Monday, November 17, 2014

Best Coast Bias: Yes, He Can't

You know what you call friends like this? JERKS.
Photo Credit:
There's a reason Dan Marino gets remembered one way and Joe Montana gets remembered another. There's a reason people who loved the NBA have one set of associations when it comes to Dominique Wilkins and another when it comes to Michael Jordan, the same way the words Pete Campbell make Mad Men fans make one face and the words Don Draper another.

As the Internet noted in several places over the past week before it became horribly broken by the latest iteration of something that's already happened a couple dozen of times, America loves an underdog story more so than an actual underdog; what the American ethos is built around for better and for worse according to that line of thought is winning, period.

And yet.

Try telling that to the disbelieving Full Sail audience, who had their hands on their heads like the Undertaker had just fallen at WrestleMania. Try telling that to Sami Zayn, sitting agog in the ring after another moment where he showed restraint and compassion where his best friend didn't and all he ended up with for that display of sportsmanship was another high profile loss. And see what Adrian Neville thinks of that theory, since he's probably about to become the most hated man in Florida this side of Rick Scott while having done several thousand fewer things wrong.

You knew you were getting a TV MOTYC when the Man That Gravity Forgot and everybody's favorite Syrian-Canadian hooked horns in the main event for the Big X. You probably even suspected it was going to come down to another Fatal 4 Wayesque moment where Neville found a hint of the killer instinct the overly nice Zayn couldn't.

And yet.

For all the increased confidence Zayn showed up with to start the match and all the new maneuvers he was able to pull off during it -- a sweet counter powerbomb and a German > German > half nelson suplex trifecta -- it turned out Neville would beat Zayn because he could, and survived because he let him. Neville would whiff on the Red Arrow, and come up clutching his leg. Zayn was in the corner, cocked, loaded. He had a Helluva Kick all set to uncork and finally end this road to redemption with the indie rock playing in the background while kissing Anna Kendrick as the credits rolled. The only thing standing in the way was the ref checking on Neville, and then throwing up the X. All he had to do was kick him. Given the wide expanse of WWE babyface history, it wouldn't've even registered as a blip in the litany of Cheney moves.

But Zayn waited, hesitated, cogitated. And you know what they say about those who hesitate; one small package later, the match was over in heartrending fashion. Neville got in the hug seen above before falling back down to the mat and scooting to the corner. The trainer checked on the Englishman while Zayn invented the 10,000-yard stare; you could almost see him narrowly manage to squash his darker nature as he rotated between rage, anguish, disappointment and disgust.

It was one of the finest endings WWE's ever managed to put on, let alone in the history of NXT. And look at everything still on the table: the two-segger served as an amuse bouche to what will probably be a rematch that headlines the December 11th special and gets something closer to the half-hour mark (not that this match wasn't fine, but it clocked in closer to fifteen). And, of course, the free Network goodies end on the 1st. Should we even mention the fact that they delivered resolution without delivering the resolution? There's still plenty of room for Zayn to yell out his own version of "Clear a path, [matriarch fornicators]! I'm going home!" whether or not certain former Canadian comrades show up and tell him he knows what he has to do. Hell, watching that ending it wouldn't be shocking for sympathetic Zayn supporters to imagine maiming Neville's appendages one by one and it's not like he wasn't fighting off that urge in briefly seen moments after the fact. That ending could easily be the impetus for a fully heel Zayn.

Except it's Sami Zayn, and this is NXT. Chuck Klosterman posited earlier this year that Machiavellian was a huge misnomer because the thing that made people turn that into a phrase wasn't anything that the author actually did himself in his life, but that he could easily imagine someone or someones doing something dastardly in a logical manner to better their position in life via power as seen in the Prince. You know, the sort of thing Neville's done the last two times his title's been on the line and Zayn's been in the match. It wasn't illegal to pull the ref at the last special but it sure wasn't virtuous; here, he either cashed in on his best friend's moral compass being due North at all times after crowing about it for weeks either using and overdramatizing an actual injury or feigning one to get the opening needed since despite putting an unblemished 2014 on the ledger when faced with this Zayn, he couldn't beat him in the normal ways. A villain can easily be seen in those who know the most (about their friend's weaknesses and aversion to moral turpitude) and care the least (about anything except staying NXT Champion).

