Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE NXT: TM-61 and the Authors of Pain advanced to the finals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, and Shinsuke Nakamura called Bill Goldberg’s shot by beating up a bunch of security chumps during a contract signing.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for November 16, 2016.
Best: Ember Moon? Emberrrr?
Up first this week it’s Piratita Liv Morgan taking on the woman who makes my fertilized ovule develop into a seed, Peyton Royce. This is the continuation of a story that’s been going on for weeks, caused by the fallout of Liv getting too big for her yoga britches, challenging Asuka for the NXT Women’s Championship and losing in like 45 seconds. Randomly occurring mean girls Royce and Billie Kay made fun of her, which led to some backstage attacks and the loose allegiance of Morgan with fellow new girl and sadly not Rey Mysterio’s daughter, Aliyah.
This week, Morgan goes one on one with Royce and looks like she’s got the match won with a guillotine choke until Kay jumps in and causes a DQ. That leads to a 2-on-1 attack, which once again brings out Aliyah. Aliyah works the middle, works the middle, works the middle, but positions change and she gets dumped to the outside. When it looks like Morgan’s about to get beaten down again, yonder EMBER MOON shows up.
Moon instantly dispatches Kay and Royce (because she’s the Asuka to their Liv Morgan) and works with Liv to drive them out of the ring. The simple storytelling is great here. Royce and Kay (who seriously need a formal team name) are confident they can beat up Liv. They’re confident they can beat up Aliyah, and fairly confident they can beat up Liv and Aliyah at the same time, but Ember’s a wild card. Ember already put Billie Kay on her ass once. Liv is smart for making friends, and then continuing to make friends with powerful ladies she meets backstage so she doesn’t get one (1) newbie tag partner and decide that’s the only backup she can have ever.
Worst: Goin’ To The Pay-En Windah
The backstage interview with the trio later in the show is … less good, but it does allow us a context in which to rank the live action Batman movies, so here goes:
1. Batman ’66 (fuck you)
2. The Dark Knight
3. Batman Returns
4. Batman Begins
6. The Dark Knight Rises
7. those 1940s Batman movies listicles always include but nobody’s ever watched
8. Batman V Superman
9. Batman and Robin
10. Batman Forever
It checks out. Batman and Robin is objectively worse than Forever, but over time it’s turned into a bizarre, absurdist gay camp fantasy full of Bat Mastercards and crotch close-ups and Bruce Wayne smarmily calling Robin a dick. Batman Forever is everything bad about Batman and Robin but first and attempting to play it straight, which makes it worse to me. Plus, nothing should make an adult want to vomit more in 2016 than 1995 Jim Carrey. Holy shit, Batman. And Tommy Lee Jones mailing it in so hard he put Karl Malone in a coma. Really the only thing it has going for it is sexy henchperson Drew Barrymore.
’66 is the only Batman movie where Batman doesn’t murder a bunch of dudes*. In fact, he won’t even kill ducks with a comically oversized bomb. And it makes a wonderful political statement where Batman accidentally rehydrates delegates incorrectly, compromises world security and is just like, “this is fine, it’s probably better, whatever.”
The point I’m trying to make here is that Liv Morgan (1) needs to come up with better insults than “you seem like you like flowers” and “Olive Oyl should eat some spinach,” which is the “Rusev looks like Ivan Drago” Xavier Woods insult of 2016, and (2) needs to relax on camera and remember to sound like a human instead of a malfunctioning Siri.
*Don’t @ me about Batman Begins, letting someone die might not technically be “killing them,” but it’s more or less the same thing, especially when your entire mythos is based around the proactive preservation of human life. And like, we know Ra’s has the Lazarus Pit, but it only shows up in the Begins novelization, so I hope Batman’s code of ethics isn’t based on a preternatural understanding of his own expanded universe. Although I guess in Dark Knight Rises his brain sees visions that explain to him stuff his brain doesn’t already know, so maybe everyone’s just terrible at writing.
Worst: Taking Back The Return
Been wondering what those vignettes for “The Return” have been about? Well, sorry, it was The Drifter. He’s back and somehow completely unchanged. I think he’s in slightly better shape. Dude was like, “the only problem with this character is that my shoulders aren’t broad enough, lemme lift weights for a few weeks, that’ll fix it.”
Anyway, Millennial Damien Sandow Elias Samson takes on New Generation Wrestling’s Nathan Cruz, who looks exactly like you think every current wrestler from England looks. His billed hometown is, “Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire,” which to a poor kid from Virginia sounds like it can only be spoken out-loud by a wealthy dowager. Samson wins with the Roll the Dice, because giving him the Overdrive would’ve made him seem too important.
Best: Know Your History
This week’s NXT is mostly a go-home show for NXT TakeOver: Toronto (aka “Eh-Rival”), so like Alex Wright in a Blockbuster, it’s full of video packages. All the important feuds get showcased — we recap the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic from a few different angles, put over DIY as the top babyface team in the land, add some butt-rock to Samoa Joe vs. Nakamura and so on — but the best is the video for Tye Dillinger vs. Bobby Roode.
Two great things:
1. NXT turning Bobby Roode into pro wrestling Donald Trump rules. He’s like, “I never did this,” and they show video of him doing whatever. He says, “I never said that,” and they show video of him saying it. He’s openly lying and it barely matters, because he says he’s great and everybody else is pathetic. It’s exactly the kind of heel the world needs right now, who maintains the cocky goofery that gets him over in places like Full Sail, but retains enough transparent evil that you can’t (or at least shouldn’t) cheer for him. Thank Christ he wasn’t born in the United States or he’d be our President.
2. Bringing up Tye Dillinger’s long, long history with WWE. Dude started in 2006 in OVW alongside folks like Sandow and Cody Rhodes, and got a terrible cup of coffee in WWECW two years later. He’s a guy who’s worked and failed, worked and failed, worked and failed and keeps on working. That’s so, so easy to cheer for. Also great: explaining that his “perfect 10” gag isn’t arrogance, it’s a self-realized, self-imposed confidence he desperately needs to keep moving forward.
Dillinger vs. Roode is absolutely the best booked thing heading into TakeOver. I hope they tear it up and steal the show.
Worst: Too Much Too Soon
I like the finals of the Dusty Classic paying homage to those great, classic manager angles where somebody’d get suspended above the ring in a shark cage for some reason to keep them from interfering — and the idea that they can still drop something out of the cage to help their guys, and that the elevation does nothing — but has this really been earned? All Ellering’s done was get on the apron once during the match against DIY. He’s not constantly helping the Authors win. They win 90% of their matches on their own. I get TM-61 wanting to safeguard this possibility in advance, it just doesn’t seem like a call they should be able to make, especially when it’s solely based on a pre-cog toy announcement graphic and a similar match getting uploaded to WWE Network.
Finally this week, we’ve got a great main event: new obviously great but constantly passed over cruiserweight darling Cedric Alexander vs. Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas, who has mercifully ditched the happy suspenders guy gimmick in favor of just being an unmasked La Sombra.
This is the Cien we wanted. He’s still got the diverse and creative moveset, but by playing to his strengths as a beautiful, entitled shithead, it allows him to control the pace of his matches, get a reaction from a crowd that cares too much about dudes’ reputations by dicking them around and wasting their time, and brings out his natural personality. He doesn’t seem phony anymore, which was the major problem with the character to begin with.
The match with Cedric happens to blow off their Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic blow-up. Cedric pulls off a desperation Lumbar Check, but Almas is able to roll toward the ropes. Cedric tries to pull him back toward the middle of the ring, but Almas clutches onto the bottom rope … a totally legal and advisable move that will get him booed, because it comes off as cowardly. When Cedric tries to capitalize on Almas’ refusal to leave the ropes, Almas does a cowardly AND illegal move by snapping the ropes on Cedric’s balls. It’s perfectly plotted. A jerk gets booed for being too good while playing by the rules, then flips the script and gets booed for not being good enough and having the bend them.
Another good show this week, on a week when a lot of us just expected a clip show. Be back here on Saturday for our live coverage of NXT TakeOver: Toronto, and on Sunday for the Best and Worst of that. Saturday night if James Storm returns and pushes Mickie James in front of a train again.