The Best And Worst Of WWE NXT 12/18/14: STALL OWENS STALL

Pre-show notes:

– 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 December 18, 2014.

Here’s Me, In Case You’d Want To Look For Me On The Next Four Shows

That’s me in the Chikara hoodie, because I’m a nerd and have never kissed a lady. You can see me behind people when they enter the ring via the steps. I sat behind a pair of developmentally disabled guys (I think?) who wore face paint and brought 1,000 interchangeable signs on white squares of posterboard with things like “woo” and “THE WOLF” written on them and somehow none of them got on TV. If you do happen to see one, my face is directly behind it, doing this >:(

As a fair warning, being at this set of tapings means I know what’s happening for the next four weeks. I’ll try not to spoil anything important, and if I do, I’ll preface it with a bunch of boldface. Just be aware, is what I’m saying. I don’t want to type WESLEY BLAKE WINS THE NXT CHAMPIONSHIP and have you go SHIT WAIT WHAT and it ruin a month of wrestling.

Worst: Becky Lynch Is Great, But Her Character’s Got Nothing In The Tank

So, Becky Lynch.

Becky Lynch’s human (Rebecca Quin, aka Rebecca Knox) is a beautiful woman and a great wrestler. She’s got a lot of talent and a ton of upside, and she belongs in the ring with this batch of incredible NXT Diva talent. Having said that, “Becky Lynch” is not doing it for me. There’s just nothing to her. She does Superfly metal hands and shakes her hair, and that’s it. That’s all she’s got. She says that Sasha Banks opened her eyes and showed her she’s gotta be ruthless to get to the top of whatever, but she’s saying it, not showing it. She looks like she’s playing a role. When Sasha looked into the NXT backstage Oculus, she completely changed. She went from a paper doll to a dynamic character; a conniving, sycophantic Boss who thinks she’s an ace and can never back it up, because she isn’t confident in her (really pretty wonderful) skills. She changed beyond saying “I’m a bad guy now.” Becky hasn’t. I’ve tried to give her time and wait for one of these backstage moments to develop her, but nope, she’s just a means to an end in Sasha segments. Deus ex Irish lady.

That’s not to say she’s hopeless and can’t do it, because like I said, she is great. It just feels like she’s playing it too safe, and the true way to succeed in NXT — at least from a fan’s perspective — is to fully commit, and lose yourself in the character.

Worst: The Sad State Of Bayley And Tyler Breeze

Here’s another Becky Lynch worst that needs a qualifier. Becky vs. Bayley made a lot of sense, and accomplished what it (apparently) wanted to accomplish. Bayley started off hot, throwing Becky around and getting a measure of “revenge,” but Becky outsmarted her and took out her injured knee. One well-timed submission later and Bayley was done.

The Worst is for the weird air hanging over NXT right now, and I want to try to explain how I see it. Okay, you know how on Raw you’ve got your favorites? If you’re like me it’s guys like Cesaro, Damien Sandow, Ziggler … these workhorse guys with a lot of personality and potential who’ve never really been “given the ball” by the company. You get invested in their future and success as much as their characters and stories, because you see the good in them and want them to make it to the top. Daniel Bryan fandom in a nutshell. The struggle of wanting your favorites to do better because your love for them is organic and tempered and earned is a huge part of being a wrestling fan. For me, at least. So you’ve got these favorites, and what keeps them from reaching the top? Well, look at the CM Punk story. Guys who finally GET there and reach the top often have to play second-fiddle to popular part-timers. People like The Rock and Batista and Brock Lesnar show up and get all the big main-event spots, and your favorites — the organic regulars — compete to be one of 10-20 guys in an undercard afterthought. Sometimes it works for them, but most of the time it doesn’t. It draws thick, heavy lines between casual fans and hardcores, “marks” and “smarks” if you wanna call them that, and makes everything frustrating for everybody. Nothing moves forward.

Here’s a truth nobody’s talking about: that’s happening in NXT, too.

There are a lot of NXT guys who’ve been around for YEARS, waiting for a spot. Some of them made the best of terrible characters and became a worthwhile or even great part of the show. CJ Parker, for example. Tyler Breeze for another. Nobody was losing their mind over HOT INDY WORKER MIKE DALTON, but Dalton busted his ass, owned an otherwise stupid character and became TYLER BREEZE, one of the best part of any show he’s on. You get invested in these guys. Bayley’s another one. Bayley went from nothing to something, and her popularity is based 100% on who she is in NXT and what she’s done on the show. Nobody was clamoring for SHIMMER’s Davina Rose to get signed, you know? So these people kill themselves week in and week out to train and get better, and now suddenly Triple H signs a bunch of Big Name Indy Guys and shoots them right into showcase spots. KENTA, Prince Devitt, Kevin Steen … these are people who are popular because of what they did somewhere else, using that cred to more or less “cut in line” and jump the organic regulars. It’s the same thing as Raw, only now the “casual fans” are the smarks who might otherwise hate WWE but love Ring of Honor or New Japan, tuning in to see guys they already know they like. Trust me, I’m popping for these guys as much as anyone. Tyler Breeze gets shuffled back down the card despite having the best matches on the shows at Takeover and Fatal 4-Way. Spoiler alert, he only wrestles once in the next four weeks and almost loses to a guy we’ve never seen on TV. The crowd doesn’t cheer him anymore, because they’ve got FIGHT OWENS FIGHT to chant. This is also the only time we ever see Bayley.

