– If you missed it two weeks ago, we’re doing a totally unnecessary run-through of WWE NXT starting with season 1, going back and doing “vintage” Best and Worsts for every episode. Season 1, episode 1 featured the first appearance of Daniel Bryan and the birth of heel announcer Michael Cole, so it’s appointment reading for pro graps history buffs/people who want to see Ryback in a cowboy hat.
– If you want these columns to keep going, your job is to share them …
… and to drop a comment when you’re done. There’s a thousand things to talk about, and that’s just involving how weird Matt Hardy looks.
– Here’s a link to s1e2 on Hulu if you’d like to revisit it.
Please click through for the vintage Best and Worst of WWE NXT season 1 episode 2, which originally aired on March 2, 2010.
Worst: It’s Episode 2, We Should Probably Explain How This Works
Episode 1 of NXT advertises itself as a revolutionary concept in television history, but it’s mostly just a normal wrestling show where guys you know hang out with guys you don’t. Episode 2 almost doesn’t explain it either, but right in the middle of David Otunga’s entrance the announcers send it back to Matt Striker for the mission statement.
Striker explains that they’ve paired 8 NXT rookies with 8 WWE pros (right, we know that) and rookies are going to be voted off (like on Survivor) but HERE’S THE TWIST, a pro cannot vote for or against his own rookie. Yes, folks, “you can’t vote for yourself” is the revolutionary idea in TV history. The invention of the television, colorization, the moon landing, and R-Truth not being able to say “David Otunga” even if he wants David Otunga off the low-rent wrestling show. I honestly think WWE had a more revolutionary moment in television history when they announced that Matt Striker was fired and would no longer be on television.
Worst: And Here’s The Episode Confirming That Daniel Bryan Is The Only Dude In The Contest Who Is Ready To Be On Television
The opening match on episode 2 is David Otunga vs. Darren Young in a rematch from last week, and it’s just like the first one only 10 times longer and with 65 chinlocks. I HOPE YOU LIKE CHINLOCKS. During the entrance David Otunga is wearing a hoodie and pants and RIPS OFF THE PANTS but keeps the hoodie on, and that is the only thing I wrote in the “positive” column.
Part of the problem with NXT season 1 is that these guys didn’t have “NXT” like guys now have it, they had a little time-slash-several years down in FCW with NOBODY GIVING A SHIT ABOUT THEM and no change to grow or feel worth a damn so they show up before a Raw taping or whatever wrestling in this hideous yellow ring and it’s like their first day on the job. In season 3, Kaitlyn shows up as a replacement, wrestlers her FIRST EVER MATCH on TV and ends up WINNING THE ENTIRE THING. That should tell you how important “being emasculated by Raw guys and running obstacle courses” is to WWE developmental.
A lot of the guys on the show ended up being pretty good — Heath Slater can already sell his ass off, for example — but the emphasis on how only Internet geeks living in their parents’ basement like Daniel Bryan was made all the more ridiculous by the fact that he was clearly the only person who belonged on television, and the only one who should be trusted to pro wrestle without accidentally killing someone.
Best/Worst: Respect At The WWE Level
In the episode 1 report I wrote a lot about pre-Full Sail NXT was basically built around watching wrestlers fail. Any time a wrestler does something well, a pro or NPC is there to quickly step in and assure them that they’re worthless, and can only succeed by respecting/listening to them, whether they’re already doing that or not. A lot of that is built around Bryan, who appears to have the Internet darling being beaten out of him on a weekly basis, but it goes much deeper than that. When I watched it when it originally aired, it was infuriating.
Watching it now, with the benefit of hindsight, it’s actually a pretty well-told story. See (spoiler alert), NXT ends with all the rookies joining up together to form the Nexus and running wild on Raw and Smackdown, destroying everything they see, whether it’s the ring or Ricky Steamboat or Justin Roberts’ wardrobe. One of the reasons I LOVE the Nexus so much is because they are TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY JUSTIFIED. The NXT pros treat them like DOG SHIT in season 1. Bryan gets pushed around and insulted no matter how hard he tries. Darren Young is treated like a cancer by CM Punk. In episode 2, David Otunga loses a match to Young because R-Truth is too busy yapping on the outside to care about his rookie. William Regal thinks Skip Sheffield is a waste of time. There’s a segment later in the episode where Heath Slater’s all excited about winning his debut, and Christian, a guy who is supposed to be the coolest and nicest guy, shuts him down. Explains that those were “his” fans, and that Slater didn’t earn the response he got. Just horrible shit like that. Even guys who get treated well by their pros get treated like commoners by them. Listen to Chris Jericho talk up Wade Barrett on commentary using only CHRIS JERICHO IS GREAT material, and watch how he tells Barrett to shut up and just introduce him in episode 1.
Totally and completely justified. Damn the man.
Best: The GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship On WWE TV
Study question: Is Yoshinobu Kanemaru an “Internet geek” for losing the title to Bryan?
Best: Daniel Bryan vs. Wade Barrett
It feels good to go back and watch these episodes and see that Bryan The WWE Character was very good from the start, and not a figment of my imagination because I liked him so much as the American Dragon. Episode 1 featured that great little match with Chris Jericho where Bryan dove to his death ribcage-first, and episode 2 shows that Bryan can tell a story in addition to being flashy. Also, he can throw TIGER KNEES.
The story of the match is that Bryan’s injured, so Miz (being awful) puts him in a match against the “ringer,” the giant bare-knuckle brawler with the World Champion in his corner. But F*CK YOU because Bryan is still willing to go in there and give it all he has, diving off the apron with a knee and basically shit-kicking Barrett until his core gives out and he slips on the ropes. That springboard to set up the finish is the kind of thing people on the Internet call a “botch” and work into videos with Adventures of Lolo music playing behind them, but it’s the perfect sort of thing to tell a pro wrestling story … Bryan is running on adrenaline and willing to do anything it takes to win, but his heart is stronger than his body, and he falls to a guy with NO heart, but an extremely strong body. The thing that makes you want Bryan to rise up and get his revenge.
