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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for May 13, 2015.
Best: The Role For Solomon Crowe
This week’s opening match is Baron Corbin vs. Solomon Crowe, and it’s the most I’ve liked Crowe so far. The selling point of a lot of “top indie guys” (in quotes because that’s what the Internet calls most of NXT’s recent signees, whether they were actually top guys in non-WWE promotions or not) is that you can slot them into important roles and they instantly connect with fans, whether they’ve done the work to deserve it or not. That’s the “it” factor WWE tells you about a lot. A guy like Finn Bálor is talented, but could be far less talented and get a better response/reaction than most. Kevin Owens is the same way. Wrestling crowds see them moving around and go THAT GUY, THAT’S MY GUY. The trick to true success in the brains of smarky jerks like me is having that instant, magical connection, and being able to throw work behind it that justifies the gift. Does that make sense?
Solomon Crowe isn’t that guy. He’s little, he’s ugly as balls (as actual balls), he’s got a bad haircut and his gear makes him look like he pooped his pants. He’s got no gimmick because somebody realized “hacker” wasn’t still a marketable thing a little too late in the process, and his name is “Solomon Crowe.” He sounds like the bad guy with the too-on-the-nose name in a Harry Potter book (“OH NO IT’S PROFESSOR WEREWOLF, I WONDER WHAT HIS DARK SECRET COULD BE??”). Crowe’s not Kevin Owens. You don’t bring him in, put him over a few guys and say “this is your dude.” Crowe is Mike Dalton. Crowe is Sasha Banks. He’s the kind of wrestler who has all the basic tools and just needs the right thing to bring it all together. He’s the guy you put into the ring with OTHER people you’re trying to put over, and he kills it long enough for us to say, “hey, you know who is really awesome? Solomon Crowe.” He could do that.
I liked Crowe here because he got to look like a dynamic weirdo, and wasn’t the focal point. You draw the eye away from the flaws. Instead of me watching him do bad slingshot splashes with a shit stain on his butt, I watch him bounce around making Corbin’s offense look legit and being this little ball of energy in contrast. Corbin has a huge upside, but he still kinda looks like he’s about to fall asleep in the middle of the ring. Crowe spazzing out and running around and backflipping to sell a clothesline went a long way.
Worst: Pretty Sure I Never Need To Hear Another Rhyno Promo
The payoff to this is Rhyno trying to Gore Corbin and getting End Of Days‘d out of it, right? That’s the entire reason they’ve been paired up. I’m not sure the writers have come up with anything to actually set up that spot, but we’re going for it. As far as I know, they’re both “unstoppable forces” even though Rhyno was an easily-beatable WWE midcarder for years and Baron Corbin loses whenever he fights a guy better than Bull Dempsey. But … sure?
I’m OK with it if they beat the mess out of each other, but I suuuper don’t want more Rhyno promos. He sounds like one of the purposefully bad actors from an audition montage who make the lead characters roll their eyes and consider giving up before the one they’ve been looking for shows up. “Are we gonna DO THIS or WHAT??” “Hand ME the keys you f*cking cocksucker!”
Worst: The Crowd, All Night
I wish I had a giant boot so I could kick this entire crowd in the ass.
The Full Sail crowd can be a little much sometimes, but for this episode they were a lot much. In Corbin vs. Crowe, they chant “Corbin” to the tune of “boring” and when that doesn’t work, they just straight-up chant “Baron’s gonna bore you.” I guess that’s what happens when you make a bunch of wrestling fans count to 30? It gets worse as the show goes on, and by the Sasha Banks match they’re in full-on SU-PER DRA-GON mode. They decide they’re gonna call Sasha’s opponents “black shorts” in the style of Blue Pants, so that causes a dueling chant that lasts for like HALF THE MATCH. It’s not even chanting, it’s just breathless fans yelling LET’S GO BLACK SHORTS as fast as they can so the people around them can yell LET’S GO SASHA. When they run out of oxygen, they jump right into the SASHA’S RATCHET/NO SHE’S NOT garbage. It’s not fun. It’s not organic. You’ve convinced yourself that silence or actually being invested in the action or interested in the characters means you’re boring fans, and you’re too into the natural life and energy of Full Sail to shut the f*ck up and watch the show. By insincerely fabricating these reactions, you’re hurting what makes that natural life and energy so great.
If you want the best example of this, consult the “No Means No” chant after the Carmella/Alexa Bliss match. Pro tip: that’s not a thing you should ever chant. I know you think it’s hilarious, but again, here’s my giant boot footing you in the ass.
Best: KC Cassidy!
If you weren’t already aware, “black shorts” (barf) is KC Cassidy, a Lance Storm trainee who’s wrestled in places like SHIMMER and PWA Australia. She and Jessie McKay are about to reveal one of pro wrestling’s best secrets: Australia and New Zealand are this weird, endless fountain of young, beautiful, fit women who have not only trained to be pro wrestlers but are really good at it. Finding a beautiful woman wrestling in Australia’s like finding a tiny bald guy who likes to throw kicks in the United States.
