Working the Loop (09/20/2018)

NJPW

 

Rumor has it that there is a new Los Ingobernables de Japon member incoming shortly, and it looks like it was insisted upon by the injured Hiromu Takahashi. The last we saw was him was his amazing match back in June against Dragon Lee where he was the unfortunate recipient of a botched Phoenix plex that broke his neck, putting him on the sideline for at least a year. People have been speculating a lot on Reddit and Twitter, most pointing that they believe it will be PAC, formerly knows as Neville in WWE, but I myself can not figure out who they would put in that position. Would it be a free agent, someone from Mexico, or someone else already on the New Japan roster? The LIJ group is pretty close knit, so it is interesting to see how this will play out with a new member. There are still a couple more shows left on this current tour, not to mention the US show just around the corner, so hopefully we will see some developments shortly.

I find the latest developments between Kenny Omega and Hiroshi Tanahashi to be really exciting, and I hope that it gets some decent heat in Japan come January. Not that you need much to get this match hot. The crowd exploding for Tanahashi winning the G-1 back in August was enough to convince me that having the old vet get one more tournament win was the right call. I am interested to see what a Tanahashi and Omega match would look like.

The way they are going promoting the match so far is to implement shoot interview aspects in it, where Tanahshi is burying the way that Kenny wrestles, saying he only makes the last five minutes exciting, and Omega attacking Tanahashi’s age. I think there are a lot of new NJPW fans out there, because people seemed surprised by this, but Hiroshi does this quite often. He did the same thing with Katsuyori Shibata, commenting on his heart in regards to pro wrestling, as well as Kazuchika Okada’s body, saying he looked out of shape. The reasoning behind this is to make the match seem more real, and more like a shoot. The work/shoot is a strange staple in Japanese wrestling culture, and I plan on having a write up one some events from the past in the near future.

One thing I feel that this points to is that this we are going to see Omega vs. Tanahashi in the Tokyo Dome come January. New Japan rarely doesn’t deliver on matches that are promoted like this, and even though this match is already a big deal in Japan, I think they are trying their best to drum up international attention. I also think they are seeing the results from booking month to month and not being able to get as much American attention as they did last year. Even their next Long Beach show isn’t close to being sold out, and I think that is making them rethink a couple of booking techniques that they have been using of late.

 

WWE

 

By the recent rumors being circulated, it looks as if Shawn Michaels will in fact be returning to wrestling for this November’s Saudi Arabia show, Crown Jewel. From reports that I have read, it is looking like it will be Triple H and Shawn Michaels facing Kane and The Undertaker. I am not really surprised. I would love to see Michaels face off against someone on the roster who is a regular competitor, but this is probably the best we are going to get at this point and time. Who knows? HBK could feel different about performing regularly after this match, but I somehow doubt it. I think a lot of reasoning behind this event would be the fat payday that everybody seems to be making off of these Saudi shows.

Speaking of comebacks, one of my favorite wrestlers of all time, Rey Mysterio Jr., will be returning here very shortly. Not much has been said about where on the main roster he will end up. While I do want to see him square off against guys like Samoa Joe, Daniel Bryan, and AJ Styles, I think the first thing you do with Rey at this point is throw him on Raw and 205 Live. 205 Live is a really good show, but there are very few reasons to really care about it. A huge star like Mysterio appearing each week would give it a shot in the arm, not to mention that nostalgia factor of having one of the guys who popularized “cruiserweight” wrestling here in the states. Give him a year there, and then throw him on Smackdown.

Alexa Bliss is experiencing numbness in her arm, leading her to take some time off to try and heal. This is some really sad news to hear, and I personally hope it isn’t anything too serious, but numbness can be either a bad stinger, all the way up to nerve damage. Unfortunately, professional wrestling, especially by modern standards, was not invented with the human neck in mind. You don’t have to look far to find examples of dangerous situations with wrestlers and having nerve issues. Arn Anderson, “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, and as recently as Daniel Bryan and Paige have shown that neck/nerve issues are nothing to sneeze at. Here’s hoping she has a speedy recovery, and does what is best for her own interests.

