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.

WWE week in review – April 20 2018

So this is how it’s going to work from now on… Each Friday I am going to upload a blog of all the WWE news from the week past, and I will also add in there my own personal opinion on the goings on (the reporting of the news will be in black font, with my personal opinion replicating my actual notes in blue). This week’s begins from Sunday evening/Monday morning onwards… enjoy!!!
Sunday Evening/Monday Morning: John Cena and Nikki Bella announce they are splitting up after 6 years together. To quote Sam Roberts (wrestling podcast host and occasional WWE PPV pre-show panelist) on twitter “Love isn’t real”. I don’t have much more to say on this to be really honest. Plenty of jokes and speculation that has and could easily be made, but at the end of the day it’s sad.
Monday Evening: Undertaker vs Rusev in a Casket Match at the Greatest Royal Rumble in now back ON! If you didn’t know the original match between the two was off, and Rusev replaced by Chris Jericho, following plenty of speculation, a Lana character tweet and some interesting twitter behavior from Rusev after a TMZ interview the both did. Nobody really knows for sure, but now the match is ON! Hmm… this is all a bit odd. Nonetheless the fact that Rusev is in the match is good for him in my opinion, he is facing THE UNDERTAKER on a giant show in a casket match. He’ll lose obviously (as he has eluded to on twitter) but just being in that spot is HUGE for his ongoing rise in popularity. Still waiting for a seamlessly never-coming trigger pull on him by WWE though. We can only hope.
Monday = RAW (Superstar Shake – up)
Jinder Mahal came to Raw, and immediately lost his United States Championship to Jeff Hardy (who is now a grand slam champion). By Jinder’s standards this was a real fun match, crowd were super into Jeff (as has been the case since the dawn of time it seems).
Sasha vs Bayley was interrupted by The Riott Squad, who are all now on Raw. Shame to me this Sasha and Bayley story has seemingly been blown off via a half hearted regular TV match…
AOP squashed Slater & Rhyno again. I CBA with Slater and Rhyno anymore.
Miz TV saw Kevin Owens AND Sami Zayn come to Raw (per Stephanie McMahon’s orders). Kurt Angle announces The Miz is to go to Smackdown. I loved that Sami read an email from Stephanie over-ruling Kurt to bring Owens and Zayn to Raw, and interesting Miz is going on his own to Smackdown as they made a point of clarifying (So The Miztourage will stay on Raw), surely as was alluded to immediately the whole Miz – Daniel Bryan story will continue again.
Matt & Bray beat The Revival and will now face The Bar at the Greatest Royal Rumble for the vacant Raw Tag Titles. All good with me.
Breezango (on Raw now) give The Bar ‘Fashion Tickets’. Meh…
Natalya on Raw. She’s friends with Ronda, and now a babyface. They’re friends for real too, so this will help Ronda going forward for sure. But Nattie as a baby??? Hmm….
Ember Moon beat Mickie James (whom sold The Eclipse like a mofo). Nia Jax was on guest commentary, Alexa was supposed to be but she instead appeared via video link, claiming it was in fact Nia who was a bully. Really liked all this. Seems they’re still going with this story, but as long as Ember is incorporated more into the title scene that’s fine with me.
Dolph Ziggler is on Raw now. he came out and cut a normal Dolph promo, but was then greeted by Titus Worldwide who tried to recruit hi,m. He declined, and then DREW MCINTYRE came out to help Ziggler attack Titus and Apollo! So it appears that Drew is on Raw up from NXT, siding with Dolph and also now a heel too. I like Drew as a heel, less so as Dolph Ziggler’s heavy… but I’ll give it time because I adore Drew McIntyre.
Roman Reigns cut a promo, Samoa Joe came out and crucified him on the mic. Pretty much a repeat of last week. It was also announced Brock Lesnar will appear on Raw next week. THIS IS NOT HOW YOU GET ROMAN REIGNS OVER!!!
A tweet from Daniel Bryan was shown, making it clear they’re going with the rivalry versus The Miz immediately. This will fill the Owens & Zayn – Shane McMahon spot on the show then. been a long time coming this match so I hope it eventually delivers.
Raw main event: The Miz, Bo Dallas, Curtis Axel, Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn versus Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, Braun Strowman, Bobby Lashley & BOBBY ROODE (now on Raw). Match ended when both Dallas and Axel refused Miz’s tag, and then Braun power-slammed him for the win. Fun match. Very happy Roode is on Raw and he got the main spot on this show, fingers crossed he goes up the card now…
Also on Raw:

  • Natalya vs Mandy Rose. Sonya Deville interferes. Ronda makes the save. Considering Ronda absolutely battered both Mandy and Sonya I’d presume they’re off to Smackdown.
  • Baron Corbin is also on Raw now. Vince apparently really likes Corbin so I’d expect big things for him on the red brand.
  • Breezango beat The Bar. WOW… Considering they’re in the Raw Tag Title match at GRR this result really shocked me. Maybe The Bar are moving shows too?
  • Elias did a backstage interview with Renee Young. Renee kind of buried him a little and it was a bit odd, Elias was his usual self but it was just… different… I’m not sure why so I’ll be interested to see what Elias does going forward.

Also going to Raw =

  • Chad Gable (solo) – great wrestler, little character. So good luck to him.
  • Mike Kanellis – Chuffed for him. Fingers crossed.
  • Zack Ryder – Chuffed for him. Fingers crossed.
  • Mojo Rawley – I DON’T CARE
  • The Ascension – I DON’T CARE

Jeff Hardy vs Jinder Mahal for the US title was announced for the GRR. So perhaps Jeff and/or the US title are staying on Raw after all?
Tuesday Evening: ‘Apollo’ is called ‘Apollo Crews’ again... just one of those weird, Vince decisions I guess…
Tuesday Evening: Kassius Ohno (of NXT) announced to be appearing for the Progress wretling company at an upcoming big show of theirs. Good for him…
Tuesday Evening: Daniel Bryan vs The Miz announced for the upcoming WWE Live tour of the UK. Will do wonders for the ticket sales (as his return did for the late sales of Wrestlemania tickets), not that they need help.
Tuesday = Smackdown (Superstar Shake-up)
AJ Styles cuts a promo in the ring on Nakamura and how he ruined his match with Daniel Bryan last week, he called Shinsuke out but instead was greeted by Aiden English & Rusev. English did another song, Rusev & Styles had a match but it was very quickly called a DQ when English interfered. Daniel Bryan came out to make the save. All good stuff.
Shelton Benjamin came out for a promo and asked for competition, Randy Orton’s music hit and he came down the ramp but then NEW United States Champion Jeff Hardy came out and beat Benjamin in a decent match. Jeff on Smackdown, great move imo. Clear they are giving him a push as a solo star whilst Matt is WOKEN on Raw. Anytime Jeff Hardy is on WWE TV it is a good thing so happy days all round.
Miz cut a selfie promo on Daniel Bryan. This was shown on the titantron in the arena, and pictured Miz in his home with Maryse and their new baby daughter. Miz stated he was not here tonight but would be at Smackdown next week. Simple but effective stuff this from The Miz. And Maryse telling Miz off for his language use around their daughter was hilarious.
Sonya Deville & Mandy Rose were announced as coming to Smackdown. So surely a storyline with former Absolution member and now Smackdown General Manager Paige is upcoming?
Harper beat Jey Uso in less than one minute. Rowan & Harper were ready to destroy both Usos after this, but Jimmy Uso’s wife Naomi came out & pleaded with the Bludgeon Brothers for mercy. I like everyone involved here a great deal, but there’s absolutely no believability whatsoever in The Usos regaining their titles. So they need to do more going forward to raise the stock back up of the former Smackdown Tag Team Champions ahead of their title rematch.
Sin Cara was in the ring waiting for a match. and his opponent that came to the ring to face him was… SAMOA JOE!!! SAMOA JOE IS ON SMACKDOWN!!! He absolutely squashed Sin Cara in a quick match, and then cut a promo running down a whole load of people and stating all the things he has on his agenda going forward. This promo was fantastic by the way. Joe might be one of the best promo guys in the company rn. Him on Smackdown is an AWESOME move imo! It opens up so many possibilities for some incredible possible matches in the future, very exciting stuff. I do wonder what Roman Reigns will do going forward now though, as Joe was lined up to be his opponent (for the Universal Championship) in the months ahead. Presumably he will job out to Roman at Backlash and then move on to dominate the Smackdown roster… hopefully…
SANITY were announced as also coming to Smackdown from NXT. Sadly no Nikki Cross will be joining Eric Young, Killian Dain and Alexander Wolfe it seems, but I don’t doubt she will be fine on her own in NXT. I would appease Cross fans by reminding them that Carmella not going to the main roster with Big Cass and his tag team partner was the best thing ever to happen to her career. Gave her a chance to shine on her own, and she isn’t doing too bad at all nowadays. I think Sanity are ahead of that team now and I think Nikki Cross is ahead of Carmella now let alone when Carmella was in NXT. So I think Nikki Cross will be fine. Nonetheless Sanity to Smackdown is brilliant news.
Renee Young did a backstage interview with Daniel Bryan. He was eventually interrupted by the returning Big Cass, who is now on Smackdown. This is a great move for Cass imo, he’s clearly someone who WWE like so this will give him a great platform to become a huge star on. within the next 5 years I fully expect Cass to be a world champion, maybe even sooner.
Carmella had her “Mellabration” for her Smackdown Women’s Championship win last week, Charlotte came out and cut a promo, The IIconics came out and cut a promo, Peyton Royce and Billie Kay beat on Charlotte, Becky came out and made the save, Charlotte had a match with Kay and won, The IIconics and Carmella beat on Lynch & Flair, ASUKA came out to even the odds and confirm her arrival to the Smackdown roster. This was all good stuff, delighted that Asuka is on Smackdown, the women’s rosters on both brands now look pretty tidy.
Gallows & Anderson and Sheamus & Cesaro both are coming to Smackdown. Unsure what they will do with regards to The Bar’s match with Hardy & Wyatt at the GRR now but Smackdown’s tag team division now is absolutely ON FIRE!
There was a backstage segment with New Day, Tye Dillinger and R Truth (who is now on Smackdown). OK, but really who cares?
ANDRADE ‘CIEN’ ALMAS & ZELINA VEGA did a selfie promo to confirm their upcoming arrival to Smackdown! YES YES YES YES YES YES FUCKING YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The main event of Smackdown saw Styles & Bryan face Rusev & English. A decent match was ended when Nakamura sneaked out and once again gave a low-blow to the WWE Champion. Big Cass also came out and delivered a big boot to Daniel Bryan, and then stood tall over him. Renee tried to ask Nakamura about his questionable actions in an interview at the top of the entrance rampway, to which Nakamura replied with “No speak English”, using this line for the 2nd week in a row. This was all fine. Nakamura’s heel run has been very entertaining in its early days, Rusev needs to be a babyface but that is what it is, and having Daniel Bryan have what seems to be a feud with Big Cass is a good one for me. It’ll help Big Cass immensely get heat and also the things he may learn from a great like Bryan will be hugely beneficial I’m sure, plus it’s a great feud to get Bryan back into things by having your classic smaller underdog face versus the big strong bad guy.
Tuesday – 205 Live

