The Best And Worst Of WWE NXT 4/1/15: DeEmmalution

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Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for April 1, 2015.

Best: Sami’s Back

Sami Zayn is NXT’s most valuable player. Episodes are timed and set up to rotate out talent, so you can go weeks without seeing your favorite stars, and normally that’s fine … if you go two weeks with no Bayley, for example, you’re happy to see her when she shows up. You never get tired of people. Sami, though, should probably be on every episode.

It’s not even about how good he is at wrestling, it’s his presence. His face. There’s something about his attitude and sincerity that makes him the living representative of this modern era of NXT, and the selfish part of me hopes he stays on the show forever so it doesn’t lose its soul. Its conscience. He opens this week’s show with a promo and there isn’t a lot to it — he’s back, he wants the NXT Championship and he’s going to kick Kevin Owens’ ass — but it’s effective and to the point. That’s NXT, right? It hits, it works, and it steps aside to let something else work.

Best: And Now, The Opposite Of Sami Zayn

The first match of the show is Rhyno throwing a dude and goring him. It’s barely enough time for the announce team to yell “I AM EXCITED.”

After it’s done, Rhyno grabs a mic and cuts the most 1980s wrestling promo ever, dropping his catchphrases and more or less being Killer Kadoogan from Ren & Stimpy. It’s … kinda terrible? But it’s exactly what you want from a Rhyno promo, assuming you’re a publicly-traded PG company and can’t have him scream about f*cking somebody’s gashes.

He’s such a fascinating character because you’re dropping him into the Reality Era. Sami Zayn’s this kind-hearted but passionate regular guy from Canada who loves ska music and jumping through the ropes. Adrian Neville’s a regular little jacked British guy who can wrestle his ass off. Kevin Owens is a bully who justifies what he does as necessary to take care of his family. Bayley’s a lifelong fan who has to balance her personal successes with her love for (and respect for) being here. They’re all people who come to work and try their best. What’s Rhyno? A wrestling penis? He’s Bebop and Rocksteady in a world of April O’Neils. I love it.

Note: they should put Tyler Breeze and Rhyno in a tag team and call them “Gore Vidal.”

Worst: Dana Brooke

Oh man, if you were watching NXT and wished there were more 2006 Divas on the roster, you’re gonna love Dana Brooke. She’s tan, she’s blonde, she loves herself, she says things like “what you see is what you get” and can’t stop rubbing herself when she talks. At the NXT San Jose show on Friday she was so bad she just arbitrarily fell off the apron. Like, nothing happened to her, she just failed to stand still on the ring apron and fell off. But she sure looks good! I guess!

Of course this is NXT we’re talking about, and they can spin gold out of basically anything. They almost made Alex Riley a decent character. Dana Brooke could show up and be the greatest thing in the world, but right now she feels like a frightening reminder that the Bayleys and Sasha Bankses can be snatched away from us at any moment and replaced by Ashley Massaro and that there’s nothing we can do about it.

Best: Dead Inside Emma Is The Best Thing In WWE Right Now

There’s so much going on in this Bayley vs. Emma match I had to watch it twice.

The match itself isn’t very good, but it’s not supposed to be. Here’s what you need to know: Emma was the goofy fan-favorite in NXT, got called up to Raw last year and absolutely tanked it. It was terrible. She wore a Birdo sock puppet to be Santino’s stupid girlfriend and the highlight of her career was missing his backstage Twisted Tea cookout. While she was gone, Bayley became the new fan-favorite. Emma waltzed back into NXT like a sad person moving back in with their parents and everything had changed, so now she’s kinda dead inside and trying to “tell Bayley how it is.” She knows you can’t be nice and bubbly and happy and make it in WWE, because SHE couldn’t, and that’s clearly the only thing that could ever happen. Bayley’s like, “uh, I’m doing fine?” and that’s the match.

The story of the match goes along with that. Bayley has this huge reverence for WWE Superstars, and getting to wrestle them makes her huggy and happy. Emma shows up half-assing everything. She won’t do her ring entrance, she won’t do her dance, she doesn’t give a shit about the bubbles. She’ll barely do her moves. She’s just sleepwalking through the match with a dead smile on her face because her future’s gone and this is all she can do. She expects to win, but her apathy does her in and she doesn’t. When Bayley wins, there’s no celebration. She just kinda gets to her feet with a look of confusion on her face because of COURSE she wants to wrestle Emma and of COURSE she wants to prove herself and win, but that is NOT Emma, and that did NOT prove anything.

