Previously on the Best and Worst of NXT: Full Sail got two cage matches; one featuring the Velveteen Dream losing on purpose to make his intentions on Adam Cole’s NXT Championship clear, and one where Tegan Nox lost because she got stuck in a door. But not the way you’re thinking!
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 March 11, 2020.
Performance Enhancing Digs
Welcome to the first episode of NXT on USA aired from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, FL, home of such legendary incidents as Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair brawling before Evolution, Braun Strowman attacking Tyson Fury before Crown Jewel, and the IIconics doing both speed squats and speed bench press to convince people they were NXT’s breakout stars of the year. Thankfully the change of venues isn’t coronavirus related, as the new live NXT show schedule simply conflicted with an annual event at the university, although the pandemic might end up forcing more of WWE TV into a tiny gym before it’s over.
I like the PC being NXT’s low rent secondary venue, though. They should do shows there more often just to switch it up, and I’ll be honest, one of my greatest professional goals is to create a sub-NXT Performance Center brand that takes the PC’s YouTube videos and tells intro-level pro wrestling stories in a school setting so it’s a weird mash-up of Tough Enough, Lucha Underground, and Riverdale. There are some stories you can only tell with people who just started, and I don’t think WWE’s ever understood the value in that beyond using them as delusional chumps.
The only downside to running the PC and not really having much of note happen on the episode is that it contributes to the idea that WWE doesn’t really know if they’re running Tampa or not yet, so all this build to NXT TakeOver Tampa Bay could be a wash. They’ll have to pay it off at NXT TakeOver: 10 Minutes Down The Road. But there are too many intangibles right now — I’m writing this literally in the middle of Florida trying to decide if they can keep doing sports or not — and people’s health is more important than the fake fighting show I love having logical and timely payoffs, so it is what it is.
Are They Turning Him Into Mideon?
Honestly the most intriguing moment of the night was when Raul Mendoza lost a match to KUSHIDA and wandered out into the parking lot, where he was abducted by men in luchador masks. Wrestling kidnappings don’t usually end well for anybody — usually in torture, Satanic ritual, or theologically non-specific murder — but if it turns out he was abducted by Mexican ninjas and returns as a machete-wielding luchador with a tribal dick drawn on his mask, not gonna lie, I’ll probably be into it.
Pretty crazy that his former NXT tag team partner might be getting a title match at WrestleMania and Raul’s stuck out here getting scooped up and captured by a mysterious Tahoe in the school parking lot.
Title Matches Are Fine!
The selling point of this episode is that there are two title matches; one for the North American Championship, and one for the Tag Team Championship. Both of them are pretty good while they last, don’t really go anywhere (presumably because they’re performing in a gym and circumstantially don’t know what’s next for ANYBODY), and stay in second gear. It’s probably the best thing to do right now, even if it’s not especially thrilling television.
The first is the North American Championship match between Cameron Grimes and Keith Lee, in which Grimes continues to evolve and impress despite having less than a snowball’s chance in Hell of pinning Keith Lee in a normal environment, much less at the production studio down the road. Grimes has been over-delivering as of late, which is good, and Lee needs more title defenses to solidify the idea that no matter how the title divisions officially rank, the North American Champion is basically the top guy on the show. The NXT Championship has spent most of the last year being a kick-out competition between the same three guys. Dream might change that soon, but hey, I like the NAC better.
After the match, Damian Priest shows up to Tonya Harding Lee with a baton. This brings out Lee’s boy who is a friend Dominik Dijakovic to make the save, but wait just a minute, King, Lee didn’t see the attack and thinks DIJAK is the one who hit him. I swear, I want this to end with Lee asking Priest to be his manager and turning heel for a year just for the payoff of Lee and Dijakovic doing the Macho Man and Elizabeth bit from WrestleMania VII.
We also get another 20 minutes of Peter Doon and Matthew Riddell defending their NXT Tag Team Championship against The Undisputed Era. It’s very much the version of the match you’d get at an NXT live event, where it plays out with a pretty straight-forward formula and completely works because all four guys are great. It’s more about the personalities than anything actually happening in the ring. The TakeOver versions of these matches take that concept and subvert some of the expectations, especially the ones that require breakneck timing, which is part of what elevates those. Also, arena crowds will Full Sail crowd energy. It’s really interesting how the energy level of a crowd and its relation to their size can make the difference between a good match, a great match, and something legendary.
