Working the Loop (04/12/2019)

Hey there wrestling fans! Hasn’t it been wild since Sunday? Even with a pretty lackluster Raw and Smackdown Live after Wrestlemania, we still have a lot to talk about before the weekend hits. Big things are happening in the WWE, the independent scene, and overseas. Let’s dive right in, shall we?
SASHA BANKS THREATED TO QUIT

 

Well this one was definitely a big news item since it broke midweek, but to me, it isn’t surprising at all. Sasha was apparently upset about having to drop the Women’s Tag Titles as easily as they did on Sunday, and she been under the impression that she and Bailey would have a more impactful run. Also, there is some chatter about having heat with Alexa Bliss and not wanting to do a segment on Raw that would involve the three of them.

I think AEW opening up with as big of a splash as it has will only increase the cases of people wanting to break away from WWE if they don’t get what they need creatively. The Khans have deep pockets, and they also have a pretty good understanding of keeping their athletes happy. When you look at the circumstances surrounding other wrestler’s contracts that are under the AEW banner, it’s clear that they want a good balance between wants and needs, and that should keep workers happy. This is something that took place back during the Monday Night Wars, and you really can’t blame the wrestlers from taking advantage of the changing landscape.

This is a troubling trend coming from the E, though. Consider how many wrestlers have left the WWE over the past couple of years. Austin Aries, Pac, reportedly Dean Ambrose, Cody Rhodes, and Jack Swagger have all decided that the grass is greener elsewhere. This is also coupled with rumors that The Revival were once on their way out, this may becoming a trend within the WWE locker room.

Should this be a concern? I think so. With the profits that Vince and Co. expect with the new FOX broadcasting deals with the Saudi Arabia, I think they figure that they will be able to sign anybody as long as they can throw money at them. The issue that I see is that they don’t seem to account for the creative freedom that the rigid WWE system doesn’t seem to provide. I am not knocking the system, as I am aware it is put in place for the company to maximize profits, but maybe not everyone is fit for that kind of work?

It will be interesting to see how everyone is going to adapt to this new landscape, and if the workers are going to make a habit of threatening to quit if things don’t go swimmingly.
RING OF HONOR

 

Okay, so I try to stay pretty positive when watching wrestling, as I hate to dwell too much on negative feedback, but I really hate the decision to bring in Enzo and Cass. It isn’t that I am against people getting second chances, I just don’t think they blend into the product at all. ROH has always been a place that focuses on work rate in the ring, and Cass and Enzo don’t really fit that bill at all.

I think the biggest reasoning behind the relationship is that they need to fill that vacuum that was left on the main event level when the AEW guys left. I know that this will create a pretty decent buzz, and I know that some new eyeballs will definitely tune in to see it, but I still don’t think it is going to work out that great. I would hope that the egos on those two have died down a bit, but I guess that remains to be seen. Either way, I do wish them luck in their new home.
AEW

 

The rumor going around right now is that Turner is in talks with the Khans and the rest of AEW management about putting on a weekly show possibly on TNT. This is a really huge piece of news. Not only does the NBA and MLB do gangbusters on the channel, but they also were in talks with WWE and the UFC before they came to agreements with their respected network deals. It looks like they are trying to bolster their network with more live sports, which are still DVR proof in the land of cord cutters, and I think AEW makes a good fit. For one, it harkens back to when WCW was running weekly on Turner Broadcasting back in the 80s and 90s.

Double or Nothing is closer than you think. With only a couple more weeks before the next show, it will be interesting to see what new developments come along before that date. Will there be a new television announcement? Will there be new wrestlers coming along? We can only wait and see.

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WrestleMania Thoughts

Well, that was interesting.

I can’t say that I hated WrestleMania, although that is what I was expecting from the build since January because nothing really caught my interest. Sure, there were wrestlers who I wanted to see perform, but as far as the stories were concerned, I felt they were lackluster, to say the least. But, even with all the shortcomings regarding the booking leading up to last night, I felt that the majority of the card delivered.

It was by no means a perfect WrestleMania. Some things went well, while other things were sort of just there. While I prefer to have most things wrapped up in a bow after an event like WrestleMania, I can understand leaving some things open. This is a new era for WWE, especially with the night after WrestleMania being so huge, and that isn’t mentioning keeping the ball rolling with the WWE Network and it’s subscriber base. I just felt like there were too many questions on what was going to happen going forward.

I think the majority of these issues of feeling unresolved can stem from how the card was set up. For one, management seemed to not have a set plan going into the new year like they did for previous Manias, aside from maybe the Women’s Championship match, and it let this feeling of backwards logic take over the product for the past three months or so. You can’t really blame them for going with their gut in some instances. The Kofi Kingston storyline was really amazing. But for the Kofi storyline, you also have the Hug and Boss Connection winning a new title only to have it lost in a multi-team match that didn’t really tell a bigger story. I know every story isn’t going to hit the same nerves as others, but this is WrestleMania, and it should be an attempt to deliver on all metrics, not just the top of the card.

