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 – 2nd-4th April

It was the go-home week for Wrestlemania, and with most of Mania already set it felt like a fairly standard Raw and SmackDown. It could be argued that they should have been blow-away shows as a final push to sell you Wrestlemania, but in the Network era that doesn’t matter anymore. So if you missed the shows, what happened?

Raw

The Authority stands tall

Since Ronda Rousey debuted, she hasn’t really shown any weakness. That was until Monday, where Triple H and Stephanie McMahon finally got the upper hand. I imagine Ronda will be getting the win on Sunday, and you can’t expect The Authority to never get the last laugh. And it was a nice example of turnaround being fair play, as Ronda ended up getting put through a table. Just like she did to Triple H at Elimination Chamber.

 

Brains Strowman

One of the few remaining mysteries going into Wrestlemania is who Sheamus & Cesaro will be defending the Raw Tag Team Championships against. We know Braun Strowman will be in the match, as he won a battle royal a few weeks back to earn the shot. But ever since, he’s refused to reveal who his partner will be. There has been a lot of speculation as to who it will be, ranging from Rey Mysterio to Bray Wyatt to Dean Ambrose to Drew McIntyre. But I think it’s safe to say one person it won’t be is “Brains Strowman”.

 

Tensions bubbling over

So I wanted to call attention to one rivalry that isn’t going to be a featured part of Sunday, but looks like it will be in the aftermath of Wrestlemania. There have been teases of revisiting NXT’s legendary Sasha Banks vs Bayley rivalry for over a year now, but things have really picked up in the last month. It seems obvious that one of them will be turning heel. Who will it be? I’d have to think we’ll find out in the next week. That in sunless a Superstar Shake-up messes thing long running story up again.

 

SmackDown

Hug it out

It’s amazing how quickly things can turn around in just a few weeks. Daniel Bryan’s story really is remarkable, and his popularity hasn’t waned a bit. Even the allusions to his previous gimmicks and storylines are as over as they ever were at the time, and I’m sure Dr Shelby would be proud to see Bryan still utilising the practice of hugging things out. I think this was a necessary segment, since there was always going to be the question of how these two would coexist after disagreeing with each other for so long. But also, if there is going to be a heel turn, if will make it all the more of a betrayal after this. It was important for their solidarity this Sunday, but it was also important for story options going forward.

 

NXT

A Classicly Dusty finish

I loved that Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne were entered into the Dusty Classic. The original Dusty Classic were full or mix and match duos (let’s not forget the inaugural winners were Finn Balor and Samoa Joe) where part of the story was whether they would implode by the end of each match. And this year things were taken one step further, as the whole tournament ended with a controversial finish, as the Undisputed Era caused a double disqualification. This led to not just the tag titles being on the line come Saturday night at TakeOver, but also the Dusty Rhodes trophy. Will the Undisputed Era win the Dusty Classic by winning a single match?

 

Six man face off

The advertised main event of this week’s NXT was Killian Dain vs Lars Sullivan, two of the contestants in the ladder match to crown the first ever NXT North American Champion on Saturday. But for the second time on the show, we didn’t get a clean finish. Actually, we didn’t get any finish. The rest of the field came out to interrupt the match, and while no punches were thrown, no words were said, NXT did go off the air with the first in-ring appearance of The One and Only… Ricochet.

 

I fully expect a bumper week next time out as TakeOver and Wrestlemania will be included, and it’s always an extremely newsworthy edition of Raw and SmackDown after Wrestlemania. I’m also doing Spotlights on Mania matches every day this week, and I’ll be posting a TakeOver: New Orleans Spotlight too, so keep visiting the sight to keep up to date with all my latest content!

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 – 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 – 12th-14th February

Another week has passed on the Road to Wrestlemania, and unless I’ve just gotten to the stage of completely zoning out when it happens, we got less sign-pointing this week. We even got serenaded by Braun Strowman, which even though I’m not writing about was too good of a visual to not use above. But we did get various developments for Elimination Chamber and Fastlane, so it was a good week for storyline progression. What actually happened? Read on for the highlights!

Raw

Doubling up on making history

The advertised Raw main event was a second chance fatal-4-way between the men who lost Elimination Chamber qualifying matches – Finn Balor, Matt Hardy, Bray Wyatt and Apollo Crews. But in the middle of the show, Seth Rollins made his case to Kurt Angle that he should be added to the match, and he was – making it a fatal-5-way. There was controversy in the finish, as both Finn Balor and Seth Rollins had Wyatt pinned for a three count. Both men won the match, so Kurt Angle announced that at Elimination Chamber, as well as having the first ever women’s Chamber match, for the first time ever there would be seven men competing inside the steel structure!

Continue reading TV Talking Points – 12th-14th 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.

2018 Royal Rumble Spotlight: Men’s Royal Rumble Match

It’s almost here, the real second biggest night in the WWE calendar is finally upon us! And with that in mind, I’m doubling down on my Spotlights for the Royal Rumble. Yesterday I dealt with the women’s match (did you know it was the first ever?), and now I turn my attention to the men’s Rumble match. This will follow the same format as yesterday, where I focus the talking points on specific questions. So who do I think is likely to dominate the match and walk away victorious? Read on to find out. Continue reading 2018 Royal Rumble Spotlight: Men’s Royal Rumble Match

2017 Spotlight: October – December

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 final part of my 2017 Spotlights, you can find the first three below:

January – March

April – May

June – September

October

2nd-16th October – Sierra. Hotel. India. Echo. Lima. Delta.

The reunion of Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose naturally invoked memories of The Shield, and got the fans wondering if the third piece of the puzzle would come together. As it turned out, three and a half years after Rollins slammed a chair into Roman Reigns’ back, The Shield returned as a united force. Battling against their common enemies of The Miz, The Bar and Braun Strowman, it was fantastic to see the ever-popular trio working together once again.

Continue reading 2017 Spotlight: October – December

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.

new-nxt-world-title-showed-off-at-nxt-takeover-orlando-big
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

An Introduction To WarGames

WarGames. It is a concept that hasn’t been used in nearly 20 years, but next weekend a cage will contain nine men inside two rings one more time. As someone who was around 18 months old when the last official WarGames match took place, it was something I’d only ever heard of, but it was always something that was talked about as being legendary. The concept was designed by the late, great Dusty Rhodes, and became something of a signature match for the Four Horseman, especially in the early days. There have been thirty official WarGames under the WCW (and later by extension the WWE) banner, I have watched eight of them from throughout the years. I thought I’d put together this article to give people who, like me, had never experienced the concept before, an idea of what to expect.

How It Works

The best way I can describe it to people only familiar with the post-WarGames era of wrestling is as a cross between Hell In A Cell and the Royal Rumble. As previously mentioned, the match features one cage covering two rings, and usually two battling teams of four or five. Traditionally, two men start the match and slug it out for five minutes. After five minutes, there is a coin toss, and whichever wins the coin toss can send a member from their team into the cage, giving their side a 2-on-1 advantage. After two minutes, that advantage is nullified and it becomes 2-on-2. The teams alternate between sending a man in every two minutes, with the team who won the coin toss always retaining the advantage. When the last man has entered the cage, a period called “The Match Beyond” begins, which basically just means the match can now end. There are no disqualifications, and until the later versions there were no pinfalls either, meaning the match could only end when someone “submits or surrenders”. Continue reading An Introduction To WarGames