Monday, November 20, 2017

Best Coast Bias: Life After Wartime

The Era eked out the W to close a stellar show
Photo Credit:
Results, stray thoughts, and takeaways Holzerman style from the Clutch City hosted iteration of Takeover just as soon as I note I was on the Patrick Clark Bandwagon half a year ago...

  • Lars Sullivan pinned Kassius Ohno after the Freak Accident side spinebuster.
  • Aleister Black pinned Velveteen Dream following a Black Mass...but did say his name after the match.
  • Ember Moon won the vacant NXT Women's World Championship and became the sixth different woman to earn that honor by pinning Nikki Cross after an Eclipse that also felled Peyton Royce.
  • Andrade "Cien" Almas became the 12th different man to win the NXT World Championship, pinning Drew McIntyre after Zerlina Vega snuck in for a basement rana driver and he followed up with a rope-hung version of his hammerlock DDT.
  • the Undisputed Era beat SAnitY as well as the team of Roderick Strong and the Authors of Pain when Adam Cole (BAY BAY) pinned Eric Young after delivering a Shining Wizard into a chair.
General Observations:
  • Super weird that the opening was FDR talking about war.  Who's more relevant in 2017 than Franklin Delano, right?
  • Also of note in the open was the absence of any talking head pieces from the participants on the card.
  • Kassius deserved to lose for rocking faux Duke gear.  The Rockets had some of the best throwbacks in sports circa the (H)akeem Era.
  • New entrance for Lars, as they blacked out the arena and followed him with a yellow spotlight below him until he reached ringside.  It looked good.
  • Sullivan added to his repertoire with a flying shoulderblock off the apron to KO1.0 on the floor.  About the only real mistake he made in the match was an ill-conceived top rope attempt at offense, and while Ohno didn't get blown out, it wasn't exactly close, either.  Lars took a low-level beating and kicked out at one before polishing it off with his signature maneuver.
  • Tyler Bate and his hetero life partner, Trent the Seventh!  Mark Andrews!  Wolfgang!
  • There were interspersed segments of Regal going up to each set of teams in the main and talking to the captains.  While these weren't audible to the home audience, all three captains started off the match.
  • Nice pop for Aleister, and a decent one for the new Dream.
  • +10 to the DCite for the airbrushed a la Rick Rude tights with both their faces and SAY MY NAME on them.  -7 for his sunglasses and new haircut combination making him look like Dwayne Wayne from A Different World before he revealed the garb.
  • Really liked Dream playing off the crowd support without actually engaging with them right after the bell by noting they were saying his name, and he'd make Black do it, too.
  • As a longtime WWE Kool-Aid drinker, it's still weird to have casual Johnny Saint namedrops during a broadcast, even when Nigel McGuiness is the one serving up the history lesson.
  • Black had Velveteen horribly stymied early, and the latter gave a great look of horrible sadness over not being able to slither in and lay out the undefeated man when he did his springboard feint into the sitdown.
  • This led to the first great mirroring bit in the match, as Dream unleashed the full Rick Rude hip swivel, and Aleister ignored him, so he did the sitdown across from him to get Black's attention only for Black to ape his signature slither across the ring up to him to unnerve him a bit. The Houstonians (?) fired up the D-Bry chant after that happened.
  • Hell, the crowd was so amped for VD in his first Takeover appearance that he stopped the count so he could do his signature pose and got cheered for it loudly.
  • Dream followed up the style with substance in the form of a lovely superkick off of the ropes.  I'd love to see him incorporate that into his arsenal more often going forward.
  • If you're going to go with Rick Rude reminiscent tights, you might as well do (a really good) Rude Awakening, too.
  • Don't ask Aleister what your name is after you tie him up in the ropes, because he's going to keep answering with kicks to the face, apparently.
