A Beginner’s Guide to All Elite Wrestling

So yes I am indeed as they say ‘joining the indies’ rather than be exclusive to one promotion… for now… but I honestly could not think of a better place to start with than a wrestling company who are soon to be putting on the first PPV under the banner of the most realistic alternative wrestling promotion on a worldwide level since World Championship Wrestling (WCW),  which has been folded for over 18 years now. On May 25th All Elite Wrestling will hold their very first PPV. It will be emanating from one of the most famous arenas in combat sports history in the MGM Grand Garden Arena in a suburb of Las Vegas, Nevada. The show is going to be called Double or Nothing.

One thing that I should make clear right away is the difference between this show and ALL IN. ALL IN was the show that took place last year put on via a combination of Cody, Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson and a whole host of various staff from all over the industry. But ALL IN was very much an independent wrestling show. A super-indie show sure with a collection of THE very biggest names in the business (Okada, Omega, Jericho, Rey Mysterio amongst others) but one without the name of a huge company attached. Double or Nothing will have every bit of the heart, passion and excitement ALL IN had but with way much more… well OK I’ll be honest Double or Nothing is an AEW show and AEW is funded by Tony Khan. The Khan family have billions of dollars in the bank. So you draw your own conclusions. Imagine ALL IN but even bigger and better.

Another thing you’ll have heard all about is Starrcast 2. This is a convention like event taking place in the 4 days over the same weekend as Double or Nothing. The first of these events took place in conjunction with the ALL IN show and is essentially an incredible gathering of a collection of some of the biggest names in the industry. So many different types of events all happening in one place, and you’ll be able to watch it too. Check out the FITE app for more details. This blog would be twice as long if I explained all about this but I thought it worthy of a mention.

All Elite Wrestling honestly seems like a dream for me. I really got into wrestling outside of the normal setting in 2016 when me and my friend Stefan attended a Ring of Honor house show in Leicester, I was spell-bounded by what I saw. I saw the BROKEN universe change the game once again over in Impact wrestling not long after, I watched Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada put on a series of matches that absolutely changed my entire outlook on wrestling and took in-ring competition to new heights over in New Japan Pro Wrestling. I saw Cody leave the nest and go out on his own, and just keep getting better and better and better. I had the pleasure of meeting Cody and his wife Brandi Rhodes and despite me literally shaking with nerves they both could not have been nicer. I watched these two brothers Matt and Nick Jackson do stuff as a tag team I hadn’t seen since the peak of Matt and Jeff or Edge and Christian or maybe even top that at times. The Young Bucks have a mantra to change the world, and for me they have done just that, and haven’t stopped yet. On the 18th August last year on the day of my 23rd birthday me and Stefan went to our 5th wrestling show together and beforehand we met The Young Bucks in person. Honestly I’m not exaggerating when I say they were so great and just like normal guys, aside from the size of their biceps. Both seemed genuinely grateful that I had spent a part of my birthday meeting them. I know they get paid for this stuff but they are paid the same regardless of how nice and personable they are. All this has taught me that whatever you want to get out of professional wrestling as a fan it IS out there, you just have to look hard enough for it. Don’t be afraid to leave the nest and what you know professional wrestling to be if it just isn’t doing it for you at the moment. I believe AEW’s Double or Nothing show will bring together a variety of all that’s great about professional wrestling today.

OK so you’ve heard the buzz about AEW and the promotion of their Double or Nothing show. But what and more importantly WHO will you be watching on the show. I don’t expect you’ll have heard of everyone on the AEW roster, neither have I to be honest. I would STRONGLY recommend checking out the Nightmare Family YouTube channel and watching their series of videos entitled AEW – The Road to Double or Nothing. The weekly videos so far have done a superb job of promoting the show and giving you an insight to those involved. I’d say they’re essential viewing before you watch Double or Nothing. You also must check out the Being The Elite YouTube series. This is a mostly satirical episodic series starring the performers of AEW and others. It began as a form of video diary following The Young Bucks on their travels around the world as professional wrestlers, and gradually over time more and more people have come and gone and it’s really evolved into a show with storylines of its own. If you saw ALL IN basically all of the build and storylines going into that show all took place on Being The Elite, some of them were told over the course of many many months all culminating at ALL IN. But it also at times over the years led into storylines that played out in promotions that the stars of the show where a part of; The Bullet Club turn on Adam Cole for example was all built up to on BTE as well as what happened on ROH or NJPW Television.

So All Elite Wrestling then. WHAT titles will be in the company is currently not known for sure but I’d say a safe bet would be a world championship, a women’s belt, tag titles and maybe some others. In terms of WHEN they have just announced officially their upcoming TV schedule looks to be kicking off on a weekly basis sometime in the Autumn, on the TNT network in America (the former home of WCW). You can watch Double or Nothing in the UK via ITV Box Office and the BUY IN (pre show) is available on ITV4. Other shows they have announced are Fyter Fest on June 29th and Fight for the Fallen on July 13th. An announcement on AEW’s weekly TV schedule is expected BEFORE Double or Nothing so keep your eyes and ears peeled.

In terms of WHO it seems they are signing people on a daily basis but so far they’ve built up an incredible roster of talent. Here’s who is on board so far and what they’re doing, and the most exciting thing about the company is their seemed-willingness to partner up or allow their stars to compete elsewhere and ply their trade… unlike some… so why this is a list of names we know are signed, but it doesn’t mean others may not pop up here and there to wrestle under the AEW banner. So don’t be surprised if you see a few names at Double or Nothing that aren’t listed below. I’m sure though that some of the names will be familiar to you already…

MAIN STAFF:

Owner: Shahid Khan (Billionaire owner also of Jacksonville Jaguars NFL team and Fulham Football Club)

President/CEO: Tony Khan (son of Billionaire, works also for family owned Jacksonville Jaguars NFL team and Fulham Football Club, BIG wrestling fan)

Executive Vice Presidents: Cody Rhodes, Matt Jackson, Nick Jackson, Kenny Omega

Chief Brand(i) Officer: Brandi Rhodes

Head of Talent Relations: Christopher Daniels

ROSTER:

Main Eventers: Kenny Omega, Chris Jericho, PAC (fka Neville), “Hangman” Adam Page (legitimately one of the most promising all-rounders in the business right now, currently embarking on his ‘full gear challenge’… check BTE out for the backstory, for me he is a definite future AEW World Champion. For context Page is 27, Omega is 35, Jericho is 48), Cody, Dustin Rhodes (fka Goldust).

Other Male Singles: MJF (going to be a BIG star, plays cocky, self-confident heel), Jimmy Havoc (English, death match specialist, psychopath), Joey Janela (lunatic… unique, laid back guy… I don’t know what more to add), Darby Allin (dark and mysterious character, talented MOFO), Jungle Boy (future star), Jack Evans (great talent), Kip Sabian (good reputation, fun to watch and he’s a Brit), Sonny Kiss (embodies AEW’s mantra of its openness and welcoming of all, but above that a talented individual that oozes charisma and star-power), Sammy Guevara (a VERY talented wrestler, has competed in the AAA promotion in Mexico to let you know the type of performer he is), Michael Nakazawa (largely a comedy guy, but over the YouTube series of BTE seems to have an enemy in Matt Jackson so keep an eye out for that), Peter Avalon (going to be one of ‘The Librarian’ characters… trust me it’ll make sense… it’s a long story…), Cima (experienced Japanese wrestler, actually was key in booking The Young Bucks in Japan back in the day so kind of a full circle story for them all now), Angélico (formerly of Lucha Underground, was much sought after but chose AEW as his home), Brandon Cutler (friend of the Bucks, has a story that really is fascinating and is featured in one of the YouTube episodes that I recommend seeing), Dustin Thomas (has no legs… I’m not kidding you… just an unbelievable human being), Ace Romero (pretty much impossible to miss), Brian Pillman Jr (more than just someone’s son trust me… he has IT), Sunny Daze (has a really emotional backstory, one to look out for).

Tag Teams: The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson), The Lucha Bros (Pentagon and Fenix) – maybe the best tag team in the world, SoCal Uncensored (aka SCU) (Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky) – you’ll love these guys trust me. Experienced but entertaining as hell, Best Friends (Trent Berretta and Chuck Taylor) – you wont be bored watching these guys. absolutely hilarious, Private Party (Isiah Kassidy & Marq Quen) – I don’t know too much about these guys but I hear that they’re unbelievable in the ring with the stunts they do and their gimmick is basically party-goers and fun-seekers, I imagine them being super popular babyfaces as AEW progresses.

Females: Brandi Rhodes, Allie (formerly of Impact, ultra babyface), Dr Britt Baker (Great in-ring performer and also a dentist – no really she is…, has a famous boyfriend… BAYBAY…), Bea Priestley (Girlfriend of Will Ospreay, via her work in Japan and on the indies has come on leaps and bounds in the ring over the last few years and is the current World of Stardom Champion following in the footsteps of previous champions Io Shirai, Toni Storm and a woman called Kairi… something…), Aja Kong (Japanese veteran), Leva Bates (another potential player of ‘The Librarian’ character… it’s a long story…), Penelope Ford (Joey Janela’s manager, had a tryout in Orlando fairly recently, a breakout star of ALL IN), Hikaru Shida (Japanese star, a Kenny Omega signing), Yuka Sakazaki (another Japanese star), Sadie Gibbs (British, Will Ospreay told her she wasn’t ready to work in Japan, Matt Jackson disagreed, one to keep an eye on), Nyla Rose (the first transgender woman to be signed to a professional wrestling company in the US, a powerhouse), Kylie Rae (nicknamed ‘smiley Kylie’ she is about as ultra and babyface as you could get, but great in the ring, a possible first AEW Women’s Champion).

Commentators: Alex Marvez (sports broadcaster), Excalibur (masked guy and commentator for the PWG promotion), Jim Ross (the GOAT), Hugo Savinovich (Spanish-language commentator, and yes it’s the guy from the attitude era that used to go flying when the Spanish Announce Table was smashed).

Ring Announcer: Justin Roberts (showed at ALL IN he really hasn’t lost a step).

Backstage interviewer: Alicia Atout (has her own YouTube channel where she interviews wrestlers, the channel is called AMBY).

AEW also has a partnership with the OWE wrestling organisation in China that will see some of the most amazing Kung Fu/high-flying wrestling hybrid style stars compete for All Elite Wrestling. They are like nothing you have ever seen before trust me. AEW wrestler Cima is the company’s president.

Among a host of familiar names working for the company backstage will be Billy Gunn (producer), Glacier & Jerry Lynn. A host of referees have also been signed including popular indie refs Rick Knox, Paul Turner (formerly of ROH), Aubrey Edwards and finally Earl Hebner (who has refereed in professional wrestling a couple of times before) have also been signed.

So that’s pretty much all you need to know about AEW… I think… so now you know all about the company itself lets now look ahead to their first show. So look out for a future blog that will be out just before the show where I will do a full preview of the very first AEW PPV, Double or Nothing! And as always if anyone has any questions they want to know about AEW, Double or Nothing or anything else to do with the whole thing then please don’t hesitate to ask. I’m always happy to help. 🙂

Josh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BLOG 100: Dear WWE, I quit.

Before rumours begin to spread, let me set things straight ahead of time: 

As of this evening, I have requested a release from WWE. The past 15 months have been simply amazing and I have written about some wonderful things. Things I am very proud of and will never forget. I am proud of it all. I feel at this time the decision, as difficult as it was, feels right for myself and WWE. My goal in the future is to continue to grow, to continue to make my family [aka anyone that cares enough to read my blog] proud and offer those [not paying hard earned money] reading a blog I write, a little more of myself. Thank you. From the top to the bottom of WWE. I have written about unquestionably, some of the greatest [and some not so great] talent on this earth and the pleasure has been [mostly] all mine. Thank you to the fans for your undying support. I wish you all the very best and thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything. Thank you everyone. 

I would finally like to thank Luke Harper and Tye Dillinger whose own statements announcing they had requested their release from WWE I have 100% combined and ripped off in a (hopefully) comedic way to basically let everyone know I will no longer be blogging about WWE. I have a full time job, I’ve just joined my local Gym, and above all else I just don’t feel passionate enough to blog about WWE in it’s current state. Hopefully those that read my blogs will continue to enjoy whatever I put out in the future. This IS NOT the end of the blog but more me making the choice to write about the wrestling I enjoy, and right now that’s not on the whole WWE. It will also allow me to watch WWE PPVs and more importantly from a personal viewpoint NXT Takeovers stress free and without the knowledge that I’ve got to write a full review on the show immediately afterwards. NXT is the one part of WWE that is always excellent yet even they have recently been raided by the main roster and some of their top stars whisked away to… mid-card mediocrity… I’ll still follow WWE of course… for now… but as far as committing to previewing and reviewing their PPVs and doing other blogs here and there about modern or past WWE related topics then… well… I guess there’s only one way to put it…

NobodyisReady.com have come to terms on the release of WWE. 

NobodyisReady.com wishes them the best in all of their future endeavors. 

Josh.

 

WRESTLEMANIA 35 Review

WrestleMania 35 was an odd one. I think it tried so hard to be one of the best WrestleMania shows of all time and if you see the results of the show on paper you may look at it and consider it up there. And for sure it certainly had moments that were of the GOAT level, but there were a few things on this show that just left me with a tad sense of dissatisfaction. Kofi’s win felt huge watching, Seth’s big but the sheer insanity of it being FIRST on the main card I think caught us all off guard… which thinking back now not long after the show finished is a sad ironic thing to say when it comes to the main event. The moment that should have been one of the biggest in all of pro wrestling history was less of a grand finale and incredible moment, and more of a WTF moment. And for the main event of WrestleMania, particularly THIS of all years, to finish with a surprise winning moment did not feel right at all. It didn’t allow for us to explode as everyone wanted to. They dropped the ball on the finish but I guess at least we got the 3 main things I’d say the large majority of the watching fans wanted; Seth then Kofi then Becky ALL winning championships.

———————————

The pre show had your usual mix of the panel talking about the upcoming main show matches, we had so many different people on this panel that changed personnel fairly regularly throughout as well as them cutting to various people around the stadium that talked up various aspects of the show. We also had FOUR matches as opposed to the advertised 3, although given which one the “bumped down” pre show match was it kind of made sense.

Tony Nese defeated Buddy Murphy to win the Cruserweight Championship

The general consensus with the people I was with was that Murphy had no challengers left as he’d beaten everyone else, yet none of us had Nese to win… it was a good match but way shorter than the 205 Live guys usually get, which on of all the shows was most disappointing. Murphy hit his finish but Nese got his leg on the ropes, and Nese won with the running knees to the corner.

***1/2

Carmella won the WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal

This had basically everyone from the main roster of the women that wasn’t on the main card aside from Alicia Fox. We also had Kairi Sane and Candice LeRae from NXT. Kairi did have significant moments in the match but you easily could have missed that Candice was a part of it which was a little sad. There was no Lacey Evans in the match either, but there was the return of Ember Moon from injury. People we’re son angry in the arena when Lana of all people got rid of Ember. Dana Brooke also was very over. The finish saw a final 3 of Sonya Deville, Sarah Logan and pre-match favourite Asuka. Eventually and very surprisingly it was Logan who outlasted the others… only for (in what was essentially the repeat finish from last year with Bayley and Naomi) Carmella to reappear having never been eliminated. She eventually super kicked Logan to the floor below for the win. This was… a battle royal…but better than I thought which in all honesty my expectations were very low

**1/4

Zack Ryder & Curt Hawkins defeated The Revival (Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder) to win the Raw Tag Team Championship

The match itself was fairly good in parts but as I called in my blog, as a result of them basically missing or forgetting to do the entire build to this match, the match as it was going on didn’t have half as much heat as it could and maybe should have had. The finish did get a decent pop with Hawkins finally ending his long losing streak with a roll up pin. I’d presume they’ll lose the titles fairly soon possibly right back to The Revival on Raw it maybe even a new team from NXT or a team that comes to Raw in the Superstar shake-up next week.

***

Braun Strowman won the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal

This was decent in ring but just showed how many people WWE have and yet they still can’t fit everyone on a show with a crazy number of matches. Strength in depth maybe? Lack of direction for most? You decide… anyway of course the two SNL guys hid from Braun pretty much right away and for the entire match almost. Until Braun was the last man standing so they both reappeared and tried to throw him out. After plenty of teases that the impossible was going to happen including it seeming to be down to just Braun and Matt and Jeff Hardy as Colin Jost and Michael Che hid, and also one of them introducing to the ring a guy which he claimed was his therapist (which was funny). Braun chucked them both out. I guess it was fairly sound logic the biggest name should win here, but by that logic why didn’t Asuka win the women’s? Good accolade for world-championship shy Braun I suppose…

**1/2

————————-

The main show began with the anthem being sung, a pretty great WrestleMania video package being played before finally our host for the evening Alexa Bliss came out. She finished by saying she could have a WrestleMania moment at the click of her fingers… so she clicked her fingers and out came HULK HOGAN! I’m not a Hogan guy myself but seeing him at Mania again was kind of cool and the live crowd loved him. He made fun at himself for getting the stadium name famously wrong at Mania 30, and did his usual Hogan speech and then posed with Bliss.

As the two were posing out came Paul Heyman marching to the ring (I hear this was a very very very very late change as this next match was not planned to go first until literally the show began…hmm…). He got in and grabbed a mic and basically said if Lesnar wasn’t in the main event he wanted to be out of here fast, and to be able to go to Las Vegas where he is appreciated (Las Vegas is essentially the home of the UFC so I’m sure that wasn’t coincidental). So Lesnar came out followed by Rollins and we had the Universal Championship match IN THE OPENING MATCH of the WrestleMania 35 main show!

Seth Rollins defeated Brock Lesnar with Paul Heyman to win the Universal Championship

If you could have booked this match however you wanted you probably couldn’t have done it better than this. Brock beat down Seth around the ringside area before the bell had even rung, tossed him in the ring then out again, did a few suplexes as the match properly got underway, the ref took a bump as Lesnar went for an F5, Rollins hit a low blow, a superkick, THREE Stomps and pinned Lesnar in about 2 1/2 minutes. Seth Rollins pinned Brock Lesnar to win the title in the first match on the card. Just let that sink in. Crowd loved all of this. ***** for the booking, but of course the match itself was only a few minutes.

