Previously on the Best and Worst of NXT: The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic kicked off, the women’s division showed out, and Johnny Gargano cut a John Cena-esque promo. Fine speech, indeed.
And now, the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for January 15, 2020.
Blurst: Hey, where’s Brandon?
He’s on vacation! I’m Scott Heisel. I write for this website too. In fact, I wrote the B&W of NXT column from 2017-2018. Good to see you again! Let’s get into it.
Worst: Terrible Lie
This week’s NXT starts off with Keith by god Lee, who is still massively over and is headed into a North American title match next week with Roderick Strong. So, of course, Lee is almost immediately interrupted by the Undisputed Era, who puts a “beating” on him, in heaaaaaavy quotes. Seriously, y’all wanna complain about the Dark Order’s punches when Kyle O’Reilly is striking like this? C’mon, man.
Lee gets his ankle Pillmanized (off the second turnbuckle, natch) and Tommaso Ciampa runs out for the save, only for Lee to immediately get back to his feet. Dude, your ankle should be broken. Maybe limp a little?
We get a variation of the same segment a half-hour later, only this time Ciampa comes out and gets jumped by TUE, only to be saved by his former tag team partner and sometimes-blood rival Johnny “Wrestling” Gargano, which results in an impromptu #DIY reunion, all for the sake of a one-off match at Worlds Collide against Mustache Mountain. This is getting dangerously close to the whole “character alignments don’t matter, it’s about BRAND SUPREMACY” schtick we deal with every November, and while I’m sure some folks are happy to have Ciampa and Gargano back on the same page, I’m over here still waiting for the final blowoff to their epic feud. I wouldn’t mind if this added any layers to their relationship, but given that both men are embroiled in separate feuds and both have matches at Takeover: Portland already, it’s strictly fan service to goose the WWE Network viewing numbers for Worlds Collide.
It’s worth mentioning, however, that the Velveteen Dream was mentioned by both Lee and Ciampa in their respective promos. If we say his name one more time, maybe he’ll show up in Enzo Amore’s old Beetlejuice suit. #saveusy2v
Cathy Kelley promises us a medical update on Lee’s condition, but instead, he randomly shows up in the next segment at 100 percent to throw some Full Sail security guards through bushes and car windshields. I guess that ankle’s fine after all!
I gotta be honest: I didn’t like any of this. I get that Keith Lee essentially had the “A-story” of the evening, but having two separate “good guy gets beaten down by heel faction, another good guy comes out for the save” segments within 30 minutes — both featuring the same players — just seems superfluous. Put it all in the opening segment and let’s move on. There are fewer things I dislike on a wrestling show than hearing a wrestler’s entrance music more than once. Once the audience pops, they’re not gonna get up again for it, especially in the case of Ciampa, who had his entrance music played twice in under a half-hour. Pops are special, and a finite resource. Let’s not waste them.
Fine: We’re In This Together
The first round of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic continued with the Broserweights having one hell of a fast-paced match against NXT UK’s Mark Andrews and Flash Morgan Webster, a team that should not exist (mods and punks are enemies, damn it!). I don’t think anyone was surprised that Pete Dunne and Matt Riddle rolled here — heck, they already have matching gear — but Mandrews and Webster put up a surprisingly good fight for a pair of guys that just had the shit kicked out of them in a ladder match.
The match itself was perfectly cromulent (although it at times gave me that same feeling of anxiousness like when I accidentally play a podcast at 1.25 speed), but nobody in that room thought the Broserweights were going to lose, no matter how many nearfalls they teased us with. (That said, the jackhammer into a rollup false finish made me laugh, and also made me wonder why no one ever did that to Goldberg before…) Even Dunne seemed to get sick of the match taking so long when he flat-out punched Mandrews in the damn face after he attempted a flip off the top rope. Pin them and move on already.
