Previously on the Best and Worst of NXT: Matt Riddle earned an NXT Championship match against Adam Cole, Keith Lee evened up his series with Dominick Dijakovic to 1-1-1, and Dakota Kai finally returned from injury.
If you’d like to read previous installments of the Best and Worst of NXT, click right 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 October 2, 2019.
Best: NXT TakeOver Counter-Programming
Let’s say for a moment that you’re Triple H. Loved you in The Chaperone. Do you still keep in touch with Ariel Winter?
But no, let’s say you’re Triple H. All Elite Wrestling’s new 2-hour live show is debuting on TNT on “your” night of the wrestling week, on the network that used to be home to your greatest military rival. You know they’re going to open strong, and have newness and curiosity on their side. Your show debuted two weeks earlier to get the jump on them, but got literally halved by all-new episodes of Suits. What do you do to make sure you “win” the night?
How about Adam Cole and Matt Riddle for the NXT Championship, where they go full NXT TakeOver and throw bombs at each other for 14 brilliant minutes? And then you bring back one of the most popular stars in the history of your brand? Would that work?
That’s how this week’s episode starts. I’m anxious for NXT to stop throwing TakeOvers at us every week and get back to normal week-to-week storytelling involving the characters who aren’t at the tippy-top of the card, but I guess there’ll be a time for that, and I’m definitely not complaining. Adam Cole is objectively NXT’s top guy — check the golden cummerbund at the center of his faction-wide prophecy — and he’s in there against a guy who might super secretly be the best in-ring guy on the roster right now. I know Matt Riddle’s style and persona aren’t for everybody, but holy shit does he rule in the ring. He’s KILLING it every single time out, and his offense is unique and signature enough to feel different from the rest of the roster. He’s a stoned MMA murder robot in hot pants and sandals. I could watch him wrestle for two straight hours.
The final five or so minutes of this were as good as it gets, with a molten crowd and a reportedly legitimate injury to the champion adding to the drama. If Adam Cole adds an Iron Mike Sharpe-style forever-cast to his image he might actually catch Vince McMahon’s attention. Cole, being Cole, fights the good fight but only wins when he takes an opportunistic shot with the cast hand and follows up with the Last Shot. SUPER hot, in every definition. The rest of the show was good-to-great, but this was a gem.
And then, uh …
Here’s something I’m pretty sure none of us expected: the Full Sail return of NXT’s longest reigning champion, Finn Bálor, with full-on Trainspotting character energy and an understated fear of a shadow clown showing up from the darkness and gargle-fingering him to death. I love Finn getting dunked on by The Demon Wyatt and skipping brands for a while. Him and Pete Dunne should just go to 205 Live for the winter where nobody can hurt them.
In all seriousness, Finn Bálor is one of those guys who needs this right now. He needs to remind everybody of why he was such a hot property in the first place, and how good and dynamic he can when he’s not stuck losing to Bobby Lashley in the middle of hour two of Raw or whatever. This is the Real Rock ‘n’ Rolla, motherfuckers, and if we can keep him from hoarding the championship for another year, we can get him in any number of dream matches. I’m just sad he betrayed his own Bullet Club ethos by showing up to shade a former member in Adam Cole. Although I guess Bullet Club leaders showing up to shit on the Club is part of a long and grand tradition. Finn’s still playing the long game to get back at the Bucks.
omg kevin nash wtf thought he was dead lol
Hey look, it’s the Outsiders showing up to help hurt a wrestling show on TNT. It’s like 1996 all over again!
Best: Trim Couch
Velveteen Dream had his signature promo couch burned to death by the coward Roderick Strong, so instead of buying a new couch and having his harem roll it out, he makes a human couch out of the harem. Velveteen Dream has commanded a goddamn PEOPLE COUCH, you guys. It’s the dream of Dalton Castle taken to the next level by purple magicks.
Also, biggest possible +1 to Velveteen Dream for saying he’s never had a problem taking on two men at once. Total zest God. Dude’s a bunch of grapes away from being the pro wrestling version of HedonismBot.