The title match had the possibility to suck up every bit of oxygen out of Orlando given the great action and storytelling; instead, from stem to stern NXT probably put on their best hour-long show of 2014. When the Program of the Year puts on at bare minimum a candidate for Episode of the Year, it's worth noting. While everything was quality, we'll begin where the show did and a pivotal, historical moment in NXT history: the suxeN reunited!

Okay, that was just a side result of the actual pivotal, historical thing--Finn Bálor making his debut, slinking to the ring like he was a plaything on a Bray Wyatt string working at about a .93 Patrick Bateman and still getting cheered to the heavens before he could even speak a word, let alone announce he was the future. International Airstrike took offense to that, as you may expect, as you may also expect Hideo Itami coming out to show his style was kick when the main roster douches had his boy hemmed up in a 2 on 1. (For all the brilliant chants the Full Sailors have used in the past two years it's hard to find one meaner ((or more accurate?)) than the "Who are you?" they chanted at Gabriel in the brief moments before the new Japanese superstar showed.) The veterans were on their heels for the majority of the fight, highlighted especially by Bálor hitting a Zaynesque tope con hilo headed into the first break of the show and put a bow on the proceedings by hitting his double stomp off the top and polishing off Gabriel. Bálor looked tremendous in his debut while in his little bit of time Itami managed to show off some nice kicks.

At this point they should almost get them in the ring against the champions just to see all the giffable moments that would occur, and in fact later on in the hour the Lucha Dragons would manage to overcome Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy in a showcase that actually highlighted all four men. For once everybody on commentary was in unison, and everybody was right - team Buddy Blake (Ed. Note: I prefer the name Dubstep Cowboys – TH) showed flashes of brilliance as they came out as a unit with a new Tron look and theme as another step on the road of them fulfilling their hopes of being "the most functional team in NXT history". They got off a few nice combinations as well, but there was just too much space in the ring for the luchadores not to do their thing, and the belt holders prevailed as would be expected when Sin Cara put the finishing touches on with his one-armed powerbomb setting up the senton bomb. The highlight moments were right beforehand, as Kalisto turned himself into a neon yellow version of Sonic the Hedgehog, rolling around the mat and only stopping to dodge Murphy or Blake while kicking them in the openings to set up the hot tag before hitting the move of the show towards the match's conclusion with a springboard corkscrew suicide moonsault. As in need as they are of a narrative and credible opponents, watching them really gel and put on probably their best match as a unit was sweet.

The other match was a sprint, really, and moreso a setup for Sasha Banks to once again reiterate She Wanted The Belt and she wanted to go through Charlotte to get it. During her challenge to her old BFF her new one in Black Irish Becky Lynch stood next to her and looked mad sassy. Alexa Bliss gave the Boss a run, especially with this snap sunset flip powerbomb that somehow looked more impressive since it came out of a corkscrew and came out of the corner. That definitely needs to get added onto the arsenal, but Sasha wasted little time in knocking her down once she survived that and polishing her off with the Banks Statement combo whilst not giving a whit about Bliss' busted nose in the process. It's not a matter of if but when the BFF Implosion finally goes down for real, and that's still probably a few weeks off until it can join Paige/Emma II, Charlotte/Nattie, and Charlotte/Bayley as awesome women's title matches featured on the WWE Network for an already well-known price.

And after all that -- the establishing of a newer tag team while further embellishing the champions, the quality women's wrestling, a phenomenal debut that would only get outshined by a main event par excellence from a talent and storyline standpoint -- you'd think there's no possible way they can follow that up with the next show.

And yet.