Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE NXT: Thuh fuhNOMINAHL Ay, Jay, STAHLLS showed up with his terrible tag team friends to pay back NXT with a three-person invasion of Full Sail University. Plus, Dakota Kai got physically choked out in a match, and then professionally and emotionally choked out by being left off Rhea Ripley’s War Games team.
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 November 13, 2019.
Best: Angel Soft
This is a good episode of NXT and all, but I think it’s fair to say it peaked in its opening minutes with Angel Garza leaving the ring and hopping the rail to condescendingly remove his breakaway pants in front of Lio Rush’s family. If there’s two things Angel Garza hates, it’s families, and pants.
This (of course) enrages Lio Rush into throwing some high octane offense and short king dives, and there’s a followup video on Dot Com of him getting real hot about it and threatening to permanently disfigure Garza if Garza gets that close to his wife again. The best part of this is that there’s also a post-match video of Garza blowing her a kiss, because he’s Angel Garza, and Angel Garza don’t give a [holds up microphone]. Just once I want a wrestler to bring their family to the ring or mention them in a promo and have a heel mess with them, and when they’re asked about it they’re just like, “well, I guess I shouldn’t have brought my family to my match against the evil guy and put them in the front row and pointed at them a bunch. That’s probably on me. Wrestlers say mean shit all the time, it’s fine.” Or better yet, a good guy wrestler the fans love who hates families. I’d say that was john Cena, but like, a John Cena that doesn’t want to get married or have a family AND doesn’t want to make other families happy. Just a dude who straight-up abhors familial love.
For the record, this was goddamn fantastic on all levels. 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.
P.S. Angel Garza is going to be a huge star if they play their cards right. People seem to like him and engage with him more every single time he shows up. Unmasked Andrade With A Personality is a dangerous concept.
Worst: Stop Running Aliyah Vs. Xia Li Matches
What are you trying to get out of these?
Xia Li has an upside, but desperately needs to be working with people who know what they’re doing. Aliyah seems like a nice person who is great at maintaining employment, but couldn’t have a great match if she was in the ring with Io Shirai, much less Xia Li. Xia throws those old Kofi Kingston-style kicks where they either miss by a foot or crush your face for real, and Aliyah has no idea how to defend either version. So you end up with post-match tweets like this:
How did that even happen? The final kick from Li hit her in the bicep and shoulder. Here’s a slow motion replay for you. Did Aliyah somehow manage to block AND get shoot kicked in the face at the same time? Did she block the kick and then break her own nose with her hand trying to bump? Did they just add Ken Shamrock blood afterward for affect? As a loosely related side note, watch Aliyah when she’s between moves. The transitional awkwardness is beyond description.
Anyway, the match they had in September was weaksauce, too. Can y’all just free up Aliyah to go wrestle bad tag matches on AEW Dark or whatever and run Li against your Candices LeRae and Shaynas Baszler until she stops looking like she’s in there by accident?
Worst/Best: Promo Parade!
When we wrote about being worried that NXT would “turn into Raw and Smackdown,” it’s little stuff like this we were talking about. It’s not a Sky Is Falling scenario by any stretch, but it’s certainly doesn’t differentiate black and yellow as the “no bullshit” brand. This is sincerely the distillation of WWE “bullshit.”
Finn Bálor shows up and cuts a way less effective version of his excellent promo from a couple of weeks ago. It feels like Finn Bálor again, no matter how many gun hands he makes at the screen. He’s interrupted by Matt Riddle, who wants to fight him. Finn runs away, so Undisputed Era show up to confront Riddle 4-on-1. BUT WAIT A MINUTE, here’s Tommaso Ciampa and Keith Lee, Riddle’s partners in the upcoming War Games match against Undisputed Era, to back him up! Who knew! Instead of … you know, action, this turns into another person vs. person promo battle, between Keith Lee and Roderick Strong.
Lee and Strong have a really good match, but you aren’t gonna see it on the WWE official YouTube page because the entire clip they cut is of the extracurricular stuff at ringside and the plot of the promo parade continuing. Undisputed Era show up again, as they always do, but Ciampa and Riddle show up to dispatch them. This leads to Finn Bálor showing BACK up out of the audience and attacking Riddle. This causes a distraction, but instead of going with plot device #1 (distraction finish!) they go with plot device #2 (challenger has pinned the champion!). THIS causes Dominik Dijakovic to show up, destroy all the heels by himself, and offer himself up as, I guess, a replacement for Matt Riddle on the War Games team. Because Riddle wants to wrestle Bálor now.
There’s more effort put into maintaining character consistency and motivation than on ANY Raw or Smackdown, so please know I’m not making this point to be dramatic, but the entire thing felt like a “good” Raw segment. Promo parade to say stuff we’ve already been saying for weeks and that the entire audience understands, wrestlers showing up to make their own matches — on the show that previously had William Regal show up and inform people that HE makes the matches, not them — the match itself not really mattering as much as how it sets up the NEXT five matches, and multiple stream-crossing run-ins because you want to book a new match featuring a guy you’ve already booked into a different match. Not my bag. Strong and Lee did good work, but I shouldn’t get through a quarter-hour of NXT and feel like the next step is Nugenix commercials.
The Best Reed Swerve Since The Discovery Of Moses By The Pharaoh’s Daughter
How funny is it that Bronson Reed’s singlet just says, “thicc?” He should come out next week in trunks that say “A SNACK” across the ass. MAMMA MIA BETH PHOENIX, THAT’S BOSS BITCH BRONSON REED, HE’S THE ZADDY OF THE NXT HEAVYWEIGHT DIVISION, NIGEL MCGUINNESS TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HOW BRONSON REED SENDS THE MESSAGE OF YERRRRR TO HIS OPPONENTS.
