Tuesday, May 31, 2016

WWE's loss is any other wrestling company's gain

Image credit: WWE.com.
Eight days ago, Cody Rhodes left WWE. He expressed his desire to leave a few days before, venting his frustration at a disinterested writing staff with no desire to book him into any kind of storyline event. It was clear that after ten years with the company, he was no longer able to toe the line WWE forces him on.

It was also clear that in the wake of his father's death, he wasn't interested in continuing as Stardust anymore. Stardust was a character with tons of potential, but just like Cody's previous gimmicks, never quite seemed to get any traction with WWE's writing team. He could have success on the midcard with the Intercontinental or tag titles, but no one expressed any interest in having him in the main event.

That always seemed odd to me. Certain second generation stars don't possess an inkling of their famous parent's talent. Curtis Axel, Ted DiBiase Jr and Bo Dallas are nowhere near as talented as Curt Hennig, The Million Dollar Man or IRS. But while Cody's natural charm wasn't quite like his father's, he clearly possessed every tool necessary to be a star. His natural charisma coupled with amazing in ring skills made him one of the best in the business, especially for someone that came up with no independent training at all.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

On Smackdown live and the new roster split

Image credit: WWE.com.
In the unexpected news department, WWE announced an return to the brand roster split as Smackdown is set to go live on USA in the near future. Both pieces of information are good news for the burgeoning roster and the talent that occupy it.

The original brand split worked well for a couple ears, but the split pay-per-views lost viewers. The existence of the WWE Network curbs most of that problem. Meanwhile live Smackdown allows that show to finally overcome the problem it faced in the original brand extension. Without the live element Raw had, it was easy to overlook any surprise angles on the show. But with Mauro and The King̵s team can do just that. Now the fight can begin between the announce teams about who gets Byron Saxton.

My assumption is the extension will come with Shane and Stephanie splitting the brand. It will be interesting once it happens to see what WWE will do to removed the stigma of Smackdown as the WWE B-show. With it being an hour shorter than Raw, it could also suffer from a smaller roster and less of a big show feeling.

Of course, rumors are already in place that the women's division might find its way a single brand. Whether WWE gives the other brand a sub-division (the Cruiserweight Classic alumni, perhaps?) remains to be seen. How WWE treats their unified World title and Tag Team titles, also remains to be seen.

I an only think of this new brand extension as a wise move for WWE. It should set up a future for the company and find roles for many of the superstars that have been overlooked and lost in the last few weeks.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Looking back at Extreme Rules 2016

Like too many WWE pay-per-views, Extreme Rules had some great moments but they were tempered by far too many terrible events that just hurt the show. And of course, the news of Cody Rhodes' requested release being approved darkened the night just a bit (but more on that later this week.)

Image credit: WWE.com.
The pre-show gave us another confrontation between Big Cass and the Dudley Boyz, another segment clearly designed to promote the eventual feud between Enzo and Cass and the veteran extremists. Cass has certainly come into his own as a solo star in the last few weeks though and I suspect Vince will have a big future in mind for him.

Baron Corbin and Dolph Ziggler's no holds barred match had exactly one normally illegal move as Corbin set up the End of Days with a low blow. It completely wasted the stipulation, but at the same time they didn't want to do anything that would hurt the main event, which has the exact same stipulation with a different name.

The main show opened with The Usos and The Club in a tornado tag team match. Jimmy and Jey set out to have another great match in their repertoire and their battle with Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows did not fail. The two teams put on a classic match in a format rarely seen on WWE television. Hopefully this will convince someone that more tornado tags will be great in the future of the tag division.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Previewing Extreme Rules 2016

Image credit: WWE. 
I’m still not quite sure what to make of this year’s Extreme Rules card. While this is the ‘new era’ of WWE, the card feels even less “extreme” than previous years. But the ongoing feuds offer some great match potential along with a few intriguing storylines.

The pre-show gives us Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin for the second month in a row, this time in a no disqualification match. (If you’re wondering how this is different than the Extreme Rules main event, the answer is they’re not at all different in modern WWE.) This feud still makes little sense to me as an ongoing storyline. Ziggler should be at a higher level than Ziggler, but Corbin should be winning if the company wants to establish him as a main roster star.

