– This is the second Best and Worst report for NXT’s live WWE Network specials, so if you like what we read, check out our weekly NXT recap and our revisits of season 1 and season 2 of the old gameshow version.
– If we share this column enough, I get to confront Rich Brennan in the middle of the ring about what he calls moves. This is legally binding. Share the column!
Please click through for the Best and Worst of NXT Takeover. Or “NXT taKEOVER” if we’re spelling it correctly.
Worst: Oh My God Why Is The Rosebunny Naked
The first match of the show is Adam Rose vs. Camacho, prefaced by a special Rose entrance where he gets off the Exotic Express, dances his way through the crowd waiting outside and enters through the Full Sail arena’s front door. It’s not a bad idea for an entrance, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the NXT Adam Rose Bunny who is now COMPLETELY NUDE.
I mean, if it was just a bunny costume, I wouldn’t complain. The problem is that the bunny has always worn clothes … he’s usually in a vest, sometimes a hat, sometimes a big bow. It’s the Donald Duck rule of wearing clothes. Sure, for all intents and purposes you are bottomless and your ass is hanging out, but if you’re wearing anything it constitutes “fully clothed.” An absence of those items indicates nudity. The Bunny just got off a party bus full of ravers wearing nothing, so I’m gonna assume Adam Rose is throwing Stewie Griffin Sexy Parties and we just caught the tail end of it. The … cottontail end of it.
The continued destruction of the Bunny is bothering me. Someone brought up the idea that the person inside the costume on NXT is probably a Full Sail drama student or whatever, and how we should prepare ourselves for another Fandango’s Original Dancer moment of loss. I’m not ready for that yet.
Best: Adam Rose’s Chants
I’ve sorta turned on Adam Rose as a character. He’s not a nice guy. He doesn’t take wrestling seriously in a promotion where taking wrestling seriously is the most important thing, and he’s got no redeemable traits besides “dancing with weird people I’m interested in seeing.” He does, however, inspire the only NXT crowd chants consistently better than Konnor’s.
The usual suspects were here, like the soccer chanting of his bastard second theme and WE ARE ROSEBUDS clap clap clapclapclap. New to NXT Takeover was the dueling chant — both sides in favor of Rose — that went “Par-ty time!/All the time!” It got faster and faster as they chanted it. Say what you will about the NXT crowd, but they’re hot for what deserves them being hot, and funny as shit when asked to react to things that don’t.
Best: Camacho’s Gotten Pretty Good
If only we could use this upswing of Camacho momentum (Camachomentum?) to accept the man as SON OF MENG and distance him from the BARRIO, VATO or whatever Hispanic stereotype we’re aping today. The guy isn’t Mexican. He’s Tongan. Worst case scenario, he should be wearing long black tights with skulls and crossbones on them and pinching people under their chin UNTIL THEY ARE DEAD.
I think I might ask for Camacho having ethnic specificity more than I ask for anything, but NXT needs more legit, scary bruiser types. Especially ones who are unfazed by wooden chairshots to the head.
Best: The Ascension Getting Actual Tag Team Matches
Here’s my problem with the tag titles match: it was backwards.
In every imaginable world of pro wrestling thought, you want this to be a showcase for Kalisto. These NXT specials are watched by way more people than the regular episodes, so a large portion of your audience didn’t see Kalisto and Local’s one match against The French Guys and have no idea who they are. Well, they probably know who Local is, but I digress.
The idea is that if you have Kalisto in a match, your job should be to make the fans say “what’s up with this Kalisto guy?” and then blow them out of the water with what’s up with Kalisto. The guy can do shit in the ring nobody else can, and while that doesn’t always make for a great wrestling match, it makes for a KILLER hot tag. You have Local take the heat, make a hot tag, let Kalisto go balls out for a couple of minutes and then eat a Fall of Man for the loss. Maybe do a shooting star bump on the Fall of Man. Or hell, you have Kalisto do something wacky and memorable and let Local eat it.
