Monday, October 13, 2014

Best Coast Bias: Not Selling Woof Tickets

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For the NXT aficionado, it was another week of swimming in the gray and hoping that there was going to be light at the end of the journey. It's not that the trip is unpleasant; rather, the inverse. There's a pair of tracks that are on display and either can be the route that leads the developmental league into 2015. But either way, the same question that first reared its head at Fatal 4 Way: who's going to end up being the heel - Adrian Neville or Sami Zayn?

Leaving aside the wild card yet tempting possibility that neither one of them will be corrupted by the Big X, another domino towards the end game went down just like Sami did to Titus O'Neil in the main event. The cursor didn't stutter; you saw that correctly.

If you're a paranoid, or merely prone to perpetual side-eye, then Sami's pre-match promo probably raised an eyebrow. With a jocularity (arrogance?) that seemed slightly uncharacteristic of the Zayn that's become the top-shelf babyface in Florida he mocked Titus for fighting a bunny when in theory he should be a monster, and then stated he felt pretty good about his chances that evening. As any long-time fan of popular culture knows, he might as well have put on a red shirt after having sex before announcing he was going to investigate that strange noise by himself and he'd be fine, don't worry about him. O'Neil's offense wasn't exactly the most compelling thing in the world, to put it kindly; he seemed lost on what to do that wasn't a slam, a bearhug or some punches. That was irrelevant given the size disparity especially in the first half of the match where besides a couple of gunshots disguised as open-handed chops the Zayn offensive totally got subsumed by the former University of Floridaian.

Even coming back from the break it took Sami multiple efforts to get going even when he was trying to throw shots from his belly upwards, and outside of a textbook tope con hilo didn't really muster anything besides fodder for a Clash of the Titus off of the top instead of his wrist-lock tornado ZDT (DDZ?) and got pinned clean in the middle of the ring. He got laid over the apron and Titus ascended while smacktalking the crowd, allowing Neville the window to come out and drag his friend out of harm's way while glaring at the power half of SlaterGator. Could you make the argument he should've came out earlier as Zayn did last week? Sure. You could also make the counter-argument he only got involved when it was apparent Titus was out to pile on after the match and cause a lasting injury. How do you reconcile this with the ref-pulling friend-superkicking from Fatal 4 Way? It stands to figure one or the other is the aberration, and it's anybody's guess (maybe even the NXT employee's) as to which it is. O'Neil has ostensibly earned a title shot against Neville, which should only dump kerosene on this simmering fire.

With the main event somewhat lackluster from a match quality perspective, per usual it was up to the women's match of the show batting in the semi-main. The only complaint about the Becky Lynch/Sasha Banks affair was that it ended. It could've gone another five to ten easily and at the clip the ladies were going at it, maybe they're just saving that better iteration for a future Network special. From Sasha mocking Lynch by going through her hair only to get it whipped in her face down to her finishing off the Irishwoman with the Bank Statement -- her Lungblower/Crossface combination formerly known in this circle as the Boss Combo -- this whole thing was made of what the kids refer to as win. Banks' modified bow and arrow with a boot to the back of the head for extra nastiness was the sort of thing that would've drawn more attention had not the entirety of the match it was showcased in look like small beer.

While we wait for the inevitable Flair/Boss showdown, let us note Ms. Banks dusting off the 100 Hand Slap to the back in the corner for the first time in a long time as well as the rope-hung double knees to the gut. We should also note Lynch expanding her work, as her Matrish bridge out of a pinfall was quickly followed up with a basement dropkick to the ribs and a full-out nipup all on the heels of a La Magistral cradle. Given the shallowness in the NXT's ladies' pool with the callups of Paige and Emma earlier in the year this may be the start of something to keep a future eye on; hell, it would be stunning if this didn't eventually become a title match. But this match went by quicker than it took Tyler Breeze to make Mojo Rawley tap out in the opener.

Of course, the ranks of the ladies may be bolstered with Carmella getting her official tryout next week after Regal saw her work and got another trainee to tap out. Cass' getting a hug while Enzo Amore continued to get the Heisman led to what theoretically could've been the comedic moment of the week ("And I know you're gonna post it--" "YUP.") except that in addition to some of the singalong parts, they lit into the Vaudevillains with such hilarity and venom that you had to be surprised Ether or Hit 'Em Up didn't start playing in the background as they uncorked on poor Simon and Aiden. As the Vaudies drift more into their Villanry (note the music change in the past month as well as Simon not yelling out "Manly!" when he hit the double bicep pre-match), they seem to be more and more set up for a match against the Lucha Dragons with the NXT Tag Team Championships on the line. They took the disses in stride on their way to mostly isolating Enzo on the way to wrapping it up with their signature Finlay roll/second rope senton bomb combination after Simon pulled a distracted Amore into the second turnbuckle beforehand and Aiden laying out Cass to stop him from doing what he successfully executed. Add all their non-ring verbal gymnastics as further evidence that some corners calling them the Newer Age Outlaws isn't too far off of the mark if not wholly correct.

Speaking of not wholly correct, this show's crunchy center sadly had something that BCB and most Full Sailers predicted: the Assassination of the Smackdown Number One Announcer by the Cowardly Ascension. But beforehand, Viktor and Hideo Itami went in at a match that seemed to be a 48 played at 33. Itami clearly got his bell rung early and tried gaming his way through it even though a viewer could tell this wasn't the pint-sized destroyer of worlds that'd been so clearly delineated on his resume and the announcers were gamely trying to cover why his offense looked more like something that should've had a WARNING: May Contain Offense-Like Substances sticker on it. More's the pity, since they started off brawling with each other in a fine set of moments with Itami holding his own. It's always nice when guys who should in theory hate each other's guts prove it by trying to cave in the other's face the instant they can; nothing's more jarring than getting a lot of "those two guys plain don't like each other" buildup that gets undermined the second they get in a collar-and-elbow tieup.

While Itami won the battle, he (temporarily) lost the war as Konor came out roughing up Funaki and then they tied him up in the ropes and finished the job they started when Funaki heroically dragged his limp borderline carcass into the ring. He ate the Fall Of Man while Itami gave them a world-class WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE face?! that got more concerned and anguished as they stretchered out the former Cruiserweight Champion. If only he had a club to be a part of, somebody would have his back at a moment like that and really give the Ascension a good crap-kicking. This cannot happen soon enough, by all accounts. Finding it now naive, backups are left on record--reeling. Hideo needs help soon or he's going to be royally screwed.

Hell, he might be the only one not puzzling over the $64,000 Main Event Question wondering who's going to come up scratched side when the coin lands.