Monday, August 18, 2014

Best Coast Bias: Florida's Championship Wrestling

Oh, you bet your smartphone this ruled
Photo Credit:
After another hour from Full Sail, a bunch of questions are in the air when it comes to NXT. Most predominant of them is probably this: how was this not the Network Special?!

Well, that's actually probably answerable quite easily given the finish of the main event. But Christ possible, this show.  This.  Show. Every single thing mattered and every Championship whether obliquely in the case of the tag belts, slightly in the case of the Women's, and completely with the Big X taking center stage over the last 40 percent of the show was on display in matches based around the three crown jewels of Stamford's best original programming.

The surprising thing wasn't that Tyler Breeze and Adrian Neville had a good match for the belt, or that they put about 20 minutes on the board and looked like they could double down on that, but that Tyson Kidd came in and ruined it.  See, in NXT there are certain sureties: William Regal and Renee Young will flirt with each other if they're both manning the desk at the same time is one.  Big Cass being seven feet tall and you can't teach that, another.  But until Kidd stopped Neville from firing the Red Arrow one of the most important ones so subtle and understated yet so integral to the enjoyment of the show hadn't been brought to light in quite some time. Simply put, NXT matches end conclusively.  

There may be pre-match goings-on, as there were in the earlier Bayley-Sasha Banks #1 contendership rematch that'll shortly be gushed over.  There may be post-match goings-on, as evidenced in every single match sans one on the card and exemplified by Neville, Breeze and Kidd seeming to set the stage for a future triple threat title match with literally every aspect of that triangle fighting both the other sides until Sami Zayn showed up, cleared the ring of the black hats, and put a tantalizing idea of a four-way elimination show-long match in the minds of the thirsty.  But one thing NXT matches almost always have is a clear winner and a clear loser, which made the disqualification all the more jarring.

Moreover, it came at the tail end of a two-segger that's go-out-of-your-way-to-watch good from two guys who might be underrated when it comes to NXT Power Rankings but always manage to put on above-average to superlative efforts.  Even without the nice video package to open the show detailing how we got to this match anyone could tell this beef was marinated and slow cooking for some time between the pretty boy and the Champion--not even two minutes in, Breeze had cheated to try to get an advantage only for Neville to retaliate twice with cheapshot tactics in his own right.  Again, like the DQ that was to come, seeing Neville break his stranglehold on his Lawful Good alignment because he despised T Breezie that much was the cilantro in the spaghetti sauce, the little something extra that elevates matches, characters, and everything pro graps to great from the good.  Tyson showed up at the table going to the night's final commercial break in a choice Mike Tyson hoodie (multiple level subtlety that can only be feted with a proper slow clap) before doing a Marcel Marceau, and the second half of the match built off the foundation and put up a mansion on the property.

Breeze slowed down Neville with some front chanceries, and while he didn't fully succeed at wholly grounding the Man That Gravity Forgot his effort at it went longer and better than anyone else's has against the Champ this year.  When he alley-ooped Breeze out to get free it set off escalating violence like Michael Bay sets off explosions.  Did you come for avalanche European uppercuts and standing Shooting Star Presses?  Good.  How do you feel about dropkicks countering springboards and superkicks that actually live up to the prefix?  Maybe you're into sunset flip powerbombs or flying tornado DDTs so perfectly executed it seemed not only was it going to be the reason the title changed hands but almost a video game come to life as Neville literally went vertical and into a Flair Flop to underscore the damage done.  If it was 1995 and you were a kid in an arcade and something like that had happened you would immediately yell out FATALITY!  The crowd chanted This Is Awesome and we hadn't even gotten to the sweet bridged German suplex, the tope suicida, or Neville's second superkick of the evening being even better than the first and hitting Kidd like the fist of an angry god.

Hilariously enough, before the match began you'd be forgiven for thinking "good luck to the boys following that, they're gonna need it". That's because, quelle surprise, Bayley and Sasha Banks' latest kerfuffle in their continuing low-key rivalry over the Championship of each other had a Championship match feel to it.  As Neville would do later, Bayley showed herself continuing to evolve her persona to match the gravitas of the occasion by returning fire on Banks' pre-match smack talk.  Watching Bayley not back down and giving back what she got was jarring but in the best possible way; last year's Bayley wouldn't and would've probably gone on a ride on the whirlybird when she had Banks down.  Here, in consecutive minutes she not only held up her end of the bargain on a pinfall reversal sequence that went on for quite some time (thus confirming everybody's Oh, Eva Marie, Baby, Honey, Just....No thoughts from last week's match) but followed it up by a double leg takedown and punching after Banks had done the same to her.   Having suffered the mal effects of Fancy New Bayley it should be the surprise of no one that when things came back from break Banks looked to snap Bayley and get the shot at Charlotte.

