– Be sure you haven’t missed out on The Wrestling Hipster: 5 Reasons Why Watching NXT Makes You Better Than Other Wrestling Fans as well as our retro Best and Worst recap of NXT season 2 if you need more NXT content in your life.
– Share the column or I will retire from writing and come back as MR. WITH LEATHER.
Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for June 12, 2014.
Best: A Trios With So Much To Love
This week’s opening match was, as I like to hyperbolize, magic. It wasn’t a Shield/Wyatt Family barn burner or anything, but it was what I want when I watch NXT — great wrestling that doesn’t ask me to lower my standards, centered around distinctly-established characters with clear motivations and histories I don’t necessarily have to know, but am not asked to ignore.
As the emboldened Best says, there’s so much to love here, including:
– Bayley headbanging to Paige’s music, then getting Emma to headbang with her.
– Sasha Banks deciding she’s gonna make fetch happen during the BFFs ring entrance, then immediately getting shut down by Summer and Charlotte. I’ve made the “Sasha is Gretchen Wieners” joke a few times already, but man, the popular girls not taking their ethnic friend seriously is straight out of the Mean Girls handbook. Oh my God, Summer, you can’t just ask people why they’re white.
– The BFFs wearing matching gear.
Those things matter. It also makes the team make more sense, because yeah, if you’re a team built on false, showy unity of course you’re gonna have matching gear.
– Summer Rae taking selfies with the crowd and just generally being the worst tag team partner ever.
– The actual match, with Emma playing the face in peril and Bayley being the one to get the pin on the NXT Women’s Champion. That’s big. I’ve been complaining for months now that Bayley was positioned for an organic feud with Charlotte only to have Charlotte whisked away to title glory and a Battle Of Ringside Old-Timers with Natalya. Bayley vs. Charlotte is really the only feud that makes sense. Most of NXT’s top female stars are being drafted up to Raw; Paige is Divas Champion, Emma’s in comedy tag team matches, Summer’s on Total Divas and stuck in an I WANT THAT BOYFRIEND thing. People like Alexa Bliss aren’t ready. Charlotte is the big heel heritage champion and Bayley’s the beloved upstart with a groundswell of momentum and support. And they have history against one another and a reason to fight. Strike while the iron being hot makes sense, and don’t be afraid to follow through with the awesome stuff you’ve set up.
– Post-match, featuring Paige excitedly hugging Bayley. Because OH MAN.
Paige and Emma hold up Bayley’s hands in victory, and the torch is more or less passed. Give me a year of Bayley as the top dog on NXT, then shoot her up into the sky for everyone to enjoy.
Best: !!! MR. NXT !!!
So, uh, we jump backstage to find JBL drunkenly smiling and signing a masked man named MR. NXT to an NXT contract. Thank God you signed him, JBL. How awkward would it be if Mr. NXT had shown up on Impact?
Anyway, the joke here that everyone is supposed to get is that Mr. NXT is Bo Dallas sneaking his way back onto the show following his GO TO SMACKDOWN match with Big E. I mean, dude’s making “bo- er, believe” jokes 10 words into being Mr. NXT. It’s an exceptional use of the Mr. America/Yellow Dog “everybody knows it’s me under here, but shh, it’s not me” trope, mostly because the story is introduced, played out and concluded in the same episode. It allows Bo to be funny, chastised NXT Bo and play on wrestling tradition without beating us to death with it or wasting TV time on a lengthy story with an obvious ending.
On top of that, it’s a fun callback to when Sami Zayn dressed up as El Local to beat Bo and get a shot at the NXT Championship. In my head, Bo remembers that and was like “bo shit, I should try that!” And then he does and it totally backfires. I also like to think JBL is 100% aware of what’s happening here because 1) why the hell else would he sign a masked guy named “Mr. NXT” without a tryout or knowing who he is or whatever, 2) he knows Bo will be exposed and humiliated, and 3) he LOVES seeing Bo humiliated, as established in that “letters to the Bolievers” moment that led to the Big E match in the first place.
Best: CJ Parker, Officially The Lorax
“And then I got mad.
I got terribly mad.
I yelled at Parker, “Now listen here, Dad!
All you do is yap-yap and say, ‘Bad! Bad! Bad! Bad!’
Well, I have my rights, sir, and I’m telling you
I intend to go on doing just what I do!
And, for your information, you Lorax, I’m figgering
turning MORE Truffula Trees into Thneeds
and everyone’s S-A-W-F-T!”
Best: Marcus Louis Knows How To Wave A Flag
Since Rusev started really hammering home the I’M NOT FROM HERE, I’VE GOT MY OWN CUSTOMS stuff on Raw, wrestling’s been full of guys angrily waving flags. None of them appear to actually know HOW to wave a flag, though, so you’ve got Rusev and Big E doing these aggressive windshield wiper motions that make them look like they’re jousting on American Gladiators.
Enter MARCUS LOUIS, secretly one of my favorite guys on the show, PROPERLY WAVING THE FRENCH FLAG. There’s still force and pride behind it, mind you, but he’s waving it so that you can, you know, actually see the flag as it waves by. He’s the first person I’ve seen do it right since flag waving became a thing again, and it’s a breath of fresh air. It feels revolutionary. Cough.
Worst: The Actual Match Wasn’t Great
I have to throw this out there: I like Big Cass, but he’s more or less Mojo Rawley doing Enzo Amore’s gimmick. Substitute a big boot for a flying asshole drop.
