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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for June 17, 2015.
Best/Worst: The Trios Match Was Kinda Sawft
The theme of the night is “matches you want to see, featuring people who are holding back.”
The first is a trios match pitting Enzo Amore, Colin Cassady and Carmella (“The Realest Guys In The Room Plus A Demanding Cosmetologist”) vs. Blake, Murphy and Alexa Bliss (“Team Nightcrawler Noise”). On paper, this should be tearing it up. If they did it at a house show, it probably would. Blake & Murphy can go, Enzo and Cass are situationally magnificent, Bliss keeps getting better and more nuanced (and can land a hell of a splash on a male opponent) and Carmella is … enthusiastic. It should all go together and be the kind of thing we excitedly tell our friends about the next day. Maybe that’s just in my brain. I’m spoiled by barnburner WWE six-man tags.
What we got was good, but it was totally by the numbers. It’s the kind of match you’d have with your friends in training. Pair off, do some mat work that has nothing to do with the finish, do the “everybody gets involved, all of a sudden to lead to commercial break” spot, come back to more mat work, build to a hot tag, hit your finish. I don’t know what to say, really. It was wrestling. It wasn’t bad at all, even a little, and Big Cass should probably already be side-slamming all five of these people and doing something better with his time, but yeah, it was wrestling. I’m hoping the characters and the timing all come together for their inevitable next tag-titles match and we get the kind of snappy tag masterpiece I believe they can pull off.
Blake & Murphy aren’t the Midnight Express, but they have that vibe — two dopey-looking guys who think they’re the sh*t and are great at tag wrestling. Enzo and Big Cass have that Rock n’ Roll Express thing of being average-ass dudes with exceptional charisma that takes something dated — for Morton and Gibson it was ’60s/’70s rock, for Enzo and Cass it’s the Jersey Shore — and makes it fresh and relevant. Makes it signature. Nobody ever tied bandanas around their legs, and nobody ever called themselves “Smacktalker Skywalker” with a straight face, but it happened, and it’s happening again.
Eep: Enzo Accidentally Clocking Alexa Bliss
In case you missed it, keep your eye on Alexa Bliss’s head as Enzo gets knocked back into the corner. Enzo’s elbow accidentally BLASTS her, and she gives him a kick to the shoulder in response. I’ve already said I wanted an evenly-matched Enzo vs. Alexa Bliss 1-on-1, but now I really want it. Send these two adorable little moppets into the ring and have them throw hands at each other like they’re Samoa Joe and Necro Butcher.
Best Ever: Fergal Devitt
WWE only uploaded part of the feature on Fergal Devitt, so if you haven’t seen it, go watch the entire thing. I use a lot of hyperbole in these columns for humor or emphasis or whatever, but this is one of my favorite things I’ve seen on a wrestling show in a long, long time. It’s better than a wrestling show. About 3 minutes in, I started wishing I was watching a full Fergal Devitt documentary instead of NXT. This is coming from the internet’s leading NXT homer.
As a guy who’d always enjoyed Prince Devitt on a superficial level and enjoyed but was kinda getting tired of Finn Bálor, I am all-in on him now. Modern pro wrestling has never seemed to find the connection between what we want to see on TV and what we discover we love about wrestlers when they’re injured or gone: We love the fiction and the exaggeration and the violence and the performance, but we connect with the people. That’s the thing. When we cheer for Daniel Bryan, we aren’t just cheering for a blue-collar guy against his evil bosses. We’re cheering for Bryan Danielson, a guy we’ve seen bust his ass for a decade all around the world to defy expectations and make something of himself on the biggest stage of the sport he loves. It doesn’t have to be that dramatic. We go from indifference to deep love for Becky Lynch when we find out she’s a person, and we find out how much of a sh*t she gives about wrestling.
With Devitt, one segment has turned him from “cool monster guy” to a real, fully-formed, important human being. It’s not him sitting there talking about how much he loves wrestling. Anybody could do that. It’s about his family. It’s about the lessons he learned growing up with a big-hearted mom and a hardworking dad, and how he combined those to become the kind of person who could rise up and shine his light on everyone else. We learn about him starting a wrestling school before he had any business teaching people, and how if he hadn’t, Becky Lynch would have never been able to live her dreams. We learn what a humble, giving man he is, and see him performing in front of tiny auditoriums and bar crowds for basically nothing — “wrestling for the sake of wrestling” in the best possible way.
Next week he goes to Japan, and oh man, I have never been so excited at the prospect of seeing Bad Luke Fale on WWE television. This is straight-up f*cking phenomenal, and if we have to build to somebody taking the NXT Championship from our precious Kevin Owens, let it be Fergal by God Devitt. Find this, watch this, obsess over this.
Best: Becky Lynch
The best part of the Devitt documentary is the story of Becky Lynch, who honestly gets more from being a side character here than she did in her own “this is who I am” videos the weeks before Unstoppable. If you watch this and don’t want to hug her for being the nicest person in the world, I don’t know what’s wrong with you. Devitt’s honest love for and pride in her makes my heart grow three sizes, and watching her get emotional talking about the existential crisis of never meeting the person who’d change your life is one of the gutsiest, most honest and most endearing moments I can recall.
It’s amazing what happens when you apply the sincerity of WWE’s tribute video packages with people who are still walking and talking and in their prime. If they put this much effort into the main roster, we’d have that unconditional love or violent hatred of characters they expect us to have from run-ins and distraction roll-ups.
