Thursday, May 21, 2015

Best Coast Bias: This Kills The Fan

Screen Grab via

Apparently, Triple H lied to the shareholders on that conference call earlier in the week. And the shareholders haven't been so happy since Seth Rollins changed his password.

The Joseph Park, Esq. questions leading into Takeover: Unstoppable were about how injuries would affect the card. Namely, how they would get around Hideo Itami being genuinely injured enough to have to be written out of the #1 contendership match and how to get around a banged up Sami Zayn in his title rematch and return to NXT's ring. In the case of the former, they shot an old school "mystery assailant beatdown in the parking lot" vignette in the pre-game...well, mystery assailant if you don't think Kevin Owens walking by while trainers were checking on him and wryly going "That's a shame" didn't implicate him as the cause of the television write-off.

In the case of the latter, Zayn could actually go for a bit, and that changed things ever so slightly. The main event far and away looked like the fightingest fight that either Zayn had enacted in his NXT tenure, or that KO had been in since his arrival half a year prior, and the former was winning it handily until he got pop-up apron powerbombed. Needless to say, the match was effectively over at that point, but those of you thinking that was going to end Owens' assault should by all means send the Best Coast Bias your PINs. The referees tried to stop him from taking cheap shots and failed on multiple occasions; William Regal came out and after a fishhook to physically stop his Champion got a headbutt for his troubles.

Then a vortex in the independent wrestling space-time continuum opened up. It was quickly filled by Samoa Joe, an audience in Florida losing their blessed fecal matter, and a few hundred thousand fans at home agog wondering if they should get a Kickstarter up so that Lucifer could have a cardigan to keep his hooves warm.

To the fresh faces suddenly finding themselves desperately sipping the Full Sail Kool-Aid, the -- well, let's just go ahead and say it -- impact of Samoa Joe under Stamford's employ is hard to quantify. It's like explaining to someone who just got into the NBA in the past couple of years that the Clippers used to be a joke or a freshman poli sci major that the U.S. didn't always used to be an oligarchy. (Ed. Note - Wait, it didn't? Coulda fooled my commie pinko liberal ass.)  But suffice to say when the Samoan Submission Machine (or, as his NXT-embossed shirt dubbed him ((the fact he had such attire the moment he made his on-air debut giving away the fact that this wasn't a fever dream even as it made the crossover into Earth-2 official)), the Submission Specialist) made his first act in NXT getting into KO's face, followed by the second one getting back there after the Champion had backed up a few steps thus causing him to leave the ring entirely for the evening, it was exactly the hook again that shined like new. Owens and Regal were bound to clash, and if we can get it in the ring all's the better. The Champion and GM in their roles failing to get along, or even for that matter the Champ and fallen challenger, is like watching a lion chase a gazelle. It would be unnatural for them to not be at each other's throats, and for all their willingness to get in the crucible in their attempts to stymie the Owens reign of terror one is an ostensibly retired authority figure and the other is getting flat-out bullied by his ex-bestie since he refuses to Be A Star on anything but his own terms.

When Joe showed up and did what he did, even to a newcomer it was readily apparent: he was more than willing to get in the face of the resident Big Bad and had the aura via his appearance muting the announcers for half a minute with his own signature ineffable physical presence not only putting wind in Full Sail but reverting Kevin Owens from monster wearing a man suit into cowardly piece of garbage hiding behind his belt and his family. For the initiated it was the latest in a sort of Twilight Zone moment NXT's seemed to specialize in for years now and for the uninitiated it was a late pass and a cheap excuse to surf the Web and get caught up. Either way, a "This is awesome!" and/or "Holy shit!" chant was Olyphant-level justified for escaping the lips of any and all.

Joe's appearance took up a lot of the oxygen in the room, so we should probably touch upon the match it deprived of breath. Zayn came out steely focused and beloved like naps and bacon with occasional pulling at his shoulder; Owens came out in a Cena shirt smirking when he wasn't outright laughing, the Troll King of Full Sail in all of his glory. Was Sami going to make Kevin pay for this insolence, especially when the match started by KO bailing out of the ring only now with a championship advantage to boot? Is a bear Catholic?

