Previously on the Best and Worst of NXT: We got Tooken Over in Portland with new Tag Team Champions, a newly evil-again Johnny Gargano, and a performance from Poppy that, yes, I’m going to mention and write about at length every chance I get.
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 February 19, 2020.
Not Worst, But Definitely Not Best Either: Velveteen Dream Vs. Roderick Strong
This week’s big story book-ending the episode with a show-opening promo and a main event is the in-ring return of the Velveteen Dream after five months on the shelf due to injury, and his ongoing psychosexual crusade to give Roderick Strong an inferiority complex via airbrushing. While it’s great to finally have Dream back, especially in his Prince ‘Raspberry Beret’ music video tribute gear (which not enough people on social media seemed to realize), this never really got off the ground for me.
Part of it is the Dream himself, as he seemed weirdly “off” during the match. No amount of Mauro Ranallo insisting Dream showed no ring rust kept him from showing ring rust. That’s to be expected sometimes, though, when you miss five months of work due to injury and try to come back at the top of your game. Another big part of it is Roderick Strong, who is cutting these I SWEAR ON MY DIGNITY AS A MAN AND ON THE SANCTITY OF CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE promos about how he’s going to gut Velveteen Dream like a fish or whatever, and then when the match starts he’s just wrestling it like he always would. There’s some awkward double-leg take-down attemptage at the beginning, but the difference between Strong vs. the guy threatening to usurp him as the father of his son and, like, Strong vs. Bronson Reed.
And while I try not to pit the Wednesday night shows against one another when I’m writing these columns, you have sincerely got to get that shit together and try a little harder when you’ve got crimson mask cage dives going on on the other channel. NXT is still a good show, and I like it like I pretty much always do, but it felt deeply bland and way too safe, especially when we’re use to it setting the bar for weekly TV wrestling quality, ESPECIALLY coming off of a TakeOver.
That’s all the comparing I’m gonna do, so don’t worry. There’s still some good stuff in here. Even underwhelming NXT episodes are preferable to pretty much everything else that happens on WWE TV during the week. Make sure you’re reading the NXT UK recaps, though, because that’s as close as we can get to classic Hulu and WWE Network NXT right now. I filled in on the most recent episode and it featured a lady who can literally fly.
Best: The Cruiserweights Are Still The Best
A great Cruiserweight Championship opener and a disappointing main event with a post-match attack from a heel faction. I thought Dynamite was supposed to be the WCW reboot?
In all seriousness, Jordan Devlin defending the recently remodeled Cruiserweight Championship against the former champ, Lio Rush, was far and away the match of the night for me. Devlin is on a massive roll right now and has Big Momentum Energy, coming off a legit and way too early Match of the Year candidate with Tyler Bate at TakeOver Blackpool II and following that up by winning a fatal four-way for the strap at Worlds Collide. Add to that the fact that Lio Rush has had his career (and career trajectory) completely revitalized by the melding of NXT and 205 Live, and you’ve got a pairing that probably couldn’t do bad work if they tried.
This Poisoned Rana followed by The Come-Up with Devlin only surviving by unconsciously getting his foot on the same bottom rope Rush just bounced up from was a hell of a near-fall.
With the next UK TakeOver being announced for Ireland there’s no way they’re having their Irish Cruiserweight Champion drop the title before they get there, but these two are good enough to create some believable doubt.
Speaking Of Guys Who’ll Probably Show Up At TakeOver Dublin
I hope Finn Bálor’s next “chess move” involves more face-stomping and pinning guys in the most sexually dominant way possible without making the show TV-MA.
Theory Of A Dead Man
Surprisingly there are not one, not two, but three segments on this episode devoted to matches either not getting started or getting interrupted in the middle by completely unrelated Superstars showing up to cut impromptu promos.
The first happens when Austin Theory shows up for a match and is either too stupid or too inexperienced to let a Tommaso Ciampa interruption happen. Ciampa’s trying to set up the Loser Leaves NXT match with Johnny Gargano most of us assume is the only logical conclusion to their story (and the only way to keep them from wrestling each other every few shows forever) and Theory keeps being like, “excuse me, I would like to confront the guy who kicked out of everything short of a direct nuclear blast at TakeOver and has fans gleefully chanting both ‘psycho killer’ and ‘daddy’ at him.” It doesn’t go well.
They’re having a match next week that I’m sure will be more competitive, assuming Gargano doesn’t show up in the middle to deliver his response and stare into the camera like he zoned out during a boring conversation.
Robert Stone Bland
The second comes during the “relaunch of the Robert Stone Brand,” with the same Chelsea Green with the same “shh” taunt except now she’s dressed like Peyton Royce. Bianca Belair shows up to challenge Charlotte Flair to show back up at Full Sail so she can, and I quote, “whoop that ass,” which allows Green to regain the advantage over Kayden Carter with a Divas roll-up and eventually some Robert Stone interference to win the match. This bit probably would’ve worked better if you hadn’t done it twice.
Green wins with the Unprettier, which she does upside down … accidentally? On purpose?