Best: Mia Shirai
No, not that one.
NXT’s roster is in such a good place right now they can afford to put Johnny Gargano and Io Shirai into what amount to extended cool-down matches between title defenses on weekly TakeOver TV. Good lord.
The second match of the night actually goes longer than the first, with Mia Yim desperately trying to score a win and redeem herself after her failed run at the NXT Women’s Championship, but drawing the world’s toughest divisional opponent. Mia would have a better chance at pinning Lars Sullivan than she would Io Shirai, but that’s neither here nor there. It was competitive, both women looked great, and they devoted a full quarter-hour to the pro wrestling acumen of two women of color, neither of whom are a champion. That’d be worth a thumbs up even if it wasn’t killer.
I’m starting to think that Mia Yim’s going to keep taking “tough losses” until she realizes she probably should’ve taken Shayna Baszler up on that crew offer. Mia needs to lean into her edge and mean streak in a world of Candices LeRae, and Shayna could use a faction-mate that could actually wrestle sometimes without being super awkward. Speaking of Shayna All-Time …
Best: Spade In Full
Candice LeRae puts up a great fight but once again falls to Shayna Baszler, who I’m pretty sure is unbeatable between the yellow ropes. Unless they’re going to give Dakota Kai a run as Fully Formed Bayley and be the one that finally unseats the Queen of Spades, they might as well call her up and give her the Paige/Charlotte Flair/Asuka belt surrendering moment. It’s tradition!
As I’ve mentioned before, LeRae vs. Baszler was my favorite Mae Young Classic tournament match, and they managed to build on that here without retreading any of it. I like how Shayna Baszler’s catch style is built around doing research and actually knowing what moves her opponents throw and how to counter them, so she can anticipate and choke them out of it. Her matches almost always come down to a face building up some match-ending momentum and thinking they can win with their signature moves and finishes. You can’t do that shit against Shayna, she’s gonna throttle you. If you hit Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, you aren’t gonna hit the Lionsault. It’s just not in the cards. Shayna is strong against specials. If you wanna beat her, throw out an unexpected roll-up or a new move she couldn’t scout. It’s the only way Kairi Sane ever kept her down.
Actually, nobody in NXT read that previous paragraph. It’s nothing. Just do your moves, it’s fine. [shifty eyes]
Best: Alex Do-Wright Mate
Johnny “Gargano” Wrestling defeated Shane Thorne in one-on-one action, which makes sense. Thorne’s not an important character yet, even though I think he’s one of the next to break out. He’s like Buddy Murphy before everyone realized how good Buddy Murphy is. Most of the social media buzz about him from last night was about his trunks making his bulge hella obvious, though, so maybe he’s less Buddy Murphy and more Das Wunderkind. Shout-out to Shane Thorne for making sure he gets concerning but positive comments about his junk on every YouTube video for the remainder of his career.
But yeah, no, Gargano should get a few key wins over the next few weeks and end up in a feud with Finn Bálor over who is the black and yellow brand’s all-time greatest white-meat hero babyface. It can culminate in a match at the next TakeOver (or on TV next week, whatever) and end with Sami Zayn being the next former star to return to set the record straight. And then I guess Sami loses to a stiff kick in 15 seconds and gets literally thrown in a black and yellow garbage can, I don’t know what his deal is anymore.
Worst: Pete Dunne Vs. Danny Burch Didn’t Go Three Times As Long
If I’ve got to give something from this gleefully self-indulgent fan service-ass episode a Worst, it’s that. I don’t think anybody in the company realizes how good Danny Burch is. Maybe they do, and that’s why he’s always the guy who puts in a gritty loss?
Anyway, NXT UK refugee Pete Dunne defeats Burch in a dope seven minute match to set up … [checks notes] [squints] a run-in from Damian Priest? All right. Maybe Damian realizes that Pete’s strong against cruiserweights and deathly afraid of the tall and violent. I’m not sure who was jonesing for a Pete Dunne vs. Great Value Baron Corbin match, but it’ll probably they’re seeing something I don’t. Priest is fine, he’s just not the guy I’d pick to feud with one of my best dudes on weekly TV when I’ve got a roster so deep it could drown the actual Baron Corbin.
