Like the Smackdown shirts, get it?
Previously on the Best and Worst of NXT: Io Shirai won a ladder match to guarantee her team the advantage that heel teams structurally have to get in order to make the War Games match work. Also Kay Lee Ray showed up, Aliyah got busted open due to [vague gesturing], and Angel Garza pulled off some breakaway pants to threaten a man’s wife and children.
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 November 20, 2019.
Raw And Smackdown Take Their Toll
If you’ve been reading the Best and Worst of Raw and Best and Worst of Friday Night Smackdown, you’ve already read enough about how the build to Survivor Series is one of the most depressing, regressive, and counter-productive times to be a here-every-week WWE fan.
The short version: every November WWE decides that watching Raw and Smackdown fight each other over who has the better show (despite the shows being identical in everything but length and primary color) is the most important thing in the world, and becomes the priority whether they’ve got something else going on or not. People who hate each other are suddenly pals because they wear the same color t-shirt (even though the draft that decided which brand they belong to was a month ago, making “brand loyalty” seem even more forced and awkward than usual). Stories and character development grind to a halt and everyone becomes interchangeable cogs you can’t even recognize due to their “uniforms” and the hacky production. Matches mostly stop having finishes because they need to use every square-inch of TV time for run-ins and invasions. It’s the pits, and now they’ve pulled NXT into it.
So the best thing we can do with this week’s episode of NXT is pretend it’s a sort of “Elseworlds” episode. Better yet, it’s like one of those old one-shot Impact Wrestling theme pay-per-views you could buy and watch if you wanted, but didn’t really have any bearing on the weekly show. Wrestlers who used to compete in NXT show up to play their hits. Everything ends in a run-in or a big Where’s Waldo brawl — where’s brawl-do? — to promote Survivor Series. The best thing I can say is that NXT only had to do one of these during the build, and didn’t have to spend a month doing the same non-episode over and over.
So Let’s See What Happens And Try Not Think About It Too Much*
The show opens with El Hombre Becky Lynch returning to Full Sail to call out Shayna Baszler and become the Faith to Candice LeRae’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Instead of Baszler she gets Rhea Ripley, and they decide to have a match with the Big Dick Energy you love from the NXT women’s division. It’s really good while it lasts, the crowd is super into it, and they could sincerely tear it up at some NXT TakeOver All-Star Game down the line. Wouldn’t it be awesome if WWE just treated Survivor Series like an All-Star Game, ran a bunch of cool matches you wouldn’t normally get to see, and didn’t ask you to take sides in a pro wrestling tees battle for literally nothing?
It ends, of course, with Shayna Baszler and the Lesser Horses attacking both women for the disqualification and getting r-u-n-n-o-f-t. Lynch and Ripley agreeing to a one-on-one match where they beat the shit out of each other for 10 minutes like 40 feet away from their MMA blood rival and her posse is a pretty dumb white-meat babyface thing to do, huh?
The same thing happens later in the show, with cosmetic modifications. Kay Lee Ray and Dakota Kai have a match, which Ray actually gets to win, because it’s Dakota Kai. Dakota Kai’s such a loser right now, Hot Chocolate just recorded a song called, ‘Everyone’s A Winner (Except You, Dakota).’ Anyway, as soon as the match is over, the Smackdown women’s roster show up and attack everyone like some drunken high school class that graduated a few years ago but can’t stop hanging around at school.
One thing I can say I liked about the NXT versions of the Raw and Smackdown “invasions” is that they limited it to people who used to be in NXT. You’d think those people would still have a nuanced understanding of the worth of NXT — at least Becky Lynch seemed to still be pro-NXT — when they were here not that long ago. The War Games teams and a smattering of Raw talent like Sarah Logan and Kairi Sane show up as well, and everybody fights.
- The showdown between Io Shirai and Kairi Sane made me happy, even if they did the same thing the battle royal from Dynamite did, where they tease a thing and then have it get interrupted by aimless clubbering so you don’t actually get excited to see it.
