Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Best Coast Bias: Johnny B. Gone

You knew it was going the distance
Photo Credit: WWE.com
For a show that delivered throughout its three-hour run time and brought a sold-out audience to its feet on multiple occasions, it could be argued that the program itself was the noise and everything around it was the signal. It's entirely possible people may not remember certain spots or matches from the second T-Dot Takeover, but rather the fact that one could argue that both the most important things to stem from it were the post-show possible departure of Johnny Gargano and the fact that the rumor mill is churning wildly about NXT not only being extended to two hours, but put on FS1 and fall further under the influences of one Vincent Kennedy McMahon.

So while it's highly doubtful that will be the final Takeover to come from the Great White North, it has the eclipsian shadow of probably the best babyface in brand history leaving it for more profitable pastures.  It's entirely possible a year from now, people will be calling it the last real Takeover, or the last one before the new class seized the reigns, or a multitude of other possibilities.

One thing is for sure this summer in NXT: the black hats have the advantage, and the champions therein are loving life.

In fact, the only division in NXT that noticeably has a babyface backed up with championship gold has two in the Street Profits, who retained their belts in the show opener and borderline match of the night.  Maybe showing up in Raptor purple with red accents helped Montez and Angelo hold on against the former multiple time champs Not ReDragon. Takeover XXV may have been the SP breakout party; here was where they solidified their bona fides against another elite tag team by beating them cleanly in a well-worked, crisp and hard-hitting affair. No longer the Montez Ford Show with Special Guest Star, the Profits have more seasoning as a unit and it showed here in probably their best match to date. They picked the exact right time to have it, as well. The "this is awesome" chant may have been a little generous, but the Era were at their smarmy best without actually cheating in their efforts and the Profits rose to meet them. Given events on the Leftovers program and the possibility the illegal man was pinned, it opens the door for a rematch every NXT fan should want to see at this point without feeling convoluted. Another one of these will do more than all right by the average viewer.

1) the Street Profits d. Undisputed Era to retain the NXT World Tag Team championships (Ford pinfall Auto Parts)

It's ironic (and 4000% on brand) that my notes would start off with the phrase "choke me the fuck out Io" and then the match would deliver on that promise; poor Candice ended up playing the role of your intrepid reporter. This was the best of both worlds for these women as Candice Wrestling, plucky underdog got the biggest showcase of her NXTenure to date, and Io got to revel in her new found evilness and flesh out more of the moveset she'll ostensibly use going forward. In retrospect, the match was essentially over when Shirai managed a kickout after a Wild Ride and came back with an avalanche Japanese Fly and what certain 6ers would call the God's Plan Moonsault; LeRae's kickout of nice Io's finisher meant she whaled on Candice until she couldn't fight off a mid-ring submission hold and went limp. Despite that, the offered I alluded to at the outset still applies.

2) Io Shirai d. Candice LeRae (modified Koji clutch)

The show was "interrupted" by Matt Riddle, who wanted Killian Dain to fight him face to face and got his wish. Unlike previous confrontations, Riddle got a couple of advantages on the Irish land monster even though the confrontation and subsequent fighting ended with both of them and a random black shirt going off the stage through tables. Perhaps that's why the subsequent appearance of Austin Theory was met with such a tepid reaction; either way, it'll be great once he works that into his promos once he's officially a member of the show.

This was followed up by another episode of The Dream Has No Memory of the Word Extra - he was led to the ring by the Raptors cheering squad after they were dressed as sexy Mounties while the Mountie's theme played. Dream, we were told on the broadcast wanted to represent Canada in the triple threat with America's Strong and Britain's Dunne as the other partcipants, hence the red and white of it all down to his gear. The North American champion is a particularly luminous curio, as that previous sentence would make it sound like he was the most purple white hat to ever step between the ropes, yet nearly a year after his ostensible turn he continues to flash aggressively heelish traits and still come out with a high approval rating afterwards. Here, for instance, after Dunne laid out Strong with the Bitter End Dream first distracted the ref by faking an injury then stopped the count outright before it could be completed. The match ended when Strong tossed Dream and laid out Dunne with the End of Heartache, only for Dream to fly in on the pinfall attempt with a Purple Rainmaker to break it up before tossing Strong and pinning the laid out Dunne to win the match. This was followed up by post-match smacktalk on both his vanquished victims, and an online video of Dunne being completely understanding in a "I'm still going to snap his fingers and win the championship" sort of manner. To be fair, Dream did look momentarily sheepish early in the match when confronted by Dunne and also tried to work his way through the Five Moves of Doom; maybe he's just the first successful instance of a long-term tweener and given WWE's abhorrence of booking same, no wonder it wouldn't look familiar to any long-term viewer. While they seem to be building towards Dunne getting a one on one match for the belt in the future, Strong also has claim to a one-on-one shot since he didn't get pinned, and the Breakout tournament winner can take his shot at NXT's newest title and turn it into a shot the same way the Dream did in winning Worlds Collide and then besting Johnathan Grapples to get it. Either way, looked through that prism the overarcing story of the Dream from young boy to frequently overmatched yet narrowly surviving champion has so many different ways to let in light and so many different opponents he could face that it all makes sense. Hell, there's a possibility that he may take another shot at the Big X just to add to his trophy case. Either way, as with the winners of the previous matches, the future is looking Timbuk3 bright for the DCian. (DCite? DCagan?)