**3/4

AJ Styles defeated Randy Orton

Jerry Lawler came out to join commentary for this one. Styles won clean with a Phenomenal Forearm. It was fine as a match but I was expecting a little better. Both did most their big moves, Orton even hit an RKO but it was not enough to win. Good for AJ to get a big win, be interested to see what both these do going forward. Could see this being the first in a series. This was deliberately wrestled at a slower pace it seemed which makes me think they’ll wrestle each other again.

***1/4

Lacey Evans came out. Then she left again… I don’t know anymore either…

The Usos (Jimmy & Jey Uso) defeated Rusev with Lana & Shinsuke Nakamura, The Bar (Sheamus & Cesaro) and Ricochet & Aleister Black to retain the Smackdown Tag Team Championship

This was pretty good and really fast paced. Was amazingly cool to see Black and Ricochet compete on this stage. Most memorable spot of the match was Cesaro doing his swing on Ricochet for an absurd amount of time whilst Sheamus was hitting everyone else with his forearm smashes he does. A close 2nd was everyone in a big tower of doom when they all were part of a duplex off the top yet Ricochet nearly landed on his feet and it was crazy how he even came close to landing on his feet. Finish came with basically everyone hitting their finish on one another before being thrown out, until finally the Usos did a double splash combo move on Sheamus.

****

They introduced the Hall of Fame class with DX coming out last. This was really cool.

Shane McMahon defeated The Miz in a Falls Count Anywhere Match

This was really what you’d expect for better or more so worse. They brawled for the whole match and went right into the crowd area as they did it. Miz’s Dad got in the ring and went at it with Shane at one stage which was… a sight… and also Shane went to do the elbow through the announce table to Miz but George Mizanin got in the way leading to their… erm… fight… The finish came when they were in the crowd area on top of a platform, Miz superplexed Shane off it and they both fell onto the floor (crash pad but shush it’s wrestling). Bizarrely it was Shane who put himself over Miz for the pin fall. Shane’s punches again where beyond belief bad. God knows what they’ll do with Miz or even Shane now…

**1/4

The IIconics (Billie Kay & Peyton Royce) defeated The Boss ‘N’ Hug Connection (Sasha Banks & Bayley) (C) , Nia Jax & Tamina and Natalya & Beth Phoenix to win the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship

Paige did guest commentary. This wasn’t of the level or even close to the men’s 4 way tag match. But this surprised me not one bit. Beth and Natalya came out dressed like the Hart Foundation and Bret even joined them on the stage which for a giant pop. Beth Phoenix looked decent in-ring considering, and the finish saw her hit the Glam Slam on Bayley off the turnbuckle before The IIconics threw her out and Billie Kay got the pin. They were both very emotional at the win. People watching seemed happy enough despite one of the heel teams winning. But this was not good.

**

Kofi Kingston with Big E & Xavier Woods defeated Daniel Bryan with Rowan to win the WWE Championship

Remember when I said Rollins vs Lesnar was everything we could have wanted in our dreams? This was the same. Kofi was a megastar to everyone watching, Bryan was hated. The match was really really good and by a mile match of the night. Everything has so much heat behind it as you’d expect. The finish was great too, with Kofi escaping from Bryan’s submission and beating him down before hitting Trouble in Paradise for the win. This got the reaction you’d expect… which was extremely loud. New Day unveiled the new title belt after… which was the old title belt before Bryan’s eco friendly one. Kofi had his kids in the ring as they, Big E and Woods celebrated. This really was everything we wanted. A really great match and a proper all-time amazing moment at the end. I don’t want to talk about this but it happened… basically Big E revealed some new t shirts to commemorate Kofi being champion… it turns out WWE were already advertising them online as the match was still going on. So to those who saw it WWE spoiled one of the biggest matches on their biggest show. I personally didn’t see it so if a Tree falls and nobody hears it, does it still make a sound? I’ll leave that with you… nonetheless… Kofi Kingston is the WWE Champion. What a time to be alive. The afters of this match honestly were incredible, and if you watched NXT Takeover you saw an all time great aftermath of a match with the Main event. This will go down in history amongst the best feel good Mania moments of all time. Daniel Bryan was exceptional as always in this match but this was all about Kofi. Superb stuff.

****3/4

The two SNL guys were backstage with Alexa Bliss. Suddenly Kevin Nash and Scott Hall appeared as doctors ready to give them a Prostate check. This was so weird.

Samoa Joe defeated Rey Mysterio to retain the United States Championship

Joe won a complete squash after Rey hit a 619 but Joe caught him off the Senton with the Coquina Clutch and eventually the ref checked Mysterio and called it off. Just under 1 minute. I’d presume Rey wasn’t fully healed after all then? There was nothing to do with Dominic Rey’s son who had appeared on tv recently. Massive boost for Joe mind you given it was his Mania debut. Booker T was guest commentator.

N/A

Roman Reigns defeated Drew McIntyre

This was very underwhelming. McIntyre was played out by a band and Roman had so much fireworks as he came out it was crazy. Drew looked like a monster in the match, Roman didn’t look as good in the ring as he did with The Shield at Fastlane. Drew battered Roman at various points. Roman won after a Superman Punch and a Spear. Crowd was kind of flat and clearly still worn out emotionally from the Kofi stuff. Reigns hid his face after the win and was very emotional. When you think about it this HAD to be the result of this match. Amazing that during a WrestleMania match nobody really cared good or bad for Roman, so much so a Mexican Wave was going on in the upper decks. It wasn’t Roman being booed it was people boing the end of the wave. Christ.

**3/4

Then came one of the best parts of the show. And If I began by saying it was the Elias segment you will be shocked right? So Elias does this thing where he appears on the big screen playing drums, then a second one of him playing base, then he was in the ring for real doing his usual thing. Suddenly a film on Babe Ruth played… he’s the GOAT in baseball so we really if you listened closely to his most recent run you should have known who was coming out… out comes John Cena… with The Doctor of Thuganomics gimmick!!! He was wearing a Number 3 Yankees jersey, which was Babe Ruth’s number. This got probably the biggest reaction he has got in years and certainly the first Universally positive one on this stage for a while. I know where I was we all went absolutely crazy for it. Cena then, as he did all the time in this gimmick, absolutely ripped Elias apart on the mic. He said he felt like he was watching his movies because this whole thing sucks, called Elias a wasted wrestling experiment, said he’s not half a dog but a little piece of shitsu, your face looks like my nuts but you’ve got a hairier bush and finished with saying ‘no AA, but you’re going to get the FU’ and then he hit him with the mic, the 5 knuckle shuffle and then the FU/AA. This was… brilliant!!! Whoever came up with this isn’t paid enough.

Triple H defeated Batista in a No Holds Barred Match with Triple H’s in-ring career on the line

I enjoyed this. Some didn’t as much. It was very long and late in the show and slow paced. But I personally had fun watching. It was a weapons based fight rather than a wrestling match which it should have been so that was good. Both guys particularly Triple H looked in INSANELY good shape. Batista tripped on the ropes as he came into the ring, that was not so good. Triple H had a cool ‘Mad Max’ (shout out to Dan as I’m not cool enough to watch films like that so didn’t get the reference) entrance. One big spot was HHH removing Batista’s nose ring with pliers. Very babyface of him… HHH also speared Batista through an announce table which was a good looking spot. Triple H of course bought a sledgehammer in to it… leading to a finish where Batista had it, only for Ric Flair to come down and hand Triple H a second sledgehammer. Triple H used the steel steps that were in the ring as almost a boost and jumped off then to hit Batista with the sledgehammer. He then hit a Pedigree for the win. Triple H kicked out of the spinebuster, Spear and Batista Bomb. Batista kicked out of the first Pedigree. This earlier on in the show would’ve been so much better received imo. Batista announced his retirement on social media after the show.

***

Baron Corbin defeated Kurt Angle in Kurt Angle’s farewell match

JBL did guest commentary. Yes the match happened. No interference, no funny business. Corbin pinned him clean and then Kurt took in the applause one last time. Crowd was deathly silent when ref counted the 3. Corbin got the win with the End of Days after Angle missed a moonsault. It was what you’d think. Kurt thanked the fans and asked for a “You suck” chants one last time. I think they might put Corbin against Rollins. This was not a fun watch aside from being able to pay tribute to Kurt before and after. In one of the more poetic moments of the show there was a sign in the crowd you could see when Kurt told people to do the You Suck chants. The sign read “you never sucked Kurt”. He was correct, Kurt Angle has never and will never suck.

**

Demon Finn Balor defeated Bobby Lashley with Lio Rush to win the Intercontinental Championship

Again pretty much what you’d expect. The demon entrance was cool, and he won in less than 5 minutes with a powerbomb (yes, Finn Balor did that to Bobby Lashley) and then the Coupe de Grace. Lashley earlier hit a crazy spear through the ropes to the outside and also the spear in the ring that Finn kicked out of. Exactly what it should have been, particularly given how late it was and it was just before the main event.

**1/4

Alexa came out again in her umpteenth different outfit of the show. She announced the absolutely factual attendance of 82,265. Eventually she bought out R Truth and Carmella who did a dance break.

Becky Lynch defeated Ronda Rousey (C) and Charlotte Flair (C) in a winner takes all match to become the new Raw Women’s Champion and the new Smackdown Women’s Champion

Yes they botched the finish or at least aspects of it. Yes it spoilt the match and the moment. Charlotte came to the arena in a helicopter in homage to a previous entrance of her Dad’s. Ronda was played out by Joan Jett which was cool. Becky was cheered by the crowd but I think they were all so exhausted. They were not alone let me tell you. The match itself was actually pretty good. Charlotte has blood coming from her right arm, apparently from when she had Rousey in the Figure 8 and Becky came off the top with a leg drop. Lots of nearfalls and submissions being broken up throughout. Flair screamed at Ronda for calling wrestling fake and slammed her head into a table that had been set up in the corner multiple times (ILY Charlotte). Becky and Ronda teamed up to throw Charlotte into the table in the corner, then they traded strikes, eventually she went for the Piper’s Pit but Lynch rolled her over for the backslide and the pin. Everyone was caught off guard by this so it didn’t get nearly the pop you’d expect. Ronda’s shoulders were definitely not down fully for the whole 3 count. Worked or botched … regardless the finish to me sucked. Ronda was pissed afterwards and left the ring sharpish and appeared to head in the direction of her husband who was in the crowd. The match was good and the crowd were more alive for it than anything since Kofi winning the title. Becky held both belts up to close the show. Ronda broke her hand during the match. And she IS leaving I hear. She COULD be back but as of now she’s done. Why this didn’t end in a submission if there’s no guarantee she’s coming back and it’s the main event of WrestleMania I don’t know? I heard it was originally going to be a submission but they switched it. I don’t know there reason and I don’t get their logic either.

***

I missed out but there was a backstage thing with Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel and Alexa Bliss and Ron Simmons came in and ofc he said DAMN (apologies for missing a minute long backstage segment in a 7.5 hour show). Oh and just an FYI: no Undertaker, no Ambrose, no Kevin Owens. As I said before I liked the show, but it was way too long and there were way too many matches. It was once again a WWE PPV more of moments than great matches. It’ll be historic for sure, 8 titles changing hands will do that for sure. Raw will set up Seth’s next opponent and a Ronda promo where she says she quits. And SD we get Bryan and Kofi setting up their next one. Of course we have the superstar shake up next week too so it could all change again. But this was a very long show with amazing moments with a bizzare finish to the main event. But we got our big 3 babyfaces winning. So at least we have that.

And just to clarify… that finish in the main event was supposed to happen. What wasn’t meant to happen was Ronda’s shoulder coming up part way through it. Commentary and the replays after point it out was odd with that in mind. Ronda didn’t shoot. She’s leaving so everyone chill. Thanks.

Josh.

NXT Takeover: New York – Review

This is either going to be the best or worst blog I’ve ever written. So here we go…

So the kick off show was your usual stuff of the panel previewing the matches for the upcoming event. Charley Caruso was leading it and with her you had Sam Roberts and Pat Macafee. It was fine… and then Sam (after his slagging off of Bianca Belair at the last Takeover pre show) decided to really out of nowhere say Matt Riddle would ‘CHOKE’ tonight and that he had been handed everything since he came to WWE… seemed like to get heat for the sake of heat and it seemed really uncessary to say it. He would go on to, when the panel bought on NXT UK commentator Vic Joseph to discuss the UK Championship match, asked ‘who is this guy?’ when talking about WALTER and ‘how’d he end up in this match?’… which all credit to Joseph he did a great job of putting the match over. Then we had O’Reilly, Strong and Fish of the Undisputed Era cut a very entertaining backstage interview with Sarah Shreiber (Era wore new t shirts that STILL HAD THE STICKY WWE LOGO YOU GET ON NEW WWE SHIRTS ON… these guys are the best)!

AND THEN…

We had the WWE 2K19 Million Dollar Challenge. Essentially a guy who beat a load of other guys to get here faced the game’s cover star AJ Styles in a match on the game, and if he won he’d win a million dollars. This guy was a complete asshole and was cutting funny yet really obnoxious heel promos and the crowd HATED him. Corey Graves and Xavier Woods were out to oversee things and they just stood back as this guy took every second of his big moment. They stood on the top of the entrance ramp and played on the titantron. The guy (who dressed in an all gold suit went by the moniker of Real Golden Voice; Stephan Benson) played the game as Brock Lesnar and AJ was himself.

WWE 2K19 Million Dollar Challenge: Brock Lesnar (controlled by Stephan T.Benson aka The Golden Voice) defeated AJ Styles (controlled by… AJ Styles) 

YES I’M REVIEWING THIS MATCH. JUST ACCEPT IT OK!?

It very quickly became apparent why this guys was in this spot… because he was really good at the game funny enough. Props to him for using Brock Lesnar as he would wrestle IRL. He did a tonne of suplexes as Benson continued to act like the biggest of assholes. The live crowd that was in the arena at this stage HATED this guy and DID NOT want to see him become a Millionaire in front of the world. The crowd went pretty dead as the guy F5’d AJ and won the computer game match. He was an asshole after too and even took digs at AJ and said Orton would beat him at Mania. He held the big novelty cheque after and the crowd hated him.

Dear Triple H,

Your shows are excellent. But please never sell your sole for this kind of thing ever ever again.

Regards,

Everyone who watched this.

*

That was basically the kick off show.

The main show began with an AWESOME video package looking back at the history of NXT Takeovers before leading into the matches ahead tonight. The “record attendance of 15,697” was announced by a delightful-Salmon coloured suit sporting Mauro Ranallo with Percy and Nigel by his side.

NXT Tag Team Championship: War Raiders (Hanson & Rowe) (C) defeated Aleister Black & Ricochet to Retain 

We got another super cool Viking themed War Raiders entrance. It may have been as cool as their one for Takeover: Phoenix. The crowd very loudly chanted along with the “One and Only” part of Ricochet’s song and sang the first part of Black’s theme too. The live crowd even given the computer game stuff some of them just endured were really fired up for the start of the main show and this first match. The theme of this match was that the two very popular babyface teams had a lot of respect for eachother but still wanted to have a killer match and leave the seemingly obvious result in doubt. They did that and then some! If you want big spots, this match had loads. If you like good old fashioned ‘rasslin, they gave us that at times too! At one stage during this match there was apparently a very bright light that was shining directly into the upper deck of the building, so much so that when it was turned off the crowd went wild for it and chanted ‘you deserve it’ and the YES chants. Although momentarily the attention was away from the match I thought it a good sign that this crowd was excited by a light being switched off, it turned out I was not wrong… There were so many ridiculous spots and exchanges in this match it wasn’t really a match you could watch and take notes on as there was not a second to catch your breathe! By far the most unbelievable spot of an insane match was the surely 300 pound-odd Hanson doing a SENTON SPLASH off the top turnbuckle to the outside to take everyone out! Not to mention Ricochet picking up and slamming Hanson to the ground (Ricochet is a cruserweight and Hanson a heavyweight so bare that in mind). They teased a possible countout and a draw but Ricochet and Rowe JUST made it in the ring in time. Aleister Black then soon after hit the Black Mass on Rowe and Ricochet a shooting star press for a nearfall. Ricochet then missed a 630 and the War Raiders soon then hit ‘Thor’s Hammer’ before Hanson got rid of Black with a Suicide Dive and then they hit the Fall Out on Ricochet for the 1, 2, 3. Medical staff seemed to tend to Ricochet right away after this. Black checked on him to and it seemed War Raiders stopped celebrating for a moment also. It was unclear how badly or what was hurt but Ricochet to me at least looked somewhat dazed when he looked up. But both members of each team embraced after and then Hanson and Rowe put their belts down and bowed to Black and Ricochet before leaving. The fans gave the beaten main-roster bound challengers a giant standing ovation that brought Ricochet to tears. The fans chanted ‘You Deserve It’. If this was main roster someone would have come out and beat them up. Not in NXT. This was all absolutely wonderful all-round. 

****3/4

They showed NXT UK’s Piper Niven and Women’s Champion Toni Storm in the crowd. This made me happy.