- The “Smackdown women’s division” here is Carmella, Dana Brooke, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, and Nikki Cross. I guess I can understand why those women hate NXT now, since none of them really did that well there.
- I hope Dakota Kai gets more opportunities to wrestle actual wrestling matches and not just be a total jobber, because she’s really good. Even Bayley had kinda gotten her shit together at this point in her run, though.
The most offensive of these matches is Matt Riddle vs. Ricochet, because it’s goddamn Matt Riddle vs. Ricochet and they still have to end it with a run-in. Sorry, like … three and a half run-ins. Two of the best wrestlers in the entire company get under four minutes, and it ends when two Smackdown guys get involved and Riddle scores a distraction roll-up. Looks like Raw and Smackdown really DID win the night. And then one of Riddle’s biggest enemies makes the save for him, because brand loyalty. And then Finn Bálor runs in, too! IT’S A REAL DONNYBROOK, FOLKS!
Don’t get me wrong, Riddle and Ricochet was about as good as a three-minute match can possibly be. It was kinda depressing to see Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro show up as “Smackdown guys” with bright blue shirts and FOX across their backs, but whatever. How good would Cesaro vs. Matt Riddle be in NXT? Holy shit. Or any combination of these four in front of an audience that actually wants to see them wrestle. Kinda wish the way wrestlers showed “brand supremacy” was through winning matches, instead of impromptu color-coded gang fights.
Ricochet’s springboard dive to the floor and into the crowd was clearly the highlight of choice, here. I like that they just filmed it, instead of cutting 12 times before it hit the ground. Oh, and I of course especially liked Kona Reeves getting ninja blasted during his entrance. Every Kona Reeves match should start like this. Stop putting your hood up just to put it down, Kona!
Finally you’ve got the main event: a ladder match between Adam Cole and Dominik Dijakovic to decide which team will have the advantage in War Games. Obviously Cole wins, because heels having the advantage in War Games is structurally crucial to the match working. You can’t have your babyfaces in there with a handicap match advantage the entire match, unless you’re planning to sneak up and lock them into those goofy little shark cages they have to hang out in on the stage. NXT really “tricks out” the War Games match unnecessarily. Get rid of the little personal pan cages, put a roof on the thing, don’t make it a match about jumping off high shit when you run ladder matches as often as you do. This can be different.
This one at least gets a clean finish, with Cole smashing Dijakovic in the face with the Money in the Bank briefcase (?) and causing him to fall onto a ladder bridge. I still think Dijak’s in cahoots with the Undisputed Era, but don’t quote me on that. Maybe the mysterious fourth member of Team Ciampa (cough Triple H cough cough cough cough cough, cough cough cough, oh my God I think I’m choking to death) will be the turncoat. Who knows. Regardless, the post-match celebration immediately devolves into another Raw vs. Smackdown vs. NXT thing, because half a dozen of those on a 2-hour episode isn’t nearly enough.
The post-match brawl is actually really entertaining for a hot minute, with Dijakovic doing a backflip to sell Drew McIntyre’s Claymore Kick and Keith Lee literally bouncing Drew with a Spirit Bomb. Lee and Warbeard Ivar do a tandem thicc dive to the outside, and that’s where the episode probably could’ve ended. But then professional ruiner Seth Rollins and his inflamed nasal cavity show up to attack Cole.
I just wanna point out how endlessly funny it is that Seth Rollins is objectively one of the better in-ring performers in the world, has more NXT street cred than any man walking the Earth as its first-ever NXT Champion, has enough WWE main roster cred that him showing up at Full Sail should’ve been the equivalent of John Cena’s music hitting, and is attacking the brand’s top heel (Adam Cole), but is still so dorky right now that they practically boo him out of the building. People like chanting “burn it down,” sure, but everything before and after that is boos. Which is super sad, because, like, compare and contrast it with the time he showed up at NXT TakeOver San Antonio. CRAZY cheers. What went wrong? Should Seth have shown everyone his ATM receipt before he did the run-in?
