– She was 8 years old the last time he was heavyweight champion.
– Hello, new NXT audience! If you’re one of those “I watched NXT for the first time on the WWE Network and now I’m a fan” types, thank you for appreciating the coolest thing WWE does. If you wanna catch up, we do a weekly NXT recap (like the one you’re about to read) as well as a revisit of season 1, so check those out.
– Share the column, please! If every person in Adam Rose’s entourage shared it, I could retire.
Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for March 5, 2014.
Best: Adrian Neville, Confident Champion
The show starts off strong this week with a title defense from new NXT Champion Adrian Neville, and it’s exactly what he needed — a match against a bigger, stronger opponent that he wins fairly easily with straight-forward, signature offense. He’s the top dog now, so he should be able to trounce a guy like poor Camacho. Pinning a guy after the Red Arrow like he’s Super Delfin is another nice touch. That move should be as bulletproof as Justin Gabriel’s 450 splash used to be … it’s dangerous and it takes him a minute to set it up, so there’s a big chance he’s gonna crash and burn, but if he doesn’t, you are effing toast.
As an aside, Camacho’s offense consisted of some stomps, a few clotheslines and what seemed like 40 minutes of I’M FROM THE BARRIO, HOLMES taunting. One of these days WWE’s gonna realize they have a boss hoss Tongan on their roster, give him the Death Grip, put him in some black tights with a skull and crossbones on the leg and market him properly as SON OF MENG. Not “Chaycin, second generation superstar,” not “Haku Jr.,” but SON OF MENG. All capital letters.
Best: Renee Takes A Wide Stance
After the match Adrian Neville gives what appears to be the best promo of his career, but it’s full of jarring cuts to the crowd staring into space so I don’t know if he Jumpin’ Jeff Farmer’d it and they edited it into something passable or what. It’s a good approach for the character, though, to acknowledge that he’s tiny, looks like a Lord of the Rings elf and can barely speak.
My favorite part of the promo was Renee, though. Look at 5-foot-5 Renee standing with her feet far apart so she doesn’t tower over “5-foot-8” Adrian Neville. If Neville is 5’8 I am Manute Bol.
Best: It’s Bo Time
Neville mentions that being NXT Champion validates him, so of course Bo Dallas wanders out to condescendingly invalidate him to the best of his abilities. Bo brings up a very good point and one of the big hangups (ahem) of ladder matches: they don’t really prove that you’re the better man. Bo points out that sure, he was defeated, but he wasn’t pinned. Neville “climbed up a ladder like a dad cleaning out his gutters.” He announces that he’ll be cashing in his rematch clause soon, and that it’s BO TIME.
I guess the logical thing is to Paige-and-Emma it by having Bo put off his rematch for as long as possible, striking when Neville is at his most vulnerable, get pinned for real and then Boast up to the main roster to do whatever he’s gonna do. Be Bray Wyatt’s naive brother who moved to the city when he was young and now thinks he’s better than everybody, I hope.
Best: Troll Dad Ric Flair
I’ve been sad about Ric Flair’s existence since two days after WrestleMania 24, but they’ve found the only thing that rehabilitates a drifting personality quicker than DDP Yoga: make him an NXT character.
The Nature Boy, one of the undisputed greatest talkers in the history of pro wrestling, finally has something constructive to talk about. He’s been reimagined as TROLL WRESTLING DAD, a guy who confronts female competitors on behalf of his daughter and mentally disassembles them just enough that her assy “mean girl” tactics work. It’s brilliant. He gets in Paige’s face to establish Charlotte as the next contender for the NXT Women’s Championship, but the money segment is his run-in with Emma, wherein he derides her, brings in Charlotte and then stands between them making the WORST FACES EVER. Look at him. He’s perfect. It’s like somebody woke up in the middle of the night at the Performance Center and remembered that Flair was once the grand king of making you want to punch him in the face.
NXT is “the future,” but it’s also a wonderful way to harness and utilize the greatness of the past. Take these guys who are absolute top-of-the-line legends in the industry and give them new, updated characters. You don’t do anything to tarnish their legacies 30 years of wandering wouldn’t do worse and you get them around the developmental talent so they can learn from the best in an active, happening-in-real-time environment. Also, TROLL DAD FACES.
Best: Summer Rae
This is how Summer Rae makes it onto this week’s show. On the end of a stick, carried at constant shoulder-level by the world’s sexiest Jeff Dunham. God, can you believe Troll Dad Ric Flair and Summer Rae On A Steek happened and neither one’s the best part of the episode?
