Sunday, April 6, 2014

Best Coast Bias: Knucks To This

Now arriving
Throughout his NXtenure, Corey Graves has been a lot of things in not that long a time period: sacrificial lamb to the Wyatts and eye-rolling antihero; concussion victim and afterthought; Tatsu victimizer and stalling black hat.  However, until he walked to the back after main eventing against Sami Zayn on this latest installment from Full Sail, there was something he'd never been before:


It's amazing what a minor alignment switch and change-up of style can do, and Graves is the latest example of WWE taking a kernel of truth and blowing it up into a full bag of kettle corn that'll take three days to finish but seemed like a good idea when you bought it.  While Full Sail's biggest babyface had been cleared by the medics to go in against the former Tag Champion, that proved to be disingenuous at best and a lie at worst.  At the best of times, it was all Zayn everything and the crowd (suspecting not just the ones watching in the arena, neither) was lapping it up.  It took quite some time for Graves to go on offense, and even the stalling tactics he'd used to trick Tatsu didn't work on Sami.  Which makes a lot of sense: one of those guys is the floor -- the same floor Tyler Breeze would Beauty Shot in a short showcase right before this butting of heads -- and the other is Sami Bleepin' Zayn, and that's even before you factor in the experience difference.

There may have been a few too many chinlocks for the liking of most, but the match served a plethora of purposes in one shot.  It established Zayn's bonafides as the latest holder of the Steamboat babyface never-say-die torch.  It gave him a out for the loss, as while he got put in Lucky XIII not two minutes later he'd be shoving the ref and saying he could've kept going despite the fact he'd been crumbling off of single right hands and hadn't even been able to go up top or leap for his signature flying crossbody block, speaking of the Dragon.  And as for Graves?

It's not just the fact that he pocketed the biggest win of his career (though of course if you're feeling ungenerous you can always call it a win* since the ref ended the match in his favor after a series of checks on the sputtering-out Zayn); it's how he did it.  Too many heels still carry elements of wanting to be cheered, or having a catchphrase, or being willing to be booed in the shortterm as long as they find some way of stoking the crowd for positive fervor despite the fact on their 1040s under occupation it says BOO THIS MAN OR WOMAN.  Corey Graves is absolutely repellent, and it's pretty awesome to watch even when the matches aren't.

He looks like Hot Topic commissioned a wrestler, yes.  For anyone who didn't see this archetype honed in Memphis over the years, his constant rolling out of the ring and ducking between the ropes can cross the line from "I see what you're trying to do there" to "ENOUGH ALREADY".  It'd be nice if he learned a believable submission hold that shouldn't exclusively be the domain of the Fabulous Tony C or Randall Keith in full-on troll king mode, sure.  But alongside the help of the best announcers of the business on the cans and s l o w i n g down his offense, it has more visceral impact when he starts getting his cheap and expensive shots in, and it's as fine a flavor of ringsmanship as there can be.  You can say "Corey Graves does things on his own time" all you'd like but if he were out there fighting fiercer that'd kill the whole narrative.

The whole thing's there, from the ubiquitous knuckleflashing pre-and-post match to the Dean lean around the same bottom post he launched Sami into two weeks ago.  And given the fact that Sami never gave up or gave in concurrent with the dissolution of the tag team he had with now Champion Adrian Neville there are a couple interesting paths for the former Patron Saint of Bad Decisions to choose from as he continues to ascend the NXT ladder.

Speaking of Neville, you can add another person shooting at the target to the litany, but this one came off of the side of a milk carton: Brodus Clay.  It may be a weird thing to see what's the blowoff to a feud that sort of exploded on the runway due more to boredom than anything else put out on NXT, but in a post-Networked world NXT is becoming more of a lateral move.  At least, that's the generous explanation to it; Kendrick knows WWECW needs a successor whether it's official or not.  Yet again, Xavier Woods came out full of viss and pinegar against a larger opponent, again he fired up and got in a few blows, and again he ended up getting pretty much eaten.  Like vintage running headbutt > powerbomb > second rope splash eaten.  Not fun.

But Clay wasn't done there, stating that WWE had taken everything from him vis a vis songs, women, partners, dance, dignity, et al., so Full Sail was his and it owed him a living and moreover the NXT Championship.  The Man That Gravity's Forgot's response was concise and perfect: nobody can walk into Full Sail and metaphorically throw their weight around, the NXT roster especially their Champion can rumble with anybody on the main shows, and the moment the former ex-Stepin Fetchit earns a shot he can get one.

And over in Divaville, while Paige expectantly waits to invite Charlotte to a knee-you-in-the-face party, Emma undid the schnide she's been on in-ring recently by outsmarting the BFFs and moreover getting Sasha Banks to tap out to the EmmaLock.  Poor Sasha, if it wasn't for the two biggest female crowdpoppers down Florida way she would be the Boss of NXT; as is since they tend to make her tapout she's more of the Assistant to the General Manager That Technically Exists But Never Shows.  This was perfect Emma here, her comedy spots thus irritating the heel, who then out of anger charges into a trap that may or may not exist and falls prey to some above-average technical wrestling and suddenly find themselves on the business end of a Muta signature pulling the Savion Glover.  And to think that it all almost got subsumed by Renee Young trying to explain to William Regal what ratchet meant and why the NXT Constellation was chanting it at Sasha.  At least she got called the hidden gem of NXT by Master Regal, and when a man like that puts over your venom and spite you are going to be going places sooner rather than.

But I suppose that's the difference between Ws and Ls: when Regal sees Sasha trying on his old black coat it gives him warm, dark memories; when Corey Graves does it, he just gets concerned for Sami Zayn and thinks the match should be stopped.