Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE NXT: TakeOver: New Orleans happened, and I wrote a few thousand words about it! If you’ve already read it, thank you for your time. If not, what are you waiting for?
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for April 11, 2018. What song do you want to die to?
Best: When The (Red And) Blue Finally Came
Well, it’s the #NXTAfterMania, meaning a bunch of Team Yellow’s best and brightest (and also No Way Jose) have officially been called up to either the Red or Blue brands, and as a result, this episode is a little low on star power. Raw has added to its roster a number of former NXT champions, both from the women’s division (Ember Moon) and tag division (Authors Of Pain), whereas Smackdown has inherited Peyton Royce and Billie Kay, who are now called the IIconics.
None of these callups are particularly surprising, and it’s always thrilling to see NXT stars graduate to the bright lights and big paychecks of the main roster, even though it hurts to know I won’t get to write about how delightful Billie and Peyton are anymore. The real surprise is Andrade “Cien” Almas has still not been called up, which means his feud with Aleister Black might not be over yet.
Supplemental Best for the backstage clip of Authors Of Pain explaining to Paul Ellering why they left him behind on Raw, saying that his chapter with the Authors ended in NXT. I’m legitimately surprised we got closure, and it’s worth noting in hopes that WWE continues to make efforts to tie up loose ends such as this — while they’re not incredibly significant in the long run, they feel like little rewards to diehards who watch NXT weekly. (And if this means Paul begins to manage another team in NXT in hopes he can eventually get them to the main roster to go after AOP, well then, I’m all the hell in.)
Worst: It Must Get Lonely
NXT managed to squeeze two whole matches in this recap-heavy episode, both of which were taped before TakeOver: New Orleans. First up was Kairi Sane vs. Lacey Evans. Evans’ new ring gear is great, as is her Sgt. Slaughter homage (though the Cobra Clutch being used as a transitional submission move was a bit irksome). She looks great in the ring, with excellent facials and great character animations.
As for the match itself, though, it was a very real reminder that NXT is still developmental. For all the progress Evans has made inside Full Sail, she seemed a bit flustered on the big stage, with her timing off on a number of early sequences and spots — for example, when she attempted to slingshot the top rope and very clearly clipped it. (Thankfully, she avoided a full-on crash and burn.)
Kairi Sane, back in her old gear (RIP Summer Rae’s boob window), did a little better, but had yet another bizarre finishing sequence, akin to her match with Vanessa Borne two weeks ago. Sane hits her sliding forearm smash into the corner, then goes up to the top rope, teasing the elbow drop, but Evans gets up, so Sane has to throw her Kabuki elbow instead (the same general pattern she attempted with Borne in their match). Then, Sane calls for the finish, teasing the elbow drop again, but instead sets up for a submission she has never used in NXT before, which gets reversed by Evans, and then, finally, Kairi executes the elbow drop and gets the three-count. Talk about a hat on top of a hat. Just go for the elbow drop the first time; this match didn’t need the extra fake-outs.
Supplemental Worst for having Evans call out Nikki Cross, Ember Moon, Dakota Kai and Kairi Sane two weeks ago, and now, two weeks later, one of those women is no longer on NXT, and a second woman has already beaten her. Again, I ask why not have Evans start off against Kai, whom she could actually score a win against, before slotting her in against the division’s heavy hitters, against whom she’s almost destined to lose? It just makes her look ineffective and delusional, and not even a remote threat in the women’s division. Weird.
Best: We Look Like Lightning
The main event of the TakeOver: New Orleans pre-show featured my wonderful beef boys Heavy Machinery against the Platinum Lovers, Tino Sabbatelli and Riddick Moss, the latter of whom’s beard is so hilariously patchy you have to wonder what he thinks when he looks in the mirror every morning. (Probably something like, “F*ck that idiot wrestling blogger, I have abs.”)
Weirdly, the Smoothie King Center crowd wasn’t as into Heavy Machinery’s antics as I expected — yeah, there was a brief steaks and weights chant, but this team needs more, especially when they randomly decide to march around the ring like the Bushwackers before smashing their bellies into an opponent. Like, if that can’t pop you, pro wrestling might not be the right thing for you.
There was that one weird moment in the match where Otis goes for what sure looked like a T-bone suplex on Moss, but it sort of morphed into a back body drop, leading me to once again believe that Riddick Moss is terrified of taking bumps. (Moss’ response, probably: “My muscles have muscles, f*ck you.”)
So yeah, the tag match wasn’t spectacular or anything, but then all of a sudden goddamn WAR MACHINE appeared in the ring out of nowhere and Kill Bill sirens started going off in my head. Ray Rowe and his partner Hanson, now being billed as War Raiders (sh*t, looks like we all have to apologize to Peter Rosenberg now), wreck shop on both the Lovers and the Beef Boys, looking like two badass extras from Braveheart in the process.
The show ends as this new hoss squad stands tall among massive “WAR MACHINE!” chants from the crowd. (Thankfully, “WAR RAIDERS!” is the same amount of syllables.) Maybe Paul Ellering should start writing his book of war now.
Next Week: A new batch of episodes taped at Full Sail kicks off with Johnny Gargano making his official return to NXT, plus the continuation of Hossfest 2K18 as Lars Sullivan and Killian Dain square off again.