There was a highly impressive double knee to the gut in the corner when Banks had Bayley laid out over the middle rope that needs to be a staple of the Banks offensive, and her kicks looked positively vicious while they were getting backed up by her taunts.  Most impressively, she toyed with the crowd and looked to love doing it--there was a part where it looked like Bay was going to escape a straightjacket hold, so Sasha slammed her face into the mat a few times and put it back on with a "you really thought your girl was going to escape, huh?" smirk all over her face.  She would, and then they accelerated and elevated towards the end. Yes, Virginia, your eyes didn't deceive you--that was a Japan-style "eff the move you just hit me with and eat this effing lariat" spot put on in a women's match by a subsidiary of WWE.  

And BAYLEY was doing it!  Again, it seemed like Sasha had things won over Bayley; not only did she counter the Belly-to-Bayley by slapping it away but she hit a huge knee that sent Bay to the outside.  Maybe she should've taken the countout W, since it would've served her purpose just as well.  Bayley snuck in a small package and then slapped (again, !) Banks.  You would've been fine in thinking it was going to be Hugplex O'Clock, but you'd be wrong: Sasha countered into the Boss Combo (the unofficial BCB name) of her Backstabber and Crossface only for Bayley to roll her up while still in the hold for the win and the title shot against Charlotte.  She looked vicious and the epitome of a Mean Girl only felled by awesome counterwrestling, a bit of ego in wanting to win in-ring rather than take the countout, and her finisher didn't lose anything by it being used against her in victory.  Bayley was fighting spirit and heart personified, she figured out a way to not only counter something that'd felled her the last time she found herself across-ring from the Boss but found a way to do so that led directly into a W, and her temporary and new-found willingness to, if not exactly fight the black hats on their level but more than willing to not be pristine and not take a backwards step in fangirlish adoration anymore is a crucial, necessary element in her going forward as well.  As for what Charlotte did after?  Well, it was hard to say.  She came out and raised and shook Bayley's hand...but then nothing untoward happened.  Bayley pointed to the belt and she just smiled back at Bayley...then it was off to commercial with nothing untoward having happened.  Your guess as to what's next, though NXT will earn 2015 show of the year if Bay cuts a promo stating Charlotte is dead, dead, dead if she tries to trick her into friendship.

The other matches on the show only suffered from being on the same program as those appointment TV spats, and they both finished off the first round of the tag title contendership tournament with some perfectly cromulent wrestling.  To the shock of absolutely no one Eddie Princeton Bull Dempsey turned on Mojo Rawley after he blind-tagged himself in and subsequently lost in two moves to the Vaudevillains and ¡Mucha Lucha! won easily over Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy.  As predicted, that Bull didn't go crazy, that Bull went Bull.  He seemed to be no-selling the Thank You, Bull chants but then he went back into the ring and Bulldozed Mojo.  Do you want to make the "his butt didn't just GET kicked" joke or should it be done here?  You know what, you can have it.  Let us also note that while staying pitch perfect to their character work during the match, for the second week in a row a partner from the apron saved his other half from getting jacked in the ring as Aiden got Simon out of the corner on Rawley's subsequent charge from his blind tag before they put him down with the Finlay roll/second rope senton bomb combo.  Any time an established team uses continuity and teamwork to beat a pair of wacky mismatched opponents a thinking fan's heart grows three sizes. Since NXT was on their magical Land of Choclate steez here this week it sort of happened twice, along with Kalisto and Sin Cara's win launching them into a set-the-DVR-NOW semifinal against the Best Rosebuds. Seriously, Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy (at least right now)?  No wonder the Legionnaires were so upset in the back and talking smack about Team Jersey, but at least the egregiousness of them somehow being excluded from the Fresh Meat Invitational is being folded into the canon.  If one had to guess they probably want aucun of the single-arm bomb and missile dropkick combo that helped to doom the New Age Cowboys.

Actually, there was a superobvious question that'd probably be #1 with a bullet after another fastest hour of sports entertainment: NXT, why are you so awesome?