Worst: Charlotte’s Finisher, Or
Best: The Dirtiest Diva In The Game
Charlotte managed to pin Emma to begin her build as a legitimate challenger to Paige’s NXT Women’s Championship, but man, that finish isn’t getting any better. If you’ve never seen it, it’s a flip over her opponent into a cutter, sorta like John Cena’s old “Throwback” move, but it requires her opponent to be on their knees and facing away from her, a position wrestlers don’t naturally get into without contrivance. The only time it really happens is if someone’s crawling away from you, but if that happens they’re a moving target and she can’t properly judge the distance. So everybody she wrestles has to be confused about something but not confused enough to stand up, or Dae Han from Best of the Best, just hanging out ready to be killed. I don’t want to be too obvious or whatever, but, uh, figure four? Nobody worth a shit’s using it as a finish.
That said, Charlotte’s beginning to adopt the moniker of the “Dirtiest Diva In The Game,” and that’s pretty great. She feigns an ankle injury and still has to have Sasha Banks interfere on her behalf, and there are few things in wrestling I like more than unnecessarily complex cheating stratagems. I’m excited to see Paige run up against some true heels with intent, especially if it features her knocking Flair off the apron and him collapsing to the floor going AAH GOD.
Worst: Are We Seriously Pushing Corey Graves Again
I have some nicer thing to say about him later, but how amazingly appropriate is it for Corey Graves, the most F-grade CM Punk possible, dropping “pipe bombs” on dudes like Yoshi Tatsu? It’s the perfect scaling down of Punk’s mission statement. Yoshi Tatsu is Vince McMahon on the scale of “Corey Graves” to “Important People.”
The good news is that my Worst for Graves is kayfabe this week, and not really a condemnation of his abilities as a wrestler. Like, I hate how he walks and how he leans on the ring post like Tommy Wiseau’s idea of James Dean, I hate how he speaks and how he wrestles. I hate him taking forever on the outside just to lure Yoshi Tatsu out and roll back into the ring to win by count-out. But hey, that’s all stuff I’m supposed to hate him for, so there goes NXT again, making lemonade out of lemons and pitchers full of dog urine.
Best: The Launch Party For Adam Rose
Okay, deep breath.
YOU GUYS. Leo Kruger has been reimagined as “Adam Rose,” and he’s basically Russell Brand’s character from Get Him To The Greek except the entire WWE Universe is on drugs and it’s THE BEST THING YOU HAVE EVER SEEN IN YOUR LIFE. I can’t even explain it. It’s the magic of NXT’s commitment to character and their love of the absurd combined with the best and catchiest entrance music they’ve ever done, and if I tell you that Adam Rose kinda makes Tyler Breeze look like Sylvester LeFort I need you to understand how serious a statement that is and how hard it is for me to type.
Devin Taylor attends the “launch party” for Adam Rose and enters a weird 90s rave to interview him, and it’s so infectiously wonderful that even Devin develops a personality. Rose has a 20-person-thick entourage he calls the “Rosebuds,” which includes:
– Alexa Bliss in fairy makeup
– Kalisto, aka Samuray Del Sol, doing bo staff tricks with a giant glow stick
– DJ SOLOMON CROWE
– a gimp (?)
– a gladiator bodyguard played by Braun Stowman
– women in tutus
– women in Mardi Gras masks
– a pirate
– a guy in a fez and a striped shirt
– a guy who looks like Frankie Avalon circa ‘Beauty School Dropout’
– RANDOM BUSINESSMAN
I can’t even find them all, and I kinda hope the entourage grows and changes every week and is just full of people in random occupations from random time periods.
Best: The Best Thing You Have Ever Seen In Your Life
Here is Adam Rose’s entrance in all its glory. Share this with everyone you’ve ever met.
Best: WHOA OH OOOH OOOH OH OH OH OH OH OH OOOH OOOH OH OH OH OH OH WOOOOO
Of course, the downside of Adam Rose is the same thing that’s plagued Leo Kruger since he started: he’s better outside of the ring than in it. David Otunga’s Disease. Outside of the ring he’s got tons of personality and can tell a great story. Inside the ring he’s mostly just making faces and throwing shoulderblocks and clotheslines. The crowd chants THIS IS AWESOME for his entrance and is ready to love him as a character, and sure, he does some fun stuff like roll around in circles without prompting and lounge in the ropes throwing lazy bicycle kicks to keep his opponent away, but by the end of the (short) match you’re just kinda like “okay Adam Rose, let’s play that song and dance again.” Kruger was like that. You’re like YEAH KRAVEN THE HUNTER, DAH DAH and then it’s just armbars for days.
