Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE NXT: We went grunge (no, not that Grunge) as the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic began and the wrong team won. Surely, that won’t happen again this week, will it?
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for March 14, 2018. Reach out and touch faith.
Worst: Shake The Disease
In the first of two Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic first-round matches this week, Eric Young and Alexander Wolfe of SAnitY faced off against Tino Sabbatelli and Riddick Moss, henceforth known as the Platinum Lovers. And as with most Platinum Lovers matches, Moss sucked. Sabbatelli, however, looks so good and works so smoothly that he earns the “Tino sucks!” chant from the NXT crowd, mainly because dude is an Adonis.
The match itself was pretty rote; SAnitY was obviously going to win, but to be completely honest, I don’t recall if I’ve ever even seen that specific finishing move in their matches before. Is it weird that SAnitY only has a small handful of signature spots between the four of them? Furthermore, most of those signatures are the property of Killian Dain and Nikki Cross. EY and Wolfe just don’t have a lot happening for them right now. (Though I did laugh when EY nailed the Flair turnbuckle flip, which seemed to surprise even himself.)
So, yeah: Not a lot here, outside of Cross once again stealing the show and winning the crowd’s heart by taking Moss out on the outside. Can someone remind me why she’s still in developmental?
Last week, F*ckface Ciampa worked over the NXT audience for seven straight minutes without saying one word. It was an absolute thing of beauty. This week, the tables turn, as Ciampa wants to talk, and the crowd outright refuses to let him get a word in edgewise, drowning him out with not only boos, but plenty of “JOHNNY WRESTLING!” chants (this is the one time where I don’t mind the WWE production team influencing the product by passing out Gargano signs, as it made for a killer visual).
I love the way this is building. Ciampa clearly wants to spill his guts about why he did what he did to his former tag team partner (and former best friend!), but the crowd does not give a f*ck, and it’s only going to enrage him further — and eventually, he’ll get to take out on Gargano again. The crowd is feeding into his negative mindset and subsequently justifying his irrational betrayal. Brilliant stuff.
I don’t know how long this buildup can go on (I mean, we only have three more episodes of NXT until TakeOver: New Orleans, so let’s get this show on the road, Johnny), but it’s fun as hell to watch unfold.
Best: Everything Counts
For the second straight week, all of the women’s segments get smooshed into each other, but again, it was handled with a surprising amount of grace. We begin with Tomi Lahren’s favorite wrestler Lacey Evans squaring off against Dakota Kai, who she called out last week, and who continues to have a killer theme, a great look and zero offense in the ring, which is just the goddamn oddest thing to me. I mean, the girl can kick. But for whatever reason, she’s had her offense seriously throttled in NXT, including this match, which ends nearly right after it starts when she catches Evans with a surprise roll-up.
Then, all of the sudden, Shayna Baszler’s music hits, and the look of absolute fear on Kai’s face was damn-near perfect. Baszler’s beatdown gets interrupted before it starts thanks to a returning Ember Moon, who we haven’t seen on NXT TV for a month, since the last time she got the sh*t kicked out of her by Shayna. Moon answers Baszler’s TakeOver challenge and begins brawling with her immediately, getting an already hot crowd boiling over. And then, just as Baszler is about to take Moon’s arm out again, Dakota Kai comes out of nowhere to make the return save!
This ruled. Too often, mid-card wrestlers are treated like NPCs once the major players show up, so it’s great to see Kai get the rub by saving the champ (and re-signing her own death warrant, as I have to assume Shayna is going to pull her spinal column out of her body Mortal Kombat style before we get to TakeOver).
I was a little surprised they let Ember hit the Eclipse cleanly on Baszler (well, clean-ish, given she was recovering from Kai’s attack), and I was super-surprised Ember hit it one-handed, as sort of an ultimate f*ck you to Baszler. Ready or not, here she comes. TakeOver: New Orleans is gonna be good.
Worst: It’s No Good
Three words: Wrong team won. #IStillLoveYouBeefSquad
Best: Suffer Well
I originally thought this week’s episode of NXT was from a new set of tapings, so color me surprised when Bobby Fish walked out alongside Adam Cole, looking fresh as a daisy. If you missed the news, Fish blew out his knee and had surgery last week, putting a big ol’ question mark over both the NXT tag titles and the Dusty Rhodes Classic, as the winner of that tourney was supposed to face Fish and Kyle O’Reilly. But clearly, this episode was the final chunk of last month’s taping, and as such, didn’t address the elephant in the room. (Hopefully next week we find out what the heck is gonna happen.)
On the plus side, it feels like Pete Dunne is slowly being pushed out of the straight heel category and into a solid tweener that takes no shit from either side of the axis and welcomes a challenge from whoever is stupid enough to make one.
Early on in his match with Adam Cole, when he calmly climbed through the ropes and then smashed the hell out of Cole’s face with his forearm was so goddamn cool. Plus, after Roddy Strong rescued Dunne from a post-match beatdown and got beat down himself, Dunne reinserted himself to even the odds. Six months ago, Dunne was happily letting the Undisputed Era beat the piss out of Wolfgang, but now, he’s actually starting to care about his co-workers. Delightful!
I also am fully okay with the UK Championship becoming some sort of NXT TV Title, as it’s been defended on NXT TV more than any other belt in the company’s history. Obviously, I’ve seen the headlines around the internet for the past week and I know that this is not going to happen, but really, I’m just looking for any excuse to see Pete Dunne on my TV on a weekly basis that doesn’t involve him jobbing to Kalisto on 205 Live or something.
The match itself was good, and the Undisputed Era continue to recall the original nWo in their cockiness, cowardice and willingness to take a DQ loss if it means a post-match beatdown. I worry that what marginal momentum the Undisputed Era has built up is going to be derailed by Fish’s injury, though. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Best: Just Can’t Get Enough
I’m confused: I thought that when your champion no-shows a face-to-face confrontation with the No. 1 contender in the weeks leading up to a major event, the challenger is supposed to bitch and moan and break the fourth wall by going backstage and confronting the head of creative. So imagine my surprise when Aleister Black didn’t take a camera into gorilla and threaten Triple H but instead had the best, most natural promo of his career where he poked fun at Zelina Vega being too short to ride anything but the tamest roller coasters.
This was the most human Black has felt in his entire run, I’d say, and it didn’t feel out of place one bit. He wasn’t trying to make a bunch of Jim Halpert derp faces to the camera; he was just letting the scene unfold naturally and winding up his opponent in absentia, before sicing Candice LeRae on Vega in a delicious end to the segment and the show.
Next Week: The Road Path To WrestleMania TakeOver: New Orleans continues!