Previously on the Best and Worst of NXT: Velveteen Dream defended the North American Championship against Buddy Murphy, Shayna Baszler tossed Kairi Sane out of NXT by the arm, and The Viking Experience member Erik wore a “War Raiders” shirt for some reason.
If you missed this episode, you can watch it here.
If you’d like to read previous installments of the Best and Worst of NXT, click right here. Follow With Spandex on Twitter and Facebook. You can also follow me on Twitter, where everything and everyone is terrible.
And now, the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for April 25, 2019.
Worst: Action Jaxson
We’re still trying to make Jaxson Ryker a threat, apparently. So far he’s failed to have a good match with Oney Lorcan, failed to have a good match with Danny Burch, and this match with Humberto Carrilo did was point out that the big killer “enforcer” of the Forgotten Sons is the same height and roughly the same weight as one of the cruiserweights. He’s just got more muscles and enough tattoos to make it look like he’s got a tan.
I don’t want to write a “Jaxson Ryker sucks” paragraph every time he wrestles, but what else can you say about the guy? He’s a relic from 10 years ago’s main roster pro wrestling, and it’s not like that time period of Mason Ryan and Jackson Andrews and Tyler Reks made everyone prefer WBF Body Stars. The top shelf for Ryker’s run should’ve been wrestling Nick Aldis for the NWA Heavyweight Championship somewhere in South Carolina on a Thursday.
The good news here is that Ryker beating up Carrillo sets up the Forgotten Sons vs. Oney, Twoey, and Ca-three-o, which will better utilize Ryker’s strengths by having him stand on the apron looking swoll for 90% of the match before tagging in, hitting some spinebusters, and getting superkicked to the floor so the other five can wrestle.
Best: Sara Del LeRae
Also not great yet are Vanessa Borne and Aliyah, as much as I want to get behind them as NXT’s latest evil lady duo. They’re doing a better job of booking them as weird ineffectual cowards who talk too much instead of brute heels who “run this place” or whatever, which keeps us from more of those Vanessa Borne “mounted punches” that make Shane McMahon’s baby jabs look like Butterbean. Like the IIconics before them, they should focus on being great characters and creating unique identities. NXT’s usually pretty great at justifying the less incredible wrestling by letting the best characters do it.
Anyway, Candice LeRae is settling into her role as “player coach” pretty nicely here. She’s clearly the veteran in charge of keeping Borne, Aliyah, and Kacy Catanzaro reined in and working, and for the most part, I think it succeeds. It’s still unfortunate that Candice more or less missed three different generations of talented women on top of the NXT women’s division, spent most of her initial time as a character moping over her husband instead of having dope wrestling matches, and is now being utilized as the good hand to keep everything together. That’s just the Candice fan in me wondering why she hasn’t had like 10 barn-burner singles matches yet. I’m sure we’ll get to Candice vs. Baszler again soon, which was one of my dark horse favorite matches in the Mae Young Classic even if it was short, or Candice vs. Io on a TakeOver somewhere, and that it’ll all be worth it.
Kacy Catanzaro’s gonna be huge as soon as they find an identity for her beyond “excited newcomer you may have seen on a different show.” She’s so unique in the ring, and if Lita could become an all-time legend by hitting a great hurricanrana and a good moonsault, Kacy could end up on WWE’s women’s wrestling Rount Mushmore.
William Regal Lights The Jobber Signal
William Regal meets one of his fans
KUSHIDA is set to debut next week. Despite being in Europe, Kassius Ohno saw a “new star’s NXT debut happening soon” blurb on WWE.com and came rushing back to the states to call dibs on being the guy to lose it. KUSHIDA is great, and KassXL shouldn’t be much of a challenge.
Best: Speaking Of Casual Males
Here’s Matt Riddle acing a photo shoot after getting into a promotional materials argument with Adam Cole. I enjoy Riddle as NXT’s idiot conscience, as he’s like that blind guy in Red Dead Redemption who tells you your fate if you give him a dollar. Riddle just shows up in sandles and booty shorts and a floral headband, minding his own stupid business, and if you talk to him he just immediately spits facts.
This is also important in setting up Riddle’s appearance later in the night, which I appreciate. NXT shows the value of letting stories breathe a little, and not introducing, executing, and following up on a plan all in the same episode. Just write the stories and make the characters make sense, and they’ll naturally overlap.
Best: What’s A War Raider
I know it doesn’t really work, but I’m counting this as another name change. Why? Because on last week’s NXT they showed a bunch of Superstar Shake-Up highlights and talked about “The Viking Experience” like they’d always just been called that. Erik Experience wears a “War Raiders” shirt. Now this week they’re just War Raiders again, probably because they taped this before Vince McMahon’s Monday afternoon brain fart and realized they couldn’t edit around dudes standing in front of a giant screen with WAR RAIDERS on it.
So just for fun, I’m pretending that it’s now …
- War Machine to War Raiders
- War Raiders to The Viking Experience
- The Viking Experience to The Viking Raiders
- The Viking Raiders to The Viking Warriors
- The Viking Warriors to War Raiders
I hope they show up on Raw next week as “War Machine.”
Also, +1 to Mauro Ranallo for mentioning that, “weeks later, people are still buzzing on social media,” about the War Raiders because of their performance at NXT TakeOver: New York, and not because of the comedic shit-show it’s been getting them from one brand to another without the entire concept falling in the toilet.
Best: Montez Ford
So, the match starts like this:
I absolutely bought it, too, and was like, “whoa, did they tape a new match and sneak it in to keep the NXT Tag Team Championship in NXT while the Viking Whoevers go up to Raw?” This finish would’ve MADE the Street Profits, and even though it didn’t get the three, listen to that crowd reaction. That’s how you get a crowd hype. The Profits rule hard, and I’m actually kinda mad that the tapings happened like a week too early for them to have shocked us with a title change.
Anyway, I loved this match. It’s only like, five minutes long, but every second of it counts. NXT tag match sprints rule to begin with, but this one had high action and consequence. Everyone looked great, Montez Ford is the reincarnation of Seth Rollins’ physicality long before Rollins is dead, and the Raiders looked like bad-asses fighting back from the brink of sudden defeat and showing why they’re the champs. It’s a shame that they don’t just get to keep being the champs and having awesome tag team matches instead of going up to Raw with three different names for 40 seconds a week to trade roll-ups with Curt Hawkins.
Also, the Street Profits should join the Viking Experience, at least long enough for me to call him “Montez Fjord.”
Best: Disputed Era
Finally we have the main event between NXT Champion John G. Wrestling and Roderick Strong. It’s very good, and your enjoyment here sorta lives or dies on what you think of Strong as a singles competitor. Personally I think he works much better as (arguably) the most obnoxious of three henchmen in a high work-rate tag team of miniature scumbags, but he’s still good at what he does. Gargano’s hot fire 24/7 these days, so it’s a booking layup.
The match is all about the finish, though, with Adam Cole showing up to “support” Strong and disprove the haters who have been noticing his very obvious jealousy at not getting the match. Disney Prince by way of Harmony Korine Matt Riddle shows up to fight off the invaders, Cole accidentally kicks Strong, and referee Drake Wuertz somehow loses 100% of his peripheral vision and can’t see what’s happening. Gargano wins the match, all thanks to Adam Cole, with an assist from Riddle.
After the match, Undisputed Era tease another breakup that will almost certainly end with someone unexpectedly joining them instead of leaving. But maybe I just watch too much wrestling.
KUSHIDA debuts, and definitely takes a loss to the guy who loses to every new star. All this and more, next week!