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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for July 15, 2015.
Best: The Talented Mr. Gable
NXT’s current “will they or won’t they” tag team, Jason Jordan and Chad Gable, get their two-on-two debut against NXT’s current de facto jobber team, Elias Samson and Steve Cutler. I’d make a joke about how Saywer Fulton and Angelo Dawkins were busy, but they wrestle later.
So! If you haven’t been following the story, Jason Jordan and Tye Dillinger bought a bunch of matching gear and decided they were the next big thing in the NXT tag-team division. They had a falling out (and Dillinger wanted to devote all his free time to being awesome at house shows and forgetting it when cameras are around), so Jordan went on a quest to find a new partner. “Went on a quest” meaning “he tried teaming with both members of The Legionnaires” and “Creepy Greg asked him about it a couple of times while he was trying to work out.” Local Performance Center weirdo Chad Gable volunteered to be the new partner, but Jordan said Ich Don’t Think So. He lost a couple of matches and his options dried up, so he said Vassup, and now he’s got a tag team partner carrying around a hand towel with his name on it.
The good news is that Chad Gable is kind of the dopest, and will remind you (and everyone else) of a young Kurt Angle. I remember watching him wrestle Tyler Breeze at the last taping I went to and the crowd being super behind him despite Tyler damn Breeze being in the ring, and wondering why. The answer? Sometimes you want to see ridiculous pomp and circumstance, but sometimes you just want to see a little Dean Malenko motherf*cker gator-rolling people to death. I don’t know if the Shoot Nation is ever happening on NXT TV, but if Jordan and Gable keep waistlocking people and rolling around on them to humiliate them with amateur wrestling authority, I’m in.
They win with a combo toss into a backdrop with a bridge, and the burgeoning NXT tag team division continues to be one of the best parts of recent shows. The Ascension is gone and they’re never coming back, so let’s party like it’s 1999.
The Samoa Joe Greatest Hits Tour Continues
I couldn’t figure out if I wanted to give that a Best or a Worst, because I like the idea of Samoa Joe being here and doing stuff, but I’m just not into it. I don’t know if that’s a problem with me or Joe or what, but nothing’s happening to make me excited or even interested in his arc. Remember when he signed and it was a huge deal, and everyone posted and tweeted about how it was this revolutionary thing that was gonna change the way wrestling works? I’m still waiting for that to happen. Right now it’s just Joe crunching jobbers with the most basic-possible version of his moveset and getting involved but not too involved with main-event storylines. He’s just … here. And he’s SAMOA JOE, man, that should be shaking sh*t up.
Joe’s opponent is Axel Tischer, NXT’s first German recruit. Going forward he should be more and more like the German Ludvig Borga until his name is “German Ludvig Borga.”
Best: Baron Corbin, The Richest And Strongest Man Alive
I’ve been complaining about Baron Corbin’s story not going anywhere — he’s been stuck as an “unstoppable force” with no real personality to speak of for months and the crowd’s turning on it — but this week a vignette turns him into quite possibly the worst person in NXT, Kevin Owens included.
It’s AMAZING. Via a video package of him getting a tattoo, Corbin says he’s a Gold Glove boxer, a jiu-jitsu champion and THE BADDEST MAN TO EVER PLAY IN THE NFL. He has ACCOMPLISHED THINGS, and to prove it he has RINGS WITH DIAMONDS ON THEM. He buries NXT’s popular talent from the indies (including Tyler Breeze, randomly) and says their accomplishments mean nothing because they made their names “on the internet” and wrestled in front of 50 people. He can prove his accomplishments, because he’s a good guy at sports. I almost expected the video to end with him getting into a Dodge Stratus and bragging about it.
I’m excited to see where this goes, and to see Corbin be NXT’s version of Cage … this guy who represents the traditional kind of big-leagues wrestling that “works,” raging against all the young, exciting, internationally relevant guys.
Worst, But On Purpose: All Red Everything
NXT should change her name to “Gloria Allred.”
Anyway, Eva Marie shows up to soak in some boos and announce that she’s excited about the upcoming Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks match, but “more imporrently” will be making her in-ring debut next week. That’s not entirely accurate, but I’m OK throwing that match with Bayley in the garbage forever. She tells the crowd to get their signs and their “little horns” ready because All Red Everything is coming — in her white shirt, white pants and clear shoes.
Best: All Yellow Everything
Sami Zayn has gotten off the bananaphone long enough to return to Full Sail and update us about his injury. He’s going to be out for the rest of the year, but promises that he’s not giving up, and that when he’s healed up he’s coming after Kevin Owens.
