Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE NXT: Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne defeated the Grizzled Young Veterans to win the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournament, and Shotzi Blackheart went Full Rusev.
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 February 5, 2020.
Best: It’s A Thing Now
This week’s bro-fessional wrestling show opens with Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne driving to the ring in a Broserweights-themed golf cart* with fireworks and the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic trophy on the back. It’s a thing now. You’ve got to love Matt Riddle showing up in dress clothes with his shirt tucked in and wearing a tie but still not wearing any shoes. I love these guys together, but the more they interact, the more I’m sure Pete’s eventually going to realize he’s become the straight-man sidekick who drives around in a stoner Von Erich’s customized Rascal and break Riddle’s fingers.
They get interrupted by the Undisputed Era, and Kyle O’Reilly continues being my low key favorite wrestler by calling them “Matthew Riddell” and “Peter Dune.” Did Pete Dune get Matt Riddell hooked on the spice? UE wants revenge on the Broserweights for a fake reason (disrespecting the legacy of the Dusty Classic, which they previously represented with a T-ball participation trophy) and a real one (they didn’t make it to the finals of the tournament themselves, and are scared that this singles stars Super Team is going to take their championship at TakeOver Portland). Bobby Fish makes the critical error of saying the word “fish” before he leaves, which prompts Riddle to obsess about how a guy named Fish said “fish,” which he finds hilarious. He sings a dorky song about it. Matt Riddle is basically Rob Van Dam if he was into sativa instead of indica.
*They call it the “Broserweightmobile,” but I would’ve called it the “Mattbrobile.”
Having been gently humiliated due to Riddle’s tomfishery, Undisputed Era spends most of the next hour wandering around backstage, looking for Tommaso Ciampa and bullying anyone they come across. This includes assaulting NPCs, interrupting the civilian haircuts that go on backstage at like 8:30 at night during a live wrestling show ( … wait, what), and attacking KUSHIDA and Bronson Reed. One of those things is gonna get them Hoverlocked a lot harder than the others.
Eventually Ciampa materializes from the back of an 18-wheeler and initiates a brawl that finds its way back into the arena and gets Riddle and Dunne involved. To settle the matter, William Regal shows up and books all six men in –
[shuffles papers] Sorry, no, he books them in a six-man tag team match for the night’s main event. I guess before this brawl randomly happened, the scheduled main event for NXT was Jordan Devlin in a non-title match. Either that, or a really dope Forgotten Sons vs. Boa and Kona Reeves* tag team main event got bumped for time.
*tag team name, “Bona.”
Tag team main events born from a brawl earlier in the show rarely end well for anyone, so of course even the NXT version ends with a random disqualification like 14 minutes in. I always go back and forth on how I feel about that. I get why they do it and how well it works when you’re doing a random six-man tag or whatever and want to keep everything feeling inconclusive to build to the more important matches later. And even though I like watching 14 minutes of wrestling for the sake of wrestling more than most, I get disappointed that the finish is just, “everybody stop wrestling now,” and the quarter-hour of plotting doesn’t go anywhere and just kinda dissipates into the ether. But then I come back around to remembering that’s the point, and that I’m supposed to hate Roderick Strong for doing that to me and want to see him get his ass kicked. It’s hard being a jabroni mark who works himself into a shoot.
Anyway, Roderick Strong hops into the ring and knees Ciampa in the face to keep him from Fairy Tale Ending Adam Cole. Undisputed Era uses their 4-on-3 advantage to beat down the faces (who really should’ve considered bringing a fourth guy to stand at ringside and help them run interference against the four-man team), and Mauro screams
AH MAH GAHD
into the microphone about it all. That’s when the mysterious 2-5-20 mystery that has captivated the wrestling business for a few hours during one week pops up on the screen, and heralds the immediate return of The Velveteen By God Dream.
It’s great to have the Dream back, but I mostly want to point out for anyone who didn’t notice (because the camera and announce team didn’t do a great job of getting it across) is that Dream dramatically revealed a parody of his “call me up, Vince” gear that goes full-on Ravishing Rick Rude with airbrushed portraits of Roderick Strong’s wife and kid on his leg. The butt reads, “call me up, Marina.” I am DYING at the family portrait:
Best: Charlotte Flair Gets What She Deserves
You know, Charlotte Flair plays the entitled, “genetically superior” character on the WWE main roster, and everyone from Raw and Smackdown kind of enables it. She can punk out pretty much anyone she wants, and even Becky Lynch is portrayed less as an equal and more of a kind of Bugs Bunny that mostly hangs around and aggravates her. She can be like, “also *I* am in the main event of WrestleMania,” and everyone’s like, “yes ma’am.” When Rhea Ripley showed up on Raw and pressured her to use her Royal Rumble victory to challenge for the NXT Women’s Championship, Flair just kind of left without addressing it, and then later there was a big fancy CHARLOTTE FLAIR RETURNS TO FULL SAIL THIS WEDNESDAY TO ADDRESS RIPLEY’S CHALLENGE. It’s all built around Charlotte’s comfort and preferences.