  • Mustafa Ali beat Ariya Daivari
  • Murphy failed his Cruserweight weigh in, leading 205 Live GM Drake Maverick to announce a gauntlet match to decide on Cedric Alexander’s next Cruserweight Championship challenger.
  • Jack Gallagher & (the returning) Brian Kendrick beat 2 jobbers in a tag match
  • Gran Metalik & Lince Dorado beat Hideo Itami & Akira Tozawa. Kalisto came out to join his fellow ‘Lucha Houseparty’ members for the celebrations after their win.

Tuesday : AJ Styles defending the WWE Championship against Shinsuke Nakamura at the Greatest Royal Rumble event was announced. Couldn’t say with much certainty how this one will go but I’d presume AJ will retain, but wouldn’t be surprised either way.
Tuesday: Kane has been removed from the listed competitors for the Greatest Royal Rumble match itself. This is likely due to his ongoing political commitments.
Tuesday: Plenty of controversy has emerged regarding the ticketing and seating system for the Greatest Royal Rumble event. On top of the already known facts that none of the WWE women will be performing on the show, several limitations have emerged with regards to who can sit where in the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium (in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia) for the event itself. All of the best seats in the Stadium will be reserved for families, and that family must contain one adult woman. As well as that any single men wishing to go to the event were only allocated spots that were far away from the near ring seats, and they all sold out very quickly (around 10000 of the reported 52000 people who will be there for the event). I guess these are some of the things the WWE knew they were heading for when they put together this deal. They are being paid, quite clearly by how big they’ve pushed it, a LOT of money for this event so they will have to adhere to many of the Saudi’s demands. It’s a shame that in 2018 these sort of issues are still array but it’s their country I suppose… However the idea of segregating people based upon anything strikes me as being incredibly outdated and borderline criminal, but then again it is their country, they make their rules, and this is a sold how to a country’s government who wont have to worry about the monetary side. So yes, not much can be done really that sense once WWE made this deal. “It’s just Business” as a man called Vince once said.
Wednesday Afternoon : Bruno Sammartino (widely regarded as one of the most popular wrestlers of all time) passes away aged 82. No superlative could justify what Bruno did for pro wrestling in the United States. I’d compare him to El Santo in Mexico (although not as big as that’d be impossible) or at least similar in terms of his standing in his country. I’d strongly advise you take some time to look up all that Bruno accomplished, because some of it is hard to believe; WWE Champion for 2,803 days in one reign and overall 4,040 days as champion is just one of many incredible things the WWE Hall of Famer accomplished.
Wednesday : NXT
Johnny Gargano and Candice LeRae come to the ring for a promo to a standing ovation from the adoring Full Sail crowd. Johnny Wrestling defiantly recalls his NXT Takeover win over rival Tomasso Ciampa, he thanks his wife Candice for her ongoing support and then Candice announces she will face Zelina Vega tonight, before Gargano states his ambition to face new NXT Champion Aleister Black for the title. This was all great stuff; wonderful babyface promo from both, and the upcoming LeRae vs Vega and potential Black vs Gargano matches are absolutely mouthwatering prospects.
Killian Dain pre filmed promo ahead of his No DQ match with Lars Sullivan. Solid character work once again from the Beast of Belfast.
It was revealed that NXT colour commentator Nigel McGuinness will be absent for this episode (and presumably this full set of tapings) after he recently became a father. Lovely.
Ricochet vs Fabian Aichner. Even match with Ricochet winning with a 630 splash. Afterwards, in an interview with Kayla Braxton, he talks about having watched many past NXT stars at Full Sail University make a name for themselves, but now he wants to make a name for himself and prove why he’s the one and only: Ricochet. This guy is going to be an absolute worldwide MEGASTAR! I’d say he is already but now he’s in WWE the sky is the absolute limit for this incredible in-ring performer.
Recap of War Raiders 1st appearance (from last week). Cool.
Video hype package for EC3. This was really good.
Lars Sullivan pre filmed promo responding to Killian Dain from earlier. Again, really good character work.
War Raiders beat 2 jobbers in a squash. A potential future clash with Undisputed Era was mentioned by the commentators so surely can’t be too long until that, which would be wonderful.
NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler cut a promo in the women’s locker room to the rest of the female roster that were sat in there. She essentially put them all on notice that she was in charge now. This was really good stuff, makes her seem legit tough which as a former MMA fighter, she absolutely is. Plays the evil bully role really well.
A video package aired for Kona Reeves, who will return to NXT shortly. This guy’s character is basically him fancying himself, which doesn’t entice me to care too much for him but let’s see how he does…
Pete Dunne was seen outside of an arena and was asked some brief questions, he said that in 2 weeks he will ‘rip Roderick Strong’s head off’ (after his betrayal of him at NXT Takeover; New Orleans). Any chance of a Pete Dunne vs Roderick Strong match again is going to be good with me, so Dunne really set the tone with his upfront response here. Good stuff.
Killian Dain vs Lars Sullivan in a No Disqualification match. Sullivan won with a Freak Accident slam onto some steel chairs. This was the kind of absolute war you’d expect from 2 over 300 pound behemoths! Dain was bloody from the mouth area during the later stages, he also splashed Lars through a table set up leaning in the corner of the ring. This was great to watch, 2 big guys going to battle, awesome stuff. The result was to be expected, with Dain joining his Sanity brothers on Smackdown Live shortly, so is was only right that the man who was sticking around in NXT went over. Expect big things for Sullivan in the months to come. he’s admired by a guy called Brock Lesnar apparently, which can’t be bad can it?
There was a video package that aired recapping the rivalry between Candice LeRae and Zelina Vega, and how this factored in to the Almas vs Gargano rivalry. This was great.
The FOUR members of the Undisputed Era were seen doing a photo shoot with all their championships. Leader Adam Cole with his NXT North American Championship, Kyle O’Reilly and the newly joined member Roderick Strong with the NXT Tag Team titles and flanked by the injured Bobby Fish also. It was then revealed they will appear on NXT next week, and also Adam Cole will defend his North American title against Oney Lorcan. The more I think of it, the more I think Strong as a part of the Undisputed Era is absolutely fabulous. I look forward to see them dominate NXT for a long time to come.
The main event of show was the aforementioned grudge match between Mrs Wrestling Candice LeRae and the business associate for Andrade Almas, Zelina Vega (whom came out to Almas’ theme music as well, the continuity of this really pleased me). In the early part of the match Almas appeared on the ring apron to distract LeRae, but Johnny Gargano would quickly come out to even the odds. Match ended when Candice and Gargano each had Vega and Almas in the Gargano Escape submission in the ring, and both gave up. So Mr and Mrs wrestling send their foes packing off to Smackdown to bring the fairy-tale ending to this story. Nice that they gave the finishing touch to LeRae, gives her a good platform to begin her own NXT career off the back of. Gargano then congratulated his wife on her win, before calling out the NXT Champion Aleister Black. Black then made his way out and told Gargano “you want it, then next week you shall have it”. Gargano vs Black for the NXT title next week? That’ll be absolutely brilliant! What a dream match! Should be noted also that the only man to have pinned Aleister Black in NXT just so happens to be… Johnny Gargano!
Thursday: (today was a slow news day… so I’ll do my best)
In a match as part of the WWE Live tour in South Africa, Roman Reigns was busted up in a match with Samoa Joe. The full results for the live event are as follows:
Seth Rollins & Finn Balor defeated Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel
Cedric Alexander defeated Drew Gulak
Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt defeated The Bar
Asuka defeated Sasha Banks & Bayley
Braun Strowman defeated Elias
Titus Worldwide defeated Gallows & Anderson
Nia Jax defeated Mandy Rose
Roman Reigns defeated Samoa Joe
WWE tryouts are taking place in Saudi Arabia ahead of the Greatest Royal Rumble event next week. All part of the ongoing agreement between WWE and the country.
It has been reported that Brock Lesnar will (as part of his new contract) earn between $98,000 to $127,000 per TV appearance and $492,000 to $637,000 per match he takes part in. The reports which have emerged each vary in the exact amount, but essentially Brock is being paid well.
According to PWInsider, BOBBY LASHLEY is likely to be added to the Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match at the Greatest Royal Rumble event in Saudi Arabia. They state that local advertising in the Middle East has Lashley listed as one of the participants (currently it is set to be Seth Rollins defending against The Miz, Samoa Joe and Finn Balor).
Friday: (again not much going on so far today, so I’ll just preview the next 7 days head instead)
Raw next week will feature the return of Brock Lesnar to WWE for the first time since Wrestlemania, and since he re-signed with the company. As well as the first week in their new home for those superstars that came from Smackdown as part of the superstar shake-up.
Smackdown will too feature new superstar shake-up arrivals, as well as The Miz and Daniel Bryan potentially confronting one another for the first time since Bryan was cleared to return to in-ring competition.
NXT on Wednesday will feature Unsidputed Era, as well as Adam Cole’s NXT North American Championship defense. Also the match between Johnny Gargano and the champion Aleister Black for the NXT Championship will close the show.
And of course next Friday will be the day of the much talked about Greatest Royal Rumble event in Saudi Arabia. A huge card will be headlined by AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura & Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns in a steel cage match in Wrestlemania world title re-matches, and of course the huge 50 man Greatest Royal Rumble match.
AND that was the week in WWE. Hope you all like the new format, it’s much easier for me personally to do it this way rather than recap each WWE show in detail. Let me know what you all think.
Josh. .

