Friday, January 22, 2016

Best Coast Bias: Showcases To Set Up A Showdown

Say good night, Johnny
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Sometimes it feels like there are a quadrillion reasons to love NXT. Two of the biggest reasons why were on full display on the latest edition of the program: they a) pay attention to and remember their history while b) being oh so mighty, mighty in moving along the song and finding their plot(s). Think it's easy? Have you seen a Monday night lately?

Here in the week before the big trip;e threat contretemps to determine a number one contender for the Big X and the Daemon in who's thrall it's under, the three men set to clash in seven days' time put on a trio of showcases in the show's opener, middle, and closer to refresh the memories of anybody who's brain cells were waffling and start laying foundation for everybody showing up with their newly minted ten spot a month late passes.

We should note that for those on a BCB late pass, in the past we've delineated our own difference in deeming something a squash vs. dubbing it a showcase, and in the end all it comes down to is wanting to see the obvious winner wrestle irregardless of the imminent fait accompli instead of being like "well, this is going to be a thing, I guess...". And to a man, they all highlighted their alignments and skills on their way to their respective dubs.

Even against Adam Rose, Sami Zayn fought a mostly uphill battle. It was almost as if they'd fought against each other in another life or something. But that's Zayn - he's never going to look dominant, he's going to make Full Sail sing "¡Olé!" every time he's on the early offensive before making them cringe every time he gets hit, and he's (probably) going to rally to win, even if it came in the form of a flash signature Complete Shot/Koji Clutch twofer. That's who Sami Zayn is; that's what he does.

Later on, Baron Corbin came on out for his showcase appearance and got to continue with his indie killer motif by Deep Sixing Rich Swann. Yes, that Rich Swann, replete with that name on WWE TV in a highly surreal moment followed by the crowd singing his signature "All Night Long" as the match got under way in an even bigger one. While he didn't get a conga line going through Full Sail - missed opportunity there that hopefully gets rectified in the future - he didn't get nerfed in the time it takes you to reheat a couple of slices, either. Pesky enough to put up a fight and show off a bit of aerial ability alongside a nice roundhouse kick, but not so pesky that you thought he would play Zayn to Corbin's Cesaro. Corbin's dismissive borderline hand-wanking over Rich Brennan's reaction before nailing floorboards to his windows in a one signature that wasn't even a finisher shot, again, underscored who he is and what he does.

In the main event, Johnny Gargano promised in the meat of the show that he would walk right up to "schoolyard bully" Samoa Joe and punch him in the face, and succeeded at doing so on several occasions. The problem with all that plucky white meat by-golly-I'll-show-him Disney fodder is that in reality just because you succeed at doing that doesn't mean you haven't just given the bully a further incentive to beat your ass like a rented goalie besides the fact that you just happen to be there, and even before the pummeling commenced Tom Phillips' voice went down a few octaves to underscore the possibility of the maiming that was possibly in the offing without making this prospect sound like a classless callback to the Owen Hart tragedy. Johnny Wrestling even managed to double down on some offense for his brief window and got in his slingshot DDT, but you saw the picture capping this off; you get the idea. Furthermore, Joe was perfectly content with and nearly got a countout victory just off the force of one kick polishing off an offensive flurry; even if Gargano hadn't said the actual words beforehand between the beating he took, the commentary underscoring it, and the Samoan Submission Machine's tight as ever strikes, even newcomers Got It.

The result? Everybody looks good, and whatever the three-person equivalent of the immovable object/irresistible force is going to happen next week with the second-biggest honorofic in Full Sail culminating with the winner who's already rolling in with wins under their belt getting a shot at the biggest one. Does the Lone Wolf get the crown he feels he deserves and shows how much he's learned since Joe choked him out in Brooklyn and he came up short against Joe's team in the finals of the Dusty Classic at Respect? Does Joe earn his rematch and close that inch and a half he just came up short at in London? Does Zayn get the slot and set up a dream match between he and Bálor on the way to setting hearts aflutter and making NXT history by becoming the first ever two-time owner of the Big X? They're all viable options that lead to good or great matches, and at this point they look equally viable. Insert Montell Jordan lyric here.