I think that is the main issue; we no longer are conditioned to care about anything under the top stars. That leaves limited upward mobility for the mid-card to opening wrestlers. This is pretty troubling heading into the fall, when the new television season will force WWE to start making their product appealing to a wider, and more mainstream audience. If they want to deliver on those ratings that FOX is counting on them for, they will have to give people either: A) wrestlers that come across like Superstars on television, or B) stories that captivate their audience enough to get them to stay tuned in and also bring in other viewers. Only time will tell how this will be handled.

But for the most part, I felt pretty positive as the show went off the air. I feel like there is a lot of promise on the horizon, especially with the championship scene getting a bit of a shuffling. Let’s break down my pros and cons, and then we can look towards the future and see what is in store for us as the summer approaches.

PROS:
JOHN CENA RETURNS TO HIS ROOTS

 

This was pretty exciting for me, even if it was only a small part of the show. Cena has had the same gimmick for so long that any sort of change would be welcomed by me right now, but for him to go back to his old “rapper” character, even if it is just for a one off, was really entertaining. I had thought that the entire thing was a fun break from the really long card. With Cena not being around as much, I think that it allows leeway like this for when he does make appearances. When he was the regular top guy John Cena had to make sure to keep those house show and merch numbers up. Now I feel he can add more to the product by doing more fun one offs like this.
SETH ROLLINS, KOFI KINGSTON, AND BECKY LYNCH ALL WIN
I saw so much speculation on the internet on how the company could not have all three win on the same night due to not wanting to seem predictable. I can understand, especially after seeing what happened with Roman Reigns over the past few years when it came to winning the Universal Title. Luckily, this year we weren’t hampered with dumb booking decisions just to swerve the fan base.

Pro Wrestling is a lot about the payoffs, and if you don’t deliver on them during WrestleMania, when do you give the fans what they want? It just leaves the opening still there, and when you do finally pull the trigger, who knows if it will have the same outcome?

This is the part where I do have to be a bit honest though. I wasn’t really all that impressed with the Seth Rollins build, or the Becky Lynch one, for that matter. I know, Becky is definitely the hottest commodity to come out of this entire ordeal with Ronda and the Woman’s Championship (both brands), but I just didn’t like how Becky was beat down through almost the entire build. Sure, she had a couple of house of fire moments, but for her to be the new Steve Austin while also getting beat down week after week is disappointing.

The Kofi Kingston story had some of the same problems. The one thing that set this apart from the other title chasing stories was how good Daniel Bryan has become as a heel, and how it so closely reflected his own hijacking of the WWE Championship match years ago. That came across like deep story telling, rather than just ham fisting an opponent in due to crowd reaction, which is kind of what we got. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the ending, and seeing the scene with Kofi finally holding up the championship that has alluded him his entire career was really awesome, but the reasoning behind it causes me to pause. We shall see if this will be a career changing development, or a one off story.

 

IN RING QUALITY

 

I know a lot of traditional WWE fans like to harp on the independent scene and how in ring work doesn’t really matter compared to star power and story telling, but I also think that we should recognize how good WWE is bell to bell right now. It also seems to be getting better and better as the years go on and they continue to sign free agents like Ricochet and Walter. I have always liked companies that have different flavors for all kinds of fans, whether it be through in ring work or promos, and right now feels like a very strong mix of the two.
CONS:
WAY TOO LONG

I don’t have to elaborate on this point, do I? Starting to watch a show around 2 PM my time, and not turning off the television until around 10 PM is not an ideal night of wrestling for me. I can only imagine how it would be leaving MetLife Stadium after the show wrapped up, and that would be on top of watching countless hours of wrestling the week prior, through the weekend, and again tonight for RAW. WTF!?

I know that we need to have a bunch of matches and a bunch of workers so that everyone can get that fat WrestleMania check. but still, these shows are WAY TOO LONG! Quality over quantity works even, in professional wrestling.

 

KURT ANGLE

 

What was that? Really? I think back on retirement matches in the past, like Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels, along with Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker, and I wonder where we went wrong here. Was Kurt really that beat up that he couldn’t pull off one of those classics. Is Corbin really going to benefit that much from this win? I really feel like this match should have been against Styles or Joe, the two opponents that Angle faced this week on television. Hell, it could have even been a three way between the trio. I understand that there is no “WWE” history behind them having that match on Mania, but it would have been better than this. Hell, even Thuganomics Cena vs Angle would have been cool to see. Instead, we got this… Complete dud in my opinion.
MULTI-MAN MATCHES AND BATTLE ROYALS

 

I don’t think many younger fans really see the appeal of a battle royal now a days, and I really don’t blame them. The original intent of the match was to see a bunch of guys in the ring beating the shit out of one another, all while being thrown out of the ring, This was back when boxing and pro wrestling were sort of still intertwined, and the idea of a fighter falling out of the ring seemed very dangerous. That thinking doesn’t really work in wrestling anymore, especially when you consider how much diving and planchas are included in most wrestling shows. Because of that, the idea of a battle royal has become fairly antiquated.

