Previously on the Best and Worst of NXT: After months of trying to be a Good Dude, Samoa Joe finally snapped and turned on Finn Bálor. He did this after Baron Corbin had interrupted Finn’s championship defense against Apollo Crews, which has Crews and Balor at each others’ throats. Both rivalries extend back to a #1 contender battle royal, which itself was created as a response to Joe asking Finn for a title shot after helping him win the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. Read that paragraph again. See how cool WWE could be if they took a second to make sense and have sh*t happen for a reason? Man, I’m not even to the column yet.
Click here to watch this week’s episode on WWE Network. Be sure to follow the weekly column on the Best and Worst of NXT tag page. Please scroll through to enjoy this week’s edition, for Nov. 11, 2015.
Worst: The Person Who Changed Tye Dillinger’s Entrance Theme Should Be Fired Immediately
I haven’t been this mad since the Adam Rose Debacle of Aught-14. (I don’t know how aught works.)
“Perfect 10” Tye Dillinger had the best entrance theme in NXT. Click here to listen. It was called “City Invasion,” and made him sound like he’d just leapt in from a rooftop somewhere. Now, his theme is “Ten.” It sounds like Jimmy Hart couldn’t get the rights to “City Invasion.” It makes me want to put the past two years of NXT on a table and flip it the hell over.
Between this and Bull Dempsey, what happened at this set of tapings? Did Full Sail have a “write an entrance song for NXT” project?
Best/Worst: Not Really Sure If I Buy Apollo Crews Getting Angry About Anything, But Crews/Corbin Will Be Great
Anyway, this week’s opening match is supposed to be Dillinger vs. Baron Corbin, but it gets interrupted by an “angry” Apollo Crews. Crews eliminated Corbin from the #1 contender battle royal a few weeks ago and Corbin responded by ruining Crews’ NXT Championship match, so now things have gotten heated. I use angry in quotes there because I still can’t buy Apollo Crews getting mad about stuff.
I mean, in the ring it works, but his backstage promo is still him smiling and making bug-eyes while talking about how he’s gonna break a dude in half. He’s still just so happy to be there. He’ll be like [angry face] “Corbin wants to ruin my match?” [wide-eyed smile] [angry face] “I want him in a match!” [wide-eyed smile] [angry face] [wide-eyed smile]
I want him to get raw as f*ck about something soon. Move that good heart to the side for a second and replace it with a motherf*cker I wish you would.
Best: Bayley’s Gonna Kill You
I wasn’t expecting it, but this might’ve been one of my favorite NXT moments of the year. Ignore the crowd doing the “hey we want some Bayley” 2 Live Crew chant they appropriated from The New Day without context.
Bayley teams up with the Hype Bros to take on Alexa Bliss, Blake and Murphy. The match itself is a lot of fun — Mojo in particular seems to be putting it together, and isn’t using his butthole as a fulcrum for 99 percent of his offense anymore — but the money is in the finish. Because she’s a terrible person who doesn’t really care about the interchangeable mannequin tag team she commands, Alexa steals the NXT Women’s Championship and bails. Bayley tries to go after her, but Buddy Murphy gets between them. Instead of cowering or hitting a nut shot or whatever else WWE would normally do, Bayley achieves maybe her greatest character moment ever: she confidently, nonchalantly Belly-to-Bayleys Murphy out of his boots and takes off after Alexa.
What I love about it is how much sense it makes. On the NXT hierarchy, Bayley is more or less a legendary hero right now. She’s the member of the Four Horsewomen who got to stick around and not get shoehorned into the Divas Revolution, which means she serves as a sort of generational ambassador between the old class and the new. Based on size and strength (and bone density, if you’re an asshole), Murphy would probably destroy her in a fight. The thing about pro wrestling is that it’s not “a fight,” so you can set up a moment where Bayley catches him by surprise and plants his ass in the dirt and it be totally, contextually believable. Blake is so stunned he just kinda holds out his arms as she runs by. I love it so much. I wish they’d let this be the end of horrible WWE-style mixed tag matches that kill the drama of tag-team wrestling by having partners all have to tag in and out at the same time to pair up the sexes. Just let your wrestlers wrestle, and if you want to do intergender without “doing intergender,” just have them wrestle and not punch each other in the face. I get why some people have reservations, but the value of a fictional universe you control is that you can change attitudes and make the characters do anything you want. Especially when you’re as big and have as much control and influence as WWE.
And yes, this is just me still pushing for an Alexa Bliss vs. Enzo Amore match.
Best: Bayley’s Rogues Gallery
Another thing I love is that since Bayley simultaneously lost all her peers, the rebuilding process means she doesn’t instantly have another blood rival. Even the already-great wrestlers on the show like Asuka haven’t been around long enough to develop characters that make sense in relation to Bayley, so the champ ends up facing not one challenge, but several smaller challenges from the talent pool.
