Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE NXT: We got a new NXT Champion, but we didn’t really get to see it. Also, Eva Marie challenged Asuka and got in way more competent offense than you’d imagine. Meanwhile, Elias Samson main-evented. It was a weird week.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for May 4, 2016.
I’m Gonna Go Ahead And Give It A Worst: Eric Young
Man, just because you’re a wrestler who wrestled somewhere else and now wrestle here doesn’t make you the best wrestler ever.
There’s an interview late in the show where Austin Aries says that after being the greatest acquisition in NXT history, he’s sorta flying under the radar. Austin Aries, the guy who technically had his debut match on the same show as Shinsuke Nakamura. And while that’s just a character plot point — he’s the “greatest man that ever lived,” after all — it speaks to the hyperbole of the NXT audience. Yes, I know, me finger-wagging somebody for hyperbole is the most hypocritical thing to ever happen in human history.
But yeah, Samoa Joe cuts a promo about being the new NXT Champion and gets interrupted by Eric Young. It’s “we know who that is/what’s ____ doing in the Impact Zone??” but in reverse. That’s happening a lot lately. When Joe showed up, it was Samoa f*cking Joe. It took him a hot minute to work off the stink, but he got himself together and returned to his former glory. James Storm showed up, and we thought it was really cool because he’s one of those guys who has always done great work and maybe never got a mainstream spotlight because of where he worked. Then suddenly here’s Austin Aries, and while I’m not a fan of the guy’s work, he’s got a following. Bobby Roode pops up in the crowd at Takeover, and you’re like … okay, Bobby Roode’s good, are we signing everybody from TNA? And now here’s Eric Young.
I don’t know. I don’t want to get pessimistic about a guy who is clearly very good at what he does and deserves some love for 18 years in the business, but does Eric Young really necessitate a “holy sh*t” chant? Here he is finding the TNA Championship in the garbage, buying condoms, wrestling Danny Bonaduce and tagging with a mannequin. The more I typed that, the more I thought to myself, “well, Kota Ibushi has probably done at least half of these things too.” But yeah, to listen to an NXT crowd, TNA Impact is the best show with the best roster in the world. If Abyss shows up, are we gonna treat him like Sting?
I probably would’ve liked this more if Young hadn’t come across as a homeless guy with PTSD reading a wrestling promo to kindergartners. Stop making those faces! Samoa Joe telling him he’s gonna beat his ass made me happy though, so maybe I’m just Team Samoa Joe.
(Bring in Spud and bring back EC3 and I’ll chant with you.)
Best: Tye Dillinger Greater Than
Up next on Impact, Austin Aries!
Unsurprisingly, I spent most of this match wishing Tye Dillinger was the guy we’re supposed to assume wins and Aries was the enhancement talent. Dillinger as the new generation Tyler Breeze is an interesting choice because he very clearly has all the tools necessary to be an Important WWE Guy, they just don’t seem to want him to be it. All the guy does is say “10” and hold up 10 fingers or pieces of paper with “10” written on them, and everyone seems to like him. His finish is removing one kneepad, realizing that’s not going to be enough, then removing a second, layered kneepad.
The best thing they can do with Aries is to keep putting him in matches with quality, established opponents and let the crowd develop organic feelings for him. That’s something that’s really missing from this new version of NXT … allowing the audience to develop an opinion, rather than just saying “this is how it is” and running with it. Right now they’re working with a talent pool that can handle it, but can that last forever? Think about what they did with Sami Zayn. They brought him in and mentioned his past, but they allowed him to be a new thing. They acknowledged what he was and encouraged audiences to learn what he was about to be. Same with Neville. They did something similar with Kevin Owens by letting the crowd get the “HOLY SH*T IT’S OUR FAVORITE FROM ELSEWHERE” moment and then yanking it away on the same show. From then on, he fit into the universe. How do guys like Apollo Crews and Austin Aries and Eric Young fit into this universe? They don’t, really. They’re just cool, selectable characters.
And just to say it, that’s totally fine. That’s just not what I want when I watch NXT.
Best: Nia Jax
Worst: Nia Jax Needs To Relax And Hit People
Nia Jax gets a quick squash of Tessa Blanchard, and I swear, Jax would be one of the coolest wrestlers in the company if she’d just lay in a shot every now and then. I’m not asking her to be reckless or even that stiff, but she actively looks like she’s trying not to hurt her opponent. Maybe the size differential has her walking on egg shells, but watch her when she throws her running clothesline in the corner. She like, stops and goes in all gentle to make sure they’re okay. You’re a MONSTER, lady. Be a monster. Hustle in there and throw that clothesline.
