Vintage Best And Worst: WWE NXT 5/11/10, Season 1 Episode 12

Pre-show notes:

– Here’s a link to NXT season 1, episode 12.

– Be sure to follow our recap of NXT season 1 on its tag page and catch up on any episodes you might’ve missed. We are t-minus 4 weeks away from Daniel Bryan “eliminating” Justin Roberts with extreme prejudice. Best of luck in your future endeavors in the future IN THE PAST, Justin!

– Follow us on Twitter @withleather, follow me personally @MrBrandonStroud and like us on Facebook.

– Give us a share if you like these retro Best and Worsts and want to see more of them. I kinda have to know if seasons 2 and 3 are worth recapping, because compared to them, season 1 is WrestleMania X-7.

As for now, please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE NXT season 1, episode 12, originally airing on May 11, 2010.

Best: The Important Moment From The Monday Before

On the Monday before the first elimination episode of NXT season 1, WWE had one of the weirdest and least helpful-to-anyone matches in Raw history: the NXT Rookies, all eight of them, in an 8-on-4 handicap match against Yoshi Tatus, John Morrison, Santino Marella and a pre-renaissance Goldust. Eight dudes teaming up to take on the four least important guys on Raw. Daniel Bryan wins the match for his team, his only victory in WWE before his eventual firing, and the rest of the rookies hoist him up on their shoulders and carry him around the ring in celebration. For winning an 8-on-4 match against four guys who never win.

As absurd and worthless as that is, it’s notable that Daniel Bryan won the match utilizing his SUPER FINISHER, a move that carried him to countless championship victories on the independent circuit and eventually became a nigh-bulletproof weapon in his big match arsenal: the small package. Yep, Daniel Bryan’s only victory before being stuffed in a production crate and shipped back to Gabe Sapolsky’s house was via small package.

I’ll take it.

Worst: Michael Tarver Died The Way He Lived … Super, Super Awkwardly

The point of the episode they’ve been building up to for weeks — the point of the entire competition, frankly — is the announcement of the second Pros Poll. The person at the bottom of that poll, a scientifically put-together poll based on clearly-stated criteria by experts in the field, would be the first rookie eliminated. Instead, WWE opened the show by arbitrarily eliminated two rookies based on NO POLLS WHATSOEVER because they gave DIFFERENT ANSWERS TO THE SAME QUESTION.

At the end of last week’s episode, Matt Striker asked each rookie who they thought should be eliminated. Michael Tarver said himself, because if he was at home, everyone else on the show would be safe. To anybody with a pair of ears, that means “I’m going to beat up everybody on the show and be unstoppable if you don’t constrain me.” Daniel Bryan also said himself, because he was the only rookie with no wins and deserved to go home. To WWE, both of those statements meant “I don’t believe in myself,” and it was determined that they both had to go home because RUTHLESS AGGRESSION or whatever. Total, absolute, unforgivable horseshit.

The upside to Tarver’s elimination, at least, is that it had all the same awkward energy as his attempt at challenges. Remember when he bragged about how he was gonna carry a keg and then instantly dropped it? Remember when he barfed up soda? Tarver gets eliminated, shakes Striker’s hand and tries to do that “hold on to the hand and pull the guy in to intimidate them” act but Striker just straight up no-sells it and condescendingly points him to the back. Tarver keeps trying to cut promos on guys and Striker cuts him off at every available opportunity.

In the post-elimination interview, Tarver mentions that he was treated fairly within the confines of the show, but that the show itself was rigged and built around making everyone be homeless and look stupid. WWE took that as “he was treated fairly, nothing to see here” and that was that.

Worst, But A Retroactive Best: Daniel Bryan Gets Eliminated By WWE Management

Daniel Bryan’s elimination was as frustrating as everything else he did for 11 episodes, but at the time it felt like a relief. Bryan was finally done with this pointless circlejerk and could go back to what he did best everywhere else in the world. It’s still sort of a punch to the gut to see WWE realizing that the wrestlers know Bryan’s a star in the making and just cut him out at their first believable opportunity independent of how the show works.

