Previously on the Best and Worst of NXT: We recapped a couple of weeks of episodes that included the fallout from TakeOver War Games, Rhea Ripley’s march toward the NXT Women’s Championship, and the continued rise of Keith Lee to Most Important Guy™. This bitch empty.
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 December 11, 2019.
Best: Send Me An Angel, Right Now
Welcome to Angel Garza’s best night ever.
Lio Rush vs. Angel Garza for the “NXT” Cruiserweight Championship was far and away the best match from NXT TV in November for me, so of course the rematch is just a step better. These two guys have great chemistry and can deliver on every level you’d expect a really good EVOLVE main event to deliver. There’s not a lot of, you know, character-based storytelling involved, but they tell great stories with what they have available; namely, the moves they’re choosing to do, when they’re choosing to do them, and a pair of breakaway pants.
From the previous match:
I’ve typed it before, but the fact that 205 Live hasn’t always, always taped in front of the Full Sail crowd is ridiculous. It’s why the Cruiserweight Classic was successful enough for y’all to make an ongoing TV show out of it, guys. Did you think running it in front of a bunch of people who don’t know the wrestlers and internally want to leave already because Smackdown’s over was going to make them seem popular? This little yellow-ass building in Winter Park is the only place in the world where a WWE audience actively wants to see stuff like this, at least in a large enough group to cohesively jam together and televise. Performers like Rush and Garza have earned and deserve the chance to have what they do performed in front of people who want to be there, and so far the 205 Live content in 407 has been sick. Perfect way to stretch a comfortably one-hour show into two.
I think Garza having a submission variant followup to the Wing Clipper is great for him, as it gives him another big moment in any match he wants. The Wing Clipper doesn’t really play well for me — it’s basically an inverted Bubba Bomb, one of those wrestling moves that doesn’t have concussive power but still somehow knocks people out, because that’s the only way folks know to sell “not being able to kick out” — but what amounts to a seated Cattle Mutilation is right up my alley.
Mauro declares that, “We have the first Mexican NXT Cruiserweight Champion!” and somewhere backstage at Smackdown, Kalisto stares at a piñata and wonders how much being a second generation Mexican-American who spent part of his childhood in Mexico City is worth to y’all. Unless you’re specifically counting NXT Cruiserweight Champions, which is kinda like saying Chris Jericho’s the youngest ever AEW World Champion. Small sample size, guys. He’s also the first NXT Cruiserweight Champion over the age of 25!
Anyway, the great night continues during the commercial break as Garza tells the audience what’s important to him: pro wrestling, the support of the fans, his family, and, most importantly, his girlfriend. He then brings her into the ring and proposes to her! It’s a great and heartwarming moment, and I hope it’s to set up Rush wearing a pair of breakaway pants to their rubber match and whipping them off in front of her.
Best: Finn Bálor And Keith Lee Need To Fight Forever
How often is Tommaso Ciampa the least interesting guy in a match?
This week’s high stakes main event is an awesome triple threat match between Finn Bálor, Keith Lee, and Ciampa to see who’ll challenge Adam Cole for the NXT Championship on next week’s, “PLEASE LET US WIN THE WEDNESDAY NIGHT RATINGS WAR ON THE WEEK OF LIVE SHOWS THIS YEAR” edition of NXT TV. It does a full on “hold my beer” to the Cruiserweight Championship opener. Why? Because it’s three of the best performers in the world, sure, but because of how unbelievably in-tune Finn and Keith are. I will say without hesitation that if this chemistry holds up, Finn and Keith could have the best match of Finn’s WWE career. This was already close to being it.
Just look at all the things these guys managed to pull off in this one match. The first thing you’ll probably remember is the Air Raid Crash Tower Of Doom, where Keith Lee sees a man about to hit a move off the ropes and is like, “what would happen if I just got in there and picked them both up?” The replays show a safe (enough) landing for everyone, but that first angle looked like Ciampa got his pelvis driven up into his rib cage.
My favorite bit is the sequence where Finn reverses the Bask-hammer into an inside cradle like it’s nothing, which leads directly to him countering the Spirit Bomb with the Coup de Grace. My brain already heard Mauro yelling ARE YOU KIDDING MEEEEE before he said a word.
