Friday, July 29, 2016

Humble beginnings: Seth Rollins' earliest match in SCW

The fun thing about the internet is finding little bits and pieces of wrestling history that probably are slightly embarrassing to the megastars of WWE in hindsight. But without these humble beginnings, those stars wouldn't be who they are today.

A lot of wrestling fans know Seth Rollins wrestled before WWE for groups like Wrestling Society X, AAW, IWA Mid-South and Ring of Honor as Tyler Black. But even before that, he was a young man going by the name of Gixx. And as Gixx, he wrestled an early match against another young wrestler who appears to be his future longtime tag partner Marek Brave. Neither man was even out of high school when this took place, long before they would have name changes out of something from a bad video game.

Thankfully both Rollins and SCW as a whole have came far since these days. You can definitely see hints of the future Rollins even then though. Check it out below.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The better Nakamura / Balor match

Image credit: NJPW.
I am not the only one to express some level of disappointment in the good but not great battle between Shinsuke Nakamura and Finn Balor that served as Balor's last big match on NXT. Some weird no sells and a lack of intensity at spots between the two overly friendly babyfaces made the match weak at times. It often lacked some of the strong style fire both men are known for, the same fire Nakamura and Zayn showed by the ton at Takeover: Dallas.

But the two men met once before in a New Japan ring near the end of the then-Prince Devitt's run with the company. During the second round of the New Japan Cup, the two men faced off in a hard hitting battle with the heel Devitt doing everything in his power to take down the former and future IWGP Intercontinental champion. It seemed like the set up for a new storyline as Nakamura would become embroiled in a feud with the Bullet Club soon enough. But that feud would be with Bad Luck Fale, as Devitt left New Japan less than a month after this match occurred.

I strongly suspect the original plan for Nakamura's spring feud was to be Devitt and Nakamura, spinning from this match, but clearly those plans changed.

Hopefully down the line, WWE will give them a bigger chance to shine against one another. For now, check out this classic battle between two future WWE legends.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Bullet points: Week one of the brand extension

A few more bullet points, this time focused on the highlights of this week's Raw and Smackdown.

Finn Balor looked amazing while Roman Reigns' wellness policy
punishment streak got underway. Image credit this page:
  • The Raw roster is infinitely deeper than the Smackdown roster. Even without the incoming cruiserweight division (I assume in September), the roster already feels bloated. The brand certainly doesn't need the influx of classic talent that the Smackdown roster is already getting.
  • WWE has been wise so far in their additions from the past on Smackdown. Rhyno is a guy that
    Rhyno still has a lot he can give
    to the blue brand. 
    never got a real shot to shine in WWE for any significant period of time. He's got all the tools he needs to be a credible upper midcarder for years to come and hopefully he'll get that chance. Shelton Benjamin is honestly one of the most talented WWE stars to never be a World champion. While I don't see him ever getting to that plateau with his return, he should continue to bring great matches. And if WWE can lure Charlie Haas back even for a few weeks, American Alpha versus the World's Greatest Tag Team is a definite dream match.
  • Nia Jax isn't ready for the main roster. Dana Brooke got a lot of flack when she was called up, but in my opinion, Nia is worse. She's going to get a huge push and she simply doesn't have the seasoning she needs for it to work. I could be proven wrong, but she has no place anywhere near Charlotte, Paige or new champion Sasha Banks yet.
  • The Miz should have been in the battle royal, not sitting on the sidelines to get beat by Randy Orton. Ditto for American Alpha. I get you don't want them to debut in a battle royal they lose, but it makes no sense when the heads of the brand say "everyone has a chance" and three talents not booked for Summer Slam yet don't get a chance. 
  • I'm excited to see new talents rise to the top of the rosters, but it very much feels like the writing is already on the wall about the placement of title matches on Summer Slam. Either Orton versus Lesnar or Styles versus Cena will almost certainly get the main event spot on the pay-per-view while Dolph Ziggler and Finn Balor get their chances farther down the card. 
  • I really hope WWE uses a Dean Ambrose / Dolph Ziggler feud to turn Ziggler heel. In the perfect world, they would team Ziggler with his now respected rival Baron Corbin and let the two have a strong Michaels / Diesel style run with the title before the inevitable breakdown. 
  • Enzo and Big Cass need to find a storyline quickly. The two Certified Gs are far too important to The New Era to have them beating up jobbers on Raw without any real purpose. 
  • I expect next week's Smackdown will give us the start of at least one title tournament. I suspect we will see some kind of tag team title as well as a second women's belt (which I'm guessing will be called the Revolution title.) If the blue brand really is the show to go for solid wrestling, they would be foolhardy not to book solid tournaments as opposed to the fatal four way setup Raw gave on Monday night. 
  • I'm personally more excited about WWE's weekly shows than I have been for months. I'm back to watching them regularly after over a year of pay-per-view only viewing. If they can keep up the quality, I can seriously see the brand extension pulling in a lot of new or lapsed viewers.
Could Becky Lynch be the face of a new title on Smackdown?
Both shows looked solid and if this is truly the beginning of a New Era of dual brands, WWE is off to a great start. Hopefully the momentum can continue in the weeks ahead as both shows prepare their matches for the four hour Summer Slam spectacle.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Belated Battleground thoughts

