– 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.
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Click through for the vintage Best and Worst of WWE NXT season 4 episode 9, originally aired on February 1, 2011.
Worst: Arm Wrestling Challenge
We’re down to four rookies, so NXT puts them in an arm wrestling tournament. I swear, just once I want to see an arm wrestling challenge on a wrestling show end without someone giving up and cheating. I’ll see an in-ring birthday cake served without incident before I’ll see that.
Despite being twice the size and weight of his fellow rookies, Brodus Clay decides Johnny Curtis is giving him too much of a challenge and headbutts him. I’ve never understood why you go through so much trouble to build guys up as strong, then put them in situations where they look weak. Like, Mark Henry should never have to cheat to win an arm wrestling contest. He’s the world’s strongest man. He is the STRONGEST MAN. You’ve had him lift cards and pull semi trucks and bend steel, but God forbid he get into an arm wrestling competition with Mr. Kennedy or whoever. He’s still gonna sweat when he doesn’t instantly win and flip the table to do wrestling moves.
Like, it’s Johnny Curtis. I’ll believe Undertaker can be buried alive, rise to Heaven as an angel and return to wrestle matches as a flying man-bat before I’ll buy Brodus Clay struggling to beat Fandango at arm wrestling.
Speaking of the Undertaker …
Best: Remember 2-11-11?
Sting confirmed for NXT season 5.
Worst: Saxton vs. Masters
Byron Saxton and Chris Masters wrestle each other a few times this season in matches of varying quality, but this is by far the worst. Saxton is clearly not long for the world, so Masters just shuts down his offense, counters everything, sells next-to-nothing and puts him away with a Masterlock. The video makes it look a lot more competitive than it was. Masters holds his arm a little bit, that’s all Saxton’s getting.
The only highlight is Ziggler on the apron during the finish. He’s about to literally throw in the towel and is comically torn up by exaggerated, imaginary anguish. He is emotionally invested in this retread Chris Masters/Byron Saxton match, dammit!
Best: “Guillotines Seemed So Much Simpler In Medieval Times.”
As always, a Derrick Bateman backstage segment delivers about a dozen random things to love. Daniel Bryan having the tendon strength of a cow. Bateman’s OH HI GAIL and eye-roll when Gail Kim shows up. Bateman passing out in Gail’s guillotine in like five seconds. Gail corpsing through the entire segment because she’s never been asked to do anything besides boring pre-match interviews and jealousy catfights. Daniel Bryan being 100% unable to deliver the line, “when you do submissions it’s so hot” without saying “gosh” a bunch and sounding like Opie Taylor.
The best is the final reveal that Bateman’s awake, suggesting that either
1. He faked being passed out so Bryan could get some action,
2. He faked being passed out so he could creepily WATCH Bryan get some action, or
3. He just woke up from unconsciousness and went right into mentally high-fiving his bros
Worst: Stand A Little Closer, Guys
The opposite of that segment is Byron Saxton confronting Johnny Curtis backstage and telling him people are talking about him. There’s nobody else in the room and Curtis is shirtless, so also shirtless Saxton sidles up to him and stands so close their nipples are practically touching. They have a full conversation like this, and at the end Johnny tries to be intimidating by leaning in even closer. Saxton says he and Johnny “know the truth.” Then they start making out, and the last 20 minutes of NXT is footage of them graphically f*cking. They don’t use protection because they have immunity points.
Seriously though, try out some different camera angles. You don’t need both guys in the shot if you’re shooting from the collarbone up.
Worst: Josh And Todd
If you want to hear one of the worst match commentaries in WWE history, watch Brodus Clay vs. Ted DiBiase. It’s supposed to be kinda important. Last week’s show ended with Brodus winning a fatal 4-way over the other rookies and ditching his pro, DiBiase, for Alberto Del Rio. Del Rio then won the biggest Royal Rumble in history to guarantee himself a spot at WrestleMania with Brodus at his side. It was a huge upgrade, and DiBiase shows what a f*ck-up he is by paying too much attention to his weird French-Canadian girlfriend and losing the match. Brodus beats his old pro, and is positioned as one of the favorites to win the season.