There’s also the finish, with Finn timing a Coup de Grace off the top to land on Lee the second he’s done Spirit Bombing Ciampa. THAT’s how you do a triple threat finish. No “let the guy hit his finish, toss him out of the ring, and steal the pin” video game moment. Let the wrestlers be smart, do their homework, and come up with creative ways to hit their signature offense and counter their opponent’s. The timing is insane here, too, as a replay shows Finn’s already started jumping before Lee’s in place. So he just eyeballed that shit in his mind’s eye and coordinated with his body to make it happen. Athletes, am I right?
I’m pretty sure Finn’s not winning the NXT Championship next week and will probably be back on Raw or Smackdown in time for the Royal Rumble or whatever, but I want to see him take it. He can defend against Cole and/or Ciampa in Portland, and then drop it to Keith Lee (KEITH LEE) on WrestleMania weekend. Pretty much all I want from the yellow brand right now is for Keith Lee to stay this cool and important to them and officially be the limitless motherfucker we all know he is.
Best/Worst: Please Don’t Kill Dakota Kai
The middle of the show fails to live up to the WILD PROMISE of its four-star bookends, but there’s a major, noteworthy moment in the middle: Mia Yim throwing Dakota Kai (and herself) off some freestanding production equipment, Ciampa and Gargano-style, and almost emptying Kai’s brains out of her head.
The setup is a hard-hitting, competitive 10-minute match that builds on the grudge established at War Games, whether I still fail to understand some of the particulars of that or not, and gives two women who know how to work a chance to get in work. I think Kai’s really going to excel in the heel role, and for once the “conniving villain who’ll do any underhanded thing to get a win” actually makes sense, considering Kai’s entire babyface persona before War Games was, “can’t win matches.” So it’s not like she was, say, Asuka, turned heel, and suddenly had to cheat unless she wanted to lose to a roll-up. Anyway, Kai misdirects the referee by pretending she’s gonna use Tegan Nox’s Magic Shoe as a foreign object and then actually uses an exposed turnbuckle to get the win. Mia Yim, angered by [gestures wildly] all of this, decides to kick Kai’s ass around the arena about it.
Then came the most gruesome thing we’ve seen on NXT all year:
Mia Yim deliberately tossed Dakota Kai into the clangy poles, wrestling’s deadliest weapon. Unforgivable. Plus, who just leaned a bunch of clangy poles up against the side of the production area like that? You bump your leg into the table and suddenly there’s poles clanging everywhere. And right where fans are walking by to get to their seats?? I sure hope somebody got fired for that blunder.
If you don’t immediately see the danger in that beyond a normal table spot, here’s a still-frame of the back of Kai’s head smashing into the second table without breaking it because it’s hard to judge proper distance when you’re Saito suplexing somebody backwards off a ledge.
Following her match, WWE’s medical team immediately tended to @DakotaKai_WWE. She suffered a laceration and is currently receiving staples. Stay tuned to tomorrow’s #NXTInjuryReport for further updates.
— WWE NXT (@WWENXT) December 12, 2019
I hope next week they film a bit where Kai gets put into the same hospital room as Tegan Nox and angrily flips her bed over.
Also On This Episode
Cameron Grimes takes a main roster-style distraction loss to Raul Mendoza thanks to the general haberdashery of a mischievous KUSHIDA. You can’t just steal a man’s hat like that, KUSHIDA, he had to trade a legendary coyote pelt and two eagle feathers to get that thing.
The highlight here is Mendoza finishing off Grimes with his signature hold, the Jumping Baby Koala Hug. “Repeating a spot you just blew” isn’t as detrimental to a match finish as, say, “the referee not counting three because he thinks someone’s supposed to kick out,” but it’s in the same arena.
Breezango, who are sexy doctors now, get a strong win over probably the worst actual professional wrestlers WWE employs, the Singh Brothers. The Bollywood Boyz would be the worst part of your local promotion’s tag team tournament, were the Buff Bagwell and Booker T of 205 Live, and are now here wrestling tag matches on NXT that make you wish the Forgotten Sons were around.
