Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE NXT: Mickie James showed up from the set of What Dreams May Come and announced that she’d be getting kicked in the head and train-murdered by Asuka at NXT TakeOver: Toronto. Also on the show, DIY and the actual DIY tag team of Kota Ibushi and TJ Perkins advanced to the quarter-finals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for November 2, 2016.
Best, I Think: Live From The NXT Studios
This week’s show is basically a clip show of new material, hosted by NXT correspondent Charly Caruso, the Stacy Caruso to Cathy Kelley’s Kelly Kapowski. This is what happens when NXT goes to work at the beach for a summer. How does that work so well?
Anyway, half of the tapings used in this episode are from the Full Sail tapings, and half are from a house show in San Jose. If you’re wondering why, I’m guessing it has a lot to do with Austin Aries getting Strong Style’d in the face for real, fracturing his orbital bone and needing surgery that’ll keep him out for the rest of the year. I don’t know how the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic was originally booked, but there’s a good chance Aries’ injury busted WWE’s bracket.
Honestly though, I like this format. If NXT is an internationally touring brand, it might make sense to go to a format like this where a lot of it happens at Full Sail, but a lot of it happens abroad. Not only will it keep you from getting fixated on the Full Sail goobers as often as you do, it’d justify going to a house show in your area, because shit might actually happen that affects the TV shows. It’s also a useful tool for calling audibles if somebody gets hurt, or plans change on the fly.
Best: Spare The Rod
Speaking of Aries, his injury is addressed right at the top of the show, with him showing up medically unable to compete and trying to convince church-and-steeple enthusiasts TM-61 to forfeit. Commissioner Bill Regal shows up and says that in the spirit of competition slash Dusty Rhodes, he’s making the match one-on-one, with the winner’s team moving on to the semi-finals. Think of it as a Reverse Teddy Long.
What results is a very good, very Ring of Honor match between Rod Strong and Shane Thorne, who we promise are not named after Magic Mike characters. Thorne really impressed me here. He’s got good size — maybe because he’s standing next to Rod, who makes Austin Aries look like Randy Orton — he’s got a diverse, exciting moveset minus the Alberto Del Rio double-stomp, and he’s got a lot of intensity. He’s like the best parts of Buddy Murphy and the worst parts of Kota Ibushi, keeping in mind that Ibushi’s worst parts are still pretty good.
I like the finish, with Aries trying to cause a distraction and it not leading to the end of the match, then New Girl‘s Nick Miller standing up to him, accidentally causing a distraction that does end the match. It’s a nice play on the heel/face dynamics of running interference, and I appreciate that white-meat babyface Nick Miller didn’t like, jump on the apron and kick anybody in the face with the excuse that turnabout’s fair play.
Worst: When An Actual Injury Lessens The Impact Of Your Fun Heeling
The next match on the show is ruined by injury as well. Well, kind of.
Do It Themselves is supposed to have a Much Anticipated match with The Revival in the Dusty Classic, but Scott Dawson wanders out on crutches and announces that he blew out his knee. He strained or sprained or tore everything, so the Revival is begrudgingly pulling out of the Classic.
Now, it’s pretty obvious that the Revival’s just benching themselves and taking a non-title loss in a tournament they don’t really care about to duck a team that has their number. It’d work a lot better if the previous match on the show wasn’t a member of a heel team having to more or less bow out of a tournament because of a very real injury, and if something other than a disappointing forfeiture had happened. Also, if Gargano and Ciampa didn’t sell the segment with a joke about emojis.
Best: No Way Jose Is Dope
That was my major takeaway from the show’s next Dusty Tag Classic match, No Way You Can Handle This (or whatever we’re calling them) vs. the Authors of Pain. Rich Swann is always a ton of fun and great at what he does and the Authors are basically the best reboot of the Ascension, but Jose looks like a star, man. Straight up. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s got a weird/great look, he knows what he’s doing in the ring and he connects with crowds. If his fucking name wasn’t “No Way Jose” and his gimmick wasn’t “dances,” he’d probably ALREADY be the top guy.
I really like how they didn’t pretend Jose was a little dude just because he’s socially so much like Swann. He’s Big Cass to Swann’s Enzo. He’s still a heavy hitter, throwing around the Authors and being a Classic Big Man, but he’s also the one that ends up getting caught with the Authors’ finisher and eats the loss. So not only does he do the majority of the match’s heavy lifting — figuratively and literally — he takes the pin and keeps his much, much smaller tag team partner from looking like any kind of weak link.
Swann and Jose are great. I hope they stay friends and remain a tag team, because it’ll help Jose continue to grow, and it’ll give Swann something to do besides being the most important guy in a Raw 6-man tag nobody cares about.
A much better match than you’d think it’d be, though. The Authors have got a lot of upside if they stay protected, but keep getting chances like this to show that they know what they’re doing beyond being Swat Team Funkasauri.
Finally … wait, is that seriously it for the show already? Sanity takes on TJ Perkins and Kota Ibushi in the final Dusty Classic quarter-finals match of the night. It’s solid, but it’s absolutely nothing special, and feels more like a Raw tag match than anything.
The reason I say that probably revolves around Sawyer Fulton and Alexander Wolfe still feeling very developmental and “safe,” not really doing anything to stand out beyond the presentation of Sanity. I think working with Eric Young and especially Nikki Cross will help them out, but they’ve only officially been a team for a few weeks. Even fewer if you compound how these taping schedules work. The match is every tag match you’ve ever seen booked, with the faces looking like they’re gonna win, the heel team distracting the ref, the heels getting in a cheap shot and hitting their finish. It is what it is. Ibushi is still very much a Special Guest Star and not a part of the roster, so we should get used to him entering tournaments but not winning them. If they do a women’s tournament, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him enter it anyway and lose in the semi-finals.
That sets up the interesting but also pretty underwhelming semi-finals of TM-61 vs. Sanity, and DIY vs. the Authors of Pain. I like that they’re basically the four actual NXT tag teams that don’t already have championship belts, but I don’t like how we got here, and I don’t like the confirmation that all those haphazardly thrown-together Cruiserweight Classic teams were just flotsam and jetsam. So it’s gotta be TM-61 vs. the Authors, right? Was it originally going to be Team Aries vs. DIY? Are TM-61 the TJP of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic?