Monday, April 3, 2017

Best Coast Bias: The Darkest Timeline

Dominant no, glorious yes Photo Credit:
  • SAnitY beat the makeshift team of Tye Dillinger, Roderick Strong, Ruby Riot and Kassius Ohno when Killian Dain pinned Dillinger after a modified Electric Chair Driver.
  • Aleister Black pinned Andrade "Cien" Almas in his NXT debut.
  • the Authors of Pain beat first #DIY and then the Revival in the triple threat elimination match to retain the NXT World Tag Team Championships.
  • Asuka pinned Ember Moon to retain the NXT Women's World Championship after shoving the referee into the ropes to cut off the Eclipse and a buzzsaw kick.
  • Bobby Roode pinned Shinsuke Nakamura after a tornado GDT to retain the NXT World Championship.

General observations:
  • I've been so conditioned by the usual Takeover openings that it took me a few beats to realize Triple H was delivering his opening dialogue via voiceover and not in the middle of the ring which was lit up with a few spotlights.
  • How many home games would it take for the Magic to get 15k in their arena?  Two? Three? Four?
  • Appreciate that they used "FanCam footage" to show SAnitY taking No Way Jose out of the bi-gendered tag opener "Earlier Today" by jumping him at Axxess and not something more slickly produced.  It also adds to the image of the Purge: Full Sail collective.
  • Speaking of which, kudos to whoever's idea it was to have them all wearing copious eye black around their eyes.  They looked like a bunch of two-legged feral raccoons, as they should.
  • Liked the touch of Dillinger being not only first one out (since this is ostensibly his fight spread outwardly) but of him being ALL BIDNESS despite the rapturous reception he got.
  • KO1.0 as the pinch hitter was a nice low-level surprise.  The Sacramento Kings provided the gear template for the evening.
  • They did a good job at the outset and in a couple of other points of giving out amuse bouches for Nikki Cross/Ruby Riot without giving away the main course, so hopefully they scrap at the next Takeover.
  • They also teased Kassius Ohno/Killian Dain, but that seems to be more episodic main event fodder potential for the time being.
  • The small bursts of offense surrounded by teammates I find more compelling is my dream serving up of Roddy Strong.
  • KD is fully growing into the rebirth of Mike Knox, right down to the "shave your back!" chants, and not a bad dropkick from the big man, either.
  • They really built to Dillinger and Eric Young finally facing off with EY delivering cheap shots to the Perfect 10 and Ohno while staying on offense against Strong.
  • The teased Ohno dive leading to a headstand outside of the ring before a gunshot ELBOW on Wolfe amused me.
  • If only there was a number for people to count to while Tye Dillinger punched away on an opponent in the corner.
  • If Ohno's going to use the Death Blow, I assume the rebooted name for it is in production as we speak.
  • It was a nice bookend that the white hats won by surprising SAnitY at the bell in a Pier 8 but the more established unit won the one late that decided the match.
  • It's Edge and Beth Phoenix-Edge!  
  • Yeah, TAFKA Tommy End's stare is unnerving.  They should've paid Blue Smock Nancy to do his theme instead of who they ran with, however.
  • Both men got to show off their grapplefuck bonafides, and it might've been the best part of the bout.
  • Can't believe they had Aleister Black pull off a triangle moonsault to subtweet Kota Ibushi smh.
  • Andrade "Cien" Almas looked good in another losing Takeover effort, which is bizarre given that him as a rudo is starting to get the traction they want.  Bizarrely, something was happening in the crowd down the stretch (possibly a group of fans trying to start a chant and getting shut down by another subset) and the closing moments played out in a weird sort of purgatory.
  • The match wasn't bad by any means, but that third Oney Lorcan/Cien match a few weeks ago was superior and might have even played better here.
  • Before each of the title bouts new championships were unveiled.  All above average, and in an echo of older brother main roster the Women's World title looks like a smaller version of the men's.  But none of them are on the design level of the IC title, or for that matter Tyler Bate's WWEUK strap.
  • This one started off with a Pier 6 and Johnny Wrestling and the Psycho Killer getting their Bubba and D-Von Dudley on, so ruck fules.
  • Each set of challengers subdued an Author then faced off in the ring.  Destined to do this forever... 
  • When the Authors regained their equilibrium, they got control, so at that point Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson started incidentally helping their longest, most fervent rivals by some misdirection and cheap shots.
  • Callbacks are always great, especially when they're self-contained during the match.  At one point Tommaso Ciampa wanted to tag out and was closest to the Revival's corner, and they backed off the apron; the inverse would happen to Dawson a few minutes later.
  • Johnny Wrestling got the crowd going with an offense flurry, then the Authors shut that noise down by not only catching a dive of his and throwing him into an attempted Ciampa dive (Callback alert!  Callback alert!) before tossing him into Dash Wilder in the next move.
  • At this point even though there were 6 men involved, the rest of the bout might as well have been brought to you by MC5's signature song.
  • Really liked Akam making Scott Dawson's increasingly limp arm tag in his partner Rezar so they could press the advantage on Johnny Gargano.  Monsters are scary enough; smart monsters are horrifying, as the challengers would gradually find out.
  • Ciampa landing a couple of Germans on either the biggest or second biggest competitor of the evening was a great visual both times he managed to get it accomplished off of his hot tag.
  • And then, the Revival and #DIY worked together, managing a q u a d r u p l e powerbomb to put Rezar through the table.
  • They surrounded Akam but he managed to knock all of those meesters on their keesters for a second.  Then THE DAMNED NUMBERS GAME caught him up.
  • Dash hesitated to take Ciampa's tag, then did.  Gargano almost broke up Dawson's Lucky XIII but didn't, then added the Gargano Escape.  Wilder and Ciampa knew Rezar was coming and were looking for him the whole time their partners had their joint submission on, but he managed to recover and shove them both into the pile to break it up in another kiss-fingers great callback that was so good the crowd booed briefly before breaking out into another This Is Awesome chant.
  • An Impact Sandwich with Dawson and Gargano double-teaming an Author, thus busting out the rarely-seen Parejas Incredibles Callback With An Alternate Universe Fold In.
  • At this point in the match, most of my notes turned into ALL CAPS, and that was before Wilder and Ciampa closed the (widened the?) Parejas Incredibles Etc. wormhole with a Shatter Machine to take out the other Author.
  • The Revival then encouraged #DIY to continue the beating on the outside, only to get caught in the immediate duplicity of their sudden but inevitable betrayal.  To quote a wiser man and better writer?
  • "But it should've been perfect...but in the end, we fucked it all up. It should have been so sweet, too. But it turned out to be the last time that street guys like us were ever given anything that fuckin' valuable again." - Casino 
  • Shoutout to Ellering cheering on their infighting from the floor with his boys out of commission.
  • Eventually the breakdown broke down to the point where each member took out another's member in stereo topes, only to be followed up by Dawson superplexing Ciampa to the floor onto errybody.
  • ...also, someone remind me to see a doctor in three hours about this match.
  • It was the first anniversary of the Fight Forever chant, and it was met with the second one after that.
  • Dawson had Gargano.  But the Authors had him, and Rezar blind tagged and blind sided him before they hit the Last Chapter on Ciampa to eliminate the most recent former champs, and boy howdy did the crowd not like that.  When's the last time an NXT crowd busted out a "Bullshit!" chant?
  • Dawson managed to save Wilder, and they even got off a couple of double teams--hell, Dawson even took the bullet on a Last Chapter attempt -- but the price they paid in their complicity of removing their rivals from the scene was being forced to go two on two with the land monsters. They couldn't outwit getting virtually Death Valley Drivered into the corner and barrier respectively, nor the Super Collider that followed and ended the match.
  • A match so good I'm a little salty I'm writing about how awesome it is instead of rewatching how awesome it is. 
  • Happy title reign first anniversary, Asuka!  Please don't hurt me.
  • Ember Moon got a decent reaction coming on...but she ain't the Empress.
  • I will never not mark out for an old school Ric Flair handshake feint, and Asuka delivered one early after they wrestled and counter wrestled each other to an opening draw.
  • Asuka never had the entirety of the crowd on her side during the match, but stayed pretty steady at 60-70% of their support.  Why jeer a woman who backfists that hard?  Do you not value your lives?
  • It looked like Moon was going to hideously undershoot a springboard Steamboat press to the outside, so also props to Asuka for providing a better base than there was at the move's outset.
  • Moon survived and countered the Asuka Lock, but Asuka tripped her up in the ropes (foreshadowing) to land an epic German before they started firing each other up Japan style.
  • Asuka cut off the Eclipse again, but when Ember countered that she pretty blatantly shoved the ref into the ropes and closed out with a buzzsaw kick. This will help her firmly establish her black hattery, since the crowd wasn't willing to stop supporting her even when she was pulling up cannon fodder at two and Moon can get a few more months to fully cook as a cheerable woman before she presumably ends the incipient reign of terror.
  • So they better pull the trigger on the Cross/Asuka match while they're still on opposite ends of the alignment spectrum, is what I'm saying.
  • What's Drew McIntrye doing in the NXT Zone!?
  • Shinsuke Nakamura got the Prince doing the Purple Rain in the Super Bowl sheet up in front of him and Bobby Roode got a couple pianists warming up before "Glorious Domination." Advantage to the King, even if his red jacket with black stripes made it look like he was going to drop the hottest HBO hour-long comedy special of 1987.
  • A "both these guys" chant during a Bobby Roode match?  Hokay.
  • Nice spot early with Roode not falling victim to Nakamura's usual taunt to come on after the head-against-the-gut-against-the-ropes one, then falling victim to it after Nak kicked him in a hard but mocking way a couple of times.
  • Nigel McGuinness was really good as the champ went on the offensive noting the flash nature of the Kinshasa vs. the more involved wear down it took to set someone up for the GDT.
  • Nerve hold into basic offense into nerve hold into basic offense into nerve hold.  Apparently the definition of glorious means something different to me, even if it is setting up the aforementioned GDT.
  • Nak's basic offense looks and sounds better.
  • Roode chop blocking the leg that was injured in the title change set up Act III of the main event.  
  • Nak responded with a cross-armbreaker to try and nullify the GDT after Roode worked the leg over with a figure four.
  • Earlier complaints aside, did like Roode's discus lariat and his Backstabber.  Maybe his ego should start wandering so far afield he routinely steals his opponent's signatures in the course of the match?
  • Nak never got off a full-fledged Kinshasa and survived a GDT, but couldn't survive a flying chop block and a tornado GDT.
  • Like the arena post-match (after the airing but put online), it feels safe to presume after 2 clean losses the King will be coming to a Tuesday or Monday night near you before we hit the middle of the week.
  • Three different new belts and no new title holders. April Fool's!
Match of the Night: The Revival v. #DIY v. the Authors of Pain (c), three way dance for the NXT World Tag Team Championships: This one was never in doubt, even as the other title matches had yet to enfold.  This bout alone is worth laying out the tenner a month for, and it's pretty damn apt that a match with two guys named the Authors provided the latest chapter in Full Sail's book of No, This Is The Greatest NXT World Tag Team Title Bout Of All Time.

Starting with what was then an upset win when those two indie guys beat the Revival days before they got a (n ultimately successful) shot at American Alpha last summer, the tag division has constructed a skyscraper match by match that seems to get only more firmly entrenched by the second.  Dubbed #DIY, their rematch against the reminted Revival for the belts in Brooklyn was a MOTY candidate.  They would then go on to add another 25 stories to that rivalry with the title rematch with a best of 3 falls stipulation that was lauded so far and wide it ended up as Stamford's official MOTY despite the fact it was in "developmental", and had my favorite match of 2016 that didn't inspire the first "Fight forever!" chant.

As they rolled apace, the Authors of Pain rolled through the undercard, culminating in their winning the 2nd annual Dusty Classic.  They got a shot at the newly minted champions Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa back in January at San Antonio and succeeded where they failed in winning the belts in their first shot.  The Revival cost DIY their rematch and kept being buzzards on the periphery, getting us this, another 25 stories on the epic it's taken the better part of a year to build to.

Callbacks are nice, but especially when they have meaning behind them and aren't just being done for the sake for doing them.  Add that with the mind-bending team blending finishers and you couldn't be help but be left agog.  The moments were ephemeral, but they'll end up in some block of highlight packages before 2017 wraps up.  The Authors brought the brawn, the Revival brought the smart (though the Authors used more than they've ever shown in the affair), and that left the plucky all-heart underdogs on the outside looking in and eliminated first.  Sami Zayn only had one high-profile title win himself, and he was the heart of NXT for quite some time, so the echoes are there.

The Revival had figured out hit and run tactics outside of straight up tag matches to lay out AOP.  Ridding themselves of their rivals just got them the most Pyrrhic of victories and thrust them into an environment where they couldn't deploy a champions' advantage or be fresh enough for distraction tactics or ref baiting.  They were just evolved enough to take a little bit longer to get destroyed.

Especially with the rumors of either or both of the former champions being called up in the near future, make no mistake about it--this is the division of the Authors now.  The only question now is in a possibly Gargano/Ciampa free environment, can they build up another team to make the crowd think that anybody's going to pose a legitimate threat to Akam and Rezar before Labor Day?

You can delay answering that question by rewatching not just the best NXT tag team match, but one of the best NXT matches full stop.

But only in 25 minute chunks or so.

Overall thoughts: The shift is happening because it's always been happening, but it seems especially pronounced after tonight--a night in which no pure beacon of light escaped victorious.

Black's debut looked hit and miss, and he's the Anti-Hero as it is.  Asuka is (probably justifiably, but still) veering into Yeezus territory even as she had to cheat to win Eddy-style for the first time and you can argue the only thing keeping her babyface is the audience's reluctance if not out and out unwillingness to boo her actions full throat.

Team Dillinger?  Even boosted by Ohno, they went down to SAnitY.

#DIY?  First eliminated, and possibly headed for the door.

Shinsuke Nakamura?  Another clean loss followed by a standing ovation and slapping everybody's hand on the way before pointing to the NXT logo a la Bayley on her way out sure looks like a final NXT match to me.

Great as it was that a MOTY candidate (and hell, maybe full-fledged MOTY) came out of the evening, you still have a women's division struggling to get oxygen to anyone besides its champion and nigh unstoppable brightest light, and a tag division in which the most solidified contenders are leaving or have left in addition to a main event scene that doesn't have anyone of prominence in it with established Full Sail bona fides to line up at Roode.  Ohno, off a loss to Roode already and another here tonight?  Dillinger since they have the longest history even though he hasn't won in a dog's age?  The incoming McIntyre in a match that could main event any episode of Impact in the country?

The timeline is dark not just because the bad guys and gals seem to be winning.  The timeline is dark because there doesn't seem to be a light where one can point to and say "THIS will be the next step forward." and feel confident about the proclamation, or about who will be in the positions to possibly pull it off.

Fittingly in Orlando, NXT's job is to produce magic one or two and a half hours at a time, to make us wonder how they did that.  But it may also be time to wonder if the hat's going or gone dry.

If that's the case, they'll be hard-pressed even as they get their largest set of eyeballs on their imprint to keep any of them around for more than 60 seconds.