As an aside, this is the second month since his debut Apollo Crews doesn’t appear on pay-per-view. Dude has too many skills to not be used in a stronger feature.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Chikara: Action Arcade Wrestling coming along nicely

The developers of Chikara's official video game seem to be coming along nicely with their weird mix of AKI gameplay and the mid-90s Wrestlemania arcade game. Check out the video below and hope they will vastly improve Kimber Lee's sprites before the game's release.

Monday, May 16, 2016

24 hours left to back Headlocked: A Single Step

Comics and wrestling have a lot of crossover fans, but comics with wrestling often fall flat on their face. Headlocked is an exception as Mike Kingston has created a wonderful little book following one man through his journey to become a star in professional wrestling.

This is a new version of the original Headlocked trade with new pages and a bunch of new backups with writing from the likes of the Young Bucks, MVP and NXT champion Samoa Joe. And as with the other volumes, it features a beautiful Jerry Lawler painting for the cover.

The project is now in its last 24 hours on Kickstarter, so if you're interested in snagging a copy, head over and back the book!

Looking back at SCW Revival 2016

This weekend offered a new night of Scott County Wrestling as the company presented their annual Revival event. Much like WWE's Payback, this show was about setting up a new era for the company. Marek Brave is taking a few months off after his storyline injury at last month's show and with a new heavyweight champion in the promotion, things are a-changing.

Mason Beck is really good at these crazed looks.
Image credit: @SCWPro on Twitter
One thing that didn't change was Violet Parker forced to sit on the sidelines again. Violet was to face Zahra Schreiber this month, but Zahra took a Detroit booking instead, moving her SCW debut to June. Without that big debut, the company had a bit of money open and they used it to bring in an SCW veteran.

Bucky Collins made his return in the opening match. Once an SCW regular, Bucky is now working mainly for Funky Munky Wrestling on the Illinois side of the Quad Cities. But he made his return to battle the always excellent Johnny Wisdom in the opener. Their battle for the Quad Cities Cup pushed both men to the limits in a technical showdown, but ultimately it was a foot on the ropes that helped Wisdom retain.

Four of the five new students that opened last week's show took part in a tag match next. Dante Leon and Gyasi D'Wayne took on J.T. Energy and Mike Heights. Leon and D'Wayne played the faces while Energy came off as a smarmy clubber forced to team with the angry-for-no-reason Heights. Dante Leon seemed to get the most ring time here, but it was D'Wayne and Energy that look like the standouts of this class to me. Ultimately, the face team picked up the win.

SCW head Sean Morrow came to the ring next to report Brave would be out for at least the summertime. This brought out SCW champion Mason Beck who called Brave the past and himself the present. Connor Braxton, fingers still bound up from his injury last month, came out to challenge Marek Brave in turn. Braxton called himself the future and said he deserved the next title shot. Shane Hollister arrived next, saying he was the past, present and future of SCW and saying he was deserving of the shot. Braxton and Hollister were put in a number one contender's match for the main event, while Beck was given an opponent for right now, a man he beat down months before: Ross "The Hoss" Reznik.

In a non-title match against the champion, the young Reznik seemed like the underdog in this, despite towering almost as high as Brave. The two men made this out to be a hoss fight, though Reznik still needs to perfect his lariat if he's going to use that nickname. Ultimately it was a Beck Bomb that put the young Mr. Reznik away.

A four way match seemed to be the "everyone else here" battle of the night as Tank Roberts, The Secret Ninja, Ript Studwell and Biff Malibu (wrestling for the first time in a few months despite being at every show) all battled it out. Studwell worked his scrawny strongman gimmick well, while Tank and Biff worked as the giants towering over the others. The Ninja biffed his one offensive move as he failed a springboard move and fell on his face. Tank Roberts picked up the win and put this one to bed in short order.

The final match before intermission was a tag title battle as Adrian Alexander and Bodie Van Zandt took on the full force of Zero Gravity, Brett Gakiya and CJ Esparza. Zero-G are a team to see wherever they travel, two super-small guys with high flying moves as far as the eye can see. This one was filled with false finishes, enough to make me think Zero Gravity would win back the SCW tag titles. But Alexander and Van Zandt's cheating came into play yet again as they took Gakiya down for the victory. (During intermission, I at least helped cheer them up by buying their new shirt.)

