Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE NXT: Roderick Strong debuted, causing me to scream “hooray” in the most Droopy Dog voice you’ve ever heard. Also on the show, No Way Jose and Rich Swann teamed up to defeat the most dominant team in the tournament, two Cruiserweight Classic guys who have never won a tag match.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for October 26, 2016.
Best: Tiandler Bing
Up first this week is the penultimate first round match in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, featuring Hashtag DIY — who now have an All Red Everything entrance, despite having blue-ass shirts — taking on the unofficial Team China, Ho Ho Lun and Tian Bing. You may remember Ho Ho Lun as that guy who wrestled like a fan had wandered into the ring during the Cruiserweight Classic. His partner, Big Chinese Dean Malenko, is recent signee Bin Wang, who had his name changed because NXT audiences are cool enough to love Asian Superstars without being weird about it, but aren’t quite ready for a dude whose name sounds like “big wang.” Total Puck-Man scenario. Maybe they don’t want people calling him “Chris Bin Wang.”
Lun is better here than he was in the Cruiserweight Classic, but he still pretty much wrestles like Maria Menounos. Wang’s clearly the better of the two, and while Chompy and Garg spent a lot of the match making surprised faces waiting for him to finish his move animations, he’s pretty good. Give him a year or two of regular work in NXT and he’ll be great.
DIY do their thing and advance, because there’s no way in Hell they’re gonna have The Revival advance to round two and run them against Ho Ho Lun. They’d break both of his legs before he made it to the stage. This is DIY’s tournament to win, assuming they can get past the best tag team in the world and the Brodus Clay version of the Road Warriors.
Best: NXT TJP
If you’re a regular reader of the Best and Worst of Raw, you know I watch TJ Perkins promos like a high schooler watching slow motion footage of car accidents. He’s got the acting ability of a cardboard box and the most insincere gimmick on the main roster. He likes video games! That means he can only ever talk about video games! HERE’S A DAB, YOU LIKE DABBING, RIGHT?
That said, dude had what I consider the best match of the entire Cruiserweight Classic and presumably actually likes video games, he just can’t deliver video game dialogue written by WWE Creative. Those guys haven’t played video games in 20 years, so he and Kendrick are like, “this is like WWE 2K17, only we don’t have any extra lives! We need to hit RESET on our problems! Pause, bro! All your face are belong to us!” On NXT, TJP gravitates back toward the CWC version of himself, where even with his flaws his matches are generally fast and entertaining (and not just WWE main events in miniature), and aside from the dabbing, he feels like an actual guy.
The backstage interview with him and Kota Ibushi is a good example of this. Perkins feels more relaxed than he’s ever felt on WWE TV, and he drops an actual modern video game reference, asking Ibushi if his overall rating is 90 or 95. Ibushi says he’s a 99. Perkins is like, “pfft, come on, man.” It makes me wonder how well a gimmick like this could work if it was written with love, and not reliant on a bunch of writers who saw a Kenny Omega clip on YouTube once but never actually got around to watching him work.
Best/Worst: Pulling The Petals Off The Flower
Liv Morgan interrupts a Billie Kay vs. Aliyah match by grabbing Peyton Royce by the ankle, causing a weird, Caplin-esque human tug of war that leads to Kay being rolled up and pinned. After the match, Liv continues to throw hands until Kay and Royce team up to overpower her. That brings Aliyah back to the ring to even the odds, but the Evil Australians manage to come out on top.
I’m giving it a Best because I like the simple, effective booking: Billie Kay and Peyton Royce are mean girls who won’t stop picking on Liv Morgan, Liv’s sick of it and ready to fight back but she’s out-numbered, she’s got a sudden unexpected ally, and their combined might still might not be enough. It works. You can toss Kay/Royce vs. Morgan/Aliyah onto the NXT TakeOver: Eh-Rival pre-show and it’ll be a good opportunity for everyone.
I’ve got to give it a Worst too, though, because come on, they seriously just played tug of war with Peyton Royce. I know she’s kind of a living Bratz doll, but it’s ridiculous. Especially since Peyton was trying to escape from having her ankle grabbed by rolling over onto her back and holding both of her arms over her head. It’s Liv Morgan, dude, just punch her.
Worst: Who Booked These Match Times?
I generally like when NXT packs a bunch of matches onto one show, but this week’s show felt off. Three straight matches in the middle of the show — Aliyah vs. Kay, Tye Dillinger vs. Noah Potjes and Asuka vs. Thea Trinidad — went less than two minutes. Even the opening Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tag didn’t go five. The main event only gets about seven. Cut a couple of those self-congratulatory commercials and add two minutes to your main event, maybe?
