Previously on the Best and Worst of NXT: Roderick Strong retained the North American Championship against two guys who could throw him into the sun, Cameron Grimes got punched in the face, and Finn Bálor remembered he’s cool and kicked John Wrestling’s head in.
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 October 30, 2019.
Best: I Am Not In A Cult Led By Poppy
I know a lot of times in these columns I can seem like a real stick in the mud who doesn’t enjoy anything and like, won’t stop complaining about the lack of a roof on the War Games cage long enough to shut up and enjoy the show. What’s up, Triple H? So I wanted to open the column with some unedited, unfiltered love for my new favorite equation: my favorite wrestler in NXT plus my favorite pop-metal entertainment robot plus my favorite weekly wrestling show for the past seven years equals me happily clapping and jumping up and down.
Yes, folks, we’ve reached my creative dream and the fireworkingest of the Fireworks Factories as POPPY has finally arrived live at Full Sail University. She opens the show with her most recent single, ‘I Disagree,’ mashed up with the NXT opening credits. If this doesn’t immediately replace that Slipknot song, somebody’s tripping, although I’d miss yelling WE ARE NOT YOUR GUYYYYYS at my TV every week. If you haven’t seen the video for ‘I Disagree,’ it’s about Poppy pouring gasoline over a pile of dead record executives and playing melodic metal while they burn to death. I mean, even her earlier, straight-pop stuff opened with her posing like Baphomet and hatching out of an egg alongside a horny Satan, so she’s metal even when she isn’t. Please join this cult I am not a part of, led by Poppy.
If that wasn’t good enough, the song transitions into ‘Scary Mask’ and plays Io Shirai to the ring, with Poppy trotting down the ramp like a weird Scooby-Doo character and Io and Poppy circling each other in a bunch of strobe lights and screaming. I’m … I’m so happy.
I don’t want to mess with Io Shirai’s entrance or anything, but if she wanted to use ‘Scary Mask’ as an ongoing tribute to her friendship with That Poppy going forward, I wouldn’t hate it. My only complaint about the entire endeavor is that she didn’t get to meet the injured Velveteen Dream, who is basically Poppy as a large, black, male pro wrestler. She did get to meet Queen Cathy, though, in case you missed it.
i was too busy trying to hold back happy tears
— Queen Cathy (@catherinekelley) October 31, 2019
Same, Queen Cathy. Same.
Best: Women At War
Right, there’s also a wrestling show. Sorry, sorry.
This week’s episode of NXT does a great job of tying together a cohesive narrative from multiple matches, which is something NXT hasn’t ever really tried to do. It’s more of a classic Raw thing, but when it works, it works. Up first is Candice LeRae vs. Io Shirai — a hell of a match to start your show with — and while it doesn’t reach the heights of their match of the year candidate at NXT TakeOver Toronto, it’s still 13 minutes of bad-ass women’s wrestling.
LeRae loses this one by accidentally moonsaulting onto a steel chair, which is at least a more instantaneous and competitive loss than being punched to death and put to sleep in a Koji Clutch. Shirai wants to molecularly meld Candice’s body with the chair after the match, but God’s own Rhea Ripley runs down to make the save. The Genius of the Sky doesn’t currently want any of Her Brutality, and bails. This becomes important again later.
Near the end of hour one, the Kabuki Warriors make their return to a place where they get 17+ minutes to wrestle a competitive championship match in front of people who love watching them perform, which has gotta be a nice break from pinning Lacey Evans with a roll-up and getting thrown in the dog house if they accidentally wrestle for more than 180 seconds. They’re up against Team Kick — Dakota Kai and Tegan Nox — who earned a title shot on last week’s show. Wrestling shows are great when they’re easy to follow, willing to give chances to wrestlers who don’t constantly get chances, remember they have a deep roster of talent from around the world, and pay off their stories with good, long wrestling matches.
Anyway, the Bukies win, because of course they do. They’re Asuka and Kairi Sane. At Full Sail, I’d take them over Keith Lee and Dominik Dijakovic. At Full Sail I’d probably take Asuka over both those dudes by herself. I thought for sure the Warriors were just going to truck them, but Kai and Nox really stepped up and wrestled a competitive match that convinced at least most of the audience that they might see new Tag Team Champions. I hope someone paid attention to how well this worked and brings the women’s tag champs back for matches on the brand semi-regularly. Also, bring in all the other main roster champions from time to time so they can remember what they’re actually supposed to be doing for a living. It might cut down on those, “stop complaining, we’re ENTERTAINERS” tweets. My only complaint here is that Triple H didn’t bring Asuka and Sane in to give them a real entrance theme, so they could stop using that lazy “change the channel back and forth in the middle of the song” “mash-up.”
When the match is over and Dakota Kai’s lying there in the middle of the ring covered in Ninjitsu Technique, Shayna Baszler and the Lesser Horses show up to bully her about it. They try to break Tegan Nox’s arm for sticking up for her tag team partner, which (again) brings out Rhea Ripley for the save. I like that Ripley’s “saves” for the babyfaces are based on her hatred of the heels, rather than her affinity for the faces. She’s not a nice person, she just wants to kick her rivals’ asses. She wants to be the very best, like no one ever was.
