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Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for February 18, 2015.
Best: The Family Man
Kevin Owens is so good right now he’s turned having a family and caring about them into heel moves. Want to talk about Sami Zayn? Can’t, because Zayn is the past, and the future is Owens providing for his family. Want to talk about Finn Bálor? You can if you want, but he’s not taking the NXT Championship away from Kevin Owens’ family!
I honestly wanted Bálor to cut a promo that was like, “I’ve met Kevin’s wife and child. They’re terrible. Just the worst. I want to win the NXT Championship so they starve to death. I’m going to bury the belt in a swamp and creep around it in like I’m a panther.”
Best: AND NOW HERE’S RHYNO FOR SOME REASON
I’m glad WWE Fan Nation left in his entrance, because it’s the best part. You hear the beginning of the music and there’s a picture of a rhino, and everybody’s like, “oh, a rhino, that’s weird, maybe they gave Bull Dempsey a gimmick where he’s about to be extinct” and then it’s RHYNO RHINO and everybody’s like WHAT THE WHAT. The guys standing up and almost dropping their phones because they’re so excited are amazing.
This is what happens when you create a positive environment for pro wrestling. It fosters positivity and excitement. Rhyno has shown up in TNA off and on plenty of times to no fanfare because their whole thing is wrapping old WWE guys in blankets and walking them into empty arenas sparsely populated by guys who are only there to try to meet D-Von Dudley and see a lady “release the doves.” It’s negative. Every time TNA teases an announcement, people make fun of them. When they have a big show, people share stories about how bad it was and how few people were there. By fostering an anti-WWE attitude, never maintaining a mission statement for more than a year and gutting anything that caught on with a knife made of petrified apathy, they’ve made it impossible for anything to seem fun or cool. You take the exact same thing Impact would’ve done and stick it in front of these Full Sail regulars who’ve been conditioned to know that NXT means GOOD WRESTLING and HAPPY, they’re gonna love it. IT’S RHYNO, Y’ALL.
All he does is exist and gore Elias Samson, aka BIBLE MAN, and that’s all he needs to do. It feels like anything can happen in NXT right now, and like Full Sail is the place every person good or bad, new or old, goes when they give a shit about pro wrestling.
Best: Watch Your Ass, Finn
See what I mean about the promise of NXT? Rhyno shows up, gets a minute to toss around a jobber and shoulder their stomach to f*ck and then in minute two he’s getting in the face of the #1 Contender. My theory is that he’s looking for Ethan Carter III and saw some YouTube videos featuring a really suspicious-looking NXT guy.
A quick note about Rhyno: it’s important to remember that he is Paul Heyman’s penis gimmick. That’s his thing. He’s a living penis wrestler. That’s why his finish is the gore. He’s “penetrating” you. They did a whole thing about it in ECW. He was really aggressive to women and was always trying to conquer them and put them through tables in symbolism I shouldn’t have to explain. When he hurt Sandman’s wife, he threatened to f*ck her wounds. That’s not really relevant to what’s happening on NXT, I just think it’s interesting and wanted to remind you that even though WWE Rhyno is “he’s a squat guy and here are some rhinos,” the base character is hilariously unacceptable. I have no idea how we watched wrestling as kids and didn’t put our heads in the oven.
Worst: Blake & Murphy Are Suddenly Macho Pigs
Enzo Amore and Big Cass defeat The Vaudevillains in a match that is fun but dreadfully short and honors the age-old WWE tradition of, “we’re this month’s challengers, so now we win all of our matches.” Enzo and Cass could face Goldberg and Brock Lesnar right now and if they’re already announced as the #1 contenders, they’re winning. The only way they lose is by distraction from the champs, with the people who won being immediately ignored.
Anyway, the match is basically a reason to get Enzo and Cass in the ring to start a feud with Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy, now just called “Blake & Murphy.” Maybe they’re a law firm. But hey, remember a few weeks ago when they won the tag team championships and I wrote this?
One quick note, though: next time we talk to the Dubstep Cowboys backstage, can we put them in shirts and put a little room between them? The followup interview seriously made it look like they were gonna start making out over the title win. Don’t get me wrong, I think it would be GREAT if they were just a team of tough wrestler guys who happened to be in a loving monogamous relationship and I don’t want “it looks like they’re about to french” to sound like I’m throwing shade, I’m just not totally sure that’s what WWE’s going for.
If you ever need evidence that WWE reads my shit, look at how fast Blake & Murphy became cat-calling bros. I imagine Bill DeMott in his office smoking a cigar, yelling at someone on the phone to GET FOWLER ON THE LINE, and a breathless intern bursts in with a telegram. “WHATTA YOU WANT,” barks DeMott. “It’s Stroud, sir. He thinks Blake & Murphy are … he thinks they’re gay, sir!” And then a look of terror slowly washes over DeMott’s face and the cigar falls out of his mouth. He picks up the phone. “Get me Blake and Murphy on the double, and tell them to bring a stack of Playboys!”
