Thursday, March 5, 2015

Best Coast Bias: Straight Cash, Homey

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We'd bring out Rob Lowe to further underscore the point, but if you're here already, we don't need to. You already know. Before last week the main roster could barely bring themselves to talk about it unless it was as Sunday night fodder for the Exclamation Point; down in NXT, they're -- and at this point have for the past couple years consecutively -- about that life where they have wrestlers who happen to be women and not women who sometimes vaguely approximate wrestling.

It was further underscored when not only was Banks/Flair IV the main event of the evening and got two segments, but every other aspect of the show was subservient to it via a fusillade of backstage segments, squashes, and near-squashes. Even better, a pair of the segments further underscored the parts of the division that weren't competing for the big prize under the bright lights. Alexa Bliss came off the side of the milk carton to state that despite previous losses and accidentally rhinoplasties at the hands of the Boss she was back with a refreshed perspective to go against the Bostonian. And more pertinent to recent discussions of whom and whom isn't given any chance, Emma rebuffed Bayley's attempts to get her to dance, play with bubbles, or even watch the main with Bayley. The rest of the promo was apparently brought to us by RF Video as Emma noted Bayley should be in the match instead of watching it, and that Emma's niceness had taken her all the way to RAW and right back to Full Sail.

To be honest, that part of the promo was hard to hear given the length and the depth of all the shots fired at alleged creative's Monday night division. And as certain ex-pimps have taught us Southern Californians, if you stop dancing after it helped to make you a name from Mississippi to the Coast, then you are planting the seedlings of a tree made of evil. If Alexa Bliss is somehow jumping Bayley in the queue, then this iteration of Emma into black hattery will give Bayley fodder to go against, even if that seems to be a situation where neither should lose.

After those appetizers, the main course delivered the best chapter of the TV matches that Sasha and Charlotte have had. With Alex Riley missing from the table (more on which in a bit), even before the proceedings got underway Rich Brennan and Jason Albert noted the following important points from the outset:
  • It was weird seeing Charlotte without the championship
  • Sasha had never beaten Charlotte in a one-on-one match
  • Charlotte had tried to be sporting about her title loss at Rival and Sasha had shoved her for it
Keep in mind, they blew through this before the intros had started. It's always easy to remember that NXT's commentary is generally streets ahead of RAWs, but there's a difference between a narrow loss and getting Rouseyed. Banks took some early offense and then tried to use the champion's advantage to get herself intentionally counted out, but that just gave Charlotte a bit of further incentive to truck her and show off a nifty slingshot schoolgirl from the apron in. She even went for and locked on a figure four in the opening 200 seconds after using a series of kneestrikes to emboss the Boss' invite to the cravate party, only not to be able to lock on a satisfactory bridge and that gave Banks the opening to grab ropes and send us to our final commercials, including one for a big event on the 25th subtitled the Next Generation that will presumably have the Kevin Owens defense against Finn Bálor.

The bulk of the match happened in its last portion, and was full of gleeful joy for anybody who'd followed the series. Again, it's not a rivalry until its always in doubt who'll win when the opposing sides go in against each other, and Sasha was trying to win and make it one here. In the fourth installment, Charlotte knew how to counter the crossface with a rollup, and Banks knew how to counter that counter with her championship-winning crucifix. Neither finished. Charlotte would whiff on a moonsault and go for the rolling senton out of it, and the Champ would get her knees up to stymie that. As that failed to end things as well, it gave Albert and Brennan a chance to note all the counters and the counters' counters to everybody who'd gotten here with a late pass in their pockets. Banks stepped up her offensive by delivering her rope-hung double knees across the back as a setup to a ringpost bow-and-arrow and a straightjacket Backstabber/stretch hybrid to setup the full-on Banks Statement.

