Friday, February 6, 2015

Best Coast Bias: Good Friends & Better Enemies (Redux)

Well, that ruled
Photo Credit:
This wasn't a go-home show, this was a get-the-hell-out-of-here show.

That's how good it was.

It's the sort of hour you can show to people who've quit watching wrestling or on hiatus and suck them back in at full force. It's the sort of hour for long-time fans of Full Sail that completely justifies the borderline blind faith of the more entrenched loyalists, culminating in a final half hour that featured consecutively a three-segment main event MOTY candidate followed by possibly the best video package since last February when the Shield (R.I.P.) and the Wyatt Family (also R.I.P.) were about to cause pre-match This Is Awesome chants up in Minneapolis.

While it's tough to not want to lead off with the Sami Zayn/Kevin Owens show ender, we'll go back to the semifinal match between Hideo Itami and Finn Bálor. News flash: these guys are quite good at the pro graps. The crowd was invested in the second semifinal from theme music on, firing off their own pre-match This Is Awesome chant and later moving on to We're Not Worthy and Marking Out ones as well. Call them too clever for their own good sometimes, but it wasn't like they were wrong here. The earlier semifinal was fait accompli, with Bull Dempsey obviously helping do in Baron Corbin and sending those two rivals to a probable blowoff no DQ match next week while advancing Adrian Neville to the #1 contendership match at Takeover: Rival on February 11 in the process. This was another beast entirely.

The chain wrestling sequence to properly kick off the match, with counter's counters getting countered and rereversals getting rerereversed was so machine-gun fire you had to go back and replay it a couple times slowed down just to see the intricacies on display, and that was merely the appetizer of a five-course, five-star dinner. And then they did it again. When the nearfalls began in the second part of the match, the crowd hung on the lot of them; they clapped to rally Bálor when Itami had him down and vice versa. Irish got in a few rollups and a sweet gamengiri to an Itami stuck on the top rope. But we weren't done there. Bálor unleashed some vicious chops, Itami caught him with a superlative leg lariat and eventually his hangman's tornado DDT ^ flying lariat combo. Still weren't done. In order each man dodged a Go To Sleep and a reverse Bloody Sunday, then a huge Crocopian kick from Itami staggering Bálor before the Irishman Pele kicked his friend down and went down himself.

When's the last time you heard a crowd cheer both sides of a forearm tradeoff? It happened here. It looked like the former KENTA was going to pull it out with his strike combo that had as its highlight a vicious uraken that seemed to slam into Bálor's head like a wrecking ball into a condemned building and the hesitation basement dropkick to boot. But Finn survived long enough to draw the (of course properly called by the announcers, even A-Ry) Sling Blade and then just about murked him with this vicious shotgun dropkick that sent the former star of NOAH head-first into the second turnbuckle with authority; the Coup de Grâce followed and somehow wanted a viewer who'd seen them kick out the jams for 20 minutes put another 20 on the board. While Itami cursed his loss, he did manage to shake hands with his erstwhile friend, and then Neville came from the announce table and shook hands with Finn on the ramp. Bálor/Neville and Zayn/Owens as the psuedo semifinals leading to any possible combination therein into another match for the Big X? If you aren't about that, there's a vampire novel with your name on it.

Speaking of the title match coming up, things went from "that match and the Europeans shaking hands should've ended the show" to "awww yisss" the same way Aubrey goes from nothing to the century mark. Every round of the NFC playoffs having crazy calls, non-calls, and miraculous babyface comebacks culminating in an inexplicable decision that ended a Super Bowl proves that most of life is fake; the Zayn/Owens package was as real as it gets.

Zayn talked about sneaking peeks through the curtain to catch Owens' debut at the last NXT live two-hour spectacuganza, followed by Kevin saying he was as psyched for his own debut as he was to see Sami and Adrian headline Revolution. Was he being honest when he said he was and still is happy for Sami afterwards? Well, he did end his short segment earlier in the show with a Robertsian "Trust me". But then--the betrayal. Zayn admitting he should've seen the betrayal coming. Owens saying after a decade and a half, he wasn't waiting in line anymore. And then the pictures of them going around the world together as teenagers and young adults apron powerbombing NXT viewers in the feelings (and maybe even tear ducts).

Owens didn't need to actually say when Zayn was on his world tour, he was there as well but they called the latter first; the picture of them as fresh-faced adorables in front of the Colosseum would've done that on its own. Owens said that stole them arriving together, and got him to the point where he doubted if it/WWE bringing him into the fold was ever going to happen for him. Again, you want to build an awesome heel, you give him a completely justifiable world view but go too far in pursuing it, especially against somebody as likable as the champion. And the train kept a-rollin': in consecutive soundbites Zayn saying getting married and having kids changed Owens and Owens then saying that all Zayn had to worry about was himself. In the immortal word of the Internet: bruh.

You don't have to know these guys better than family to get this; hell, you don't even have to be a wrestling fan. All you have to do is be an adult. Think back to who was at your birthday party a decade ago, and think who's going to be at the next one. And again, Owens isn't wrong for getting a family and settling down, the same way Zayn being (presumably) single isn't wrong--it's just a clash of lifestyle options used to further mirror the split leading to the title match. How many kids watched this for the first time and had it melt their brains? Has any WWE programming this century even brought up the two inevitable paths of adulthood and used them not only in a deft storytelling manner but as equal but separate modus operandi? By the end where FKA El Generico was revowing to kick nee Steen's ass and Owens swore he was going to walk away with the belt, the 11 and the main event couldn't've possibly arrived fast enough for any wrestling fan.

The rest of the show even built up the women's division and that title match forthcoming, with Carmella heeling it up but wrestling cleanly in a submission win over Emma (poor, poor Emma, who last year was tearing the house down with Paige over the belt at Arrival and now seems to be a dancing Australian Zack Ryder so far as the ladder is concerned) and Bayley managing to eke out a win over Becky Lynch when a Very Concerned Sasha Banks helped a reeling Lynch back into the ring -- you know, help, like when the ground helped Dez Bryant make that catch last month -- and right into the waiting arms of the belly-to-Bayley. Team BAE shoved each other, Charlotte came out with her belt, and everybody glared at each other. Add that to Tyler Breeze jumping Itami post-match backstage screaming he could've beaten Bálor, and lawadamercy, the first NXT live show looks to pick up the heavy torch that the four they put on in 2014 and cast more light, if that's possible.

It, tragically, is still not February 11th yet.

Or now.

Or now, for that matter.

...stupid time. MOVE FASTER!