That brings out Io Shirai to join the fray, still heated about Ripley ruining the Poppy-scored funeral she was about to have for Candice LeRae. Bianca Belair, still mad about getting beaten last week, shows up to attack Ripley. She’s the petti-EST, I guess. With the fight now essentially 3-on-1 on Ripley, Candice LeRae joins the fight. Giles, upset that Buffy has put herself in danger, shows up and announces a “very simple solution for all of this:” the first-ever women’s War Games match, with Baszler and Ripley as team captains. I don’t know about you, but I’m hearing Thunder Rosa’s dubbed-over war drums in my head.
regal shouting war games. rt your kink pic.twitter.com/XOOeYKnhcT
— ✧･ﾟslater (@candicelerey) October 31, 2019
I know it could never happen in a billion years, but I’d love it if Baszler added Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir to her team instead of Bianca Belair and Io Shirai, because she’s a dick and loves her friends, and then announced Ronda Rousey as her fourth. It’d be the perfect setup for whatever main roster Horsies vs. Horsies thing they wanted to do, and I want to see what kind of reaction Ronda Rousey would get walking into Full Sail. And I know the face team’s probably going to be Ripley/LeRae/Nox/Kai per this brawl, but I hope they can find room for Rhea’s NXT UK girlfriend Piper Niven. I wanna see Niven come off the top of that cage.
Best: Men, Also At War I Guess!
The night’s main event is Keith Lee — who chose Matt Riddle as his tag team partner instead of a willing Dominik Dijakovic, which is not going to make things any better between those two — against Undisputed Era tag team specialists Regarding Dragon.
First of all, I’m not your bro, bro.
Second of all, Undisputed Era ends up taking it again due to their crackerjack combination of being good at wrestling, and having two extra guys than everybody else. Every member of the team has the Run-In Payback from WWE 2K. Lee and Riddle would be an unstoppable tag team if they had two extra guys who followed them around to cheat all the time. It’s the perfect number of wrestling guys, four. You’ve got one for singles matches, two for tags, and then you’ve still got 2-3 left over so one can distract the referee while the other interferes. Basic band of evil brothers stuff.
The money here, though, is after the match. Tommaso Ciampa and his crutch make the save for the faces, and Ciampa declares that Goldie will have to wait, because “DADDY’S GOING TO WAR!” I wonder if Kurt Russell said that to his girlfriend before he made Soldier? Anyway, it looks like we’re getting two War Games matches this year, one with the women and one with the men, and I’m into it. If Finn Bálor and Johnny Gargano are going to do their own one-on-one thing, does Dijakovic step up to be the fourth member of Lee, Riddle, and Ciampa’s team so he can beat the shit out of Lee in the closing moments and join Undisputed Era? CAN he? Those little guys could use some muscle to back them up. Dijak was in Ring of Honor for like three years, he qualifies.
Speaking Of Finn Bálor
Where have you been all my life from 2014-present?
Incredibly, the best part of the episode might’ve been this Finn Bálor promo on Johnny Gargano, wherein he claims there are too many fans in the back instead of out in the stands where they belong, and that when Johnny gets out of the hospital he’s going to turn Johnny Wrestling into “Johnny Watches Wrestling.” That loud UNNNNNNNNF you here is me this morning, remembering how goo this promo was. DON’T EVER TAKE THIS FINN AWAY FROM ME AGAIN. If he shows up to TakeOver in the light-up jacket, I might sincerely lose whatever’s left of my shit.
Best: Also On This Episode
NXT’s so good right now the “also on this episode” section of recaps features the best match of the night.
Brother, if you didn’t see this Shane Thorne vs. Bronson Reed match, go back and watch it. It’s a new contender for the best match under five minutes long I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s just like, four straight minutes of two dudes who know each other very well giving the other carte blanche to beat the ever-loving shit out of them. NOTHING but good. Reed wins with a splash off the top rope that makes Kevin Owens’ bullfrog splash look like Tamina Snuka, and God damn I hope these two end up tag team partners sooner rather than later. I’m ready to kneel to the mighty again.
Finally there’s Tyler Bate vs. Cameron Grimes, which looks and feels a lot more classist than it probably should. This is basically a retelling of the Revolutionary War, with the far superior British army being in control but taking an L to the ramshackle Americans due to last-minute interference from The French. In this analogy, “the French” is Killian Dain, still pissed off about Pete Dunne snapping his fingers and looking to send a message. Between Dain and Imperium, British Strong Style should consider disbanding so people stop “sending messages” to its members by beating the shit out of the other two members.
Note: This was pretty good, because I’m fairly certain you could throw Mauro into the ring against Tyler Bate and Bate would get three stars out of him.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
It’s good to see Sean Penn and Forest Whittaker from FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH stand up to the Undisputed Era
Waiting for Chiampa to hold out his hand and Goldie returns to him, Mjolnir style
My Women’s War Game Match Interest Level:
FOX took their partnership with WWE seriously and made sure no one in this World Series got a win in their home town.
The Real Birdman
Really wish there was a shot of the Kabukis erupting with laughter as Gumby & Pokey walked by them
Dave M J
I would not have hated it if Tegan hot tagged in and immediately got misted.
I wish we could just mash these shows up and have it hosted by Rick and Poppy.
I’d love to eat Thanksgiving at Keith Lee’s house. That turkey will baste in his glory.
C’mon, Killian Dain! “You tell your friend I’m not Dunne with him” was right there waiting for you.
me, don’t @ me
It’s Pete Dunne vs. Damien Priest in a match that certainly won’t end with Killian Dain running in, or Damien Priest throwing Trent Seven into a wood-chipper to send a message to British Strong Style. See you then! Wednesdays are great!