Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Vanilla Midget Report: Vol. 3, Issue 7

What a match, at least until the angle kicked in at the end...
Photo Credit:
Hey guys, 205 Live aired last night, so that means it's time for another edition of the Vanilla Midget Report. This week, Mustafa Ali went to the hospital, but he competed against a bloodthirsty legend obsessed with respect. So tough! Also, the lucha boys opened the show as has been their wont, and Drew Gulak almost blew his shot at the Cruiserweight Title at SummerSl... the SummerSlam pre-sh... the commercial break during the SummerSlam pre-show that exhorts people not watching on the Network to subscribe to the Network. Time to dive in!

Cruisers vs. Bruisers

I hate the term "styles make matchups" for several reasons, but maybe the biggest reason is that it's overly simplistic and probably needs at least one more word. Granted, adding "differing" to the beginning doesn't make it any truer or any less faux-intellectual, but when you get a matchup like the Lucha House Party against Tony Nese and Buddy Murphy, heretofore known as a team as the Winstrol Boys (a little more on that later), it can make that term seem smart or accurate. See, only some differing styles make great matchups, and luckily for 205 Live, the strong bois tossing around hard-bumping spot lads is perhaps one of the surest combinations one can go for. That motif was strong in the traditional LHP opening match.

Murphy and especially Nese like to throw around their athleticism a bit, but other than one quebrada from Nese around the midpoint of the match, they kept their bigness in the forefront rather than their ability to do flippy shit. It was an excellent aesthetic choice. Murphy is well-suited to be a bully in the division, especially since WWE seems to want him to be its ersatz Kenny Omega in the interim between attempts at signing the real thing. The thing is, while Omega is a far better overall wrestler, Murphy is probably way better at throwing the big knees, mainly because of setting. Every time he landed his knee on one of the lucha boys, it resonated loudly, and while neither Kalisto nor Lince Dorado came as close to the theatrical crumple-death that Kalisto pantomimed last week after being whipped into the corner, they did their part to make their bullying counterparts look all the more brutal. Then again, when Nese just fuckin' CHUCKED Dorado out of the ring, the patented Kevin Dunn Camera Work™ missed the bump out of the ring, so who knows, maybe Dorado did disintegrate like he just died in the classic NES game Faxanadu.

But the converse is true as well. When you're big, you gotta know how to really sell the sizzle on the little guys' pyrotechnic offense, whether it be doing a momentary headstand on Kalisto's basement rana like Murphy did, or getting the right amount of spring when Dorado hits the spring-back ace crusher, like both guys did. It also means being in the right position for the requisite dives, but with the frequency that Kalisto just goes far past his target makes me think that it's more a him overshooting problem and less that every other base on the 205 Live roster is too much like The Miz at his worst. Still, other than that one missed dive, and really it was slight, this match did the trick to open the show. Given the finish, with the "legal" cheating that 205 Live seems to love to employ and the deep fluky rollup that Nese got, it looks like they're far from finished.

Other things to note here were firstly and most importantly, Gran Metalik is back. Hooray Gran Metalik! Of course, commentary noted that Dorado had some ligament damage in his hand, and Metalik being relegated to shaking matracas instead of subbing for his feline companion was yet another reason for me to look to the skies and scream WHY? WHY? Hopefully, the Winstrol Boys find another smol but beefy lad so that Metalik can do more than just act as a cheerleader. Second, the choice of words for naming the Nese/Murphy team is not just flippant or glib, mainly concerning Murphy. Remember, when he debuted for 205 Live, he had trouble making weight. Now it seems anger is a central point of his character. It seems like he's a classic PED abuser as a character. I don't think they'll explicitly ruminate on his, ahem, clinical habits, but the subtext is thicc.

Noam Dar? More Like Nomore Carbs, Am I Right?

