WWE Clash of Champions 2019 – Review

Yes, indeed it took just five months for me to regress on my stance of no longer covering main roster WWE shows. But come on, you can’t say the standard of both Raw and SmackDown hasn’t improved significantly since then… and as for this show the line-up is pretty stacked with ALL the main roster championships being defended, as well as a No DQ match that’s part of the most convoluted and at times just bizarre storylines of the year between Roman Reigns and Erick Rowan. But would WWE be WWE without some form of wacky and confusing storyline??? Really??? ANYWAY… without wasting anymore time here is my review of Clash of Champions 2019, coming to you from the IRL “Queen’s City” in CHARLOTTE, North Carolina… WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

So for once it wasn’t announced, at least not by around 3 hours before the show got underway, what matches would be on the pre-show. I wasn’t able to see it but for the record the matches that were part of the much-loved (or not) kick-off show saw Drew Gulak retain the Cruserweight title over Humberto Carrillo and Lince Dorado. Also on the kick-off show (I CANNOT BELIEVE THEY HAD THIS ON THE FUCKING PRE-SHOW) AJ Styles retained the US Title over Cedric Alexander. I’ve heard they basically buried Cedric which is a shame to hear, but surely there’s something more to it as to why Alexander (who they’ve pushed) and AJ FUCKING STYLES wouldn’t be on the main card of the PPV…


Robert Roode & Dolph Ziggler defeated Universal Champion Seth Rollins & Braun Strowman (C) to win the Raw Tag Team Championship

Seth and Braun both got good pops coming out. For the pre-match introductions from the ring announcer they blacked out all the lights in the arena, only leaving the spotlights on the ring itself to offer that old-school ‘big fight feel’ which I liked. The babyface champions dominated early on and the crowd seemed into it, until a distraction by Roode allowed for Ziggler to hit an implant DDT to Rollins on the outside. The heels then isolated Rollins, with Dolph even getting a nearfall after a Famouser. Eventually Rollins got the hot tag to Strowman and he ran wild on Roode and Ziggler. He would go for the running powerslam on Dolph but he racked at Braun’s eyes to escape. Dolph blind tagged in Roode as Strowman collided with the ringpost, Ziggler hit the superkick and Roode went for the Glorious DDT but Brain powered out, Rollins tagged himself in, Seth set up for the Stomp only for Dolph to grab his leg and put him off course, then after a brief exchange Seth would run into a Spinebuster by Robert Roode for a 2 count. Roode did his Glorious pose but Braun came in from behind, although he was then sent to the outside over the ropes when he charged at Ziggler and Dolph yanked the ropes down. Amongst all the chaos Roode hit Rollins with the Glorious DDT and got the pin. Roode and Ziggler your new Raw Tag Team Champions. Decent match and a fun opener. People will moan that they had the Universal Champion pinned in the first match of the show, but if you wanted to do the switch you can’t really have the challenger pinned going into a world title match, whereas the champion now has something to prove and looks maybe vulnerable to add intrigue to the title match later.

***1/2

Braun was interviewed as he was walking backstage. He pointed out he didn’t lose the tag titles SETH did, ‘just like he’s gonna lose the Universal Championship later tonight’. He said Seth was on a losing streak and he would keep it that way tonight when he would GET THESE HANDS.

They played an advert promoting NXT’s move to the USA Network. 😁

Kayla interviewed the Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch (who in CHARLOTTE, North Carolina got a mixed reaction). She opened saying she couldn’t disagree with Braun more and that Seth and her would still be champions at the end of the night. She then said Sasha was the one with something to prove and questioned if she had what it takes? She then listed her many, many accomplishments in 2019, and said in that time Sasha Banks had… dyed her hair (which I laughed aloud at). She said Sasha complains that she took Banks’ spot but she earns it, and that tonight the table was set and The Man comes around. Is it law now that everyone must end their interviews with their catchphrase? Nonetheless a decent promo from Lynch to set up what feels like a pretty big match.

We were reminded by Tom Phillips that we were in Flair Country. Which can only mean one thing was next…

Bayley (C) defeated Charlotte Flair to retain the SmackDown Women’s Championship

As you’d presume Charlotte got a huge babyface reaction coming out. Commentary really put over all her title wins so far and just how quickly she’d done so, compared to her father. Don’t be shocked if we see Charlotte have plenty of short title reigns in the next few years and then a big fuss made when she wins number 17. It’d be the most WWE thing ever. Bayley on the other hand was booed, which might be the first time she’s ever been booed by a crowd that was supposed to boo her. I kind of like that she’s doing the same entrance gimmick, and if anything she’s more over the top with it all now as a heel. Great stuff. They seem to be keeping up the spotlight thing during the ring introductions which is cool. Charlotte hit a big boot for a nearfall almost immediately after the bell rung to start the match. Flair dominated the early stages, and whilst I’ve always thought Charlotte was much better as a heel it is fun to see Bayley work as a bad guy for a change. Crowd were loving life as Charlotte dissected Bayley, until… Charlotte had Bayley in the corner so the ref backed her up. Flair spun past the ref to get back at Bayley but the champion got out of the way and this led to Bayley sending Charlotte colliding into the bottom turnbuckle… which didn’t have the protective pad on. Bayley then pinned Charlotte for the win. The match can’t have been longer than a couple of minutes. What looked to be a squash in favour of the Queen turned into just the latest person to lose in their hometown. I guess it does make sense to have Bayley really use a heel tactic to grab a shitty win and further cement her turn. But to say this plucked the life out of the crowd was an understatement. Bayley grabbed her belt and ran to the back immediately after her win. We were shown a replay that confirmed Bayley took off the turnbuckle pad that led to the finish.

N/A

They recapped the weird stuff from the whole Gable vs Shane/Kevin Owens stuff from SmackDown when McMahon fired Owens.

The Revival (Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder) defeated The New Day (Big E & Xavier Woods) to win the SmackDown Tag Team Championship

It was confirmed that the king of the ring final was indeed set for RAW tomorrow and not this show as had been advertised as late as last week. The previously saddened crowd got back into it somewhat when Big E and Woods came out. Woods was wearing a knee brace to sell his attack from The Revival and Randy Orton previously. New Day were on top early, until The Revival sent both of them off the ring apron to the floor with Woods selling it like he was more hurt. This allowed Dash and Dawson to go to work on Big E. After the beatdown went on for a little while Big E hit an overhead Belly to Belly suplex, but there was nobody there for him to tag out to as Woods was still coming around. Eventually E hit another move and by this point Woods was there for the tag. Woods ran wild on Dawson in the ring and the legal man and also on Dash Wilder we he tried to interfere. Woods got a nearfall after a DDT but Wilder broke it up by targeting the injured knee, this led to Big E and Wilder going to the outside where both The Revival hit Big E with a Shatter Machine. Back in the ring they both looked to target Woods, but Xavier did his best to fightback until they again went for the injured knee. They then hit the Shatter Machine, but instead of going for the pin they wanted to target the knee of Woods even more. They tore away at Woods’ tights so the skin was exposed on the knee, as even Corey Graves on commentary questioned why they weren’t just going for the pin. Dawson locked in the Inverted Figure 4 on Woods and he eventually tapped out. The Revival make history becoming the first team to have ever won the NXT, Raw and now SmackDown tag titles. This match was not as good as you’d expect these two great teams to have, mainly because the story of it was the injured knee of Woods. But I guess if that’s the story they wanted to tell then so be it. The crowd could really do with a pick me up ASAP because for this PPV so far we are 3/3 for the heels. The Revival cut a heel promo after stood on the ring ramp (putting themselves over and saying Randy Orton would beat Kofi later as well).

***

Charly interviewed Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross. Suddenly a boom mic dropped into shot, it was being held by R truth alongside Carmella. This was their latest way of hiding in plain sight to keep Truth’s 24/7 title it seems. Bliss said it was fine, and thanked him for saying she had a beautiful voice, before saying she would show him and saying into the boom mic that R Truth was on the set, alerting all the jobbers… *COUGH, COUGH* excuse me “contenders” for his title to his whereabouts.

They played an advert for the Hell in a Cell PPV.

Nikki Cross & Alexa Bliss (C) defeated Fire and Desire (Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville) to retain the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship

Fire and Desire seem to have their own theme now (a combo of Sonya and Mandy’s singles music). We surely can’t have another heel victory in a row right? Cross got a decent pop coming out, and Bliss got a bigger one. Alexa was wearing Harley Quinn inspired gear (roll tide). Nikki mocked Mandy’s moves which was funny, what wasn’t was Renee calling Cross a ‘sexy beast’ which was cringey as hell. Bliss was executing some pretty effective offence on Rose, and then just when I thought me were going to get a solid chunk of wrestling we got the 24/7 title mob come running out chasing R Truth. As Truth was in the ring taunting those chasing him (the ref had stopped them getting in the ring in the middle of this WOMEN’S TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH), suddenly Alexa Bliss rolled up Truth from behind and got a nearfall as she looked to win the 24/7 title (I may sound slightly hypocritical if I said I got very excited at the idea of Bliss winning the title then). Truth and Carmella then ran away through the crowd with the rest chasing them. ANYWAY… Deville got the tag in from Rose and punished Alexa for going at her partner Mandy’s face. Deville threw Bliss into the turnbuckle as she tagged in Rose and the two isolated Alexa, with Nikki and the crowd trying to will her on. There were chants of ‘Let Nikki Play’ and ‘LEXI, LEXI’ from the crowd. Both Rose and Bliss dodged punches from one another then they both hit at the same time, before tagging out to Deville and Cross respectively. Cross took down Deville multiple times and would send Rose to the outside when she tried to interfere, before a back suplex to Deville and a roar that really got the crowd into it. Nikki then went to the top rope and hit a crossbody for a two count. Cross tagged to Alexa, only for Rose to take out Cross and Sonya Deville to pull Bliss down from the top rope to the floor below. Deville tagged to Rose and they hit a double team move (Deville went behind Bliss to ensure Alexa hit the mat much harder when Rose hit the running knee), Cross broke up the pin at 2. Bliss got the tag to Cross, then rolled over Rose and sent Deville flying off the apron. Rose missed the running knee from behind on Cross, then Nikki used the ring ropes for leverage and hit her twisting neckbreaker on Mandy for the win. Cross and Bliss retain, HALLELUJAH A BABYFACE WIN!!! OK match, probably what I was expecting. Not helped in terms of prestige by the 24/7 stuff, but they told an OK story and it was fine for what it was.

**

They recapped the results from the kick off show where Drew Gulak and AJ styles retained their titles. Styles and Gallows & Anderson beatdown Cedric Alexander afterwards.

Shinsuke Nakamura (C) with Sami Zayn defeated The Miz to retain the Intercontinental Championship

Why this is on the main card over Cedric vs AJ I’ll never know. Zayn, before he introduced Nakamura, said he was disgusted with the level of disrespect the crowd had showed him, and was also shocked with The Undertaker after his Chokeslam on SmackDown last week led to Zayn’s injury (Zayn was wearing a neck brace). They showed the footage of Taker and Zayn’s segment from MSG last week. Nakamura wears a red cape to the ring now… OK then… Zayn was coaching Nakamura and mockingly commentating on the match on the mic during the match. This was terrible and really took away from the in-ring stuff. I’m not sure if it was planned or not but Zayn’s mic stopped working at one point and so we went back to our normal service. Miz grabbed the mic from Zayn’s hand and threw it away. Nakamura kicked Zayn off the apron at one stage after Miz was too focused on Zayn. Shinsuke took charge after this, and would hit a series of hard strikes until Miz took out Shinsuke’s left leg. Miz hit the IT kicks in the corner and the running knees after, and got a nearfall with a double axe handle off the top. Miz eventually got in the Figure 4 leg lock (in Flair country he had to do it right, even though that’s how The Revival won earlier) and the crowd begged for Nakamura to tap but he got to the ropes to break the hold. With Miz distracted by Zayn again Nakamura hit a big running knee, but Miz kicked out! Nakamura set up for the Kinshasa but Miz countered into the Skull Crushing Finale, and with Miz over Shinsuke for the cover Sami Zayn diverted the ref’s attention so he was unable to count the pin. Miz in his anger went after Sami, but Nakamura hit a big kick to the face and then back in the ring hi the Kinshasa for the win. Nakamura retains. Again the crowd got excited and then fell dead silent at the finish. The match was alright but again it was similar booking to the majority of the show so far. It’s almost as if they’re trying to piss this crowd off.

**1/4

After an advert for SmackDown’s move to Fox played, the Raw commentary team bought up the news that WWE had announced earlier in the day of a 2 show Draft on October 11th and 14th. This will see the rosters become brand exclusive once again, so no more of this people appearing all over the place on both shows. Praise the lord.

Sasha Banks defeated Becky Lynch (C) in a Raw Women’s Championship Match by Disqualification (Lynch retains)

If you haven’t seen it yet by the way, go and watch the Sasha Banks: Chronicle documentary on the WWE Network. It’s tremendous. When Banks came out she got pretty much a babyface reaction. So far by the way, including the pre-show, we have had 6/7 heel wins so let’s see if they take the title off of Lynch here. If you had asked me before show the chances Banks wins here I would’ve said maybe 50-50… but SURELY WWE wont have seven of the first eight matches be won all by the bad guys right? Although given people quite like Banks I don’t think the reaction would be terrible if she did beat Lynch, as popular as THE MAN is… let’s see… The match was pretty good early on and the crowd did duelling-chants which was interesting. They went back and forth in the beginning part, Banks taking charge after a hard knee and a meteora for a nearfall. After Becky briefly got back into it Banks would get Becky in a sub hold before gloating as she came jumping off the top rope, only for Lynch to dropkick Sasha in the chest in mid-air. They also mentioned Banks had been training in Japan during her absence which I found interesting. After a series of strikes Becky hit a suplex and then went for a running strike only for Banks to catch her and lock in the Banks Statement… Lynch though powered out and hit the Bexploder. The Man hit a leg drop off the middle rope for a 2 count, Lynch told Sasha it was ‘her time now’ as they fought on the top rope until Banks came off with the meteora off the 2nd rope and rolled through for the pinfall that got a 2 count. Sasha screamed in frustration after. Banks hit the running double knees in the corner before another running knee, then she rolled over the ring ropes looking for another Banks Statement, only for Becky Lynch to try the Dis-Arm-Her submission but Banks rolled her up for a nearfall, but Lynch had the wherewithal to get the hold in again and this time Banks shifted towards the ring ropes to break the hold. Becky followed up with a basement dropkick before a missile dropkick off the top gave her a nearfall. With Lynch and Sasha in the corner Banks turned the table and hit a backstabber, and then another before she had the Banks Statement locked in, Lynch tried and tried to get the break and eventually she rolled them both to the ropes. Sasha wasted no time and yanked Lynch’s arm on the ring rope, before then grabbing a steel chair and bringing it into the ring. As the official was busy looking to remove one chair Banks went under the ring for another, and hit that into the mid-section of Lynch (the ref had his back turned of course), which I thought was quite a clever heel move. Banks then hit the Shining Wizard for a close nearfall. The crowd are really hot at this point, maybe the most excited they’ve been all night. Banks went to the outside for the chair again but the ref took it off her, and as Banks and the ref were arguing Lynch picked up the chair and swung it, only for Sasha to move and she hit the ref! She then hit Banks with the chair, eventually forcing Sasha to retreat into the crowd. Becky ran after her and they brawled up the arena stairs, Sasha even grabbed a fan sign (I think that’s what it was) and hit Becky with it, the brawl went on and on until Lynch had the Dis-Arm-Her on using the railings, Sasha kept trying to get away as they went into the back part of the arena now and into the concourse. Becky eventually bought them both back into the arena area, and they made their way (still brawling) eventually back to the ringside area. Banks gained the advantage by driving Lynch into the barricade, whilst continuing to beat on her. The randomly Michael Cole told us all that BECKY HAD BEEN DISQUALIFIED for hitting the official and was still the champion… so… why could they not have got another ref out and had the ring announcer make it official??? As far as we knew up to this point the match was still ongoing?… Regardless Banks got a steel chair from under the ring, only for Lynch to kick her in the chest and then hit Banks across the back with the chair multiple times. Lynch taunted Banks more before ramming her head repeatedly into the set-up chair. Becky then used the chair to assist her with another Dis-Arm-Her, Banks was screaming and tapping frantically until the officials came out to break it all up. The crowd chanted to let them fight… not exactly babyface stuff from Lynch mind… they gave Becky her belt but demanded she walk way. The ring announcer Mike Rome did then make the announcement of the DQ, so at least they tied up that loose end. Lynch walked away and her up her belt, as the crowd cheered the announcement of Becky still being champion. As Banks was down beaten in the ring and the officials around her Michael Cole said on commentary ‘many will say Sasha got what she deserved here tonight’… which was… interesting… I thought this was excellent stuff. Shame about the finish but it was a good match, a great brawl and worthy of the personal feud the two had had in the lead up. I’d like to see a rematch.

****1/4

They played another NXT to USA Network advert. This makes me happy.

