With expectations being set high going into this past weekend, it was up in the air how things would be when the dust settled. It was a stacked Saturday, with an EVOLVE anniversary card going against an AEW benefit show, mix that in with two New Japan shows that included their annual tournament, the G1 Climax, taking place with a plethora of independent shows and you had a very stacked weekend. I had a lot to watch with some new Joshi promotions I had been getting in to. I made it a point to have New Japan as a priority overall. If I was going to miss anything, it damn sure wasn’t going to be NJPW. But luckily I was able to get in a lot before the end of the weekend.
I wanted to cover the entire weekend at once, and the reasoning behind that was most wrestling fans saw as much as they could. WWE putting the EVOLVE show on the Network was a move that put independent wrestling in front of a lot of new eyeballs. I know people were saying that this wasn’t an indy show, and I suppose you could make a case for that, but I saw a lot of indy guys on that card. I think one mistake, and it wasn’t a big one, because it is on the Network and you want people watching this show, was having two WWE guys work the main event. I don’t care how good it was. I don’t want this sold as a Barely Legal like show if the main event is WWE guys. I could only imagine what the crowd would do in 1997 if that ECW Pay Per View had a main event of Marc Mero vs. Flash Funk.
But was it better than AEW? I would have to lean towards yes. It was presented in a different fashion than a normal WWE Network special. It was an EVOLVE show. They made sure to keep that authentic feel to the show. AEW wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. The main event didn’t deliver, and there were just too many misses. But it wasn’t a bad show. I think I have just set a high expectation for AEW shows and it is hard for them to meet those standards.
The underlying story was how both shows were booked on the same night. Since EVOLVE is probably having their shows being put on the WWE Network very shortly, it looked as if WWE wanted to broadcast it to not just showcase it, but to spite AEW. Kenny Omega took offense and fired off some tweets that played on WWE’s relationship with the Saudi government and ulterior motives for running the show the same day as their benefit show. I don’t blame him for questioning it or even lashing out about it, but it just turned it into an “us vs. them” thing within the fan base, and it got old really quick. The entire conversation is kind of silly, but social media makes things silly.
My opinion on it: of course McMahon did it to spite AEW. He is a spiteful person. You don’t buy out your competition time after time without being a little cutthroat.
Is this wrong? I don’t know. I honestly don’t think so. It is just the way that Vince operates and has operated for years. I think we should just get used to stuff like this and move on from it. The mistake I think that was made was Cody and others continually acknowledging it. That made it come across as being bitter. The focus really should have just stayed on the charity and left it there.
As far as wrestling goes, it was a mixed bag from AEW and pretty solid from EVOLVE. AEW doesn’t have to come up that big, at least to me, yet. They have until television starts, and that is when I feel like they need to get serious. Right now, these are sort of free test shows to get an idea of what works and what doesn’t. A lot of stuff doesn’t work. The Librarians gimmick doesn’t really work. It just gets annoying heat, and it does nothing for the wrestlers. Sonny Kiss got no favors having to deal with that gimmick, and that is a guy who could have benefited from a good showing in a singles match.
Brandi Rhodes cutting a promo about being depressed and being buried for her wrestling skills and then coming out and working heel for her match, and babyface for the post-show promo: that doesn’t work. We can’t be told to believe that Brandi isn’t playing wrestler one minute and then see her do that exact thing the next minute. I think she will turn into a great performer if she sticks to it, but we also don’t want to be insulted in the process, especially when you are selling yourself as a smarter alternative to the WWE.
Alex Marvez, and the entire concept of a three-man booth: it’s not working. I don’t even think I have to elaborate on this subject. It’s just not working. Let’s fix it.
There was some good to come out of this show. I loved seeing the preview for Kong vs. Kong. Aja came out for a save for Allie after the Brandi match, and it was an amazing moment all by itself. I would guess that the match is going to take place on Pay Per View, and I wonder if it will be a tag or a singles match. From what I’ve read, Awesome Kong is pretty busted up these days, and she has been wanting to focus more on her acting after being on GLOW. But this is a match that wrestling fans have wanted for a long time.
The emphasis on Japanese Women’s wrestling as a whole is a plus for me. I love women’s wrestling in general, but Joshi wrestling has always had a soft spot in my heart, and seeing women like Riho and Nakajima go out there and wow audiences with their skill is something that makes me happy with what AEW is doing. You can tell that Kenny has a lot of say in how the women are booked, and he has always revered his Japanese female counterparts.
The wrestling was also amazing. Sammy Guevara and Luchasaurus came out and showed why they have a spot for a company on national TV. MJF has a star presence that few in the business can capture as well as he does, and he isn’t even twenty-five yet.
