Previously on the Best and Worst of NXT: We took a week off as NXT presented awards for Breakout Star Of The Year (Keith Lee, of course), Female Competitor of the Year (Shayna Baszler, of course), and everything else (Adam Cole).
If you’d like to read previous installments of the Best and Worst of NXT, you can do that here. Follow With Spandex on Twitter and Facebook. You can also follow me on Twitter, where everything and everyone is terrible.
And now, the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for January 8, 2020.
Best: Murderer’s Row
I’m not a big fan of the show-opening promo with a parade of interruptions to set up a tag team match trope, but it was hard to watch this week’s opening segment and feel anything but impressed at how unbelievably loaded NXT’s women’s division currently is. While Raw and Smackdown struggle to not put on the exact same match every week with their divisions of 3-5 people, NXT can casually set up a trios match involving Io Shirai, Candice LeRae, Kay Lee Ray, Rhea Ripley, Bianca Belair, and Toni Storm. That’s crazy. And you’ve still got Shayna Baszler, Dakota Kai, Tegan Nox, Deonna Purrazzo, Chelsea Green, Mia Yim, and others on the bench. NXT’s women’s division is an embarrassment of riches.
Plus, any promo segment that has Bianca Belair dropping the line, “you don’t even go here,” is a winner. Damien would be proud.
The match gets more than a full quarter-hour of time and gets a lot of work done, including:
- giving Rhea Ripley a strong win to follow up her NXT Women’s Championship win
- continuing to build the relationship between Ripley and Toni Storm, who was the first to interrupt her and reminded her that she’s beaten her twice already
- hyping Worlds Collide via both the Ripley/Storm relationship and NXT stars mingling with NXT UK stars in a match
- building heat between Io Shirai and Bianca Belair with Belair tagging herself in to steal the pin, and Shirai angrily dropkicking her about it
- teasing Candice LeRae’s involvement in the Women’s Championship picture by having her hand Ripley the belt after the match, but hold on to it a little too long
And while I try not to directly compare the shows very often, it was a good way to remind Wednesday night TV viewers that NXT’s women’s division absolutely blows AEW’s out of the water. It’s the biggest discrepancy between shows, and not hard to see when one show’s running a 16+ minute six-woman tag featuring six of the best wrestlers in the company, and one’s jamming up their advertised and already pushed-back Women’s Championship match with referee distractions, interference, and male death match wrestler debuts.
Best: The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic
We also begin the (way too small and short) Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic this week with two first round matches.
Up first is NXT UK’s Imperium versus NXT Domestc’s Forgotten Sons. On paper you’re immediately like, “Imperium wins this, of course,” but the fact that the Forgotten Sons miraculously made it to the finals of last year’s tournament is enough to create some doubt.
I love when the Dusty Classic starts up, because the shows are suddenly filled to capacity with high-energy tag team matches — that’s “high-energy tag team matches,” not “High Energy tag team matches,” which I wish could happen. I think the Forgotten Sons have found the right combination by focusing on Cutler and Blake as a tag team with Jaxson Ryker just hanging out to be the world’s most muscular Miss Elizabeth, and I’m always happy to see Imperium presented in the proper NXT UK context. Namely, not getting fed to Seth Rollins for no reason in two consecutive matches on a taped Raw.
I also love Imperium winning here because the other match in their bracket is Pete Dunne and Matt Riddle versus South Wales Subculture, which means unless they’re shotgunning us directly into a partner betrayal (on behalf of The Brand™?), we’re sending Pete back into WALTER’s den. I joke about Dunne running from him a lot, mostly because of how much I love the Austrian Murder Baby, but all I really want is for them to wrestle again. Bonus points if we can get WALTER vs. Riddle somewhere along the way.
Oh, speaking of that …
The best part of the entire show might’ve been Matt Riddle sharing the secret origin of his team with Pete Dunne, recounting the story of how they bonded via disinterested shrugs, and naming them the “Broserweights.” Although I also like Johnny Gargano’s suggestion of the name, “Feet Dunne.” They got to all the good jokes!
Here’s Riddle doing the Pete Special in handy, utilitarian GIF form:
I hope next week we get a promo where Dunne bumps into Riddle backstage and says, “first of all, I’m your bro, bro.”
The second Dusty Classic match of the name pitted Imperium rivals Gallus (without Joe Coffey) against The Undisputed Era (with Adam Cole). Shout-out to Gallus for going into battle with the promotion’s most notorious Numbers Game cheaters shorthanded. Cole’s the difference maker, as he usually is when he’s not getting pounced into the bleachers, and sneaks in a kick behind the referee’s back to set up a High-Low from O’Reilly and Fish.
I didn’t think this was what you’d consider one of those top shelf Undisputed Era tags, but it’s certainly watchable, and the right team won. Why the “right team?” Because they face the winner of KUSHIDA and a mystery partner versus Grizzled Young Vets, and we found out who KUSHIDA’s partner’s going to be.