Kofi Kingston (C) defeated Randy Orton to retain the WWE Championship

Really good video package before the match, recapping the rivalry so far between these two. A slow start to the match (shock) changed when Kingston hit Orton in the face, this caused Randy to go to the outside so I think Kofi may have caught him with a shiner. Orton seemed to target Kofi’s shoulder after this with a variety of moves, and also hit a back suplex onto an announce table. The crowd tried to will Kofi on but Randy launched him into the steps, and Kofi went for his finish but Orton hit a backbreaker. Orton raked at Kingston’s eyes but then got an SOS for his troubles, Orton hit the classic powerslam for a nearfall. Later Orton set up for the RKO, but Kofi rolled him up for a nearfall. Not long after that Orton hit an RKO out of absolutely nowhere but Kofi got his foot to the rope!!! A lot of people in the crowd, and me watching on the network, thought for a second that might be the finish. Orton pointed at Kofi who was on the floor and backed away into the opposite corner, and the crowd gasped… commentary seemed in shock as it appeared after ALL THESE YEARS… RANDY ORTON WAS ABOUT TO BRING BACK THE FAMOUS PUNT KICK FROM ABOUT 10 YEARS AGO!!! Kofi though moved out the way, and hit the Trouble in Paradise for the CLEAN win!!! ‘Who’s STUPID now’ asked Tom Phillips? Kofi retains clean as a whistle! I had assumed this was ongoing into Hell in a Cell… but maybe not now after that, Kofi has beat Orton with no BS or anything… so wonder what’s next for Kingston and the WWE title. This was a fine match, maybe their best yet, and really picked up towards the end, but at times it was dreadfully boring.

***1/2

The Street Profits watched on from backstage and were happy Kofi had won. They did their usual thing of being promo guys, this time for the KOTR final. They compared Chad Gable to the Lion King and Montez Ford confused one of the characters names with Rikishi. Angelo Dawkins corrected him, before saying he didn’t mind a good stinkface (which got a laugh from the crowd). Suddenly as they were doing their thing KING BOOKER walked into shot and did his thing (which everyone cheered for), Booker (or BUKAH as he said to Dawkins). Dawkins asked King Booker to knight him, Booker did his ‘tell me you didn’t just say that’ thing, Booker told them both to ‘get their mind right’. And after Ford told Dawkins to ‘think before you speak’ Booker came back and did his ‘now can you dig that SUCKAAAAAAAAAAA’ line.

Erick Rowan defeated Roman Reigns in a No Disqualification Match 

The video before the match recapped the ENTIRE Roman-attacked storyline, and I realised just how long, convoluted and at times downright bizarre this whole thing has been. Roman got a big babyface pop when he came out. Rowan’s theme song is terrible. Quickly they fought to the outside of the ring, and Rowan smashed Roman’s head into an announce table. Reigns later got a Kendo Stick but Rowan smashed him with the steel steps and into the crowd. Rowan hit Roman with a rubbish can, and cleared the announce table but Roman got to him before he could do more damage. The crowd chanted that they wanted Tables, but Rowan shook his head. This was both funny and a good heel move by Rowan. Rowan removed the protective part of the LED board and smashed Roman’s face into it. Eventually they made their way back into the ring with Rowan dominating Roman. Rowan bought in steel steps, and demanded Roman get up only to be caught allowing for Reigns to hit a Samoan Drop. This, on a guy of Rowan’s mammoth size, was a heck of a feat, but he only got a nearfall. Rowan missed a running charge and then Reigns hit him with the steps, following up with a Superman Punch but Rowan kicked out at 2! On the outside of the ring Roman went for another Superman Punch but Erick Rowan caught him and hit a massive Powerslam through the announce table (this looked awesome by the way). Somehow Roman kicked out at 2!!! They brawled then into the crowd area again, with Rowan eventually hitting the Claw slam though another table. Rowan then carried Roman towards the ramp but Roman fought his way out of a sticky situation, they hit one another with various cameras and production equipment along the way. Eventually, when they made their way to the top of the ramp and the ringside area, Reigns did his big ‘oooo, aaaaa’ war-cry at the top of the ramp , before running towards Rowan… only to be hit with a big kick… BY LUKE HARPER!!!! HE’S FUCKING BACK!!!!!!!!!!! Harper and Rowan brought Roman into the ring and beat the shit out of him. The crowd loved Harper the forgotten man returning. Rowan then did the iron Claw for the pin. LUKE HARPER IS BACK!!!!!!!!!!!! The two former Bludgeon Brothers embraced after, WOW OH WOW!!! I had heard rumours on Sunday that this match might go on last, it didn’t, but I guess we know why it might have now given the big angle. A man seemingly banished from WWE after announcing publicly he had requested his release from the company in the spring, is now back on TV, returns at a PPV, taking down the top star in the company. Amazing stuff.

***3/4

Charly interviewed Seth backstage. Rollins said he doesn’t give a damn about what Strowman said earlier. He said he had to focus on the future now, and he had all the respect in the world for Braun and would even consider him a friend, but it’s not his time and tonight was not his night.

They recapped the Raw tag title match from earlier in the show.

Seth Rollins (C) defeated Braun Strowman to retain the Universal Championship 

In what had become somewhat of a theme for the night so far it was this time Strowman who immediately ran at his opponent as the bell rang. Braun continued to take control with a series of shoulder blocks and tried the running powerslam but Rollins escaped. Rollins hit three superkicks and a frog splash, only to be caught when going for the Stomp, Braun ran into the ring post (for the 277846376437th time in his career), Rollins hit two Springboard knee strikes, only for Braun to catch him again and hit a few forearms across his chest. Strowman did his ‘run around the ring and send someone flying’ spot twice, he tried a 3rd time only for Seth to move and Braun went flying over an announce table. Seth hit a suicide dive, then superkicked Braun onto another announce table. Then later on came a moment were I nearly had a heart attack I was so scared… So Seth is on the top rope, Braun knocks it down, Strowman (who of course is a HUGE man) decides it’s wise to go to the top rope himself, and whatever he was going for as a move he very nearly fell backwards off the top rope and it was utterly terrifying for a split second. Anyway he very quickly regained his composure and hit a big splash onto Rollins, but only got a 2 count. He seemed to hurt his knee as he landed. Not long after Strowman kicked out of the stomp at ONE and Seth was astonished. He hit a second and Braun kicked out at two. He went for a 3rd, got it and Braun kicked out again. There even some boos as Rollins hit the 3rd one. They made the point on commentary that 3 was enough to slat the beast (Lesnar) but couldn’t slay the monster. Seth looked for another Stomp but Braun picked him up, looked for a running Powerslam but his knee gave out. Seth then hit a PEDIGREE (a move he hasn’t used for years) which caught the crowd off-guard and they audibly gasped, then he hit the stomp again and got the pin. Rollins retains in an absolute BANGER! Heck of a match that could’ve gone either way. WOW what a win for Rollins! This was almost like a Brock Lesnar match in that it wasn’t too long, but it was action-packed and pretty much big move after big move so it was really fun to watch and was probably the match that kept the crowd going the best. Seth nodded in respect as he left the ring. I heard mild boos as Seth stood with the belt at the top of the ramp to close the show.

****

THEN……..

THE LIGHTS WENT OUT AND THE CROWD WENT APE SHIT… THEY KNEW WHAT WAS COMING…

THE FIEND APPEARED AT THE TOP OF THE RAMP IN THE DARK AND THEY DID THE WEIRD NOISES AND FLASHING LIGHTS STUFF, SISTER ABIGAIL TO ROLLINS, MANDIBLE CLAW TO ROLLINS, THE FIEND LAUGHS AND THE LIGHTS GO OUT AGAIN.

It goes without saying that this bit was absolutely fantastic. The funny thing is of course Seth is the babyface, superhero, World Champion and yet from the second the noise came that is followed by the lights going out and we knew The Fiend was coming everyone in the crowd lost their mind, and it got one of the biggest ‘babyface’ reactions of the night. There’s not a chance The Fiend is getting booed at Hell in a Cell however dark and scary he is, people love cool shit, and this is cool as fuck! And now the show is over for real.

Overall this was an OK show. The amount of heel wins hurt the crowd a little but overall I thought it was alright. It sets up some interesting stuff going forward. And of course the headlines will go to the return of Luke Harper and the reality that we really are going to get THE FIEND challenge Seth Rollins for the Universal Championship at Hell in a Cell. What a time to be alive.

Josh.

THE BEST WWE PPV OF ALL TIME? – Review

If you’re too cold, you turn the heating up. If you’re too hot, you drink a cold drink. And if like me you recently watched, reviewed, and suffered through the WORST WWE PPV of all time then you try and counter that by making sure your next blog post is all about (possibly) the BEST WWE PPV of all time. And my oh my was this show some ‘GOOD SHIT’! Emanating from the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Long Island, New York in front of just under 15,000 fans WWE put on a show that had one of the most stacked cards in history, including: the WWE PPV debut of Rey Mysterio, the return to WWE in-ring action (after FOUR YEARS away) of Shawn Michaels and in the main event, a then new-to-Hollywood star The Rock would defend the WWE Undisputed Championship against a young upstart who had just won the King of the Ring tournament… some kid named ‘BROCKKKKK LESNARRRRRR’! In terms of where the company was at in this era pretty much business in all areas was on the decline, but I had heard rave reviews of this show before and have watched matches here and there from it previously, but hadn’t taken the time to watch the full show and really look into it. Having now done just that I can confirm this show was… exceptional! Many will say WrestleMania 17 is the best WWE show ever, however I would argue that show has more than a few absolutely terrible matches, and the end of the show sees the top babyface turn heel and the subsequent run flopped hard. So in my humble opinion I liked to formally declare that SummerSlam from the year 2002 may well be (and in my opinion IS) the best WWE PPV of all time.


Michael Cole welcomed us to the show, whilst also cutting to live footage of fans watching on from ‘The World’ elsewhere in New York City. It would be Cole and co-commentator Tazz calling the SmackDown matches on the show, whilst the familiar voices of Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler would call the action from the superstars of Monday Night Raw. Tony Chimel would be the ring announcer for the SmackDown matches, and the legendary Howard Finkel (more on him later, sadly it’s one of the two real low-points of this show) would do the ring announcing duties for the Raw side.

Kurt Angle defeated Rey Mysterio 

Angle came out first to a decent pop, before the typical ‘YOU SUCK’ chants from the crowd. Mysterio’s music played after for what would be his WWE PPV debut… but as Kurt and the rest of us were looking towards the entrance ramp suddenly Rey came from behind Angle and hit a springboard-hurricanrana off the ropes that sent Angle flying. The match got properly underway with a really hot start and the action was pretty fast paced throughout. At one stage Angle dodged a 619 attempt and yanked Mysterio out of the ring, which was a simple yet genius spot. The psychology on display between the two men was fantastic; Angle playing party-pooper to the high flying Mysterio and kicked things up a gear when he pulled down the straps from his wrestling vest. The highlight of the match came not long after; Angle went flying to the outside over the ropes and as Mysterio went to go after him the referee held him back as it appeared Kurt was hurt, so instead Rey went and did a great dive OVER the referee AND the ropes onto Angle on the outside of the ring. Mysterio seemed to have finally gained an advantage at this stage and soon hit a leg drop off a springboard for a nearfall. Soon after Kurt went for an Ankle lock but Rey flipped him into the middle ropes and hit the 619 followed by a West Coast Pop, only for Kurt to kick out at 2 which the crowd went wild for. Both men found themselves perched on the top rope after this, and Mysterio went to perform a top rope hurricinrana only for Angle to reverse it into an Ankle Lock, and as much as Rey tried he had no choice but to tap out to give Kurt the big win. This was a really good opener to the pay per view and although it only went around 10 minutes, I’d have happily seen it go on for another 10. For the time they had they put on a match that was absolutely as good as they possibly could have. Great stuff.

***3/4 

SmackDown GM Stephanie McMahon was backstage bragging about how good her brand was, only to find the Raw GM Eric Bischoff in HER office! They had a back and forth bragging about who had the better brand and who would come out of SummerSlam the better… this was just… kind of there for the sake of it seemingly…

Ric Flair defeated Chris Jericho

The on-screen build up to this match saw Jericho beat down Flair on Raw, and Ric responded later on that night by coming out during a performance of Chris Jericho’s band Fozzy and beating on both Jericho and the set. Away from the cameras the build up was even more fascinating. RIC FLAIR, the 16 time world champion and possible the best to ever do it, was suffering from a lack of self belief around this time. He didn’t think he could… ‘hang’ with the top guys anymore. It took a pep talk from his opponent here to remind him exactly who he was, and in fact it was Jericho who pitched the idea of the finishing move for the match. So we know the Nature Boy wasn’t so confident going in, but I can confirm he could indeed STILL hang with one of the best. These two guys went out there and they had a solid professional wrestling FIGHT! It was really put into context this clash of generations when Jim Ross on commentary pointed out that Chris Jericho was 2 years old when Ric Flair made his debut. They went back and forth for most of the match and they chopped the heck out of one another. Y2J went for the Walls of Jericho only for Flair to counter into an inside cradle for a 2 count nearfall. After Jericho chopped Flair some more he hit a bulldog and followed up with an attempt at the Lionsault, only for Flair to move out of the way. In a big twist of irony it was Chris Jericho who put the Figure 4 leg lock on to Ric Flair and in a very interesting moment Flair got his hand onto the ropes to break the hold, but also tapped the mat as well. Jericho was convinced he had won but the ref told him Flair got to the ropes first so the match went on, Jericho was pissed and in his aggression there was a collision that sent the ref down. And with that in mind the so-called ‘Dirtiest player in the game’ Ric Flair would take advantage and hit Jericho with a low blow, before placing his opponent in the Figure 4, and Chris Jericho tapped out! A really fun match that told the story of the much-loved veteran showing the cocky younger guy that he could still go, and despite his pre-match skepticism I can confirm Ric Flair STILL could go. Really good stuff from BOTH. What’s as funny as Jericho having to remind one of the best ever who he was and that he could still go, is the fact at this time the idea was from Vince for Ric to have this be part of his ‘last hurrah’, one last run with good matches before phasing him out of the ring and into a character-focused role. Ric would not have his last WWE match for another 5 and a half years or so.

***1/4 

Brock Lesnar was warming up and getting ready for his match backstage alongside Paul Heyman, whom reminded Brock that he had killed Hulk Hogan and talked him up huge ahead of his match in the main event against The Rock. Heyman said the line that Lesnar would become the ‘undisputed heavyweight champion of the world’… of course we didn’t know it then, but we would hear Heyman say something along these lines for many, many years to come…

Edge defeated Eddie Guerrero 

This is a heck of a card right? So the latest match on this STACKED show saw a vindictive Latino Heat take on a rising star in Edge (who got a HUGE pop when he came out). Edge at this time had the song ‘Never Gonna Stop’ by Rob Zombie which was an AWESOME theme. To give you more of an idea of where these two guys stood in the company at this time, it was alluded to on the ‘Something To Wrestle with Bruce Prichard’ podcast that Eddie was somewhat of a ‘gatekeeper’ and this match was put together with the idea that if Edge could keep up with Guerrero here then they were all good to put the rocket on him. Michael Cole on commentary said of Edge before the match that he was the ‘future of SmackDown’ … which given Edge would retire with just the ELEVEN world title reigns to his name, and most of those coming whilst a member of the SmackDown roster, I think we can say Michael Cole’s proclamation was accurate. So the match itself was really solid and good stuff (you seeing a pattern develop with this show yet?), the main theme was Eddie working on Edge’s injured shoulder with different types of holds and submission moves. They mixed really well together here, one spot where Edge went for a Spear but Eddie dropkicked him in mid-air which looked cool. Edge later hit the ‘Edgecution’ DDT only for Guerrero to kick out at 2 1/2.  Eddie would come close himself to getting the win with his signature frog splash right onto Edge’s hurt shoulder only to get a nearfall. But it would be the very popular babyface who would get the big win with the Spear to a giant pop from the crowd. This was really solid stuff and Edge was made to look tremendous by Eddie here. Edge would suffer a big injury in February of the next year that would put him out for over a year but at this stage he was well and truly on the rise.

***1/2  

We had a really funny segment with Jonathan Coachman conducting a backstage interview with the World Tag Team Champions ‘The Un-Americans’ Lance Storm and Christian, with their ‘heavy’ Test in the background. Essentially both Storm and Christian kept up their gimmick and said about how the fans would probably just ‘sit on their hands’. It was simple but really good heel work.

The Un-Americans (Lance Storm & Christian) (C) defeated Booker T & Goldust to retain the World Tag Team Championship 

The heels were booed and the babyfaces were cheered, so that alone tells you they told this story well in the build-up. The Un-Americans by the way had with them their symbolic upside-down American flag, which is a genius heat-magnet by the way. There were plenty of ‘USA,USA’ chants throughout as the crowd really got behind the challengers. If you’re looking for a solid wrestling match then you probably couldn’t find four more reliable workers than these guys. They got the heat on Goldust for a while, this led to a hot tag to Booker only for the ref to not see it and as he was arguing with an angry Booker T the heels then got to work on Goldust 2 on 1. With the referee pre-occupied again at another point the Canadian pair of Storm and Christian both grabbed steel chairs and swung at Goldust, only for him to move so they hit one another instead! Again the ref was knocked down and this then led to Booker T hitting the scissor kick to both men, celebrating with a Spinaroonie, hitting the big kick and getting the cover… but the ref was still down! Later Lance Storm went to use the belt as a weapon, but that was thwarted. After this the other Un-American Test ran down and hit Booker with the big boot (Goldust was taken out the picture by Christian at this point), and Lance Storm took advantage to pin Booker T for the 1, 2, 3. A fine match but the finish left the crowd silent. It was a fairly babyface heavy show so I guess you had to have some parts of the party pooped for the good bits to be worth it right? But yet again one thing that can’t be argued is this was all fine work yet AGAIN!

