Thursday, August 25, 2016

So this happened...

When did The Miz become this good? I'm not sure if this is Bryan and Miz going into business for themselves or if this is part of a major push for Mike Mizanin, but I honestly think he needed a desperate refreshing of his character as he seems to be more of a host than an Intercontinental champion of late. I pray this leads to more interesting things for him in the future, as he is one of the few traditional WWE wrestlers I still really like to see get pushed.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

That one time a potential Cruiserweight Classic winner wrestled the one-day Universal champion

It's a bit hard to believe that just a couple years ago, Finn Balor was still Prince Devitt and working indie shows between New Japan appearances. One of his last few appearances was for PROGRESS Wrestling on their thirteenth show aptly titled Chapter 13, which due to camera issues they released for free on Youtube. That match was against Zack Sabre Jr., a figure anyone watching WWE Network knows has some interest from the higher ups at WWE.

Finn may have lost his Universal title in only a day due to injury, but let's look back at the good old days, before the Demon King, when Prince Devitt was just a crazy cosplay guy.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Takeover took the weekend... again

Last year, NXT Takeover: Brooklyn stole the show over SummerSlam. Though the card was drastically different, NXT Takeover: Brooklyn II did the exact same thing. From top to bottom, the show was a rousing success.

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The biggest point that can be made about the show is that it has been made clear that the influx of Japanese stars will be drastically important to the NXT roster. Whether it was Kota Ibushi making an appearance backstage, Hideo Itami reclaiming the finish he created when he hit Austin Aries with the Go To Sleep, Asuka knocking out Bayley or Shinsuke ascending to the top position, the heroes from the land of the rising sun shined in Brooklyn.

The weakest matches were also the spotlights for two new stars, though both were far from bad. Ember Moon versus Billie Kay never quite felt like it got out of first gear, but the O-Face (which I'm guessing will be renamed the Crescent Moon right now) created a spectacular finish. Andrade Almas still doesn't seem ready for the spot he's in, nor has NXT's booking done him any favors as a babyface against far more popular villains. But he held his own even if his position was as a jobber in the in ring debut of Bobby Roode.

And that debut was definitely one thing: glorious.

The newly named team of #DIY, Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa, had an epic match-up with The Revival, which explained why they were far higher on the event card than basically any other tag title match ever. Both teams have legs as the throwback heel unit continues to sore more fans and the face unit continues to gel as a cohesive team. With Gargano and Ciampa now full time NXT roster members, I expect this feud is far from over, though a heel turn for Ciampa could happen sooner rather than later, especially with TM61 and The Authors of Pain waiting in the wings to challenge The Revival.

Asuka looked stupendous in her victory over Bayley, though I remain a bit surprised WWE still hasn't turned her heel, as NXT definitely has a lack of heel women to challenge her. Though Bayley got in far more offense in this match, her role in the future of the main roster is clear, while Asuka still has plenty of time to shine on the developmental brand as she works on her English.

And while Roode had a glorious entrance, Shinsuke Nakamura had one of the most uniquely awesome entrances in the history of professional wrestling. A shortened version is below, but I highly recommend everyone check out the replay to get the full five minute entrance as the opening alone is truly breathtaking. Big ups to the powers of be at NXT and violinist Lee England Jr for their work on it.

When all is said and done, maybe the show won't be as important as the crowning of the first WWE Universal champion. But it will remain a show that I can watch highlights from forevermore. And while no match quite captured the greatness of Sami Zayn versus Shinsuke Nakamura, NXT still delivered another in an absolutely epic series of great supercards.

Friday, August 19, 2016

A different kind of SummerSlam

SummerSlam is the big money show of the weekend, but this honestly feels like one of the strangest iterations of the event. None of the "main events" really feel like a main event to me, although I suppose Raw's offering is probably the strongest of the three. But with a double digit number of matches on the card, it promises to offer some interesting battles. And if Battleground was any indication last month, the more varied matches with smaller pre-match packages actually worked really well. Here's a rundown of the card.

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  • Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins: I'm not sure this will actually main event, but the crowning of a Universal champion is momentous, even if the title's name is painful. I suspect this will be Rollins to win, although it does feel foolish to debut the Demon King in action and have him lose in his first outing. But it was even more foolish to have the Demon King appear days before the pay-per-view. Still it would take a momentous shift in WWE booking to have Balor win the title a month into his run as a member of the main roster.
  • Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler: Ziggler's push to main event status still doesn't quite feel cemented, which makes this feel like the weakest of the three big matches. Still, I suspect it will have strong storyline potential. I suspect a heel turn for Ziggler is in the future and with the right booking, he could be a strong new heel main eventer on the brand, not unlike Shawn Michaels in the early 90s. But it remains to be seen if WWE will really pull the trigger on Ziggler.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

NXT takes over Brooklyn again!

