WWE 2K23 Universe Mode – Chapter 4: The Start of Summer…

Given I have 6 weeks worth of Raws and SmackDowns between Money In The Bank and SummerSlam, I have decided to split my build into two blogs, so here is the START of my road to SummerSlam. Lots of different things going on, all leading up to what I intend on being a WrestleMania-level PPV… So… lets get started shall we! (oh, and my featured image of choice is our Tribal Chief’s reaction to finding out his upcoming SummerSlam opponent…)…


RAW – JULY WEEK 2

WWE Champion Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins comes out for an in-ring promo… Cody Rhodes, then Edge, then Mr MITB Finn Balor each come out one by one … and the main event is set for later…

Carmelo Hayes defeated Mustafa Ali

Alexa Bliss is backstage… she locks eyes with Uncle Howdy, who ‘entices’ her to come towards him… she does so, and through a cloud of smoke, the two of them vanish…

RK-Bro defeated Alpha Academy (Dominik Mysterio comes out after and cuts a promo, before Damian Priest sneak attacks that tag champs)

An angry Kevin Owens comes out to the ring… he complains and whines about not winning MITB, and losing to Cody last week, but then… Brock Lesnar comes out!!! F5! BOOM!

Indi Hartwell is backstage, and seems concerned because she hasn’t seen Dexter Lumis all day, she is talking to Asuka who seems… nonplussed… Carmella approaches them, and the match is made…

Asuka defeated Carmella

Cody Rhodes backstage interview

The Miz defeated Johnny Gargano (no Dexter out with Gargano, but… during the match we see on the titantron that Lumis has been laid out backstage. As officials see to him, this is enough to distract Gargano allowing for The Miz to get a roll up pinfall win)

Bianca Belair in-ring promo, Damage CTRL interrupt… Rhea Ripley is out after… Ripley looks like she’s gonna attack Bayley (Iyo and Dakota back off…)… , but Ripley then turns and attacks Bianca! Damage CTRL and Ripley then all beat down Belair, until… BECKY LYNCH comes out to make the save!!! She clears house as everyone is kicked out the ring leaving just Becky and Bianca in the ring, Ripley is on the outside looking on (commentators side) and Damage CTRL are on the rampway looking on… (MEGA ANGLE SEGMENT)

Bobby Lashley & Omos defeated ‘Dirty Dawgs’

Edge is backstage… Finn Balor (and the rest of Judgement Day) backstage…

Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins comes out to join commentary for the main event …

Cody Rhodes defeated Finn Balor and Edge in a triple threat match to become the number 1 contender for the WWE Championship

SMACKDOWN – JULY WEEK 2

Charlotte Flair comes out for an in-ring promo… she’s interrupted by MANDY ROSE (returning to WWE)… they then go back and forth…!

The Usos, and Solo Sikoa, and Paul Heyman are seen in the locker room together… watching on…

The New Day (Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods with Big E) defeated Legado del Fantasma (Joaquin Wilde & Cruz del Toro with Santos Escobar)

Mandy Rose locks eyes with Gigi Dolan & Jacy Jayne backstage … Toxic Attraction don’t feel the love for their former leader…

LA Knight comes out and cuts an in-ring promo, ahead of…

LA Knight defeated Madcap Moss

Karrion Kross and Scarlett vignette

Liv Morgan and Raquel Rodriquez come out to the ring… Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler follow them out and they all go back and forth…

(After an ad break, Brawling Brutes and then Imperium are pictured backstage…)

Ronda Rousey (with Shayna Baszler) defeated Liv Morgan (with Raquel Rodriguez)

Uncle Howdy – Alexa Bliss vignette

Rey Mysterio backstage interview

Karrion Kross (with Scarlett) defeated Rey Mysterio – Santos Escobar is in the crowd, and he distracts Rey during the match

Imperium (Ludwig Kaiser & Giovanni Vinci with Gunther) defeated The Brawling Brutes (Butch & Ridge Holland with Sheamus) – Gunther and Sheamus go eye to eye during the match… after the match The New Day go eye to eye with Imperium… and then The Usos and Solo Sikoa come out, and they brawl with The New Day… Imperium also get involved with The Brawling Brutes making the save, and we have CHAOS to close SmackDown…!!!

RAW – JULY WEEK 3

Brock Lesnar comes out for an in-ring promo, he explains (as a babyface) why he attacked Kevin Owens last week…

Becky Lynch & Bianca Belair defeated Damage CTRL (Bayley & Dakota Kai with Iyo Sky) – Becky pins Dakota… Rhea watches on from backstage…

‘Hurt Business’ (Lashley & Omos) come out, they call out Judgement Day, who then come out, and a challenge is made to Dominik and Priest with a tag team title shot on the line…!

Austin Theory defeated R-Truth

Johnny Gargano comes out and cuts a PASSIONATE promo, he calls out The Miz, who doesn’t show up… so Gargano marches to the back to go after him!…

Carmelo Hayes defeated T-Bar – (Hayes makes the ‘belt’/’champ’ motion after…)…

Cody Rhodes with a PASSIONATE in-ring promo

TOMMASO CIAMPA defeated Johnny Gargano in a Backstage Brawl

Asuka defeated Dana Brooke – (Carmella is on the ramp after, she cuts a promo and makes the challenge for next week, to which Asuka accepts!)

Austin Theory is asked by a backstage interviewer about Carmelo Hayes…, Theory gives a ‘fiery’ response

Bobby Lashley & Omos defeated Dominik Mysterio & Damian Priest to become the number one contenders for the Raw Tag Team Championship – (Finn and Rhea try to interfere, but Cedric, MVP and Shelton and eventually EDGE too, see them all off)…

SMACKDOWN – JULY WEEK 3

The New Day Vs Imperium in a number one contenders match for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship – the match is a no contest as The Usos interfere. We have Solo, Gunther and Big E all face off, as a tonne of officials come out to separate everyone. Elsewhere we see Paul Heyman watching on from The Bloodline’s locker room, with an evil grin on his face…

Liv Morgan & Raquel Rodriquez are backstage. Raquel fires up Liv with a pep talk…

Alexa Bliss defeated Aliyah – but Bliss BATTERS her opponent, with Uncle Howdy looking on from a distance…

Rey Mysterio confronts Legado del Fantasma backstage, and Santos disrespects Rey…

LA Knight comes out again before his match and cuts an in-ring promo… only this time… his opponent is…

Drew McIntyre defeated LA Knight

Backstage, Braun Strowman asks Alexa Bliss “what the HELL is going on with you???” … Bliss glares are Braun, and then walks away without saying a word…

Mandy Rose comes out for an in-ring promo. She calls out her former Toxic Attraction stablemates Gigi & Jacy, and wants to mend fences… but Dolan and Jayne aren’t so sure, and they go bald and forth on the mic… until Charlotte Flair jumps Mandy and attacks her, fleeing before Dolan and Jayne could potentially retaliate …

Santos Escobar defeated Rey Mysterio in a Backstage Brawl

Liv Morgan & Raquel Rodriquez defeated Ronda Rousey & Shayna Baszler (Liv pins Shayna)

Roman Reigns (accompanied by Paul Heyman, Solo Sikoa and The Usos) comes out for an in-ring promo… until … STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN comes out!!! Roman orders the rest of The Bloodline to retreat, and Austin has a classic ‘beer bash’ as Heyman looks on in shock, and Reigns just looks disgusted…

RAW JULY WEEK 4

Austin Theory defeated Carmelo Hayes in a Backstage Brawl

Kevin Owens is interviewed backstage, he’s asked about the main event tag match, Brock Lesnar and his future…

Asuka defeated Carmella – Asuka was very aggressive in the match. And after, Carmella was very scared of Asuka and ran away as soon as she could…

Bianca Belair backstage interview

RK-Bro come out for an in-ring promo, MVP comes our after, and this sets up…

RK-Bro defeated Shelton Benjamin & Cedric Alexander (with MVP)

Edge backstage interview

Damage CTRL backstage segment

Bayley vs Becky Lynch ends in a DQ when Rhea Ripley attacks Lynch, Bianca Belair comes out to make the save

Tommaso Ciampa (with The Miz) defeated Titus O’Neil – Ciampa with a FIERY promo after (mainly on Johnny Gargano)

Finn Balor (with the rest of Judgement Day) backstage segment … Kevin Owens approaches… then the two leave to head to the ring for their match…

Edge & AJ STYLES defeated Finn Balor & Kevin Owens – Balor abandons Owens towards the end, allowing for Edge to get the pinfall win for his team… Edge and Finn lock eyes with Edge in the ring and Balor retreating up the ramp…

Cody Rhodes comes out to the ring for a promo, Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins follows not long after, the two go back and forth on the mic, and eventually they get into a fight… which Rollins wins comfortably after a low blow, and then he just batters Cody… culminating with Rollins putting Rhodes through the announce table!!!

SMACKDOWN JULY WEEK 4

STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN in-ring promo, Paul Heyman comes out after and the two go back and forth

Liv Morgan & Raquel Gonzalez defeated Natalya & Tamina – Liv Morgan cuts a promo after, saying her and Raquel are the best women’s tag team in WWE

The New Day backstage segment

Mandy Rose backstage interview… Sonya Deville interrupts…

Xia Lia defeated Liv Morgan in a Backstage Brawl

Rey Mysterio comes out, he cuts a FIERY in-ring promo, he calls out (only) Santos Escobar, they go back and forth, and the challenge is made for next week

Drew McIntyre defeated Happy Corbin

The Usos and Solo Sikoa are backstage with Paul Heyman…

Braun Strowman is backstage with Ricochet, Rico asks Braun “are you sure?”…

Mandy Rose defeated Sonya Deville – after the match, Charlotte Flair tries to sneak attack Mandy, Jayne & Dolin come out and Charlotte flees, (Jayne & Dolin face turn)

Braun Strowman comes out for an in-ring segment, he calls out Uncle Howdy, who then comes out and tries to entice Braun, but then then brawl with Strowman getting the better of it, until Alexa Bliss comes out and this distracts Braun, thus allowing Howdy to lay Braun out

Gunther (C) defeated Big E and Solo Sikoa in a triple threat match to retain the Intercontinental Championship


And so we are now half way towards SummerSlam, with quite the build up so far. Some big matches set up already (Austin Vs Reigns and Rhodes Vs Rollins to name a couple), with lots more things still to take place. Find out about it all in my next blog post, as we put together our SummerSlam card.

Josh.

Backlash 2023 – Review

One month ago today, one of the most extraordinary wrestling shows I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching took place. Not in the usual sort of arena for WWE, but in San Juan, Puerto Rico at the ‘José Miguel Agrelot Coliseum’ … and it took place in-front of one of the all-time great wrestling crowds. Maybe helped by the fact this was the first WWE major show in the country for nearly 20 years, maybe helped by the fact the country’s bigger pop-culture star was featured on the show, but regardless… this show was something special. Top to bottom I thought the wrestling was great, and I’m pretty excited to watching this one back and then writing about it.

So without going in anymore, here is my review of WWE Backlash 2023!


Bianca Belair (C) defeated Iyo Sky to retain the Raw Women’s Championship

It was obvious right away from this match, that this was a HOT crowd. And here they helped turn a very good match into a great one. Iyo might be one of the very best women’s wrestlers in the world, and she showed it here, she was also very much favored by the crowd. The wrestling between the two, whilst they had one of two things that went array, was fast and good, and towards the end it got really great…

After Iyo had countered one move, she hit a moonsault off the top onto Bianca on the outside, which got a 2 count. Sky went for a hurricanrana off the top, only for Belair to catch her and hit an avalanche powerbomb, but only got a nearfall… We knew the ending was near when Bayley and Dakota Kai made their way out… Iyo grabbed Bianca’s hair, only for Bianca to throw Iyo into Dakota and knock her off the apron, Iyo then got a very close nearfall 2-count.. Bayley tried to interfere, so Bianca got rid of her from the equation… The referee went to check on Bayley, which was when Dakota Kai hit Bianca with a big head kick… This then allowed for Iyo Sky to go for her Moonsault, but as she did this Bayley had a hold of Bianca’s hair (trying to keep her down), but the ref cottoned on to this, and so Iyo slightly delayed hitting her move and thus gave Bianca time to recovered and eventually avoid it, she then hit the KOD and got the win. So Bayley had inadvertently cost Iyo the match was the story they told. Bianca had a fair few big matches during her most recent title run, this was right up there with the best of those for me. Iyo is just incredible.

****3/4

We then had a backstage segment with star of the show Bad Bunny talking with Rey Mysterio… (get a load of that POP when the 3rd man enters the scene)

Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins defeated Omos

A match that was not what we expected, with a build that was not what we expected, produced a contest that played out… not as we expected. Rollins has since had his ‘flowers’, and the big man stood across from him here is GETTING THERE… slowly… but this was the best match of Omos’ career so far.

Naturally, the crowd really liked Rollins, and Omos got the heat on himself right away when he kicked Rollins with a big boot. The ref had to ask Rollins if he was ready before he could ring the bell as a result… The story of the match was a classic one, the fighting and flying babyface trying to chop down the big giant, and to their credit they told it well. Rollins eventually managed to get Omos down to one knee, he then tried to hit a PEDIGREE, but Omos hit a back body drop. Rollins did though manage to get a tornado ddt, and then hit a frog splash… but Omos kicked out at ONE! Rollins hit a number of strikes, and tried to get the stomp, but Omos just sat and no-sold it! Omos then hit a huge chokeslam, but Rollins kicked out of the pin. Seth then DID hit the Stomp, but MVP distracted the ref so Rollins couldn’t get the pin, so MVP took a superkick for his troubles, and then he hit Omos with the curb stomp again, but Omos kicked out. Rollins was shocked, but roared on by the amazing crowd belting his theme song, he decided a different tactic was needed… so he went to the top rope and hit Omos with a SUPER Curb Stomp for the 1, 2, 3! Crowd loved the finish, and so did I.

This was better than I thought it would be and exceeded expectations for sure! Omos with his second ‘that was better than I thought it would be’ match on PPV of the year (to follow the Mania match with Lesnar). Good stuff all round!

***1/2

Austin Theory (C) defeated Bobby Lashley & Bronson Reed to retain the United States Championship

I thought this was super fun. It could be argued this was somewhat predictable, as it followed a similar formula to the match where Theory won back the US title, with Rollins losing after Lashley was thrown out, this time Theory chucked Lashley out and pinned Bronson Reed.

Although it was the big man that got pinned, it did feel like a showcase match for him, which was GREAT! Reed went close to winning after hitting the Tsunami to Lashley, only for Theory to break up the pinfall attempt. In an amazing visual, Theory had Bronson Reed on his SHOULDERS, only for Reed to slip out as Theory went for A-Town Down… Reed then slammed the champion, and went for a moonsault right away after, only for Lashley to hit a big Spear to Reed… which led to the finish, and once again Austin Theory escapes STILL the United States Champion. I liked this match.

***3/4

Rhea Ripley (C) defeated Zelina Vega to retain the SmackDown Women’s Championship

This was something pretty joyous to witness, and on any other show it would be talked about since even more than it has been. Zelina Vega entered for this match to one of the most amazing ovations we’ve seen for a home-country fave in many years, and she was understandably emotional as a result.

Zelina was given a ‘chancla’ by her Mum in the crowd and she threw it at Rhea, but other than that the match went as expected (I don’t see as a bad thing personally), Zelina has been the victim of some… bullshit… via WWE so I am pleased they let her have her special moment on this night and in her country, but there was only one winner of this one. Vega did have a couple of good hope spots, she hit a 619 and then the meteora for a nearfall, and earlier countering a Rip-Tide with a spike ddt… But Rhea dominated most of the match with her obvious size and power advantages, and she hit a big head kick followed by the Rip-Tide for the 1, 2, 3.

Vega did however get a HUGE ovation after the match, which again was wonderful to see.

***

Next up… well it didn’t go on last, but this was THE main event lets be honest. I personally would’ve had this close the show, and I absolutely stand by that having see the match play out. But anyway… lets get to it!

