WWE week in review – April 27 2018

Another week in WWE has been and gone. Maybe not as eventful as last week but nonetheless a lot going on. Please note that I’m releasing this on Friday afternoon at around 3pm, so BEFORE the start of the Greatest Royal Rumble. Enjoy!
Friday afternoon: WWE will air a Bruno Sammartino tribute documentary on the network immediately after Raw on Monday. Lovely stuff.
Booker T will temporarily replace Jonathan Coachman on commentary for Raw Monday (Coach is away covering a golf even, as his WWE contract also allows him to cover other sporting events alongside his WWE commitments). THANK GOD! MAKE THIS A PERMANENT THING! If you thought Booker T was bad then my oh MY Coach is AWFUL! Just to annoying and his points he makes and delivery of them are abysmal.
Alexa Bliss has reportedly had a boob job. This is being given as a reason why she hasn’t gone on WWE’s tour to South Africa. oi oi…
Friday Evening: WWE announce Asuka & Becky Lynch vs The IIconics (Billie Kay & Peyton Royce) for Smackdown this week. Great stuff. Billie and Peyton worked really well with Asuka in NXT so this should be good.
Saturday: a selfie posted by Alexa Bliss (showing off her new ‘boosted’ … ‘assets’) now has more likes than posts of the Wrestlemania returns of Daniel Bryan and The Undertaker. Wrestling fans……………….
Sunday: WWE release a new promotional image for the Greatest Royal Rumble match. It features (amongst others) Gallows and Anderson, Mark Henry, The Great Khali and Rey Mysterio. Expected really beens as they NEED soooooo many men to fill this match, but the big names of Henry and more notably Khali (not good) and Rey (absolutely brilliant) are a nice bonus.
Sunday Afternoon: WWE reveal 8 athletes have been successful at the tryouts in Saudi Arabia. And at least one of them will compete in the Greatest Royal Rumble match. cough cough *MONEY* cough cough…. lets hope whoever they choose gets a nice pop from the home crowd, and doesn’t embarrass themselves in the match.
Monday: John Cena turns 41 today. Given recent events lets hope he has a good one.
Monday Evening: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has once again become a father. MY GUY!!!
Ronda Rousey vs Mickie James announced for the upcoming WWE European (UK included) tour. Great match up this. Mickie is one of the most experienced and best wrestlers on the female roster, so putting Ronda with her in a run of singles matches is a wise move.
Monday: RAW

  • Bruno Sammartino tribute package airs to begin the show. Followed by a 10 bell salute. The tribute video was excellent, and also featured Vince McMahon SENIOR speaking about Bruno.
  • Lesnar and Heyman came out to open the show properly. Heyman cut a long promo, Reigns then came out and cut a promo of his own, standing face to face with Brock. The promo was good but long from Paul and not much of any difference to his pre-mania ones. And although it was obviously positive that Roman finally stood toe-to -toe with Lesnar, the lack of a physical altercation between the two was a tad disappointing.
  • Elias came out for another ‘performance’, he was though interrupted by Bobby Roode and the two had a match following. Elias eventually won with a roll up. A tad surprising that they had Roode lose after giving him the show closing spot when making his Raw arrival last week, but nonetheless this is surely only the beginning of an angle between these two so that should be fun.
  • WOKEN Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt cut a usual promo of theirs. they then beat The Ascension. No surprises at all here. Matt and Bray worked great together, their opponents are about as jobber as you could get.
  • Owens and Zayn presented ‘The Kevin & Sami show’ with Kurt Angle as their guest. They were very condescending with him, the gave him a tacky fold-out chair to sit on, and were just generally disrespectful to the Raw GM. He responded in kind (after they spoke of them winning the Greatest Royal Rumble match) by reminding them that he himself as well as Daniel Bryan and Chris Jericho were also in the match and wanted to repay them for past grievances. He then also put Zayn and Owens in a tag team match later in the show against Bobby Lashley and Braun Strowman. This was excellent simply put. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens are just the best heel for a long time. HILARIOUS!
  • Bo Dallas and Curtiz Axel were backstage in the locker room with Seth Rollins. And as The Miz had departed to Smackdown the pair looked to Rollins to be the new team leader, with the idea they could be a 2nd version of The Shield. Seth said it was a “firm no”. This was pretty funny.
  • Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler beat Titus worldwide. Both then cut a promo afterwards with McIntyre being particularity vocal in his new heel persona. Drew also had new music (his old one with a heavy drum beat over the top of it). Drew’s was awesome here in his promo, so much fire in him. This guy is going to be a MEGASTAR! And he’s going to drag Dolph to stardom with him too for a time anyway.
  • Kurt Angle was backstage with Chad Gable (who it appears is a face now). Jinder Mahal eventually interrupted to set up a match after a brief ad break. The two had an ok match with Gable surprisingly getting the win. Jinder was furious as a result. 2 weeks on Raw, 2 matches, 2 losses for Mahal… hmm… when has a losing streak ever got anyone over? VERY rarely. Kind of obvious to me. Anyway at least Chad Gable is a great wrestler, so any chance he gets to showcase his stuff is a good time for me. So fingers crossed it continues and he build sup a decent character along the way.
  • The Riott Squad do a backstage interview with Renee, ahead of the 10 woman tag that will close the show. No thoughts really. It was fine. Ruby is great, needs to be a face though.
  • Samoa Joe did a cell phone promo. Fairly similar to what he said on Smackdown last week. Similar yes, but still really good work. Joe comes across as such a believable scary, monster, heel guy.
  • Finn Balor was in the locker room area with Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel. Bo and Curtis were wearing the “OG BC” t shirts and attempted to too sweet and team up with Finn. Finn declined. This was jokes.
  • Bobby Lashley and Braun Strowman faced Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn. Finish came when Lashley did his delayed suplex to Zayn before tagging in Braun and he quickly did his running Powerslam for thew win. This was absolutely tremendous. All 4 guys played their role wonderfully. It was really entertaining. One conclusion that was clear as day for me after this though, was that Braun Strowman SHOULD be the guy. Not Roman. BRAUN. Now!
  • Baron Corbin was due to face No Way Jose (accompanied by his ‘conga line’, but after Jose came with his dancing friends to the ring Corbin came out and essentially said he wouldn’t be doing the match for fear some of the conga line would jump him. Corbin went to the back, Jose danced back up the ramp anyway before Corbin came back out and attacked Jose. This was fine enough, without being amazing.
  • Alexa Bliss was shown in a filmed segment, billed as a public service announcement, entitled: A Moment of Bliss. She cut a very solemn figure, and spoke very softly as she put across her “anti-bullying” message as she told a story about her ‘former best friend’ Nia Jax stealing a Burrito from a homeless person. This was one of the best women’s segment I had seen in a LONG time! Alexa Bliss acting here was out of this world good! I laughed. Maybe that wasn’t the intention but it was brilliant.
  • After their separate confrontations earlier in the show, Finn Balor and Seth Rollins beat Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel (as they have done on the house show segment recently) in quick fashion. Meh.
  • Natalya held court in the locker room with her tag team members for the main event: Ember Moon, Nia Jax (who each spoke separately too) and Sasha and Bayley. As the 3 other women made their exit Sasha tried to smile at Bayley but Bayley returned with a glare and shrugged off her sign of reconciliation it seemed. This segment was straight out of BORESVILLE!!! And Bayley vs Sasha maybe the worst feud of the year. NOTHING is happening!!!
  • The Raw main event then saw the team of Natalya, Ember Moon, Nia Jax, Sasha Banks and Bayley take on The Riott Squad (Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan), Mickie James and Alexa Bliss. Match came to an end when Sarah Logan chop blocked Natalya and hurt her knee real bad, Mickie James then tried to further hurt Nattie. That was when Ronda Rousey’s music hit to make the save, she helped her friend but was then kicked down by James. This prompted Ronda to enter the ring and do a Judo Throw and locked the Armbar in on James (this ended the match on a DQ). So: match was a bit of a clusterfuck, Alexa did absolutely nothing in the match (further evidence they’re keeping her away from action as she recovers from her ‘surgery’), Bayley and Sasha had ZERO interactions to advance their storyline, Ronda was a megastar and her spots with Mickie James looked so natural it gives me great hope for what looks like a feud between thew two going forward. But most of all… WWE… don’t think I don’t see you… putting all your Raw women in a match that you’ve just thrown them all in to, putting it on last and having your top female star close the show looking strong… just a few days before a massive event your promoting… that women just so happens are NOT on. I see right through you!

