Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Vanilla Midget Report, Vol. 3, Issue 2

Gulak will snatch your mask and then he'll snatch your pinata
Photo Credit:
This week's 205 Live was unsurprisingly another big mood. This episode was better than last week's, not because the matches were better (I really liked that triple threat), but because the mid-show squash against local competition featured someone, well, good and not TJP. Anyway, the time has come to dive right on into the nitty-gritty, eh?

Just Give Me Violence

205 Live might have better overall wrestlers doing better overall matches, but even in my previously lapsed viewing of the show, no one seems mesh better together than Tony Nese and Akira Tozawa. On one side, you have the possibly maladjusted but affable wrestler who came up in questionable dojos across the sea against a body guy whose capacity for finding out new and creative ways to cram his appendages into your face is only outmatched by his outright narcissism. From even his entrance, gloating about his eight-pack making him better than everyone in the arena through strategically placed stalling and rope-a-doping, Nese does a tremendous job of sating the crowd's thirst for violence without making them want to cheer him. Of course, of the rest of the 205 Live roster, no one's sheer thirst for violence is greater than Tozawa's. Maybe some of that is knowing the background information rather than taking what WWE has presented, but still, you can't fault a man for liking a wrestler before he hit the big time, right?

Anyway, this match followed trend for most 205 openers, an amuse bouche if you will. They fit in enough just to let you know that they can do ghastly things to each other's bodies if given the chance, but it left me wanting more, at least. To say that about a match that had just the sheer amount of big spots in it says a lot about the two wrestlers involved. I mean, in no certain order, you had:
  • Nese falling back and kipping up to avoid a lariat
  • Nese seeing a groggy Tozawa and sucker-blasting him back to the days of Toryumon
  • Tozawa once again embarrassing the rest of the roster with his tope suicida
  • A spot where Nese kicked Tozawa after knocking him from his perch on the top turnbuckle RIGHT INTO a fireman's carry
  • An uppercut spot on the top rope where Tozawa just rattled his head to sell the impact while spitting his mouthguard halfway to Gorilla
I mean, you'd think two guys would call it a day cramming that much into a match, but I think they can do the cruiserweight Match of the Year if given 15 minutes and major stakes to fight for. It's a shame that the finish, which again was well-framed and perfectly executed, felt so definitive, because this is the kind of feud I could go for, two guys just beating the piss out of each other just so Cedric Alexander could beg Drake Maverick backstage to make them the next contender to his title. Hey, that sounds like some foreshadowing!

A God Called Hubris

Are wrestling babyfaces dumb, or are they just lessons in hubris that never get redeemed because of the eternal, flesh-grinding nature of the medium's storytelling? Take for example Alexander on tonight's programming. It's not just that the babyface is the opposite of the heel, because the opposite of a character archetype isn't necessarily its own. While a cowardly heel champion dodges competition, Alexander sought it out, which sets him up as a tragic figure going forward. Now, whether Hideo Itami is the one to wrest the title from him in his attempts to gain notches on his belt or if it's someone else remains to be seen. In the interim, I'll take backstage shoving matches with Maverick appearing out of the aether like the Authority Figure Elemental he seems to be.

Additionally, Maverick digging on TJP fills two needs on the programming, one a need to keep his story fresh without needing and appearance, and two, on a more personal level, because TJP fuckin' sucks and I enjoy any opportunity to hear him disparaged, whether worked on WWE programming or shoot on Twitter.

Rush to Catchphrases

Remember how I said Nese did all those razzly-dazzly things that people love but kept his distance from crowd cheers with other villainous character cues? Well, Lio Rush, who made his proper 205 Live debut on this episode is in danger of falling away from the heat he's supposed to be getting. Now, the subtle taunts in match and the obvious stalling beforehand were great ways to establish to the crowd that they're not supposed to like him, but I feel like his abilities are, well, a bit too high-octane to keep people from cheering him, or whatever it is that bushed-dead crowd does to signify they like someone. Still, it's hard not to look at his debut as a success. He did all the things that he promised on his bill of goods in a way that conveyed an actual character, and it resulted in perhaps the most entertaining squash match in WWE since Braun Strowman took on a man with two hands and no chin. The post-match interview added onto that with layers of Black athlete self-overconfidence (which really isn't a heel trait anywhere else but in Vince McMahon's head and his crowds, apparently), but one thing he should do is probably pick a catchphrase among the two he laid out. For whatever reason, you either have to have one catchphrase or be like the Rock and have everything you say be a catchphrase or else it just doesn't feel natural.

Speaking of things that didn't feel natural, uh, did his local talent opponent, Dewey James, look like he may have partaken in some, ahem, medicinal marijuana before the show? That was a clunky segue into congratulating the good people of Oklahoma on going to the ballots and voting for the drug's use as a therapeutic aid. Also congratulations to people in New York City for electing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the Democratic primary for the House of Representatives. Changes are coming! Okay, sorry for the politics, back to the cruiserweights.

The Mask Collector

Everytime someone in WWE gets a haircut, a contingent of people get mad because they didn't lose their hair in a lucha de apuesta. I get the sentiment, but that would require that WWE puts prospective haircut-getters into feuds that matter. Did any of you think that Baron Corbin could have been salvaged from the point where he lost his briefcase last year until he actually got his haircut to have made anyone give a shit about him getting sheared in the ring? No, and in fact, it would've made him even more of a fucking nerd had it gone down that way. Luckily for all you apuestas fans out there, WWE has at least one, well, two brands (but if I encroach on Butch's NXT beat, he'll mock me with fish tacos and warm weather in December, AND THAT'S NOT FAIR) where a hair match is viable. Even more luckily, it has someone who has wrestled in a lucha-adjacent promotion who has a poofy bouffant that is ripe, just oh so ripe for the shaving, and most importantly, he's been super-protected at least ever since Paul Levesque started calling more of the shots on the show than Vince McMahon.

If you didn't catch the hints, Drew Gulak went for masks with a vengeance in the six-man elimination tag match where he teamed with Jack Gallagher and The Brian Kendrick against the Lucha House Party of Gran Metalik, Lince Dorado, and Kalisto. While Metalik didn't last long enough to have his outer face threatened, Gulak just fuckin' tore at the other two guys. Dorado felt the worst brunt of it; mid-match, Gulak whipped him down from his behind by his head and in the process snatched the mask from off his head. Had the match been contested under strict lucha rules, Gulak would've been disqualified, but in WWE, that sort of precedent had not been set, although I feel like it will be an important plot point going forward. He struck again trying to claw at Kalisto's mask as he had him in the Gu-Lock to get the finish.

Other than the overarching story of Gulak hating lucha and masked wrestlers, the action was pretty nice for a main event, dull early thanks to Metalik getting the boot after an inexplicable 90 seconds, but it's not like Dorado or Kalisto are necessarily bad. I just hate seeing Metalik only start to get revved up and then get tossed out of the match. It showed off some nice counters, especially Gallagher's headbutt to a flying Metalik that netted the elimination, as well as the down-one psychology of both Dorado and Kalisto using members of the other team as landing pads for springboarding on their pinning combinations. Once again, 205 Live delivers, but at this rate, is anyone surprised? I guess only the people who still aren't on the bandwagon.