Friday, March 11, 2016

Best Coast Bias: There Can Be Only One

We got a resolution
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You don't have to be in the world long to know there's a wide chasm of difference between good surprises and bad ones, the same way finding a 20 in a pair of jeans you were about to wash or finding bacon in your cinnamon roll isn't the same as your dryer catching on fire or bits of broken glass in your Corona. And if there's one shining example of how NXT do what big brother don't, it's in the ways that they keep delivering good surprises year after year at this point, gleefully and willfully subverting tropes we hardcore pro graps nerds assume to be virtual truths.

The table was set very early with the astutest announce team in the business announcing that in addition to the widely-hyped Sami Zayn/Samoa Joe best of three falls contretemps that'd finally determine a singular number one contender we would also see American Alpha up against the Vaudevillians in order to get a set of number one tag team contenders.

That came on the heels of Regal announcing and making official Austin Aries/Baron Corbin for Takeover: Dallas while explaining why the Lone Wolf wasn't going to be punished for his latest incidence of subordination; Aries simply wanted to beat retribution into him more so than he wanted any sort of officially handed down sentence and obviously Regal was more than willing to grant him that request with regards to the biggest thorn in his side at present -- and reiterating the main event before leaving the ring, all this happening quicker than a Kanye Twitter rant. In the sage words of the wise men from Wu-Tang Financial, in, out, get, grab, bonk.

The surprise came after Corey Graves and Tom Phillips announced the tag title contendership match as well as appearances (possibly that tag match set up last week by our steadfast GM?) from Bayley and Asuka. Samoa Joe's music cued up, and he went on down to the ring in his trademark angry march. They then played "Worlds Apart" over the PA and brought out NXT's resident hero underdog, and Zayn came out and fired up the crowd before entering the ring. It was noted that luminaries like Sasha Banks, Hideo Itami, and Mauro Ranallo were at ringside, interspersed through the front row on different sides of the ring. Greg Hamilton made the pre-match intros. The bell rang.

The bell rang?

The bell rang; five minutes into the show proper NXT deployed the biggest weapon in their arsenal and hit their audience right between the eyes with a joy bomb that exploded into their hearts. Five minutes became ten. Ten turned fifteen, and so on, and so forth, until in almost a throwaway aside during the third fall Corey Graves noted they'd have to reschedule the other matches that'd been set up for the show since this one was going so long.

There was the real surprise--not that Joe and Zayn could have an early MOTY candidate given high stakes and the time to do it in, but that the second week of March's NXT was an unpublicized Broadway betwixt the two that for all intents and purposes was the total eclipse that blotted out the entire rest of NXT. And it couldn't've been better handled or done from a match standpoint or a production perspective; after weeks of threatening to get to the fireworks factory and aggregating minor annoyance in the fanbase eager to see this resolved they decided rather than light each spark individually they'd holster a rocket launcher to their shoulder, fire it at the whole damn building and watch it rain colors for 50 blocks.

Should you be watching this match instead of reading about it? Of course. But let us note a few things before we leave you to your viewing.

The opening fall alone took up three segments, which for all the obvious reasons is almost if not literally unheard of on a standard chunk of NXT programming and is exactly the sort of thing without having trumpets playing and banging a gong or putting neon on a billboard is what separates a more run of the mill match from what this was. That's one.

Zayn was the first to shade the rules during the match without outright cheating and yet when a small vocal contingent started chanting "Sami Sucks" you could be forgiven for thinking that those people should be tracked down, spayed and neutered. There's another.

Corey Graves noting that Zayn went out of his way to go to RAW on Monday so he could punch Kevin Owens in his fat, smug face (my words, not his, fight me, Owens, fight me) while Joe had the day off. Yes, this list is going to keep on going.

Either Steph Curry's the Sami Zayn of selling a beatdown of basketball, or Sami Zayn's selling of a beatdown is the Steph Curry of Full Sail. It might be both. There was another great moment of commentary early in the second fall after Zayn had taken such a walloping in the first before getting pinned where Phillips noted how often they kept saying the Syrian-Canadian was down, out, and done for, and Graves (knowing this more intimately than most, the sort of thing that makes Continuity Bear get his Cupid Shuffle on) stating Zayn's made a career out of proving guys like him wrong. As if Joe could hear them, he dropped Sami for the three dozenth time or however many it was, and Graves immediately declared him dead in the water. There would end up being still like half an hour to go at this point, because as Steph Gonna Steph, Sami Gonna Sami. And in response to this latest knockdown Zayn was yelling at the ref "Yes!" when asked if he was still in it after the assault. His eyes were shut, his arms were slumped, and he looked very much like he'd been getting the red beat off him by a guy 175% his size. But to paraphrase one of WWE's best ex-employees and one of the best to ever do it on the mic humble as the Okie from Muskogee might be, if Zayn's breathing, he's fighting. We know that. And that'd pay off later.

