The Best And Worst Of WWE NXT 1/29/14: Get To Know Ersatz CM Punk

Pre-show notes:

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Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for January 29, 2014.

Best: YAH! YAH! YAH! Is The New YES! YES! YES!

This week’s opening match is another one of those throwaway “Ascension mauls local talent” matches, complete with the announce team throwing the American Pitbulls under the bus. It also featured another pairing of NXT jobbers with ridiculously-specific commonplace names. According to dirt sheets, they’re “Mike Quiary and John Ikarino.” That’s what it sounds like, but f*ck me trying to find the correct spelling. Jobbers need onscreen introduction graphics too!

Anyway, the point of interest here is that when Konnor (who is just “KONNOR” now, if you’re following along at home) punches or kicks, he yells YAH! It’s his Curtis Axel “shaa!” or his Mick Foley “yataa!” The crowd’s started to pick up on it, so now whenever he does anything the crowd chants YAH! YAH! YAH! It’s the hipster YES chant, and I love it. A guy even has a YAH! YAH! YAH! sign to make sure we know what they’re chanting. Thank you for your clarity and efficiency, Full Sail crowd.

Gonna try to get this over at WrestleMania and see if the post-Mania Raw crowd picks it up. Get your HERE ARE THE JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS CHEERLEADERS DOING THE YAH! CHANT posts ready to go.

Worst: I Know You’re A Wrestler, But You Should Still Probably Put On Some Pants If You’re Going To A Job Interview

This is Cal Bishop, All-American wrestler, 2-time Pac-12 champ and a man who looks like Silent Rage cosplaying Big E Langston. He says “man” a lot. He’s the first of several men to apply for the position of “guy who wrestles after Sylvester LeFort gets WHAT chants,” and gets turned down because he’s got cauliflower ear. This is the best of the three backstage LeFort interviews. That is not a compliment.

Worst: I Bet Corey Graves Mic Time Is A Thing You Wanted

Here’s Corey Graves, in what I assume is his last appearance before acting out all those “get him to play CM Punk like Hunico plays Sin Cara” jokes you’ve been making since Punk quit.

He gets a little mic time to reestablish himself and declare that he’ll never forgive Adrian Neville for beating him up in response to being turned on (or whatever), and I honestly can’t remember any of it because my head was spinning around and I was vomiting pea soup everywhere. Corey Graves is the worst, and the fact that Alex Riley is openly comparing him to James Dean (the actor, not the porn star) is unbearable. HE’S LIKE JAMES DEAN BECAUSE THEY WERE BOTH REBELS WITHOUT A CAUSE~!

Look on the bright side. Maybe this’ll end with Graves getting into a fatal car crash.

Worst: Camacho With One Of The Worst In-Ring Efforts Of All Time

The only guy in WWE with less forward momentum than Corey Graves is Camacho (LOL Camacho), so he gets the unenviable task of getting squashed to make Graves look like an unhinged bad-ass. The entire match is basically a headlock, and then Graves escapes a backdrop, slides out of the ring, tricks Camacho into stepping through the ropes and Pearl Harbors him with maybe the worst dragonscrew legwhip in human history. Corey’s dragonscrew makes The Miz’s look like the Great Muta’s.

Seriously, that can’t have hurt your leg that badly. He just grabbed your leg and quickly turned it in the direction legs turn. Even if it hurt, it shouldn’t render you helpless. I guess Mistico’s departure from WWE is trickling down to poor Camacho losing another tag team partner and going back in the storage trunk until they figure out which ethnicity he’ll be portraying next. Pitch: make him French, put him with LeFort. Call him “Costaud.”

Best: Antonio Cesaro Realizes Mid-Interivew That He Should Not Be Giving This Much Of A F*ck About Devin Taylor

Cesaro would’ve gotten a Best this week based on that shirt and DILLIGAF hair growth alone, but him passive-aggressively explaining why he doesn’t want to wrestle Sami Zayn again, astutely pointing out that Zayn’s on crutches and already proved he couldn’t beat Cesaro at his best, and realized in the middle of an explanation that Devin Taylor knowing his motivations was pointless. She probably didn’t know his name until she read it off the cue card.

