Best of the WWE Network – 2014

It was recently the WWE Network’s fifth birthday, which is actually pretty mad. The original concept for the Network came bout back in the mid 00s, and it was something that was being worked on for years before finally becoming a reality on February 24, 2014.

WWE spent a lot of time building up their classic video library, buying rights to other companies’ back catalogues and digitising them, in preparation for the Network. But the key selling point has always been the new, original programming. WWE have tried a lot of different show formats over the last five years, some have worked and some haven’t.

With five being a fairly round number, I though I’d take this opportunity to look back at some of the highlights of WWE programming in the Network era year by year. 2014 was a changing of the guard in WWE, both in and out of the ring. So, as I used to say in these posts fairly regularly back around that time, without further ado… Continue reading Best of the WWE Network – 2014

The Man takes the spotlight

There is one character in WWE that has been the talk of the industry far and above all others. That we can have a week where Daniel Bryan not only turns heel, but wins the WWE Championship, and that’s barely even in the top five talking points for the week, you know someone is on fire.

To say that Becky Lynch has been on a roll would be a drastic understatement. Sky Sports published an interview with Lynch earlier today where she claimed to be the face of the industry, and as far as WWE is concerned she is absolutely right. She has been so good that the fans didn’t let her turn heel, and ever since she has been getting one of the loudest reactions on the show.

The thing is, this has been a long time coming. Continue reading The Man takes the spotlight

Tempering NXT UK Expectations

It’s an incredibly exciting time to be a UK wrestling fan. Major moves are being made behind the scenes in the UK market, and that has resulted in the official announcement of NXT UK – as well as the first four sets of tapings.

WWE seem to be creating their own tiered feeder system, and this is the first step towards creating a new tier. You’re going to have Raw and SmackDown at the top, NXT next, then the regional promotions like NXT UK that are starting up, and below them the companies WWE have working relationships with, like Progress and ICW in the UK. It could completely revolutionise the wrestling industry.

But it’s early days, and there are still questions over where and when the new NXT UK show will actually be aired, but even these happenings are so encouraging after a year of nothing really moving. The likes of Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate have stolen shows in that time, but it’s great to see others finally get the recognition that a WWE stage will undoubtedly lead to. Continue reading Tempering NXT UK Expectations

WWE’s Fandom Conundrum

When I wrote my column about becoming more interested in companies outside WWE, I briefly mentioned naming this blog. “That Wrestling Fandom” was specifically named to not be WWE specific. But I also deliberately picked the term “fandom”, because I anticipated that at some point I’d be talking about fan culture. And here we are.

I think WWE and their fans are in an endless cycle of no-win situations.

Fans, myself included, cry out month after month for long term storytelling. Shotgun booking appears to be public enemy number one at times, and yet is all too prevalent in WWE’s programming. The obvious example going back a few months was when Finn Balor lost to Kane towards the end of last year when he was considered to be Brock Lesnar’s obvious next challenger.

And yet, when WWE try to have a feud simmering under the surface for months, that doesn’t go down well either. Sasha Banks vs Bayley is a rivalry that has burst back to the fore after last night’s Raw, and nobody seems to care anymore. The time for a heel turn, based on crowd reaction, was 14 months ago. People say this is a feud that has gone nowhere for six months, but Banks looked like she was turning heel around Wrestlemania 33 – over a year ago in April 2017. Continue reading WWE’s Fandom Conundrum

TakeOver: Chicago II Spotlight: Shayna Baszler vs Nikki Cross

It’s a big weekend for WWE, as they try to tell us it is any PPV weekend. But this time round it’s actually kind of true, and Money In The Bank is only a little bit of the reason. No, this weekend is really TakeOver weekend, as NXT return to Chicago for the second year in a row. And with that comes a TakeOver Spotlight as always. So what match have I gone for this time?

Is it the match that could steal the weekend in Ricochet v Velveteen Dream? Is it what will presumably be the culmination of a year long classic rivalry between Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa? Well, no.

Instead I’ve gone for Shayna Baszler’s first TakeOver defence of the NXT Women’s Championship against Nikki Cross. Because on paper, I think this is one of the most intriguing title matches in a long time. Continue reading TakeOver: Chicago II Spotlight: Shayna Baszler vs Nikki Cross

Life Outside WWE

So let’s just get into it. I haven’t really posted here for two months, and that has been for a few reasons. For one, work has gotten very busy. For two, there’s been some personal stuff that I had to deal with that took priority. But for three, and I think this has been the most important part of the lack of writing here, WWE just hasn’t been that interesting.

The reason I say that’s the biggest factor is that I was still busy with work around Wrestlemania season. But I was so excited for the biggest show of the year that I rebranded this site, came up with new concepts for articles, and wrote something in the region of 15,000 words in roughly a week. I don’t have the exact figure to hand, I could sit and work it out, but around Wrestlemania this year I think I wrote more than I did in the entirety off 2015.

Ronda Rousey Wrestlemania 34
I mean, it’s like there were one or two things to write about. Anybody remember any?

Because here’s the thing, when WWE is good, it forces it’s way into my life. No matter what else is going on, WWE becomes a priority. I will find the time to watch and write about it, even if that means surviving on less than 20 hours sleep in a week. Yes, I’ve done that. Continue reading Life Outside WWE

WWE Brit(ish) Report 2

Welcome to the second edition of my weekly round up of what WWE’s UK & Ireland contingent have been up to! It was a huge week of news with the Superstar Shake-Up, but where did that leave them?

The big news is of course the return of Drew McIntyre to the WWE main roster. He left the company in 2013, made a big name for himself on indies each side of the Atlantic, and got signed to NXT on Wrestlemania weekend last year. He quite quickly rose up the yellow brand to become NXT Champion before losing to Andrade “Cien” Almas in November, where he also injured his arm. Continue reading WWE Brit(ish) Report 2

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!

 

 

Looking back at my early predictions

This is my 200th post on this wrestling blog! It started six years ago, with the first post on April 1, a predictions column for Wrestlemania 28. I’ve progressed through many styles of article, several co-contributors, seen a huge turnover in the WWE roster and the rise of NXT and the WWE Network. And along the way, I’ve made probably hundreds of predictions. So, as a special post for the landmark, I thought I’d take a look back at some of the predictions I made in my first year, and see how right – or very, very wrong – I was. Continue reading Looking back at my early predictions

TV Talking Points – 9th-11th April

So much has happened in WWE over the last week, I couldn’t contain it all in one article. I had to split up the Wrestlemania part of the week from the weekly shows, which this article covers. The post-Mania Raw is always one of the highlights of the year, they’re attempting to make SmackDown the same way and NXT is always solid whether it’s Wrestlemania season or not. So what happened? There were loads of highlights, let’s get to it!

Raw

One Ember sparks the fire

It hasn’t always worked out this way, but if an NXT Champion loses their title right before Wrestlemania, they’re an obvious candidate to be called up. Ember Moon lost the NXT Women’s Championship Saturday night, and debuted on Raw Monday night. I’m really excited to see what Moon can do on the main roster, and her being there should allow for a big name or two to move to SmackDown, because the Raw women’s division is now stacked. With the Eclipse and her presentation, Moon can stand out and be a key player.

Continue reading TV Talking Points – 9th-11th April