WWE’s long term opportunity

As a wrestling fan, I try to keep the bigger picture in mind. It’s easy to react with disgust on a week-to-week basis when you see how some people are booked or certain match results. I’ve written before about how the regularity with which that happens leads to me losing interest in WWE’s main roster product. But I can deal with bad booking or the lack of a character if I can at least see where it’s going, and I try to give stories a chance to play out before judging them.

Long-term storytelling is when wrestling is at its finest. Last November I wrote an article looking at how Becky Lynch’s momentum and stardom seemed so organic, and that was down to small nuances over several years. Now the crest of that wave is taking her to the main event of Wrestlemania. Continue reading WWE’s long term opportunity

Summerslam 2018 Spotlight: Braun Strowman vs Kevin Owens

I’ve spoken before about how the Money In The Bank contract is one of my favourite gimmicks every year, because of the storytelling options and the unpredictability it can often lead to. Tomorrow night at Summerslam, with the anticipated main event of Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship again, it seems to be a prime opportunity for a cash in.

The fans are not going to like Roman Reigns. If anything is a certainty on this show, that’s about as close to it as you’re going to get. But I don’t think Reigns can lose to Lesnar again. I’ve said it before, but the longer it goes without Reigns getting that ‘W’ the worse it gets. A cash in gives WWE the opportunity to give Reigns his win, but also send the crowd home happy, protect their man and give themselves a new main event feud all in one fell swoop.

But the question is, who will be holding the Money In The Bank contract by the time that match begins? Continue reading Summerslam 2018 Spotlight: Braun Strowman vs Kevin Owens

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

Backlash 2018 Spotlight: Roman Reigns vs Samoa Joe

Real life gets in the way sometimes, but tonight is Backlash so that can only mean one thing – a PPV Spotlight from yours truly! I’ve picked this match because I expect both men to be in the world title picture in the coming months, and I think that creates an interesting dilemma for tonight’s encounter. I’m writing about Roman Reigns vs Samoa Joe. Continue reading Backlash 2018 Spotlight: Roman Reigns vs Samoa Joe

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 – 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 – 5th-7th March

It was the go-home week for Fastlane, but on Raw and NXT Wrestlemania weekend started to take shape! So what was set up? What do we have to look forward to? I’ve rounded up the top moments of the week right here!

Raw

Rousey’s Mania match confirmed

It’s been rumoured for a long time, and there has been a lot of speculation about who her partner would be, but on Raw it was confirmed that Ronda Rousey would make her Wrestlemania debut in a mixed tag team match against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, and her partner will be… Kurt Angle. They have the link that both are Olympians, and they’ve already been playing into The Authority’s history with Rousey at Wrestlemania 31 and Angle at last year’s Survivor Series. I think this match will exceed expectations in the same way AJ Styles vs Shane McMahon was a highlight of last year’s Mania – with the names involved it will likely be planned and rehearsed to the second, which is probably an assurance of quality.

 

The Ultimate Deletion

We’re finally seeing progression with the Woken Matt character. Some of the highlights of Broken Matt in Impact Wrestling were his skits at the Hardy Compound, and the likes of Total Nonstop Deletion and the Final Deletion. Now, it’s coming to the WWE. Matt invited Bray Wyatt to partake int he Ultimate Deletion. If they are allowed to be as creative as House Hardy was in TNA, this could be what pushes Woken Matt over the top. Equally, if it’s like Wyatt’s House of Horrors match, it could ruin the gimmick. The kicker is, the match has already been filmed. When will it air? Who knows. It could be next Monday’s Raw, it could be Wrestlemania. Either way, the anticipation is simply delightful.

 

Building the Big Dog

Paul Heyman is a genius. That’s nothing new to most of the WWE Universe, but I’m not sure it can ever be repeated enough. I wasn’t sure that WWE’s aim of getting Brock Lesnar booed and Roman Reigns cheered going into Wrestlemania was in any shape or form achievable, but we’re just a couple of weeks in and it looks like they’re getting there. They still have four weeks to go, and they’ll need to keep things fresh and not overdo the “absent champion” line, but so far so good.

