Thursday, August 6, 2015

Best Coast Bias: Steps In The Name Of Hug

I'm not crying, you're crying
Photo Credit:
When Queen Stephanie summoned NXT's finest women to start her mainstream Revolution on Mondays and (to a much, much, much lesser extent) Thursdays, while it was nice and slightly jarring to see Becky Lynch be the steampunking armbreaker, Sasha Banks being the Boss of sass and modified crossfaces alongside Charlotte summoning memories of her dad and Ellie Goulding's best song, longtime NXT fans had what could be best described as a slightly tempered reaction to the call-up. Great as it was with the possibility for it to be an all-time RAW Moment depending on how the next few months and years go, something was still missing.

More than something, it was someone. When the current NXT Women's Champion was standing in the ring next to the frenemy she'd taken the belt from and the effervescent Lynch, Full Sailors and those who rep the black and yellow by proxy couldn't help but notice they'd gotten elevated and Bayley was still in her same spot on the treadmill. People love to use Ringo Starr as the low-hanging fruit for a piƱata full of punchlines two feet off of the ground, but they're still the Fab FOUR. Unless you're Rick Perry, there's something to put in place after War, Famine and Pestilence; Dorothy needed a boost besides the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion; et al. To extend the yellow brick metaphor, if any of the Four Horsemen down Florida way would exemplify heart, it'd have to be the one with the biggest connection to the young girls and differently abled fans, the colorful one who managed to toughen herself up and take a couple of heel turns against her without losing her humanity, the Northern Californian who could do seemingly everything with the exception of Win The Big One.

But as the past year and change have proven, plucky underdogs can fight their way to the top. And Sami Zayn's Rule 63 kicked off the show and further went down her own road to redemption and championship gold, by notching the biggest win of her career in the process. By finally beating Charlotte (middle of the ring and cleaner than fresh laundry, to boot) Bayley was able to officially elevate herself into contendership status. In order to drop that status, of course, all she need do is complete a gauntlet run of her fellow Horsewomen by besting all the call-ups in order, starting here, then over Becky Lynch on next week's show, with the winner of that going to TakeHova on the 22nd from Brooklyn to face the Boss, Sasha Banks, Esq.

Having just dismantled the DanaBot 5000 days ago, and having never lost to Bayley, you could see Charlotte's duality and hazy alignment at play, in a good way; kind enough now at this point to shake Bayley's hand pre-match, but still more than willing to bounce her refound friend across the ring with figure 4 headlock/atomic drop combinations a few times before stating "You made me do this". As we were reminded pre-match, though, a couple of weeks ago Bayley had felled Emma cleanly before issuing this challenge, and being this close to coming out the river clean she wasn't just about to crawl meekly back to her cell. The first half of the match drew respectful applause from the crowd as Charlotte tried to bring Bayley to heel under a combination of her athleticism and power; the second half drew the "This is awesome" and "This is wrestling" chants as Bayley at times doubled and tripled down on her offense to beat the former Women's Champion.

When the unofficially named NXT Girl (partially seen above) yelled "Come on, Bayley!" so loud that the ringside mics picked it up before her heroine managed to pull off a super huracanrana after pointing to her, you'd have to be a Cheney to not feel that emotion and in some cases, remember the happy little fan you once were that hopefully the intervening years hadn't completely shuttered. After all, Bayley's legging it out around the bases partially injured and trying to gut it out to get home for the winning run; Charlotte might've been born past third and has already held the crown up. All that, however, didn't keep her down for the full three from the super-rana. Bayley was the one who managed to dodge the Figure 8 a couple of times before becoming the first person to counter it by powering Charlotte onto her stomach - she didn't freak out too much when Charlotte kicked out of the Belly-to-Bayley, disenchanted momentarily as she was - and she managed to survive a schoolgirl into the bottom turnbuckle and attempted super Natural Selection to put the bow on the Match of the Night.

Back at Fatal 4-Way last year, that schoolgirl into the buckle meant despite her fighting spirit, Bayley was two moves away from getting got. And Charlotte had only previously busted out the Diamond Dust the last time she was successful against Banks at last December's Takeover: Revolution, and in a parallel track the only other occurrence of an avalanche Bayley-to-belly had also victimized Charlotte back in February in the fatal four-way title match at Takeover: Rival. This time without a Sasha in the way to break up the pinfall, it got Bayley the duke. None of that history lesson made its way to the broadcast proper, but for those watching that remembered any or all of those moments, they brought a reminiscence of vintage Simpsons punchlines where the jokes worked on a myriad of levels. Newcomers could laugh at the primary joke at face value, but those who watched obsessively and seen every episode a time or six could see the in-jokes in the jokes, the callbacks and references weaving in an extra layer of bonus awesome for those who were so inclined. Charlotte got a thank you chant from the crowd, NXT Girl got a hug and a hair tie from her #1 and possibly imminent #1 contender that sent her into paroxysms of joy also disguised as tears, and several thousand Network viewers' eye sockets suddenly fended off wayward dust as they waved futilely at the air in front of them to fend off a full invasion of the damn mites.

Compared to that opening display of sportsmanship and athleticism swirled in with a deep history, the rest of the show, while not outmanned was certainly outgunned; a series of matches and segments having gotten Usain Bolted down and sprinting frantically for a silver. Take most notably the main event of Samoa Joe and Rhyno, for instance. The only thing headlining about it was the time slot, through not much fault of their own. Joe's been weirdly running in place since his debut, almost a fresher Baron Corbin (who also did his usual during the show) with more bonafides and fewer DII rings while Rhyno looks imposing against everybody who isn't upper echelon and puts up good fights before ultimately losing to those who are. So it went here, a hoss skirmish where a somewhat movable force clashed with a kinda resistible object for a couple of segments before Joe hit an admittedly impressive-looking Muscle Buster to close the hour. Nothing offensive or horrible, the definition of cromulence to be sure, but it also wasn't going to move any impressionable fans to tears or anything.

What might do that is also going to happen on the 22nd where Bayley presumably is going to fulfill her date with Destiny, and that's the fact Tyler Breeze has a match on the card! Well, not just that, great as T Breezie is to watch. It's moreso the fact he'll be matching kicks and fashion templates with Jushin "Thunder" Liger, as post-squash William Regal finally unveiled on television and officially announced the worst-kept secret in wrestling this side of Mr. Amerikkka's true identity as added to the Takeover card. There is no analogy to draw that can match the moment when a writer looks down at the note they literally just wrote and the first reaction is 20 seconds of staring followed by "...that can't be right, can it?" The crowd losing their blessed fecal matter as the Proper Villain threw to a highlight package filled with baller dives, surfborts (surfborts) and Liger bombs, while appropriate, still greatly undervalued the surreality at hand for any long-time fan who always assumed things like Liger and WWE would get along as well as structural integrity and London's bridge. It will probably be one of those things that'll still seem impossible even when we're looking at it while it's actually happening.

Uhaa Nation is out, and Apollo Crews is in. The Vaudevillains are getting their rematch imminently on the big stage. And Kevin Owens wants a ladder match rematch so no Regal-assigned referee can keep him from being the first one to hold the Big X a second time, with all of those happening (you guessed it), on the 22nd. But that's a two-hour spectacuganza to justify the tenner a month, and held to a higher - borderline stratospheric standard that's untenable to keep flowing on a week-to-week basis.

When it comes to regular NXT TV in 2015? As historical as it was, what the diehards will remember even above the Liger announcement is why wrestling is worth watching in the first place, how meaningful it can be when faith is rewarded and pays off, and what it looks like when glee supersedes words and comes out water and saline.