Here's a few thoughts I had on WWE Battleground from Sunday night, presented in handy bullet point format.

  • Dean Ambrose proved his worth to the main event scene with a victory in a great main event. The Shield three-way should have main evented Wrestlemania, but all three men proved they should be contenders. 
  • Randy Orton was on the top of his game with his mike work. He looked more alive and energized than he has in a very long time. Orton has the potential to look like a fresh character in 2016, something he hasn't been for years. 
  • Natalya and Becky Lynch feel like two women that need more to their feud. They got shorted TV time due to the draft, so hopefully they will get more time to develop their storyline on Smackdown Live
  • Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn lived up to the pressure another match between the two men meant. Zayn finally got a big win on the main roster while Owens did the job for his long time friend. Both should come out of the night looking like a million bucks. 
  • Darren Young's new gimmick is gold and his wrestling style has seriously improved with the addition of some Backlund moves and mannerisms. 
  • Zack Ryder looked great against Rusev. Teaming with Mojo Rawley on Smackdown Live almost feels like a demotion for him after the match.
  • The New Day versus the Wyatt Family served no purpose, but the match was solid. It will be interesting to see how Bray is booked as part of the strangely designed Smackdown Live roster.
  • Bayley is awesome. Her debut is everything wrestling should be. Her and Sasha put on a great match to kick off the show and her full time main roster spot can only be considered highly anticipated now. 
Image credit:

Monday, July 25, 2016

Figured out: Shockmaster has an action figure

Maybe the coolest thing to come out of San Diego Comic Con this year was Mattel's exclusive release for the WWE line of action figures. Shockmaster got an action figure, complete with a packaged version of his debut bungle.

Image credit for this post: 

The figure comes complete with everything you need to create the famous debut, even if the glitter stormtrooper mask is slightly off model to keep any Hasbro toymakers from getting litigious.

Sadly, Shocky was only available at San Diego, so I expect him to go for major bucks on the secondary market soon.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

SCW opener now IWA Mid-South champion

IWA Mid-South has a nearly twenty year history with a lot of ups and even more downs. The company is slowly piecing itself together now, once again focused on young upstart talents mixed with a few veterans and a whole lot of hardcore.

But their heavyweight championship is a who's who of stars. Held by the likes of CM Punk, Eddie Guerrero, Jerry Lynn, Colt Cabana and AJ Styles, the title perhaps has more prestige than IWA does itself.

That title is now around the waist of a promising young Midwest star deserving of tons more attention. J.J. Garrett works a Saved by the Bell inspired gimmick, but his in ring skills are anything but bad 90s fare. Like Mallaki Matthews and his sometimes tag partner Harvey Bower, he is an infrequent guest to Scott County Wrestling shows, where he always shows a lot more talent than the level he is booked at.

