Thursday, February 12, 2015

Best Coast Bias: Gold, Owens. Gold.

That shirt's a letter short, champ
Photo Credit: WWE.com
At REvolution, Kevin Owens put the knife into Sami Zayn's back; at Rival he twisted. He did it with forearms and punches on an increasingly defenseless man, and when that failed to eliminate the heart of his former best friend he powerbombed him and he powerbombed him and he powerbombed him a few more times until it got him what naysayers would say only took him two months and what he would tell you took a decade and a half to get, into the record books as the sixth champion NXT's ever had.

Those words may be uncomfortable for some to read. That's the point. It couldn't've been any more cringe-inducing than what turned out to be the last five minutes of a (quelle surprise) superlative main event. The moment that shifted the flow, ironically enough, came from Zayn recovering from having taken a beating for most of the match only to follow up a corner Exploder with a Arabian moonsault suicida when Owens bailed out of possibly taking the Helluva kick. Owens hit the back of his head on the ramp; Sami hit his harder. What was left of Sami's mind was set to wrap it up with the Helluva, but his body was weak and staggered. The refs checked on Sami, then a trainer, then two, and through it all Owens kept turning the prestige event of WWE's Freebruary into his own borderline snuff film and resembling more of an assault by a drunken homeless man on someone over whose head he'd already cracked a beer bottle.

The powerbomb spam was just the poisoned cherry next to the broken glass sprinkles on the now former Champ's feces sundae. Then history happened. The ref called off the match. The possibility was there of a DQ, given Owens' ruthlessness. Then Owens was getting his hand raised. They teased the hope, just one more time, just for a few more seconds. And then he was getting the Big X, and while Zayn drifted off into unconsciousness, he celebrated the moment as if he'd gotten another child or bought his existing ones a puppy, shedding tears for the first time since all the way back on December 11 and his debut. That night was about realizing one kind of dream, and this the realization of another.

Arnold Skaaland threw in the towel. Hulk Hogan took a fireball to the face. John Cena took 16 Germans from the closest living embodiment of Thanos there's ever been but still got pinned when he lost at Summerslam. Sami Zayn? Sami Zayn lost by TKO. Sami Zayn lost by TKO to his former best friend. Sami Zayn lost by TKO to his former best friend in what should've been a non-title match; hell, Sami Zayn lost by TKO to his former best friend in what should've been a non-title match and became a title match per his instructions knowing full well said ex-best friend had pulled his strings and gotten him to dance after only one other title defense.

No wonder it looked like the Beast becoming the one in 21 and one all over again down in Full Sail.

Owens winning wasn't a surprise, but the cleanliness and means certainly were. It is a testament to Owens that once in charge he betrayed his just business stance in order to more fully realize himself as the French-Canadian Murder Bear he is and that his crowning moment in the industry ostensibly done for others still could leave a sour taste in many a mouth. Oh, not everybody - he's Kevin Owens. He is never going to get fully jeered by the crowd (especially considering this series of events) short of his lighting Daniel Bryan on fire. If a subset cheered him almost flatlining Zayn, then that subset's always going to be there. But converse to that subset is still another subset, the one that saw him admiring the reflection in the championship and kissing it like a newborn and even knowing better still went "...man, fuck that guy". Owens hears you both. He just doesn't care. And now Full Sail needs somebody to go in against this monster with Sami put back on the shelf at the hands of more vicious Owens bombs.

Fortunately, about an hour previous to this they found one who won't have to fight monsters to become one. And so far, when's he done it, he's been successful in his quest. Last time Finn Bálor and his Licker warpaint alongside Hideo Itami got the Ascension demoted to Mondays. This time, he and Adrian Neville had the possible match of the night (completely dependent on a) your feelings about Zayn getting turned from a solid into a vapor with the main and/or b) the women's championship four-way, more about which coming up imminently) with the number one contendership on the line and when it all came to pass it was Ireland 1, England 0.

Bálor had the usual pomp and circumstance coming into the arena, compounded all the hilariously more by the little girl patting him on the head when he was in repose against the railing and then doubled by the former NXT champion's screwface from the apron once it was all said and done. He didn't need to say "Can we wrestle now?"; his entire countenance said the unspoken. As it turned out, the answer was yes and once they started going at it...well, especially once the relative NXT newcomer stopped getting taken down to the mat by headlock takedowns, it was all good in Orlando's hood. Since this was a spotlight match during an NXT live two-hour spectacuganza, we got a tope con hilo, of course. But that wasn't the craziest moment, more of an amuse bouche to whet the appetite for what was to come. Bálor would dropkick Neville so hard the barrier would go back two rows and draw a holy shit chant even before he managed to pull out a Coup de Grâce to the back of a semi-standing Neville's head. The resultant kickout was a stunner, and while The Man That Gravity Forgot was able to pull out a couple of swank Germans and a second rope phoenix splash, and somehow that didn't end things.

