The Best And Worst Of WWE NXT 5/1/14: An Extremely Concerned Rabbit

Pre-show notes:

– Here’s a link to this week’s show on WWE Network, and one for Hulu Plus.

– Be sure you’re following our retro Best and Worst recap of NXT season 2, featuring future WWE stars when they were garbage, competing in a gigantic yellow trash heap. Never forget Pre-Crisis NXT.

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Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for May 1, 2014.

Best: How The Hell Did That Crowd Not ‘That Was Awesome’ Bo’s New Entrance

I’m starting to believe that a solid 25% of my enjoyment of NXT is based on their dedication to great ring entrances. It’s a woefully underappreciated part of getting a wrestler over. Usually on Raw they just give a guy rock music and have him hold his arms out on the stage and go RAAHHHHHH, or they have him dance. NXT’s a different animal. Tyler Breeze was instantly over with everyone in the building based solely on the awesomeness of his ring entrance. Adam Rose was another example, especially in the long long ago before they gave him the Jimmy Hart sound-a-like version of his entrance music.

They seem to be focusing on giving everybody of note a great entrance, and I love it. The Ascension’s entrance got improved tenfold with some faux Deathklok, a laser field and a well-timed pan-up. On last night’s show we got the debut of two new entrance improvements, and the first one knocked me on my ass.

Bo Dallas is about to debut on Raw, right? So now he comes to the ring with these sweeping Planet Earth landscape shots and INSPIRATIONAL SPA MUSIC, and I swear to God I thought they were introducing somebody with a bald eagle gimmick. Or like, a hang glider. But nope, here comes Bo, doing his Tatanka hopping into a giant, Tron-wide graphic that says BOLIEVE. I watched it with my mouth open, in one of those moments where you’re about to laugh, but you’re so enthralled by the inspired ridiculousness of what’s in front of you that you can’t.

Five stars for the new Bo Dallas entrance. I feel like I could probably give star ratings to ring entrances. Five of them.

Worst: Tyson Kidd And Natalya, Dreamin’ Big

The opening match is Bo taking on Tyson Kidd, and while the match itself was perfectly acceptable, I couldn’t get over Tyson and Natalya’s new “lowered expectations” mission statements. Natalya’s explaining how being NXT Women’s Champion would be a “dream come true,” even though she was Divas Champion four years ago. I get putting the belt over as important, but it’s understood that NXT is the “next generation of WWE Superstars and Divas.” You’re Crash Davis, Nattie.

Tyson’s even worse. He gets a win over a guy set to debut on Raw in a few weeks, and the announcers are all, “we expect BIG THINGS from Tyson Kidd!” Really? You expect big things from the guy who’s been in the WWE since 2006? I think he’s a good wrestler, too, but which big things are you expecting? The most impressive thing he’s done in 8 years is decide to grow out all of his hair, and not just his bangs.

Worst: What Is David O-Tonga’s Damage?

When did Camacho get so sassy?

The “Camacho’s not sure where the camera is” gag continues this week as David O-Tonga explains to Devin Taylor that he parties, oh yeah, he parties lots, and Adam Rose’s parties suck. Okay? When was this a competition? Weren’t you Mexican a month ago? He makes faces like the one in the picture, and I can’t with Camacho. A lot of absurd gimmicks can thrive in NXT, but I’m not sure “sassy, ethnically-nonspecific guy dislikes specific kinds of parties” is one of them.

+1 to NXT continuity, though, for having Devin Taylor only come alive and be herself when she’s around Adam Rose. I want them to reveal that she’s always been a Rosebud, which is how she got the job, and why she’s a lifeless pile of bricks when asked to interact with non-partiers.

Best: NXT Is Killing It With These Ring Entrances

Amazing new entrance #2 on the night goes to Bayley, who now has accurately-identified WACKY WAVING INFLATABLE ARM FLAILING TUBE MEN.


I didn’t think they could make me like Bayley more, but here we are. She delivers a backstage promo about how winning the NXT Women’s Championship would be better than “10 hugs from John Cena” and blows on her fists, and then she’s entering alongside wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube men. Holy shit. Next week she should walk to the ring with a sign that says BRANDON STROUD IS GREAT AND HANDSOME.

Best: Bayley Vs. Sasha Banks

My major complaint about this match:

1. It is not the finals of the tournament.

My major compliments about the match are EVERYTHING ELSE. Oh man, this was sweet. These are probably the two best in-ring NXT Divas going right now, especially since Paige went up to Raw to be cool and Emma went up to be not. Sasha’s on a MAJOR upswing of in-ring ability and Bayley’s starting to get nuclear levels of babyface heat. It’s the perfect pairing, and if they want to take their time and craft another Paige/Emma relationship, these are the ladies to do it with.