Looking back, it’s brilliant. What’s the last year of Daniel Bryan stories been about? About how he’s the most popular and talented guy on the show, but WWE management refuses to let him shine. They want to make him into something he’s not … a chatty, giant, muscular orange thing that speaks in unbelievable sentences and can look good on talk shows. He fights and fights but gets neutered at every turn until he says f*ck it, snaps and destroys the ring.

In 2010, WWE management was WWE management. The guy they wanted him to be was David Otunga. They hated the Internet and the fan support. The neutering was Michael Cole and a constant string of extremely suspicious losses, and the f*ck it moment with ring destruction was the formation of the Nexus. In 2014, WWE management is The Authority. The guy they want him to be is Randy Orton. They hate the Internet and the fan support. The neutering was emasculation and a constant string of bait-and-switch title opportunities. The f*ck it moment with ring destruction happened on Monday, when Bryan filled the ring with guys in Daniel Bryan shirts and held the show hostage.

NXT season 1 is the worst show ever, and also a beautiful prequel to modern WWE.

Worst: Daniel Bryan’s Gone And Michael Cole’s Still Ruining Matches By Talking About Daniel Bryan

Anyway, the first match on the show is Heath Slater vs. Wade Barrett and all Michael Cole does is talk about Daniel Bryan. Non-stop. It’s a shame, too, because it’s a nice little match with a fast pace that ends in the best way any Wade Barrett match ends: with his opponent finding a convoluted way to end up in the Wasteland. The best one ever is when Wade caught Kofi Kingston mid-Trouble In Paradise and Wastelanded him. Here, Wade catches Slater coming off the top rope, hoists him up onto his shoulders John Cena-style and throws him down.

The truest clue that Bryan’s elimination was impromptu for spite and not a part of the story is that Cole has nothing to talk about for the remainder of the show. He’s just aimlessly watching guys do armbars, mumbling under his breath about nerds who don’t own televisions and “the so-called Internet.”

Worst: The Logistics Of A Backpack Stunner (And More Cole)

1. Skip Sheffield pins Darren Young after a backpack stunner, and Cole’s first words after the pinfall are, “maybe Bryan’ll eat meat now!”

2. Skip defeats Young with his pre-Rybackian finisher, the backpack stunner. Two things about that. Yes, in an already-numbered list.

Firstly, a regular stunner barely makes sense. You grab a guy by his head and sit down, causing him to bend over like a normal human bends over and I guess his chin hits your shoulder, and despite not having any body weight behind it he collapses into unconsciousness and flies backwards in a heap. The backpack stunner eliminates even THAT shifty suspension of disbelief by eliminating the proposed impact. You carry the guy on your back and sit down. He sits down with you. THEN HE’S DEAD. It’s garbage, and no amount of “your butt hits and then your chin goes down slightly depending on your height!” is gonna make it not so.

Secondly, the backpack stunner as executed by Skip Sheffield is such a horrid product of pre-Full Sail NXT WWE development. You know how guys take time to turn their finishers to the hard camera whether it makes sense or not, and always go for a lateral press with their asses facing out when they should logically just f*cking cover the guy? This is that weirdness made into a finishing move. Darren has Skip in a full nelson. Skip breaks it, and Darren is already in position to be lifted up into a backpack stunner. He’s chest-to-back and his head is just over Skip’s shoulder. Instead of, you know, doing the move in a way that would make sense, Skip moves up, turns around, kicks Young in the stomach (to stun him for the special?), lifts him up onto his shoulders in a fireman’s carry THEN moves him into piggyback position THEN sits out. WHAT ARE YOU DOING.

At least you won your match. That’ll save you from further elimination, probably!