We do get an important character beat before the match, though, when Velveteen Dream shows up on the Cathy Kelley Memorial Juliette Balcony to confirm that he never cared about Roderick Strong or Strong’s family, that he’s not vile enough to actually stalk and harass somebody’s real-life family, and that he was just counting on dumb-ass Roddy Strong to be dumb-ass Roddy Strong and set the table for an easy run at Adam Cole. Really glad they took a second to have the character clearly state this, so there’s no ambiguity. Dream’s always been more of a smart and performative dirtbag than a callous and legitimate one, and that’s a tricky line to walk for pro wrestling characters.
Qualifiers For The Ladder Match At [TBD]
Here’s something interesting: Tegan Nox is in the number one contender ladder match at TakeOver Tampa Bay, but Dakota Kai isn’t. Nox pins Deonna Purrazzo to qualify, but Kai mistimes some Raquel Gonzalez interference and gets pinned by Mia Yim. So what’s the next step? Gonzalez qualifying and Kai using her as a proxy to move into the next iteration of that feud, or just Kai running in at the last second to throw Nox off the ladder and cost her the match, Rhodes Scholars style?
Both of these matches were pretty good, although I like Dakota more than Mia so that didn’t really do much for me. I will say though that I thought it was super funny that Deonna Purrazzo’s entrance video is the confused math lady GIF. It’s either that or a tribute to The Hangover. She lost to Tegan Nox in two minutes using MATH.
Watch For Falling Cruiserweights
The big finish of the episode is Tommaso Ciampa showing up looking for answers, Johnny Gargano appearing on the screen to provide them, and Ciampa immediately going off to find and attack him without actually listening to his answers. Everything Gargano’s saying is 100% true, and Ciampa refusing to listen in favor of just trying to hurt him again speaks volumes. Team Johnny, man. At the very least Ciampa could bring up the fact that everything WAS cool between them, to the point that they could even team up again and defeat Mustache Mountain at Worlds Collide, but Johnny got full-blown emasculated by Finn Bálor and that’s why he’s acting like this. He’s just using their checkered past as an excuse to act like an asshole.
Anyway, Ciampa and Gargano brawl around the Performance Center and break a lot of it, including shattering a mirror — Ciampa is the last guy who needs seven years bad luck at this point — and fight on the Cathy Kelley Memorial Juliette Balcony before jumping off of it. They left WWE’s pristine wrestling training facility (and their bunker against the oncoming Covid-19 apocalypse) in shambles, Gargano had to be stretchered off to a Local Medical Facility, and now NXT as a business has a pretty good reason to say one of them has to leave the promotion forever.
Also On This Episode
Rhea Ripley showed up to Raw to punch Charlotte Flair in the face about WrestleMania, so Flair showed up to NXT (well, the Performance Center) to kick her ass about it. They even managed to have Ripley throw the first punch, a cheap shot while Flair was still in the ropes even, to make me type, “well, she deserved it,” at the end of the paragraph.
Austin Theory and Tyler Breeze bring back an old NXT booking classic: “You’re backstage? Wait a minute, I’M backstage! I HATE THAT. Let’s fight!”
The dream of SHIMMER is alive in NXT as Candice LeRae takes on Mercedes Martinez in Orlando for a spot in the number one contender ladder match at TakeOver. I hope we get run-ins from LuFisto, Nicole Matthews, and Mount Tessa.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
*Gargano & Ciampa both instinctively kick out after hitting the announce table*
So the coronavirus has shut down the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade here in Detroit. Is there any way we can get it to shut down promo parades in WWE?
The masked luchadors who kidnapped Raul Mendoza were Andrade and Angel Garza, bringing him into their stable of unfairly handsome Latino men.
I guess we now know how Zelina Vega recruits new handsome luchadors
Ciampa looks exactly like a dude you would see walking the streets of Florida at night during a pandemic
Charlotte stopped being polite, and started getting Rhea.
Dave M J
Candice: YOU GET DOWN FROM THERE RIGHT NOW OR NO MORE PLAYSTATION!!!
Candice: Did I stutter?
True story: Dakota Kai has a switch blade and steals Aquanet from Walgreens
So..Do you think Hunter is watching this weight room beatdown on the Network or on the camera feed from Full Sail to his office in Stamford?
WWE always finding ways to exploit their independent contractors. Tonight they’re making them demolish the performance center at no cost ahead of the planned remodel.
That’s it for this week’s Best and Worst of NXT. 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 to help us out. It helps more than you know!
See you next week. Be safe out there.