Thursday, June 4, 2015

Best Coast Bias: Turning Away From The Light

"Could've been worse, kid - I could've put you through the video wall."
Photo Credit:
What does a holiday weekend trip to Japan cost?

For the average traveler it's a simple intersection of the money required to get over to the Land of the Rising Sun bisected with the time it takes to set up all of the other things that go into such a transcontinental trip. In NXT's case, their desire to contribute to a WWE Fourth of July card live from Tokyo meant that in addition to as-yet-unknown contributions from Paige, Adrian Neville and the Lucha Dragons that they remembered their passport and luggage in the form of putting Kevin Owens/Finn Bálor II: the Daemon Cometh front and center on their letterhead for the event that'll air on the Network live.

In their desire for take off, however, this show left a lot on the table, in the bathroom cabinet, hanging in the closet, and so forth. Outside of Rhyno's third loss to the new breed causing him to finally readopt the alignment he's usually home in at the end of the show when he Gored Bálor at the top of the ramp having failed to do so in the main event, the first hour that black and yellow contributed to the Wednesday Night Wars left more questions than answers, and not necessarily in the good way.

Without Kevin Owens or Samoa Joe on this week's efforts, and Sami Zayn only showing up in a video package that affirmed a successful shoulder surgery without giving a timetable for his return, it fell upon NXT's resident cosplayer at special events to take the main against the aforementioned former ECW Champion. The Man-Beast had impeccable logic: face #1 contender, Gore same, earn title shot, earn title. He lived up to not being phased by any Bálor theatrics, to be sure. At the same time, in his brief prematch remarks, the former Prince was focused on the Fourth. His winning 11 titles in Japan came up, and on the heels of that the promise that he'd be in full powered-up regalia to win the championship from Owens that he failed to do in a criminally underrated match back in March. Rhyno got a couple throwaway sentences on the way out to the ring, and no body paint once there. Considering one man was lined up for the French Canadian Murder Bear and had only lost once in his NXTenure while the other one had just lost to Baron Corbin, the outcome was never in doubt; at least the match itself, if steeped in the basics, was done so smartly. Rhyno dominated early with his power, thus allowing the announce unit to draw the easy parallels betwixt him and Owens. However, what was ostensibly an all-babyface affair turned slightly as it went later, with Rhyno appearing to spit in the direction of a smacktalking fan and definitely mocking the signature pose of the Irishman on a couple of occasions. Bálor wouldn't be able to hit Not Bloody Sunday or even his trademark Coup de Gráce against the land monster he was against but would still have the wherewithal to dodge a Gore (at least while the match was in progress) and roll him up for the three count.

With Rhyno doing a bit of Owens' dirty work for him, he can now slide easily into "bitter old man who doesn't realize time's passed him by", especially if they're going to end up keeping Corbin as an anti-hero white hat. As for Bálor, he has a few shows to recover from getting Man-Beast Moded on the ramp, and his promise to bring out his darker side to fight Owens this time around in his adopted homeland make him a bigger favorite than Zayn was in either match he had against his fellow Canadian. That said, things like Rhyno whaling on him most of the match show that without demonic assistance, he's vulnerable. Just still highly crafty and talented.

Speaking of such things, Alexa Bliss' development in both of those departments is coming along apace. Sure, she may not cheat with all the gusto of '86 Ric Flair or anything -- her grabbing the ropes on a rollup to beat Carmella in their grudge match looked more like an unnecessary touch late in the three-count -- but there's seemingly an ATM about to erupt with her as a next-gen evil Trish Stratus (again, to that and Mama Bliss, as B and T would say, how you doin'). Also, welcomed warmly in full for the first time in her run, Carmella showed just how much better even down on this level that NXT is as opposed to their main roster. In Full Sail you can sport a positive alignment without being a jerk about it, so she came out all business on her way to the ring and then uncorked a trioka of Thesz press/rain of punches combinations that further bolstered her crowd support. THIS FEUD MUST CONTINUE~! as now both genders constituting BAMF have prevailed over their Bridge and Tunnel counterparts, but have cheated to do so on both occasions. Of course, if Bliss keeps locking in cravates and continues being sneaky, she might keep the gold around her boys' waists for some time to come.