Best: A Roode Awakening
So yeah, Tye Dillinger gets a quick win over Noah Potjes, aka Potj Iaukea, and gets interviewed about TakeOver: Toronto at the top of the ramp. WWE talent should really learn to start giving these interviews at 3/4, so they can keep an eye on the entrance. Bobby Roode shows up, beats the dog piss out of him and hits an Implant DDT on the stage. Roode goes full Stone Cold in Dillinger’s face and tells him that if he wants him at TakeOver, he’s got him.
The best part of this for me is that it allows Bobby Roode to be an actual in-story character that can get reactions for the things he does, and not just a happy entrance music occurrence. In NXT, you run the risk of being popular for only one thing — Adam Rose’s entrance says hello — and having them beat it to death. Roode not only gets to exist independent of his entrance theme here, he gets to “win” a beatdown without them suddenly hitting his music. If they had, the crowd would start singing along and all the heat would be lost. Instead, they’re left to sit there in silence and let the attack sink in. They like Tye, and while they like Bobby Roode’s entrance theme they strongly dislike Bob himself, so they boo.
I think the greatest heel move ever would be for Bobby Roode to take away that entrance theme. Not only would it make people boo the shit out of him every time he appeared, he’d have the world’s greatest built-in face pop ready to go if he turns face and brings it back.
Worst: TM-61 Will Fist You
I’m not great at math, but that’s still two fists. Technically you guys have four fists. Why are you attacking with one? Why are you choosing to have an arm tied behind your back? This is why you aren’t winning more matches.
Three additional notes:
1. Nick Miller looks like Roderick Strong’s dad, or like the Peyton to Roderick’s Eli Manning
2. That trust fall gag gave me so much secondhand embarrassment I ended up in a PSA tearing out my teeth with pliers
3. This reminded me a little too much of that Marcus Louis presentation skills promo
Best: NXT TakeOver Thea End
Asuka’s in-over-their-head opponent this week is Thea Trinidad, aka former TNA Knockouts Tag Team Champion Rosita. She’s also Austin Aries’ fiancée, which is great because she’s short enough to make him look as tall as he is in his match graphics. She makes the mistake of doing well enough to piss Asuka off, which leads to a sick German suplex transitioned into a Fujiwara armbar for the quick loss. I love that these women are so out-matched that all Asuka has to do is take them down once and put them in an armbar. She’s not even Asuka Locking them, because she doesn’t need to. If you make it to the Asuka Lock now, you’ve done better than most.
After the match, William Regal shows up and announces Asuka’s opponent for TakeOver: Toronto, which would’ve been an amazing surprise if these shows were aired live and not at the mercy of WWE social.
Best: Asuka Is Gonna Murder Mickie James With The Train That Is Her Foot
Yes, Asuka will be taking on 5-time WWE Women’s Champion (6 if you count the Divas Championship) and Hogwarts Express murder victim Mickie James.
She looks great, Asuka’s excited for a challenge, and Mickie’s hungry as hell to make a statement. If the stars align, they could really tear the house down. I’m excited to have her back, because she was doing some brilliant work as a heel in TNA — train murder aside — and Mickie’s WWE career ending on a better note than “Piggy James” is right behind “Kharma returns and kills the Bella Twins like she promised” on my list of prospective WWE women’s storylines.
Also, if Asuka gets bent out of shape about Thea Trinidad forearming her, imagine how hard Mickie would get kicked for doing this.
Best: The Cruiserweight Tag Team Classic
The main event is a 7-minute Cruiserweight Classic tag, so if that sounds like something you’d like, here you go. It’s the best version of what Raw’s trying to accomplish with their throwaway cruiserweight matches, only this one has a context — the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic — and a crowd that, you know, actually wants to see these guys and react to them. Possibly because they’ve been given a context, and they actually know who they are. I’m not a scientist, I don’t know.
It’s disappointing to see TJP teaming with Kota Ibushi instead of Hideo Itami, but Itami’s WWE career’s got a Death Note curse on it thanks to that one early WrestleMania appearance, so it is what it is. They take on Lince Dorado and Mustafa Ali, who have literally nothing in common but the Cruiserweight Classic. I wish that wasn’t the best description for half of these teams.
The good news is that Lince is a nut and Mustafa Ali is secretly one of the best CWC guys, so the match is fun. Perkins is a ton better in a Full Sail ring, where he’s encouraged to just do the cool shit he knows with some style and not asked to get the crowd clapping to build to headlock finishes 2 1/2 hours into a boring 3-hour show. Ibushi is a rubber band-bodied magician who has gotten brilliant matches out of inanimate objects, so of course he’s great here.
The team who got a promo to establish their relationship move on to round two, where they’ll face SANITY. I’ve managed to remain unspoiled so far, but I’m guessing this can only end one of two ways: with a rampant clubbering disqualification, or Ibushi getting an early exit from the tournament thanks to his draw against the Cool New Guys and the loss of his Actual Tag Team Partner.