This is exactly what has happened with these battle royals that happen during WrestleMania. I kind of wish that Money in the Bank wasn’t an annual Pay Per View anymore, and that we had a woman’s and men’s match on here instead like we used to in the past. I understand the logic behind having it on it’s own show, but I just am really over battle royals as a whole and I don’t see the point in either of these. I’m hoping they both get scrapped over the years to come, but I doubt that will happen.

 

 

All in all, WrestleMania wasn’t bad. It was fun, it was entertaining at times, and it felt like a fresh air after it was all done. I just hope that the story telling going forward is engaging enough for us to sit back and enjoy, rather than having to force the company to do what the fans really want. Time will only tell if this will happen, though.

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 Nostalgia Trap

WWE is a very mixed bag right now. If you want to see some of the best wrestling in the world, you can turn on any given wrestling show produced by them and see at least one really entertaining match. That couldn’t always be said about their product, but with guys like Seth Rollins, AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, and Kevin Owens doing amazing things each time they are given the chance. But at the same time, you have a program at the top of the card being taken by older, slower, but far more popular stars for a tag match about eight years past it’s shelf life.

Look, I don’t try to knock older wrestlers. But at the same time, I think that there is a point where guys shouldn’t be at the top of the card, regardless of how big of a draw they still are. I know that this is a business, and with any business you have to look at profits and what makes you the most money, but you also have to have forward thinking, and that is something that seems to be lacking in a lot of wrestling right now.

Minoru Suzuki recently had an interview in Japan where he talked about what was missing from NJPW right now, and his answer was pretty telling, in that he stated there isn’t a star in their 20s right now. He pointed out that when Kazuchika Okada first won the IWGP Heavyweight Title, he was only 24. When I think back fifteen years ago, and I think of guys like John Cena, Randy Orton, and Dave Bautista, the landscape looked like there was so much on the horizon, and right now, I don’t feel that is the case at all.

Look at all the guys who should be future players and money makers for the WWE and NJPW. Most, if not all, are currently in their 30s, already in the stage of their career where they should be making the most money of their career. The problem is that unless you want some carousel of revolving champions that dilute the main event scene in the process, most of these guys will never reach the top. There are only so many spots available, and again, we have to see who has the most potential with earning money in those spots.

The biggest problem right now is with the mid-card. No one is ever built up to be a legitimate threat to anything in the long run. Even a guy like Braun Strowman, who was the most over person on the roster for much of the past year, was shown to be expendable. Since his heel turn after SummerSlam he has been booked vastly different. So we have all of that build up and having him crush everyone in his path save for Brock Lesnar, we are now seeing him act like a coward when it comes to facing off against Roman Reigns.

These companies aren’t doing much to make us believe that someone can rise through the ranks and become a true star. We have been conditioned to believe that there are only a select few that can make a true impact on the main event scene. Sure, there are exceptions like AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura, but those guys were huge stars outside of WWE, and neither of them are young.

One could argue that there are wrestlers that are in the pipeline. NXT is as stacked as ever right now, and the match ups that you will see when they start to get called up is exciting, but looking at others who have prospered in NXT and then get called up to the main roster (Bobby Rude comes to mind), it doesn’t leave a lot of confidence that stars are on their way. I think a lot of times the writing team gets excited about having a new wrestler to incorporate into their story lines, but after a bit, the shine seems to fade and Vince gets convinced that the person doesn’t have the right “it” factor.

That is the big difference with WWE and the world outside of WWE. Vince wants to convince people that he knows what a star looks like. And he does. Lord knows that he has made this amount of money in wrestling because he knows his product and he knows his audience. But the problem is that is doesn’t leave much for organic growth. When we as fans see someone who we perceive as stars on TV, and then they get jobbed out continually once the honeymoon is over, it frustrates us. It feels like an insult of our intelligence,

One thing that WWE and NJPW have to consider is that there is so much on the horizon that is going to be crucial to growth of their product and profits going forward. WWE is going to be on network television, and they need big TV stars, not just “wrestling” stars, in order to keep the ratings consistent. Also, with New Japan Pro Wrestling trying to expand globally, they need to establish that they are a big deal outside of Japan, and the way they do that is to present stars that audiences want to see.

Nostalgia is a big part of professional wrestling. I remember being a kid and being excited to see Roddy Piper and Terry Funk wrestle, even though they were well past their primes. But, it is not a viable way to continue making money. One only has to look back to the end of WCW, and while many mistakes were made then, I think the most glaring one was that they never established young talent that would eventually replace guys like Hogan and Flair at the top. Let’s hope that the top companies now-a-days don’t make the same mistake.

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.

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

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.