16/4/2018 – What’s on my mind: I’M BACK!!!

Well I’m back!!! And… not much has happened in the world of WWE since I released my previews for Takeover and Mania… it’s been very quiet in fact……

So since I last wrote anything on here we had NXT Takeover: New Orleans, which was… the best WWE show there has EVER been!!! It was a brilliant line up to begin with and the card was sandwiched with 2 of the best WWE matches there has ever been; the show opener was the 6 man ladder match for the new NXT North American Championship that saw EC3 vs Killian Dain vs Adam Cole vs Velveteen Dream vs Lars Sullivan vs Ricochet. It was simply incredible. All 6 men made entrances of stars, and they came out of it as MEGAstars. It would be hard to pick an MVP but I must give special praise to the performances of ‘The One and Only’ Ricochet and of course the eventual winner Adam Cole… BAY BAY!

Shayna Baszler is your new NXT Women’s Champion after dethroning Ember Moon in a great match. There was NXT Tag Team Championship/Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic winner takes all match that saw AOP vs Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne vs Kyle O’Reilly and the double duty-ing Adam Cole. The match ended in dramatic fashion with Roderick Strong turning heel and handing the win to Cole and O’Reilly as he joined the Undisputed Era. Aleister Black is the new NXT Champion after he beat Andrade Almas, despite the best efforts of Zelina Vega in what was a terrific contest. And in the match that surprisingly at the time but not in hindsight main evented the show (because how on EARTH do you follow this) Tomasso Ciampa faced Johnny Gargano in their Unsanctioned Match… Wow… expectations were high… but many are already calling it the best match in WWE history!!! So yes, Takeover: New Orleans was AMAZING!!!

AND THEN we had Wrestlemania 34.. and what a show it was! Brilliant, weird, bizarre, brutal… the adjectives you could associate with this LONGGGGGGGGG show are about as endless as the show seemed to be. But despite its time span it was possibly the most eventful event WWE has ever put on. I’ll do my best to summarize it:

– WOKEN Matt Hardy won the Andre Battle Royal. With a little help from Bray Wyatt as the 2 embraced after and so began what COULD be a WONDERFUL alliance. The match was a clusterfuck as it was always going to be (30 guys in a ring at once and all) but the finish and the spot this story was given I personally loved. The crowd going mad for it too made it all the more DELIGHTFUL!

– Cedric Alexander beat Mustafa Ali to win the vacant Cruserweight title. Decent match but they’ve done much better work on 205 Live before.

– Naomi won the Women’s Battle royal in another underwhelming clusterfuck.

And then FINALLY the main show began:

– Seth Rollins (cool blue contacts and all) became a grand slam champion as he won the Intercontinental Championship from The Miz, also bettering Finn Balor in what was a super fun Mania show opener.

– in an unsurprisingly brilliant match Charlotte BEAT Asuka to retain her Smackdown Women’s Championship. Shocking, 10 minutes too short maybe but in hindsight, in my opinion (although I was gutted at the time) the right call. Even with Charlotte losing her title 2 days later, this win at Mania only further cements her legacy. Special mention also for her incredible, spell-binding entrance. Charlotte Flair IS Women’s Wrestling.

– it was at this point in the show that John Cena (who indeed stuck to his word and watched Wrestlemania as a fan, and was shown to high hilarity throughout the show sat ringside watching on) was told by a referee something that made him immediately jump from his seat, over the barricade and then sprint to the backstage area. It was never stated what the ref actually told him but it was presumed, certainly from the huge reaction of the crowd, that Cena was being told that THE UNDERTAKER WAS HERE!!!

– next match was the 4 way for the US title; Bobby Roode vs Rusev vs Jinder Mahal vs Randy Orton. Jinder won. Meh…

– following that was the best match of the entire show… no not Aj vs Nakamura but Triple H & Stephanie McMahon vs Kurt Angle & Ronda Rousey… WOW OH WOW OH WOW!!! The very definition of exceeding expectations. The match was brilliant; it had every conceivable spot you could’ve dreamed of and then some. And above all else, Ronda Rousey was SENSATIONAL! Without question the best debut of anyone in Wrestling history. With all the pressure and spotlight that was on her I was so pleased. This was fantastic start to finish. Ronda tapped out Stephanie for the finish. Great great GREAT!

– Following that was always going to be tough, so spare a thought for the Smackdown Tag title 3 way of The Usos v The New Day vs The Bludgeon Brothers. Harper and Rowan’s ever-dominant triumph was sadly still in the shadow of the amazing bout before it.

– THEN… we had John Cena come out for a match. He was then told the match wasn’t on … and then the lights went out and… THE…. no, ELIAS came out. He sang a song, wound up Cena, Cena beat him up, and then Cena’s music played as he looked heartbroken at the prospect of his dream match not being on after all. It looked as if our dreams were over… and then… lights out, Taker’s hat and gloves appeared in the ring, a lightning bolt struck them, lights out… UNDERTAKER!!! 3 minutes, an indescribable entrance, 1 Chokeslam and 1 Tombstone Piledriver later and The Undertaker SQUASHED John Cena… and it was PERFECT.

– It was at this point the crowd seemed to die a little, and what had to this point potential to be one of the all time great Manias began to dip slightly…

– next match though saw Daniel Bryan make his long awaited in-ring return. As he and Shane McMahon beat Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Match was ok, Dbryan was as good as we all remembered, Yes yes yes!

– Nia Jax won the Raw Women’s Championship from former friend Alexa Bliss. Only real result really given this awfully bad tasting storyline. Finish was a tremendous Samoan Drop from the middle rope.

– AJ Styles RETAINED the WWE Championship against Shinsuke Nakamura (whose entrance was spectacular; Alice Cooper’s guitarist and a handful of Violinists and drummers featured). This was an underwhelming (given its incredibly high expectations) but still ok match. The headlines after though were all about Nakamura’s low blow and attack on Styles after the match and his apparent show of respect gone sour. A heel turn for Nakamura was certainly not something I predicted but I’m excited at the prospect of it going forward.

– Then Braun Strowman and a 10 year old boy called Nicholas won the Raw Tag Team Championship from The Bar. As you do… (they gave them up the next night due to Nicholas’ busy schedule… in the 4th grade…).

