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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for July 22, 2015.
Worst: The Demon Creepy Greg
1. Creepy Greg’s face looks like a potato. Seriously, look at a potato and then look at Greg’s face.
2. I absolutely do not understand WWE’s fascination with having interviewers present, but framing it so they’re as insignificant as possible. I know we’re not supposed to look at Tom Phillips or Creepy Greg as WWE Superstars or whatever, but they’re part of the crew. They’re part of the team. Why have them squat in the background behind a guy with their arm wrapped around him, holding a microphone? Why tell the person being interviewed to not look at the camera OR the interviewer? Basically what we have now are these weird Navi from Ocarina of Time people yelling HEY, LISTEN and then swirling offscreen. Why not just do those close-up interviews where a person asks a question from behind the camera? At least then you’ve got an excuse for the wrestler to not look into the camera, and there’s an illusion that he or she’s looking up and to the right at someone else.
In an unrelated note, Finn Bálor as a humble, demure, Irish NXT Champion who is occasionally possessed by an unbeatable Asian demon is great. He’s been most of that for a while, but it’s fun to bring up.
Best: Eva Marie’s Jacket, Entrance And Effort
Just wanted to knock out a few of these before we talk about the match.
Eva Marie’s got a Ric Flair robe — well, it’s more of an AJ Styles as Ric Flair robe — and her entrance is lights that turn everything red. That’s beautiful. I loved her original NXT entrance where they literally put her on a pedestal, but maybe that was a little cerebral.
It’s also important to point out that Eva’s trying very hard, and that that alone deserves acclaim. It’s similar to what happened with the Bella Twins … WWE fans had become convinced that they couldn’t wrestle (thanks in part to WWE’s previous, ages-old tendency to promote women as novelties and not athletes), so they developed distinct personalities and learned some moves and worked hard to get better. Also like the Bellas, appreciating a person’s work ethic and effort does not necessarily mean their work has been successful, and if Brie Bella’s been busting her ass for two years and is better but still objectively kinda garbage in the ring, we’d be doing her a disservice to say “no, it’s fine, she’s great.”
Worst: Eva Marie’s Everything Else, Unfortunately
Eva’s better. She’s much better than she was in the Bayley match, but she’s just … not there. There’s nothing going on in her head when she’s in the ring. She’s technically fine with what she’s doing, but you can look at her facial expressions and see her rewinding the tape to remember the spots. Sometimes she just trots up and does them independent of the story the match is telling, and you get moments like Cassie squatting there in a headlock with her arms out, waiting for Eva to stop taunting and do the shiranui.
The good news is that Eva’s actual wrestling ability doesn’t matter. It’ll probably never matter. She could show up wrestling like Manami Toyota and it’d still just be about the live crowd picking sides. The Internet picking sides, whatever. You’ve either gotta say “she’s good now and you’re all just smarks,” or “she’s terrible and will never get any better and this is a waste of our time.” It’s “let’s go Cena” or “Cena sucks.” There’s little room for, “Cena’s objectively one of the best performers in company history but there’s a lot of legitimately frustrating stuff about him, made worse by his position and influence.” Similarly, there isn’t much to pick sides about when the answers seems to be, “she’s trying hard, but eh?”
The wrestling doesn’t matter, though. The ability to polarize an audience like that is a rare skill, whether it’s based on preconceived notions and sad shit you didn’t have much to do with or not. Eva can show up now and send a crowd into a frenzy, and all she’s gotta do is hold an armbar for like 2 1/2 minutes too long.
I’m ready for Cassie and Jessie to stop being jobbers and be the next generation of NXT ladies to get hyped about, though.
Best?: Samoa Joe’s New Music
Good: Samoa Joe’s got a new entrance theme. No more Toejam & Earl placeholder music!
Bad: It sounds like the music they play in old cartoons when fat or dopey people are walking. To put it in a context people in this century will understand,
Joe wrestles Mike Rallis, and it’s the best he’s looked since his debut. It’s still Samoa Joe’s Greatest Hits, but he hits with a sense of urgency finally, and he doesn’t end the match looking like a wet seal. The odd thing is that he’s still not doing anything that matters.
Meanwhile, Baron Corbin is squashing a guy who looks like an off-brand Ninja Turtles figure in less than 10 seconds. If Corbin’s not doing anything important and Joe’s not doing anything important and they’re both squashing jobbers … they’re going to feud, right? So far, that’s Corbin’s only story. He’s an unstoppable force, and he hates other people trying to be it too. It’s what happened with Bull Dempsey, it’s what happened with Rhyno, and now it’s what’s happening with Joe. It’s not a coincidence that Joe’s next match is against Rhyno, right?
