Working The Loop (07/21/2019)

CMLL

Jushin “Thunder” Liger just finished up his last show at Arena Mexico this week, and it was a pretty big spectacle. Not to say that their shows aren’t always special, as you get to see some of the best wrestling in the world week in and week out at the same venue, which is a rarity these days, but CMLL went out of their way to make Jushin’s last match really amazing.

It’s really strange to think that Jushin “Thunder” Liger will no longer be wrestling after this year. I have grown up watching a lot of his matches. When I think about it, his match against Flyin’ Brian Pillman is probably one of the first matches I have seen that had a Japanese wrestler in it. It would be either him or The Great Muta.

He’s had an amazing career, and I am so glad that CMLL gave him such a great send-off. They brought out their dancers and had Asian drums that looked really cool, and for a guy like Liger, who is so original and so insane, it was really appropriate. Now that the months are winding down, you should really appreciate these moments like this, because they won’t be around much longer.

As for the rest of the show, it was decent. I haven’t watched an Arena Mexico show on Friday night in a long time, but this was one of the decent ones. I really liked the Rush and L.A. Park brawl. L.A. Park does the Brody gimmick so well, and he always puts on a good show. Mistico is also one of those guys who always put on a good show when I see him. The rest of the card isn’t too bad, and I would say that checking out Arena Mexico weekly should be included in a lot of wrestling fans schedule. Even if you don’t speak the language, you can still pick up on a lot of what is going on. Some things can be a little jarring at first, like the 2 out of 3 falls aspect, but you get used to it after a while and you get to see some really amazing stuff.

Back to the L.A. Park match, Rush started working on his mask during the show, and it may be a set up for a match for a mask vs. hair match with Rush at some time. Park had been floating the idea of putting up his mask for a while, even setting up an angle some time ago that never came to fruition. He probably has the highest asking price in Mexico for his mask, so with him getting up there in age, I wouldn’t blame him for cashing in on that right now.

The main event was Liger, Negro Casas, who is also up there in age but looks great, Carístico, and Último Guerrero. It wasn’t the greatest match, but the theatre and the atmosphere surrounding it was really something to see. If you haven’t seen a CMLL show, especially a Friday night show, this would be the one I would suggest you watch to let yourself get into the product, because at least you get to see Liger’s last time there and you also get to see how the wrestlers set up for some angles in Mexico regarding their masks, which are highly regarded.

NJPW

We now sit one third through the G1 Climax for 2019, and we have had some amazing matches along the way this week. Really, this year differs from years past, because there is more of an emphasis on stories rather than insane match quality on its own. While this may be a bit weaker with the amount of really great matches in it, and I mean a tiny bit, it has made up for it by telling a different story every time. Everyone does their part and gets over the little things that make all of these matches come across great, and Kevin Kelly has done a great job on expanding upon those issues as well.

I don’t know if you can find a better production than New Japan in that aspect. While the WWE does a great job of making each event seem larger than life and as clean as possible, they really overlook those little stories that could be capitalized on. I guess you could argue that those things don’t matter, and they aren’t the reason why fans buy tickets, but at the same time, we should really try to expect the best product that one company can present to us, we are the ones paying for it. NJPW does a great job of setting themselves apart and presenting an amazing product.

The MVP for the tournament so far has to be Will Ospreay, but Kota Ibushi isn’t far behind. In fact, everyone is really putting on their working boots and giving some impressive performances. But, I can’t stress enough how far Will Ospreay has come in the past year, and he was already among one of the best wrestlers in the world before.

I am going to go in-depth later this week and break down the tournament so far before they come back on Wednesday, but I just want to mention that both Ospreay matches this weekend got 10/10 ratings for me. I make it a point to almost never give out 10 ratings. Those matches seem way too special to be liberal with a rating that is essentially saying, hey, this is one of the best matches I have ever seen, but I can’t deny how much I loved these two matches. I would say the Ibushi one was better in my eyes, but it wasn’t by much. They both told an amazing tale of Will trying to prove that he not just belonged at the top of the card, but could also beat big names in New Japan, and he lost both of them. Even though he still has some way to go on his journey, he has really turned into a legit star in Japan, and his work is really top-njotch. This all was done after fearing that he would miss time due to a neck injury, and they even let that play into the story as well. Just spectacular. Please check out those two matches if you see any this summer.

