– Surprised Sami Zayn fan seems like the best part of that photo, but it’s actually sassy emo Triple H guy. Also, why is the mayor behind them?
– You can watch this week’s episode here. All of our NXT content can be found here. Make sure you’re keeping up with our retro recaps of NXT season 4 as well, with new reports going up on Friday afternoons.
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Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for November 13, 2014.
Best: Finn Bálor’s Musically-Timed Sephiroth Entrance
Seriously, mute the Network and play this in the background during his entrance. He’s either Sephiroth (with a mix of Kuja, because seriously, those trunks) or a Licker from the ‘Resident Evil’ games. Wait until he starts painting himself.
Best/Worst: Justin Gabriel Says What We’re All Thinking
Bálor cuts a quick promo about how he’s the future, which brings out Tyson Kidd and his amazing Cat Facts trunks and kickpads. Natalya’s there, too, because her relationship with The Great Khali proved that she doesn’t have to agree with or understand anything happening around her, she’s just happy to be on television. Kidd is quickly interrupted by JUSTIN GABRIEL, who has gone from face to heel to face and back to heel again for the benefit of this confrontation.
He astutely points out that it seems like now every week there’s a new “international superstar” showing up with cool music and a cool entrance, thinking he’s a top guy. Much like Kidd and Gabriel’s “we’re main roster failures, so we’ve gotta keep these young jerks from succeeding” stuff from earlier in the year, it’s a good point. If I’m CJ Parker or whoever, shouldn’t I be PISSED that a guy like Prince Devitt can just waltz in and take a spot I’ve been desperately scratching and clawing for for years? Why are these guys the “leaders of the new school” because they excelled somewhere else? When did we decide we’d learned enough in NOW school?
(I won’t even hold the fact that Gabriel’s dressed like a colorblind Kofi Kingston against him.)
Best: WE’RE GONNA HAVE OURSELVES A TAG TEAM MATCH!
Hideo Itami shows up to back up his friend and Justin Gabriel makes these hilarious “aw dang” faces. “Let’s threaten Viktor 2-on-1, I’m sure KONNOR won’t show up!” William Regal uses telepathic Teddy Long powers to make this a tag team match, and hey, it’s the first decent in-ring use of Hideo Itami since his debut.
One of the comments I’m getting from a lot of people is that they’re instantly into Finn Bálor, but lukewarm on Itami. I think a lot of it has to do with watching Itami slum it on the ass-end of beatdowns for a month to set up Bálor’s debut. It also has to do with their styles. Even at his most exciting, Itami was a Pro Wrestling NOAH guy. That meant building matches around moves that aren’t in themselves super exciting, but are MADE exciting by context. Hell, Kenta Kobashi’s big moves were a lariat and a moonsault, but he’s the GOAT because he used them as important weapons in a grander thing. Sure, he had the Burning Hammer, but he only used it 7 times. Itami came up alongside Naomichi Marufuji, who is the “moves” guy. Marufuji would come up with a convoluted way to suplex you, whereas Kenta would just kick you in the side of the head and knee you in the face. A stylistic difference.
Bálor’s big rush of fame came as a part of modern New Japan, which is a very different animal. There’s more “showmanship” in his presentation. Itami’s just like “here’s me in my trunks, I’ve got fighting spirit.” Bálor is more, “I painted myself like Carnage and I’m entering the ring via coffin and here’s me acting like a weird lizard, and now I’m upside down.” It’s arguable which style is “better,” but Bálor is probably way easier for a fan raised on WWE to instantly see and like.
As I mentioned though, this is Itami’s best match since his debut, because he’s allowed to fit into it as a piece rather than trying to carry it like he’s Rey Mysterio. It’s KENTA, guys, don’t have him get beaten up for 10 minutes by Viktor or whoever and get a big inspirational comeback. He’s a “fight you toe-to-toe and see who the best man is” kind of wrestler. Having him counter springboards with kicks to the stomach is a good start. Allowing him to have speed and force behind his moves is another. Don’t ask him to hold back. You didn’t sign him because he holds back.
Best: Alexa Bliss Has Solved All Of Her Problems
The second match of the show is Alexa Bliss vs. THE BOSS, and it is RAD AS HELL, YOU GUYS. The major reason why? Alexa Bliss has addressed and seemingly solved her two biggest problems.
1. They brought back the glitter sneeze.
Bliss is a beautiful young girl who is clearly trying very hard, but I am for-real not going to give the first shit about her if she isn’t a curtseying pixie who barfs glitter during her ring entrance. I’m just telling you the truth. I don’t care if she becomes Sara Del Rey good in the ring, you don’t give me “comes out to wind chimes, blows glitter everywhere” and take it away.
This was the most important thing. My big complaint about Bliss has been that she doesn’t DO anything. Her entire moveset was rollups, and even her big flashy signature move was a 450 splash off the second rope into a forward roll that never touches her opponent or dodges anything. She’s just doing gymnastics for the hell of it. Here, she kicks ass. I almost stood up and clapped in my living room. Her strikes look better, she throws clotheslines, and she actually takes Sasha down with a headscissors instead of rolling through and trying to pin her. The best is the Yoshi Tonic out of the corner. It might’ve been all Sasha Banks, but it looked KILLER. It was practically a head drop. The look on the faces in the crowd (and on Becky) were priceless.
Plus, her nose gets busted open and she kept fighting hard. That’s pretty cool.