None other than Alex Shelley, meaning we’re getting a Time Splitters reunion in NXT. It also means we’re almost certainly getting Undisputed Era vs. Time Splitters in round two of the Dusty Classic, reviving a rivalry from both New Japan Pro Wrestling and Ring Of Honor. Maybe Shelley and KUSHIDA can make up for not being able to win back those IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships in 2014.
If we get a Time Splitters vs. ReDRagon and Imperium vs. the Broserweights in round two of the tournament, hot damn.
Also On This Episode
Johnny Gargano and Finn Bálor have a nice promo exchange, with Finn calling Johnny soft, and Johnny doing the John Cena “you LEFT and I STAYED HERE and that means I LOVE THIS PLACE” thing. Hey, it works. They’re going to have a match at TakeOver: Portland, and somebody should go ahead and put a bird on it now, because it’s going to be art.
Austin Theory gets an easy win over Joaquin Wilde in only a couple of minutes, pinning him and making Mauro Ranallo yell AAAOOO WOWWWW into the microphone with a jumping TKO. Theory looks like the create-a-wrestler Vince McMahon would make it if he ever played WWE 2K; 6-foot-1, a “cocky, arrogant young man,” and the body of a super hero. The sky’s honestly the limit for him if he stays healthy and keeps learning. He’s already way ahead of schedule. Wrestling’s suddenly full of fully formed Superstars who are like, 23 years old. Theory, Rhea Ripley, MJF. Velveteen Dream’s only 24. Have fun wondering what you’ve done with your life and confronting your own mortality, everybody!
Mia Yim defeats what the announcers would call a “game” Kayden Carter — that developmental name from 10 years ago is still hard to accept — and gets jumped by Chelsea Green, making her official official NXT debut. Her hair, jeans, and signature pose make her look a lot like Jessie Spano, which I assure you is a compliment. I never gotten the “shh” taunt, though. Are we not supposed to tell anyone about what we’ve just seen? I know she was doing this long before The Librarians existed, but at least they’ve got a kayfabe reason to always tell people to be quiet.
She’s being managed by Robert Stone, aka fellow former Impact Wrestling star Robbie E, who you think would be straight up obsessed with managing Matt Riddle. Maybe that’s later. I know he’s trying to look stylish and all, but between the glasses, grey suit, and white shoes he kinda looks like Pee-wee Herman went SCUBA diving.
Best: The Lee Highway
Finally we’ve got our main event: a North American Championship number one contender Fatal Four-way (that’s a mouthful) between Keith Lee, Dominik Dijakovic, Damian Priest, and Cameron Grimes. One of these things is not like the other! Before you ask, here’s the weekly Keith Lee viral GIF content you crave:
Highlights of the bout include Keith Lee catching a thrown Damain Priest and using him like as a weapon against everybody else, Keith Lee catching Cameron Grimes off a top rope headscissors and then pouncing Dominik Dijakovic for preventing him from using Grimes as a weapon, and … [gestures vaguely] Keith Lee.
Lee wins the match, which brings up an important question: should Lee be challenging for the North American Championship? He’s got to be the most red hot act in the company right now, with a big showcase moment at Survivor Series and a viral GIF or four in practically every match he’s been in for months. Should he be challenging for the secondary championship? It’s Keith Lee, man. I know NXT seems set on doing Adam Cole vs. Tommaso Ciampa on top, and yeah, that’d be fantastic too, but you might also want to consider pulling the trigger on this Keith thing while it’s happening. Maybe they’ll have Cole cost Lee the match with Strong, and then have Lee decide he wants Goldie instead?
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
The Real Birdman
That Spirit Bomb
Belated, but +1 to Bianca Belair for “you don’t even go here.”
I saw someone else saying they were for Dijavokic tonight and I agree. DD should be rewarded for his part in one of the best rivalries (him and Lee) as well as WarGames. Cause Keith Lee should get that NXT Championship. Soon. So DD should get something too.
Worlds Collide is just Survivor Series with better matches
Baron Von Raschke
If I ever have a thought that, “Hey. I could do that wrestling” I watch Keith Lee give a Grizzly Magnum to someone before Spirit Bombing them. Then, I think, “Hey…I’ll just hang out on With Spandex and make sarcastic comments.”
Johnny Gargano! That’s the hardest part of the Takeover!
Commercials during a Gallus match are called…
… Coffey Breaks.
“BEAT HIM UP.” This is why I’m a Roderick Strong fan, his match advice is just so concise yet reasonable.
I can’t wait for Vince to add a rocket ship sound effect and ruin Austin Theory’s sweet entrance. That was impressive and immediately made him look like a star.
I don’t think there’s a single thing about Matt Riddle I don’t love
That’s it for this week’s Best and Worst of NXT. As always, thanks for reading.
Drop down into our comments section below to let us know what you thought of the show (and whether or not Keith Lee should just put Roderick Strong in his pocket and challenge Adam Cole instead), and give us a share on social media to help spread the word. It’s a really downtrodden and disheartening time, so the love is appreciated. See you next week.