Instead, they let Kalisto take the heat and Local take the hot tag. Kalisto’s end was fine … he’s great at taking a beating, and the ways he countered and avoided the Ascension’s attacks were fun and creative. He works his ass off and makes the hot tag, and then nothing. Absolutely nothing. I would’ve traded in a red snapper for what El Local gave us.
I don’t want to shame Ricardo for being out of shape or whatever, but man, if you’re gonna be a chubby luchador, you’ve gotta do it right. I’ve seen a lot of barrel-shaped guys in lucha libre tear it up. Being shaped like a 50-year old man often makes luchadors BETTER. It humanizes them and makes their offense seem more spectacularly out-of-place, which can get it noticed and make it stick out in your brain. El Local doesn’t look like a cool fat luchador, and he’s too out of shape to be the quick, dynamic luchador he’s trying to be. Pairing him with Kalisto just highlights this. He tags in and the crowd’s all YEAHHHH and then he schleps around with some bad clotheslines and an almost-whiffed springboard and everyone in Full Sail starts breathing through their teeth.
If you want Local to take the hot tag, just extend the match a little. Cut him off, let him take a second heat and hot tag Kalisto. That way you get Kalisto carrying the brunt of the presentation at the beginning and the end, and El Local looks like a guy who participated instead of looking like a guy who farted around and lost the match.
Best: New Music For Everybody!
Last night’s show featured new entrance themes for a lot of characters, but two were huge successes:
1. Charlotte getting an EDM remix of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, which is perfect, and
2. Tyler Breeze getting an EDM Sexy Boy featuring him RAPPING ABOUT HOW GORGEOUS HE IS
And yeah, before you say it, ‘Good Dirty Fun’ was a perfect entrance theme. I’ll miss it. But yo, Tyler Breeze is doing beat poetry about how his beautiful eyes will set you free and then singing about his gorgeousness in a robot voice. If I gave a Worst to that I wouldn’t be qualified to judge Tyler Breeze at all.
Sami Zayn also got a new entrance theme, and while it’s an improvement on his original, it really only exists to be the ersatz Bouncing Souls. If you haven’t followed Zayn’s career through the independents, his signature theme was their song ‘Olé,’ and it’s as A-to-B for a man’s character as an unlicensed theme can be. It’s right behind Daniel Bryan using Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’ on the list of irreplaceable indie entrances. When you hear NXT fans doing the Olé soccer chant, this is what they’re doing. Still. Because it IS Rami Sebei. More a part of what he’s done than a mask or a pair of flag tights.
Anyway, the new theme is an approximation of that, complete with a new intro I guess they want fans to chant instead, but nope. Can we just license ‘Olé?’ Can we ‘Cult of Personality’ it? Punk bailing has to be saving your money on the entrance theme front. Drop a little cash and let’s make this a real thing.
A supplemental Best goes to Sami Zayn for skanking, causing a very specific group of uncool white people you know to pop for skanking. A supplemental Worst goes to the skanking for increasing the chances of Angelo Dawkins krumping.
Worst: WAIT A MINUTE
The new Tyler Breeze entrance has eliminated the giant phone graphic and the live selfie feed on the video screen. UNACCEPTABLE, NXT.
Best: I Should Probably Talk About The Match Now
THE SELFIE SCREEN THOUGH
Ugh. Okay, so Tyler Breeze vs. Sami Zayn was great. You knew it would be. It’s a perfect matchup. Sami Zayn’s building a reputation as a guy who goes all out and puts on a match of the year candidate every time out, and Tyler Breeze is a guy who can go, but has sorta lived in the shell of his gimmick and not been given a chance to. The end result is Breeze having a spotlight match that makes people suddenly take him seriously, and Zayn getting a heap of credit for making that happen whether it was his fault or not. Expertly booked.