The highlight is the finishing sequence, which is expertly performed professional wrestling. Bayley catches Sasha in the belly-to-Bayley, and she doesn’t just catch her, she lifts her off the ground and spins her before doing it. Sasha avoids being pinned by rolling under the ropes (RING GENERAL), then takes advantage of Bayley’s momentary disappointment to sneak in a cheap shot and hit her with her finish. It an improved version of how SO MANY Divas matches end, so everybody bought it … and Bayley kicks out. That leads directly into Bayley getting another burst of energy, going for another belly-to-Bayley, and Sasha having to dig deep into her moveset and break out a SWEETS AS F*CKING SUGAR backstabber-into-a-crossface counter. Unreal.

Again, this should’ve been the finals. The tournament is happening in reverse. I’m just going to assume whoever wins is the least qualified.

Best: The Easter Bunny Rosebud Is The Best Rosebud

Firstly, this is Danny Burch’s last NXT match. Poor William Regal spends the entire match like, “Danny Burch is a fantastic human being. He is also very tough. He can type 80 words per minute and is a very reliable hand to have around the office. I personally enjoy his anecdotes and his wife’s muffins, which are gluten free, and you’d think they’d be dry, but nope, they’re great. Furthermore, Danny Burch would make a GREAT addition to any local armory or impact zone.” RIP Danny Burch, Heaven needed its 10th discarded British NXT jobber.

Secondly, SASSY CAMACHO assaults one of the Rosebuds and I’m supposed to be invested in a Camacho/Adam Rose beef, but all I can see is that amazing guy in the rabbit costume. He’s SO GOOD, dude. When the luchador Rosebud gets jumped, he starts doing big “oh no” mascot gestures, putting both of his hands on his head. When Rose is staring down Camacho on the ramp, watch the rabbit … he’s doing Wimbledon head, looking back and forth between them like they’re having a conversation. When Rose is finally on the ground, the rabbit reaches out a hand and gently places it on Rose’s shoulder, like he’s expecting this random party luchador to be dead. We learned how sensitive the rabbit is in that Hungry Hungry Hippos vignette, and if this is character continuity for a throwaway joke background character I swear to God I will love NXT forever.

Worst: Is Brodus Clay In Blackface?

This was Brodus Clay on April 10:

This was Brodus on May 1:

Did they make him blacker because he knocked out Adrian Neville’s teeth? Did Brodus sleep with his head in a tanning bed between tapings? Is he absorbing Sasha Banks’ blackness?

Worst: Natalya Vs. Layla Is Not Even In The Same Ballpark As Bayley Vs. Sasha

One of the opening round matches in the NXT Women’s Championship tournament was between two women on the developmental roster. The other was between women with a combined 14 years of Raw and Smackdown television experience. You sure as hell wouldn’t be able to tell which one was which by watching them.

I’m a fan of Layla’s. I loved her with William Regal and loved her in capital letters as one half of LayCool. I think she’s objectively the most beautiful woman WWE’s ever employed. For whatever reason this latest heel turn hasn’t brought back the “good wrestling” parts she was always desperately attempting to incorporate, so throwing her into the ring with constantly smiling, happy-to-be-here Natalya is a recipe for disaster.

And yeah, “disaster” is a strong word. The match wasn’t anything to flip a table over, but it was too “Divas” for NXT’s “women are actually good pro wrestlers” vibe, and the conflict was totally unnecessary. Not to use Divas as a derogatory, but I can’t think of any other way to describe that slow, GET READY I’M GONNA DO MY NEXT MOVE NOW women’s wrestling Raw’s popularized over the last … forever years.

Best: Oliver Grey Says Goodbye In The Least Prestigious Way Possible

“Hey Oliver, sorry to hear about your release.”
“It’s cool, I’m excited about the future.”
“So, what was your last moment in WWE?”
“A very excited man put his asshole on me.”

Best: Brodus Clay Goes Full King Hippo

The main event was actually a lot of fun, with Brodus doing his best to have legitimate power offense and Neville bumping like his life depended on it. The finish, though, earns a facetious Best for being stupid enough to overshadow the entire thing. And also Brodus Clay’s face, I guess.

It’s a no disqualification match. Neville just kicked out of a powerbomb and a splash off the ropes. Brodus decides he’s gonna slip outside, grab the NXT Championship and blast him with it. Now, on paper, this spot was probably “you grab the belt, hold it up and run at me in the corner trying to hit me in the face. I get my foot up, kick the belt into your face, then Red Arrow you immediately to get the big underdog win.” That’s not a bad finish. In practice, Brodus held the belt at about boob level, metal out, and Neville’s kick basically forced a flat sheet of leather into his chest. Add that to the fact that Brodus moves about 0.5 miles per hour when he runs and you’ve got a very dainty kick that doesn’t look, sound or feel impressive being enough to incapacitate a 400 pound long enough for a tiny guy to spend half a minute setting up for a top rope splash. Did the kick hit Brodus in his taped-up belly button or something?

I’m excited for next week, when Brodus shows up for a third match and looks like he smoked one of Bugs Bunny’s exploding cigars.