– If you’d like to go back and watch this episode, you can find it on Hulu here.
– We’re almost done with NXT season 1, so make sure you’re caught up here. If you’re interested in reading the weekly column about the Full Sail era, you can find that here. Guess what happens in three weeks? It involves a necktie and a guy you love getting fired for realsies!
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Please click through for the Best and Worst of NXT season 1, episode 13, originally aired on May 18, 2010.
Worst: What Do You Look For In The WWE’s Next Breakout Star?
“Food? Drugs? I’m sorry I don’t understand the question.”
Best: The Return Of The Pros Poll, Kind Of
If you watched/read about last week’s episode, you’ll remember that despite the entire point of NXT being WWE pros evaluating and eliminating rookies en route to finding WWE’s next breakout star, two rookies were eliminated at the beginning of the show by “WWE management.” Matt Striker then threw the rookies a CURVEBALL by announcing that we were still gonna have a Pros Poll despite none of the pros being there, and a SHADOW VOTE~ sent Skip Sheffield home.
This week, thankfully, the WWE pros returned to be a part of the proceedings and the elimination was handled like they’d announced elevenish weeks ago. What’s weird, though, is that they don’t seem to remember which pros go with which rookies. Carlito isn’t there, which makes sense because Michael Tarver was elimination … but The Miz and William Regal ARE there. R-Truth isn’t, despite his rookie being #2 on the poll. It’s kinda like they just said “f*ck it” and brought out all the ones that can talk.
Best: CM Punk’s Pre-Crisis NXT Goodbye
The opening match of episode 13 is Wade Barrett vs. Darren Young, and they try to get over the importance of winning matches despite last week’s episode throwing that in the garbage by having Skip Sheffield beat Young and then be immediately eliminated. It’s not a bad match, really, but it’s built around Darren Young repeatedly throwing these “big” right hands and Wade just kinda stumbling around trying to get Darren into position/stop punching him.
The highlight of the match by a MILE is CM Punk, seen here with long hair for the very last time on NXT. This was one of his last long-hair appearances PERIOD, as five days after this he lost to Rey Mysterio at Over The Limit 2010, got his head shaved and eventually found himself in his super popular Load phase. To me, there has never been a greater version of CM Punk than the long hair, shaggy Jesus beard Straight Edge Society Punk and if you’ll excuse me I’m gonna be listening to ‘Tell Me A Lie’ on loop for the next 45 minutes.
Darren Young makes his entrance and Punk gets up to accompany him to the ring. When Young’s about halfway down the ramp, Punk turns around and jogs back to his seat. Young turns around to try to find him, and Punk just kinda waves at him from his Pro Stool. Glorious.
Great Punk moment #2 (and one of the very best CM Punk WWE moments ever) comes a little later when Matt Striker brings out last week’s eliminated-by-management rookies to explain themselves. I don’t know why they eliminated rookies and kept bringing them back out for interview segments, but the show was planned by writing wrestler names on Jenga pieces and playing Jenga, so who knows. They all end up on the same nWo Cubpack anyway, so whatever. I’m getting sidetracked.
During his explanation, Daniel Bryan confronts his critics and explains that everybody knows how good he is, and how deep down even The Miz knows he’s not as good as Bryan. Miz hadn’t developed “really?” yet, so he stands up and screams time-fillers like YOU THINK YOU’RE BETTER THAN ME? YOU THINK YOU’RE BETTER THAN ME? To his immediate left, William Regal and CM Punk start smiling from ear to ear and nodding their heads “yes.” Punk taps Regal on the shoulder and shows him how much better Bryan is than Regal. That’s what you’re seeing in the picture.
I miss you so much, This Punk.
Worst: Michael Tarver Is Hogwarts’ Next Breakout Star
If the Sandworms from Beetlejuice have any kind of entertainment structure he’ll be their next breakout star, too. For future reference, Michael Tarver should only be allowed to wear old west gangster masks and NXT parody t-shirts.