The crowd gets a Best, though, for not being that kind of crowd. They do a little DAH DAH DAH thing at the beginning and one guy randomly yells WE WANT KRUGER, but the crowd quickly shuts him up and continues cheering for their cool new thing. You’re always gonna have a rube like that in the crowd. I’m sure one guy at Full Sail was like HUR HUR THAT’S HUSKY HARRIS before he realized he shouldn’t be pissing in his own mouth.
THIS COLUMN IS GETTING BORING. IT’S BORING ME. PLAY MY SONG.
Best: Wesley Blake Sighting!
Oh, wait, I can’t leave this page without giving a Best to the second (?) appearance of Wesley Blake, A REAL LIVE COWBOY. Blake is a favorite of the column based almost exclusively on his nickname being “a real cowboy,” and the announcers having to discuss it at length whenever he shows up. THEY SAY HE’S A REAL COWBOY. HAVE YOU EVER MET A REAL COWBOY?
If I could book one NXT character, it’d be Wesley Blake. Have like, Troy Aikman show up and Wesley Blake gets pissed because he’s a Cowboy in name only. I want a guy to show up wearing chaps and a cowboy hat and be instantly popular, but have Wesley Blake get suspicious, do some investigating and find out that this new guy’s from NEW YORK CITY. And then Blake, having confirmed his darkest fears, gets his salsa buddies to hang the new guy in front of the entire crowd. REAL COWBOYS ONLY.
Worst: Xavier Woods Has Never Seen Rocky IV
The worst part of the show for me (surprise, surprise) was the post-arRIVAL promo from Xavier Woods. Woods is secretly “fake geek girl” the wrestling character because he claims to love Dragon Ball Z and Power Rangers but he’s clearly never seen any of it. He probably watched an episode of Big Bang Theory and it made him laugh his ass off, so now he’s a “geek.”
This week’s offense is how he evokes the 1985 classic Rocky IV and manages to get ALL of it wrong. First offense:
“Ivan Drago-looking piece of garbage”
Alexander Rusev doesn’t look ANYTHING like Ivan Drago. Drago is a tall, muscular Russian guy with a blonde, spiky flattop. Rusev is a brick house Bulgarian guy. The joke has always been that Lana is the Rocky IV comparison, because she’s got a severe Ludmilla vibe going on. Second offense:
“Might as well call me Creed but the difference is, I don’t lose at the end of this movie.”
Okay, I get that calling yourself “Creed” is an in-joke, but yo, Apollo Creed doesn’t lose at the end of Rocky IV. The only movie Creed loses at the end of is Rocky II. In Rocky IV, the one with Ivan Drago in it so I assume it’s the one you’re talking about, Creed fights at the BEGINNING of the film, and he F*CKING DIES.
I will forgive this awful promo if next week’s NXT begins with Xavier Woods being punched to death.
Best: The Hardest Guy In The World To Love vs. The Easiest
The main-event of this week’s episode was Sami Zayn going up against Corey Graves, set up by Graves’ weird shit-talking and nefarious count-out tactics from earlier in the show. It’d be easy for me to go the “this is all Zayn’s doing, he carried Graves,” but credit where credit is due — it’s a good match, easily the best Sterling James Keenan/Corey Graves match I’ve ever seen, and he hung in there the entire time.
To say Zayn’s been killing it is an understatement, and I like to think NXT set up this match to see if Graves was just a lost case or if he could do something productive with better talent to work with. WWE’s big on guys who can have a good match when they’re in the ring with someone great, and not so much on guys who are actually great. Isn’t that weird? The finishing sequence here is what makes the match, and I bought a bunch of the nearfalls through some combination of assuming a Graves push and Sami Zayn always getting the short end of the stick. It’s a perfect intersection of characters, and I’m willing (and excited) to throw in on Graves if he keeps moving forward and continues to be his own thing, preferably one getting small packaged to death by the best non-rostered wrestler in the company.
Great, great episode this week. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go listen to Adam Rose’s entrance theme on loop for the rest of the day. WOOOOOOO