TV Talking Points – 16th-18th April

This week it was time to shake up the Raw and SmackDown rosters! And since it took place over two nights and really the main highlights from both shows could be exclusively roster moves. So for that reason, I’m shaking up the format of my talking points a little this week too.

Superstar Shake-Up

Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn & The Miz

This was a fantastic segment. From the appearance of KO and Zayn aligning with The Miztourage, to Zayn’s obnoxiousness when telling Angle they were a permanent part of Raw, to Angle cutting them off by telling The Miz he was going to SmackDown. It was all brilliant, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering these three are some of the elite characters in WWE right now. The Miz vs Daniel Bryan rivalry really could make SmackDown must see TV once again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He’s back… but not alone.

Dolph Ziggler needed a refresh. I thought it would come in the form of a proper face turn, but instead it was his return to Raw. Oh, and he has joined forced with Drew McIntyre. I would not have predicted this pairing in a million years, but I’m really intrigued to see what happens next with it. And most of all, I’m just delighted to see McIntyre back on Raw. It’s well deserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raw is Glorious

It’s not so much the move itself that was noteworthy, it was the positioning and presentation of it. Roode, after bring underwhelming on SmackDown for a while, and recently losing the United States Championship, was put on a level playing field with the likes of Braun Strowman, Seth Rollins and Finn Balor. It bodes really well for him to be in that company, because on Raw that’s the best of the best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Striking out on his own

I’m gonna get to his golden exploits on Monday night, but the first move to SmackDown on Tuesday was the new US Champion, Jeff Hardy. He is back on the show where he won three world championships, and being moved away from his brother is as sure a sign as there ever was that WWE are going for the singles push for Jeff. Long may the success continue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SmackDown’s Samoan Submission Specialist

Curve. Ball. The man I expected to be the top heel in the company for months to come, and to be feuding with Roman Reigns over the Universal Championship, got moved to Tuesday nights. And it may be the best thing that ever happened to Samoa Joe. He already knows he has chemistry with the top faces on the blue brand, and he can really take over to become the top guy in a way Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman would never let him on Raw.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Empress of SmackDown

How is it possible, that with all the names SmackDown lost to Raw, that their roster may actually be stronger now than it was last week? It seems like every division that needed strengthened got that big name, and as far as SmackDown’s women go there aren’t many bigger than Asuka. Being on the same show as Charlotte should allow WWE to explore every nuanced consequence of Asuka’s streak ending, and from a star power perspective the balance is much better between Raw and SmackDown’s women’s divisions now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andrade “Cien” Almas & Sanity

I’m grouping these two together for a couple of reasons – neither properly appeared on the show, and both are coming up from NXT and not Raw. But both have huge potential, and both could be star names. Sanity will breathe new life into SmackDown’s tag team division, and Killian Dain has huge breakout singles potential. Almas has proven over the last six months in NXT that he can be an absolute star, and with Zelina Vega by his side the sky is the limit for El Idolo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raw

A new champion

While I kind of expected mid card titles to change shows, I did not expect a title change to be involved in that. Not on Raw at least, I thought they would at least have saved it for the Greatest Royal Rumble or Backlash. But no, in Raw’s opening match Jeff Hardy defeated Jinder Mahal to add the US Title to his trophy cabinet. Just for the record, that cabinet also includes the WWE Championshp, World Heavyweight Championship, Intercontinental Championship, European Championship, Hardcore Championship, Light Heavyweight Championship and multiple tag title reigns with several incarnations of the belts. What a career. What a man.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sasha Banks vs Bayley

So this match is going to be overshadowed by the ending, but it felt like these two were a matter of minutes away from reaching the classic level again. Whenever these two get in the ring there’s a magic in the air, and the fans totally bought in. I can’t wait to see more, and that’s all you can ask for from a match.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ember Moon kills Mickie James

That sell. That is all.

 

 

 

 

Joe tells Reigns how it’s going to be

See, this is why I’m disappointed Samoa Joe vs Roman Reigns appears to be a one off. The intensity and legitimacy of Joe’s promos in such a menacing fashion is unrivalled in WWE right now. That’s two weeks in a row he’s produced this kind of promo, and I think long term it could have served up a really memorable match. Oh well, we’ll just have to make to with him facing AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan instead.

 

 

Ten man tag

At the end of a show with a lot of excitement, this was a really fun main event. I mean, with the talent on hand, the time given and the fact that it was a 10-man tag team match, it really couldn’t have been anything else.

