The Best And Worst Of WWE NXT 11/22/17 And 11/29/17: Reconstruction Site

Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE NXT: TakeOver: WarGames happened, and we ended up with two new champions (and a significant injury to Drew McIntyre).

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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for November 22 and November 29, 2017.

Best: Left And Leaving

How was your Thanksgiving holiday? Were you able to keep conversations with racist relatives to a minimum? Good. Welcome back to NXT, where we’ve had two straight episodes of nothing in terms of storyline advancement — in fact, we’ve been going back through time, Zelina Vega-style. NXT from November 22 was comprised of matches that happened in the TakeOver: WarGames pre-show; NXT from November 29 was recorded at a house show in San Antonio the night before TakeOver. Hopefully the flux capacitor gets fixed in time for next week, or else we might end up with the Ascension as tag champs again. But I digress.

These two episodes featured a hodge-podge of matches, most of which were the dreaded “wrestling for the sake of wrestling,” but luckily — and in one case, surprisingly — the competition was strong. First up, we have Ruby Riot(t) and Sonya Deville(e) in front of a hot TakeOver crowd who was ready to see two women pummel each other, and that’s what they got. Viewed in the context of TakeOver, the match was a warm-up, hence no insane spots, but there was some nice storytelling in Deville working over Riot’s right foot, and Riot using her left foot to connect with her head-kick finisher instead.

Given both of these women were called up before this even aired, it seemed like the end to this feud — it’s hard to keep feuding once you’ve both left the promotion, no? — but now, we’re getting a no-holds-barred blowoff next week at Full Sail, which I assume will end with Deville on top, or maybe another trio of women will debut and beat both of them down, because WWE only has one whiteboard between all three shows and they have to share. (In this nightmare scenario, the trio would be Vanessa Borne, Taynara Conti and Aliyah. Ugh.)

Best: History To The Defeated

The TakeOver pre-show main event of Pete Dunne defending the U.K. Championship against Johnny Gargano, citizenship issues aside (I mean, shouldn’t only U.K. wrestlers be able to challenge for it? Otherwise why was there a tournament featuring exclusively U.K. wrestlers?), was a barn burner. Everything Dunne does is exciting — when he works the joints, it feels purposeful and painful, whereas when someone like, say, Zack Sabre Jr. does it, it just feels clinical.

Gargano was no slouch here, either, turning himself into the King Of The DDTs — his suicide dive into a DDT and his spike DDT were hella impressive. But Dunne once again stole the show with his character work when he took out his mouthguard to bite Gargano. Gargano’s response — realizing Dunne’s mouthguard was out, making his mouth more vulnerable, allowing him to connect with a superkick — probably sounded better in the back, as the crowd didn’t really follow his motives, leaving the spot to flounder a little. Still, I wouldn’t hate seeing this match again in a year for the NXT Championship. (I would, however, hate seeing it in the middle of a random episode of Raw to a dead crowd in Des Moines or something, but such is life.)

While both of these episodes are largely devoid of plot, there is a nice, subdued post-match promo from Gargano on WWE’s YouTube channel in which he says performing well isn’t enough anymore. It’s some of his best mic work in a while, mainly because it sounds incredibly sincere, and it doesn’t devolve into Dolph Ziggler-esque whining. Check it out.

Best: Slips And Tangles

The only reason — the only reason — the first match of this week’s episode of NXT gets a Best is because of Montez Ford. Riddick Moss and Tino Sabbatelli still don’t do anything for me, and Angelo Dawkins is still Angelo Dawkins, so y’all know my feelings there. But goddamn, does Ford get it.

After Dawkins gets one of his headbands knocked off (which, lol), Ford is in the ring, gets a two-count on one of the Baby Oil Brothers, slams his hands on the mat in frustration, sees the headband and puts it on, eventually going on to win the match with a beautiful frog splash. I’d like to officially submit that headbands are to Montez Ford as spinach is to Popeye, if only to encourage him to steal Dawkins’ supply.

Worst: Anchorless

It feels weird to Worst a match featuring two of the best performers in NXT’s women’s division, but herein lies the problem with airing house show matches instead of actual, purposeful content: House show matches aren’t really a lot of fun to watch unless you’re there. Literally everything Peyton Royce did in this match was over the top and distracting — her facial expressions, her attacks, her attempts at cheating with the help of Billie Kay. It’s all done to play to the cheap seats in a house show and pop the crowd, but none of it works for the home viewer (or at least it didn’t for me).

Supplemental Worst for Kairi Sane’s new theme, which sounds like my PlayStation is stuck on a Final Fantasy VII load screen.

Best: My Favorite Chords

The plus side of combining two episodes of NXT into one recap is twice the Pete Dunne content! When this U.K. tag match was first announced at the start of the episode, I was baffled as to why Mark Andrews would tag with Dunne, so I’m glad they resolved that confusion with a backstage segment, even though clearly all of those bits were filmed at TakeOver (it was especially a mindf*ck to watch Trent Seven and Tyler Bate challenge Dunne to a tag match after he had just defended his U.K Championship, 24 hours after having already beaten Seven and Bate in said proposed tag match. I’m telling you, man, Time Traveler Zelina Vega has really jacked this show’s universe up. Are we all part of the Dharma Initiative now?)

Overlooking Mauro Ranallo’s weird insistence on making a hip-hop reference and then looking to the black commentator for approval (“Like YG, he wants to twist those fingers, Percy!” made me cringe), this was an expertly wrestled match that once again allowed Dunne and Bate to shine. The bit where Dunne tags in Mandrews behind the ref’s back, Mandrews unwittingly enters, the ref blocks him (having not seen the tag), then Dunne absolutely levels Seven while the ref is distracted? Not to encroach too much on Brandon’s current gimmick, but *chef’s kiss*. A thousand *chef’s kisses*.

And not that it needs to be written again, but man, Dunne and Bate are f*cking insane when they’re together. Originally, I was going to title this section “Greatest Hits Collection,” but honestly, much of what the pair did in the ring wasn’t a repeat of their previous NXT encounters. How deep do their collective bags of tricks go? Barring injury, we literally have two decades of these guys performing ahead of us. Their talent level is bonkers.

Strangely enough, the only thing that looked bad was Bate’s strike on Dunne after bouncing off the ropes, which led into the Tyler Driver ’97. It clearly didn’t connect, and was the only “fake” moment of the whole match. Do I agree with letting Bate pin Dunne? No, but again, remember, there’s only one whiteboard between all three brands, and “___ has pinned the ___ champion!” was etched in there with an X-acto knife a decade ago, so it is what it is — and damn, it was good.

Next Week: New NXT Champion Andrade “Cien” Almas will throw a celebration, and we’ll get a no-holds-barred match between Ruby Riot and Sonya Deville. See ya then!