It’s worth watching, though, because Fandango randomly decides to go complete beast mode and try to kill them for real. Jump to the 2:00-ish minute mark in the video to see what I’m talking about. I don’t want Breeze and Fandango to stop being friends, but I also wouldn’t be against Dango going straight-up New Japan, changing his name back to “Johnny Curtis,” and putting Breeze in a grave en route to being a top-level homegrown star. This guy won NXT, for God’s sake. How many people on the current show roster can say that?
Note: I’m also totally okay with them staying a team and Fandango just being an unexplained, murderous bruiser in the ring. Turn him and Breeze into the Miracle Violence Connection if they were more into girls and cosplay than beer and steaks.
Speaking of the Forgotten Sons, here’s Jaxson Ryker losing a 2 3/4-minutes match against a guy half his size, who isn’t even on this show. He takes a pretty embarrassing loss to Travis Banks to help put over the concept of a Worlds Collide show, which is your only chance to see … [checks notes] NXT UK talent wrestle NXT Domestic talent. Except for these episodes. And whenever Pete Dunne or Rhea Ripley wrestle. Or when Kona Reeves or Kassius Ohno or whoever show up on UK. It’s fine, just watch the show. It’s all about brand supremacy®.
Honestly, all I want from a World Collide episode is William Regal vs. Johnny Saint. Book it, you cowards.
Bianca Belair’s win over Kayden Carter (who is still named that) isn’t anything to write home about, but it’s a nice win for Bianca, who proved at War Games that she’s still nowhere near her ceiling as a performer. She’s got some borderline comical human abilities, and if she’d just barehanded Carter’s torso and ripped her apart at the waist, I wouldn’t have been that surprised. I don’t want to see her go, but Bianca might benefit from a call-up. She’s a main roster dream, and it’s gonna be hard for her to ever break through that thick layer of talent at the top of the NXT women’s division. I think it’s just bad timing. If she’d shown up a few years ago we’d already be talking about her in the same tones as the Four Horsewomen, and if she showed up a couple of years from now, we might be closer to “her time,” because she’s clearly ahead of it.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: time moves differently on Wednesday than on Monday.
Continuity is great. Beth being both thirsty for Breezango but not getting their innuendos and Nigel explaining them is alive!!!!
Keith Lee: maybe if you guys had a carb once in awhile you’d be doing better
Dakota Kai looks like I girl I saw smoking in a mall in the 80s and have been in love with ever since
Baron Von Raschke
KEITH LEE IS MY GOD AND I
/Ciampa lifts Lee and does an Air Raid Crash on Lee
I WORSHIP AT THE ALTAR OF CIAMPA AND I
/Lee does a moonsault
I HAVE TWO GODS!
Moonsault? Nah that’s a moon crash
I only started watching NXT when it moved to USA, and I watched probably the last two years of Takeovers before that, but my eyes are seriously dehydrated starting at about the 8 minute mark of this WWE24 special. I’ve cared more about Bayley and Sasha in the last 30 minutes than I have at their last several years on Raw/SD, and I feel like Balor/Owens is somehow just going to wreck me
The Real Birdman
Stop calling it Goldie and call it your Ciampionship already. For Lillian Garcia.
Mia, brace yourself.
and finally, in perhaps the best NXT comment ever, Nermal
3 weeks since io shirai match.i walk through the empty streets trying to think of something else but my path always leads to nxt tv. i stare at the screen for hours and try to summon the lord. i watch other nxt superstars but it is no good. i flame baron corbin in comments and try to make top 10 but it is all meaningless. the end is near.i then usually watch some old io shirai matches and cry myself to sleep.
Same, Nermal. Same.
Next week’s show is a big one, as Finn Bálor challenges Adam Cole for the NXT Championship in a match that definitely won’t end with Johnny Gargano running in and costing Bálor, and Shayna Baszler adding Rhea Ripley to her death list. Ripley might actually take that one, but we’ll have to wait and see. Predicting against Shayna Baszler is a fool’s errand.
Thanks for reading, as always. Make sure to drop down into our comments section below and let us know what you thought of the show, and give us a share on social media to help more people read about the good show than Raw or Smackdown. It’s still like, six to one traffic. “Popular” will always beat good and worth your time, I guess. See you next week!