 

SmackDown

Mellabration

I’ve been a little surprised in the last two weeks at how good Carmella’s mic work has been, and then I remembered how good she was after winning Money In The Bank. She hasn’t been featured a lot on TV in the interim, but her character work these last two weeks is worthy of the gold she holds. Fingers crossed her in ring work doesn’t spoil the package.

 

NXT

The January Four in action

In the middle of January, WWE announced the signings of “internationally renowned” superstars Ricochet, Hanson & Rowe (War Raiders) and Candice LeRae. Last night on NXT, all four were on the same show for the first time. And I think they all showed why there was so much hype and excitement around them – Ricochet is arguably the best flyer in the world, War Raiders are an elite tag team with an unorthodox moveset, and much like her husband LeRae just has that intangible underdog quality. These four could be the leaders in a new NXT generation.

 

What a week, another whirlwind week. The momentum WWE has right now coming off of Wrestlemania season is huge, and it’s across the board on all three shows. That’s rare, and it’s going to be awesome to go along with this ride!

 

 

Wrestlemania Talking Points – 6th-8th April

So I wasn’t going to do this, but after the weekend of content WWE put out, and the sheer number of noteworthy things to come out of Raw, I knew that one Talking Points article covering the whole week would be stupidly long. So welcome to Wrestlemania Talking Points, where I do the same thing I usually do for Raw, SmackDown and NXT and apply it to Wrestlemania weekend. That’s the Hall of Fame on Friday, NXT TakeOver: New Orleans and, of course, Wrestlemania 34. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s do it!

Hall of Fame

D-Von can be entertaining

Full disclosure, I still haven’t watched the entre HoF ceremony, because there were a few people I just didn’t have any interest in. But, the Dudley Boyz speech was phenomenal. They managed to toe that line of humour and seriousness perfectly, while putting over other people all the way. The moment with the original TLC teams reuniting on stage was awesome, and of course they put someone through a table.

 

Mark Henry calls for Owen Hart’s induction

I completely understand Martha Hart’s hesitancy to allowed Owen to be associated with WWE. This is just one of those cases where the Hall of Fame will never feel complete without him. He was tag team champions with Mark Henry, so Henry used his speech as an opportunity to publicly ask Martha to let Owen in. It was touching to see how much it clearly meant to Henry, it was a truly emotional moment. It wouldn’t be the last of those over the last few days either.

 

NXT TakeOver: New Orleans

North American Championship Ladder Match

It’s not like anything was massively shocking here, it was just a great match. Everyone got a chance to do their thing and shine, and it really did turn out to be carnage at it’s finest. From Ricochet flying everywhere, to Lars Sullivan manhandling everyone, to Velveteen Dream jumping off the top of  ladder. And when all was said and done, there was only one, Undisputed winner.

 

Queen of Spades… and NXT

It’s been a long time since we had a heel NXT Women’s Champion, but here we are once again. Looking through the list of women to have held that title, it’s an impressive list with a fantastic pedigree that Shayna Baszler has to live up to. She has the character nailed down already, but I’m yet to be convinced by her in the ring. She has some really good talents to work with though, and NXT always does a good job of protecting their talent. I’ll give her time. I know this video is totally unrelated to the match, but I also loved this as Ember’s entrance and there don’t seem to be clips on WWE’s YouTube, so…

 

A Dusty finish again…

We finally saw the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic trophy awarded, and the tag titles were also on the line. Authors of Pain. Undisputed Era. Roderick Strong & Pete Dunne. One thing I really like about NXT is that they save their biggest angles for TakeOvers – Shinsuke Nakamura’s debut, DIY’s implosion, Adam Cole’s debut. And here we got a new moment to add to that list: Roderick Strong turns heel and joins Undisputed Era. And he dd so by attacking his partner, costing them the trophy and the titles. It’s going to be a good fit for Strong going forward, and they’ll likely dominate Wednesday nights together for the rest of 2018.

 

Gargano vs Ciampa

What. A. Match. From the minute Tommaso Ciampa walked down to the ring this felt like it was going to be special, and it was. The storytelling was off the charts, the emotion, the allusions. It can be tough for a match that’s been building for as long as this one has to live up to the hype, but Gargano and Ciampa met expectations and more. For Gargano, back to back classics at TakeOvers cements his spot as one of the elite workers in the company. Really, it says all you need to know that this match was the main event with the card on show.