  • Black hit a vicious Knee Trembler and Dream a modified turning DDT (best description I can provide for something that starts off like a Roll of the Dice into the DDT) for two hot nearfalls, the latter spawning the night's first This Is Awesome chant.  Dig, if you will, a GIF of Aleister selling it like a seven figure payday.
  • If he didn't have Black Mass as The Move already, I'd suggest Black start murking fools with the leaping spin knee strike to the face.  It looked like some Street Fighter shit, and that is far, far from a pejorative.
  • It was so great that Dream crawling towards Black post match was the lead up to a better payoff, as Aleister grabbed the stick — and after waiting out some "Say His Name!" chants — said merely before looking at his vanquished foe: "Enjoy infamy, Velveteen Dream," The crowd roared at that button, and Aleister did spare a glance back at the ring before a full departure.  I smell wacky tag team!  Black Dream!  Black Dream!  Black Dream!  Black Dream!
  • Why was Asuka dancing when the camera was on her, Funaki AND Finn Balor?  Who knows?  Who cares?  Somebody get Asuka's Dance Party up on the Network post haste.  It can be to the end of the '10s what Club MTV was to the early '90s.
  • Kairi with new music and a slightly bigger pop than Nikki got.  Still missing: nautical themed pashmina afghan.
  • Speaking of the White Chocolate Cheesecake of Mental Instability, when the cameraman was filming her on the apron from the floor up, they either tripped or Nikki kicked him.  Either way, that should be part of her entrance going forward and was a nice chaser after the shot earlier in the show of her in one of the lockers in SAnitY's place just rocking uncontrollably before firing up and out while Regal was mid-speech.
  • Ember powerbombing Nikki on the floor not only might've been the first "Holy shit!" moment of the night, it may've knocked Nikki normal.
  • Peyton, maybe don't do the rope-enhanced Rings of Saturn in a fatal four-way.  It's a good way to get superkicked in the mouth by Ember.
  • Kairi plowed through Peyton with a spear when Moon leapt over her, only to come back and backfist Moon loopy.  Then after they fought up top, Peyton came out from under with a German suplex/superplex low-level Tower of Doom spot, though she failed on her subsequent pin attempts to garner the win.
  • I can't be the only one calling the Scotwoman's Steamboat homage the Nikki Crossbody, can I?  Also up for debate: it's harder to pull off, but her rope hung swinging neckbreaker might be a better finisher than her Moss Covered Three Handled Family Gredunza, which desperately needs a name that isn't that.
  • First of all, Peyton Royce, how ya doin'.  Secondly and far more importantly, her bridge on her Nearly Perfectplex may've stolen the Queen of the Bridges unofficial title from Alicia Fox's Northern Lights.
  • The Insane Elbow connected on Peyton and Nikki, but Ember made the save and shortly thereafter nailed the Eclipse on Peyton and Nikki at the same time to close out the match.  Not only was it visually impressive, but given the close quarters Cross and Royce were in it served as a noggin knocker on top of being the usual crazy ass corkscrew flying Stunner.
  • For a second — just a second — I hoped Asuka was going to tease not giving Ember the belt.
  • Four women of color in a row to hold up the Just As Big X now.  I see you, Full Sail.
  • You know how I know 2017's fucked up, beyond the obvious?  Two women under Stamford's employ won title matches in their hometowns within about a hundred hour span.
  • Kevin Owens was wearing an Undisputed Era shirt under his suit coat, and Samoa Joe looked like the world's toughest newsie.
  • I will always love it when a champion puts their belt mid-ring and stands (or kneels, in Drew's case) behind it as if it was a river to fjord.
  • Great pre-match character work from the challenger's team, as Zerlina got in Drew's face, then Cien did it before hiding behind Zerlina and then ducking between the ropes.  Cowardly and coward are two different things. 
  • A Si Se Puede chant reminded me of better times.