Just like last year, NXT takes the Barclays Center just a day before Summer Slam for Takeover: Brooklyn. And while only two competitors from last year's Brooklyn visit are still around for the return, the event promises major consequences for the developmental brand that recently lost a huge swath of their talent to Raw and Smackdown.

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  • Samoa Joe vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for the NXT Title: This one screams dream match, but Joe is in a tentative place as champion, only having beat Balor in major title matches so far. Nakamura enters undefeated, so a loss here does neither man any favors. Expect the loser of this match (or this feud, should it continue) to make a main roster jump before the end of the year. 
  • Asuka vs. Bayley for the NXT Women's Title: Bayley finally gets her rematch with Asuka and again, this match offers little reward for either star. Asuka winning will burn her popularity with fans even more while Bayley's winning feels almost like a demotion for the star that should have been main roster bound months ago. Either way, if they really go this could be match of the night.
  • Andrade Almas vs. Bobby Roode: Typing Bobby Roode's name on an NXT card still feels strange, but it really feels like he outmatches Almas in every way. Almas isn't bad, but he's not at Roode's level. A victory for Almas would almost certainly turn him heel against the "Glorious" former TNA star.
  • Austin Aries vs. No Way Jose: Speaking of former TNA stars, former TNA champion Austin Aries has been at war with No Way Jose for weeks. Jose has shown some solid wrestling chops and really got the Full Sail crowd behind him. It will be interesting to see if that support continues as he takes on Aries in New York. 
  • The Revival vs. Gargano and Ciampa for the NXT Tag Titles: Gargano and Ciampa are both permanent NXT residents from all indications, complete with a new tag team name coming soon (and hopefully a better entrance video.) I'm not sure they win this match, but I suspect they will continue to feud with The Revival, hopefully straight through a new edition of the Dusty Classic at the next Takeover.
  • Ember Moon vs. Billie Kay: While I'm happy to see Billie Kay finally gaining some character on NXT television, this is all about showing off Ember Moon's talents. Hopefully she gets to retain her O-Face finisher at her new home. 
Overall it doesn't have the pizzazz of Summer Slam's top matches, but just like last year's show, it could very well outperform the big night in every way. Watch it live at 8 p.m. Eastern / 7 Central on Saturday.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Get ready for the second biggest weekend in wrestling!

WWE has two big shows coming this weekend, which I'll talk about in more detail in the next couple days. But they are far from the only promotion running pay-per-view events. Several independent promotions are also running shows over the weekend, including internet pay-per-views and even a streaming special over an indie service akin to WWE. Here's the details on some of the happenings going down.

Ring of Honor isn't quite an independent, but they are running on Friday night. It's also the odd show out as it is the only one not in the northeast area.
  • ROH World Title - Jay Lethal vs. Adam Cole: The storyline behind this one is ridiculous. Lethal insisted on a title match because he had his head shaved by the Bullet Club. Why not just demand he get a one on one match with Cole non-title? The whole thing presents Lethal as an idiot, especially since he's likely to drop the title.
  • ROH World Television Title - Bobby Fish vs. Mark Briscoe.
  • Silas Young vs. Katsuyori Shibata: Shibata makes his United States debut. I look forward to seeing Silas get his face kicked off.
  • Toru Yano and Roppongi Vice vs. Yujiro Takahashi & Guerrillas of Destiny: None of these stars make regular appearances for ROH, though Roppongi Vice has made more than the others. It feels strangely inserted, especially with regular Bullet Club members Adam Page and Young Bucks not with a listed match.
  • No other matches are listed despite Los Ingobernables De Japon, Michael Elgin, Jay Briscoe, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and tag champs The Addiction all in attendance. Strange to see ROH selling their show on so little, especially when compared to their Japanese partners that give away all planned matches ahead of time. 
The more interesting card on Friday though has to be EVOLVE 66. Gabe Sapolsky's promotion has some of the best wrestling in the world every show and this one brings the independent debut of one Cody Rhodes. And Cody's not facing just some scrub.
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  • Cody Rhodes vs. Zack Sabre Jr.: Most folks might just be learning about Sabre, but this should push Rhodes' wrestling skills to the test in what I hope will be an epic encounter.
  • EVOLVE Title - Timothy Thatcher vs. Matt Riddle.
  • Two battles between Cruiserweight Classic talent: Drew Gulak vs. Tony Nese and TJ Perkins vs. Cedric Alexander.
  • DUSTIN (a.k.a. Chuck Taylor) vs. Ethan Page
  • Catch Point's Tracy Williams and Fred Yehi vs. Jigsaw and Peter Kaasa