I also really dug the finish, with Tyler Breeze getting an underhanded win without really being underhanded. Zayn goes for the Helluva Kick in the corner, Breeze ducks it and puts his arms up to block. Zayn runs junk-first into Breeze’s arms, causing an incidental low blow and leaving him open for a Beauty Shot. It allows Breeze to come out of the match still looking like a legit fighter, but gives Zayn an out for having lost via chaos theory. It’s a good decision, too, because Neville/Breeze makes more sense as an NXT Championship feud, and Neville just got done beating a guy with an “I’m good at wrestling” gimmick. Breeze and Neville are brilliant together, and Zayn can be brilliant with anybody.
Note: Anybody =/= Corey Graves
Oh, and in case you’re wondering about that unfortunate … I don’t want to say “botch” because botch sounds condescending, but if you’re wondering about that big move that didn’t go right and ended with a small package and an awkward Orange Crush, this is what Zayn was going for:
I really hope they don’t use this as an excuse to say “welp, that didn’t work” and never try it again, because if he’d hit it clean, it would’ve been his Tornado DDT Through The Ropes moment.
Best: Match Of The Year
It’s at least in my top ten, and I’m not even sure it was a match.
Rusev and Lana show up with a Russian flag and briefly discuss how great Russia is, which INFURIATES Mojo Rawley, who I guess has been standing just offscreen with an American flag this entire time. Mojo shows up and uses his best Chris Rock voice to challenge Rusev to a fight, telling him he’s gonna come down to the ring and shove that flag right up his “Putin.” Get it?
But no, God exists and Rusev just kicks Mojo in the face the second he gets into the ring. The next few minutes are Mojo helplessly falling around as Rusev decimates him and it is wonderful. He camel clutches him into submission in the ring, then again on the ramp. It’s the perfect response to a xenophobic asshole in 2014, and my only complaint is that Rusev didn’t punch him in the butt a few times to prevent any offensive retaliation.
Mojo’s next appearance should be a sitdown interview where he calmly apologizes for insulting Russia and for being so hype about flag rape.
Worst: Nobody In WWE Knows How To Wave A Flag
Speaking of improper use of a flag, remember on Raw when Big E showed up waving Old Glory around like he was trying to put out a fire? Rusev waves his flag the same way. Are they doing it on purpose? Mojo waves his weird, too, but that could just be Mojo.
Do I need to fly to Orlando and host a flag waving seminar? The idea is that people are supposed to SEE the flag as it goes by. We get it, you’re strong. You are not gonna impress me with your pole waggling speed.
Best: Charlotte Vs. Natalya Gives Me Too Much To Talk About
Real talk: if not for a super, super, super stupid thing in the middle, this would’ve been the best women’s wrestling match I’ve seen in years.
This is can’t-miss stuff. Charlotte and Natalya work their asses off here to top Paige vs. Emma, and they succeed. The major difference is that while Paige vs. Emma felt like a big fight WWE match, Charlotte vs. Natalya felt like a wrestling match. There’s never a moment where they just stand around wondering what the next move should be, or stay down too long to build drama. They start off wrestling, continue wrestling throughout the match and finish wrestling. No goofy shenanigans, no heightened Total Divas garbage … just two women who are good at what they do being exceptionally good at what they do.
I wanted to write that paragraph out because my job is to incessantly nitpick these things, and I don’t want you to think that this wasn’t amazing, even with its faults.
Worst: The Fault In Our Match
1. A well-worked wrestling match is like a great film. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. The end, in theory, has something to do with the beginning and middle and is the conclusion of the questions introduced in the first two acts. Charlotte and Natalya worked an outstanding match built around submissions and limb work. Both women targeted their opponent’s legs and back, with Nattie breaking out a random armbar every now and then to scare Charlotte and keep her on her toes. This makes sense, because Charlotte has finally accepted the Flair legacy and wants to TAKE YOU TO SCHOOL, and Natalya’s out there trying to please her uncle/father/husband Bret Hart.