*** 

Oh boy… so next up live from ‘The World’ we had Jamie Noble act as the ‘host’ of a ‘make-out contest’ where there were two ‘fans’ on stage and Noble’s on-screen girlfriend Nidia had to choose which one of the two men she wanted to make out with. All in front of a pretty wild group of fans. She chose the lucky winner and passionately kissed him on the sofa that was conveniently near them, all whilst Noble played cheerleader for them. Yes this really happened…

We had some more chat between Bischoff and Stephanie.

(Please forgive me for not writing all that much about the next match. I’m sure you understand why I found it difficult to watch.)

Rob Van Dam defeated Chris Benoit (C) to win the Intercontinental Championship 

Benoit of SmackDown was introduced by Tony Chimel and Raw’s RVD by Howard Finkel. This was a pretty tremendous wrestling match, the two had really great chemistry with one another, Van Dam was the gifted high flyer with some fierce strikes and Benoit was a master in-ring technician. Both hit all their big moves and went 16 and a half minutes in what was a great, great match. RVD went for the 5 star but Benoit moved, Benoit locked in the crossface but RVD got to the ropes. RVD eventually won clean with the big frog splash to a big pop from the crowd. Rob Van Dam wins and takes the Intercontinental title with him to Raw in the process.

****1/4

Stephanie and Eric were backstage AGAIN… Bischoff bragged about the IC title coming to Raw after Van Dam’s win. Stephanie just laughed in his face (this seems odd but as it turns out it’s the tease of the story they tell in the weeks after… more on this later…)

The Undertaker defeated Test 

There was a great video package that gave a really good explanation of the whole Un-Americans gimmick. Biker Taker got a big pop coming out (naturally). This was a proper big-man match, it was certainly a change of pace from the rest of the show but given the two matches that sandwiched this one it kind of made sense and was probably necessary. The two men had a proper brawl, Taker did all his usual stuff, Test missed a big boot, Undertaker hit the Chokeslam only for Test to kick out at 2, Taker went for the Last Ride only for fellow Un-American Lance Storm to run in and try and make the save only for him and then Christian too to be batted away by Taker. Among all the distractions Test hit the big boot only for Taker to kick out at 2. Lance Storm handed a chair to Test but Taker kicked the chair into Test’s face. He then hit the Tombstone (which he wasn’t using all that often at this stage, preferring the Last Ride instead more often) for the win. Seeing Taker pick up Test and hit the Tombstone on Test (who was a real GIANT of a man, think like 90s Razor Ramon size) was a hell of a spectacle. Taker ‘The American Badass’ waved the American flag after the match. This was never going to be a classic but for what it was this was perfectly fine.

**3/4 

Shawn Michaels defeated Triple H in a Non-Sanctioned Match 

Jim Ross explained it would be Michaels first match in WWE for 1609 days (since 1998’s WrestleMania and the famous match with Steve Austin that saw Mike Tyson get involved at the height of the Attitude Era), which really is incredible isn’t it? They then aired the most absolutely incredible video package before this match. Believe me the one thing WWE usually do pretty well is these sort of recaps, but this promo was truly exceptional and go out of your way to see it and tell me you’re not excited to see the match! It did a terrific job of explaining the story of these two men up to this point: them starting out as the best of friends in the late 90s in DX, Triple H becoming ‘the man’ once Michaels took his injury hiatus, then his subsequent return where they looked to put the team back together only for Triple H to pedigree Shawn. Then as The Game was in the ring he was told by one of the ringside crew that something had happened backstage, where we find Shawn Michaels in a pool of blood having had his head smashed through a car window. Hunter showed great concern, and later with Triple H in the ring and Michaels on video link on the titantron he vowed to find out who attacked him and that all he knew was that he was hit from behind. Triple H vowed to find out who did this. And then we would see the previously grainy CCTV footage of the attack gradually zoom in and un-pixalate to show that the attacker was indeed TRIPLE H! The package would then hype up the match with Michaels saying he was OK to go again and the doctors had told him he would be ready just in time for… SummerSlam! Honestly this video was a work of art and whoever put it together did an unbelievable job of making this match seem just as important and special as it was. There was certainly plenty of hype going in to this one. It didn’t disappoint.

In the least surprising occurrence of the night, Michaels (who was in amazing physical shape) got a GIANT crowd pop when he came out. He was wearing the normal jacket-type he wears but had a white t shirt and blue jeans underneath, he certainly had come dressed for a FIGHT! Jim Ross on commentary (who alongside Jerry Lawler was absolutely exceptional as a vehicle to tell the story of this match, really putting across the emotion that went along with it) hoped that all would be ‘OK’… Triple H got a pretty decent reaction when he came out also despite being the clear heel. He took his time making his way in to the ring to really build up the anticipation for this match.

Triple H dominated early on to really bring what was a hugely excitable crowd back down to earth. He then used both a chair and Michael’s Jeans’ Belt to punish HBK. It was particularly hard to watch when Hunter smashed Michaels across the back with the chair, given Michaels obvious back injury history. The crowd was at this stage absolutely deflated at witnessing their returning hero being properly beat up by the evil villain, and Michaels was absolutely pouring with blood from his head. As Triple H continued to assert his dominance he went to Pedigree Michaels onto a chair, only for HBK to hit a low blow! Michaels then hit Sweet Chin Music to Triple H whilst he was holding the chair and this busted HHH open, and when I say busted open the blood was absolutely POURING from his head. With Shawn exhausted laying on the ring-mat he did the classic HBK kick-up to get back to his feet, and the crowd seeing their hero come back to life in-front of their very eyes LOST THEIR MIND!!! Suddenly they were reminded they were watching one of the best ever make his return, and from then on in we were ON!!! Michaels used the chair himself to launch his assault, and then set the crowd on fire again when he retrieved a ladder from under the ring. They then went back and forth and in this match with no rules, they somehow had a pretty decent ‘rasslin exchange. Michaels would hit a big elbow drop from the top of the ladder he had earlier bought into the ring, which the crowd loved of course. Jerry Lawler said an amazing set of lines basically getting super excited that Michaels was OK and alright, despite this brutal match and he’d comeback after all this time and was still the showstopper, still THE main event. It was subtle but it really was accurate of how the majority of people watching felt and really put across how the fans were feeling too. With Triple H down the crowd reached fever pitch when Michaels went to the corner of the ring and ‘tuned up the band’ ready for the Sweet Chin Music… so Michaels went for the kick, but Triple H caught his leg, spun him around, kicked him in the stomach, set up for the Pedigree… BUT… Michaels flipped Triple H over, rolled him up with a jackknife roll-up, AND GOT THE PIN!!! SHAWN MICHAELS, AFTER FOUR YEARS AWAY, CAME BACK, PUT ON THE PERFORMANCE OF HIS LIFE, AND PINNED TRIPLE H!!! Commentary and the crowd went absolutely WILD! We’d witnessed a wrestling miracle, we were told the story that Michaels had no chance of even being competitive, let alone actually WINNING!?

But of course Triple H destroyed Michaels after the match had finished. He used his signature sledge hammer to attack both Michaels injured back and further damage his already busted-open head. The crowd were obviously furious, as Triple H then staggered away showing too the scars of this absolute war. Michaels was taken out on a stretcher after this to a standing ovation. Now… you may ask what the point was of bringing Michaels back only to have him win, and then get destroyed afterwards. But when you know the background this was actually really clever booking. So at this stage we know Michaels would go on to have many years left as a wrestler, but this was not the plan at the time. Michaels was coming back JUST for this ONE match. So usually when a guy comes in for a one-off, he does the job and puts the guy who is sticking around over, right? Yes that’s what always happens, so why not shock everyone and have the babyface get the win? But doesn’t that do damage to the heel who is staying around? Yes, so you get round that by having him get the heat back afterwards. So with what they did they really got the best of both worlds; the crowd got to see an amazing feel-good moment, and Hunter got to look strong still in defeat with the beatdown that followed. In my opinion this was great booking.

This was the most unbelievable match. It turned out to be the first of many together the two men would have in 2002/2003 but this was the best one. Quite simply a masterclass in ring psychology. For sure Shawn Michaels had a tonne of incredible matches (and many of them came AFTER this classic) but as for Triple H, other than the WrestleMania cell match with The Undertaker some years after this match, this has to be considered arguably his best EVER match.

*****

Next we had… oh boy… so Howard Finkel is ready to announce the next match, but he tells us all he has a few things to get off his chest… so he cuts a heel promo, exclaiming that this was the first time he’d been in this arena since WrestleMania 2. He then referenced the then strike in the MLB saying that they could ‘always rely on the Fink’. He goes on bigging himself up until Trish Stratus comes down to the ring. It was recalled how Trish had ‘got one over’ on Finkel in the past two weeks and now Stratus wanted to apologize, taking a liking to his ‘sexy voice’. Jim Ross somewhere in here said that ‘Trish has stolen Howard’s spotlight, somebody already stole his hair’ which did give me a chuckle. Trish says she has a surprise for Finkel, Howard states to Stratus that ‘you have the puppies, and I have the weener’ (and I thought I was going to vomit). Turns out the surprise was Lillian Garcia, Howard’s rival for the Raw ring announcer’s job. She slapped him HARD and gave him a low blow and the crowd popped.

I’m trying to sell this as an amazing show, and it was. But christ this segment was trash.

ANYWAY… back to the good stuff…

Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman) defeated The Rock (C) to win the WWE Undisputed Championship 

Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler handed over the commentary duties to Michael Cole and Tazz. They played a great video package ahead of the match; it told how Brock had won the King of the Ring tournament, before The Rock won the WWE title in a 3 way against Kurt Angle and Undertaker at the Vengeance PPV, to set up the mega match with a guy in Lesnar who since his arrival on the main roster had been on an absolute tear, even taking out Hulk Hogan as part of his rampant run to this point. I should mention the amazing visual of Lesnar wiping Hogan’s blood across his own chest like some form of monster gorilla, it was BADASS! The ‘next big thing’ Brock got a massive pop coming out, and The Rock was cheered too as he left the belt at the top of the ramp and sprinted into the ring to get him some of Lesnar as the match got underway. This was a really fun match and although Rock and Lesnar worked as the babyface and the heel (with Heyman helping out Brock at every chance he got), the crowd reactions were the opposite. Michael Cole at one stage said the line about how a Brock Lesnar win would make Paul Heyman millions, which given the events of the time since then is incredible in hindsight. As the match went on the crowd split just grew and grew in favour of Lesnar and away from Rock. We even got ‘Rocky SUCKS’ chants as well as when Rock had Lesnar in the Sharpshooter he could be seen looking up in disgust as the crowd chanted “LET’S GO LESNAR”, and they went crazy when Brock was able to escape the submission hold! Lesnar later got the big bearhug move on Rock (the same move he used to put away Hulk Hogan a few weeks prior), and when The Rock raised his hand up after it had dropped twice prior to tease the finish, the crowd booed heavy when Rock showed he still had life. By the point that The Rock was looking to put Lesnar away with a Rock Bottom the crowd was furious at the prospect of the champion retaining. The crowd really were turning on Rock at this stage, and that only got louder when Rock used a low blow on Lesnar. Rock followed up by catapulting Lesnar into the ringpost on the outside, and would then get his revenge on Paul Heyman for his interference with a Rock Bottom through the announce table, which was… ugly… Rock got back in the ring and hit the Rock Bottom, only for Brock to kick out. Not long after Lesnar hit a Rock Bottom of his own, but of course Rock kicked out. Lesnar escaped from a Rock Bottom attempt and hit the F5, but Rock kicked out! Rock would eventually go for the People’s Elbow to the fury of the live crowd, but as he came off the ropes Lesnar got up and hit a big clothesline, and everyone cheered. Brock then hit the F5 again for the 1, 2, 3 to spark jubilant reactions from the fans in the arena. It should also be noted, and credit to The Rock for this, but he did not move or roll out of the ring after the bell had rung. he stayed DOWN and sold Lesnar’s finish like he was dead. And if that from THE ROCK isn’t doing a favour for Lesnar I don’t know what is. This was a heck of a match! Brock Lesnar had become the (then) youngest champion in WWE history. Cole on commentary during the post match said ‘this monster in on top of the world, the next big thing has arrived’ as Brock celebrated with the WWE title to close the show.

****

After the show went off the air The Rock did a promo for the live crowd. He went to do the whole ‘Finally, The Rock, has come back….’ gimmick, but he was getting heavily booed. So Rock then said ‘it doesn’t matter where The Rock has come back to’! He went on to say that like it or not he’s still the people’s champion and when he did the  “If you smell…” he stopped short, and said that it was no longer ‘sing along with The Rock time’. Knowing he was going away and hearing he was being booed, The Rock went heel impromptu on the live crowd. Just tremendous. He would not have another match in WWE until February of the next year. It was well known going in that The Rock was indeed leaving for a while to go to Hollywood, which may have been the main cause of the negative reaction.

Let me also put this into context… March 18th 2002 the night after WrestleMania (the one where Rock faced some guy called Hulk Hogan), Brock Lesnar came out and laid wast to a few guys in his first appearance on the main roster. A little over FIVE MONTHS later this same young man was beating The Rock in the main event of SummerSlam for the WWE Championship. Imagine someone right now coming to Raw or SmackDown from NXT, having had no prior TV wrestling experience, and then in six months time at a big PPV beating someone like Roman Reigns or Kofi or Seth Rollins for one of the big championships in the main event. Incredible stuff.


The main aftermath of this show saw SmackDown general manager Stephanie McMahon announce she had signed Brock Lesnar to an exclusive deal that would see the WWE Undisputed Championship be solely on the SmackDown brand. This would lead to Raw GM Eric Bischoff creating his own world title in the form of the old ‘big gold belt’, eventually awarding the World Heavyweight Championship to Triple H. Lesnar would defend the WWE Championship against The Undertaker in the months that followed. Shawn Michaels would indeed return full time to in-ring competition and even won the newly created World Heavyweight Championship from Triple H in the first ever Elimination Chamber Match at that year’s Survivor Series. The Boyhood dream would come true, all over again.

This was just THE most fun show to watch. I loved it so much. Great wrestling, brilliant storytelling and the anointment of the new big star at the end of the night.

The feedback from the readers of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter was 99.7% of them gave the show a thumbs up, just 0.3% gave it thumbs in the middle, ZERO gave it thumbs down. The best WWE PPV I’ve ever seen. I could not recommend this show enough. Tremendous.

Josh. 

THE WORST WWE PPV OF ALL TIME – Review

(WARNING: IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PROFANITY DO NOT READ THIS BLOG… I HAVE A LOT TO SAY ABOUT THIS SHOW AND NOT MUCH OF IT IS GOOD)


So… you’ve read the title of this blog post, so let me not waste any more time and begin to describe to you this fucking wretched show… WWE ECW had at this stage been around for a few months as WWE’s third brand and attempt to revive the much loved underground promotion. And already it was beginning to die a death. I have always thought and many have said the same thing, if you called this brand anything but ‘ECW’ it may have done OK… but if ECW was well on its way to death row then this show was the night the letters E.C.W were put in the electric chair, AND given the lethal injection, AND had its head cut off.

Perhaps given what took place in the build-up to this show it should not come as a shock what happened on the night itself. Only two matches were officially announced for the show before it aired, and yet WWE still charged the usual $40 for people to see it. WWE sent out a promotional email the day before the show promoting TWO matches (the Hardys vs MNM tag and the main event) but adding that “ALL THIS AND MUCH MORE!”were to come on the show. Even on WWE.com MINUTES before the show began they had a grey table that had 8 spaces for possible matches in with only TWO being listed. According to the F4W Newsletter as of the afternoon of the day of the show the creative team in WWE knew of only FOUR matches that were to be on the show… so whoever came up with the idea of the other two matches on the card that took place… I have no words that are positive to say about them… This show pulled in 90,000 pay per view buys with 55,000 of them domestic buys in the USA which goes without saying is the lowest in company history before the WWE Network came into existence. I actually feel legitimately sorry for the poor souls who paid money to watch this abomination on their TV screens. I hope they received the necessary medical-aftercare.

On December 3rd 3006; the WWE ECW December To Dismember PPV took place. Professional Wrestling was never the same again, and the brand of Extreme Championship Wrestling official DIED!


