Thursday, May 7, 2015

Best Coast Bias: Grace Notes Land

Making opportunism look gorgeous
Photo Credit:
It was semi-astounding how much of the next Takeover in a fortnight was already set and ready to be put on the map by the time last week's episode went off the air.

The latest installment of the Kevin and Sami show for the Big X has been in the offering since the moment the French Canadian Murder Bear arrived nee pretty much since this century began. The women's championship match between -- well, former best friends is a stretch, but Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks also have a rich tapestry if not as rich as the aforementioned gentlemens' to draw from that only gets further burnished in a title match situation. The tag team championship match may be the last step of the Full Step journey of Enzo Amore from heel comedy fodder to beloved unlikely championship-holding scamp. Even possible undercard matches seemed to be floating around in the ether just waiting for the official seal of approval.

So here was a show that wasn't entirely wrestling for the sake of wrestling, but was somehow both eminently watchable and still entirely skippable. If there was such a dictionary entry for phrases, this hour would probably be seen under "suspicions confirmed".

We begin where the show ended, with the #1 contendership and the triangular contretemps between Hideo Itami, Tyler Breeze, and Finn Bálor. The latter showed up before the former two had their latest in a series of matches, thus setting off mental alarms in the vast majority of fans who turn to the black and yellow for succor away from the occasional sledgehammers of plot that fall on Monday nights (didn't Thursday nights have a show once?). But for most of it, natch, Bálor just got to watch some high quality professional grappling. Itami's style is kick, as we all and especially Breeze know, so the fulcrum was the former landing shots against the latter's ability to skeeve away from taking the virtual death blow and sneaking his opportunities and cheating in when he could.

Itami had the best moment of the match and maybe the program by landing a couple of kneedrops, pulling down his pad and feinting a third one, only to jump over Breeze and then hit probably the most violent mocking kick to the back of the face Stamford employ would allow. To further bacon-wrap the scallop, Itami then did an uncanny impression of how Breeze styles his hair on his own person while the Sultan of Selfies writhed in pain in the corner. It wasn't surprising that Tyler would bail to the floor or that in his zest to further injure the one Northern American victim of his GTS that Bálor would end up the inadvertent victim of Itami offense, but seeing Hideo slip free of a Beauty Shot to connect with a match-winning Sick Kick was.

Years of WWE programming -- in both senses of the term -- say that the babyfaces are inept and implode at the first sign of anything resembling dissolution while the sneaky heel uses that sort of pearl clutching to sneak in and purloin a W. Hell, Edge went from slightly above average to Hall of Famer based off of that CV. Bálor was displeased and seemed set to do something about it no matter how regretful Itami looked, and then Breeze laid out the former KENTA from behind presumably because he'd gotten the lead back on their number of pinfalls against the other scoreboard.

Bálor sent Breeze sprawling yet didn't deliver any signature offense, and when he locked eyes with Itami the crowd was noticeably split on what they wanted to happen. Bálor took a few more beats than usual before he reached down for the man who'd presumably brought him to NXT. Whether it was going to be in reconciliation or a furthering of violence will go unanswered, since Prince Pretty took this time to supermodelkick him in the face before laying out Itami with the Beauty Shot that he'd tried to hit a few beats prior. And then he took a selfie standing tall over their fallen bodies because of course he did, he's Tyler damn Breeze.

But again, this match was already set in stone; this was just a little something extra to prime the pump to encourage further daydreaming about it. If Bálor and Itami go back to the cohesive unit that ran the Ascension out of Florida, then Breeze's more doomed than the Doctor. But when's the last time they were that cohesive? In the big ways with this week's incursion and in little ways with them going against each other for #1 contendership opportunities and WrestleMania appearances to a standstill that's exactly the sort of opening the man of a thousand seasonal residencies has flourished with in the past year and probably gives him a best shot at a win while keeping all the prospects of "former Japan star proficient in violence vs. Kevin Owens" alive in both their cases.

Hey, speaking of the resident jerkface, do you think he'll show up next week and give Sami Zayn what he wants?

What Sami doesn't want is a fight since that's set for the 20th. He would just like to know why. In separate interviews early in the hour, Owens put on full display with Michael Cole the same thing that drove A-Ry to full whine in another, later self-aggrandizing rant about how the fans were cheering KO for apron powerbombing him back to his home planet. Everyone knows why the Champ is doing this, but then again not only is he the villain in a land ruled by Master Regal, he now has control by having the NXT Championship and matadoring away from any possible personal connection with certain other Canadian members of the roster that served as best man at his wedding by waving the "family man making a better life for the wife and kiddies" cape at will whenever anyone tries to get at the truth. To use the Klosterman metric of judging black hattery, you can't do it any better than this. Kevin Owens knows the most about why he did what he did to Zayn, but like Bubba with Monica or Kobe with his Colorado hotel room, he simply refuses to say anything about it. He knows the most about what he did at REvolution and Rival, but he cares the least about letting anybody else in.

Contrast that with Zayn's sit-down with Cole, where both interviewer and interviewee are both exasperated even before the first question's out that Kevin won't admit the personal nature of this, something Zayn cops to readily, repeatedly, and even states he wishes he could be more like Owens and just blow off this whole thing with a laissez-faire attitude. When Zayn closed the interview by directly addressing the camera and issued his edict in the hopes of getting an answer out of KO next week, his face was distorted with disappointment and more than a small undercurrent of rage behind it; when Owen was finished in this similar situation he got in a plug for his Twitter and another complisult towards Cole.