NXT North American Championship: Velveteen Dream (C) defeated Matt Riddle to Retain

This match was extraordinary as well! So in the early stages it was clear Dream was going to be the cocky one and Riddle the fighting babyface. But (and I’m not exaggerating) this crowd was probably 85-90% in the corner of the Velveteen Dream. So I’m not sure if this was planned or if they decided to call it in the ring, but as the match went on they completely switched the way they both acted to suit the crowd response, so it was Dream who played babyface and Matt Riddle who acted more of a heel. It was amazing to witness. Riddle came out first and then Dream came out in typically understated fashion… he was dressed up as the STATUE OF LIBERTY and was carried on top of a platform by people in his t shirt. It was awesome and made him with that belt look like a megastar, which he already is. For the first few seconds of the match the crowd were so loud and pretty split with “BRO” and “VEL-VE-TEEN” chants. This was a really unique match were both guys showcased their styles really well and told a fun story. It may have dragged in the middle but the crowd noise along with the start and finish made it a great match overall. Dream stomping on Riddle’s foot (he wrestles barefoot) was a spot I really enjoyed as I’ve never got why more people don’t do that against him. Riddle showed pretty amazing levels of strength throughout using various throws and holds. It was clear towards the end he was the working heel of the match with his much more aggressive approach to Dream, and the crowd really took Dream’s side. Be it via an Ankle Lock or a crazy looking German Suplex from the outside of the apron into the ring there were many occasions it looked like Riddle would get the win. Dream also coming back by HULKING UP with the point and the “YOU” and the powerslam and leg drop ala Hogan was super cool too.  But in the end the finish came when Riddle locked in the Bromission but Dream managed to roll through and get the pin. A finish clearly designed to protect Riddle somewhat even in defeat so I applauded that thought. Dream celebrated after as a clearly upset Riddle stood and watched. I was convinced Riddle was about to turn heel and beat the shit out of him, but to my pleasant surprise Riddle extended his fist out to Dream and they did the Bro fist bump to a HUGE pop. At the beginning of the match Dream has turned down a bro fist, but by now he had grown to respect Riddle. And then Riddle applauded him and left. So no heel turn at least for now. So that (given the amount of HEAT gaining segments we see on main roster) was a welcomed surprise. I loved this. Dream is great, Riddle is exceptional.

****3/4

They recapped from WWE’s social media a few hours before the show began the news that former New Japan Pro Wrestling star KUSHIDA had signed to NXT. He was then shown in the Barclays Centre sat in the crowd which got a huge pop. He’s really, really good trust me.

WWE United Kingdom Championship: WALTER defeated Pete Dunne (C) to become the NEW WWE United Kingdom Champion 

The crowd popped HUGE when the graphic for the match was first shown. Their noise only continued as they chanted along to WALTER’s theme and gave Dunne a huge ovation when he came out. NXT UK Commentator Vic Joseph replaced Percy Watson to call this match with Nigel and Mauro. In the least surprising thing probably of the entire weekend this match was brutal, really really good, and… BRUTAL! They started at a methodical pace and then began pretty much a constant exchange of really nasty looking submissions and strikes. WALTER chopped the piss out of Dunne, and Dunne bent and twerked WALTER’s fingers in places and ways human fingers should not go. It seemed everytime Dunne defied belief and seemed to hurt the big Austrian WALTER would comeback with a power move, such as the avoidance of Dunne by jumping over him and then seemingly kicking him into WrestleMania weekend next year with a huge big boot. WALTER putting the champion on the turnbuckle and standing on his HEAD looked absolutely vile as did he later stomping on his head and then hitting a powerbomb. There were just so many spots and moments in this match that looked horrible to have to take. Dunne did in fact at one stage hit his Bitter End finishing move but WALTER somehow kicked out. The finish was by far the most insane moment of a long but brutal looking match; the absolute giant WALTER climbed to the top turnbuckle, Dunne went up to and locked in a triangle hold, but WALTER gave Dunne a POWERBOMB OFF THE TOP ROPE and Dunne went absolutely flying across the ring!!! Then WALTER went back up and hit a big Splash off the top.. 1, 2, 3! The 685 day reign of The Bruserweight is OVER and your NEW WWE United Kingdom Champion is WALTER! WOW! This was everything I wanted it to be. In one word this was a WAR!

****3/4

Edge and Beth Phoenix were shown in the crowd. Both of whom the crowd liked a lot.

NXT Women’s Championship: Shayna Baszler (C) defeated Bianca Belair & Io Shirai & Kairi Sane to retain

They, in the spot they were in, did about as good a job as they possibly could have done. The 3 challengers all got decent reactions, and the champion was seen backstage walking with her accomplices Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir but they did not accompany her to the ring for the match. The four of them went 100 miles an hour but did a great job of it not looking like a clusterfuck. After Baszler and Belair cleared The Sky Pirates out to brawl amongst themselves both Sane and Shirai would team up after to then return the favour and do the same. Baszler did the stomp-on-the-elbow spot she does to Bianca, who in turn would later get her own back when on the outside Shayna tried to pull Belair into the ringpost by her hair, but Bianca kicked her foot off the post and pulled back to send the champion colliding with the post instead! Later in a crazy spot Belair and Baszler were on the top rope with Bianca looking to hit a superplex, but then Kairi Sane came underneath to try and throw them down but couldn’t manage it, so then Io Shirai helped and the gave Shayna a double-powerbomb who in turn gave Bianca a superplex all at the same time. Later on something extraordinary happened; Shayna had Belair in the Kirifuda Clutch but in what I believe is a first Bianca Belair POWERED OUT of it! She would follow up with a KOD but Io Shirai came in to only allow for a near fall. Io and Kairi then seemed to fall out after Sane broke up a Shirai nearfall on Shayna, so then they went at it, which lead to Kairi picking her friend up and hitting her with an Alabama Slam on to Shayna Baszler! Kairi then hit her finishing move the Insane Elbow on Baszler but again it was Io Shirai that broke up the pin! Then in another crazy Bianca moment she knocked Sane off the top by whipping her with her hair then lifted BOTH Kairi Sane AND Io Shirai on her shoulders at the same time for a double KOD… but then Shayna came back in and with both the other challengers OOA she locked in the Kirifuda again and got the win. The crowd seemed in a stunned silence. All the challengers looked visibly upset as Shayna was then joined by Duke and Shafir (who surprisingly didn’t get involved in the match itself at any stage) to celebrate. In my group chat to say one of my friends was unhappy with this result would be like saying it would probably be a bad idea to jump off a cliff. Taking away my personal disappointment at the result here and looking at it objectively this was probably as good a match as they could have put on in this spot and with this result. Although as my friend Dan pointed out, after weeks and weeks of Shayna and co basically burying the entire NXT female roster each time… she then won this match fairly clean. Which I don’t think is a great reflection on them…

****

NXT Championship: Johnny Gargano defeated Adam Cole in a 2 out of 3 Falls Match to become the NEW NXT Champion 

The video they showed before the match, considering it was a change from the original match with Ciampa, was exceptional. Gargano came out to a mixed reaction sporting an Iron Man inspired attire, Cole came out with the rest of the Undisputed Era and got possibly the biggest reaction for an entrance of the entire show, he was like a God to this crowd. The ‘boom’ and the ‘ADAM COLE BAY BAY’ chants during his entrance were absolutely thunderous. The chants were duelling as the match started at a slow pace with Cole and Gargano eventually colliding in the air as they both hit a crossbody, Gargano later hit a Flatliner after moving out the way of a superkick and got a nearfall, and not long after got another with an inside cradle pin attempt. There was then a really fun spot where they both went to superkick one another but both stopped at the same time realising what one another was going for, but it was Gargano who reacted quickest after hitting a kick to the knee of Cole instead. Gargano then went for a Sunset-flip but Cole rolled through it and connected with his Last Shot knee strike to score the pin and the first fall. 1-0 to Adam Cole.

Adam Cole continued to be in charge as the second fall began. He pretty soon hit the Last Shot a 2nd time but somehow Johnny Gargano kicked out. Later Adam Cole tried to get a powerbomb off the top rope but Gargano hit a form of body-drop instead which got a nearfall, and not long after that Gargano hit his signature slingshot DDT on to the apron which looked as good as always. Cole was on the verge of having the match tied at 1-1 but chose to break the refs 10 count as Cole was on the outside. And so then of course Cole immediately got back in to it by sending Johnny into the ring post. After they both went for submissions Gargano was able to transition into the Gargano Escape and Cole tapped frantically almost right away after the hold was put in. 1-1. I felt at this stage the match was good, but not a classic… that changed…

They had a brutal looking exchange of strikes in the ring before Gargano got the better of it with a big Clothesline for a 2 count. A notable cut then appeared above Gargano’s eye I wasn’t sure where from the cut was caused to be honest. In retaliation Gargano picked Cole up and launched him half way across the ring, head-first into the middle turnbuckle on the far side. Ouch. There was then a great spot where they simultaneously hit one another with Clotheslines and then Superkicks to the side of the head which the crowd loved. Cole after hit another Superkick then a German Suplex for a 2 count. Johnny Wrestling came back with a beautiful reverse Hurricanrana and then a Superkick… only for Adam Cole to roll out of the ring. Cole then pulled Gargano to the outside and gave him a big German Suplex into the apron which looked horrid, but Gargano cameback with a draping DDT and tried for another slingshot Spear only to be caught with a Superkick by Cole. He then hit an exquisitely executed Canadian Destroyer for a very, very close 2 count. So Adam Cole as the heel went in on the heroic Gargano and called him a ‘failure’… so Gargano got mad and launched him over the Spanish announce table at ringside. But with both men on the announce table it was Adam Cole who got the better of it and of ALL the moves in professional wrestling… Adam Cole hit Johnny Gargano on the announce table with… THE FAIRYTALE ENDING (the finishing move of a certain TOMASSO CIAMPA)… beautiful stuff!!! Cole made his way back in the ring as the ref began the 10 count. I legitimately thought this COULD be the finish and I don’t think I was alone! Gargano though made it back in to the ring at probably 9 and 1/2! Cole not long after hit another Superkick for another close nearfall which everyone again bought as a possible end of the match. They then traded kicks again before Cole eventually went for another Canadian Destroyer… only for Johnny TAKEOVER to transition into the Gargano Escape again… and just as the crowd went wild the rest of the Undisputed Era made their presence known. Roderick Strong came running out to divert the referees attention and allowing for Kyle O’Reilly to get in the ring and despite Cole tapping out the ref was dealing with Strong so didn’t see it and O’Reilly instead raked at the eyes of Gargano to break the hold. Cole then pushed Gargano in to the ref to take him out, and then Bobby Fish came in and he and O’Reilly hit their tag team finisher on Gargano before they all retreated. This though only got a 2 count! In his anger Johnny Gargano threw Cole onto all 3 other Era members outside the ring, and then one by one fought them all off. Adam Cole then hit two superkicks and then the Last Shot but Gargano kicked out again! The crowd by now were going wild and by far the loudest they were all night (and they were pretty loud all show to be fair to them). AND THEN COLE WENT FOR THE LAST SHOT AGAIN BUT MISSED, GARGANO PUT IN THE GARGANO ESCAPE, COLE NEARED THE ROPES BUT GARGANO ROLLED OVER WITH THE HOLD STILL LOCKED IN SO THEY WERE AWAY FROM THE ROPES ONCE AGAIN… AND ADAM COLE TAPPED OUT!!! JOHNNY GARGANO HAD FINALLY DONE IT AND WAS THE NEW NXT CHAMPION!!! That 3rd and final fall was probably over ****1/2 on its own! Despite the fact upon the entrances and all show it appeared Adam Cole was the most popular guy with the fans, when this match was drawing to the end and then for the finish this crowd was so desperate for Gargano to win you would not believe it. It was pointed out to me Gargano may have lost a tooth in the process to but I’d presume he wont mind too much. They laid this match out so well to ensure Gargano got the biggest of babyface pops at the end. Johnny Gargano it was noted was now the only man to have won the NXT Championship, the NXT North American Championship and the NXT Tag Team Championship. This was one of the all time great NXT Takeover matches. And that is saying something!

*****

As Gargano was celebrating his wife Candice LeRae came out as Gargano got a massive ovation from the crowd. The two went in to the crowd to celebrate with Johnny’s family including his parents which was super cool. And then just as they made their way to the top of the ramp… out from behind them came… TOMASSO CIAMPA!!! He hugged them both as everyone went wild… and I’m not going to lie when I said I cried my eyes out at this. I, after seeing an incredible match and a guy I’ve seen in over a dozen Takeover matches finally win the big one, was not ready to see the injured former champion as a total surprise, and then for him to embrace his IRL best friends on the ramp was an absolutely surreal moment. One of those that if you know the full story transcended professional wrestling. This was one of the most special moments I think I’ve seen in wrestling for a long long time possibly ever. Yes as a grown man I cried at this. But FUCK YOU if you think that is not a worthy reaction. This was absolutely beyond belief cool. The final shot we saw of the show was Gargano, Ciampa and Candice embracing to end what may be the best story in the history of NXT and one of the best in the business for many years.

There was a lot of talk online after the show of ‘best Takeover ever’. Right now in the immediate aftermath I think it was. One thing I don’t think is up for debate is in terms of the quality of the matches this was the best NXT show I’ve seen EVER. Yes this time last year we had two ***** matches but the matches in between I didn’t feel were as consistently strong as this show had. The crowd was certainly one of the best and Takeover crowds are usually good but this one was exceptional and credit to them. The ‘Mamma Mia’ count from Mauro tonight was off the scale! I’ve never seen a bad Takeover and with the historic implications of what took place on this show: Ricochet and Aleister Black’s NXT swansong, Matt Riddle being pinned for the first time in WWE, the arrival of KUSHIDA, the ending of the reign of Pete Dunne and the beginning of WALTER’s, the women’s 4 way being great and of course the main event with the embrace of Ciampa/Gargano/LeRae to end the show… this once again took me on an emotional rollercoaster maybe even more so than NXT Takeover New Orleans this time last year. And after that show was over I thought that was the best Takeover I’ve ever seen. But this bettered it. ANOTHER absolutely incredible show, and considering the standard NXT Takeover shows set, to say this was the best one EVER says all you need to know. If I’m ever going to have to convince someone to like professional wrestling I’m going to get them to watch this show. And I think that’s maybe the biggest compliment I could possibly give it.

Josh. 

WRESTLEMANIA 35 Preview and Predictions

I can already tell WrestleMania 35 is going to be one of the most memorable events in all of wrestling history. There is so much that COULD happen that has huge historical significance; from the women in the main event, to Kofi Kingston being in the biggest match of his career,  and the 10000th possible last WWE match for Brock Lesnar. I’ll be in a sports bar with friends and lots of wrestling fans with drinks and food a-plenty so I’ll have a great time regardless. But looking at it now, stone-cold sober, objectively I see this card at it tells me two things; this show is going to be LONG but it’s going to be BIG! Some years WrestleMania has some matches that you don’t really feel are worthy of the biggest if stages, but there’s not too many if any this year. So without further or due here is my predictions for WrestleMania 35!!!

John Cena 

YOU CAN’T SEE HIM on the ‘official’ line up for WrestleMania, but be it some form of involvement in the Angle match, interrupting Elias or something else I think he will appear. Be it in a segment or a match he WILL be at WrestleMania… I think…

Prediction: you CAN see him 

WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal 

AKA ‘the we don’t know what to do with you lot so here’s your Mania spot’ match. You really can’t get everyone on the card, but is it not a really sad side of our main event that the result of ‘Winner Takes All’ is ASUKA is in the throwaway Battle Royal… but is what it is I guess… As previous years have shown this match could really be won by ANYONE! I could say one of any of the names really; Alexa Bliss, Lacey Evans, Mandy Rose, Nikki Cross, Naomi again, someone from NXT… but given the recent fan uproar at her sheer inclusion in this match I’m unsure if anything but a win here for her will satisfy the crowd… or most watching I feel.

Prediction: Asuka to win 

Cruserweight Championship: Tony Nese V Buddy Murphy (C) 

This match will be good, and as good as time they give it. I’ve not much more to say about this than I have any of the previous good Murphy PPV showcases for 205 Live. I’m surprised Nese is in the spot for Mania, not saying he isn’t really good in-ring but I’d have thought they’d have gone for someone new. I’m taking ti as a given Murphy wins here, it isn’t because it’s WrestleMania and if you were going to end such a great title run then here is the place to do it. I’m just unsure if Nese is the right guy to do that. I see it as Murphy wins here in a really fun and good match, and then a new challenger emerges after WrestleMania. Be that someone from NXT (ISTG if that’s a certain Mr Wrestling I give up on WWE), possibly incoming signing KUSHIDA from New Japan Pro Wrestling. But who knows? If you like good wrestling then this is the match for you.

Prediction: Buddy Murphy to retain 

Smackdown Tag Team Championship: The Usos (Jimmy Uso & Jey Uso) (C) V The Bar (Sheamus & Cesaro) V Shinsuke Nakamura & Rusev with Lana V Ricochet & Aleister Black in a Fatal 4 Way Tag Team Match

I see no reason given who is involved as to why this match shouldn’t be great. I certainly think it’ll be the best 4 way tag match on this show… Admittedly it has been a bit thrown together and with no real storyline, but it has got Ricochet and Black on the Mania card, so that’s certainly a great great thing. They haven’t pinned Black or Ricochet since they came up to the main roster and I don’t think they will here. BUT the 4 way nature means they don’t have to pin them if they don’t want to have the titles on them. So by process of elimination I don’t see The Bar winning the titles again, nor do I see enough momentum behind Nakamura & Rusev, so it has to be The Usos retaining or the two NXT alumni taking the belts home. I’ve done this a lot for this show but I’m going for the big babyface pop and so for the new champions to be Black and Ricochet.

Prediction: Ricochet & Aleister Black to win and become the NEW Smackdown Tag Team Champions

Raw Tag Team Championship: Curt Hawkins & Zack Ryder V The Revival (Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson) (C) 

It seemed we were set for this a fair few weeks back now, and then it disappeared to allow for Gable and Roode and then Ricochet and Aleister Black to play challenger to The Revival. But then just before Mania on a WWE.COM VIDEO of all things it appears we’re on course for this match and THREE NIGHTS (UK time) it was announced with absolutely zero TV build for pretty much months. But I called it a while ago and I think given Ryder and Hawkins are Jersey natives, and of course with the losing streak still (just about) a storyline I think it’d be an easy babyface pop to have Hawkins end his losing streak here and for him and Ryder to have a Mania moment

Prediction: Zack Ryder & Curt Hawkins to win and become the NEW Raw Tag Team champions

United States Championship: Rey Mysterio V Samoa Joe (C) 

I think this match will be great in-ring wise, and Joe is one of the best characters in the company when in full flow, but I just don’;t see this as a match… it makes me think something odd is going to happen in it. Be it Dominic, Rey’s son who has appeared on Smackdown recently, getting involved somehow, or maybe a quick win for Rey to win a title he has yet to win and to become the latest grand slam champion? MAYBE Joe beats up Rey and then calls out someone and out comes Cena? Maybe Rey doesn’t even make the match given his recent ‘injury’ and we go straight to Joe Vs Cena or someone else? Maybe they’ll just have a match and it’ll be good. I’m going to predict Joe to win simply as I have a fair few babyface wins elsewhere on the show and I don’t think WWE will give us too much of a good thing.