A video package played promoting the EXTREME Elimination Chamber played to open the PPV. The theme song for the show was ‘Bodies’ by Drowning Pool. This may or may not have been the best thing about the show. I noted immediately that the upper deck of the arena on the far side (straight on from the entrance ramp) is closed off. The James Brown Arena in Augusta, Georgia was set up to seat 8000… it was reported that approximately 2300 people were here to endure this show, at least some of them didn’t have to pay for the horror. The Voice of ECW Joey Styles and former ECW Champion Tazz were the commentary team and so had the best (or in this case the dirt worst) seats in the house. It should be noted by the way that Styles opened up by stating that a ‘new champion would be crowned in the Extreme Elimination Chamber’ to which Tazz had somewhat of a… puzzled… reaction to, so we were already off to a tremendous start…

Our opening contest was one of the two pre-announced matches for the show. So as far as we knew this match was going an hour and a half…

Team Extreme (Matt Hardy & Intercontinental Champion Jeff Hardy) defeated MNM (Joey Mercury & Johnny Nitro with Melina)

So in December 2006 Jeff Hardy and Johnny Nitro were feuding for the IC title on RAW, Matt Hardy was on SMACKDOWN, MNM were a tag team together on SMACKDOWN, The Hardys were a tag team on ECW, and yet for ‘one night only’ (apparently) this match was opening an ECW PPV. Got all that? … Matt and Jeff were announced as ‘Team Extreme’ despite having ‘The Hardys’ on their titantron… The camera men seemed to be going out of their way to NOT shoot the crowd on the hard-cam side of the arena to avoid the many, many empty seats in that, and many other, parts of the arena. They did not dim the arena lights nor put the spotlight in the ring as they did for ECW TV, which of all the shows in the world it seemed sadly ironic not to dim the arena lights for THIS show. The crowd at various points called Melina a ‘crackhoar’, which was charming. As a match it was fine but it was every Hardy Boyz match you’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a bunch believe me. The crowd very quickly became bored, as was I, but did pop for Jeff and the stuff he did. Melina on the outside seemed to scream every now and then in delight when her guys gained an advantage, but it quickly became incredibly annoying. One of the highlights was Johnny Nitro accidentally dropkicking Melina off the apron in what was probably one of the bigger bumps in her career. As I’ve said this match was fine… we got three hot tags and they fit in a gazillion different moves and spots in the LONG time they had, but again I feel like I’ve seen this exact match from The Hardys a silly amount of times. Matt and Jeff did get the win after a double neckbreaker by Matt off the top followed by a Swanton by Jeff. It went TWENTY TWO MINUTES but if it had of gone 10 it would’ve been much better. On a regular PPV this match would be seen as average, on this PPV it was the best match of the show by a mile.

***1/4

They plugged the Extreme Chamber and played an interview filmed for ECW.com with Rob Van Dam.

And that Ladies and Gentleman was where everything ‘average’ on the good-bad scale ended. For the duration of what was still to come please adjust your scale to tell you where on the scale of bad-THE ABSOLUTE DRIVELING SHITS everything from now on ranks.

Balls Mahoney defeated Matt Striker in a ‘Striker’s Rules’ Match

Striker (doing his School Teacher gimmick) came to the ring dressed in the ugliest pink sweater you’ve ever seen. He introduced his opponent, then cut a typical condescending promo being anti-violence and anti-extreme. He said his match tonight was under ‘Striker rules: No eye gauging, no hair pulling, no moves off the top rope, and no foul language’. The camera kept zooming on Matt Striker’s arse… he had a picture of his own face on his wrestling shorts… After Mahoney came out and the bell rung the crowd was dead (please someone count how many times in this review I make a comment about the crowd being dead), they did though take great joy in chanting ‘Balls’. Watching this I could tell why Matt Striker eventually moved into commentary and well away from being a wrestler. I got a glimpse during this match that seemed to show the entire upper and most of the middle deck on the hard-cam side was either closed off or had a lot of empty seats… or both. Tazz said on commentary that Striker had a ‘facey ass’ which was my personal highlight of this match. Mercifully Balls ended the match and got the win with a sit out spinebuster. Was this a good wrestling match? Absolutely not. Both these guys in-ring absolutely suck and they very quickly after the finish moved on to the next segment… figures… The F4W review of this show said of this match “This sucked a cock”. In my opinion that would be being polite.

1/2* (0.5)

They showed CM Punk backstage. This would usually make me very happy, but I know what’s to come so I’m already sad.

They then cut to Sabu backstage who it appeared had been attacked, then Paul Heyman came in and asked what had happened. Heyman raised the point to the emergency officials that Sabu was in the main event tonight… As the segment closed the crowd can be heard chanting ‘bull-shit’… and so it begins…

Elijah Burke & Sylvester Terkay defeated ‘The Full Blooded Italians’ aka F.B.I (Little Guido Maritato & Tony Mamaluke) with Trinity

To be totally honest when Terkay came out with Burke my exact words were ‘who the fuck is that?’. It appears from some quick internet research that his very brief and forgettable run with WWE was the most noteworthy happening of his pro-wrestling career. Burke cut a decent promo before the match putting over their team, as I noted that the very upper deck on the side facing the hard-cam also seems to be closed off. Essentially Terkay was a big guy and the FBI were the perfect cannon fodder for him… but let’s just say Burke was the more charismatic one of this tag team (and that’s being generous). Little Guido by the way may be better known to some of you as Nunzio in WWE. The size difference between Terkay and Little Guido was absurd. The crowd chanted ‘get the tables’ which is code for ‘WE ARE BORED SHITLESS SO PLEASE DO SOMETHING EXCITING’. Elijah Burke got the win for his team with the Elijah Experience (a facebuster-type move). After the match Terkay got the heat with the Ryback suplex on Guido after the match… just as you could hear someone chanting ‘TNA, TNA, TNA’… which I think is app for the quality of this match. This would have been a throwaway segment and match on an episode of WWE ECW (not even a Raw or SmackDown)… this was on a PAY PER VIEW event …Yeah… this just sucked. Elijah Burke makes up for * of this match rating just for being him.

*1/4

Sabu was shown being wheeled into an ambulance as a concerned RVD and CM Punk looked on. I think they were most sad at Sabu being put in an ambulance as it was symbolic of where the brand he spent many years nearly dying for was heading.

Daivari with The Great Khali defeated Tommy Dreamer

Just read again who was in this next match. Then decide what it was like and how fucking horrific it was. It was exactly like you’re imagining. Daivari cut a promo in his native dialect as he came to the ring with Khali, then ECW hero Tommy Dreamer came out to a half-decent reaction. I say it was decent, it was more decent for this crowd and the tens of hundreds of people that looked to be in it. After they tried to have a professional wrestling match for a little while Khali eventually interfered and the ref banned him from ringside. Yes indeed, the referee went out of his way to tell the only interesting thing about this match to go away. And then after that Khali seemed somewhat confused and/or was terribly acting and didn’t know what was going on (all whilst he was frowning and pointing at the ring). It seemed to take forever to get him to actually leave. And with Khali now gone so too went any level of enjoyment I could have watching this match. People could be seen leaving and some of those that stayed were shouting their displeasure at what they were seeing. TOMMY DREAMER THE ECW ICON got ZERO reaction when he did the big babyface comeback. The wrestling they tried to do was very basic and the crowd chanted ‘we want hardcore’… good luck with that… Daivari won after a roll up just as Dreamer was setting up for his finish. The Crowd died a death as a result and they weren’t anywhere near loud to begin with. This was boring as fuck as a match and the wrestling wasn’t much better. Thankfully to me at least Khali came back out with Dreamer after Daivari had left and he then did the double-arm Chokeslam to a helpless Dreamer onto the apron floor. They showed a stupid number of replays of this to really hammer home this crowd pleasing moment… Yes I personally, for all of my sins, enjoyed seeing Khali kill someone, but I don’t think having a giant monster come back out and beat up a guy who was a hero to a crowd already hating life by this point was the best of ideas. On the night ECW officially died an icon of the brand Tommy Dreamer was pinned by Daivari in a fucking abysmal match and then was pulverized by The Great Khali. Seems fitting on the night ECW was killed to literally try to do the same to its heart and soul. When THE GREAT KHALI is the only thing saving you from a DUD rating I think that says it all.

1/4* (0.25)

Paul Heyman was backstage and found Hardcore Holly and got him to be in the main event. The crowd booed. Fuck this shit.

NOW THEN… NOW THEN… NOW THEN… HERE WE FUCKING GO!!! STRAP YOURSELF IN BECAUSE THIS IS WHERE IT GETS GOOD!!!

Kevin Thorn and Ariel defeated Mike Knox and Kelly Kelly

The story of these two teams is Kevin Thorn and Ariel are vampires (yes just take it in and accept it). Mike Knox was a big hairy asshole and Kelly Kelly was his young and gorgeous girlfriend who was for some bizarre reason going out with a complete knobhead. Ariel is somewhat of an infamous figure in pro-wrestling folklore given her ‘colourful’ past and her ‘notable’ assets. So… I’ll tell you what happened in the match and then I’ll give you my thoughts. Kelly Kelly got a mic before the match and took the time to talk about CM Punk (who on the TV leading up to the show young Kelly had developed somewhat of a crush on), she wished him good luck in the main event. The match began with the two men having an exchange of lock ups and basic moves. Then the women came in and Ariel beat Kelly up. Kelly crawled over to get the tag, but Mike Knox walked out on her. The crowd actually reacted somewhat loud for this. Ariel then beat up Kelly Kelly some more then pinned her. After the match finished The Sandman came through the crowd and beat up Thorn with his cane all the way to the back of the arena. The crowd liked The Sandman. Now… here is everything I wrote on the page for my notes:

– Terrible lock ups from the 2 men in the match
– “Mercifully this match is over (mercifully for Kelly Kelly)” – Joey Styles
– Not even T&A could save this
– the t&a was as good as the ‘wrestling’ was bad
– THE FINISH WAS A LEG SWEEP?!?!
– I’D WATCH a.n.y.t.h.i.n.g over watching this again
– I’ve never heard a ppv crowd be so silent
– the ‘angle’ in the match got FIVE SECONDS of heat…
– WTF was this??
– Horrific
– Abysmal
– the driveling shits
– awful
– an ABORTION

This was one of the worst professional wrestling matches I have ever seen.

DUD

Rebecca (don’t ask because I don’t know either) was backstage interviewing Bobby Lashley (Rebecca by the way had a score of -10 on the charisma scale and seemed to have the TV personality of a plank of wood). The interview segment included a recap of Lashley vs Big Show from ECW the previous week. The story is Heyman hates Lashley so Big Show and Test and Heyman’s goons beat him up.

We then saw Big Show/Heyman/Test/the goons walking backstage, before a video played hyping the main event.

Paul Heyman and his guards (literally two guys in black with black helmets if you were wondering) came to the ring. He ran down the rules and cut a promo before the chamber itself came down. During Heyman’s promo he said the line “The day of Sabu and the Sandman and Rob Van Dam has come to an end”. Hasn’t it fucking just. The crowd really shat on Paul during this and seemed to vent their anger at him for what his once great creation had become; Heyman said he’d topped himself tonight with the Extreme Elimination Chamber and a fan shouted ‘You Suck’, Heyman said that Sabu wasn’t in the chamber but Holly would be taking his place and the crowd chanted ‘BULLSHIT’, Heyman said that it was now the day of the Big Show and a fan screamed ‘Who’s going to retire next year’. When PAUL FUCKING HEYMAN the godfather, master and creator of Extreme Championship Wrestling is getting responses from the crowd like that you know hell really has frozen over and everything that ECW once represented was LONG gone.

Aside from them venting their anger at what they had witnessed personally towards the leader of ECW, this crowd by this point was D.E.A.D.!

Bobby Lashley defeated Big Show (C), Test, Rob Van Dam, Hardcore Holly & CM Punk in an Extreme Elimination Chamber Match to win the ECW World Championship

Big Show was billed at 507 pounds. The crowd is DEAD. Punk got a decent reaction, one of the few all night. Big Show got hold of a barbed wire bat, CM Punk got a steel chair, Test got hold of a crowbar, Lashley had a table in his pod. Hardcore Holly (who was booed a little) and RVD began the match in the ring with the other 4 men in pods waiting to enter. Although Punk and to a lesser level RVD got pops coming out overall the lack of crowd reaction for these entrances was absurd. So Van Dam and Holly started the match which was about as much a clash of styles as you could get… included in their exchange was RVD doing his Rolling Thunder move to Holly onto the steel (which looked like it was pretty grim to take), and later Holly hit the stiffest dropkick you’ve ever seen right in Rob’s face… so 1-1… After 5 minutes had gone in the match (it felt like it had been going on for double that) it was time for the first pod to open and another participant to join and hopefully improve the dreadfully dull action. Joyfully for the crowd their favourite CM Punk was that lucky individual, and there was a spot not long after where RVD threw a chair at Punk and the crowd loved it. RVD tried to monkey flip Punk onto a steel chair but he fucked up the move and the crowd let him know all about it… ‘you fucked up, you fucked up…’ … (this is a crowd at an ECW show letting ROB VAN DAM know he had made a mistake… if ever it was obvious this was WWE ECW you could tell from that crowd response alone). Although Punk later got his own back busting Van Dam open with a chair not long afterwards. Although it was fun to see RVD and Punk go at it the match itself was largely boring at this point to me, and the facial expression of the ECW Champion Big Show in his pod looking on reflected a similar mood. The crowd displayed their clear enjoyment of the match by chanting ‘Test’s a faggot’ which was… interesting… Test just so happened to come out next and went on a rampage with a crowbar, including him clawing away at RVD with the weapon and busting him open some more (to their credit this was a gruesome looking spot). So… you’ll remember the various points in this blog where I’ve stated my own and the live crowd in the arena watching this show and the love shown towards CM Punk… well guess what??? Yes of course RVD hit the 5 star and pinned and eliminated first…. CM PUNK! Great way to make the people even more UTTERLY MISERABLE having to watch this shower of SHIT of a show!!! Not long after their was a really weird moment where Test hit a big kick to Hardcore Holly’s face and looked to have pinned him, but Holly seemed to have kicked out, but both guys seemed to suggest it was a 3 and told the ref so, and despite the fact the ref himself had not counted a 3 told Holly to leave anyway… it was a mess to say the least.  The time between Punk going out and Holly getting ‘pinned’ was about 10 seconds. And as if eliminating CM Punk wasn’t bad enough they then took Van Dam out by having Test hit an Elbow Drop from the top of a pod onto a prone RVD (whom had a chair on his face at the time). This was a fun spot but booking wise this match was just getting worse and worse. Naturally the crowd booed and chanted ‘bullshit’. There was even a chant of “where’s our refunds?” … and what was a largely boring match that had some decent talent in it had now lost the two most over guys in the match by a MILE and solid in-ring worker like Bob Holly who MAYBE could’ve held it all together… nice… The goons that worked on behalf of Paul Heyman then stopped Bobby Lashley getting out of his pod when it was supposed to be his turn, so then Lashley used a table to smash the chains at the top of his pod and then climbed through the top of it to get to to Test (this got next to no reaction despite appearing to be the big babyface-superhero spot)… and quickly after that Lashley speared poor Test before Big Show was even out of his pod… christ… “This is bullshit” was the response from the crowd… they booed some more and I think chanted this was boring… I wonder where and how this will end… We had to wait for a full two minutes of the two men just staring at each other with Show still inside his pod, which may not sound like a long time but when absolutely NOTHING is going on aside from two men looking at each other ahead of a showdown that we all know is only going to end one way and nobody cares about… suddenly two minutes seems like twenty… And then yes, Show came out from his pod with a barbed wire bat in hand. He tried to use it only for Lashley to block the attack with a steel chair, and then the bat got stuck in the chains of the cell, which was typical at this stage. Lashley then just beat his ass and even launched him through one of the Plexiglass pods. Big Show was busted open at this stage as Paul Heyman did his most OTT acting possible as he screamed ‘Run for your life’ and later ‘Fight for survival’. Big Show somewhat rallied and tried for chokeslam only for Lashley to counter and turn it into a DDT. And as the soon-to-be champion babyface was about to overcome the evil monster the crowd were chanting ‘Let’s go Big Show’… good job guys… And finally we were all put out our misery as Lashley ducked under a clothesline, hit the spear and got the pin. Bobby Lashley is your new ECW World Champion… and the crowd… well they did not go wild let me just say that.

**1/4


If you go and watch this on the WWE network, the total running time of the show is 2:14:23. WWE charged $39.95 for people in the USA wanting to order it at the time. You absolute FUCKERS! After the show outside the arena there were reports of a huge fight that broke out in the parking lot. Reports say it was between ‘rednecks and punks’, but because all the Police were on the other side of the arena there was nobody to break it up. So witnesses said the people would fight, look around for police suspecting possible arrest, realize no Police were coming, and then carry on fighting. Someone who was at the show told Bryan Alvarez of the F4W website that this fight was quote ‘far better than the Elimination Chamber’.

After the show went off the air the Big Show was in the ring, and being he was born around 17 miles from the arena the show was in, he got a standing ovation and chants of ‘Thank you Show’. Big Show was offered a new lucrative contract by WWE in the wake of the event, but declined the offer due to burnout and generally feeling beat up. On the next Tuesday’s ECW TV show Big Show lost in his title rematch to Lashley and wouldn’t be seen again on WWE TV until the No Way Out PPV in 2008 where he would begin the build to his famous WrestleMania match with boxer Floyd Mayweather. The new ECW World Champion coming out of the show, Bobby Lashley, after getting through the Big Show rematch had a short feud with Rob Van Dam, before successfully defending his title against Test at the Royal Rumble PPV the month after. And then would be announced as Donald Trump’s hired gun in the Battle of the Billionaires extravaganza at WrestleMania 23… and the rest is history. But the person who’s working-life was most altered by this show was not the soon to be semi-retired Big Show, not the newly anointed champion Bobby Lashley. If this was the night the remaining essences of the original ECW died, then the brand’s founding father Paul Heyman wasn’t just caught in the crossfire, he was ripped to shreds.