I can’t even put into words Bad Bunny’s entrance… so…

Bad Bunny defeated Damian Priest in a San Juan Street Fight

First off, naturally people will talk about Bad Bunny as the huge pop-culture star, who just so happens to be a huge wrestling fan and has taken to it like a duck to water… but Damian Priest had a career night in San Juan. He did an amazing job of helping this match be as good as it was. We expected a brawl, we expected carnage, and we expected a red-hot atmosphere… we got all of those and then some!

Priest didn’t want to give Bunny any respect early on, but right away we had a pin attempt from Bad Bunny off a Michinoku Driver, and I just knew this was going to be special. Bunny was a great babyface, but Damian Priest was a excellent heel monster, snapping a kendo stick in half to nullify it’s effectiveness. Priest even hit his finish a few minutes in, but that wasn’t enough, he pulled him up from the pin, this was about to be PUNISHMENT…

The crowd went absolutely insane every time Bad Bunny was on offence; throwing a chair to Priest’s face and then getting chased by Bunny with a trashcan. Priest took over after and even used the kendo stick that bunny had been gifted by Savio Vega earlier in the night. Of course, given it was a street fight, they fought into the crowd… and we had a crazy spot where Priest hit a falcon arrow to Bad Bunny from way up high and sent him crashing through some tables below. A tonne of officials came out, but Priest pushed them all away and dragged Bad Bunny to the ring to try and finish the job.

Priest soon after kicked the ringpost, and this was Bunny’s chance to take back some of the match… he attacked the injured leg with a kendo stick, and then against the post with a chair, before then going for one last chair shot… but Priest begged him to stop, but as Bunny hesitated Priest then kicked him in the face. Priest went for a chair, but Bunny got a low blow, and this was when the interference began… and this is where the crowd went into nuclear levels of noise again… (apologies if I miss anything that happened after, it was WILD)… Dom and Finn came out to attack Bunny, Rey Mysterio came out for the save, but that wasn’t enough… and with Judgement Day seemingly on top…

CARLITO ran out!!! Ungodly pop, and ‘Caribbean Cool’ cleared house! Eventually, Dominik and Balor were backed up the ramp… but SAVIO VEGA got in their way… and then from the other side, Zelina Vega brought out the LWO, and then all the faces attacked Balor and Dominik… Eventually as they retreated, Bad Bunny tried to get the win…

Bad Bunny tried to get the submission on Damian Priest, but was grabbed by the throat and Priest went for a chokeslam, only to be countered again into a pin attempt that got a 2 count. Priest ran at Bunny, only to crash into a steel chair, Bad Bunny followed this up and soon got another nearfall. Bunny then went to TOWN with a chair, and finally hit a Canadian Destroyer for the win. HUGE, HUGE, HUGE crowd pop for Bad Bunny getting the win. And the LWO, Carlito and Savio all came out to celebrate.

This was a JOY to watch. I don’t think it could’ve gone better all-round if they tried, I can’t ever remember a crowd being so not a match. Amazing to watch, professional wrestling at it’s finest. Maybe not the best technically we’ve seen, but my GOD this was a TONNE of fun. Bravo to everyone involved, this was exceptionally well done.

****1/2

The Bloodline (Solo Sikoa and The Usos (Jimmy & Jey)) defeated Matt Riddle, Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn

In the long story of The Bloodline, this was one of those ‘middle part’ matches, where we didn’t quite get an all-timer angle, but it was still a key part of the story. Going into this one, The Usos were approaching their ‘last chance saloon’ in the eyes of the Tribal Chief… And Solo Sikoa was on hand to ‘do what must be done’… should he need to. On the opposite side were the kryptonite to The Bloodline, and a much more serious Matt Riddle. In-ring wise it was bound to be fine, story-wise we simply all watched, and waited…

The match itself was good, there were two underlying stories throughout the match, one that The Usos weren’t as… ‘on it’… as usual… In fact, early on we had a miss-communication spot after KO dodged a superkick from Jimmy Uso, and he accidentally hit Jey Uso instead! Kevin Owens then took down Solo Sikoa, and followed by hitting the pop-up powerbomb on Jey Uso for a nearfall. We had some really good spots and all the action was smoothly done, which makes sense given the in-ring familiarity these 6 guys have with one another… The other story of the match was the big one going in, and that was Solo Sikoa (acting as the ‘body’ for Roman) and what he would do (if anything) to The Usos…

Jey Uso was furious with Sami Zayn, yelling at him for trying to ‘destroy his family’, and he went for the running hip attack… but Solo tagged himself in… Solo went to do his move, but Jey tagged himself back in! In fact… he pretty much SLAPPED Solo across the body!… Solo was bemused and then got caught with a Helluva Kick by Zayn after Jey ducked out the way, then Zayn hit Jey with a kick, only for Solo Sikoa to break up the following pin attempt.

Solo then looked like he was about to attack Jey Uso, only for Matt Riddle to hit him with a big knee. He then got chucked out the ring by Jimmy Uso, who then got caught with a superkick by KO, and then he got hit by the Spike from Sikoa. Solo then got angry as he though someone was about to attack him, so he grabbed them and set them up for the Spike… but it was Jey! Jey seemed shocked and questioned his younger brother about if he was REALLY going to hit him??? Zayn then broke this up before we could hear the answer, and not long after we had the finish… Riddle tagged in and hit the Bro Derek to Jey Uso, and then Solo tagged himself in and hit Riddle with the Spike for the victory.

****

Cody Rhodes defeated Brock Lesnar

As I said before, I don’t know if I’d of put them on last, but I also can totally understand WWE wanting the WrestleMania main-eventer and a multi time champion to close a PPV… It was set-up as this would be a fight, less a hold for hold match, and so it proved.

As Brock matches go, this was fun, and different… as much as it was a fight, the finish was down to a wrestling maneuver which was funny…

We started RED HOT, as Cody came charging out during Brock’s entrance and hit him with the steel steps, and then with a chair! After the ref officially started the match, Cody carried on his momentum, and hit a Disaster Kick. He then tried to hit the Cody Cutter, only for Lesnar to catch him and hit a German Suplex. Lesnar then took Cody to Suplex City, one after the other… but during one, Cody ripped off a turnbuckle pad as he was trying to find something to grab onto… Brock then ran at Cody, but Rhodes moved and he went flying into the turnbuckle that had been exposed!

Brock was COVERED in blood after, and Cody tried to take advantage with a move followed by another Disaster Kick, he then hit a number of strikes to the already bleeding head of Brock, and he followed these with another Cody Cutter and a Cross Rhodes, only for Lesnar to kick out at 2.  Cody tried to hit another Cross Rhodes, but Lesnar blocked it and hit an F5… BUT CODY KICKED OUT! For the finish, Lesnar got Cody in a Kimura… only for Cody to counter it into a cradle, and so he rolled him and Brock over so that Lesnar’s shoulders were down, and he held it for the 1, 2, 3! A huge win for Cody, and something we don’t see all that often as Brock Lesnar of all people, got caught off guard. Solid main event match.

****

A quite unforgettable PPV. Maybe not the MOST news-worthy show in terms of storylines, but definitely one that more than served its purpose in terms of building the stories… Even in the month since this show, a lot of the things that happened now make total sense with the things that have gone on since. But as I said in the intro, this crowd was an ALL-TIME great audience for any wrestling show ever, and I certainly wouldn’t be upset if this was a yearly thing now in terms of the post-Mania ppv going to Puerto Rico, or even just taking it outside of America? But for sure, this was a GREAT night for WWE, and one that allowed for a pop-culture megastar get to live out his dream. And that in itself, is cool as fuck to me.

Josh.

NXT TakeOver: New Orleans – Review

There are many, many shows that I have always wanted to write about. The weekend of this topic, I had decided I was just going to enjoy the weekend, rather than think about what to write and notes etc. I missed out on blogging one of the more… eventful WrestleMania shows of all time, and also one of THE best NXT TakeOver shows we ever did see. And now, at LONG last, I put that right. By this point in time, NXT was FLYING, and had a reputation as putting on even better shows than the main roster. Going in to this pre-Mania show in New Orleans, there was so much excitement in the air surrounded the Black and Gold brand; a brand new championship, possibly new women’s and world champions, and one of the hottest rivalries in all of wrestling come to a head. There was also plenty of speculation regarding who might move on to Raw and SmackDown depending on how the results in New Orleans go… It promised to be an incredible night of action, one that if it went as well as expected, would leave WrestleMania with a tough act to follow. As it turned out, it went even better than I think anyone could’ve imagined…

And so here, at long last, is my review of NXT TakeOver: New Orleans. Enjoy!


We began the show with a musical performance, combined with video package previewing the show.

It also goes without saying, our ring announcer is Mike Rome (now of SmackDown), and the commentary team sees Percy Watson and Nigel McGuinness be led by the incredible Mauro Ranallo.

(Just as an FYI, there are some people in the following match that in 2023, aren’t… well to put it lightly and without saying too much, aren’t spoken about positively all that much for reasons outside of wrestling and some very morally wrong reasons. For the purposes of this blog, of which is one of my favourite ever shows, and also for this amazing match, I am going to do my best to simply write about the match for what it is, rather than some of the individuals in it. I do not condone nor support Velveteen Dream, Lars Sullivan or EC3 in 2023. All for different reasons I’d rather not write about here. Thanks).

Adam Cole defeated Ricochet & Lars Sullivan & Velveteen Dream & Killian Dain & EC3 in a Ladder Match to become the first ever NXT North American Champion

All 6 got big reactions coming out (Sullivan aside), with Velveteen, Cole and Ricochet getting the loudest pops. The start of the match set the tone for what we would see throughout, with Ricochet’s debut WWE match seeing him start with no less than a shooting star press onto the outside. Often in multi man matches like this, its just spot after spot after spot, and nobody really gets to shine or there’s no stories told, but this match was different in that it definitely was not just a stunt-fest. All 6 competitors had clearly defined roles in the match…

There was, naturally, a few BRUTAL looking spots in this match; two sperate spots involving basically everyone in the match, where a ladder got broken each time and all the guys suffered. Velveteen looked to be busted open at one stage, Lars Sullivan (who was the only person that got booed when they climbed a ladder looking to grab the belt) got busted too, Ricochet did… some Ricochet stuff… I also enjoyed the brief spot where EC3 and Adam Cole looked to team up… until Cole took exception to EC3 trying his own version of Cole’s ‘BAY BAY’ by then picking him up and launching him into a ladder in the corner of the ring. The DVD by Velveteen to Ricochet on the set-up ladder was wild too, the chants of ‘please don’t die’ from the crowd felt app… but at the end of the day, the most over guy in the match got the win, the outstanding wrestler and star in the match, and someone who would continue their run as one of the all-time greats of NXT got the win, and climbed the ladder “like a thief in the night” to become the first ever NXT North American Champion!

This was an amazing match that set the tone for this show, and for this championship. One of, and possibly THE, greatest ladder matches in company history.

*****

Next up was a rematch from the previous TakeOver, where the champion somewhat escaped with the win, as the dominant Shayna Baszler found her submission hold reverse by the resourceful champion Ember Moon, and turned into a pin. Baszler took exception to this and laid out Moon after, and it was clear Baszler wasn’t done here. I feel like Ember Moon was one of the most under-appreciated women’s performers WWE have had in recent times, her matches were always fine-great, it was just her character which AT TIMES meant she didn’t get as over as she deserved to be. Baszler I’ve always liked how she was presented, and in NXT she was a KILLER, and on NXT’s biggest stage, it seemed inevitable that The Queen of Spades would finally get her title…

Shayna Baszler defeated Ember Moon (C) to win the NXT Women’s Championship

The match was fine, I think both of these are underrated workers and I was glad they got this sort of spot on a major show. Naturally Shayna was the aggressor, and Ember was a good fiery babyface. I will forever remember this match for the absolutely WILD spot where Shayna… well…

The finish was awesome, Ember went for a big move, and Shayna just caught her in the hold, and she had her in that thing for a LONG time… to the point it felt like a proper MMA move, but eventually the champion could fight no more. Ember was out, and the shock in the crowd signified the end of Ember Moon’s championship run, and her time in NXT. The Era of the Queen of Spades had begun.

This was a solid match, that was booked really well in my opinion. It was time for Ember to lose, as much as it was time for Shayna to win the title. And given what these two women had to follow, I’d say they did just about as good a job as they could’ve possibly done.

***1/2

Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly & Adam Cole) (C) defeated Pete Dunne & Roderick Strong & Authors of Pain (Akam & Rezar with Paul Ellering) to retain the NXT Tag Team Championship and to win the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic

Now of course, nobody really remembers this match for the match itself. The crowd was a little subdued, and sure this was the match that had the least heat going in, but we did have the intrigue of Cole (having been victorious in the earlier ladder match) now having to work double duty (as O’Reilly’s usual tag partner Bobby Fish was injured)… but as we would see, all of the Undisputed Era’s issues were about to be solved…Naturally, AOP firmly put Adam Cole through the announce table pretty early on into the match, he wasn’t seen from again until after the finish… and the match itself was sound. Akam and Rezar were such a great act, particularly with Paul Ellering alongside them, I thought it was such a howler when they left him behind upon their main roster debut. And the two monsters benefited massively from their time in NXT, working alongside some of the best teams around such as DIY and The Revival. Pete Dunne and Roderick Strong as wrestlers speak for themselves, and so it all added up to a relatively fine match, but one that went under 12 minutes. It was with around 10 seconds left that the New Orleans crowd went into fever pitch…As Pete Dunne hit a Bitter End to Kyle O’Reilly, his own tag partner Roderick Strong broke up the pin, and the crowd knew immediately what was coming because they went absolutely APE SHIT with shock and joy. One End Of Heartache later and UE had retained, as Adam Cole looked on and the smile began to appear… Rodrick Strong had indeed made a decision…

This was a fine match with a red-hot finish. The crowd were overjoyed at the Roderick Strong heel turn that had been built to for a long time, and it began a new ERA for NXT.

***1/4

Next up was a BANGER!…

A year on from Aleister Black’s NXT debut at the pre-mania NXT TakeOver against Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas, here the same two men are for the NXT Title. It was the devastating loss to Black that sent Almas into a spiral, that needed Zelina Vega to pull him from, and lead to him becoming the wrestling machine that he was as champion of the black and gold brand. And the full circle was only made more complete given the personal lives of two of the characters in this match… ANYWAY…

Aleister Black defeated Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas (with Zelina Vega) (C) to win the NXT Championship

These are two who I think it be almost impossible for them to have anything but a good match together… the pace throughout the match was incredible, and Black’s amazing mix of striking and athleticism had him on top in the early-goings… Until Vega had her usual two-pence worth… Afterwards the champion showed his offensive talents aplenty, and it was down to Black to try and endure.

I honestly could’ve watched these two wrestle for an hour or more. Some of the striking exchanges were unbelievable, mixed in with the crazy athletic stunts, and of course the occasional Vega interference when the ref wasn’t looking… One notable one being when Black actually hit the Black Mass… only for Zelina to put Almas’ foot on the bottom rope to stop the pin count!

Towards the end, the match really went to another level… Andrade would hit the the running knees on the apron, but eventually Black looked to have regained the momentum with a huge dive to the outside… the champion though took no chances, as soon as they were back in the ring, Almas hits the hammerlock DDT, and looked to have retained, but to the shock of everyone… ALEISTER KICKED OUT! With Almas in disbelief and dismay, Zelina Vega made her way to the top rope, but as she dove off… Black moved and Almas caught her, then he got hit with the Black Mass kick… 1, 2, 3! A huge crowd pop and as smooth a finish as you’ll see, and it told the story so well… Vega all along had helped Almas to win after win, this time it was her that inadvertently cost him the title … *chef’s kiss* !

This was somewhat of a forgotten classic for me, which is understandable given the matches that book-ended this show. But again, this match absolutely had the right result, and the finishing sequence is one of my favourites in any match I’ve ever seen. A FANTASTIC match!

