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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for June 24, 2015.
Best: Kevin Owens Is A Terrible Human Being
We’ve spent a lot of time with the Raw version of Kevin Owens lately. He’s the one who seems right, even when he’s being a jerk, and represents some kind of weird, wrestling fan Everyman. When he’s fighting fair against John Cena and powerbombing asinine musical guests off the stage he seems like a person we — at least the jerkier contingent of “we” — would want to cheer for. On NXT though, Kevin Owens is a terrible human being.
I think it’s just that he isn’t opposite a wrestling thing that “represents” anything else. There’s nothing to rationalize or justify. Owens is a guy who came up from the gutter with an inferiority complex, living in the shadow of his easy-to-love best friend. He’s a guy who almost gave up on wrestling and started a family, then got an unexpected opportunity when that best friend showed up in WWE and got popular. Suddenly here he was, t-shirt and basketball shorts and all, throwing cannonballs at CJ Parker and being cheered like a hero. Before the night was over, he was trying to permanently injure the friend and manipulating him into a championship match he absolutely did not deserve. Fast forward two months and Owens is NXT Champ, actively working to put Sami Zayn out of wrestling and dancing on his grave while it happens. Even on this week’s show, KO can’t resist the urge to throw a chunk of the shade he used to live in at Sami.
Hideo Itami opens the show to update us on his injury and tell us he’ll be back and better than ever, and when he is, he’ll be going after the NXT Champion. That by itself is enough to bring out Owens, who has to “um actually” Itami to death and threaten to beat him up for saying he’s a bad person. I love that of all the motivations wrestlers have to beat each other up, Kevin Owens is driven to wanting to hurt an injured man’s one good arm because the guy called him a terrible human being. That’s it. And who would want to injure and injure’d guy’s good arm OTHER than a terrible human being? He validates Itami by standing up for himself, but in the wrong way. That’s beautiful heel work, and the subtle difference between his NXT and Raw characters. I guess he just has more Good Vs. Evil to work with.
A supplemental Best for Owens stumbling over his words, then saying he sounds like Hideo Itami trying to speak English. That line made me have a Fred Sanford heart attack.
Best/Worst: Sylvester LeFort, Really
This week’s opening match is The Realest Guys In The Room (they really need an official team name) vs. Jason Jordan and Sylvester LeFort, because when Jordan said he’d been scouting new tag partners, what he meant was, “I loved The Legionnaires and wish I could replace either of them.” I’m Besting it because it moves along the inevitable reveal of Chad Gable as the Competent Tag Team Partner, but Worsting it because LOL, Sylvester LeFort, are you serious
I think Enzo and Cass have found a great rhythm with their in-ring work, and they seem more like an actual tag team now than ever. Before, you bought Colin Cassady as a wrestler, but all his matches were essentially handicapped. Enzo starts, does badly, Cassady tags in, cleans house, throws Enzo at people. Now, Enzo’s showing enough offense to look like he belongs in the ring, but not enough to compromise their core dynamic.
Anyway, damn Jason Jordan, you basically lost a handicap match to Enzo Amore. Who’s your next partner, Creepy Greg?
Best: The Simplicity Of Dana Brooke
Since Dana Brooke’s inauspicious debut on NXT, we’ve learned three major things about her:
1. She’s strong
2. Her Ohio accent is so thick it could literally drown people
3. Her character is so arrogant it threatens to break the space-time continuum
Dana’s been growing on me with those confrontational-for-no-reason promos where she pats Devin on the head and stares off into space when she talks, but I’ve been worried about the wrestling catching up. NXT kinda stopped being “developmental” in the basest sense when the Performance Center started up … the PC became developmental, and NXT became a sort of TV developmental. By the time you’re on the Network you shouldn’t have to learn things like “how to wrestle,” you’re working on how to be on television and how to work shoot live crowds of consequence and tweak your character to fit it all.
NXT’s saving themselves a lot of hassle by running Dana through matches like the one she had this week against “Cassie,” because they allow her to get over what she does best — the character stuff and the strength, basically — without asking her to wrestle the kind of wrestle we’ve grown accustomed to from the NXT women. There’s a divide happening between the quality of matches on the live specials and the weekly shows, and folks like Dana are really going to benefit from it. If you throw her in with Becky Lynch and say “have a great match,” as good as Becky is, that’s probably not happening. If you throw her in with someone like KC Cassidy and say “beat her up and pose as much as possible,” that’s a lay-up. It’s not a bad thing. It’s exactly right. Dana wrecking all the independent wrestling notable signees and guest jobbers is the best call. Give her a lot of time against experienced wrestlers who don’t have to be important, and have her be such an asshole about it that it makes me want Devin Taylor to suit up in the Batsuit Version 8.03 and break her arm.
Good stuff. Give Cassie a last name, though. You can have a Cassidy and a Cassady without it being weird.
Best/Worst: Charlotte Realizing That Dana Brooke Is Totally Right
After the match, Devin finds Charlotte backstage and asks her what she thinks about Dana Brooke’s promo from last week. Charlotte’s all cool and calm, and is like, “I heard her say she’s going to shut the door that was opened for me. The only DOOR that was OPENED FOR ME was OPPORTUNITY.” She stops a sentence later before she says “ass” and makes a Fire Marshall Bill face, but I’m choosing to believe her internal thought process was, “oh shit, wait, she’s right, the door of opportunity being opened for me is the privilege she was talking about. Ah crap, okay.”
