The Best And Worst Of WWE NXT 1/21/15: Curtis ‘The Ram’ Axel

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Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for January 21, 2015.

Best: Sami Zayn Vs. Tye Dillinger

In case you missed it, here’s a GIF of the match.

Best: The Top Star/General Manager Interaction I’ve Always Wanted

The thing I love most about NXT is that it validates my Raw complaining. A lot of people will watch Raw and see all the good guys acting like entitled creeps and say, “it’s just wrestling. That’s just how it works! That’s how it’s always worked! Stop trying to reinvent the wheel!” NXT takes the complaints to heart and tries them out, and you know what? It works. Wrestling’s a big, magical thing. It can work more than one way. It can work all the ways.

Sami Zayn goes Full Ralphie on Tye Dillinger, figuratively stuffing him into a crate and shipping him back to OVW. Zayn gets on a mic and demands Kevin Owens, which brings out General Manager William Regal. Now, most of Regal’s early decisions as GM were just “stand in the ring and hope the wrestlers argue themselves into a match.” To his credit, he realized that and has taken a more proactive, controlling stance on match-making. On NXT, you can’t just waltz out and say you’re feuding with somebody and have a match happen. Regal explains that he’s made a #1 contender tournament for the NXT Championship and Owens hasn’t done anything to earn a standalone shot. Dude’s had what, two matches? One ended in a double count-out and the other involved him almost getting his nose driven up backwards through his brain by CJ Parker.

Zayn’s hot, but his response is perfect: he’s a creature of emotional momentum, and he’s not going to be okay until he gets the match. He doesn’t care if it’s non-title, and he’ll do whatever else Regal wants him to do on top of it. He’ll fight the tournament winner. He even shows humility by saying how much he respects Regal and kinda apologizes to him for railroading the show, staying tough and confident without losing his humanity. That’s what we love about Zayn, isn’t it? The fact that he’s a Good Dude, capital g capital d, and he’s great at his job. He never looks like a petulant child.

Regal knows it’s good business, so he agrees to Zayn vs. Owens for the next live special. Regal looks like a smart guy who cares about the show but isn’t going to be walked over. Sami gets what he wants by making sense and playing ball and never looks weak. I couldn’t love this more.

Best: If You’ve Ever Seen A One-Legged Dog, Then You’ve Seen Curtis Axel

The first match in the #1 contender tournament sees poor Curtis Axel paired up against Finn Bálor, which must feel like being guy #2 in NXT’s version of the John Cena handicap match. Bálor’s almost too good for what he’s doing. He doesn’t seem like an “NXT guy” or even a Raw guy coming in to have a good match, he seems like a visiting star. Like that guy your local promotion brings in to sell tickets but isn’t sticking around.

Anyway, at one point Axel goes for an elbow off the ropes, and instead of just doing an elbow like a human being he puts BOTH of his arms behind his head and does the Ram Jam from The Wrestler. And just like the ending of that film, he dies trying to do it*. Just flops to the mat like an idiot. I think Curtis Axel as the stupider version of Tyson Kidd is the best idea they’ve ever had for him. He wants to get his career going again and feels like he deserves it more than these kids, but instead of dropping facts and arguing with his wife about it he just gets confused all the time.

*Don’t worry, this is just one interpretation of the ending. MY interpretation of the ending is that Ayatollah rolls out of the way, Randy eats it and Ayatollah shoot pins him for trying to go into business for himself. Then there’s another like, hour of us just following around The Ayatollah. And then the Jung Dragons attack him!

Best: Rich Brennan Calls The Sling Blade

Thank you for receiving my comment card, Richie Brennan. I hope they let you be The Voice Of WWE soon and demote Cole from the Four Horsemen to Raw.

Best: Devin Taylor’s Gonna Lose Her Mind One Of These Days And Spear Somebody

There are only two things wrong with Sasha Banks, who is otherwise one of the very best performers on the show:

1. her promos make her sound like the antagonist of basically any Disney Channel show, and
2. she won’t stop randomly looking up.

I’m worried that I’m giving her a complex by repeatedly pointing it out, because her promos are honestly much better and more confident than they used to be, but her eyeballs are all over the place. Now when she’s not randomly looking up she’s randomly looking DOWN. She spends most of this promo staring at her shoes. I think she needs a physical tic, like Bull Dempsey’s thing where he wrings his hands and stares at them for a minute until he’s comfortable and can address the camera. Sasha Banks is legitimately hilarious and cool as shit, we just need to find the thing that breaks the ice.


Sasha Banks pinned Charlotte in a tag team match, so she gets another shot at the NXT Women’s Championship. That’s ruined by Becky Lynch, professional ruiner, who attacks Charlotte with these big European uppercuts to the boob and gets Sasha DQ’d. Sasha takes an issue with it, but says nuts to inner-faction feuding and joins in on the beatdown. That brings out Bayley, and we get to the cool post-match stuff.

