– Hey, click that “like” button. It takes half a second and helps increase awareness for the best wrestling show in the world. It also helps justify me keeping the column going to my bosses, and … well, a big number looks nice.
– Here’s a link to this week’s show on Hulu Plus.
– This is the third episode from the set of tapings I attended live. I’ve got a weird perspective on these episodes that makes me 100% not pay attention to anything the announcers are saying, so if Regal quoted The Smiths to ice burn Alex Riley or whatever, I probably missed it.
Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for August 15, 2013.
Best: And Then Paul Frickin’ Heyman Showed Up
As I mentioned in the pre-show notes, this was the third episode from the set of tapings I attended live. Big E Langston, AJ Lee and Dolph Ziggler had been announced, so they weren’t a surprise. Antonio Cesaro’s been on NXT pretty regularly, so him showing up was cool, but also not a huge shock. I’d seen Seth Rollins milling around in the parking lot before the show, so while the ENTIRETY of The Shield showing up was unexpected, I knew something was up. But seriously, when Paul Heyman walked out onto the NXT stage from out of nowhere, my heart went WOOOOSH and grew 300 sizes, and I turned into that chattering, clapping little boy I tend to become when the wrestling shows are awesome.
I think the best way to tell whether or not a bad guy is truly talented on the microphone is to listen to how they speak to a crowd that loves them. Some people (Kurt Angle, I’m looking in your direction) go straight for the “shut up, you people!” like they’re reading from page 1 of the “how to be a heel” instruction manual. The better folks get it … you’re an arrogant guy who wants love and attention, right? That’s almost every heel ever. You SHOULD love the crowd response. Telling people who are cheering for you to shut up is stupid unless you’ve got a great reason for it. What SHOULD happen is that your natural dickiness, the reasons why people might boo you at all, should overcome whatever good will you’re getting and bring people around to thinking, “Oh, I like this guy, but MAN is he awful.”
That’s what Heyman does here. He knows the NXT crowd’s going to love him. He accepts it, and acknowledges it. He openly appreciates it. But after he puts over NXT as the future of wrestling, he quickly turns it around to “but nobody here right now specifically can beat Curtis Axel, this guy you wouldn’t cheer if he was saving kittens from a landslide.” The boos are organic … we hate Axel for a reason, we love Paul for other reasons, and we’re okay booing both of them for being disingenuous, deluded and in cahoots. That’s what SHOULD be on page one of the manual.
Best: The Value Of A Big Fish In A Small Pond
When Big E Langston shows up on Raw, he’s AJ Lee’s bodyguard slash emotionally-abusive cohort, a smaller Ezekiel Jackson with fewer bodyslams, wearing a Borat swimsuit as a singlet. He gets wins over important guys, but only when somebody distracts them and he can “take advantage.”
On NXT, Big E Langston is THE MAN. He’s the promotion’s homegrown superstar, the former NXT Champion, a guy who can do ANYTHING. He’s the strongest, most unbeatable dog in the yard. ROH Samoa Joe. When he shows up, there’s a chance somebody’s gonna get mauled, and a 100% certainty that he’ll do it one more time, and that you’ll happily count five.
One of the things I really love about NXT is how proud it is of its short history. Guys like Langston, Bray Wyatt and The Shield seek out greener (read: richer) pastures on Raw, but they aren’t forgotten, and they come back as important guys to remind us that the NXT system WORKS, and creates great pro wrestlers. They come back with confidence. The crowd recognizes it and loves them for growing up, but never forgetting where they started. There’s a real value to a big fish in a small pond, as long as the fish gets to grow as big as he’d like, and swim in as many ponds as he pleases.
Worst: Curtis Axel
except for Curtis Axel
f**k you, dude, learn how to speak
Worst: Mason Ryan Is Muscular As F**k And Has The Upper Body Strength Of Michael Cole
There are guys who look strong, and guys who ARE strong.
WWE automatically assumes that if you have a bunch of muscles and you’re big, you’re strong. That couldn’t be further from the truth. A lot of guys work out for vanity and get “show” muscles. Batista’s my go-to example of this. I was in the crowd for his match against Kane at Armageddon 2002, and I’ll always remember watching his botched Batista Bomb (circa the 5:40 mark in this video) and being disappointed.
Compare that to guys like John Cena or Antonio Cesaro, who can pick up guys three times their size and throw them around like it’s nothing. Remember when Cesaro pulled off the UFO on Takeshi Morishima? THAT motherf**ker is strong, and he’s got 1/4 the visible muscles and veins of Batista. Batista has muscles on top of muscles. Remember when John Cena picked up the ringside steps? Those things weigh at least 80,000 pounds.
Mason Ryan is, in so many ways, Batista. His entire act is LOOK AT THE POWER OF MASON RYAN, but he can’t convincingly military press a guy half his size out of the ring without barely getting him up and ruining it. If Scott Dawson hadn’t done a push-up on Ryan’s shoulder he wouldn’t have been able to even get him up to scalp level. Disappointing. Your strong guys have to actually be strong, WWE. You can’t have Antonio Cesaro and Mason Ryan on the same show and pretend RYAN’s the strong one.
Best: A Decisive Title Defense For The New Champion (And Champions Being Important, Period)
Paige vs. Summer Rae was a perfectly fine little match that would’ve been hailed as Dreamslam 2 quality if it had happened on Raw. It’s exactly what a champion needs after being the first-ever person to hold the belt: a decisive, strong win against a capable opponent. She even got to beat her with her finish.
