Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE NXT: We officially said goodbye to Ruby Riott and Sonya Deville, and hello to a new NXT Champion who is apparently unable to string two sentences together. Exciting times!
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for December 13, 2017. Here’s the story, so far.
Best: Face Value
Hello, and welcome to the first-ever episode of NXT to air on cable TV! If you’re someone who randomly landed on the show while looking for a Chrisley Knows Best marathon on USA last night and ended up here to see what the fuss is about: Welcome to the NXT Universe, where our men’s champion is managed by a time traveler, our women’s champion is a sexy werewolf warrior and our tag champs definitely huff jet fuel in their spare time. Also, steaks and weights are of tantamount importance, but sadly, not tonight.
Onto the opening bout! An immediate Best is awarded for not putting a microphone anywhere near Andrade “Cien” Almas, but the whole segment was great, giving Fabian Aichner another chance to really shine as the babyface. Aichner brought it to Almas early and often, hitting his bonkers springboard plancha to the ramp pretty much immediately, sending the champ for a loop, and connecting with more top rope offense a second time before finally getting caught a third time on the top turnbuckle, after which Almas knocks him to the outside, throws him into the stairs and hammerlock DDTs him for the win.
Fabian Aichner appears to be on a similar track as Oney Lorcan in NXT: He is a no-nonsense babyface who has a ton of awesome moves and looks good while doing them, and even though you assume he is there to look at the lights, his matches are intense. He brought the house down against Kassius Ohno in September, then he did it again with Johnny Gargano last month.
The most important value a face has is believability — if I can’t believe he can beat his opponent, why would I watch? It seems like he’s able to talk, too, so don’t be surprised if he gets the spotlight shone on him more and more in the coming months (because they’re gonna need to make some new stars fast before the inevitable post-WrestleMania talent raid happens).
Clearly, there’s no real plan for Authors Of Pain right now, but in terms of placeholder matches, this squash against Oney Lorcan and Jason Statham Danny Burch is the best use of their time. The baldies dish out some intense chops to get the crowd hot quickly while the baddies literally attempt to murder them. (I’m still not convinced that Lorcan’s spinal column wasn’t severed when Akam death valley drivered him into the bottom turnbuckle — holy f*ck that looked like it hurt.) The match was quick and effective: The losers looked good, while the winners looked great.
Best: High Regard
Three words I never expected to type when I took over this column 10 months ago: Alexander Wolfe forever.
Worst: What You Don’t See
If you only watched NXT on USA tonight, you may have come away feeling like the episode was a bit shorter than usual. I know I felt that way, at least. So when I went to trawl WWE’s social media for video clips of tonight’s show, I was legitimately shocked to see that there was an entire 10-minute segment of tonight’s episode cut from USA’s broadcast – and even worse, it was the segment that featured the Iconic Duo! Talk about dropping the ball, guys.
The match itself — Peyton Royce vs. Ember Moon — was good but over too quickly, with Moon coming out on top. This led to a post-match beatdown from Billie Kay and a surprising save from Nikki Cross, with the crowd eating the whole thing up. It would’ve made great TV. Too bad it didn’t make TV. (You can watch the segment on WWE Network here — it starts around the 17-minute mark.)
Worst: All Wrong
Last week, we get a mysterious vignette about someone debuting soon. And yeah, the vignette played heavily on spade imagery, and yeah, Shayna Baszler had spades all over her gear during the Mae Young Classic, but I figured there was no way NXT would be running mysterious vignettes for someone who has literally already competed for WWE and placed second in their historic women’s tournament (and did so by wrestling in front of 10,000 or so fans in a very high-profile match).
I’m sure to some, this is just being nitpicky, but it’s really sticking in my craw. You only have so much TV time a week. Why even tease Baszler last week? Just run the above vignette and get to the point. It accomplishes the same thing, without wasting your audience’s time.
(Baszler vs. Ember Moon at TakeOver: New Orleans should be tight, though.)
Worst: Heavy Gloom
I’m hype for the Adam Cole/Aleister Black match next week, and for the Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish vs. SAnitY tag title match in two weeks, too, because coming off their WarGames win, you have to figure Ring Of Dishonor is going to actually go on a legitimate winning streak in matches of consequence.
Shows what I know, apparently. The Full Sail audience was super-into this match toward the end, but it just never clicked with me. Maybe it was the five times — five times — we got Adam Cole’s “BAY BAY!” call in 10 minutes. It’s like someone’s cat was sitting on an unattended Xbox controller and smooshing the taunt button by accident in 2K18. This is going to get more annoying than Bobby Roode’s “GLORIOUS!” and fast.
But yeah, as much as I love Ali Black — and I thought he was awesome in this, especially his fireup after Cole “BAY BAY”ed right in his face — I am legitimately shocked he beat Cole clean here. So much for that WarGames rub. How are you gonna be the leader of a faction called the Undisputed Era and not even be in the hunt for a title shot? Like, you won WarGames and you can’t win a normal singles match afterward? Bizarre. I wonder how much of this is because of Drew McIntyre’s injury changing storylines.
Not to get into annoying neckbeard fantasy booking, but why not have Fish and O’Reilly interfere to give their leader the win and give Black someone to have a vendetta against for the next cycle? Then, assuming TUE wins the tag titles next week, it could make Black form an unlikely tag team with Velveteen Dream to try and exact revenge (which could lead to Dream turning on him, and the feud being extended).
We now have three-fourths of our No. 1 contender fatal four-way confirmed: Johnny Gargano, Killian Dain and Aleister Black. We won’t find out the last person advancing for another two weeks, but it’s either gonna be Roderick Strong or Lars Sullivan, so place your bets now.
Next Week: We get two title defenses, as Pete Dunne puts up the U.K. Championship against Tyler Bate, while SAnitY goes against Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly. Let’s see who tries hard, real hard, everyday not to lose their temper.