The Best And Worst Of WWE NXT 9/18/14: The Not Ready For Primetime Players

Pre-show notes:

This week’s episode can be viewed here. You should be watching these every week, I shouldn’t have to link you. How many amazing live specials do they need to do before you go, “Yeah, all right, I’ll watch the one televised wrestling show in the United States that’s TRYING to be good.”

– Be sure you’re reading our retro recap of NXT season 3. This week’s episode featured divorce, fainting, condescending signage and the most hilarious Lord of the Rings reference ever. Theirs, not mine.

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Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for September 18, 2014.

Best: My Problem With WWE Morality, Finally Addressed

The opening to this week’s NXT was straight from the Smackdown playbook, and something you’ve seen a thousand times before. An unpopular wrestler shows up and acts like he’s popular. That brings out an actually-popular wrestler to say WHAT’RE YOU, STUPID, and then a bunch of other people show up and get mildly confrontational until a GM type puts them all in a match. The Teddy Long Theorem. If more than three but fewer than eleven players are present, they must hold on a minute and compete here tonight. The previously decided main-event of “nothing” can be easily replaced.

Titus O’Neil starts us off with a perfectly reasonable asshole idea: NXT guys showed up on Raw and took up his already barely-there TV time, so he’s wandering into their venue to waste THEIR time. Sami Zayn shows up and rags on Titus a little (sadly with no “weren’t you ELIMINATED from NXT” jokes), and then Neville and Kidd and Regal and DA UNDATAKER and DA CELTIC WARRIAH SHAMUS and a TAG TEAM MATCH. Well, most of that.

The highlight for me was Tyson Kidd, who asked Sami Zayn to put himself in Adrian Neville’s shoes and consider whether or not he would’ve yanked the referee out of the ring by the leg and done anything he could to retain the title. Zayn says that he’s not mad at Neville for it and understands, but no, for moral reasons he wouldn’t have done it. Neville comes right out and says that having morals is why Zayn will never be NXT Champion. That’s the closest WWE’s ever come to acknowledging my grand problem with how they do business: the fan favorites and the wrestlers who succeed the most are the biggest jerks on the show. Instead of arguing about who deserves what and it “just being wrestling” or any of the horrible points of view that get fielded in Internet wrestling column comments sections, Neville’s putting it bluntly. You have to be kind of a shithead if you hope to be the most notable person in a promotion full of shitheads.

Zayn’s understanding and point of view is one of the reasons I like him so much. He and Bayley are the only wrestlers introduced in years who feel like they’d at least TRY to do the right thing (a decent human being outside of the wrestling show’s interpretation of “the right thing,” I mean) before throwing up their hands and stooping to the level of the heels they’re trying to best. Zayn WOULD be the better man. It’s the same reason Magnum TA might not punch Tully Blanchard in the face after the match even though he hates him, or why Barry Windham might not want a competitive match to end by DQ or count-out. People who’re at least giving me the illusion that they’re three-dimensional people in a two-dimensional world. Something that lets me look at wrestling a little closer.

Best/Worst: Charlotte Beats Emma Like She Stole Something

The Best is for the return of Emma, an NXT character I’ve always loved, and for Charlotte getting a strong win against a reputable opponent. You can only beat Alexa Bliss so many times in a row. Supplementary Best for Charlotte doing that kneeling neckbreaker before the Natural Selection and actually putting someone into position, rather than pacing around in a circle until they naturally crawl into it. It’s her headscissors that sends people awkwardly flying neck-first into the middle rope for a 619.

The Worst is for Emma. Emma’s just … gone. She’s not the same. I don’t know if she’s gunshy because of the whole “I accidentally stole something and embarrassed everybody so I’m in the doghouse” thing or just ring rust from eight months of wrestling Raw Divas, but man, she was rough. She didn’t look like she knew what she was doing. She set up for the Emma sandwich like three times in a row before actually doing it, and her living personality seems to have been completely erased and replaced by the arms thing. She’s JUST the arms thing. This is coming from someone who has deeply loved the Arms Thing.

It may be time to just cut your losses with Emma and come back to her later if it all works out. Let her get her groove back on the independents, or, worst case scenario, spend two years as TNA Knockout “Tenille.”

Best: It’s Hideo Itami! And He’s Doing Stuff!

