– Hulu skips this episode for some reason (probably Byron Saxton’s poem), but you can watch it on WWE’s YouTube channel.
– 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. Wrestling blogs about arcade punching challenges and ribbon dancing aren’t going to share themselves.
Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE NXT season 4, episode 4.
Best: Todd Grisham Dissects The Problem With Pro Vs. Rookie Relationships
For whatever reason this is the episode where the previously nice, nondescript NXT season 4 announce team falls off a cliff. Josh Mathews decides he’s Michael Cole and starts burying everything he sees, and cheers when Cole makes a cameo appearance despite facepalming and begging him to shut up for 40 episodes. I don’t know if someone got in his year and said BE AWFUL, but here we are.
Todd Grisham’s still doing his best, though, and the commentary highlight of the night comes early in the first match. Dolph Ziggler’s wrestling Johnny Curtis, and suddenly heel Josh starts barking about how Dolph Ziggler’s a superstar and shouldn’t have to be wrestling nobodies like Curtis. It’s like “an NFL team playing a college football team.” Grisham brings up the point that this is a competition to win a spot on the main roster, where you’ll have to be good enough to wrestle guys like Dolph Ziggler every week, so in theory anybody good enough to make it HERE should be vaguely qualified to make it THERE.
It’s a great point, and drives home the iffiness of the Pro/Rookie situation.
1. If you play up these guys as pointless jobbers and that’s the first impression you’ve chosen to give the WWE Universe, how are they going to be treated when they show up on Smackdown? If you spend 14 episodes saying “Johnny Curtis isn’t good enough to be here,” is anyone going to see him step into the ring on Raw and think he deserves to be there?
2. If you’re a WWE Pro, why are you rooting for ANY of these kids to make it? Generally the “pros” are guys like Chris Masters or R-Truth, guys who’ve done a little bit but are resting at the bottom of the barrel. If a Johnny Curtis catches on and proves that he’s good enough to beat Dolph Ziggler, doesn’t that put THEIR spot in jeopardy? Is that why the contest is rigged to make the rookies look like idiots? A secret illuminati of WWE C+ players?
3. Also, what good are the pros at all? Look at every season of NXT. Daniel Bryan was the inarguable protagonist of season 1, and his pro was a guy with less experience, less wrestling ability and no crowd support. Bryan ended up a multiple time WWE and World Heavyweight Champion. Kaval won season 2 with a pair of Diva pros who contributed nothing to his career but making him wear a pink shirt a few times. In season 3, the winner was Kaitlyn, a last-minute replacement with a pro who hated her and tried to get her eliminated every week. Even season 4 has a worst-case pro scenario. I’ll get to that on page 2.
I’d like to think Grisham’s calm “these guys are already supposed to be decent enough wrestlers, I don’t know why you’re calling them helpless goobers” statement was the first shot fired in the Battle Of Let’s Rehaul Developmental.
Worst: A Reminder That Jacob Novak Is Frankenstein Huge
Good lord is he big. Is this what The Yeti looked like under his mummy wrappings? I keep expecting Novak to hug Ziggler from behind and wiggle his butt until Ziggler passes out.
Worst: HE CALLS THAT HIS STRYCHNINE
Connor O’Brian wrestles Derrick Bateman, and it’s super boring. Just right down the middle WWE 2010 wrestling. Bateman has exciting offense, but they almost never build matches around it. He’s this 6-foot-something super muscular guy who can throw swift running dropkicks and spinning neckbreakers, but they’re like “no, let the rat guy who can barely move put you in a chinlock for 4 1/2 of these 5 minutes.” I dunno.
The notable thing is that Connor wins with a full nelson slam, and Todd eagerly yells HE CALLS THAT HIS STRYCHNINE!! Josh sorta chuckles and says that you can’t name every move you have, and they’re not gonna call it that. It’s a Michael Cole dick move, but it’s also kinda honest and refreshing. Whenever Rich Brennan sees Sasha Banks put on a crossface and starts yelling THE BANK STATEMENT, SHE CALLS THAT THE BANK STATEMENT, I want Albert to counter with, “does she? We can probably think of a better name than that.”