****3/4

Now on to the reason that a classic championship match such as Almas vs Black doesn’t close the show…

A tale as old as time told by such an excellent video package. Watching that back, my memories go back to the day of that fateful night in Chicago, rumours doing the rounds all day that Ciampa was hurt. The rumours even went as far to suggest that there may even be a replacement named (with Scott Dawson of The Revival a name flouted around online to take his place)… I think the turn was going to happen regardless, but the fact Ciampa then had to go away to recover, not only allowed them to tell the story in such a unique way with Gargano continually being haunted by the betrayal everywhere he went in the time after. It also gave Tommaso the time to go away and transform his physique into the monster he returned as.

And New Orleans didn’t disappoint. I’m not sure if it was good foresight from the powers that be in NXT, but Tommaso Ciampa didn’t have entrance music for the match with Gargano… Instead he was welcomed out by a chorus of boos, and THEN SOME! One of the most extraordinary entrances I’ve seen in WWE history… I cannot remember someone having this level of pure hatred and disgust from a crowd for a long. long time.

Johnny Gargano defeated Tommaso Ciampa in an Unsanctioned Match

I love this match, and I love both of these incredible professional wrestlers, with ALL my heart. The crowd HATED Ciampa, and they ADORED Gargano. About as heated a rivalry as we’ve ever seen in NXT, and they showed it here. Ciampa had this unique aura about him in that he wasn’t a ‘cool’ heel like Adam Cole, he was completely and utterly DESPISED. And it was fitting that a comic-book loving man like Johnny Gargano, was our superhero on this night to try and take down the EVIL Tommaso Ciampa.

There was so many cool moments and spots in this match, it’s hard to name them all and in order, but I’ll do my best to try and do this incredible match justice. This rivalry restarted after Ciampa had smashed Gargano with a crutch at the previous TakeOver, so of course there had to be a crutch used in this match. They had a fan in the crowd, and Ciampa stole a crutch from him, he did try to use it, but Gargano turned it around and Ciampa got thrown onto the exposed floor outside of the ring (this one hurt I bet), the crowd chanting “you deserve it” popped me good.

There was a great false finish (one of many) where Gargano got the Gargano Escape, but the evil Tommaso Ciampa raked our hero’s eyes, much to the fury of the New Orleans crowd. Ciampa then took off his wrist tape, but Johnny grabbed it and then they exchanged strikes… only Ciampa decided to just kick him IN THE BALLS! Ciampa told his former friend (once again), that ‘this was HIS moment’, but Gargano hit a couple of super kicks and then threw Ciampa into an exposed turnbuckle (which looked NASTY)… (Ciampa also hit Project Ciampa off the top rope which I remember at the time watching this when it was broadcast live, and very much thinking that was the finish)…

But finally, all good things must come to an end, and the finish here was masterful…

Ciampa took off his knee brace (the injury that had kept him out all this time), but Gargano took hold of it and smashed it into the now exposed knee. Then Ciampa, as he was simply laying like a lamb at slaughter, begged for mercy… no really, he was crying… he sat in the middle of the ring, seemingly in disbelief at how it had all come to this… and so, just as they did at the end of their Cruiserweight Classic match back in the day, DIY sat side-by-side in the middle of the ring, but if anyone REALLY knew what Tommaso Ciampa was REALLY like, it was JOHNNY WRESTLING… and so Ciampa went to strike Gargano with the knee brace and catch him off guard, but Gargano was wise to it, he dodged it and locked in the Gargano Escape…, but it wasn’t enough on its own… and so Gargano used the same knee brace that had helped rebuild the monster, and now it was about to bring his downfall… Gargano put the knee brace around Ciampa’s head, and pulled… and Ciampa tried and he tried until FINALLY he could take no more, and he TAPPED OUT! Johnny Gargano had done it! Johnny WRESTLING was BACK in NXT!

There is a fair argument to be made that this is the greatest match in NXT history. Certainly I thought that at the time, and watching it back it was absolutely a match that still now (many classic matches later for NXT, many involving both of these men also) could still be considered the best.

*****

There are very few wrestling shows I’ve ever loved more than this one, I’m not sure there are anymore than maybe 3or4 max to be honest… for the time in NXT that this was, the time in my fandom, what these characters and storylines meant to me, and just quite frankly how much this show absolutely BANGS! And little did I know… 12 months later, on the eve of WrestleMania, it would SOMEHOW be bettered by NXT TakeOver: New York… and if I ever do my first second time review of a show, that’s the one… but after an amazing night in New Orleans, we had 3 new champions, and new ERA beginning, and Johnny Gargano was NXT’s very own superman. This was an incredible show and I highly recommend that everyone who reads this watches or rewatches this as soon as they can.

Josh.

WWE 2K23 Universe Mode – Chapter 3: Money, Money, Money!

Money In The Bank has established itself over the years as the modern day answer to the Royal Rumble. Not in the sense of surprise entrants or historical moments, but the fact that given the nature of the prize on offer, it gives us all a wink and a nod towards who could be the next guy, or girl, to be the top name in WWE. Over the years we have seen some amazing cash ins, some awful ones, and always at this PPV lots of drama… so… here’s my latest go. For one of these matches I had it planned out for some time what I wanted to do, who the winner would be and how their cash in will go, the other I have decided upon fairly late on… but lets see how it all plays out shall we. After my first PPV saw me crown a new WWE Champion, here is all my build up and the show itself of my second PPV of my WWE 2K23 Universe Mode; Money In The Bank!


RAW – JUNE WEEK 1

MITB Qualifier: Kevin Owens defeated Bobby Lashley (Finn Balor interference costs Lashley)

Bianca Belair backstage interview – she lays out a challenge to Damage CTRL

MITB Qualifier: Rhea Ripley (with Dominik Mysterio) defeated Dana Brooke

Johnny Gargano backstage interview – on the KOTR tournament, and on tonight!…

‘RK-Bro’ (C) defeated ‘Viking Raiders’ to retain the Raw Tag Team Championship

Carmelo Hayes backstage interview – on KOTR and next week (vs Finn Balor)

Austin Theory (C) defeated Johnny Gargano to retain the United States Championship (Miz interference costs Gargano)

‘Judgement Day’ are all backstage, they are feeling happy and very smug… Cedric and Shelton are seen looking on in the background…

(Mustafa Ali is in the ring before his match, and he cuts a self promo in which he turns heel…)…

MITB Qualifier: CODY RHODES defeated Mustafa Ali

Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins in-ring promo… he talks about being the new WWE Champion… eventually AJ Styles interrupts…

‘Damage CTRL’ defeated Bianca Belair, Asuka & Alexa Bliss – Iyo Sky pins Alexa Bliss

SMACKDOWN – JUNE WEEK 1

ROMAN REIGNS (and the rest of The Bloodline) come out to the ring for a promo segment. They are eventually interrupted by Sheamus (and the rest of The Brawling Brutes). They all go back and forth on the mic, before Drew McIntyre comes out too, and as the babyfaces march down to the ring, and an inevitable brawl ensues, Reigns and Heyman quickly dip…

MITB Qualifier: Drew McIntyre defeated Santos Escobar

(ANGRY) Roman Reigns in locker room… Adam Pearce eventually enters, and the main event is made…

Rey Mysterio backstage interview

Karrion Kross defeated Rey Myserio in a Backstage Brawl

‘Imperium’ backstage interview, Rick Boogs then interrupts and then Shinsuke Nakamura (who stares off with Gunther)…

Liv Morgan and Raquel Rodriguez are backstage, with ‘Toxic Attraction’ looking on…

MITB Qualifier: Liv Morgan defeated Sonya Deville

LA Knight comes out for an in-ring promo, Sami Zayn interrupts and they go back and forth, before…

Ricochet (with Sami Zayn) defeated LA Knight (Zayn stops Knight running away mid-match)

Charlotte Flair in-ring promo, Shotzi eventually comes out… they go back and forth on the mic, with Flair being particularly passionate, before she disrespects and then SLAPS Shotzi, Shotzi is left 😦 , as Flair smugly leaves…

Santos Escobar is backstage with Cruz del Toro and Joaquin Wilde. He hammers them about not being out there for his match, and he fires up when talking about where LDF will go now…

Sheamus (with Ridge Holland & Butch) defeated Jey Uso (with Jimmy Uso & Solo Sikoa) to earn a title shot against Roman Reigns – Drew runs off attempted interference by Solo and Jey mid-match with help from Ridge and Butch)

Reigns and Heyman are seen watching on from the locker room… Heyman looks worried, Reigns just looks focused and angry!

RAW – JUNE WEEK 2

Cody Rhodes in-ring promo, he calls out Kevin Owens, which leads to a huge pull-apart brawl…

Shelton Benjamin & Cedric Alexander (with Bobby Lashley) defeated Dominik Mysterio & Damian Priest (with Finn Balor & Rhea Ripley)

AJ Styles backstage interview, he talks about and is then interrupted by Austin Theory, who then says he’ll put his US Title on the line in their match tonight!

MITB Qualifier: Bayley defeated Alexa Bliss (Iyo Sky interferes to help Bayley win)

The Miz backstage interview

Johnny Gargano defeated The Miz in a Backstage Brawl

Damage CTRL backstage…

Carmelo Hayes backstage interview… Cedric, Lashley and Shelton all wish him luck…

MITB Qualifier: Finn Balor defeated Carmelo Hayes

Street Profits backstage segment… American Alpha… Dirty Dawgs… RK-Bro all come into the segment as it goes on…

MITB Qualifier: Asuka defeated Dakota Kai (Iyo Sky tries to interfere, but Bianca comes out to stop her)

Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins backstage interview

Austin Theory (C) vs AJ Styles for the United States Championship (DQ finish – Seth on commentary, and as AJ is about to win, Rollins costs AJ so Theory retains)

Raw closes with Theory running away with the US title belt, and with Seth stood over Styles holding the WWE Championship up high.

SMACKDOWN – JUNE WEEK 2

Brawling Brutes (Ridge Holland and Butch with Sheamus) defeated Los Lotharios (Angel and Humberto)

‘The Bloodline’ locker room: Paul Heyman is on the phone, Usos and Solo are looking on, Heyman says “Your Tribal Chief will deal with Sheamus, but he wants YOU (The Usos) to deal with Ridge Holland and Butch

The New Day are backstage, hyping up Big E, before Karrion Kross attacks E from behind and lays him out…

MITB Qualifier: Raquel Rodriguez (with Liv Morgan) defeated Xia Li (Morgan stops Toxic Attraction from interfering)

Shinsuke Nakamura & Rick Boogs defeated Imperium (Giovanni Vinci & Ludwig Keiser with Gunther)

Rey Mysterio is backstage in the locker room, Santos Escobar approaches (with Wilde and del Toro), and he berates Rey… Mysterio is held back by other babyfaces in the lockers room…

MITB Qualifier: KOFI KINGSTON (with Xavier Woods) defeated Karrion Kross (with Scarlett)

LA Knight backstage interview.. he is FURIOUS with Sami Zayn… “YEAH!”…

Shotzi defeated Charlotte Flair

RAW – JUNE WEEK 3

AJ Styles in-ring promo, Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins comes out after (main event set up for later…, tag with partner of choice…)

Bianca Belair defeated Dana Brooke (after Damage CTRL come out… Iyo Sky challenges Bianca for MITB! They then try to attack Belair, but Asuka comes out to make the save)

Lashley & Cedric & Benjamin backstage promo, challenge made to Judgement Day for MITB!

Johnny Gargano defeated Mustafa Ali (after Gargano cuts an in-ring promo, Miz comes out and he’s not happy, he accuses Gargano of trying to steal his spotlight, challenges him for next week, Gargano says he has a better idea in that he has a friend who will… show Miz THE WAY… Miz says that’s fine, as Gargano doesn’t have any friends left…)

Street Profits defeated Dirty Dawgs (Alpha Academy on commentary, RK-Bro watching on from backstage)

Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins backstage interview, introduces his tag partner for the main event… Austin Theory!

Finn Balor defeated Shelton Benjamin in a Backstage Brawl

Alexa Bliss is backstage, very stoned faced and seeming absent… Belair and Asuka seem puzzled and unsure if Bliss is OK… Bliss seems to ignore them both when they ask if she’s ok… Bliss just walks away…

MITB Qualifier: Indi Hartwell defeated Carmella

Cody Rhodes backstage promo

AJ Styles &… CARMELO HAYES defeated Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins & Austin Theory (Styles pins Theory)

SMACKDOWN – JUNE WEEK 3

Butch (with Ridge Holland & Sheamus) defeated Jimmy Uso (with Jey Uso & Solo Sikoa) – After the match… Solo attacks Sheamus and Butch, Usos join to attack Ridge Holland too, Drew McIntyre comes out to make the save and The Bloodline flee, standing on the entrance ramp and posing with the ‘ones up’…

Rick Boogs and Shinsuke Nakamura backstage interview, Imperium interrupt and the official challenge is made for two weeks time… Gunther v Nakamura for the IC title!

The New Day (Xavier Woods & Kofi Kingston with Big E) defeated Los Lotharios (Angel & Humberto)

Sami Zayn backstage interview… LA Knight interrupts, and the challenge/match is made for next week!

MITB Qualifier: Solo Sikoa defeated Ricochet (Drew McIntyre on commentary, and stare off after the match between him and Solo)

Toxic Attraction backstage interview

Legado del Fantasma in locker room – Rey Mysterio appears and goes nose-to-nose with Santos Escobar, but then Karrion Kross jumps Rey from behind, and afterwards stands over him (with Scarlett)… “TICK TOCK”

MITB Qualifier: Aliyah defeated Gigi Dolan (with Jacy Jayne) – Liv and Raquel cost Jayne the win (or more they stop her and Gigi from cheating)

Shinsuke Nakamura & Rick Boogs & Braun Strowman defeated Imperium (Gunther & Giovanni Vinci & Ludwig Kaiser) – Nakamura pins Kaiser

Charlotte Flair – Shotzi in-ring segment (contract signing for MITB title match), eventually a brawl breaks out, and the show ends with Shotzi having got the better of it, Charlotte retreating, and Shotzi standing tall!

RAW – JUNE WEEK 4

Street Profits defeated Alpha Academy – then Street Profits call out RK-Bro

Bianca Belair and Asuka backstage interview

Austin Theory in-ring promo… Carmelo Hayes!

Carmelo Hayes vs Austin Theory (C) for the United States Championship – ‘Bullshit’ finish, So Theory retains

AJ Styles – Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins ‘contract signing’ – CHALLENGE MADE FOR NEXT WEEK!…

Judgement Day in-ring promo (Rhea Ripley leads) – MVP comes out and challenges them…

MVP (with Cedric Alexander & Bobby Lashley) defeated Dominik Mysterio (with Finn Balor, Rhea Ripley & Damian Priest)

Damage CTRL backstage promo

Damian Priest defeated MVP in a Backstage Brawl

DEXTER LUMIS (with Johnny Gargano) defeated The Miz

Cody Rhodes calls out Kevin Owens (in-ring promo)… and they set their match up for next week

Dakota Kai & Iyo Sky (C) (with Bayley) defeated Bianca Belair & Asuka to retain the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship (Iyo pins Asuka)

SMACKDOWN – JUNE WEEK 4

Roman Reigns (and the rest of The Bloodline) come out for an in-ring promo, eventually they call out ‘Brawling Brutes’ and Drew McIntyre, they come out, and the huge main event is set for tonight!

MITB Qualifier: LA Knight defeated Sami Zayn

Shayna Baszler seen backstage on the phone… she’s laughing…

Toxic Attraction are FUMING… “BULLSHIT”… they then make the challenge to Liv and Raquel for next week, a tag match with BOTH their MITB spots on the line!

