The Best And Worst Of WWE NXT 10/23/14: Mojo Rawley Is Lost And Needs An Adult

Pre-show notes:

– You can watch this week’s episode here.

– If you like the column or watch the cool, modern version of NXT, you might like our retro recaps of season 1-4. So far you can read The Best and Worst of NXT Season 1, The Best and Worst of NXT Season 2 and The Best and Worst of NXT Season 3 in their entirety. We just started Season 4, with new reports of 4-year old episodes going up on Fridays.

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Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for October 23, 2014.

Best: Ascension Squash Matches Against Slightly More Impressive Opponents

This week’s opening bout is a tag team match pitting The Ascension against Jason “Jordon” and Tye Dillinger. When Jordan and Dillinger (aka “J.J. Dillin”) first debuted, I’d hoped they’d get a point and a pair of personalities quickly enough to become part of a resurgent tag team division. My desire to see this was 100% that they had matching gear. Anyway, they never got a point, and the closest thing they got to a personality was a backstage promo where they aped the Outhere Brothers. Dillinger’s supposed to be getting repackaged any day now as THE GAMBLER 2000 or whatever, so I guess this is their answer to the ever-present “would they have a shot at the Ascension” talking point.

Spoiler alert: they don’t.

Since losing the NXT Tag Team Championships, The Ascension have been worlds better. When they were champs, they wrestled an endless string of squash matches against jobbers so harmless and ineffective they made Ol’ Blue Pants look like Manami Toyota. Here, they have two things going for them.

1. the squash lasts a little longer, so they’re allowed to work in more of their moveset than “stomp” and “shoulderblock”
2. Dillinger and Jordan are physically imposing and, frankly, look like they should be the better wrestlers.

So instead of watching The Ascension beat up the two least important members of some high school’s swim team, Konnor and Viktor are dismantling two tall, muscular guys we’ve actually seen with a match before. I dig that. I think The Ascension could be a great tag team if they were actually involved in tag team matches, and not just time-killing exercises in Yah.

Best/Worst: The Weekly Hideo Itami Beatdown, And The Benefit Of Taped Show Hindsight

When the match is over, Hideo Itami runs out and tries to throw hands. It’s 2-on-1, both guys are bigger than him and he lacks the element of surprise he had at Fatal 4-Way because, you know, he stormed down to the ring with HIDEO ITAMI on a big screen behind him, so he gets beaten up. As a fan, it’s frustrating to see a babyface being so stupid. “More guts than brains,” as JR says. It’s admirable that he wants to beat them up for choppy choppy Funaki’s dignity, but damn, bring more to the ring than “light back elbows.” Supplemental Best for Richie Brennan’s “rage can blind you, so maybe that’s the case here” explanation.

Of course, the ending to the story has been spoiled on the Internet for weeks, and was one of those things so cool everybody who knows I like NXT had to aggressively tweet me about. That means I know this is going somewhere, and I know it goes somewhere soon, so I can’t get upset about the repeated beatdowns. If this happened on Raw, I’d feel like I was settling in for three months of the same segment. Here, because I trust NXT and because of said massive spoilage, I at least know a minute or two of stompy sadness is going somewhere awesome.

(Stop announcing that you’re about to interfere, Hideo, you dummy.)

Best?: The Untalented Mr. Rawley

Tyler Breeze beats CJ Parker in the second match, and it’s an interesting exercise in NXT playing Breeze as a babyface, but having him act like a heel. He spends the entire match on the defensive. Parker beats him down until Breeze is able to hit a Beauty Shot (“from outta nowhere”) and score the pin. To anyone who’s ever put a match together, Breeze is the face. But then (previously and assumedly still) babyface Mojo Rawley wanders out holding his shoulder and stares Breeze down. As Breeze leaves, he openly mocks Mojo for being injured.

Is Breeze the first Brandon Stroud babyface? A face with heel mannerisms, character and motivations who wrestles like a babyface, hates on the shittier, simpler good guys beneath him and gets cheered for all the stuff they’d hate him for on Raw? Is the easier answer that they’re playing him right down the middle so he can be utilitarian, because they know Full Sail will cheer him no matter what? It’s interesting.

Also interesting is Mojo, who is not good enough of an actor to explain why he wandered out to the ring during Breeze’s match and stared him down. Sure, Breeze tossed him into the ring post and injured him, but has Mojo completely abandoned his issue with Bull? Was he like “oh man, I can’t handle this big mean fat guy, who’s the opposite of that? The little sassy model?” I hope it’s not a revenge storyline. I want Mojo to become Breeze’s stooge. I want him to be the goofy, barely sentient muscle who Breeze dresses in fantastic, gaudy outfits and sics on people he doesn’t like. Give him a fashion name. Maybe “BOGO” Rawley.

Worst: Super Devin Is Just Happy To Be Here

Like Mojo, that “Worst” is right on the line between Best and Worst. I can’t figure it out.