I like Reed’s current role as a sort of secular Otis Dozovic; a thinking man’s chubby dynamo who’s clearly very good and wrestles competitive little mid-card sprints but might or might not come out on top. NXT would benefit a lot from remembering that the dead middle of their cards and divisions should feature a lot of heated, back-and-forth competition to establish the next stars and contenders. Giving it a sense of desperation in shorter, faster-paced matches worked BRILLIANTLY for Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch as a tag team, and if you play up how anyone can beat anyone on any given night, it’ll be a lot harder to broadly predict the winner based on observable booking trends. It’s especially effective if you don’t run the same two guys against each other every week.
It’s All For You, Damien
Killian Dain is supposed to resolve his issues with Pete Dunne, but gets attacked by Damien Priest, dressed like a black licorice Fruit Roll-Up. He looks like his Halloween costume is the sheets they put on beds at sex clubs. This leads to another three-person pull-apart brawl. I understand the need to make everything feel super exciting and IN THE NOW, but I think the show would benefit from remembering to occasionally do some actual character building stuff again, rather than just asking fans to watch the same basic brawl over and over and pick their favorite based on their pre-NXT reputations. I need NXT characters to be more fluid and complex than, “they all want to fight! They are not your kind!” ESPECIALLY while the brand vs. brand vs. brand nonsense is happening on literally every other WWE show. Fewer pull-apart brawls, more pull-together brawls.
TL;DR version of this entire column: There are more options for your segment than “normal match where nothing happens,” “aimless talking leads to brawl to set up match,” and, “match doesn’t happen because of a brawl to set up another match.” Right now, NXT TV, while a lot of fun and still full of so many things I love, is essentially a three-course meal serving up the same three courses every week.
Best: Kay Lee Fyre
On this week’s NXT UK, UK Women’s Champion Kay Lee Ray makes a surprise appearance to … wait, sorry, wrong image.
There we go.
On this week’s NXT Domestic, UK Women’s Champion Kaywinnet Lee Ray makes a surprise appearance to shove Mia Yim off a ladder and prevent her from winning a match, AJ Lee-style. That makes her the fourth member of Shayna Baszler’s War Games team, making the lineup Baszler, KLR, Bianca Belair, and Io Shirai. Unless Rhea Ripley’s team is planning to show up in mini-tanks and shoot their opponents with guns, Shayna’s team’s gonna win. Especially when you’ve got a lot of random chaos options like: Mia Yim’s sudden but inevitable heel turn to pay off her being asked to join the Horsewomen several weeks ago, Hurt Feelings Dakota Kai showing up to do something evil and/or stupid, and now even Smackdown Women’s Champion Evil Bayley lurking.
Bayley makes an appearance here to attack Eviler Bayley (Shayna Baszler) as she applauds the good (bad) job her mean-spirited friends did. I love the friendly wave between Baszler and Kay Lee Ray. Heel game recognizes heel game. But yeah, street clothes Bayley shows up and asks to speak to Shayna’s manager, and now what, are we gonna run a three-team women’s War Games? Is there time enough to convince Bayley, Sasha Banks, Charlotte Flair, and Becky Lynch to randomly work an NXT TakeOver? Better, broader idea: can we just bring back everyone who ever left NXT, close the door on entrances to and exists from the brand, and cancel Raw and Smackdown? Or like, run Raw and Smackdown with the understanding that it’s clown shoes bullshit for people who are somehow watching wrestling but don’t ever think about purposely wanting to watch wrestling?
My only complaint here, again, is that the stuff happening before and after the match is positioned as considerably more important than anything that happened during it. That’s the Vince Russo WCW way of approaching things. The matches are largely inconsequential, you’re here for the stories. And the only story we’ve got right now is, “people are gonna be fighting again soon!” I’m not saying Io Shirai’s in danger of turning into Jason Jett any time soon, but it’s good to mention these things before they become insurmountable problems.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
“Guess what, Brandon. We lied!” AKA every time WWE promises a better show.
You ever think Mauro’s anxiously waiting for Mia Yim to announce she’s pregnant so he can shout the loudest “MAMA MIA!!!” of all time?
Dark Bayley appears on NXT. Izzy buys Cure cassingle on way home.
“Did you see what we did on Smackdown?!!!
Did you see what we did on Raw?!!!
Man, what’s even in that briefcase? Momentum?
Baron Von Raschke
I learned an important life lesson from Dakota Kai tonight….Never try to help anyone anywhere at anytime. A crazed Scotswoman will appear to hurt me if I do. Sorry…that’s just my policy from now on.
The Real Birdman
I hope after all this Shayna just picks Ronda Rousey & everybody throws a fit
How do we know if Matt Riddle is qualified to wrestle Finn Balor if he hasn’t beaten Finn Balor for the right to face Finn Balor?
Lio Rush looks like my friend’s 4 year old running through the house avoiding having to put underwear on
You know what I just realized? WWE has been so bad for so long that I’ve been “watching” wrestling as little more than background noise for awhile now. Not actually watching, unless the announcers give me a reason to look up.
AEW and NXT are starting to change that.
[squints] Nope, still don’t see it.
Anyway, that’s it for this week’s Best and Worst of NXT. Another really fun show that I felt had some structural problems, that I’m probably only noticing because I’m in the middle of watching Raw and Smackdown try to “build” Survivor Series and am triggered by everything. Drop down into our comments section to let us know what you thought of the show, give us a share on social media to help us out and get more eyes and commenters on the columns, and be here next week for the go-home show for War Games. See you then!