Monday: After Raw had finished WWE did indeed air a new Bruno Sammartino documentary on the WWE network. It was really good.
X Pac reveals on his podcast that had Bruno and the WWE not come to an agreement on his Hall of Fame induction in 2013, DX as a group were going to be the headline replacement instead.
Tuesday = A Backlash contract signing for Carmella’s Smackdown Women’s Championship defense against former champion Charlotte Flair AND Miz TV with guest Daniel Bryan are both announced as segments for Smackdown this evening. GREAT! Particularly the later announced segment will be enthralling!
Paul Heyman will reportedly NOT be travelling to Saudi Arabia for the Greatest Royal Rumble event this Friday. Hmm… this is interesting and potentially concerning… we shall see…

Along with Carmella vs Charlotte, Nia Jax vs Alexa Bliss is also confirmed for the upcoming Backlash ppv.
Zack Ryder reveals on social media that (in his match against Mike Kanellis that was tapped for the Main Event show on the network, tapped before Raw) he suffered a knee injury. He was not flying to Saudi Arabia but instead to Orlando for an MRI. Gut wrenching stuff this. Particularly when he’s just moved brands. Hopefully it’s not too serious. Got loads of talent has Zack, sadly never given a proper and long enough chance to showcase it.
Tuesday : Smackdown
– Miz TV was supposed to be with Daniel Bryan, but instead Big Cass came out in a great looking suit. They both talked down about Bryan. I guess this delays the inevitable Miz – Bryan feud…

