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Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for February 25, 2015.
Best: Bull Dempsey Would Be Great If He Wasn’t Bull Dempsey
Hideo Itami opens the show against Bull Dempsey, and it’s your best-ever opportunity to see the Fire Pro-quality matchup of KENTA and an adult baby.
Watching Dempsey hustle through his offense and eat Itami’s kicks like he was Tyler Breeze, all I could think is how much I’d like the guy if he wasn’t “Bull Dempsey.” “Bull Dempsey” sucks. He’s got a terrible look with the constantly wet hair, the grimacey underbite, the swoopneck singlet that only works if you have muscles. He’s got terrible moves. Play up how “athletic” it is for a 300-pound man to be doing flying headbutts, but he’s just climbing two rungs of a ladder and falling. His character arc has been terrible, with him being an IRRESISTIBLE FORCE against guys *I* could pin and losing in 3-minutes or less to anybody worth a damn, but still cutting those hand-rubbing promos with other peoples’ catchphrases.
If you take away “Bull Dempsey,” the performer’s very good. He knows where he’s at in the ring, he’s aware of where the crowd’s at and what they’re doing, and aside from his legendary sandbaggery at NXT Rival he’s great at taking offense and making his opponent look tough. Maybe they look tough because they’re standing next to Bull Dempsey, I don’t know.
I’ve officially moved from “ugh, Bull Dempsey” right on through “ironic Bull Dempsey love” and into “repackage this guy so I can love him for real.”
Best: Tyler Breeze, Victim Of His Own Selfie Stick
It was cheesy as hell, but I loved Breezus attacking Itami on the stage and wanting to take a victory selfie, but taking too long to line up the shot and getting his ass kicked for it. It’s so simple, and I think that’s why it works. You can only do so much damage attacking somebody with a fur-covered handle, you know? Even in a world where a woman’s shoe can cause catastrophic brain failure, a Muppet dick’s only hurting a guy for a few seconds.
Now all I want is for NXT to get popular enough to have guest hosts, and for Miss Piggy to get way too into wanting to f*ck Tyler Breeze.
Worst: Remembering What Actually Happened To These Guys
The strangest part of NXT suddenly becoming a safe haven for old WWE stars and up-and-comers who don’t want to come up is the unyielding positivity. It’s in direct contrast with every other part of the WWE Universe. Rhyno shows up and people get excited, even though Rhyno’s WWE career was basically that of a mobile foreign object and he spent a decade as ALSO AN ECW GUY in TNA. Brian Kendrick was the prototypical Vince McMahon “lazy millennial.” He was young, good-looking and talented but unmotivated, and came and went with resume buzz-phrases like “one half of the longest reigning WWE Tag Team Champions in history” and “longest reigning interim WWE Champion” as if that means ANYTHING to ANYONE. You can list accomplishments all day, but when you devalue the accomplishments to the point WWE has, it’s just lip service. The Basham Brothers had two tag team championship reigns and held the belts for more combined days than D-X, Chris Jericho, Edge, Batista, Kurt Angle, Eddie Guerrero and countless others. Are you gonna lose your shit when Danny Basham does a run-in and attacks Sami Zayn?
Another example is Ezekiel Jackson. WWE took a 6’3, 280-pound Guyanan and turned him into a guy who does bodyslams and wears relaxing clothes. That’s it. Aside from “was in The Corre” and “had a rap song,” do you even remember anything about Ezekiel Jackson? But here he is popping up in the background of somebody else’s NXT video package and I get hype, because now he’s Big Ryck in Lucha Underground and my brain goes, “oh man, how awesome would it be if Finn Bálor looked up the ramp and BIG RYCK was there?” The excitement is from 100% non-WWE things. We love Rhino because of ECW. We love Kendrick because of his work on the indies and in Japan and those vague, long-lost hopes that WWE’d figure out to do with these weird young guys. We want Ezekiel Jackson on the show because Lucha Underground rules. NXT is a weekly gathering and celebration of things that don’t or can’t work in WWE, operated under a WWE banner. It’s awesome, but also sorta depressing.
Speaking of accomplishments not mattering, remember when Ezekiel Jackson was Intercontinental Champion?
Best: Jason Jordan And Tye Dillinger Are DOING THINGS
At this point I’d rather watch Creepy Greg and Devin Taylor paint a fence and watch it dry in real-time than sit through a Lucha Dragons match. They’re probably my least favorite people on the show. They work in a tiny little bubble of lowered expectations, but Lucha Underground existing really popped it. They should have a funeral for Sin Cara and bury him alive. Both of them.
But hey, Tye Dillinger and Jason Jordan are breaking up! It’s the first moment of character development they’ve gotten since that “boom boom boom lemme hear ya say TYE DILLINGER” promo that sank them before they even got the boat in the water, and I’m into it. They’re big guys with good looks — at least in that 2010 WWE Developmental sort of way — and they can wrestle, I guess, so it’s nice to see NXT saying “okay guys who’ve been around forever, now it’s YOUR turn!” I guess that Solomon Crowe debut made WWE go “welp, the Spectacular Indie Guy well has dried up, let’s push these guys until we can figure out how to sign the Young Bucks.”
