Monday, August 24, 2015

Best Coast Bias: NXT Too Strong For Y'All

Queens Reign Supreme
.gif courtesy of FYeahNXT Tumblr
Sometimes -- a lot of times, really -- something crucial and historic happens, but it's far after the fact that people recognize it and the impact that it has.

This is not one of those times. The 21st Century Curtain Call? The Last Ride of the 4 Horsewomen? The Brooklyn Bow? Whatever it ends up being named by the E and/or the cognoscenti, it is at worst the second-biggest NXT moment in the developmental league's history to date, depending on how you feel about Sami Zayn's title victory and Kevin Owens' subsequent shocking but inevitable betrayal immediately thereafter. Finn Bálor and KO technically main evented in a ladder match for the Big X, and it was above-average, filled with passion, hard hitting, and a couple of genuinely jaw-dropping moments.

And they still couldn't follow the Boss and the new Women's Champion, your favorite and mine, Bayley.

It's not like this was a gigantic shock, either. The history of NXT live specials is in large part built off of the women and mostly some combination of those above going out and kicking out the matriarch fornicating jams MC5 style. Looking back over the past couple years and the fights over the Women's championship is to see something that starts off well continue to improve and evolve, to go from pleasant surprise to borderline surety. We've actually become spoiled to an extent as they've gone from show stealing to Match of the Night to possible Match of the Year candidates.

Even with that, nothing that took place previously in their crucible could touch that moment, a moment that could've legitimately ended the show to the complaints of no one who's opinion mattered. Literally everything that'd gone before built to it, and paid it off with interest. In headbands and armbands, Bayley had on silent tributes to the Big Dust in the Sky, the American Dream himself. Sasha Banks? She came out like a Rule 63 hybrid of Dalton Castle and Eddie Guerrero, beefy bodyguards hoisting her up onto the apron after driving her out in a unconscionably swank Escalade celebrating nearly 200 days as the Queen Bee of Full Sail.

The crowd was rabid in both directions with respect for Banks interspersed with their adulation for the Doctor of Basic Huganomics. As befitting the "big fight feel" that Stamford loves so much, the chain wrestling and counter-to-the-counter-to-the-counter-to-the-counter wrestling went out the window pretty early in favor of specials, debuts, and a series of bombs trying to stop the other success on the other side of the ring. Banks would not only hit a top-rope BankStamp double knee drop to the gut of the corner-draped Bayley but would put her injured arm in the stairs before kicking it. In the back, a GM probably smiled wanly. And then she followed up that with a Mysterioesque tope con hilo over the ref onto the challenger on the floor. In both official and fanshot videos of that moment, you can see the crowd shoot up into the air like fireworks on the Fourth. But the story, as it has been for years, was Bayley's irrepressible heart. Already aping his dropkick, Bayley would pull off a Sami-styled Exploder into the corner, but Banks would fend off the Bayley-to-belly and put on the BankStatement. Bayley was locked down in the middle of the ring at first, and her reward for courageously trying to survive it by getting the ropes was Banks kicking down on her injured arm. Somehow, that turned out to be the opening the #1 contender needed, and she reversed her way into what we can only assume would be the BayStatement. When Banks succeeded in getting to the ropes with her foot, it seemingly only delayed the inevitable for a couple of beats as the Bayley-to-belly hit...but again, champion nearly some 20 score days gives one archives of resolve, and so Banks managed to hang in there. Banks blocked the avalanche Bayley-to-belly that'd polished off Charlotte before hitting her flying double knee driver off the second rope, and Bayley gutted her way to a kickout there. A last fight on the top ropes lead to a spectacular avalanche poisoned rana, and one Bayley-to-belly later she was perpetual bridesmaid no more. Honestly, and this goes for the rest of the program as well, time spent reading about it is time not spent watching it, but this was the brightest jewel in a pretty bad-ass crown: watching Bayley's signature victory being rabidly received by 13,000+ and then four women who had to overcome the longest of all possible odds to be respected let alone revered get that moment, one last moment, together in a baptism of flashbulbs and cameraphone snaps being buffeted by applause.

