Friday, April 29, 2016

Best Coast Bias: Step Into The Light

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NXT does several dozen things better than pretty much anybody else that isn't their Wednesday night competition, and here's one of them - the lost art of the logical surprise. That is to say, things in early chapters of whatever story they happen to be telling look illogical or cause furrowed eyebrows. It's an easy thing to forget in the digital age that since this soap opera in spandex never ends, that's the point - you have to deploy a multitude of ways to make the same hook(s) shine like new, and along the way to the fireworks factory sometimes side routes have to be used to furrow eyebrows. That way when the payoff happens, it adds to the joy/fury/sadness/whatever combination desired that should be felt by us. Pro wrestling is always at its best when you can suspend your disbelief and care about the people on the screen or in the arena.

So for the first show in the Samoa Joe era and the last one taped in Dallas, our eighth and brand new holder of the NXT World Championship... was barely there. Lest you feel yourself seeing red, don't. It wasn't as if the title change in Lowell was completely ignored (what a horrible 24-hour span for Princes last week, though), and in fact a tease of it kicked off the show before we got into the opener. After that was delivered (more about which imminently), we got some heretofore unseen video footage of match highlights, culminating in the Muscle Buster that delivered Joe the kingdom clean in the middle of the ring to boot. Finn's possible leg injury was shown prior to it, thus giving your beltholder with the longest NXTenure an easy out and setup for a rematch clause assuming he doesn't suddenly find himself another World Title picture to interject himself into starting on, oh, say, Sunday. After Dallas, Joe was struck mute by the fact Bálor had survived him again; here, even in the glow of his title victory he was his usual truculent self even while bigging himself up rightfully as the inevitable.

But this hour focused on the women's and tag divisions, even with SWAGSUKE~! murking Elias Sampson in a showcase to wrap up the program. Back tab to be set to blow up to fullscreen at any time: not just from a fan perspective, though that is the fuel for this wildly speculative question: we getting Joe/Shinsuke Nakamura at the next Takeover or what? (Ed. Note - It's Joe/Bálor III: The Demon Dies, actually. - TH)

With the King of Strong Style bringing down the curtain, it opened up with his fellow import Asuka making her first appearance since becoming NXT World Women's Champion in a bout against the reddest thorn in her side, Eva Marie. It seemed to be the setup for two things: an execution broadcast live on the WWE Network, and Tom Philips and Corey Graves to bring up warm memories of Bobby Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon due to the former Tag Champion's fanboy status and the usually straitlaced Phillips ending up so exasperated over his delusions that he referred to him as "dude" twice in the span of under a minute. Even in the best match she's been in to date and even with Nia Jax coming out while the match was in media res, as surprising as the offense the Red Queen got in was she just did not have an answer for Ms. Most Dangerous. Not that anybody else has, but still.

A roundhouse kick dropped her like third-period French, and led to a really interesting postscript. A staredown ensued between Jax and Asuka, with the fellow San Diegan more than willing to get into the new champion's face after another roundhouse was teased. Tempting as that match is, it's even more so to have Eva find some shady way to appropriate the championship, because hoo boy if you could've turned this crowd's contempt for her into an alternate source of fuel gas would be $0.37/gallon. She's not merely disliked but reviled, and much like Baron Corbin last year her work is sneakily and steadily getting better without having the problem of having the crowd latching onto her. Perhaps we're in the opening stanza of a march where Jax ends up softening up Asuka and Eva's the one who ends up reaping all the benefits. It'd bring glee to Corey Graves and all the fellow black hearts out there. And this wasn't the only women's match on the show: Carmella defeated the essentially debuting Aliyah in a match important for the former to re-establish herself as her own woman with her boys going up to the big leagues and the latter to just establish herself, flat out. Aliyah looked good on with the offense she got, Carmella eventually got on enough of a roll to string together some signatures culminating in a tapout, and they're both the better for the match having gone down.

Over in the tag division, the recently dethroned champions the Revival took their loss at Takeover: Dallas with a heretofore unseen blend of calm and self-reflection that called to mind some of the best tenets of Buddhist philosoahahahahahahahahahaahaha sweet goodness there was no way that sentence was going to survive a joke that hilarious. Can you imagine if Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder were actually like that? What a lesser world we NXT fans would have. Anyhow, what actually happened was that they destroyed a couple of red shirts, Scott got on the mic to seethe and promise they'd get back the belts, then after the Hype Bros beat a strangely Alexa Bliss-free Blake and Murphy, they also got the Zubaz beat out of them by the former belt holders. Too many times heels say everybody's on notice but don't follow it up with the logical extension of just punching anybody in the face who makes fans happy; D and D got it done in fewer than 10 minutes. And you know the rematch against American Alpha is going to be appointment television. You could easily argue that outside of the what-do-you-call-the-positive-iteration-of-an-extinction-level-event Sami Zayn/Nakamura match that the four of them put on Takeover: Dallas' best bout, and all four of them are only getting better all of the time.

They weren't extinction level events individually, but in toto it's clear a massive wave is coming has arrived in NXT over the past few weeks. In order, American Alpha has realized their destiny at the expense of pissing off the possible best team to ever hold the belts before them. Asuka still hasn't lost yet and snatched the joy out of Bayley to get her title to boot but has finally run into someone who not only hasn't gotten the Fear Of Asuka put into them but may never have it. And Samoa Joe has ascended to the throne it took him about a year to get onto, making him the top of the food chain in a very hungry, very talented circle that just added a very high profile King to its ranks the same night -- the last night - that he failed.

Wasn't "May you live in interesting times" supposed to be a curse?