Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE NXT: Tomato Champ barely survived a championship challenge from Otis Dozovic, and Vanessa Borne did not survive putting on Kairi Sane’s pirate hat just to throw it on the ground and kick it out of the ring. Leave her pirate stuff alone!
If you missed this episode, you can watch it here. 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 3, 2018.
Best: Johnny Gargano’s Wife Pulls A Johnny Gargano
Up first this week is MAGA Wendy Peffercorn against Johnny Gargano’s Wife™, who you may remember from the indies as “Candice LeRae.” NXT is so focused on taking one of the most broadly talented people they’ve signed for their women’s division in a hot minute and making her a Forlorn Spouse that she’s now losing matches not just because of her husband, but in the same way as her husband.
About a month ago The Velveteen Dream was having trouble putting Johnny ‘Gargano’ Failure away, so he just screamed at him for being a loser. Gargano, who has been driven to the brink of personal and professional madness by his former tag team partner, let a mild amount of razzing take him out of his game, and he ran right into Dream’s finish. Here, Lacey Evans is having trouble putting Candice away, so she screams at her about her husband being a loser. Candice, whose NXT character is solely defined by the person she married for some reason, lets a mild amount of razzing take her out of her game, and she walks — literally WALKS — right into Evans’ finish.
Hilarious. I love the parallelism, and Lacey Evans’ character work reminds of me Elias in the way that she doesn’t really “fit” in NXT but seems ready-made for one of those main roster mid-card angles where somebody’s Very Jealous of something or thinks the crowd isn’t cheering them enough/for the right reasons. I’ll be shocked if Evans and Bianca Belair aren’t the focus of the main roster women’s division like, three years from now.
Best: Everything They Did Outside The Ring
There was a TON of backstage stuff this week, but mostly promotional work instead of promos and story advancement. I’ll just knock them all out in one section.
- this video of Shayna Baszler is incredible, because (1) it not only SAYS Baszler is refocusing on powering up and taking out Kairi Sane, but shows it, and shows us how she’s doing it, (2) it makes Shayna seem more like a human being than her normal Dickhead Fonzie routine, which is really good if you want to continue developing her character and not let her stay so two-dimensional, and (3) it features a Jessamyn Duke cameo, and heart eyes heart eyes Jessamyn Duke
- not only are two big matches announced for the next two weeks, but one of them gets a full-on video package! Can you remember the last time Raw or Smackdown announced a match for a future Raw or Smackdown and actually promoted it to get people to watch it? They put way too much emphasis on RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW
- Tommaso Ciampa has pivoted his championship reign into defensiveness against The Dream, which not only allows Ciampa to continue existing independently of Johnny Gargano — something WWE has never really done well with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn — but sets up CIAMPA VS. THE DREAM YOU GUYS
- Bianca Belair makes an appearance to remind Queen Cathy that she is un, duh, fee, ted that she is UN, DUH, FEE, TED. UN ? DUH ? FEE ? TED ?
- even Oney and Twoey get their own video package, recapping how they became a team and how underestimated they were in their first NXT Tag Team Championship challenge. How in the world does WWE have a one hour show where an entire roster gets time to grow, promotional material that actually makes you interested in them as performers, and good-to-great matches with a bunch of students and indie stars, but can’t decently fill one three-hour show with anything but the same finishes over and over, no promotion outside of charities and pay-per-views, and a metric shit ton of Popeye’s commercials despite having all of the best wrestlers in the world ever?
- there are a lot of rumors about NXT expanding to two hours soon, and while I want as much NXT as I can handle, I’m extremely fine maintaining the perfect little ecosystem they’ve built for themselves. More time =/= a better show.
Best: Johnny Gargano Gets A Good Match Out Of Tony Nese
Speaking of NXT being a wonderful little ecosystem where everything works better, here’s TONY NESE having a pretty good match against Johnny Gargano.
A lot of you reading probably like Nese, but the way he wrestles really, really bugs me. First of all, he doesn’t remember to sell anything ever, which is fine if you’re on the indies, but when you’re trying to engage a television audience in episodic storytelling, it really helps if you’re not 15 minutes into a match climbing the ropes like you just walked to the ring. Plenty of people don’t mind, but it makes the match feel way more like Evolve than NXT, and brother, if I wanted to watch Evolve, I’d be recapping Evolve. Second of all, he does a lot of really cool things physically, because he’s extremely In Shape and physically gifted, but he doesn’t seem like he knows WHY he’s doing it. It’s the difference in Gargano on the indies and Gargano in NXT. On the indies, Gargano was good, but he just seemed like he was doing moves for the sake of moves. Tons of thigh-slapping, on everything. In NXT, Gargano suddenly seemed like a real wrestler because what he did mattered, and was happening for reasons, even if they were small. Nese is just gonna Fosbury Flop onto you because he can and 450 splash you because he can and boop it’s time for him to fall down and tap out to your submission. It’s a style of wrestling, again, that a lot of people really enjoy, but it’s never been my bag. Wacky no-selling sprints are a sometimes food, and they’re almost always served best at Dragon Gate.