Zayn went from headbutts to a flurry that almost got himself disqualified. Another great bit of storytelling here, as the only other time that comes to immediate mind where he's unleashed that level of vitriol were his matches against that KO fellow. What's the throughline between Samoa Joe and Kevioh for Kendrick's sake, Continuity Bear, dancing is fine, but keep your clothes on!

Joe perfectly willing to take a countout victory to sweep in two falls -- something that not only has happened in a 2/3 falls in NXT before, but has happened in a Zayn 2/3 falls match before -- and yelling at him "Stay down." Because no big man's ever yelled that at Zayn in this situation in Full Sail. And we should probably fire up the tranqs for Mr. C. Bear.

Zayn taking a STJOE on the floor, because of course he didn't listen to the previous exhortation, and not moving for the first seven beats of the ten-count after being slammed into the mat and the floor. Did he beat the count at the last eyeblink? Does Continuity Bear shit in the woods?

And yet, even as there have been clean sweeps in these sorts of matches down Orlando way before, you knew if anything was going for 3 falls, this was the one. You had a better chance of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump unmasking as Kang and Kodos than this not going the distance. (Ed. Note - The role of Ross Perot punching through his hat in this scenario will be played by the Honorable Bernard Sanders, junior Senator from Vermont. - TH)

The third fall was everything you'd hoped it'd be, like a classic band dusting off a non-single track off the second album that you love with almost every fiber of your being that 99.3% of the audience doesn't know exists. Except continually.

Zayn being perfectly willing to take a countout win only to be denied that at the last eyeblink by Joe? Didn't Apu say something about this sort of thing in a vintage Simpsons episode?

Joe first telling and then yelling at various points during the match "It's not worth it./!" and Zayn's only response was to continue being the Inigo Montoya to his Count Rugen. He wants his title back, you son of a bitch.

Allowing for the fact that Sami Gonna Sami, esp. given the circumstances and the history of the past couple of years, him staggering up from a count at 3 and moments later throwing Joe into a Coqina Clutch was A Moment. It's the sort of thing you remember, the sticky detail that keeps the match adhesive in your mind when you recall it at random later. And yet, the act of that, as Mr. Bear knows all too well, eventually means the angel wings on a Puritan grave. After all, he's got a King to welcome to the roster in Dallas, and Joe's punchcard didn't have anybody on it to punch. So.

Zayn not giving up but losing anyway is pretty much the perfect embodiment of his NXT career, not to mention the referee calling the match. Yes, it's that point in the evening where Continuity Bear is drunk and wants to hug everybody. Just...just be real careful about that.

To put the Paige Hathaway on the Celeste Bonin, Graves capped it off with two more phenomenal calls in noting that Zayn's lips were purple after he fell victim to the real deal Holyfield Clutch (the camerawork further bolstering this by showing Zayn face-down on the mat next to a few dots of his own spittle a la certain NXT titleholders GO HOME CONTINUITY BEAR YOU'RE DRUNK), and tying in both the upset wins in Saturday's UFC double main event to Joe's victory here since all three of them ended the same way, even though technically this happened before they did.

And when all was said and done, you could boo Joe all you would like to do. But he never cheated. Not once. Sure, the piefacing and facewashing fall into a morally grey area, but those aren't cheats. And not only are those not cheats, but Zayn actually set the precedent by not breaking wholly clean in the corner on an occasion and facewashing Joe with forearm rakes. You don't need to like somebody to respect them, and by beating Zayn clean twice Joe took an ellipsis with a question mark at the end and turned it into an exclamation point with a spear at the tip, and can now throw it at Finn in Dallas.

Again, you can read about it, or you can watch it. You should do the latter. Even taking away some of the surprises, there are still plenty big and small left to be discovered.

Like dark chocolate covered potato chips, they're all good ones.