Rey Mysterio comes out, and then calls out Karrion Kross!…

Karrion Kross (with Scarlett) defeated Rey Mysterio – Legado attack Rey after, New Day come out to make the save

Tamina is found attacked backstage, Natalya finds her and is shocked, Tamina tells Nattie to take her place in her match…

MITB Qualifier: Shayna Baszler defeated Natalya

Braun and Boogs give Nakamura a ‘pep talk’ backstage ahead of next week’s IC title match…

Shotzi defeated Sonya Deville – Charlotte appears on the titantron after the match, and cuts a very personal promo on Shotzi

Brawling Brutes (Sheamus & Butch & Ridge Holland) & Drew McIntyre defeated ‘The Bloodline’ (Roman Reigns (with Paul Heyman) & The Usos (Jimmy & Jey) & Solo Sikoa) – (Sheamus pins Jey)

RAW – JULY WEEK 1

Judgement Day in-ring promo… Lashley, Alexander and then MVP and Benjamin (both injured) make their way out to interrupt… MVP says they (him and Shelton) may not be able to make it to MITB, but we (him and Lashley) have ‘done a little business, that’s gonna put some HURT on you’… that’s when OMOS comes out, and we get a huge brawl!

RK-Bro (C) defeated Street Profits to retain the Raw Tag Team Championship

AJ Styles backstage interview

Austin Theory comes out to the ring and cuts a promo before his match… Carmelo Hayes comes out, and he eventually introduces… EDGE!

MITB Qualifier: Edge defeated Austin Theory

Bianca Belair – Iyo Sky in-ring segment

Bayley (with Dakota Kai) and Rhea Ripley backstage… Asuka and Indi Hartwell elsewhere backstage…

Cody Rhodes defeated Kevin Owens in a No Holds Barred match

Finn Balor (with Priest and Dominik) is FUMING backstage at the ‘BULLSHIT’ with Omos joining the Hurt Business, but that he doesn’t care and it doesn’t matter that he has to compete twice in one night at MITB… He says that ‘Judgement Day is coming, for ALL of WWE’…

Rhea Ripley & Bayley defeated Asuka & Indi Hartwell (Rhea pins Indi)

Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins backstage interview

Dexter Lumis (with Johnny Gargano) defeated Elias – Afterwards, The Miz appears on the titantron and cuts a fiery promo, he teases a surprise for Gargano next week, and says that ‘no one will survive…’

AJ Styles vs Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins – BS finish, the show closes with a brawl between the two, and AJ Styles standing tall holding the WWE Championship belt up high.

SMACKDOWN – JULY WEEK 1

The Bloodline arrives at the arena. Roman Reigns tells Heyman and Solo to go on ahead, but stops The Usos and tells them “I just want you two to know, before anything goes down tonight or in Vegas, if you two lose those titles, I don’t wanna see y’alls faces around here anymore”… “Don’t let me down”…

MITB Qualifier: Liv Morgan & Raquel Rodriguez defeated Toxic Attraction (Gigi Dolan & Jacy Jayne)

Shayna Baszler backstage interview, she just smirks and walks away when she’s asked about MITB… she also shoulder barges Aliyah (who is walking nearby) out of the way…

Gunther (C) defeated Shinsuke Nakamura to retain the Intercontinental Championship

The New Day and Rey Mysterio backstage segment…

The New Day (Big E & Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods) & Rey Mysterio defeated Karrion Kross (with Scarlett) & Legado del Fantasma (Santos Escobar & Joaquin Wilde & Cruz del Toro)

The Usos are backstage, they both look stressed, with Solo Sikoa just looking on… Heyman enters the room, acting very condescending, and he tells The Usos to ‘follow The Tribal Chief’s lead… if you can…’

LA Knight in-ring promo…

LA Knight defeated Tyler Breeze

Charlotte Flair defeated Shotzi in a Backstage Brawl

The Bloodline all come out to the ring, Roman Reigns cuts a promo… he talks up Solo, and is… hmmm… towards The Usos, he talks down on Sheamus and Drew, and The Brutes… he then talks about himself and how great he is … (obviously)…

that’s when…

Drew – Sheamus – Butch – Ridge all enter via different parts of the crowd and a huge brawl breaks out. Roman Superman punches Ridge, Solo does the spike on Butch, Drew Claymores Solo, and SHEAMUS BROGUE KICKS ROMAN REIGNS! The show closes with The Brawling Brutes and Drew standing tall… (after Sheamus and Drew have pulled Butch and Ridge to their feet), The Usos look on, worried and beaten up, from the entrance ramp, Solo looking angry and holding his jaw, Heyman looking shocked, and a FUMING Roman Reigns, as Heyman cradles the World Championship belt. The babyfaces pose and the show closes with the camera looking at the triumphant heroes, and then the camera pans back to the downtrodden heels looking back at them…


MONEY IN THE BANK – Las Vegas, Nevada (Sunday, July Week 1)

I decided, with my logic that a Money In The Bank match should main event the MITB PPV, to open in the biggest way possible…

Roman Reigns (C) (with Paul Heyman) defeated Sheamus to retain the World Heavyweight Championship

I was so happy with this match and how it turned out. It went back and forth and the nearfall from Sheamus’ Brogue Kick was a great spot. But of course, the REIGN of the Tribal Chief continues!

I would then cut to the backstage locker room area, where a number of officials find that Aliyah has been taken out. Adam Pearce is informed by the on-scene medical staff that she has no chance of being ready to compete in the women’s MITB match later in the night… and we see Pearce then go on his phone and make a call…

The next match may appear to be a filler, but a very fun one at that… and one that’s relevance will become apparent going forward…

Bobby Lashley & Omos & Cedric Alexander defeated Judgement Day (Finn Balor & Damian Priest & Dominik Mysterio)

This went long, but it was pretty decent as well. And most importantly I got the exact finish I wanted.

So next up it was time for the women’s MITB match… this is what would be advertised…

But as it turned out…

RONDA ROUSEY won the women’s MITB ladder match

Yep, I went there! Rousey returns to WWE and immediately climbs her way to the top (this was my plan all along, sorry Aliyah but needs must)!

After that shocker, we have our first match to decide who COULD be someone Rousey has her eye on going forward…

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

This was what it needed to be. Shotzi has been a more than compatible opponent for Charlotte in this feud, but it’s simply not her time. AND STILL…

Next up, it’s time for the biggest prize in WWE to be put on the line…

Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins (C) defeated AJ Styles to retain the WWE Championship

Of course, this was a BANGER! Styles falls short, but he won’t be hurt too much in losing such a good match, and of course Rollins marches on as WWE Champion… lets see what the summer has in store for him…

With one member of The Bloodline having successfully defender the family’s honour earlier, time for The Usos to try and keep their spot beside The Tribal Chief…

The Usos (C) defeated The Brawling Brutes to retain the SmackDown Tag Team Championship

This was solid, maybe in a tough spot coming right after a WWE Title match, but I liked the match a lot. The finish was cool as well with one Jimmy Uso distracting Ridge Holland, allowing for ‘Main Event’ Jey Uso to get the win.

Next is a match that we recently saw take place for real. And whilst mine wasn’t quite as good, it was still decent…

Binaca Belair (C) defeated Iyo Sky to retain the Raw Women’s Championship

Whilst Iyo presents a good challenge for the champion, this run with Belair as champion (in my WWE Universe anyway) has a little bit to run still just yet…

Next up… I would have the following vignette air (pretend you can’t see the title of this video, just concentrate on the footage…)… (with ONE exception… I would not have a certain masked… FIEND… pop up for that brief moment in the video… With me airing this vignette at this point in my story, I wouldn’t want to give anything away just yet…)

Hmm… stay tuned to see what this ‘Uncle Howdy’ does in my WWE Universe going forward…

ANYWAY… it’s finally time, for our MAIN EVENT!!!

I put a lot of thought and planning into the 8 participants for this match. With my women’s match, I had my winner planned out for a while, and it was then just about working around that (in terms of who else would be in the match). I wanted all 8 to have a realistic, or more be a a realistic winner of the match and subsequent MITB holder. In my mind all 8 would have built in stories should they win in pursuit of a world title… (between me and you, I changed my mind on my winner 3 times, but I am very much happy with the eventual winner)…

FINN BALOR won the Men’s MITB Ladder match

What a wild and action-packed match that turned out to be! With Finn taking the win here, it adds a little more spice to the weeks and feuds ahead, plus he has history with BOTH of my current world champions. I think one of the biggest W’s of the irl WWE era since HHH has been booking is Judgement Day. In years gone by on previous games, I’ve tried to push Finn as one of the top guys, and so this time, I am ADAMANT I’m going to do right by him. And it starts here, with your NEW Mr Money In The Bank, FINN BALOR!


And THAT was my Money In The Bank ppv, and WHAT A SHOW it was! My next few blogs are going to be big time indeed, as I begin the build to SUMMERSLAM… and I introduce a few more faces to my WWE Universe…

Josh.

WWE 2K23 Universe Mode – Chapter 2: Crowning A New King of WWE

The simple sell for this blog is… I’m crowning a new WWE Champion. Read on to find out how and WHO…

I did have to book two very different shows for the first month of my universe mode, the tournament for the title was always something I wanted to do, but it was only after I had a bit of a think did I decide upon my first PPV concept. But in this blog I will also cover my SmackDown shows in the same time period that Raw is lead by the build up to my King Of the Ring PPV, where the event will be essentially a tournament to crown WWE’s new King, in the form of a new WWE Champion…


Raw (May Week 2)

The KOTR Tournament bracket (for the vacant WWE Championship is announced…)… AJ Styles then comes out for an in-ring promo… this leads to Austin Theory coming out, and the back and forth sets up the main event…

Bianca Belair (with Asuka & Alexa Bliss) defeated Dakota Kai (with Bayley & Iyo Sky)

Johnny Gargano comes out for an in-ring promo. He talks about the WWE Championship, before moving on to The Miz, who then comes out, and after a back and forth, Gargano punches Miz)

Bobby Lashley defeated Damian Priest

‘Street Profits’ defeated ‘Dirty Dawgs’ (‘RK-Bro’ watching on from backstage)

Carmelo Hayes comes out for an in-ring promo, he talks about the various potential upcoming opponents he could face, saying “I want it ALL”, including all the belts (WWE and US), and also Austin Theory…

Kevin Owens defeated Carmelo Hayes in a Backstage Brawl

‘Viking Raiders’ defeated R-Truth & Akira Tozawa (‘RK-Bro’ watching on from backstage)

Carmella has a backstage interview…

Austin Theory (C) defeated AJ Styles to retain the United States Championship (Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins distracts Styles to lead to the finish)

SmackDown (May Week 2)

(backstage ‘The Bloodline’ jump Drew McIntyre)

‘Brawling Brutes’ in-ring promo. They call out ‘The Bloodline’ (The Usos and Solo Sikoa), which sets up the main event.

‘Toxic Attraction’ defeated Natalya & Tamina (Liv Morgan & Raquel Rodriguez run off Dolan & Jayne after the match when they try and beat down Natalya and Tamina…)

LA Knight in-ring promo…

LA Knight defeated Ricochet (Knight cheats to win)

Rey Mysterio in-ring promo. He talks about the tough times recently regarding his son’s betrayal, and then failing to get an IC Title shot… but then out comes Karrion Kross (with Scarlett), and the two go back and forth on the mic…

Charlotte Flair backstage interview

Charlotte Flair defeated Shotzi

‘Legado del Fantasma’ video package

Braun Strowman in-ring promo… ‘Imperium’ then come out on the ramp, and after Gunther and Braun verbally go back and forth, Happy Corbin tries to attack Strowman from behind…

Braun Strowman defeated Happy Corbin

Paul Heyman backstage interview… Rick Boogs and Shinsuke Nakamura enter the scene and Boogs talks up their chances of taking the tag titles from The Usos

The Usos (Jimmy & Jey) & Solo Sikoa defeated The Brawling Brutes (Sheamus & Butch & Ridge Holland)

After the match, the heels try to beat down the babyfaces, only for a vengeful Drew McIntyre to come out and run The Bloodline off. Drew poses to end the show…

Raw (May Week 3)

Judgement Day come out to the ring. Each of the 4 cut an in-ring promo, eventually out comes Bobby Lashley. He then entices and goads Dominik Mysterio into accepting a challenge for a 1 on 1 match with him later in the show!

‘Viking Raiders’ defeated ‘Dirty Dawgs’ & ‘Street Profits’ in a Raw Tag Team Championship Number 1 contenders match – RK-Bro are on commentary, and they have a face off with ‘Viking Raiders’ after the match

Carmella defeated Dana Brooke

AJ Styles backstage interview… he is interrupted by The Miz, who proceeds to talk down about Johnny Gargano… who then appears behind him…

Kevin Owens defeated Akira Tozawa – Carmelo Hayes then has to run out to save Tozawa from catching a beatdown from KO, who then runs off through the crowd…

Dominik Mysterio is backstage with Rhea Ripley. He feels good about his match with Lashley later, after Rhea has talked him up… Ripley is then told that she has a match, and is shocked to find out it is NOW, just as she has talked Dom up, he is now fearful again now that ‘Mami’ has had to leave him…

Rhea Ripley defeated Indi Hartwell

We then have a ‘Ding, Dong, Hello!’ (in-ring segment) with Bayley (and Dakota Kai & Iyo Sky), and they welcome out Bianca Belair, Asuka and Alexa Bliss)

Austin Theory & Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins defeated AJ Styles & Johnny Gargano

Bobby Lashley defeated Dominik Mysterio

Balor, Priest & Ripley all then come out after the match and attack Lashley. Judgement Day all stand tall to close the show.

SmackDown (May Week 3)

Charlotte Flair in-ring promo

Charlotte Flair defeated Aliyah

The Usos backstage promo on Drew McIntyre, with Solo Sikoa looking on in the background (ahead of next week)

The New Day come out for an in-ring promo. Then come out Legado del Fantasma and they go back and forth…

Santos Escobar (with Joaquin Wilde & Cruz del Toro) defeated Xavier Woods (with Big E & Kofi Kingston)

‘Brawling Brutes’ backstage segment…

Shotzi backstage interview… she’s confronted by Shayna Baszler

‘Toxic Attraction’ defeated Liv Morgan & Raquel Rodriguez

Rey Mysterio backstage interview

Imperium backstage segment

LA Knight defeated Rey Mysterio (Karrion Kross is seen after the match with Scarlett in the ‘rafters’ of the arena watching on…)

Braun Strowman backstage interview, Gunther then approaches and they go nose to nose

‘Brawling Brutes’ (Butch & Ridge Holland) defeated ‘Imperium’ (Ludwig Keiser & Giovanni Vinci) & Rick Boogs & Shinsuke Nakamura in a SmackDown Tag Team Championship Number 1 contenders match

Raw (May Week 4)

Judgement Day wake their way to the ring for an in-ring segment… Bobby Lashley then comes out to confront them, and is quickly joined by… MVP!

Bobby Lashley & MVP defeated Damian Priest & Dominik Mysterio (with Finn Balor & Rhea Ripley) Rhea is banned from ringside mid-match after trying to interfere, Finn also attacks MVP after the match with a chair, with Priest and Dominik holding back Lashley during the attack

Viking Raiders video package

‘RK-Bro’ backstage interview

Johnny Gargano defeated Austin Theory Miz tries to interefere, but DEXTER LUMIS stops him from doing so

Finn Balor defeated Bobby Lashley in a Backstage Brawl

Street Profits – Dirty Dawgs backstage confrontation

Carmella backstage interview

Carmella defeated Indi Hartwell

Damage CTRL confront Belair, Asuka & Bliss backstage

Angelo Dawkins (with Montez Ford) defeated Dolph Ziggler (with Robert Roode)

Damage CTRL (Dakota Kai & Iyo Sky with Bayley) (C) defeated Asuka & Alexa Bliss (with Bianca Belair) to retain the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship

‘The KO Show’ (Kevin Owens in-ring segment, with guest Caremlo Hayes). Austin Theory, then AJ Styles, then Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins each then come out, a BRAWL starts, as we then see Bobby Lashley and Finn Balor fighting backstage, they then brawl into the crowd area in the arena, as Johnny Gargano then emerges from the crowd to attack Rollins (we basically have CHAOS as we go off the air!)