The funny thing is we aren’t even done with the G1 yet. We still have the rest of the tournament to go through…

CM Punk

Starrcast has announced that CM Punk will be appearing in Chicago for the Memorial Day weekend event. This has really started the rumor mills talking about him possibly making an appearance at AEW that weekend, and a lot of fans are saying that if he doesn’t it may be a huge waste of an opportunity.

Let’s be honest, and I say this as a pretty big Elite fan, this AEW thing has not been perfect. There has been a lot of growing pains, and a lot of people see Punk as the bandaid that would be able to cover that up as best as possible. But, the biggest hurdle and question with this entire thing is Punk. No one really knows where his head is at regarding wrestling. I think people have some ideas, but with all the mystery surrounding it, I wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails on it. Maybe he is in the same boat as well. It is totally realistic to think that CM Punk hasn’t decided if he is going to wrestle for a big promotion again or not.

I think people are going to speculate and unless Punk does show up at All Out, people are going to have the perception that AEW dropped the ball, which I don’t know if that is fair or not. Yes, AEW should sign up any big name like CM Punk they can get, because that is going to be a huge part of where they can go with a mainstream audience, what stars they have, and how big are they. Jericho is one of those types. Having another big, established name that can sell tickets is ideal.

But, one thing that people seem to not realize is that Punk is kind of the only one who can make that decision. It could be that with these lawsuits and court fees his bank account isn’t looking as good as it was years ago, but I would imagine that his commentating gigs pay decent and he isn’t a guy who needs a lot of money. He seems to enjoy time with his family and enough to buy his comic books. The other issue is that wrestling hurts, and it breaks you down. With an older body, it is going to be a lot different when it comes to taking those bumps and bruises.

But hey, he could show up and it would be the biggest thing since Luger showed up at the Mall of America, right?

I guess I would say, just don’t hold your breath, but it would be amazing if it happened.

WWE

It seems like every time I get a look at house show crowds on Twitter, it gets worse every week. With TV starting to slowly turn around, it could cause the crowds to start to turn, but we probably won’t see that for a couple of months. It’s worrisome, with WWE on their way to network television and having this type of excitement level. I would think that wrestling fans would be as excited as I am that we are going to have a product on a station with the biggest visibility in a very long time, and our biggest barometer as far as an American audience, the WWE, is struggling to fill up house shows.

I know house shows have suffered since John Cena stopped working regularly. That, bad luck, and the ignorance of not establishing some stars in the past few years have really impacted live attendance. I would also think that Becky Lynch would have drawn some people in, but she has largely cooled off and I find the reason behind that would be having her involved in really poor booking. She built herself up organically with the crowd, and the way that the WWE has handled the entire thing has been subpar. Don’t get me wrong now. The WrestleMania main event was amazing, but I always felt like Becky should have won her way into the main event rather than Ronda giving it to her. I also felt like the finish being kind of botched and muddled never gave Becky that decisive win over Rousey that she needed to look like she was bigger than life. But there is time. I hope they don’t drop things because of house show attendance. I solely blame how this has all gone down on Vince and creative.

Kevin Owens is being booked how you should book guys like that. Those are the changes that needed to be done. We need a babyface that is likable and relatable sometimes. Kevin doing his “I’m going to tell it like it is and stick it to the boss’s son” program right now is really good. I hope they continue on with things like that. Even if ripping on a McMahon and beating them up has been done so many times that it is no longer fresh, you still like to have some fun while watching wrestling. I felt like a good amount of the past few months didn’t have much fun to WWE programming besides the 24/7 Title.

We’ll keep an eye on this as it continues to develop, but I hope the rumors of guys like Finn Balor getting a shot and with the minor improvements done with the show, we can start seeing returns on those changes and getting a different product that keeps us invested.

Site news

Sendai Girls released their entire show from 07/19 on YouTube, and I am going to be doing a review of it because it is something easy for people to find to watch. That should be posted on Tuesday along with a G1 recap that will get you set up for the remaining part of the tournament. This is going to be a lot of work, but Sendai Girls has been great lately, and I am really excited to see how the rest of the G1 shapes out. The stories this year have really gotten me vested, which isn’t always the case, to be honest.