It’s why she needs to jump on the leg drop, too. She looks like she’s lowering herself down instead of dropping a leg. DROP THE LEG. YOU ARE NIA JAX.
Best: Cathy Kelley
Speaking of Aries, shoutout to Cathy Kelley for responding to his weird flirting with the most appropriate face ever.
“Austin, I just wanted to congratulate you on all of the success you’ve had here at NXT thus far, especially your victory tonight against Tye Dillinger.”
“Well thank you Cathy, I would like to congratulate you on looking nice this evening!”
“… thank you? [face]”
It’s the exact opposite of that time Sami Zayn called Renee Young a “ray of sunshine.” The promo ends with him mansplaining a banana to her, and I’ve never felt more connected to a backstage interviewer’s internal monologue.
Worst: No Way Jose’s Finishers
In his Axxess debut, No Way Jose won a match with a baseball punch. I know that sounds like a special move in M.U.S.C.L.E. or whatever, but he just wound up like he was throwing a pitch and punched a guy. Here is a short list of reasons why this is the worst:
1. His finish is a punch, which instantly equates him to Johnny B. Badd
2. Closed-fist punches are not supposed to be legal strikes anyway
3. He likes baseball because he’s from the Dominican Republic, get it
4. HIS FINISH IS A BASEBALL PUNCH
This week, he reveals that the baseball punch is merely a setup to his ACTUAL finish, which might as well be called “WWE 2009.” It’s a short-arm cobra clutch slam (?) that Tom Phillips called a “full nelson slam,” because he deserved to keep his job and Rich Brennan needed to be fired I guess. But yeah, as of now it’s either a baseball punch, a full nelson-ish slam or a combination of the two. Can we give him a spinning reverse DDT and close the portal?
Best: The Revival
The Revival take on Zack Ryder and Mo Jay Ro-lay, and it’s a nice continuation of last week’s transformation of Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson. Up until now, they’ve been vaguely identified as “throwbacks” and “old school,” which means they don’t do cool wrestling moves, they just punch and stuff. Last week, they stopped being kinda-sorta pretend effective WWE heels and starting beating the sh*t out of people, and I love it.
This week they don’t get to brutalize the Hype Bros like they did last week, but they get to beat them pretty handily. American Alpha’s one of those teams that you can’t objectively see anyone beating, so the goal of the NXT tag division for the next … forever should be building up legitimate challengers. This cool version of the Revival where they can’t stop throwing you at the ground and standing on your throat is pretty great, and I’m hyped for the rematch before they even announce it. They were so close to a perfect tag match in Dallas, I can’t wait to see what they do when everything goes right. That might be the Rock n’ Roll Express/Midnight Express of this gen. I sure hope it is.
Best Worst: Alex Riley
No sh*t. You’re more of a King’s Road kinda guy, right Al?
Okay, so let me take a step back from my “vampire in sunlight” reaction to TNA and think about this objectively.
Samoa Joe is your new NXT Champion. You need some opponents for Joe that he knows how to work with, who know how to work with him, and who can make him look great. The NXT Audience goes bonkers for any wrestler they aren’t expecting to see, so what do you do if you need a strong Joe title defense? You bring in, I don’t know, the Bro Mans and have them eat Muscle Busters. Joe gets a competitive match he can win strong, the crowd gets Alice in Wonderland’d by the idea of unexpected wrestlings occurring, and you utilize what’s left of these guys’ names to get some play on social media. Maybe get some confused new eyes on the show. Right? That can work.
Joe vs. Eric Young was good, but in the same way it’s always been good. And that’s it!
That’s terrible analysis for a match, but it’s the truth. I have my biases and I don’t want them to spill all over my NXT report, but … yeah, this is a match I actively chose not to watch for a long time, because I’d already seen it too much in another context. So while it’s cool that it’s happening in a WWE ring in front of fans who care about it, it’s still that thing. Joe is the dopest wrestler right now so I’d watch him wrestle a broom with a bucket face.
Study question: How much cooler would this episode and match have been if Eric Young had been Christopher Daniels?