 

MMA

 

I know a lot of you are seeing an MMA topic on here and wondering why, but I have always believed that pro wrestling and Mixed Marital Arts, even though there is a clear difference, are intertwined, This stems mostly from catch wrestling as well as the roots of MMA as a sport springing partly from Japanese pro wrestling, so I tend to lump them all in the same ballpark at times. But, I really want to touch on the Brock Lesnar rumor that has been circulating since yesterday when Jon “Bones” Jones was reinstated by the UFC and USADA for a failed doping test done before his last fight against Daniel Cormier.

As most of you know, Brock has been promoted to face Daniel “DC” Cormier sometime in early 2019 for the UFC heavyweight title. This is happening even though Brock hasn’t won a fight since 2010 (he won his last fight against Mark Hunt, but it was ruled a No Contest after Brock failed his drug test before the fight) and hasn’t competed regularly since 2011, but it’s Brock, and people throw money at him for just walking down the street. Not to say that Brock doesn’t deserve the money. He is clearly a draw, and one of the few fighters in the world who can pull in 1 million PPV buys, but the problem I have with it is that the UFC has claimed for years that they are a “sport”, and I have never seen the Super Bowl competitor decided by who brings in the highest Sunday Night Football rating.

With all this in mind, yesterday we heard of the reinstatement of Jon Jones, who had been suspended for his own failed drug test (one of many) before his last fight. When USADA gave him the okay to fight after an October deadline, the internet immediately started speculating on a Brock vs. Jones fight rather than the Cormier one. I take offense to this rumor, and here is why.

For one, there is no legitimate reason why Brock should be fighting for a title right now. The biggest reason you can look at why this is happening is due to the amount of debt that WME-IMG took in order to purchase the UFC from Zuffa in 2016. Back then, the promotion had Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey, and a slew of fresh matchups that made it looked like a huge cash cow. Since that purchase, Ronda has left for greener pastures in wrestling, Conor has only fought a couple of times, and they are finding a harder and harder time to bring fresh fights that crowds want to see and pay money for. Now they find themselves with a predicament of having a huge amount of interest they need to pay and not having enough of a cash flow right now to beat it.

So of course they go to their usual habits of asking Brock to bail them out so they can cash off his name value. The same thing can be said for Jon Jones. Sure, Jones is a top 3 fighter of all time, but in my eyes, a lot of that is tainted due to the multiple failed drug tests. The last thing I want to see as a fan of the “sport” of MMA is two cheaters, one who should have been suspended a lot longer than what he got and the other who hasn’t had a meaningful win in almost a decade, fight each other. I’d rather see DC get the payday he deserves when he schools Brock on the ground. Cheating shouldn’t be rewarded, I don’t care how big of a name someone is.

 

For your viewing pleasure!

 

 

Riki Choshu vs. Terry Funk 10/21/1086

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Hell in a Cell 2018 Thoughts

Hell in a Cell from this past Sunday, September 16th, 2018, was overall a pretty decent show. While some of it came across as questionable long term, I felt that this PPV did a really good job of advancing a lot of stories and being able to spark some interest in the Australia show coming up at the beginning of next month. It also didn’t really drag too much, although there were changes that should have been made to the overall feel of some matches, but we will get into that in a bit, and I felt pretty entertained for the duration of the card, which hasn’t been the case for most WWE events this year.

Hell in a Cell is a weird Pay Per View to me because I really don’t prefer gimmick matches to be the center of an event. I think it works for things like Survivor Series, or the Royal Rumble, but for things like Hell in a Cell, or Extreme Rules, I think those should be more of a blow-off to a feud rather than an annual event. It came across strange to keep saying how Hell in a Cell match shorten careers and change peoples lives, and here we are throwing professional wrestlers inside them once a year? Not just that, but it causes the envelope to be pushed each time you see one of these matches, and with it escalating all the time, these matches start to get a little harder to watch. I know people like to see some blood and guts in their wrestling, and hell, I do as well. That is why I enjoy deathmatch wrestling, but at the same time, seeing some of these spots in WWE events doesn’t let me enjoy the match, it just makes me fear for the person up that high off the ground.