 

Wrestlemania 34

Grand Slam Rollins

I thought the first four hours of Wrestlemania (including the pre-show) were phenomenal. So it was really tough to decide where to start with these highlights, and I’ve let WWE’s YouTube channel dictate this to an extent. I didn’t think they had the best moments up from the preshow, so even though I thought some moments there were great, I’m going straight to the main card, and Seth Rollins winning the Interconintental Championship to become a Grand Slam Champion. It was a really good match, as expected going in, again with a lot of references to previous encounters. It’s cool that all three members of The Shield are now Grand Slam champs, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Seth does with the title.

 

The streak… is over.

Even with the main event, this was still probably the most surprising result on the card. I really believed in the booking idea that Asuka would win the title, remain unstoppable and build up to a face off with Ronda Rousey next year at Wrestlemania. As it turned out, Charlotte is still the SmackDown Women’s Champion. It’s going to be  very interesting to see where both of these talents go next.

 

Rousey steals the show

At the time of writing, this clip has nearly six million views on YouTube. To put that into perspective, The Undertaker has 2.5 million, and Daniel Bryan has less than a million. That’s the mainstream drawing power that Ronda Rousey has to WWE, the only question was whether she would be any good. And hell yeah she was. This was the best match on the show, and Ronda came across like a bona fide star. She really could be a difference maker for WWE in so many ways if this was anything to go by, because it was a fantastic match by any standards – never mind that it was her debut and Stephanie McMahon was in it.

 

Deadman walking

I really wasn’t convinced about Undertaker wrestling agin, and after Wrestlemania I’m really still not convinced. I’ve seen a lot of talk online that he was looking a lot better than last year, but I didn’t think he was moving that well. But, the saving grace was how they brought him back. The teases were well done, and the way the hat and jacket reappeared I really thought was genius.

 

He’s baaack

Daniel Bryan is back baby! There were issues with this match, nobody can deny that, but above all else it is just plain great to see Daniel Bryan doing his thing again, with no apparent negative consequences. I wrote about this match on Sunday, and I said it wouldn’t feel right if Bryan lost on his return. Well, he didn’t. That was the right call, and it is so exciting to think of all the potential dream matches that lie ahead of him. Welcome back Bryan!

 

See what I mean? Can you imagine if I’d put all that into an article as well as all that happened last night on Raw, and tonight’s SmackDown, and tomorrow’s NXT? I wouldn’t have gotten the article finished this week. Stay tuned for more posts this week, I have a few more planned, and now we can officially say that 2018’s Wrestlemania weekend is in the history books!

Wrestlemania 34 Spotlight: Asuka vs Charlotte

It’s officially Wrestlemania week! This year we have an absolutely stacked card. There could be five legitimate main events for varying reasons. So with that in mind, just like last year it’s not going to be enough to cover the show with a single Spotlight. Once again, I’m going to attempt seven Spotlights in seven days. And this time, I start with the SmackDown Women’s Championship Match: Asuka vs Charlotte Flair.

Asuka vs Charlotte could be one of the best matches on the show. From an in ring stand point, I only have it behind AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura in my expectations. Asuka’s push has been unrivalled in WWE, and Charlotte has clearly been the queen of the company in recent years. It should be one of the featured matches on this year’s extravaganza. But for some reason, the hype just isn’t there. It feels like just another match. Continue reading Wrestlemania 34 Spotlight: Asuka vs Charlotte

TV Talking Points – 11th-14th March

The last PPV before Wrestlemania was last Sunday night, and now we are officially on a one way street to the biggest show of the year! So how did WWE bring it’s focus round to Wrestlemania this week? Read on for all the highlights of the last week’s TV.

Fastlane

6-pack challenge completed

AJ Styles went into Fastlane facing insurmountable odds – or so WWE tried to tell us. The obvious Wrestlemania WWE Championship match has been AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura for months now, and Styles’ successful defence of his title set it up as expected. But the match was a fun one, full of action with some big spots. It was the most impressive Baron Corbin has looked in a long time, it furthered the Kevin Owens/Sami Zayn/Shane McMahon story (more on that later) and of course, AJ Styles retained to confirm the Mania dream match.

Continue reading TV Talking Points – 11th-14th March

TV Talking Points – 27th-31st January

It’s been a bumper week of on-screen happenings in WWE because of Royal Rumble weekend, so let’s just get straight into the most newsworthy moments of the last week!

NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia

Gargano and Almas tear the house down

I previewed this match last week, and I closed that article by saying this: “Gargano and Almas have already proven they can put on a match that can hang with anything NXT has to offer. Now they just have to do it one more time.” And boy did they. It was a 31 minute spectacular that had the crowd on the edge of their seat. The match received rave reviews, even reaching 5 stars on Dave Melter’s hallowed rating scale – the first match under the WWE umbrella to do so since CM Punk vs John Cena at Money In The Bank 2011. This is already a frontrunner to be WWE’s Match of the Year, if you haven’t seen it, find a way to watch it. It will be well worth your time.

Almas Gargano Philly.jpg

 

Royal Rumble

A night of Japanese dominance

There were two Japanese superstars competing on the show, both in Royal Rumble matches, and both would go on to win. If you’re reading this, I’m sure it’s no surprise to read that Shinsuke Nakamura became the first debutant to win the men’s Royal Rumble since 2011, and Asuka continued her successful run to win the first ever women’s Royal Rumble match. Nakamura went on to announce he plans to challenge AJ Styles for the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania, meaning we’ll finally get to see those two square off in a WWE ring on the biggest show of the year.

 

Things are about to get… Rowdy

We didn’t however find out who Asuka would be facing at Wrestlemania, and that was because we were treated to the shocking arrival of “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey! The former UFC Bantamweight Champion had been rumoured to be debuting on the show for weeks, and despite trying to throw everyone off the scent it happened. It was later announced Rousey has signed a multi-year, full-time deal to become a professional wrestler.

 

Raw

History in the making… again

Hot off the heels of the first ever women’s Royal Rumble match, just 24-hours later Stephanie McMahon opened Raw by coming down to the ring and announcing another first – a women’s Elimination Chamber match. It will go down on the 25th February, and Alexa Bliss’ Raw Women’s Championship will be defended inside the steel structure. No other competitors have yet been confirmed, but it’s without doubt another notch in WWE’s belt of equality.

 

Braun Strowman commits murder for the 1008th time

I mean seriously, how great is it to see Braun genuinely trying to end lives every week? This time round it came during the shortest Last Man Standing match I can remember, as Strowman and Kane battled over to the announce desk beside the stage, and Strowman toppled the staging over, crushing Kane under the whole thing. It looks like this may have written Kane off of TV for the forseeable future, and if it was the end of the feud it absolutely did it’s job of putting Strowman over huge.

 

The 2018 Hall of Fame gets extreme

A couple of weeks ago Goldberg was announced as the headline name for the Hall of Fame Class of 2018, and this week it was announced he will be joined by the legendary Dudley Boyz! Bubba Ray and D-Von are one of the most decorated tag teams in wrestling history, and are 9-time WWE Tag Team Champions. Bubba is currently in Ring of Honor, while D-Von retired after their last WWE run and now works backstage for WWE. Their induction is well deserved by anyone’s standards.

 

SmackDown

The tag team division gets put on lockdown

So there was a lot of great wrestling over the last five days, with Raw and SmackDown unusually both being wrestling heavy shows. Maybe that’s why this stood out to me, but I was really impressed by the promo The Usos cut this past Tuesday. They have managed to nail their characters’ presentations since making a big change about a year ago, and this was evidence of that. In WWE’s world where mostly everything on the mic is scripted and sounds fairly robotic, The Usos have become something that stands out. Huge credit has to go to them for reinventing themselves so well, and making themselves the unmovable face of the SmackDown tag division.

 

NXT

A new number one contender

TakeOver set the tone for the week with a high standard of in-ring work, and last night they provided an equally impressive bookend to it all. The pairing of Tyler Bate and Roderick Strong is intriguing on paper alone, but the two delivered yet another great match last night on NXT. Their styles meshed well, and the win means Roderick Strong has earned himself a shot at Pete Dunne’s WWE United Kingdom Championship, which after watching this match is difficult not to get extremely excited for.

 

And there we have it! As I mentioned above, there has been a lot of really good in-ring work this week, including John Cena vs Finn Balor, Sasha Banks vs Asuka, a fatal-4-way match between Kofi Kingston, Rusev, Jinder Mahal and Zack Ryder and a tag team match between AJ Styles & Shinsuke Nakamura and Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. They are all worth looking up, but I tried to pick out the moments that stood out – even amongst all that great action. But now, for me after five straight days of high quality WWE, it’s time for a little break.