Image credit: ProWrestlingTees.com.
The second half kicked off with Chris Hayden and Alex Taylor. I'm still not sure what to make of either men, but Taylor continues to get better at his high flying style. The end of the match came quick, with Taylor winning, but it seemed like Hayden might have botched a kickout.

The company faces a quandary with Eddie Machete. After losing last month's main event, he needs to rebound, but all their titles are held by heels at the moment, keeping Eddie out of any title picture. They solved this for a month at least by putting him in a match against perennial fan favorite Krotch. The two men put on a clash of styles on the show, though nothing quite as strong as the battle between Krotch and Shane Hollister last month. Eddie Machete picked up the win with a shoutout to his co-trainer, hitting a curb stomp for the win.

A three way tag team elimination match was the semi-main event of the night featuring the teams of Latin Thunder and Sentai, Steven Youngblood and Wilhelm, and Bobbi Dahl and Raveboy. This was the first time I saw Wilhelm in action, and he mostly worked as the base for a lot of moves. Thunder and Sentai were the first men eliminated, a bit too quickly for my taste. This allowed the rivalry between the other two units to continue. Ultimately Dahl and Raveboy picked up the win with a very cool wheelbarrow suplex and codebreaker combo on Youngblood.

Connor Braxton and Shane Hollister are two of SCW's brightest talents and they showed it in the main event. The two men threw everything at each other, with both men kicking out of the other's finishers. They kept things bouncing between each man in control, always a challenge when a much smaller heel takes on the bigger face. Ultimately the battle spilled to the floor. Even as I thought the match was heading towards a double count out, Connor quickly rolled in at the nine count to get the win.

The show came to an end with a staredown between Braxton and Beck. The company returns on June 10th with Unbroken, a card I will miss do to a pesky family vacation. Braxton versus Beck has been announced, though I suspect Zahra vs Violet will be announced soon. Dahl and Raveboy versus the tag champs seems likely as well. If you're anywhere near the Quad Cities area, I recommend you give SCW a shot. It's worth the trip each and every month.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The NXT Top 10 for May 2016

It is that time again. It was December when the talents of NXT last appeared in a Top 10 list, and since that time four names on the list moved up to the main roster. With six new slots open, NXT talent have a chance to make a big debut on this month's list!