The problem is that the finish is Charlotte’s “Bow Down To The Queen” finish. A flipping cutter with an unwieldy name. It’s an impact move to the head. Why spend twenty minutes battling for a leg submission only to RKO somebody? If the announce team had worked in some kind of logic like “Natalya’s had her legs worked so she’s not strong enough to stand, which makes her vulnerable for Charlotte’s finish,” that could’ve been cool. I know it sounds like an uptight nerd request, but there is SO MUCH GREAT SUBMISSION WORK here I think the match deserved a submission finish.
2. Natalya has no f*cking idea how a figure four works, does she?
So, uh, Charlotte locks in a figure four. A great one. They do a great back-and-forth sequence where they battle for leverage, leading to a bunch of slaps in the face and both women rolling to the outside. The problem is that EVERYONE INVOLVED, announcers included, forgot how a figure four works. The idea is that to reverse the pressure, you roll over onto your stomach. That changes how the legs are tied up, changing the leverage and putting the person who was IN the move in control. That’s the entire idea.
Instead, Natalya rolled over onto her stomach and then BACK onto her back, and suddenly that put her “in control.” Look at that picture. She’s still 100% in the figure four, but she’s pushing up like she’s putting pressure on Charlotte. Charlotte’s selling it. I spent a good five minutes trying to see if Natalya had moved Charlotte’s ankle or something and was using a counter I’d never seen before, but nope, she’s just f*cking it up. It’s awful, and a blight on not only a great match, but a great sequence.
I’d complain about it more, but I worry my complaining will become canon. Because:
Best: My Beef With Rich Brennan Is Now A WWE Topic Of Conversation
In the 4/24 edition of the Best and Worst of NXT, I took a shot at new play-by-play guy Rich Brennan for calling Charlotte’s headscissors a “figure four”:
In this match, he gets it into his head that Charlotte’s leg scissors on Emma is the figure four and CAN’T STOP MENTIONING IT. He tries to get Albert on board, and Albert’s all, “it’s what we call a leg scissors, n00b.” So Brennan starts in about how it’s just like the figure four but on the different half of the body (?), and at no point does someone scream IT’S NOT CALLED A FIGURE FOUR BECAUSE OF WHAT YOUR LEGS ARE DOING, IT’S CALLED A FIGURE FOUR BECAUSE OF WHAT YOU’RE DOING TO YOUR OPPONENT’S LEGS. You are not “doing the figure four” when you sit Indian-style.
My column found its way to Rich Brennan’s computer, and on the 5/8 edition of NXT I directly affected the move call:
Rich returns this week with the permanent (?) broadcast team of himself, Jason Albert and Renee Young, and when Charlotte pops on the leg scissors again, he calls it, “that headlock … or that necklock!”
I would like to formally use this space to apologize to Rich for nitpicking him to death on his first show, and I will try not to dissect every semantic disagreement I have with his job performance. Hell, I don’t want to pulling NO THAT’S NOT A BELLY-TO-BACK SUPLEX RICH IT’S A SAITO for months until the guy’s babbling incoherently trying to call wrestling matches and drinking himself to death.
Here’s where we stand.
On Takeover, Charlotte puts the move on Natalya and all three guys at the announce booth immediately go FIGURE FOUR HEADLOCK!! William Regal takes it a step farther and talks directly to me: “A lot of people think that’s a headscissors but it’s NOT, it’s a figure four headlock!”
I am available for an NXT pre-show appearance if we have to throw hands over this.
Best: The Post-Match Stuff
I’m a sucker for a post-match hug and show of mutual respect, even if it doesn’t make sense. Charlotte’s the kingshit heel of the NXT Women’s Division, right? She probably should’ve saved the hug and the thank you for backstage and flipped Nattie the bird while they were in the ring, but whatever. It’s nice.