The first match still had the aura of a match around it, at least until the French Canadian Murder Bear started his multi-powerbombing roar. The second go-round felt like a fight initiated by Zayn of all people, as Owens high off his own supply of laying out John Cena a couple of days prior and the fact that the last time out he'd annihilated Zayn failed to account for the possibility his ex-bestie was using that as motivation for a leveling up. It went around ringside, and Zayn spent a lot of time punching him in the face in addition to dodging an apron powerbomb. The match would get back in the ring briefly, he would send Owens out and commence the clubberin'. Into the steps twice? Check. Fighting into the crowd? Yup. Again, Zayn avoided a powerbomb and managed to backdrop his foe from the outside back to ringside. Owens tried begging off and his opponent's response was to half and half suplex him, but even when that was followed by KO countering the ZDT he'd whiff on the cannonball and get two Exploders, one to the corner and one on the floor after rolling out to avoid the Legitimate Japanese Businessman's Kick. Zayn looked to end it out there, and prepared it again. But what he calls hell, KO calls home - having dodged two powerbombs, he was not going to be lucky enough to elude the third. You know the rest from there.

And not only that, it sets up tons of stuff they don't even need to worry about paying off any time soon but can at any available point in the future. Maybe Regal resigns the GM position since NXT doesn't seem to need one per se and tries to recapture the magic he had the first time in schooling Dean Ambrose down FCW way in order to teach his wayward Champ a real lesson in villany; maybe once Hideo's recovered he decides to show the two-faced Owens what a family man who fights with honor looks like; most likely to happen in the near future besides Kevin facing the #1 contender (more about which later) out of anyone who interacted with him is that the former ROH and TNA World Heavyweight Champion who's just arrived marks the biggest threat to homicide (no, not far) the only NXT Champion with multiple title defenses in 2015 and make good on the crowd's voracious and very, very familiar chant. As welcoming as it'll be to see the two of them show the "big leagues" what a real impossible force v. immovable object big fight feel insert cliche here looks like, that's a bit in the distance.

Besides, it wasn't like Zayn/Owens II: ¡Olé!tric Boogaloo was the Match of the Night, for obvious reasons.

At this point, comparing NXT Women's Championship matches on live specials is becoming the Hattori Hanzo of pro graps. Don't compare them to other women's wrestling matches; compare them to the other NXT live special Women's Championship matches. On this night at Unstoppable, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch, two women who're no strangers to accolades, took the semi-main and made it feel like the only match that mattered while adding their names to an increasingly length and proud tradition in the process. It wasn't the This Is Wrestling! chant that broke out late in the match. In NXT, that's part and parcel of what makes it so damn good. These aren't women wrestlers in the WWE's horrifying mold, but rather wrestlers who happen to be women and happen to be employed by WWE.

What made it superlative was that it was happening towards the dying tendrils of a match almost wholly based around arm work, took place at least 95% in the ring, and got something in the neighborhood of fifteen minutes to do so. Don't bother Tweeting me when that happens on the big programs, since I'll be too busy alternating between banging Anna Kendrick and hailing Trackanon to care. Lynch came out having brand-new brightly reddish orange hair and having crossed over into steampunk after she dropped a black hoodie and fog shot into the air, thus causing the slam of the night from Corey Graves as he snottily wondered if she thought this was an H.G. Wells novel or Steampunk Night at Full Sail. Can the announcers on RAW even spell H.G. Wells or would JBL just dismissively go "Who'd he ever beat, anyway?" Again, don't bother asking the question when the answer's just going to make you sad. Sasha came out with a new Tron to reflect her official ascension to Bossdom, "Smilin'" Drake Wuertz called for the bell to ring, and akin to a large gorilla throwing down barrels and sending pixels flying everywhere it began.