As you may have learned from Bryan’s ENTIRE WWE CAREER, he doesn’t ever really get to rise up or get revenge and just loses for the rest of the show. But he’s the one who became the “next breakout star,” so … did it work?
Worst: And Honestly, How Could You Cheer For The Pros?
Just look at these guys.
Also Worst: Cole Is Already Insufferable
The problem with Michael Cole isn’t that he doesn’t like a guy I like or that he’s being too much of a heel, it’s that he very clearly doesn’t understand or believe what he says. He starts off by saying “Last week Daniel Bryan made a big impact” and Josh agrees with him, so he immediately says he doesn’t agree WITH JOSH and that only Internet geeks like Bryan. Then they show a replay and Cole’s all “it was a physical match and Bryan did some cool stuff.” Josh says some say Bryan took Jericho to the limit, and Cole replies with “NO HE DIDN’T BRYAN SUCKS JERICHO KICKED HIS ASS.” It’s like Cole is Zaphod Beeblebrox and we’re listening to both of his heads at the same time.
Worst: Poor, Poor Justin Gabriel
“Hi, I’m Justin Gabriel. My Pro never went to wrestling school, never learned how to talk on a microphone and dressed me like a Hot Pocket. His shirt is wet for some reason, he’s getting fatter as we speak and I think drugs are making his face melt. He looks like one of the Whos from the How the Grinch Stole Christmas movie. When we’re done with our match he’s gonna take cardboard cutouts of his ex-girlfriend into the woods and shoot them with a handgun, then go look for ghosts in his house. He has no idea what ‘workrate’ means but he thinks he’s the best at it. Oh my God, what has my life become? Am I Shannon Moore? How is Matt Striker the coolest person in this segment? WHY AM I WEARING A PILLOWCASE. SOMEBODY SHOOT ME.”
Best: YEP YEP YEP WHAT IT DO
Okay. OKAY. So here’s the reason I wanted to write about NXT season 1.
If you only know Ryback as “Ryback,” you’ll be surprised to know that he was originally SKIP SHEFFIELD, a “cornfed meathead” from College Station, Texas, who talked in rhymes, said things like “servin’ up knuckle sandwiches with a side of humble pie all night long” and wore a tiny cowboy hat. Well, it was a regular-sized cowboy hat, he just has a giant head. If you remember Sir Skip, you’ll still be excited to see him again because he had the second-greatest* catchphrase in WWE history: yep yep yep, what it do
Either way, just watch the video and love it. He does so much hilarious pointing and wordplay. The life of Skip Sheffield was a short one, at least in this form, because when the Nexus became a thing the Cornfed Meathead basically just became Ryback and hurt himself, and by the time he got well everything had changed. In a better world, Curtis Axel and Ryback would be wearing cowboy hats and doing backstage skits where they feed Santino corn.
*The greatest is “My name is Stone Cold Steve Austin and I don’t deserve this.”
Best: William Regal As One Of The Best Parts Of NXT, Or “The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same”
If you watch the Full Sail NXT or read the ongoing Best and Worst of NXT report you’ll know that NXT season 1 Pro William Regal is still an important cog in how things work … he’s not only the best announcer they’ve got, he’s the “Final Boss,” the guy who steps into the ring to face developmental guys when they’ve gotten good enough to be called up. So far he’s had amazing matches with Dean Ambrose and Kassius Ohno** and we’re a couple of days away from watching him tear it up with Antonio Cesaro. Bill Regal is the best, and if you watch pro wrestling I hope you did not need me to tell you that.
The tag match between the Regal/Skip team and Justin Gabriel/Matt Hardy wasn’t great, but it told a good story … Regal thinks Skip Sheffield is the stupidest thing he’s ever seen in his life, so he tries to wrestle most of the match by himself. That causes him to get caught by a Twist of Fate out of nowhere and a 450 splash from Gabriel (which for a while was the most protected and bulletproof finish in WWE). Regal loses, but of course he still blames it on Skip. Yep yep yep, what it do not.
**He got called up to the independents.
Best: RESPEK KNUCKZ
Oh God though, my favorite part of the match is post-match Matt Hardy. He’s so thick and blown-up he can barely move. It’s like watching Rob Ford move around. He whiffs an awkward double high-five with Gabriel and tries to give him RESPEK KNUCKZ during the celebration. Gabriel has no idea why Hardy’s making MS hands at him and just kinda paws at them. It’s great. If you aren’t familiar with Hardy Boyz Respect Knuckles, it’s a thing they tried to get over back in the long long ago but never really could, because they are the worst at speaking and never learned how to properly do anything or live in real life.
Poor Hot Pocket. Who knew that “he has messy hair so he’s a WEREWOLF” was an upgrade?
Worst: The Pulse-Pounding Cliffhanger
The show ends with a gaspy cliffhanger, and I couldn’t have written a worse one. Matt Striker’s all THANKS FOR WATCHING, CHECK OUT MY DICKPICS AT MATT UNDERSCORE STRIKER UNDERSCORE and Carlito walks in holding an apple. WHO WILL CARLITO SPIT AT is the cliffhanger. Seriously. The fact that he spit it at Heath Slater is somehow even worse, and I guess this is the start of that legendary Heath Slater/Carlito feud we tell our friends about in hushed tones. Slater’s response is just yelling THAT’S COOL? THAT’S COOL? HOW IS THAT COOL over and over before skulking into the background.
Slater: “That’s COOL??”
Matt Striker: “That’s NXT!”