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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for August 12, 2015.
Best: William Regal Explains It All
We praise William Regal almost as much as we praise Dario Cueto, but he deserves it. In the opening minutes of this week’s show, Regal not only makes the NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn championship match between Finn Bálor and Kevin Owens a ladder match, he does so by remembering everyone’s character motivations and calmly explaining them. It’s a bunch of exposition, but he phrases it in a way that sounds natural.
Basically, he can’t just do whatever Kevin Owens says, because Owens is a self-centered jerk he hates. He also doesn’t like throwing his top wrestlers into a ladder match, because those are career-shortening matches. Check out Regal putting over why you should care about a ladder match in the middle of a paragraph. Just sneaking it in there. He talked to Finn, and just like Sami Zayn, Finn wants the match against Owens under ANY stipulation. For Zayn, it was about revenge, and trying to cut off the head of a snake before it grew too large. For Finn, it’s about proving to Owens (and, I assume, everyone else) that Tokyo wasn’t a fluke. Therefore, the match is a ladder match.
Everything makes sense, nobody makes a dumb character decision for the sake of a cool match, and NXT continues to be the only reasonable thing in the WWE Universe.
Best: House Show Tye Dillinger And TV Tye Dillinger Are Finally The Same Thing
As a longtime fan of NXT, it’s been frustrating to know that the house show versions of characters I see on TV are way better than the versions I’m getting. CJ Parker was like this for a while. He was a blank, human-shaped cardboard cut-out on TV for YEARS while everyone was like, “no no no, trust me, house show CJ Parker is GREAT.” We got to see a little bit of it eventually, but it was never full-tilt, and then he was gone. How much have you read about the Shoot Nation without ever seeing them? The most heinous recent example was “Perfect 10” Tye Dillinger, this masterful, hilarious character who only existed at rural Florida house shows while “Jason Jordan’s old tag-team partner” Tye Dillinger farted around on NXT TV.
The good news — the best news — is that the differentiation is over, as House House Show Tye Dillinger and TV Tye Dillinger are finally the same thing. Hallelujah. If you’ve never seen the gimmick, Dillinger thinks he’s great. That’s it. That causes Dillinger to refer to himself as a “perfect 10,” which manifests itself in a 10 on his trunks, a 10 on his shirt, a giant 10 he holds over his head before matches, a dozen “10” signs in the crowd, “TEN TEN TEN” chants and a constant, unrelenting taunt-reminder that everything he does rates 10. It’s a classic kind of NXT character that gets over because it’s too stupid to work, but does because it’s here. It’s like Tyler Breeze live-streaming a selfie as he walks to the ring, or Adam Rose being carried around by a gathering of insane ravers. It’s closer to the NXT I fell in love with, which included but was not necessarily dominated by big indie names with slight name changes.
He beats Solomon Crowe, because Solomon Crowe is now CJ Parker.
(Nobody tell WWE that Perfect 10 is also a porn site.)
Worst: I’d Like The Hype Bros A Lot More If They Were Called SAD MAN & SEX MACHINE
In a video filmed with a flip phone, Mojo Rawley (in full gear, because he “stays ready”) confronts Zack Ryder outside a garage (?) about why he didn’t pick up the phone at 3 a.m. to hear about Mojo scoring with “12 chicks.”
Maybe I’ve been doing it wrong. Maybe this, “try to be nice to people, show some respect, have some talents and be a valuable human being” thing has been all wrong. The trick to finding the right partner isn’t being decent or even attractive, it’s putting on nothing but underpants and shooting sleeves, going to a night club and screaming in peoples’ faces about how excited you are to wrestle. What have I been doing with my life?
Best: X-Pac Heat Will Now Be Known As Baron Corbin Heat
Baron Corbin matches are fascinating right now. They’re like the announcement that an important thing is happening in Brooklyn instead of Florida in wrestling form. Corbin’s existence is so monotonously frustrating that crowds can’t even accept 30 seconds of it. It’s brilliant, if you think about it. They had Corbin stare blankly into the distance and do one move for an ENTIRE YEAR, and it went from “hey, this guy’s unstoppable” to “I like this guy” to “when are they gonna do something with this guy” to “UGH F*CK OFF BOO BOOOOOO F*CK OFF F*CK OFFFFF.” The act causing those reactions NEVER CHANGED.
Corbin squashes Axel Tischer, then runs into the jobber fury of STEVE CUTLER. It reminded me of those old WCW shows where a big heel would be beating up a jobber, and that jobber’s equally helpless friends would run out to get beaten up as well. After they’re both trounced, SMOJO shows up, stands up to the bully and chokes him out with a Coquina Clutch. I wanted Rhyno to run out sobbing to cradle Corbin’s unconscious body, but I’ll take what I can get. The announcers put over how this is the first time somebody’s been about to lay out The Lone Wolf, you know, besides Neville beating him clean and leaving him lying 6 months ago.