What followed was wrestling and counter-wrestling in spades. Lynch going after Banks' arm to set up her signature step over cross arm-breaker wasn't a surprise in the least to anybody who'd been paying attention the past month and a half; that stuff's her jam and the arm work is her bread and butter. But Banks staying in lockstep with and even outdoing someone who's been wrestling almost as long as she's been alive while staying true to her character's snotty, preening, attention-starved but still so damn talented character? If it were able to be used as an alternative fossil fuel the price of gas would dive to fifty-four cents a gallon. It's not the Match of the Year, but it damn sure should be in the discussion come December when Chrismukwanzzakuh comes calling again.

Banks' arrogance in going after Lynch's arm in retaliation only to prove yet again that she wasn't just stunner shades and ridiculous abs -- her modification in delivering the rope-hung double knees to the injured arm after the Lass Kicker blocked her usual attempt to hit it into the stomach being one example, and her using a Lynch kickout to maneuver into a straightjacket and keep it on after she'd had seemingly maneuvered out of it another. She stood on both arms in the same time and it looked gruesome; she put on a Backlund-style short-arm scissor; she delivered both standard and basement avalanche running knees consecutively and made anybody who has anything resembling discerning taste about professional wrestling realize why they bother watching in the first place.

And yet Becky Lynch kept coming at her, her arm as worthless as Zayn's was a few RAWs ago. And she even pulled off a couple of impressive arm-trapped suplexes to boot, proving that if Mr. Lesnar is the Mayor of certain cities then she should at least get a position as Suplex City Council Chairwoman. She even managed to get the step-over cross-armbreaker, but Sasha narrowly survived. It looked like she had it won after sending Banks' bad arm into the steps on the outside and getting her back in to beat the count as she went up. What she went up for will forever be lost to the dense mists of time, as Sasha Banks Out Of Nowhere (™ BossCorp) flew up to the top a la Kurt Angle before flying off with a single-arm DDT and seamlessly transitioning it into the BankStatement.

Becky Lynch tapped.

She had to tap.

GOD would've tapped.

The crowd, knowing their place in a queen's world, stood up to bow down and delivered a standing ovation. Banks basked in it all the way up the ramp, title held high. And Lynch remained in the ring, crying a bit and clutching her arm as she laid against the bottom ropes. (Whether this was a conscious nod to Zayn post he/Cesaro IV at Rival last year or not? Your mileage may vary. But it's nice to think that it was, nuh? Check back in around Chrismukwanzzakuh and see if she's the Champ in her last ditch effort by putting on a five star match and getting jumped by Jessie McKay afterwards.) The Full Sailors who'd been reticent to embrace her as a plucky underdog to the point where both she and Banks got the same muddled split reaction pre-match fully embraced her as a warrior of the canvas wars, quite possibly chanting louder for her than they would minutes later for Zayn and followed it up by singing her theme song.

And Becky Lynch, shattered to the bone chips probably building in her elbow, acted like she hadn't heard a single syllable of it and trudged off to the back after wringing every ounce out of the crowd that she could. You could always not watch this match, at least in theory. But why bring joy, contentment, and peace into your life anyways? If this week's taught us anything it's that all those things get turned into annoyingly catching commercial jingles passing off sugared water as spiritual fulfillment at base, right? And who needs blankets and sweaters when you wrap yourself in a cocoon of self-righteousness?! Enjoy turning into a butterfly of hauteur and self-aggrandizement. We'll be over here hanging out with the popcorn watching Sasha Banks be better at everything by five time zones than you are at anything.