Let us cut the fancy mustard; if Zayn can't leave his emotions at the door in a match where he now no longer has the championship advantage, he will lose (assuming his left shoulder holds up and he hasn't lost it already, heaven forfend). So his last, best hope especially given the fact he's such a sterling character he can't even pretend to feign for consecutive minutes and widely gives away his plans and innermost emotional conflict is to drag Owens down to his level emotionally. If he can crack the veneer, and he did a bit last week, it's possible Owens' mask coming off will lead him into mistake-riddled angry mistakes that'll end his title reign in a couple months. Then again it's entirely possible that an irate Owens would powerbomb Zayn into the apron and/or the stairs and/or the ringpost and/or the fourth row. This is the gamble being taken, and the dice are still flying down the felt.

The ladies took up most of the rest of the show, and their bets have still yet to crystallize into possible pay window fodder or imminent bankruptcy. Dana Brooke keeps treating Devin Taylor backstage like she's a defective house pet, replete with disgust and pats on the head. In the opener, Emma put on her best match since the second time she went against Paige (how was that only 15 months ago!?) and mastered further vicious meta irony by spending most of her time in-ring attacking the leg of a Flair. It must be noted this happened after she came out in a Bayley shirt not even doing her formerly signature dance, faking giving an appropriated headband to a little girl and then rolling in under the bottom rope instead of skinning the cat.

You can go far down the abyss trying to figure out in the Aussie's case where real-life management edicts end and her on-screen character begins, but watching her show off her talents with basement dropkick centralized knee attacks, rope hung kneedrops to the back of an injured leg, and 50% of a Boston crab that probably almost brought a smile to the face of certain mentors up Calgary way helped remind the audience she turned against about why they were even into her in the first place. Yet somehow this failed to end Charlotte, who to her credit did have to get in a desperation Finisher Outta Nowhere (™RKOInc) to win the fight that could've gone another five to ten minutes easily; just another instance of NXT giving the divas a chance instead of paying lip service to a hashtag that superceded the usual corporate effort at Lumbergh-speaking their way around of if not out of the problem.

As Charlotte exited, Bayley entered. Emma pleaded for forgiveness, and Bayley gave it to her after a few beats with a hug. But credit the hard camera for catching the slight change in Bay's face a few seconds in, which made her holding on to the hug after Emma tried to get away and then doing so a couple steps longer before laying her out with the belly-to-Bayley. Charlotte had to get Bayley off of Emma -- first of all, considering their own history how dare she, secondly, j'accuse -- and Bayley even with recovering her gear ended up throwing it into the crowd. Bayley may be a bit more jaded in MMXV than MMXIV, but she's still Bayley, NXT's answer to Sami Zayn and Rule 63.

Before the contract signing, they further underscored the contradictions betwixt Lynch and Banks. Sasha took a few moments to laud Moolah as the greatest women's wrestler, but that was only to further herself as the new holder of the ultimate queen of WWE wrestling and state she was keeping the belt. To further polish Lynch's new-found halo, they used more personal pictures and footage to highlight the world traveler and bada boom usually the only girl then woman in the room aspects of her career, and even threw in her jig-happy debuts as something and a persona false to her that she had to overcome to get here at the precipice of becoming the fourth NXT Women's championship. When his Lordship oversaw the contract signing (when's the last time the ladies got a contract signing segment in the big leagues? Again, talking about it and being about it are two different things), Lynch looked borderline choked up by the moment at times describing how much it meant to her to be in this position and all the excrement she had to scrape off her cooling device before rededicating herself to being a wrestler and getting to Full Sail.

As nice as it was that she stated she wasn't around NXT to take part but rather to take over, Banks matched that with acidity, both in her pretape where she stated a variant on the old Negro Mother Proverb of making Lynch who she was today (well, her and the Oculus mirror) and she could make her disappear with a snap of the fingers and then live embossing the contract with her own personalized stamp. It was such a character-perfect yet somehow unique affectation that the crowd that'd fully supported and cheered Lynch for making her run at her ex-partner broke out in a vociferous Like A Boss! chant. Sasha being Sasha, she made sure to show off the stamp as a precursor to throwing the portfolio in Becky's face and then throwing Lynch herself over the table, eventually standing on the back of the Irishwoman's head and posing with the belt and leading to an unbelievably rebloggable moment. The only problem with moments is that they invariably end, and rather than show off the diversity of everybody's favorite expletive, Becky decided to try to break Sasha's arm with her new signature stepover cross-armbreaker, a vicious hold that had the champeen herself doing the Savion Glover on the mat. So the river flows forth to the women's belt, and teeming with dueling submissions as a possibility come the 20th shall it ever be.

Add an unnamed Uhaa Nation signing under the watchful eye of William Regal and getting another 90 seconds of screen time as followup for his eventual debut, the Dubstep Cowboys laying out Enzo Amore and Big Cass backstage before the Bridge and Tunnel boys could entertain the crowd with their usual, and Rhyno decimating Eddie Princeton (sorry, Bull, you had it and you lost it) before issuing a challenge to Baron Corbin for Unstoppable, and the former fastest Wednesday night hour in sports and entertainment showed why painting the corners can work just as well as a 98-mph heater down the middle. One more hour to go, possibly with Kevin Owens finally answering a question hanging over NXT's head all year long, and then the latest trip to the fireworks factory explodes.