SmackDown (May Week 4)

Gunther (C) defeated Braun Strowman to retain the Intercontinental Championship

Drew McIntyre backstage interview

Rey Mysterio in-ring promo – challenges Karrion Kross for next week!

LA Knight in-ring promo… then…

Sami Zayn defeated LA Knight Zayn then does a PASSIONATE in-ring promo!

Toxic Attraction backstage promo

‘The New Day’ defeated ‘Legado del Fantasma’ in a 6-man tag match

Sheamus in-ring promo. He talks up Ridge Holland & Butch, talks up Drew, and also CALLS OUT ROMAN REIGNS!

Shotzi defeated Shayna Baszler – Charlotte Flair watching on backstage

Drew McIntyre vs Solo Sikoafinish is a double count-pout. The Usos and Brawling Brutes fight at ringside, and Sheamus is stopped by the officials from getting involved, and so Solo gets angry during the melee and attacks Sheamus behind the ref’s back and as the officials were busy trying to separate The Usos and The Brawling Brutes, and so Drew goes after Solo and this leads to the finish…

And so now… it is time to… to crown a new KING OF THE RING, and the new WWE CHAMPION!!!


KING OF THE RING – Sunday, May Week 4 (Rosemont, Illinois)

I had a few ideas for how I wanted my tournament to go; and after that it was just about thinking of the perfect order for the bracket. I’m really pleased with how it all worked out, and I think I’ve set plenty up for the weeks and months ahead to with it…

“KING OF THE RING TOURNAMENT” for the vacant WWE Championship

I decided to kick things off with a bang, a dream match never seen before, and the start of my biggest story thread for the show…

Carmelo Hayes defeated Kevin Owens in a KOTR Quarter Final/WWE Championship tournament match

Somewhat of an upset, but a banger opener with Hayes advancing to face either AJ Styles or his new-Raw rival Austin Theory with a shot at the gold on the line…

Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins defeated Johnny Gargano in a KOTR Quarter Final/WWE Championship tournament match

Another good match, but sadly the hero falls to the villain this time around… Rollins marches on, but don’t worry about Gargano, we got stuff COOKIN for him…

Bobby Lashley defeated Finn Balor in a KOTR Quarter Final/WWE Championship tournament match

Maybe the match that had been built up to the most during the build to this show sees The ALL-MIGHTY advance… But trust me, this is FAR from the end of this rivalry…

AJ Styles defeated Austin Theory in a KOTR Quarter Final/WWE Championship tournament match

Felt right to me this result, Theory still has the US title to fall back on, and Styles can advance as the bigger name, and former champion…

And so with Styles joining Lashley, Rollins and Hayes, we have our semi-final complete!!!

Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins defeated Bobby Lashley in a KOTR Semi Final/WWE Championship tournament match

I like Lashley a lot, and I’ve lots of things planned for him, but Rollins just seems like the guy I should put into the final. His current gimmick is something else for sure, and I LOVE IT! The King of Drip is one win away from being King of The Ring… and we know what comes with that…

Carmelo Hayes defeated AJ Styles in a KOTR Semi Final/WWE Championship tournament match

My logic with this result was two-fold, I wanted Melo in the final to give him the big push as soon as he came to my main roster from NXT, and also I think of all those times we heard people say how Chris Jericho once beat The Rock and Steve Austin in the same night… so beating Kevin Owens and then AJ Styles in the same evening? Not bad huh?… And AJ will be fine… he’ll get his shot soon trust me…

And with the semi finals done and dusted… we have our final set to crown our new WWE CHAMPION!!!

Firstly, I just think this would be a BANGER of a match, and secondly I thought it would set the tone well for my Universe if the WWE Champion was one of either of these two incredible talents.

Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins defeated Carmelo Hayes to win the KOTR tournament and the vacant WWE Championship

Yes indeed, it had to be Seth here. I feel like a run to the final though gives Carmelo the rub he needs off the blocks, but for me my WWE Champion simply had to be Rollins! Got a couple of ideas of where I’ll go with his run, but as the only man that Roman Reigns couldn’t seem to get the better of, it just felt right that he was the man to lead the show on Raw!

And there you have it, my first PPV is in the books, and I have crowned my first WWE Champion. As I move forward now, we will learn who really is in the… MONEY…

Josh.

Let’s Talk About CM Punk

In my time as a fan of professional wrestling, there’s many cool moments I have had the pleasure of seeing unfold. And a few less that I will never ever forget for as long as I live. At the very top of that list, August 20th 2021, the AEW debut of one of the biggest cultural influences on the entire wrestling business in the last two decades. We all knew it was coming, but the moment itself was nonetheless absolutely incredible.

As I said in my blog just before he won the AEW World Championship (for the first time), the early part of the CM Punk AEW run saw him have a great number of matches against names you would necessarily of put him against when you were putting together your list of dream matches prior to his AEW career beginning… Punk faced the likes of Powerhouse Hobbs, Daniel Garcia, QT Marshall, Lee Moriarty and Shawn Spears all within his first 5 months in the company. Business was booming in AEW with Punk as its main attraction, but… maybe all was not as it seemed. Maybe their was trouble in paradise?

Whilst Punk’s introduction to All Elite Wrestling saw him face off with Darby Allin, his first real ‘feud’ was with the ever-passionate Eddie Kingston. Kingston, much like Punk, is an expert at blurring the lines between performance and reality. He is someone whose every word he says as a professional wrestling character, you could very much believe that Edward Moore the man would 100% say with just as much sincerity.

Hindsight is indeed a wonderful thing, but after the events of recent months, I can’t help but keep going back to the words said by Mr Kingston during an in-ring segment with the aforementioned CM Punk…

“Nobody wants you here, they never wanted you here. That whole locker room is afraid to say it, not me, so get out!”

Maybe Eddie was just speaking for his character, maybe he was speaking for himself but as his character. Maybe he was telling the truth. And with what Punk said back to Eddie, even if it was in character, you could understand why there may be some resentment on both sides.

But it is funny… How Eddie Kingston has some level of dislike towards CM Punk, yet they still went and had a feud together, and still worked together and had a Pay Per View match. One that served both as performers well, and helped AEW as a company with a feud that people really brought into. They put aside whatever personal differences they had, in order to do business.

Remember that.

After that, Punk’s next major AEW feud was with MJF. It was without question one of the best rivalries in AEW’s history, one that perfectly mixed real life with pro-wrestling storytelling. With the blow off being a quite unforgettable Dog Collar match. I like to tell my brain sometimes that this is where CM Punk’s AEW run came to an end, as it was all sunshine and roses (seemingly) up to this point. What followed in the months after was… something…

After this, Punk set his sight on gold… And we didn’t know it then, but Tony Khan’s decision to put his World Championship on his biggest name and biggest draw (which on the basis of those facts alone, doesn’t sound like a bad idea) would set the wheels in motion for a series of events that would culminate in one of the darkest days in the history of AEW.

Adam Page represents everything that AEW was originally all about. Since day one of the company, he seemed destined to be its world champion, he said as much at the press conference to announce the company as long ago as January 2019. He eventually got to the top of the mountain at Full Gear 2021 in an incredible match against Kenny Omega that concluded one of the best stories AEW have told thus far. Page would immediately go into 2 more all-time classic matches with Bryan Danielson to further cement his spot as World Champion. He then main evented Revolution 2022 with a win over Adam Cole, before finding himself feuding with CM Punk leading up to Double or Nothing in May of the same year.

Looking back at my blog on Punk, I said the following after a surprisingly strongly-worded Page promo:

“Well, we all like Page because he does have that babyface fire within him… but this is CM PUNK he’s referring to. Saying stuff like there wont be a handshake, and that he wants to ‘DESTROY’ him… not exactly friendly and respectful is it? And what about the ‘mastubatory Bret Hart tribute match’ line… yikes… An interesting element to this ongoing story, we have a little bit of needle between these two ‘faces’ now…

Like I said before, Hindsight is a wonderful thing… with that in mind and what we know now… lets take a look at the go-home AEW Dynamite leading up to the big title match between the two…

Did CM Punk need the World Championship? Did Hangman Page need a win over Punk in a PPV main event? Did it make simple business sense to put the biggest prize on the biggest name? All very good questions. But like it or not, after Double Or Nothing 2022, CM Punk was indeed the AEW World Champion.

If in character or not, it very much appeared that Hangman Page didn’t like CM Punk, and CM Punk didn’t care one way or the other, but took increasing offence to the remarks made in the lead up to their title match. But now everything that Page said aside, Punk was the champion and the leader of the company.

A lot happened in the following few months, pretty much everything that could go wrong went wrong, and as I think about it all now it doesn’t quite seem real, but let me try and summarise: Punk got injured jumping into the crowd on his way to the ring for a match on the Dynamite that followed the PPV, Punk announced he was hurt and relinquishing the title just 5 days after winning it, Jon Moxley was crowned interim champion to face Punk once he was healthy again, Punk returned on August 10th to confront Moxley and a title unification match was set for All Out 2022, the match instead took place on the August 24th Dynamite, Moxley won the match in just 3 minutes after Punk (in storyline) appeared to re-injure his foot, Moxley (now as the undisputed AEW Champion) faced Punk again at the PPV as was originally planned with the story going in that Punk would enter the match hampered by his ongoing injury to try and win back the World Championship in his hometown, in the match Punk got injured AGAIN (for real) and it would later emerge he had torn a muscle in his arm and the subsequent surgery would see him out of action for a number of months, but despite the injury Punk won the title back. MJF then returned from his absence from the company, confronting the new World Champion to set up a match down the line between the two former rivals. A match of course that would not of been possible anytime soon after with Punk’s injury in mind, even that wouldn’t be the main story of the night.

There is a sick irony that (as of this current time) Punk’s final words on AEW TV would be a video of an old promo of his where he said “The greatest trick the devil ever did, was to make you people believe he didn’t exist”. And that the final image of CM Punk we saw on AEW TV… was him holding the World Championship. I went to sleep after that show with excited thoughts of an upcoming feud between a returning MJF, and the newly crowned World Champion. I woke up to an absolute shit storm.

Following the PPV, as is customary , a post-show press conference took place. The new World Champion was one of those that spoke. And well… he did indeed speak…

I’m sure you all know by now what happened after this, but for those few who don’t… well… a great man once said “chat shit, get banged”, and so Omega, and Matt and Nick Jackson went looking for Punk, and Punk’s friend Ace Steel, and they had a legitimate fight. On the Dynamite that followed, Tony Khan announced that the World Championship and the Trios titles won by The Elite at the PPV were all now vacated. Everyone involved in the brawl was suspended. Ace Steel was fired, Brandon Cutler and Michael Nakazawa (witnesses to the brawl) were also suspended, but returned not long after. The Elite returned at the next PPV, CM Punk was injured and so there was no issue of his return to be had anyway… Until now…

Rumours have been abound for months and months ever since the brawl happened about who did and said what. What this and that person thought of what happened and of CM Punk in general. Punk has stayed relatively quiet on the topic, but recently the odd remark, instagram post or comment, and the various comments from both sides via the likes of Dax Harwood, Chris Jericho or even Dave Meltzer have made the waters pretty murky with regards to who thinks what and what may happen in the future. But things appear to be coming to a head. It as recently announced that AEW would be heading to Chicago’s Wintrust Arena for the June 21st Dynamite and Rampage tapings, the final show before the Forbidden Door Pay Per View. It was also announced recently that AEW would be doing a show in August in London at a little venue called Wembley Stadium. And to top it all off, a report from Fightful emerged this past week, which can be summarised by simply saying…

He wants to come back.

Naturally, this has caused much debate on all sides. There have been other rumours about AEW’s potential new Saturday evening show being a way for a soft roster split, and that this would be the new home of CM Punk as the flagship star to lead the new show forward. Many people have also said that if AEW want to fill the 90,000 seats that Wembley Stadium has, then one man is the way they can do it.

Today alone, or in the last few hours, two posts have emerged. Well, actually 3, but two that made me so fired up that I wanted to write this post for you all… One from a wrestling media site, the other from Brandon Cutler himself (who has since privatised his twitter account by the way):

So that’s what they have to say. Here’s what you all came for… here’s what I think…

So I’m gonna start this by saying that I am a fan of everyone who was involved in the whole ‘Brawl Out’ thing, I am a fan of the Young Bucks, I have met them, watched a tonne of their matches, greatly admire their work, I am a huge fan of Kenny Omega. I think he is, in the ring one of the best in the world and one of the best of all-time. I’m also a massive fan of CM Punk, to my right is his t shirt from AEW from when he first came back, which I brought when he first came back along with many, many others pretty much as soon as he came out. I am a fan of a lot of his work in the past, quite liked his AEW run, obviously the last few months of it were… different… but, I am a fan of both of these sides.

The thing that I’ve said to everyone from the start of this is… I am a fan of All Elite Wrestling first and foremost. People will come and people will go, but I quite like the company in general. I am a fan of WWE, and I quite like most companies in Wrestling to a certain degree, but I think they should all… GROW THE FUCK UP, MAN THE FUCK UP, and get together, and if they all love AEW just as much as they claim, and I mean people like Chris Jericho talking shit saying ‘AEW will be fine with or without CM Punk’, and I know he had some words to say privately about it as well… whatever, have your opinions, but… do what’s best for the company! Do what’s best for the fans! For me, CM Punk… MASSIVE draw, get him on your card! If you want to fill 90,000 seats at Wembley, get him on the card, get him on the show, bring him back, if you want one of the hottest angles in professional wrestling HISTORY, you book CM Punk and FTR and put them against The Elite, you do CM Punk – Adam Page, you do CM Punk – Chris Jericho, you do CM Punk – MJF, there is SO MUCH MONEY on the table for everybody!

Now, I understand that money isn’t everything, and it’s certainly not for people who have already got an awful lot of it, I totally understand that. I think every single person who reads this has differences with people that they work with, they have to get on with it! Most of us have to get on with it anyway, we are not all in a privileged position where we can pick who we work with. Now, as I mentioned previously Eddie Kingston had problems with CM Punk, and still did business. That for me… think of Matt Hardy and Edge in the past, think of Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, all have had pretty big differences with one another, all have done business. For me, I would like to think EVPs and co-founders of the company would do what is best for AEW, that they would be willing to put this company that they love above personal opinions. If they do split the rosters like they might do with this Saturday show, fine. I have floated around the idea to some people that CM Punk could just work Ring Of Honor, and do their tapings once a month and the PPVs, has some matches down there… great. But I also understand that you would want your top star on your top show, or if you’re doing this Saturday show that you may want CM Punk to headline that, I totally get that.

The article that really pissed me off was the one that said CM Punk is gaslighting AEW. As someone who has suffered from gaslighting from different people in the past, this is not what CM Punk is doing. This is two sides who don’t get along because of some feelings but largely because of an incident. That’s not what gaslighting is. He’s willing to let bygones be bygones (apparently), Dax and Cash seem to suggest similar, will everybody else? I don’t know. I hope and I pray that Tony Khan can get everyone sat around a table, they can hash out their differences, they don’t have to be friends, but… do what’s best for everyone! Do what’s best for the business of professional wrestling! Do what’s best for the fans of AEW! GROW THE FUCK UP basically… It is PISSING ME OFF all this back and forth bullshit, you don’t have to talk to CM Punk… is he going to be bad for the locker room? I don’t know… A lot of people have come out and spoken positively about CM Punk and his influences and advice he has given, Jade Cargill being one of them.

I just think that everyone involved should just do what’s best for business. And I would like to think that, like I have said if everyone involved loves All Elite Wrestling as much as they say they do, they would create one of the hottest angles in YEARS with CM Punk against The Elite. Because that, for me, would certainly fill Wembley, it would do a record buyrate for All Out in Chicago, if you headline that with say… CM Punk against Omega and do FTR vs The Bucks? And maybe do the 6 man tag at Wembley? Whatever… but… we don’t need people like Brandon Cutler saying how ‘someone gets it’ referring to the gaslighting article… Not helpful at all. And that shows me an unwillingness to cooperate, and that’s not being a professional in my opinion.