– and finally after what felt like 3000 hours of an event, it was time for the main event. Brock Lesnar with Paul Heyman defending the Universal Championship against Roman Reigns. Where to start with this one… one thing that was clear is the crowd in New Orleans had decided to absolutely shit all over this match from the beginning. There were a variety of derogatory chants, multiple beach ball appearances in the crowd… yeah this could’ve been a 5 star classic but nobody in the arena would even give it the slightest bit of chance to entertain them at all.

An absolutely brutal match saw Brock hit Roman with a plethora of German Suplexes, FIVE F5’S (including one to the announce table) to which Roman kicked out of each time. Brock then hit Roman with hard elbows to the head ala Randy Orton at Summerslam 2016. And just like Orton did so before, Reigns bled FOR REAL absolutely EVERYWHERE! It was like something from a horror film as Roman’s crimson face then showed his true fury as he went on to hit Lesnar with multiple spears! Lesnar would though then pick Reigns up for a SIXTH F5 and BROCK LESNAR WON! With seemingly everyone convinced otherwise the unthinkable had happened!

A variety of details about Lesnar’s contract and the change to the match finish have since emerged. Far too many for me to explain. but yeah it was… weird. Lets see how it goes down at the Greatest Royal Rumble event in Saudi Arabia at the end of the month when Lesnar faces Reigns for the title in a steel cage.

This was absolutely bizarre booking to me at the time and it still is now. I’m fascinated to see how it goes for Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar going forward. For once I have absolutely no theory or no idea that I’m willing to get behind enough to believe and that I could use to try and explain why this happened. There’s plenty of possible reasons why maybe but nonetheless it was absolutely astonishing to watch.

And my main emotion upon watching it back was a personal sadness and sympathy for Roman Reigns as a man irl. Imagine turning up at the arena the day of Mania, having for months and months heard every man and his dog claim that you’re the man and this will be your moment… only to be told the plans have changed and this is what’s happening… gutted for him personally. The characters, the storyline not so much but don’t forget that none of this is Roman’s fault. The blame lies solely with the bookers.

So to follow an… eventful… Wrestlemania 34 we had a pretty great Raw. Call ups for Ember Moon, AOP and No Way Jose, returns from injury of Jeff Hardy and Samoa Joe, and a huge return to WWE for BOBBY LASHLEY! Smackdown gave us Peyton Royce and Billie Kay making their way to Smackdown Live from NXT and making an immediate impact…

The IIconics attacked Charlotte Flair and left the Smackdown Women’s Champion laying and prone for a Money in the Bank cash in from Carmella and FINALLY Carmella is the new Smackdown Women’s Champion. After her official retirement just 24 hours prior PAIGE was announced as the new General Manager of Smackdown Live after Daniel Bryan had resigned from the role in order to become a full time active roster member once again. Paige’s first act as GM was to make the main event for the evening as Daniel Bryan vs AJ STYLES!!! This dream match was cut short though by an ambush from Shinsuke Nakamura on both men.

A recap episode of NXT featured a win for Kairi Sane and the arrival of the War Raiders tag team (fka War Machine). I feel both will be making a big impression on the NXT Championship scene in the upcoming months.

This Monday and Tuesday we have the annual superstar shake up that will see stars of Raw and Smackdown swapping shows, which is always good fun. Plus we are a few weeks away from the Greatest Royal Rumble event from Saudi Arabia which is looking like it should be one hell of a show! So even though Wrestlemania is behind us now the goings on and drama of the WWE looks set to continue to shock and wow us all for the foreseeable future… And I cannot wait!!!

In terms of what I will be producing as content for my blog my time off has given me time to have a rethink about what I write. So instead of doing individual reviews of Raw, Smackdown and NXT each week I will be releasing a weekly review of all things WWE each Friday. I’ll also be doing previews and reviews of every NXT Takeover and main roster Pay Per view as well as a monthly ‘ranking list’ similar to my previous blog on The Undertaker’s Wrestlemania matches. On top of all that I will also be doing a weekly post called (as is this one) ‘What’s on my Mind’ (Credit to JR on his podcast before for the name idea). This will just be a random blog based on whatever I have… well… on my mind at the time of writing about whatever is going on WWE related at that time.

I’ll also every now and then be putting out some different types of content whenever I have the time or enough interest to do so. So yeah that’s about all up to date. Once again thanks to everyone for your words and retweets and likes on all my blog posts. I hope you like what I write going forward just as much as I’m sure I’ll have fun writing it.

Josh.

NXT Takeover: New Orleans Preview & Predictions

NXT is usually really good. NXT Takeovers are always great. NXT Takeover: New Orleans has the potential to be absolutely incredible. Much like Wrestlemania this year, the WWE have really gone all out to make this card as star studded as possible. 5 brilliant match ups that I will preview and predict the outcome of as will my good friend, and fellow NXT fanboy, Stefan. Enjoy the blog, and enjoy NXT Takeover: New Orleans!!! *SPOILER ALERT*: Me and Stefan are fairly alike with our wrestling views… just bare that in mind…

Ladder Match for the NXT North American Championship: Killian Dain V Lars Sullivan V Adam Cole V Ricochet V EC3 V Velveteen Dream

Six of NXT’s very best superstars in a LADDER MATCH for a brand new championship… not much more that needs to be said is there? This will be carnage of the best form and whoever wins it will be a worthy 1st holder of the long overdue 2nd NXT title. A very tough one to call but based on what I’ve seen and who I think could do with a championship the most… I’m picking EC3 to win. The 4 established NXT stars are already very over and well known to the audience, Ricochet and EC3 are still new and whilst the extravagant and pretty extraordinary in-ring abilities of Ricochet will impress people immediately, EC3 (as good as his presentation has been) I feel could really do wonders for himself and the championship if they let him. Give him a mic and people will come.

Prediction: EC3

Stefan: EC3 – Given that Adam Cole is now needed in the tag scene, this is not the time for his first title run in the company. this title needs a star, and for me, i cannot see past EC3, others like Ricochet or Dream are great options and great names, but this needs a 1 percenter…

Unsanctioned Match: Tomasso Ciampa V Johnny Gargano (if Johnny Gargano wins he is re-hired to NXT, if he loses he is banished)

What has become one of the most personal rivalries, and engaging and emotional stories in NXT history will finally culminate at Takeover: New Orleans. And in the time Gargano has become arguably the most popular superstar in NXT, Tomasso Ciampa has via some outstanding character work become the most despised heel maybe in the whole company. Often heel can be cheered as people think they’re cool, but people hate this guy and it’s all a sign that he’s executed his material perfectly. I’ve no idea what on earth these two may pull out the bag or what they may do to one another, but I have no doubt at all it’ll be absolutely thrilling. Result wise I can see reasons for both winning, but I’m going with Ciampa as I think it’ll only increase the sympathy towards Gargano and his character, and it’ll set up Ciampa for a title chase and Gargano (as is customary in NXT) will do a job en-route to a main roster debut some time next week.

Prediction: Tomasso Ciampa

Stefan: Ciampa – My gut says Ciampa, the brand needs a major legitimate heel in the upper card, and Ciampa fits that bill. Gargano to move onto main roster business

NXT Tag Team Championship & Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic: Undisputed Era (C) V The Authors of Pain with Paul Ellering V Pete Dunne & Roderick Strong

Another multi man match with stars a plenty. I don’t think anyone before the last set of tapings will have predicted this would be the tag title match for takeover. But what an amazing line up we have here in this winner takes all showdown. I can’t even fathom the spots in the ladder match, I can’t even more imagine what the competitors in this will come up with to delight the New Orleans crowd. Adam Cole doing double duty after his stablemate Bobby Fish’s injury will surely be a factor in how this match is presented, but his brilliance as a performer will no doubt do the role justice. If I had my way NXT would be the Adam Cole show, and as good as both Strong & Dunne are and AOP also (they’re main roster bound) I feel the Undisputed era are in their element right now, and even with Bobby Fish’s injury I feel the result here will be the same.

Prediction: Undisputed Era

Stefan: Undisputed Era – by process of elimination, 3 out of the 4 opponents are main roster bound for me, and Dunne will go from strength to strength as a singles star.

NXT Women’s Championship: Ember Moon (C) V Shayna Baszler

I am convinced this match will be great. Not for the faint hearted but good to watch nonetheless, and equally so I’m in no doubt about the outcome. Ember Moon has been a terrific servant to NXT and I’m glad she has finally had her much deserved title run in the post-Asuka era. But as it was Moon’s time after Asuka, it is time for The Queen of Spades to take her crown.

Prediction: Shayna Baszler

Stefan: Shayna – Time to build another big bad heel champ, Ember Moon main roster bound (rightly so). Now the Asuka hangover has gone, its time to make some new stars

NXT Championship: Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas (C) with Zelina Vega V Aleister Black

Much in the way that I think its Baszler’s time to dethrone Ember Moon and send her to the main roster, I feel its similar circumstances here. Andrade Almas and Zelina Vega have both been absolutely sensational characters in recent months since Almas was given the title, and in-ring Almas is superb so I’ve no doubt he will be more of a star on Raw or Smackdown. But if Wrestlemania 34 will likely crown Roman Reigns as THE GUY of WWE then NXT Takeover: New Orleans where Aleister Black confirms himself as THE GUY of NXT. The wonderful symmetry that 1 year ago, at the pre-Wrestlemania NXT Takeover, Aleister Black made his NXT debut against… Andrade Almas! From the time and production that was dedicated to his entrance, you knew right there and then Black was going to be a megastar in NXT. And a year later, against the same opponent who himself has had an incredible 12 months in that he has been rejuvenated and re-invigorated alongside Vega to a point now that he is a ready-made star, I feel the result will be the same. A great match, a Black-Mass kick, and Aleister Black as your new NXT Champion.

