Previously on the Best and Worst of NXT: Io Shirai became the new number one contender for Charlotte Flair’s NXT Women’s Championship, Ever-Rise fell again, and Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa finally ended their four-year feud with a balls-kicking swerve. Wrestling’s gotta wrestling.
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 April 15, 2020.
Before We Begin
It’s been a hard week to exist in or around WWE. To present it apolitically and without comment, Linda McMahon’s SuperPAC promised to spend 18.5 million dollars in Florida just before Florida named WWE, which I feel compelled to remind you is cartoons and stereotypes pretending to fight, an “essential business.” WWE then had a conference call where they assured investors that they had 500 million cash in hand to weather the storm only to then immediately release over 20 wrestlers and furlough a bunch of producers, writers, and trainers in the middle of a global pandemic to save about $700,000. WWE Superstars are essential, except when they aren’t, and they’re employees, except when they’re actually independent contractors, and WWE can’t put on shows without them, unless your football league just went out of business and you’ve got to keep the Stonks man happy.
In short, wrestling being declared an essential service during a pandemic because of well-timed political donations and then firing a bunch of its non-employee employees after bragging about turning a profit anyway and having 500 million on hand is the most carny shit of all time. That’s the latest in a seemingly endless series of reasons why it’s hard to watch and support the shows, ESPECIALLY when you can imagine how terrible most of these people feel going out and doing a live show during a plague while their friends and co-workers are still in the process of finding out they’re being let go when they need their jobs the most.
Now that I’ve typed that out, I’m going to assume 30% of the comments section will be “actually” posts from armchair economists and the Corporations Are People Too crowd, skip those completely, and try to write about the wrestling show in the context of the wrestling show. I like and appreciate the wrestlers, even when I don’t, independently of the honestly pretty monstrous corporation in charge of them. But it’s 2020, right? Which one of us DOESN’T work for an evil corporation?
Best: NXT UK
Up first this week is Finn Bálor vs. Fabian Aichner. It’s the pamphlet you read while you wait for your Finn Bálor vs. WALTER novel to arrive. Aichner is solid and occasionally very good, but he’s still just the color-corrected, real-life version of Red and Green from Smackdown vs. Raw. Finn foots him to death, as you’d expect, in the same way he’ll presumably foot-kill Alexander Wolfe and Marcel Barthel while we tread water hoping Finn and WALTER can get to the same place at the same time, stay healthy both in the ring and in the dangerous world outside of it, and hopefully have some fans around to watch it. Honestly, just send Dominick Mysterio out there with some Dvořák and a greatcoat and see what you can get out of it.
Finn returns later in the night to interrupt Velveteen Dream (trying to win the Cat Game from Super Troopers by saying “Adam Cole” in full as many times as possible in one conversation) and tell him to be kerful about attributing “greatest ever” status to NXT Champions. They’ll have a one-on-one match next week — another one you really wish fans could be around for, to make it special — because Adam Cole is dedicated to socially distancing out by the pool and letting his girlfriend’s thriving, self-perpetuating dentistry bring in the household capital.
Best: This Charlotte Flair Video Package
Maybe It’s Over: Xialiyah, The Legend Continues
Xia Li and NXT Lifer Aliyah have been feuding on and off since September of last year, and hopefully this decisive, three-minute win with a finisher for Li ends their Gargano and Ciampa-esque run together. The best these matches ever get is, “not embarrassing,” because bless her heart, Aliyah has been in NXT longer than Iron Mike Sharpe had that cast on his arm.
I’m not a huge Xia Li fan right now either, but she’s got a very clear upside, and it’ll be even more clear when she gets a finisher better than a Trouble in Paradise to the back you have to be in Child’s Pose to take. Wrestlers (read: Aliyah) have GOT to stop selling that like it’s a knockout blow. Being “knocked out” isn’t the only way you should be pinned, you know? Sometimes the idea is that a part of your body is hurt too much for you to kick out. At the very least, a part of your body is hurt so badly you’re in shock or too busy reacting or something to pay attention to the count. If you get knocked out from a kick to the middle of your back you’re either the weakest person in the company, or your opponent’s got super strength and just kicked your spine in half, Mortal Kombat-style.