Prediction: Samoa Joe to retain 

Intercontinental Championship: “The All Mighty” Bobby Lashley (C) with Lio Rush V ‘Demon’ Finn Balor

“The All Mighty”… behave yourself. DEMON BALOR? Yeah… you know the score here… surely??? …

Prediction: ‘Demon’ Finn Balor to win and become the NEW Intercontinental Champion 

WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship: Nia Jax & Tamina V Natalya & Beth Phoenix V The IIconics (Billie Kay & Peyton Royce) V The Boss ‘N’ Hug Connection (Sasha Banks & Bayley) (C) in a Fatal 4 Way Tag Team Match 

I do feel it a tad harsh on these women for WWE to put another 4 way tag match on the same show that I personally think will be better. But for historical purposes I think this will be the more memorable of the two. Looking at each of the four teams we have Nia and Tamina who are… there… , The IICONICS who I personally really like but know many do not… they may not be the best in the ring but they are one of the original female tag teams before female tag teams was the in-thing so for that they deserve this spot, the ‘Divas of Doom’ Natalya and the recently returned Beth Phoenix I feel will be the glue that holds this match together, and finally our champions and presumable big favorites Sasha and Bayley. Banks and Bayley are a great team to carry the titles and establish them as a big deal, but if you want to do a big title change then is there any better place than Mania? I certainly wouldn’t be astonished if they did do a switch here, but as far as a prediction goes I’ll go with the titles staying exactly where they are here.

Prediction: Sasha Banks & Bayley to retain 

Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal 

Is there any point saying much about this one? Of course the only real story is with Braun and the two SNL guys in this match, but that almost makes me wonder if that’ll be the sideshow and the winner will take advantage of it? I’ll go Braun, but I kind of hope he doesn’t and they give someone like an Ali or Andrade a big-ish Mania moment that can be a springboard to post-Mania stardom…

Prediction: Braun Strowman to win 

AJ Styles V Randy Orton 

Considering there’s nothing officially on the line here they’ve done a really good job of making this in to a very personal affair. The promos back-and-forth the two have cut on one another, particularly when they’ve highlighted each of their very different career paths, has been really great to watch. And anytime they’ve had any physical altercations their styles (no pun intended) have mixed really really well. This will be really good I think and could go either way result wise. But for no real logical reason aide from it being the WWE and it being Randy Orton and it being WrestleMania I’ll go for The viper to win, and it to involve some form of wild counter in to an RKO.

Prediction: Randy Orton to win 

Roman Reigns V Drew McIntyre 

Not even the WWE would beat a guy that had Cancer in his first singles match back would they? … Would they? No to be honest if they were going to give such a spot to anyone I’m so happy they’ve gone with Drew. And even if McIntyre does take the L here it’s still a massive match for him to even be involved in given who and where. Reigns has been beaten down at every stage in the build up, I presume to set us and the crowd to give him a huge ovation when he gets his won back on Drew in the match. I’d say this wouldn’t be a bad way to open the main show with Roman getting a heroes ovation, which given his recent WrestleMania receptions would be ironic. Roman has to win. You could even have Drew get it back later, but it’s his first match back for God sake…

Prediction: Roman Reigns to win 

Shane McMahon V The Miz in a Falls Count Anywhere Match 

Oh boy… lets leave talking about the match for a second and let me admit that the build has been fun. Shane has made himself hated and that’s good, and as much as Miz has been somewhat booked WAY to strong fending off multiple heels at the same time in recent weeks, his promos on his family and his road to get to where he is have been very believable and really makes you want to cheer him. So credit to them both for that. The stipulation here could make it all OK, as I think now they have free reign to do what they want. I know it’s going to happen but for god sake I hope neither of these two do anything crazy, or do I secretly want them to do a mad stunt? You decide that for yourself…  The right result is Miz winning because he could benefit so much from it, but if WWE see it like that is an entirely different thing.

Prediction: The Miz to win 

Kurt Angle V Baron Corbin in Kurt Angle’s Farewell Match 

GOD I hope this is short. Kurt really does look physically DONE as a wrestler. Yeah sure Corbin could do great saying he retired Angle, and I guess everyone loses their last match right? If this really is going to be simply a straight up singles match with no interruptions or anything else then keep this SHORT. I really would like Angle to win, I don’t know if he will. I’ll go heart again here. I hate Corbin as a character, but does that mean he’s good at his job as a heel???

Prediction: Kurt Angle to win

Triple H V Batista in a No Holds Barred Match (if Triple H loses he must retire from in-ring competition) 

Triple H isn’t retiring is he? I know he’s going in to the Hall Of Fame this weekend and it is against his Batista… but he has more miles in him I feel… Finn Balor V Triple H… Triple H at an NXT Takeover… and lets be honest there’s many more Saudi shows to come… there’s much more Triple H can do in the ring so I just can’t see him losing here… The build up has honestly been really good. Beginning of course at Smackdown 1000, and even with the match seemingly in doubt when Triple H got hurt it was kicked back into life in a HUGE way when Batista attacked Ric Flair during what was supposed to be his 70th Birthday celebratory night. Triple H has been his awesome self in promos leading up, and Batista on the go-home Raw cut maybe the promo of his life simply by cutting to a video package of him beating up The Game down the years before simply saying “Hunter… Kiss My ASS”! His very specific and methodical actions as well just made him seem the coolest and baddest guy around, and given it was in Batista’s hometown it was perhaps wise not to have Triple H appear given he’s supposed to be the babyface. One interesting thing will be seeing how the crowd take to each superstar here. I hope it’s action packed, not too long that it gets boring (which is a fear for sure). Batista has always stated he wanted to end his career at a WrestleMania against Triple H and hopefully he doesn’t have too much ring rust in doing so. Fingers crossed.

Prediction: Triple H to win 

WWE Championship: Kofi Kingston with Big E & Xavier Woods V ‘The New’ Daniel Bryan (C) with Rowan 

I think we are all going to be on the edge of our seats for this one. It really could, given the level of crowd noise and interest in it, be an all-time classic. The naturally evolving story that has lead us to KOFImania has been incredible to see unfold. I was in no doubt Bryan would win a month or so ago, but the momentum behind Kingston is so much now SURELY he has to do it? i’d advise WWE to be very careful where they put this on the card because if Kofi loses it could kill the crowd for a long time after and possibly for the rest of the show. If anyone aside from Becky is more over with the crowd all show than Kofi I’ll be shocked. And the amount of love he has received from the fans in recent weeks in the build is the main reason I see him winning this. Sure I don’t think he will be champion long after, but for that MOMENT would it not be spectacular? Bryan has been doing the best work of his whole career since he turned heel and won the title, and this could be his masterpiece such is his absolutely sensational heel character work. PLEASE WWE have Kofi win… PLEASE?!

Prediction: Kofi Kingston to win and become the NEW WWE Champion 

Universal Championship: Seth Rollins V Brock Lesnar (C) with Paul Heyman

Don’t get me wrong, I REALLY REALLY REALLY want Seth to win… but I’ve got the most terrible feeling he wont. I’ve long been of the thought process that only two of the big three babyfaces challenging for title at Mania (Seth, Kofi and Becky) will win. Because WWE don’t often let us have too much of a nice thing? Maybe it would be overkill, but if I offered you all 3 winning for definite NOW you’d take it right? I know I’d snap your hand off and not even think about it. The segment on Raw this past week was fascinating; according to reports it was changed… what we all saw was Rollins lay out Lesnar and end it holding the belt up high… but what was planned was Brock to destroy Seth again UNTIL Vince changed his mind last minute and made the switch. Which yes it was cool BUT… why did he change it? Was it to give Seth SOMETHING going in only for him to lose anyway? Who knows how Vince thinks… But with MASSIVE sadness I predict the reign of terror of The Beast will continue. And I really hope I’m wrong.

Prediction: Brock Lesnar to retain 

WWE Raw Women’s Championship AND WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship, WINNER TAKES ALL: Charlotte Flair (C) V Becky Lynch V Ronda Rousey (C) 

I almost can’t believe we are finally nearly here. Women in the main event of WrestleMania, and it’s for BOTH Women’s championships! I don’t think much more needs to be said about this that hasn’t already. But it’s Becky Mania surely??? This is going to be one of the most memorable WrestleMania main events of all-time. I hope and do actually believe these three women will put on a great match. But anything but a Lynch win I do fear will see us end what should be an amazing occasion with a chorus of boos once again. We finally have a chance after years of Mania ending on a sour note to have a big, happy moment here. Lets hope we get it…

Prediction: Becky Lynch wins to become the NEW Raw Women’s Champion AND Smackdown Women’s Champion 

Josh. 

 

NXT Takeover: New York – Preview and Predictions

NXT Takeovers usually have a good line up, but this card is INCREDIBLE! It could well be their best ever. The Takeover that opened WrestleMania weekend last year was one of the best shows in WWE or NXT history so this year’s has a lot to live up to. We return to the spiritual home of NXT Takeover in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn New York, so the atmosphere should be excellent. It’s amazing that even with the recent injury to Tomasso Ciampa that forced him to vacate the NXT Championship and deny us the big blow-off match between him and long term tag partner turned bitter rival turned tag partner again turned rival again Johnny Gargano we STILL have one hell of a show coming up on Friday night. So without further or due, here is my preview and predictions for NXT Takeover: New York!

NXT Tag Team Championship: Ricochet & Aleister Black V War Raiders (Hanson & Rowe) (C) 

With Black and Ricochet recently stating after their Dusty Rhodes Classic win was taped that it was their final night competing at Full Sail, and with their recent call-up to the main roster and their impending main roster tag title shot at WrestleMania, it seems the result here is very obvious. BUT… these are 4 excellent in-ring performers who never disappoint on the Takeover stage, so we should get a great match here. Aleister Black has to go down (presuming this is his last NXT appearance) as one of the all-time great NXT stars, and in a year since his NXT debut Ricochet has been everything we all hoped he would be in WWE so will be sure to put on another spellbinding showcase here. As for the War Raiders appearances can very much be deceiving for these two Vikings, as their amazing athleticism considering their size makes them an incredible tag team to see perform. The tag team title matches on Takeover shows have consistently been good-great in the last two years or so and I expect nothing different here.

Prediction: War Raiders retain 

NXT North American Championship: Matt Riddle V Velveteen Dream (C) 

If you like showmanship, extravagance, taunts, crowd interaction, big and wacky entrances then THIS is the match for you. Two of the potential future stars of the entire WWE taking on one another on the big stage, this is going to be super fun. Matt Riddle just oozes star power and is about as likeable a character as you could get. On the other side our current NXT North American Champion in the past year has had a consistent great run of Takeover showings and his potential continues to rise and rise. When I first heard about this match I was excited of course, but unsure and a tad nervous about how they would mesh in a match together. BUT by all accounts their matches on NXT Live shows against one another have been really great, so hopefully they have a great match on the Takeover stage. Result wise I’m really unsure, it seems everytime we get a big Takeover we here that Dream is getting a call up, then he doesn’t… so it’s clear they think highly of him that I could see Dream winning in a screwy way to look after Riddle. But they haven’t pinned Riddle yet, and although I wouldn’t know how they would eventually get there I see him as a future challenger to the NXT Championship either at the June or August Takeover shows. So I will say Riddle to win, with low levels of confidence.

Prediction: Matt Riddle to win and become the NEW NXT North American Champion 

WWE United Kingdom Championship: WALTER V Pete Dunne (C) 

I predict this will be the best match all weekend. I was privileged enough to sit front row at the recent NXT UK Tapings in Coventry and witnessed this match being made official, a call I correctly predicted when I was on the way to the show…

I also got to see the official contract signing between the two and the crowd were absolutely electric in anticipation for it. These two haven’t touched physically at all in the build up so they’ve been really leaving it all until the match, which excites me greatly. WALTER has been top of the ‘WANTED’ list for WWE/NXT fans like myself for a long time, and when he made his debut to confront Dunne at the end of the NXT UK Takeover in Blackpool in January the crowd went wild, and it laid the ground work for where we are today with an NXT UK match getting the big Takeover stage, and in New York, in the Barclays Center, two nights before WrestleMania. I can’t really quantify in words how great I think and hope this match is. Even though we are in the midst of Pete Dunne’s record breaking title reign of over 680 days, I think now is the time to end it. And less now I just think if anyone is and has ever been the perfect opponent to finally conquer The Bruserweight, it HAS to be WALTER. I’d even say there’s an outside chance Pete Dunne goes to the main roster as part of the ‘INTERNATIONAL superstar shakeup’ in a couple of weeks. Expect stiff strikes, grimacing submission holds, and just all-round tremendous professional wrestling. And quite possibly the end of the longest title reign in modern WWE history.

Prediction: WALTER to win and become the NEW WWE United Kingdom Champion

NXT Women’s Championship: Kairi Sane V Bianca Belair V Io Shirai V Shayna Baszler (C) with Jessamyn Duke & Marina Shafir 

I see few reasons why this wont be great as well, other than if they give it little time (which they don’t tend to on Takeover shows) or maybe it’ll be hurt by being sandwiched by two classics… which I have it as on my card but I trust the crowd to be hot all night so they should be fine. This match has 4 of the best female in-ring workers in the WWE and I think their alternative styles will mix really well. And the fact we might get some offence between The Sky Pirates Sane and Shirai excites me greatly. I think the thing here will be if you think Shayna is going to the main roster and that’ll decide the result. And I personally DO! Kairi has had her run and is SOOOOO good I don’t think she needs the championship and could be one of the very best on either Raw or Smackdown tomorrow if needs be, Bianca is the future and lost her singles shot at the title before, so to me it seems clear that it’s Io’s time. She’s exceptional she really is and would be a brilliant person to be champion. This will be fun. Hopefully Jessamyn and Marina don’t get too involved that it takes away from the match but I could definitely see some form of mini 6 woman’s tag, even if Bianca has showed more heel tendencies recently. So yes a really fun match ahead, and Shirai to win.

Prediction: Io Shirai to win and become the NEW NXT Women’s Champion 

NXT Championship: Adam Cole V Johnny Gargano – 2 Out Of 3 Falls Match 

WOW OH WOW OH WOW. If there was ANYTHING that could come close to making up for no Ciampa in the main event, it’s replacing him with Adam Cole… BAY BAY! So it looks to me like Gargano was gonna beat Ciampa and then feud with Cole after for the title, which would have been great, but it wasn’t to be. But Adam Cole is one of the best all rounders in NXT and the whole of WWE so he’s a more than adequate replacement. If anything the lack of Ciampa makes this match nearly impossible to predict, as it previously seemed obvious their incredible story would culminate with Gargano finally winning the championship from Ciampa on NXT’s biggest stage. So will they stick with the originally laid out match AND result of Gargano FINALLY becoming the NXT Champion? Or will they skip and go right ahead to Cole? It’s a really intriguing thing to see unfold, and it just makes a great match even more exciting. And I’m delighted to be able to say I really don’t mind who wins, heart says Cole, head says Gargano for the big babyface finale… hmm… I’ll go with my HEART.

Prediction: Adam Cole to win and become the NEW NXT Champion 

Takeover before Mania 3 years ago was in Dallas and was incredible (see my NXT Takeover: Dallas review blog). Takeover Orlando the night before Mania 33 2 years back included the debut of Aleister Black and the announcement Drew McIntyre had returned to WWE. And Takeover: New Orleans last year was the best Takeover of all time. So who on earth knows what Triple H and co will come up for us this year to open WrestleMania weekend? One thing is for sure though is that it’ll be really, really, REALLY good!

Josh. 

Ronda Rousey’s PPV matches in WWE; re-REVIEWED

Can you believe we are approaching a year since current Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey’s first match in WWE? Few would’ve thought going in to the show she would have the starring role in what was somehow the match of the night (on a card that included AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura I should add). From walking out after the first Women’s Royal Rumble Match it was clear that Rousey would play a leading role in WWE going forward, but it has certainly been a rocky road that has led her to the main event of WrestleMANia all within a year of her debut match. So in this blog I’ll be running through how her first year has gone by reminding you all of how she has done in her big PPV matches. I don’t recall off the top of my head a BAD Ronda PPV match (and DPMO that Australia show does not count as a proper PPV) when you discount the ones that were almost-intentionally bad when she squashed someone… so fingers crossed in what could be her final WWE PPV match for a little while she can keep up her good run of form on the grandest stage of them all… so here’s rundown and a reminder of Ronda’s WWE PPV matches so far…

Wrestlemania 34: Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle defeated Stephanie McMahon & Triple H in a Mixed Tag Team Match 

Imagine saying before Wrestlemania a match made up of a guy that hadn’t had a Wrestlemania match in 12 years, the guy who runs the company, a woman in her VERY FIRST MATCH and STEPHANIE MCMAHON would somehow have the best match on a card that included AJ Styles v Shinsuke Nakamura… But the mixed tag match at Wrestlemania was EVERYTHING we wanted it to be, and so much more. Ronda Rousey produced the most breathtaking debut performance in WWE history, we had inter-gender spots in WWE which I thought we may not ever see again, and the crowd and everyone watching thought the match was exceptional for what it was and surpassed all expectations. I lost my voice watching it from screaming so loud, so that’s a sign of how good it was surely? Be it Ronda finally getting her hands on Stephanie, Rousey beating up TRIPLE H, Kurt Angle putting STEPHANIE in the Ankle Lock or the look of fear at her impending doom seconds before McMahon tapped frantically out to Ronda’s Armbar… whatever your highlight of this match was there was no denying that on her first night in WWE on the biggest stage possible that Ronda Rousey absolutely smashed this ball way out of the park. Arguably the best main roster WWE match of 2018. FANTASTIC! 

