The Best And Worst Of WWE NXT 8/14/14: The Death Of A Real Live Cowboy

Pre-show notes:

– You can watch this week’s show here. When you hear dubstep, fast forward.

– Be sure you’re reading our retro recap of NXT season 3. This week’s episode was surprisingly good, and it ended with a marriage proposal. When you’re done reading about GOOD NXT, go back and remember how super not good it used to be.

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– If you’re in Chicago, come see me at Wizard World on August 23. We’re screening Meet Me There as part of the Bruce Campbell Horror Festival. Also, Batista will be nearby!

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Scroll through for the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for August 14, 2014.


When Bull Dempsey and Mojo Rawley became the Difficult To Sit Through Odd Couple, I was worried it was gonna be a long, drawn-out process. Instead, the match followed a very simple formula and drove us directly to the Fireworks Factory without any detours:

1. Mojo Rawley f*cking sucks
2. The Vaudevillains roll through him and get a strong victory
3. Bull Dempsey goes, “wow, Mojo Rawley f*cking sucks”
4. Bull beats the mess out of Mojo
5. The crowd chants “THANK YOU BULL,” because, say it along with me, Mojo Rawley f*cking sucks

I don’t know if it’s enough to get me to like Bull Dempsey, but it’s a start. If they’d spent six months going “ennnh, I don’t knowwww, things aren’t working out for ussss, we might fiiiight” I wouldn’t have been able to take it. Maybe the “dying breed” Bull’s the last of is “people who get to the point.”

Best: And Not To Bury The Lede, The Vaudevillains Won!

I’m picking them to win the tournament. I know there’s a better chance of black and white monkeys flying out of my butt, but seeing them trounce “monster” characters was delightful. Simon Gotch should beat everybody, I don’t care. And yes, I consider Mojo Rawley a monster.

Best: Bayley Being Intimidated By Charlotte, But Not By Sasha

The dynamic between characters on NXT is great because they actually have dynamics. Bayley has known Sasha for a long time. She knows how two-faced she is, and she knows she’s good enough to beat her. At the same time, Bayley’s never gotten a chance at redemption against Charlotte, a woman with an important wrestling family name who is sometimes managed by the greatest wrestler ever. A woman who pretended to be her best friend when nobody liked her, then slapped her in the face and sold her out at the first opportunity. Now Charlotte’s on top of the world. She’s tall and blonde and powerful. She’s basically everything Bayley wants to be, but can’t. Bayley’s too nice. She’s never gonna be that tall or blonde. Her name’s never gonna be “Flair.” Even though she has a reason to hate her now, Bayley’s a mark at heart and just wants things to work out, so she gets shy and disappointed. But Sasha? Screw Sasha. Sasha’s a goon.

Worst: What The Hell Is This Locker Room Set?

They’re in a room with lockers. Shouldn’t that be enough? Why are we hanging things from the fronts of the lockers? There’s a dress, a purse and two (!) empty water bottles just hanging in the background. The hooks are just there if you need them, guys. You can have a hook without anything on it.

P.S. who is “R. Wolfgang?”

Best: Bayley Vs. Sasha

When I say I want wrestling to be “realistic,” I don’t mean that I want it to be boring guys with no personality exchanging headlocks. I don’t need it to exist in “reality” — I just need it to exist in the universe it’s made for itself. I don’t want the characters to be interchangeable video game selections, I want them to have memories and goals and reasons for the things they do. Even if that reason is “I”m a wrestling cop and you’re a wrestling prisoner.”

My favorite part of Bayley vs. Sasha Banks (besides all of it) was the finish. It was the perfect next step in the physical (and logical) progression of their rivalry. Back in March, Sasha went for an O’Connor Roll on a distracted Bayley and thought she had the match won, but Bayley reversed it and got a surprise pin. They had another match in April, which Bayley won handily with a belly-to-Bayley suplex. May saw the two paired up again in round one of the NXT Women’s Championship tournament, and Sasha had the belly-to-Bayley scouted. She avoided it, countered into a sick Backstabber into a crossface and got the submission win. So what’s next? What’s the next logical step?

Bayley goes for a belly-to-Bayley. Sasha counters it, hits another Backstabber and transitions it into a crossface. She thinks she has the match won, but Bayley rolls her up unexpectedly — tying together March, April and May — and gets the win. Beautifully done. You don’t have to be 1990s All Japan to know the value of a callback, even if nobody cares or notices. Somebody will, and it’s worth it to make your wrestlers look like people who think about what they do.

Worst: The Real Live Wolves



Look at those guys in the crowd. Poor guy’s forlornly holding a “COWBOY UP” sign and the guy in the yellow GTS shirt is like, “the F*CK, man??”

Best: Carlisto

Yeah, they’re great. What did you guys do to Wesley Blake.

Worst: This Show Needs More Rich Brennan

I need a palate-cleanser after that. Can we get Dancin’ Richie Brennan?

There we go.

Best: 20 Minutes Of Adrian Neville Vs. Tyler Breeze

If you’ve ever seen a man take or sell a DDT like Adrian Neville took and sold that tornado DDT from Breeze on WWE TV, you’re lying. Unreal. A complete headstand into a front flip into a dramatic collapse, and somehow it felt REAL. The most ridiculous thing in the world. Like when Dolph Ziggler would sell monkeyflips by flipping all the way around and landing on his face.

The main event of the show was Tyler Breeze finally “cashing in” his championship match against Adrian Neville, and aside from the screwy ending, it was pretty great. It was the encapsulation of “NXT Main Event Style,” something we’re seeing really form itself since the show landed on WWE Network … 15-20 minutes of match work you’d see on a WWE PPV (slow pace, building around signature spots, telling a story) followed by 2-5 minutes of insanely athletic, unique pro wrestlers busting their asses to give you something to remember. It’s honestly as close to a “perfect” style as mainstream WWE wrestling’s gonna get, I think. Not that this was a better match than tons of others, but it’s closely following a blueprint decided by the people in charge and knocking it out of the park.

I also loved a lot of the little touches, like Neville and Breeze doing a realistic “boo/yay” forearm exchange. Instead of just taking a forearm and grimacing and going COME ON, the strikes didn’t have a regular rhythm … Breeze landed a shot, Neville recoiled by grabbing his head and pulling him in close, Breeze lands a second shot to the body. Neville pushes him away, hits a series of forearms, with the last one knocking Breeze on his ass. It’s a thinking man’s strike exchange. Not just two guys who forgot how to block.

Worst: Adrian Neville Bringing On His Own DQ

Of course, I have to point out the screwy non-finish, and the babyface sorta doing himself in. I mean, sure, Tyson Kidd probably would’ve jumped the rail and interfered anyway (or else why’s he out there at all), but Neville superkicking him from out of nowhere, cool as it was, WAS throwing the first punch. YOU’RE A BETTER MAN THAN THAT, ADRIAN.

Then we get the schmozz finish with Kidd throwing hands at Breeze AND Neville before the heels decide to work together. That brings out Sami Zayn, who is FIRED UP and ready to lose to whichever one of these guys doesn’t have a match at Takeover 2. I am pretty happy that Neville and Zayn have remained friends and loosely aligned, especially after their “we were pals on the indies for years” talk.

Worst: Let’s Ask The WWE Universe How Tyler Breeze Would Be Received On Raw