Just A Setup For Next Week: Kai Another Day
In other women’s division news, the Tegan Nox and Dakota Kai beef has pivoted into a tag team match (player) after Nox defeats Raquel Gonzalez with Shotzi Blackheart running interference on Kai’s interference. Kai tries to cheat, because I guess Shawn Michaels also has to help Diesel win matches now, and Shotzi shows up (sans tank, sadly) to even the odds. Gonzalez falls victim to the Payback counter, is sapped by the Divas Memorial Distraction Roll-Up, and takes the pin. Next week it’ll be Nox and Shotzi (tag team name: SHAX) versus Kai and Gonzalez, for momentum.
Worst: That’s Not An Anaconda Vice
Dexter Lumis squashes Tehuti Miles and wins with the “Anaconda Vice,” which is not the Anaconda Vice. The way Merrin Dahmer over here is doing it, it’s a head and arm choke, like the one Jake Hager’s been doing. This is like when WWE decided any running knee strike was a “Shining Wizard.” If you’re going to put your name next to Hiroyoshi Tenzan’s and CM Punk’s, you need to at least bother to secure the arm and do it right. Watch your tapes, Hannibal Summerisle.
Speaking Of Funny Murderer Names
Killer Kross makes his formal, in-person debut (kind of?) this week by attacking Tommaso Ciampa. He’s now known as KARRION KROSS, which is what Jesus was doing before he was crucified. Kross is working a Ke$ha gimmick, so I’m excited for when his wrestling goes more acoustic and he starts doing covers of country matches.
Note: I am aware that my Kesha jokes are already 11 years old, so if you’re not a dying old person like me, here’s a replacement joke. “Kross crawls over Ciampa’s body and says the words, ‘tick tock,’ setting up their next six months of unnecessarily choreographed, 15-second dance battles.”
Best: KING CUERNO ALERT
Despite taking off his mask and wrestling at live events as “Jorge Bolly,” WWE’s called an audible and wants El Hijo del Fantasma to be — get this — El Hijo del Fantasma. Crazy, right? I’m hoping this brilliantly talented motherfucker with the best consistent dive in wrestling history gets to be more like Andrade and less like the Lucha Dragons, and that he has little to nothing to do with cruiserweights being kidnapped by randos in luchador masks in the Full Sail parking lot. Although I’ll be honest, if it’s revealed Fantasma ordered those abductions so he could kill them, stuff them, and mount them in his trophy room, I’ll lose my shit.
Wish they’d let him keep the more unique mask design, though. WWE likes to homogenize those luchador masks until there’s no actual design, and you can barely tell the dragon guy from the cat guy, or whatever. Global homogenization and assimilation doesn’t do design or individuality any favors, I guess.
Best: The Interim Cruiserweight Championship Tournament Begins
- it’s ridiculous that this tournament’s happening at all, given that Jordan Devlin’s not exactly sitting at home refusing to defend the championship, it’s the goddamn world’s fault, despite how much I like the miniature G1 setup
- Drake Maverick was announced for this and then let go almost immediately after, so given his comments about it on social media it’s hard to go into this with anything but cautious discomfort. Although I guess that could be said for almost anything happened on live, “essential” wrestling shows during a global health disaster
With all that understood, yeah, Akira Tozawa vs. Isaiah Scott is a good match. I’m always down for one of these surprise “actually Akira Tozawa’s gonna WIN now” bouts. Tozawa’s one of my very favorites, and one of the worst low key creative crimes of the past several years is signing THAT guy and turning him into an average, relatively personality-free cruiserweight like the rest of them. There’s not a huge difference between Tozawa and most of the people he wrestles aside from the fact that he’s Japanese and barks sometimes, which does a tremendous disservice to him being creatively off the wall and one of the most legitimately entertaining weirdos in wrestling.