****3/4

Money In The Bank 2018: Raw Women’s Championship = Ronda Rousey defeated Nia Jax (C) by Disqualification

This was where I first realized how good Ronda was. She got NIA JAX to a half decent match. Yes she sold an awful lot but my god didn’t she do it well? And when Rousey did get offence in it looked great. This really came across as a big time match and at one stage I think was going to be the main event of that PPV, in hindsight if it had of been I don’t think many would have minded. The match itself was a set up of course, as Alexa Bliss came out and hit Ronda with her recently acquired MITB briefcase for the DQ. She then hit Nia with the case, then Rousey again and again… teased a cash in… then hit Ronda with the case again for good measure. Then… indeed ALEXA BLISS CASHED IN! DDT to Nia, slammed her injured arm to the floor, to the top rope, Twisted Bliss, 123, ALEXA BLISS WON THE RAW WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP!!! Great post match angle that fed into the Nia – Bliss story and protected Ronda, and the match itself was a real surprise in that I and most others expected it to be terrible and it ended up being not too bad. Ronda played babyface in peril to Jax really well and when she did get offence in it looked great. Another triumph for Rousey on WWE PPV. 

***1/2

Summerslam 2018: Raw Women’s Championship = Ronda Rousey defeated Alexa Bliss (C) to become the NEW Raw Women’s Champion 

After the pre-match video Natalya came out wearing her Dad’s (who had not long passed away) old jacket and she then took a seat ringside almost like a guest of honor, which given the then recent events was a nice touch. After champion Bliss was in the ring Rousey MARCHED down wearing full-Ronda-Mean-Face so you knew Bliss was fucked. In the early part of the match Bliss ran away from Ronda, until eventually she caught up with her. This was the first time as well we really saw Ronda play up to the crowd way more than she had done before. She squashed Alexa Bliss. Bliss tapped furiously as soon as the Armbar was eventually locked in, which itself came after a series of Judo throws and spinning-Fireman’s carries for the win. Summerslam had a fair few squashes on, this was probably the funnest and most satisfying given Bliss’ character personalities at that time. After the match Natalya came in and hugged Rousey. Then The Bellas came in (and got booed), they joined in the celebrations, and Ronda also went into the crowd to celebrate with her husband. Match was perfect for what it was, a short glorified squash match. But the moment of Ronda becoming the champion really came across as a big moment, even if at the time we had no idea just how big it would end up being… 

**1/2 

Hell In A Cell 2018: Raw Women’s Championship = Ronda Rousey (C) with Natalya defeated Alexa Bliss with Mickie James and Alicia Fox to RETAIN 

The match was centered around Ronda’s ribs that she injured on Raw the previous week. I remember wondering if they went too OTT with the references to her hurt ribs but they did have to make it seem an even fight somehow, so they had Rousey come in hurt. Ronda did out wrestle Bliss in the early stages, but Bliss was at most turns helped out by James and Fox. Bliss targeted Ronda’s ribs throughout with some pretty stiff looking strikes, she also had Ronda in an abdominal stretch (the idea Bliss could legit submit Rousey, injured or not, was a little far fetched for me). At one point Ronda and Alexa were perched on the top turnbuckle, Bliss striked her in the injured ribs leaving Ronda hung upside down for Bliss to smash her ribs. This got a nearfall (one of many for both in the match). With the ref’s back turned both Fox and James stretched Ronda around the ringpost onto her ribs, until Natalya made the save laying out Fox. Although this left James to still go after Rousey before Ronda put her away. The finish came with Bliss mocking Ronda thinking she was in control after a double crossbody left Ronda worse off and Bliss followed up with another kick to the ribs. But with Bliss cowered over Ronda it was Rousey who took over, she did her mean face (Alexa sold it perfectly to her credit), she did her flurry of quick punches to Bliss in the corner, she picked Bliss up and slammed her. But this was a slight modification on Ronda’s usual slam, this one looked a lot better and more normal so it looked like she had taken advise from people  that were giving her stick for it online around that time, so good job to her for that. She then put in the Armbar and Bliss tapped immediately. This was fine. I felt the rib stuff was played on too much, Ronda sold a lot which I was unsure about but I understand why they had to. The finish and result was the correct one, although the way it was booked was mixed in terms of how good it was. Nonetheless this match did exactly what it had to and should have done. 

**3/4 

Evolution 2018: Raw Women’s Championship = Ronda Rousey (C) defeated Nikki Bella with Brie Bella to RETAIN 

This match went on last. It shouldn’t have but it was always going to. It had to follow the best Women’s match on the main roster in WWE history between Becky and Charlotte, but they did just as good as it could be. It later came out they’d been at Nikki’s house laying this match out beforehand and it did look very contrived, but it’s pro wrestling so what do you expect. I’m not your biggest Nikki Bella fan but she was fine here, and Ronda did her stuff and Nikki sold it all. It was… fine… bordering on good. 

***1/2 

Survivor Series 2018: Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey defeated Smackdown’s Charlotte Flair by Disqualification

Me and my friends were all very tired before this match started. By the time Rousey made her way to the back again, we were all wide awake and my throat hurt having screamed and shouted so loud at what we had witnessed. The match itself as expected had a real ‘big fight feel’ from the start. From the start it seemed to be more a brawl than a wrestling match and although not completely seamless at the start it almost seemed a part of it, given that you’re not going to have faultless wrestling moves as part of a fight. They did some really good stuff after the initial brawl and striking at the start. Charlotte seemed in charge for most, Rousey got her mouth busted open pretty bad via a stray elbow from Charlotte. The match was an excellent one bell to bell, one of the better women’s matches in WWE and certainly from the main roster women  in 2018 (the other 2 also involving Flair), which given it took place on only a few days notice involving 2 women who had never wrestled one another and one that only had her first match in April is all the more remarkable. The match as good as it was though will only be remembered scarcely compared to what took place after. With Ronda on the outside of the ring Charlotte suddenly attacked her with a Kendo stick for the DQ. And when I say attack I should’ve said brutalized, massacred maybe. She hit her so many times and when the first stick was in pieces she hit her with another. And then with Rousey in the ring Charlotte got a steel chair and attacked Ronda Rousey with that too! A whole load of referees came our to try and stop the shocking assault, but Charlotte just pushed them all away (she was in full evil mad face mode by this stage). She finished off by placing a chair around Ronda’s neck and stomping it on the floor. Charlotte made her exit looking like a psychopath. The crowd went absolutely crazy (as did everyone else who saw it unfold) and it was by a long way the biggest babyface pop of the show, despite it appearing to be a Charlotte heel turn. Crowd also chanted “Thank you Charlotte” as the post match beatdown took place and as Rousey (who was absolutely covered in cuts, scratches, grazes and welts all over as well as her earlier bloody mouth and also a bloody ear) left to a chorus of boos and “you deserve it” as she looked devastated and mad at what had unfolded. There were also a huge number of “Becky” chants during this and the earlier women’s match. The match itself as I said was excellent. Ronda and Charlotte were both visibly moved as the crowd showed their appreciation. The babyface run of Charlotte, which looked to be suffering from being up against the ultra-popular Becky had been absolutely saved and then some. People had began at this stage to compare Charlotte to Roman as a babyface pushed strong against people more over than them and so are less liked as a result. They should have just let Roman brutalize people and the crowd would’ve loved it. They let Charlotte loose here and it was incredible. One of the best post match angles WWE have done for some time.

****1/2 

TLC 2018: Raw Women’s Championship = Ronda Rousey (C) defeated Nia Jax with Tamina to RETAIN 

I despise Nia and Tamina but to be fair this was a fine match between giant monster heel and valiant but tough babyface. Ronda looked fine and did her best to make the match as good as she could make it. Nia was Nia. Ronda did a step up knee and a step up punch at one stage that looked great, crowd popped big for a Ronda powerbomb off the middle rope on Jax that got a nearfall. Finish came when Nia teased her big punch, but Rousey blocked it and flipped her over to put her in position for the Armbar, she then looked at Tamina and said “this is for you” before kissing Nia’s fist and locking in the submission for the immediate win. Jax was led away by Tamina as a delighted looking Ronda Rousey celebrated. This was very clearly practiced a lot and it was fine, but I’ve little to no interest in Nia Jax matches as she infuriates me how bad she is at her job sometimes. This was fine, majorly down to Ronda (which when you think that Ronda less than a year in the company is able to drag people to a good match really is a massive credit to here). Many people thought this was even better than the first match between these two, I didn’t but didn’t think it was far off either if at all. It was good and better than I thought it’d be going in.  

***1/4 

Royal Rumble 2018: Raw Women’s Championship = Ronda Rousey (C) defeated Sasha Banks to RETAIN 

Some said this match was ‘clunky’ in parts and maybe it was and some said it was the best match of the show (I wouldn’t go that far but it was fine in my opinion), but nonetheless the live crowd and the people I was with watching it at the time enjoyed it. Sasha was the more popular of the two with the crowd. One noteworthy spot was Ronda hitting Sasha with the successive vertical suplexes similar to that of Eddie Guerrero of the past, Sasha Banks’ hero. Ronda did all her usual stuff but Sasha coped with it all, Banks later hit a suicide dive to Rousey on the outside but Ronda caught her and locked in the Armbar which led to Sasha tapping but of course they were outside the ring so it didn’t count. Later back in the ring Sasha had a crossface on Ronda, Rousey got to the ropes though but Sasha moved into an Armbar, but Ronda got out of it. The finish was Ronda Rousey hitting her ‘Piper’s Pit’ for the pin. Ronda helped Banks up after the match in a show of respect, and after Rousey went to celebrate with her husband ringside and Sasha walked away, the beaten challenger came back to the champion and they shook hands… but then Sasha threw up the 4 fingers… 

***3/4

Elimination Chamber 2019: Raw Women’s Championship = Ronda Rousey (C) defeated Ruby Riott to RETAIN

I hated this match. The angles around it for the story being told were fine, but they BURIED Ruby Riott here. Sure they gave her a TV match the next night and it was a proper match but for me the damage was done. Ruby opened up on the offensive but Rousey came-back with multiple arm drag takedowns. Ruby went to the outside as Ronda talked shit to her as Riott played the chicken shit heel really well. It was about a minute in and the crowd were chanting “we want Becky”… Riott eventually cameback with some strikes but Ronda quickly regained the advantage and hit the Piper’s Pit. She then pointed at the Mania sign, locked in the armbar and Ruby Riott tapped. The match went under 2 minutes. RIP Ruby’s credibility although she was an afterthought anyway they gave her zero here.  Charlotte was at ringside for the whole match and they did the angle after with these two and Becky that was pretty cool, but as a squash match this was definitely that. I was just sad they did this to Ruby for really no reason. This was something people debated but was what it was. 

It went 1 Minute and 40 Seconds so you need to behave yourself if you think I’m giving it a rating! 

So as you can see Ronda always has decent in-ring showings on PPV for however long they last. Sure she’s been booked to win some squashes but everything she herself has done has always been of a pretty high standard. She’s certainly made the most of the spots and matches she’s been put in. And there’s usually some form of big angle surrounding it to so they are always must see. And now she’s ending her first year in WWE in the MAIN EVENT of WrestleMANia! It really has been a pretty incredible first year for her in WWE, perhaps she’s done after dropping the title to Becky… if she is she will certainly be remembered for maybe the most amazing debut year in WWE when you consider it’s her first year EVER as a professional wrestler! I’ll be booing her during WrestleMANia, but if she comes out and gives some form of farewell speech on Raw the next night I’ll certainly applaud her for her efforts during her WWE run so far…

Josh. 

 

 

 

 

 

WrestleMania 33 – REVIEW

On April 2nd 2017 WrestleMania 33 emanated from the Camping World Stadium… or as WWE chose to call it by it’s former name… the Orlando Citrus Bowl. In front of a completely factual attendance of 75,245 ‘The Ultimate Thrill Ride’ was hosted this year by The New Day (more on them later). We also had a performance from Pitbull (more on that later, sadly) and Tinashe open the main show with a rendition of ‘America The Beautiful’. This show also had some things that didn’t appear that were planned to at one stage; Big Show Vs Shaquille O’Neal was teased in the media for a long time and even saw Show take up a new gym routine and get in life-best shape physique wise… only for Shaq to decide he didn’t fancy it. And once again we were apparently set to have Undertaker Vs John Cena, but Vince completely changed course it seems, and we had to wait many more years until that potential showdown was ever mentioned again…

The show itself, to be honest (and the reason I’m really reviewing this show) is that it is my personal favourite WWE PPV maybe of all time. Because it made me throughout what was admittedly a LOOOOOOONNNNNGGGGG show feel every emotion I could feel as a wrestling fan watching; I was furious at Mojo, I marveled at AJ and cringed at Shane, I lost my FREAKING MIND at The Hardys, my heart felt a little fuzzy at Cena and Nikki, I roared when Rollins won, I was devastated and annoyed at Bray, I was blown away by the chaos of Goldberg and Lesnar, and I watched in complete sadness and some tears at the main event and what took place afterwards. At the time watching it live I had endless Pizza, Ice Cream, Energy drinks and snacks to keep me going so I had the time of my life.

On the TWO HOUR pre show we had Neville retaining the Cruserweight Championship against Austin Aries, MOJO FUCKING RAWLEY won the Andre match (don’t even get me started) and Dean Ambrose retained the IC title against Baron Corbin. The Intercontinental Championship match was interesting; basically it sucked for sure but it was going to be on the main card until the internet learnt the Smackdown Women’s Championship match was set for the pre show and people were PISSED! So it turned out WWE swapped these two matches and it kind of showed given Dean and Corbin’s lackluster affair.

Tinashe opened the main show singing ‘America The Beautiful’, this led into a WrestleMania video package for ‘The Ultimate Thrill Ride’ that was then followed by The New Day (our hosts for the evening) coming out with a load of theatrics and their Final Fantasy inspired gear. Michael Cole, Byron Saxton and Corey Graves were on commentary for the Raw side with Tom Phillips, David Otunga and JBL being later introduced to call the Smackdown matches. New Day cut a wacky WrestleMania and New Day hype promo and the crowd were really in to it.

AJ Styles defeated Shane McMahon 

The pre-match video focused on AJ wanting appreciation and respect from Smackdown GM Daniel Bryan and Commissioner Shane McMahon. We also saw AJ ram Shane’s head through a ‘glass’ car window and Shane go on to do his signature elbow drop through the announce table before he loses at the PPV. Both Shane and AJ got big reactions coming out too. To begin the match AJ just toyed with Shane and even did his shuffle he does that was pretty funny. David Otunga even commented that “Shane is really wrestling him” which maybe the most accurate thing he’s ever said on WWE TV because I was as equally surprised at what Shane was doing. Shane did all his punches and AJ sold his ass off for him, AJ would later baseball slide dropkick Shane and he went flying over an announce table, they exchanged strikes back in the ring, AJ got the Calf Crusher in but Shane turned it around into a rear-naked choke, and not long after both guys absolutely flew into one another and they both were left laying on the mat as the crowd applauded. There was then a fun spot where AJ did the springboard looking for the 450 splash but Shane caught him on the way down and locked in a Triangle Choke and luckily it looked fairly seamless, but from this Styles lifted Shane up and hit a one-armed Styles Clash for a 2 count. After another exchange of strikes AJ accidentally kicked the referee Mike Chioda down, and after this Styles got a trashcan and trap Shane with it laid in the corner of the ring. Styles then setup for the ‘Coast to Coast’ double dropkick that Shane usually does but as he was in mid-air Shane leaped up and threw the trashcan at Styles. Crowd loved it to be fair. Shane then went for the move himself and he did hit it, the ref came back around but only counted a 2. Shane then cleared an announce table and placed Styles on top of it, and then of course he went for the elbow and Styles moved and McMahon crashed and burned. Styles went for a Phenomenal Forearm back in the ring but Shane caught him with a DDT so that was cool looking. Shane then went to the top rope and MISSED a Shooting Star Press as Styles moved out the way, prompting the first “This Is Awesome” chant from the Orlando crowd. Styles then hit a Phenomenal Forearm and got the 1, 2, 3. AJ Styles wins what was a shockingly good match, for Styles to get this good a match out of Shane McMahon is all testament to his incredible talent. Shane himself was… Shane… but he was a tonne better here than any performance I can recall of his since, possibly a lot down to his opponent here.

**** 

Kevin Owens defeated Chris Jericho (C) to win the United States Championship 

Owens got a big pop coming out before they aired the video package telling how their feud began at the incredible Festival of Friendship and Owen’s turn after which to me is still one of the better Raw segments there’s ever been. Less good things I have to say about Owens dropping the red belt to Goldberg in seconds… Jericho came out with a big entrance with full use of the stage lights and a GIANT ‘List of Jericho’ on the rampway. He also had a light up scarf that unsurprisingly was very well received by the crowd. They basically had a fight early on, Owens dominated with a couple of Cannonballs, and a running senton to get a couple of nearfalls, Jericho briefly got back into it with a dropkick to the outside as Owens tried for a Popup Powerbomb on the apron but Jericho hit  backbody drop to counter, Jericho got a nearfall and proceeded to call Owens a ‘”Son of a Bitch” (LEGIT), Owens appeared to have a cut on his head and then Jericho hit a Hurricanrana off the top rope for a nearfall and it looked really impressive. There was later an exchange where Owens went for the Frog Splash off the top but Jericho got his knees up, Jericho went for a Lionsault but Owens got his knees up, then Owens went for a SWANTON BOMB but Jericho got his knees up and both men were down exhausted. That was something else. Jericho got a nearfall, Owens went for the Popup Powerbomb again but Jericho jumped over him and then hit the Lionsault for a 2 count. Owens then got the Walls of Jericho on Y2J, and later Jericho returned the favour, but Owens got to the ropes. Then finally he hit the Popup Powerbomb but only got a nearfall to the delight of the crowd, and then in a brilliant spot Owens went for his finisher again but Jericho turned it into a Codebreaker. Ref counted 1, 2, and then Kevin Owens got ONE FINGER on the bottom rope to stop the pinfall… exceptional stuff! And finally the finish came when both were on the outside and Owens hit the Popup Powerbomb to Jericho on the ring apron, rolled him in the ring and pins him. Kevin Owens wins his 1st (of what to date is now 3) United States Championship. The crowd was kind of flat for the finish, and the match was FINE but I couldn’t help but be underwhelmed by it. I very much recall at the time that the feeling was this should (and legitimately at one stage was going to be) for the UNIVERSAL championship instead of the US title… but… Goldberg so… yeah… It was almost as if both men performed and the crowd treated as if these two guys had MADE Raw for the last 8 months and yet there payoff was to be an afterthought at WrestleMania… *sigh*.