Worst: Things Fall Apart
Carmella wrestles MEN’S RIGHTS Alexa Bliss, and things are honestly going really well until Blake & Murphy show up. When it’s time to do the “story” part of the match, the women go from 60 to 0 instantly and can’t seem to actually do anything. My theory is that they’ve gotten comfortable with their in-ring work and know what they’re supposed to do, and they know how to do the storytelling stuff, but they don’t always know how to do them at the same time. They’re wrestling and it’s fine, and then it’s time for story so their brains go over there, and an armdrag Bliss has done a hundred times turns into this mess of turning and falling and flailing. Even a clubbing forearm to the back turns into Bliss kinda rubbing her fingers on Carmella’s shoulders and Carmella selling it like a GTS.
And then (as I mentioned) we get Carmella cutting an Enzo promo on two dudes in Benoit tights while the crowd chants “no means no.” I dunno. Things fall apart.
Best: Hideo Itami Doesn’t Have Time For Your Script
Creepy Greg (I’m assuming) stands off-screen and asks the participants in the “NXT Takeover: Unstoppable No. 1 Contender” triple-threat match who they’d rather face for the title, Kevin Owens or Sami Zayn. Finn and Breeze give the exact same answer: It’s not IF they’ll win, it’s WHEN, and they don’t CARE who they face. They’re going to be the next NXT Champion!
Hideo Itami wins the night by saying nuts to the form WWE promo and picking Kevin Owens, because he’s a bad person. How hard is that? Why does nobody in WWE care about stuff? Kevin Owens jacked up our precious adorable baby bird champion and took his title, and has spent the past two months being passive-aggressive and trying to permanently end peoples’ careers. I like Itami 100 times more now that it appears he actually watches the shows and is affected by things that happen around him. He’s not just WWE SUPERSTAR, here to RUTHLESSLY AGGRESS and entertain YOU, THE WWE UNIVERSE.
Best/Worst: Ha, Adam Rose Just Beat KENTA And Prince Devitt
And you know, as soon as I give Itami credit for destroying one of WWE’s worst tropes, he gets tossed a different one.
Bálor and Itami wrestle Tyler Breeze and Adam Rose, whom you may recall me affectionately naming “Bros.” What should be an exciting match turns into a pissing contest where the faces can’t get along and keep it together, and keep tagging themselves in and being crybabies about it at their own expense. It ends with Itami tagging himself in before Bálor can finish Breeze off, and WHOOPS, he gets rolled up and pinned. After the match Breeze goes over them AGAIN, because there isn’t a chance in hell they’re brave enough to put Breeze over at Unstoppable and build a Kevin Owens/Tyler Breeze program, no matter how much sense it makes.
Here’s a quick pitch: Tyler Breeze thinks Kevin Owens is ugly. Sold, right? But also, Breeze is mad that Owens just showed up and took a spot he’s been trying to get for years, and he thinks having a wife and family is STUPID AND ALSO UGLY. Owen is all, “I’m gonna hurt you for real,” and Breeze is all, “whatever, look at your SKIN.”
Best: Devin Taylor’s Rage Meter Is Filling Up
1. I don’t want to like the Emma and Dana Brooke pairing, but it works. As I’ve written about before, Emma as a former SHIMMER star (from that magical land of Australia) who worked hard and got up her workrate — and impressed people in NXT only to get on Raw and get sh*t-canned into comedyland and oblivion almost immediately is great, and her mission statement now should be to keep other people in her mold (like Bayley) from shooting for the stars and having their heart broken. She should back women like Dana Brooke, women who would “work” on Raw because they look right and are barely trained, because Raw audience don’t want to see women succeeding as artists and performers, they want to see asses and b*tchfights. It’s the way the world works. It’s what makes money. Emma knows that now, and she doesn’t want anyone else rising up and disproving it.
2. I feel like I type it every week now, but the moment when Dana tries to pat Devin on the head and gets Fujiwara-armbarred is going to be the best thing EVER. Just “pat pat pat” and then WHOOM, YOUR STUPID FACE JUST WENT THROUGH THAT STEEL BEAM.
Worst: Looks Like Those Clowns In Congress Did It Again. What A Bunch Of Clowns.
Please pay no attention to that awkward shot of Kevin Owens while Sami’s updating us about his condition, we swear to God this show is happening in real-time on Wednesday night. The best part is that they had an interview with a post-Raw Sami Zayn RIGHT BEFORE THIS where he talks about how he feels. Wouldn’t it have been way easier to have a taped-up Sami say, “I’m hurt, but no matter what I’m wrestling Kevin Owens” there instead of giving him a Michelle McCool dub?
Best: This Actual Segment, Though
Aside from that, the confrontation is wonderful. Owens’ character work is so next-level I can’t even process it. Sami really IS his former best friend, and knows how to hurt him in ways nobody else does. So when Sami’s like, “your kid likes me more than you and I don’t see why that’s a big deal,” it’s REAL. The real reaction to that isn’t to make a mad face and start punching, it’s to leave. The threat at the top of the ramp is the realest threat I’ve heard on WWE TV maybe ever … Owens knows Sami’s hurt, he knows how he’s hurt, he knows he’s BEEN hurt and he knows how to hurt him again. When he hurts him again, he’s not going to go home and “clear his mind” and come back. He’s never coming back.
This is the most high-stakes thing they’ve ever done in NXT because these emotions AND these injuries are real. The ones on the inside and the outside. I can’t wait to see what happens at WWE.