Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE NXT: We got a ton of William Regal, a really terrible Dusty Classic semifinals match, and two new characters showing up in Full Sail.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for April 4, 2018. It’s time we saw a miracle. Come on, it’s time for something biblical.
Best/Worst: Time Is Running Out
As unimpressive as the Dusty Classic has been this time around (a condensed bracket and largely sh*t finishes will do that), I really enjoyed the opening to tonight’s episode of NXT, where a huge emphasis was put on the history of the tournament, as well as including that roundup of WWE Legends showing up to present the trophy to the winning team.
The finals, between Authors Of Pain and Strong Bad, had no pre-existing heat (hell, Roddy teamed with AOP at WarGames — would’ve been nice to have someone on commentary acknowledge that), but that didn’t stop all four men from trying to conjure up something out of thin air, and to an extent, they succeeded: Full Sail was hot for this match, because presumably, it mattered. Roddy’s Olympic Slam on Rezar was awesome; Pete Dunne’s Coup De Grace to Rezar’s back was nice; Roddy’s breakup of a pin attempt via a stiff dropkick to Akam’s head looked great, too.
But then two-thirds of the Undisputed Era interfered to get the match thrown out, which really pissed me off (which is presumably what NXT creative was going for). Objectively, it was a clever bait-and-switch to hype up the finals to be this big, prestigious thing, then rob the audience of that celebration, but subjectively, man, f*ck this. Furthermore, I’m sure the whole post-match part, where William Regal comes out and says the tag team championship match at TakeOver: New Orleans will now be a triple threat and also for the Dusty Cup would have worked a lot better had Bobby Fish not blown out his knee last month.
Now we’re headed into TakeOver with a tag titles matchup that is so hodge-podge, I feel like Undisputed Era has to retain, because it makes no sense for AOP to win the belts and stay any longer in NXT, and Pete and Roddy don’t need the titles to be relevant, either. The real question is will Adam Cole wrestle in two matches on Saturday night, or will the Undisputed Era debut a new member? (I hear Brains Strowman might be available.)
Usually, the go-home episodes of NXT before TakeOvers are loaded with promos, and this episode was no different –- however, literally all of these video packages were star-making affairs, whether it was Gargano/Ciampa, Black/Almas (with subtitles, thank you) or the North American championship ladder match. (Supplemental Best to EC3 being the only competitor to not shoot his vignette in a dark room, instead choosing to lay poolside.)
Worst: Stockholm Syndrome
I will admit it: There was a moment — it was brief, but it existed — where I didn’t hate Vanessa Borne in this match. She looked like a competent heel, getting in decent offense on Kairi Sane (who looks like she found her new gear in Summer Rae’s old locker). Even the corner spot, where Borne was trying to push Sane’s face into a turnbuckle, didn’t quite work, but I let it slide, because hey, it’s developmental, right?
Then, we got to the absolutely horrible finishing sequence which led to Kairi having to climb the top turnbuckle three goddamn times because Borne didn’t know what she was supposed to be doing. If you missed it, jump to 1:30 in the above video. Sane’s already hit Borne with her running elbow into the corner, and climbs the turnbuckle ostensibly to hit her flying elbow. But all of the sudden, Borne is up and walking toward her, meaning Kairi had to suddenly readjust in mid-air to fake a weird right jab which had zero contact.
The video ends there, but there was a second attempt at Kairi’s top-rope elbow which was again thwarted by Borne (though I think this is what they were trying to go for the first time) before Sane finally, mercifully ends the contest with her third top-rope elbow attempt, but not before hitting her with a double stomp in the tree of woe.
You almost had me, Vanessa — but I shook off my Stockholm Syndrome and saw the truth. Woof.
I’m besting this mainly for its unintended comedy: As Mauro Ranallo throws it to a Lacey Evans interview segment, he says, “We’re told she has a statement to make.” The first thing out of Evans’ mouth? “Excuse me, I have a statement to make.” Scripting, people!
Evans, playing her evil Southern debutante character, proceeds to call out three of NXT’s toughest women — Nikki Cross, Ember Moon and Kairi Sane — as well as one personal favorite in Dakota Kai, legitimately signing her own death wish in the process. (Nikki Cross is like the Candyman — if Evans would’ve said her name one more time, she would have apparated right behind her.) Weirdly, though, they’re starting Evans off against Kairi next week, which is an odd choice, unless we’re going to be seeing an upset.
Best: Apocalypse Please
We didn’t get a whole lot of Hossfest 2k18 before the match turned into a pose-off, but what we did get was two big-ass dudes slamming into each other at full velocity, which is pretty much the point of pro wrestling at its carny core.
But the real Best comes when every other participant in the North American championship ladder match wanders out — first Velveteen Dream, who can’t decide if he should jump on either big man or just stand on the turnbuckle and flex, then Adam Cole, who only knows how to say his catchphrase, then EC3 who is already getting monster pops from the crowd. And then, we get our very first in-ring appearance of Ricochet on NXT TV, complete with his theme song (which, eh) and entrance animation, which was kind of hilarious considering he was surrounded by five guys all looking to beat his ass. Like, dude, maybe pay a bit more attention to your surroundings before bouncing off the ropes?
Still, just seeing all six of these guys in the ring gets me hype as hell for this Saturday, because I expect a whooooole lotta fireworks. As for Adam Cole, I don’t know what they’re going to do with him: Having him compete in two matches is a babyface move, and that’s not what creative seems to be going for, but I highly doubt they’re pulling him out of this match — because frankly, he should win. He needs to win to legitimize himself as the leader of his faction.
Next Week: We get the TakeOver: New Orleans pre-show, featuring Kairi Sane vs. Lacey Evans and presumably a hot-as-hell crowd. See you then, as well as this weekend for TakeOver: New Orleans coverage!