That all said, this was as close to a good Tony Nese match as I’ve ever seen. Gargano reined him in a little, and I think a sprinkle of a match like this on an NXT taping is a good idea. NXT’s so into why everyone does everything, down to parallelism in a woman’s match as it relates to her husband’s from a month ago, so it’s good to pop in with a BOOM LOOK AT THE MOVES WHOA PEW PEW thing once in a while. Wrestling should be a three-ring circus, right? A little of everything, so everyone’s entertained. So I’m into it in that regard, and I do not and will not expect The Premiere Athlete to show up with his hilarious ab-window Final Fantasy shoulder-pad brassiere and wrestle a match like he’s Tommaso Ciampa.
Think about how much better this would’ve been if it’d been Cedric Alexander, though. Or Mustafa Ali. Or Jack Gallagher. Or Tozawa! Or anyone else (not you, TJP) on the 205 Live roster.
Worst: I Can’t Remember This Faction’s Name
1. I don’t care what you say, the costumes on TITANS look great.
2. The in-ring low point for me this week was the match featuring The Forgotten Sons, aka Aces & Aints, aka Sanity If Everyone Was Eric Young. I’m sure they’ve got an upside somewhere — miss you, Real Live Cowboy — but “wrestling biker gang” has never, ever been good, and a trio where all three guys are the same is pretty boring. At least now Steve Cutler’s forced to wrestle in a Kato mask. That slingshot powerbomb is pretty dumb, too, because Gunner can’t produce enough power pushing the guy INTO the rope to make him realistically bounce back up, so he’s just powerbombing a guy halfway onto nothing, having to use his own strength to pull him back up, and then turn and powerbomb him like normal. You should probably just powerbomb him.
At least when Tully Blanchard did the Slingshot Suplex he was showing off, not trying to look like the toughest man in the world, and used the bounce to change the trajectory and anticipated motion of the move to make it hurt more. jAxSoN GunNaR is just fucking up the move on purpose every time he does it. If you guys want a triple team powerbomb finish, do the Fabulous Freebirds thing where two guys backdrop you into the third, who either powerbombs you down or Ganso Bombs you depending on how drunk they are.
3. The Sons’ opponents were NXT jobbers Tinker, Evers, and Chance:
I love that the Sonny Siaki-looking guy on the apron is tagging in with a goose-neck motion on his partner’s ear, instead of tagging like a normal person. Their actual names, according to the Internet, are “Torry Kirsh,” “Vinny Mixon,” and “Cesar Rise.” Cesar Rise sounds like an Assassin’s Creed Game. Torry Kirsh sounds like he should be a backup third-baseman for the Minnesota Twins, and Vinny Mixon almost definitely played bass in a hair metal band.
4. NXT needs to make some of these jobbers regulars so I can get into them and like them for ironic reasons.
Best: EC3 Vs. Lars
Finally we have EC3 and his ongoing quest to be the new Bill Goldberg. Not by having a winning streak, mind you, but by being the guy who bleeds for some unknown reason in every match and we have to figure out why. Goldberg had a scab on his forehead that he didn’t let close for like two years. EC3 German suplexed Velveteen Dream onto his own face back at TakeOver, and now he’s getting busted open on the eyebrow by … something. It was either those crossfaces, or the crossbody where he came off the top and hit Lars at a weird angle, and came down on his face. Plus, he’s apparently bleeding from the mouth at the end?
The match with Lars was EFFICIENT, man. EC3 does the thing I love where he’s pissed, so he doesn’t do his full entrance and instead just runs to the ring and fights. I also love how snug the guy’s been since showing up, as you never really thought of Derrick Bateman or Ethan Carter III as particularly hard-hitting, but he’s paying his physical dues in these NXT matches. He’s not just a Bobby Roode type; he’s got the Bobby Roode body (times three, with the tint turned all the way up), but he looks like he’s actually fighting dudes, and that’s great. Plus, when you’re in there with Lars you live or die by how hard you’re hitting him. Lars Sullivan is a lot like Sheamus in the way that his matches aren’t gonna be any good if you don’t lay into him a little, and force him to actually BE a monster, instead of just holding you by the neck while you jump around the ring.
One thing I really love about NXT is that they aren’t afraid to do a match finish. Raw and Smackdown drive me crazy with the non-finishes to “protect” people. They do it so much they aren’t protecting anybody, they’re just making everybody milquetoast as fuck. On NXT, EC3 can take a clean pinfall loss to Lars Sullivan on TV, because it’s PRO WRESTLING, and guys are gonna win and lose matches. It doesn’t mean he can’t ever win a match again, or that he’s “not getting a push,” or any of the stuff we associate with wins and losses on the main roster. The wins and losses on NXT happen because reasons, not because decisions, and that’s one of the most important differentiations between the brands.
Really good stuff this week, as per usual.
North American Champion Ricochet defends his title against the former champion, Adam Cole, and the WWE United Kingdom Champion, Pete Dunne. Also, the feud between Keith Lee and Kona Reeves goes where you probably think it’s going.