I hope Corbin beats Joe in 22 seconds at TakeOver, just for the crowd anarchy it’d cause. Also, because Joe looks and sounds like Beaky Buzzard. They even have the same entrance theme.
Best/Worst: Kevin Owens Stands Up For The French
My favorite thing about Finn Bálor is how William Regal says his name. “Finn BAH-LORE.” That’s the kind of name you have to say like you’re Saruman.
Anyway, Finn gets a short match with Marcus Louis which sadly does not end with Louis shocking the world, winning the NXT Championship and turning the main-event of the biggest NXT show ever in front of the biggest crowd in NXT history into Kevin Owens vs. MARCUS LOUIS. Maybe then I could convince people to start calling him the “Lunatic French.”
The best part of the match is this tweet, and its precious adherence to continuity:
After the match, Kevin Owens shows up and throws hands with Finn, leading to a dropkick through the security railing and, eventually, a pop-up powerbomb. I’ve been losing interest in Owens recently and it mostly has to do with how WWE books guys to seem super important before setting them adrift in outer space, but it might be more than that. Sami Zayn swears that Owens’ career is linked to his, and I think without Sami around, Owens (as a character) loses focus. He had his beef with John Cena, but even that was in a way a retaliation to Sami Zayn taking it to Cena on Raw. Owens became this image of a wrestling fan standing up against everything “wrong” with WWE. The entitled smark’s point of view, basically. He did well enough to get a talking point (“I beat John Cena in my first WWE match!”), then badly enough for a long-enough period of time to become Just Another Guy. Now when he shows up on NXT and there’s no Sami to continue his A-story, Owens feels like a visitor. Like Titus O’Neil stopped by to wrestle a match and put somebody over. I kinda hate that, but I know it’s mostly in my head.
The Brooklyn ladder match will be something special, though, I can guarantee that. There’s no way Owens, Bálor and a pile of ladders are going to main-event in front of 13,000 people and it not tear the house down. I just hope Sami shows up to shove Owens off a ladder, and that we get Owens vs. William Regal before Owens leaves for good.
Best: Alexa Bliss Is Earning Whatever’s Coming To Her At TakeOver
My top 5 acceptable plans for containing Alexa Bliss at TakeOver:
1. Tying her to railroad tracks, or at least a short length of track they’ve carried to the ring. Bonus points if Albert runs out from the back making choo-choo noises and literally runs over her.
3. Bliss throwing a fit at ringside, only for Gotch to sneak up behind her, bop her once in the top of the head with a mallet and cause her to faint.
4. Putting her inside a giant bullet and shooting her into the eye of the moon.
5. Bull Dempsey in a blonde wig.
Okay, scratch that last one.
Best: Liger E-mailed Somebody An iPhone Promo
It looks better than the one Mojo and Zack Ryder had filmed by a third party ghost, at least.
Tyler Breeze does a short selfie promo about how he’ll beat Liger just like he beat Hideo Itami, and Liger responds with this online clip. I know I should probably be more jaded about this, but nope, Liger’s saying “NXT” and “WWE Universe” and talking about how happy he is to finally step into a WWE ring, and I am ALL IN. I don’t care if it’s Liger getting beaten up for 5 minutes, missing a palm strike and eating a Beauty Shot. It’s Liger, you guys.
(If you don’t get it, this is how I feel when you get excited for The Rock showing up to do nothing. Liger’s my guy I thought was the coolest person in the world when I was 13. He’s still pretty high on the list.)
Best: Bayley Is One Step Closer To Finishing The Story She Was Always Meant To Tell
Last week’s episode saw Bayley take on her greatest personal challenge: defeating Charlotte. Charlotte turned her back on Bayley early in her career and grew into the damn Materfamilias of NXT, so pinning her meant not only personal redemption, but proof that she’s in the upper echelon of female talent in the company. This week, she faced a similar challenge: defeating Becky Lynch. Becky turned her back on Bayley early in her career and grew into a fan favorite. Nope, not seeing a pattern forming here.
The beef isn’t as storied and personal, but it’s important. If it’s finally Bayley’s time to be the NXT Women’s Champion of the next generation, she has to prove that she’s learned from her mistakes, grown into the performer she was born to be, and is professionally good enough to defeat the previous. Unless she beats Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks (in that order), there will still be questions. There will always be the belief that Bayley only got the championship because everyone else had something better to do. It’d lessen her story, and her triumph.
That’s why I’m happy they’re doing it. Bayley winning in Brooklyn seems like an inevitability, but God, how long have we been waiting for it? If this is the time you have to do it, you have to do it right. Bayley vs. Charlotte is a battle of confidence. Bayley vs. Becky is a battle of guts and skill. Bayley vs. Sasha is a battle of destiny. It’s the two girls who were on the bottom finally battling to be on top, only to discover a bigger mountain looming above them. Wrestling is great when it matters, and NXT’s women’s division matters, at least right here, and at least right now.
Bring on Bayley vs. Sasha at TakeOver. My heart depends on it.