Best: Dana Brooke Is So Arrogant It’s Actually Transcending Human Emotional Capabilities
Anyway, back to reality. Here’s Dana Brooke cutting a really good promo about how she’s gonna shove Charlotte out the door she was carried in through, and kinda-sorta ruining it by refusing to look in the right direction.
Like, seriously Dana, what are you looking at? Is her character supposed to be blind? Colin Cassady does a similar thing and I know you aren’t supposed to look at the camera, but Dana is leaning across Devin to stare at what I assume are cue cards and getting that horrible (wonderful) Ohio accent all over everything. If it’s another touch in making us want to see her get punched into the sun, man, it’s working. If wrestling ever catches up to the impossible dipsh*ttery she’s pulling on the microphone, she’s going to infuriate us for years to come. She’s like the King Joffrey of NXT. She’s gonna shoot Devin Taylor with a crossbow.
Best: Charlotte The Killer
My favorite match on this week’s show was the short assassination of KC Cassidy by Charlotte. I like Charlotte a lot as the Dr. Manhattan of the NXT Women’s Division, where she’s so tall and strong and good at what she does that she’s increasingly detached from the others. She doesn’t feel as textured and flawed as Bayley, Sasha or Becky. She’s the reincarnation of the not-actually-free-of-his-soul-yet Ric Flair. You always got the feeling that Flair liked the other Horsemen as a business obligation, and even if the Andersons were supposed to be his cousins, he’d just as soon sell them up the river if it meant riding in a slightly nicer jet. That’s Charlotte. She’s dedicated to being here, but she got so good she’s almost above it now, and there’s nowhere for her to go. She can’t get called up to the Divas Division, because the only thing she’ll find is 90-second decisions that end with her tapping out to Natalya. The truth is that maybe there isn’t a women’s division in the world she fits into it. She’s her own thing.
The match with Cassidy was quick, but made a lot of sense. Cassidy got in some offense (as a competent opponent might), but Charlotte handles it and adapts. When it’s over, Charlotte’s look isn’t “yeah I won!” or “whew, that was tough!” like 100 percent of other Divas. Her look was, “I got you? That’s it? OK, good. Mission accomplished.” I’m into it.
I guess KC Cassidy’s name is going to be “Cassie,” which coordinates with Jessie McKay being announced as just “Jessie,” so maybe we’re getting CASSIE AND JESSIE. Maybe they’re going to be repackaged as the Floozies from PWWA. Maybe they’ll be cheerleaders and announce their names all the time.
Standard “let women have last names, you weirdos” complaint here.
Somewhere In The Middle: The Joe Vs. Owens Match At Half-Speed
The main event of this week’s episode was a big one: NXT Champion Kevin Owens facing Pre-Existing Alternate Universe Character Samoa Joe in a non-title grudge match. It starts off well and ends well. At the beginning, Owens tries to do his stalling act and roll out of the ring, but Joe follows him out and gets in his face until he gets back in. That’s awesome. At the end, Owens tries to powerbomb Joe on the apron and Joe flips out, leading to a double disqualification and a pull-apart brawl. That’s also awesome. Everything in the middle was … less awesome.
I’ve been a fan of Samoa Joe’s for a long time (and an apologist, if you’ve read my guest paragraphs in any of the Best and Worst of Impact reports). He’s one half of my favorite match I’ve ever seen live, him vs. Kenta Kobashi in Ring Of Honor in New York in 2005. I was second row for that, and I remember just sorta sitting there when it was over and putting my head in my hands, because I’d seen something I was never going to see again. Joe’s got a special place in my heart, even if the past 10 years or so have turned him into jokes about drawing a penis on your face and trying to kill people with machetes.
That said, NXT Joe isn’t doing a lot for me. He just seems really slow and sweaty, and the announcers won’t stop yelling about how much agility he has. Joe could scratch his nose and Graves would go WOW, WHAT AGILITY. It’s his “Sin Cara was so popular in Mexico he had a comic book,” or his “I’ve seen him working out at the Performance Center and let me tell you, he works hard.” They expect this 6-foot-2 guy who isn’t really that heavy to wrestle like the Loch Ness. Anyway, the middle of the match is just rest holds and setups for moves that don’t make sense. Owens briefly saves it by yelling CHINLOCK CITY, but that doesn’t excuse 2 minutes of chinlocks. Then there’s little stuff, like Joe’s corner slam that requires his opponent to run at him for a Stinger Splash, whether they actually do that in other matches. That all builds to Joe’s tired baby punches during the pull apart, which would not have incapacitated Renee Young. It’s hard to see Joe as the kind of threat he needs to be when we’ve spent the past few weeks watching Owens beat JOHN CENA’s ass. It’s like watching a college basketball team nuke Golden State, then trying to be impressed when they go into overtime with Minnesota.
Again, the problem is that they’re holding back, because that’s the idea. It’s not a problem, really. This isn’t the blowoff, it’s a step toward the blowoff. Owens is heading into the Finn Bálor Japanese Death Trap on July 4 and Joe seems more like a plot point than a wrestler, so it is what it is.
Best: Kevin Owens Hurting People Who Don’t Necessarily Deserve It
As he’s walking away from the pull-apart brawl, Owens elbows a security guy in the face and punches out another because OF COURSE HE DOES. You’ve gotta love NXT and their security force of similar-sized, muscular guys with partially-shaved heads. EAT SH*T, HIPSTER SECURITY PATROL, A BLOTCHY CANADIAN DAD IS GOING TO END YOU.