So, Noam Dar wasn't always this cut, was he? Maybe once the inspirational gilt is off his comeback, he can join Nese and Murphy and give 205 Live another proper trios match/feud. Seriously, I wonder if he orders his haggis without oatmeal so he can keep it keto friendly. Get it? Scottish? Haggis? Ah, forget it. Anyway, Dar got the James Ellsworth Memorial Mid-Show Squash Match this week against poor Sean Maluta, who keeps grinding as enhancement talent on NXT and now 205 Live as he sees his fellow Cruiserweight Classic peers get at least steady work that doesn't involve jobbing as a rule. To add insult to injury, both the ring announcer AND Vic Joseph called him Sean "Mulata," which, c'mon guys. I bet if he were a Polish guy, they'd have gotten his last name right. But I digress. It feels like Dar's leg is going to become a focal point going forward, because Maluta got a chance to get some shine working it over. It's not the worst way to go, but I just wish Dar would change his game up a little not to base all of his offense on using his legs. Ah well.

Also, TJP was there in the back watching TV, but really, forget him.

Drew Gulak For a Better Vanilla Midget Report

It's entirely possible that Drew Gulak is having a better overall year this year than last year when he won the Bloggie for Wrestler of the Year, and yet he'll be overshadowed by the unstoppable fuckstorm that is PCO at the very least. Still, Drew Gulak for a Better ______ is an amazing gimmick for a reason, and it only took Donald Trump really exemplifying the utter carniness of American politics to its most extreme end to show why. But because I feel really, really dirty comparing someone as good at their job as Gulak to perhaps the worst American President ever (and given how utterly dire most people who've held the office were, that is a goddamn feat), I'll just say I hope that Gulak and Cedric Alexander get to work at a time other than in the background while Peter Rosenberg and Jerry Lawler engage in a smarm-off while Renee Young looks on exasperatedly and Booker T's power levels build between bombastic exclamations that may or may not have anything to do with the topic at hand.

C O N C U S S I O N⠀⠀⠀⠀ S T O R Y L I N E S

Mustafa Ali legitimately spent some time in the hospital last weekend. He never really gave a reason, which is his right under HIPAA, and even though WWE highlighted that hospital stay for storyline reasons, it never gave a kayfabe one. While I was happy enough to ignore any and all warning signs during the match that what was happening was another goddamn reckless and irresponsible concussion storyline (He could've been dehydrated! Internal bleeding! Shmedrick's Disease?), but when the referee asked him what year it was after the match, well, hey, it's WWE again pissing all over the health and well-being of every one of its superstars that has taken a flat back bump in their career (read, everyone, yes, including Alexa Bliss) just to add drama to a story, drama that Ali especially has had no problem adding without pretending he's got CTE brewing in his ol' noggin.

It's a goddamn shame too, because the match was, as all Mustafa Ali main events are, fantastic. The Beating Heart of 205 Live is so good at building drama that he could get a great match out of a passable opponent, so with Hideo Itami in full KENTA mode, the results were expectedly stellar. Itami's kicks looked incredibly snug and well-timed, and when they were used as the wear-down offense during the match's heat segment, they conveyed looming doom better than any chinlock could. Of course, Itami still employed the preferred resthold of WWE during this portion, but it was short-lived and looked like it hurt, so I didn't mind. Speaking of things that looked like they hurt, man, the two big set-piece strikes in the match really popped off the screen. The first saw Itami shotgun-dropkicking Ali into the ringpost, which was notable for its utter viciousness, and the second was when he countered Ali's rolling X-factor with a roundhouse kick. These are the kinds of spots that get the antagonists over in the right way, not the restholds.

What gets the good guys over is generally how exciting they can be on offense and how sympathetic they can be when selling and bumping. Obviously, Ali has the latter in spades, but he was sharply on point on the former, really getting after counters and transitions, seamlessly escaping and grappling at points that helped feed into his various comebacks. Whether early when rolling under an Itami kick into a heel hooking takedown or later on when he would duck a backfist and immediately pop up to hit a superkick, which in that spot was followed immediately by an Itami delayed sell and a connecting backfist. When people talk about storytelling, it doesn't always have to be physically transcribing a narrative arc in a match. Sometimes, it's just two guys doing what they do best but in perfect sync.

But it would've been a lot better if they didn't decide to run with a concussion story on top of everything. I mean, it's just callous at this point, but I guess you can't escape corporate rot, even in the shows that supposedly fewer and fewer people in the highest positions of the company pay attention to...