It wasn't as if the crowd had spent all of their ardor there, as both Owens and Bálor got rapturous ovations before commencing their own fisticuffs in the main event that had a high bar to (ahem) climb. Unlike the ladies, however, and perfectly fitting given the elements involved with a hungry to the point of borderline rabid French Canadian Murder Bear going against the Daemon, there wasn't going to be any wrestling; this was just a straight-out fight from stem to stern. Even when Owens was doing things like responding to the Ole! singalong by pretending to throw out his left shoulder or feigning another shot with the ladder before delivering yet another right hand, his pre-match predictions of these being his people was born out. But Bálor got similar responses every time he fought back, and that was before the ladder really got involved in the proceedings. Owens managed to sandwich Bálor between a senton and a ladder at one point, only to get backdropped onto it pretty soon thereafter and eat a follow-up standard-issue Coup de Grâce. This being a weapons-level match with one as the centerpiece, that didn't keep the former champion out long enough to give the current one enough time to retrieve his gold, and Bálor was soon pulled off of it and into a vicious powerbomb. More fighting over the ladder occurred before things went out to the floor, and KO seemingly had it won with his signature apron powerbomb connecting after Bálor missed another version off the apron of the Coup. But that and two superkicks failed to keep Bálor at bay long enough for Owens to realize the dream of making everybody down Full Sail way eat it, so he appeared to be setting up for a powerbomb off the ladder onto another one propped between it and the corner. Bálor blocked and laid him out onto it, then hit one massive Coup off the ladder before reascending and getting the gold to close out the show. Again, above-average and had the payoff of a powered-up Bálor finally and definitively putting away this season's resident Big Bad...but without one on the horizon as a follow-up, given that somehow every single white hat clean swept the card it was a finely made craft brew compared to the Veuve Cliquot that the ladies served up on the other side of the now-standard double main event.

With the good guys and girls throwing a no-hitter, that means in addition to a new Women's Champion that we have new Tag Team champions in NXT's world, and that the Vaudevillains are after utilizing Blue Pants as the nullification of Mama Bliss' Baby Girl. Really, it was a giveaway the moment the then-challengers strode out in a manly fashion and out of the black and white world they were sporting indigo, but the crowd clearly wanted every aspect of this and got it. It wasn't the blowaway call-a-friend spectacle that the other two title matches garnered but it was still probably the best tag title match that's been on an NXT special to date, as the underrated now former champions controlled their section, antagonized the crowd a couple of times for daring to root for such ridiculous people, and then got their comeuppance served through every part of their unit and lost the titles in the center of the ring to the Vaudies' signature Whirling Dervish. Not only that, but it allowed Corey Graves to get in a funny cheap shot at Williamsburg.

And how is it this report has gone on this long and we haven't even talked about what might've been the most surreal moment in NXT history - Jushin "Thunder" Liger in full regalia and high dudgeon kicking off the summer 2015 Takeover. Seeing him alternate his signature Romero Special with aping Breeze's aping of Eddie Guerrero and Shawn Michaels in the corner and taking a few selfies with Tyler Breeze's stick (not a euphemism) almost made up for the fact this was more of a showcase than a 20-minute back-and-forth between a legend and one of NXT's stalwarts. Breeze got in a couple of nice moments but this was all about Liger's c.v. and commenced with him hitting a properly called shotei, a tope con hilo off of the apron, and then the Liger Bomb.

While Samoa Joe choking out Baron Corbin and a successful debut for Apollo Crews were also in and of the card(s), they were dwarfed by a few announcements and a surprising appearance that was suddenly given light in almost Ligerian surreality. In the realest terms, the big reveal was probably the fact that NXT is heading to the UK. Having proven they can garner five-digit rabid crowds Stateside, don't be surprised if a future Takeover -- wildly speculating here, but maybe the first of 2016 -- emanates from the Great Kingdom of Britain. Who knows, maybe William Regal will even get a pop there. Via storyline, the aforementioned GM made the announcement of a Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic that'll culminate with the next live Takeover on October 7. And most stunningly, alongside Sgt. Slaughter and Ric Flair for no discerning reason besides the fact the hole in the space-time continuum that Joe opened up by closing out the last one of these hasn't closed yet, was Kana.

Make no mistake about it, if the scuttlebutt is true and the former joshi has actually signed with Stamford and will be coming to an NXT ring near us soon? Whether you want to go bro, bruh, or dude, there is only one proper reaction to this, and all of it is shorthand for about four dozen exclamation points and twenty-two expletives. Especially considering that as awesome as that gif is, 75% of it conceivably isn't going to be showing up to Full Sail any time soon except to bask in one-off Special Guest Star appearances and NXT needs to refill its cupboard if it's going to keep hanging on to its bread and butter. Saying Kana, uh, sorry Kanna has the talent to go a big way in restocking the aisles for Sara Amato's baby is like saying perhaps Warren Buffett has good ideas on how you should invest your money. Kana is one of those special diamonds from the previously-non-WWE scene that they've been scooping up over the past 30-odd months where before you even get done watching one match of theirs, you know. All that's left to do is do what they've pretty much been doing less the more head-dropping aspects and a possible name change before you put them on Wednesdays and let people lose their minds.

And yet as much as a certifiable Blake Alexa Murphy Factor as the Most Dangerous K is known for being, she could deliver something crucial and historic to NXT maybe a few times over and not be able to touch the Brooklyn Bow. For in order for her to get a prime seat upon a rapidly expanding and feted bandwagon, four women had to build that thing from spoke one and nail one.

We're all better off for them doing it, even when our vision of the road ahead is blurred by a curtain of tears.

The story ends.

The story begins again.

And we sit and wait and hope we get more moments like those.