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Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for January 8, 2015.
Best: Sami Zayn And The Zayniacs
“I LOVE THAT SONG!”
Sami Zayn is your new NXT Champion, and he finally gets his celebration speech after three grueling weeks (of taped shows taped the day after his win). He celebrates in the crowd and gets super dorky saying the NXT Championship isn’t his, it’s ours, and that he’s in a band and WE’RE THE MEMBERS and we’re called SAMI ZAYN AND THE ZAYNIACS and WE WRITE THE SONGS THAT MAKE THE WHOLE WORLD SING. It’s the stupidest speech every and it’s perfect, because that’s Sami Zayn. He’s a dork. He’s a regular guy who likes ska and wears Gallagher hats and calls Renee a “ray of sunshine.” He just happens to be one of the best wrestlers in the world. Wrestling needs more characters like that. People who are real, all the way to the bottom.
That’s me in the crowd behind the NXT sign. That’s “The Wolf” in front of me. He thought Sami Zayn’s celebration in the crowd was the best time to hold up a small white rectangle with “NXT” written on it and basically press it into my face. I was happy, who cares?
Best: Zayn vs. Neville, The Re-Re-Rematch
My major complaint for this set of tapings has been that there’s no real direction for the show. It’s just a bunch of rehashed rematches from R Evolution. That show was great because it built for months and paid off all the show’s important stories. As good as the rematches would be, I’m not that interested in saying, “hey, remember R Evolution? Here’s more, only now nothing matters.” They aren’t changing titles on the weekly show anymore. Everybody’s staying champion until the next live special unless somebody reads this and goes, “shit, they noticed.” The “rematch clause” is even worse, because WWE fans have come to expect it and it’s pretty obviously a way to buy another week before you have to decide where you’re going.
That said, the Zayn vs. Neville rematch is worth re-matching the entire card. I won’t spoil it, but it’s obviously fantastic, and hurt only a little by being at the ass-end of 4 hours of tapings in a sweltering room full of stinky Floridian wrestling fan bodies.
Best: “SHAAH!” Chants Bringing Out The Best In Curtis Axel
Curtis Axel is as boring as the highway scene in Solaris played in slow motion in Fort Wayne f*cking Indiana, so the crowd starts chanting “shaah!” at everything he does. Hideo Itami’s finally figured out that he can hit hard and have cool offense in WWE without getting fired, but we’re robbed of that because Mike McGillicutty’s back and THROWIN’ CHINLOCKS. “SHAAH! SHAAH! SHAAH! WhoooooOOOOA SHAAH!”
It should be obnoxious, but it seems to bring out the best in Axel. He starts yelling dumb stuff at the crowd, like “SHUT UP!” or “WHO IS THIS GUY, IS THIS EVEN A GUY?” I’m paraphrasing. Axel’s greatest talent besides basic wrestling competency is his shoot dumb Minnesotan jock attitude, and I wish we could see more of it. WHY YOU CHANTIN’ SHAH, LOOK AT THIS GUY, THIS GUY’S A GUY, SHUT UP. I’M GONNA KICK HIS GUY. It’s oddly delightful, and I could imagine Curtis Axel as one-half of a road trip buddy comedy where he acts like an asshole for 80 minutes, but then we find out his sister’s got cancer or something and he warms our hearts.
Worst: Two Problems
1. Hideo Itami is sticking with the Trouble In Paradise to a kneeling opponent as his finish. I mean, he did at the tapings, at least. Maybe they pulled him aside a month ago and went “yeah, no,” but from where we stand as fans, this is it. That’s such finisher suicide. Trouble In Paradise is bad enough. It never looks good. Kofi either whiffs the guy by a foot or potatoes them to death, or a guy gets both his hands up and blocks it and still has to pretend he’s knocked out. Now you’re asking someone to do it exclusively to kneeling opponents, eliminating that “from outta nowhere” thing that makes finishing strikes cool? Bad call. Just give him the damn Go To Sleep. MMA’s Phil Brooks isn’t coming back. Sometimes you’ve got to let those hard to reach chips go.
2. The announce team won’t stop talking about how they see “lots of potential” in Curtis Axel. When did you see that? When he joined the company NINE YEARS AGO? Did you see it during his first run where he won the Tag Team Championships, or during his second run where he won the Intercontinental Championship? It had to be that second run, where even pairing him with Paul Heyman couldn’t drag out a personality. When a guy was a 5-time champion in the version of developmental you had before this one, maybe it’s time to replace “he has lots of potential” with “it sucks, but he’s not that good.”
Best: A Man Of The Animals
In case Tyson Kidd isn’t your hero yet, here he is getting into a SUPER passive-aggressive conversation about who owns which cats based on their level of previous cat services, wearing Beats headphones with an eared hoodie and claiming he’ll replace Sarah McLachlan as the face of the SPCA. Tyson Kidd is Canadian, of COURSE he’s familiar with Sarah McLachlan. He’s 34, too, so you know he had a copy of ‘Solace’ and thought ‘Surfacing’ was when she sold out.