Best: The Best Daniel Bryan Promo Ever
Daniel Bryan’s been in WWE for four years now, and he’s never had a more honest, furious moment than this. It’s the best Daniel Bryan promo of all time. Bottom line.
Every single part of this is great. Bryan’s real talk about how WWE’s backstage politics and recruitment work. Him confronting the Miz with a point-blank “I’m better than you and I’m the best person for this job” declaration. William Regal’s slow, happy head-turn when he says it. The aforementioned “by a lot” CM Punk hand gestures. Miz freaking out about his WWE accomplishments, then instantly shutting up and cowering when Bryan challenges him to come down to the ring and prove how much better than him he is. I remember watching this and hoping Miz’s ego would drag him to the ring so Bryan Danielson could shootfight him to death. That would’ve been Puder vs. Angle levels of brilliant.
It doesn’t end there. Matt Striker tries to Matt Striker all over everything and Bryan shuts him up with a well-placed fingerpoke to the bloated leather vest. Then we get the first real shot fired from The Nexus — Bryan confronts Michael Cole, and instead of just standing in the ring and letting Cole do his raised-voice YEAH RIGHT shouting, he just walks up to Cole, berates him to his face and starts slapping him around. Cole just DIES with the maddest and most hurt look you’ve ever seen. Bryan gets dragged away by referees, and somewhere Wade Barrett goes, “oh shit, we should just stand up to these pissy cowards and punch them in their faces.”
When I complain about Sarcastic Susan Bryan on Raw, this is what I want him to be. A guy who is right, and he isn’t afraid to kick you in the face about it. The NXT competition was garbage and almost instantly forgotten, and it was about to explode … and literally destroy the WWE. A+ player right here.
Best: The Trick To Getting Rid Of Michael Cole Is Punching
Cole hangs out for the commercial break, but when the show returns he gets indignant about being pushed around and bails, leaving Josh by himself to do commentary. He eventually finds his way back and Josh Mathews isn’t exactly Gordon Solie (he says Justin Gabriel throws “strong style knees,” which is almost Striker levels of “I looked this up on Wikipedia and don’t understand it” obnoxious), but a wrestling match without Michael Cole blathering over it is a wrestling match I want to watch.
Note: Mike Tenay also counts as Michael Cole.
Best: The Continuation Of A Beautiful Friendship
The actual match that occurs during Cole’s hissy-fit is Justin Gabriel vs. Heath Slater, and it’s really good. It’s quick, full of succinct but purposeful offense and manages to get them both over as exciting young wrestlers … which probably would’ve been more effective before Daniel Bryan brought the world down around them, but whatever.
The pair that would eventually be known as SLABRIEL on the Internet fan fiction scene shake hands after the match and recognize one another’s talents, and that handshake (and their continued, understated friendship throughout this season) would carry them through two incarnations of the Nexus and one of the Corre before they split up and one of them became a werewolf, and the other a Comedy Axl Rose.
Best: Casual Skip Sheffield
I guess “what it do” is “shop in the giants section at Old Navy.”
Worst: Darren Young’s Elimination
I have no idea what Darren Young was trying to accomplish during his elimination. You should never give this guy a live microphone, he turns into Shemp from the Three Stooges. When WWE was in Austin for the last Christmas show he got on the mic and called us “Houston.” He’s got a lot of upside, I guess, but no, never again.
Here, Young is upset by his elimination and can’t think of anything to say, so Striker gives him the mic and tells him to tell the pros what he thinks to their faces. He walks up the ramp, goes into a bit about how he respects them, then walks down the row and says “I respect you” to all of them. It’s the same promo as his “I’m better than YOU, I’m better than YOU” from a couple of weeks back. That’s all he’s got in the tank. FILL TIME BY TALKING TO EVERYONE.
When he’s done with that, he just kinda stands on the stage waiting for someone to shoo him away, and the crowd starts booing and chanting “na na na na hey hey hey goodbye.” It was THAT awkward. At least he didn’t try to shake Matt Striker’s hand against his will.
Best: David Otunga Rocking Beats By Dre Four Years Ago
“You’re listening to All About The Power again, aren’t you?”