TakeOver: Brooklyn 4 Spotlight: Tommaso Ciampa vs Johnny Gargano

Tomorrow night is NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn 4. It looks set to be a fantastic show, with all of the matches having so much potential. But as always with my Spotlight columns, I only pick one to look at in depth, and to be honest I’m a little surprised looking back on it that I haven’t written about Johnny Gargano vs Tommaso Ciampa before.

I think the reason for that may lie in the beauty of this rivalry – it writes itself.

For all the complaints that are strewn across the internet about WWE’s creative team, NXT delivers 90% of the time. Even on those rare instances where it feels like something didn’t quite go the way it should have it tends to be leading to something bigger and better, or when a build feels a bit lackluster the match delivers to make you forget about the weeks gone by in the end. Continue reading TakeOver: Brooklyn 4 Spotlight: Tommaso Ciampa vs Johnny Gargano

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!

TV Talking Points – 26th-28th March

It was the penultimate week of build to Wrestlemania, and once again I’m a little strapped for time, so let’s get right into the week’s events!

Raw

Laying down the law for the Deadman

While I was very much in the camp that wasn’t sure if I wanted to see Undertaker wrestle again, John Cena has most certainly brought the intensity when calling out WWE’s conscience. Like I’ve said before, he’s attacked Undertaker’s personality and character like nobody in recent memory. And this week Cena brought it again, this time claiming that no response from the Undertaker would be letting down every single fan who’s ever believed in him.

Continue reading TV Talking Points – 26th-28th March

TV Talking Points – 19th-21st March

What a week! There’s been so much going on in WWE, it’s easy to forget we’re only 17 days away from Wrestlemania! Let’s just get right into this bumper edition of WWE’s TV Talking Points.

Raw

Putting the Big Dog down

This week we finally got a confrontation between the reigning, defending, undisputed, Universal Champion Brock Lesnar faced off with his number one contender Roman Reigns. The story is that Lesnar turned up when he thought Reigns wouldn’t be there – whether that’s because he saw it as a low risk night off, or because he fears Reigns is up to you. But of course, Reigns did show, and got absolutely demolished. The worrying thing is that I wasn’t convinced WWE’s effort to get the fans on Reigns’ side was working before. After the news that broke the next day (much more on that later), WWE’s fight has possibly never been more doomed.

Continue reading TV Talking Points – 19th-21st March

TV Talking Points – 19th-21st February

So it was a weird week in WWE. Raw nearly became a one-match show, SmackDown finally went over the cliff edge for a lack of actual happenings, and NXT returned to it’s spot as the best storytelling show WWE has to offer. Not that it was really saying much this week. Let’s get to the important parts of this week’s WWE TV!

Raw

Monday Night Rollins

When I say Raw nearly became a one-match show, that actually looked feasible at one point. They opened with the gauntlet match featuring all seven of this Sunday’s Elimination Chamber participants, and that one match lasted for nearly two hours of the show. Seth Rollins was without a doubt the star performer, winning the first fall against Roman Reigns, and also winning the second against John Cena in PPV-quality matches. Rollins eventually wound up lasting for one hour and five minutes, breaking the record for the longest time one man has spent in a match in Raw (and likely WWE) history.

Continue reading TV Talking Points – 19th-21st February

TV Talking Points – 5th-7th February

We’re not that far removed from the Royal Rumble, but WWE rolls on with Elimination Chamber just over two weeks away! The Chamber matches themselves were filled out on Raw, and we even got a match announcement for SmackDown’s next PPV, Fastlane, in March. So what actually happened this week? As always, I’ve put the key moments together for you in this article.

Raw

Chamber competitors revealed

Going into this week’s Raw we knew John Cena, Elias and Braun Strowman were going to be in the men’s Chamber match, but all we knew on the women’s side was the Alexa Bliss would be defending her title. Well, now there’s only one spot out of the 12 to be decided. Roman Reigns defeated Bray Wyatt, and The Miz defeated Apollo Crews to earn their chance to become the number one contender to Brock Lesnar’s Universal Championship. And Kurt Angle announced the women’s field as Mickie James, Sonya Deville, Mandy Rose, Bayley and Sasha Banks would be challenging Bliss inside the steel structure. Continue reading TV Talking Points – 5th-7th February

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.

TakeOver: Philadelphia Spotlight – Andrade “Cien” Almas vs Johnny Gargano

Ladies and Gentlemen, Royal Rumble weekend is nearly here! As has become the custom for the biggest shows of the year, the Rumble will be preceded by NXT TakeOver tomorrow night. And for this TakeOver Spotlight, I’m looking at none other than the NXT Championship match between the challenger, Johnny Gargano, and the champion, Andrade “Cien” Almas.

What I really like about this match is that it’s a pairing of two superstars who have had long-term storylines of personal growth and redemption. And they even crossed paths when they were at different stages of their journeys, something that could add so much to this match if they call back to it tomorrow night. Continue reading TakeOver: Philadelphia Spotlight – Andrade “Cien” Almas vs Johnny Gargano

TV Talking Points – 22nd-24th January

Despite once again arguably the biggest WWE story this week happening off-screen (bye Enzo!), this week saw Raw25 take place, as well as the final build-up to NXT’s TakeOver: Philadelphia and, of course, the Royal Rumble on Sunday. So what went down? I’ve collated the main happenings from the week, and put them all together in one, easy to manage round-up.

Raw

A New Intercontinental Champion? Awesome…

We knew going in to Raw25 that Roman Reigns would be defending the Intercontinental Championship, and really if you’ve been reading online reports at any time in the last 10 months you probably had a fair idea that Roman Reigns would be losing the title on Monday night. And he did. And it was relatively clean too! Sure Miz used an exposed turnbuckle, which was brilliantly set up so subtly earlier in the match, but the Miztourage never got involved. Though, perhaps more accurately, they were never allowed to, as Reigns always struck first. Still, it will be interesting to see if there is a rematch, and how clean the finish will be should it turn out that way. If not, the awesome reign of the most must see champion in WWE history looks like it might be here to stay.

Continue reading TV Talking Points – 22nd-24th January

TV Talking Points – 15th-17th January

Did you miss Raw, SmackDown and NXT this week? Here are the key things to take away from WWE’s week of TV. I would like to just point out that I only deal with what we saw on WWE’s shows this week, so even though arguably the most newsworthy thing in WWE was their new crop of signings, that’s not gonna be covered here.

Raw

The Braun Strowman Hour

With no Brock Lesnar or Kane on the show this week after Strowman pulled the Raw set down on top of them last time out, WWE had to find some way of occupying the Monster Among Men. The way they chose to do that was to fire Strowman in the opening segment, have him wreak havoc for an hour, and then have him re-hired. And my god was it awesome. He threw security guards around backstage first, then overturned part of a production truck. Finally he went to throw Michael Cole off the stage, before Angle got to him and told him he was re-hired. Of course, Braun still threw Cole off the stage, taking him off of the rest of the broadcast.

Continue reading TV Talking Points – 15th-17th January