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Not a long wait for Lucha Underground Season 3

Image credit: Lucha Underground on social media
Almost six months separated the first and second seasons of Lucha Underground. But with the show finding more success and selling more merchandise, El Rey doubled down with Season 3, especially with the potential of much of its roster disappearing after the season ends. (The majority of talent have a three year exit clause in their contract.) They solved that problem by bringing Season 3 back earlier, less than a month away on September 7th. It also gives us a 40 episode season that will take us all the way through next summer!

Just like between the previous two seasons, they also gave a great preview of the new show, even though every time I see the logo, I keep thinking "what does miedo have to do with anything?" before I realize they're going for the three fingers, not Spanish for "fear".

Looks like Johnny Mundo, Drago, Sexi Star, Kobra Moon, Dr. Wagner Jr. and Katrina all have large roles to play, but I'm sure the show will balance that with the plethora of talents they have from top to bottom.

Check out the full video below.

Monday, August 15, 2016

'13' was anything but unlucky for SCW

After a couple months away, I knew I couldn't skip 13, the SCW thirteenth anniversary event. With a longer list of announced matches than usual, it promised to be a solid endeavor for the Davenport area's only professional wrestling company.

Image credit: SCW.
The show kicked off with Matt Cage, an SCW veteran and well-known Midwest star, as he battled Alex Taylor. Taylor debuted just a few months ago and I have to be honest that I was hard on him in the last couple reviews. He's vastly approved since his last appearance and really showed some babyface fire against Cage. And unlike all the previous shows I've seen him at, Taylor picked up a huge upset win over Cage to kick off the show. It would be far from the only upset of the night.

Eddie Machete seems lost since his feud with Connor Braxton ended, though he continues to put on great matches. Things were no different as he took on House of Truth graduate Xavier Wallace in the second match. Xavier quickly got over with a few solid moves, but this match was pretty much all Machete as Eddie countered everything Wallace had. He hit a wicked curb stomp to take the pin over the SCW newcomer.

The battle royal that followed featured several stars I didn't know (including a couple new Black & Brave graduates), a few recent grads and a couple veterans in Steven Youngblood and Tank Roberts. Youngblood worked a comedy spot early on where his manservant kept his feet from touching the ground, but it really went no where. JT Energy really seemed to be the standout of the match, even if he didn't really seem to have a chance of winning. Ultimately Tank Roberts picked up the win and a future Quad Cities Cup title match.

What I could find online of the other House of Truth graduate to join SCW on Saturday was so-so at best. But Dominique Fabiano definitely had credentials behind her. She put on a very solid match with Black & the Brave graduate Violet Parker. Parker picked up the win with a Widow's Peak (always a great move to watch). I would love to see Fabiano back, but I honestly think SCW needs to give in and let Violet just wrestle with the boys. She definitely needs to get more repetitions in and there's no reason to keep her benched when she's the same size as some of the young male wrestlers coming out of the Academy.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Shimmer adds a huge name to next round of shows

While the next round of Shimmer Women Athletes tapings doesn't happen until November, the tickets are already on sale. With more international fans than many independent bookings, the company often sells out quickly on front row seats. But this time around, they're doing with a big name coming to join the festivities.

Back at the dawn of the 2000s, independent women's wrestling was not nearly as well respected as it was today. WWE still had semi-trained wrestlers regularly working their women's division and the indies had only a handful of talents that actually could wrestle a ten minute match. Into that fray walked a young woman named Alexis Laree. Starting in the Washington, D.C. area, she quickly expanded to work most of the west coast as news of a major women's talent started to spread.

Image credit: Shimmer Wrestling website.
In many ways she helped innovate women wrestling on the indie scene and in her wake more young stars started to appear. She worked the earliest TNA tapings, before finally signing a WWE contract where after over a year in development, she would debut as Mickie James.

Since that time Mickie's career has been legendary, as she's become the most decorated women's wrestling champion of the modern era. With 5 WWE Women's titles, a Divas title and 3 TNA Knockout titles under her belt along with a bevy of independent titles, she's easily one of the most rewarded female wrestlers ever.

And now she'll be at three of the five shows of the Shimmer weekend.

This comes in the wake of rumors of a possible return to WWE for Mickie James as a recent article on named her "one of the hottest free agents" in wrestling.