And yet, an already full plate is still getting seconds and thirds dumped onto it, as after beating 10ye Dillinger, Apollo Crews stated that he hadn't forgotten the match he'd had with the Champ that ended due to Baronference and got slightly shaded by Joe's subsequent heel turn, and while he wanted to earn another shot at the belt he'd still like another chance with the Irishman just the same. The Champion seemed to agree to this non-title proviso and hinted later in the show that Regal had given it the okay, so when does that happen? Given the number of sharks in the water, what would keep the second verse from being the same as the first? Does NXT have a bunch of flannel they could put on a couple of dozen guys who would surround the ring during such an affair? All these questions are intriguing, and they need answered.

With the focus on the showcases and the road to the NXT Championship, the unofficial best wrestling on the program -- quelle surprise -- may have come from the ladies in an unofficial match for the Lizard Brain Tag Team Championships involving Emma and Alexa Bliss taking on the new BFFs, Bayley and Carmella (a k a Baymella). Even the pre-match work managed to fold in the one division that didn't get a match this week, as the New Throwback tag team champions Dash and Dawson got in the good womens' faces to taunt "Carm" about how she'd choke against her biffle in a big match environment the same way her boys do. This came on the heels of Bliss chastising her boys and promising to lead by example while they disdainfully accepted a prior challenge from the perpetually ready, willing and Gable tag team Jason Jordan's in now officially dubbed American Alpha on camera and looking for another set of former champs to prove their superiority over, while Mama Bliss Watch 2016 continues unabated.

For a while before things got underway, the first double no-contest in NXT history due to both teams imploding seemed to be in the offering, given that Emma was the one who'd bounced Bliss in last week's number one contender's battle royale and Carmella being constantly, hilariously agitated by the devil on her shoulder that's Corey Graves' commentary to hold the friendship underwater until it stops breathing and snatch the title as a result. Even that came with history and backstory, because - as longtime viewers remember and as new viewers learned again this week - Graves actually went off and did it. While he may be retired, he is astute and hilarious while Neville got his first name scorched when he was demoted to Monday nights, so who really won there? Not only did they tie in the fact that the Big X has caused that sort of rift to go fully asunder succeasfully for Kevin Owens against Sami Zayn with Joe's against Bálor still a matter TBD, they noted that recent Women's Title history was also built around friendships going boom. (In the only real mal note on commentary, they pointed out Becky Lynch and Charlotte as examples without mentioning the reigning Wrestler of the Year who was in the Match of the Year, the motherloving Boss herself.)

Yet somehow the heels gelled quickly together and didn't seem to evince any hard feelings over the week prior, both doing the dirty work illegally by Emma jumping and tossing Carmella pre-match so that she and Bliss could double-team Bayley proper (holy phrasing, Batman) and also so do so legally with quick tags in and out (could you?!) to focus on the ribs they'd banged up that Bayley insisted on fighting her way through and kicking off the match with. To crib Good Ol' J.R.'s line about Mrs. Foley's Baby Boy, if Bayley's breathing, she's fighting. We know that--unfortunately for her at this point, so do her capable enemies. More focus offense hit her in the ribs throughout the only match on the show to get a pair of segments, but the Women's Champion was on her Young Gunz and couldn't and wouldn't stop even after Emma cheapshotted Carmella off of the apron to cut off her hot tag attempt. She might've had to have fought her way out of the Bad Part Of Town in the opposite corner dishing out shots to both her adversaries while telling Dana Brooke to shut up along the way, but since she didn't get that belt in a Cracker Jack box, she did, and once she did so Carmella was set to show off why she'd gotten the number one contendership a week previously culminating in making Miss Bliss give up the ghost with her signature scissor submission leglock. Serves her right, really; Mama Bliss ain't raise you to be like this, Lexi!

That was it, that was the show. Nothing flashy, nothing superlative: just a solid wall built on logic on the foundation of the past and building towards the future. It's everything developmental should be...and with the closest thing to competition making their vaunted and even Rock-endorsed return next week, it's the sort of form that they are and need to be showing off.