***

Bayley (C) defeated Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks & Nia Jax in a Fatal 4 Way Elimination Match to retain the Raw Women’s Championship 

The pre match video told the story of the epic rivalry over the championship between Charlotte and Sasha and the many historic feats they accomplished during it, and then how Bayley came to Raw to challenge Charlotte and then how Nia Jax came in and tried to power her way to being champion. Bayley with Macho Man inspired entrance gear came out as champion… first… followed by Nia, then Sasha (being driven out whilst stood in the back of a cool-looking car and looking herself like a million dollars) and finally Charlotte. Bayley almost looked scared at the fight ahead of her to retain her title. The story of the first part of the match was basically a Nia Jax power-showcase as she destroyed all 3 women. And to counteract this the 3 women chose to team up on her with Charlotte hitting a Big Boot into a Bayley/Sasha double suplex for a Charlotte nearfall. To finally take her out they had Nia on top of the ring corner about to do a Yokozuna-style drop but Charlotte got up and held her in a Powerbomb position, and Bayley and Sasha joined her and they hit the triple powerbomb, then they all jumped on top of Nia to eliminate her (in probably the clearest example of protective booking you will see). I don’t know how but after seeing this again I’m convinced Nia used to be good and she’s gradually got worst. Charlotte then left the ring and let Bayley and Sasha fight it out, and later Sasha went over the ropes to down Bayley and then Charlotte Flair hit an exquisite looking corkscrew moonsault on both Bayley and Sasha to the outside (I’m unsure how this isn’t more memorable). Eventually as Charlotte and Sasha wrestled Flair took the turnbuckle pad off and later flung Banks into it and then pinned her. It seemed to catch everyone off guard including the commentators. So we were down to Charlotte and Bayley and they had a pretty fun mini-match, Bayley did a back body-drop on Charlotte off the top but Bayley remained caught in the ropes in the corner and then put Charlotte into the turnbuckle, and Bayley hit the big ‘Macho Man’ Elbow drop off the top rope and got the 1, 2, 3 to give Bayley the win! It was all fine and good in parts, but I thought this at the time and it remains my opinion but WHY OH WHY did Bayley win the title on a random Raw episode and NOT here at WrestleMania? It would’ve made this moment a million times more special, no? But yes this was… fine.

***  

They recapped the Hall of Fame ceremony and then introduced this year’s class on the stage: DDP got a pop from the crowd, The Rock N Roll Express got a mini pop, Teddy Long got a mild pop, the family of Rick Rude got somewhat of a pop, Beth Phoenix got a pop, the winner of the Warrior aware Eric Legrand got a pop and then… out came KURT ANGLE who got a tremendous ovation and everyone chanted “YOU SUCK” and it was AWESOME.

We saw Seth Rollins backstage getting his knee tapped up ahead of his unsanctioned grudge match against Triple H later. He got a big cheer.

And then we had the Raw Tag titles Ladder Match… and… well… I’ll explain…

The Hardy Boyz (Matt Hardy & Jeff Hardy) defeated Big Cass and his tag team partner, Sheamus & Cesaro and Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows (C) in a Fatal 4 Way Ladder Match to win the Raw Tag Team Championship 

So Cass and his partner came out first and did their thing and got cheered, followed out by Sheamus and Cesaro and the defending champions Gallows and Anderson who got a huge cheer. And so the 3 teams are in the ring for what was supposed to be a triple threat, and just before the bell was rung… out come THE NEW DAY… and well… I can’t do this justice in words so (and I’m sure you’ve seen this a million times as have I) … WATCH THIS then continue with my review:

WATCH THIS IMMEDIATELY

Without question one of the greatest moments in WrestleMania history. After this it was really all about the Hardys. Crowd were hot all match, and at the time (I actually said this to my friend Stefan and he was the same) I really didn’t remember much about this match after it had finished other than that it was really good and THE HARDYS ARE BACK!!! It’s a shame for those involved as watching it back for this blog it was actually a really good match but nobody will remember it other than The Hardy’s stuff. They did all their usual moves and it ended with Jeff on top of a ladder and he did the SWANTON off it onto Cesaro who was on a ladder and the ladder snapped in half when Hardy came down and the crowd went mad for the spot. Matt meanwhile grabbed the titles as EVERYONE in the crowd did the DELETE chant and gesture and The Hardys won. This was probably the worst description of a match I’ve ever done but honestly a match that followed one of the best moments in WWE history has to pail into insignificance sadly.

***1/2 (FOR THE MATCH…)

********** (FOR EVERYTHING FROM WHEN THE NEW DAY’S MUSIC HIT TO WHEN THE BELL RUNG)

John Cena & Nikki Bella defeated The Miz & Maryse in a Mixed Tag Team Match 

In short; this was the one where Cena and Nikki squashed Miz and Maryse and then got engaged after… But I digress… Pre-match video was great with two very different couples telling us all why the other couple weren’t ‘proper’. I do recall loving the build to this match though and was so impressed how much they got me looking forward to it from where I was at interest level wise when it was first announced. The Miz was EXCEPTIONAL in the build up. But sadly on the go-home show Cena basically told Miz at Mania he was going to destroy him… and then he did just that, so… yeah… anyway… Jerry Lawler came out to guest commentate on the match which I totally forgot happened watching it back again but it was a welcomed upgrade on David Otunga, and from NBC’s The Today Show they had Al Roker do guest ring announcing, and he got booed. Miz and Maryse got cheered coming out, Nikki’s intro got booed and there were some female cheers after but no reaction after that, and Cena got his usual mixed reaction and the ‘John Cena Sucks’ chants as per. Maryse and Nikki started the match but had no contact and Maryse tagged out quickly, the crowd absolutely LOVED The Miz as he basically ran away and taunted Cena, Miz got some good offence in on Cena that got him a couple of nearfalls, he did the YES Kicks before Cena knocked him out the ring and then made the ‘hot tag’ to Nikki Bella. Nikki immediately went after Maryse and pretty much battered her, she then did a Tope to the outside on Miz, and back in the ring Nikki floored Maryse with a big punch. Nikki and Cena then hit 5 Knuckle Shuffles on both Miz and Maryse, then Cena hit Miz with an AA as Nikki hit the Rack Attack on Maryse at the same time, then they both got the pins. Miz and Maryse were absolutely BURIED here. Then of course Cena and Nikki did the whole proposal thing after, which was a really nice moment sure but in hindsight it does make you sad given they’ve since split. The match sucked, but the moment after was legitimately touching I have to admit.

*1/2

Now… THIS was more like it…

Seth Rollins defeated Triple H with Stephanie McMahon in an Unsanctioned Match 

They put on an AWESOME Video package that really told how good a story these two had built going in. Triple H and Stephanie rode a giant trike to the ring accompanied by Police on Motorbikes, Rollins came out with a torch with flames at the top (kind of like the Olympic Torch) and he put it to the ground at the top of the ramp and then the rampway changed to flames to give off the impression Rollins was indeed about to ‘Burn It Down’. I liked it, it looked cool. Match began with a proper brawl as expected, they brawled to the outside with Rollins getting the upper hand before eventually Triple H targeted Rollins’ injured knee followed by a spike DDT onto an announce table. Triple H then hit Rollins’ knee twice with a steel chair, and then further attacked the knee with various strikes and holds, and eventually Rollins and Triple H were perched on the top rope and Seth went for a Sunset Flip Powerbomb but his knee buckled on the way down (this was a callback to how Rollins first hurt his knee IRL against Kane on a European tour with the exact same spot, commentary referred to this too). Triple H laughed at Rollins’ misfortune and proceeded to strike him, but Rollins fought enough to set up a Bucklebomb only for his knee to give way as he carried Triple H across the ring.  Triple H went for a Pedigree and then Seth went for a Pedigree of his own before eventually transitioning into a Bucklebomb which the crowd enjoyed, Rollins though continued to sell his knee. Rollins willed himself up and managed to knock Triple H to the outside, he then did a splash to the outside from the ringPOST but hurt his knee again on the way down but he did though throw Triple H into the ringpost. Rollins then got a couple of steel chairs and a table from under the ring before setting the table up ringside, Rollins then hit a frog splash off the top rope onto Triple H’s back and got a 2 count. Hunter then hit Rollins’ knee and then got a Spinebuster for a 2 count, and then he followed that up by trapping Rollins’ knee in a chair and attacking it, and then remarkably Triple H went to the top rope and unsurprisingly it didn’t end well as Rollins then launched a chair at him, and then he did his Superplex into the Falcon Arrow spot for a nearfall. Rollins made his way to the top again but Stephanie pulled him down and Triple H capitalized with a type of Figure 4 leg lock, Rollins countered into a crossface type (Gargano Escape) but Triple H kicked at his knee to break the hold, Hunter then threw a chair at Rollins before getting a submission hold in on the outside to again go at the knee with Rollins grabbing at anything he could to try and escape. In doing so Seth uncovered Triple H’s signature Sledgehammer, this led to Hunter breaking the hold to grab the weapon but Rollins striked him to make him drop it, they exchanged striking offences before Rollins again knocked Triple H down to make him drop the Sledgehammer, and now ROLLINS grabbed the Sledgehammer! It was though Stephanie who grabbed it from Rollins and off the distraction HHH hit a Pedigree but only got a 2 count! After both were on the top rope but Rollins knocked Triple H down with a backbody drop, and then hit an awesome looking Phoenix Splash for a nearfall that again hurt his knee. Both men then each traded 2 Pedigree attempts but Rollins’ injured knee stopped him from hitting the move in the end (I really liked this exchange). Stephanie then stood on the apron and held Rollins against the ring ropes for Triple H to attack him, Triple H charged at Seth but Rollins moved out the way and Triple H almost collided with Stephanie… he did though turn around into a superkick from Seth and this sent Hunter into Stephanie, knocking her off the apron and through the Table that Rollins had earlier set up. The crowd of course loved the fact Stephanie McMahon took a big bump as Triple H looked on in horror, he then turned around right into a Pedigree from Rollins who then pinned him 1, 2, 3. I really really liked this match. It slowed in places but it made sense for the story they were telling, and as good as Rollins is he had to work within himself so he could sell the knee. But I liked this match a lot and thought it was the best match on the show at the time, and watching back 3 years later I’m of the same opinion.

****1/4 

Pitbull did a mini-concert…

Now wish me luck everybody because I know what match is next…

Randy Orton defeated Bray Wyatt (C) to win the WWE Championship

This was the one where all the weird graphics of bugs and stuff appeared as part of Bray Wyatt’s “powers” and then Randy beat him anyway… They had… a match… and at one stage Bray did his Spider Walk thing and then suddenly we cut to an aerial shot of the ring as maggots/footage of maggots appeared on the ring canvas and everyone was confused… then the lights came back on and the match carried on… then later Bray did it again and this time we had worms… then he did it a 3rd time and cockroaches appeared… then straight after Bray took his time with Randy and was smiling and then Orton hit the RKO and pinned him and won the title. You’ll note I haven’t said much about the wrestling, that’s because A. it kinda sucked and the wrestling bits kind of just plodded along and then B. the graphics stuff REALLY overshadowed the match and even Tom Phillips on commentary noted “70,000 plus people have no idea what to make of this” … and he was not wrong. This was an ALL TIME terrible WWE Championship/WrestleMania/ANY WWE match fuck up.

DUD

I REALLY needed a pick me up after that. WWE did not let me down…

Brock Lesnar with Paul Heyman defeated Goldberg (C) to win the Universal Championship 

The video package shown was incredible. It was narrated by Heyman so that was a big plus right away, and it just reminded me how perfectly booked Goldberg’s entire 2016-17 run was. Lesnar as the challenger came out first and got a big ovation (with his WrestleMania attire… his trusty black beanie hat…), Goldberg followed with his OG entrance and the chants echoing around the Citrus Bowl. Heyman got a huge reaction doing his introduction for Lesnar and it became clear very quickly that although Goldberg was over this was definitely a pro-Lesnar crowd. So this is exactly what happened move-for-move in the match: the bell rung, Lesnar hit Goldberg with 3 German Suplexes, Lesnar roared, the camera didn’t pick up the oncoming Goldberg though who hit a big Spear, then he hit a 2nd Spear but Lesnar rolled to the outside, then Goldberg speared Lesnar through the barricade, Goldberg hit Brock with a knee to the stomach then rolled him back into the ring, Goldberg tried for the Jackhammer, Lesnar maneuvered into a possible F5, but Goldberg got out of it and hit another Spear, Goldberg hit a Jackhammer, the referee counted 1 then 2 but Lesnar then kicked out as the crowd went wild and loudly did the YES chants, Goldberg set for another Spear but Lesnar JUMPED OVER GOLDBERG and Goldberg went into the turnbuckle, then Lesnar hit SEVEN German Suplexes as the crowd went wild for the 10th, Lesnar roared, the he hit the F5, and then he covered Goldberg and got the pin. The crowd went wild for the finish and Brock Lesnar is the Universal Champion. The match went 4 minutes and 45 seconds AND IT WAS FUCKING BRILLIANT! EXACTLY what it should have been, short and action-packed, it was big moves ONLY and it was just GREAT! It was the pick-up we ALL need after Bray Vs Randy. Do not see my rating as a sign this match was anything short of exceptional, bare in mind this match went less than 5 minutes and it managed to get a rating even this high which is exceptional. If wrestling matches were usually around 5 minutes this would be 5 stars easily. You will never see a sub-5 minute match as good as this!

***1/4

Naomi defeated Alexa Bliss (C), Becky Lynch, Mickie James, Carmella with her ‘thing’ and Natalya in a 6 Pack Challenge to win the Smackdown Women’s Championship 

This was the one where the women and the internet complained about this match being on the pre show, so they moved it and put it in the death-spot between the two biggest matches on the show, and then the match sucked anyway… Bliss as champion came out first to a decent pop, Becky got a minor reaction (wow how times have changed), Mickie James then Carmella and then Natalya got next to no reaction, before finally hometown girl Naomi came out with her cool af entrance to a big pop. Naomi had vacated the title in February of this year due to injury having only just won it, but returned on the go-home show for WrestleMania… Why she couldn’t have just comeback at Mania as a surprise I don’t know… Anyway if I had to describe the match in one word it would be as a ‘clusterfuck’. It was a proper nothing match and I didn’t note anything that was close to a memorable spot. I did note about the… questionable… sets of attires and make up of some of the women (sorry Becky I’m looking at you) (and before the social justice warriors come for me I asked an actual girl if my comments were warranted and she agreed, then a friend basically concurred too so yeah…) ANYWAY Naomi, who was absent from the action basically the entire match, got involved and got the only really-audible crowd reaction of the match because otherwise this crowd was DEAD. Naomi tapped out Alexa to regain her title and the crowd were happy. A terrible spot to be in sure but this match sucked. Sorry.

*3/4

The New Day came back out and stood on the ramp, sporting impeccable suits with tidy Blue Jackets. They announced the completely factual WrestleMania attendance as a stadium record of 75,245.

And then it was time for the WrestleMania 33 main event…

Roman Reigns defeated The Undertaker in a No Holds Barred Match

They aired a cool video for the match before JIM ROSS came out to join Michael Cole and JBL on commentary. Ross got a huge ovation just weeks after the passing of his wife Jan. She had tragically died in a motorcycle accident when she was crashed into. I was actually at a WCPW show the day after the tragedy in which Jim was scheduled to commentate at, of course he didn’t make the show. So I personally was very touched to see him come out here. It really was pretty emotional and special to see him here just weeks later about to call the main event of WrestleMania. It was later announced in the days following the show that JR had re-joined the WWE (and is I write this his contract and time with the company is once again coming to an end). Roman and Taker got the exact reactions that were expected from the crowd; Roman was very very heavily booed, and Taker was welcomed like he was a God as he of course took 5 hours to get to the ring. Taker started the match dominant and repeatedly told Roman this was still ‘his yard’, Roman briefly got back into it but Undertaker came back with the Snake Eyes, Big Boot, Leg Drop trifecta to get a 2 count, and he then set up for the Chokeslam but Roman rolled to the outside, only later to run into a huge Undertaker punch. The Phenom then cleared an announce table and then Chokeslammed Reigns onto it, he then cleared the other announce table and teased a Tombstone but Roman came flying up and Speared Taker through the announce table which was a hell of a spot to be fair to them. Roman made his way back in to the ring and was heavily booed, until The Undertaker did his sit up to a big pop. Back in the ring Roman was hitting Taker with Punches whilst on the top rope only for Taker then to lift him up and hit a Last Ride (a clunky looking one but still). Not long after Taker got a steel chair he hit Reigns with it multiple times before trying a Chokeslam again but again to a chorus of boos Roman rolled to the outside. Reigns back in the ring hit 2 Superman Punches only for Taker to each time bounce off the ropes and then finally hit the Chokeslam on Roman onto the steel chair, but Roman kicked out at 2. Taker did his slit of the throat gesture and then hit a Tombstone Piledriver; 1, 2, Roman kicked out! Nobody could believe it and the crowd booed a lot. There was then a really interesting moment; Undertaker tried to lift Roman up for another Tombstone but then Reigns reversed it and looked to be setting for a Tombstone of his own but Taker then fell and looked to not be able to pull himself up to get in position for Roman to hit the move. This happened a couple of times and it was obviously a botch, but I thought with the story they were telling (that Taker was the old lion and Roman was physically ahead of him) it was kind of effective. Anyway Roman eventually decided they weren’t going to be able to do the move so he punched Taker away then hit a big Superman Punch for a nearfall. Reigns then did his big “oooooooo,aaaaaaaaaaa” and then hit a giant Spear… 1, 2, and then Taker locked in the Hell’s Gate submission! Crowd went wild until Roman got to the ropes and both men were down exhausted. Undertaker crawled over to try and grab the steel chair but Roman stood on the chair in what I thought, again, was a good storytelling moment. Reigns then grabbed the chair and absolutely battered Taker with a load of chair shots, Undertaker somehow made his way to his feet with the support of the ropes as the crowd chanted for him, but he turned around into a Spear… but he KICKED OUT at 2! Crowd cheered this of course. Roman did the “ooooo,aaaa” again, hit another Spear, and again Taker kicked out and again the crowd were happy and did the YES chants. Roman Reigns continually showed a mixture of disbelief yet a reluctance to have to dish out even more punishment to the older warrior across from him. Undertaker tried to do his sit-up spot but couldn’t manage it, Roman in fact told Taker to stay down but instead The Deadman talked some trash to Reigns, so in-turn Roman ran between the ropes a few times to build his momentum and hit a huge Spear once again… 1, 2, 3! Roman got the win. The crowd booed this A LOT of course and carried on as his music played as Taker lay flat out in the ring still. Reigns looked almost sad he had to do that to Taker so sold it really well, he raised his arms in the air as fireworks went off in the big celebration moment for him, and everyone booed.