Worst: Sasha’s Promo
I’m not Worsting it because she did a bad job, I just think I figured out the problem.
Sasha Banks backstage promos used to be monumentally terrible. When they gave her the Boss character they improved a lot, but they were still a little stunted. Certainly nowhere near as natural as those promo school videos with Angelo Dawkins. The weird thing is that Sasha’s probably the best wrestler on the show, male or female, at “being” her character in the ring. She just exists as THE BOSS, and you can see it in the way she interacts with other wrestlers. Here, they try to capitalize on that by having her cut a promo IN the ring, and it works. Mostly.
Some of it’s really great. Her initial “Awwww, y’okayyy??” is PHENOMENAL. That’s Sasha Banks. Then she has to read a pre-written promo she’s probably spent all day memorizing, remembering to make “oh no she didn’t” gestures with every sentence. She even stops a few times and looks back at Becky, like she’s getting cues. That’s the issue. You’re not letting her BE. You’re saying “live this character, now say something your character didn’t write.” Why do that to a person who is so clearly an ace at saying what needs to be said WITHOUT the speech? Next time, try saying “Sasha, here’s the microphone. You’re the boss. You want a championship match with Charlotte and think you deserve it. You aren’t giving a speech. Tell her like you’d tell her if you were pissed off at her backstage.”
See where it goes, you know? That’s a vital part of the learning process in wrestling … just going out there and DOING it. It shouldn’t be like filling out a form.
(Also, tell her to stop looking up.)
Best: WELCOME BACK, PRECIOUS DEVIN
Theory: The Exotic Express has been having a lot of problems recently, so Devin was spending more time on the bus, trying to mellow things out. Then Adam Rose went off the deep end and started attacking his bunny, so Devin had her buzz harshed and decided to go back to work. Also they went to Europe, and she doesn’t make that kind of money bobbleheading her way though backstage interviews.
Anyway, glad to have you back. I hope you ate Super Devin whole and absorbed her powers. Nobody can nod “uh huuuuh, uh huuuuh” arbitrarily through an interview like Devin. She always looks like she’s accepted a job offer and is waiting for the employer to stop talking so she can say yes.
Worst: And Now, The Arial Assault Of Wesley Blake And Buddy Murphy
That has got to be the laziest TitanTron video NXT’s ever done. That’s lazier than the time they downloaded a free After Effects template and typed “ENZO” into it. The least you could’ve done is typed TEAM THICK in bold after their names.
Best: The Actual Match
Lingering anger for Team Thick being “interchangeable dudes who want to be ‘the most functional tag team’ instead of real live cowboys” aside, Blake and Murphy were GREAT in this match. Like the Itami and Bliss matches, this is the best they’ve ever been. It might’ve been the best Kalisto’s been, too. Was that the theme of the night? “You’ve been here for a while, now do better?”
If it was, it worked. Blake and Murphy are like compact, better versions of Jason Jordan and Tye Dillinger. They’re fast, precise and strong, which is a perfect foil for a team like the Lucha Dragons. Kalisto is the best wrestler I’ve seen since Ricky Morton at finding creative ways to make a hot tag. Watching him counter a monkeyflip into a sunset flip, roll through and keep rolling until he kicks the guy in the head is the kind of move you rewind and watch again. NXT needs more of that. I probably sound like the ultimate Internet guy saying “DO MORE MOVES,” but you’ve got some of the most physically gifted athletes in the world on your developmental roster right now and Lucha Underground’s setting a dangerous precedent for what I expect in televised flippy guys. Sin Cara doing the schoolboy into a one-armed powerbomb as a regular move now is a good step in the right direction. Open it up, y’all! Let those movesets swing. This is where you should trying stuff and finding out what works best.
Very good stuff. If we can get Team Thick a name that doesn’t make them sound dick-themed they’ll earn much love from me as the workhorse midcard tag team the Mechanics probably should’ve been.
Best: Everyone Was Right About You, Sami Zayn
First of all:
Sami Zayn challenging for the NXT Championship against Adrian Neville (on a show other than one of the live specials) is exactly what you thought it’d be. Neville and Zayn have known each other since 2006, so scouting isn’t even an issue. They see the other’s big moves coming and adjust accordingly. Neville countering Zayn’s suplex in the corner was probably my favorite moment, but there are a lot of them.
The money is in the finish. Neville goes for the Red Arrow, but Zayn has it scouted and moves out of the way. Neville comes down hard and injures his leg, which causes the referee to throw up the X. Because Zayn is a decent dude who cares about his friend, he puts the match on pause for a moment to make sure everything’s okay … and Neville rolls him up for the three. The best part is that Neville wasn’t faking or being heelish. He’s actually hurt from the move, he’s just staying on top of things and defending his title at all costs. That’s the killer instinct he said Zayn doesn’t have, and he’s absolutely right. Zayn’s left sitting there with the dopiest sad look on his face while Neville gets checked on by doctors, and, you know, gets to go home with the strap. It’s the same thing he pulled at Fatal 4 Way. He didn’t cheat or break the rules, he just pulled a dick move within their parameters.
I’m so unbelievably excited for the More Important Version of this. The story of whether or not Zayn can pull the trigger is compelling, especially if it leads to a situation where he isn’t a do-gooding chump for a while. That’s the Zayn I and everybody else in the world loves and prefers, but there’s a deep worth in sending him on an emotional journey like this and seeing him through to the other side. Kevin Steen couldn’t be showing up at a more perfect time. I can’t wait to see how it ends.