Clearly the men behind IWA know this as they recently had him cash in their own version of the Money in the Bank to take his first reign as IWA Heavyweight Champion.

It is a huge moment for the young star. Here's hoping we see a lot more of him around the Midwest and beyond in the near future.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The draft... happened: a few underwhelmed thoughts

I know I am certainly not the only person that found the WWE Draft a bit underwhelming. While far stronger than the version we got from WWE way back in 2002 or the random lottery of later years, the order of so many of the picks were so random. Midcard champions not going until the sixteenth and seventeenth overall pick is certainly insane, while the number one contenders to those titles are treated like also-rans drafted on the secondary show.

Despite much ballyhoo about WWE trying to make Smackdown as strong as Raw, the action of the night really didn't bring that out. Raw seemed programmed to the future with Zayn, Cesaro, Owens and Balor all in strong places while Smackdown feels like it will have to be built around Ambrose, Styles, Wyatt and Cena simply because the roster isn't very deep beyond them. Orton could be a wildcard but he likely will be looking few live events, similar to Cena's new schedule. That especially makes Smackdown an incredibly weak touring brand.

The NXT signings were mostly underwhelming. Balor went high and should get a massive main roster push. American Alpha should be the focus of the Smackdown tag division going ahead, although if that comes with no title belts who knows how important that will really feel. Nia Jax feels way too soon. Alexa Bliss, Carmella and Mojo Rawley could all work on the main roster, but none really feel like they've accomplished enough in NXT to make the call-ups sensible. Other NXT veterans like Tye Dillinger would be more sensible, while Austin Aries, Samoa Joe and Bobby Roode have already showed they can be main event players. However one shimmer of sunlight: it does seem likely we will see the Hype Bros finally start a strong run on Smackdown, though whatthey can accomplish is anyone's guess.

Of course, the real question of the future will be built around the writers. Raw continues with the same writer it has had for quite some time, a man without a real good sign of knowing how to freshen things up. Smackdown looks to be in the charge of Ryan Ward, former NXT head writer, which could mean a stronger simpler booking method for the show. More storylines built around strong athletic competition seems sensible, but without so many of the superstar NXT alum like the aforementioned Zayn, Cesaro, Owens and Balor, it feels more like rehabilitation for older stars (Dolph Ziggler) and continued Ward pet projects (Baron Corbin and Apollo Crews.)

Next week, we will see with the beginning of a new era for the two brands. Here's hoping they give us the future WWE deserves with the talent it now possesses.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Mick Foley should bring quality humor back to WWE

Image credit:
Last night, Mick Foley and Daniel Bryan were named the Raw and Smackdown General Managers, but I personally hope they do something a bit different with the roles this time around. Especially with Foley, why not let his comedy timing get a chance to shine through.

Let him play with his identities, let him actually do something funny as opposed to Vince's normal sense of humor. Clearly, Mick has the chops for it. But let him make Raw fun again. Comedy is a part of wrestling and Foley is the perfect figure to bring good comedy to WWE.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Wrestling Weekday presents the WWE fantasy draft

It has been weeks since WWE first announced the return of the roster split as part of an ongoing move to broaden the viewership of Smackdown. This Tuesday on the first live Smackdown, it will take place, complete with a second screen experience to keep the draft going into the evening.

Over the weekend I teamed with John Morgan Neal of the ESO-PRO podcast for something just about every wrestling site is doing over this weekend, predicting their layouts one-on-one of the WWE draft. John Morgan picked Smackdown as his brand, and I took Raw. With the assumption Smackdown gets the first pick, we started to run down our own rosters. 

We had a few simple rules: single stars remained singles stars while tag teams remained tag teams unless a good reason existed to break them apart. Any NXT star of extended service (i.e. ready for the main roster) was allowed as a draft pick, but no higher than round four. Brock Lesnar is considered an automatic free agent, as Paul Heyman refuses to have him tied to a single brand. Finally, we were each allowed one surprise outside pick which you will see down the list at certain points. 