I have watched every G1 for about 10 years straight, and before that, I watched the finals of years past. This one may be among my favorite. I have seen a lot of people online dunk on this year, and I have had some friends tell me that they think this year is a bit subpar, but I haven’t felt that way. I think I can understand how others see that, and the reasoning is that there is so much good wrestling everywhere, that New Japan doesn’t feel as unique as it did before. That’s totally understandable. I just think this year has some cool stories, and I really can’t wait to see how they all are fleshed out. As for Sendai Girls, Sareee, Meiko Satomura, Chihiro Hashimoto, and DASH Chisako are all tearing it up right now. Please, if you haven’t seen them perform, do a quick search on YouTube and have a fun evening. Anyway, that’s it for this time. See you this week for more Sendai Girls and New Japan coverage.

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Roman Reigns

I can’t put into words the sadness that I feel for Leati Joseph Anoa’i, aka WWE Superstar Roman Reigns, and the situation that he finds himself in today. After being selected to be “the guy” who would replace John Cena as the face of the company, much to the chagrin of the fan base, he has been informed that the leukemia that had been in remission for the last eleven years has returned. Due to this new situation, Reigns has decided to relinquish his championship and return to treatment to fight the disease.

It is hard for wrestling fans to step back and look at things rationally, but I think the entire wrestling community has looked at this moment and has had it open their eyes. For the past few years, we have really done nothing but scrutinize and dissect everything this young man has done, trying to decided if it was right or cool enough for us to accept. I understand that is the nature of the wrestling business, and I hate knocking fans for having an opinion one way or the other, but I also think that we should reevaluate how we react to certain situations that we see on television. Seeing Roman on Monday giving a speech that was probably the hardest thing in his life to do, all while doing it in front of people who would have probably booed him out of the building under any other circumstance was a bit surreal to watch. But it also put a lot of things in perspective.

We often get upset at the performers, but really, they are being told what to do and how to do it. Promoters have always held the power in wrestling. Sure, there are exceptions to the rule, but those are also becoming a lot more rare as time goes on and the WWE gets bigger. I don’t expect someone like Roman Reigns or John Cena to turn down a top spot, especially when they are going to be making really good money for it. I wouldn’t expect anybody to. The fact that we as wrestling fans get so upset at them for taking an opportunity is really strange. It’s asinine to think that they would really say something like. “Well the fans hate me, so maybe we should give this to Seth?” Nobody thinks like that. Especially people with the drive to make it to the top of the heap of a business as cutthroat as professional wrestling.

Roman Reigns, at the end of the day, is just some guy doing his job. He does it well, and that is why he is in the position that he is in. As much as fans complain about him, he draws in good house show and merchandise money. He’s well spoken and he is able to connect with young fans easily. He grew up in the business, and he helps run the locker room like a top guy should. He has a better “work rate” than John Cena did at the same point in his run. But ultimately, at the end of the day, this is a guy who is doing this because he loves it and it puts food on his table for his children. What’s not to love about that? The fact that it was a leukemia diagnosis to make the majority of us see that is sad, and I think that is something that we all should look at ourselves.

I suppose those questions are best left at a later date. At this time, we should all just appreciate what Roman Reigns did, in and out of the ring, and also realize that these performers that go out every single night are people, just like you and me. They have issues at home, they forget to do chores, and they get bad news from doctors. It takes a lot of sacrifice to go out and put yourself on the line in front of people night after night. It took a lot of guts for Roman Reigns to perform every time he stepped through those ropes knowing that he was going to be crapped on, but he did it anyway. Sure, he does get paid a lot of money to do it, but it doesn’t make it any less difficult. Regardless of wrestling, I hope that Roman does get healthy soon and we do see him perform again. It takes a lot of guts to fight back, and I know that he has enough of that to take on any challenge.

God speed, and good health, sir.

The Brie Bella Situation

I didn’t plan on writing about Raw this week. In fact, before last night, I had been working on a piece covering wrestling fandom that will have to be pushed back a bit to later on this week so that I can tackle something that has been a huge topic inside pro wrestling circles, and that is the incident that happened last Monday during the women’s six man tag team match.