If this is the confrontational real talk page, though, I need to point out how much better Ric Flair is than Bret Hart. It’s not a “boo hoo stop making fun of stroke victims” thing either. Bret showed up wearing a wrinkly shirt made out of a hospital gown and reacted to the match like it was putting him to sleep. Ric Flair was ON, being the best pageant dad ever, responding to Natalya’s “woo” taunt by leaning into the f*cking ring over the bottom rope to woo in her face the second she was down. When Charlotte wins, he takes off his jacket and spins it like a helicopter, because that’s how you do it in North Carolina. He Petey Pablo’d it. Flair rules HARD as a skeevy dad manager, and I hope to God they keep him on in that position. I continue to wish they’d let Bret be a comfortable old man off television and occasionally remember that Jim Neidhart has not died.
But yeah, match of the show here. Charlotte as full-on Charlotte Flair is a top shelf creative decision, and I can’t wait to see where she takes the women’s division. Hopefully she takes it into a Belly-to-Bayley suplex in the next set of tapings.
Worst: Cesaro Did Not Jump The Rail And European Uppercut Anybody
“Hey Cesaro, we should have a match on the next NXT Special!”
“I would, but you’re injured.”
“Not anymore! I’ve been medically cleared to compete!”
“Okay, keep telling yourself that.”
Best: WWE’s Best Couple
“I LOVE YOU TYSON, TYSON I LOVE YOU. GOOD LUCK SWEET PRINCE I LOVE YOU SO MUCH, OH I’M IN TEARS, BUT I LOVE YOU”
“cool, hold my shit”
Best/Worst: Tyson Kidd vs. Adrian Neville
I don’t want to give this a Worst, because it’s a very good match … the problem is that it’s a fantastic 12-15 match in a 30 minute bag.
The story they’re telling is a simple one; Adrian Neville and Tyson Kidd are evenly matched, almost clones of one another, but with different career trajectories. Neville is the new hotness, a guy undefeated in 2014 who has been made invincible by his NXT Championship win. Tyson Kidd is the guy who never quite made it over the hump, a guy who found mild success in the big leagues but 8 years later is stuck challenging for titles on developmental shows. Neville has to win to validate himself as worthy of the strap. Kidd has to win to validate his entire career, because if he can’t be the best guy in the minors, how can he be the best in the majors?
Again, that’s a great story for a 12 minute match. Instead, they’re asked to main event, anchor and overshadow a show with Zayn/Breeze and an absurdly good women’s championship match, not to mention five minutes of Mojo Rawley being browbeaten. That’s a tough act to follow. They succeeded in having a very, very good match, but nobody’s gonna look back on NXT Takeover in five years and say “oh man, remember Neville/Kidd?”
To put it another way:
If this had been 30 minutes at the end of an hourlong NXT, prefaced by CJ Parker or the Legionnaires, I’d lose my mind. In the context of a live NXT special that managed to top Arrival and stand as one of the best shows of the year? Not so much.
I look forward to Neville/Breeze, and to Kidd being repackaged as Canadian Sin Cara, or El Quebecois Local, or whatever.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Heyman: I’m trying to think of who the star of the show is, and it’s Mike Lient
Renee: Who is Mike…
HHH: No Renee, DON’T
The Ascension are one of those Buffy vampires that got built up as super tough and then were killed humorously and accidentally.
Bret looks like Nattie did a painting of Bret Hart
There’s nothing Low cal about Local
“Truth or dare?”
“THAT’S NOT PART OF THE GAME, TYSON!”
What is Camacho’s gimmick? Angry Asst. Manager of a J.Crew?
Two of the greatest last names in the history of wrestling, being represented by two women who apparently have no last name.
I gotta say, Sami Zayn’s tights look like an Angelfire page from the 90s
If Konnor ever uses a Sleeper will it be called Yahn?
I hope they show a defeated looking bo dallas just sitting on the steps outside the arena.
Thanks, everybody. And remember, we’re here every Friday morning with a Best and Worst of NXT column, so if you dug Takeover, be sure to check that out. We’re also talking about Payback all weekend, so hang around for that.
Best: For Extended Thoughts, Please Consult Straight Shoot
Here’s what I thought of the show in “rambling for 90 minutes” form: