Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE NXT: Kassius Ohno took away both of Elias Samson’s career options, the Revival proved that brains beats brawn, and I became the world’s biggest fan of the world’s biggest tag team, Heavy Machinery.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for April 1, 2017.
Best: The Wreck Of The Roddy Fitzgerald
First off, while I think most people (myself included) have been down on this Dillinger & Co. vs. SAnitY story, credit to NXT creative for trying to make this mixed-gender tag interesting by having No Way Jose taken out of the match and subbing in Kassius Ohno. His placement doesn’t make any sense storyline-wise, but at least it popped the crowd and allowed him to wear a basketball jersey that A)wasn’t tucked into his waistband, B)wasn’t white and C)didn’t reveal the contents of his belly button to the world. Points off for Sacramento Kings colors, though (but maybe if he wears it long enough, he’ll be traded into the main event of NXT TakeOver: New Orleans next year).
But while this match felt flat on paper, all eight combatants brought it in the ring, cumulatively putting forth their best matches yet. What really made it work, amazingly, was Roderick Strong: Not only was his initial house-clearing sequence fiery and exciting, but watching him get absolutely fucking wrecked by SAnitY was even more enjoyable. (Killian Dain’s standing dropkick in particular was great.) Bonus points for Eric Young’s masterful sell of Strong’s Sick Kick — it was like watching the Rock take a Stone Cold Stunner.
Am I happy that SAnitY won? Not really, but at least it will hopefully lead to some new matchups (Ohno vs. Dain looks hossy as all hell, and Ruby Riot vs. Nikki Cross should be fire).
Best: Paint It Black
I would definitely mosh to Aleister Black’s theme song. Good work, Incendiary. (Although part of me hoped he’d walk down the ring to Allister’s “Somewhere On Fullerton,” but twas not to be.) It’s nice to hear a real hardcore song and not “heavy music pre-set no. 3” on the CFO$ keyboard.
Black’s match against Andrade “Cien” Almas was fine (and heavy on the strikes), but on a show this stacked will probably not be remembered past Monday. I look forward to see where his character goes, because right now, it’s just, “Occult, maybe???” written on a whiteboard in gorilla position. I did dig the setup to his finishing move, though: Lifting his opponent’s head with his foot before kicking it off, execution-style, is a nice touch.
Best: Strange Bedfellows
It’s moments like this which I am supremely honored Brandon has entrusted me with NXT recap responsibilities, but I simultaneously am bummed that I don’t get to read his take on a match as phenomenal as this. So here goes nothing…
Webster’s dictionary defines “tag team” as “a team of two or more professional wrestlers who take turns fighting during a match” and that is what happened in this match. It was very good.
but srsly folks, this match was through-the-roof insane. I don’t think anyone would have predicted the amount of shared unity between the Revival and #DIY, but pro wrestling makes strange bedfellows. The early tease of a table showed that white-meat faces can be just as smart as the clever tweeners with whom they’ve spent the better part of the past year feuding: Triple threats are inherently no-disqualification, so why not go for the equalizers early?
The two teams’ uneasy alliance came and went over the course of the match, the Revival shrugging off a tag from Tommaso Ciampa early to allow the Authors Of Pain beatdown to continue (AOP using Johnny Gargano as a lawn dart against Ciampa’s suicide dive was delightful). There comes a point in the match where the other two teams realize they have to work together to try to dispatch AOP, which results in some awesome sequences: first putting Rezar through Chekov’s table, then the double submission on Akam which lasted forever and still felt real (not to overlook the flip-flopping of each team’s finishing moves a few minutes later). Both of those spots made each member of AOP look like legit monsters who need a hunting party’s worth of people to keep them down, and they still recovered each time. Still: Teamwork, man. It’s such a goddamn beautiful thing.
Of course, it was the Revival’s betrayal of that teamwork which led to both teams unraveling. Dash and Dawson should have realized by this point they needed all the extra help they could get to beat AOP, but they just couldn’t stand the idea of #DIY matching them as two-time champs, so self-preservation instinct kicked in as Scott Dawson rolled Ciampa in for a sneaky pin (following the ol’ “top-rope superplex into a pile of dudes” spot, which is absurd and incredible and made me leap off my couch at home) but gets caught by a member of AOP, which in turn eventually leads to both teams being destroyed by the Authors. The match ends with all three teams looking strong, all six men over with the crowd and and the right competitors coming out with the titles.