As a quick side note, huge +1 to Ciampa for being the only guy on any brand who remembers his character motivations and isn’t completely brainwashed by those t-shirts.
Best: Tag Team Wrestling 👏 👏 👏-👏-👏
The selling point of this episode for anyone who likes watching wrestling more than “seeing wrestlers” is the tag team matches.
Raw Tag Team Champions War Machine The War Raiders The Viking Experience The Viking Raiders show up to battle the Forgotten Sons, continuing their Monday Night Raw gimmick of only fighting teams at the very bottom of the rankings. It’s fine, if you like either team. I spent most of it wondering how much the NWA wishes they had Gunner on their roster. Oh, and I’m happy that The Viking Raiders are back in NXT where people are allowed to chant “war!” to their music, as intended.
The better of the two, obviously, is The Undisputed Era versus The Revival, aka “two of the best teams in NXT history doing their thing for 25 glorious minutes. This felt like a big, bright, shiny apology in the middle of an otherwise creatively bankrupt episode.
The best thing about it (besides half an hour of tag team wrestling) is that it served as a reminder of The Revival’s brilliance. I knew I loved these guys for a reason. It’s been hard to remember, though, given how Raw and Smackdown treat tag teams, much less how they treat tag teams of guys without outlandish gimmicks. If you wear Skyrim costumes or throw pancakes at people, you’re good. If your gimmick is that you like wrestling and are good at it, go jerk off in a lake. The Revival eased right back into half-hour tag clinics like it was nothing, even switching up their normal heel control to work as (basically) babyfaces against TUE. I miss when they got to build their matches based on timing, teamwork, and a deep and observable history of competition instead of accidentally rubbing WWE-branded Icy Hot on their balls and scooting around on the floor like dogs. Remember that? Remember how cool it is to see great wrestling matches instead of eight minutes of totally forgettable bullshit with a five-minute commercial break replacing the parts you’d have to pay attention to?
Just stay, guys. Please? I wanna see you wrestle the Young Bucks, too, but I’d rather see you here, where you’re truly the top guys.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
I gotta comment on this though. Something seems wrong about former NXT members/alumni, NXT call-ups, dissing NXT and going to war against NXT. It’s like Tom Brady dissing Michigan. You’re dissing your college/alma mater
Appropriate that Seth and Moxley ended their respective shows. The Shield still Reigns!
So if Wilder and Dawson have a feud that cools off and then they start it up again, would it be a Revivalry?
The Voice of Raisin
You’d think wrestlers would meet on Match, but I heard Adam Cole met Britt on OKCuspid.
My dream is to see Becky Lynch show up one night only on AEW to fight Britt Baker just so we can have a match between the Dentist and Ginger-vitis
Finn, Cesaro, and Shinsuke invading NXT is like Bruce Springsteen invading New Jersey.
Full Sail booing Becky Lynch is like saying your favorite indie band sold out when they find commercial success.
The Real Birdman
I’m guessing Shorty G didn’t show up to NXT as he probably would’ve handcuffed himself to the ring & never left
Whew. Okay. Down to just one more pull apart brawl for pretend brand supremacy. We got this.
I was kind of more excited for NXT this weekend but HHH’s desperate plea to tune into NxT this week has given me a weird feeling of power over him that I’ve longed for since 1999 so I’m all AEW tonight
Poppy plus War Games plus William Regal shouting WHOA GAMES~? Now you’re just trolling me.
Thanks for reading this week’s Best and Worst of NXT. Drop a comment down below to let us know what you thought of the episode, pledge your dying allegiance to whichever brand of WWE-owned sports-entertainment content® you bought a t-shirt for, and give the column a share on social to help us out. And hey, make sure you’re here this weekend for NXT TakeOver: War Games, featuring only ONE match with anything to do with Survivor Series!
Be here for Survivor Series too, I guess? I don’t know. See you sometime!