After watching all he once created figuratively die at his very hands Paul Heyman cut a promo in the ring after the show was off the air. He said Big Show would get his rematch on the next ECW TV episode. The F4W newsletter reported that Heyman was “crying and passionate and ended the promo by walking off screen, and one source said it appeared to be a meltdown in process”. It seems to me from looking into this further that although Heyman DID write the PPV (including the main event and all the eliminations and the decision to take out Sabu, whom at this stage was really not in a good way health-wise), it was strongly dictated to him what should be the end result of the main event. Imagine being a sports coach and being told the tactics and game-plan you as the coach HAVE to play, see how that ends up… Essentially Heyman wanted CM Punk to win, and expanded on this in a 2008 interview where he explained his idea was to have Punk come into the match first, and very quickly tap out the then champion Big Show, before going on to win the whole thing. Big Show was apparently all for the idea of making Punk into a star, but Vince McMahon thought otherwise. Heyman even apparently told McMahon on the night of the show that the fans wouldn’t like what he had planned, but of course we know what happened, and we know how it was received.

The history between Paul Heyman and WWE & Vince McMahon has seen Heyman have many different positions and dealings with the company, and seemingly just as many clashes, disagreements and acrimonious splits with Vince. When WWE bought back ECW they made the call to place Heyman in charge… but of course, Vince had to get his two-pence in… and as you can imagine it, as always, didn’t end well. Not long after December To Dismember ended WWE put up a statement on their website saying that Vince McMahon had sent Paul Heyman home as a result of “slumping television ratings and a disgruntled talent roster”. It has been widely reported since that the two came to heads on a plane ride to the an arena for an upcoming show, and after the production meeting was over Heyman was escorted out of the arena and thus immediately fired from the ECW creative team after Vince had blamed Heyman for the terrible feedback the PPV had received. Shortly after this, following a meeting with both Vince and Stephanie McMahon, Heyman went home from the company but remained under contract. The meeting apparently was much of what you’d expect; Vince and Heyman going back and forth, Vince angry at the PPV being terrible and Heyman countering with complaints about the limits Vince put on him as ECW’s head. As with every case of this sort in history Vince MCMAHON got his way, and Heyman was sent home. Although Vince and the WWE persisted for some years after this with the idea of ECW being a 3rd brand to go along with Raw and SmackDown the show would go through many, MANY personnel changes in the big on screen roles and backstage creative positions, but it never EVER got even close to being a respected 3rd brand. The final episode of WWE ECW would air on February 16th 2010. It was replaced in its time-slot by a new reality/competition based show in an attempt to find the next big WWE star, the new show would be called ‘NXT’. 


In the 2006 Wrestling Observer Newsletter year-end awards, WWE ECW’s December to Dismember PPV was voted the “worst major wrestling show of the year”.

This was THE worst WWE PPV I have ever seen.

Josh. 

 

 

 

 

 

NXT moves to the USA Network: EVERYTHING you need to know!!!

N

So it’s official then… on August 20th 2019 the announcement was made that from the September 18th edition onwards that NXT will now be a 2 hour LIVE weekly show, but still coming each week from Full Sail University.

“The move to USA Network provides an opportunity to deepen our relationship with NBC Universal and further build the NXT brand… Over the long term, our goal is to develop a following that can be monetized to the same level as our flagship programs, Raw and SmackDown”. – Vince McMahon (as quoted in the article on WWE.com that accompanied the announcement).

So as someone who has absolutely adored NXT ever since I first set eyes on TakeOver: Dallas in 2016 we have become accustomed so almost being scared of what Vince and the main roster could do with superstars that Triple H has molded into megastars during their time at the PC and in the Black and Gold brand… only for them to become a laughing stock on Raw and SmackDown… Bobby Roode was NXT Champion, Robert Roode is a joke… and that’s just one example… ALTHOUGH… times are certainly changing and with the recent success of the likes of Ricochet and Drew McIntyre on Raw maybe the days of all NXT stars being wasted on main roster might be over? And whereas when it was first rumoured some time back I was very nervous about my beloved NXT being opened up to the wider world, and ruined… now it’s happening we are in a position where I’m actually very excited about what this could mean for the future of NXT. It would appear that the idea of ‘call-ups’ from NXT to the main roster seems to be over, just to keep NXT strong you’d think. We used to see the top NXT stars after each big 4 ppv ascend and often do so before their time in NXT seemed to be done, leaving NXT in somewhat of a whole creatively. We had the 6 NXT call ups last year seemingly out of the blue, then we had that weird time when Gargano and Ciampa were on the main roster for 5 minutes until Ciampa got hurt. And Aleister Black and Ricochet were on all 3 brands for a large part of the build to WrestleMania season. But now NXT is definitely the 3rd brand you would think a lot more talent will be staying in NXT for longer. And that for me is a GREAT thing. No need to call people up for the sake of it, and certainly if they are not ready as going up months too early has killed the main roster careers of some people before they seem to get started (Apollo Crews and Lacey Evans come to mind). I’m not too sure about NXT staying at Full Sail, but I think the venue seeming to be ridden of atmosphere in some NXT episodes was more down to the fans having sat through many hours of tapped shows than the venue itself. So now it’s more a 2 hour live show each week I’m sure will see the loyal crowd be able to retain their energy for the majority of each episode. The crowd are usually really good at the start of tapings so lets hope they keep this up and remain as hot for the weekly live shows.

I think with NXT going big time now and being in a position where it is credible enough to be on a mainstream TV network, credit has to be given to Triple H. NXT is his brainchild and he has molded and guided its direction every step of the way from its purely developmental territory origins, to the stage now where it is essentially a WWE-independent promotion full of the best talents from around the world and with every TakeOver show being consistently great. I guess we know now why he was seemingly overlooked for the recent jobs at Raw and SmackDown given to Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff. If NXT is seen as Triple H’s ‘trial run’ ahead of him taking over from his father-in-law as head of Raw and SmackDown in the future then this will be the most testing period of his time in charge of the Black and Gold brand. Triple H himself even said on a Stone Cold Steve Austin podcast that a 3rd hour of TV each week was increasingly difficult to write for and manage, so how will his own creative process have to change now that they will be doing a 2 hour weekly show as opposed to a set of tapings every other month or so.

“Can’t describe this announcement in any other word than PROUD. Proud of everyone involved from day one. Proud you’ve let your voice be heard and carried the banner of this brand. Proud you’ve loudly & clearly said #WeAreNXT. And I’m proud to say, we’re just getting started.” – Triple H on Twitter.

With NXT looking to be going head-to-head each with AEW’s TV show I think it’s wise to have it start a few weeks before AEW begins in October (the head start can only be a good thing), but I also think a lot of people who would’ve watched the AEW show will also watch NXT now, so right away that will take some of their potential audience away, so wise choice again from WWE. Lets just hope Vince does leave the running of the NXT shows to Triple H and his crew to run and McMahon and Kevin Dunn keep well away. You can be sure though that if we get to a stage where AEW are beating NXT in the ratings then Vince just wont be able to help himself but to get involved. Don’t be too surprised if we see Roman Reigns or Randy Orton pop up at Full Sail in the future… We’re definitely now in a wrestling war, and the prospect of WWE NXT vs AEW is something that excites me greatly. Already in recent weeks we have seen both Raw and SmackDown dramatically raise their game in terms of quality of shows, and SummerSlam was the best WWE main roster PPV for a LONG long time. So WWE is well on the up now with their biggest competition in 20 years in its early days of existence. Plus… WWE have The Fiend… so that trumps everything AEW have right??? One thing is for sure that AEW are going to fire back HARD with their next big PPV on August 31st ALL OUT being headlined by the potential crowning of some guy called CHRIS JERICHO as their first World Champion and other featured bouts including Cody vs Shawn Spears (IDK who he is, but he’s a PERFECT TEN and a ‘good hand’ I’ve heard…) and also Kenny Omega up against some guy called ‘Jon Moxley’… who apparently is a big deal…

Congrats to @WWENXT for making the big move to the @USA_Network! Runners always race faster when somebody is right behind them. Gonna be fun to see which team the world decides to join! #ChooseJericho @AEWrestling @AEWonTNT – AEW wrestler Chris Jericho on Twitter.

There is of course the one ace in their pack AEW could always play on August 31st that would again blow WWE away and change the landscape of the wrestling war… it all depends on if a certain former WWE Champion that just so happens to be born and bred from Chicago Illinois… if that man decides he wants to end his self imposed exile from wresting, and remind us all again why he is the real BEST IN THE WORLD… we can dream cant we?

I think one thing we can definitely say is that NXT’s days as the ‘developmental’ brand of WWE appear to be officially over. As I’ve said the show will now be shown on the USA Network in America, but still be on the WWE Network just a few hours later. So for most we wills till be able to watch it on the WWE Network, so that’s a big plus for me as a paying subscriber. As a result of this move to two hours I will no longer be able to guarantee I will be able to watch the show with enough attention to be able to write about it properly, and certainly can’t guarantee that I can view the show in detail soon enough after it is broadcast for it to be worth me continuing to write weekly reviews of the NXT shows. Therefore, for what seems like the 10000th time in 2019, I will be changing again what I write about. One thing I will say as much as I don’t know right now what I’ll write about is that I WILL be continuing blogging about professional wrestling. For a variety of reasons nobodyisready.com has been such a great thing for me to do and I will definitely be keeping it going, but I’ll be taking a short while now to decide what I’m going to write about going forward. Having a full time job as well as a few other outside interests will all influence on what I choose in the end, and the fact WWE seems to be on the up again in that their most recent shows have genuinely been so much better than previous months it’s a really exciting time to be a fan again, and for people like me it offers so much more for me to write about.

If you do have any suggestions or ideas on what you’d like me to write about going forward feel free to let me know.

Josh. 

NXT TV: Episode 520 (14/8/2019) – Review

For those of you who haven’t really followed an NXT post-TakeOver show, this will likely follow the usual format of showing lots of video packages looking back at the TakeOver show, a few interviews and the two matches that were filmed in front of the live crowd in the arena before the TakeOver pre-show went on the air. The next set of tapings are scheduled for this Thursday (so today if you read this on the day it comes out) so normal service will be resumed next week. I wont spend much time taking about the video packages shown, I’ll just point you in the direction of my review of the show, as well as simply telling you to go to the WWE Network and see the show for yourself. It was as usual with these TakeOver shows a great one.

We opened with a full recap match by match of TakeOver: Toronto, with the Slipknot theme song of the show accompanying the video footage.

After the usual NXT intro package we were treated to a welcome return…

Breezango (Tyler Breeze and Fandango) defeated The Forgotten Sons (Steve Cutler and Wesley Black with Jaxson Ryker) 

Breezango got a heroes ovation from the crowd. After Fandango last week said their fashion sense was ‘whack’ they were in black gear this week that was not dissimilar to their old gear, just a little more… subtle… shall we say. Everything else about the act and entrance was the same as before which is cool. Forgotten Sons got a few boos but if Triple H and the rest of the bookers of NXT FORGOT them too, I don’t think anyone would remember them anytime soon. Dango hadn’t lost a step it seemed, and maybe a coincidence but Breeze looked rejuvenated. Ryker did get involved early on to cut off the Breezango momentum, and Cutler got a few nearfalls on Breeze after during their attack. Breeze fought off both men but the number soon caught up with him with Wesley Blake now legal. As Breeze went to leap to tag in Fandango he was hoisted down by Jaxson Ryker, only this time the ref caught The Forgotten Sons heavy-hitter in the act and banned him from ringside to the delight of the Toronto crowd. Not long after Breeze was able to leap to tag in his dancer of a partner, who in turn ran wild on Wesley Blake with a series of chops, and a couple of slams on Cutler before hitting a tornado DDT, and then his signature gyration of his hips to please the crowd. Fandango then went to the top only for Blake to catch him with a forearm after he had moved out the way, before carrying Fandango over to his corner, tagging in his partner, hitting a Frankensteiner followed by a diving headbutt by his partner. Tyler Breeze was able to drive the other Forgotten Son into them to stop the pinfall attempt. Not long after Fandango had got out of a possible double-team move he sent Wesley Blake and Cutler to the outside of the ring, tagged in Tyler Breeze and then hit an amazing tope con giro dive to the outside. he then put Blake back in the ring, tagged himself in from Breeze who had Blake held over his knees for Dango to then strike Blake (leaving him laying helpless over Breeze’s knees), and then Fandango did a springboard elbow drop for the pinfall. I don’t know if they used to do this move but it looked unique to me and one if they keep it going could really become something. Anyway Breezango get the babyface pop after their return win and Fandango did all the dancing stuff that the crowd joined in with and had enjoyed a lot. The Forgotten Sons? Christ I don’t even know for them anymore, this is not a good act and they’re not booked strong AT ALL…

Video recap of the NXT North American title match from TakeOver. This was followed by an interview with Cathy Kelley talking to Pete Dunne. He was not happy and thought he should be standing here starting his next title reign and said if it wasn’t for Velveteen stropping the ref from counting the three he’d have the North American Championship hanging out his mouth right now. It would appear the Pete Dunne pursuit of the North American title isn’t over.

Jordan Myles was seen warming up ahead of the final of the Breakout tournament in the main event of the show.

Video recap of the Breakout tournament (the same one that was shown last week).

We were shown highlights of the NXT tag title match form TakeOver. Fish and O’Reilly where then spoken to backstage by Cathy Kelley after their loss. In short, they were not happy. They made a point of showing a slow-motion replay form the match which shows O’Reilly tagging out to Bobby Fish during the match (well he was thrown into him and Fish fell off the apron so it’s a questionable tag, but one that would be enough for them to use), but it ended up being O’Reilly who was pinned. This would appear to be how they are going to set up the rematch for the next tapings I would presume.

We were shown an AWESOME video package titled ‘DESCENT INTO DARKNESS’ looking at the recent events that have seen Io Shirai turn heel. The video package was shown to the song ‘Scary Mask’ by Poppy featuring FEVER 333, which was the other TakeOver: Toronto theme song. This was excellent. Where this all leads to for Io other than her decimating the babyface NXT Women’s roster I don’t know… the NXT Women’s champion begin the other top heel in the division complicates things, but regardless seeing Io destroy various women each week is going to be great.

After we saw a recap of her win over Mia Yim, Shayna Baszler was interview by… CATHY KELLEY (who I hope is getting paid per interview for this episode). She was asked if any other competitor had pushed her as hard as Mia Yim did (erm… maybe Kairi Sane who a year ago actually pinned Shayna for the title perhaps???)… Shayna simply replied with “and still”.

We were shown exclusive footage of the NXT Championship match from Toronto.

They recapped Matt Riddle coming out at TakeOver to call out Killian Dain and the brawl between the two that ensued. Their match will finally happen on next week’s NXT.

Jordan Myles defeated Cameron Grimes to win the NXT Breakout Tournament 

I’ve been a little critical of this tournament so far. I’ve not liked the formulaic structure of the matches, they’ve done little in the way that has made these guys come across as big stars, and the two guys who have stood out to me the most as having potential (Dexter Lumis and Isaiah “Swerve” Scott) both got beat. Much like the rest of the tournament this match was just OK… the crowd were pretty silent throughout most of the match. As always they started with the basic grappling exchanges, before they went to the outside where Grimes got the advantage. Myles eventually made his comeback and later hit a big crossbody off the top for a 2 count. Cameron Grimes hit an Orange Crush for a nearfall, Jordan Myles got a modified Uranage with a bridging German suplex for a nearfall of his own. They exchanged moves in a decent exchange after until Myles hit a brainbuster before going to the top for a Midnight Star 450 splash for the 3 count and the win. Myles wins the tournament and is now guaranteed an NXT Championship opportunity for a title of his choice. NXT GM William Regal then came out to congratulate him whilst also presenting him with his contract for that future title opportunity. The show ended with Myles looking very happy with his newly won contract.

Come back next week for a normal episode of NXT featuring Killian Dain vs Matt Riddle. It will be the first from the tapings happening this week so we will get the follow up to NXT TakeOver: Toronto. I really am not sure what direction they will be heading in with regards to who next for Shayna (considering both Yim and LeRae suffered losses in Toronto) and as for the NXT Championship it was made clear that Cole vs Gargano 3 was the end of that feud. And given the ovation and farewell given to the fallen challenger after TakeOver had ended, could we even see an NXT goodbye speech by one of the brands greatest ever servants. All will be revealed over the next few weeks, but as always in NXT I trust.

Josh. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NXT TakeOver: Toronto 2019 – Review

With so many possible scenarios and permutations going in to the show NXT TakeOver: Toronto 2019 had the potential to be one of the most unpredictable and fascinating shows for some time. Headlined by Adam Cole and the Undisputed Era’s quest to be draped in Gold by the end of the evening, as well as a women’s title match and a potential show stealing match between two of the best female wrestler’s on the planet. It promised to be a heck of a show. It as always did not disappoint.

