Sunday, March 2, 2014

Best Coast Bias: And Everything Was Beautiful And Nothing Hurt

Something this good shouldn't be an afterthought, and yet...
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It's nights like this that make me proud to be in this industry. - William Regal

If God put on a wrestling show, it would be a less awesome version of NXT ArRIVAL.

This is supposed to be a simple recitation of facts, especially for those who missed out on the show but need these to stay conversayvouplait when it comes to the crown jewel of Full Sail. Henceforth, star ratings aren't going to find a home here. No Dean Douglasing letter grades, either. From now on, because of this show, there is going to be a modification of the caliber scale used when it comes to viewing the pro graps in Bias Junction.

The median is nothing. The most negative outlier is "Kill it with fire by throwing it into the sun after having already lit it on fire". And now the most positive outlier is "It was so pitch perfect not only did I miss it when it was gone but at the end I cried". Sure, it could be a constellation instead of a five-star match or a A+++ or whatever, but let's just call it by its name: Cesaro/Zayn IV.

Six months ago when the NXT dispatches started, it started at (and probably was caused by) Cesaro/Zayn III. It was the thing that damn near blew up the Internet it was so awesome, and started turning heads who weren't looking before that in the directions of a certain ginger high flyer and the Fabulous Tony C, the Boss of the World. Some people had it as their Match of the Year, and some people didn't, but for most it was at bare minimum in the conversation when that talk was being had.  So it was only appropriate that the first match on the first live show broadcast on WWEN was them resuscitating their long-standing rivalry.

When's the last time the fourth installment of an already awesome series was the crown jewel of the entire run?

It happened.

If you're looking for a cheap excuse to buy into the WWEN Kool-Aid, here's this: for $10 a month you can watch this match whenever you'd like and you have the half-hour to kill. It's unfathomable that a company can put on such a quality work as the Shield/Wyatts trios war at Elimination Chamber and that 2014 MOTYC might not even be the best match the company put on that doesn't induce speechlessness because you're out of words, but because all of the words for joy and glee are trying to escape your brain at the same time and there's rainbows and dancing unicorns and free craft beers for everybody and Brittany Snow checking out Anna Kendrick in the shower and like Candide, how can anything go wrong in this, the best of all possible words?

So if you're expecting a blow-by-blow move for move eight-page recitation, forget about it. You can ask me if you want to see my uncensored notes about the match and they will be sent to you, but in fairness it starts off with a positive curse in all caps, and ends with the justifiably hysteric SWEET BABY JESUS ON A TINY CROSS WITH FUN SIZED NAILS IN HIS HANDS. That was said by an agnostic. In the middle it seems gravity stopped working on a few occasions, that it built on the other three chapters while going off in its own separate direction, and it induced more caps than a home D.C. hockey game.

It answered the question "Why do you still bother with professional wrestling?", possibly the question "If you could only pick one match to show someone who wasn't into pro wrestling to try and get them into it, which one would it be?" and "Is this what heaven looks like?" Awash in pre-match massive expectations was to be expected, sure; but in a world where so much is hype and then the subsequent disappointment in people and things that fail to live up to it, this surpassed it. All of it. The fact that Byron Saxton, Tom Phillips and the inimitable Regal put on the best announce work in the post-JR era for the entire show but especially this miracle given breath was just the crumbled up cookie things on the frogurt and the found $20 in the jeans pocket.

And even the post-match made them shut up. The end result was Niagara Falls, Frankie Angel, which made it difficult to type and cry at the same time. Whatever wins the Best Picture Oscar in a few hours, you can keep it. Compared to this, it couldn't have been that good.

That rematch alone would've made Arrival worth the long trip to the fireworks factory, but in the other two title rematches as well high expectations were vaulted over with quadruple somersaults and a smile, thus further solidifying the status of NXT as WWE's happier Bizarro World.

Paige made her return to the shores of Grappleania to go against the ascendent Emma, and the awesome commentary caught onto the match's overhanging narrative clothesline right away: just because I respect you doesn't mean I like you. The moment her new theme died down Paige in order got in Emma's face from about .2 inches away, shoved her, and piefaced her when she dared shove back.  This was wrestling, but this was also about proving a point--the challenger that she wasn't the archetype Paige could dismissively quick slice and dream about kneeing in the face without getting stretched like Armstrong en route to a hard, physical match, and for the Champion, that the previous victory for the belt wasn't some miraculous fluke but rather the logical endpoint of evolving greatness. No matter who yelled "Give up!" at the other, it seemed more to be said out of vain hope than any actual hope that it was going to happen unless something next level and borderline catastrophic occurred.