Best: Wale Joiner
HANDS LIKE THIS! HANDS LIKE THIS! HANDS LIKE THIS! HANDS LIKE THIS! HANDS LIKE THIS! HANDS LIKE THIS! HANDS LIKE THIS! HANDS LIKE THIS! HANDS LIKE THIS! HANDS LIKE THIS! HANDS LIKE THIS! HANDS LIKE THIS! HANDS LIKE THIS! HANDS LIKE THIS! HANDS LIKE THIS! HANDS LIKE THIS! HANDS LIKE THIS!
Wale’s legitimate enthusiasm for pro wrestling warms my heart, and is all I ever ask out of my celebrity guests. It’s why Offset showing up in a Ric Flair robe worked. It’s goofy, but dude’s going all in. Also, has there ever been a better exchange on NXT commentary than Mauro saying, “I think they want the smoke, Nigel!” and Nigel responding with “EVIDENTLY” in his loud excited British monotone? Adorable.
Of course, not even an appearance from future WWE Hall of Famer Wale and Montez Ford’s inhuman flying ability can propel the Street Profits to a championship victory against Undisputed Era. They’re high on the smell of their own farts, and are good enough in the ring that even a mild outside interference like suddenly remembering Roderick Strong exists can tip the scales in their favor. Like Riddle vs. Cole, this over-delivered by design with an incredible final few minutes that are so good you don’t really care who wins, you just love pro wrestling. You’re too good at this to be Raw mascots, Profits! SEARCH YOUR HEARTS YOU KNOW IT TO BE TRUE.
By the end of the night, it looks like Undisputed Era’s untouchable again. And then they get touched.
Best: NAH NAH NAH NAH, NAH! NO ONE WILL SURVIIIIIIVE
That shot of Adam Cole going from happy to terrified while the weird red and yellow glass ambiance breaks behind him belongs in a museum. YOU ABOUT TO GET GOT, ADAM. Tommaso Ciampa is back with a renewed sense of purpose and (hopefully) adamantium legs that will never, ever get injured at the worst possible time again. Gonna be singing Ciampa’s entrance theme all week, not gonna lie.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Baron Von Raschke
Happy Brandon: I get to write about two really great wrestling shows tomorrow!!!!!!!!
Tentative Brandon: How am I going to sort out Top 10 Comments from this mess of an open thread?
NEVER MIND THAT S—! HERE COMES CIAMPA!!!
Like Kurt Russel in the 80s, Ciampa can’t take his eyes off Goldie
There is only one thing that could go live for two hours on Wednesday that we would ALL choose over AEW and NXT…
…Oney Lorcan’s Twitter feed.
This Cole/Riddle match is insane. I’m sure it’s because I’m more emotionally invested since the characters are more fleshed out than the ones on AEW. But man…this match rocks.
The Real Birdman
Balor: “Good to finally be away from that crazy psychopath on Raw who will do literally anything to end you”
*Ciampa’s music hits*
Balor: “Welp… Is NXT UK hiring??”
With Ciampa back I can’t wait to see Finn re-re-debut on 205 Live and challenge Drew Gulak.
Shayna: “Am I ever going to the main roster?”
HHH: “Do you want to end up playing the load in a tag team with Alexa Bliss or even worse be Asuka?”
Shayna: “So am I beating Ripley at the next Takeover or Toni Storm?”
The Bishop of Battle
“NXT live, with LIMITED commercial interruptions.”
— You keep using that word but I don’t think it means what you think it means.
“We can go BACK to NXT?!” – multiple
Wednesday Night Wars Episode One is in the books. Gotta give NXT the edge this week, but AEW is brand new, and Triple H was in Instant Kill Mode. We’ll see how things shake out a few weeks and months down the line.
Until then, drop a comment down below to let us know what you thought of the show, give us a share on social media to help us stay in the business of This Business, and come back next week so we can do it all again.