The other point of having it annually is that matches that could have benefited from having a stipulation like a Hell in a Cell match to their story. WWE booking is frustrating right now, because they have the talent to shine, really interesting match-ups to capitalize on, and a very hungry fan base who seems to be eating up everything that is being thrown at them, and we still have these storylines and angles that don’t show the full potential of their crew of wrestlers. I know that no company is going to run perfect angles for every wrestler all the time, but the focus remains on a few big stars, and the rest of the people seem to be floundering.

Here are my thoughts on the matches from Sunday:

 

Randy Orton vs. Jeff Hardy (Hell in a Cell)

Wow, this match was insane. I figured that this was going to be a hot match, but the problem I found was that it didn’t seem to need to be in a cell before it started. I see that they did use the stipulation as a way to get Hardy into a match where he could do some of his crazy spots. But this could have been an AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe match or even Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch and it would have made more sense. Still, it was an entertaining bout. Both of these guys went full tilt, and I was pretty into it for the entire match.

The things I did like about it was the brawling and the spots they did were so brutal, so it felt like a fight rather than a wrestling match. Parts of the match were so intense that it was hard to watch though. Jeff Hardy is getting up there in age, and seeing him put his body on the line as he did is commendable, but also concerning. I’m hoping he gets some time off to heal and recover. The spot where Orton dumped him chest first on the open ladder was harsh. Same thing with the ear and screwdriver point of the match. If you didn’t see this, Randy actually took a screwdriver from a toolbox under the ring, and then proceeded to twist it around inside Jeff’s gauges. It was grosser than it sounds.

The end of the match came when Jeff tried to hang onto the roof of the cell and swing into some sort of splash on Orton as he laid on a table in the ring. Randy moved, and Jeff went face first into the table. It looked cool, but at the same time, it felt anti-climatic. Orton just walks over and pins him while the ref throws a fit trying to get the cage up and get EMTs inside to attend to Jeff. Orton gets on the turnbuckle and celebrates. It just felt too much confusion to be the end of the program, but at the same time, I couldn’t tell you where they are going with it further.

Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair (c) for the SmackDown Woman’s Championship

Okay, so here is the first match on the card I felt could have been made a lot better by being inside of the cell. Two women, former friends, who each have wronged the other. This right here has all the makings of an amazing grudge match, but the story they seemed to want to tell was Charlotte trying to win back the respect of her friend. Started out very slow, and I thought this hurt the match a bit right from the get-go. Now don’t think I thought the match was horrible. It was decent, especially when things picked up near the climax, but I just thought with the character of Becky Lynch being so vengeful, this would have been the time for her to show some more aggression. Also, things started falling apart after the Boston Crab spot from Charlotte.

The matched ended clean after Becky rolled through a spear from Charlotte. Great reaction from the crowd at that point, with an earth-shattering pop. Flair goes to shake Lynch’s hand after, but Becky starts talking trash and holds the belt up in Charlotte’s face. Amazing end to a decent match.

Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins vs. Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler (c) for the Raw World Tag Team Championship

Wow, this match was good. Best match on the card by far, and it didn’t need any sort of cell or gimmick, just four guys going in the ring and working their tails off. Drew looked amazing in this bout, starting off looking mean and in control. Dean Ambrose also came off great and truly missed from his injury early this year. One spot that stuck out in my mind was where Rollins went for a tope on Drew and Dolph, they end up catching him. Before they can react, Dean comes through the ropes with a tope of his own, sending all four crashing down.