Asuka and Becky Lynch are shown backstage as they are about to make their entrances for their match, but they stop walking upon seeing Daniel Bryan in the floor being tended to by officials. He has apparently been attacked (presumably by Big Cass)
– The IIconics come out, cut a promo then beat Becky and Asuka in a tag match. Finish coming when Peyton pinned Lynch whilst her feet were on the ropes. Good for Billie Kay and Royce to get a big win early in their main roster career, but Asuka losing a match AGAIN?!?!?!
– Renee Young is shown outside Shane McMahon’s office, but instead AJ Styles comes out looking very pleased with himself. He reveals their will be a 6 man tag match in the main event later on, pitting him and 2 partners vs Shinsuke Nakamura, Rusev and Aiden English. Intriguing… I hope it’s what I think this is… But strange how after weeks of Rusev and English beating in him, Nakamura is now teaming with them. Heel or not, some continuity would be nice…
– a hype video plays for the upcoming Smackdown arrival of former NXT Champion Andrade Almas and his business associate Zelina Vega. YES YES YES! IM ALL IN ON THESE TWO!!!
– Naomi and The Usos did a segment from the locker room. Naomi expressed her concerns ahead of Jimmy Uso’s match with Rowan later. So… they’re all in on showing Naomi as Mrs Uso on TV as well now then… ok…
— Rowan (with Harper) v Jimmy (with Jey). Rowan dominates until Noami makes her entrance (neon clothes and flashy lights and all). This distracts Rowan enough to allow Jimmy to get a shock win. You have to give The Usos a bit of build going into this match I guess…
– Renee hosts a contract signing between Charlotte and Carmella. Carmella makes her way out first, she gloats and then shows a video package showing her road to becoming champion… Twice! But half way through the 2nd showing Charlotte comes out. She takes her seat at the other side of the set out table, Carmella continues to talk trash which leads Charlotte to slam Carmella’s head into the table and then flip the table onto her. This went the way every single contract signing ever in WWE has gone, nonetheless it was good enough.
– Dasha Fuentes is outside Shinsuke Nakamura’s locker room, instead Aiden English comes out and tells her “sorry, no questions”FANTASTIC!
– Shelton Benjamin looked set to take on US Champion Jeff Hardy in a rematch from last week’s show. But instead Randy Orton passed Hardy on the ramp (reverse of last week) and he took the match instead. With Jeff at ringside throughout a masked man attacked him. Orton dragged the man into the ring and took his mask off to reveal it was Jinder Mahal’s ally Sunil Singh. Singh got an RKO for his troubles but this was enough to provide Benjamin with the chance to get the upset win. ANOTHER DISTRACTION WIN WTF IS HAPPENING?!
– New Day backstage segment featuring a candle lit pancake dinner (don’t ask, just go with it) … The Bar came in and played party poopers. Simple stuff. Fued been done before, but wouldn’t be against it on Smackdown.
– AJ is in the locker room… with… GALLOWS AND ANDERSON!!! HALLELUJAH!!!
– Sanity hype package video. I still am sad Nikki Cross is sticking around in NXT but nonetheless I’m so excited for their arrival to Smackdown!
– Renee Young interview backstage with Daniel Bryan. His shoulder was heavily bandaged up. He was really fired up and revealed Smackdown GM Paige had made Bryan vs Big Cass for Backlash. Awesome. MASSIVE opportunity for Big Cass.
– Samoa Joe pre-filmed promo. Same sort of content as has been recently. But still as good.
– Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson followed by WWE Champion AJ Styles came out. They were followed by their opponents; Aiden English, Rusev and finally Shinsuke Nakamura (who had new music. A take on his old one but with a Japanese singer and an electric guitar playing over it. It was cool AF to me). Decent match ended with Nakamura predictably pinning Gallows after a Kinshasa. After the match AJ brawled with Shinsuke, until Nakamura once again low blowed the champion and then hit Karl Anderson with his signature knee strike as Anderson took the BULLET for his friend. Simply put this aftermath was wonderful. Really builds the grudge match feeling going into Friday, stunning contrast to the ultra respectful build to their last meeting. But by a long way the build to this has been so much better from a storytelling standpoint. Nakamura has gone to even higher levels as a performer as a heel. And given how good he was before that’s saying a lot!
– 2 other segments related to the show were put out by WWE; Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose mocking a crestfallen Becky Lynch backstage (presumably setting up a match next week) and also Tye Dillinger on the phone to R Truth, who it appears didn’t find his way to the arena………. yeah…..
205 Live featured the gauntlet match to decide the challenger for Cedric Alexander’s Cruserweight title at the Greatest Royal Rumble event. The match saw Mustafa Ali beat TJP, Drew Gulak then beat Ali, Gulak beat former friend Tony Nese, and then finally Kalisto beat Gulak to book his ticket to Jeddah.
Wednesday morning: so it now appears Paul Heyman WILL be making the trip to Saudi Arabia, he just will do so later on the week. PHEW!
Wednesday: WWE has now officially confirmed Rey Mysterio, Mark Henry, The Great Khali, Shane McMahon, Randy Orton and Kevin Owens will be in the Greatest Royal Rumble match. Again not a massive surprise… a 50 man match, there isn’t going to be many names NOT in it.
Wednesday evening: Zack Ryder reveals his injury isn’t as bad as first feared, and that nothing is torn or broken just strains suffered. No surgery needed. Thank god! Would be last thing he needs. Hope to see him back soon.
Tye Dillinger points out on twitter that he is not featured in the advertising for the Greatest Royal Rumble event. Dangerous came you’re playing there Tye…
Wednesday: NXT

  • Undisputed Era came out and each cut a promo. Adam Cole was last and spoke about his North American title match against Oney Lorcan. He said he would win by himself and even laughed about needing help to win the match. This was great. All 4 members are really into their role, particularly the newly turned Roderick Strong.
  • Cole retained his title against Lorcan. Cole had his ribs tapped up, and at one point Lorcan threw Cole onto the ropes on his ribs. Kyle O’Reilly ran down with a doctor to see if he was ok, in the meantime Roderick Strong came out and gave Lorcan a back suplex onto the apron. Adam Cole was suddenly ok, and he then hit his finisher on Lorcan to retain the title. After the finish Danny Burch tried to stop Undisputed Era beating down his tag partner, but he was beaten down too. This was expected, but I’m a big Undisputed Era fan so I loved it. Give me Adam Cole and his cronies beating people up and being arrogant dicks all day long pls.
  • Shayna Baszler video package.
  • Bianca Belair video package, She’ll face Candice LeRae next week. Great, should be a fun match.
  • Heavy Machinery beat Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli. I love NXT, but I couldn’t be less uinterested in these two tag teams if I tried.
  • There was a video shown setting up potential challengers for the NXT Women’s Championship. Featured were Nikki Cross, Aliyah, and Kairi Sane. Aliyah? DPMO. Don’t even put her in the same conversation as my two girls!!!!!!!!!! HOW DARE YOU!!!!!
  • Dakota Kai was shown being interviewed by Cathy Kelley about Shayna Baszler earlier in the day. Kai didn’t want to talk about Baszler even though Kelley kept asking about her. Shayna then walked in. Baszler talked down to her and said that Baszler running the women’s division is Dakota’s worst nightmare. I like Dakota don’t get me wrong, but I hope this is just a TV feud, and they give Baszler another challenger for the next Takeover.
  • Kona Reeves with another hype package. ZZZZZZzzzzz…..
  • Lacey Evans, Vanessa Borne, & Candice LeRae also were shown saying they too would defeat the NXT Women’s Champion Baszler if they got the chance. I feel like there may be a multi women or battle royal type match in the upcoming weeks to decide the next main challenger. Far too many women talking directly about challenging the champion for it not to be for a purpose.

Next week we will have TM61 vs The Street Profits & Pete Dunne vs. Roderick Strong.

  • Johnny Gargano came to the ring for his NXT championship match with Aleister Black. But on hos way to the ring he was jumped by Tommaso Ciampa. Ciampa threw Gargano into the stage, Johhny fought-back until Ciampa gave him a low blow. Ciampa then kicked Gargano in the head and, ignoring the officials that had come out to try and stop the attack, then gave him an Emerald Fusion through some production tables off the stage area. (The same spot he did when he originally turned on his former partner almost 1 year ago). The medics stretchered Gargano away, Kassius Ohno was among those who cam to help out, Aleister Black too arrived to see what was happening. As the ambulance drove away the camera zoomed out and there Ciampa was pictured on top of a ring truck. This was heartbreaking obviously, but absolutely brilliant stuff. This incredible rivalry is NOT done then, so maybe a gimmick match between the two soon? Cage? HELL IN A CELL???
  • Aleister Black came out to the ring and took to the mic and appeared to be about to challenge Tomasso Ciampa (GIVE ME THIS MATCH PLEASE), but instead he was interrupted by SAnitY! Eric Young said that Gargano’s hope was taken away by chaos, but that ” we will find hope and we will find sanity”. As Young was about to continue Black saw what was coming and challenged Young to face him for his title! So the match took place, and it wasn’t spectacular but it was fine. Black won with a Black Mass. and as both Alexander Wolfe and Killian Dain got in the ring to try and avenge their leader’s loss, they were both Black Mass victims too, as Black ended the show holding his title and standing tall. Presumably this was done to give Sanity there sendoff before they officially move to Smackdown. But it was fun enough, and the champion looking strong is something I will never be against, particularity when that man is Aleister Black, and he is cool AF!

