through the motions, licked ass and ended up doing a bunch of Double Dare challenges instead of IMMEDIATELY joining the Nexus and garroting these buttholes. They should’ve had MVP’s head on a spike by episode 3. Just unforgivable, and at the command of smarmy, water-filled Matt Striker.
You made it a loss, WWE pros.