Oh, he also declares himself “a man of the animals” and I think the fingers on his gloves are getting sharper, and he might actually be turning into a cat. I’d love it if main roster Tyson Kidd was this bland ass-kicker who said “fact” too much, but then showed up to NXT in a full fursuit, getting a little too fresh with the Lucha Dragons.
Best: Your Moveset Of Kinda-Surprising Pins Cannot Stop Sasha Banks
The next match is a bit of a devolution, with Alexa Bliss giving up that whole “having offense” thing and going back to her endless series of pinfall attempts. It’s sorta brilliant from a WWE Diva standpoint to make your moveset nothing but rollups, but it doesn’t make for a very exciting match. You get that little run where you get three or four 2-counts in a row, and then the wrestler who has actually learned wrestling moves does one of those and beats you. Here, Blissy gets a bunch of nearfalls, eats a Bank Statement and taps out.
Sasha holds on for a little too long after the bell because she’s good at this. She also does some weird stuff with her tongue while she has the move locked on, so I don’t know if she was trying to clean her teeth or reach her eyeballs or what. Becky’s contribution is to do metal hands, because that is seriously all Becky’s got.
Anyway, glad to see The Boss getting a decisive victory. Let’s bring up a few more Divas from the house show circuit so Alexa and Bayley don’t have to draw straws every week.
Worst: Tyler Breeze Gets His Ass Kicked By El Hijo De Charlie Haas
This really bothered me.
So, Chad Gable. If you aren’t familiar with his work, he’s a former Olympic wrestler and extremely aggressive, placing him about a mouthpiece and a sweaty shirt away from being WWE’s replacement Kurt Angle. He’s been impressive on NXT house shows, so some of the locals have seen him and like him.
He wrestles Tyler Breeze, a guy who went from Full Sail cult hero to Canadian CJ Parker so fast we hardly noticed. He’s been a victim of the big name independent wrestling signings, and when Kevin Steen and KENTA and Prince Devitt showed up, Triple H was like, “male model? Nah. HOW ABOUT THIS LEG SLAPPING, HAVE YOU GUYS SEEN THIS?”
I’m making it sound harsher than it probably is, but Breeze’s only contribution to this set of tapings — four weeks of TV — is to have a short match where he gets brow-beaten by a guy 99% of us have never seen, then beats him with one move. One move with absolutely no momentum or setup. Gable tosses him around, puts him in an armbar over the ropes, and then Breeze just calmly gets to his feet and Beauty Shots him for the win. That’s it. No “wow, you took me to the limit” stuff, no nothing. Just wrestling a jobber squash in the wrong direction and then hitting his finish. Crazy disappointing.
I don’t want to throw my Worst at Gable, because I’m sure he’s great. I just really don’t want Tyler Breeze to end up as this NXT generation’s Derrick Bateman.
Best: Corey Graves
Corey Graves, you bastard. You found a way to make me like you. Instead of “stay down” you should’ve been saying “Tyler Breeze missed a lot of recent shows because he’s got seasonal residency and has been traveling around looking for somewhere to live.”
Best: Kalisto, The Picasso Of The Hot Tag
Ruh ruh ruh rematchhh.
The Lucha Dragons take on the Vaudevillains again, and it’s not much of an improvement from their R Evolution match. Neither match was bad, don’t get me wrong, it’s just … a lateral movement. The Villains still can’t totally tell if they’re heels or babies, and Sin Cara’s still basically a body pillow someone tossed lazily onto a neon yellow sofa. Kalisto, though. Kalisto’s got it.
If you’ve seen a few Lucha Dragons matches, you know the highpoint of literally all of them is how Kalisto works the hot tag. That’s the money. Him turning a monkey flip into a sunset flip with a bunch of roll-throughs against Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy is probably the best so far, but this one was up there: he tags in Sin Cara MID-HEADSCISSORS. It’s AWESOME. He just spins around with his hand out. I love seeing wrestlers who for lack of a better phrase “see the Matrix” of wrestling, and can say “if I need to tag out, why wouldn’t I do it here?” And then they DO IT.
Great stuff. The Dragons probably need a new finish, though, because Sin Cara’s one-armed powerbomb counter with an assist from Kalisto spinning wildly into a flying nothing is pretty bad. Kalisto’s not even spinning in the right direction. He gets to the end of the spins and just touches you in the shoulders as Sin Cara slams you down. I don’t know, maybe have Sin Cara turn the guy so Kalisto spins directly into them, instead of trying to Sling Blade them backwards in the middle of a Psycho Crusher? Here’s another idea: punch them. Both of you punch a guy at the same time. With your fists!