– This week’s episode is available on Hulu. Season 2 has barely any clips, probably because of how embarrassing the entire enterprise was, so be sure to watch the full episode.
– If you missed our season 1 retro recap, you can check out every episode here. The good news is that you’ve only missed two episodes of season 2, so head over to the NXT season 2 tag page and catch up on that, too. Justin Roberts still has a sore neck, so start reading before he heals up.
– Sharing the column earns you REDEMPTION POINTS! The reader with the most points by the end of the season wins. You know, unless we forget about it.
Click on through for the vintage Best and Worst of WWE NXT season 2, episode 3, originally aired on June 22, 2010.
Worst: And Now, Here’s A Random Lady!
This week’s episode of NXT begins with an appearance from Devin Taylor’s grandmother Ashley Valence, a lady who showed up to be the “co-host” of NXT, eventually became a ring announcer on Superstars and faded into oblivion before the end of the year. One of the most interesting things about going back through modern WWE history are these women they brought in with no discernible talent to do nothing and then forgot about in a few months. Remember B.B., aka Barbara Bush, the busty EMT? Remember Kristal? Lena Yada? Joy Giovanni? She was the Divas Rookie Of The Year. Remember Jojo Offerman?
The worst part of Valence is that her actual name is “Ashley Ann Vickers,” which sets up way better column jokes. Matt Striker starts in about how the Pros Poll drastically underestimates the impact of social distinctions predicated upon wealth, especially inherited wealth, and Josh Mathews stands up and yells YOU GOT THAT FROM ASHLEY ANN VICKERS, ‘WORK ON NXT’ PAGE 98, RIGHT
Although I guess her NXT name gives you “the man who shot on Ashley Valence.”
Worst: That Week The Miz Decided He Was A Rapper
“The United States Champion! He’s a first class rapper as we saw Monday night!” – Michael Cole
Before they were The Awesome Truth and the coolest thing in WWE for like two months before the Rock came and ruined everything, The Miz and R-Truth feuded over the United States Championship. At Fatal 4-Way 2010 (their spelling, not mine), The Miz used that casual racial intolerance Coral warned him about on The Real World to rap himself to the ring, complete with an affected DMX voice. He forgets his lines at the end and just kinda stands around awkwardly until the music stops.
It was so good that they did it again on Raw:
The best part is that (spoiler alert) this propelled Miz to a Money in the Bank ladder match victory at the next pay-per-view and a WWE Championship reign when he cashed in on Randy Orton in November. Actually, the best part is picturing Miz’s dad cranking this in his car and bobbing his head.
Best: Also Funny In Retrospect…
“Miz hangs out with all the big Hollywood stars!” – Michael Cole
Big Hollywood stars include Trishelle from the Dukes Of Hazzard prequel, “Ray William Johnson plus ethnic stereotypes” Internet celebrity Peter Chao, a guy in a Scooby-Doo costume and Christmas Bounty‘s Francia Raisa. If this counts the time he spent with John Morrison, throw in Kevin Federline.
Worst: I Am So Mad At How Good Alex Riley Kind-Of Was
The opening match of episode 3 is The Miz teaming up with Alex Riley to take on Showtime Percy Watson and MVP, and I am shocked and uncomfortable to say Riley’s the most entertaining guy in the match. The Miz is the Miz, MVP is a sassy elbow drop away from being the black Mr. Kennedy and poor Showtime is trying, but he’s not there yet. Meanwhile, Alex Riley, a wrestler classically known for being cold boogers on a paper plate, is killing it.
Everything he hits looks crisp and purposeful. He remembers to be his character at all times, reacting to his success by sitting on the top rope and happily posing for everyone. He knows where he is in the ring, uses his voice really well and is just generally the complete package. He reminds me of Wade Barrett from season 1 with David Otunga’s personality. So, important followup question: WHAT THE SHIT HAPPENED TO YOU, ALEX RILEY?
Was it the partnership with The Miz? Did Miz really “mentor” him on being a guy with no upward mobility who lucks into a few spotlight moments but is generally the most expendable guy in the world? Was there a point where Riley realized all he was gonna do was carry Miz’s briefcase and got complacent? Did he give up? The guy can’t even get through a WWE pre-show now without making everyone at the table want to leap over and strangle him, and not in the fun wrestling way, in the real you are the worst way. Can we time machine back to episode 3, airlift this guy out of the gameshow insanity and preserve him for a future WWE where great wrestling and fun characters are steps 1 and 2 to success?
