Thursday, June 18, 2015


No, your eyes aren't deceiving you
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Somehow, the best tribute to Dusty Rhodes on the first episode of NXT since his passing wasn't the allergy-inducing replay of the same awesome tribute video that kicked off MITB and this show as well.  Rather, it was two big, charismatic men who long-time WWE addicts know fit the Stamford mold like Big Dust was fit for vegetarianism beating the crap out of each other to a rapturous crowd, and then doing some so more after the bell a few more times, "Let them fight!" chants ringing out in Full Sail like it was the Astrodome circa '77.

You could be forgiven for thinking Samoa Joe v. Kevin Owens (c) wasn't going to happen, what with Owens going around ridding WWE's Premier League consisting of Network specials and RAW of horrible white rappers one powerbomb at a time, in addition to being all lined up to take on #1 contender Finn Bálor on the Fourth live from Japan with the Irishman getting part one of a Very Special Look At Him earlier on in the show (more about which later, and you might want to bring your tissues along for that portion of the ride, too).  It would've been perfectly in line with Owens' malicious in-character thinking for him to do not what his shirt says, but take the road of prudence and go nuts to this.  But when he left the ring at the outset per usual, Joe's frame moved with a quickness to the outside as well to get in KO's face and put paid to that little character signature.  Owens stared him down, laughed a bit, then got back in the ring.  More surprisingly, as Joe also got into the ring underneath the bottom rope next to him, he stayed there. 

Then it was on like a working light switch.  It was about 15 and easily could've gone twice that, but as an amuse bouche for what damn sure hopefully better be more to come it more than served its purpose.  KO wanted to do the out of the ring stall?  Joe cut him off before he could take a step on the floor.  Owens piefaced and got in it afterwards with a hearty "THE CHAMP IS HERE!" yell?  Joe whaled on him for a half minute, looking more like a tornado made out of arms with a judo chop to the crown at the end, landing at least a couple dozen blows in that timeframe. When NXT's announcers tell you something, it's more solid than Celeste Bonin's backyard, so the fanbase went to the break nodding over Owens being spilt like so much milk on the floor with Rich noting that finally here was a man matching the signature intensity and brutality that've allowed the scythe of Owens to cut down everybody he's faced in NXT whether ex-bestie or not like so much wheat in the past half-year.

The second half was notable for the lengthy side trip to Chinlock City (per the champ's own verbiage) as well as Joe kicking out of an Owens senton at one in the second biggest shortest count in NXT history.  Owens avoided the Muscle Buster, Joe the apron powerbomb and then they went "The hell with this" and opted to punch each other a lot.  It's really the ref's fault for getting knocked down trying to stop them; he was pushing a bill and a dime soaking wet and could've made that edict from the ring without getting put on his behind.  All the king's horses and all the king's men in random NXT shirts came out, several of whom got either punched out or vaulted over by Joe or Kevin as they kept fighting each other.  It's not a MOTYC, but it's something worth seeing even after the initial shock value of Jowens going toe to toe and blow for blow like whoa in a WWE-sanctioned ring wears off.  And if we're all lucky, it'll only be the opening paragraphs of a new classic that spans several novels.

Earlier in the show, we were treated to such a part one.

One of the annoying tics of NXT in 2015 is that sometimes they've reheated video packages to kill time; what makes that tic all the more flinchworthy is that any Full Sailor has seen when the effort's been put in to advance somebody's babyface Florida story (quite notably in Becky Lynch's case a few weeks ago and most I'm-not-crying-YOU'RE-fucking-crying notably for Hideo Itami's WrestleMania weekend back in the spring), their willingness to tell the tale almost documentary style by letting the narrative that's more or less true be the one that airs on WWETV take somebody to the next level.

For Finn Bálor, this was that week, the first of two as he heads into the aforementioned title match with Owens on the Fourth. It may've started off looking like somehow promo class had leaked onto the air with the opening salvo even being "Who is Fergal Devitt?", but by the end anybody who wasn't rooting for him was surely busy serving ISIS, anyhow.  What makes him more compelling and the visits from the Daemon even more depth-filled and a little frightening is the answer to that question is like the Stones' answer to who turned Camelot and Camelot Adjacent into so much Swiss cheese five decades back -- he's mostly us, with a little extra special something that makes him the thing to be watched for a twenty every sixty days.  Growing up watching Superstars on Saturday afternoons, mom staying at home while dad worked his way up a corporate ladder to put roof over and food into, and his wanting to grow up to be a wrestler?  Marie Calvert would say that would just make him one of a few million prospective ballerinas that never came to be.  Then there's the part where he was teaching when he was barely 20.  The part where his former employers on the other side of the pond -- with tons of video footage shown therein -- looked like ECW saying goodbye to Taz on a 1000:1 scale with Devitt promising not so much a goodbye as a see you later before he hustled off to New Japan.

When Becky Lynch was moved to tears talking about his tutelage not just starting her career but saving her life it was as much a punch in the crotch of the heartstrings as anything that didn't have to do with Phillip Phillips singing about the raging fire inside the sweet son of a plumber as WWE's done this year, let alone this week.  (Even better, the piece noted Lynch cribbing up two years on her fifteen at the time in order to get trained and having the two of them laugh about it when revealed earlier this year, so this was coming down the pike for a while and since alls well that ends in NXT, the chicanery -- in addition to her prior Very Special Look that was the only other time she was moved to tears besides losing to Sasha Banks in that possible MOTYC -- showed that the lifesaving was no mere lily-gilding.)   Bálor's reaction to Lynch's gratitude was to wave it off and say she had the requisite techs to earn the cheques from the beginning; viewers may know that as the same thing she had just said about him, after stating she was absolutely disgoosting (not literally) when she started her work for pro graps as a tenth-grader not a full minute before his bashful waveaway of what he did.  This puts him in a fine archtype of heroes reluctant to big up themselves, but confident in what they can bring to the table...and also with a malicious side that can leave the wicked gasping for breath, something that can now come to bear against a suddenly woundable NXT Champion.  And we haven't even gotten to part two yet.  Geez.

The Dubstep Cowboys and Miss Bliss' Baby Girl are far past part two in fending off Bridge and Tunnel, and without Bliss running interference in the Tag Title match at the last Takeover their record is more Wizards of Washington Place than the pair of Golden State Warriors the straps might make them out to be.   (Here, again, another fine NXT subtlety: while Bliss has already tapped into her inner Guerrero and managed to cheat to win over Carmella, Pigtails and Red don't have any non-assisted wins over Enzo Amore and Big Cass.  We don't need to start belting out certain Eurythmics tunes, but while the top shelf says give them a chance, NXT, y'know, does.)   Carnella even got a pre-match pop for her Staten Island smacktalk against Bliss, then her and the boys paid it off with a pretty dominant win over the Blake Alexa Murphy Factor.  Actual offense vs. too many chinlocks will do that to you, even if "you" is now a trioka who's highlight on the show was cutting off the usual singalong five-letter word of the Newer Age Outlaws.

Charlotte's smackdown of KC Cassidy Cassie McIntosh made Dana Brooke go into delusional conniptions and pat Devin on the head again, but make no mistake about it: this show belonged to three men: Owens, Joe, and Bálor.

You know, the NXT champion and his two biggest threats to his throne.

So far as the Full Sail universe goes, that means everything is unfolding as it should.