Cesaro’s probably the easiest-to-like wrestler in WWE right now, and if Roman Reigns didn’t have a shotgun fist and long, beautiful prince hair, he’d be my number one reason to watch. I’m not gonna front.

Worst: Sami Zayn’s Response

On the flip side, NXT Ghost Interviewer asks Sami Zayn what he thinks about Cesaro’s refusal of his challenge, and Zayn says that next week he’s demanding that Cesaro meet him in the ring and tell him no to his face. Because, uh, he hasn’t already done that?

If you remember last week, Cesaro actually left the ring and walked all the way up the ramp to get a few inches from Sami’s face and tell him “no.” That was the entire point. Was that not “to his face” enough? Does he have to go cheek-to-cheek with his refusal? Don’t be petulant and dumb, Sami, your intelligence and reasonable reactions to things are what I like about you most.

WORST: Sawyer Fulton

LeFort’s next interviewee is Sawyer Fulton doing a new gimmick, which is … uh, gay Boo Radley?

His hair is dyed blonde, he’s wearing a single-strap singlet (not a good idea unless your name is Andre and your profession is “giant”) and he holds this weirdly sexual handshake on LeFort for too long, looking him in the eye and grinning instead of saying anything. I know NXT is this wonderful place where Zoolander The Wrestler becomes a cult hero and Broadway Singer is an act people instantly love, but “sexual predator” is not a character I want to see. That’s what’s going on here, right?

Instead of this, can we have LeFort applying for jobs at places like Burger King, then getting them and working at Burger King and never being on my wrestling show again?

Best: Renee Young Dismissing Alex Riley

Renee Young once again joins the commentary team for the Divas match and lovingly flirts with William Regal, leaning over everybody to shake his hand. Alex Riley’s all HEH DO I GET A HANDSHAKE and Renee condescendingly pats him on the shoulder. Riley’s response of HEH, WUH, HEH, WELL HEH is icing on the cake. This is how all women should respond to Alex Riley.

Worst: Renee Young, Raw Announcer

Sadly, though, Renee continued her sad transition into a Raw announcer, forcing me to write objectively about her instead of just throwing in a bunch of heart emoji.

Earlier this month, put up an interview with Renee where she talked about how she wanted to be the “first female to do color commentary for this company,” because I guess Lita doing color on Sunday Night Heat doesn’t count as “this company.” Anyway, to become an announcer on Raw, you kinda have to devolve to the point where standing is difficult and your opinions are all boring, hateful and clearly regurgitated from someone else, and Renee’s dropped a lot of her natural charm and personableness to say stuff like “WOMEN CAN’T HANDLE THEIR EMOTIONS AS WELL AS MEN, IT’S A FACT.”

Basically she’s taking a progressive, exciting women’s division and trying to force it into the Raw Divas mold. So it’s not about how Charlotte slapped Bayley and bailed on her in a tag match and now Bayley’s gotta fight through Charlotte’s skeevy friends to get revenge, it’s about how women are all catty and upset all the time. The fact that she keeps calling them “girls” isn’t helping. It’s just all very condescending and disappointing, and doesn’t vibe at all with how hard the wrestlers are trying to grow and develop and entertain.

Best/Worst: Bayley vs. Sasha Banks

The actual Bayley vs. Sasha match was simple and enjoyable, but I really don’t get the story. Bayley has to go through the BFF to get to Charlotte. Isn’t Charlotte the least experienced one of the group? The only thing she’s ever DONE in NXT is turn on Bayley. That’s it. Shouldn’t Charlotte be the Gretchen Wieners of the BFF? Going through Sasha and Summer to get to Charlotte is like going through Flair and Arn Anderson to get to Paul Roma.

Best: Colin Cassady vs. Tyler Breeze

Colin Cassady continues to endear himself to me week after week, and pretty soon he’s gonna flip the switch and become one of the best guys on the show. Here, he’s in a match with Tyler Breeze and gets upset that Breeze is stalling too much, so he leaves the ring, takes a fan’s phone and starts taking a bunch of exaggerated selfies until Breeze flips out and the match can start. It’s LOVELY. Cassady gets what makes wrestling funny and hits that sweet spot without going too far with it. Perfectly played.

