Thursday, April 30, 2015

Best Coast Bias: The Break's Over

Time to get 4 29 15 tattooed on the back of our necks, since that's three
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Let's have a moment of silence for Alex Riley's careerokay that was long enough.

It's not his fault that he was the embodiment of the interregnum of the last few weeks and couple of months that NXT's been floating adrift while it's been waiting for first Sami Zayn and then Kevin Owens to heal up from various injuries that've postponed their inevitable and soon-to-be-epic rematch; it is his fault that the last two beatings he took taught him nothing, that he thought he could beat Sami in the main and as a result get Owens again on the 20th in the next Network Special, and if he didn't want to get apron powerbombed then he shouldn't've dressed that way.

But now that NXT's so back on track they're about to hit the road to entertain their loyal fans of the Northeast, the only thing standing betwixt us and Owens/Zayn II: Oletric Boogaloo was A-Ry's mouthy insistence that what we were all seeing was an optical illusion and that he could box with the indy-darling gods. And sure, he looked perfectly cromulent in there borrowing more famous WWE alumni's moves. But nobody believed he was actually going to beat Sami considering the rematch had been set up in the spectacular opening segment (more about which imminently); it was Kevin Owens who started off the hour and he who would finish it laughing as he headed up the ramp with his belt and left the sight of the cameras. He waited until Sami got off a tope con hilo, and then did the expected. Zayn got off light with a throw into the ramp and a playful kick in the head on the way out.

It was Alex Riley who got added to the annals with the first victim back at Revolution a mere couple feet away from him and the crowd reacting to the obliteration of a guy they'd been cheering moments earlier being laid out by a nefarious heel who'd spent the entire match at the table unnerving the announcers when he wasn't maligning his former opposition in both cases (and sometimes during these slights) by chanting Thank You, Owens and One More Time. Granted, neither was sweeping or unanimous. But they were more than a little audible. Owens on commentary, as any Resedian knows, is worth watching alone. Watching one of your least favorite people alive pinball one of your favorites isn't something one feels gung-ho about watching. Then again, alls well that ends well.

That's pretty ironic, since the show started off with a platitude of rarities. William Regal, sensing the presence of a new English King of the Ring, came off the side of the milk carton to address his wayward champion only to have that cut off by Zayn. And say this for the specific man influenced by lucha libre -- he learns from his past mistakes, and is no longer so milquetoast that he misses an opportunity to twist the knife against the former BFF who stabbed him in the back. After talking big about fighting Zayn again but bristling when the idea of putting the belt on the line came up against a man who was going to get a title shot for a cowardly sneak attack -- Owens pumping every viewer's veins so full of hypocrisy it's a miracle the audience didn't have a stroke en masse -- the former Champion saw his little bits of history repeating and raised him by not only seeing his selective flashback but throwing his own words back in his face, stating that he fights for a prize, and it wasn't another shot at Owens but rather the Big X itself. And this was after he ethered him by stating that everything Owens' ever done has had Sami's name next to it, the asterisk next to everything Owens has done and will ever do, and it was driving him nuts since all he's ever done is live in Sami Zayn's shadow. Like you would expect from two mirror images, in the same way Sami Zayn has a blind spot called Kevin Owens, KO has a mark on his chest (possibly looking like a star) that consists of the letters S and Z, and just like that he gave up the title shot he'd just sworn to not part with, Regal making it official. Go figure, having Owens, Regal and Zayn talk for about 10 minutes accomplished more and better than RAW does this year with opening yapper segments in half the time.

Yet as gratifying as it is for that fait accompli to main event its second two-hour NXtravaganza, it's not the only show in town, as Regal also signed off on a triple threat #1 contendership match between (former?) tag partners Finn Bálor and Hideo Itami, with Tyler Breeze being the third. The guys who demoted the Ascension to RAW have split their matches, and Breeze has just come off of beating Hideo 2-1 in best of three falls match and stating he wanted to go after the artist formerly known as Prince, so this all dovetails nicely. In action this week, Itami made relatively quick work of Adam Rose, whose falling forearms in his brief burst of offense recalled some guy who used to be on the Full Sail roster whose name escapes me.

And those two matches aren't the only draws that the latest Takeover will bring to the table in a few weeks, as Becky Lynch will presumably go in against the Boss in her chance to hoist the Women's Championship. Here this week, she seemed to be more of a white hat as she noted her international travels before turning 21, puddle jumping from London to Canada to Japan, so obviously being second or third in the women's division wasn't what she was ratcheting up the frequent flyer miles for. She then went out and tied up "Sarah" Dobson in knots before making her tap out to a modified kneeling Code Red, giving her another submission victory with a different victory in recent hour-long shows and another weapon to possibly deploy against Sasha Banks when the time comes.

And even that isn't enough, as presumably we'll get a title match betwixt the Dubstep Cowboys (™ HolzerCorp) and the Bridge and Tunnel squad, with the #1 contenders in that phylum getting a non-title win over the beltholders after Carmella blew them off in the back earlier. Whether or not that acrimony holds or turns out to be a ruse can't be determined at this point, but what can is this; Enzo Amore fired up the faithful and took the beating, Cass came in to save the day and turn the tides, then they polished things off with the Rocket Launcher. They've wanted the belts for weeks and now have the signature W to justify a title shot, which is generally how these things go if you're not in a blood fued with your ex-bestie of a decade and a half in the main event.

This episode was so packed that that wasn't even the entirety of the show, as Rhyno and Baron Corbin seemed in separate segments to be setting up some variant on the barely movable object/slightly resistible force collision, and Dana Brooke with the help of Dark Emma's kleptomania (thus possibly making her the most meta character on a show where Alex Riley is playing a loud, obnoxious delusional mouthbreather who thinks because he's angry and yells that he should get everything he wants despite failing so many times Cubs fans shake their heads) toppled Bayley semi-cleanly in the middle of the ring with her Michinoku Driver variant. There's still too much posing, and sometimes she still looks like she's clearing her throat and going "uh, ahem" before she goes on the offensive. But that said, she looked much better than she did in her debut, and all her heel tactics when she actually did them such as hairpull takedowns, handstand boot chokes and the catfightesque mat slams had the Ms.terpiece (™ Best Coast Bias) look less like an off-market Barbie doll; here was someone several steps closer to justifying her hype coming in, and if she keeps improving by leaps and bounds under Queen Sara's watchful eye then her debut is going to be one of those historical oddities that gets laughed off over time as a borderline youthful indiscretion.

But make no mistake about it: NXT is back to being the Kevin and Sami Show. And that's appointment programming no matter who puts it on, or what year it is; like staying in a five-star hotel or eating out at a four-star restaurant, they always overdeliver on a highly set bar. Come May 20th, the latest pages in The Never-Ending Story of Intermittent Violence get written.