– So I’ve finally decided to dedicate a weekly report to the best show WWE produces, NXT. If you’d like to see these continue, please contribute to the discussion in our comments section, click the “like” button and share the column on your social media things. If you’re on a wrestling forum or site somewhere, share it. I’ll keep doing them until I run out of complimentary things to say about Emma (which would be never).
– If you’re wondering where you can watch NXT, it’s currently on Hulu Plus every Thursday. If you’re like, “weh, I don’t want to have to pay for Hulu Plus to watch wrestling,” it’s the best wrestling show and Hulu Plus is like 8 dollars. Just do it, it’s fine. You aren’t gonna miss 8 dollars. You can watch this week’s episode (as long as they keep it up) here.
So! Please click through to enjoy the debut edition of The Best And Worst Of WWE NXT, May 22, 2013 edition.
Best: Hey, I Recognize That Ginger (And So Does Everybody Else)
I couldn’t have picked a better week to start writing NXT columns, because this week’s show featured the debut of Sami Zayn. If you only follow WWE and don’t know who Zayn is, he’s a lanky Syrian/French-Canadian redhead who started off as a skinny kid in a borderline-racist “generic luchador” gimmick and did it well enough to become one of the most respected, beloved and entertaining guys on the independent circuit. If you want an easier-to-understand context, he’s our new Daniel Bryan — that guy so good there’s no WAY WWE can mess him up, unless they take off his mask, remove 80% of his moveset, give him a ridiculous developmental name and the announcers talk about what a loser nerd he is 24/7.
The bad news is that they took off his mask, took away the only move in pro wrestling more over than the RKO (the top rope brainbuster) and decided to call him “Sami Zayn” (which is barely even a name). The good news is that yep, he’s still so good there’s no way they can mess him up. Wednesday’s NXT featured not one but TWO Sami Zayn matches, they were both fantastic, and the announce team was not afraid to talk about how he’d already paid his dues and developed a huge international fan following from busting his ass for the last decade. He got to be a star from the moment he walked out onto the stage and even shook a little girl’s hand, if “being great at wrestling” wasn’t a clear enough reason to support him.
Here’s why I’m so excited to write about NXT: it’s basically what Raw would be, if Raw was written by me. I get a lot of shit in the Best and Worst of Raw column for glorifying the lower-level guys, talking about character consistency (not to mention ethical consistency) and demanding clear, exciting storylines. “It’s just wrestling” is what I usually hear, which is code for “wrestling is marketed to babies and man-children, nobody cares about morality or intelligent writing and you’ll watch whatever we give you anyway.” It’s WWE, and WWE is in the business of WWE, not pro wrestling. But guess what? You don’t have to lurk on puroresu forums and hope for a fast download to get wrestling the way it should be … NXT is giving everybody on the show something to do, letting them wrestle their asses off, countering the stupid developmental names like “Sami Zayn” or “Bray Wyatt” with compelling, easy-to-understand-and-get-into characters and bringing youth, excitement, and WRESTLING to WWE wrestling. It’s the best thing they produce by a mile.
It’s also very easy to condemn, because wrestling fans without perspective will hit you with the dreaded “indy guys” insult and consider themselves the victor. All I can say to that is that it’s fun to watch wrestlers you’ve actually had time to form a fan-to-performer relationship with. It’s like watching a kid come up from the minors and become one of the best players in baseball. It means more, at least from my perspective, when you don’t just buy their jersey because they’re a star.
Worst: Poor Curt Hawkins
Curt Hawkins goes down to a tornado DDT off the ropes and gets pinned, and there’s a really depressing shot of him lying on the ground just kinda looking up at the lights. I tried to figure out what was going through his head, and the closest I can get is, “man, I’ve been on TV since 2007 and I’m in a developmental match against a guy getting chants in his first match.” Pepper in an “I’ll never beat Antonio Cesaro” if you’re optimistic. We like to make fun of Zack Ryder’s hilarious career trajectory/Zachary Ty Bryan haircut, but at least Ryder’s career had a peak, and he won’t have to go to local promotion bookers in five years and have to explain that he was “the guy with the cane who lost to Ryback.”