End of the match came when Drew goes over clean on Rollins with a Claymore while Seth was going for his superplex/Falcon Arrow spot. It was perfectly timed, and it came off great on TV and with the live crowd. The last three minutes or so of this was nuts, absolutely some of best wrestling you can see anywhere. My only question would be: where do Dolph and Drew go from here? These are two guys that have proven before that they can go once the bell rings, can get over with the crowd, have a pretty decent presence with the fans, and they still aren’t looked at as stars in the WWE’s eyes. I’m hoping this run changes that perception, but I have my doubts.

Samoa Joe vs. AJ Styles (c) for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship

I don’t know how these guys were able to follow the match before them as well as they did, but they pulled it off like some pros. This build-up was one of my favorites for the past year, and seeing how hard these guys have been working with stuff that essentially writes itself is so great to see.

Joe sticks out so well in the WWE. His look, his style, and his intensity really set him apart, and I am glad that he is getting these opportunities to show just how good he is. They started the match off perfectly too, with a lot of brawling, with AJ trying to go toe to toe with Joe and coming up on the short end. Samoa Joe is a striker, and a brawler if need be, while AJ is a high flyer and more technical, and I thought that was a cool little story to tell in the match of AJ being so mad and just throwing his game plan in the trash at first, proving that Joe has gotten in his head. Once the action started picking up, it really came across smooth and very entertaining. I don’t think people realize how hard it is to keep a crowd going after such an amazing match before this one, and these guys did it almost like nothing.

The end came when Joe went for his Coquina Clutch and AJ did the old Bret Hart roll up for the pin. Joe got up and started celebrating like he won the belt, but then was informed that he actually got pinned. Amazing to see this entire thing fleshed out from beginning to end, and I am excited for what is to come from these two.

The Miz and Maryse vs. Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella

This match was good at some points and really bad at others. The bits where Brie was chasing Maryse and everyone going crazy were really good. The parts with Bryan and Miz are always good, as the chemistry between the two seems to get better and better all the time, and they managed to keep the crowd through a match with a lot of smoke and mirrors at points.

But some things were really bad. The botched finish at the end along with it looking so choreographed sort of lost me at times. I know that most of these bigger matches are planned and plotted out, but Brie has a way of sort of telegraphing what is going to come next, and she makes a lot of movements look awkward. That could be chalked up to ring rust. I used to find Brie as the more talented of the Bella Twins, but lately, Nikki has been the better of the two. Maryse pinned Brie with a super sloppy roll up and this feud continues.

Alexa Bliss vs. Ronda Rousey (c) for the Raw Women’s Championship

So this match was good and bad. If you ask me, it is interesting to see Ronda working from underneath, but at the same time, I scratch my head at this booking. You could have had Ronda on a huge streak like Goldberg or Brock Lesnar where she is untouchable until you give her an opponent that you want to get over as a legit threat. This could have been an Asuka or a Charlotte Flair, and it could have happened at a big Pay Per View like the Royal Rumble or even Wrestlemania. But it gets thrown into this storyline within a couple of weeks of Ronda becoming champion. I just don’t get WWE booking at times.

But the match was pretty good. I don’t like some of Ronda’s selling, but selling is the hardest part about wrestling. That’s what makes everything look the most real, and when you look at really great performers like Ric Flair, Bret Hart, and Shawn Michaels, you look at how they got the crowd to get behind them, and that was great selling.

But the crowd is already behind Ronda. While Alexa did look good and I believe that she gets better with every match, it still felt disjointed at times. Ronda worked from underneath after an initial flurry and then Bliss started to work the ribs.

Match ended when Ronda got her comeback. She got some fire, did the spot in the corner with the punches, and then finished Alexa with her variation of a Samoan drop and an armbar.

Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns (c) for the WWE Universal Championship (Hell in a Cell) w/ Special Referee Mick Foley

So this one was not a bad match by any stretch. I understand people being tired of Roman being shoved down our throats as fans, but I do always have to admit that the guy can work. His matches have good timing and good pacing, but I don’t know if crowds are ever going to give him a chance. Braun is a lot more limited than Roman, but he is still making good progress, and this match is one where it can accentuate his strengths rather than his weaknesses. Great brawling to start, and each spot led into the next. WWE is great with laying out their main events like this, but there are times in stipulation matches where you want to believe this is a real fight, and with things plotted like they are, that can be hard.