Thursday:

Moustache Mountain (Trent Seven and Tyler Bate) issue a challenge to the Undisputed Era for WWE’s UK Championship shows in June, via a video released on WWE’s twitter. If we could have Undisputed Era vs British Strong Style (the name on the indies for the collective group of Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate and Trent Seven) that’d be great. Thanks.
Triple H announces potential plans for NXT to go global via ‘global localization’ (the idea being there will be feeder-like promotions in countries all over the world, all feeding eventually towards the main NXT brand and the main roster shows). This information was actually made available during Triple H’s conference call over Wrestlemania weekend, but seems to have only come to light now. This is really exciting for WWE but does seem as if they are attempting to take over the world, which might not please some other smaller promotions over the globe.

Friday:
It’s the Greatest Royal Rumble later TODAY! They have extra comfy seats at ringside… the type you’d see in a posh lounge. This show is going to be CRAZY! I’m absolutely fascinated to see it!

Josh.

NXT 14/3/18 Review: More of the same (aka it was great)

NXT will be headlined tonight by the official contract signing between the NXT Champion Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas and his challenger for the title at NXT Takeover: New Orleans, Aleister Black. Should be great stuff.

The show opens with Sanity (who I like… A LOT) vs Tino Sabatelli and Riddick Moss (who I like not so much) in their first round match of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. Eric Young and Alexander Wolfe representing their team in this one, with the monstrous Killian Dain and the psychotic Nikki Cross at ringside. Wolfe and Riddick Moss starting this one, Moss and Sabatelli exchanged tags as they worked on the German, “Tino sucks” chants were indulged by Sabatelli as he responded by reminding them of his abs, Moss got a nearfall after a neckbreaker with a leg sweep, Sabatelli went to get the tag from Moss but he accidentally hit Tino off the apron. This brief miscommunication between the 2 allowed Eric Young to finally enter the match, he unleashed a set of strikes and a tremendous looking dropkick to Sabatelli, he hit a slam, followed by a big Elbow Drop from the Sanity leader but Riddick Moss pulled Young out of the ring to stop the pin count at 2.

Nikki Cross then reacted furiously to Moss’ interference by performing a flying crossbody to take him out (any time she does anything I’m going to like it because she is great), this prompted “Nikki Cross” chants from the Atlanta crowd. Meanwhile in the ring Alexander Wolfe & Eric Young performed their tag team finishing move on (which I’m reliably informed by the NXT lead commentator; the ultra-talented caller Mauro Ranallo, thanks Mauro, that the move was a ‘Belly to Back suplex with a Neckbreaker’). Sanity get the win, something I’m never going to take issue with so all good report from me because they are great.

Next we had Tommaso Ciampa making his way out to a chorus of boos. There were also a large amount of signs bearing the Johhny Gargano face/symbol on them. Ciampa goes in the ring and attempts to talk on the mic, he tries twice to speak but is stopped each time by the volume of boos from the crowd (just like last week). He eventually drops the mic and gives up which prompts the “YES” chants from the fans in attendance, he rolls out the ring, walks slowly around the outisde of the ring whilst looking into the crowd at all the Gargano signs as he does so, chants of “Ciampa sucks” and “we want Johnny” start, Ciampa looks furious and makes his way to the back, briefly pausing on the ramp way to look back as the fans start the “Hey, hey, hey, GOODBYE” song. This again was really well done. The crowd just hate this guy for what he’s done. He’s got so much heat on him, and that means he’s doing his job as a heel really well. And he is because the fans really hate him and they really love Gargano. This story is all being told SO well, I look forward to it continuing to unfold…

Lacey Evans is out next for her match. You will recall last week how she ran down her opponent for tonight in an interview, Dakota Kai, who makes her way to the ring next. She is sporting supportive sports tape in relation to the injury that was handed to her a few weeks ago now by Shayna Baszler (as was referred to by Evans last week, whom basically said she would target the inured arm in their match). And she did just that with strikes and then a submission hold. However this was reversed by Kai into a roll up and Dakota Kai got the win in less than a couple of minutes if that. Evans was shocked and Kai was delighted as her surprise win.

Kai’s celebrations were cut short then by the arrival of Shayna Baszler. Kai looked terrified as Baszler entered the ring and starred her down. But before any attack could take place the NXT Women’s Champion Ember Moon came out (remember the champion has been called out repeatedly by Baszler for a few weeks now). Moon told Baszler that ‘you really wanna do this again? … you started it but I’m gonna finish it at Takeover: New Orleans!’. Moon and Baszler then brawled, Baszler hit Moon with a really strong looking punch (that Ember really sold well), the referees tried to seperate the 2, Moon hit Baszler with a strong kick, she went to the top rope but Shayna got up to hit her down, and then as Shayna had the Champion in some form of hold whilst trapped on the top turnbuckle, Dakota Kai came in and kicked Baszler down, and with The Queen of Spades laying prone in the ring Ember went off the top rope and hit her with a 1 armed Eclipse (a stunner flying from the top rope, its a great looking move).

Moon stood tall over Baszler and unleashed her warrior scream to end the segment. This was all really well done and advances the feud nicely. I look forward to Takeover and these 2 battling again. Who wins? I really don’t know but I wouldn’t rule out Shayna winning the title and then Ember winning the Women’s Battle Royal at Wrestlemania the next night… I’d REALLY love that to happen…

Street Profits (who I feel have potential to get over more than they already are) vs Heavy Machinery (who… well I DON’T GIVE A SHIT about to be honest) in the first round of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic action next. Match was ok. Crowd was into Street Profits as an act, not really the match or Heavy Machinery. The finish saw Angelo Dawkins hit a DDT then Montez Ford hit a frog splash to give Street Profits the win (thank GOD). My thoughts? I really like Street Profits as an act, Heavy Machinery powerful, babyface act I just don’t care about one bit. Them both as performers just bore the shit out of me.