Best: Antonio Cesaro Winning Something Feels Like Christmas
NXT is where cool wrestlers go to win matches!
The second match on the show is Antonio Cesaro vs. Yoshi Tatsu. On Raw, this would feature Yoshi getting beaten up for two minutes, Randy Orton’s music hitting, Orton appearing out of nowhere to RKO Cesaro, Cesaro getting pinned and Orton sticking around for six additional minutes to RKO him every time he tried to move. Here, Cesaro hits Swiss Death about 30 seconds into the match and Neutralizes Yoshi into dust. You know, the exact way an Antonio Cesaro/Yoshi Tatsu match should happen. I love you, this wrestling show.
Best: Sami Zayn One-Ups Cesaro Like You’re Supposed To, Or
Worst: Cesaro Should Probably Stop Asking For Competition
Explained, from Worst to Best:
1. When Cesaro wins, he cuts the same promo he cut after beating Zack Ryder on Raw, word-for-word. Same exact promo. Keep in mind that Cesaro lost 400 matches in a row before cutting the “I don’t have any competition” promo, and has lost every match he’s had since. Next time Cesaro says he doesn’t have competition, Orton should emerge from his mouth fully grown and RKO him on the way down.
2. On Raw, they make fun of Cesaro for being smug by SAYING he’s smug, even when he’s right, and calling him gay for carrying a purse and/or being European. On NXT, the good guy shuts up the bad guy by ALSO being able to speak several languages and calling out Cesaro for being up his own ass about it. How great is that? Cesaro seems legitimately pissed by it, too, and he’s NOT, but the situation around it seems like an actual beef forming, and not TV wrestling going through the motions. Mwah.
BEST: ROH On HDNet!
There was an El Generico vs. Claudio Castagnoli match on a WWE TV show. This is another joy of NXT, being able to be all, “Chris Hero just wrestled William Regal and it was f**king amazing.” I hope they get to wrestle a lot, if only to see that sweet throwing Ricola Bomb from Survival Of The Fittest again.
Truth: NXT is a better ROH show than ROH’s show.
Best: Emma, Forever And Always
Don’t get me wrong, NXT isn’t WRESTLING IS SERIOUS … it isn’t afraid to get super stupid. For whatever reason, NXT’s version of WWE comedy works for me, while the Raw/Smackdown version (which usually involves birthday cakes, old ladies giving birth or Sherlock Holmes pipes and magnifying glasses) doesn’t. The best example of this is Emma, the woman single-handedly poised to make me enjoy Divas wrestling for the next five years.
She’s pretty good. She trained at the Storm Wrestling Academy and popped up in SHIMMER a few years ago, so she’s got the basics down well enough to get her through anything WWE sends her way without embarrassing herself … but the rub is that she’s SPECTACULAR at embarrassing herself, and her very easy to understand gimmick of “I am stupid and clumsy and also I dance badly” has made her one of the most over people on the show. It’s amazing. If Maria Kanellis pioneered the modern “stupid” Diva and Jillian pioneered the “I’m bad at a thing I think I’m good at” character, Emma is the evolution — or “Emmalution” –of the species. She’s the characters perfected, and she’s so blissfully disconnected from reality that you can’t help but cheer for her. That dance, man. I may like the Emma Dance more than anything not involve flak jackets and helicopters in WWE.
