Friday, March 25, 2016

Best Coast Bias: Some Things To Contend With

A's train kept a-rollin'
Takeover: Dallas continues to be the Gallant to WrestleMania's Goofus. It's not that fans are expecting an above average show, or even a great one--the question of "is this going to be the bestest show of all of the times?" is being bandied about by more than just the fan service equivalent of a Lunatic Fringe and it doesn't seem to be the entirely ludicrous notion that it may appear at first glance.

With the card locked and extremely loaded, NXT found themselves in the enviable position of being set to throw a party on a Gatsbian level and with time to put the centerpieces exactly in the middle, do a little extra dusting, put the salad forks in the freezer or do whatever else they needed to do to turn a 12 into a 15 with their final shows before they decamp outside of Six Flags Over Jerry's Ego. What they chose to do with this penultimate episode was to further burnish up the contenders in the three title matches in a couple of different ways, and they succeeded at both.

When it comes to the singles belts, irregardless of gender, it feels in both cases like we're in the dying days of the reigns of those who've redefined their championships and might be the respective best ever per their set. Yet for Bayley and Finn Bálor both (more on which imminently) it seems less the Time Of Their Lives and more trying to sit through Batman vs. Superman is what'll await them when they get to the Lone Star State.

Take Asuka. The throughline reaction to her upcoming first shot at possibly the most prestigious belt in North America is something along the lines of "I am really, really going to miss Bayley" and her main event Takeover: London rematch against Emma was further proof as to why. It wasn't just that Emma seems to be perpetually doomed to be the Dominique to her Bird (or the Barkley to her Jordan, or the Iverson to her Kobe, or the Durant to her LeBron or Curry), it was that she actually had the best showing against Asuka to date and still wasn't that awesome at gaining any traction besides not being Deanna Purrazzo. Looking back over what was nearly a 15-minute match doesn't even yield an instance where she got so much as a two-count in. Trying to match the Empress of Tomorrow on the mat was like using a mouse trap to get the substance for a grilled cheese; cheating either only provided a temporary reprieve or got caught by the ref. Literally three moves (high-impact ones, but still) later she was a broken shell of a woman who had just tapped out and the disconcerting smile was once again on the face of her adversary.

That smile seems to be the difference between her and her counterpart going after the Big X, as Samoa Joe 2.0 hasn't smiled or done nothing besides also run through his competition and hit them like a wrecking ball into a condemned building. He might blow off an interview in the back but he's more than willing to ruin a possible mid-hour match between Bull Dempsey and Danny Birch by choking them both out before it starts. As if that wordless display wasn't enough of an exclamation point he then proceeded to yell at a camera off-mic but loud enough to be heard in the fourth row that his title reign was a matter of days away and that no woman, man, or god would able to deter him from his destiny, and it was hard to argue with the man. Jobbers get choked out in seconds. The Sami Zayns of the world might take closer to an hour, but he can still beat him clean twice and choke him out para la victoria to close those out, as well.

Of course, even with the best announce team in the business backing their plays, sometimes the best things in NXT go unspoken, and this was one, not 20 minutes prior, Finn Bálor had been in the ring and put on an absolute showcase against the increasingly beloved Rich Swann.

(Side Note: infectious as the Chromeo ripoff music they gave him is, to use a Donald Gloverism, it's the Kix of Rich Swann entrance themes. Yeah, this is all right, but you know what we really want.) ((ALL NIGHT)) (((all night)))

Actually, the closest analogue to this also during this hour, most interestingly enough, was the main event. The holder of NXT's Men's World Championship was in control almost the whole way. Swann got in some stray flash shots here in there, but the most revealing moment was when Bálor had to cut off what would've been a run of offense with a crack running double forearm smash and then had a look on his face of "How dare". He never did anything heelish outright - not our Champion, not yet at least - but he went way harder in the paint than he needed to against a dude making maybe his fourth appearance on the show. You could even call it ruthless aggression. After spending about the first 60% of the match grounding Rich, he then finished him off in spectacular fashion: a baseball slide set up a running kick to the face delivered with a run down the apron, and that set up the shotgun dropkick hand on the pump which beget the Coup de Grace, the prelude to a wholly unnecessary Bloody Sunday 1916. Again, not a heel move, and not entirely unnecessary (both commentators mentioning over the match's course Bálor was going to have to deliver on this level to walk out champion against Joe again and that was before he stomped out and choked out two more dudes) but still a bit of overkill. There wasn't a little boy yelling "Stop! STOP! He's already dead!" or anything, but it could see him from that metaphorical house. But besides the (unintentional?) similarities to Joe/Ciampa a few weeks ago, it was also awesome to see one of the best in the world turn things up a notch for an otherwise meaningless non-title TV tilt and remind you that he didn't earn that championship in a [matriarch fornicating] Cracker Jack box.

Secure as he is with his belt, American Alpha are still both looking for their first, and this week helped fill in some background for the uninitiated as to why. Despite being the J.D. and Turk of the tag division, they came up on remarkably similar backgrounds. They fell in love with amateur graps as kids, and then spent their adolescences and college years out in these streets schooling chumps. But in both their cases, the first major setback they suffered they feel defines them. (If only they were a bit older, Chuck Klosterman could've warned them about this.) For Jason Jordan, it was going for the NCAA championship as a Hoosier and coming up short; on Chad Gable's end it was a medal-less run at the Olympics. But through their words and their actions translated from VHS in those early days - kids, ask you parents - you got a sense of why they were so damn determined to make a mark here and how they got together as a unit, and that was before they both individually admitted to having a short coming here or there and acknowledge that were things they could accomplish as a unit that they might not have been able to pull off as individuals. Suddenly, being Ready, Willing and Gable vaulted past cute catchphrase. Their skillset defined the first, their sudden ascension dating back to the Dusty Classic once they merely got the opportunity defined the second, and--well, obviously half of the team is the third. It didn't quite get the full-on treatment Finn, Becky Lynch and Apollo Crews have gotten over the past year, but it was more than enough. Honestly--who besides the Revival would root against the Alpha Dogs? What sort of puppy-hating bastard watches JJ and CG do a match and walks away in disgust? There's a name for those people, and it's called ISIS.

Geopolitics aside, it's a fine time to be alive and an NXT fan. One more show before the show, and then? In the immortal words of a box office matinee idol, it's time to make the fcuking chimichangas.