The body language is key. Emma could fall over in a heap at any moment. Bayley slaps her in the arm as a sign of support. Bayley. Bayley who will hug The Great Khali against his will. Even BAYLEY will not hug Emma. This is the most amazing, heartbreaking thing they’ve done in ages and I am SO INTO IT. “Crippling depression” isn’t a topic they cover a lot in pro wrestling.

Best/Worst: N-Bex-T

Well, it’s better than that time she tried to call her fans the “Lynch Mob.”

Best: Blake & Murphy’s Finish

So, Blake & Murphy’s finish is a “running vertical suplex” that is probably supposed to be a brainbuster into a frog splash. I like how logical it is. Murphy backs into his corner while he’s setting a guy up for a suplex, so Blake tags in, runs down the apron and climbs the ropes. As that’s happening, Murphy runs out of the corner toward the center of the ring and suplexes the guy into position. As Blake’s doing the frog splash, Murphy continues his forward trajectory right into his opponents’ corner, which allows him (as the non-legal man) to cut off anybody trying to break up the pin.

Sometimes I like things as a fan. Sometimes I like things as a critic. Sometimes I just like shit that makes sense.

Worst: No More Lucha Dragons Please

If NXT’s trip to Columbus and Monday’s episode of Raw taught us nothing else, it taught us that Kalisto is a star being chained to the earth by the massive garbage tether that is Sin Cara. Every time Cara tags in my brain goes dark until he’s out. I can’t do it. No more Lucha Dragons matches, please, at least not until Sin Cara rips off his mask, reveals himself as Hunico and goes on a Lucha Underground-esque blood hunt for Kalisto’s head.

Maybe he can dress up as “Kalisto Negro.”

Worst: Tye Dillinger’s Christmas Present Trunks

more like untie dillinger, am i right

Best, I Guess?: Troy And Abed Explode

So, Tye Dillinger and Jason Jordan used to be a tag team. They never really had an identity, they were just two tall, muscular guys in matching gear. One time they did a bad Boom Boom Boom Let Me Hear You Say Wayo promo. Then, they broke up! Oh no!

That’s where we are now. You’ve got two wrestlers who obviously have some sort of upside having the big tag team swerve blowoff before we know who either of them are. That’s not bad, I guess, and I’m glad they’re addressing the breakup and all, but imagine how much better this would be if we knew their characters beyond “he’s the black one” and “he’s the Canadian.” At NXT San Jose, Jason Jordan got nothing but “let’s go jobber” chants. He beat Bull Dempsey clean with the same suplex he uses to beat Dillinger here, but all it got were enthusiastic “JOB-BER! JOB-BER!” chants. That’s the problem. Even if he’s on TV and winning matches, he’s a non-descript “jobber” character until we’re given a reason to believe otherwise. My kingdom for one of those Lucha origin videos to give either of these guys a hook.

Best: Itami vs. Breeze 2-out-of-3 Falls

First things first, this was not Zayn/Cesaro.

Second things first, it didn’t have to be. It’s an entirely different animal. I’ve become kinda obsessed with how different Tyler Breeze is from the other top guys in NXT, because his matches and in-ring work are so much more “Raw and Smackdown” than everyone else. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, honestly. It’s good because he’s learning what they’re teaching him, but he’s not trying to elevate or change the game. He CAN, and we’ve seen him be just as good as Neville and Zayn and Kidd, but he is such a WWE guy. It’s like putting Drew McIntyre on the American indies. Sure, he’s throwing apron powerbombs now, but that motherf*cker was born for Superstars.

I liked the story of how well matched Itami and Breeze are despite being such dramatically different people. Itami wins the first fall easily with his running kick finish, and Breeze wins the second fall fairly easily with a Beauty Shot “from out of nowhere.” That puts them on an even playing field, and reveals to us that they’re always on an even playing field. They’re two sides of the same coin. Yin and yang, kinda. The finish to the third fall reinforces that; Itami fires up and tosses Breeze into the ropes to end him with another kick, so Breeze rebounds off with a Beauty Shot. It’s less a game of chess and more a game of “which one of us is gonna slip up first.” There aren’t a ton of dramatic kickouts and desperation hope spots, it’s just two guys who can finish a match at any time trying to be the one to end it first.

I also like that Itami isn’t an overpowered character. That’s part of what makes Sami Zayn so identifiable. He can win or lose any match. Zayn can lose to Titus O’Neil if the context is right. Finn B├ílor can’t do that, it’d ruin his mystique. Same with Kevin Owens. If Owens had shown up and lost a few matches in a mid-card feud with CJ Parker he wouldn’t be the guy he is now. I think WWE understands that Itami’s value is in fighting spirit, and you can’t have a fighting spirit anybody believes if you win all the damn time.