Prediction: Aleister Black

Stefan: Black – Firmly believe this is what the build up has been for, this moment. Give him the ball and let him run. Almas will be just fine being the biggest Latino star on the main roster, dont you worry…

Josh… and Stefan.

NXT Takeover: New Orleans go-home show Review: 4/4/18

So it is almost upon us, Wrestlemania weekend! But of course before Mania on Sunday we have the shear delights of NXT Takeover: New Orleans on Saturday. And much like Mania the card for Takeover is INCREDIBLE! So let’s see what the go home episode of NXT had in store shall we…

The show began with the Final of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic; The Authors of Pain vs Pete Dunne & Roderick Strong in what should be a great match. To begin with The Bruserweight was in a fight on his own against both Akam and Rezar, and after AOP initially had the better of it, Dunne then did his signature snapping of his opponents fingers on Akam before hitting him with a series of kicks and then making the tag to his partner Roderick Strong. Strong went on an absolute tear right away on both members of the Authors of Pain, almost winning the match on a number of occasions, before Pete Dunne re-entered the fold and hit Rezar with a triangle choke hold. But he only had this in until he was lifted by the monstrous Rezar and carried across the ring before AOP hit Dunne with their double-team neckbreaker. But after this both Dunne and Roderick Strong hit a number of double team moves on both AOP members (which looked really impressive) but their brief revival only lasted until Akam and Rezar hit both their opponents with kicks. And then with all 4 participants laying exhausted in the ring Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly of the Undisputed Era came out and attacked both Strong & Dunne and AOP. As a result the match was called off. NXT GM William Regal then came out and announced that at NXT Takeover: New Orleans we will see; The Undisputed Era vs Pete Dunne & Roderick Strong vs The Authors of Pain for BOTH the NXT Tag Team Championship AND the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic!!!

(just an fyi; the 3rd member of the Undisputed Era, Bobby Fish, was injured at a past NXT Live event and so will be unable to compete for some time. Hence the leader of the faction Adam Cole is the one in the tag team storyline here alongside Kyle O’Reilly).

Kairi Sane (my favourite wrestler) then faced Vanessa Borne in a decent match to be fair, whereas you’d expect this to be a bit of a squash Borne got a fair amount of offence in. Sane though did win with her exceptional Spear followed by a punch and an elbow before she climbed to the top rope and came down with her Insane Elbow (which is by far the best elbow drop I’ve ever seen) for the win. Should mention that Vanessa Borne has a new theme song and a new set of lighting during her entrance, this is a good sign if you’re a fan of hers (she’s got plenty going for her for sure) as it means they care enough about her to make some changes. As for Sane? I expect her to be the first challenger to Shayna Baszler when she wins the championship. Fingers crossed.

Lacey Evans was then shown backstage, she said she won’t be able to do anything until Mr Regal “disallows societal trash from walking around NXT”, she bemoaned a “complete psycho” like Nikki Cross getting opportunities before then talking trash about Ember Moon, Dakota Kai and Kairi Sane too. Decent little promo, again it’s clear they see something in Evans as a cocksure heel so expect her to be the cannon fodder for the females baby faces before they go for the title in the time after Takeover.

William Regal was then shown leaving the arena before Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly came towards him certainly not seeming pleased. They were furious about the predicament they were in going in to NXT Takeover. Regal explained that they had 3 options: Adam Cole competes in two matches in one night on the show (he’s also in the NXT North American Championship ladder match don’t forget), Kyle O’Reilly defends their tag titles by himself or Adam Cole forfeits his place in the North American title 6-man match. This conundrum once again didn’t leave Undisputed Era pleased.

After a brief recap of her rivalry with Shayna Baszler ahead of their Takeover match, the NXT Women’s Champion Ember Moon cut a promo saying she wasn’t sorry for getting into a fight, and that after Shayna Baszler disrespected a coach (she talked trash to a Performance Centre coach that was shown on a previous episode of NXT) she now deserved to be attacked. She went on to say that as Baszler walks around ‘like she owns the place’ and that’s not how you behave as a champion and although Baszler started the war, she is ‘going to end it’. This promo was fine, Moon as the fiery babyface is ok… but I’m presuming this is probably the last time we see Moon on a regular NXT show before the makes her ascension to the main roster… hopefully…

To end the show we had a real clash of the titans. As two of the 6 men in the ladder match for the NXT North American Championship faced off, with Killian Dain facing Lars Sullivan. Unsurprisingly this was a very hard hitting & physical contest, Lars was in control after launching Dain into the ring apron, latterly Killian Dain used the Belfast Blitz and then Lars put his knees up after an attempted Vader Bomb splash, they battled more on the top rope before the Beats from Belfast hit a headbutt, and this made them both fall to the ring floor. With both laid out 2 of the other ladder match participants came out to the ring as Velveteen Dream and Adam Cole came in and glared at eachother. EC3 then made his way out and joined in the staring contest, and was then followed by both Killian Dain and Lars Sullivan before finally the awesome Ricochet then came out and stared at each man individually. And that was how the show ended, with all 6 men in the ring and the match between Lars and Dain just… ended…. Not ideal… but hey at this stage who Cares? I just want this match NOW!

There were also a number of video packages during the show to promote the various Takeover matches; Gargano vs Ciampa, Almas vs Black etc. and it was announced for next week we will get Kairi Sane vs Lacey Evans (which will be filmed as the dark match before Takeover starts I imagine). Next week’s show, as post Takeover shows usually are, will have that match and then be 45 minutes or so of recaps from Takeover… just the way they do things whilst the tapings for future shows take place.

And that just about covers the go-home show of NXT ahead of Takeover: New Orleans. I’ll be doing a preview blog for Takeover (which will be out Friday or Saturday latest) so look out for that. But can we all just appreciate… IT’S NEARLY WRESLTEMANIA AND IT’S NEARLY NXT TAKEOVER!!!!!!!!!!!

Josh.

NXT 28/3/18 Review: UNSANCTIONED MATCH!

The show begins with a car pulling up outside the arena, and nearby fans instantly begin to boo as Tomasso Ciampa steps out of it. He ignores the ‘questions’ from the ‘reporters’ that were walking alongside him as Ciampa sought out NXT General Manager William Regal. He then berated him about Johnny Gargano and his recent pursuit of him that has seen Gargano attack Ciampa last week on NXT, A video emerged showing Gargano chasing Ciampa when he was in his car leaving the arena last week, and just yesterday a video was released by Tomasso Ciampa showing that Gargano was banging on his front door at his house in the early hours of the morning. Ciampa told regal that he had had enough of all of this, and asked the GM “what I gotta do”? William Regal would go on to make the match official, telling Ciampa “you versus Johnny Gargano at NXT Takeover: New Orleans in an UNANCTIONED MATCH, if Johnny Gargano wins he gets his job back, If you win he’s banished FOR GOOD”! NXT hasn’t even made it in to the arena yet and already we have a BLOCKBUSTER announcement, WOW OH WOW what a start!

After the show had properly begun William Regal made his way out to the ring. He then announced that at Takeover: New Orleans there would be the debut of the NXT North American Championship! Great news this, NXT has long since needed a mid-card belt to give more people on the roster something to go for, so this is a brilliant idea. Regal was about to talk some more but was interrupted by the arrival of EC3!!! For those of you unaware of who EC3 is, he was actually in the WWE a long time ago before getting his big break in TNA where he really excelled. He is a physically impeccable looking guy, with a gimmick that he things an awful lot of himself. And to be honest he has reason to because he’s really good, as you will see, and his gimmick in NXT appears that it will centre around (as his theme song suggests) EC3 being in ‘the top 1%’. He gets in the ring to a huge crowd reaction, with chants of “E-C-3” ringing around the arena. EC3 indulges this telling the crowd, who had told him that he deserves it, saying “I do deserve it; keep that chant going”. He then turns his attention to Regal ‘Mr Regal; this is too much… I come to the hottest brand in sports entertainment; NXT’. The crowd chanted ‘you deserve it’ some more, causing EC3 to respond with “that’s right, of course I deserve it!” (this made me laugh a lot). EC3 also said he had a “banger of a theme song, you guys hear that thing?… ‘Mr Regal, you created the North American Championship, and awarded it to me on the very first day?’, the crowd began to chant “NX3” which I enjoyed greatly, EC3 put himself over some more, before Regal interrupted him. He told him that ‘you are not handed anything here in NXT… at NXT Takeover: New Orleans you will be competing for the North American Championship, you versus 5 other competitors… with the brand new title suspended above the ring… in a ladder match!’. The crowd were delighted, and EC3 seemed pleased too saying “Thank-you-Regal… at NXT Takeover: New Orleans I’ll show the entire world why I am the top 1% of this industry”. He shakes Regal’s hand, his music plays, and that was it. Really enjoyed all of this, a 6 man ladder match with the best of NXT will be FANTASTIC, I just hope the names involved are such that don’t underwhelm. This was a great start for EC3 in WWE too, really good promo, he put his character over well, and he looks and feels like a big star. So pleased for him, after carrying that shithole on his back for so many years I’m glad he is in the big time at last.