At least that followed the usual chain of logic NXT's built their brand upon. See if you can follow this, since it connects the other two matches on the program. In his quest to find a tag partner who can do better than Tye ever did, Jason Jordan looked around and found...Marcus Louis. Marcus Louis, last seen stalking Tyler Breeze, who was in the show opener against...Adam Rose.

Granted, the Rose/Breeze thing makes more sense since the King of Cuteville laid him out post-match after a successful tag team excursion a couple of weeks ago. But the thing that makes NXT a cut above is continuing attention to detail, and it's not like they're the only Starbucks in town anymore when it comes to Wednesday night wrestling as this is Night One of literally every other possible competitor having a TV offering. And considering at least on its face that Breeze/Rose was an all-heel affair and that this was Louis' return to the airwaves, there could've been something in place of a hastily dropped angle, one would think. Instead, the Guns N' Poses match showed both men ignoring various Leo Kruger chants and a selfie-stickless Breeze finally snapping off his Beauty Shot Outta Nowhere some two segments in.

Louis and Jordan got along as well as expected considering one is an amateur champion flailing for a hook and the other spent his time grunting like first-month Mankind while making viewers ask questions like "Does he look more like Sloth from the Goonies or Nosferatu like Graves said?" You got to ponder these things since the cobbled together unit was facing the returning Vaudevillains, who didn't get nearly enough hype for returning to the show and were never in danger of not ultimately polishing off their victims with the Whirling Dervish -- no Finlay roll/senton bomb combo, that.

Even that was semi-explicable. A video package for Sasha Banks two weeks after a win in her MOTYC at Unstoppable? Always fine and fun to see the Boss, but she could've gotten the video's point over with a quickie promo and at least given us her live and on the mic where she excels in the back with Devin Taylor or something. Speaking of that, why did Solomon Crowe sound like he was sending himself to a farm upstate after the events of last week? Hitting the note of catching a beating was nothing he hadn't been through before; his suggesting he was going to Six Million Dollar man himself by coming back (??) better than ever and in the ring with the champion was more inexplicable than any test pattern he's put on Full Sail screens.

And what of the decision to use the aforementioned live time to have Creepy Greg interview Eva Marie? The NXT audience can be problematic at the best of times, to be sure, and that's a five-thousand word discussion that can easily be held at any time, so let's table that for now. Eva Marie gets more heat for existing than Kevin Owens did for turning on Sami Zayn at the end of Takeover: Revolution; apparently, she's the Idi Amin of South Florida.  Having Eva Marie in front of that crowd attempting to cut a live promo where the best case scenario is she's playing into Total Divas by being an oblivious, vainglorious heel in Dana Brookeian fashion and the worst case scenario is she's still not good at her job yet is like Sean Hannity attempting to explain to young black Baltimoreians that it was their--well, all right, that actually happened.

But so did this, and it's not like she didn't get this reaction when she popped up at Takeover or when she absolutely got egg on her face in her cringeworthy match against Bayley. (Keep in mind Bayley, in that same month literally before and after Eva, in almost three consecutive weeks, turned in a pair of above average matches against different opponents.) Somebody had to know no matter how they put her phrasing about the women of NXT revolutionizing the business that for NXT's faithful she's the kind of woman (or the idea of her, or something) they're trying to lead such an uprising against. Not everyone even down Florida way is aware of her going through her paces with THE Brian Kendrick and her Instagram showing a couple of moves that suggest her moveset is now existent and looks good; her getting airtime while the cream of NXT's female crop hasn't been seen since putting on an attention grabbing match that's gotten her talked about as one of the best wrestlers in the world irregardless of gender and known for her skills on the microphone is exactly the sort of thing that plays into the worst fears that the paradise NXT's carved out for them can turn into a parking lot if Old Man McMahon and/or some E!xecutives or some other nebulous force comes sniffing around wondering what's causing all of this.

It's not quite "for want of a nail" territory, obviously. But NXT may still want to do the old keys-wallet-cell search at the door before they lock it and head for the airport in a few weeks.