Oh, and then this happened:

Aiden English interrupts the match on the big screen to reveal that he’s (we assume) about to stalk and attack Enzo Amore, who is backstage in the break room (?) in his wheelchair on the phone WEARING A LEOPARD-PRINT BEANIE that MATCHES HIS JACKET. The door closes menacingly and Cassady is rightfully distracted, causing him to get hit by Breeze’s Beauty Shot and lose. After the match, Colin races backstage to find Enzo perfectly fine, complaining that he’d been “pretty much threatened.” HOW GREAT IS THIS.

It’s perfect for English. He’s a menacing heel, right? Nope, he’s a f*cking singer in a scarf. He’s trying to be sneaky and vicious and his big plan is to PRETTY MUCH THREATEN Enzo. AND IT WORKED. I love it. It also leads to an Enzo/Colin conversation about board games and SAWFTness and I will forgive every tired WWE trope in the book if they lead to that.

Worst: This Is Just An Audition For An Orgy, Right

The Sylvester LeFort interview segment payoff is Mason Ryan wandering in and telling LeFort that he’ll work for him if he can beat him in the ring next week. LeFort looks all curious and scared, and man, he’s still just auditioning boyfriends, right? I don’t mean that in a hateful way, he’s just clearly trying to find a dude to have sex with. And this is the second time Mason Ryan’s shown up to a LeFort interview not really trying to interview for anything, just to mess with him. That’s sexual chemistry, right? They’re just going to end up dating.

I’m totally down for that, by the way, because it makes sense and might give Mason Ryan a character trait beyond “SORTA BATISTA-ISH.”

Best?: Miz vs. CJ Parker

I don’t know what to say about this. I’m not sure where CJ Parker’s story is going. They worked really hard to explain his motivations for being mad at the fans (which makes sense) but then Miz showed up and basically beat the shit out of him. So maybe that’s where they’re going? CJ Parker as an unlikable guy who loses matches? If you’re gonna keep him employed, I guess I’m okay with that.

Seriously though, Miz DESTROYED him here. I haven’t seen Miz’s offense look this good maybe ever. I think he knows how to adapt to the Full Sail crowd pretty well, and he was allowed to work with confidence as the experienced, popular (“popular”) veteran, which he rarely seems like he gets to do. Parker got in some offense but it was all really bad — he does a “heel kick” that looks like CM Punk’s lazy head kick done with the other side of the leg — and Miz sold the hell out of it, but never really seriously. He taps him out clean to the figure four and the announce team does valiant humanitarian work explaining how he applied it perfectly.

Oh, and William Regal encapsulated Miz perfectly: “As I’ve always said, The Miz reminds me of Kermit without the talent. There’s something about him, I just want to punch his face in at every opportunity.”

Alex Riley also occurred.

Best: Batista’s Looking Great

Way to slim down, Big Dave.

Best: Bo Dallas With Confidence

Bo doesn’t immediately show up to the contract signing and Adrian kinda calls him out for being a coward, so Bo shows up and unexpectedly responds with HELLA CONFIDENCE, playing it serious and announcing that he’s gonna show Neville what he’s getting into before signing the contract. He then brings out Danny Burch and beats him down, all while confidently glaring at Neville and Renee.

This was a pleasant surprise for me, and I liked it a lot. The actual beatdown wasn’t spectacular, but the REASON for it was. It was Bo’s first real show of force since becoming the champion. You can only rely on being scared of folks and exposed turnbuckle finishes so long, you know? Bo’s been champ for almost 300 days. He can afford to be confident, especially against a guy like Neville who is half his size and hasn’t ever truly caught fire in singles competition. It’s a great plot turn for the story and makes Bo look competent heading into the live championship match on February 27. That makes him easier to understand when people get the WWE Network and tune in for the first time than him being “Bo.”

Great stuff. I really hope Bo retains. And then maybe Prince Devitt and KENTA show up.

(NXT’s about to get really f*cking great.)