We jump backstage where Not Devin is standing by, smiling her ass off about how she’s about to interview the #1 contender to the NXT Championship, Titus O’Neil. Titus shows up and barks in her face, and she smiles about it. He starts talking about how he’s going to abuse Adrian Neville’s body, mind, and spirit and change the name of the show. She reacts to this like she’s watching a box full of busy pug puppies. When he leaves, she smiles, stops briefly to make a derpy Jim Halpert face (pictured) and then smile more. Is she on drugs? I know we used the “she’s secretly a Rosebud” joke for Devin, but is she for real on a ton of drugs?

This woman is hiding some dark, dark secrets.

Best: The Vaudevillains Are Just The Best

Quick show of hands, who here knows I stan for The Vaudevillains. Everyone? Okay, good. Here are some notes on the match:

– I like the newer Vaudevillains theme and think it works better if they’re ever supposed to be taken seriously as heels, but I wish they’d have kept the first one to use as victory music. It’s all old-timey and moody when they arrive, but then they get the pin and it’s FUNKY RAGTIME!

– While I’m thinking about it, I still don’t think the Vaudevillains are heels. They’re only heels in our brains because Aiden English was super heel. These guys are just dorky chums with a common visual theme who are good at tag team wrestling and beat people up. Plus, how are you supposed to boo guys who call their finish the “Gentleman’s Congress?” Second plus, how do you boo guys who choose that deep green for their gear? Their gear is BEAUTIFUL.

– “Team Thick” is still a thing. The sad part is that Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy work really well together and could be great. Maybe they can just both be cowboys?

– The highlight of the match is the Wesley Blake Super Fan who goes “woooooo!” every time he does anything. Nobody else in the crowd reacts, but it’s like, clothesline. WOOOOO! Springboard elbow. WOOOOO! Kip up. WOOOO! She’s the NXT equivalent of a Japanese teen yelling CIMAAAAAA during Dragon Gate matches. I hope she goes to every show.

Worst: You’re Dead to Me, Becky Lynch

The next match is Sasha Banks vs. Bayley, because WWE called up Paige before she was ready and tossed Emma off a building into a garbage truck like the Shredder, and they’re the only two non-champion NXT Divas of note. It’s not their best effort because it’s all about the post-match, but it’s Bayley vs. Sasha Banks, so it’s still pretty good.

The post-match, of course, is where BLOOD FEUDS ARE DRAWN. Sasha sticks around to put the gentle forearms to Bayley, and Becky Lynch runs out to make the save. Becky hugs her, then clotheslines her in the back of the head to side with The Boss in the most dastardly betrayal on American soil since Peter Brady agreed to play Benedict Arnold in his school play. The announcers wonder if this is the new version of the BFFs. Hugging Bayley before turning on her is cold as ice.

The “Worst” here is purely from a fan’s perspective, as I am personally bothered by bad things happening to Bayley and that’s all that ever seems to happen. It’s secretly a Best, because Becky Lynch desperately needs a character deeper than “likes rock music, maybe?” and because she’s been turned evil by the mystical NXT Diva mirror. If she’d looked into the mirror and HADN’T changed allegiances, I would’ve been disappointed. I’m pretty excited to see the BFFs reformed, because it means Bayley can feud with Becky while Sasha targets Charlotte. Also, one day we’ll see Becky Lynch carrying around a popsicle stick with a cutout of Sasha’s head on it because she’s too busy filming season 6 of ‘Total Divas’ to finish out her NXT run.



Don’t be Sting, Bayley.

Best: Oh Me Oh My, Sweet Potato Pie

Enzo Amore is a G. He’s also a 4G, because he’s “well connected.” Enzo should be all-times talker. He should play every role on the show. He should be like that prisoner dog from ‘Cellbound’ and just switch out wigs and accents to be everybody.

Thought, though: Is there a good way for this to end? Unless Enzo’s gonna play the Jazz to Cassady’s Will Smith forever, there’s got to be a conclusion to him being continually rejected by Carmella, right? I guess it could be as simple as Cass saying, “she’s f*cking ME, man, get over it,” but I also like the idea of Enzo feeling like he’s given Carmella all this stuff and gotten nothing in return and turn him into a Men’s Rights Activist. I just want him showing up during women’s matches and being all, “Oh, a WOMEN’S division, huh?? I thought you wanted to be EQUALS. How come there can’t be MEN in the women’s division??”

I would also accept a story where Cass goes full Pygmalion and coaches Enzo on how to be a gentleman, because “you can teach that.”

Best-ish: Neville vs. Titus

The main-event is almost a carbon copy of last week’s, with a different ending. Neville’s resiliency and explosiveness in the ring allowing him temporarily KO Titus and put him away with the Red Arrow. Instead of, uh, losing badly.

I like that, because it helps move the narrative forward. After the match, Sami Zayn shows up and challenges Neville to a match. Neville accepts, and Sami does a lame “enjoy being champion now, because I will be champion soon” thing and Neville responds with “you can’t win the big one.” It’s something they’ve done a lot lately, but it works well here because Neville’s not just saying he, he’s SHOWING it. Zayn couldn’t beat Titus O’Neil. Neville could. The difference wasn’t “heart,” it was skill. Neville wrestled a better match, in a higher-pressure situation. As far as we know from the evidence we’ve been given, he’s exactly right. Sami’s “road to redemption” should include him realizing he’s kinda being a presumptuous dick.