Previously on the Best and Worst of NXT: Alexa Bliss stole Bayley’s NXT Women’s Championship, Bayley suplexed Buddy Murphy out of his boots in response, and now they’re going one-on-one for the title. Eva Marie had a suspicious, off-camera conversation with Nia Jax, The Ascension accepted the challenge of The World’s Current Greatest Tag Team, and the artists formerly known as The Mechanics won the tag straps from the Vaudevillains. It was a busy week.
Click here to watch this week’s episode on WWE Network. Be sure to follow the weekly column on the Best and Worst of NXT tag page. Please scroll through to enjoy this week’s edition, for Nov. 18, 2015.
Nia Jax, And The Value Of TV Editing
I wasn’t sure whether to give this a Best or a Worst, so I’m giving it “bold words by themselves.” Let’s figure it out.
On one hand, Nia Jax is kinda awesome. What I like about her is that she’s got a similar vibe to Braun Strowman, in that it’s not about what they’re doing, but what they could do. All we’ve really seen from Strowman is that he’s f*cking enormous, doesn’t fall down easily and can incapacitate you with shoulderlock. What’s scary about him is that we haven’t seen his limits. He could crush somebody’s head or shoot lighting bolts out of his fingers one day and it wouldn’t be out of place, because he’s still holding most of his cards. Nia Jax is the same way. She thankfully ditched the magic carpet gear for some battle armor and started throwing a Big Leg to end matches, but who knows what she can do? She hasn’t been challenged. This match with Carmella was the closest she’s come to even being on the defensive, and most of that just ended with her shaking her head and throwing Carmella at the ground. The money is in the anticipation of a moment where we go WHAT WAS THATTT and stand up with our arms over our heads. Baron Corbin kinda had a moment like that when he countered Chad Gable’s tornado DDT into the End of Days like a boss.
On the other, being in the live crowd for this gave me a different perspective on it. WWE crowds (and NXT crowds by proxy) have learned the rhythm of WWE’s “monster” pushes. Someone shows up, quickly defeats a bunch of people below them and gets positioned against the mid-carders. They usually thrive here as well, and use that momentum to face someone important. They win that first important match (or lose it via bullsh*t and come back to win the second), and WWE has the talking point … this monster once BEAT SOMEONE IMPORTANT! After that, they lose and lose and lose, and WWE rides that talking point into the ground. When that dries up — or the monster has too much of an upside to be denied … Kevin Owens, I’m looking in your direction — they get shuffled into the mid-card without a lot of heat and start over. That’s not the always, but it’s the often. The NXT crowd has lived through Corbin and knows how these squashes work, so they’re already on the side of the squashee. Carmella had the crowd behind her the entire match, and when it’s over they have to keep it tight on Nia Jax’s face so it doesn’t look like she’s being completely ignored. The crowd is chanting “Car-Mel-La” and pointing at Carmella. In the live version, Jax was upset at the crowd and Carmella had to kinda shrink away and not accidentally Blue Pants herself.
So that’s where we are. Nia seems cool and could be something really special, but she’s going through the awkward WWE introductory period that makes it hard to build anything sustainable. I hope the partnership with Eva is enough of a confusing heat stew to get her moving forward with something character-based. I think she’d excel at that.
Best: Bliss Your Heart
The Blake And Murphy Factor (or whatever the group of three is actually called) are a great promo, because they’re so … weird. Is that the word? They’re f*cking weird.
Alexa is GREAT at this. She’s got a good delivery and has come prepared with NUMEROUS CATCHPHRASES — she’s blissed off! She’s small but fierce! She’s gonna make glitter out of those glitterati! (that one might be mine) — and her unexplained exoskeleton claw and exaggerated facial expressions make it even better. Blake and Murphy have the personalities of a cucumber and a tomato respectively, so they just stand in the background doing an interpretive dance based on the promo. If Alexa says someone’s going to cry, they make cry faces. If she says she’s gonna trap Bayley in a box, they move their palms around like they’re trapped. It’s great, but also terrible? That may be exactly what they’re going for, and if so, bravo.
My only complaint is that Bliss is still not slipping on that glove late in matches and knocking people out with it. Or shooting lasers from it.
Best: The Best Ascension Match Ever
If you want proof of what precious angels God has sent to Earth in the form of Jason Jordan and Chad Gable, watch them get an arena-banger out of the goddamn Ascension.
I should just leave it at that, but man, these guys are the best. I’m glad that WWE apparently sees what they’ve stumbled into and are dedicated to making it happen, because there’s nothing I want from wrestling more than a few months of Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder ripping off peoples’ legs en route to being THROWN TO F*CK by Jordan and Gable. Tell me that won’t be the greatest tag match in NXT history. If those teams have the chemistry I think they’re gonna, good lord, the dream of the Greensboro Coliseum is gonna be alive in NXT. Give Dawson and Wilder a mama’s boy manager wielding sports equipment and go all the way with it.
I’ve said it before, but I have two favorite wrestling moves right now:
1. Chad Gable bridging for any reason, because it’s like watching Rembrandt paint, and
2. that belly-to-belly overhead release suplex Jason Jordan does where he gets them up and over before he’s even started falling back
It’s SO GOOD. That pops me every single time, and it’s just a dude throwing a good suplex. Jordan and Gable are making me react to toe-holds and throws like I’m watching reverse ranas onto aprons at PWG. Maybe I’m just a colossal f*cking dork, but I’m glad there’s a thing for me.
Best: The Rehabilitation Of Emma
Another thing I love about NXT is that it allows Emma to be one of my favorite wrestlers again. I am all about that dance remix.