  • Almas was actually controlling the opening part of the match with a bevy of side headlocks (sounds more interesting than it reads) but the moment he got Tranquilo the moment after he was kicked in the face.  Message!
  • Really good spot where DMC caught Zerlina's rana attempt and set her down just in time to cut off Almas' tope try.  Shadowing, shadowing, shadowing, shadowing...what's shadow in Spanish, anyway?
  • Drew's suplex throw, especially against a smaller opponent, almost always looks like death.  Props for what looked to be essentially a pop up Celtic Cross later on as well.
  • Cien's Asai moonsault suicida was a thing of goddamned beauty.
  • DMC kept up the offense when he got things back in his corner by hitting a really nice gutwrench into a sitout powerbomb.  And I like him using Future Shock as an almost high-level momentum shifter/transitional move late in the match.  It's probably the best use of it since it seems to be inexplicably nerfed as a finisher.
  • Zerlina's basement rana driver (chef kissing fingers).  And she earned her keep here by getting Cien's foot on the ropes after the Claymore ran through him and he hit a .87 Henning sell-wise.
  • Here's the thing: when Almas hit the DDT, the feeling in the room after he hit it was something along the lines of "Damn, that looked great.  See, that should win the match, but it wo... wait, what?"  Houston didn't have exactly the same reaction but it was in that neighborhood.
  • Real tough for McIntyre, who suffered an injury (possibly a torn bicep) by hanging on to the rope too long at the finish.  If it's true and he's out 3-6 months, it's a bit of a loss for the black and yellow imprint.  But whether by accident or design, Almas has been on fire the past six months, so it's nice to see him rewarded with the Big X.  Another great character moment in a show full of them, as Almas seemed to have the same reaction everybody else had to his win at first, while Zerlina's small satisfied smile getting bigger seemed to state an underlying "I ain't show up here to manage losers, buddy."  
  • We'll forgive his enthusiasm in dropping the belt mid-celebration up the ramp, since he held it up high and proud after standing up on the announce table.
  • They showed Dustin Rhodes and Arn Anderson at ringside before WarGames 2.0, and the Natural himself quickly favorited my "Arn should've turned around and DDTed him.  I'm old, though." Tweet.
  • Here's the thing about Roddy and the Authors showing up in all green camo: it looked like a cartoon version of someone dressing up like a shrubbery to spy on somebody else.
  • Contrast that to ADAM COLE, BAY BAY, who specifically went into the second ring to preen and let an audience full of people who already knew (and possibly loved) him just who exactly he was. Again, another perfect character note in a show full of them.
  • The captains all got advantages in the opening segment that they couldn't keep.
  • Somehow, SOMEHOW, in a way that makes me think perhaps professional wrestling isn't on the up and up, the Undisputed Era got their second and third guys in the match first.
  • This was followed by the Authors coming in there after a failed attempt by For Some Reason We're Not Calling Them ReDragon to keep them out, and those Undisputed meesters got put on their keesters up to and including launching Strong at them in almost a tope con hilo from ring one to ring two after they had bieled Cole from one to the other, as well.
  • Because, again, I'm old, I typed THE MATCH BEYOND in all caps once SAnitY completed and joined the fray.  There would be many, many all caps moments to come.
  • Team Chaotic Neutral showed off their guile, as Wolfe came packing a baton in his jacket and the cage was roofless presumably so Killian could throw in some plunder over the top.
  • If we're being perfectly frank, if Sanity had continued to rhetorically murder everyone else with chair shots and then pinned somebody to win the match, it would've been an emotionally fulfilling ending at least for me.  If you're smart enough to arm yourself for a WarGames, you deserve the W.