But Bálor made the most of the rest of the match, taking over with a Sling Blade and a sweet Reverse Bloody Sunday. Neville would survive that, and his foe would survive the Red Arrow by getting his knees into it and nearly small packaging his way into victory. The resultant shotgun dropkick hand on the pump that did so much damage to Itami last week put Neville into position to take a second, full-on and final Coup to end what many fans were already chanting Match of the Year about. Code of Honor adhered, a wide wave of Thank You Neville as a disappointed former champion walked to the back, and Finn stared into the camera from the top rope not knowing what abyss he was about to look into. Let's think about something more cheery than the Zayn medical prognosis: two international stars and multiple-time champions who had yet to be brought into the fold even five months ago are going to go nose-to-nose and violence-to-violence for the Big X. Owens/Bálor for the Big X? You don't need an empty billfold or employment on Futurama to get behind that.

Reminder, however: that might not've actually been the MOTN. Hell, depending on dispositions, that might've been third. Hey, guess what: it turns out when NXT puts their divas front and center for the semi-main in their king-sized shows, the women always, always overdeliver on the promise inherit on the position. Put between the contendership bout and the main event they could've easily flailed or lost the crowd. That never was in danger of happening, however, and they gave the best possible showcase for everybody involved in the match. Charlotte was taken out early and borderline triple-teamed by her challengers; then again, Becky Lynch threw her into the LED board over the apron on the south side of the ring so hard it temporarily flatlined and had some fans looking for the ornithologist in IT scheduled to show up last week after a couple prior ones of teasing an arrival of his own. Team BAE fell out trying to pick Bayley's bones, then Lynch faux apologized before hitting Sasha Banks with a pumphandle suplex that nearly sent her flying out of the ring legitimately.

Banks didn't have far to roll before she was on the floor. Lynch got on a very familiar-looking submission hold (this is probably why Corey Graves hates her) before Sasha broke it up and screamed she made her erstwhile teammate. Lynch came back with a missile dropkick, then Charlotte came back in and didn't let missing her attempt on her former biffle stop her from rebound spearing the shamrocks out of Rebecca. She and Bayley briefly (inadvertantly?) teamed up for a wheelbarrow Codebreaker but that lasted as long as the move before Charlotte kicked her in the face. Sasha would manage to stack up both the champion and her business associate for the corner rope hung double knees, and the fireworks were to continue as Bayley came back into business and gave Sasha the table-top Exploder. Suddenly reinvigorated she was able to hit a series of step-up back elbows to Charlotte as a set up for a superrana off the top. The Belly To Bayley followed, but Lynch saved the match. Then they fell into fighting, allowing Banks to hit the between-the-ropes crossbody on them both, and then opening the door for Charlotte to plancha on all three of them.

When Charlotte couldn't finish off Lynch that left the door for Bayley to not only fight them both, but win as she German suplexed Irish out of the picture and took Charlotte out from the top with a super belly to Bayley that rocked the ring and the crowd's pleasure centers. Already brilliant, the match was polished off with Sasha pulling a No Mercy for the 64 and throwing out Bayley to pin Charlotte herself, only for the champion to kick out. Charlotte wasn't finished, but the end was drawing near for her as Sasha locked her down with a modified crossface that only was interrupted by Banks taking out Lynch (thus sending her into Bayley) and while Charlotte never tapped or got her arm raised and dropped three times, Banks wore down the Flair of NXT with it long enough to put her into position for a crucifix for the pin and the belt. It was hard to hear anything over the sound of Summer Rae officially becoming the LaTonya Tuckett of the BFFs, but Sasha had officially done it like a boss with a clean pinfall victory mid-ring over her former friend and champion to get the first title of her Stamford employ. If it hadn't been for the TKO to come it would've been the surprise finish for the evening (again by how and not by whom). Charlotte actually offered to replicate the Code of Honor before hugging Banks. Then, since they're who they were, Flair shoved, Banks shoved her harder, then mockingly whooed in her face and left up the ramp while proudly hoisting the crown overhead as the third Women's Champion of NXT.

Everyone got served like this was PBS on a Saturday night by this. Lynch justified her spot in by proving she could hang with the rest of them, Bayley did the most damage to Charlotte and had the match in the bag on several occasions while showing her increasing tougher side sans being a jerk about it, and Charlotte looked like the queen in defeat by taking all that damage and still almost being able to win and not getting tapped out against long odds in the dropping of the title. And Sasha? You know what she is now like you didn't already, and you know how she does it, too.

Baron Corbin snatching Bull Dempsey's lunch again wasn't a surprise. Come to think of it, Hideo Itami unleashing a flurry of kicks to beat on Tyler Breeze like a hanging bag in the opening wasn't, either. The tag title rematch was horribly awkward to start off with, including a few "ah geez can't edit that out" moments from the luchadores, but realigned itself by the tail end in their losing effort. Do you not possibly know how this goes by now? There's a formula to these things by now, and that formula is delicious. The main events are MOTY candidates. So are the women in the semi-main no matter what combo platter they fire off. There's usually another lower-card match worth going out of the way to see, and the rest is inoffensive. The bad moments barely garner a grumble and the great moments necessitate a change of pants. Corey Graves said it a couple of times during the show and was completely right: if this was somehow your introduction to the best hour(s) of wrestling on Earth, here's your late pass. Enjoy your new addiction.

Enjoy it like an Owens on a powerbomb binge sending a Zayn to a morphine drip. And make sure to show up next week, since they swear they'll have those weird technical problems fixed by then.