Was what CM Punk said at the scrum after All Out bang out of order? ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY! It was counterproductive to say the very least. Was CM Punk calling out Adam Page live on TV when he couldn’t respond unprofessional? Yes, absolutely it was and I wont deny that. Was it professional of The Elite going to a locker room and starting a fight? no, that’s not good AT ALL! Would the fight of happened as it supposedly did if Ace Steel was there? Who knows… none of us where there. The only people who know what happened and what could’ve happened where the people involved. Will that ever come out? I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not… Probably not, and I think it’s best if it doesn’t. But I do think that Tony Khan will want to do what is best for his company, I just don’t see the benefit of leaving everything they could do now on the table… Brining in CM Punk and it ending like this… So, if he comes back on June 21st, if he does something at Wembley, if he does something at All Out, we shall see…

But at the end of the day, I REALLY, REALLY FUCKING HOPE ALL THESE GROWN ASS MEN CAN GROW UP, CAN SIT DOWN, AND DO WHAT’S BEST FOR AEW!

THE END.

Josh.

WWE 2K23 Universe Mode – Chapter 1: A New Universe

“Ah shit, here we go again…”

As I write this, it is the day after WrestleMania 39 has taken place. Tonight’s Raw will start the next ‘calendar year’ of WWE programming, and the road to WrestleMania 40 begins… and whilst the company itself is has been (and is about to go through A LOT more) changes since I last had a go myself, I still want to do it my way. WWE 2k22 was decent, 2k23 is better. Universe Mode is a tad different, but again something I want to have another crack at. I kinda tailed off and lost my passion towards the end of last years game, timing-wise that coupled with the change of creative leadership in the real life WWE, so I felt I no longer had something to be an alternative to. But this time I’m going to do things my way, and I’m going to have some fun with it. For those who didn’t follow my series for the last game, on the WWE 2k23 video game there is a mode called “Universe Mode” where you are in charge of your very own WWE Universe; booking the shows, the calendar, the rosters and the storylines. And this sort of fantasy booking and micro management is something my geeky ass LOVES. So, accompanied by screenshots and videos along the way, I hope this blog series will talk you through my own WWE world that I play out within the 2k23 game.

So… let’s get cracking…

First of all, let me set the scene… my universe will based in a kind of middle ground between reality and my own imagination, but timeline-wise, my mode begins immediately after WrestleMania, and creative wise and where everyone character and story wise is at, I’ll explain as we go through the rosters. My calendar will consist of Raw and SmackDown as my two weekly shows. Raw will have 6 matches and SmackDown 5. (Like with last years blog series, I’ll list the matches I play within the game, and I’ll fill in the creative gaps myself). My PPV calendar (which I’ve changed from my usual 1 ppv a month and always the final Sunday of each month formula I used in 2k22, to be more similar to the IRL PPV calendar WWE use) will be as follows: (all shows listed below will be on Sundays)…:

MAY WEEK 4 – King Of The Ring (Rosemont, Illinois)

JULY WEEK 1 – Money In The Bank (Las Vegas, Nevada)

AUGUST WEEK 3 – SummerSlam (Nashville, Tennessee)

SEPTEMBER WEEK 3 – Clash At The Castle (Cardiff, Wales)

OCTOBER WEEK 3 – Extreme Rules (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

NOVEMBER WEEK 4 – Survivor Series: War Games (Boston, Massachusetts)

JANUARY WEEK 4 – Royal Rumble (St Louis, Missouri)

FEBRUARY WEEK 4 – Elimination Chamber (Montreal, Canada)

APRIL WEEK 1 – WrestleMania (Inglewood, California) *Would’ve been Los Angeles but that doesn’t appear to be on the game…

My rosters, for Raw and SmackDown, will naturally change as my mode goes on and also as more DLC content is released, meaning more roster members will be available, and I may even dip into the community creations that other game players have masterfully made. But to start with, the Raw and SmackDown rosters will be as follows:

RAW roster

WWE CHAMPION: VACANT

Cody Rhodes – F (Babyface aka ‘good’ guy)

Bobby Lashley – F

AJ Styles – F

(Edge – F)

Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins – H (Heel aka ‘bad guy’)

Finn Balor – H (member of Judgement Day)

Kevin Owens – H

UNITED STATES CHAMPION: Austin Theory – H

Damian Priest – H (member of Judgement Day)

The Miz – H

Carmelo Hayes – F

Johnny Gargano – F

Tommaso Ciampa – H

Dexter Lumis – H

Dominik Mysterio – H (member of Judgement Day)

RAW WOMEN’S CHAMPION: Bianca Belair – F

Becky Lynch – F

Asuka – F

Alexa Bliss – F

Dana Brooke – F

(Indi Hartwell – F)

(Maryse – H)

Carmella – H

‘Damage CTRL’: Bayley (H) and WWE WOMEN’S TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS: Iyo Sky (H) & Dakota Kai (H)

RAW TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS: ‘RK-Bro’ (Randy Orton – F & Matt Riddle – F)

‘Viking Raiders’ (Erik – H & Ivar – H)

‘Street Profits’ (Montez Ford – F & Angelo Dawkins – F)

‘Alpha Academy’ (Chad Gable – H & Otis – H)

Shelton Benjamin – F & Cedric Alexander – F

‘Dirty Dawgs’ (Dolph Ziggler – H & Robert Roode – H)

Mustafa Ali – F

Titus O’Neil – F

Akira Tozawa – F

Elias – H

T-Bar – H

(Omos – F)

(MVP – F)

SMACKDOWN roster

WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION: Roman Reigns – H (with Paul Heyman) (The Bloodline)

Drew McIntyre – F

Rey Mysterio – F

Karrion Kross (with Scarlett) – H

Sheamus – F (The Brawling Brutes)

Big E – F (The New Day)

Santos Escobar – H (Legado del Fantasma)

INTERCONINETAL CHAMPION: Gunther – H (Imperium)

Ricochet – F

Braun Strowman – F

LA Knight – H

SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S CHAMPION: Charlotte Flair – H

Liv Morgan – F

Raquel Rodriquez – F

Shotzi – F

Natalya – F

Tamina – F

Aliyah – F

Sonya Deville – H

Shayna Baszler – H

‘Toxic Attraction’ (Jacy Jayne – H & Gigi Dolan – H)

Xia Li – H

SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS: ‘The Usos’ (Jimmy – H & Jey – H) (with Solo Sikoa – H)

‘Brawling Brutes’ (Ridge Holland – F & Butch – F)

‘The New Day’ (Kofi Kingston – F & Xavier Woods – F)

‘Imperium’ (Giovanni Vinci – H & Ludwig Keiser – H)

Shinsuke Nakamura – F & Rick Boogs – F

‘Legado del Fantasma’ (Cruz del Toro – H & Joaquin Wilde – H)

Sami Zayn – H

Tyler Breeze – F

Madcap Moss – F

‘Los Lotharios’ (Angel – H & Humberto – H)

Happy Corbin – H

Jinder Mahal – H

So with the scene-setting done, let’s get underway with my first Raw and SmackDown shows of MY WWE Universe!!!

Raw (after WrestleMania) – May Week 1

Cody Rhodes comes out to open the show with an in-ring promo. He talks about his return to WWE, getting the win against Seth Rollins at Mania the night before, the goals he has upon his return to WWE, his dreams (and a certain championship), before then going on to talk about the upcoming King of the Ring tournament and it being for the WWE Championship… He is then interrupted by a former 2x WWE Champion… The Miz.., which leads to…

Cody Rhodes defeated The Miz

Cody gets the win, all is good for the American Nightmare…

Until…

KEVIN OWENS runs out and attacks Cody. The beating is so bad (including a pop-up powerbomb through the announce table) that Rhodes is carried out on a stretcher.

‘RK-Bro’ are interviewed backstage, ahead of their match later…

Viking Raiders (Erik & Ivar) defeated Shelton Benjamin & Cedric Alexander

This would be a fairly routine win for the Vikings, with other… business… down the line for both Shelton and Cedric…

Becky Lynch gives a backstage interview. She is… emotionless… (coming after her defeat to Bianca Belair at WrestleMania, and ahead of the rematch tonight…)…

Austin Theory comes out to the ring. He cuts a promo in the ring, before out comes… CARMELO HAYES!!!

Carmelo Hayes defeated Austin Theory

Judgement Day (Finn, Rhea, Priest and Dominik) come out and each cut a promo…

… before… out comes Bobby Lashley! They go back and forth on the mic, before Lashley challenges each of Judgement Day (RHEA INCLUDED) … they each laugh and back away… Lashley left in the ring starring them all down.

RK-Bro (Randy Orton & Matt Riddle) (C) defeated Alpha Academy (Chad Gable & Otis)

This would be a solid match with all 4 guys getting a chance to shine. For the finish, Otis would be taken out over the ropes, before Riddle would stun Gable leaving him prime for an RKO … OUTTA NOWHERE!!!

Seth “Freakin” Rollins would come to the ring for an in-ring promo…

… still smarting from his WrestleMania loss to Cody Rhodes, but also laughing at his beating from Kevin Owens earlier in the show. He says it’s laughable that Cody would talk about the WWE Championship…

AJ Styles comes out after to interrupt, and the two talk about who would win should they face off in the upcoming tournament…

Elias is in the ring cutting a classic promo, with his guitar etc… he’s eventually interrupted by his opponent…

Johnny Gargano defeated Elias

Straightforward win for Gargano. We got PLANS for him…

Bianca Belair takes part in a backstage interview, talking up her match next up…

Bianca Belair (C) defeated Becky Lynch to retrain the Raw Women’s Championship

After the match, Becky and Bianca would show mutual respect to one another… before being interrupted by Bayley… and then Dakota Kai & Iyo Sky!

Damage CTRL then attack the two heroes in the ring, with Becky in particular taking the most of the beating… they then go at Belair, until Asuka and Alexa Bliss run out to try and make the save. Damage CTRL run off before back up arrives, and with the babyfaces in the ring we have a stare-off between the two groups to end the show.

SmackDown (after WrestleMania) – May Week 1

SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair opens the show with an in-ring promo. She brags about her WrestleMania win, blah blah ‘I’m the Queen’ blah blah blah, and she talks of how her reign as SmackDown Women’s Champion will last 4eva… One by one we then have Liv Morgan, Sonya Deville, Shayna Baszler and then Raquel Rodriquez. All staking their claims to be the one who ends Charlotte’s championship reign… The 4 get into it as Flair flees the scene, and that leads to…

Liv Morgan & Raquel Rodriquez defeated Sonya Deville & Shayna Baszler

After a solid tag match with a big win for the babyface team, they are then attacked after the match by…

SmackDown just got TOXIC!

Gunther (with Ludwig Keiser and Giovanni Vinci by his side) has a backstage interview.

The New Day come out and cut a promo. They are interrupted by Legado del Fantasma…

Legado del Fantasma defeated The New Day

This would be a really good and fast paced 6-man tag, with the heels getting the win over the established babyfaces…

We then have a video package for Karrion Kross

Karrion Kross (with Scarlett) defeated Tyler Breeze

This would be essentially a squash. Sorry Breeze, but needs must…

LA Knight then has a backstage interview, talking about the upcoming contenders match for the IC title, and why it is HIS time… “YEEEEAAAAAHHH!!!”

LA Knight - Wrestling News | WWE and AEW Results, Spoilers, Rumors & Scoops

Shinsuke Nakamura & Rock Boogs defeated ‘Los Lotharios’

Not sure what I’ll do with this team going forward, but if Big E isn’t hurt in my universe, neither is BOOGS! And Shinsuke I will always try and find a good spot for. I loved this team and it was a shame it had to split when it did, so lets have some fun!!

And next up… our main event MATCH!

Braun Strowman defeated LA Knight, Ricochet and Rey Mysterio in a fatal-4-way match to become the number 1 contender for the Intercontinental Championship

I feel like I can make sure I’ll have big spots for all 4 of these guys, but it felt right that Braun got the win here. Him vs Gunther, given the shape both guys are in these days, was and is such a good matchup!

And now for our main event SEGMENT!

As you may have noticed, I have chosen to split the world title belts. With the WWE Championship going back over to Raw with the tournament, I must still crown our Tribal Chief. And so to do that, I have decide to coronate him as the world’s BEST, meaning the return of my favourite championship belt of all time…

Roman Reigns; World Heavyweight Championship Coronation Ceremony

The Bloodline (The Usos, Solo Sikoa and Paul Heyman) are in the ring. The ring floor is a red carpet, there is tribal Ula Fala on the ring ropes, with each of the Bloodline all wearing one also. Heyman cuts a promo talking about what an occasion this is, and he eventually reveals what is underneath the cloth that is on top of the podium in the ring, the ‘Big Gold’ belt. That is when The Tribal Chief himself makes his way to the ring. After taking his typical time in getting there, once in the ring he is handed the World Heavyweight Championship belt by Paul Heyman. Reigns tells the crowd to ‘ACKNOWLEDGE ME!’, and then talks about how he is going to continue to rule the world for as long as he wants!

As The Bloodline pose, out comes Drew McIntyre, followed by The Brawling Brutes (Sheamus, Butch & Ridge Holland).

And of course, we get a huge brawl afterwards! But it is The Bloodline who are the ones who retreat! The two teams stare off with The Bloodline the ones on the entrance ramp, and we close SmackDown with Reigns holding up the World Heavyweight Championship!

So that’s the first one out the way. My second chapter of the series will see me play through my Raws and SmackDowns for May, as well as my first PPV of King Of The Ring, where I will of course crown a brand new WWE Champion.

Josh.

Apparently it’s WrestleMania… AGAIN… AGAIN… AGAIN!!!

So here I am, it’s the morning of WrestleMania Night 1, and for the FOURTH year in a row here I am with my laptop infront of me ready to talk to you all. So… “LET ME TALK TO YA”… !!!

This weekend means everything to me, I’d think everyone reading this already knows that. Wrestling is everything to me, whatever is going on in my life it’s always there to help me escape, to relax, to cheer me up and comfort me when I need it, to excite me, to bring me to tears such is the emotion this great industry brings out of me like nothing else… well, aside from women and football perhaps… But no football match or date with a woman (sorry ladies) gets me more pumped up and excited than WrestleMania weekend. The build up beginning from January’s Royal Rumble, where we had Cody Rhodes and Rhea Ripley book their spots at the show of shows (more on those two later), and then we are on the road… But it’s not just WWE, WrestleMania weekend has become a phenomenon of its own as a pantheon for the whole industry. This weekend in Los Angeles the entire wrestling world will descend on Hollywood, with dozens of shows, hundreds of performers and thousands of fans packing out all types of venues for the likes of not just WWE, but ROH, GCW and many many more. Dream matches all over the place, matches you thought you would never see or never even think you would want to see until you did, the return of one of the best in the world KOTA IBUSHI, ROH crowning the successors as Tag Team champions to The Briscoe Brothers of Mark and the late, great Jay Briscoe, NXT with their premier show (a brand that has well and truly re-invigorated itself in recent times) headlined by Bron Breakker vs Carmelo Hayes, The WWE Hall of Fame (that I have on as I’m typing this) with Stacey Keibler, Andy Kauffman, The Great Muta, Tim White and of course the legendary Rey Mysterio being honoured, all of that and tonnes more, and of course we have WrestleMania.

