Monday, November 3, 2014

Best Coast Bias: Another Gritty Reboot

If only some sort of chant went along with this
Photo Credit:
Here's the problem about knowing too much (or, conversely, knowing enough to be dangerous): the element of surprise, one of life's little great joys, flies out of the window. Having some knowledge of the intricacies of professional wrestling gives you a lot of small bits of fun information that can come along for use in trivia contests or online repartee, but ultimately this may be a kind of Pyrrhic victory. It's a bunch of magicians in a room trying to impress each other between dismissive eye rolls and caustic quips of "the six of hearts, and it's behind my ear next to this quarter which I'm going to light on fire but it's perfectly fine. YAWN!"

All the more reason to take note of logical surprises, especially the pleasant ones, and exponentially moreso when they come out of the Stamford pro graps factory - a locale not exactly known for such morsels in the recent pasts.

But then again, that's Stamford, and this is NXT.

We knew Zayn was going to take on Titus O'Neil's "open invitation" for a match; we're the ones doing a shot every time he mentions the phrase redemption on his way to frenemy Adrian Neville and their title match coming down the lines. Sami Zayn refusing a match would be like a craft brewer making a trip to San Diego and not hitting a brewery. But as predictable as it was for the overlord of lawful good know, be lawful good, you could still be easily surprised not even 90 seconds into the match. Sami Zayn marching to the ring to Worlds Apart without a single skanking step. Sami Zayn rolling into the ring instead of taking his customary place on the second stair and firing up the crowd before doing a fine spiral into the squared circle. And then, once hostilities recommenced between him and the former Gator, Sami Zayn throwing hands.

It would've been less astounding for Slipknot to pull off a note-perfect cover of "My Heart Will Go On."

They might as well have put up a chyron proclaiming Zayn 2.0 as he stood in against someone roughly 160% his size and tried to fight the man. As you may have predicted, the success rate on this was low. Zayn could only get in a few open-handed chops while O'Neil got off some .8 Henry level trash talking (especially nice was a throw to the evening's final commercial break with him barking "You sent a damn boy to do a man's job!"). Coming back from it and even under more duress, Zayn managed a kickout at one. Any long time NXT aficionado has seen the fourth match with Cesaro at Takeover; any such person knows what doing that means in his echelon as an emblem of his fighting spirit.

Despite his attempts to win by countout at times and his outright manhandling of everyone's favorite Syrian-Canadian, when he came back it was bang-bang, thanks for coming: the Exploder into the corner set up the above-seen Helluva Kick. And yet his road is not yet done, as Lo A Wild Tyler Breeze taunted him from the rampway about being someone else he hadn't beat, and would be more than willing to yank that erstwhile #1 contendership off of shoulders with the next episode. Maybe that would've worked against old Zayn; new (and possibly turning evil) Zayn? You don't have to be Jimmy the Greek to not like T Breezie's chances. Also an excellent surprise to the point where if it's incidental, the reaction is gratitude and if intentional, may be the best little touch any wrestling promotion in North America's done in 2014: last week, Adrian Neville's "comeback" against O'Neil? That was also two moves.

(Two moves, incidentally, was about how long it took for Marcus Louis to lay out Sylvester Lefort while still being unhinged about his baldness and one more move than it took Baron Corbin to End of Days someone referred to by shorthand in notes as Poor Bastard. The crowd counting how long unlucky Tony Briggs lasted in his debut--roughly :20--was a fine touch that needs to be A Thing going forward until they have somebody test the deaf-mute biker loner.)

From an in-ring note, the other point of import that happened on the show was the Vaudevillians making manifest what had been implicit for some time as they earned #1 contendership by being the last men standing in a five-team battle royale that kicked off the program. You knew some carp had gone bad just south of Norway when only they and the Ascension got time for their entrances, and they were the last two teams standing. With the Tye Dillingers and Buddy Blakes taking each other out, the New York boys of Big Cass and Enzo Amore quickly found themselves victimized at the hands of the former champions as the Vaudies took their sweet time getting back inside the ring while Viktor and Konnor dispatched of the upstarts.

It was at this moment Hideo Itami decided to show up and ruin everything for them, and the moment after Aiden English and Simon Gotch did what anybody who could rub two brain cells together could do and eliminated the "distracted by rival's theme music" trope-eaters while they were still in the match the Japanese import was in there and dishing out punishment on them not seen since his debut. Of course, this just meant it took longer for The Numbers Game (™ World Wrestling Entertainment) to catch up to him and lay him out; moreover, it lead to a short-but-sweet segment in the back where Itami announced he wasn't going anywhere, was tired of the abuse and said he was going to bring A Friend next week. On the off chance you're reading this and don't know who the friend is or what's about to go down in a few short days, prepare your profane chants.

That Bull Going Bull on Justin Gabriel? Fun for what it was, but expected. Bayley going to Charlotte for help in evening the odds against Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch? The same. But a show where another big name joins the NXT fold and we get Tyler Breeze and Fancy New Sami Zayn butting heads for the first time since they almost stole the show at Takeover? You're probably going to love it.