Previously on the Best and Worst of NXT: Scott Heisel reprised his role as Best and Worst of NXT scribe for a number one contender battle royal, a Time Splitters reunion in a Dusty Rhodes-themed tag team tournament, and Keith Lee pouncing people into the bushes. I really missed two shows tailor made for me, huh?
If you’d like to read previous installments of the Best and Worst of NXT, you can do that here. Follow With Spandex on Twitter and Facebook. You can also follow me on Twitter, where everything and everyone is terrible.
And now, the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for January 22, 2020.
Best: What Happens When You Try To Step To The Top Talent In The Promotion
This week’s show features two examples of why it’s a bad idea for low-level NXT talent to puff up their chests and try to go toe-to-toe with the people at the top. One thing I really love about NXT’s television presentation is that they keep a lot of matches competitive, even when it’s promoted talent vs. “local talent” or whatever, but there’s also a clearly identifiable tier list at play. If you tip the scales too quickly or too aggressively, you’re gonna get got.
The first example is Shotzi Blackheart, a ballsy™ newcomer who managed to eliminate Shayna Two-Time from last week’s number one contender battle royal. Those are the rules of a battle royal, after all. She didn’t do anything wrong by trying to win the match, but she did something very wrong by eliminating Shayna Baszler during step one of her proposed return to the top. This week, Shotzi goes into a one-on-one match with Baszler with a little too much confidence and gets her whole throat smushed because of it. She does well, lasting about six minutes with the former champ and getting in some offense, but ends up stupidly jumping back and neck first into the woman who latches herself onto people’s backs and squeezes them in the neck. GIRL, DO YOUR HOMEWORK.
As an added bonus, Baszler holds the Kirifuda Clutch in long after the match is over to ensure that Shotzi Blackheart is now a dead person who will never think to eliminate her from a battle royal again. Sometimes you’ve gotta handle these situations one person at a time.
Faring far, far worse is Joaquin Wilde, who shows up looking like Bird Person — Joaquin Phoenix Person? — to wrestle a pissed off Finn Bálor. Bálor proceeds to stomp the ever-loving shit out of him, giving him zero offense and shutting him down completely for two minutes. I love a competitive, high-flying match as much as the next guy, but at some point you’ve gotta let your Prince Finn Bálor take a guy who is not Finn Bálor to the fuckin’ woodshed. Loved this.
Never be afraid to firmly establish that tier list. I think one of the big problems we’ve had with WWE TV over the past decade-plus is how much they want everyone to be over, so nobody ends up over. It’s all half measures and stutter-starts until guys like Braun Strowman, who were once the hottest act in your company, are interchangeable with, say, Erick Rowan. Sami Zayn is just Shinsuke Nakamura is just Dolph Ziggler is just King Corbin is just Bobby Roode. They want “WWE” to be the draw, not any specific performer, so nobody ends up being a draw. It’s the trigger shyness of a company that lost The Rock and John Cena to Hollywood in consecutive decades, I guess.
Best: The Dusty Classic Continues
First of all, can I say how disappointed I am that the Time Splitters came and went, and that I’m probably not going to get a chance to talk about them? I thought for sure they’d set up KUSHIDA and Alex Shelley against Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish in round two, just for the history of it all, but nope, they eschewed that completely.
Here’s Undisputed Era versus the Grizzled Young Veterans, with Imperium showing up to pull the Main Roster Memorial Music Distraction. It works, somehow, and the GYV are able to put O’Reilly away with Ticket To Mayhem. As a quick side note, I’d like to say how thankful I am that Nigel McGuinness does color commentary on NXT Domestic, because NXT UK is full of ridiculous move names that sound full-on absurd when Vic Joseph or Mauro Ranallo say them. Nigel’s a rare kind of talent who can yell “GRIT YOUR TEETH” or “DON’T LOOK DOWN” or “STUNDOG MILLIONAIRE” and not sound like a fool. Okay, maybe not that last one.
Surprisingly, they don’t have Undisputed Era pull a “what’s good for the goose is good for the OTHER GOOSE” deal and show up to cost Imperium their match against the Broserweights. Probably because they know Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne are a truly unfair pairing of singles stars who are gonna waltz to the finals of the tournament no matter who they face. Those guys are just too good. Putting them together as a tag team is borderline unfair to everyone else in the same way it was when Samoa Joe and Finn Bálor teamed in the first Dusty Classic. It takes them a competitive 14 minutes, but Dunne and Riddle are able to skunk NXT UK’s best squad and pin them clean with a tandem finisher. It was good, but it is what it is.
So that gives us The Broserweights vs. Grizzled Young Veterans in the finals of the Dusty Classic. Drake and Gibson show up to talk some shit after the match, making fun of Riddle and Dunne by using their unofficial team name, “Joint Manipulation.” +1 to Riddle for not getting the joke and totally no-selling it to talk about drugs, and an even bigger +1 to Dan Weiner for predicting this team and this joke a year and a half ago.