Next up was ADAM COLE (with Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish by his side) coming to the ring, I quite like Undisputed Era. Collectively and individually excellent. There was a particularly enthusiastic ‘ADAM COLE BAY-BAY’ from the crowd which was cool, as was the huge pop the crowd gave Cole’s opponent in this championship match; the United Kingdom champion Pete Dunne. Now… this is another of those matches where I didn’t take too many notes, because I was sat back watching two of my absolute favourites having a fantastic match. Pete Dunne is just SOOOOOOO good, he’s unlike anyone else in WWE or NXT stylistically, and just as I write that he’s bending Adam Cole’s fingers back. Brilliant! Bobby Fish on the outside acting as Adam Cole’s coach and cheerleader was highly hilarious, Dunne showing off his wide variety of moves to punish Cole throughout, but Cole was responding in kind with some impressive moves of his own. These two just look so good in the ring, such smoothness and crispness with everything they do. Lots of superkicks, lots of strong forearms from both men, it was tremendous stuff. I urge you, even if you don’t watch NXT, watch this match because it was tremendous fun. The finish came when Pete Dunne had Adam Cole in position for his Bitter End finishing move, but Fish & O’Reilly came in and attacked The Bruserweight and the match was called off. RODERICK STRONG then came out to make the save, and Dunne & Strong cleared Undisputed Era out of the ring. Strong coming to save his opponent for the UK title just a few weeks ago was an interesting move, Strong too has had previous with Cole, Fish and O’Reilly and shares a distain for them with Dunne. Both men then face off with eachother in the ring, with Strong offering his hand to Dunne, but Pete Dunne would not shake his former foes hand but did show he held some mutual respect for him. This was all AMAZING stuff! Be good to see how this is played out in the next few weeks. I’ve a feeling this isn’t over…

The show concluded with what turned into a really fun and interesting segment. NXT GM William Regal was in the ring, he introduced Aleister Black to the ring for his contract signing of his NXT Championship challenge at Takeover: New Orleans. He’s really good isn’t he Aleister Black, as good and as well presented as the FRESH suit he was wearing. Next the music of the champion Andrade Almas hits, but it is instead his business associate Zelina Vega who comes to the ring as a confused Black looks on. Vega reveals that Almas isn’t here tonight, but that she is. Black refuses to look at her as Vega tries to get his attention, she says as his business associate it is her duty to make sure he [Almas] saves his beating to you [Black] until Takeover: New Orleans. She goes to speak some more but is stopped by Black putting his hand in her face. Black then moves the table that was in the middle of the ring for the contract signing, he goes and stands closely in front of Vega who is still berating him, before he then sits on the floor in his signature fashion and then says “at least now we’re on the same level” (BRILLIANT)! Vega doesn’t respond to well to this, she signs the contract and throws it over to Black, who then makes more jokes about Vega’s height that she responds to by slapping him. Aleister then signs the contract and hands it over to William Regal, he leaves the ring (Vega is STILL having a go at Black), and Aleister then says to her “I’m happy you came out alone tonight… because I didn’t…” …. AND THEN… CANDICE LERAE (AKA MRS JOHHNY GARGANO) comes running out and attacks and chases down Vega. She really went for her and finished off her attack with a bulldog out of the corner and she then stands tall over Vega in the ring. Candice then stands with Black on the rampway as the NXT episode ends. GIVE ME ZELINA VEGA VS CANDICE LERAE AT TAKEOVER PLEASE I BEG!!!!????!!!

And that was NXT. Great again? What a shocker…!

Key Points to Take Home

. Sanity are the best stable in WWE

. Tomasso Ciampa is the most despised heel in WWE (AKA HE’S DOING HIS JOB RIGHT)

. Ember Moon needs to go to the main roster after Takeover

. Pete Dunne should be the NXT Champion let alone the UK Champion, he’s that good

. Black vs Almas is going to be so good

Conclusion

I feel like a broken record, every week I say NXT was great and it was really well booked. So I’ll spare you the details and just say that of course there are a few acts I care little for but NXT have a pretty good ratio and percentage of making me care about a large majority of the product. And not just care but absolutely love and adore it! If HHH is running NXT then I cannot wait until he runs the entire WWE. Exciting times ahead!!!

Josh.

NXT 21/2/2018 Review: THANK YOU JOHNNY

NXT tonight begins with a great video package on the evolution of the NXT career of the current NXT Champion, Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas. This is, of course, ahead of his championship vs NXT career match against Johnny Gargano later in this episode. We certainly have an absolute BLOCKBUSTER NXT ahead of us…

We begin with The Velveteen Dream (you may well be aware but I quite like The Velveteen Dream… A LOT) as he makes his usual provocative, flamboyant entrance, he’s followed by his opponent, another showman, NXT veteran No Way Jose. Should be fun indeed this one. “VEL-VE-TEEN” chants from the crowd as the match begins with The Dream starting with some real hard hitting attacks, he does a dance move where he shakes his hips to mock the moves that No Way Jose usually exhibits. No Way Jose responds with an attack before sending Velveteen over the top rope before flying over to topple his opponent and reclaim control of the match.

Both men are then back in the ring now and Dream hangs Jose on the ropes, hits a neckbreaker and then after going to the top rope he then only runs into a raised foot from his opponent and then a small package that got a 2 count. Dream is hit by multiple shots, he’s slammed down, hit in the corner, slammed down again, tossed into a turnbuckle before he finally comes back with a missile dropkick followed by a rolling Death Valley driver from the Velveteen Dream. He then goes to the top and hits his Purple Rainmaker elbow drop and the Velveteen Dream claims the win. Good little match this, Velveteen’s development continues, he is THE future of NXT and WWE, mark my words! After the match he cuts a promo and (with more “VEL-VE-TEEN” chants from the adoring Atlanta crowd) explains that with all the awards he won at the NXT awards for 2017 that nobody cares about fellow award winners Aleister Black, Asuka or Tyler Bate. And that, acknowledging the crowd chants, that his name is on the tip of everyone’s tongue here tonight and if you can’t see that “I just don’t have time for you”… Velveteen Dream is great. Simple as.