I don’t know. I’m not trying to throw NXT under the bus or whatever, I just think it’d behoove us to pay attention to these observable trends, and encourage NXT to not develop the same destructive attitudes as Raw. Nurture these men and women you’ve made. Not everybody comes with a “Flair” on the end of their name, and not everybody walks in a former ROH Champion.

Worst: Yo Corey, You Wanna Call That Move?

She calls that the FOUR LEG CLOVER! Corey Graves calls it … nothing? You sure you don’t wanna jump in here, buddy?

Best: Never Let Enzo Get The Hot Tag Again

Enzo and Big Cass vs. The Ascension wasn’t much, but it was worth it for Enzo tagging himself in, rushing across the ring to knock Konnor off the apron with a forearm and having Konnor just totally no-sell it. Enzo selling the no-sell by shaking his head and kicking his feet made it even better.

Worst: You Can’t Promise Me The Road Warriors And Give Me Ascension Classic

If you’ve watched Raw or Smackdown recently, you’ve seen those Ascension promos where they’re painted like Demolition, screaming nonsense and shaking their heads like they just got splashed with cold water. I know that NXT and the main roster are two different worlds, but you can’t introduce the idea of the Ascension being Mad Max extras and then not have them be it here. Dean and Seth and Roman came back in the swat gear and it was fine, just put Konnor and Viktor in those Fallout Raider shoulderpads and have them yell at me about DANGER.

Best: Finally, A Good Use For The WWE Network

Besides recapping old episodes of Nitro, I mean.

The Vaudevillains earn a rematch against The Lucha Dragons by bringing a tablet into William Regal’s office and using it to show him the referee’s mistake: the Vaudevillain who took the pinfall wasn’t the legal man, and therefore the fall shouldn’t count. It’s a brilliant moment of logic, and I hope more wrestlers realize they’ve got EVERYTHING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED ANYWHERE EVER at their disposal for 10 bucks a month and use it to precede their arguments. I think that’s a better commercial for the Network than in-house specials about people and things that happened 20-40 years ago.

Edit: A supplemental Best I forgot to mention, but am editing-in because someone in the comments reminded me: William Regal can’t give the Vaudevillains a tag titles rematch tonight because the show’s already booked up. I’ve given Regal so much grief for seemingly booking the shows at the random whims of wrestlers, I need to remember to praise him when he makes NXT sound like a properly-run wrestling promotion. Well done, Mr. Regal.

Best: Baron Corbin Literally Overshadows Bull Dempsey

Light spoiler alert: You’re gonna love where the Corbin/Dempsey story goes.

Here, I finally pick up on the symbolism of Baron Corbin “overshadowing” Bull by turning off the lights on his exit. I love that Bull still stands out there the entire time, darkness or not, and that he pulls the shove-and-flee dick move at the end. All they needed to do to make me like Bull was tweak him from an unrealistic character (“tough monster”) into a realistic one (“dumpy guy with no confidence”). I don’t want to say Bull Dempsey’s human is “dumpy guy with no confidence turned up to 11,” but you don’t work an adult baby gimmick on the indies without kinda-sorta hating yourself.



The guy who loses to Baron Corbin has RYZIN on his ass and looks like J from ‘Final Fight’ cosplaying Zack Ryder. This Jedward-looking motherf*cker loses to Corbin in 14 seconds. 14 SECONDS. It took Daniel Bryan longer to kiss his girlfriend and get kicked once.

Best: Wrestling As A Heel

At R Evolution, our first glimpse of Kevin Owens was as this hyper, fat dynamo who’d jump you the second the match started, flip upside down to bash you in the face with his ass and suffer through a broken nose to mash you into the ground. He was fast, intense and connected to the audience. Here, the role is different: Owens needs to get booed by the crowd, so he changes up his style. It’s perfect.

Guys like Steen/Owens are always going to be cheered, no matter how heelish they get. That’s the nature of wrestling in 2014. If a heel’s really good at his job, people who like wrestling more than People In It will cheer him for being so good. Some people are just contrarian and love to boo the jerks. Some people just think he’s cool. Regardless, the job I guess is to measure the response and get booed as much as you can, and part of that’s in switching up your in-ring work. If Owens came out all fast and intense against Neville like he did against Parker, he’d DROWN Neville in cheers. Instead, he spends the first few minutes of the match stalling. When he’s in control, it’s lots of rest holds and slow movements. Punching and stomping. That allows Neville to get the “flash moves” cheers, and tells the story WWE wants to tell. That’s a guy who knows what he’s doing beyond “getting over.”

I’m not sure we need to do a stretcher job with every apron power bomb (especially on a taped show, where we get the next three weeks and see Neville wrestling an hour after he was taken to the hospital), but it works. Owens is a big deal (fairly quickly), and if that’s what we’re doing, that’s what we’re doing.