3) Velveteen Dream d. Pete Dunne and Roderick Strong to retain the North American championship in the Match of the Night
About the only black mark on the card strangely enough came in the semi-main, where despite having a rich personal backstory and familiarity with each other, Mia Yim & Shayna Baszler bizarrely looked at times like 45s being played at 33. The story of the match was good - Mia's willingness to first get dirty and then outright cheat was a feature, not a bug that screwed with Shayna's game plan since she's been eating nothing but white meat since she arrived - but even down the stretch it felt like they were first clearing their throats or taking an extra step and then landing a strike or putting on a hold. Again, another of Baszler's opponents focused on destroying a limb to make putting the Clutch on more difficult for her and easier to get loose from for them, but Shayna pulled out another submission (bridging on the arm that hadn't been worked over to boot) and earned a clean victory in the middle of the ring. She's not Asuka, but she's the closest thing we've ever seen, and unless they plan on fully Becky Lynchifying Io, Dakota Kai cannot come back soon enough for the credibility of the division to spawn challengers that will appear as actually having the potential to hoist Goldie As Well.

4) Shayna Baszler d. Mia Yim to retain the NXT Women's World championship (semi bridging figure four headlock)

The widest complaint seen about the main is that it was overly long, and too many death moves were kicked out of in the third and final fall. (Again, as great and unexpected as a 2-0 skunking would've been, you either would've had to have lengthened the falls that would've been contained therein or just had a one fall match.) It feels weird that Best Coast Biases seem to have these apologia about Johnny's main events; something is always in the works that keeps things very good and never quite pans out to greatness. It's much easier to assume a more forgiving position with the assumption it'll be the last time something is a worry. It was very intriguing to see an inversion of trope with Johnny getting intentionally DQed to end the first fall in order to put him in better standing for a second fall he would eventually go on to win; it was a mirror image of Cole feinting the call for Era interference at TOXXV to give him an opening that he would exploit to eventually win that match. The second fall went shorter than the first, and Johnny was almost in control the entirety of the way, so we went to the decider in a weapons enhanced steel cage with barbed wire crowned around it to stop climbs out (or in, for that matter). While it probably ran overlong, both men whaling on each other with kendo sticks before they repeated the superkicks at the same time spot from XXV may have been my favorite moment on the show that didn't involve Ford or Dream mugging away during their title defenses or Io's leather pants. A close runner up was Cole throwing a ladder at Gargano to get him to duck to set up a Panama Sunrise that couldn't be countered and/or superkicked away. The match ended with them falling to their mutually assured destruction off the cage through some tables (props to the announce table as well as the audience for what I can only call Loud Concerned Murmuring as they were both up there, culminating in "Please don't die!" chants) with Cole barely able to sluice an arm over Gargano to win the match and retain the title. As he did against Ciampa, Gargano lost the series 2-1 and arguably did it the worst of it to himself in order to try to win the match.  But at least he got to walk away to this:

5) Adam Cole d. Johnny Gargano 2 falls to 1 to retain the NXT World Heavyweight championship

NXT keeps changing, evolving, working with Evolve, transmogrifying in a multitude of ways large and small. Yet the biggest shifts could be about to go down between now and turkey time from Chicago when WarGames comes down the pike again. Between that and the fact that there are no obvious challengers in the World or World Tag title divisions, three months could serve as almost a full-on reset button for the black and yellow. The destination isn't in the hands of us.

Whether we were right in our apprehension or proved Doubting Thomases, let's all hope that Takeovers remain as dependable as death and taxes. If a wrestling show fails to make you see the face of God but you still routinely clap your hands and stomp your feet, it's worth being a believer in.