You see, when you beat everybody with your finisher and especially when you've beaten this opponent with your finisher, surviving a beatdown and pulling it off should culminate in victory. And yet. Paige's reaction was perfect; for someone who'd mentioned in her prematch video package about the only time her emotions ever went anywhere besides "knee it in the face, knee it in the face, knee it in the mothereffin' face" was the tears she'd shed upon winning the belt in the first place.  Can one confirm that's what happened when Emma became the first woman to survive the Paige Turner No Not Her?  Probably no, not without coming back with some teeth missing. But the youngest diva ever to reign supreme in WWE went into a minor meltdown before realizing that anger can be power and reknowing that she could use it.  She then outsubmissioned the submissionist by putting on a Nakanoesque Scorpion Crosslock that can be best described as part Sharpshooter, part Rings Of Saturn and all ow ow OW even before Paige muscled up and lifted Emma up off the mat with it applied in the middle of the ring.

The crowd chanted for divas after it was all said and done, because this is WWE's Earth 2 and you saw the title of this thing. You're talking about a world where both Regal and Stephanie McMahon both doing the Emma Dance might sneak into the top 10 of Things That Made This Show The Awesomest. And even getting to the happy ending came with a bit of acid in the lemonade after the match, going from looking down at the vanquished, to pulling her up by the hair, then a handshake quickly followed by a pull in, then followed by the hugging it out that the crowd had been hoping for. It was almost as if they were both wired to be heels but a smart audience realized in their own way they were both super awesome women and not just sexy cattle sent out as a barely disguised plug for "reality" programming. IMAGINE!

You could call it unbolievable, but why? The king is dead, and long live the fourth NXT Champion. In a fairer world a main event high quality ladder match with a title change a crowd was begging for and was quite joyed to get would be taking up the bulk of the keystrokes, but such is the difference between the Iguodalas and the LeBrons. That said, after Shawn Michaels came out as a sort of comedy buffer/living reminder of what a ladder match could entail, Dallas and Neville went to work right away on reaching the night's earlier heights and coming close, too.

Everything steadily escalated as the bout went on, with Dallas continuing to find ways to Finlay it up and use the ring as an assistant in his match (trapping Neville's leg in the ropes, then his arm in the apron, and later using the apron on a few occassions and throwing The Man That Mother Nature Forgot To Make Good Looking backwards into the steps). But once the ladder got involved, the violence predictably took on more squirm-inducing properties to the point where the referees looked concerned and checked on both men on multiple occasions. It's easy enough to see the damage done in real time, and unfortunately for the smiling delusionist he took the brunt of it to close the show, as he got slammed into it and set up the moment the highlight reel was waiting for -- well, assuming they want to replace what they just replaced with a different hyper bad-ass slomo cut -- Neville ascending to the top before uncorking the Red Arrow, making Bo the now horribly hurt meat in between slices of aerial armageddonist and hard, unforgiving ladder. The last moment of Bo Dallas' title reign before he sluiced out to the floor, you could see the long, red angry line that getting the prettiest finisher in the business got him, and even his desperate lunges at the end couldn't stop history from being made and Neville grabbing the big X from the hook.

CJ Parker lost, the Ascension got snazzy new video and music en route to crushing Too Cool's hopes like so many cassingles, and both the McMahons cut quick promos that got them cheered.  But for those who weren't on the bandwagon before, it was Heisenberg quality stuff that'll breed another round or 96 of addicts.  For those who were sporadic, it probably went to appointment TV. And for those true believers, well, sometimes you get everything you want and you cry out of joy and sheer relief and a few other things, too, and realize while things can't always be this good based on math and logic alone that there will always be at least something, one show, one ridiculously good match that can cause Pharrell's "Happy" to come up on shuffle while you're writing about it and no matter what dregs will be in the future, this is always perfect, and possibly even always there for a tenner a month for at least half a year.

That was the one annoying thing in the leadup, besides the fact all this awesomeness hadn't happened yet: people kept calling NXT the future. It's a semantics thing, and you can see why that shorthand got chosen. Scandals get referred to as _________gate even though Richard Nixon wasn't forced to resign over the pilfering of Poland Spring; certain lexiconalities happen by sheer force of overuse. And while some people in NXT are the future and more eyeballs are on it than ever, NXT is the present. Sometimes so good it's like a present, too, but it's the present. It's here, now, fully formed. As Stephanie noted to an appreciative crowd, you can't still have it if you never lost it, and you can't be a nebulous thing in the distance if you're fracturing orbital sockets through sheer greatness in real time, either.

And considering this could've just been a series of overjoyed anime character .fgifs, this much verbiage seems like a good place to depart you for a few days, dear reader.

Seriously, I haven't gotten to watch Cesaro/Zayn in...minutes.