KICK OFF SHOW

The panel of Charly Caruso, Sam Roberts (who this time wasn’t as intolerable as usual in his role as the heel analyst) and the ever-improving Pat McAfee (who was wearing a denim jacket as well as a denim shirt combo with the jacket having his name sewn onto it). They previewed the upcoming show and the card in full. The main thing to come from the kick off show was the reveal that the third fall for the main event would be some form of steel cage with weapons emblazoned on its walls for the two men to inflict suffering to one another with. This is going to be something else!

MAIN SHOW

We began with a promo video being played on the titantron as the Slipknot theme song for the show being played.

Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford) (C) defeated Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly) to retain the NXT Tag Team Championship 

Street Profits came out first and got a good pop. Era came out after and got maybe a bigger one (partly down to O’Reilly being Canadian I’d presume). This was a great match and really picked up towards the end and the crowd matched the level of the in-ring action with the noise they made. The crowd seemed split between the two teams throughout with duelling chants. Dawkins and O’Reilly tried to out-mock one another during the opening exchanges, Ford (who was absolutely fantastic in this match and gave off the impression he could be a big singles star someday) was eventually tagged in as Street Profits began to work over Bobby Fish’s arm. They had some really good back and forth double team moves, Dawkins got a hot streak of moves before being eventually outnumbered. Eventually Ford got in and hit a big lariat and then a standing moonsault (which for a built, 6 foot 4 guy was a hell of a feat). Montez then hit a spinebuster and , appeared to tease and set up a People’s Elbow, only for Kyle O’Reilly to grab his leg when Ford was running the ropes. Later on Fish & O’Reilly hit a cool ddt – German suplex double team move, and not long after Fish hit a big exploder off the top rope and O’Reilly followed this up with a big knee drop before locking in a leg submission. Dawkins jumped in to break up the hold, and later ran wild after getting tagged in, and with the help of Ford they hit a ‘Doomsday Blockbuster’ on Kyle O’Reilly that got a 2 count with Bobby Fish making the save. A huge brawl followed involving all 4 men, and after that Montez Ford flew over the ropes for a tope con giro, that again for a fairly tall guy to do was a really cool visual. Back in the ring (with the crowd at fever pitch by now) Angelo Dawkins followed up on his spot in their title win at the last TakeOver with spears again here to both Fish & O’Reilly. This allowed for Montez Ford to climb up and hit a big frog splash on Kyle O’Reilly for the CLEAN win. Street Profits retain and this now really legitimises them as very credible champions. As per usual with NXT tag title matches and TakeOver show openers, this was a good, good match.

****1/4

They showed my favourite man called Trevor (and yours) in the crowd, aka Ricochet. He, shockingly enough, was well liked.

Io Shirai defeated Candice LeRae 

I’m delighted to write this was a good match. Heel Io Shirai came out and had me swooning I’ll just say that… She was the scariest heel I’ve seen in the women’s division for some time and when you think of just how much a contrast that is from the Genius of the sky mega-babyface she was before you have to credit her skills as a versatile performer. Candice was Candice in that she played the fighting babyface who is a good wrestler to an exceptional standard. It was nice to see LeRae be the one to take the fight to Shirai as she attacked Io before the bell had rung. Eventually Io suplexed Candice onto one of the announce tables which did not look fun to take. Io took charge of the match from here on, until she missed an attempt at a missile drop kick and LeRae got back into it. She got an octopus lock in and then blocked an attempted 619 and followed up with a neckbreaker. However Io Shirai did hit the 619, and not long after in an amazing spot Candice went flying to the outside of the ring with a tope which turned into a ddt to the floor that looked awesome. Candice hit a double footstomp for a nearfall, then another via a reverse-rana, before a 3rd near pin that came after she hit a move associated with her indie tag team partner Joey Ryan, which if you knew was a nice touch. The crowd popped big for Io hitting a top rope Spanish Fly, only for Candice to kick out of the pin. Io then countered a backslide attempt from Candice into a backbreaker. Shirai then went to the top and hit her Moonsault finisher… but CANDICE KICKED OUT!!! The crowd popped big for that as I think they thought, and us watching on the TV all assumed also, that Candice was going to get the win. But not long after Io locked in the Koji Clutch and Candice eventually passed out and Jessica Carr the ref rang the bell. The crowd were gutted their hero Candice didn’t win but they were totally invested into this match. Io Shirai came off as a megastar heel here and if Shayna was to lose the title you could easily see Io holding it for just as long and being just as unbeatable. Candice was also very good here. This was the best women’s match I’ve seen this year and one of the best women’s matches I’ve seen for a while.

****1/2

After this we had Matt Riddle come out through the crowd and call out Killian Dain. Eventually the Belfast beast came out and the two brawled all over the place. Lots of officials and security people came out to try and separate them. The brawl came to a dramatic conclusion with Dain hitting almost like a crossbody that sent Riddle and one of the ‘officials’ crashing through a load of tables that were at the areas below and next to the entrance ramp. I liked this as it got these two on the show in some form and teased what I’m sure is going to be a real war when they eventually have the match for real.

Evolve Champion Austin Theory was pictured in the crowd… Hmmm…

Velveteen Dream (C) defeated Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne in a triple threat match to retain the NXT North American Championship

Dream’s entrance saw a number of people come out dressed as Canadian wrestling legend… THE MOUNTIE as THE MOUNTIE’S theme song blared out… until order was restored and the performers took off their outfits to reveal they were dancers of the local championship winning Basketball team the Toronto Rapters. Naturally this got Dream an even bigger babyface pop. Strong and Dunne more so got good pops coming out. They did a number of spots where two of the three would double team the other. Strong at one stage hit multiple backbreaker-type moves to both men, Dream got a giant pop by doing the sharpshooter to Roderick Strong, but Dunne broke it up with a double drop kick. After Strong went to the outside Pete Dunne hit a big moonsault to the floor. After exchanges between the three there was a spot where Strong and Dunne were on the top rope and exchanged who seemed in charge, before Dream joined them and it resulted in both Strong and Dunne crashing to the floor whilst Dream was also sent flying as Dunne had grabbed Dream by his fingers and launched him off the top as well. In another great spot Pete Dunne had Strong in a triangle hold in the corner of the ring, but Velveteen Dream broke it up by leaping from the top of the opposite turnbuckle and hitting a diving elbow to Strong. Strong later had his StrongHold submission on both men at the same time, Dream tried to outdo him but failed in trying a double Dream Valley Driver, but Dunne was able to hit a double signature move hitting both men simultaneously with the finger break spot. Dunne looked to have the match won with a Bitter End but Dream stopped the pin. They all hit a series of big moves on one another and the finish came about when Strong hit the End of Heartache to Dunne but Velveteen came flying in with his big elbow drop and this sent Strong off of Dunne and Dream manoeuvred himself into position for the pin. Three way matches can sometimes but clusterfucks but this was great fun. The three guys, who I noted could not have had more different routes to where they are now in the business if they tried, all mixed really well. Three big crowd favourites really put on a show and the most over guy of the three got the win. Undisputed Era’s quest to be draped in Gold was failing at an alarming rate so far. This was a really good match.

****1/2 

Shayna Baszler (C) defeated Mia Yim to retain the NXT Women’s Championship 

Yim came out accompanied with a load of people all wearing her backwards cap and a bandana covering her face get-up. Shayna appeared to once again get the only proper heel ovation from the crowd during a TakeOver show. This was a proper fight between two women who had a really personal build up so it made sense they’d be extremely physical with one another. After the early grappling spilled to the outside of the ring Yim trapped Baszler’s arm between the ring post and the steel steps, and then she kicked the steps so that her arm got the full brunt of being trapped between the two obstacles. Baszler would get her own back by targeting an arm of Yim throughout. They really just exchanged strikes and submission attempts in what, with both women hurt and selling arm injuries, became a battle of who could survive the longest. After Yim had gained a nearfall from an avalanche Code Red Shayna almost immediately tried to lock in the Kirifuda Clutch… but as Yim had attacked Shayna’s arm all match Yim was able to grapple her way out of the hold. And in a call back to Baszler’s signature spot Mia Yim then stomped on Shayna’s injured arm. Yim further targeted the champion’s arm with an Armbar, only for Shayna to again get the clutch locked in… but again Yim was able to get out of the weakened Baszler’s hold. So because Shayna was too hurt to beat Yim using her arms, she moved into a head scissors that Yim couldn’t get out of so she was forced to tap out. This was great booking for me as it came across as very logical thinking from Shayna and something that you’d think she’d do if this were a shoot. I like when stuff makes sense and is logical. This was not on the level of the other women’s match on the card, but I don’t think anyone expected it to be and I’m not saying this was a bad match by any means. In fact this match was good. We did not see either of Marina Shafir or Jessamyn Duke (who had both been taken out by Yim in the build to this match in recent weeks) at any point.

***3/4 

Ahead of their main event match at the NXT UK TakeOver show at the end of the month both UK Champion Walter and his challenger Tyler Bate were pictured at ringside in the crowd.

Adam Cole (C) defeated Johnny Gargano in a 2 out of 3 Falls Match to retain the NXT Championship 

I may be wrong but I feel there’s going to be a lot of different opinions from people who saw this match. But as always I’m going to give my review and opinion and my view only and you can make what you want of it. So… Gargano came out with Wolverine inspired gear. Adam Cole as the “heel” champion maybe got the biggest ovation of the show. It was made very clear in the build up that this would be the definitive end of these two’s rivalry, and it ended in a way that would be befitting of that. The first fall would be a classic one on one wrestling match. I didn’t take an awful lot of notes on this one as I was just so emotionally invested in it… and as I’ll get into a lot went down and it was a LONG match. So the first fall was unsurprisingly just a good wrestling match between two men who in their first two matches put on the two best WWE matches this year by a mile and two of the best in company history. The finish of fall one was fascinating, Cole went to the outside and got a steel chair, and after the ref had his back turned to get rid of the chair Cole just punt kicked Gargano low, however Gargano kicked out at 2. The first fall came to an end when Cole was arguing with the ref about the chair and turned around into a big superkick by Gargano. And then Gargano used the chair and hit Cole with it! So Adam Cole had won the first fall by DQ. It quickly became clear that Gargano had in mind that he would sacrifice the first fall in order to get more of a head start and just beatdown Cole in the second fall. As the announcer explained the second fall was a street fight Gargano now (legally) attacked Cole with a load of chair shots. Cole rolled to the outside for mercy, so Gargano just launched the chair right into Cole’s face which even sat in my BAY BAY t shirt made me laugh out loud. After Gargano took Cole right around the arena and through the crowd beating him up the two made it back to the ringside area. Gargano jumped into Cole with a crossbody and they crashed through the barricade. Cole then took them both to the nearby announce table, but Gargano countered with a backdrop that sent Cole crashing through the adjacent announce table. Gargano got two tables and put them in the ring (bare this in mind as you read on). Cole hit a shining wizard, followed by a Ushigoroshi on a chair for a near fall. After in frustration Cole wedged a chair in one of the corners of the ring, only for Gargano to use that to his own advantage by picking Cole up and launching him into the chair. After this Gargano locked in the Gargano escape to level the match at a fall a piece. And so now was the time for the weapon filled cage… I’m not even sure how I go about explaining just how much chaos happened so I’ll do my best to say the highlights in some form of order (should also note that it was announced that this fall could only be won by pinfall or submission and NOT by escaping the cage): They exchanged kendo stick shots, Gargano jumped down from a ladder to hit a hurricanrana, Cole was hit with a superkick whilst sat in a chair, Gargano sprayed Cole in the face with a fire extinguisher before jumping down for a ddt that got a nearfall, Gargano with more kendo stick shots and then got hit with a superkick after bringing a sledgehammer (that garnered a Triple H chant from the crowd), Cole got two nearfalls after Gargano twice kicked out of the Panama Sunrise, Gargano locked in a crossface with the help of a kendo stick but Cole would BITE Gargano’s hand to break the submission, Gargano got a nearfall with a top rope Canadian Destroyer, Gargano retrieved wire cutters and climbed the cage before cutting a piece of the barbed wire that was across the top of the cage, Cole saw this and tried to escape somehow, they made their way to a side of the cage that conveniently has some form of platform set up so they could stand on it level with the top of the cage… Now, remember those tables Gargano had bought in earlier? They were by now set up side by side and below the platform the two men were now stood on! Gargano tried to rake Cole with the barbed wire, but the commotion sent them both crashing through the tables below in what was a horrific looking bump, and one of those tables split into a gazillion pieces. Cole was the one who was able to put his arm over Gargano and that got him the pin. Gargano was flat out and pretty much didn’t move at all after. Cole’s back looked in terrible shape and I think it may have been splinters that cut his back up. Strong, Fish and O’Reilly came out after to help their victorious yet battered leader to his feet as the show closed with Era together at the top of the ramp with Gargano still flat out in the ring. This match went FORTY SIX MINUTES, the first fall was simply a great wrestling match, the 2nd more of a brawl and the third was just weapon spot after weapon spot with a horrible looking spot to end it. I don’t think it was of the level of their two previous matches, but that’s an incredibly difficult standard to live up to and nonetheless this was a great match.

****3/4

In has since emerged that after the show went off the air a lot of officials as well as his wife Candice LeRae came out to try and help Gargano to his feet. NXT General Manager William Regal also came out to embrace Gargano. Regal raised Gargano’s arm at the top of the entrance ramp to allow Gargano to soak in the standing ovation he deserved. I think you can figure out what this looks like… keep an eye out the next three nights of shows in WWE…

Overall this was yet another great TakeOver with 5 matches that were all varying levels of good. This was a star making night for the Street Profits as well as both Io Shirai as a heel and Candice LeRae as a great wrestler. I’m a little lost as to what the future of the NXT Championship will be as with Gargano having now seemingly been removed from title contention, Dream still North American Champion and Matt Riddle having Killian Dain to deal with I couldn’t pick who will face the champion next now… Same for Shayna Baszler as champion too. But overall another job well done by NXT.

Josh. 

NXT TakeOver: Toronto 2019 – Preview

Again before a big 4 PPV we have an NXT TakeOver show. Again the card is STACKED. Again it’s going to be a great show. AGAIN I, and this show more than ever, I really don’t know who’s going to win which I guess makes it all the more fun. So lets get into it, here’s my preview of NXT TakeOver’s return to Toronto!

NXT Tag Team Championship: Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly) vs Street Profits (Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins) (C) 

NXT have had a recent history of TakeOver shows opening with the Tag Title match. And they’ve all been great. And I don’t think this will be any different. Street Profits finally got their big babyface moment at TakeOver 25, and whilst they’ve been a great act and solid champions I just think that sometimes you have to sacrifice things for the greater good, and booking-wise, as you will see with my later predictions, this factors in to a wider storyline. For so long now Adam Cole has mentioned that Undisputed Era will be ‘draped in gold’ and hold all the titles in NXT. And part of the reason I think it could happen given their various opponents is because of how over as babyfaces they are. I don’t think the NXT universe are going to suddenly stop cheering Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins if they were to lose to Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly (ideally via some form of interference or cheating, which is a theme I’d like to see for the night). Kyle O’Reilly is from Canada so that’d help the crowd reaction, not that Undisputed Era ever get anything but a great crowd reactions at TakeOver shows but still. And even if Era didn’t win here it’d not only be interesting story-wise but be a massive win to legitimize the Street Profits even more so. But I’m not sitting on the fence and I’m letting my heart decide my prediction. One thing that is for sure is this match will be great. I think they’re going to do it. I hope they do. Undisputed Era will finally have their night where by the end of it they will all be DRAPPED IN GOLD!!! #drapedingold

Prediction: Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly become the new NXT Tag Team Champions

Candice LeRae vs Io Shirai 

After the ‘Genuis Of The Sky’ became the EVIL of the sky following her attack on her former ally Candice LeRae these two have since taken part in a series of aggressive confrontations and segments. And although it was originally rumoured that the Breakout Stars Tournament Final was apparently going to be on this show, we now have the pleasure of seeing two of the finest female wrestlers in the world go at it on the grand stage of NXT TakeOver. What a time to be alive! It has been YEARS since we had two women’s matches on a TakeOver show, and for sure the crowd will be hot for this one. They booed Io for a full EIGHT MINUTES when they tapped her first segment of her as a heel, and Candice is immensely popular with the NXT fandom everytime she’s at Full Sail. As far as a prediction goes I’ve during the course of this week changed my mind for this one… I think Candice takes it. Although the old school booking would make you think the recently turned-heel should win here, in my opinion Candice is next to take on Baszler for the title, and therefore I think she could do with a big TakeOver win. As for Io you could easily have her get her heat back with a beatdown either after the match, or at the next set of tapings. This is going to be fantastic if given the time, which on a TakeOver I would think they will be. Fingers crossed.