Speaking of Crowe, I don’t know what happened, but I like him a little less every time he talks. I can ignore the fact that he’s burnt sienna-colored and I can ignore him looking exactly like Syndrome from The Incredibles, but I don’t want to hear him talk. He could do it on the indies, he’s just absorbed in this “WWE Promo” thing he can’t seem to get out of. Some guys just can’t break through it. I want him to communicate exclusively through hacked messages on the screen. Let him cut promos with Wing Dings.
Best/Worst: The Entrance-To-Match Ratio
Tye Dillinger gets abandoned by his tag team partner, so he sticks around in the ring to yell a bit and make us notice his party lines. He says he’ll wrestle whomever was scheduled to compete next, and that of course turns out to be Baron Corbin, Tumblr’s favorite ex-football playing motorcycle werewolf. Corbin puts him down quickly, and that’s that.
It’s not bad, but I’m starting to notice the differential between how long it takes Corbin to get in the ring and the length of his matches. I can’t figure out if it’s good or bad. The Bella Twins did it on Raw if you’ll remember, when their Go Daddy stage shit took 5 times longer than their tag match. At the same time, though, most of Goldberg’s matches were 70% “walking to the ring with cops” and 30% “spearing Jerry Flynn,” so maybe it’s fine. They could probably cut the in-ring stuff with Corbin falling asleep until being woken up by sun lamps thing by about a minute and a half.
Best: Becky Lynch Decides She’s Pentagon Jr.
Speaking of long-needed character development, Becky Lynch finally figured out she should skip the jigging and the metal hands and do the KILLING PEOPLE WITH GNARLY SUBMISSIONS thing that got her noticed and signed in the first place. They’ve been calling her a “submissions expert” for a while, but it was that Samoa Joe “Samoan Submission Machine” thing where she basically only did the one. Here they’ve got her ripping Bayley up with a Fujiwara armbar and transitioning it into a Pentagon Jr. style finish, and it couldn’t be better. As a fan I hate to see Bayley eat another loss, but hey, at least she’s losing to Pentagon’s dark master.
The match also made me think about the “Give Divas A Chance” hashtag movement. It’s a valuable one, I think, and I hope it changes the McMahons’ business model. At the same time, though, women (assuming we’re equating “Divas” with “women” because “branding”) are wrestling their asses off all around the world. It’s not hard to find anymore. Back in the 90s you had to tape trade a bunch of Dream Slam shows to get your fix, but now there are multiple wrestling promotions throughout the country showcasing women as Actual Pro Wrestlers. Hell, NXT and Lucha Underground are weekly, televised-in-the-United-States and easy-to-find-on-the-internet shows that feature women as one of the best parts of the product. So let’s keep #GiveDivasAChance going, but maybe add on a #WatchBetterShows.
Best: Pretty Sure This Is The Longest Singles Match In Brian Kendrick’s WWE Career
So yeah, Finn Bálor wrestles the returning THE Brian Kendrick in this week’s main-event, and it’s pretty great. I don’t think Kendrick ever got a showcase singles match like this when he was originally around, so seeing him do stuff and be things was exciting. The announce team’s obsession with how weird and unconventional he was didn’t come across as well in the ring as I guess they’d hoped, because he wrestles a fairly by-the-numbers match while Tom Phillips is all THIS CRAZY BIRD, LET ME TELL YA. No Rich Brennan non peace.
Kevin Owens stopped in to guest on commentary, though, and it was great for two reasons:
1. Owens is good at in-ring promos, but he’s better at just talking and living in his character. He’s so passionate and detached at the same time, and that’s a new dynamic for WWE. He clearly cares about what he’s doing, but he very sincerely lacks the empathy and enthusiasm that classically comes with guys who care. He’s just a bad dude who’s good at this and not interested in making friends. It never seems forced. Owens arriving fully-formed is one of the benefits of letting guys learn in the world before teaching them at the Performance Center.
2. It helped get over the interesting story of Kevin Owens disrespecting what WWE’s about, and the parallels to Finn Bálor. You’ve got Bálor in the ring wrestling smark favorites of the past like Brian Kendrick and eventually Rhyno — yes, most original ECW guys count as smark favorites — and putting them over as these legendary competitors whether they are or not. Then you’ve got Owens on commentary tearing the entire thing down, and being that guy who disrespects and destroys the CURRENT smark favorites. He’s already plowed through Sami Zayn and Adrian Neville, and now he’s tasked with eliminating Bálor. That’s an awesome parallel.
Worst: One Quick Complaint
We didn’t get to hear Brian Kendrick’s original WWE entrance theme, which is the ancestor of Sami Zayn’s.
Best: Alex Riley Goes Table Surfing
I think NXT forgot what everybody thinks of Alex Riley. What, am I supposed to boo Kevin Owens for beating up the racist, misogynistic guy who won’t stop ruining shows? The only thing I can think to boo is the fact that he didn’t follow him down to the floor and finish the job.
Worst: An NXT Mini-Sode
My biggest complaint about this week’s episode is that it was so short. It ended at around the 47 minute mark, and that’s with at least 15 minutes of Abu Dhabi recaps and WrestleMania commercials. Did they tape something that was supposed to be included in the episode that didn’t work, and just decided to cut it short? What happened? They could’ve fit another match in AND given it time.
I wish they’d announced a match for the end of the show and then canceled it out of respect for Alex Riley.