Worst: Audrey Marie’s Last Appearance Is Just Cosplaying Stephanie McMahon And Getting Poked In The Face
On the other hand, we have Audrey Marie. If you look at that photo, you’ll know everything you need to know about her. Which is funny, because you don’t need to know anything about her, because she’s gone. She got released in that group with Sakamoto (who you may remember as Lord Tensai’s okay-with-being-beaten-and-slurred Japanese manservant), Briley Pierce (who you may not remember as Dolph Ziggler’s brother) and Derrick Bateman (who you may remember as HEY WAIT A MINUTE WHAT THE F**K WWE WHY DID YOU RELEASE DERRICK BATEMAN? JTG HAS BEEN EMPLOYED FOR SIX YEARS).
One of the bad things about NXT is that it’s a developmental territory, which means that things will often change quickly, characters will get new names and we have to accept it (that never happens on Raw … right, Curt/Curtis Axel?), people will appear or disappear without a lot of fanfare. We wish her well in her return to her pre-wrestling career, which I can only assume was “not giving a shit about wrestling.”
Worst: LOL So Hard At Enzo Amore, Or
Best: Lookin’ Good, Mason Ryan!
Okay, so THIS f**kin’ guy.
Regal described him as “one of Diamond Dallas Page’s love children,” and it’s pretty perfect. Imagine if Santino and Robbie E from Impact Wrestling became the same guy and would not shut up about it. That’s Enzo Amore. He’s wearing a snakeskin/leopard-print something, looks like Sean Waltman and Justin Credible had a baby and has my new favorite/least favorite catchphrase in wrestling: “BADA-BOOM! REALEST GUY IN THE ROOM!”
That’s not even the best part of his promo. He just walks and screams stuff about being “a real G,” and man, if Mason Ryan hadn’t returned from oblivion to trounce him I might’ve turned off the show. That’s how good of a heel this guy’s gonna be. He has a tattoo of a mustache on one of his fingers, and the word “Shh!” tattooed on another. Yes, you hate him already.
As for General Mason Ryan, he’s … yeah, he’s still Mason Ryan. He looks like he’s a little leaner than before, which is good, and he looks less like one of the goombas from the live-action Super Mario Bros. movie. Regal building him up as one of the great Welsh pro wrestlers of history was choice, because Regal is as good at putting wrestlers over on commentary as anyone you know is at anything.
Best: Bray Wyatt Is The Best Possible Thing
The show’s main-event (aw, why is the show over already?) was one of my favorite NXT guys against one of my least favorite … Bray Wyatt, aka “Husky Harris doing a Cape Fear gimmick,” vs. Corey Graves, the poorest man’s CM Punk.
Bray Wyatt is the f**king king of wrestling right now. Husky Harris was pretty garbage, so they took him and put him in a tank top and some slacks, gave him a hat and told him to be the bad guy from any action movie set in the Bayou. IT’S SUPER EFFECTIVE. Suddenly Husky became the best talker WWE employs, cutting creepy, compelling promo after creepy, compelling promo and being the most believable pro wrestling cult leader since CM Punk was shit-talking dudes between eliminations in the Royal Rumble. He doesn’t just play the character, he WRESTLES as the character, and every single part of it works. If we can get Wyatt onto big time WWE TV intact, it’ll be one of the most advantageous returns to developmental since Idol Stevens became Damien Sandow. And if you read my columns a lot, you’ll know how big of a compliment that is.
As for Corey Graves … yeah, I don’t know. I didn’t dig him on the indies when he was Sterling James Keenan, and his success in pro wrestling is more or less based on how much people will support an Express For Men model pretending to work for Hot Topic. He’s got STAY DOWN tattooed on his knuckles and that’s pretty much all he’s got. He holds them up during promos, holds them up during his entrance, holds them up when he gets into the ring and yells STAY DOWN at people for the entirety of the match. Like a cruiserweight Ryback with the FEED ME MORE gag. I don’t see him getting called up any time soon, but hey, I didn’t like Tyler Black until he finished up in NXT, so I’m willing to be proven wrong.
So there you have it, folks. One week of NXT down, infinity to go. Be sure to leave a comment about the column or the show below, click the like button and show this to anybody who says WWE can’t do good wrestling. See you next week.