– Make sure you’ve read The Best and Worst of NXT Season 1, The Best and Worst of NXT Season 2 and The Best and Worst of NXT Season 3 in their entirety. You can catch up with episodes of Season 4 on the linked tag page.
– Shares, comments, likes and other Internet things are appreciated. Not a huge audience for half a decade-old Jacob Novak jokes, so help a brother out.
Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE NXT season 4, episode 3.
Best: Wheelbarrow Race 2000
During season 3, WWE announced in a loud, clear voice that it no longer gave even the slightest shit about the future of NXT and said goodbye to cable television by having the rookie Divas participate in a wheelbarrow race. Hornswoggle put on a motorcycle helmet and sat in the wheelbarrow. Laughs were had by somebody somewhere, probably.
Season 4 brings back the wheelbarrow contest, but you can’t just put Hornswoggle in the thing again. You’ve got to up the ante, plus these are big, strong dudes. They’d just pick up the wheelbarrow like a lacrosse stick and launch Horny across the arena. No, you need a similar joke but heavier, but the Adam Rose bunny won’t be around for another three years? What do you do? Why, you use the greatest mascot in WWE history: the Swagger Soaring Eagle.
If you don’t remember the Eagle, he was Jack Swagger’s personal mascot during that brief, wonderful period where Swagger was the coolest thing in the world. The best part is that it was Chavo Guerrero in the suit, topping “Amway salesman,” “hobby horse enthusiast,” “white person” and “Not Eddie Guerrero” on the list of best Chavito gimmicks. It also gave us one of the best in-jokes ever, with Chavo hugging and being emotionally consoled by himself. The fact that Swagger didn’t maintain the eagle and carry it with him through his nationalistic Tea Party gimmick makes me sadder than it should.
Worst: The Bateman Bias
Spoiler alert for a 4-year old thing I’ve probably already spoiled, but Johnny Curtis wins this season. What I didn’t realize until this rewatch is that NXT does everything it can to ensure Derrick Bateman doesn’t. Last week they ran an obstacle course. Curtis fell off the balance beam and was disqualified. Bateman ran and got the best time, but at the end they decided “whoops, nope, let Curtis run it again.” Having run a practice run nobody else got, Curtis breezes through it and wins. This week, Curtis has a false start running the wheelbarrow race and they let him start over. The announcers openly discuss how he should’ve been disqualified, but nobody listens.
Bateman ends up tied with Byron Saxton, because Bateman’s clock always runs for about a second longer than it should. Both men run again, complete with a slow-motion instant replay of Saxton crossing the finish line to make sure this Eagle mascot wheelbarrow race is ON THE LEVEL, and Bateman has to win it twice. I’m surprised they didn’t let Curtis run it a third time.
Worst: R-Truth Is A Garbage Pro
Up first is a rematch from Episode 1, Johnny Curtis vs. Jacob Novak. Conspicuous by his absence is Johnny’s pro R-Truth, who is busy doing something else and sends JTG as his replacement. Seriously. How do you even make a joke about that? “It’s fine, Johnny, you can learn everything I know about being a WWE Black Guy from JTG. He’s a VETERAN of not being used and never going anywhere!”
Theory: JTG sat down in one of the pro chairs on the stage and nobody who puts the show together could tell the difference.
Anyway, JTG is probably the worst pro ever as he accidentally distracts the referee, allowing Dolph Ziggler to punch Curtis in the face and give Novak the cheap victory. Fun fact, Jacob Novak’s finisher is the Big Boot. He is the most whitebread thing that has ever happened. They put him in that white suit coat to make him LESS white.
Best: The Steve Blackman Era Has Begun
Daniel Bryan and Derrick Bateman are backstage doing neck bridges, because they’re important in submission wrestling. Instead of paying attention, Bateman is prepping for the upcoming trivia contest by loudly reading facts from The WWE Championship: A Look Back at the Rich History of the WWE Championship by “Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan. Okay, not the Taskmaster.
All of the facts are great — Andre the Giant averaged 100 pounds per second as champion, SID is the WWE Champion with the shortest name — but the most important (and funniest) one is the third: “Did you know what Steve Blackman’s favorite weapon is? STICKS.”
If you’ve seen this season before, you know how important Steve Blackman is to the DB/DB relationship. The best part? Blackman was never WWE Champion and Bateman wrote it in. Also, randomly occurring jesters. Also, Apollo Creed shorts. ALSO, COCKER SPANIEL SHIRT. I swear to God, if TNA folds and we don’t get Derrick Bateman back, I’m heel-hooking somebody to death.
Worst: Hot Seat Trivia
“Hot Seat Trivia” is actually a good idea for a challenge. You line everybody up, give them a category like “Undertaker WrestleMania opponents,” and they have to keep giving correct answers one-by-one until someone gets it wrong (or you run out of answers) and gets eliminated.
There are so many problems, though. First, Striker starts with Johnny Curtis every time and works his way down, instead of switching ends on every question. That means Bateman has to let five other guys go first, and he never gets to start with the easy ones. Maybe they thought he was overqualified because he’d read that book. Second, they didn’t make it clear that rookies should be giving quick, straightforward answers so they could move the game along, so everyone sorta pauses, plays to the crowd and addresses Striker before answering. Instead of saying “Big Show,” Novak does a big pause, says “WrestleMania 19, Big Show … and A-Train.” Most guys say “Michael” before or after their answers. It makes the game take forever, and by the end they’re just eliminating people for taking slightly too long without warning.
Bateman actually ends up winning because of a pair of technicalities. Byron Saxton repeats an answer and doesn’t get another shot, even though he clearly didn’t know a repeat answer mean you’re eliminated. Novak simply takes too long on an answer because he’s playing to the crowd, and Striker interrupts him to tell him he’s gone. It’s so weird. Bateman doesn’t even have to correctly answer a question, he’s just stuck at the end so he f*cked up last. Terrible.
(They didn’t even make “weapons Steve Blackman can use” a category. Sticks! Nunchucks! Uh, scythes? Whatever those things were called.)
Worst: Oh Great, Natalya’s Here
Your main event is Ted DiBiase, Maryse and Brodus Clay against Byron Saxton, Chris Masters and a mystery Diva that turns out to be Natalya. Masters’ Christmas girlfriend Eve Torres would’ve made more sense, but whatever. Maryse doesn’t do a lot of wrestling, so Natalya’s role here is to run in when she’s not legal, grab Maryse by the hair extensions, fall to the ground and roll out of the ring for no reason. Derp.
Best: The Rest Of This Is Pretty Good, Though
The actual story of the match is Saxton redeeming himself after overzealously tagging himself in during last week’s tag team match and eating an unnecessary loss. Here, Saxton’s left all alone in the ring with the much bigger Clay and gets squashed. Brodus drags him into the corner and tries to flatten him with a Vader Bomb, but Saxton moves out of the way and covers him for a surprise three.
Everyone celebrates, and Masters continues to be the workhorse pro of the season, because Daniel Bryan’s mostly just wearing sweaters and snickering his way through backstage stuff. Saxton’s still a couple of weeks away from debuting the worst finisher in WWE history and losing 100% of his good will. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, wait for it and don’t spoil yourself. It’s magical.