  • Crazy run by Killian Dain.  In the same way Brooklyn opened up a lot of eyes to his partner Wolfe, Houston should be a reminder that they have someone more than capable of holding the Big X if he ever rolls a solo run out.  Here he took out the Authors with a shotgun dropkick/senton combinaion, then hit the Steamboat Press off the top rope, then Michinoku Drivered Cole onto Fish with O'Reilly having to make the save.   Cole and Roddy then took a combination fallaway slam and Samoan drop, he hoss fought an Author in TH's favorite part of the evening and then hit the Flying Knox on another (possibly the same one, to be fair).  
  • Good as O'Reilly using the cage to run up for extra oomph on a tornado DDT was, the Undisputed Era's combination Chasing the Dragon/superkick that laid out Roddy could've also conceivably ended the match.
  • Fish moonsaulted Eric Young as he was trying to pin Kyle O'Reilly, and at that point everyone was laid out for a minute.  They certainly heard those NXT chants, though. 
  • See earlier thoughts on the match ending vis a vis the Authors Super Collider that was only paused by them sandwiching Dain with it before they followed through on their powerbombs.  
  • Somehow Eric Young Death Valley Drivered on Author onto another, but in a nice subtle nod both Cole and O'Reilly saved the matchup without impeding the other.
  • Backbreakers ahoy after that, and an Angle Slam on DAIN somehow by Roddy, with Cole making a superkick save for that.
  • So many caps.  SO MANY.
  • As good as the double powerbomb superplex Towers of Doom (!) spot was, it was even better when the wreckage cleared and the only guy who hadn't gotten laid out in all that carnage by holding onto the supports connecting the rings know.
  • Dreamer 3:16 says "If you set up a table, you're the one who's probably going to go through it".  One of the Authors did after Wolfe hit a crazy-ass super German suplex (to him just a superplex then?  oh look, I've gone cross-eyed); unfortunately he legitimately busted the back of his head open delivering the move, was bleeding like a monthly period as a result, and was largely, understandably out almost the rest of the match as a result.  E.Y. looked like he got his nose busted again, and Cole had some color as well before the night wrapped up.  
  • According to Big Killo, Wolfe is recovering apace, which is good news especially considering it looked like he was legitimately out at the end of the match.
  • Oh, WarGames hears you have a PG-13 rating.  WarGames DON'T GIVE A FUCK tho
  • Was super German suplex on a three hundred pound man not enough how the what the for your tastes?  Picky fan.  You might be intrigued by the Killian Dain COAST  TO COAST, then.  
  • It deserves its own second bullet point: a Killian.  Dain.  Coast.  To.  Coast.   And he didn't whiff it a bit, either.
  • Roddy superplexed Adam off the top of the cage after that (looking back on my notes I'm astounded there was an after that), and everybody was down again for a bit, but Roddy toughened up enough to pin Cole...who kicked out.
  • Yes, indeed, Houston, that [was] awesome.
  • KD was taken out by the Authors by the Last Chapter into the steel grate that bridged the two rings.  Let me suggest a match for the Takeover before WrestleMania: ironspecies match between Dain and a bear.  I'd make that a pick 'em right now.
  • There was one last contretemps between Cole and Roddy post superduperplex, but it didn't really lead anywhere in an odd bit.
  • Once they got to their feet, the Undisputed Era got a standing O that was probably everybody's involved, but winner, spoils, etc.
  • Great final bit to close the show as they celebrated, then yelled at the officials to get them the censored out of there, only to be told that future bear suplexer Dain had swallowed the key after he'd locked everybody in, so they sold the disbelief of that information and the fact they'd just spit in death's face and won.  O'Reilly sold neck pain and sat in a chair that managed not to be busted while Cole and Fish used the ropes and the cage to keep them something resembling upright as the credits rolled.