Hell, almost forgotten in the awesomeness of the Boss or the sudden special guest star to end the episode was the fact that Tyler Breeze came out to a scaled-down fashion show with four Wannabreeze models rocking cell phones Periscoping him and a cape on, only for Finn Bálor to show up with the cromdamned Eye of Sauron on his back after dropping his half-cape of bat wings and spinal horns. This all happened in the opening five minutes after the opening credits rolled, bee tee dubs. Not everybody's body was ready. Anyway, Bálor came out in facepaint as well, so Breeze was doomed, no matter how brilliant his "run opponent into an exposed turnbuckle + Beauty Shot = WIN" turned into "WIN wait no WTF have you seen my impression of Christian circa 2002". Last year he was able to flirt with shenanigans to gain #1 contenderhood, but that was before the Prince of Cosplay showed up in Florida. This time, after failing the same way everybody else had, he got Bálor swandiving onto him from the entryway, putting the suicida in a borderline plancha. The shotgun dropkick hand on the pump followed by the Coup de Gráce was the definition of fait accompli. Here's another thing to add to Owens' schedule vis-a-vis immovable v. irresistible: the undefeated powered-up Dark Bálor vs. him, coming to an NXT show (that'd probably last two hours if one had to guess) near you. The Mountain watching ringside next to Steph had to be impressed, and also, if somehow all those other dudes fall to end Owens' reign of tyranny, maybe we send HIM in for the celeb match at WM32.

No title changed hands at Unstoppable, but the other title matches had a little coda that made the attendees feel a bit better. Lynch lost but lost like a goddamn warrior heroine only outdone by another goddamn warrior heroine. Zayn got gooified as Owens again backed up every horrible thing he ever said, only to be surprised by the Choker of Outs and somebody who isn't going to let a decade plus long friendship keep him from ripping the KO off his shirt and trying to make him eat it. When the Dubstep Cowboys beat Bridge and Tunnel with the help of Alexa Bliss? Two things.

1) Bliss is not being the person her moms wants her to be. HOW YOU GONNA DISAPPOINT MAMA BLISS, ALEXA? Dishonor on you. Dishonor on your glitter. Dishonor on your cow.

2) It not only solidified Carmella's babyface bonafides but officially took Not Wesley and Not Buddy on the next and maybe last step of their journey from "who?" to "eh" to "them?" to "uh" to "THESE ARE BAD PEOPLE IRREGARDLESS OF TALENT LEVEL BOO and also maybe possibly HISS."

In addition to that, Enzo Amore put on the best offense of his career in his biggest match to date. His flying DDT off the second rope is probably going to get all of the hype but longtime fans will point to his actually hitting a Steamboat press as a turning point that something delicious was in the water. He even kicked out of a powerbomb/Lungblower combo platter that should be the Champions' finisher going forward. However, sufficiently rattled, it took the latter-day Rocket a while to Launch, thus giving the Champions time to neutralize Big Cass and have enough time for Full Sail's Nonmanic Dream Pixie Girl With The Donk Tho drop Carmella like third period French and crotch Amore on the top rope to lead to his downfall. There'll be a day when Amore and Cass finally make good on their vow to hold the straps; it's not in the least controversial to suggest the day the surprise debut of Samoa Joe was going to put four days of shade around everything else on the show wasn't the day to do it, and so they didn't.

Baron Corbin was the favorite to beat Rhyno, and it took him quite some time to do so, but he did. A team with Charlotte and Bayley's combined experience against Dana Brooke and "Evil" Emma (as dubbed by the crowd) would be the favorites, and they won. Out of all the new crop of Performance Center signees, the one who'd get the biggest pop would be the still-unnamed Uhaa Nation (though again, the crowd took care of that for them). So the New Yorkers failing is part of a piece, a connecting thread that in the other title matches took the visage of Sasha Banks retaining in the MOTN and them wringing some more lemonade out of previously assumed to be depleted lemons by having Kevin Owens -- still a week and a half out from facing John Cena, mind -- lay out Sami Zayn yet again and write him off the program the same way he may have probably written off Hideo Itami. Not everything has to be a surprise in order to be effective.

But when you can pull off an effective surprise, and especially on the level of welcoming Samoa Joe to the fold?

Well, that's the sort of game changer that opens up vortexes. And we're all the better off for it.