Friday, March 4, 2016

Best Coast Bias: the Surreality Era

Best on best, and more along those lines to come
Photo Credit:

The best iteration of WWE programming may only go by three letters but sometimes it feels like it would take three trilogies to describe the sea changes down Orlando way for something that's a touring company without the touring (at least on a consistent national far...), a split brand without a brand split, and all the other types of low-level space/time continuum disrupts that suggest this may be Earth-2, -3, or, hell, by this point, even -372. At times it honestly feels like things that were unimaginable as recently as three years ago started getting together, jumped on each others' shoulders and put on a trench coat before walking around acting like a e-fed who laced their HGH with cream and clear and chased it down with some horse tranqs.

One needn't look any further than the tags for this episode alone, and if that somehow didn't sway evidence enough you can look at the bevy of dream-level matches that NXT has coming up in the next 30 days or so.

You have Shinsuke Nakamura/Sami Zayn at Takeover: Dallas, which'll probably out perform, out pomp, and out circumstance anything that happens the following night at Six Flags Over Jerry.

Next week the last trainee of El Generico will face Samoa Joe in a best of three falls bout to determine a number one contender for the artist formerly known as Prince Devitt, a tilt that first covertly and now overtly literally dates back to Joe's premiering moments in NXT last spring before Zayn went on the IR, something the Samoan Submission Machine was all too keen to remind everybody's favorite ginger snap of yet again in the show's closing moments.

And on this show in the main event, we were treated to the aforementioned ex-Devitt, Finn Bálor taking on Special Guest Star That Gravity Forgot Adrian Neville. This could've been perilously close to the wrestling-for-the-sake-of-wrestling trope, especially given the fact you had two white hats with no alignment change forthcoming battling it out, but Orlando found a nimble way to get around it for the one-off: Finn's on his way to becoming the longest holder of the Big X, so what better way to put another slice of bacon on his burger than by beating the man who's record he's putting in jeopardy?

Almost tucked away as an afterthought before the match commenced was all those pesky rumors on the webs possibly augmented by all of Bálor's shoutouts, photos and Photoshops about the Bullet Club possibly coming to NXT - another sign we're closer to -372 than to -2 - with Corey Graves waving them off and Tom Phillips basically shrugging. With that aside aside and cleverly laying down breadcrumbs for a future path we were off to the races with these current friends and former rivals and tag partners. (In another nice pre-match note, Graves noted he'd caught up with Neville at some point and that his heel turn in the dying days of his career against the former NXT Champion and the man he'd been tag champs with had been pretty much forgiven, if not forgotten. This is one of the two Wednesday night wrestling shows that makes Continuity Bear do the Rerun Dance, and he can pop it off at Drake-level speed if he gets a few stray sentences that make logical sense and adhere to the fact that History Counts For Something Here.)

Neville got cheers, Bálor got a few more, and it seemed to be that the crowd went that way for almost all of the near 20 minutes that the match went with the abused milking more of the crowd's ardor when they were eating the offense. The former champion got the first bit of flash early on with a cartwheel into a basement dropkick in the opening chunk, but they were clearly saving the big bombs for the back end of the match and the tail end of the program. Whether or not this surpassed their match at the Takeover 13 months prior is one of those things that's subject to taste, but it didn't eclipse it and it sure didn't underwhelm as a soggy sequel, either. From Neville apparently going over the top and hitting the stairs on the way down from Bálor landing on the back of his head off of a rebound release German they got to at least 4 MC's if they didn't get all the way to a full-fledged MC5 screaming of Kick Out The Jams, and it took the Daemon firing off a souped-up combo platter of 1) Lariat 2) Shotgun dropkick 3) Coup de Grace and 4) (the still unnamed on air) Bloody Sunday to finish off the duel. You may recognize the latter two as how Apollo Crews went down to defeat a couple short weeks ago in Finn's last fight. The crowd applauded, as did Bálor, then Neville shook his hand and raised his arm up, sending the UCF Arena inhabitants home happy. No shenanigans, which could've been expected--not from Neville, but from outside sources. That expectation was thwarted by immediately going backstage to Joe and Zayn, and we didn't get any from Baron Corbin, either.

After all, his measure of revenge had come earlier in the evening, when he spited GM William Regal by taking the introductory moments of Austin Aries joining NXT's flock and smearing creamy brown all over them, beating on the Greatest Man Who Ever Lived on the floor like a rented goalie before splatterfying him with an End of Days and yelling "An eye for an eye!" at Regal before throwing Aries' shirt (another ghost for -372's offering, we're living in a world where WWE has shirts with Austin Aries' name on them when he debuts) at and hitting him in the face with it before skulking up the ramp. Short of the Lone Wolf yelling at the former multiple time world champion to go back to Evolve, this was perfect. Corbin's rage against the machine continues by ruining Regal's big signing, and Aries starts off against a rapidly improving big man who was just on the periphery of the title scene for months on end just a hare's breath away from the main event scene in case he needs a springboard towards it as 2016 moves on. And having it happen in Orlando was a nice rapid fire middle finger, as well.

Amongst the showcases for the Vaudevillians and Emma, as well as another Elias Samson squash -- something you can get away with when the main event is 100% tecnico with two guys on that level -- the really interesting point of order on the show was Regal welcoming Eva Marie and Nia Jax to his office to inform them what's next for them. And what's next for them is him showing them that just because he smiles more now doesn't mean there isn't still the blood of a villain pumping through his veins. They now get to enjoy a higher profile tag team match, and if they're lucky, they'll be conscious at the end of it. And it's not because they're going to have to contend with Bayley again. That's right--he not only put the fear of Asuka into them, but for the first time since the #1 contendership battle royale, she'll be in competition with them. Hashtag all red everything indeed, and odds Asuka roundhouse kicks literally everybody else in the match unconscious are probably getting good numbers somewhere online.

But that just goes to underscore the point: the idea of the Most Dangerous treating a Total Divas star's head like a stone to be skipped across a pond seemed an impossibility just a short while ago.


It's just how NXT rolls on Wednesday nights. And the intrigue and possibilities that spawn from them doing so widen and deepen by the moment.