Thursday, December 8, 2016

Best Coast Bias: the Once and Current King

Say goodnight, Joey
Photo Credit:
The second title reign is dead; long live the second title reign.

William Regal can set up a contendership mini-tournament that has everybody in it from Oney Lorcan to Roddy Strong and his SLBs, but when it comes to who's actually in control of the Big X, that's something that's as murky as it is clear, at least for a little while longer.

It's either Samoa Joe or Shinsuke Nakamura, and as of this writing the scoreboard reads King 2, Emperor 1.

Taped live in front of an Osakan arena audience Saturday but aired mostly in its entirety in its usual slot, the first NXT show in December featured the first title change on regular programming since NXT became A Thing even if the result felt as familiar as a return to Brooklyn for a pre-SummerSlam Takeover.  After all, the result was the same, as you can see above.  At least this time Joe's jaw escaped intact.

Stripped of the Takeover atmosphere that permeated their previous two fights, Joe/Nakamura III brought something unique to the table beyond culminating in the second time the NXT World Championship has changed hands in Japan in under 18 months.  Osaka was periodically loud but very respectful of both men, even if they didn't evince a lot of love for Joey Headrocker.  However, even with main event status the rematch's rematch suffered a bit from a combination of feeling like a Greatest Hits of the previous two tilts and the fact a commercial break seemed to break up the flow of the match.  It wasn't like this was a bad match, but with regards to the biggest championship the yellow and black imprint has to offer those matches and that belt should always be presented as tantamount.  It was more notable that Kimber Lee showed up to eat TAFKA Athena's TFFKA O-Face than the fact that match took place and aired; that could've easily been cut from the show to show a title change in its entirety between the two men who've come to define NXT's 2016.

The match like its predecessors fell into a good-but-not-great level, a "problem" WWE's developed in the past couple of years that has probably jammed dozens of hours into the same tableau of being simultaneously approved of and shrugged at.  The title change being a bigger curio than anything else, the closing moments of the show brought breaking news that the rematch's rematch would have a rematch from Melbourne inside of a steel cage headlining next week's programming, thus putting the possibility of Joe returning to Full Sail as the first-ever three-time three-time three-time champion after the belt had changed hands that many times in under a month on the table.

Denigrators of constant title changes could and will make the argument the frequent changes devalue the worth of the title while supporters note the flow of quality matches and the fact they're presenting their two brightest stars as virtual equals where the heel uses chicanery to be champion while the Kingly babyface has beaten his opposition two out of three (so far) by kneeing his opposition at warp speed in the face.  Consider another viewpoint, regardless of outcome, the ultimate winner will reign over Full Sail for a few months whilst the loser is almost assured a spot in the Royal Rumble as a "surprise" entrant.

For sheer moments, a more intriguing one happened briefly backstage between women hell-bent and internationally renowned for their level of carnage.  The White Chocolate Cheesecake of Crazy Nikki Cross was wandering around backstage when her eyes alighted upon the NXT Women's World Championship.  Asuka shortly came back from the bathroom or wherever she was and snatched up her prize possession before giving her trademark smiley harbinger of death to the SAnitY member and raising it high, a look that was returned in full by Cross.

Apologies for cursing on a family website, but FUCK. Yes.

In direct contrast to the men's division the former Ms. Most Dangerous has pretty much turned her division into the scorchiest of Earths, and she by her own cocksure admission needs competition.  She'll damn sure get it from Cross if this brief encounter is an amuse bouche for future servings of awesome matches, and with the latter being backed up by the Purge: Full Sail their interference could lead to the first title change in that aspect since before WrestleMania Over Jerry's Ego.

The biggest question on that end seems to be who will be constituting SAnitY at that point, as via jacket shaming and broad off-mic gestures of rancor along with his absence from the others Sawyer Fulton seems to be excommunicated from their walking asylum.  They didn't need his help in overcoming No Way Jose and Rich Swann, but they did need help from the ostensibly debuting Big Damo who from all accounts seems to be a rich man's Sawyer Fulton (Ed. Note - Fulton's exit from the group is due to injury, not dissatisfaction from the office. Tough break - TH).  However, post-match he threw down Fulton's jacket as well and stormed off to the back, leaving SAnitY, some weird mix of still being hyperkinetic lunatics whilst also approving whilst also disapproving.  Their leaving after that led to the Cross/Asuka smiledown.

The hybrid hour kicked off from Full Sail with Do It Themselves celebrating amongst the Full Sailors over their gaining the NXT World Tag Team Championships in Toronto's instant classic and MOTY candidate.  However, the new champions didn't get out a word edgewise as first the Authors of Pain threatened their well-being and title holding before the Revival (carefully walking around and avoiding Hemingway and Chandler in a great, understated moment) stated their own claims to be #1 contenders and the fact that the only reason the Authors advanced in the semis was because of them.  This got those meesters shoved down on their keesters, and backstage Master Regal handled this situation pretty adroitly, on the January 11th (!) episode Revival/DIY III takes place with the winners of that match going on to face the Authors at the pre-Rumble Takeover.

With two of their title situations already seemingly set up for that show between tag triangles and menacing smileoffs it's a bit of an irony that it'll be close to Auld Lang Syne times before we can see clearly what and who is going to be facing off in that main event.

But tomorrow night, or next week, depending on your wielding of the space/time continuum, it seems that at least half of it will be settled, once and for all*.

*akin to professional boxing even final encounters aren't necessarily final encounters until either or both participants pass; see Zayn v. Owens, Battleground 2016 for legal precedent