Prediction: Candice LeRae 

NXT North American Championship: Roderick Strong vs Pete Dunne vs Velveteen Dream (C) 

I think Dream has been a great champion and the whole idea of a mid-card title in NXT was made for people like Dream. Someone who is as over as anyone on the roster, but doesn’t quite fit into the NXT Championship picture. I’m already excited to see what form of entrance and special ring gear he wears (full Bret Hart cosplay ideally but given his recent AEW appearance I’d presume not, so maybe someone like Edge). Equally Pete Dunne is long overdue his run on NXT US as opposed to the UK show. Sure NXT UK has so much talent but I always presumed the long term idea was that we’d have NXT’s all over the world and that the US show would be the main one where the best talents from the NXT’s around the world could graduate to. Pete Dunne deserved his ‘call up’ based on his Walter match in New York alone, he’s got history with Roderick Strong of course given it was Dunne who Strong originally turned on to join the Undisputed Era… but I don’t think he needs to win here. And so that leaves us with Roderick Strong. Everything logic wise suggests Strong shouldn’t even be in this match, he lost to Matt Riddle at the last TakeOver and tapped out to Pete Dunne on a recent NXT episode. It seems logical that if anyone is going to ruin Adam Cole’s proclamation that Era would be ‘draped in gold’ it would be Strong. They teased a dissension in the ranks between Strong and Cole around TakeOver New York time but that seemed to be squashed when Cole won the title. But if and when they do split it seems obvious that it’d be Strong who would break up the group. And part of my prediction plays into the next TakeOver show, which I’ll get into more when I discuss the main event, but at the end of the day it’s all part of the main point of this show… in my opinion… #drappedingold

Prediction: Roderick Strong wins becomes the new NXT North American Champion

NXT Women’s Championship: Mia Yim vs Shayna Baszler (C)

So this is the match where everything logic and pattern wise goes out the window. I just can’t see Mia being the one to dethrone Shayna. It’ll be a fine match I think given they are irl friends, and with it Yim’s TakeOver debut and the fact that Shayna seems to always rise to the occasion at these shows I think in-ring it’ll be good. I don’t think Mia Yim, as good as she is, is the right woman to take the title from Shayna. But at the same time we are kind of short now given Shirai has turned heel of potential and credible babyface challengers to Baszler. If there is a way to have Shayna win but in a way where Yim was wronged you could have them go again at the next TakeOver and then have Candice LeRae be next up to take on The Queen of Spades? Now here’s the logic that I’m going to disregard; always on these shows we usually have a 3-2 of babyface to heel or heel to babyface wins. And (spoiler alert) I have 4 heels and just 1 babyface going over on this show… so to retain the normal 3-2 face/heel or heel/face wins MAYBE you could have Yim shock everyone and get the title here, and then drop it back to Shayna at a later date… maybe… But I don’t see why you’d do that as it’d only hurt Shayna to me and take away from the moment and the woman who is finally the one to take the title once and for all.

Prediction: Shayna Baszler retains

NXT Championship: Johnny Gargano vs Adam Cole (C) – 2 out of 3 Falls Match (Fall 1 is a singles match, Fall 2 is a Street Fight and Fall 3 is TBD by NXT General Manager William Regal) 

Now you could say that maybe they’ll have Fish & O’Reilly and then Roderick Strong do their bit and the plot-twist be that their great leader be the one to fuck up his own proclamation. That’d be interesting right? Well, yes but they’ve made a point of saying over and over that this is IT… Cole vs Gargano 3 will be their final match against one another. So that makes me think Cole is more likely to win. I don’t know what story you could tell with Gargano after so perhaps he’d be done in NXT with a loss here? And I’ve got this wild theory/dream/idea for the next TakeOver show that directly comes from the Undisputed Era being ‘DRAPED IN GOLD’ after this show. So… the next TakeOver (not til November but bare with me) is once again going to be headlined by a War Games match… last year we had a 4 on 4 War Games featuring the Undisputed Era against a tag team and 2 singles stars… now… maybe… just maybe… we could have The Undisputed Era (the NXT Champion Adam Cole, the North American Champion Roderick Strong and the NXT Tag Team Champions Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly) on one team and then any 4 against them. You could put the titles on the line but for the result I want and think would make sense it’d make more sense to just do a War Games match without the titles up for grabs. So THIS is when and how I’d have the Undisputed Era begin to implode, you’d have Strong lose the fall for the champions team. The next TakeOver you have the Era individually defend their titles against their respected War Games match counterparts. Hypothetically maybe Street Profits, Velveteen Dream and maybe Matt Riddle could be the opposing team, but I don’t think it’s as important who they faced as long as it made sense at the time. But I’m firmly pinning my colours to the mast, and it may all fuck up and sure there’s lots of things you could do and ways you could have Adam Cole’s grand plan be fucked up somehow. But I think the better long term story starts with them having their big night on this show… BAY BAY #drapedingold

Prediction: Adam Cole retains

So… I don’t think I need to let you all know after you’ve read my blog that this show is going to be great. But I’ll say that this is the most unpredictable TakeOver show for some time, and I think that makes it the most exciting show going into it for a long time. The one certainty is that it’ll be memorable!

One final thing I’d like to whisper before I sign off with regards to Cole winning, someone needing to get redemption for him perhaps, and what on earth this mystery third fall could be or involve, and the potential interference of the Undisputed Era in the Cole vs Gargano 3 match, and who next for Cole if this is indeed the end of his rivalry with Gargano, and Matt Riddle (who looked to be the long term next in line before he began his feud getting beat up by Killian Dain) being just not in the spot to challenge Cole anytime soon…

If only Gargano had a friend who has a personal interest in the NXT Championship with some unfinished business…

If only…

Josh. 

NXT TV: Episode 519 (7/8/2019) – Review

NXT Tag Team Championship Match contract signing 

NXT General Manager William Regal opened the show this week in the ring. He would then introduce the champions the Street Profits, who came out to a typically big reaction. After they danced and jived their way to the ring as only they can Regal went to introduce their opponents, before Angelo Dawkins stopped him. He said he thought  they could give this team a proper introduction, Montez Ford then did the Road Dogg New Age Outlaws intro… but instead called the Undisputed Era “the next tag team, to get their ass whopped, by the Street Profits”. Ford also called them “O’Reilly Auto Parts and Laurence Fishburne Jr” … the crowd loved this and so did I. I want to believe that Road Dogg, who now works for NXT backstage, had a personal involvement with this segment but regardless this was great. Fish and O’Reilly did then come out, Fish looking very serious and O’Reilly rocking out as always. Ford was dancing the whole time to the Era theme song. As Bobby Fish went to speak Full Sail played their part and chanted “Auto Parts”… Fish and O’Reilly said the Street Profits weren’t on their level, but for the first time in their careers the autographs of theirs were in demand, and they stand no chance of leaving TakeOver with their titles around their waists. Fish went on to say not only are they better than them, but bell-to-bell they are funnier than them (which in the case of Kyle O’Reilly may actually be true). O’Reilly was then prodded into telling a joke he told Fish previously, O’Reilly said the joke was the Street Profits are the NXT Tag Team Champions. Ford and Dawkins went full OTT in hysterics at this… then they got serious with the best change of facial expression I’ve ever seen. Ford, in a much more slow and meaningful tone that normal, put over Fish and O’Reilly’s accomplishments in NXT thus far and their position in the brand, they said they had possibly beaten every tag team in NXT history (Dawkins mentioned AOP, Sanity, Danny Burch & Oney Lorcan, and even Moustache Mountain by name). Dawkins said you guys are possibly the best tag team in NXT ever (Potentially given match quality… but I think The Revival may argue that point)… Ford then questioned what makes them think losing is an option? That now they are featured and now they see us as far as they have come in their lives that losing is an option (Ford was proper fired up at this stage and was practically shouting), there’s only one option and that is to win, WIN, WIN, WIN, WIN, WIN WIN…! Dawkins said at TakeOver: Toronto the Street Profits ‘gone beat this ass… and that is Undisputed!’. Street Profits then signed the contract before Fish and O’Reilly did too. Street Profits music played as they had a tense stare-down with their opponents as they left the ring, their was no physicality between the two teams. This was really good.

They played a video package looking ahead to the triple threat match for the North American title at TakeOver between the champion Velveteen Dream, the Undisputed era’s Roderick Strong and the former UK Champion Pete Dunne. SPOILER ALERT: that match might just be really good…

They later played a video previewing Shayna Baszler defending her NXT Women’s Championship against Mia Yim at TakeOver. Sure it’s a stacked card and you might be able to argue this the weakest match, but I still think it’ll be good and their irl friendship should mean they know eachother in the ring really well and they put on a great match. Baszler is usually one who really raises her game at the big TakeOver shows and Yim has been around long enough to be able to put on a good match with anyone.

Shane Thorne defeated Joaquin Wilde 

So Shane Thorne was the guy who came out and slatted the Breakout Tournament before, and questioned why there wasn’t such a tournament when he came to NXT? There’s also been a few social media clips saying the same sort of thing. So you would think he’d come out here and get upset by the “rookie” right? That’s what you’d think, and he’d come across as a GEEK… but no, Thorne got the win here. I was pleasantly surprised, not that I think much of Thorne anyway but losing after all he’s said would’ve just made him look silly. Wilde taunted Thorne early on in the match and seemed to have the advantage, until Thorne his a big brainbuster. Wilde got back into it after a springboard back elbow and then a powerbomb for a 2 count. The two then got into a real brawl, with Wilde hitting a kick and the a tope con giro (essentially he dived onto him over the ropes). Thorne teased that he was willing to take the count out, before he tripped Wilde on the ring apron and then launched him into the steel ring steps. Thorne then continued the beatdown back in the ring before eventually taking mercy with a running knee strike for the win. This was fine, but the crowd was about as dead and bored watching it as I was…

They played… yep you guessed it… a PREVIEW VIDEO… this time looking at Io Shirai vs Candice LeRae, which really could steel the show and the entire weekend in Toronto. Heel Io Shirai is everything I didn’t know I needed in my life until I found it.

They played a tribute video to Harley Race, who passed away recently. No jokes or gimmicks from me about this one, it was straight up great.

Matt Riddle vs Killian Dain 

The match never got started. Riddle came out and Dain jumped him from behind. He hit a huge crossbody and then laid in with strikes. Riddle tried to fightback but Dain cameback with a headbutt before a Cannonball as Riddle was slumped against the ring steps. As much as we’d all love to see this match happen for real, this did the job it needed to.

They played a video recapping the Breakout Tournament… urgh… the final (which will be tapped before TakeOver and shown on next week’s NXT) is between Jordan Myles and Cameron Grimes.

They recapped last week’s beatdown by The Forgotten Sons on Tyler Breeze, and then the returning Fandango (who is now officially listed as being an NXT roster member once again by the way) making the save. Cathy Kellety interviewed them after. I have missed these two together so so much, and could watch them all day. Fandango told Breeze he thinks their fashion sense is now “whack”,  he suggested to Breeze they need a makeover, Breeze said ‘like a refresher’ and Dango said it would be ‘Breezango… re-imagined’. I don’t care what they come up with but I’m already excited. Breezango vs Forgotten Sons is next week. That Toronto crowd is gonna go nuts for Breezango.

The final 15 minutes or so of the show was a video called ‘Prime Target TakeOver’ that looked and recounted the rivalry heading in to Cole vs Gargano 3. As much as we’ve had a gazillion video packages on this show it is the usual format for go-home NXT’s. And the videos have all been good and done a great job of making the whole card feel like a big deal. The one thing I have noted form this is that over and over it’s been said that this will be the absolute definitive end of this rivalry. Regal has been rather secretive about what the third fall of the match will be and says only he knows what it is… Hmmmm…. There was a great bit of the video by the way that showed Gargano in the PC offering advice to some of the talent their on moves etc. It was really cool to see. Equally as cool was seeing Gargano in a conversation with some guy called Seth Rollins… He later spoke with someone called Finn Balor… nice to see he has time for his fans…

So yes not much in the way of a show on this week’s NXT. More a long preview of TakeOver. But nonetheless if the idea of a go-home show is to sell the PPV this absolutely did its job.

Josh. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Retro Recap: NXT TakeOver: Toronto (2016) – Review

As I write this we are just a few days away from NXT’s return to Toronto for the 2nd TakeOver show to come from the Air Canada Centre (now known as the Scotiobank Arena). But just as the name of the venue is different a lot has changed for the Black and Gold “developmental” brand of the WWE. So what better a time than now to look back at just what happened on the evening of 19th November 2016. It was of course the weekend of Survivor Series. Given that was a show headlines by Goldberg’s return match to the WWE against Brock Lesnar, combined with this NXT show, it ended up being one of the most memorable weekend’s in company history. It also was a weekend where I attended my first “indie” wrestling show with my good friend (and NXT confidant) Stefan. We got to see some random guys such as Adam Cole, Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly, a man now known as Dominik Dijakovic amongst many others… Wonder what ever happened to those guys. Anyway, I’m beyond excited to watch back and review this show. At the time watching I remember coming away thinking it was a great show, something that has become a beautiful constant for NXT TakeOver cards. Back at this time we were just settling in to the 5 match format of these shows that is still used to great effect, and just like TakeOver’s in 2019 this show’s card was STACKED!!! We had all Canadian match between Tye Dillinger (at the time of peak “10” chants era) against the GLORIOUS Bobby Roode, The finals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic that saw a very green Authors of Pain take on TM-61, Asuka defending the NXT Women’s Championship against a returning Mickie James, The Revival defending the NXT Tag titles in a 2 out of 3 falls match against a tag team called D.I.Y made up of Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa in a match that was… well I’ll get on to that later. And in our main event we had NXT Champion Shinsuke Nakamura defending his title against former champion Samoa Joe. So lets just hope this show was as good as I remember then!

The show started with a video that put over the wrestling history of Toronto before leading in to the card for this show. As always it was a great package. There were 12,649 fans reportedly in attendance for the show. And your commentators are the team of Tom Phillips and Corey Graves (who were excellent on this show, as they both were throughout their NXT runs), Mike Rome was the ring announcer.

Bobby Roode defeated Tye Dillinger 

If there was one way and one match you could put together in front of this crowd, in Toronto CANADA… then this was the match up to do it… The GLORIOUS Bobby Roode had a gospel choir sing him out, as he made a grand entrance typical of his time in NXT. Despite being the heel Roode was cheered as if he were the top babyface, which given he is billed from Toronto was hardly a shock but not something that was unusual even outside of Canada, given just how popular his character was at the time. The Niagara Falls-billed Tye Dillinger was given an unsurprisingly great ovation also. To put it into context how hot the ‘Perfect 10’ gimmick was at the time we were a little over 2 months away from Dillinger’s entry into the Royal Rumble match in the number 10 spot. If you made a tally of the amount of “10” chants during this match and all show and even into the next night at Survivor Series you’d lose count fairly quickly I’m sure. This match was set up after Dillinger had convinced Roode to be his partner in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournament, but Roode later abandoned and turned his back on him during their match when the going got tough. The match itself was very,very solid. They didn’t do much that was too complicated but what they did do was entertaining to watch, and given the crowd’s investment in both guys it made everything seem more of a bigger deal. There were ‘This is Glorious – Perfect 10′ chants at different points during the match, it went fairly 50/50 throughout but again the wrestling itself was good stuff. The best parts of the match for me were when Rood tried to mock Dillinger by hitting his Tye Breaker finishing move, and also the crowd going wild when Dillinger got in a Sharpshooter (which is seemingly the national wrestling move of Canada), only for the heel Roode to disappoint the crowd by getting to the ropes. Eventually Roode got the win with the Glorious DDT. It could be argued that in terms of a year long run in NXT Roode’s was the best booked one there has been. This guy was a MEGAstar in NXT and would win the NXT Title at the very next TakeOver show. Dillinger got a standing ovation and lots more ’10’ chants after Roode had left. A really strong good old fashioned ‘rasslin match to kick off the show.

***3/4 

Authors of Pain (Akam & Rezar) with Paul Ellering defeated TM-61 (Nick Miller & Shane Thorne) to win the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Final 

Oh Boy… The video played before this looking back at the tournament and it being dedicated to Dusty was really great… but as a match.. this was not so good. The Authors of Pain were still really green, they were a few months away from that series of matches involving them, The Revival and DIY that did so much for Akam and Rezar in-ring wise. TM-61 were a fine babyface act at the time, but they happened to be around and at their peak at a time when DIY were around so they didn’t stand a chance really. AOP were still undefeated at this point, but as a result of his constant interfering in matches it was decided by NXT GM William Regal that their manager Paul Ellering would have to be placed in a shark-cage above the ring for the duration of the match (something wrestling historians will know isn’t too unfamiliar for Ellering to have to do). Now I will say there was one really cool spot in this match, Shane Thorne had climbed the side of the structure that had been placed to hold the shark-cage above the ring, and of course when their is a structure around a pro-wrestling ring, somebody has to jump off it right? He did, and the crowd chanted ‘holy shit’ and loved it so credit to them for that. This was basically every big bad guys vs smaller little guys match you’ve seen, it was just… there,  for me. The finish would come when Ellering managed to drop a chain from his cage to the ring below, and it led to AOP hitting their Last Chapter double team finisher for the win. Triple H, William Regal and Dustin Rhodes (Goldust) came out to present the trophy to the AOP after the match, and for me seeing Dustin and Triple H raise the arms of two fairly new guys like Akam and Rezar was a great rub for them. AOP were green yes, but over the next few months they’d get to a great level with the help of some pretty incredibly talented in-ring dance partners. TM-61… not so much.

