– Sharing the NXT column is important. Do that for me. Or, you know, just PIRATE MY JOKES.
– In case you missed it earlier this week, I started doing a Vintage Best and Worst column that goes back to the very first episode of the very first season of NXT. You can read about s1e1 here. I’m doing one every Monday, so follow along with them and help me make jokes about Ryback’s cowboy hat.
– This week’s episode can be found on Hulu here.
Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for December 11, 2013.
Best: William Regal Is Tired As Hell Of Alex Riley
Before the show even has the chance to start, William Regal has his verbal brass knucks on and is ready to Power Of The Punch the shit of Alex Riley for any stupid thing he says. I guess Regal watched last week’s episode where Riley managed to make even Renee Young unbearable with conversations about twerking and which wrestlers she’s slept with.
When asked about whether or not the champions have the advantage in a championship title defense (spoiler alert, they do), Riley tries to fire off something intelligent and comes up with (I’m paraphrasing) THE CHAMPS, THEY GOTTA DO THIS THING, AND THEN THEY UH, THEY DON’T HAVE TO HAVE A PINFALL, BUT THEN THEY, YOU KNOW WHAT I’M SAYING, THE PINFALL AND THE CHAMPIONSHIP. Regal’s response: “It’s me who does the stuttering around here, flower, not you.”
It wasn’t the only time Regal would call out Riley for being a moron, nor was it the most vicious, but it happened before Riley could even blink. Punch him between the eyes thoroughly, Lord Steven.
Worst: NXT Could Really Use Some Tag Teams, Guys
In this week’s Best and Worst of Raw I detailed how exciting the tag team division has become, because there are so many fresh, talented teams who are hungry and putting on good matches every time out. Normally that’s the kind of talking point I reserve for NXT, where the midcard heels are all cult heroes and El Generico’s main-eventing and the women are the best workers on the show, but … nope, the NXT tag division is kind of a butthole right now.
You’ve got the Ascension. They’re the tag champs. Big guys with “intensity” who aren’t really very good at wrestling yet, but they’re closer to The Miz than Eva Marie on the Bad Wrestler Scale so we’re going with it. The number one contenders are Hunico and Camacho. They earned a title shot by … uh, beating some jobbers and saying they wanted a title shot. After that you’ve got JACK DOOK. You had Adrian Neville and his rotating gang of tag partners, but that went south. You had Sylvester LeFort’s Fighting Legionnaire, but Alexander Rusev left the group and Darren Daulton (or whatever his name was) vanished. What’s left? You’ve either got to pair up guys who aren’t tag teams (Bo Dallas and Sami Zayn briefly talked about going for the tag belts, for example) or you run the Ascension against a never-ending cycle of local talent, unripened developmental types and uptight indy guys on tryout.
Whoever’s in charge of creating these magical characters for NXT needs to spend a weekend trying to fit square-ass pegs like Baron Corbin and Angelo Dawkins into the circularly-assed holes of tag gimmicks.
Worst: Lana And Sylvester LeFort Are Doing The Same Act On The Same Episode
I’ve talked a lot about how I don’t understand the purpose of Sylvester LeFort AND about how Lana’s fake-sounding-but-apparently-legit Russian accent makes everything seem bush league, and then boom, you’ve got LeFort and Lana doing the same “they’re speaking a foreign language, let’s say WHAT” intros for guys in different matches on the same show. That is THE MOST UNNECESSARY.
You’ll probably hate me for typing this, but saying “what” to a foreign language seems beneath the NXT audience. You don’t need to train a guy to speak French and have wrestling fans “what” him, put him on Raw and have him speak a word of it and they’ll be whatting so hard they’ll vomit up their 9-dollar souvenir sodas. Let perfectly capable wrestlers like Rusev and Scott Dawson get over on their own merits and effort, put a little more time into giving managers characters beyond “they’re not from here,” and at least don’t put two identical acts nearly back-to-back. “One’s a guy and one’s a lady” doesn’t cut it, unless this whole thing is a LeFort/Lana love story I’m not understanding.
Worst: RIP Kassius Ohno
Our last look at Kassius Ohno in a WWE ring (for now, we all hope) is a manhandling from Alexander Rusev and a quick, decisive tap-out to The Accolade. Yes, Rusev’s finish sounds like a car. They should call it The Honda Accolade. But yeah, Ohno shows up with his body taped up to sell Rusev’s previous attacks, gets beaten to death, gets in about 4 seconds of hope spots and a headlock and then dies his NXT death. Vaya con dios, KO, we hardly knew ye.
Cheap plug: Come see Kassius Ohno wrestle in Austin on January 5. I’ll be ringly announcing him.
Best: Finally, Somebody Is Nice To Bayley
Another important talking point from last week’s column is that despite being one of my least favorite Raw characters, Natalya gets to show some of the skill and fire on NXT that’s gotten people to claim NO SHE’S ACTUALLY REALLY GOOD for like eight years despite having maybe three good WWE matches ever, so I’d like to see her like this more often, or possibly only on NXT.
Last week she had a really good match with Paige, and this week she decides to not only tag up with Bayley, but BE NICE TO HER IN THE PROCESS. She gives her a pep talk and everything. Sure, she has to do the “I don’t like your hug” act WWE faces have to do because they hate love or affection or whatever, but she’s standoffishly polite about it, and I’ll take it. Plus she’s nice to her in the actual match.