Note: Bateman loses badly here because Daniel Bryan no-shows, and Kofi Kingston fills in. I wish they’d shown them backstage, with Kofi going “JUMP! JUMP! No, you have to JUMP MORE!” and Bateman forlornly reading his WWE Championship book.
Worst: Four Seasons In And Power Of The Punch Is Still Exposing Everybody
I wrote this two seasons ago:
Sadly this competition does not involve William Regal hitting people in the face with brass knuckles. It’s a punching contest built around one of those novelty boxing games you see nobody playing at Dave & Buster’s, where you punch a punching bag as hard as you can and it gives you a three-digit “power rating.” It’s a fun concept, I guess, but there are three major problems:
1. These machines don’t accurately read how powerful your punch is. It’s all about how you hit it. That’s the rub of the game. You can go nuts and hit it with a truck and get a 200 if you don’t hit it square. At the same time, you can put your hand on it and shove it and get 700. It’s measuring the speed of the bag going backwards up into the machine, not the impact of the strike.
2. If you have your announce team test out the machine beforehand and film them getting relatively high scores, it’s gonna make your wrestlers look like the weakest people in history. Like I said, you can hit it super hard in the wrong spot and get a low score. That’s fine if you’re hanging out with your brother-in-law and drinking rum runners at the arcade restaurant, but if you do it on a WWE show you’ve now got Michael Cole screaming I PUNCHED HARDER THAN HIM. Spoiler alert: this happens. A lot.
3. Wrestlers aren’t really trained to punch the shit out of things. I don’t know if you’ve seen Secrets Of Pro Wrestling Revealed or what, but it’s not totally on the level. A guy like Husky Harris has been throwing worked punches since birth. Of COURSE he’s going to instinctively hold back a little throwing a big haymaker on the wrestling show.
So! All of those things are true and happen and ruin the Power Of The Punch. Sorry, everybody.
They add a fourth problem in season 4, which is the promise that if you can beat Alex Riley’s all-time record of 896 you earn two immunity points. Nobody breaks that record, of course, because of problems 1-3. Johnny Curtis wins by throwing an actual punch, but everyone else throws worked punches that rank in the 500-700 range and get them booed off stage. Josh spends the entire time commenting about how his practice punch from two seasons ago was better than most of the rookies. It’s embarrassing, even moreso with Matt Striker doing condescending improv while the machine resets.
To make things worse, Curtis wins but doesn’t break Riley’s record, and they give him two points anyway. Here is a GIF of me flipping the Power of the Punch machine and walking away with my hands in the air:
Worst: The Babyface Match Run Of Super Heel Byron Saxton Continues
Byron Saxton doesn’t make any sense. He makes less sense next week when you find out what his finisher is, but he’s confusing already.
He’s the most obvious heel of the season. He does the cocky, privileged upstart thing WWE loves and milks it every time he talks. Whenever Striker puts a microphone in front of him he does a bad radio voice to get boos. He wears a shirt that says BYRON SAXTON with an arrow pointing up. There is NOTHING LIKABLE ABOUT HIM WHATSOEVER, yet every time he wrestles, they book him like a scrappy babyface.
In his first match, he eagerly tags in at the expense of his babyface pro and loses a tag team match. Instead of continuing that and being a jerk, he starts to actually prove himself and make up for the mistake. He gets a miraculous (and totally clean) pin on Brodus Clay to give his team a comeback victory in a six-man tag, and here he becomes the first rookie to defeat a pro when Clay attacks him and draws a DQ. They’ve got him wrestling like he’s Daniel Bryan and cutting promos like he’s Miz. I don’t understand it. It’s like they had different teams writing the matches and the challenges, and they never compared notes.