I love Sami Zayn, but it’s interesting how the dynamic of his relationship with Kevin Owens has changed this year. At first, Sami’s declaration that Owens only got a job at WWE because of his success felt like a truth. Owens got the job because of Sami, then sold Sami out and emotionally manipulated him into losing the NXT Championship. In the rematch, Owens promised he’d put Zayn out for good and came very close to it.
Months have passed. Kevin Owens showed up on Raw as the avatar for jaded wrestling fans in a feud against John Cena. A feud involving Owens pop-up powerbombing and pinning John Cena — John Cena — clean, in the middle of the ring. He’s a regular on Raw now, wrestling guys like Rusev and Cesaro to build to a pay-per-view blowoff for the U.S. Championship. He lost the NXT Championship, but only in the most insurmountable situation NXT could muster: a match with the demon version of Finn Bálor in Japan, where Bálor made his name. He barely lost then. Meanwhile, Sami Zayn’s just this well-meaning injured guy who couldn’t hold on to the championship. Now he’s on NXT complaining about it, saying Owens’ career is forever linked to his, and that when he’s better he’s gonna beat him up. Have the roles reversed? Is Sami now the one desperately clinging to their shared history to keep himself relevant? Was Owens so indignant and such a piece of sh*t that he was able to stubbornly fake it until he made it?
It’s a great dynamic. What happens if Owens is WWE Champion this time next year and Sami’s trying to shake off ring rust, still slumming it down in developmental with the German Ludvig Borga?
Best: Lord Alexa Bliss
Blake & Murphy go up against Sawyer Fulton and Angelo Dawkins, because NXT has two jobber teams and Elias Samson and Steve Cutler were busy.
The hook of the match is that Blake & Murphy are a well-baby-oiled machine, and that Blake isn’t afraid to sneak around the ring and yank his opponents off the apron to keep them from making tags. They hit the brainbuster/frog splash combination, and yeah, “seeing Blake & Murphy for a few minutes” is the point.
The best part is the post-match stuff, with Alexa Bliss suddenly becoming Rita Repulsa and ordering her Putties to beat people up. Lots of smirking and sneering and pointy hand gestures. They finish it off with a wonderful cheer routine, with Blake & Murphy basically doing The Colony’s Ant Hill into a Sparkle Splash. I’m going to keep typing “Alexa Bliss vs. Enzo Amore one-on-one needs to happen” until it does. Not only are they equals, they’re NXT’s two most effective projectiles.
Best: Sasha Vs. Charlotte, One More Time
From now on, all championship matches should involve someone having their weave snatched, then using it as a weapon.
You can tell an NXT main event is great when it happens at the end of the fourth hour of taping and still manages to get the crowd into it. Crowd fatigue is rough, man. Four hours of wrestling, even the best wrestling, is a lot. I remember being at a taping and being dead for Neville vs. Zayn, which should never happen. It’s not that you don’t appreciate what they’re doing, you’ve just been stuck in this box, shoulder-to-shoulder with chanty wrestling fans for a sixth of a day. I think that’s why the crowd heat’s so off the charts for the live specials.
Anyway, Charlotte vs. Sasha for the NXT Women’s Championship was good, but I stopped having to tell you that a while ago. Their match from San Jose is still my favorite NXT match of the year so far, and while I don’t think this one touched that, it had everything you’d want: emotional gravity, a sense of urgency, brutal submission exchanges and, well, a lady using fake hair to smack her opponent while she’s in a figure four. That figure-four stuff was great, man. Even when Charlotte rolled out of the ring and kinda lost it, it was so physical and electric that it didn’t matter. This was two ladies who have gone from respect to hatred and back around again, giving it everything they’ve got for the most prestigious pro-wrestling women’s championship in the country.
The finish was top-shelf, too, with Sasha not being able to tap Charlotte to the Banks Statement until the roll-through, when she was able to lay herself perpendicular across Charlotte’s spine and bend her backwards over it. The hug at the end felt like the end of an era, in a way … these women aren’t all jumping ship and leaving NXT just because they’ve got Raw jobs, but the “Four Horsewomen” era is wrapping up. New girls are going to rise up and take those spots, just like Charlotte and Sasha and Bayley and Becky stepped in for Emma and Paige. The hard part of NXT being the best at any given moment is that it can’t be forever, because it’s just a stepping stone. A beautiful little stepping stone.