Best: Titus O’Neil, Sensitive Teen On The Wrong Side Of The Tracks
The Titus O’Neil rookie video goes a long way to helping us understand who Titus is and where he comes from, from his checkered past to his bright future, which he’s working hard to achieve so his sons don’t go down the same path he did. Keep in mind that this is the only time WWE attempted to make this part of O’Neil’s character … he quickly became INCREDIBLY STUPID GUY WHO CAN BARELY MOVE, managed to transition that into “funny guy in an afro wig on a show nobody watches,” evolved into BARKING TAG TEAM SPECIALIST and then screaming Irishman? I don’t know what they’re doing with him now. I think he joined Evolution on the last episode of Raw.
Note: they may have refrained from putting effort into his development because for like two years he was the worst wrestler in the world.
Worst: The Worst Wrestler In The World
I really feel like I need to stress how bad Titus was when he first showed up. Imagine Eva Marie. Now imagine that Eva Marie is the size of Sheamus. That’s a fast track to injuring everybody in the company, right?
Titus gets a one-on-one match with Sarcastic Badass Michael McGillicutty and oh man is it bad. Titus has no idea what to do in the ring and moves like a video game character who keeps hitting the “change focus” button by accident. At one point McGillicutty hits the ropes and Titus crouches down like he’s gonna hit a spinebuster, but McGillicutty runs right by him. So Titus goes for it again on the rebound, gets McGillicutty up too far, sorta loses him on his shoulders, stumbles backwards and drops him on his head. That’s what you’re seeing in the picture. He follows that up by taking waaaaay too long on a bodyslam, so McGoobersnatch just says screw it, hits the McGillicutter with authority and pins him.
The worst part is that Titus doesn’t get any better for a while. He’s still hot garbage when he shows up on NXT Redemption, and even near the end when he’s showing great personality he’s still doing shit like this. Protecting him in a tag team was the best idea they ever had.
Best: Sensitive McGillicutty
As I’ve mentioned before, this season is all about how unintentionally f*cking hilarious Michael McGillicutty is. It’s an art project. Every time he’s near a camera or a microphone I get a big smile on my face and watch attentively, and he never, ever lets me down.
Before his match with Titus, McGillicutty (who they’re still claiming is using his mother’s maiden name, which was actually “Leonard”) talks CANDIDLY (in all caps) about how he called his mom after his first WWE TV win and got emotional. It’s SPECTACULAR. Here’s a piece of it, and I want you to notice both 1) how long it takes him to realize the camera’s on, and 2) his On The Waterfront-style naturalistic acting.
I really luh-liked that puh-promo, Mike.
Best: Kaval Vs. Eli Cottonwood, Somehow
That looks a lot like the Titus botch, right?
Somehow, against all logic and understanding, the match between Eli Cottonwood and Kaval is REALLY fun. I run the risk of sounding like a Low Ki/Kaval fanboy (which I am absolutely not) by praising him over these first few weeks, but putting this little hard-kicking ninja weirdo in a WWE ring is COMPELLING to me, especially when he starts busting out ridiculous offense you can’t see anywhere else. The armbar across the top rope is an example. The springboard double-stomp to the BACK OF THE NECK is another. Eli Cottonwood’s got the mobility of one of Great Khali’s legs and about half the wrestling skill, and Kaval’s just slingshotting himself off the ropes with flying kicks and dying on all of Cottonwood’s offense to keep it interesting. He was really doing a great job at this point in the competition.
Worst: Welcome To The Daniel Bryan Push, Kaval
The downside of that is that “doing well” is the LAST thing you should do in WWE developmental, so Kaval’s first two matches are decisive losses where he goes down for three off his opponent’s first real move. Cottonwood throws him around a lot and Kaval’s able to rebound, but after the first substantial power move — a reverse chokeslam, which seems cool on paper but never in reality because that’s not how necks work — he’s dead. Kaval falls to 0-2, and Michael Cole is writing NAYRB LEINAD on the arena wall in blood.
