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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for April 29, 2015.
Best: Owens Plus Zayn Plus Regal Equals Magic
Call me a conspiracy theorist, but here’s what I think’s happened: Everybody knows the NXT San Jose show over WrestleMania weekend was this epic, special thing, and that it was Vince McMahon’s first live NXT show. It ran late, everyone loved it, and the vibe in the building was one of the most positive and excited things I’ve ever been a part of. I’m guessing Vince patted everybody on the back, shook a bunch of hands, exchanged big smiles and told his Wesley from Daredevil equivalent to never let them show him up like this again. So a sternly-worded memo went out, and now the shows are just kinda middling and treading water and accomplishing nothing until Vince’s brain farts off in another direction and he forgets what he thought.
Secondary theory: you can’t watch NXT and Lucha Underground on the same night. One show has an Alex Riley main-event push, and the other has a wrestler transforming into an actual dragon. Maybe “Alex Riley” is the shorter answer.
Anyway, this week’s show was kind of unusually bad. The opening segment and the closing moments of the main were spectacular, but the 40 minutes or so in-between felt like a local community theater production of Monday Night Raw.
But seriously, the opening was AMAZING. Let me fellate that a little before I start complaining. Back when Kevin Owens debuted and attacked Sami Zayn, he’d done nothing to earn a title shot besides ride on the coattails of an established star and mention their longterm rivalry/relationship to everyone who’d listen. He didn’t beat a bunch of guys to get a title shot, he just pissed Zayn off and emotionally manipulated him into putting it on the line. He did, Owens took the opportunity to be abusive as f*ck and won the NXT Championship two months after his debut.
Now, the roles have switched. Owens is the NXT Champ, but he’s insecure. ALEX RILEY of all people is getting under his skin by just not leaving him alone. Every week he gets more under-the-skin sore about it. He knows Zayn is looming off in the distance and is doing everything he can to occupy himself with jobbers and nonsense to avoid it, but Sami’s unavoidable. He’s the irresistible force headed toward a secretly-movable object. In the opening segment, Zayn uses Owens’ exact words against him: he’ll fight him, but he fights for a prize, and the NXT Championship is the prize. Not only do those words work on the surface, they get into Kevin’s most insecure guts and trigger his fight or flight reflex. He HAS to fight Sami and he HAS to put the title on the line or his ruse will be exposed. He’ll be outed as the guy who kinda hates himself and got married and had kids because he figured where he was at when it happened was as far as he was gonna go. He’s a guy who made it to the cusp of giving up and saved himself at the last second, and now he’ll do anything to keep from going over the edge.
I loved this. Sami, Owens, Regal, all of it. I just wish the rest of the show was this good.
Worst: Life In The GLOW House
The announce team sends it over to Creepy Greg, who is standing in somebody’s kitchen to tell us about NXT’s upcoming tour dates. Enzo, Big Cass and Carmella wander in arguing amongst themselves, so Greg disappears, assumedly to go behind the wall and stare at everyone through a hidden peep hole. Enzo and Cass leave, so Blake and Murphy wander in from down a hallway (?) to harass Carmella. When she shoos them away, they go into the kitchenette to make themselves a cup of coffee. Alexa Bliss shows up and kinda insults Carmella, and Bliss and Blake and Murphy stand around smiling at each other.
Like, that’s absurd, right? All of it?
I know they’re supposed to be in the Performance Center or whatever, but it for real made it feel like when they aren’t wrestling, the NXT stars all live in the same house. Sorta like that time we found out Shark Boy has a house inside the Impact Zone. It reminded me a lot of the “Life In The GLOW House” segments from the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, where the babyfaces would bring home groceries and the heels would be sitting around in the living room not helping and being dicks about it.
Best: Misogynist Alexa Bliss
There’s a lot to love in the content, though, like Blake & Murphy’s continued efforts to convince ANYBODY they’re hetero — watch them go into full hand-on-dick pose when they sit down next to Carmella, like they’re protecting it from her — or the reveal that Carmella’s on the level with Cass and Enzo and is just accepting Blake & Murphy’s gifts because she’s vain and wants stuff. She’s not interested in them and thinks they’re jerks, but she isn’t gonna turn down free jewelry, you know?
The very best part is Alexa Bliss, who gets SUPER CONDESCENDING and tells Carmella she should try, um, SHE DOESN’T KNOW, carrying herself with a little, um, CLASS? It’s amazing. She should’ve been wearing a trilby and vaping when she confronted her. Carmella should’ve found out about in the comments section of a wrestling blog.
It makes sense, too, because Bliss is supposed to be an entitled blonde cheerleader type, right? Of COURSE she thinks Carmella should be more classy. Her character should be the one who says maybe your husband wouldn’t cheat on you if you just cooked and cleaned for him more and learned how to PLEASE him!
Best: I KNOW I Can Beat Kevin Owens I Just Need ONE MORE SHOT And Also I’ve FORGOTTEN MY PANTS
Supplemental Best to Sami Zayn for his, “I’ll wrestle you, I need a warmup match” response, which is Sami Zayn for “LOL you are the saddest dude in the world and I would be happy to kick you in your damn face.”
I never knew the world needed Alex Riley working a Gil from ‘The Simpsons’ gimmick, but it was precious while it lasted.
Worst: A Night Of Terrible Finishes
I don’t mean to lightning round the show already, but it’s an episode defined by its terrible, predictable Raw finishes. I hate saying that about NXT. There were so many matches and none of them mattered.