Alexa makes her debut in the NXT Top 10 this month. Image credit: WWE.com.
  1. Alexa Bliss: Though her allies Blake and Murphy seem to have no luck whatsoever, over the last few months Alexa has become a true veteran of the women's division. Outside the three other women on the list, she's also one of the few signed talents to regularly be featured now that Emma and Dana have moved to the main roster. Her chances at another title shot right now seems slim, but she could have a great match with the new Women's Champion. (U/1)
  2. Austin Aries: Aries made a splash in Dallas, but still hasn't really done anything of huge significance on the roster. Until that happens, he will remain a solid midcard player. I wouldn't be surprised to see a heel turn for him in the near future, hopefully as a move towards a feud with the top star on this list. (U/1)
  3. The Revival: The former tag team champions are still on a tear as they seek to regain their former titles. Dash and Dawson are strong enough talents for the main roster already, but I suspect they will have a continued path on NXT for the next several months as they help cement a strong tag division without Enzo, Cass and The Vaudevillains. (6/2)
  4. Nia Jax: Nia has mostly been the star of squash matches since she lost to Bayley in December. But even with one loss under her belt, she has been a major player in the women's division. Though she still is far from the strongest female star on the roster, the slow brewing feud between her and Asuka promises a huge match in the future of NXT. (U/1)
  5. American Alpha: Jason Jordan and Chad Gable may be the most over stars on the NXT roster if it wasn't for a major signing that has electrified the company. Jordan and Gable have the potential to be huge stars either as a team or, eventually, singles stars. A long tag team reign is the perfect role for them now as they continue to electrify the roster with stellar match after stellar match. (7/3)
  6. Bayley: The former women's champion took a large hit to her push when she passed out to Asuka in Dallas, but she really embodies Sami Zayn's old moniker: the heart and soul of NXT. While her future with WWE's secondary brand seems limited, she still stands as one of the developmental brand's biggest talents ever. Wherever she goes, she has a bright future with WWE. (3/2)
  7. Finn Balor: Last time around, Finn was the number one man on the list. The loss of his NXT title at a house show hurt his standings, but his greatest problem right now is his failure to connect with NXT's audience as strongly as other faces on the roster. Arguably Bayley and American Alpha get more cheers than Balor, but they aren't as highly featured. Still the number four position is as high as Balor honestly can be featured here. (1/3)
  8. Asuka: The #3 and #2 spot were hard to judge, but the lack of regular appearances by Asuka since her big title win in Dallas dropped her to the three spot. Asuka is an unstoppable beast on the NXT roster and hugely over with the live audience. She gets tons of cheers (at least outside of matches with Bayley) and her dominant run in the women's division marks her as a star to watch in the future of NXT and WWE. (4/3)
  9. Samoa Joe: The new NXT champion lacks a strong storyline right now, with only the continuation of his feud with Finn Balor keeping his story going. While the unexpected debut of Eric Young (still not a signed NXT talent) changed things up a bit, Joe still needs a few more strong victories and new foes before he really starts to look like the champion and main event player we all know he can be. (2/3)
  10. Shinsuke Nakamura: "Fight forever." Nakamura instantly electrified the NXT audience with his debut match against Sami Zayn. Subsequent beat downs of Tye Dillinger, Alex Riley and Elias Samson have kept that streak going. He easily gets more cheers than any other talent on the roster. A major player if he should stick around NXT, WWE already has him signed to the Hawaii Bash at the Beach show with the main roster. While we won't see him reignite his NJPW feud with Brock Lesnar in NXT, the match between the two could easily jet Nakamura to the main roster quickly. Right now, it will be hard to top him as the new most beloved star of NXT. (U/1)
The former IWGP Heavyweight and IC champion made a huge debut in NXT.
Image credit: NJPW.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Looking back: Razor Ramon and the 1-2-3 Kid

A lot of negative things have been written about early 90s WWF. It wasn't the perfect promotion during the period at all, especially as money issues forced many of the company's longtime talent away. But it was also the era of Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and my personal favorite of the era, Razor Ramon.

Image credit: Uncensored Writing.
Long before his addictions forced him into a decade plus downward spiral, Scott Hall was one of the best wrestlers in the game. Standing nearly 6 and a half feet tall, he could have just done a bunch of big man moves, but instead he was one of the best grapplers of the era. And after jumping from AWA to Germany to WCW, he finally made his way to the company that was still the big leagues of the time: WWF.

Gone were his large mustache and radiant perm. Suddenly he was as Cuban as Al Pacino in Scarface. He carried much of Tony Montana's mannerisms into his role as a Latin lothario, but the gimmick was often just an excuse for Razor to wrestler some amazing foes.

Clearly WWF knew what they had with Hall and the Razor Ramon character. His first feuds were against people like Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior and then WWE champion Bret Hart. While he never won the WWF title, he quickly established himself as a top bad guy. After all he was The Bad Guy.

But that's not what this post is about. I want to look at the time when The Bad Guy became a good guy and it all started with a kid called... The Kid.

Until this point, the young Sean Waltman had only been a jobber. But his sudden and unexpected win over Razor Ramon lit a fire under The Bad Guy for revenge. He trailed The 1-2-3 Kid for weeks, even as his focus was divided with the King of the Ring tournament. Ultimately he would suffer another loss to The Kid and in the process, realize he was on the wrong path. Razor ended up embracing his sudden rival. He took the Kid under his wing and started a successful tag team with him.

And while the team never won a tag title, these two men were part of a small group that put on some of the very best wrestling matches in history. Despite any baggage they might carry now, they were and are some of the top talents in wrestling history. I encourage everyone to check out the clips above and the full matches on the WWE Network's earliest Raw replays. Because every moment, these two men were on screen, some great wrestling was in the works.