Worst: I’m Still Upset That This Isn’t Paige/Emma II
Emma won the dance contest, and if she was healthy enough to run out and beat up Summer Rae after the match, she was strong enough to give us the preferable, expectedly-awesome rematch to the NXT Women’s Championship finals. And sure, maybe they’re saving Paige/Emma II for … I don’t know, a big iPPV?
Actually, forget that entire section I was writing. NXT NEEDS TO DO iPPVs. SERIOUSLY. Somebody at Full Sail needs to give the editing teacher a “DO THIS LIVE ONCE, SEE HOW IT GOES” memo to add to the curriculum. Imagine if NXT got to build and build to these quarter-annual super shows, where all the major beefs are settled, championships are defended and top-shelf WWE workers got to put on spectacular matches for the love of the game? If somebody told me “next week’s show has three can’t-miss matches on it, featuring people you love. Pay $10 for it?” I’d have a bill in their hand faster than they could add “also, Dolph Ziggler wrestles the sumo guy from Bloodsport.”
Because THAT IS HAPPENING NEXT WEEK.
Best: Bayley Meets AJ Lee
If you’re looking for the best WWE segment of the week, it’s Renee Young interviewing AJ Lee about prospective Divas Championship challengers only to be interrupted by a Bayley mark-out hugging spree.
I love every single second of this. It’s Brandon’s brain on fire with joy. AJ gets to be the AJ we actually like (suggesting that the cameraman or boom guy could get a title shot, then trying to subversively threaten Renee to assert dominance over her), Renee being the best interviewer WWE’s had since Gene Okerlund in a walk, Bayley not only HUGGING AT WILL but having a great reason to do so (she thinks AJ is wonderful and was doing that sad “stand around and try not to look like an invasive dork” thing you have to do sometimes to meet wrestlers to try to meet her), AJ responding to her positively because COMPLIMENTS, every single second.
My favorite part is AJ, who deserves a Daytime Slammy or whatever for not only conveying the complex emotion of “this girl is obviously nice and sincere, but I think she just called me crazy so if she slips up one more time I swear to God I will garrote her,” but for that AMAZING face she makes when Bayley says she’s gonna win the Divas Championship. It was the ultimate THIS BITCH face. We should not forget that AJ Lee is rad as f**k at her job.
Best: The Shield, Or “This Was A Lot More Entertaining On Television”
I honestly didn’t enjoy the Shield six-man tag against Team Not Brandon’s Favorites when I watched it live. It was sandwiched between the first two tapings (which featured dance contests, Tyler Breeze entrances, Charlotte’s chops and all sorts of fun matches) and followed by the fourth taping, which features the WWE Match Of The Year. It was just The Shield slumming it against guys who absolutely should not have a f**king chance against The Shield.
I watched it again on Hulu last night, and I liked it a lot more. The last few minutes were especially good, with Rollins and Reigns using their baller “buckle bomb -> spear” combo and the crowd getting super into it. Sometimes a match isn’t helped by its length, especially when 15 of the 20 minutes feature Corey Graves in a chinlock.
And speaking of that f**ker
Worst: Enough With The Skinny Jeans, Corey Graves, Seriously
I would like Corey Graves 80% more if he just put on some pants or trunks or something and stopped trying to pull off JEGGINGS as wrestling gear. It doesn’t make you look like a punk, Corey, it makes you look like a Terry Richardson photoshoot. What’s next, ironic glasses? Holding ice cream cones up to your mouth?
Supplementary Worst goes to Xavier Woods’ “It’s Morphin’ Time” move, not for the reference (which I enjoy), but for the fact that his finisher involves him flipping on his neck 20 minutes in a match to clothesline a dude when he could just clothesline a dude.
Best: THE BOSS OF THE WORLD
Early in the show, Sami Zayn responded to Cesaro and Zeb Colter’s claims of weird ancestry by rightfully being all, “yeah, I’m of Arabic descent, I spoke Arabic to you when you were in the ring, creeps” and challenging Cesaro to settle it IN THIS VERY RING in a 2-out-of-3 falls match. It was pretty good.
It got PRETTY GREAT at the end of the night, when Cesaro (in full M. Bison mode) accepts the challenge, gets jumped and ends the show by screaming ZAAAAAAAYNNNNNNNNNNN like a super villain. He also referred to himself as THE BOSS … OF THE WORLD. And now 2-out-of-3 falls is ON, and HOLD ON TO YOUR BUTTS.
Best: Next Week’s Show Is So F**king Dope
I can’t stress this enough: watch next week’s show.
You get a good Divas Championship match between AJ Lee and Bayley, you get a great match between Dolph Ziggler and Alexander Rusev, and you get the best match WWE’s produced this decade between Antonio Cesaro and Sami Zayn. If you’ve seen them wrestle each other on the indies before, this is better. If you’ve never seen them wrestle each other on the indies and don’t know what an El Generico is, some of the stuff Zayn does in this is gonna BLOW YOUR MIND.
Ordering SummerSlam? Paying 50 bucks for it? You can spend 8 and watch the best hour of wrestling of the year, and have enough money left over to watch NXT for four months. I’ve SEEN next week’s show and I still can’t wait for it.