Part of me really likes the concept of the Robert Stone Brand as a guy who has no idea how to be a sports agent, so he ends up trying to manage and brand a professional wrestler, and found a woman who (in kayfabe) looks great but isn’t actually good enough to defeat even the lowest-ranked opponents. So they’re just cheating their asses off against jobbers and pushing forward on some combination of corrupted entitlement masquerading as willpower and a bad understanding of how “branding” is supposed to work. Basically they’re the people who run websites, as wrestlers.
The Most Romantic Segment Of The Year
The third segment involves Keith Lee, who gets his promo interrupted by Kona Reeves and rightfully, immediately puts him in the dirt. That leads to a second interruption, this time from Lee’s lonely kaiju frenemy Dominik Dijakovic. DD hits Keith with the line, “I’m sorry, I’m not ready to move on yet,” which has enough “I wish I knew how to quit you” vibes to make the crowd laugh and go “aww,” and for Keith to make some, “hey wait a minute man you’ve got the wrong idea,” hands.
That’s followed by one of those shots that has to be on purpose, where Dijakovic’s pointing at the title and trying to say, “if [I’d hit Feast Your Eyes at TakeOver] THAT would be mine,” but Keith’s got the title below his waist so it straight up looks like Dijakovic’s pointing at his dick. IF I’D DEFEATED YOU AT TAKEOVER THAT DICK WOULD BE MINE, KEITH.
Dijakovic sounds exactly like Teddy from Bob’s Burgers, by the way. Lee tells him to stop making excuses, and notes that every time they wrestle each other, the fans chant, “fight forever.” Lee:
“If you can talk Regal into it, we can fight forever.”
So what, you’re both getting called up to Smackdown?
Also This Week: Tag Team Wrestling
In addition to the Cruiserweight Championship match and all the random interruptions, the show featured a couple of watchable but unremarkable tag team matches. The first was the Grizzled Young Veterans, fresh off ethering York and The Hunt at the same time on NXT UK, more or less squashing the team of Raul Mendoza and Joaquin Wilde. I’ve got to be honest with you, when I saw Mendoza show up for a tag team match I remembered that he’s on live shows teaming with the former El Hijo del Fantasma (aka the former King Cuerno) and got my hopes up. That’s on me.
The Veterans win using The Revival’s NXT playbook of tandem offense and making saves for each other — that spot where a guy’s getting whipped into the corner so his partner runs down the apron and hops up in front of it to soften the blow pops me 100% of the time — and win with Ticket to Mayhem. They cut a short promo about how the United States is actually the “land of the neckbeards and home of the ignorant yanks,” which makes the Forgotten Sons cut a weird babyface pro-America promo about how GYV doesn’t understand what “veteran” means. No, you’re thinking of Michael Cole. Also, when they’re saying “grizzled young veterans” they mean wrestling veterans, not military veterans, and you’re proving them right about the ignorant yanks. Just saying.
Best: Can’t Believe The Dusty Cup Would Betray Our Trust Like This
Finally we had the new NXT Tag Team Champions, the BroSerweights (I’m still not capitalizing it “BroserWeights” because I understand how a damn portmanteau works) against Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch, aka Oney and Twoey. When I saw this announced my eyebrows went all the way up in anticipation, but it’s mostly an excuse to give the new champs a post-TakeOver win and never picks up the pace like the best Lorcan and Burch matches. Again, it’s good, but a little underwhelming. That feels like the vibe right now. Maybe TakeOver burned everybody out?
The highlight, though, is the pre-match promo where we find out that (1) Matt Riddle got their golf cart impounded, and (2) the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic trophy has failed the wellness policy and has been suspended for 30 days. You guys are so weird. My only complaint here is that we didn’t get a series of videos explaining how they got back from Portland.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
The Real Birdman
I never realized how big Marina’s nose was
Kona Reeves took that BBC so fast that he got an offer from Brazzers.
With enough evidence, he’ll eventually become Austin Law.
Otherwise Known as Tara the Ref
12 months ago- “I’m not sure about either of the Adams.”
6 months ago- “Adam Cole is amazing, but Adam Page is lame and generic.”
Now- “Adam Cole is just too much at this point, but wow I am digging Adam Page’s current gimmick and his team with Omega.”
You know when you stop and think about how this feud is centered around one of Shayna’s incompetent lackeys it’s like ten times funnier
This is as close as Marina will ever get to being in the main event.
When I see Joaquin Wilde in that entrance helmet, I just pretend he’s an alien bounty hunter who’s tracked Kris Statlander to this planet
I like that Regal only shows up to put people in literal cages
In response to Charlotte going after Rhea, The Fiend was set to challenge Adam Cole. However after Takeover The Fiend thought there was too much no selling for his taste.
Dave M J
Dakota Kai is still the hero of this story, by the way.
Next week, NXT Domestic’s equivalent of Jinny and Jazzy Gabert will have their new allegiance tested as Dakota Kai will be forced to face Tegan Nox inside a steel cage. Tegan Nox just can’t satisfy that self-righteous bloodlust, huh? General Manager Giles needs to recognize who the villain of this story is before it’s too late.
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 and go vote for us for Best Wrestling Media in the RSPW Awards.
Join us next week for Austin Theory vs. Tommaso Ciampa, and Prince Bálor dropkicking someone else into existential depression. See you then!