Next the camera panned to outside the arena as apparently both Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas and his NXT Championship challenger Aleister Black will be here tonight.

We then had an update from Charley Caruso on the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic; she recapped all of the action so far in the tournament, and reminded us that we will have both semi-final matches tonight: Roderick Strong & Pete Dunne vs ‘SAnitY’ and ‘Authors of Pain’ versus ‘Street Profits’, the latter of which is the next match up on the show.

TM61 were then shown being interviewed earlier in the day at the WWE Performance Centre. They expressed their disappointment in their exit from the Dusty Cup, and then came out with the line “we are the mighty, and the mighty don’t kneel”. The cameraman then hurried away from them and focused instead on an ensuing brawl in the PC between NXT Women’s Champion Ember Moon and her challenger Shayna Baszler were involved in a pull-apart brawl. Simple and effective enough this, another good piece of build up to what will be a FIGHT at Takeover.

Almas and his business associate Zelina Vega were then shown arriving at Full Sail. They both looking like absolute megastars.

Then we had the match involving the first team to make their way to the ring; the extravagant, fun-loving ‘Street Profits’ (their gimmick is 2 guys who just seem to want to have fun and party, with an urban, rap vibe to it. I should add their both really good and athletic in the ring too, bright future if handled correctly). They were closely followed by their opponents; the monstrous Authors of Pain who were accompanied as always by their trusted leader, WWE Hall of Famer and former manager of many a successful tag team, Paul Ellering. The match lasted about 2 minutes, and unsurprisingly AOP won. A distraction by Ellering on Montez Ford of the Street Profits allowed Akam and Rezar to hit their Last Chapter finisher on Angelo Dawkins in the ring for the pinfall and the win for the Authors of Pain. Much expected result but I was really disappointed this only went 2 minutes or so, but I guess it did help build AOP up more for the upcoming final.

We were then backstage with Cathy Kelly waiting outside William Regal’s office, and when he steps outside he reveals that he has finalised the 2nd competitor in the North America Championship match; ADAM COLE! (GREAT GREAT GREAT NEWS!) He was then interrupted by the Velveteen Dream. HE goes on to say that although the North America Championship is ground-breaking, it is not truly “an experience the NXT universe can get behind, if the Velveteen Dream was in that match, that may just be the experience it needs, I mean what do you say to that Mr Regal?” Well, Mr Regal concurs the Dream, and after praising him for his work in NXT so far he then makes him the 3rd competitor in the match. Gain, another GREAT name added to it. Should be fabulous. Dream finishes by saying to William Regal that “you may have broken ground by introducing the North America Championship, but putting the Velveteen Dream in this match; you just set the stage!” The best way I can describe this segment was that the Velveteen Dream’s dialogue and delivery was as good as his fresh cornrow-like haircut and his FRESH shirt. Stylish guy.

Next match was Lars Sullivan. This guy is a big oaf, but a muscular and athletic one who much unlike some previous monsters WWE have had in the past, this guy can actually wrestle. Even from his entrance you can tell that literally this guy is a BIG deal! He won his match against a jobber, with a Military Press – Powerslam – a Diving headbutt from the top rope (yes LARS SULLIVAN flew off the top rope, it was one hell of a sight to behold), – Freak Accident – 1, 2, 3. A brilliant quote from Mauro Ranallo on commentary summed up the behemoth Lars Sullivan perfectly “Body of a Gorilla, Mind of a Professor”. GENUIS! Shortly after backstage Regal then announced that Sullivan was indeed the 4th participant in the North America Championship Ladder Match, tremendous stuff! Sullivan appeared beside him then and said “That sounds fantastic Mr Regal, I can assure you un-equivocally and categorically I will bring the destruction that only Lars Sullivan can, but this time not only by my hands but with a ladder! But that’s at Takeover; New Orleans … I WANT KILLIAN DAIN!” This led Regal to announce The Beast of Belfast as the next participant in the Ladder match, and also made Lars vs Dain for next week’s NXT. FANTASTIC, ABSOUTLEY BRILLAINT! This Ladder match is going to be incredible!

Dakota Kai then came out for what appeared to be a match for her, but instead we were quickly taken to a brawl outside the arena between Andrade Almas & Aleister Black. It was Almas who was well on top, pummelling Black all the way from the parking lot to the ring area. After the brutal attack concluded Almas and Vega stood tall over the fallen challenger as Almas held his NXT Championship aloft. Loved this, great to see whenever this side of Almas comes out. He’s a superb wrestler and a great shit-house heel, but when he’s angry as he showed in his promo last week he’s fantastic. Zelina Vega barking out orders as the attack went on too, she is also superb at her role.

It was then time for our main event; SAnitY (represented by Eric Young and Alexander Wolfe, sadly no Killian Dain or Nikki Cross accompanying them this time) against the alliance of Roderick Strong and the WWE United Kingdom Champion Pete Dunne. Strong started the match as Dunne, not afraid to use questionable tactics himself, stopped Wolfe & Young throughout trying to take any advantages they could. When in the match himself The Bruserweight targeted the arm of Eric Young with some signature holds, only for Young to counter a double wristlock into a suplex. Strong and Wolfe then each tagged in: Wolfe used a German suplex and an Attitude Adjustment-looking move on Strong, but he was able to kick out of the pin at 2, Young used his wheelbarrow suplex and went for a pin of his own only for Dunne to break it up, all 4 men brawled, Young used his diving elbow on Strong, but he kicked out of the subsequent pin attempt, and then the finish came: Strong tagged in Dunne and the two performed a double team pop-up into a flapjack to give Dunne the pin over Young. Good match, everyone looked good here (no surprise, they are all great) but it was Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne who advance the final of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic against The Authors of Pain next week. Should be great.

With the match over we were then taken to Cathy Kelly again outside of William Regal’s office as she aimed to find out the identity of the final participant for the NXT North America Championship Ladder match. Eventually William Regal did come out, and revealed the 6th participant was just inside his office, he then brings out… RICOCHET!!! One of THE BEST wrestlers on the planet (you may recall me putting him over in a previous NXT review)! WOWSERS; this Ladder match is going to be INSANE! This isn’t for a mid-card belt at all, it’s all the main eventers who aren’t in the NXT Championship match, fantastic stuff! On what will be an incredible weekend of WWE action in New Orleans, this match will take some beating!

And that was yet another terrific episode of NXT. Perfectly built up to ALL the matches on the card at Takeover, with the go home show NXT week it will be interesting to see what more they do to build up hype for an incredibly stacked show…

Key Points to Take Home

  • Ladder matches are great even with sub-standard participants, but with A+++ quality people in them they’re usually tremendous…
  • EC3 should’ve been back in WWE years ago
  • Black vs Almas should get at least half an hour… please…
  • When is an UNSANCTIONED MATCH ever not good?
  • I hope Cathy Kelly was getting paid per interview for this episode…

Conclusion

NXT is great. You should watch it. Takeover will be amazing. Lots of call-ups to Raw and Smackdown to come at/after Mania. Exciting times. Simple as.

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 7/3/2018 Review: NXT is the best(EST)

This week should be another fun, action-packed episode of NXT. A brief video package promoting the start of the 2018 Dusty Rhodes Classic tag team tournament, with TM61 vs AOP beginning this year’s edition how we ended the 2016 tournament. Also on this episode will be the inevitable encounter of Aleister Black vs Killian Dain. I’ve a feeling I might enjoy that one…

So we begin the show with the Authors of Pain and their manager Paul Ellering on the way to the ring, followed by their opponents Shane Thorne & Nick Miller. This was as expected, AOP showing off their power & both members of TM61 demonstrating their fight and athleticism. Akam and Rezar took turns at different points to isolate both Miller and Thorne, although Thorne flying over the ropes onto both of AOP on the outside and later a lariat followed by a cannonball and a rolling suplex from Shane Thorne that got a nearfall looking really impressive. However the Australian tag team were met with a PAINful downfall; Shane Throne was powerbombed onto the apron before Nick Miller was a victim of the Last Chapter tag team finishing move and the Authors of Pain picked up the win. For a 5 or so minute match this was pretty entertaining stuff. But it was as expected and AOP march on, and whatever push TM61 were being given to promote their return (they missed over a year of action due to injury) seems to be over for now…