The only thing that really needs to be pointed out is one spot that has been dissected and analyzed over and over again for the past forty-eight hours or so. Brie Bella of the Bella Twins was doing her spot that was made famous by her husband, Daniel Bryan, the Yes Kicks, where her opponent would kneel in front of her while taking the kicks across her chest. At one point, Brie switched up her speed of the kicks, and during that, her opponent, Liv Morgan, took a boot square on the jaw, knocking her out on her knees. When this happened, Brie had not noticed, and continued with her kicks, again kicking Morgan in the face. What really surprised me is that the match wasn’t stopped immediately, in fact, Liv actually got up and still performed the rest of her spots, even after being out cold.

Since this happened, the entire internet wrestling community seems to be split on the issue. Many people are placing all the blame on Brie, which is silly to me. Sure, Brie Bella is certainly not blameless, and I definitely find myself questioning her new assortment of moves, but for people to be calling for the stake right now is just overacting.

Let’s break this down as much as we can. For one, professional wrestling is a dangerous sport. People have argued with me when I say that wrestling is even less safe than say MMA or pro boxing. Reason being is that you are working on a harder schedule, you are taking a lot more punishment, and you also have the benefit of a ref or a corner stopping a fight that may be getting out of hand. Meanwhile, wrestling has always had an old school approach of the show must go on. Back before the WWE had a Wellness Policy and concussion protocols, you would hear countless stories of the boys getting knocked silly or out cold, and then having to complete the match they are in. Most retell the tales with a sort of reverence for the occasion, even though it possibly meant injuring themselves even further. The fact is that even though it is a work, people get injured constantly, and it doesn’t always boil down to someone being unsafe.

Accidents happen constantly in pro wrestling. They happen during the most mundane spots in a match sometimes. Did you know that King Mabel broke The Undertaker’s orbital bone back in 1995 doing a clothesline? That’s right, a simple clothesline being botched was enough to put someone out of action for a month and require facial surgery. What about Seth Rollins and his buckle bomb? He did that to Finn Balor on a guardrail, and put him out of action just when he got his Universal Title run. Then, Rollins injured Sting with the same move, and that time it was inside the ring on a padded turnbuckle. I didn’t see the same reaction then, and if I did, I would think it would be silly too.

One big complaint I keep seeing is that Brie should not be doing that kicking spot in the first place. I tend to agree, but I also see what they are trying to do with the older “Diva” performers in the current landscape. People want fast paced action, and they want to see a match and have it tell a story. The women that came around before the “women’s revolution” are trying to make sure they won’t be forgotten in this new landscape of talented female workers. Can you really blame them for trying new or different things to stay relevant? I don’t want Brie using Bryan’s moves because I think it is unoriginal. That is a spot that is used maybe on big Pay Per Views to get a crowd super hot. But I disagree with Brie not using it for hope that it will make her matches safer. People should be challenging themselves out there. The Bellas should be allowed to grow and mature and get better, no matter how old they are or how long they have been around. I say that because Trish Stratus was first known as some hot model who couldn’t wrestle, and after her regular career had ended, she was remembered as one of the greatest female wrestlers to ever come to the WWE.

At the same time, Brie should take some fault in this. Again, this is a spot that she really doesn’t need to do anymore. At first it was a tribute to her husband, who was retired due to injuries. Now it just seems like a cheap pop. Number two, Brie Bella doesn’t have to wrestle like these other girls to get over. This faster and more technical style is great, and I love the way women’s wrestling is finally being portrayed, but at the same time, these women can work a slower and more showman style, especially someone like Brie Bella. Also, she should have told the ref what was wrong right away rather than try to continue the match. That was my biggest pet peeve of the entire ordeal. Doctors should have been called in right away and Liv should have been taken out, then call the match a no contest or a forfeit.

Brie shouldn’t be made a villain from this. She was simply doing a move, not recklessly or with no abandon. This wasn’t New Jack throwing Vic Grimes off a scaffold, nor was it Akira Maeda’s shoot kick. It was simply a badly timed spot performed by a sloppy worker and someone got hurt. This happens all the time in wrestling. Mitsuhara Misawa died from a back suplex. Darren Drozdov got dumped on his head by D-Lo Brown by a move D-Lo had done hundreds of times before. Things get messed up in wrestling. It’s wrong to think we should shame someone out of the business or their spot when it is an accident without malicious intent.