We don’t really get any of that because Josh and Todd are busy flirting with Maryse, then loudly arguing with each other when a comedy bit they want to do goes wrong. They never recover, and it sounds like Cyborg Superman showed up on Raw and split Michael Cole into Michael Cole Red and Michael Cole Blue. I’m surprised they weren’t both fired seconds after the match ended. If I was Vince, I would’ve just walked out in the middle of it and set the announce table on fire. Although I guess if I was Vince I wouldn’t be watching NXT, so here we are.
That said, Maryse taking selfies at ringside is still next level and ahead of its time.
Best: Dolph Ziggler And The Talk The Talk Challenge
This is my favorite challenge of the entire season. Each rookie gets 30 seconds to talk about a WWE Pro of Striker’s choosing, and it’s one of those rare moments where the badness of game show NXT becomes crystalline and perfect.
– Byron Saxton gets R-Truth. He calls him “Mr. R” and does a Carlton Banks version of his entrance theme. “Oh-ho what’s UP??” Dolph Ziggler’s off-camera reaction of ahahayes, YEAAAHHHHH! makes me smile every single time. I probably watched it ten times putting this week’s column together. Truth clearly loves it too, even though he has to show him how it’s done.
– Derrick Bateman gets another “why the hell didn’t this guy win the season and become a huge WWE star” moment. He says Dolph Ziggler’s got the body of a Greek God and the face of a “worn-out catcher’s mitt,” which causes Dolph to go full 1970s upset heel, stand up and kick his stool. Bateman then quotes Norm MacDonald as Burt Reynolds from ‘Saturday Night Live,’ saying Dolph legally changed his name to Dolph Ziggler from “Turd Ferguson.” The other pros think that’s hilarious, and Dolph spends like 30 seconds overselling it. “My name is NOT Turd. It’s NOT!” When the crowd starts chanting “TURD! TURD! TURD!” Dolph slams his clipboard down on the stage and starts to storm off. Bryan and Bateman are both about to lose it, and it’s so much f*cking fun I can’t even explain it.
Like a full minute and a half later the crowd picks it up again. Dolph goes full Tracy Smothers. “If you don’t stop I’ll leave right now!”
– Johnny Curtis bombs the competition on purpose because it’s a work and he’s winning anyway. He’s supposed to talk about Chris Masters, but instead slaps Brodus Clay and runs away. Everyone boos him. With perfect timing, Masters chimes in: “Hey, don’t you want to talk about me?”
– Brodus Clay is supposed to talk about Daniel Bryan, but spends his full 30 seconds explaining the hows and whys of how he’s gonna f*ck Bryan’s girlfriend. Bryan makes this face:
Derrick Bateman wins, because of course he does.
Best: Wait, Why Did Johnny Curtis Win This Competition Again?
The main event is Bryan and Bateman teaming up against R-Truth and Curtis. Curtis misses a guillotine leg drop and tries to recover with a backslide, but Bryan counters it into the LeBell Lock (before it came with an exclamation) for the submission win.
I just want to type this out. We’re four episodes from the season finale. The winner is supposed to get a tag team title shot with their pro. Derrick Bateman has been the star of the season, winning a ton of challenges, showing a thousand times more personality than anyone else and proving himself at least competent in the ring. Johnny Curtis half-asses everything he does and doesn’t take anything seriously. Bateman and Bryan have been working closely as a team all season, cheating together to win challenges and going 2-0 as a tag team. R-Truth and Johnny Curtis rarely interact, and Truth’s even skipped shows completely.
Having typed all that, here’s the followup: what part of that should have the season end with Bateman finishing third and Curtis winning? Especially when Curtis and Truth never team up for a tag title shot, and Curtis has to cash it in later with someone else. Aren’t you trying to get these guys over? Don’t you want the Pro/Rookie relationship to seem like an important part of the show?
I don’t get you sometimes, WWE.