**1/2 

DIY (Johnny Gargano & Tomasso Ciampa) defeated The Revival (Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson) (C) in a 2 out of 3 Falls Match to become the new NXT Tag Team Champions 

This was a bit better than the previous tag team match put it that way. The story told tremendously well in the pre-match video and in the match itself was that DIY had come up from the very bottom and were now in the promise land, but just kept on falling at the final hurdle. The Revival were the asshole bad-guys that stood in the way of the valiant babyfaces. At the time it was widely agreed that Dash and Dawson were among the very best tag teams in the world, and their opponents were probably only behind Nakamura as the top babyface act in NXT of that period. The story of the early part of the match were both of The Revival targeting and isolating the smaller Gargano from getting a tag to Ciampa. The champions went 1-0 up as Gargano fell victim to a Shatter Machine. There was a tremendous move where Dash and Dawson were double-teaming Gargano, but Johnny Wrestling turned it around with an enziguri/DDT move that took both his opponents down. The crowd were loudly chanting “Johnny Wrestling – Psycho Killer (Ciampa’s nickname on the indies)”. They kept teasing the idea of a hot-tag to Ciampa and at one stage they made it, but the ref was distracted so didn’t see it. The Revival took advantage again by hitting (of all the moves, considering they are in Canada) ‘The Hart Attack’ that got a 2 count. Eventually Gargano tagged in Tomasso Ciampa and the crowd went absolutely wild. It was at this moment I realized just how tremendous a sympathetic babyface Johnny Gargano was and is, and Ciampa when he came in went ape-shit and ran wild on both Dash and Dawson and the crowd loved it. This is tag team wrestling booking 101, but done so simply yet so effectively. Ciampa hit a huge knee strike that got a 2 count and then 3 German suplexes not long after. Eventually DIY hit their superkick – Knee strike double team move on Scott Dawson to tie the match up at 1-1. By this stage the crowd were desperately wanting DIY to win and went wild again for Ciampa breaking up a nearfall. The crowd went equally wild for a small package by Gargano that got a 2 count, then we had an excellent sequence after that. Dash Wilder grabs the title belt, Tomasso Ciampa takes them from him, the ref has his back turned and now Scott Dawson has the belt, Gargano goes for a kick but Dawson uses the belt as a shield so Gargano kicks the belt which hurts him a lot, and then Dawson (who was busted open by this stage it looked like) he then threw the belt away as if nothing had happened. This once again was simple stuff done really well and it worked greatly. Gargano was then locked in by an Inverted Figure 4 leg lock as the crowd desperately and loudly chanted ‘NO’ for him not to tap, and were equally happy when he got to the ropes to break the hold. The rampant crowd chanted “JOHNNY WRESTLING” to encourage their hero, as The Revival (who are just THE best asshole heels) set up with the classic DIY pose ahead of doing their own superkick – knee strike combo move. However Wilder accidentally hit the superkick to Dawson, and to turn the tables DIY hit The Revival’s finisher the Shatter Machine, which again the crowd went wild for. Dawson jumped in to break up the pin after. With Ciampa and Dawson elsewhere, back in the ring Scott Dawson pretended to be down, but he surprised Gargano and rolled him for a pin, but he was holding the tights and the ref caught him and stopped the count which the crowd loved. Out of nowhere Dash Wilder came in and hit an incredible CHOP BLOCK (Yes this CHOP BLOCK was incredible) to Gargano which if you told me completely wrecked both his knees I’d have believed you. Both teams exchanged nearfalls until we got to the conclusion of the match, which was something else. Gargano was able to lock in the Gargano Escape on Dash Wilder, but as Scott Dawson went to make the save suddenly Tomasso Ciampa came in and put Dawson in an Armbar, so both of The Revival were in submission holds as the crowd lost their mind. Each of The Revival were pleading with one another not to tap out, but eventually they both did. The Toronto crowd exploded in delight. DIY had done it, and they celebrated with their newly won titles with the fans after the match.

The best professional wrestling match I have ever seen was a 2 out of 3 Falls Match. One of the two best WWE matches I’ve seen this year was a 2 out of 3 Falls Match. I’ve also seen last year a pretty incredible tag team match from New Japan. This match though… was everything I remembered it being. For a whole number of reasons this was one of the better tag team matches I have seen in WWE and NXT history. The standard of tag team matches in NXT has always been pretty high, but this was up their with the very best of them. The final fall in particular was unbelievably good. A BRILLIANT match.

*****

Jim Ross was pictured sat in the crowd ringside. Which in 2019 is… funny.

Asuka (C) defeated Mickie James to retain the NXT Women’s Championship 

This was right in the middle of Asuka’s dominant run as NXT Women’s Champion. I wont go on too much about it as I just talked a lot about this match in my blog covering Asuka’s time in NXT. I will note that Mickie was very popular with the crowd, and when Asuka came out she was even more over and the front row of the fans all were wearing Asuka masks when she came out which gave us a really cool visual. They had a tough job following the previous match but they did as good as anybody could have in this spot. It was really solid in-ring wise and towards the end got really good. Asuka acted more of a heel, and James played tough babyface as she stood up to Asuka’s kicks and strikes. Mickie James even got in a Muta lock that left Asuka screaming in agony before getting to the ropes. James got a 2 count after a flying press off the top rope and then hit the Mick Kick, only for Asuka to get her foot on the ropes to again stop her from losing. Eventually Asuka got the Asuka Lock in and after James did her best to get out of it she was left with no choice but to tap out. This was a decent match between two good professional wrestlers and without being spectacular it was somewhat similar to the opener of the show. Asuka rejected James’ offer of a handshake and a show of respect after the match. 

***3/4

They showed a split screen of the two men in the main event walking backstage. Both of them seemed very, very popular with the live crowd.

They showed an advert for the WWE 2K17 game, that then went into the slogan of ‘Fantasy Warfare just got real’ for the Survivor Series show the next night. The advert for the game and the show centered around the match between Brock Lesnar and the returning Goldberg. The match ended up being… memorable shall we say…

WWE Hall of Famer Pat Patterson was shown at ringside. Very popular man of course.

Samoa Joe defeated Shinsuke Nakamura (C) to become the new NXT Champion 

The story explained very well in the pre match video was that Joe respectfully asked Shinsuke for a rematch after Nakamura won the title in Brooklyn, and he agreed, before Joe came back out and attacked him from behind before slamming him on steel steps. This led to Nakamura being carried out on a stretcher. Joe went on a warpath through the NXT roster after that with his message of  ‘BRING ME NAKAMURA, OR HAND ME MY CHAMPIONSHIP’. This was until Shinsuke returned and laid Joe out before the rematch here. When Joe came out he got the “Joe, Joe, Joe” chants but mixed with some boos. They utilized a spotlight on Joe as he came to the ring and the closing shot of his entrance was a close up shot of his scary AF  face, it made him come across as an absolute bad-ass monster. Nakamura came out to a HUGE pop (the biggest of the show), he was played out by a group of violinists as the crowd sang along to the tune of his entrance music. If you didn’t know it before this entrance it made you know right away that Shinsuke Nakamura was a MEGAstar! The match itself got off to a very physical start and it didn’t let up for the entire match. The crowd seemed to be fairly split at one point, down to admiration of how good Joe was I think. Joe began to gain control in a big way as he just battered Nakamura and this seemed to kill the live crowd a little. Shinsuke though got  back into it with a series of kicks and knees, but despite that Joe went for his Muscle Buster finisher only for Nakamura to roll out of it and hit a Kinshasa… but Joe kicked out at 2! Joe then got a Coquina Clutch locked in, as the crowd chanted along the theme of Nakamura’s theme song to try and encourage him, and Joe eventually got a 3 suplexes in a row in all of different types (a german, a dragon and then another) which got him a 2 count. Later on Nakamura kneed Joe in the head to send him to the outside, and then outside the ring Nakamura ran back and set up for another Kinshasa but Joe got out the way and whilst the ref’s back was turned Joe punted Nakamura down low (I’m not giving this sequence enough justice in how I’m explaining it, but Joe was a super clever heel here). Joe then dragged Nakamura and hit him with a big Uranage onto the steel steps (the same move that had injured Nakamura some months back). Joe then got him back in the ring, hit the Muscle Buster and GOT THE WIN! In a HUGE shock Samoa Joe had regained the NXT Championship! The reaction of the crowd was one of near stunned silence, they did the Joe chants but aside from that it seemed nobody could believe that Nakamura had lost the title back to Joe in his first proper defense. The show closed with shots of Joe (who was busted open near his eye at this stage) looking like a madman with blood on his face, a scary gnarling look and the NXT Championship in his possession. A shocking conclusion to close the show, the top babyface had lost. It ended up forming part of a series of title matches the two would have in the weeks that followed. But this was a shocking result to say the least.

****1/2 

What’s funny is I feel now the show is done, exactly how I remember feeling when I watched it at the time. A great show of course, the tag team title match was out of this world, Mickie James has well and truly still got it, but I can’t believe Nakamura lost. But in that sense I’m a good kind of sad, it’s not that Joe isn’t believable, it’s more Nakamura is such a good babyface and it seemed with Finn Balor gone from NXT at this stage that Shinsuke would be the man to carry the brand going forward. But the bad bad Joe beat him. All our hopes had been dashed, but it’s how the story ends that matters, and as we’d find out in the weeks that followed this was only the middle of the Joe vs Nakamura feud. I really, really enjoyed this show and even the one match I didn’t like too much was fine for what it was and my expectations of it. As NXT has specialized in more and more in the years since, fans don’t mind if the bad guys win or you give them a shock result as long as you tell it well. And the story Joe and Nakamura told in that main event was excellent. In 2019 its hard for heels to get booed because people think they are cool, but here nobody was cheering Joe when he beat up their hero. And that you put down to Joe and Nakamura’s brilliance and Triple H’s excellent booking. 5 matches on a show that went around 2 1/2 hours, every match had a solid story and build going in and as a result the crowd were invested in each one (sounds like every NXT show right?). A GREAT NXT TakeOver, to the shock of nobody by now.

Josh.  

 

NXT TV: Episode 518 (31/7/2019) – Review

Tyler Breeze defeated Jaxson Ryker with Wesley Blake & Steve Cutler 

NXT veteran ‘Prince Pretty’ came out to kick off this week’s show, ahead of his match with his monstrous opponent. I’m not sure you could find two more opposing gimmicks so hopefully opposites attract in the ring as well. Breeze looked slightly overawed early on as Ryker demonstrated his power. But he soon used his speed to try and gain the advantage, Breeze stomped away on his larger opponent in the corner but was soon caught with a huge slam followed by a series of forearms and stomps by Jaxson Ryker. Ryker hit a running knee to the corner before a pendulum back-breaker got him a nearfall. Ryker didn’t let Breeze catch his breath and soon carried on the beatdown whilst mocking him verbally. But Breeze hit a big knee and an inziguiri before evading potential Forgotten Son interference, only to turn around into a potential chokeslam that he then rolled over into a pin attempt with a victory roll and Tyler Breeze picked up the win. I guess you could call this an upset and it doesn’t say much for The Forgotten Sons prospects when you have their muscle-man get pinned clean here. Everyone seemed in shock at the result but The Forgotten Sons quickly took their frustrations out on Breeze, with the winner of the match surrounded it appeared Full Sail knew where this one was heading as they were chanting before he even came out… Breeze fought valiantly but the numbers caught up with him. But just as Ryker was going to do some damage… who else but… FANDANGO (of course it was you saw this coming right) ran out to make the save! He cleared away The Forgotten Sons to save his former tag team partner, but this was no exotic dancer but he was wearing the old Dean Ambrose attire pretty much and after he ripped off his shirt and he was JACKED! The two embraced after clearing house and they delighted the crowd by playing the Breezango music after so they could all chant along. Fandango has been out for a while and in that time spoke about wanting to move into more serious stuff in wrestling, this looks to be it for him. Maybe they’ll team for a while, maybe they’ll beat the Sons and then split I don’t know. What I do know is this was well done, and showed yet again how a mid to lower card act on the main roster can come in and come across as stars in NXT with some simple presentation and booking changes. Mr Heyman & Mr Bischoff are you taking notes?

We were shown a recap of Io Shirai’s match with Kacy Cantanzaro being interrupted by a vengeful Candice LeRae last week. Candice was then shown pacing outside the arena.

‘Unsainted’ by Slipknot is one of the official theme songs for TakeOver: Toronto.

NXT Breakout Tournament Semi Final: Cameron Grimes defeated Bronson Reed 

If you’ve read my previous NXT reviews you’ll know I’ve not exactly been enthralled with this tournament, despite the obvious talented performers in it. It really is like watching the young lions have a match in New Japan (google them if you aren’t aware). Difference is these guys are all (well these two are anyway) big stars on the indies already so they have a style and a character. What I didn’t need to see if this match start like every other in this tournament with rest holds, basic back and forths, some power moves, and the guy who is winning get beat up for 90% of the match. This isn’t how you get people over, and this isn’t how people ‘breakout’. So yes Reed took most the early part of the match, Grimes got a nearfall with a big Lariat, and seeing him with his height hit a big dropkick was impressive. But then it got boring again to me at least as Reed got back into it with a powerslam. Reed followed this up with elbow strikes and a running splash to the corner. He then hit a samoan drop and a senton splash for another nearfall, only for Grimes to get his foot on the bottom ropes (the crowd is DEAD by the way). Grimes hit a Superman forearm and Reed hit a big punch back before pulling down the straps on his wrestling top, running off the ropes only to go right into a double stomp-type move by Grimes and he got the win. Cameron Grimes will face Jordan Myles in the final with the winner getting a shot at an NXT title of their choosing. The final will be in 2 weeks apparently (so tapped before TakeOver: Toronto takes place so they’ll at least get to perform in front of a big sold out crowd).

We had an interview with Matt Riddle who discussed Killian Dain’s attack on him two weeks ago. He said if Dain wanted to make an impact he should fight him face to face and he’d return the favour, Bro. The match is happening NEXT WEEK!

NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler made her way out to the ring. She WAS NOT looking happy. She demanded a microphone and called out Mia Yim. She said she got her message, she had attacked Marina and Jessamyn from behind, but this was not the streets and that they were professional fighters. And that’s why she hasn’t even boarded the plane to Toronto yet and she’s already lost. She said she’ll put her to sleep because ‘street Rats’ (which I thought was a bit strong) don’t last long in her world. This was enough to bring Mia Yim out to respond. Yim asked Shayna is she was scared, and asked where were her friends at?  She said she’d be running around her like it’s a game and that game recognizes game but she was looking real unfamiliar right now. Yim said she had nothing to lose and everything to gain and that this street rat was coming for a fight you can’t train for, champ! The crowd liked Mia a lot. Shayna said Yim wasn’t special and that under the lights everyone would see she was nothing but street trash. Baszler then held up the championship as they continued to go back and forth before Shayna excited the ring. This was decent and the match should be a proper good FIGHT.

Candice was again shown pacing outside the arena. I hope she’s waiting for Io to arrive or why doesn’t she just go inside and look for her? Anyway NXT GM William Regal approached her and said it was pretty obvious why she was here, but that she wouldn’t find what she wanted as he had told Io Shirai that she’s not allowed anywhere near this place. Candice said if she couldn’t get her hands on Io tonight then she wanted a match with her at TakeOver instead and Regal made it official; Candice LeRae vs Io Shirai for NXT TakeOver: Toronto. And with that Candice left satisfied. This could legitimately be one of the best women’s matches of the year and I’m so happy it’s happening on a TakeOver show because it’s what both women deserve. I’m so excited for this match.

Next week The NXT Tag Team Champions the Street Profits will meet with the Undisputed Era’s Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly to sign the contract for their match at TakeOver: Toronto.

Pete Dunne defeated Roderick Strong

The two challengers for the Velveteen Dream’s NXT North American Championship met in this week’s main event, to renew their rivalry once again. Dunne got a great crowd reaction in his first match on the USA version of NXT for some time now for the former WWE United Kingdom Champion. Unsurprisingly this was a great ‘rasslin match. It was fairly even early until Strong to the upper hand after a cheap shot. Strong really laid it in until Dunne hit a big Lariat bomber before stomping on Strong’s arm and then kicking at it. Later Dunne tried to get up the turnbuckle, but Strong stopped him and hit a torture rack into a backbreaker. The Messiah of the Backbreaker got a nearfall with another backbreaker. Strong later tried for a superplex but Dunne reversed it, only to fall into a missile dropkick that got the Bruiserweight a nearfall. Dunne got another 2 count after huge kick. They went for another move on the top turnbuckle but Strong got the better of it and hit a backbreaker on the apron. A great exchange saw Dunne attempt a Bitter End but Strong countered that, but then Dunne countered that into a DDT. Dunne later hit a sunset bomb off the top before Strong got out of another Bitter End attempt, before Strong hit a big knee and then a Tiger Driver powerbomb for a nearfall. Roderick Strong got his Strong Hold submission move in before Dunne got out of it by targeting the fingers of Strong. Dunne wrenched at Strong’s fingers and got the submission win as Strong was forced to tap out at Dunne’s classic finger break spot. This was a really good match.

The NXT North American Champion Velveteen Dream ran out after the match and teased hitting Dunne with the belt, only for Dunne to see him before he did it. Dream tried to plead his innocence and posed as if nothing had happened, but Pete Dunne didn’t buy it and did the finger break spot followed by a Bitter End. Roderick Strong made a quick exit as Dream was down. Dunne stood defiantly as the show ended.

This was a good show and continues a great build to what should be another great NXT TakeOver show a week from Saturday.

Josh.