Best: Came Back Haunted
One of the most memorable moments of AEW’s tournament to crown their first tag team champions was the first round upset between Private Party — ostensibly the 8 seed — and the Young Bucks, clearly the 1 seed. It was exciting and surprising, and not something WWE really ever dabbles with, presentation-wise. Which is why, to be completely honest, I kinda zoned out during this match between the reunited Time Splitters — Kushida and his old IWGP partner Alex Shelley — and the Grizzled Young Vets from NXT UK. Knowing that the winner would go onto face Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish — the same team that beat the Time Splitters for the IWGP tag straps years ago — made this feel like a foregone conclusion. Imagine my surprise when Shelley took the pin! Considering the Dusty Classic has been incredibly predictable this time around, it was nice to have something different happen, especially involving a “special guest” of sorts.
(Supplemental Best to Alex Shelley having the Teenage Bottlerocket logo on his tights. Shut up and get rad.)
Best: All The Love In The World
Next, we get the first mention of the NXT Cruiserweight Championship since Angel Garza won it a month ago — and apparently he has to defend it against three other competitors at Worlds Collide. Very well. It’s an excuse to put together an absolute ripper of a triple threat match to earn a spot in that fatal four-way between NXT OG Tyler Breeze, former champion Lio Rush and up-and-comer Isaiah “Swerve” Scott. If there’s one match you watch in full this week, let this one be it: It was full of creative, blood-pumping spots (seriously, how is Lio so fast??), and all three competitors looked great throughout.
While it would’ve been nice to see Breeze get the spot, that ship has long since sailed (say what you will about Sami Zayn’s main roster mistreatment, but at least the dude got to win the NXT championship once — Breeze hasn’t sniffed gold since FCW). The money match is Garza/Rush III, so might as well let Swerve get the Worlds Collide spot and save that for a Takeover. Plus, Swerve’s JML Driver looks insane, so expect him to hit it on one of the NXT UK competitors then get tossed out of the ring by Garza for a sneaky pin to retain.
Best: The Great Destroyer
Tonight’s main event was a blast for a number of reasons — seriously, who doesn’t like a good ol’ battle royal? — but it will likely be remembered for the glorious return of Shayna Baszler, who hasn’t been on NXT TV since dropping the women’s title a month ago. She makes her impact felt immediately, eliminating a full third of the field, including pretty much all the cans (sorry, MJ Jenkins and Kayden Carter) but also a big-time player in Mercedes Martinez — when the two of them were staring each other down, it felt like I was watching Looper.
It was also the return of Tegan Nox, who was rocking a killer Nine Inch Nails tee earlier in the show (shout-out to Trent Reznor, who is not only already halfway to an EGOT but just got inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame yesterday) and who had the funniest spot of the whole match when she chokeslammed Io Shirai onto Shayna Baszler. Bah gawd! Of course, her presence summoned Dakota (Cobra) Kai, who eliminated her and then chucked Nox’s old knee brace at her head for good measure. That’ll be a fun feud.
There were a lot of fresh faces in this match, which made it easy to lose track of folks. That made the eventual reveal of Shotzi Blackheart as the “whoops, I’m not eliminated after all” entrant at the end of the match that much more surprising. She had the crowd behind her big time, which will be helpful once Shayna murders her on live TV next week. They can all donate to the Gofundme her family will start for her funeral expenses.
Our final two came down to Io Shirai and Bianca Belair, with the EST eventually getting the better of the genius of the sky. Even though the crowd was firmly in Io’s corner, I’m okay with this. NXT is already giving a massive face push to the current male crowd favorite, Keith Lee, because they can run him against Roddy and his shitty little boots. Io’s still technically a heel, even with the crowd support, so if you were to run her against Rhea Ripley this soon, it would be all the more damaging to whoever has to lose that match. Now, Ripley gets to square off against Belair in a Wargames rematch of sorts, and I’m looking forward to all sorts of absurd power moves from each woman. Is hoss a gender neutral term? It should be. Hoss fights forever.
That’s it for this week’s Best and Worst of NXT. Drop down into our comments section below to let us know what you thought of the show (and how wrong I am about all the Lee/Ciampa/Undisputed Era stuff), and give us a share on social media to help spread the word. Thanks for reading this far. Brandon will be back next week!