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Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for July 24, 2013.
Best: Emma Vs. Paige Is Everything Divas Wrestling Should Be
For years I’ve been trying to explain the value of women’s wrestling as a viable, marketable part of the pro graps universe and not as a sideshow or a bathroom break. Women’s wrestling should just be wrestling featuring women who work and go as hard as the men. I haven’t had a WWE point of reference for that in a while — I’m not a fan of Beth Phoenix and I think the Trish Stratus stuff people look back on with a rosy filter is almost entirely garbage — but now I do. Watch The Miz interview the cast of ‘Total Divas’ on Raw this week, then watch Emma and Paige competing in the finals of the NXT Women’s Championship tournament. Look at all of it. How the crowd reacts, how the announcers call it, the physical confidence of the women involved. One of these things is greater than the other.
Emma vs. Paige is EXACTLY the kind of title match an NXT Women’s Championship tournament deserved, and is easily the best women’s/Divas match I’ve seen in WWE in years. Maybe since the 90s. The influence of Sara Del Rey is obvious, and hiring her on to be a trainer for these girls was a stroke of logical genius. You know, even if it results in SDR never getting a WWE match.
The match is structured so well. It skips the feeling-out process and gets straight to the wrestlers (both babyfaces) trying to sneak out a quick pin. The counters are great here, especially the one that makes the clip where Emma backs Paige up into the ropes and transitions it into a Tarantula. She briefly celebrates, but it’s too early for that, and Paige kicks her in the gut and knocks her out through the ropes. Nothing makes a wrestling match better than wrestlers who actually seem like they want to win a wrestling match.
As the match goes on, they start trying to throw bombs at each other, and when they get tired they put the emphasis on working submissions. This should really be the blueprint on how WWE does marquee women’s matches. Remember that great Benoit/Angle match at Royal Rumble 2003 that completely changed how WWE did main events, and suddenly every main was full of kickouts and non-stop finish counters? Sure, that’s the ancestor of Rock and Cena doing nothing but kick out of finishes for 30 minutes at Mania, but it was still a good match. Hopefully Emma and Paige will be that. You know, without all the mental degradation that came after it.
Great, great work from both women here, in front of the best crowd in wrestling. Pro tip: wrestlers will work hard if they think the crowd gives a shit about how hard they’re working. WHO KNEW.
Worst: NO GET AWAY FROM MY GOOD SHOW
OH NO, HE KNEW
I’m not gonna lie, when the Divas all came out to pat Paige on the head or whatever and TIME TO PLAY THE GAME started up, my first thought was “oh no, Triple H is gonna come out here and pedigree Paige and pose over her dead body for 20 minutes.” Raw has me conditioned to be negative about stuff like that. Thankfully, the Great And Powerful H just raised her hand and let her celebrate.
And then he stuck around for 40 minutes holding his stomach and looking sad so people would chant THANK YOU HUNTER, I bet
Best: We Are Pretty Sure You’re Here Illegally
Oh, wrestling racists. You’re amazing when you’re done right.
Antonio Cesaro and Zeb Colter get a little bit of promo time to explain why they don’t like Sami Zayn, and it’s brilliant. See, anybody who’s been watching NXT KNOWS why Cesaro hates Zayn … because Zayn has his number. Cesaro hates that. But he can’t SAY he hates Zayn because Zayn keeps beating him, so he and his weird manager pre-record this thing about how they THINK Sami Zayn is in the country illegally, and because they think that it is probably true. So now they hate Sami Zayn because he’s an illegal alien or whatever and it’s total bullshit. We see that. Zayn will (I’m assuming) see that and point out that it’s bullshit (and not do the CM Punk “NO CHRIS JERICHO YOU’RE RIGHT, MY FAMILY IS DRUG ADDICTED ALCOHOLICS” thing). It will lead to wonderful, wonderful things, and I’m not just saying that because I’ve seen the next four weeks of them.
Best: TYLER F’ING BREEZE
Paige and Emma was the best part of the show (obviously), but the BEST THING EVER is the debut of Tyler Breeze. He’s the type of character that makes a lot of people go “meehhhh, model gimmick, who caresss” or whatever, but as a guy who spent most of the last few years getting 80% of his wrestling love from Chikara, I am SO DOWN for a stupid, 2D wrestling gimmick done expertly and with passion.
That’s Tyler Breeze. He’s not a guy doing a gimmick. He IS a gimmick. He exists to be this. This week he just takes pictures of himself as he walks to the ring, but the escalation of that is marvelous, and I’m excited for next week when he gets a backstage promo, and the week after that when he gets his follow-up match and entrance upgrade. Tyler Breeze is happiness, y’all.
A supplemental Worst goes to Breeze’s finish being a spinning heel kick with a furry boot, but at least he’s not Rolling The Dice on anybody. Or Overdriving them.
Best: TOTAL ELIMINATIONNNNN
Up until my trip to NXT I’d never liked The Ascension. I mean, I love their Castlevania entrance theme and their mood lighting, but they are prototypical boring WWE muscle guys and we’ve worked very, very hard to cheer a gaggle of Waffle House cooks into important positions on Raw and don’t need to go messing that up now.
That said, I’m throwing in on the Ascension fandom bandwagon for two reasons:
1. I cannot deny TOTAL ELIMINATION as a tag finish, no matter how much I want to pretend I don’t still occasionally mark for ECW callbacks, and
2. I met Conor O’Brian after the Shine 11 show in Tampa and he was the nicest dude ever. I know wrestlers meet a lot of people and you can’t expect them to give you a special experience every time you talk to them, but sometimes a fun, pleasant interaction can mean a lot. Conor kindnessed me into marking for him, so here I am. And sometimes it’s fun to take pictures with wrestlers who are way bigger and scarier than you.
Best: The Kind Of Sheamus Match I Love
I got a little afraid when I saw Hulu list the show’s main-event as “SHEAMUS VS. THE WYATT FAMILY.” In my head, Sheamus was FELLA-ing up and Brogue Kicking all three of them at once and pinning them in a pile. Again, Raw conditioning.
As it turns out, the main was Sheamus and Luke Harper BEATING THE DOG F**K out of each other for 10 minutes. This is the perfect Sheamus match … a match where he gets to hit hard, and, more importantly, his opponent gets to hit him back just as hard. The best part about Sheamus is how realistically he takes punishment, so an opponent who can convincingly (or really) dump a metric shit-ton of punishment on him can carry a match somewhere great.
My favorite part of the match is the spinning lariat Harper hits on Sheamus. When you bump for that move you just fall backwards or whatever, but Sheamus gets hit so hard it kinda pops and he collapses to the side. Normally that’d be a shitty sell, but here it’s perfect, because JESUS he got the mess knocked out of him. And sure, Sheamus pulls of the victory in the end, but Sheamus SHOULD beat a Wyatt crony … just not all of them, all at once.
And as a bonus Best, we get Bray Wyatt being happy about Harper’s loss for no reason other than EXTREME WEIRDNESS, and maybe a plan to f**k Sheamus up after they’re done with Kane.
Best: Next Week, My Set Of Tapings Begins
Somebody hook me up with a lottery victory so I can make it to the August 22 tapings and keep my streak of wonderful life experiences going. Mark Henry’s gonna be there, and if I miss a Mark Henry/Tyler Breeze confrontation I might never forgive myself.
If you’ve been looking for a great place to pick up NXT and start watching it, Paige’s title run is where you should jump on. People are leaving, new folks are showing up (and KILLING it) and Bo Dallas is still sticking around to get hated on. Be a part of this.