It wore Charlotte down nearly to the point of incapacitation and turned her face purple in spots, but she survived it. The Flair of NXT would come back with a spear that nearly made Banks spin like a wheel and receipt her with a ringpost figure four, thus drawing the second This Is Wrestling chant from the Full Sailors for a divas match ever (or as these two call it by now, old hat). Charlotte looked to finish off Banks' reign at a defense of one via the Diamond Dust nee super Natural Selection that'd put away the match for her at Revolution, but again, Banks couldn't be reached by the old ways anymore and held onto the ropes as she watched her biggest rival splat herself off of the top rope onto the back she'd been working on ever since she'd gained the offensive. Drake Wuertz, if you're reading this it's too late for you to change your decision since you missed the Boss flop on top and scoop up Charlotte's legs while putting her own on the second ropes. And it wasn't even the most egregious moment to end a fine match; some old codgers may believe that falling for the feet-on-the-ropes trick when you're a Flair is enough of a crime to get you downgraded to a Blanchard. Nevertheless, now that Banks put a victory on the board this is now a full-on rivalry and at least a best of seven instead of Charlotte breaking out the brooms in a best of five.

Ironically, last week Kevin Owens used Alex Riley like one to clean the announce table and send the NXT alumnus to Regal to state he wanted KO in the ring. Regal informed him he was to pick a lane and go down it, having learned from his own experience how untenable trying to walk both paths at once was: he was either a wrestler or an announcer. So while Baron Corbin was toying around with some fresh meat, Owens decided to force the issue by showing up and being the less scruffy Luke Harper to A-Ry's R-Truth at the table, merely standing behind him with his arms folded and letting his constant undercurrent of menace nearly sink the broadcast. When that failed to move Riley, Owens allowed himself a refreshing sip of Riley's water before pouring the rest on his head and looking nonplussed as a furious Riley swore revenge while Albert held him back. That didn't keep him from going to Regal's office, where a small miracle of long-term planning played out as CJ Parker was back there complaining that Solomon Crowe had jumped him at Rival. When Alex seethed and screamed he wanted to make Kevin pay in the ring, Parker chuckled and mentioned he was the only one to ever land a landing blow on the new NXT champion. Remember that? The one time everybody cheered KO as he won despite getting nearly KOed himself at the hand of a -- is it coming back to you now? -- CJ Parker palm strike. So Alex will now be resuscitating his in-ring career, and if you need somebody to go down to a hot new star or established new signee with indy cred, CJ Parker is your man.

The rest of the show couldn't help but pale in comparison to those major developments, but still advanced a series of plots: Solomon Crowe made a successful if slightly underwhelming debut in beating Bull Dempsey, the Bridge and Tunnel Triad of Enzo Amore, Big Cass and Carmella wanted a piece of the the tag team champions who acquitted themselves quickly and well against sacrificial lambs, and Tyler Breeze kept his bona fides up by Beauty Shotting Adam Rose outta nowhere.

The one thing that could hold a candle to another fine match between divas or the prospect of Kevin Owens apron powerbombing Alex Riley into a neck brace was a simple but bracing missive from Sami Zayn. Safely back from Abu Dhabi, he was nowhere to be found in Full Sail, or even in the United States for that matter. He was on the snowy streets of Montreal, celebrating his 13th anniversary in the business. By himself. At two in the morning. You knew what was on his mind, even if he admitted to not having the stomach to rewatch it. As Miss Bliss would later state in a fine bit of symmetry, he was wandering around where Owens and he started and getting mentally prepared to unleash the sort of hell he couldn't even describe upon his former best friend once he returned. But in that moment, he was stripped of more than just his title, and his earnestness so permeated the screen that it took his justifiable anger and subsumed it wholly in the sadness. All that was missing was him walking away to a few light piano strings playing in the background.

Zayn knows. Apparently Alex Riley wants to find out the hard way. And Finn Bálor's more than willing to prove that he isn't a former bestie to be manipulated or a never-was announcer still desperately trying to live up to high school glories. There their once and possibly soon to be slumped over bodies slump, all nothing more than marionettes at the end of Kevin Owens' strings.

Imagine what he could do if he'd had more than 90 days around here.