Next we see NXT General Manger William Regal in a typical NXT impromptu press conference/interview… thing… somewhere in the parking lot area of the arena. He’s asked for his thoughts and favourites for the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic but stops short of offering his tips, Pete Dunne then walks by and is asked by the “reporters” about his UK title status? The Bruserweight says his title isn’t going anywhere, his former challenger Roderick Strong then enters the fray and admits Dunne was the ‘better man’ in their previous match but says he cannot wait to do it again. ADAM COLE ‘BAY BAY’ then walks by with his Undisputed Era stablemates (the NXT Tag Team Champions Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish) and greets both men, winding up Strong to a point in which Pete Dunne tells Cole that “You haven’t won anything since you’ve been here”. The apparent tension prompts Regal to re-enter the picture and ask if there was a problem. Cole smugly says there isn’t…… OOOOOOOOOOOO I LIKED THIS! … Wonder where it will lead us…

Bianca Belair is briefly shown warming up and preparing for her upcoming match backstage. Before that though we see Sanity cut a promo in the inner-area of the arena, Eric Young promises ‘CHAOS’ as he talks up his team’s chances in the upcoming Dusty Classic, Alexander Wolfe similar, a possessed Nikki Cross at this point jumps on Wolfe’s back and does her usual, sadistic laugh at the prospect of her team unleashing more destruction. Finally a typically angry looking Killian Dain tells his opponent for later in the evening, Aleister Black, that “CHAOS WILL WIN”. I really do love Sanity, collectively and individually they are so, so great! Next back in the ring we have Bianca Belair’s match against a jobber. She does some really impressive looking power moves, all whilst swinging her oh-so-long Ponytail in delight, before winning the match rather quickly with a Fallaway Powerbomb. Another showcase for the “est” of NXT (the gimmick being that whatever superlative you can think of can be applied to her; strongest, fastest etc. you get the idea). She’s getting some kind of push, what the end game is and how far it goes remains to be seen. I’d like to see her now against more established competition before I’m fully convinced by her as a performer and by this gimmick though.

Next we have the ‘Lady of NXT’ Lacey Evans talking backstage at an NXT live event, her gimmick is that she is a class above everyone else and is not afraid to flaunt her glamour and class in her opponents faces. She’ll face fellow Mae Young Classic competitor Dakota Kai next week on NXT and in this interview she claims she will ‘test how much her arm has healed’ following the gruesome stomp on it by Shayna Baszler a few weeks back in their match. And right on time enters the Queen of Spades herself, this quickly prompts Evans to leave, as Baszler explains with no surprise to her that we are now in “another week without a word from Ember Moon (the NXT Women’s Champion that Baszler called out for another match against last week)”. She says the silence makes it clear what Moon’s answer is. Not much to say about this really, Evans character is a good one that she pulls off well, and the same and then some for Shayna Baszler. Good stuff all round.

We then were ‘treated’ to a short promo of Heavy Machinery at the Performance Centre gym talking up their chances in the Dusty Classic. I was always told not to say anything if you have nothing nice to say, so my thoughts on Heavy Machinery: .

Tommaso Ciampa then appeared dragging his crutch on the entrance rampway, to a chorus of boos from the Atlanta crowd (you’ll be more than aware by now that Ciampa had previously cost his former tag team partner Johnny Gargano the NXT Championship and his NXT career). He would then make his way, methodically-slow, to the ring with his crutch over his shoulder, not to any music by the way with only the fury of the NXT fans to accompany him (something which I thought worked really well here). As the chants of “WE WANT JOHNNY” ring around the arena Ciampa attempts to speak through the microphone he had grabbed on a number of occasions, only for each time to be stopped by the volume of boos from the crowd (think Roman Reigns the night after Wrestlemania when he had beaten The Undertaker, this was a similarly negative reaction and situation for the man in the ring). Furious at this response Tomasso Ciampa threw his mic to the floor and left the ring without saying a word, he’d try again only for the same reaction to stop him from speaking. He gazed at some fans in the crowd that were wearing Johnny Wrestling T-shirts before throwing his mic once more and making his exit. “HEY HEY HEY, GOODBYE” was the crowd’s thoughts on this or as one fan in particular was clearly heard saying “you’re so bad, you’re so mean” which I found very amusing. Ciampa would then tear up and then beat with his crutch a fan’s sign of Johnny Wrestling before marching his way out of the NXT arena area. This whole segment was BRILLIANT! It’s a really interesting story they are telling here, this will really help build the hatred towards Ciampa, as will his outstanding work via his official twitter. More super stuff.

It was then announced that on next week’s NXT we will have the following matches: Pete Dunne defending his United Kingdom Championship against Adam Cole (WOW, YES), Sanity vs Riddick Moss & Tino Sabatelli (only half brilliant, and I don’t mean Moss & Sabatelli) and ‘Street Profits’ vs Heavy Machinery (meh, who cares) in the Dusty Rhodes Classic. Before it was finally time for our main event!!!

Perhaps the coolest superstar in the whole of WWE right now Aleister Black made his entrance first, closely followed by the Beast of Belfast himself; Killian Dain. These are two of my absolute favourites in the whole of wrestling, so forgive me if there isn’t too much technical analysis of this one. I just wanted to sit back and enjoy it to be completely honest. As you may expect this match was a battle of Dain’s power and surprisingly high athleticism against the pure striking and technical wizardry of Black, demonstrated by a move more commonly used by Finn Balor (who is almost 200 pounds smaller in weight) when Dain dropkicked Black into the corner of the ring for a nearfall in the opening exchange of the match. Black though showed plenty of what he had to offer, in particular a glorious (Roode, 2016) looking moonsault from the top rope to take down Big Damo (he will always be Big Damo, his name before he came to WWE, to me) on the outside. The Northern Irishman would continue to utilise his ferocious power but a now wounded Black would continue on the offensive, Dain repeatedly telling his opponent that this was “my path” (to the NXT Championship). Dain would hit a Vader Bomb but only got a 2 count, he then would place Black in an electric chair position but this was countered into a roll up nearfall. And then as the monstrous Dain returned to his feet he was greeted with the ever vicious–looking Black Mass kick and that was enough to give Aleister Black the win. Good match this one, both of them outstanding talents and showed off their impressive move and skill sets here. So with this victory it is surely now Aleister Black who awaits the NXT Champion Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas in the championship match at NXT Takeover: New Orleans the night before Wrestlemania.

And that was yet another episode of NXT in the books. If you’ve read all of my reviews of this wonderful show so far you won’t need me to tell you how good it is. This episode didn’t disappoint.

Key Points to Take Home:

. AOP should be on the main roster yesterday. Would be a great answer to The Bar’s Wrestlemania open challenge.

. ADAM COLE VS PETE DUNNE, NEXT WEEK!

. I REPEAT: ADAM COLE VS PETE DUNNE, NEXT WEEK, AAAAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHH!!!

. Tomasso Ciampa may be the most despised man in the company. Which means as a heel he is doing his job, and doing it very, very well.

. The Black Mass is the best finisher in WWE right now, FIGHT ME!

Conclusion

NXT as I have said never fails to disappoint, and this week was no exception. The way it is booked, the weight of the card each week is just really well done. And, in my opinion, the 2 key parts of any wrestling show are both done here tremendously well; the storytelling and… the wrestling! The story that is being told with Tomasso Ciampa is really something special, who knows how it’ll conclude and where Johnny Gargano factors in. And as demonstrated by Aleister Black and Kilian Dain in the main event, the quality of wrestling on display is out of this world! Next week promises to be more of the same, with 2 of the very best going at it; Pete Dunne vs Adam Cole. 1 year ago Adam Cole was Ring of Honor World Champion, and Pete Dunne was still a few months from claiming his UK title. Now next week they will face each other in a WWE NXT ring, crazy! But WWE is a good kind of crazy at the moment, and NXT is the epitome of that. Who knows what awaits us as the weeks go on and we get closer to Takeover; New Orleans, and a Takeover means after there will be new arrivals to the brand as others depart for the land of Raw or Smackdown. With abundance of talent in WWE’s “developmental” brand at the moment it could not be a better time to be a fan, and if you don’t already; start watching this show now! I assure you it will not disappoint!

Josh.

NXT 28/2/18 Review: Really Good

So we begin this week’s edition of the best hour of weekly wrestling content on the planet with a recap of the main event from last week; where of course the heart and soul of NXT Johnny Gargano was forced to leave the brand after his former tag team partner Tomasso Ciampa cost him his do-or-die match for the NXT Championship. We will be joined later in the episode by the victorious Champion Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas and his associate Zelina Vega. They will be in full heel-gloat mode I’m sure… perhaps a new challenger for the title will emerge too…?