If you don’t recognize “Mary Kate” (sans Ashley), she’s indie wrestler “Andrea,” aka former unfortunate TNA joke Rosie Lotta Love. Yes, that’s the same person. She retired back in 2012 due to injuries but healed up and got her sh*t together and returned 127 pounds lighter last October. She looks GREAT, and adds some flavor to the role of “woman who’s gonna get sh*t-kicked and choked out by Evil Emma and her half-gloves.”
Note: Mary Kate also used to wrestle as “Betsy Ruth,” a sort of gluttonous female Abe “Knuckleball” Schwartz. I’m into any gimmick partially inspired by The Warriors, especially if it revolves around the Baseball Furies. Bring her back in the Alpha Female version of that character and call her “Paula Goldschmidt.”
Best: Dana Brooke Gonna Die, Part 2
Here’s what you need to know: Dana Brooke and Emma decided to bully the new girl, Asuka, without bothering to check and see if she could kill them with her bare hands. She can. Asuka put the fear of God into Dana at NXT TakeOver and also possibly gave her amnesia, and Emma’s been shifty-eyed and cowering ever since. Now, Dana Brooke is getting in Asuka’s face AGAIN, and the camera lingers long enough to reveal that Dana and Emma have a plan.
First of all, I love that despite (or possibly because of) the language barrier, Asuka has mastered saying everything in the MOST TERRIFYING WAY POSSIBLE. Second, I hope the payoff to this is Asuka putting them both in the Local Medical Facility, then cutting a promo that’s like, “next time you have an evil plan, don’t announce it in front of the cameras.”
Worst: When Local Talent Is Neither
If you’re going to run a 10-minute jobber squash that’s 9:55 of Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder kicking a guy in the leg, don’t do it three hours into a set of tapings. I remembered this match feeling like it was 40 minutes long live, and the TV version wasn’t much better. Dawson and Wilder take on Cory Hollis and John Skylar, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen two guys on NXT that had less of a chance. They were in Stanksy and Rosenberg territory.
This is one of those matches I like on paper, but don’t actually want to have to watch. It gets Dawson and Wilder over as mean-hearted technical (mechanical?) wizards who will Dean Malenko your legs until they fall off, which is good. They got a Critical with their finish off the hot tag, which is also good. You don’t see that often enough. Dude came in a house afire and jobbed straight into the Shatter Machine. Still though, thank God for WWE Network’s fast forward. They need to figure out how to install that in the arena.
I’m sad that they fixed the finish for TV, because the original version was hilariously inept. Skyler is on the apron the entire match, right? His only job is to get that hot tag, race into the ring and get Shattered. He gets the tag, tries to get into the ring and GETS CAUGHT IN THE ROPES. Dude botched GETTING INTO THE RING in a match where his only instruction was “get into the ring.” That camera cut disguises it, but I will never forget it. I was sitting near his family, apparently, and as we were leaving they were laughing about how he’d gotten in and out of a ring a thousand times without trouble, then picked the biggest moment of his career to mess it up.
Best: Bayley, Gatekeeper
Finally, we have the main event, which I recommend watching on mute so you don’t have to sit through 15 minutes of the Mayor of Full Sail and his goober constituency chanting “Heeeeey we want some Bayyy-laaaaay” on loop. Way to kill that chant, guys. It’s even worse when you’re in the arena with them. I’ve defended the right of the crowd to have fun and play along and create their own rhythms, but at some point you need to bring down the Ryback and have him throw someone into that section hard enough to break the bleachers.
Anyway, this was a great step forward for Alexa, who has improved by leaps and bounds in the ring, whether she’s in “Four Horsewomen” territory yet or not. The idea of an entitled heel showing up and assuming she should get the championship because she looks great and says she wants it, only to run into the battle-worn champion who spent like two years leveling up enough to defeat the best women in the history of NXT on its biggest shows ever is PERFECT, especially since it bleeds into Bayley vs. Eva Marie. That’s like the Super Saiyan version of the feud. Alexa hasn’t proven herself yet and thought she could just steal the belt until it was hers, and she got dropped for it. Now, the sentient living avatar of Not Proving Yourself has awkwardly fallen in from Paris to make it worse.
Worst: All Of This Everything
That’s where we end the show, with Eva Marie challenging Bayley for the NXT Women’s Championship next week and the crowd trying to Vickie Guerrero her into submission.
I’ve already written a lot about why both the hate for and character development of Eva Marie is misguided, and how WWE’s “any reaction is a good reaction” ends up painting them into some sh*tty corners, so I’ll skip that this week. All I’ll say is that I like how NXT has played with WWE tropes enough to create an environment where I am 100 percent behind the babyface champion, but not 100 percent sure that she’s going to make it through that challenge as champ. That’s pretty cool, right? I don’t just automatically know how something’s going to go, and the result is something I not only care about deeply, but can be surprised by. That’s how wrestling should be, even if we’re getting to it in the most stressful way possible.
Knowing what we know about WWE, they’d absolutely work Nia Jax into this and put the belt on Eva just to see what we do, wouldn’t they? They money’s in the chase, right? Sami Zayn worked for 18 months to be NXT Champion and lost it almost immediately to Kevin Owens, to set up a story we sadly couldn’t finish because of injury. If Bayley worked this hard and got through Sasha Banks in an Iron Woman Match, how f*cking furious would we be if EVA GODDAMN MARIE won the belt with the help of a bodyguard and her shady referee familiar, and kept it for a long time because she had a monstrous Samoan lady doing her grunt work? That’s almost too good a situation to pass up.