Not that it needs to be explicitly stated, but why not: This is an obvious match of the year candidate, and one of the finest examples of pro wrestling psychology I’ve seen in a very long time. I pity the match that has to follow this.
Worst: The Match That Had To Follow That
Don’t get me wrong: Ember Moon and Asuka had a really good match, but literally anything after that tag team triple threat was going to feel like a letdown. The match only got half the time the tag match got, and it never felt like it kicked into high gear, with both combatants focusing mainly on hard-hitting strikes. (I did love the dual shoulderblocks sequence, though — ain’t no reason women can’t posture up against one another.) If people didn’t get Asuka was supposed to be a heel before the bell rang, it was made pretty damn clear the second she pulled a “too slow” move after offering Ember Moon a handshake, but whoever told Ember to retaliate a few minutes later with a “neener neener” gesture should be given their walking papers.
About eight or so minutes into the match, I realized this was not going to be Ember’s night, mainly because you could tell both competitors were holding a lot of their flashier moves back. My instincts were proven right a few minutes later, when Ember went up for the Eclipse and then Asuka, in the ultimate heel move, threw the referee into her, knocking her from the turnbuckle and then finishing her off with a roundhouse kick.
While I wasn’t in love with the match itself, the ending definitely deserves a Best: It simultaneously built up Ember’s finisher as unfuckwithable even though she didn’t get to execute it, and it made the crowd finally turn on Asuka, something NXT has been pushing for the past few weeks to limited success. Now, we wait for a rematch.
Best/Worst: I HHHope You Like 30-Minute Main Events
In last night’s live thread, Single Leg Takedown summed up Roode/Nak II better than I ever could: “This has a very Triple H ‘epic’ match feel to it. Like Roode should be going for the sledge.” Right after that, Bobby Roode went for the ring bell — so yeah, this thing had Triple H’s fingerprints all over it, and that means your mileage may vary in terms of enjoyment of this match. The arena audience definitely had a huge hand in keeping this match lively, because a hot crowd can make even the most basic punch/kick/corner stomp offense from Roode seem like three Burning Hammers in a row.
Personally, I wasn’t in love with the main, just because I think Roode and Nak’s styles aren’t super-complementary of one another, and the match could have easily lost 10 minutes off its runtime without sacrificing anything in terms of story. But if you’re into “epic” Triple H main events loaded with over-exaggerated elbow strikes, the teasing of foreign objects, taunt spamming, and the entitled heel going over on the more talented babyface, I’m guessing this shit was your jam.
Kudos to Roode, though: This was his best match in NXT to date, and anyone who can pin Shinsuke Nakamura twice is certainly a believable champion. Plus, as Brandon astutely pointed out, the vignette of Roode watching the end of his first match with Nak paid off with him dodging the Kinshasa out of the corner. Hooray for callbacks!
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Man I love NXT: Takeovermania and the Raw after Takeovermania. My only complaint is there is a whole day between. You’d think WWE would take advantage of that and put on something important that Sunday.
If Aleister ever tags with Breeze they could call themselves Seth Rollins
just realized this is mind (revival) vs body (AOP) vs soul (DIY)
Beige Lunatics, King Of String Style
DIY: Did we just become best friends?
The crowd is going to be so dead for the women’s title match that this triple threat qualifies as a sexist microaggression.
You know what this means guys. 3MB REUNION BAY-BAY!!!
HHH: “Listen, Nak, you can either do Eddie-Murphy-in-Delirious or Bettlejuice, not both!”
HHH: “Awww, I can’t say no to you! Sure, both!”
Beige Lunatics, King Of String Style
There goes the “Bobby Roode is Donald Trump” theory. Roode is actually supporting the arts.
Phillips: “What a match!”
McGuiness: “How did Nakamura kick out of that?”
Percy Watson: “I’m Brian Fellows!”
Good fucking luck, Wrestlemania.
Thanks for reading, everybody. I’ll see you back here on Thursday morning for a recap of the NXT TakeOver: Orlando pre-show, which won’t air until four days after the show itself. Synergy!