I hope it ends with Rhyno doing another one of those, “YEAH, THAT MATCH GOT ME HARD, LET’S GRAB SOME COFFEE OR WHATEVER AND WRESTLE AGAIN SOON” followups.
Speaking of NXT’s rampant backstage homoeroticism, Emma and Dana Brooke have finally developed that “will they or won’t they” vibe that’s been going on with the men since Blake & Murphy won the tag titles. You know what I’m talking about. It’s fine and I honestly enjoy it and think it’s funny, but every interaction between two dudes lately has felt like a Tinder date. Corbin and Rhyno, Chad Gable going all Talented Mr. Ripley on Jason Jordan, etc.
Devin Taylor tells Emma and Dana Brooke that Bayley’s going to “do more than hug” them, and they decide to mock her by hugging each other. Dana kinda goes in with her arm up and they’re both making weird eye contact, and ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED, we’ve finally got some homoeroticism with the women. Up until now, NXT’s been this weird social experiment where the norms were flipped … on Raw or whatever, men are these noble gladiators and women are catty, jealous sex monsters. On NXT, the women are the noble gladiators, and the men are catty jealous sex monsters.
Long story short, I’m shipping Emma and Dana Brooke now. I mean, if I can ever take a break from shipping William Regal and Tyler Breeze.
Best: Bayley Vs. Emma
Bayley’s back, and if we can keep her like this, she’s perfect. The thing about Bayley is that she’s had a lot (a lot) of character development, but she’s always maintained that strange undercurrent of being a lost child. She always kinda cuts promos like she’s wandered away from her mom in the mall and is trying to tell a security guard what happened. That’s endearing, but it’s kept her from truly fitting in with that elite Charlotte/Sasha class.
Here, we don’t get any of that. There’s no “aw shucks what am I doing” stuff in the ring, no Emma taking advantage of her innocence and naiveté, just Bayley as an athletic, straight-forward babyface looking for pro graps revenge. It’s nothing severe, but the story’s great … Emma and Dana keep screwing her up because of the Damned Numbers Game, but eventually Dana slips up and gets caught. She gets tossed (with some amazing responses, because Dana’s character work is at WrestleMania while her in-ring work’s still taking bumps at the Performance Center). That clears up Bayley to take Emma to the woodshed, and she wins with a Belly-to-Bayley.
I’m excited for this Bayley. This is the one we can work with on a bigger stage without fear that they’ll pervert what’s great about her. That’s the new plan: finish up Bayley’s character arc on NXT, then send her up to Raw as a normal person. We’ll always have the sweet OG version we loved, and we’ll be proud of her when she’s wearing light up shoes or whatever and calling people Catty Little Cats.
Remember last October when Devin Taylor disappeared for a while, Veronica Lane wasn’t working out and Renee was busy on the main roster? NXT briefly introduced a new backstage interviewer who was such a theater kid and couldn’t stop making exaggerated faces? That’s Dasha. She’s back, I guess, because I assume Devin got patted on the head by Dana and had to step out back for a while and punch a dumpster. She’s an attractive lady and objectively a better TV interviewer than Devin, but man, those goober faces are still there. Dana starts to pat her on the head but doesn’t, and Dasha turns to the camera like she’s Screech Powers and just accidentally revealed a secret about Zack.
This is my normal reaction to new backstage people, though. With the exception of Creepy Greg, I hate them at first, get used to them being around and get upset when they’re gone. It’s why I’m such a Devin Taylor obsessive now. Maybe I’m just afraid of change.
Hey, remember when NXT briefly had that weird old Asian guy backstage? What was that about?
Best: NXT Contract Signings
I just wrote a thing in the Raw report about how contract signings shouldn’t exclusively end in violence, but … yeah, I’m pretty into Kevin Owens being such a miserable, disappointed sack of shit that he shoves a table into a kind-hearted little guy and punches William Regal in the face. It didn’t feel like a booking decision, it felt like Owens being so confused and consumed with self-doubt that he’s lashing out at everyone. It’s the same vibe he had when he first won the NXT Championship. Owens as the worst person in the world is my favorite, and if this doesn’t end in an Owens/Regal match that sends him forever packing, it’ll be NXT’s biggest-ever missed opportunity.
The apology on WWE.com is just as good:
Also fun: the Full Sail crowd being increasingly upset when NXT runs important events in other places. They’re starting to realize that they’re gonna lose the important matches to Tokyo or Brooklyn, and that eventually they’ll lose them all. NXT will be gone and on tour forever, and Full Sail will just be a place we went to see that weird Hulu wrestling show nobody watched.