Shimmer remains on my bucket list of shows to see live. I'm not a fan of their sales structure with DVDs of full shows and matches sold separately through the mediocre ClickWrestle service (with only one streaming show a year being made available past the first 20 events.) But they put on some epic events with some amazing talents. They were the first promotion to bring Asuka and Paige to the US after all.

Mickie and Shimmer seem like a match made in heaven. Expect great things come November 11th and 12th.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Matt Hardy's crazy has been around for awhile

Let's be honest, of the two Hardy Boyz, Matt clearly wins out on pure zaniness. He's had insane stories, real world events that reshaped his character in odd ways, and gimmicks way stronger than anything his brother has ever done. He's clearly the better actor of the two as well. Not a great actor mind you, but better than his brother.

Image credit: Matt Hardy on Twitter.
But Broken Matt has become instant gold in pretty much every promo. Look no further than the recent Talk is Jericho interview, where the active WWE star interviewed the active TNA star and Matt didn't break character once.

As covered at Diva Dirt, Matt Hardy had a major point in his career (and in oddball storytelling) on this day back in 2004 as he learns the identity of Lita's baby. (An aside: I love bringing up this story arc anytime someone tells me TV 14 WWE is inherently better than the modern product.)

Lita Reveals That Kane is Her Baby's Father (8... by irenenesser

That may be one of the earliest incarnations of Matt Hardy crazy eye. He uses it regularly now though. Broken Matt has taken the world by storm, literally as can be seen in this promo from a few days back. His threat to the Young Bucks for their South American showdown might be the most unique I've ever heard.

With nearly twenty years under his belt now, fans have seen Matt Hardy grow from young hotshot to grizzled veteran. Few have weathered that storm half as well as he. He may now be at the peak of his career. And while TNA is definitely a B-level product, its narrower range makes a lot more room for his character to shine.

What do you think of Broken Matt? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Shelton Benjamin is no longer WWE bound

Image credit; Benjamin on Twitter.
One of the most anticipated comebacks, hyped by video packages over the last two weeks, won't happen on Smackdown. Shelton Benjamin failed his pre-hire wellness checks, which have exposed a bad shoulder Benjamin has been working with for months. The injury will have to be treated before he signs with WWE. This could mean he will be back with WWE somewhere midway through next year or it could mean he will never make his return to the promotion that trained him to professionally wrestle.

A product of the OVW school, Shelton signed with WWE alongside his fellow University of Minnesota amateur wrestler Brock Lesnar. The two even teamed for months as the Minnesota Stretching Crew. But after Lesnar was called up first, he formed a team with Charlie Haas. They joined the main roster as Team Angle, briefly changed their name to The Best Damn Tag Team Period, but became best known as The World's Greatest Tag Team.

After two tag title reigns, he would become a solo star, famously beating Triple H. Though he would win the United States title once and the Intercontinental title three times, Benjamin repeatedly hit the McMahon glass ceiling, a complaint Benjamin has made in past shoot interviews. Unable to ascend to main event status, he was forced to constantly try to maintain an upper midcard presence, even switching gimmicks to become "The Gold Standard", complete with a blond dye job.

After his release in 2010, he moved to Ring of Honor alongside Charlie Haas, where abominable booking eventually drained most of the fans' appreciation for the duo. After two uneventful title runs, Haas moved into semi-retirement and Benjamin followed MVP into New Japan.

He quickly turned his back on MVP there, and joined Suzuki-gun, a.k.a. the heel stable that wasn't Bullet Club. He jumped with the rest of his stable to NJPW's sister company Pro Wrestling NOAH, where he wrestled for the last 18 months. His last major appearance for the company was in June as he unsuccessfully challenged for the GHC Heavyweight title, losing to Go Shiozaki.

His time in Japan showed he still had the talent to go and to go hard. Hopefully time healing will allow him to continue his career in a final WWE run. And hey, maybe we will see the rematch of this G1 Climax match.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Shelton Benjamin (NJPW) by JAHMAL1111

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Figured Out: Hasbro style WWE figures return next year!

I have to admit it right now: I have been an action figure collector for years but never found the Hasbro WWF figures very impressive. The cartoony designs and super-limited articulation were everything I didn't want in toys of the early 90s. While I bought from several concurrent lines (mostly post-Sgt. Slaughter) G.I. Joe, my WWF fandom was pretty much limited to Saturday morning viewing.

I didn't actually start buying WWE figures until the last couple years. I eyed a few Jakks Pacific toys back in the day, but those didn't even intrigue me as much as the stellar production qualities of modern Mattel releases.