This isn’t a deadly serious worst, of course, because we’ve seen Sasha vs. Charlotte a few times already and this was a means to an end. But anyway, THIS STUFF:

Best: Everything After The Match

– EDGY BAYLEY! I’m not sure my heart’s ready for it, but Bayley’s apparently been watching her Sami Zayn tapes and is ready for her Road To Redemption. She makes the save for Charlotte but gets distracted by the NXT Women’s Championship, probably because she got strapped to an escape pod a few months ago and shot off as far away from it as possible. Charlotte yanks it out of her hands, and that’s enough for Bayley to show RUTHLESS AGGRESSION and belly-to-belly her.

What’s great about this is how conflicted she looks. Bayley’s got amazing body language, and the conflict in her face was right there. She doesn’t WANT to do it this way, but she’s gotta be a grownup and fit in sometime, and if she doesn’t start throwing people around she’s gonna get passed over forever. Sasha’s done nothing but manipulate and complain and she’s gotten a bunch of opportunities in a row. I think my favorite moment’s when Charlotte first turns around and Bayley gets the I’M GONNA KILL YOU look in her face, but her hands and body are almost willing her to stop. It’s such a great “well, here goes” moment. I’m all-in on edgy Bayley as long as she gets the care Sami got, and comes out stronger on the other side. Also as long as there’s at least one moment where Bayley wrecks Natalya.

Corey Graves asks how Bayley could do something like this when Charlotte’s always stuck up for her, and I’ll give him a pass because he was still trying to be a cool Rockabilly wrestling asshole back when Charlotte was turning on her and throwing her under the bus for fame and fortune.

– Sasha Banks is so damn funny when she doesn’t have a camera in her face. William Regal shows up and starts adding women to a match at the next live special … he announces Bayley, and Sasha’s upset. He announces Becky Lynch, and she gets IRATE. She starts SCREECHING, because in Sasha’s brain it’s way more reasonable for her rival to get an opportunity than her subordinate. She chills the second Regal announces her name and starts acting confident, but even then she wants Becky to put her hands down.

Worst: The “I See These Guys At The Performance Center And They Work Hard” Talking Point

This is more of a random thought than a complaint, but I’m not a fan of the “I see these guys at the Performance Center all the time” conversation. I feel like the announce team has it too much. You guys all work there and run shows 7 minutes from it. Don’t you see EVERYBODY at the Performance Center? I dunno, I just think “this guy practices a lot” isn’t the most fantastic thing you could be saying about someone, especially when their characters are only as deep as “guys who know each other and own matching pants.”

It’s the developmental version of “I was talking to This Wrestler earlier today and he said he was READY.”

Best: And Now, The Rise Of The Dubstep Cowboys

That said, I hope Buddy Murphy and Wesley Blake get a little character development. They’ve been very good in the ring since being paired up, and if we’re gonna start putting them over the Vaudevillains and making them a thing, I’d at least like to know what thing they are. Literally the only things we know about them are that they don’t miss practice and have thick enough bodies to admire that in one another and choose to call themselves “Team Thick.” Also, one of them used to be a cowboy.


We jump backstage to find Blake and Murphy shirtless and standing basically pec-to-pec, licking their lips and hopping in place. Uh, okay.

Suddenly they’re joined by a new backstage interview personality who I’m pretty sure is one of Todd Chrisley’s kids. He shows up dressed and sounding like a pageant toddler and asks them what they think about their match. I hope he never shows up again, and that Devin didn’t do the interview because she’s still pissed about getting hair in her nose. If he does, I hope he tells them they aren’t allowed to go out and wrestle with their snapdragon snappin’.

Best: Prince By God Pretty

This week’s main event and the second match in the #1 contender tournament is Hideo Itami vs. Tyler Breeze. If you’re a regular reader of the column, you know how concerned we’ve all been for the welfare of Breeze, who kinda went from the most important and entertaining guy on the show to a NPC in like a month when WWE signed the “Leaders of the New School.” He was a guy created in the WWE system who works brilliantly IN the WWE system, and he was shuffled to the bottom just as he was proving he belonged at the top. Go back and watch Fatal 4 Way. Breeze is the star of that match.

The good news is that Breeze gets a marquee matchup against Itami here and gives him his best singles match since signing with the company. They’re pushing Itami having “fighting spirit” and “strong style” despite not totally understanding what those things are, so Breeze does something brilliant: when Itami kicks him, he leaves the ground. I don’t mean he bumps, I mean he gets kicked and lets it lift him off the ground. It makes Itami look like he’s kicking him out of his shoes, and differentiates the early match strikes from the later “fighting spirit” ones that are supposed to be so deadly. It’s lovely.

Also, the Supermodel Kick is probably the (prince) prettiest move in NXT. What can I say, you know? I love the guy’s work. If he needs to spend a few months eating it to make Triple H’s New Favorites look a little better, so be it. That’s a valuable role. Breeze/Finn would be great, as would Breeze/Owens. He’s got that intangible Cartoon Personality they all lack but Raw demands, so if he gets brought up to be the new Bo Dallas in six months or a year it’ll be the same difference. I think he’ll be fine as long as they don’t forget him, and personally hand JBL a “DON’T SAY MODELS ARE GAY ON TV” memo.

Let’s Ask The WWE Universe What They Think About Tyler Breeze

See? Totally fine.