He’s better than Mojo, of course, but he’s been burdened with two acts at once. The way that Enzo and Cass work is that Enzo’s the scrappy, yappy little guy who runs his mouth and Cass is the straight man. The muscle. He can be funny sometimes, sure, but his purpose is to react to Enzo, set Enzo up for jokes and kick people in the head. With Enzo hurt, he’s gotta do the Cass parts AND the Enzo parts, and that’s not as fun. That’s not a weird friendship dynamic. That’s a guy being the yappy loudmouth AND the muscle, which is too muscly for the yapping and too yappy for the muscles.
Can we just reedit the shows and fast-forward to whenever Enzo comes back, please?
Best: How Aiden English Makes Friends
Aiden English is backstage singing A SPIRITUAL (!), trying to deal with his recent losing streak when he is approach by a SILENT OLD-TIMEY STRONGMAN. English is confused at first, but the guy’s weird and friendly enough that Aiden warms up to him and wants to know more. This is how you make friends with an artist, folks … you act friendly and show them that you can provide a service. It seems like you’re “being a bad friend” if you only make friends with people who can do something for you, but hell, when your entire life is creativity and effort, “creativity and effort” is the most attractive part of other people.
If you’ve never seen this guy before, his name is Simon Gotch, and (spoiler alert) you’re going to really like where this is going.
Worst: HE’S SKANKIN MAGGLE LOOK AT’IM HE’S SKANKIN
I thought I told you ‘nope.’
Best: Sami Zayn vs. Mr. NXT
Okay, so unsurprisingly I thought this was AMAZING. It wasn’t a great match, really, but it was so much fun. The crowd was especially wonderful here, starting a dueling YOU CAN’T FOOL US/YES HE CAN chant.
Mr. NXT lived up to his hype from the moment he stepped out, wearing Bo’s gear and doing all of Bo’s entrance taunts. Dude made zero effort in hiding his identity beyond a mask and name change because he thought he was the fan-favorite, the babyface coming back under a mask to get back at the dastardly heels. Bo has never fully realized his place on the alignment chart and I love him for it. At one point in the match he actually starts yelling I’M NOT BO DALLAS! I’M NOT BO DALLAS! That is how Bo Dallas keeps secrets, you guys.
Then, of course, the mask comes off. When that happens, Bo covers his chest. Pitch perfect.
Best: The Aftermath
I’ll be honest, most of my enjoyment of the match comes from what happened afterwards. Bo’s secret is revealed, so Sami grabs campus security and gets them to throw him out. Bo doesn’t leave peacefully, though, and gives an awesome “drunk streaker avoiding the cops/dog on the soccer field avoiding the players” run around the ring to escape them. It doesn’t work, and we get like five minutes of a screaming Bo being carried around in and outside of Full Sail, screaming shit like “HE TOUCHED MY BUM” and “I’LL TAKE YOUR SHIRT” while grabbing a security guy’s shirt.
The best part is Bo yelling about how he’ll call the REAL cops, which is a great callback to Bo’s original goodbye promo where he threatened to call the cops on the crowd if they didn’t leave, then said “okay the cops aren’t coming, but I’ll call campus security.” Foiled by your own plan, Bo.
Worst: The Announce Team
1. No hate for Rich Brennan this week. There’s still pain in his voice when he calls that figure four headlock, but we’ve reached an understanding and he’s getting better.
2. ALL THE HATE POSSIBLE for Renee and Alex Riley, who bring out the very worst in one another. When Renee’s around Regal or Jason Albert they tend to steer her in the right direction. When she talks about wrestling, she’s great. She gets it. She understands who the performers are and why they’re here. She goes off on “THESE GIRLS BE CRAZY” tangents, but they refocus her and it’s fine. When Riley’s out there, it’s nothing but bad flirting and shouty semi-agreements about shit that makes any decent person desperately claw for the mute button.
For example, when Mr. NXT shows up they get into an admittedly funny conversation about his identity. Riley jokes about how trunks are a mask for the body, and Renee responds by pointing out how 3/4 of his body is still exposed. That turns bad quickly, with Riley pulling the dickbag frat guy “I DON’T LOOK AT THE WRESTLERS’ BODIES” act. Because that’s what the NXT commentary needed, a guy in 2014 protesting too much about how he AIN’T GAY. NXT, a professional wrestling promotion where everybody works in their underpants. You’re PAID to ANALYZE THE WRESTLING, Alex. Bo Dallas has a very unique, obvious physicality. You see him in his f*cking underpants every week. That’s the only way you EVER see him. Underpants or a wet-ass t-shirt. You’ve gotta have some dormant, shame-enducing stuff going on in your head if you think identifying how a wrestler looks means you want to have sex with him. The only way it’s forgivable now is if they put Big E in a mask and have Riley go WOW WE’VE NEVER SEEN THIS GUY BEFORE AND I DEFINITELY DON’T WANT HIS COCK IN MY MOUTH.
Best: Tyson Kidd vs. Adrian Neville
Here’s the thing: Tyson Kidd’s a really difficult wrestler to like.
Not that he’s bad at wrestling or anything, he’s just the Natalya of male wrestlers. A guy with connections and a family history that makes you WANT to like him, but a personality like wet cardboard and an 80% underwhelming match history. When he wrestles, he feels like a heel, just like when Natalya’s WOOing in Ric Flair’s face. It’s what a face SHOULD do, I guess, but she just seem mean.
Here, Tyson got to be mean. It worked. It worked really well. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say this was better than their Takeover match, and simply having Tyson amplify the things we think about him tenfold — his solid wrestling, dopey personality and brother-sister marriage — makes him a more compelling character. A compelling character, I guess. Tyson losing because of his shifty confidence and preoccupation with what everyone thinks of him was perfect, and Neville continues to impress as a guy legitimizing his championship run by beating everyone he can in good-to-great matches.
Worst: Adrian Neville’s Yellow Mouth Guard
I know it matches your gear, but “yellow teeth” are Bo Dallas’s thing.