But I know a ton of fans still exist for the Hasbro figures, so the announcement that Mattel will give up on all their other weird variant WWE figures (suck as Slam City) to give old Hasbro fans exactly what they've clamored for makes a lot of sense. They showed off the first wave of figures at Comic Con in July.

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Toy News International got a very good shot of them there, but was nice enough to post pictures of all the prototypes on the site. They include a better shot of Undertaker and the unseen Roman Reigns.

Honestly, Kevin Owens might convince me to change my mind on this line. We'll see when a price point is announced.

The figures drop sometime in the spring of next year.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Congratulations, Rhyno

Image credit: @Rhyno313 on Twitter.
Not only did the Manbeast rejoin the Smackdown roster in the last 8 days, he could be heading to the Michigan state house next January. Rhyno, a.k.a. Terrance Guido Gerin (did that make him ECW's Big Guido?) won his primary by a whopping 56 votes in a three way race. Even as the results were coming in, Rhyno was busy goring Heath Slater this last Tuesday.

He will challenge for the 15th District seat in a voting battle with no gores allowed. Nor is his opponent Abdullah Hammoud any relation to the famous Butcher of the same name.

Also, Rhyno is amazingly only forty going into this election, meaning he's got lots of longevity left in both his wrestling and political careers.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The final WWE Top 10

Today, I am posting the final WWE Top 10 for at least the foreseeable future. Why? Because as of SummerSlam, I will start posting individual rankings for the Raw and Smackdown rosters. Stay tuned for that, but in the mean time let's take a look at the top stars of WWE after the first week of the brand extension!

Sasha Banks, new Women's Champion

  1. Sasha Banks:  The Boss finally reached the top of WWE, a place millions of fans have wanted her at since she joined the main roster. Despite some pushbacks, it is also clearly a place WWE management wants her at, as she has been groomed as the female face of the company for quite some time in advertisements and group photos. Her team with Bayley at Battleground and her huge victory on Raw make it hard to not treat her as the biggest WWE star coming out of July. (U/1)
  2. Dean Ambrose: Dean retained the WWE World Heavyweight Championship for Smackdown at Battleground. The Shield three way was an amazing match and Dean looks poised to be a major face of the company for the rest of the year. (2/10)
  3. Finn Balor: Beating four of Raw's top talents in your debut cannot be overstated. Finn is a world champion level competitor and WWE made that clear as they framed him as one of the two men that will battle for the new WWE Universal championship at Summer Slam. (U/1)
  4. Seth Rollins: He didn't win at Battleground, but Seth Rollins is still clearly the biggest star on Raw. Whether he can maintain that role after Summer Slam is anyone's guess, but he is poised to continue his role as one of the top players in WWE for months to come. (U/1)
  5. John Cena: Cena feels like he's suffering from a slight demotion right now, but he is still a key player for WWE and should remain so in the coming years. While he didn't win the title shot on Smackdown Live! last week, he did score his first pinfall on AJ Styles, a feat I suspect he will try to repeat at Summer Slam. (U/1)
  6. The Club: They might not have won at Battleground, but they made a statement the next night on Raw. The Club clearly are poised to be dominant in the tag team division and that might soon cost The New Day their championships. (U/1)
  7. Sami Zayn: His victory may have been a moral one only, but Zayn seems poised for bigger stakes as his WWE main roster career continues outside the shadow of Kevin Owens. (2/2)
  8. The New Day: The end of July was rough on The New Day, but they did take the title of the longest reigning tag champions of the modern era. Don't suspect that reign to last much longer though under the threat of The Club. (4/6)
  9. Kevin Owens: He didn't win at Battleground, but anyone in a match that good deserves a featured place on this list. (7/4)
  10. Dolph Ziggler: He didn't even get a match at Battleground, but Ziggler gets a major push as he scored the number one contendership at Summer Slam. A fresh face in the Smackdown main event scene should help differentiate the blue brand going forward. (U/1)
Ziggler made a splashy entrance into his first Top 10 on the first Smackdown
of the brand extension.
Agree with the list? Disagree? Let me know your thoughts of who you think deserved to be in the post Battleground Top 10.

Monday, August 1, 2016

16-bit wrestling music

Sometimes unique and awesome things just pop up on Youtube. Sometimes they've been around for years and I just never noticed them. Of particular note today is 16-Bit Themes. The page uses the same music generators regularly used on Super Nintendo and re-creates the theme songs of professional wrestlers. Though the page has sadly not updated in several months, it already features 30 of the best wrestling themes you can find today.

Check out a couple personal favorites below.

And be sure to check out the 16-Bit Themes page for the complete list of songs.