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

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.

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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

TakeOver: WarGames Spotlight – McIntyre vs Almas

It’s just about time for TakeOver: WarGames! And I have to be a little honest, with the announcement that the WarGames match itself won’t have a roof on the cage, my excitement has diminished a little. That, to me, is what makes this not a WarGames match, rather than the other rule changes. So because of that, in this Spotlight I’m going to write about a championship that has become slightly secondary over the last couple of months – the NXT Championship.

I’m essentially going back to Bobby Roode’s reign here. He had a really strong run as champion, beating Shinsuke Nakamura for the title, and Roode always made sure to use the championship as a means to exemplify his control of the brand as it’s top guy. The lineage of the title, the quality of matches that have followed it, and touches like Roode establishing it as a prize worthy of everyone’s desires, they have all made it a coveted prize. But after five years of growth, for the first time, the NXT Championship has become secondary.

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It was arguably the most coveted title in WWE at one stage, but now? Not so much…

Continue reading TakeOver: WarGames Spotlight – McIntyre vs Almas

The perfect place for the Perfect 10 is NXT

Last night at the Royal Rumble, the wrestling world erupted when the clock counted down to zero and the number ten entrant was revealed as none other than Tye Dillinger. Crowds have been chanting “Ten” constantly for months, and one of the talking points in the aftermath was whether Dillinger would show up on Raw or SmackDown now that he’s debuted.

I’d say the perfect place for the perfect ten to be is… exactly where he is now, NXT.

That’s nothing against Dillinger as a worker. He is one of the most capable performers in NXT, and it has been well reported that Dusty Rhodes said he was ready for the main roster years ago. Shinsuke Nakamura and Samoa Joe have also both publicly praised Dillinger’s ability in the last year or two. No, my worry is over how he would be booked on the main roster.

tye-dillinger-1 Continue reading The perfect place for the Perfect 10 is NXT