So as a longtime fan of NXT — and as someone who was watching when Flair debuted as a green-as-goose-shit gymnast and slowly grew into the confident “Queen” she is today — it did my heart good to see Charlotte stroll back into Full Sail with a casino full of chips on her shoulder, openly and egregiously disrespect Bianca Belair on a number of levels, and get her ass kicked about it. Ripley might be the biggest pure babyface in the promotion right now, Flair 100% inherited her dad’s ability to make a wrestling crowd want to see her get got, and I could watch Belair angrily react to Flair’s Lacey Evans-ass attitudes all day:
Part of me really hopes that Charlotte ends up getting ceremoniously added to the NXT Women’s Championship match at TakeOver Portland. It’d be so perfect for her character. Part of me also hopes that she wins at TakeOver Portland, becomes the NXT Women’s Champion again (if only to piss off Shayna Two-Time), and then loses it back to Ripley at WrestleMania. That’d be a hell of a story, and would allow the yellow brand to connect two eras and contribute an engaging women’s wrestling story that Charlotte’s probably not gonna get otherwise.
Also, I hope Bianca throws Charlotte into the sky like she’s Team Rocket, blasting off again.
Best: Surprise! The Cruiserweights Shined
205 Live has felt more like a forgotten content graveyard than a show since the Cruiserweight Championship was integrated into NXT and all the remaining cruiserweights were moved over, but Tyler Breeze has been a high point. Since Fandango can’t seem to stay healthy and had to get Tommy John surgery on his elbow, Breeze was forced to once again pivot his entire career momentum and go back to being a singles star. He’s great, though — considerably better in the ring than I think anyone actually realizes, on top of being arguably Full Sail NXT’s first great “character” — so he’s made the most of it.
Here, he goes up against new Cruiserweight Champion Jordan Devlin in a competitive match that gets 15 whole minutes (!!) and pushes the champ to his limits. It’s the great combination of a guy with a ton of momentum (Devlin) and a guy starving for opportunity (Breeze), and this was good enough to elevate them both. Breeze was never going to win, and I don’t think anyone really believed he would, but he got as close to suspending our disbelief as he could without making the whole thing feel ridiculous. In a perfect world, Breeze would go to NXT UK for a while with the excuse that he’s there for Paris Fashion Week or something and really dig back into his character. “Scrappy underdog everyman” and “narcissistic model” aren’t really congruent.
I swear, nobody in wrestling does a better superkick than Tyler Breeze. I miss his car wash flap boots, as they really made that move pop, but it still looks brilliant. Bonus points for him using the Lance Storm single-leg crab as part of his regular moveset now. Double bonus points for the finish of this match revolving around wrist control. Did NXT sign Gedo when I wasn’t paying attention?
In other cruiserweight news, former Cruiserweight Champion and current Raw Superstar All Of A Sudden Angel Garza goes one-on-one with Isaiah ‘Swerve’ Scott in an 11-minute show opener that gave Scott plenty of time to shine, but reminded us that Garza’s one of the most important characters on the show(s) right now. That happened quick, didn’t it? I know we said he was the one who would actually break out from the Breakout Tournament, but we just blinked, and there it was. Dude arrived fully formed and ready to go.
I hope we can get some character work from Swerve soon. His NXT character hasn’t even really been explained yet beyond, “he is a cool wrestler.” I’m not asking for them to turn him into, say, a former sniper who abandoned his squad during the war and now wears a mask to hide his shame as he’s being hunted by ghosts from his past or whatever, I just wanna be able to assign some character traits to him in my brain. Even Cameron Grimes got “aggressive hillbilly” and “owns a hat.”
BEST: Poison The Family, Make The Children Cry
They’re anthems that will be PERFORMED LIVE at #NXTTakeOver: Portland!!
— Triple H (@TripleH) February 4, 2020
Few things make me as happy as Poppy being NXT’s answer to Flo Rida. Poppy and NXT being best friends is the most absurd and wonderful intersection of my interests, and probably won’t be topped unless, like, Cody and Dustin Rhodes open the next episode of Dynamite by announcing George R.R. Martin’s finally finished The Winds of Winter.
ATTN NXT: If you have Poppy make her second live appearance on NXT and don’t have her meet the Velveteen Dream this time, I swear to God. Just give me this. LET THIS BE MY LEGACY.