Next Andrade Almas and his associate Zelina Vega are shown in the locker room with Vega giving him a motivational talk. After this NXT GM William Regal announces the return of the ‘Dusty Rhodes Classic’ tag team tournament. This was set up in honour of the NXT founding father that it is named after, and has run twice previously in 2015 and 2016. Regal announces that the winners of the tournament will receive an NXT Tag Team title opportunity at NXT Takeover: New Orleans. I must admit I am surprised they are having the tournament over and done with this quickly BEFORE Takeover, especially given the team I believe will win the Classic have only just arrived in WWE, and therefore I’d be surprised if they got the title opportunity immediately, but saying that I would be PLEASANTLY surprised if that were to be the case.

Random point but I must just comment on how absolutely excellent the NXT commentary team are. Mauro Ranallo may be the best lead announcer in the game, Nigel McGuinness the best colour commentator and Percy Watson has really come into his own in the past few months. Just another reason to watch NXT every week. Anyway on with the rest of the show… Up next is Sanity’s Nikki Cross vs Vanessa Borne (I’ve a feeling I might like this one…). The Mae Young Classic competitor out first followed by one of my absolute favourites, to a big crowd pop; the Glaswegian, twisted sister Nikki Cross. One of the best characters in NXT right now and her commitment to the role is first class, basically she is a psychopath. And her in ring work is sound to say the least (I’d advise watching her last woman standing match with Asuka when you can), and I absolutely love her.

Nikki Cross immediately charges Vanessa Borne and unleashes on her in the corner. The unhinged Cross then climbs the back of Borne before a 360 slam from the former dancer gets her a 2 count. Vanessa hits a strong forearm for another 2 count. She then stomps repeatedly upon Nikki before burying her shin in Cross’ neck following up with a great suplex for another nearfall. Cross tries to get out of a rest hold but Vanessa slams her down to the canvas for yet another 2 count. Nikki Cross, with her signature sadistic smile, is hit repeatedly by Borne, a banshee type scream from Sanity’s leading lady is followed up with a crossbody and a series of forearms from Cross. Cross then finds herself on the top rope and delivers a diving crossbody followed by a swinging neck breaker to give her the win. A typical NXT structure to this match, but it was still good. Nikki got all her stuff in and Vanessa looked good in what she did too. With apologies to Drew McIntyre, Miss Hooley and Amy Macdonald it could well be Nikki Cross who is my favourite person from the Scottish isles. She is really, really, REALLY great!

There’s then a brief recap of the Aleister Black – Killian Dain confrontation from last week. I’m all for everything to do with this. Johnny Gargano is then shown with Candice LeRae backstage looking very focussed ahead of his big match tonight. They’re my favourite wresting couple, so much love for them both. A tweet from TM61’s Shane Thorne is then shown in relation to the Dusty Rhodes Classic. TM61 actually got to the final of the last rendition, and it was after that match TM61 were off TV for over a year due to injury. Another brief recap then shows the Ember Moon – Shayna Baszler match from last week and the intervention of Kairi Sane. It’s announced following this that the Queen of Spades will next week go one on one with The Pirate Princess as Baszler will face Sane in a rematch of the Mae Young Classic final (YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES!!!).

Well here we go then; out comes the NXT champion Andrade Almas with Zelina Vega by his side (these two just ooze star power). They are then followed out by Mr AND Mrs Wrestling as Candice LeRae accompanies her husband Johnny Gargano to the ring, Candice sporting a ‘Mrs Johnny Wrestling’ t shirt (this was too many levels of adorable). The match begins with Almas trying to win quickly and failing. Almas then kneeing Gargano, before Gargano hits a step-up inziguiri in the corner, a lariat and a clothesline then sends Almas to the outside, Johnny then goes to perform his signature Tope Suiceda move but instead it is Vega who is stood in Almas’ previous position which causes Gargano to pause. In frustration Candice then chases after Vega to the back of the arena. Finally Almas doesn’t have his trusted aide by his side.

Johnny hits a flurry of punches to Andrade on the outside, he throws him back in the ring but Almas eventually slams him down on the ring apron. Back in the ring and ‘El Idolo’ gets a 2 count. He then delivers a brutal-looking armbar using the ring ropes for leverage, followed up with another flurry of punches. Almas then shows some good foresight with a hammerlock submission move and then driving Gargano’s shoulder into the turnbuckle, the commentary team noting this damage to his shoulder will make it more difficult for Gargano to lock in his Gargano Escape submission later in the match. Another Almas nearfall is greeted with a chorus of “JOHHNY WRESTLING” chants from the crowd, much to the champion’s annoyance although he is well in control now.

Almas then has an armlock locked in, but Gargano counters with knees to Almas’ mid-section, a suplex and a kick from Gargano, he chops away at Almas in the corner, then the same in another corner, a hurricanrana and then a beautiful Slingshot Spear, all of which ONLY gets Gargano a 2 count. Both men exchange strikes, Johnny goes for a superkick but it is countered as Almas powers up and hits a Bucklebomb followed up with his running knees in the corner but Mr Wrestling is somehow able to kick out of the pin attempt (all terrific stuff from Almas whilst on offence here). Almas goes for his finisher but Gargano drives Andrade into the corner, only for that to be reversed and Gargano’s shoulder again taking more damage. With both men on the ring apron they exchange strikes before Gargano, having put Almas back into the ring, attempts a slingshot DDT that is caught and turned into a wonderful-looking Fujiwara armbar from Almas. Gargano only escapes this by rolling Andrade up for a nearfall pin attempt.

Johnny Wrestling himself then goes for a hammerlock ddt of his own that is turned into a small package from Almas, Gargano then does one of his own with both getting 2 counts. Almas then does his double knees in the corner move again for another nearfall. Unsuccessful with this, Andrade then places Gargano on the top ropes, but Gargano responds with headbutts to knock Almas down, Gargano then performs an exquisite Tope Suiceda into a tornado DDT followed by a slingshot DDT on Almas in the ring, but this still only gets a 2 count.