Roman and Braun eventually do a double down after a spear through a table and they stay down forever. McIntyre and Ziggler come out to help their stablemate, and then the rest of the Shield run out, and they start tearing into one another. Both groups get on top of the cage, and then they start brawling. Ambrose and Drew both go down on top of the cell roof, and then Dolph and Seth go through the announcer tables off the sides of the cell, and then, Brock Lesnar’s music hits.

At this point, the crowd is going nuts. Lesnar walks out with Heyman, and Paul starts asking for the key, and Brock kicks in the cage door. It was a pretty impressive spot. When Foley goes to confront Heyman, Paul sprays something in Mick’s eyes. Lesnar comes in and starts beating up Reigns and Strowman with a broken table before giving them both F5s and leaving. The match is called a no contest due to no one being able to continue.

Well, that was certainly an entertaining way to end the show. It also sets up for another match with Brock, as he wants to get one big payday in before he goes to the UFC. But what concerns me is that the WWE seems to always return to their wheelhouse rather than keep focused on getting current and future stars over. Look at Braun Strowman. He was an unstoppable force just a couple months ago, so over that entire arenas were cheering for him. And what does creative do? Attempts a heel turn while watering down the character to make him seem like a coward. Now it just creates a main event scene that no one cares about, just like people did when Brock was Universal Champion. I know a lot of people are going to point the finger at Roman, but I feel like that is such a cop-out. WWE needs to focus on creative, and focus on CREATING a new star rather than just telling us that they have one. The only thing WWE has tried to do is work us into believing that Roman is cool, and it is not working.

 
Overall, this was an awesome show. Top to bottom you saw amazing wrestling, and a couple of the story advancements have me excited for the fall, which usually isn’t the case for me personally. Do I want to see Brock and Roman again? No. But I also understand that this is a business and WWE needs to look out for their best interest, and if they are getting as much money as being reported in the dirt sheets and on MMAFighting.com (which reportedly is around $45 million, which eclipses even Wrestlemania) then they have to load up these Saudi Arabia shows as much as possible. I don’t agree with these government propaganda shows, the first came off trashy and somewhat boring, but you have to realize that Vince knows where his bread is buttered, and he is trying to create as much cash flow as humanly possible for his company.

Also, if I were UFC, and Brock still hadn’t signed a fight contract and was going to be working a triple threat match where their heavyweight title fight could be put in jeopardy rather than getting ready to fight Daniel Cormier, I would be extremely angry. But the fact of the matter is that Brock can do whatever he wants and people will pay him. He is and always has been a hot commodity, and that’s the reason why Vince and the UFC will continually throw money his way. It gets eyeballs on the product and interest in mainstream circles. But I also would like to point out that Brock clearly isn’t taking fighting that serious, and is doing the DC fight solely for the payday. Can’t blame him, because I know Cormier is doing it for the exact same reason.

One fact that I would like to point out is that Pay Per Views for the past couple of years have felt like another episode of Raw or Smackdown, not really resolving anything concrete and setting you up for television the following day. This show was pretty much that. Did any one feud come to a comprehensive conclusion? I don’t think so. But, with WWE getting so much money for their television rights, why shouldn’t they keep the train moving. Clearly, I know diddly about making money with a wrestling company, because for years I thought it was live gates and PPV buys that kept the lights on, and here we are on the verge of WWE getting more money than they ever have in a couple of years just for providing TV for 52 weeks a year. So if I pay $9.99 a month to see an exclusive television show on the internet, I guess I shouldn’t complain when there is no decisive ending to a program.

That’s it for WWE Hell in a Cell. Next couple of months are going to be packed with Evolution, Super Show-Down, and Crown Jewel all coming at us. I hope you all are enjoying this change of pace in the fall and winter as much as I am. Take care out there, and you all enjoy your wrestling.

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.