Best: Bobby Wrestling
I honestly can’t decide which talking point from this I like more; Finn Bálor not giving a shit about having the “match of the year” because match quality is completely irrelevant when you consider the universe of a wrestling show is built on an already unstable foundation of the audience going along with it being “real” whether it is or not, or Johnny Gargano taking the world’s most hilarious shit on Finn’s chest by saying he wants NXT Finn Bálor, not Raw and Smackdown Finn Bálor, the guy who, “lost to Bobby Lashley like 17 weeks in a row.” NXT promos should be centered around how specifically terrible Raw and Smackdown are and cite observable evidence that proves it until someone who’d be offended by that finally wakes the fuck up and tries harder to write good shows.
But yeah, John Wrestling vs. Prince Bálor is gonna be a trip at TakeOver Portland. I’m in love with Bálor’s current level of aggression in the ring — it reminds me of Chris Benoit in all the good ways that cursed description can still mean — and I think some of Johnny’s worst in-ring tendencies were beaten out of him in that overkill fiesta at TakeOver Toronto. Can’t wait to see what they put together. What’re the chances they get bold and have Finn steamroll Johnny and have him beat the guy who kicks out of everything in like 40 seconds? That would be a huge, compelling paradigm shift.
(Not like that. That’s the wrong long-time main roster depressive whose career is an ongoing illustration of how badly WWE misunderstands what the medium they monopolized is capable of from both an action and a storytelling point of view.)
Best: Mercedes Martinez, The Mercedes Of Women’s Wrestlers
- Mercedes Martinez is officially a WWE Superstar, which is long overdue, and follows up her appearance in the women’s Royal Rumble match by arriving at Full Sail and kicking the crap out of somebody half her size. She’s got kind of a Damian Priest vibe right now in the way she moves around the ring and hits her offense. Long story short, a wrestling show with Mercedes Martinez on it is better than one without her, and I’m hype to see her build up enough momentum to go nose-to-nose with Baszler, Ripley, and anyone else at her level in a WWE ring.
- Kacy Catanzaro is also back, which is good to see. She stepped away from the business last September and the general consensus is that she’d had a bad injury scare and was retired. I’m happy that’s not the case, because she’s got too tremendous an upside to abandon this early in the game. If nothing else, she has to stick around long enough for the inevitable NXT vs. AEW supercard and face Marko Stunt in the first-ever intergender WeeLC.
Best: Killian Me Softly
Finally, can I say again how much I appreciate that NXT signed some big dudes and now has an actual, functioning heavyweight division? It was going to be really weird if they absorbed the Cruiserweight Championship and then never addressed the fact that literally the entire roster is under 205 pounds. Keith Lee, Damian Priest, Killian Dain, and Dominik Dijakovic are doing great work reminding wrestling audiences that spectacularly large heavyweights were once a special attraction on shows, and not the norm. In a changing world where even the sons of famous wrestlers show up with their mothers’ height and build, a refocus on heavies as special events (instead of small guys as some kind of “different” attraction) is key. There are only so many Brocks Lesnar left in the world, you know?
Dijakovic continues building momentum™ with big wins over big opponents as he heads into an NXT TakeOver: Portland match for the North American Championship against the other half of his dyad, Keith Lee. We’ve been asking for a Lee vs. Dijak TakeOver match since the first time they went one-on-one in NXT, and now we’re finally gonna get it. I really hope they make the right call and have that main event. Nothing’s going to top that.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
The Real Birdman
*Dream tears his pants off*
Beth: “Oh boy, here we go again!!”
there is something poetic about Bianca Belair wearing a melanin shirt giving the stink eye to Charlotte Flair
You know babyfaces making stupid jokes is usually annoying, but when you establish that the character is an idiot stoner it plays way better
I love how the main roster debuff is now cannon on NXT
Dave M J
DO DREAM’S TIGHTS SERIOUSLY HAVE HIM AND MARINA SHAFIR AND ROD’S KID ON THEM?!
HHH is wondering why AEW keeps pronouncing “R Evolution” incorrectly.
Did Beth just pronounce Mercedes as “Mar-see-deez”? I’m surprised Nigel didn’t whisper “nutz” when she finished
Baron Von Raschke
Legit LOL at
Mauro [SCREAMING]: WHAT DOES GARZA HAVE?!?!
Nigel [calmly]: It’s just his pants.
Mauro: LIKE RANDY ORTON, JORDAN DEVLIN IS PUSHING TYLER BREEZE TO THE EDGE!!!
When my friends wanna go to another party and I just wanna go home
That’s it for this week’s Best and Worst of NXT. TakeOver Portland is so close.
Until then, make sure to drop down into our comments section and let us know what you thought of the episode. If you liked or laughed at anything in here, give us a share on social media and go vote for us for Best Wrestling Media in the RSPW Awards. See you next week!