2018 Royal Rumble Spotlight: Women’s Royal Rumble Match

Did you know WWE are making history tomorrow night? For the first time ever they are holding a 30-woman Royal Rumble match. And we are going to be treated to the delight of Stephanie McMahon on commentary. As a certain woken figure would say, wonderful! Despite my sarcasm I am genuinely looking forward to this match. And because the Rumble is a special occasion, I’m going to break up my Spotlight slightly differently than I usually do. I’m going to break the match down into the biggest questions, and discuss each one individually. So let’s just get right into it! Continue reading 2018 Royal Rumble Spotlight: Women’s Royal Rumble Match

2017 Spotlight: June – September

Wrestling is an incredibly dynamic industry where everything can change in a matter of days – if not hours – and 2017 has really typified that in WWE. From wholesale roster changes, to walk outs and injuries, you can never predict what’s going to happen next, not that I won’t keep trying. As the year draws to a close, what better opportunity than to look back and reflect on the memorable moments WWE gave us in 2017?

This is the third part of my 2017 recap, find the links to the previous two parts below:

January – March

April – May

June

Extreme Rules – Fatal-5-Way

The thing about multi-matches is they can be so chaotic that there isn’t a cohesive story to the match. But at the same time, put enough talent in there, and it can be all action and constant entertainment. The latter scenario certainly applied to the Extreme Rules main event between Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Bray Wyatt, Finn Balor and Samoa Joe in a match to decide Brock Lesnar’s next challenger. With five of the top guys on the brand in one match there were always going to be fireworks, and use of chairs, stairs, a broken barricade and a broken announce table delivered in that regard. In the end, it was Samoa Joe who came away with the win, as he turned his attention to the Beast Incarnate.

Continue reading 2017 Spotlight: June – September

2017 Spotlight: January-March

Wrestling is an incredibly dynamic industry where everything can change in a matter of days – if not hours – and 2017 has really typified that in WWE. From wholesale roster changes, to walk outs and injuries, you can never predict what’s going to happen next, not that I won’t keep trying. As the year draws to a close, what better opportunity than to look back and reflect on the memorable moments WWE gave us in 2017?

January

9th January – Chris Jericho defeats Roman Reigns for the United States Championship

What’s that? A year ago Roman Reigns was holding a mid-card championship that was essentially filling time until something bigger was in store for him come Wrestlemania season? Sounds familiar somehow. What might be more difficult to remember is that the best friend pairing of Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho was in full flow as one of the regular highlights of Raw. While this match in itself wasn’t entirely memorable in amongst seemingly hundreds of matches between Reigns, Jericho and Owens, Y2J’s championship win made him a WWE Grand Slam champion, so if only for the history books it’s definitely worth noting.

Continue reading 2017 Spotlight: January-March

WWE Live Reflections

This is going to be one of the most disjointed columns I’ve published in a long time. Usually I like to write to make a point, to address one or two ideas through exemplification and analysis. There will be aspects of that here, but there were so many things I wanted to talk about it is a bit of a mish-mash of ideas. That is because last week, I went to the Raw house show in Glasgow and the Aberdeen house show in Aberdeen – and when you see so much, it gets you thinking about a lot of different things too.

WWE Live in Scotland Graphic

Continue reading WWE Live Reflections

NXT TakeOver Brooklyn III Spotlight: Ember Moon vs Asuka

I thought it was about time I added an element to these Spotlight previews. Having done Raw and SmackDown PPVs, as well as the dual-branded shows, a look at NXT’s storylines was probably well overdue. I’ve decided to go for a match I think could have imminent main roster implications too – the NXT Women’s Championship match between Ember Moon and Asuka.

This is a story that essentially goes back to Ember Moon’s debut in NXT, which just happened to be one year ago at TakeOver: Brooklyn II. Moon defeated Bille Kay, and embarked upon a lengthy undefeated streak on the yellow brand. It was an impressive outing for Moon, highlighted by her Eclipse finisher, a beautiful diving corkscrew stunner when executed properly.

Elsewhere on the show Asuka – on a 10-month undefeated streak herself – defended her championship against Bayley in the hugger’s final NXT match. That Bayley was heading to the main roster was highly expected, so naturally speculation began as to who eventually would defeat and dethrone the Empress of Tomorrow, and Ember Moon’s display made her the obvious choice. Continue reading NXT TakeOver Brooklyn III Spotlight: Ember Moon vs Asuka