Friday, June 8, 2018

MOTW4: Mike Quackenbush vs. Eddie Kingston

This time around I'm going to flashback several years for the Match of the Week. Flashback to 2011. The 12 Large Tournament had ran throughout the year in Chikara, all to crown the company's first ever Grand Champion. Claudio Castagnoli made his swan song during the tournament, to pop up just weeks later on WWE television as Cesaro. But two stars still remained on the roster as they sped towards the finals and an epic confrontation. On one side, the founder of Chikara Mike Quackenbush and on the other, the company's ugly stepchild, a man that warred with the entire company until just over a year before, when everything he said about Claudio proved to be true with the debut of the BDK.

Emotions were high, as both men wanted to dedicate their win to their loss compatriot Larry Sweeney. The pipebomb promo had lit the world on fire just a few months before, but I will argue in the lead up to the event, Eddie Kingston cut the most passionate wrestling promo of all time.

All of it culminated on November 13, 2011 in a huge fight in the ECW arena between arguably the two biggest stars in Chikara. Watch it below and prepare to be wowed.

Friday, June 1, 2018

MOTW3: Penta El 0 Miedo vs. Caristico

Two generations of luchadores collide as one of the biggest independent stars in wrestling Penta El 0 Miedo (better known in some circles as Pentagon Jr or Pentagon Dark) versus the former Mistico and Sin Cara, the Mexican legend that crashed and burned in WWE but remains a big draw internationally as Caristico. They collided in a match for the CRASH promotion that seems to play to both men's strengths.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

WWE doesn't have a talent problem; it has a storytelling problem

An old euphemism states "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." If that is the true definition of insanity, WWE's creative team must all currently write from padded cells.

Storytelling in general - and wrestling in particular - is built around tropes. There's only so many ways to tell stories around the battle of two or more people in the wrestling ring. Angles repeat, sometimes purposefully, sometimes not. But the key to good wrestling storytelling is to find new ways to keep things fresh. New Japan doesn't always succeed in this (see the endless matches between War Machine, Killer Elite Squad and the Guerrillas of Destiny), but usually can continue to tweak things in interesting ways (Okada/Omega, Okada/Tanahashi, Kushida/Takahashi, etc.) This allows them to repeat matches without it feeling like the same thing over and over again, generally with no clear conclusion.

Sometimes WWE storytelling leaves one feeling a lot like AJ here.
Image credit: WWE.
WWE has always had a problem with clear conclusions and feud blowoffs. But in the last few years, the company has fallen into a rut especially in the main event picture. Roman Reigns has worked the same match for years now: he gets brutalized for twenty minutes before pulling out a Superman punch and a spear (or eight) to turn things around. He's worked the same feud against Strowman, Big Show and Samoa Joe, all built around him being "the big dog". There's no good reason he picks half these fights, nor has his character ever been built around the spirit of competition. Instead, his blind heroism in an attempt to sell merchandise turns him into a blithering idiot.

At Money in the Bank, WWE will give us the fifth battle between Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles under their banner. After the two men stole the show at Wrestle Kingdom a few years back, everyone anticipated their Wrestlemania encounter with enthusiasm. A lackluster showing ended with a Nakamura heel turn. But instead of paying off the feud with a heel title win by Nakamura, the company ended the next two matches with a double count out and a no contest. Nakamura picked up the win on Smackdown to pick the Last Man Standing stipulation for Money in the Bank, but at this point the once hotly anticipated feud between the two men feels like something we just want to end.

It seems like repetitive storytelling has become the norm for WWE. Whether it was the endless feud last year between the Usos and the New Day, Jinder Mahal picking up win after win, or the number of times The Miz fought Roman Reigns or Seth Rollins in the last twelve months, it just feels like the writing team build with holding patterns planned. It's especially frustrating for the weekly viewer, but even for a person like me that watches highlights and pay-per-views, it starts to feel tired after the third PPV in a row with the same people in the ring and the same false finishes to extend storylines.

Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that WWE is likely to change anything anytime soon. With two billion dollar deals for their two shows, the company looks like it will continue on the path that's clearly bringing them success.

That opens up avenues for companies like ROH, that have started to draw record numbers to events headlined by Cody, the Young Bucks and Dalton Castle. Impact has shown ratings increases on Pop as the company starts to solidify a roster after years in flux. Lucha Underground looks to return with more fanfare than in past years. Will all three companies continue to make storytelling decisions far stronger than those of WWE? That's anyone's guess, but I suspect the chances are good in the year ahead.

What do you see as WWE's main weakness in the days and months ahead? Let me know in the comments section!

Friday, May 25, 2018

MOTW2: Will Ospreay vs. Matt Riddle

Will Ospreay has become a standout in New Japan this year as a dominant Junior Heavyweight Champion. As he is now deep in the middle of the Best of the Super Juniors, we look back at another match from this month as he battled American indie superstar Matt Riddle at Dublin's Over the Top Wrestling. Riddle has made a huge impression all over the indies, most significantly in EVOLVE. But perhaps the most amazing thing about Riddle is that he still hasn't signed to any major televised brand. Check both men out in this stellar encounter.