Match of the Night: Velveteen Dream v. Aleister Black  — He didn't win, but he won.

You're familiar with the concept, yes?  You've seen Rocky?

So here's the thing: before Paul took it over and slowly started turning it into God's E-Fed, developmental was the truest test of that term.  It was WWE's finishing school, and sometimes they took somebody all the way from the ground up and got them going as a grappler.

On this packed card, it was hard to notice such stars in that firmament, but they were there.  Even beyond the ever more cogent work that the Authors of Pain did in the main event, Patrick Clark became a star the night before the 2017 Survivor Series (barring injury) ((sorry, Hideo)).  In front of a crowd of smart people that've picked up on his character work and increased presence over the past six months, he played to them by not actually playing to them, incorporating the environment without letting his ego overshadow it outside of kayfabe purposes, and showed the lessons of heeling he's been taking at the PC have been taking hold and that he's been paying rapt attention to the lot of them.

The look on his face when he realized he couldn't slither sneak up on Black was akin to a man who has just bought a delicious burrito and dropped it on the sidewalk after two bites.  He let that beat register, and then he immediately reverted to preening.  He's the new Dream; it's what he's going to do.

As a result of having that wellspring to play off of, Aleister got to show another layer to his character that quite frankly he hadn't needed to this point.  It added another fine layer atop an already great match.  He never took a back step, and didn't even really do any cheating.  He fought like hell against an undefeated man, showed off some new moves that can only help him going forward, and went down to a move that so far has been one of the surest match enders in NXT's history.

His reward besides crowd adoration and glowing hosannas like these from me and KO alike?

He got what he wanted.

Black looked him in the eyes and said his name.

"Enjoy infamy"?  Not hardly.

They built this match around attention: Velveteen wanting more of it, slowly getting Aleister's with escalating tactics, and then the throwback gear change for his first Takeover match before it even began.

He may've wanted one man's attention in story, but in reality he got thousands after his bravura performance.

This isn't an "I told you so" as such, but what my friends saw that night with me back in May came true on a bigger platform come November.  What this is a "Thank goodness" and a knowing nod.

He meshed his increasingly unique and offbeat character with some damn fine wrestling chops, and he's a few years from 25; again, barring injury, not only have we not seen the peak of the Dream, we haven't gotten close to it yet.

So whether you just kicked his face off or he just blew your mind, do the former Patrick Clark a favor.

Say his damn name.

Overall thoughts: Was that your daddy's WarGames?

No.  No, it was not.

Did it rule your face, your momma's too, and every single person who saw it or will ever see it?

Lord sweet pappy Johnson with an erection possibly lasting longer than four hours, yes, it did.

The only "down" point on this show was Lars making pretty quick work of Ohno, and as the shortest match of the evening it got its point across effectively: take the Freak seriously.

After that, you might as well fire up the MC5 and play their big hit on repeat.  A star making performance by Patrick Clark even in defeat, followed up by a really good Women's World Title match which a) par for the course in NXT and b) how was a straight up powerbomb on the floor like the fifteenth craziest spot of the night?  Then you had El Idolo leveling up once and for all, leading to a more interesting landscape for NXT going forward at least for the immediate future as the waiting around for Adam Cole to Shining Wizard or superkick the championship away from Drew has finally been stifled.   I'm totally not just saying that to see another installment of Gargano/Almas with the tiniest possibly of a recovering Ciampa costing his old bestie the belt, either — NXT has quite a few capable faces up to and especially including Black and Roddy still Trying To Win The Big One.

And WarGames on its own is worth the monthly subscription just to watch and rewatch and rererewatch.  Kyle O'Reilly came out taunting and swaggering; half an hour later he couldn't stand under his own power and he was one of the guys who won the damn match.  After weeks of telling a new generation of fans that the double cage didn't produce winners, just survivors, they paid it off and then some in one of the best half hours any wrestling company has put on under the 2017 banners.  Epic levels of violence, a couple of funny beats, some blood for the vampires and old-timers, and all paying off the end many may have guessed at, but still deserved to be ratified and certified: for the next...however long he stays with NXT and WWE, an already swagger heavy Adam Cole has the ace to beat all decks: he's the man who got the pinfall in the first WarGames in forever and the first good one in about 20 years.

Absent Drew, who's going to line up to take the first shot at El Campeon Nuevo Idolo?  Who's Ember going to establish herself against trying to take the 500 day summit that may never be conquered by anyone ever again?  And based off their signature win, will the Undisputed Era will decide that the time is now to stop earning honorifics and start getting titles?

These are the questions NXT will answer to close out this year and continue on into the next.

One thing is for sure, though.

TakeOvers are the fastest two and a half hours in pro wrestling today, and they're almost always appointment television as a result.