**3/4

After Roman made his way to the back the camera panned back to The Undertaker who was still laying flat in the ring. The crowd chanted ‘Thank You Taker’ and applauded him as he just about managed to sit up as he looked absolutely worn out. They then showed highlights of the match before we returned to the ring to see Undertaker in his full entrance gear and all the lights darkened with Taker’s music playing. The crowd continued to give him an amazing reception as he soaked it in and then twice went to leave the ring before returning to the middle, after the 2nd time was when he started to make us all cry. He proceeded to take off his gloves, his coat and then his hat and lay them in the middle of the ring. He made his way out of the ring, kissed his wife Michelle McCool at ringside and made his way up the ramp. People in the audience were crying, and I don’t think I speak for myself when I say I think most people watching on TV were crying too. As smoke filled the rampway Taker turned around to take one last look at the crowd and even had a tear in his eye, he then ceremonially raised his right arm in the air and lightning struck. And then slowly Taker descended underneath the rampway until he was completely out of sight. Another gong played, then the lights in the arena all went off, then another gong, and then the show went off the air. The final shot of WrestleMania 33 was an all blacked out arena where Taker seemed to have gone for what we all assumed was the last time, or at least the grand presentation of what happened made you think so. It was a pretty stunning visual. It did end what was an incredibly eventful and action-packed show on a very sad note but storytelling wise it was something else. I tweeted out the next day “Anyone else wake up this morning & feel like a part of their childhood had died? #ThankYouTaker #Wrestlemania” as #ThankYouTaker trended for almost a full 24 hours afterwards.

So yes I do not speak for myself when I say this was a universally loved show after it had happened. An AWESOME WrestleMania and one of the best for well over a decade at least. Other than it being way too long (OH THE IRONY HEADING IN TO MANIA 35 COMPLAINING A 5 HOUR MAIN SHOW IS TOO LONG… LOL) it was start-to-finish a real rollercoaster ride… you could say it really was “The Ultimate Thrill Ride”… Even if most of the ‘rasslin wasn’t great, as a show it was incredible. You couldn’t come away from this show as a fan and say you weren’t massively touched emotionally. I must also commend the stage of the show which with the rollercoaster theme looked awesome and Jim Ross’ performance calling the main event. Negatives of course are Bray’s PowerPoint projections which were beyond belief embarrassing as a huge Bray Wyatt fan I was at the time, and also how wasted an opportunity it was at the time not to turn Roman heel off the back of his main event win and “retiring” of the most universally adored superstar in WWE history, particularly when he cut his famous “THIS IS MY YARD NOW” promo the next night on Raw. But as WWE shows go, and we all love to give them stick, this show at the time I thought was incredible. And watching it back three years later I felt the same. A FANTASTIC PPV. Hats off to WWE because this was definitely a show I will never ever forget.

Josh. 

NXT Takeover: Dallas – REVIEW

So you are probably all wondering why I am reviewing this show? Well it was my very first Takeover, it was the Takeover before Wrestlemania 32 and the first time they did what has now become a staple of the big PPV invasion of a city having the NXT show open the weekend. I had heard so much fuss about NXT so finally got round to checking it out for this show and chose to watch it live. And well… I’m now the biggest NXT fan you could get so that tells you everything. This show was… well… I’ll explain… and you’ll see a lot of familiar names along the way which I hope gives you some insight on where they were at 3 years ago compared to now, and how well they were used in NXT. So without further or do here is my review of what was one of the best NXT shows in history.

There was a great video package to open the broadcast; it outlined the history of Texas wrestling, and then told the stories around all the matches on the card. Tom Phillips and Corey Graves are the commentators for NXT at this time, and they were on this show as they always were during their time together in NXT; absolutely tremendous. Greg Hamilton (who in 2019 is the ring announcer for Smackdown) was doing the introductions for the show.

NXT Tag Team Championship: American Alpha (Jason Jordan & Chad Gable) defeated The Revival (Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson) (C) to become the NEW NXT Tag Team Champions

Talk about a ‘hot-opener’! It pretty much always happens nowadays that the tag match opens Takeover shows and off the back of this match it is easy to see why. American Alpha were SOOOOOOOO over with the crowd and alternatively The Revival were very much booed when they came out. The wrestling throughout was great even with a couple of botches along the way. The Revival executed great heel tactics for the whole match and Alpha played the underdog babyfaces so well and none more so than when Gable went for a hot tag to Jordan… but Dash Wilder went under the ring and stopped the tag from happening which was great. The finish was really hot with the crowd; Jordan tagged in Gable as Scott Dawson didn’t realize what had happened, Jordan did his big running charge to Dawson in the corner, he tagged in Gable and then they did their tag team finisher Grand Amplitude (which sees Jordan lift the guy up for a backdrop and then Gable almost carry the opponent down to get some extra impact on the slam… it looks great basically). American Alpha get the win and the crowd pop huge! Gable and Jordan were both in tears and very emotional at the win, it came across even years later as a great babyface moment of 2 underdogs that have fought for so long finally getting their big moment. This was a very good match.

****1/4

The showed ESPN’s Michelle Beadle (her from the video where Lesnar announced he had re-signed with WWE just prior to WrestleMania 31) and also WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross sat ringside in the crowd. Jim’s late wife Jan was next to him also, which in 2019 is both warming and sad.

Elsewhere in the crowd were shown former WWE star Funaki and also Kota Ibushi, who was shown ahead of the then-upcoming Cruiserweight Classic (the idea of Kota Ibushi in WWE is still incredible to me, for those who don’t know he was one of THE best wrestlers in the world in 2016 and is such still in 2019).

They showed video footage of Bayley meeting fans at WWE’s Axxess event. She got a big pop from the crowd when she appeared on screen. They also showed footage of Asuka training by hitting the pads with strikes, which also got a big pop.

Austin Aries defeated Baron Corbin

The pre-match video package reminded me of just how big a deal it was at the time when Aries signed, and also how well NXT built Corbin to be a big, bad dickhead. Corbin was booed when he came out and Aries was cheered in what would be his WWE NXT in-ring debut. When Aries stood in the ring with Corbin it became apparent just how small in comparison he was. The match itself was what you’d expect between these two… it was OK… it did exactly what it should have in that it got Aries over as a fighting guy who can move about well, and it got Corbin over as a powerhouse heel. They traded strikes in the early stages, Corbin then just punished Aries as he demanded the ref ‘ring the bell’ as he had an anti-independent wrestling gimmick going at the time (and still does today to a certain extent). Aries then got back into it with strikes, big chops, more strikes, a neckbreaker with the 2nd rope, a flying dropkick off the top, a dropkick into the corner and a Tope Suicida through the ropes that sent Corbin crashing into the barricade. Corbin then caught Aries with a Deep Six on the floor, before rolling back in the ring and telling the ref to count Austin Aries out. Aries only just beat the count in time. They then exchanged strikes once again, before Corbin went for the End of Days but Aries rolled him over into the pin. The crowd were happy as Corbin was in disbelief at the result. This was a fine match, the crowd were kind of flat but it was about as good as these two were going to produce. Aries looked good in everything he did and Corbin played his role really well. Just for some context by the way, Baron Corbin would win the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal at Wrestlemania 32 two nights later and start on the main roster on Raw that Monday.

***

NXT Champion Finn Balor was shown arriving at the arena. Shockingly… he was very popular…

There was a BIG pop from the crowd when the match graphic for Zayn vs Nakamura was shown. This was followed by a GREAT video package not only hyping up Zayn’s work in NXT but also that a match with Nakamura was his reward for all his hard work. It also put over the stardom of Shinsuke and just how big a deal it was that such a big worldwide star was in WWE.

Scott Hall and X-Pac were shown in the crowd.

Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Sami Zayn

Zayn got a big pop coming out, as the crowd sang along with his theme. And THEN… A real-life rockstar walked into the Hutchison Convention Center… Shinsuke Nakamura came out with one of the coolest entrances you will ever see. This crowd went absolutely crazy for him; there were ‘NA-KA-MU-RA” chants, “HOLY SHIT” chants, and the crowd knew every one of his mannerisms and slight movements he’d do as part of his entrance. As big a fan of New Japan Pro Wrestling as I am now, back then I had no clue. I had never seen Shinsuke Nakamura wrestle before, so when this guy who seemed too cool to be from this planet came out I was mesmerized… and the match hadn’t even begun yet.! Sami Zayn just smiled as he had a front row seat for the arrival of a Megastar. There were dueling chants from the crowd as the match started, Nakamura was every bit the showman from the start, Zayn dodged some Nakamura strikes which the crowd appreciated, they exchanged arm drag holds, Zayn did an arm-drag takedown of his own as the crowd loudly chanted ‘NXT’… and rightly so! Nakamura hit some HARD strikes and knees and got a couple of nearfalls off the back, he then got an armbar in which Zayn couldn’t get out of even with elbow strikes as Shinsuke hit him back with a knee and then a headkick, followed by another not long after, they both got nearfalls, Sami Zayn then took over with some chops and then he rammed Nakamura into the corner and then did a great looking dropkick off an Irish Whip, only for Nakamura to kick out at 2. Nakamura hit some more strikes and then Zayn knocked Nakamura to the outside from off the top rope. Nakamura was then able to hit a series of hard knee strikes with Zayn laid out on the apron, they then were treated to more dueling-chants when they both got back in the ring. Nakamura hit his ‘Good Vibrations’ move in the corner and then Nakamura hist a hard knee to Zayn’s gut which got a 2 count. Not long after Nakamura went over the ropes and then Zayn did a big dive over and onto him on the outside, this got a huge pop. Zayn hit a crossbody off the top for a 2, Zayn then did a suplex but couldn’t pull it off and Nakamura hit him with some knees on the ground before Zayn caught him after and hit a Michinoku driver which looked great. They then both had a BRUTAL striking exchange which led to Nakamura having a busted up nose, the crowd showed their appreciation for the two exhausted guys efforts. Nakamura hit knees on Zayn when he was laid on the ropes which got a “KING OF STRONG STYLE” chant, Zayn hit a couple of big clotheslines, Nakamura then spun into an Armbar which looked super cool, although Zayn was able to get his arms locked so Shinsuke couldn’t get the hold in fully. Nakamura then transitioned into a Triangle, but Zayn stomped on Nakamura’s head to escape, followed by punches, more stomps with Nakamura on the ropes, this was countered with a HUGE right hand strike from Nakamura, a Zayn Koji Clutch hold (the crowd chanted “NO, NO, NO” clearly not wanting Nakamura to tap), Nakamura hit a step-up Enziguri kick to lay both guys flat on the floor as the crowd chanted “FIGHT FOREVER”. Nakamura hit a dropkick to Zayn in the corner, Zayn missed a Helluva Kick (which if he had of hit he may well of beheaded Nakamura such was the speed he ran into it with), Nakamura hit an inverted Exploder Suplex but missed a Kinshasa, and Zayn hit a Belly to Back Suplex for a 2 count. The crowd went absolutely wild for this and loudly chanted “NXT, NXT, NXT”! Zayn then flew into a kick on the outside as he went for a DDT that was patterned for him back then, this got “HOLY SHIT” chants. Zayn then hit a Tope to Nakamura, Nakamura hit some strikes, both men were hit down, Zayn missed an exploder, Nakamura hit some brutal looking elbows to Zayn, he then went to the top rope and hit Zayn with a knee strike to the back of Zayn’s NECK which knocked him down… and then after the big set up which the crowd went wild for he hit his big knee strike, the Kinshasa, for the 1, 2, 3! The crowd applauded and gave the match a standing ovation after, Nakamura then did his poses before going over to Sami Zayn in the corner and offering a handshake before helping him to his feet. The crowd chanted “THANK YOU SAMI”, both the competitors embraced, and as Nakamura was leaving they both held one another’s arm up in the air, Nakamura then left allowing for Sami Zayn (in what was his NXT farewell) to soak in an amazing crowd show of appreciation for him. It was a really emotional thing to watch a crowd show a guy this much love and adoration. Zayn would be in the Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match at Wrestlemania 32 two nights later.

This was one of THE best matches in NXT and WWE history. 

***** 

Samoa Joe (ahead of his challenge for the NXT Championship later in the show) was shown backstage.

There was a great video package ahead of Asuka Vs Bayley. Bayley got a big pop when she was shown on the graphic. The video really put over Bayley as the most ultra of babyfaces and a hero to young girls. Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Carmella and Sasha Banks all put her over. Asuka was put over as a vicious and tough competitor and had Dana Brooke and Emma talk up her case.

Stephanie McMahon (the creator of women’s wrestling…) was shown sat ringside. She got the biggest heel reaction of the entire show which was hilarious.

NXT Women’s Championship: Asuka defeated Bayley (C) to become the NEW NXT Women’s Champion

Asuka got a pop coming out, Bayley got a bigger one. Crowd also did the “heyyyyyyy, hey Bayley, ooo, aaaa…” chants and “Bayley’s gonna hug you” in the very early part which made me smile. They traded offence in the first part of the match as Bayley was put over by commentary for keeping up with the undefeated challenger, even getting a nearfall with a good-looking Flying Crossbody. Asuka tried to get an armbar in but Bayley got her leg on the ropes, and not long after following some attacks in the corner Bayley got another nearfall. The crowd did dueling chants for both, Bayley got another nearfall with a hurricanrana off the top, Asuka rolled beautifully into an Ankle Lock but Bayley was able to get her to the outside, they traded more strikes, Asuka hit a HUGE kick and then a knee for a 2 count, Bayley rolled her over for a 2, Bayley caught Asuka after an attempted hip attack and then hit her with a suplex. Asuka hit an enzuigiri that sent both women down, they did a tonne more moves which all looked really good and crisp, Asuka exquisitely rolled into an Armbar, Bayley tried to not let her lock it in fully but Asuka transitioned almost into a Dis-Arm-Her and then Bayley rolled over for a nearfall. The crowd chanted “both these girls”, Bayley got a big clothesline for a 2 count, crowd chanted “hug me Bayley”, Bayley prepared herself then went for a Bayley to Belly but Asuka striked out of it, Asuka hit a spinning heel kick, and then a suplex into an armbar. Bayley fought and fought as the crowd willed her on but Asuka transitioned it into the Asuka Lock. Bayley rolled and fought so much as the crowd were really behind her still, but after being in the hold for SOOOOOOO long the ref checked Bayley and determined she had passed out. The crowd audibly gasped as the bell was rung (Corey Graves commentary of the finish was really great and very much encapsulated the magnitude of the moment). The much-beloved babyface had lost her title. Videos have since come out of young girls crying as their favourite had lost. Asuka was the champion now and the era of Bayley was over. A new one was beginning, and it ended up being one of the all-time great championship reigns maybe in wrestling history let alone WWE or NXT. As sad as the crowd were that Bayley had lost they did cheer for Asuka celebrating as Bayley, perfectly selling how gutted she was, looked on. This was a good match and would probably be considered one of the better women’s main roster matches of the year in WWE if it were to happen in 2019. It was always going to be tough following Nakamura Vs Zayn but these two did about as good a job as anyone could have. 

***3/4

The video package ahead of the main event looked back at their previous match at Takeover: London. The story seemed that, and Finn said as much himself, that Balor just got the win in what was a brutal war (remember that statement). It did give the rivalry a real intense feel.

They showed BOBBY ROODE in the crowd and everyone went crazy. Commentary put this over as a huge deal (it was at the time trust me). Tom Phillips called him ‘one of the hottest free agents’.