Raw Thoughts (09/10/2018)

Although I can’t promise being able to do these every week, I thought a weekly Raw segment would be a nice touch to the blog. Now this won’t go in full depth of the show, as there are many fine blog that already do a good job of reviewing Raw as a whole, but I do want to dive into some topics or spend a little extra time on other important ones. This week’s Raw (09/10/2018) had quite a bit packed into it to set up this week’s PPV, so let’s go ahead and dive in.

The Shield being back has been pretty lackluster to me so far. Maybe it’s because Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, and Braun Strowman are so different together and it comes off as unique compared to the Shield, but also I think it is partly the booking since they made their return. Rather than let them get over in matches like they did during their inception and initial long run on the main roster, they have them doing these weird angles with police vans and axe handles. I think the main problem is they are booking backwards, and trying to get the crowd into hating Braun enough to boo him come Sunday has made them pull out a couple of tricks out of the hat.

This week’s angle with the heel army being demolished seamlessly just reminded me of old WCW television where I would see Kevin Nash plowing through an entire roster with a baseball bat. But they want to make Strowman and his new group seem cowardly, and they want to make sure to accelerate it as much as possible. The go home segment wasn’t bad though. I sort of find it weird when they do these big gimmicks on a go home show. I always liked the approach where the two guys don’t touch each other. But this worked, I didn’t hate it, and it seemed to really get over.

Ronda Rousey needs new gear. There is just no cutting it. All these other women have phenomenal gear, with cool patterns and personality, and Ronda is here with shorts that ride up constantly and she looks like she is going to hop on a treadmill. Some new threads which accentuate her MMA background while also making it a bit more comfortable to work in would be ideal. Aside from that, Ronda and Alexa Bliss is a really nice program with an old school build. I know people on the internet knock on Bliss for her work rate or whatever, but she plays the role of heel very well and gets better each time she is out there. The rib injury angle worked spectacularly, and it makes the match on Sunday a bit more believable with Alexa being able to get some more offense in this time. The only problem I see with this is that as a person who watches MMA, I know that fighters compete injured all the time, but I don’t think most pro wrestling fans are going to consider that. I also find it cool that we are getting quite a bit of free matches from Rousey on a regular basis, and it shows that she is going to be more than just a special attraction.

Mick Foley promos are always great, and Mick has gotten to the point where he can do them in his sleep. He is going to be the guest referee in the Universal Title match. I’m not sure that this match needs anymore thrown at it, especially because this is a newly established feud, but part of me is interested to see where it goes from here. I like stipulations thrown onto matches later on down the road, and this one seems like they are trying to heat it up too quick.

I see a lot of vitriol coming around due to the Bellas being back on the main roster, and while I can understand some of it, most of it has me shaking my head. A roster isn’t always going to be packed with workhorses that can steal the show. Sometimes it needs a bit more of a mainstream appeal, and even with the talent out of the women’s division, the Bellas do have an audience that they can cater to. Not only that, but Nikki has really tried to broaden her moveset and diversify her offense. Even if she isn’t as crisp as other females on the roster, she is still out there working hard. I could compare her to the Miz in a sense that she goes out, does her best in the ring, even though it doesn’t look great, and gets over. Although, I will admit that Miz is far stronger on the mic, but there aren’t many women on the roster that are crazy strong on the mic either.

Besides, Ronda is going to need people to face going forward. Introducing the Bellas so that Nikki can eventually turn and face off against her could be really good. I had my doubts about Alexa Bliss at first too, but this program is shaping out to be a pretty entertaining one. I say give them a shot, and let’s see if things will really be that bad going forward.

 

I thought it was a decent Raw. Nothing too crazy to get me ready for Sunday, but better than some go home shows I have seen in the past. WWE seems to be trying to have longer storylines to keep fan interest up through the entire show, and it seems to be working for the most part. While this is the lull before the Survivor Series in November, we have the Evolution and Melbourne specials to build towards in October, and that has sort of rejuvenated the weekly shows right now. It’s interesting to see how this will shake out as the fall goes on.