With both men on their knees inside the ring exchanging strikes, this continues when both men return to their feet. Gargano then finds himself on Almas shoulders but escapes, and as Almas charges at him to retaliate he instead charges and knocks down the referee. With the authority figure in the match down Gargano locks in the Gargano Escape looking on the verge of the NXT Championship… but then…

TOMASSO CIAMPA (Gargano’s former tag team partner, see my Johnny Gargano blog for the back story here) is in the ring. He hits Gargano with a crutch before escaping through the crowd. Almas then hits a Hammerlock DDT and with the ref back up, much to the verbal horror of Mauro Ranallo on commentary, Almas wins the match. Johnny Gargano’s NXT career is OVER!

It seems secondary given the quality of the story being told but the match itself was really good. Almas and Vega go to the back as they celebrate, as Candice LeRae returns to the ring to console her despondent husband. Crowd seems in shock. Standing ovation for maybe the finest wrestler we have ever had in NXT. “NO NO NO” chants the crowd as the ring announcer proclaims, per the match stipulation, that Gargano must indeed leave NXT. “THANK YOU JOHNNY” they chant as Gargano and LeRae make their exit. The final shot of the show is of a content looking Ciampa waving his former friend goodbye. What this all means and where it all goes remains to be seen, but this storytelling has been first class.

And that was yet another fantastic episode of NXT.

Key points to take home:

– Velveteen is a Dream

– Nikki Cross would be fine on her own if it came to it, she’s that good

– War Machine… that is all

– What now for Gargano?

– What now for Ciampa?

Conclusion

The people who run and write Smackdown should watch NXT. That’s how you tell compelling stories utilising all your top talents whilst not even having to have them appear on TV every week. NXT does this beautifully. It really does fill me with joy every time I watch it. I’ll always be grateful for you NXT, you’re the best!

Josh.

NXT 7/2/18 Review: the WRESTLING show.

So here’s my first review of my favourite wrestling show in the world. Best roster. Best overall product. So let’s get into this weeks episode of NXT shall we?

We start off (once again emanating from Atlanta, Georgia which is a nice change from Full Sail) with The Undisputed Era (Adam Cole ‘Bay Bay!’ & the NXT Tag Team Champions Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly) entering the ring for what should be them defending their titles, instead they are jumped from behind by the monsters of Sanity (Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe and Killian Dain). The ensuing brawl leads to NXT General Manager William Regal coming out to try and put an end to the chaos. He announces the rivalry will resume in tonight’s main event, a tornado 6 man tag pitting the entire Undisputed Era vs Sanity. Should be carnage, which means it will be fun to watch!

So our first match of the show will instead be the team of Heavy Machinery (Otis Dozovic and Tucker Knight) vs Tino Sabatelli and Riddick Moss. Now… I wont lie but I care little about these 4 guys. Having seen them on NXT for a little while now they’ve still done nothing to draw me into them as characters. So to summarise: Heavy Machinery are the big, powerful face team and their opposition are playing the brash, high rollers act. The match itself was ok but the only thing anyone cared about in the crowd was the “Tino sucks” chants. It was fairly short with Heavy Machinery picking up the win, afterwards Riddick Moss turned down the cry for help from his partner so maybe this lacklustre team is coming to an end? So only Sabatelli got any sort of real reaction in this match, it was minor heat but I’ve always thought any reaction big or small, good or bad is better than no reaction at all. It means people care.

So next out is Johnny Gargano. I’ll be going into more detail in a seperate blog about him in the near future but I’ll summarise by saying he is the 2nd best in between the ropes in the entire WWE, the only man better just so happens to be the best wrestler on the planet. And he’s Phenomenal! … Anyhow he comes out to a standing ovation from the adoring crowd. He talks about how he knew he was going to win the NXT Championship in Phildelphia at Takeover 2 Sundays ago, but that just didn’t happen. He was consoled by the reaction he received afterwards despite a losing effort (fyi it was the best match in WWE for years, the best in NXT history, you really should check it out).

Mr Wrestling goes on to say he will never forget NXT Takeover: Phildelphia, OR (here we go…) he won’t forget being hit in the back with a crutch by his former tag team partner Tommaso Ciampa following the match. He says he’s bitten his tongue since Takeover: Chicago when his ex partner first turned on him but almost 9 months later he finally calls him out!

The call is instead answered by the NXT Champion ‘El Idolo’ Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas and his associate Zelina Vega. It takes two to Tango and although Gargano was the star, Almas more than played his part in an absolutely classic match. He’s a superbly arrogant heel and his character renaissance has run parallel with the arrival of Zelina Vega by his side. She has been as important to his success in NXT in recent months as a character as his legs,arms and body have been to his sensational lucha lubre yet technical and hard hitting, Mexican wrestling style he exhibits. Vega acts as his spokesperson and occasional accomplice in matches too (she’s been known to deliver the odd hurricanrana to Almas’ opponents).

Almas and Vega make their slow, methodical way to the ring as Almas holds his title aloft with a determined Gargano looking on. Zelina then cuts a promo, which is typically great, stating that Gargano is not Johnny Wrestling but Johnny “Loser”. As Gargano prepares to respond the crowd begin the “We want Candice” chants (his real life Wife). Gargano tells Vega that after the crowd reaction he got his next favourite part of Takeover was when Candice LeRae jumped over the barricade and took out her frustrations on Vega’s interference by launching an assault and chasing Zelina around the arena, much to the Philly crowd’s delight (fyi Candice LeRae has recently signed a full time contract with WWE and was previously one of the hottest commodities in independent wrestling Male or Female).

And of course out came Mrs Wrestling herself, and after a nod of approval from her husband she pushes her rival out of the ring. Gargano does the same to Almas and as the 2 heels retreat to the entrance ramp a frustrated Vega questions ‘what it will take for them to be rid of them both once and for all’? Gargano requests 1 more title shot, which Vega agrees with on the condition that if he loses again he must go away. Gargano concurs saying if he cannot beat Almas for the title he will LEAVE NXT! The crowd, his wife and indeed the commentators all seem perplexed by this drastic action.