NXT Championship: ‘Demon’ Finn Balor (C) defeated Samoa Joe to retain

The crowd loudly chanted ‘JOE, JOE, JOE’ as he came out. And then the champion came out. Following up from his Jack the Ripper homage entrance in London, Balor kept up his murderous theme by coming out here as the Demon with a CHAINSAW (as in like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre star)!!! This was spectacular and in my opinion the best Demon entrance there’s ever been, seek it out on YouTube immediately I implore you. I was equally as mesmerized watching this at the time as I was by Nakamura’s entrance. It was incredible. There really was a huge big fight feel as there were dueling chants during the introductions and as the bell rung. They began with a hard exchange of strikes as Joe kept throwing Balor to the outside, Joe was bleeding already from the head. Joe was then on the outside and Finn did a huge dive over the ropes. The ref held Joe back as he was bleeding heavily as he was trying to destroy Balor. Joe looked like an absolutely psychopath as the blood ran down his face in an amazing visual. He then absolutely launched Finn into the fans, even taking out a security guard in the process. As the ref kept Joe away there was a great camera shot of Balor coming up from behind the barrier (think Vince McMahon Wrestlemania 19 if you know that one), and he then dove onto Joe over the barricade. They exchanged more absolutely brutal strikes as Joe kept talking smack, an enzuigiri by Joe sent Finn to the outside, SAMOA JOE DID A DIVE TO THE OUTSIDE THROUGH THE ROPES which was an amazing thing to see given Joe’s size. Doctors then tended to Joe with towels to try and stop his bleeding, to which the crowd booed as ‘let them fight’ and ‘Bullshit’ were the chants. Then immediately after Joe had a cut on his head tended to he went back in the ring and Finn Balor striked Joe… in the head… wrestling… Joe then really took charge of the match… and then the ref put the X up which the crowd were fuming at (the X from the ref usually means the match is done so I think they thought the ref was calling it). The doctors came in the ring to try and wipe the blood again from Joe’s head, crowd chanted “Bullshit” and “Fuck PG”. When the action resumed Joe went back to work on Finn until Balor ended the dominance with a dropkick to send Joe down… and then the Docs came over to Joe AGAIN with towels as the crowd booed and chanted “Let Joe Bleed”… Christ!!! Finn later hit two running forearms to Joe, Joe was dropped and fell into the corner, Finn hit some huge chops eventually sending Joe to roll to the outside, Finn then hit a missile dropkick and a running kick as the crowd cheered, and with both now back in the ring Balor looked for a slingblade but Joe caught him and launched Finn with an overhead Belly to Belly suplex which got a nearfall. Joe punished Finn some more until Balor rolled out of a crossface and hit a double stomp, a slingblade and the dropkick to the corner to set up for the Coupe de Grace, but Joe got up in time and tried to hit Balor with a Muscle Buster, but Finn fought out only Joe was quick enough to regain control and hit the Muscle Buster… 1,2… FINN KICKED OUT! Joe was in disbelief as he continued to bleed, they exchanged strikes again until Finn hit a Pele kick that sent both men to the floor as the crowd applauded. Both men got up at a count of 8, Finn roared and then hit a series of strikes, the dropkick, the Coupe de Grace and then set up for his 1916 suplex (his old finisher) but Joe was able to transition it into the Coquina Clutch! Crowd went wild for this thinking Joe could win the title, but Finn was able to push against the ring corner with his feet and roll them over for the 1, 2, 3! Finn Balor once again survived a match against Samoa Joe and retained his NXT Championship. Joe was furious afterwards with Balor looking exhausted. The show closed with Joe on the ramp and Balor in the ring with the two starring at one another. It was clear that this was not over. And FYI Joe would win the title at a HOUSE SHOW in Lowell, Massachusetts 3 weeks later and retain in a rematch at Takeover: The End in a cage match in June 2016 in what was the only defeat of the Demon Finn Balor in WWE. Finn went to the main roster not long after and Joe began a feud with Nakamura over the championship. In the first 5 minutes this match was 100 miles an hour, but the cut to Joe (caused by a headbutt in the opening exchange) and the necessary but near-constant interruptions of the Doctors to tend to Joe’s cut killed the rhythm of the match and stopped it from being a classic. It was still super fun to watch though.

***3/4

I remember this show being excellent and super fun and I wasn’t mistaken. It was off the back of this show I started watching NXT and have had the time of my life as a wrestling fan following NXT ever since. If you now are like me then and have heard about the buzz from NXT and want to give it a try then I’d say there’s no better time to start than the biggest Takeover show of the year, before Wrestlemania. And luckily for you this year they are having the Takeover show on the Friday night and not the Saturday as usual, so just as I did in 2016 you have Saturday to recover and catch up on sleep after late, late nights on Friday for Takeover and Sunday for WrestleMANia. But this show was incredible and showcased everything good about NXT then, and I say this quietly but NXT now in 2019, and the line up for Takeover: New York the Friday before Mania this year, has the potential to be EVEN BETTER! I am very proud to be able to say that my very first NXT Takeover was excellent, and widely viewed as great and one of the best Takeover shows there has ever been.

Josh.

WrestleMania 29 – REVIEW

Just like this year’s show of shows it was MetLife Stadium in New Jersey that played host to WrestleMania from the year 2013. Not all that long ago of course but I thought it be fun to look back at the show given it is indeed in the same venue as the 2019 equivalent. In summary I’m sure you’ve heard of the phrase ‘a one match show’… well… this was absolutely a three match show. CM Punk trying to end Undertaker’s streak in the aftermath of the passing of Paul Bearer, Brock Lesnar trying to end the career of Triple H and in the main event for the WWE Championship we had John Cena challenging The Rock… TWICE in a lifetime… This show also marked the final time the World Heavyweight Championship (the big gold belt) would be defended on the grandest stage of all as a standalone title (given the belt closed 3 Manias it had a very sad final showing here). The show will also be remembered for the famous cancelled match scheduled to be between the team of Brodus Clay, Tensai (A-Train or nowadays Matt Bloom) and ‘The Funkadactyls’ (Cameron and Naomi) against Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow and Nikki and Brie Bella. It got the bump after Taker v Punk went long and they didn’t want to take any time from the other two matches, they did the match on Raw the next night and it went a couple of minutes and nobody cared. Harsh on them but nobody really cared at the time, not like they would nowadays but it does show you how far women in WWE have come. Overall it seemed the show got mixed reviews, the live crowd seemed to have fun but given the venue is an outside stadium it suffered from that old thing of the noise escaping and so nobody sounds over (yet the crowd were pretty loud during one match in particular). I would keep an eye out for that this year…

The Pre Show in the pre-WWE network era saw a panel of Jim Ross, Kofi Kingston (wonder what ever happened to him), Dusty Rhodes and Scott Stamford (him from ‘This week in WWE’ on the network) on a panel discussing the upcoming show. They also had Snooki (her from Jersey Shore and a former WrestleMania competitor… christ…) interview The Miz backstage. The single match on the pre show saw Miz tap out Wade Barrett to win the Intercontinental Championship. 12 months prior Miz retained the WWE Championship against John Cena and here he was on the pre show…

The opening video shown at the start of the show centered around Storm Sandy that had destroyed New York the prior October and the rebuilding process in the city, and how WrestleMania was almost a reward for their resilience. They then showed the New Jersey National Guard stood at the front of the entrance ramp with the Diddy-Dirty Money song ‘Coming Home’ played in the background. They then aired a more WWE themed WrestleMania themed video package and then the show got underway. Your commentators are Michael Cole, JBL and Jerry Lawler with Lillian Garcia and Justin Roberts sharing the ring announcing duties.

The Shield (Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose) defeated Sheamus, Randy Orton & Big Show

Sheamus got a decent pop, Orton got a bigger one and Big Show got basically nothing. The Shield got a reaction coming out and were really put over as a big deal. This was a showcase match for The Shield in their WrestleMania debut, although all 6 guys got their stuff in. The Shield really got punished at times with Show ripping Dean’s vests off and chopping his bare chest and Sheamus then doing the same to Rollins and then Ambrose. The Shield at one stage had Sheamus set up for the triple Powerbomb but Big Show made the save by spearing everyone down. Orton got the blind tag from Show, hit a great draping DDT to Dean as Big Show watched on, he went to RKO Ambrose but instead caught Rollins who had done the springboard off the ropes with an RKO instead which looked really cool, but Orton then turned around into a Spear from Roman Reigns. Ambrose then got the cover as Big Show did nothing to stop his team from losing here. This was OK for the 10 minutes it went without being great, and it was the only result possible. After the match Show and Orton argued and Big Show gave the knockout punch to both Randy Orton and then to Sheamus as the crowd booed.

**1/2 

They showed a really good video  promoting the main event. The story they told with it was how his loss to The Rock at last year’s show began what was a nightmare period for John Cena, and how he redeemed himself and got out the slump. This was honestly really great and was Cena being prime Cena, regardless of personal views I have to say it did a good job of putting Cena over as a huge fighting babyface, and they do love a comeback story in the US so it made a lot of sense and they did a great job with it. Still though as good as it was it was still odd that they showed a video for a match that was still hours away but still it was a great watch.

Mark Henry defeated Ryback

This was like the kind of match I’d imagine Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks would have on British TV in the 70s/80s (google each guy and make your own mind up). Henry clotheslined Ryback out the ring and he only got back in at 9, the crowd did not like this match and even commentary said “WWE universe showing their displeasure”… NO SHIT! Ryback made his comeback and lifted Henry up in a fireman’s carry position which did get a big pop, but then Ryback collapsed and Henry fell on top of him. And then Henry pinned him. Ryback got the heat back after by hitting a Spinebuster and then the Shellshock on Henry, why he couldn’t have just won the match I don’t know, especially odd given Henry lost in a match and after Ryback made the challenge to the WWE Champion the next night. A finish fitting of the match in the sense both really sucked.

3/4* (0.75 stars)

Jerry Lawler and JBL were playing with some action figures they were promoting (the WWE  Power Slammers action figures set). This was really funny and if you can watch it you should. After the previous match it was something I needed.

The partnership between WWE and Special Olympics was announced. Lillian Garcia introduced the Team USA alongside Stephanie McMahon and the New Jersey Governor. You see, SOMETIMES WWE can do nice things.

WWE Tag Team Championship: Team Hell NO (Kane & Daniel Bryan) (C) defeated Dolph Ziggler & Big E Langston with AJ Lee to retain 

Daniel Bryan (a year away from his big moment) was sooooooooooo over! Big E overpowered Kane which was a sight to behold, Ziggler hit a clunky looking move on Bryan for a nearfall (JBL covered it up saying he didn’t get all of it), a few more nearfalls then saw Dolph hit a Zig Zag on Kane for a 2 count which the crowd popped for, then AJ Lee (who was a previous girlfriend of Daniel Bryan and they played on that too) slid in Ziggler’s Money in the Bank briefcase but he was unable to use it and he missed Kane and then got a big boot. Kane hit a Chokeslam, tagged in Bryan who hit a flying headbutt and ,with Big E down, they were able to get the win. This was really good but was criminally too short (just over 6 minutes), especially given how over everyone involved was particularly Bryan of course. There lots of YES chants too at the end.

**1/4 

Fandango defeated Chris Jericho

There lots of female dancers as part of Fandango’s entrance (it was his debut). They played a video montage of Jericho saying Fandango’s name wrong in many different ways and it was hilarious. Jericho got a big pop coming out. Match began with Fandango taking a beating and bumping like crazy, this carried on until Fandango got a brief comeback and even hit a leg drop off the top rope which got a nearfall that people popped for. Jericho got the wall of Jericho in but Fandango kicked out of it, Fandango went for the big leg drop again but Jericho moved, he went for the Lionsault but Fandango got his knees up, this led to the Walls of Jericho again but Fandango rolled it over (they explained Jericho hurt his knee off the Lionsault hence Fandango was able to counter) for the 1, 2, 3! FANDANGO WINS AND NOBODY COULD BELIEVE IT! It was put over as one of the biggest upsets in WrestleMania history, but the live crowd didn’t seem to react much to it as I think they really liked Jericho.

**

We recapped the match from the pre show were Miz beat Wade Barrett for the IC title.

They then showed a video on The Rock where fans of his were spliced in saying his catchphrase. It was a bit cringey but was what it was.

There was a video of past WrestleMania’s on the arena screens that led into a P Diddy mini-concert. This really sucked.

To follow that excitement… we had…

World Heavyweight Championship: Alberto Del Rio (C) with Ricardo Rodriguez defeated Jack Swagger with Zeb Colter to retain 

I was absolutely blown away by Zeb Colter’s anti-foreigner gimmick. He cut a promo and they played a video that was pretty much him being a racist. I could not believe this was a thing only SIX years ago. Colter and Swagger actually first appeared in the ring as the video had just finished playing, so the guy challenging for the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP AT WRESTLEMANIA got a jobber entrance. Extraordinary. Del Rio came out with his manager who was doing an injury angle. Match was fine, but to be honest I’m not a fan of anyone in this match whatsoever so I found it a bit of a slog. In-ring it was OK but the crowd didn’t care much, and there were chants for Ziggler (MITB holder at the time who’d cash in on Del Rio the next night on Raw in fact). Crowd were happy when Del Rio won with the Cross Armbreaker submission. Ricardo Rodriguez seemed the most over guy with the crowd involved here so that was very telling to me.

**3/4

The Undertaker defeated CM Punk with Paul Heyman 

The pre-match video package for this was excellent. It centered around the recent passing of Taker’s longtime former manager Paul Bearer and the disrespect shown towards Taker and Bearer by Punk and Heyman. Punk said he’d end the streak. The band Living Colour played Punk’s music live, they were introduced as ‘New York’s own’ which I found odd as Punk is really the heel and you had a hometown group play him out who were obviously going to get cheered. Not that Punk was ever getting booed in front of this crowd anyway. Taker’s entrance took a typically long time, Punk played with The Urn during it and Heyman’s acting here too was great. I didn’t take too many notes on this match as I was so engrossed by it, so I’ll write you exactly what I put in my notes:

“HALLELUJAH! A GOOD MANIA 29 MATCH! THIS WAS FUCKING GREAT! SO MUCH FUN TO WATCH! CM PUNK DESERVES A GIANT MEDAL FOR GETTING THIS MATCH OUT OF 2013 TAKER!!!”

An excellently told story. Lots of nearfalls for both. Crowd were in to absolutely everything both guys did all match, and in the end Taker got his win and the urn back. This might have been (in hindsight) Taker’s last great hurrah, as aside from the Lesnar Summerslam match in 2015 I can’t think of any Taker matches that were of this standard that have taken place since.

****1/2

We got ANOTHER Cena vs Rock video… COME ON NOW!?!? …

Triple H with Shawn Michaels defeated Brock Lesnar with Paul Heyman in a No Holds Barred Match (if Triple H lost he’d have to retire)

A great video package was followed by a typically grand WrestleMania entrance for The Game. In fact during it he was accidentally sprayed with dry ice during it which given the images he shared after the match I presume was excruciatingly painful. This match is also notable to the internet for being the match where Lesnar did his famous scream which has now become a meme (you’ll know the one I mean when you see it). This was more of a long brawl than a wrestling match but that was to be expected. The crowd were NOT happy at all when Lesnar hit and then F5’d Shawn Michaels. Lesnar also kicked out of a Pedigree, and then Triple H also kicked out of an F5. Lesnar locked in the Kimura (which he had previously utilized in the build to the match breaking HHH’s arm twice and also that of HBK), the crowd chanted ‘break his arm’ but Triple H was able to escape with a Spinebuster. Triple H then hit a low blow to Lesnar as HBK just looked on chilling which was funny. Triple H then put the Kimura on Brock as Michaels hit the superkick to Heyman to stop him breaking it up which got a giant pop. Lesnar slammed Triple H down onto the steel steps that were in the ring to try and break the hold but HHH kept it locked in. This happened 3 times in a row, only the third time HHH appeared to move his arm during it and I THINK the idea was that instead of Lesnar slamming him down Triple H would use the impact but turn it to his favour and lock his arm round Brock’s neck for a DDT. Commentary were kind of late to call this and pint out what it was so I;m not sure they followed what was happening there as it happened. Triple H then smashed Lesnar with a sledgehammer and he then roared to a huge pop. He then hit the Pedigree on the steps for the win and the finish got a big reaction. This match was fine but seemed to be paced really slowly, I think intentionally for impact but it wasn’t one you could really get into as a wrestling match. If you want stiff and brutal stuff this was for you though. It wasn’t bad too considering Lesnar was legitimately KNOCKED OUT in the very early stages of the match and had to be talked through the following few minutes by Hunter. So credit to them for putting even something this good with that in mind. Anyone was going to struggle following Taker v Punk but these two did fine and HBK helped a lot with that too, didn’t help that the whole world knew Triple H was about to retire.

***3/4

They recapped the Hall of Fame class and ceremony of the year. Considering the ceremony was held at Madison Square Garden which is widely considered the spiritual home of WWE it was an incredible class, probably the most star-studded they’ve ever had. Howard Finkel did the introductions for; Mick Foley (big pop), Booker T (big pop), Trish Stratus (pop), Bob Backlund (kind of got a pop), Donald Trump (roundly booed, well done MetLife) and headliner Bruno Sammartino (who of course got a huge round of applause and a big pop from the crowd).

They did an advert saying that WrestleMania the next year would be in New Orleans.

They then announced the attendance for the show, which as always with WWE was 10000000000% factual.

John Cena defeated The Rock (C) to win the WWE Championship 

Cena was booed when he came out. Rock was cheered loudly maybe the most of anyone on the show. If you saw their first match this will make more sense, but it was almost the same only not as good. It had all the big spots and moments you’d expect but half the crowd heat of their previous match. I’d presume that was because it wasn’t in Rock’s hometown like the previous year’s and everyone knew Cena was winning in the end. The Rock actually DURING THE MATCH tore his hip and abdominal muscles as well as sustaining a hernia, so he didn’t have the best of showings presumably as a result (he flew out for surgery the next day and missed Raw as a result). This actually put back filming of Rock’s movie Hercules. It is probably why we haven’t seen Rock in a proper match since given his insurance costs raised up by movie companies after this. Rock was apparently planned to face BROCK LESNAR the next year so think about how different WWE history could have been! Anyway in this match the crowd loved The Rock but more out of hope than actually thinking he’ll win I think, as they fell flat at every Cena finisher hit. And boy oh boy did we have a gazillion false finishes in this match! But to be fair the crowd were into almost everyone towards the end, but in the end of course they tried to play off the finish of their fist match to end this one. The year prior it was Cena’s over-confidence that cost him, but this year Rock instead of trying to pin Cena who was down after a DDT chose to go for another Rock Bottom, and Cena countered this into another AA and then got the win. The Cena fans sounded happy but most people in the front few rows just stood there, the camera panned to the crowd and you could see people walking out (good one Kevin Dunn), there was a mixed response to Cena and Rock talking then embracing in the ring, Rock held Cena’s arm aloft at the top of the entrance ramp to close the show. People in the stadium didn’t seem to like this too much.

**3/4 

Well it was billed as a 3 match show and it ended up being a 1 match show. Everything else was very by-the-book and not many surprises at all. Fandango winning was a mild shock but too far down the card for anyone to care about. In looking to this years show it should be noted that the crowd sounded… well put it this way my friend Stefan asked me about what I thought of the crowd and how they sounded during the show? I thought about it and best I came up with is that it sounded like the crowd were in a stadium.. without a roof… which of course they were but the point is the sound in a stadium goes up and into the air, whereas in an indoor arena the sounds has a roof to bounce off so the noise stays in the arena and the crowd sound louder. So don’t be worried if the crowd sound quiet during Mania 35, it should be noted you could definitely hear them though during Punk v Taker so maybe it’s just they weren’t that in to much else on the show. I wouldn’t blame them too much to be honest. Notably this was then the highest grossing of all time so credit to them for that. Overall it seemed a below par Mania without being a bad PPV (Henry v Ryback aside), and maybe it was a sign of the lack of roster depth at the time but there wasn’t anything outside the final 3 matches that screamed Mania-worthy to me.

Josh.