With the assumption that this draft will be extended longer than the show itself, probably through WWE Network picks, John Morgan and I went twenty rounds to pick our choices for the best names on both new brands. 


Image credit: Rob Schamberger.
SD: Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon choose for their first pic of the draft, JOHN CENA.   While Shane and Daniel are all about the New Era.  The New Era isn't about erasing or denigrating the past.  And they realize Smackdown needs things to get eyes on the new Smackdown.  Going live and having their own roster is the start. But having the biggest name in all of pro wrestling exclusively on your show is another.  John Cena would be an excellent start to a brand new Smackdown roster.

Image credit:
Rob Schamberger.
RAW: Stephanie McMahon wants the newest star on the WWE roster, a man that has made a name for himself in just the six months since his first appearance at the Royal Rumble. He's the man that beat John Cena. He is a wrestler and a man that inside or outside the ring is simply Phenomenal. Raw's first round pick is AJ STYLES.

Analysis: Clearly both John Morgan and I knew the importance of John Cena to WWE's product. If JMN hadn't recruited him, he would have been Raw's first pick. But with Cena taken for Smackdown, his current foil seemed like the perfect first round pick for Raw, even if it did leave the World Heavyweight champion and his contenders by the wayside. Besides, I am still amazed that I live in a world where AJ Styles could have an outside shot of being a first round draft pick for a WWE draft. Five years ago, I would have told you that you were clearly insane to even think that idea. Oh how the times change.


SD: While Shane's first pic was using the past to help the future his next pic is the future, the face of the future in fact and a potential new  WWE champion as of Battleground: SETH ROLLINS!

RAW: Raw's second pick is a man Stephanie doesn't like very much, but who has proven he can survive a beating and keep going. That resiliency made him the WWE champion and his name is DEAN AMBROSE.

SD: Well one world champion deserves another so Shane decides to be positive with his next draft as to not be booty and picks the two times Double U. Double U. E. Tag Team Champions THE NEW DAY:  Kofi Kingston, Big E, and Xavier Woods.

Image credit:
Rob Schamberger.
RAW: Last year, Stephanie started the revolution. This year she will take control of that revolution. The third pick for Raw is the WWE's women's champion CHARLOTTE

SD: And Shane was instrumental in the New Era which Smackdown is going to be all about.  And that area is all about the new!  For his next pick Shane welcomes someone new to the main roster.  FINN BALOR!

RAW: Stephanie doesn't like him. Heck, she hates him. But she knows that in this business respect must be played to the man that rises against all obstacles. Whether he's the good guy or the bad guy, he is Raw's guy: ROMAN REIGNS.

SD: Shane shows he is not above picking someone he doesn't care for either.  But talent is talent and no one in the WWE has more of it than KEVIN OWENS!

RAW: He's perhaps the most dominant champion in WWE today and has destroyed the competition that has came in his path. The fifth pick for Raw is the United States champion, RUSEV.

Analysis: I'm not sure I agree with John Morgan in choosing Seth over Dean unless he wins the title on Monday night. I think the third round feels right as I expect both the tag and women's championship to be high in the prize list. I certainly wanted Stephanie to continue to focus on the women's division as well, so Charlotte had to go high to guarantee the title was held there. I wasn't surprised by most of the other picks on the list, but I was a bit surprised either secondary champion wasn't picked until the fifth round. I actually waited that long assuming JMN would take his pick and I could counter with the other. But I happily took Rusev, a man with tons of potential still untapped.

Just like Arnold, The Wrestling Weekday is back!

Image credit:
After nearly a month away from this blog due to personal issues, The Wrestling Weekday is back. I will start adding new content on an (almost) daily basis starting with a fantasy Raw / Smackdown draft later today.

From there, I plan to continue posting fairly regularly, though you will see a lot more short posts focused on simple bits of wrestling news or classic matches. My regular analytical posts will continue once or twice a week as well, so don't worry about losing anything you love while gaining the new content.

Thanks again for being loyal readers and let's get this show on the road!