Be this Natalya all the time, Natalya. I don’t believe for a second that you’re jealous of Eva Marie or drunk dialing people or tapping out Tamina in 40 seconds. Be a cool veteran lady who is nice to people and I will love you a lot.
Best/Worst: The Divas Tag Was Fun, But Way Too Short
Three major things here:
1. Bayley walks Natalya down to the ring IN A HUG. Adorable.
2. When Sasha Banks hits the Damien Sandow Driver on Bayley, Bayley’s headband comes flying off. The timing is perfect. The picture doesn’t really capture it, so make sure you go back and watch it.
3. You can easily go back and watch it because this match is SUPER SHORT. I’m not sure WHY it’s so short, unless Natalya was still blown up from the Paige match or something (I’m not sure how far apart these were in the actual tapings). Natalya does some stuff, goes for a sharpshooter, gets kicked from behind and has to sell it like her head hit the turnbuckle and knocked her out. I don’t know. Those turnbuckles have pads, guys, it wasn’t exposed metal. But then Bayley comes in, throws one jumping elbow and gets Sandow’d for the loss.
I liked what was in there (especially Bayley’s “aggressive” offense, which looks really good and impactful), but there was way too little of it.
Worst: Alex Riley
“I know MEN who don’t throw suplexes that well!”
Best: Mojo Rawley’s Kneepads
One of them says MO and the other one says JO. DELIGHTFUL.
I’m sad to say it, but I think this week’s theme is “these matches are pretty good, but they’re so short it doesn’t really matter.” Mojo gets a comeback, hits his ass-based offense, does a jumping sit to the stomach of all places (the Barf Driver?) and gets the win. I’ve started to come around to Scott Dawson as far as the in-ring stuff goes, and while he’s still nowhere near those Arn Anderson comparisons they want us to believe somebody made, he’s worth investing in and worth getting as far away from LeFort as possible.
Best: William Regal, Still Tired Of Alex Riley
During this match, Alex Riley starts off on a horrible tangent about how in baseball there’s a thing called a “five-tool talent OR PLAYER,” and how in terms of pro wrestling, Mojo Rawley is a five-tool performer. He doesn’t actually go into detail about what those five specific attributes that make him such are … hell, he could’ve been rating him on a dong scale or something, I don’t know. But William Regal picks up on how stupid this all is and KO’s Riley with: “Is that why you’re announcing and not wrestling anymore?”
Riley’s response is the saddest thing. “OH I COULD BE A CHAMPION. It’s not over yet!” The way he screams OH I COULD BE CHAMPION and then calms down for “It’s not over yet” is the perfect one-two combination to prove that yeah, it’s pretty f*cking over for you, Alex. I wish Regal had followed that up with, “is this just like the time you carried five tools for the Miz?”
Best: Non-Title Feuds With Purpose
The still-too-short main-event was a match between Leo Kruger and Sami Zayn, and I like that NXT isn’t afraid to build beefs between characters that have nothing to do with their title belts.
On Raw, it seems like only the biggest stars get “personal” feuds. You’ll see John Cena get into it with somebody because they “betrayed” him in some fashion or you’ll see Triple H doing MMA moves to stand up for his family, but you very infrequently see a Curtis Axel or a Big E Langston get into a feud with anybody about ANYTHING other than “he has a title and I’m challenging for it, or I have it, I can’t remember. One or the other.” Guys like Fandango are even worse off … they just show up to win or lose matches arbitrarily, never getting deeper into their motivations than “sneak attack” or “ruthless aggression,” and seem to float along without any clear goals or intentions.
Here, Sami Zayn is trying to recover from his NXT Championship win that got immediately overturned and finds himself on a bit of a losing streak. Antonio Cesaro, one of Zayn’s big enemies, is making a play for power in NXT and wants guys like Zayn out of his way. Leo Kruger has been miring in NXT and developmental for years now and wants to make a name for himself, asking Cesaro if he can join the Real Americans. Cesaro figures he can use this to his advantage and sic Kruger on Zayn as a means to an end. Not to mention the fact that Zayn beat Kruger in the Beat the Clock challenge a few weeks ago with a fluke pin at the last second. So you’ve got a match with championship implications, faction implications, interpersonal implications in three directions and enough going for it to be both entertaining and purposeful. Kruger’s actions cause Sami to have a legit problem with him, and now they’re in a thing that could’ve existed without all the backstory, but works better because the backstory exists.
Unfortunately the match is again kinda short, and just ends with Kruger annihilating Zayn with The Slice and pinning him. I certainly wasn’t expecting that. After the match, Kruger hangs around and tries to get malicious, and Zayn manages to fight back, turn the aggression toward Kruger, dive out onto him and punch him until referees sort them out. And surprise surprise, the announcers play the roles they’re probably originally intended to play … Regal (the on-paper heel, I guess) says that Zayn’s being a poor sport. Riley (the on-paper face?) explains that Zayn’s in the right because Kruger was trying to injure him, and he knows that if he legs Kruger up he’s just gonna keep coming after him.
So yeah, even the stuff I didn’t love makes sense, and it all comes together. That’s the sign of a well-put-together show.
Worst: Oh Man, I Can’t Wait Until The American Wolves Show Up On This Show
Is that next week, or the week after? I am already kicking out so many punchlines.