We got to see a little of that on Wednesday. Alexa Bliss isn’t really a big deal in the women’s division, but she’s got enough position to steal a belt and get some photos taken of her posing with it backstage. Eva Marie is creeping around back there somewhere, and so is Nia Jax. Eva is smart enough to throw in with Jax, and I hope her proposal was, “do you want to be on a show where you go to Cancun and argue with your boyfriend?” Nia is imposing but green. Eva is culturally relevant (in WWE terms, at least), but terrible. Alexa is good, but not ready. Those are three great styles of opponents for Bayley in the early days of her hopefully-forever-long championship run, because each of them could conceivably beat her. Alexa could cheat with Blake and Murphy, especially after Bayley laid one of them out. Eva could use her shifty referee pal or her new monster. Nia could just steamroll her, because how’s Bayley supposed to suplex and hurricanrana her around?
I love it. When that Big Actual Opponent finally arises, this will all make it feel that much more important.
Worst: What’s Deonna Purrazzo Doing In The Full Sail Zone??
Speaking of Jax, she gets her weekly squash match against “Deonna,” whom you may know from her one appearance in TNA and a brutally rehearsed match in Ring of Honor. NXT’s been an A+ Player with “local” women’s division talent lately — Evie, Shazza McKenzie and Kay Lee Ray specifically — so Deonna was a massive step down. Imagine if Baron Corbin wrestled Tommy End, Pentagon and Zack Sabre, Jr. and then squashed Cheeseburger.
Long story short, I would’ve liked this a lot more if they’d called her “Tina Ferrari.”
Best: New Tag Champs!
The weird apathetic curse of the NXT Tag Team Championship continues.
If you can remember anything cool from the British Ambition/Wyatt Family/Corey Graves era of the titles (besides “the Wyatt Family, before they were ruined”) you’re lying. Then the belts went on The Ascension, who became the “greatest NXT Tag Team Champions in history” by squashing nobodies for a year. They finally lost the belts to the Lucha Dragons, who felt like transitional champions. The Dragons lost the belts to Blake and Murphy, who felt like transitional champions. Blake and Murphy lost to the Vaudevillains, who felt like transitional champions, and now Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder are the tag champs. Can you guess what they feel like?
Hey, maybe that’s the point. Maybe it’s not supposed to be this grand “reward” for service like the NXT or NXT Women’s Championships. Those belts are held by the very best in the field. The tag belts are just kinda there for people to have something to do. I feel bad for the Villains, because I like them a lot, and I just don’t know what their deal is. Does that make sense? When they were doing silent films and stuff they at least had a gimmick. Now they’re just good wrestlers in matching tights who come out to circus music, and that’s that. That’s fine, especially if you want them to make it on a bigger stage than this, but it doesn’t feel special. It feels like Second Sin Cara or the Randomly Paired White Guys.
I hope that Dawson and Wilder do something really exceptional with the belts, because they’re a good team. They have no characters beyond “we’re good at wrestling,” but that can work. They just need foils, and opponents with reason. Or, you know, they need to keep the belts warm for a few weeks until Jason Jordan and Chad Gable can scoop them up and finally lead us into a glorious new Golden Era of tag-team wrestling. Maybe this entire f*cking operation has been building to Jordan and Gable. I’m in.
Worst: The Ascension Is Still Not Great At Talking
And hey, speaking of these guys, they recorded a wonderfully bad promo to accept Jordan and Gable’s challenge. Being on the main roster hasn’t taught The Ascension how to speak into a camera without sounding like the first draft of Demolition Crush — not even Ax or Smash. It makes them sound like Puke. Heidenreich with the skull paint?
I don’t know. I’m happy The Ascension still has a place they can come and feel like real wrestlers, though. They seem like good dudes, and they deserve better than being team 5 in a 4-team elimination match on Smackdown.
Best: Samoa Joe Has To Explain How Wrestling Works
Finally, we top off the show with Samoa Joe explaining why he attacked Finn Bálor.
If we look at it objectively, he had to do it. He teamed with Finn to earn his respect, then politely asked him for a shot at the belt. Finn accepted, William Regal said no, and Joe lost a battle royal for a #1 contender spot. That apparently drove him mad, because now the story is that Finn wouldn’t give him the shot he deserved, so now he’s got to make his own opportunities.
What I like about that is that Joe has a legit beef, but has warped it enough to come across as a heel. Joe DID carry Finn through the tournament. Literally, almost. Finn blew out his knee in the semi-finals, so Joe had to do most of the work. Both the finish to the semi-finals and finals were Joe Muscle Bustering dudes to set them up for Finn’s finish. Doing the nice thing didn’t work, so now he’s gotta be a dick. It all becomes Finn’s fault, and that’s why we can still cheer Finn and not say “hey, Joe’s right.” Because he’s not. You can understand where he’s coming from, which makes it compelling, but he’s wrong. He’s got his facts mixed up.
The pull-apart at the end further illustrated that, with Joe talking a big, confrontational game and still having to take a cheap shot to take out Finn. He chokes him out, which he can say is an act of dominance, but he only got the choke in when he used the referees as environmental weapons. That’s not fair. That’s a coward’s way out, orchestrated by a guy who tried to take the long way around and got f*cked up on a shortcut. Love it.