The implications of this are massive, maybe he will finally win the title? Maybe he will actually leave NXT and go to Raw or Smackdown? Either way I expect the man of the moment wont be out of the headlines anytime soon…

Next up is a classic-NXT-make shift press conference/interview with NXT Women’s Championship top contender Shayna Baszler. If I tell you she’s got a famous mate called Ronda you can probably guess Baszler isn’t to be messed with. Baszler tells the “reporters” that she’s the most feared woman in NXT and that the champion Ember Moon is scared (Moon got the roll up win in their last encounter). This was solid heel stuff from Baszler. Their next match is going to be great fun to watch that’s for sure!

It’s then announced next week that Pete Dunne will defend his United Kingdom Championship against Roderick Strong. 2 superb wrestlers with simple but very very effective characters. Should be absolutely fantastic.

The man who lost the number 1 contenders match to Strong last week Tyler Bate is talking next. He says he’ll be watching the UK title match very closely and also speaks of his delight at collecting his recent award for 2017 NXT match of the year for his match vs Pete Dunne in which he dropped the UK title at NXT Takeover: Chicago (another one you all MUST check out). Bate says he wants to have more match of the year candidates against the very best NXT has to offer; Adam Cole, Aleister Black, Velveteen Dream etc. I must point out that Tyler Bate isn’t 21 until next month… my fucking word… his potential is incredible!!!

Next is a match between Mae Young Classic participant Bianca Belair and a jobber. For someone whose main gimmick is they use their long ponytail as a weapon she is very much an athletic powerhouse and demonstrates as much here. Less than 1 minute later and Belair is your winner. Not quite sure if she’s a face or a heel at this point but usually in NXT if someone is getting fed jobbers the their being built up, and in NXT it tends to be for a big reason.

A video package then plays highlighting the Royal Rumble entry and skills in general of the Pirate Princess and Mae Young Classic winner, one of my favourite wrestlers in the world; Kairi Sane. She’s great. Very much a potential blog subject for me in the future.

It’s then announced that next week Ember Moon will defend her NXT Women’s Championship (after responding to her remarks earlier in the show on twitter) against Shayna Baszler. I’m surprised they’re doing the rematch this soon after the first but fascinated to see where this goes. Expect a screwy finish of some form setting up a bigger match down the line.

Finally the show ends with the anticipated main event. This promises to be a bit of a free for all, but who doesn’t like wrestling when it’s just complete and utter chaos? Out comes Sanity first (minus Nikki Cross sadly, my favourite Scottish female since Miss Hooley or maybe Amy Macdonald, depending on what you’re in to) followed by Undisputed Era. Immediately after the bell rings, in fact as the bell is rung, all 6 participants are fighting all over the outside of the ring. No DQ’s in this one btw as the 3 1v1 battles go on, a particularly nice spot saw Alexander Wolfe positioned sat groggy on a chair before Kyle O’Reilly flew at him with a double flying knee move off the apron. Killian Dain (or Big Damo to me, his name when he wrestled in the UK, he will always be Damo to me) has a period in ring crushing his opponents, something I’d happily watch all the time. He focuses on Bobby Fish as the other 4 in the match take their brawl to the inner bowels of the arena.

Fish hits a great looking moonsault on Dain for a 2 count, the other 4 comeback, Fish goes to hit Dain with a kendo stick, Dain catches it and throws it away, Fish runs away, Dain chases him to the entance ramp before picking him up and launching him to the floor below and onto the rest of the people in the match. The beast from Belfast looking like a monster, which is exactly how it should be. Always.

After a brief ad break they come back to Killian Dain and Adam Cole in ring who hits an enziguri, Alexander Wolfe hits a powerbomb for 2 as O’Reilly breaks that up, Fish and O’Reilly hit a double team on Wolfe that is broken up by Dain, Dain then hits a michinoku driver (he picks him up over his shoulders and slams him basically) on O’Reilly on to Fish on the ring floor which was awesome. Adam Cole used a kendo stick to stop what would’ve been a worthy end to a fun match. Eric Young then entered the ring, eventually landing an elbow drop on Cole for another nearfall, everyone is down at this point.

Next was a whole serious of various offences: Young hit Cole with the kendo stick, O’Reilly on Young, Wolfe on O’Reilly, Fish on Wolfe, Dain on Fish. Dain then goes outside the ring, He goes to do a Cannonball on Adam Cole but as The Panama Playboy moves out the way Dain goes through a conveniently placed table. With this Alexander Wolfe is left in the ring to suffer the attack of the 3 Undisputed Era members, Wolfe begins his comeback which is ended with a superkick from Cole and followed up with the tag team finisher from Fish and O’Reilly. Young breaks this up with a kendo shot, he hits Fish then O’Reilly but then eats another Adam Cole superkick.

Undisputed Era then hit a series of big moves but can’t put Eric Young away. The heels can’t believe it, and are then greeted with the monstrous sight of Killian Dain returning to his feet and staring them down. He overpowers all 3 of them, he clears them all out, before he finally hits his Ulster Plantation (putting his opponent on his shoulders before throwing them down on the mat) on Bobby Fish to give Sanity the win. This was really fun, hardly a suprise given the extremely high quality of participants but I am a tad suprised Sanity got the win. A way to extend the fued with Sanity still due their NXT Tag team title rematch. And Dain ends the show with his two teammates, battered but victorious, barely standing but beside him. Big Damo standing tall. As it should be. Always.

And that was NXT. An action packed hour as always with plenty of interesting twists that’ll make the next few weeks of NXT tv exciting and entertaining both in and out of the ring.

Key points to take home:

– NXT’s ‘filler’ is at least half entertaining, Raw’s and Smackdown’s are terrible.

– Gargano and Almas should feud forever. Sadly they wont. But Gargano vs Ciampa will eventually more than make up for it

– I’m ALL IN on a Zelina Vega vs Candice LeRae match. TAKE ALL MY MONEY NOW!

– Shayna Bazler is gonna be a megastar

– Killian Dain is gonna be a megastar

Conclusion

Even when there are nearly 2 months til their big show and no secondary ones in between NXT has this week shown the main roster how to sustain interest in all it’s main angles to a high level without a feeling of time wasting and dragging stuff out for the sake of it. It’s one of the many, many reasons I maintain NXT is the best show in wrestling today. And it’s only an hour long. You should watch it if you don’t already. It’s really good. Always.

Josh.