They’re still lovers, though, I’m not falling for it. Listen to Blake cut that promo. It’s like it’s the first time he’s even spoken in his life. Like he’s been a deaf mute since birth. He’s just doing the oink oink mama thing because he thinks it makes Murphy happy.
Best: By The Way, I Finally Realized Who Enzo Reminds Me Of
Best: CAW CAW CAW
After a year and a half as NXT’s Glacier, Solomon Crowe debuted and trounced New Guy Bait CJ Parker. Parker’s always drawing out those rare Pokémon. They should give him a Pokémon trainer gimmick where he beats guys and makes them part of his “team,” so he starts off basic with a Tye Dillinger and works his way up. Maybe bring down Roman Reigns to be his Brock, because of all the squinting. Bayley can be Misty. Mojo Rawley can be Psyduck.
Anyway, Crowe is here and he’s already lost us by wearing a singlet that makes him look like he pooped his pants. Did anybody else notice that? Who thought it was a good idea to put an isolated brown splatter near his butthole? My yokel Virginia parents used to call pooping “taking a hack,” maybe that’s what happened. Maybe my parents designed Solomon Crowe’s gear.
I’ll wait and see where they go with Crowe, but if they just give him a color test TitanTron and don’t have him do any hacker stuff I’m gonna turn on him quick. He’s a 200-pound guy winning matches with a splash he can only hit if someone’s fallen close enough to the ropes. CJ Parker just tried to take the show hostage via condescending signs and police tape. I kinda like him more.
Best: Blue Pants, The Legend Continues
Hot off her appearance as an increasingly-nude Rosebud on Raw is BLUE PANTS, returning with a match graphic, blue-colored name graphic, custom tron (!!) and rerecorded “Cass sings the Price is Right song” entrance theme. Now it’s a smooth, jazzy version and not Colin Cassady screaming musak into a microphone.
She’s facing The Boss, your new NXT Women’s Champion. This is a great squash, and an example of the value these local Florida wrestlers bring as enhancement talent. Blue Pants is over as hell but nobody expects her to win, so every bit of offense she pulls is greeted with a big YEAHHHH! When Sasha shuts her down and starts wrecking her, you’ve got a woman who’s been wrestling for years and knows how to take it, and knows how to use her face to tell the story. That’s what Leva ‘Blue Pants’ Bates does best: facial expressions. A likable jobber who can eat a ton of offense and cause a frenzied reaction of popularity while she does it. And you haven’t signed her yet because dot dot dot question mark
A supplemental Best goes for the post-match interview, in which Creepy Greg approaches Sasha and gets shooed away like the imperfect Chrisley clone he is.
Best: The Man Gravity Temporarily Remembered
The more I think about this match, the more I like it.
It’s just put together so well from the first second. William Regal thinks Adrian Neville deserves a shot at Kevin Owens, but they just had a title tournament and Neville didn’t win it, so the title isn’t on the line. I shouldn’t mark out so much for people paying attention to basic plot points, but there you go. The “Kevin Owens” character is built around the destruction of tropes that would make him an exciting, “cool” heel. He’s getting cheered anyway because his entire independent career was smothering those things to death, but stay with me. He’s not cutting funny promos, he’s not wrestling like he wrestled CJ Parker in his debut. Nothing flashy and intense, just old school heel control. Slams, chinlocks, that kind of thing. Instead of taking a ton of finishes and kicking out of them to build excitement, he takes big moves in situations that don’t directly lead to him having to take a pin. Notice Neville hitting him with a big moonsault and a 450 splash, both on the outside. Owens can’t lose out there, and he isn’t forced to kick out and make people think he looks tough. When the moves happen in the ring, Owens can usually counter them or just get out of the way.
Neville continues to be really damn amazing. Can you remember the last time you saw Neville botch something? The guy has always been great at hitting his moves, and he’s becoming an expert on where and when to hit them. The reverse rana is a card you have to play at exactly the right time. When you play it right, it’s the most bulletproof pop in wrestling. You hit a damned poisoned rana when the crowd’s ready for it and they will lose their f*cking minds.
Having the match end on one pop-up powerbomb is an interesting choice, and I’m going back and forth on how I feel about it. On the negative side, Owens had just taken a ton of offense and managed to hit one big move and win. Also, as good as the announce team was tonight, you can’t yell the phrase “pop-up!” without it sounding kinda dorky. They should probably come up with a name for it. On the positive side, though, a finishing move SHOULD finish a match when you hit it, especially when you hit it in a big moment. It was the right time to end the match. Plus, if one pop-up powerbomb can put down Adrian Neville it makes the several Sami Zayn took seem like massive overkill. In the good way, I mean. Sami took half a dozen of a move that can put the next gutsiest guy in the company down in one.
Great stuff. Owens is now all over (and ending) the opening video and I’m pretty okay with it. The jerk.