The good news is that Kaval’s opposites day push has a fantastic upside:
Best: Property Of LayCool
Yes, folks, this is the debut of the PROPERTY OF LAYCOOL shirt, the only piece of WWE memorabilia I’d like to own as much as the David Otunga sparkly Nexus hoodie. You can’t see the entirety of it here, but it has no sleeves and a popped-up collar (!!) that says KAVAL across the back of the neck.
The best part is that they give him this shirt as a reward for pledging his allegiance to their cause and force him to wear it like he’s Ralphie in the bunny suit in A Christmas Story. They even forcibly turn his frown upside down. Everything about this pairing is great. I kinda wish LayCool had been Daniel Bryan’s pros in season 1. Imagine how different life would be?
Best: Butthurt Matt Striker
Sorry you got punched off the stage last week, bro.
Best?: Last Night On Raw
In the episode 1 recap, the previous night’s Raw featured the debut of THE NEXUS, one of the most shocking and unforgettable endings to Raw ever. The NXT season 1 rookies showed up as a unified force, poor Justin Roberts nearly got choked to death with his own tie and American Dragon Bryan Danielson was screaming in John Cena’s face and kicking him in the head. It was amazing.
In the episode 2 recap, Raw was about the Nexus trying to commit vehicular manslaughter on Bret Hart by putting him in a car and having it drive around all crazy, like they might in a Grand Theft Auto mission. It was super stupid, Daniel Bryan wasn’t there and everyone looked like a dork.
On the Raw before THIS show, the Nexus beat up Vince McMahon. He was wearing a referee shirt and gulping SO HARD. He got his ass beaten, too, taking a stiff WADE SLAM before having his ribcage caved in by a Justin Gabriel 450 splash. It turned out to be one of Vince’s last physical confrontations, because I guess a light went off in his head that said YOU ARE SIXTY-SOMETHING, CHILL. It was pretty great, but the kind of thing they should’ve done to immediately follow-up their debut. Destroy Raw, destroy the guy who created it, THEN play Crazy Taxi with stroke victims.
Best: The Lucky Cannon Mysteries
Most of the NXT rookies have reasonable backstories. “I’m a third generation star!” “I played football!” Lucky Cannon has a MYSTERY NOVELLA, and I’ll let you piece it together for yourself.
Last week, we learned that Lucky Cannon once worked as a sheriff’s deputy in Florida. This week, we learn via video package that Lucky is called “Lucky” because he used to be involved in nondescript shady activities, took a lead pipe to the back of the head and ended up in a coma for weeks. When he woke up, he had to relearn how to walk and talk. Have you figured out where this is going yet? If so, write it down in your notebook.
Best: The Lucky Cannon Not Mysteries
Remember last week when Mark Henry challenged Cody Rhodes to put his money where his mouth is and fight Lucky Cannon? Cody got arrogant and claimed he could beat Lucky in under five minutes, so they put up a timer in the corner. Usually that’s to set up a scenario where the rookie fights valiantly and either triumphs unexpectedly or falls just short of his goal, looking tough in the process. This time? Cody beats Lucky clean with a CrossRhodes with over a minute left. WHOOPS.
Note: This is part of the mystery. “Lucky Cannon sucks” is canonical fact. It’s the first sentence of his Wikipedia page.
Best: Husky Harris Wins The Promo Challenge
The show ends with Matt Striker making his one in-ring appearance of the night, inviting the rookies to explain why they’re WWE’s next breakout star in 45 seconds or less. Most guys go over their time — Kaval’s catchphrase of “It is not the size of the fighter, but the size of the fight he will bring, all you can do is be ready” is about sixty words too long already — and modern WWE fans revisiting the episode are just treading water until we get to Husky Harris. Husky stands in the background at the end of the line, and in my head he’s gonna break out the rocking chair and start screaming about dead nuns and buzzards. Or maybe he’ll be like I GOTTA BUY A BIGGER SIZE OF PANTS or something and make me laugh.
We suffer through Eli Cottonwood’s cross-eyed threats and Lucky Cannon’s coma pity and FINALLY, Husky Harris gets to talk. He says a few words, then just punches Matt Striker and fat man sentons him. CHECK PLEASE.
No matter what I’m looking forward to in this world, “Matt Striker being attacked suddenly” is an acceptable substitute.
(Note: Matt Striker himself was not an acceptable substitute.)