– Hulu recently made NXT a Hulu Plus thing again, but if you can view it, here’s a link to this episode. Beer gets carried! Sorry, “liquid.”
– Be sure to follow our recap of NXT season 1 on its delightfully-organized tag page and catch up on any episodes you might’ve missed. A ring announcer gets choked to death with a tie in 9 weeks, so get ready for that.
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Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE NXT, originally airing April 6, 2010.
Best: David Otunga Dares To Bring Logic And Reason To NXT
As you may recall from last week’s vintage NXT report, David Otunga won a Divas Championship #1 Contender battle royal and got to guest host an episode of Raw. In the main-event of that show, Otunga paired himself up with John Cena in a tag team championship match against then-champs The Miz and Big Show only to refuse a tag from Cena late in the match and bail. Like a lot of things on Raw, it didn’t make a ton of sense.
This week’s NXT begins with Matt Striker making the rookies stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the stage while he tries to get the crowd involved by yelling things like YOU ALL LIKE THESE ROOKIES, RIGHT and asks them a few questions. He asks Otunga why he bailed on Cena, and the answer we all expect is “I’m David Otunga! The next breakout star!” and not much else. But WAIT A MINUTE, Otunga actually seems to have though this through and manages to get out two good points before Striker anxiety-shuffles the microphone away from him:
1. He wanted the show to be all about David Otunga so he did something to get people talking, instead of being John Cena’s little buddy in another incessant John Cena triumph story, and
2. The Miz is an NXT Pro, so by bailing on Cena and helping Miz, he helped his chances of getting voted for in future Pros polls.
This may be the first and only time an NXT rookie seemed to know and understand the rules of NXT, and man, I wish David Otunga was even 10% as good at wrestling as he is being a character on the wrestling show. Very few people have been such absurd human beings while still seemingly like totally normal human beings.
Worst: Oh Sugar, It’s The Keg Carry Episode
NXT is a show about 8 WWE hopefuls battling it out to entertain the fans and become WWE’s next breakout star. How does that happen, you might ask? Great matches? No. Creating interesting, dynamic characters the fans want to see? Of course not! You endear yourself to the crowd by carrying a keg around the ring as quickly as possible without hurting yourself or looking like an idiot.
Let me ask you a serious question. Have you ever been impressed by how quickly someone can lift a keg and run with it? Alternately, were you impressed that a guy like Skip Sheffield could lift a 160 pound beverage container? Were you impressed that a little guy like Daniel Bryan could do it, assuming you’ve already seen him super-back-bodydropping Samoa Joe or whatever? The highlight of this segment is Matt Striker describing the keg as “filled with liquid, weighing over 160 pounds,” which is also totally how I’d describe Matt Striker.
The worst part is that it’s not even accurate. They just time it however they want. Guys’ll cross the line and the timer will go for another second and a half because why not, WWE’s clearly already lost interest in this show and the people still forced to produce it might as well do whatever they want. Just terrible. And the best part? They did it TWO MORE TIMES.
Worst: Mr. 0.6
Highlights of the First Annual Keg Carry included:
– Daniel Bryan sticking his tongue out and carrying it between his legs, because f*ck the keg carry
– Skip Sheffield clearly winning only to get cheated out of it by the timer, causing him to get RYBACK FACE for the first time
– Otunga taking off his hoodie and breakaway pants (!) to carry the keg, but leaving on his sunglasses
But the true highlight was Michael Tarver, a man who’d JUST cut a shouty promo about how everybody on the stage with him was a target and how he was about to literally slit our throats and punch our faces, dropping the keg twice in about a second and getting disqualified. He spends some time mugging around the ring to milk it, but yeah, no. He should’ve come out for his match later with a big FAILURE across the front of his shirt.
I’m not saying that carrying a keg makes you a great pro wrestler, but the same awkward hand-eye coordination Tarver displayed falling all over himself trying to lug a keg 10 feet is the same awkward hand-eye coordination that makes all of his matches bad.
Worst: We Are So Mad About You Putting Daniel Bryan At The Top Of Those Polls, Enjoy What We Do To Him Now
Speaking of guys who have bad matches, here’s THAT NERD DANIEL BRYAN.
I can’t speak for WWE, but when NXT originally aired it seemed like it only existed to make us feel bad about liking Bryan Danielson. That was it. They were acknowledging this great independent worker the Internet wouldn’t stop telling them to hire by bringing him on a competition show, “proving” that he wasn’t as good as the other wrestlers via predetermined, purposeful failures, and getting over someone more closely resembling their desired aesthetic. A guy like Barrett, for example.