As for EVOLVE, the entire show was pretty good, and there wasn’t too much I had to complain about besides the WWE guys working at the top. This is something that is not new for them. They have had other shows with NXT or WWE guys there. A lot of those guys did go through there and work, with Bryan, McIntyre, and Gargano sticking out specifically. I’m sure it was great for them to go back to their old stomping ground and lend a helping hand for their anniversary show. Also, if this is what the premium tier of the network is going to bring, then I am all for it. I would gladly pay $15 a month for the tape library, WWE and EVOLVE Pay Per Views, especially if you threw in some ICW and wXw.
As we are getting short for space and we still have to cover the G1 Climax as well as Extreme Rules, I am going to say that you should check out Shotzi Blackheart vs. Brandi Lauren in their No DQ match. Those two stole the show, and that is saying something when you look at the talent that was there that night.
The G1 Climax 29 has not disappointed at all. This really has been one of the best starts to the tournament that I can remember, but every year for the past three years have been like this. It sounds so crazy to keep saying it every year, that this could be the best G1 of all time, because how can that even be? Especially this year, when so much of the top talent isn’t back in the tournament?
But New Japan has found a way, again, to try to top themselves. I think that is what I like most about this company. They don’t ever settle for something that the fans will just think is okay, they really try to go above and beyond each time they go out there for a show.
I have to mention that due to personal conflicts and priorities, I was unable to watch Monday morning/Sunday night’s show. I will have to include those matches in a future installment, most likely a Working the Loop or a stand-alone New Japan write up, but I do want to mention that I am aware that Will Ospreay was unable to compete in his match last night. While this isn’t the first time this has happened in a G1, it is kind of rare to see it. I just hope he is able to heal and get back to doing what he loves. I know a lot of people have so much invested in this tournament, and we all think about how the booking will change and whatnot, but we really should be thinking about the guys doing this stuff too. I hope Ospreay makes a full recovery, and most importantly, I hope he takes care of his body.
Matches that stuck out to me, and ones that I rated above an 8 are as follows:
– Shingo Takagi vs. Juice Robinson 8/10
– Jeff Cobb vs. Tomohiro Ishii 9/10
– Jay White vs. Hirooki Goto 9/10
– SANADA vs. Will Ospreay 8/10
- Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Kazuchika Okada 9/10
- Kota Ibushi vs. Evil 8/10
- Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. KENTA 8/10
I know people will think that I am being liberal with my match ratings, but those would probably be people who haven’t seen these shows yet. It isn’t just high spot after high spot either. They were really matches that told a different story.
The biggest story coming out of the standings would be Kota Ibushi going 0 for 2 as far as wins go. The loss against KENTA wasn’t too surprising, but his loss to Evil was really shocking. He was my pick to win the entire thing besides Naito, and he could still run the table and find himself in the finals, but this isn’t a lock anymore. The other big story would be KENTA beating not only Ibushi but Tanahashi as well. I don’t really feel shocked by this, seeing how KENTA is an amazing athlete and worker, and he deserves to be showcased in this tournament, but I still find it strange that a “NOAH” guy came in and beat two of New Japan’s top guys.
For the record, I don’t really see Yano rolling up Naito as a surprise. I remember when he pinned Tanahashi years ago in another G1 Tournament. I just love that Yano acts as a spoiler from time to time. He is perfect for that spot.
Also, Lance Archer is the man. Please make sure to watch his matches this year.
On to the last item…
Extreme Rules was all right. There was some good wrestling, and we had the best Undertaker match that we have probably seen in years, but as far as the story goes, it was disappointing. For one, the scripted promo from Seth and Becky was really awful. It made them sound really weird and kind of psycho. When couples talk about walking around a city talking about how they are going to crack people’s heads open and pigeon poop, then that is when I question their sanity. I think that the WWE writing team has really lost any aspect of reality when it comes to booking realistic stories.
This event was also too long. This is a common theme with WWE. Even their smaller Pay Per Views feel like they are dragging. I know that it cuts down on people getting bigger paychecks and revenue, but holy crap lets cut some of the fat on these shows down. I didn’t even watch the pre-show, because I would have put my head through a wall. Wrestling shows shouldn’t take up half of your day. I don’t care how big of a fan you are, there needs to be some time to breathe and let everything process. Having it stretch out so long makes that really hard to do.
As for the big story out of the event, it looks like Brock is back with the Universal Title and we are back to holding pattern city. I mean, I knew he was going to eventually get it, but to me, this just says that we are going to get a “WrestleMania rematch” come SummerSlam, and I feel like that is lazy booking. I want to see new interactions and matchups, not the same thing that I was watching in April. WWE should feel lucky that AEW is so inexperienced right now. They are just leaving money on the table putting Brock back in the title picture. Maybe I am wrong, and we will get some amazing story out of this, but I really doubt it.
That is that. I can honestly say that this weekend lived up to much of the hype. I really enjoyed it. I don’t think these weekends should come around often, as I am worn out from watching so much wrestling, and I still have some Japanese promotions to check out this week, but it was still a really fun time. What was your favorite thing about the weekend? What was your least favorite? Comment below or feel free to hook up with me on social media. I am going to go and watch something fictional that doesn’t include men and women wearing tights. Enjoy your week!