The Dusty always delivers good tag team wrestling, even if the latter semi-finals match was a lot stronger than the former. I sure wish we could’ve gotten that dream rematch and left out some of the distraction stuff, but it gets us to a Worlds Collide-flavored Dusty finals between an NXT UK team and one from NXT Domestic. It even keeps Imperium free for the Worlds Collide 8-man tag against Undisputed Era, so it’s super weird they’re not actually doing it at Worlds Collide. They’re running it on next week’s TV instead.
Worst (With A Lot Of Best): Running 11 Minutes Of A Mae Young Classic Finals Rematch Only To End It In A Run-In DQ
Keep in mind that’s purely from a fan perspective. I get why they did it; to further the issues and complexities of the stacked NXT women’s division, put heat on Bianca Belair for doing something extremely anti-fan, mix up Belair with the woman challenging for the NXT Women’s Championship on Saturday, and make sure nobody loses. Still, that doesn’t mean I’m happy to see it. 11 minutes of Io Shirai vs. Toni Storm is not enough. Those matches deserve all the time and spotlight they want, especially since there was no Mae Young Classic last year and we’re presumably never getting another Evolution.
Toni getting booed for putting her hands on the NXT (sex non-specific?) Championship was pretty funny, though. It goes to show how prestigious that thing is, and how much babyface good will Rhea Ripley got from ending Shayna Baszler’s run.
Best (With Only A Little Worst): Keith Hope Alive
Finally we have our main event, in which Keith By God Lee finally picks up Stamina Monster Roderick Strong and throws him at the ground enough to win the North American Championship.
Lee wins the match, which brings up an important question: should Lee be challenging for the North American Championship? He’s got to be the most red hot act in the company right now, with a big showcase moment at Survivor Series and a viral GIF or four in practically every match he’s been in for months. Should he be challenging for the secondary championship? It’s Keith Lee, man. I know NXT seems set on doing Adam Cole vs. Tommaso Ciampa on top, and yeah, that’d be fantastic too, but you might also want to consider pulling the trigger on this Keith thing while it’s happening. Maybe they’ll have Cole cost Lee the match with Strong, and then have Lee decide he wants Goldie instead?
I guess we’re going to have the, “should Lee be North American Champion instead of NXT Champion?” question answered for us in real-time. The timing seems odd heading into WrestleMania season, especially since Lee’s one of the names predicted by most folks to show up in the Royal Rumble, and is both CM Punk and Tommaso Ciampa’s fantasy booked choices to win. I’m happy as hell for Keith, and I hope his momentum continues upward, but I hope this isn’t intended to be a cool-down measure. Sometimes secondary championship wins for super hot acts feel more like consolation prizes than they should. Who knows? Maybe they just wanted Keith to have a championship when he shows up to eliminate Brock Lesnar in the Royal Rumble. Maybe TakeOver Tampa Bay will end with Lee holding TWO belts over his head, Daniel Bryan style. Maybe maybe.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
How excited am I for NXT tonight? STRONG-LEE excited!
Mauro: a little too excited about Imperium losing
Dave M J
The Undisputed Era has basically been the slimiest of slimeball heels since inception. They’re working face in this match.
Still more believable than Lacey Evans.
Power to Nigel and Mauro, coming back week after week despite all of their near-Beth experiences.
Baron Von Raschke
LIKE THE PIKE PLACE MARKET, A HOT TAG TO BOBBY BRINGS IN FRESH FISH!
Toni Storm is fighting Io Shirai on Wednesday and Rhea Ripley on Saturday? What will she do to relax? Play the Turbo Tunnel level in Battletoads?
Wow that chop winded ME
Joaquin Wilde is The Good Place’s Jason Mendoza as a wrestler, down to the fact that everything he’s doing is second to his shitty DJ career.
Holy balls, Mauro. The 90s ended 20 years ago and we’re still name checking Tag Team and Naughty by Nature.
There’s 2 kinds of people
people who love Matt Riddle
Walters CHOP plus Adam Coles selling = 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/I6yvPlbsV7
— TWC – #BigDaddyCiampa – #BITW (@TheWrestlingCov) January 23, 2020
Before we go, take a minute to enjoy WALTER pushing Adam Cole’s astral form out of his physical form with a chop during the post-main-event Imperium vs. Undisputed Era brawl. I couldn’t just GIF this, I needed you to be able to hear it. Although after that chop, I’m pretty sure you’d even be able to hear a GIF.
That’s it for this week’s Best and Worst of NXT. Thanks as always for reading. Drop down into our comments to let us know what you though of the show, give us a share on social media to be a bro (…bro), and make sure you’re here this weekend for our Worlds Collide and Royal Rumble coverage. It’s gonna be an NXT-flavored weekend again.