The first match is the tag team champions losing a non-title match to the #1 contenders, which is the most WWE thing in the world. If you’re the #1 contenders and you beat the tag champions, you’re tag champions. They just tack “non-title” on it so they can do it more than once. You don’t “build momentum” for challengers by having them win an incomplete version of the blowoff. The worst part is that it’s off a distraction, because Buddy Murphy’s busy blowing Carmella a kiss. After that, Bayley vs. Dana Brooke ends with the fanciest of all WWE Distraction Finishes, the “someone played music and is on the ramp and now I can’t concentrate and my stats have all dropped to zero.” After that, it’s two jobber squashes and a main-event with a non-finish.
Maybe my joke about Vince’s memo wasn’t true. Maybe his memo said, “love the show, but here’s what you should be doing differently” and came stuck to a VHS tape of the last thousand episodes of Raw.
Worst: How Do You Make A Woman Mad? Steal Her CLOTHES!
Bayley wrestles Dana Brooke, who has made two drastic improvements: her hair is now platinum blonde instead of mustard yellow, and her offense is now 85% “grab hair and move your arms” to keep her from attempting wrestling moves. The problem is in the distraction finish, in which Emma has stolen Bayley’s clothes and that’s just too much to handle, and Bayley loses. They took this story and made it into “Emma’s doing MEAN THINGS that GIRLS PROBABLY HATE.”
Here’s a better idea: tell the story that actually exists.
The story of Emma is that she thought she could succeed with her experience and skillset, but when she got to Raw they pulled the rug out from under her, fired her, rehired her because of internet outrage and shuffled her into purgatory so they’d never have to see her again. She’s a failure, so now she’s back in the minor leagues. She’s jaded. She’s dead inside. She finds optimistic-ass Bayley and tells her the way things are, and the impression we get is that Emma thinks Bayley needs to be “mean” to make it.
The story goes deeper than that, though. The story I’d tell is that Emma KNOWS what works on Raw: bland, vapid women who look great but can barely wrestle. People who are trained to do “bitch” mannerisms and paraded out onto TV for sad Internet homeboys to justify without being challenged. Dana Brooke. Think about Emma’s history. She wrestled in SHIMMER and around the world. She came to WWE in that same crew as Paige, and they busted their asses to show that women could be the top athletes and performers in the promotion. Think about Bayley. Same story, but with Charlotte and Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch in place of Paige. Emma not only knows Bayley won’t succeed on the main roster, she knows it’s not even worth the effort. She sees the superior “product” in Dana, like you might if you were an ad executive and not a wrestling fan. Someone who cares about ratings instead of artistic fulfillment. Someone jaded and dead inside.
But, you know, go ahead and tell the other story. “She stole my clothes” is pretty good, too.
Worst: Adam Rose Doesn’t Work On This Show Anymore, Either
I’d like to formally petition for separate NXT and WWE Universes, so that when Adam Rose shows between the yellow ropes he can be Leo Kruger for a while and get his mojo back. How much better would that be in NXT’s current weird, listless environment? Kevin Owens is basically the only dude with heel fire. Everybody else is sorta harmless. Baron Corbin’s supposed to be this massive killer biker werewolf guy but he just stands around quietly. Bull Dempsey’s a helpless baby. Who else are the tough heels, Blake & Murphy? They for real had a segment where they talk happily about making each other cups of coffee. Tyler Breeze? Come on. Let’s get Kruger back and have him attack people with machetes or whatever. Have him decapitate Bull and mount his head on the wall.
The good news is that Itami still looks great, and the Itami vs. Breeze vs. Finn #1 contender triple threat at the next NXT Takeover show should be baller. If we can just make it to that show without losing hope, I think everything will reshuffle and refocus.
Best: A Dis-goostin’ Armbar
This is how unimportant the matches were this week: Zayn vs. Riley is the only one WWE Fan Nation uploaded, and that’s just because of the post-match stuff.
One of the bright sides of the show was Becky Lynch, though, and Rich Brennan openly acknowledging that will still basically know nothing about her. They do a Secret Origins Of Becky Lynch video package, and it’s … uh, her saying she’s the best and wants the NXT Women’s Championship. Not exactly Mil Muertes being buried under Mexico City earthquake rubble with his dying family, but I guess it beats “I throw up horns and nothing else.”
She wrestles Crazy Mary Dobson, aka Sarah Dobson, aka “that lady WWE uses when they need a nice looking NPC who won’t draw attention away from the rest of the people in the scene.” She’s been a Rosebud, a concession stand employee, Miz’s makeup lady, the works. She was probably Rusev’s lawyer. Becky trounces her and taps her out to that cool armbar that is seriously a leg-hook away from being the inverted Chikara Special.
So is Becky the face or the heel in this feud with Sasha? Is Sasha the babyface now because we like her so much? Are they just gonna heel out on each other and know Full Sail will give them a dueling chant anyway? The last thing I want is the belt making Sasha noble or whatever, like it did to Charlotte.
Best: Alex Riley’s Impotent Rage Tour Continues
Sami Zayn goes through the motions with Alex Riley until Kevin Owens attacks, lays out Zayn and powerbombs Riley on the apron. FINALLY. That effectively kills Riley forever (please) and makes him the Agent Coulson in Sami’s quest for redemption, or whatever.
There isn’t much to say about it beyond Kevin Owens being awesome on commentary, burying Riley in all the right places and then burying him for real. I want a segment next week where William Regal visits Riley in the hospital and Riley’s in a coma, but comes out of it because of RAGE and demands just ONE MORE SHOT at Kevin Owens. And then next month they’re literally lowering him into his grave and his ghost spells out COME ON REGAL GIVE ME ONE MORE OPPORTUNITY I KNOW I CAN DO IT in his funeral dirt.