Best: Keith Lee Is Adorable And You Should Love Him
Not a lot to say about this video package other than, “to know Keith Lee is to love him,” and possibly, “OH MY GOD LOOK AT KEITH LEE AS A BABY.” My only complaint is that Dominik Dijakovic didn’t crawl up from out of the water in the background and demand another North American title shot.
Best, But Also I Miss Fans: Timothy Thatcher Debuts As NXT Tag Team Champion
Finally this week we have Stallion Matt of the BroserWeights being forced to pick a replacement for Stallion Pete by Stallion Regal and ending up with Stallion Timothy Thatcher. They’re defending the BroserWeights’ Tag Team Championship against Pony Strong and Pony Fish. I think “Pony Strong” is just a stallion, isn’t it? Also, a “Pony Fish” is technically a hippocampus. So it’s two stallions including one substitute stallion against an additional stallion and a sea-horse.
Anyway, (1) Timothy Thatcher is a great replacement for Dunne, as he’s basically what would happen if Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch did the Fusion Dance and dressed up as Drew Gulak, and (2) I love that Pete Dunne’s wearing a WWE 2K19 jacket, and not a WWE 2K20 one. Pete knows what’s up. In case you’re wondering, Kyle O’Reilly didn’t make the show because he has diabetes, and if you’re immunocompromised in any way you should be staying the hell away from people right now.
This was easily the best match of the night and a strong way to debut Thatcher, although like a lot of these situations, it sure would’ve been fun to hear the roar of the people in the crowd who knew the name. Although if that was the case Pete Dunne would just be here? Anyway, Thatcher’s a tremendous addition to the show, and I hope Vince McMahon never sees him, decides he’s boring, and gives him a character where he’s a dorky loser who is boring and sucks. I also hope that when WALTER can finally show up again, Thatcher joins back up with him and helps Finn Bálor and Matt Riddle learn important lessons about mat sacredness.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
I’m sitting here thinking “Tehuti Miles out here dressing like Dwayne Wayne,” and then Byron says “Loomis looks like he’s from a different world” and now I’m afraid Byron can read my mind but screws it up just like he screws up everything else.
I’m waiting for the report that WWE has cut back on catering, so Undisputed Era, Riddle, and a bunch of other guys are sitting in a circle as Asuka cooks them Korean BBQ on a tiny copper grill.
Byron: Thatcher doesn’t even have a social media account
Dexter Lumis should just go sit in the stands for the rest of these tapings and stare at Byron.
Marcel Barthel sounds like the name of a snooty cartoon mouse
The Voice of Raisin
It’s the second most unfeeling, coldest, and murderous Thatcher in UK history!
Keith Lee pouncing Adam Cole into the cheap seats will NEVER not make me laugh
The way Tozawa’s clutching his head after that running senton, maybe Lawler meant to call it the rammin’ noodle moonsault.
*Matt Riddle eyes private jet and nods*
Riddle, to himself: “Hmm. I got to break Pete out of the UK and bring himself back to the states. And there is only one way for me to get there and I’m looking at it—-”
*hand comes down on Matt’s shoulder*
Triple H: “Riddle. Today is not the day.”
Riddle: “I tried, bro.”
That’s it for this week’s Best and Worst of NXT. At least it was better than TakeOver, he said for the first time ever.
As always, make sure to drop down into our comments section and let us know what you thought of the episode, and 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, especially during all this COVID-19 nightmare where we’re trying to keep freelancers lancing freely writing about almost wrestling shows.
Join us here next week for Jack Gallagher getting taxidermied by El Hijo del Fantasma, Drake Maverick vs. Jake Atlas in a match that will make us have a lot of complicated feelings, KUSHIDA vs. Tony Nese, and Dakota Kai and her mom vs. Tegan Nox and her weird friend from school. See you then!