Thursday, August 20, 2015

Best Coast Bias: Audience Depreciation Night

So many fire emojis.  SO.  MANY.
Photo Credit:
ORLANDO, FL (TWB) -- Tragedy struck the final NXT program before the scheduled two-hour live Takeover special as the entire audience got absolutely verbally immolated by Kevin Owens, within the same hour after the Full Sail inhabitants had already suffered second and third-degree burns earlier when Sasha Banks did the same thing in the opening segment.

...all right, all right, all right, fine.  We don't need to get full AP Style in dissecting the dissections, the "No Vaseline" and the "Hit 'Em Up" that the current Women's Champion and the former NXT Champion executed on their respective ends of the program in what could very well be their final performances in front of the Orlando crowd.  But know this: the rest of the hour was wafer-thin and featuring more squash than a decent fall harvest, and their flame-roastings saved the show from being forgettable if not outright skippable; not pipebombs but rather Molotovs made with ball bearings and glass shards inside to maximize the damage.

It literally feels unfair to start with Owens instead of Banks, hers was so good.  Then again, KO may have cut the best promo in NXT history.  He saved his Finn Bálor-centric vitriol for the end, promising to lay out Bálor in the manner of all the heroes he'd cut down over the course of the year, yet the Champion got off lightly considering the absolute vitriol he had for the fans themselves.

Their boos over Brooklyn, briefly thrown back in their face during the opening segment off a devastating one-liner from Banks that there was a reason BK was getting Takeover and they weren't was the petard and the French Canadian Murder Bear went to hoisting as if he was trying to give them all new vertebrae.  Owens immediately called them stupid hypocrites and then backed up his claim by noting that if he dared to do something to their precious Sami Zayn they hated him, but if he brought up beating John Cena...and of course they didn't wait for him to finish his sentence before erupting in a roar, and rather than reveal a QED shirt beneath the familiar Raideresque KO he called them the John Cena of wrestling fans.  If Brian Pillman got to watch this in the afterlife, he was probably standing in front of his set giving a slow clap.

And it wasn't like he was done there: he noted how pathetic it was that nothing genuine came out of their mouths ever since they used one side to talk about loving NXT and wanting it to succeed but when they sold out a 13,000-seat arena (that only sold out because he was main eventing, duh doi) they start in with the jeers since it wasn't just theirs anymore and they won't get to see it live.  His mock crocodile tears after saying this, oddly again, matched the ones Banks gave precocious NXT superfan little Izzy as she came out to the ring for her contract signing in the opener.  So it didn't become about his spade of losses or wanting to reclaim the title for the honor of being the first-ever two-time Big X belt holder, but rather making the "undeserving, ungrateful pieces of trash" housing the black and yellow eat it and make them as sick to their damn stomachs as he does every time he has to show up there.

Yeah, Bálor showed up, he mad, they fought, he won without doing any lasting damage, whatever.  For a promo that was technically G-rated you could feel the middle finger radiating off the Canadian as he was so good at his work that you could see how the knowledgeable fan would want to support him in the first place.  And yet, for such a smart bunch, no response stuck.  They had nothing but their wish to see him get defenestrated by absolutely anybody and a few stray responses that could've just as easily have been written by another Owens behind the scenes.  It was actually a really neat beat of cross-cultural synergy - in the final moments in setting up an event called Takeover, several hundred people in Florida got straight up ether'd.  Ask Orlando, they don't want it with KO.  Nooooooo!

The glee with which William Regal introduced the participants of the Women's Championship match Saturday night seemed to be an impossibly high bar to clear, but since it's female-driven and NXT-based, of course it got hurdled.  Bayley fought through a series of weirdly mixed reactions to delineate her underdog story and how she wanted and felt that things would change come this latest Takeover; Banks' reaction to this plucky pep talk was to literally laugh in her opponent's face and proclaim herself well on her way to being the best NXT Women's Champion that Full Sail had ever seen, the sort that grew justified fear in the heart of the Bay Area native.  And it wasn't as if Bayley wasn't good--she just wasn't the Boss.

Her response to the fans that were hating her at times was a wordless response and a fine smirk as she held her belt aloft and showed it off to a couple of sides of the audience.  The Boss stamped the papers, as she does, and started to walk, which surprisingly (at first) offended Bayley.  You see, Bayley is that rarest of animals: a wrestler who actually watches the product and has something of an airtight long-term memory.  So Banks would fight Becky Lynch the last time one of these went down but not her?  Bayley wanted the fight.  Reread the last sentence, then rereread it--without being a full-on Bliss not you Mama never you the closest thing NXT's ever had to a Sting was at a point where she was fine with instigating violence?

The Boss' haughty, snotty response?  Lynch and Charlotte were threats and she wasn't, the same way they were now with the CEO of BossCorp on Monday and Thursday nights while Bayley wasn't.  After calling her a pathetic loser she singled Izzy out as further proof Bayley was a false idol when it came for little girl wrestling fans to start worshiping, since fairy tales don't have happy endings and in the end, Bayley just wasn't worth it.  Banks left the ring, Bayley's meter slowly pushed into the neon red, and then she chased the Champ up the ramp and laid a beatdown on her to the point where the referees had to pull her off and carry her to the back.  Watching Bayley getting carried away leading to literally getting carried away would be like watching a kicker blow up J.J. Watt on a kick return or Anthony Bourdain stop after one drink.

And yet, it didn't feel unnecessary or a massive character shift, or even that all-too-common complaint when it comes to sipping Stamford's Kool-Aid about the nominally good people being the same kind of jerks as the bad ones merely with merchandising pushes.  Bayley's not Carrie, but She's All That, and after years of having everybody back stab her dozens of times quicker than their reconciliations took and being told to her face just how worthless she was perceived not moments after seeing the impact she has on fans knowing that she's still one too it was one of those rare times where a white hat sneak attacked a black hat and there was more justification than somebody backstage standing next to a whiteboard and shrugging but rather history playing out and slowly evolving over time.  Bayley's default position isn't to be that kind of person, or to respond to stray jibes and slags by pulling out the biggest weapons in her arsenal if not in addition to actual weaponry.

But the same way in 2014 Sami Zayn leveled up by tapping into his dark side without straying from being the skanking lovable nerd we all see as the cinnamon roll too pure and too good for this seedy pro graps world, in a company where BA Star is a corporate motto Bayley actually exemplifies it by spending the overwhelming majority of her time being a good person who does for others and literally goes years without starting a fight to the point where she's best known for her hugs.  This doesn't preclude her from still -- at the end of a long journey, but still -- being able to pull into Beatdown Junction if the circumstances call for it.  It's just that she is slow to anger, and brings the same amount of hellfire as anyone else does once that position is reached.

That should have stolen the show.  Especially given the fact four squashes would play out after it happened and the general nature of go-home programs, that should've been the thing.

But too many people booed when they heard a town that wasn't theirs, and Kevin Owens decided to make it rain fire for 50 blocks instead.