Before I talk about the show of shows, I want to talk about me a little bit. The past 12 months have, on the whole, been pretty decent. Whilst I have had my dips mentally, and I’ve been rather sick health-wise on a handful of occasions, I’ve soldiered on. I’ve discovered a lot about myself, and whilst I’m not there yet, I’m getting there. I stand up for myself a hell of a lot more than I used to, I’m able to chill and enjoy myself a lot easier these days, and I think I’m the happiest mentally I’ve been. Yes I have my struggles and dips but I am able to cope and move on from them a lot better these days. And this year as a wrestling fan has been amazing, with the world fully open up now after that stupid pandemic, I’ve been to live shows again, my co-members of the Wrestling Should Be Fun community have helped me discover a real love for Progress Wrestling, where I’ve met many great people, interacted with many of my new favourite wrestlers, frequented many of Camden’s finest establishments, and been reduced to tears on one occasion (DAMN YOU CARA NOIR) such was the passion I felt and attachment to the story I had seen infront of me. But with AEW having, what could be called an ‘up and down’ 12 months, WWE, for me, has gone from strength to strength, I can’t possibly think why…

So… What do you wanna talk about???

WRESTLEMANIA, OF COURSE!

You may of heard me on the Wrestling Should Be Fun podcast this week talking about WrestleMania (if you haven’t go and give us a listen), but join me now as I talk you through what I’ll be putting in for our ‘Pickems’ on Night 1 and Night 2…

We open Night 1 with a man who has main evented on FIVE occasions. But as I mentioned on the WSBF pod, and I never thought I’d be saying this, but I hope Austin Theory wins. That Cena promo the other week BURIED Theory, and it really didn’t need to. It gave me awful flashbacks to when Cena did the same thing to The Miz on the Mania go home, and then… yeah Cena went and beat his ass. Now sure, if Miz had of won it was fine, but him and Maryse got beat by Cena and Nikki and then the other stuff happened… This time Cena outright said if Theory wins it doesn’t matter… Great… Theory’s promo infront of an empty arena on Raw was fine, but for me he has to win this match. I really don’t know for him if he doesn’t. People have talked about the idea of Cena winning, doing the US Title open challenge he made famous on Raw, and losing the title immediately. But really, does he need to? Nope. Theory does WAY more. If he beats John Cena at WrestleMania, even if he loses the US title soon after, it really wont hurt him. I fear taking a battering in the ring, to match the verbal one he took some weeks ago, hurts him an awful lot.

Elsewhere, I’m going Braun and Ricochet for the tag team showcase, just feels like a match they’d win because Alpha Academy look set to split with Otis becoming a… model… and Whilst the Vikings and the Profits are established teams, this just feels like as a showcase match that you would wanna promote the power of Braun and the wonder of Ricochet. I think Seth beats Logan, I think the match will be great absolutely but the build leading up to it just leans me towards a Rollins win (I can’t wait to see the attire and the entrances for this one), and I think Rey beats Dominik… or more that’s what I’m going with. I could see that going either way, Dominik has been amazing during the build to this, the match of his life I am sure how him and his father, I hope the match is great and I am sure the crowd will be with them both all the way. I’m going Becky, Trish and Lita for the womens tag, which I think Bayley in particular could do with the win but given who the champions I think will be after Mania, unless they move Damage CTRL to SmackDown, I don’t know where she goes next. Maybe Iyo and Dakota leave her behind? Maybe we get Trish going rogue??? I think the women will show up here, Trish in particular.

I will be LIVID if Rhea Ripley doesn’t walk out as the SmackDown Women’s Champion. I could write an entire blog on why she should beat Charlotte. I’ve seen Rhea as a star since the Mae Young Classic days, when she won the NXT Women’s title, I was 50/50 on if I wanted her to win it, or lose the title match and then win the women’s rumble that year… But as much as Cody needs to finish the story on Sunday, Ripley MUST do that here. I hope.

And Finally… we have quite possibly, the biggest and most anticipated Tag Team title match in WWE and WrestleMania history. Words cannot do justice to the story that The Bloodline, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn have told in the recent months. It’s been pure CINEMA. And now it is time, we get our moment for me, WrestleZAYNia, KOMania runs wild, and The Bloodline begins to crumble… I hope. This match is going to be incredible.

And after all that, we will only be HALF done!!!

People can say what they want, whilst my heart breaks that Bray Wyatt isn’t on the WrestleMania card (and all my prayers go to him and wishing him all the health and happiness, and please come back soon), I am quite looking forward to the absolute FREAK SHOW that will be OMOS vs BROCK LESNAR! It wont be very long a match I hope, but I wanna see it go as fast-paced as possible, Godzilla vs King Kong, big moves only, just make it pure carnage, and I think it ends with Lesnar winning, It would be great if Omos won, but Brock has got his ass beat in the whole build up it’s seemed, and he has lost his last THREE mania matches… but lets see… The women’s showcase should be fine, I see Ronda getting the W here injury and all… would make a lot of sense if it’s her and Shayna to take the tag titles from Lita and her former rival Becky. Bianca vs Asuka is a heck of a match on paper, and whilst people may not be so infused with their build-up, I still have zero doubt this match will be an in-ring masterclass. I’ve changed my tone slightly in recent weeks, and I’m going with Bianca to retain, to extend to 3-0 at Mania having already beaten Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch, and then we see the continued meltdown into insanity of Asuka, and I see her taking the title at a later date.

The rise of The Judgement Day, the re-invigoration of a group that was somewhat floundering, has been one of the biggest booking successes of the Triple H-led era. And the current version of Finn Balor has been a joy, a master in his absolute prime as a performer, and now he’s bring back The Demon? Chefs kiss. I see Finn winning here, I think he needs it way more than Edge. But knowing Edge, he’ll do some wild shit in the Cell. I’ve really enjoyed the return run of The Rated R Superstar, and I think that’s winding down now, and this has been a story almost a year in the making, so it seems fitting to me it’s at WrestleMania, inside Hell In A Cell, and it’s THE DEMON vs THE DEVIL of Edge… whatever that Brood looks like…

Maybe the biggest slam dunk of the WrestleMania card is the triple threat match for the IC Title. And it’s cool we have a 3 way where you could make very good arguments for each of the 3 participants winning. I personally am going for Gunther to retain, and I think Sheamus should take it in London maybe at July’s Money In The Bank PPV. But I really couldn’t tell you for any certainty result wise, I’m way more confident that this match will be an absolute BANGER!

And FINALLY…

Who would’ve thought we would ever be here with these two?

I’ve loved the build, it’s been top class with so many highlights, the fact they haven’t touched once is beautiful. As I said for the tag title match, I could write a whole blog about the story that’s lead us to Roman Reigns vs Cody Rhodes, but I just want to focus on Cody’s promo from a couple weeks back…

I think there’s a lot more net positives in Cody winning. Ideally after they’ll split the titles again, Cody can keep the WWE Championship he has always wanted, and then as the babyface he is (as much as a section of the AEW crowd tried to make you think otherwise) he could let let others fight it out for the Universal title (or another belt if Triple H is that way inclined… PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD BRING BACK THE BIG GOLD BELT?!?!)…

But regardless of all that, It’s known Roman is having time off soon, my lord he deserves it. The Tribal Chief has been one of the all time great gimmicks. But it just feels like it’s time for the championship run to come to an end. Lets tell the story of what Roman Reigns does when The Bloodline loses, lets do Roman vs Jey Uso at SummerSlam. AND MAYBE… lets have the REAL chief of their Family’s tribe come and claim his rightful place at WrestleMania 40… PLEASE???

As for Cody, it’s just time isn’t it? He came back home 12 months ago, an amazing welcome, he goes 3-0 on PPV against one of the top star’s in WWE in Seth, that all-time brave performance inside Hell In A Cell with the torn pec, the comeback, the Rumble win and some absolutely amazing promo performances. All of it has led to the crowd reactions getting louder and louder and louder as WrestleMania has approached. I was once worried that the love towards Sami would lead us to a ‘Boo-tista’ sort of problem, but Cody’s performances have made that a non-issue. And now, here we are.

I will finish off by quite simply saying… It’s time Cody Rhodes. It’s time.

FINISH. THE. STORY.

Enjoy WrestleMania everyone.

Josh.

WrestleMania 21 – Review

WWE was in a unique spot at the time it went to Hollywood on April 3rd 2005… It was just coming out of one era of RUTHLESS AGRESSION, and was about to embark on a new era led by one man… but it wasn’t the guy WWE thought it would be at this stage… When you look at the card for this show, it reads and a who’s-who of WWE legends and Hall of Famers, and as WrestleMania should do it crowns the new leaders of the roster, and sets in motion many things that would come in the next few weeks, months and years. The Hollywood theme is one that WWE have returned to for their latest trip for the show of shows to California for WrestleMania 39, some 18 years on from the topic of this blog. The film parody videos for this show, which feature sporadically through the presentation of this show, are outstanding, and they certainly helped add to the spectacle of WrestleMania here.

This was also an important show as it would be the penultimate WrestleMania before the show would solely take place at huge American football stadiums, although the FKA Staples Center is quite the venue, but it would be a sign that although the interest in the business in general seemed to be wanning, the name alone of WrestleMania would continue to sell and as the years went on it would only grow and grow.

There were 8 matches set for the show, with the two headline matches being JBL defending the WWE Championship against John Cena, and Triple H defending the World Heavyweight title against Batista. Triple H was about to see his much-maligned ‘reign of terror’ end at the hand of his former Evolution protegee, who had longed to take down his former stable-leader having earned the right from winning that year’s Royal Rumble. To do that Batista last eliminated John Cena, who over on SmackDown had established himself as their top guy to challenge the record-breaking reign of John Bradshaw Layfield. The rest of the card was a variety of dream matches, personal feuds, and complete spectaculars, for better and for worse in the case of the first ever Money In The Bank ladder match, and then a SUMO MATCH… Because… yeah…

This is a show I’ve watched quite a bit in the past, but not for some time. Lets see if it still holds up… I’m expecting a mixed bag, but I’m hoping the good stuff makes up for the stuff that doesn’t quite stack up… So lets get into it then, as here is my review of WrestleMania 21!


Lilian Garcia opened the show singing ‘America The Beautiful’. We then had the curtain raised on WrestleMania, followed by a selection of clips from the various Hollywood Parody videos. Next was the full Stone Cold Steve Austin – Gladiator parody, which was pretty cool to be fair.

Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler welcomes us to WrestleMania as the announce team for Raw, followed by the Spanish commentators Carlos Cabrera and Hugo Savinovich, who in turn passed on to the SmackDown team of Michael Cole and Tazz.

We opened the show with a bit of history, as tag team champions faced each other at a WrestleMania. 2 years later, tag team champions would main event WrestleMania (John Cena vs Shawn Michaels).

Rey Mysterio defeated Eddie Guerrero

Eddie entered in his low rider, and Rey had typically colorful Mania gear. Obviously, this match was pretty good given who was in it. Eddie was 12 months since now from being on top of the world as WWE Champion, and going through a bit of a crisis of confidence, that led to him facing his own tag team partner here. this would eventually go a lot darker storyline wise as we got towards the summer of 2005. But no question this was still Eddie in his absolute prime as a performer, which makes the tragedy that was to follow all the more heartbreaking. Rey was just about to reach the main event level in WWE, and fittingly it was this storyline with Eddie that helped him get there. It’s amazing that I review this show from 2005, and 18 years later not only is Rey about to go into the Hall of Fame but he’s also on the card for WrestleMania 39! Even more amazing given where this storyline goes with Eddie in 2005, is Rey’s upcoming opponent in Los Angeles… but that’s another story for another day (or another blog coming very very soon…). Eddie shook Rey’s hand after the match, when commentary teased Eddie could lose it… but FOR NOW he remained cool and a good friend…

***3/4

WWE Champion JBL (and his cabinet) ran into World Heavyweight Champion Triple H (and Ric Flair) backstage. They went back and forth and said they’d see who was still champion at the end of the night… so let’s see how that goes I guess… I’m sure it’ll all be absolutely fine.

Naturally, as WrestleMania was in Hollywood, we had some celebrities in the crowd…

Edge wins the first ever Money In The Bank Ladder match

Something that has become a staple for WWE, had it’s debut here way back in 2005. Quite a unique but genius concept created by one Chris Jericho, and this set quite the tone for what was to come in the years that followed. I for one like the idea of the MITB being a WrestleMania thing, but given the magnitude that the Money In The Bank PPVs have taken on in recent years, and the evolution to include a women’s match nowadays too, it really is one of the biggest indicators of who’s the next big stars in WWE. Everyone here played their part, and each had multiple crazy moments and spots, way too many to mention here. I would highly recommend going and seeking out this match if you’ve never or haven’t seen this one at all or for a while. Jericho and Christian both had solid showings, and Kane was a terrific powerhouse.

But the MVP of the match here for me was Shelton Benjamin. Such a talented athlete and in this period his abilities were totally unmatched, he did some crazy stuff in this spectacular.

But in the end, the spoils went to a man who in the years that followed this match, would not only break out of the mid card, but certify a claim to be one of the all-time greats in WWE history…

This was a really good match, and the bar was well and truly set high for all Money In The Bank matches in the future.

****

Then we had… a segment. In 2023 for SOOOOOO many reasons I found this uncomfortable to watch, so I’ll keep this brief. Eugene comes out, he’s pleased to be at WrestleMania, Muhammed Hussan comes out, he’s not so happy. Him and Daivari beat up Eugene, then Hogan saves the day… urgh…

The Undertaker defeated Randy Orton

This was just prior to the run of Taker BANGERS at Mania, but this was just at the start of the ‘decent’ Taker Mania matches. An Undertaker about to reach (for me) his peak as a wrestler and performer. Up here against a Randy Orton that was good, but not yet great… but my oh my he was well on his way… This was really the first year as well where ‘The Streak’ was a major part of WrestleMania, and so the nearfalls in this match meant so much more. I will let you watch the match for yourselves, but I have to mention one of the all-time RKO/counter spots that took place here, the chokeslam into the RKO was incredible, it definitely popped the crowd, and was the first of many of those “THE STREAK IS OVER?” moments. Great video package before the match to give it that big time feel, followed by a really solid match after two megastar entrances. Taker of course gets the win after reversing a Tombstone attempt BY ORTON into his own. 13-0.

***3/4

Trish Stratus (C) defeated Christy Hemme to retain the WWE Women’s Championship

Yeah… you already know, this was absolutely when it should’ve been Trish vs Lita on the biggest stage. But… yeah… The match was about 5 minutes long, and really wasn’t great, but really did Hemme belong in a singles match at WrestleMania? No absolutely not. But was she on the front of Playboy? Yes she was… so there’s your answer. At least Trish won I guess…

**

But… don’t worry ladies and gentleman… Because right after that, we have the small matter of this…

We saw Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, and then Marg Helgenberger (was once in CSI) at ringside… and then it was time…

Kurt Angle defeated Shawn Michaels

If you’re going to watch anything from this show, I implore you to pick this match.

Two of the all-time greats, for me anyway they were both in their peak years, but amazingly if you fast forward two years… one of these two are in the main event, the other isn’t even in the company… This was your inter-promotional match of the show, something they liked to do since the days of the brand split. Fortunately this was just a tad better than Goldberg vs Lesnar from the year prior… The video before the match was great and made the match feel like a huge deal, but I don’t think you needed to sell this match to anyone with anything more than letting these two wrestle one another. The whole match was good, but the last 5 minutes or so was out of this world. Kurt screaming at Shawn to tap, and then Michaels hitting the superkick was a great spot, and the finish with Kurt getting the Ankle Lock and HBK desperately trying to get out of it time and time again, only to finally have to submit to the delight of a split crowd, but one that was louder in it’s support of the American Hero.

This was an all-time classic match, and one of the greatest in WrestleMania history.

*****

Mae Young and Moolah were pictured in the crowd… Before something on this show that, I’ll be honest, I totally forgot about coming into it until it happened… but this was really fun.

‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper came out for a ‘Piper’s Pit’ segment… and his guest was none other than STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN! Two of the best talkers in the history of the business, so as you can imagine, this one was lively… And then for some reason… Carlito came out in the middle of it… and then that went how you’d imagine for him…

Oh, and don’t think Austin didn’t get his in on Piper as well… because OF COURSE he did!!!