Best: R-Truth Is A Deadbeat Pro
Okay, here’s a great moment of accidental continuity. At the beginning of the show, Striker announces that the winner of NXT season 4’s title shot will be for the WWE Tag Team Championships, and that it’ll be for both the winning rookie AND the winning rookie’s pro. This becomes important later, then SUPER NOT IMPORTANT.
The reason for that is R-Truth. We find him backstage lecturing Johnny Curtis about getting victories, and Curtis astutely brings up the fact that Truth hasn’t been around lately and sent in goddamn JTG as his substitute Pro last week. Truth’s response? “I’m still ya Pro!” Not to jump ahead ten weeks and spoil it for you, but here goes: the reason this is funny is because Curtis wins the season, and doesn’t cash in his tag titles shot for TWO YEARS because R-Truth’s a deadbeat. He has to team with f*cking Michael McGillicutty and wrestles Team Hell No for the belts on NXT in October of 2012. Curtis would then go batshit and become a ballroom dancer with breathing problems.
When R-Truth asks “what’s up,” he should be asking himself.
Worst: A Talent Show Without “I’m A Sexy Diva” Being An Available Talent
This is one of those segments I want to show up, put my palms up and back away from slowly. The MAIN EVENt is a talent contest. You might remember NXT’s version of a talent contest from season 3, where the rookie Divas displayed such talents as “being flexible,” “trying desperately to be sexy” and “drawing fart jokes.” The season 3 talent contest was the 94 J-Cup compared to season 4.
– Derrick Bateman starts us off with a haiku, entitled “Cheap Pop.”
Boy does it feel great
here in the Empire State
Rochester, New York!
He earns points for dressing like Aiden English, but loses them all for botching a haiku. It’s supposed to be 5-7-5. “Here in the Empire State” is six syllables, unless you say “Em-pie-er,” which is not how the word is pronounced. I asked current Impact Wrestling star Ethan Carter III for a possible explanation, and this is what he gave me:
– Johnny Curtis tries to work with how ridiculous it is to have a talent show full of wrestlers where “being good at wrestling” should be the talent, so he wears a full sweatsuit and does a rhythmic gymnastics routine with a ribbon. It’s funny, and Todd immediately buries it as gay. “Are we watching Logo TV right now?”
– Byron Saxton reads a fairy tale about bringing “warm cider” to the other NXT rookies. It goes nowhere and takes like 5 minutes. No idea. I don’t even have a joke for it.
– Jacob Novak’s talent is “looking good.” They could’ve put Sheamus in here with the talent “having black skin” and it would’ve been more believable.
– I originally left Connor O’Brian telling jokes out of the report by accident, because my brain malfunctioned and forced me to forget it. Here’s With Spandex commenter Johnny B. Acceptable to say it better than I could’ve:
I do not blame you for skipping Connor’s Joke Corner. There’s a pretty great moment, though, after he’s done with his rat voiced absurdity — he steps back into line, drops the grin, and there’s the briefest flash of self-loathing. It’s like Bill Haverchuck from the opening credits of Freaks and Geeks. Just a beautiful, fleeting moment of awareness, pain and rage at what his life has become.
– Brodus Clay closes us out with the talent of “making anyone look cool.” We’ve already exhausted our Hornswoggle and Swagger Soaring Eagle cameos, so who do you think is his project?
Cole buries JR, buries Kaval for winning NXT season 2 and crapping out and basically gets Michael Cole everywhere. Brodus puts him in a beanie, stands behind him and says “church” whenever he pauses. Brodus Clay’s talent is SAYING THE WORD “CHURCH,” YOU GUYS.
As the talent show is happening, the announcers laugh about how Clay’s talent should be destroying everyone and ending the talent show. A few minutes later, Clay destroys everybody and ends the talent show. Then the moon falls out of the sky, crushes the arena, and NXT never happens again. GOODBYE FOREVER.