The problem is that Danielson connects with wrestling audiences, and he’s great at wrestling so people like him. That’s it. It doesn’t matter if they’re 20 people in an armory or 80,000 at WrestleMania, people like the dude and want to cheer for him. So they bring him on this show, have him lose a bunch and get called a nerd approximately 4 times a minute for 60 minutes, and guess what? He’s #1 in the Pros poll. He’s #1 on the Internet poll. He’s clearly the best guy on the show. So do they run with that, maybe realize they were being dumb and put the spotlight on him? Have him start a winning streak or something to make up for being 0-7 so far? I don’t know, have him win or look competent ONCE? NOOOOPE.
A lot of the animosity we feel about Daniel Bryan now, like when he doesn’t show up in the Royal Rumble and we’re mad even though he wasn’t ANNOUNCED for it, comes from NXT. Even when he’s getting the last hour of Raw devoted to his wrestling and stories, he always feels like he’s on the brink of failure. Like at any point he could make one wrong move and get shitcanned back to Ring Of Honor. It makes him identifiable, you know? Impostor syndrome. It’s gonna turn out that all those things we thought about him being great and popular are a lie, and we’re gonna get found out and he’s going to pay for it. HE’s not over, the YES chants are, and so on.
Anyway, NXT responded to Bryan being #1 in the Pros and Internet polls by having him lose to the 8th place rookie clean in 90 seconds. At some point it stops being “storyline” and starts being “we hate this Internet guy.”
Best: My Dad Gave Me Some Great Advice On How To Beat Michael Tarver
“So I finished third in the Pros poll. That’s pretty cool, I guess. I remember what my Dad told me … he said that you’ve got to work hard to make it to the top, and then when you’re there, you’ve got to work twice as hard.
And now, as an example of working twice as hard, here’s me trying to get a watchable thing out of Michael Tarver.”
Worst: I’m Afraid I’m About To Have Some BAD MATCH
Remember that thing I mentioned earlier about David Otunga not being as good in the ring as he is outside of it? He’s really bad in the ring. Just … spectacularly bad. I’m not sure how to describe it. He’s always looked like he was in his third or four month of training, where he KNOWS what he’s supposed to do, he just has to remember to do it. So he’s just walking around with this too-aware look on his face, moving too deliberately, thinking too much. It’s a shame, because he’s SO GOOD at everything else. And granted, he’s gotten better … his match with Sheamus on Raw where they beat the stuffing out of each other was really fun, but that was probably just Sheamus saying, “hey fella, ferget the wrestling, just beat me up,” assumedly followed by a bunch of racial slurs, because Sheamus.
The match here isn’t the worst, but it’s very clearly Wade Barrett trying to pull something decent. The Wasteland Wade hits is one of his best ever, because Otunga doesn’t totally know how to take it, so Wade just rears back and lets him have it. Is it weird to anybody else that the NXT season 1 rookies got this huge spotlight when they weren’t very good, and now that many of them are GREAT, they’re relegated to comedy roles or being match-fillers we never see?
Best: Heath Slater Discovers His True Calling In Life
One of the weirdest things about NXT season 1 is how Heath Slater is pushed as one of the top guys. He wins all of his early matches, he has a good(ish) relationship with his Pro, he wins the physical challenge … all the while being basically the least cool person on the planet. He’s pink like raw chicken, has a 1996 teen girl haircut and won’t stop yelling WOOOOO~ whenever somebody points a microphone at him. THIS was the guy they wanted us to get behind?
At the same time, though, he’s fantastic in the ring. By winning the keg carry he gets to main-event against Kane, and it’s mostly just Kane thrashing him and pinning him with a chokeslam. That’s good, though. Occasionally you get these guys like Daniel Bryan who are great but always lose, and it makes you mad because you want so much more for them. Slater’s different. Slater’s ability to lose tremendously is his greatest strength, as we learned most overtly from that pre-Raw 1000 run where legends would keep showing up and killing him. This match with Kane seems like the blueprint for those matches. Everything Kane does looks MURDEROUS because of how Slater takes it, and even Kane’s goozle before the chokeslam has Slater whipping his head back to sell it.
I’m not sure what the point of having your physical challenge contest winner lose easily to an established WWE guy is other than “nobody on this show is ready for WWE, LOL,” but I’ll wait and see where it goes*.
*Spoiler: it goes to Jinder Mahal and Drew McIntyre.