The first match sees the Velveteen Dream (who, if you’ve read any of my previous NXT blogs you will know I kind of like… A LOT) against former United Kingdom champion Tyler Bate (someone who is insanely talented for his age, and someone I have had the pleasure of witnessing wrestle live at a British wrestling show just months before he came to WWE. The pleasure was all mine). The crowd in Atlanta seemed to really like these two, as chants of “VEL-VE-TEEN” and “Let’s go Tyler” amongst others were prevalent throughout. The match begun with some beautiful looking tie ups and opening holds, Bate dropkicking Dream to the floor on the outside that frustrated the vainglorious one early on. More really good mat wrestling followed, then Velveteen Dream began his focus on Tyler Bate’s back with a series of vicious knee attacks. Bate was able to somehow get back into it and later delivered his signature Airplane Spin which Dream was able to elbow his way out of. Bate would respond by using the ring ropes to bounce off of as a platform for another attack to the Dream for a nearfall. Dream hit a great looking spinebuster for a nearfall, they exchanged more strikes as their tiredness began to show, Dream was on the top rope but Bate would join him, only to then be pushed back down and in doing so falling onto the ropes, leaving the Dudley-born Bate prone for the Purple Rainmaker Elbow drop form the top rope and The Velveteen Dream picked up an impressive win. These are 2 very good, very talented superstars and they showed it here. Really good stuff this one. Commentary made points of Bate’s continuing losing streak and how Velveteen Dream is continuing his own list of names he has defeated. Expect both to factor into their own storylines in the weeks and months of NXT tv to come.

So Shayna Baszler vs Kairi Sane is happening tonight also. A rematch of the Mae Young Classic final. Happy days. A Paul Ellering promo follows, he is flanked by the tag team he manages, the gigantic Akam and Rezar; The Authors of Pain. They speak about the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic and how it will lead them once again to the tag team titles and the Undisputed Era. Should point out both Akam and Rezar spoke also in a mix of broken English and their respective mother tongues… Just get these lot to Raw already PLEASE!!! We were then briefly shown some footage via WWE.com of NXT GM William Regal, along with an apologetic referee whom counted the fateful pinfall last week, as Johnny Gargano signs his NXT release forms in what was a very solemn situation… *cry*

Next match will see WWE Performance Centre standout Cezar Bononi in action against one of my favourite wrestlers in the world, Adam Cole. He is flanked by his stable mates in the Undisputed Era, the NXT Tag Team champions Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly. Seen these 3 live before too and I also own an Undisputed Era t shirt. So that tells you what I think of them. Anyway, as the match is about to start Adam Cole gets a microphone; he asks the crowd to show their appreciation for the NXT 2017 Future Star of the Year Bononi, he then says the future star only belongs in the Undisputed Era! Fish and O’Reilly on the ring apron throw Cezar an Undisputed Era T shirt but as the Brazilian is contemplating the offer he is blindsided by the faction’s leader. Cole does his “Bay Bay” chant with the crowd as he gleefully gloats his double cross on the young upstart, god Adam Cole is just so good and hilarious at what he does. But as Cole is celebrating Bononi retaliates with a big boot before fending away Fish and O’Reilly as the match is finally underway. Cezar hits a Michonoku Driver for a 2 count, but is then distracted by the NXT tag champions enough for Adam Cole to hit an impactful Superkick which was closely followed by his knee to the back of the neck to get the victory. Undisputed Era then beat down Bononi after the bell. Short stuff here but it more than served its purpose, Undisputed Era’s characters are further cemented and anytime they are on my tv screen is a good time for me. They’re great. This was great. Great stuff all round!

Another great video package then plays, this time showing the WWE careers so far of both Kairi Sane and Shayna Baszler and their ongoing rivalry. Then was a pre filmed promo from tag team the Street Profits, followed by the reveal of the bracket for the Dusty Rhodes Classic that was as follows;

Street Profits vs Heavy Machinery

Tino Sabatelli & Riddick Moss vs Sanity

TM61 vs Authors of Pain

Oney Lorcan & Danny Birch vs Moustache Mountain

TM61 VS AOP will be happening next week by the way. A repeat of the final of last edition of the tournament.

So Kairi Sane is on her way to the ring next for her match. She just fills me with so much joy and happiness every time I see her. Shayna Baszler follows. And the match itself begins with Baszler disrespecting the Pirate Princess, whose fightback is stopped ferociously by the Queen of Spades. Baszler is on top for the early going culminating in a series of hard kicks and a particularly hard knee to Sane on the floor for a 2 count nearfall. Shayna stays in control until Sane rolls her up out of a double wristlock for a nearfall. Baszler delivers another hard kick before Sane responds with some offensive strikes of her own, before hitting Baszler with a Spear to bide herself some recuperation time. Sane now is defiant in her approach and follows a sliding attack to a prone Baszler in the corner with a flying Kabuki Elbow that gets her a 2 count. Sane then hits a spinning backfist hard to Shayna, and makes her way to the top rope possible looking for her Insane Elbow finisher but Baszler quickly goes on the attack and hits a Kirifuda driver (a vertical suplex type move followed by her rear-naked choke submission) on Sane for the win. Kairi tapped out fairly quickly after Baszler got the submission in, something I really don’t mind as it makes the move more realistic as in MMA when a submission is locked in like that fully, it often finishes the contest in seconds. Particularly for former MMA fighter Baszler, this helps her character greatly. After the match Baszler approached the commentary table and called out once again the NXT Women’s champion Ember Moon. Decent stuff this from 2 of the best women in WWE. Sane got her stuff in and isn’t weakened by this loss at all, and Baszler can now push on to another title opportunity against the champion after avenging her loss in the Mae Young Classic final to Sane.

And to end the show Andrade Almas and Zelina Vega make their way to the ring, as you’d expect looking pleased with themselves. Vega is on the mic and tells everyone to welcome the greatest NXT champion in history, or as she likes to call him “Mr 4-0”. She goes on to tell the NXT crowd that “you all thought Johnny was gonna win, Johnny thought he was gonna win” before reminding us all that he allowed his family to see him lose not once but four times. She says that as Johnny ‘goes on about earning their (the fans) respect, but “who cares about their respect?”, she says Andrade earns money, fame and power and unlike most women she doesn’t feed off her man’s success, she creates it. This was, as always, really good heel stuff from Zelina Vega, whose fast becoming one of the best and most convincing promos in the company.

Andrade gets the mic and gloats about how Johnny faced him again and again and again and again, and lost. He says that “Johnny talks about being ‘Johnny Wrestling’ again, so I make him Johnny ‘jobless’” before laughing further to himself (I thought this line was pretty good). Some people may critique the fact Almas’ English was broken but I actually think his delivery is such that it’s really effective for his heel character, so props to him for that. Zelina Vega then says “so if they call him Johnny Wrestling, what do they call you [Andrade]?” Almas responds by saying they call me “THE NXT CHAMPION” as El Idolo happily raises his championship with Vega smiling approvingly. Vega and Almas then gloat some more on the rampway before the entrance music of ALEISTER BLACK plays!!! The confused pair look on as Black makes his way to the ring from the other side of the arena. With the lights dimmed as is customary for his entrance, Black simply stands in the ring and stares across at Vega and the NXT Champion, and as chants of “AL-EI-STER” ring around the arena Black goes to speak before the music of the Beast from Belfast KILLIAN DAIN plays!!! A confused Black and Vega/Almas look on as Dain comes through the crowd, gets in the ring and brawls with Black. It ends with Dain hitting his running crossbody move to down the Dutchman, and as Vega and Almas make their exit Dain stands tall over Black, so a future Number 1 Contenders match that I called last week looks a certainty now then…. YES YES YES YES YES!!!!!!!!

And that was yet another very good and fun to watch edition of NXT. It really never fails to entertain me.

Key Points to take home:

  • Velveteen Dream and Tyler Bate are really good
  • The Undisputed Era, collectively and individually, are really good
  • Kairi Sane and Shayna Baszler are really good
  • Zelina Vega has quickly become one of the best all-round performers in the entire WWE
  • I want to see Aleister Black AND Killian Dain face Almas for the title, I WANT THEM BOTH!

Conclusion

As is the same with NXT each week, it seems an abundance of talent doesn’t make it on tv everytime, but that is only to the strength of the roster. In recent weeks Smackdown has struggled to find a good balance, but NXT does it expertly despite being half as long. So let’s focus on those who were on the episode this week; the potential of the Velveteen Dream really is the sky. I pray and hope it will not flounder like so many successful NXT gimmicks have when he eventually makes his way to the main roster. In a year or so time I expect The Undisputed Era to have recruited a female to join their ranks and to eventually hold all of the championships in NXT. Adam Cole for one could well be an outside bet to have a record long reign as champion, a big call that I know but he really is that good. Kairi Sane and Shayna Baszler are just the perfect opponents for each other, in-ring and character wise they mix so well. I would expect to see them in a future encounter for the NXT Women’s Championship later down the line, and I’d be absolutely delighted with that because they are both fantastic talents; Kairi Sane may well be one of my favourite wrestlers in the world and as for Shayna, the quickness that she has shown in adapting so smoothly into becoming a top class pro-wrestler has been stunning. I wouldn’t be too upset if she indeed does take Ember Moon’s title from her in New Orleans.

And finally… well… what more can I say about the NXT Champion Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas, his business associate Zelina Vega and the two potential contenders for the title Aleister Black and the monstrous Killian Dain? I will just say then that there is a reason these ended this episode, and an abundance more as to why they are in the top championship contention on the best wrestling show in the world, because they are all… really good!!!

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.