That said …

Worst: This Isn’t The Hideo Itami Match Anybody Wanted (And That’s Okay)

Itami wrestles Justin Gabriel, and it’s Gabriel’s job to play Chavo Guerrero and have the most 2010 NXT match he can. Chinlocks, irish whips, maybe a dropkick. That’s the height of the action. Itami’s adjusting to being a WWE Guy in a WWE where popular WWE Guys have been aping him for years, so he ends up wrestling “like Daniel Bryan,” even though that’s not fair to say. Bryan does all of KENTA’s transitional moves and fire-ups, so you can’t expect Actual KENTA to do NOTHING.

You also can’t expect him to do too much, though, because this is his very basic introduction, part two of a multi-part build against The Ascension to establish him as part of the universe, and a test to see if guys you’d get as commons in Supercard can go five minutes with him and not die. So Gabriel just kinda pulls him around, gets kicked and then they take it home. Seeing the kick counter to a leapfrog attempt made me happy enough to make it this week’s header image, but that flying double stomp to end the match was sad. It looked more like Doink’s Whoopie Cushion. Kaval proved that in season 2: you’ve either gotta go full blast and kill the guy with it, or do something else. If they McGillicutty bump it and chicken out, it’s not worth doing.

Anyway, Itami will figure out exactly who “Hideo Itami” is and who he wants him to be, and it’ll be awesome. It doesn’t have to be there yet.

Best: The Ascension

I’m really enjoying them as a functioning part of the show. Now if they can just develop their characters beyond ARGGHHH (or give the “argh” a more defined context), I’m all-in. Maybe this year we find out why they’re covered in Egypt stuff!

Best: And Speaking Of Context…

When I ask for stuff to make sense, segments like this are all I need. I don’t need it to be deep and complex and based on background stories from Watchmen, I just need to know why these people are here or doing anything they’re doing.

Case in point: Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady are getting a valet named Carmella. Normally, they’d just suddenly have a valet and Michael Cole would go “that’s Carmella, she’s a feisty Diva who KNOWS how to GET WHAT SHE WANTS” or whatever and that’d be the end of it. On NXT, she’s introduced as their friend who works at HAIR and hooks them up with their bucket of Hair Removal Creme for Takeover. They are f*ck-ups so they accidentally spill it all over a dog, and she complains about how she’s going to get fired. Fast forward two weeks and here she is, barging into a workout and demanding they help her get a job because they cost her her old one. See how easy that is? Now she can valet for them and it not only makes sense, but ties back to the major stuff we just saw them do. It makes all three characters richer with not a hell of a lot of effort. Just show your work. It matters.

Best: Corbin/Parker II

Different verse, same as the first. CJ Parker shows up, Baron Corbin puts him down. His finish is called THE END OF DAYS, and yes, somebody called a corkscrew shooting star press that in your e-fed.

The only difference in the first match and the second is that Corbin gets an entrance video, which is POV footage of cruisin’ down a deserted highway. I was wondering if he was gonna drive out on a motorcycle. Better yet, I was hoping he’d come out with no motorcycle, holding his hands at shoulder height and making motorcycle noises with his mouth while he ran around in circles. That’s a Baron Corbin I’d never stop cheering for.

Best: A Real WWE Superstar

A few notes on Titus O’Neil:

1. He’s probably the most improved wrestler on the WWE roster. Seriously, if you go back and watch anything he did on NXT season 2 he was legitimately one of the worst wrestlers of all time. That’s not hyperbole. He was big and strong but had the ring awareness and agility of a Furby, and every time someone held a microphone to his mouth he sounded like a 5-year old in a school play. Even on NXT Redemption when he started getting more comfortable, he was still the drizzling shits. Now he’s not only grown into a competent worker, he’s a valuable one. He’s got an enthusiasm a lot of people don’t have, and I’m happy to see him down at Full Sail putting in work.

2. The “we want Darren” chant was cute.

3. He might be the best tag team partner Tyson Kidd’s had yet. You know, assuming Tyler Breeze hates him and was never tagging with him by choice. Kidd’s character’s grown into a yappy dog who thinks he’s the biggest in the yard. Pairing him up with a guy who actually IS big is a great idea, especially a guy like Titus, who you could buy being easily swayed and manipulated by Tyson’s BS. Kidd yelling “don’t make the big man mad!” after they literally won a match by OPPORTUNISTIC ASS-PUSHING was pitch perfect.

Best: Zayn And Neville

The slow burn is killing me. Neville’s a constant disappointment to Zayn as a partner and a friend in these multi-man situations, but he’s this killer who can beat anybody one-on-one. That almost seems fishy, and is the kind of paranoia that can make a good man start kicking faces.

Best: This Tweet

If he lost the match would he have not been able to get into his own hot tub? ALSO WHERE ARE YOUR PANTS.