Best: Best Of Luck In Your Future Endeavors, I Know You’re Gonna Be Just Fine

One of the major memorable moments of NXT season 1 is the elimination speech from Daniel Bryan, where he stops trying to be a WWE personality and just kinda speaks from his guts. It also features Matt Striker at his worst … “Do you regret leaving the independent scene where you were a big fish in a small pond to ultimately drown in the sea that is the WWE?” is an actual question and totally not personally written out on a napkin and handed to him by Vince McMahon. Bryan’s response is great: Daniel Bryan never wrestled on the independent scene.

“He can’t even beat rookies, what’s wrong with this guy? He can take Batista to the limit, but he can’t beat rookies. Daniel Bryan might be done, but uh, Bryan Danielson … God knows what’s gonna happen to him.”

Awesome. MY SMARK POWERS ARE SURGING. This was the first real “fist pump” moment of Bryan’s WWE career, and you know what the best part is? He was totally wrong. Bryan Danielson didn’t have a great time. When the Nexus formed and Justin Roberts got tie-garroted Bryan went back to the independent circuit. People threw ties at him like streamers, and he laughed. I watched him wrestle Shingo for Dragon Gate USA inside the ECW Arena. It was great and we had “our guy” back, but we kinda knew he wasn’t supposed to be there anymore. He was a big fish in a small pond and despite ULTIMATELY DROWNING in the whatever, he was destined to be a regular sized fish in the big pond. You know, at least. SummerSlam came and John Cena needed to form a super team to beat the remaining Nexus guys, so he brought back Daniel Bryan. We haven’t seen Bryan Danielson since, but four years later Daniel Bryan’s held the WWE Championship, the World Heavyweight Championship, the United States Championship, the Tag Team Championships and is about to wrestle two main-event matches (two) at WrestleMania XXX.

Isn’t it weird that Daniel Bryan is the one who was just fine?

Worst: Daniel Bryan’s Eliminated, But Here Are More David Otunga Abdominal Stretches

Justin Gabriel’s internal monologue:

David Otunga defeats Justin Gabriel via THE VERDICT and everyone at home who was rooting for Daniel Bryan got a short, hard look at what WWE wanted in its next breakout star. After the match they finally break out the results of that Pros Poll they’ve been talking about for weeks because we’re eliminating a third rookie tonight (because SHUT IT DOWN), and Striker once again asks the rookies who they think should go home. Pretty much everybody says David Otunga, because he “doesn’t belong.” That is code for, “we have been wrestling and training forever for this opportunity and this guy with a famous fiancée and the wrestling ability of a cash register is stealing our spot.”

Turns out David Otunga is #2 in the Pros Poll and survives. Guess how many pros we see during this process? If you said “one or more,” you’re giving WWE too much credit.

Best: Wade Barrett’s ‘This F*cken Guy’ Face When Heath Slater Says He Should Be Eliminated


Worst: Let’s Eliminate Everyone! Hooray!

Skip Sheffield and Darren Young are the bottom two because American Idol. Skip gets the boot without even a post-elimination interview to ease the pain and consider the process, and his reaction is honestly pretty great … he ditches the yep yep yep what it do act entirely and just goes into Ryback, speaking in breathy, short bursts about how he’s been going about this all wrong and should’ve listened to William Regal all along. If he’d dropped a line about being hungry it would’ve been downright prophetic. Ryback can’t handle failure or criticsm, folks, news at 11.

Aside from that, Skip’s elimination is the process in a nutshell. This is a worked show, right? All of it’s a work. Most reality shows are. So why on a worked show did they book Skip Sheffield to decisively win a match only to have him get eliminated by pros BASED ON HIS MATCH PERFORMANCES over the guy he decisively beat? Why is there even a PROCESS if WWE management can decide what deserves elimination on the fly? Where’s the drama in eliminating a competitor when you’re eliminating almost half of them with the first elimination?

How did they manage to write a show that seems so thoroughly thought-through without having any idea what they were doing?