Next week I want her to be all, “Dana Brooke says I’m only here because of my DAD. Well my DAD is RIC FLAIR, a legendary wrestler, of course he’d be able to get his daughter on the show and get her pushed before she’s ready because oh motherF*CKER.”
Worst?: Regal And Eva Marie
So, uh, Eva Marie shows up in William Regal’s office and tells him she’s been putting in a lot of hard work and wants a match on NXT. Regal’s like, “you can’t just waltz in here and demand a match because our women’s division is great, if you belong here you’re gonna have to SHOW ME.” Eva says that’s just what she’s going to do, and leaves as Regal makes “rrraow” faces about it.
First of all, she can’t just walk in and demand a match on NXT to prove herself, so she’s gonna have to have a match on NXT to prove that she can have a match on NXT? Is that what they figured out? Second of all, I know the scene is fine on paper — Eva’s worked hard, wants a shot, Regal tells her it’s not easy, Eva says she’ll prove that she belongs — but in practice it was … weird. It reminded me too much of the “I know it’s pretty” scene from Requiem For A Dream, which you should absolutely not click or watch if you don’t already know what it is. It’s the uncomfortable stare and Regal sniffing that does it, I think.
Here’s hoping Eva doesn’t end up in a tag team with Mojo Rawley called “Ass To Ass.”
Best, Shockingly: The Hype Bros
Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley are now officially known as “The Hype Bros.” I would’ve preferred “Bro-Jo” or maybe “Hypeskies,” but this is fine.
I’m enjoying them a lot more than I thought I would. One of the problems I’ve always had with Mojo and Ryder is that they never seemed to have any goals or motivations. Mojo just showed up excited and couldn’t stop screaming about it, and aside from those few months when jumping and hitting people with his asshole proved effective, he’s just been a local weirdo. Ryder’s into making YouTube videos and Eamon-esque diss tracks for girls who’ve rejected him, but he seems like more of a gimmick than a man. He’s the opposite of Enzo. You know that Enzo was born that way. He was BADDA BOOM REALEST GUYS IN THE ROOM’ing in the womb. He came out of his mom with a mogwai beard and leopard-print jeggings. Ryder looks like the world’s most average guy, and the old Zack Ryder (the popular one) feels like a Halloween costume.
Teaming them up is pretty good, though, because it gives them something to work with and somewhere to go. The NXT tag division has always been kinda ass, and with WWE’s tag division hemorrhaging teams due to injury, why not pair up everybody who isn’t doing anything and shoot for the moon?
Anyway, first wrestler to dropkick Mojo in the back of the head while he’s doing Hammer Time becomes my new favorite wrestler for life.
Best: Prince Devitt
This week we get part 2 of the Finn Bálor NXT documentary, and man, it’s almost as good as the first. It’s not as emotionally riveting, but it features basically everything you’d ever need to see to love Prince Devitt. New Japan Pro Wrestling gets heavily featured, we get a discussion about Young Boy culture in puroresu, Bálor talks about his friendship with Matt Bloom (featuring footage of them pantsing each other and riding bikes) and, in perhaps the most endearing moment in the history of World Wrestling Entertainment, we see Finn wearing a Finn shirt and playing with Legos.
Like, I know stuff like “I love my family and I helped Becky Lynch believe in herself and I care a lot about wrestling” makes you love a wrestler, but Jesus Christ, how would you biologically be able to boo Finn Bálor after listening to his story of building Lego structures while wearing out a VHS copy of SummerSlam ’95? That’s the realest shit ever.
Can we get a show on WWE Network that’s just this, but weekly and for everybody? I feel like I’d like everybody.
Best: Kevin Owens On Commentary
“I’ve scouted Finn Bálor, I’ve been in the ring with Finn Bálor before. Very impressive competitor but I’m the champ for a reason, and on July 4th I will defeat him in Tokyo and celebrate the United States birthday or whatever it is, I’m not too sure, I’m Canadian, I don’t really care what July 4th is. Independence? INDEPENDENCE DAY. Will Smith, great movie.”
That doesn’t even touch how he keeps making the conversation about himself, getting mad at the announcers for not calling the match, then wasting more time talking about himself. Or introducing Rhyno with “hey look, it’s Rhyno, I like rhinos.”
Best: Bálor Vs. Rhyno Dos
That’s this week’s main event, and the major goal seems to be establishing that Finn Bálor can beat Rhyno straight-up, and not just off the “Rhyno missed the Gore and got rolled up” spot. It’s good, although admittedly I was distracted by Owens making Byron Saxton’s life a living hell for ten minutes. Building up Finn as a sympathetic babyface heading into the July 4th show (that you know was originally supposed to be Itami’s spot before he got injured) is hard, because they’ve spent so much time overpowering him. The guy got tossed into an exposed turnbuckle AND took one of the most protected finishes in NXT (the Beauty Shot) and kicked out. Regardless of how much difference The Demon makes, it’s hard for me to ever pick against Bálor in a one-on-one match. He’s going up against a guy that beat John Cena clean, though, so maybe it won’t matter. That match is gonna be dope. “Watching it live at 5:30 AM and giving no f*cks” dope.
Anyway, Bálor wins with the move that really should be called The Fall Of Man, and Kevin Owens jumps him. That brings out Samoa Joe to run them off.
Corey Graves: “Samoa Joe is a little late to the party!”
Yeah, no kidding.