Next we had… erm… a SUMO MATCH… Yep…

Akebono defeated Big Show in a SUMO match

I guess you needed a let-up between Steve Austin and the WWE Championship match… but… I don’t even know what to say about this. The two big dudes had a worked sumo match, where they… jostled (?) for position, and for the… finish (?) Big Show lifted the other dude, before getting flung outside the circle and out of the ring. They showed respect to one another afterwards… Yeah… let’s move on…

N/A

We had another really good video (they were consistently strong on this show) building up to our semi-main event…

John Cena defeated John Bradshaw Layfield (C) to win the WWE Championship

John Cena had his usual entrance. JBL was super extra, limousine, ‘JBL Dollars’ raining down… but unusually JBL sent Orlando Jordan and The Cabinet to the back. He would go it on his won her to fend off his latest challenger on day 242 as WWE Champion.

Solid match, you’d expect longer at Mania, but it became a theme in these manias of this era to follow, that whatever the ‘secondary’ world title was (at 21,22 and 23 in particular), got less time and build than whatever went on last. And the finish came out of nowhere too… We didn’t know it at the time, and given this was the penultimate and not the final match of WrestleMania 21 I don’t think WWE knew it either, bit this was one of the most significant title wins in WWE history. The dawn of the new era of the company… Hogan had Mania 3 against Andre, Austin had 1998 against HBK, and WrestleMania 21 by beating JBL was the start of the rise of John Cena as THE guy in WWE. Number 1 was here… and we had just the 15 to still come…

***1/4

Next we had ‘Mene’ Gene Okurlund lead the parade of the 2005 Hall of Fame inductees. The class this year was as follows: Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff, Paul Orndorff, Jimmy Hart, ‘Cowboy’ Bob Orton, ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper and Hulk Hogan. A heck of a class to be fair, very much one with a nod to the very first WrestleMania, which given it was 20 years prior to this one, makes a lot of sense.

And now it was finally time, for the main event of WrestleMania 21. And as it should be, the spot went to a long term story between two huge stars, the estabilished big star heel vs the babyface monster that was about to blow through the stratosphere… all for the richest prize in the game.

Batista defeated Triple H (C) (with Ric Flair) to win the World Heavyweight Championship

Triple H had a typically-spectacular entrance for the show of shows, this time with Motorhead playing him out. Batista just came out looking like a monster with that awesome original entrance theme.

They had done such a good job of slowly but surely building up Batista to be the guy. And now, in the biggest spot of them all, it was his time. This was a solid match for me, not the most amazing in-ring classic but for me it was fine. For me this match was all about the story, of Triple H trying all his usual tricks (sledgehammer and Ric Flair included) that had helped him dominate the World title scene for close to 3 years, but for Batista to be the man to bat away every obstacle that the champion threw at him.

I thought the commentary from Jim Ross was magic here. He, as always, made the biggest moment of the year feel like just that. And credit to Tripel H as well, who’s facials of absolute despair and fear that this monster had beaten him, and left him in a bloodied heap, were exceptional. Right result here, the only result really, and a new man to dominate the big gold belt scene for the following 3/4 years was here.

***1/4

I quite enjoyed WrestleMania 21. Sure it had it’s low points, and was far from perfect. But there’s an argument to be made that it was one of the most historically significant shows in WWE history. Look at who took the headlines on this show… Batista and Cena walked out as world champions, Edge won the Money In The Bank, and Randy Orton put in a heck of a performance in arguably the biggest match of his career to date, certainly the one on the biggest stage in a singles match that he had had up to this point. 4 men there who would dominate WWE for the decade that followed. At the conclusion of this show, 3 world titles between those 4 men. As I write this, collectively that number is at 47. In terms of recommendations, if you want a fun show this is the one, the matches are mainly all fine with the ladder match being good, and of course HBK and Angle putting on an all-timer that you should definitely see. But this show was about making stars, just as WrestleMania should be.

Josh.

No Way Out 2003 – Review

The final stop on the road to WrestleMania, a WWE PPV event on the scene of the famous screwjob of 1997, a February show in Montreal headlined by a MUST-SEE match for the ages. Yes, this could all be said about the WWE’s Elimination Chamber show in 2023, but it was also all the case for a show TWENTY YEARS ago this very month. Falling in between the 2003 Royal Rumble show (where Kurt Angle and Triple H walked out with the world titles, and a young guy by the name of… BROCK LESNAR, whatever happened to that guy…, won the Rumble match itself), and the upcoming WrestleMania 19 show (a brilliant show, one I have also previously reviewed, a very underrated and underappreciated Mania), No Way Out 2003 was… well there’s many reasons I’ve always wanted to talk about this show. And given what’s happening in modern day WWE soon, the timing couldn’t be more appropriate.

As mentioned this was of course the first WWE PPV to take place in Montreal since the night where BRET SCREWED BRET (fight me), so drama was almost a guarantee. and boy oh BOY did we get some drama on this show…

There’s an argument to be made that the 2002/2003 roster is the most stacked in company history. By now everyone who was once in WCW was either in WWE, or in the case of Goldberg was well on his way, the same with ECW, and we also had a number of young stars who would go on to be mainstays of the company for decades to come, and so this show reads somewhat like a dream-card… An opener of Canadian hero Chris Jericho vs the ever-popular Jeff Hardy sets the tone, Triple H rematches with Scott Steiner once again for the world title (it looks… something… on paper, OK…), but the main attractions of this show are the return to TV of Stone Cold Steve Austin (after he went and retrieved his ‘ball’ and came back to work) and a main event of one of the most revered WrestleMania matches of all-time, with ‘Hollywood’ The Rock once again taking on Hulk Hogan, once again in Canada, but this time around the two stars were viewed very very differently by the fans in the arena and watching at home… and by the end of this PPV that would be the case even more so… so sit back, get comfy, and enjoy my review of a classic WWE PPV from one of my formulaic years as a fan, 2003 with the No Way Out PPV, from Montreal, Canada!


As if it couldn’t be anymore of a show from 2003, the PPV theme song was the all-time classic ‘Bring Me To Life’ by Evanescence. Your Raw commentary team for (most of) this show were Jonathan Coachman & Jerry Lawler, with Michael Cole and Tazz calling the SmackDown matches. And it will be of no shock to those attentive ones of you that this Montreal crowd was, you could say, a raucous one pretty much all show.

Chris Jericho defeated Jeff Hardy

This was the best match of the show for me, or at least the best one I want to talk about. At this time, Jericho was approaching the point of his career where he struggled NOT to have a banger match, and Jeff was approaching his peak years. This match was action-packed from start to finish, and even against a Canadian-native in Y2J, the crowd was really into Hardy. Jeff flew all over the place in this match (to the surprise of nobody), even hitting a springboard Whisper In The Wind to Jericho on the outside, which was most impressive. Hardy also sold so good as the babyface in peril, as Jericho tried to get the submission with the Walls Of Jericho, which as someone who couldn’t even guess at when Jericho last won a match with that move it was nice to see him get a win with it here, even if it was 20 years ago. Maybe the big headline of this match came afterwards, when Christian came out to try and give the heels an advantage, when of ALL PEOPLE, who should show up in MONTREAL as the BABYFACE saviour… but SHAWN MICHAELS (whom commentary had told us Jericho had HBK banned from ringside during the match after speaking with Raw GM Eric Bischoff)! The crowd reaction wasn’t quite cheers, but definitely wasn’t full boos either, but they were definitely LOUD for HBK. He soon got rid of Jericho before hitting Christian with the superkick. He posed for the crowd after, who again were making a heck of a lot of noise. This was a fun run-in/angle to follow a very good match.

****

We then cut to Team Angle in the locker room (WWE Champion Kurt Angle, and the WWE Tag Team Champions Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas). They were strategizing ahead of their match later in the show, with Angle saying he had a plan for how they’d have a big advantage

We then saw a limo pulling into the backstage area, and from it came Evolution (World Heavyweight Champion Triple H, Ric Flair, Batista & Randy Orton). The Camera, and commentary also pointed out the other vehicle in the area… A large black truck with the skull logo of a certain Texas Rattlesnake on the side.

Lance Storm & William Regal (C) defeated Rob Van Dam & Kane to retain the World Tag Team Championship

Even with Storm being Canadian, the crowd were really behind the challengers, particularly RVD. This was a really solid match, not shocking given the participants. Although we did have one scary moment in the middle, when William Regal got knocked loopy, by of all things a side slam… Kane slammed Regal, who seemed to catch his head badly on the canvas, and it was apparent he wasn’t right. A tag was hastily made, and he did actually carry on with the rest of the match, which of course he shouldn’t have, and in 2023 I’d like to think they would’ve pulled him out of there right away. The finish was quite fun though, and it continued with the long running story, which was still a few months from its crescendo, of Kane losing his mind… As the heels went to try and take Kane’s mask off, with his vision blurred as a result, Kane just chokeslammed the first person he could, which unbeknownst to him was his tag team partner, and thus as a result Storm and Regal were able to pick up the win and escape with the titles.

***

We had a fun little segment backstage next ahead of our next match… As Matt Hardy and his ‘Mattitude’ had a backstage interview, when someone nearby caught his eye…

Matt Hardy V1 (With Shannon Moore) defeated Billy Kidman (C) to win the Cruiserweight Championship

Sadly, the crowd was a little dead for this, but it was still a solid enough match. The story here was Kidman beat Hardy in a match and Hardy was so incensed by it that he got himself down to the Cruiserweight weight limit to challenge Kidman for the title. I think Kidman still works (or at least has done) as a WWE Producer, such was his in-ring capabilities. The finish of this match was quite fun too… with Kidman missing his finish as a result of Shannon Moore’s interference, Hardy then hit a Twist of Fate off the top for the win. Matt Hardy as Cruiserweight Champion still feels very odd to me, but indeed he walked out with the belt here.

***

We then cut to a panicked situation backstage, where Edge had been found laid out. SmackDown GM Stephanie McMahon was among those to witness the scene as various medical officials, and Brock Lesnar (who said he was walking by when he saw Edge had been taken out). It appeared apparent this was the ‘plan’ that Kurt Angle had been referring to earlier in the show. (It should be noted that this segment was done to explain the fact that Edge was going to be out for quite a long time, as he required neck surgery).

The Undertaker defeated Big Show

This was never going to be a classic lets be honest. But the pre-match video that told the story of this feud (so far) was pretty impressive. One particularly impressive spot of the match was when Undertaker did his now classic dive over the ropes, this time onto Paul Heyman and A-Train who were on the outside, although given the size of Undertaker, this spot will never fail to impress me. The finish saw Taker win via submission, in what was a form of Triangle Choke hold… but it was after the match the real impact was made by the oncoming A-TRAIN! As Undertaker went for a chair to really finish Big Show, A-Train got involved in laying out The Undertaker. And so the feud MUST continue…!!!

**1/2

We then went backstage again, to see Edge be placed into an ambulance, with Stephanie McMahon saying that the team had ‘made their decision’ ahead of the next match…

We then cut to another backstage segment, where Raw GM Eric Bischoff was with his chief (kiss-ass) Chief Morley… Bischoff was very confident ahead of his match later with Steve Austin. Into the office came Vince McMahon, who eventually proclaimed the match would definitely be 1on1 with Bischoff and Austin, adding that if anyone interfered in the match, they would be ‘fired on the spot’. And with that, Bischoff’s plans were up in smoke…

(The next match was a Handicap match that saw Team Angle take on a team that included Brock Lesnar. I don’t apologize for this, but I don’t want to talk much about the match given one of the participants. I will say, if you are OK with watching matches with this person, that the match was very good at around ****1/4 , and it did a great job as a pre-cursor and to continue to build the story towards Brock vs Kurt at the upcoming WrestleMania.)

Next up… oh boy… I will say, at least the pre match hype video was cool… But I am also thankful that WWE uploaded this full match to YouTube. Steiner’s body was beginning to break down it seemed, yes he’s still doing stuff now, but his knees were as such that he just couldn’t go at the levels that were needed for him to do as he did both here, and at the Royal Rumble ppv prior to this, and that’s compete for the World title…

Triple H (C) defeated Scott Steiner to retain the World Heavyweight Championship

**1/4

Next we see Eric Bischoff backstage… and as he walks towards the entrance way area, he just so happens to walk past a large group of Raw superstars, gathered in front of a monitor, awaiting the next match… and naturally they … ‘Wish him luck’… and then … it was ON!

Stone Cold Steve Austin defeated Eric Bischoff

There was an excellent video package before the match, telling the story of how Bischoff was under pressure from Vince McMahon to improve in his performance as Raw GM. This led Bischoff to eventually get Stone Cold Steve Austin (who hadn’t been seen in WWE since his infamous ‘walkout’ several months prior), and a match was made by McMahon between the two… Before Bischoff and Austin came out, so did Jim Ross to join the Raw commentary team for the match. As shown in the aforementioned video package, Ross had a CINDER BLOCK smashed over his head by Bischoff, to try and entire and antagonise Austin before their match. Ross was pumped in his hatred of Bischoff, and his overwhelming joy at the prospect of Austin facing him here… Austin gets an ENORMOUS pop from the Montreal crowd. And then, as you can see in the video, proceeds to kick Bischoff’s ass. Sadly he didn’t have too many more days like this, but it’s in-arguable that there has ever been anything quite like Austin in wrestling history…

N/A

Another excellent video package told the story of the show’s main event, a rematch of one of the all-time great WrestleMania matches, one that another Canadian crowd helped turn into a classic. However this time around, it was very clear that the one in this match that the fans were ‘supposed’ to cheer for and the one they wanted to, were very much one and the same…

The Rock defeated Hulk Hogan

As good as the first? No, of course not. But I very much enjoyed this match. The Rock is an awesome heel, better than his face work in my opinion, and the debut run out of ‘Hollywood’ Rock was awesome here. This really was The Rock flexing his proverbial muscles as a performer, and Hogan was a great fighting babyface. The finish was… well if you accept that the means will justify the ends, then it’s easier to understand… but essentially, Hogan does the big fire up spot and finishes that with the Leg Drop… that’s when the lights go out… When they come back on it appears that the referee (who is Sylvain Grenier by the way, who started here as a ‘crooked referee’, and by the end of 2003 was a tag team champion) had been laid out, that’s when Vince McMahon comes out, and with Hogan focused on Vince, the referee slides The Rock a chair… and Rock hits Hogan with the chair, then a Rock Bottom. 1, 2, 3. Yes indeed, we have a SCREWJOB in MONTREAL…

***1/2

After the match; Rock, the crooked ref and Vince all celebrate together… and this is when Vince decides now is his time to strike on a beaten Hogan… Vince takes off his own shirt to reveal a mock up of a Hogan shirt… Vince then basically imitates and humiliates Hogan. And we go off the air with Vince having the last laugh in Montreal…

This would of course set the ground work for Vince vs Hogan at WrestleMania. Where we would also see The Rock vs Steve Austin, and Brock Lesnar vs Kurt Angle. As well as a handicap with A-Train & Big Show facing The Undertaker, and Triple H defending the world title against Booker T. I did do a review of WrestleMania 19 before, and it was a brilliant show so feel free to go back and seek out that review. As for this show, you might not think it from my star ratings on the whole, but No Way Out 2003 served as both a good, drama-filled show in its own right, and a perfect ‘set-up’ show for the upcoming Mania. Aside from one or two matches, the Montreal crowd certainly helped, as did the absurdly stacked roster on display. Let’s hope (particularly for one FORMER honorary Uce) that the 2023 pre-Mania PPV in Montreal is just as fun and dramatic as No Way Out 2003 was.

(My apologies for this blog not being the most detailed review of a show I’ve ever done. I got very ill on the Tuesday, before this blog was released on the Friday (I’ve still not fully recovered) … and I thought it was essential I publish it before Saturday’s Elimination Chamber show. I have a few blogs planned between now and WrestleMania 39, so stay tuned… Also if some of the video links don’t work then my apologies, and they’re easy enough to find on YouTube anyway)…

Josh.