 

SmackDown

A rivalry highlighted

I know I covered the promo segment between The Usos and The New Day last time out, but my god have WWE’s production team pulled something out of the hat in recapping it. This clip has everything: history, motivation, intensity – basically anything you’d want in an epic rivalry, this video shows off. It gave me chills.

 

Fatal-5-Way

It wasn’t that long ago that AJ Styles vs Baron Corbin vs Dolph Ziggler vs Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn was slated as the main event for Fastlane, but instead we got that exact match on SmackDown. As could have been expected going in, it was all action, but with a potentially big moment at the end. Sami Zayn won by pinning Kevin Owens after a Helluva Kick. There has been dissension brewing between the best friends for weeks, and at the minute it looks like they’re being set up for a match down the line. For me that’s way too early, this could be a multi-year story that results in an all-time great match. I really hope they don’t blow it off in a matter of months.

 

NXT

NXT gold to Fade to Black?

On the yellow brand this week Killian Dain and Aleister Black faced off, with the unconfirmed stipulation that the winner would go on to face Andrade “Cien” Almas for the NXT Championship at TakeOver: New Orleans. Black ended up coming out victorious, and after the show William Regal announced that he would indeed challenge Almas the night before Wrestlemania. Black would have to be the favourite to win the title, and as he is the closest thing NXT has had to that next level face of the brand since Shinsuke Nakamura and Finn Balor, that could be a very good thing indeed.

 

And there we have WWE’s week of TV for the start of March! Next week’s edition will be a little longer due to Fastlane being included, but from there we are on the final straight to the biggest show of the year. You might have heard about it, Wrestlemania 34!

TV Talking Points – 25th-28th February

It was PPV week in WWE, which meant four consecutive nights of shows. And since it was the last Raw PPV before Wrestlemania, it also meant we have a stronger picture of where the red brand is headed for Wrestlemania. So what were the highlights of WWE’s programming for the last week of February? Read on to find out.

Elimination Chamber

Braun Strowman is a beast

Ok, so I’ve actively tried to stay away from Braun Strowman stories over the last few weeks, because I felt like I was writing about his antics every single time I did this column and I didn’t want it to feel too repetitive or redundant. But when WWE keeps putting him in spots to shine, I can’t leave him out. Braun eliminated five of his six opponents inside the Chamber, and clearly came away the most dominant figure in the match. I know similar things were said last year, but if Braun Strowman isn’t in a world title match at next year’s Wrestlemania it really would be a travesty. It’s nor a surprise to anyone at this stage, but Braun Strowman is a beast.

 

Rowdy Ronda Rousey makes a statement

If there was a valid criticism to be made over Rousey’s debut appearance at the Royal Rumble over not really doing much, there was no cause for similar worries here. She entered extremely smiley, looking genuinely touched at the positive reaction she got. We learned that this was all a scheme concocted by Triple H and Stephanie to get revenge on Ronda for her actions at Wrestlemania 31, Rousey put Triple H through a table, and really we got a Mania match set up and all ready to go.

 

Raw

“Shooting” at the Beast

What’s that? A badass Roman Reigns promo? About damn time. If this was the Roman Reigns we had been getting for the last three years, the dude might have been a bona fide star by now. The major criticism of him has always been his promos, but some genius writing by WWE let the big dog loose this week, and it paid off. We’ll have to wait and see if this carries over into future shows, but he got some big reactions from the crowd on certain lines.

 

Challenging The Deadman

Just as one match that’s been expected for months is confirmed, another is finally addressed. There have rumours for months that despite his grand farewell last year, The Undertaker would pick up his gloves, lace up his boots and put on his trenchcoat one more time to face John Cena. Cena saying that the match “will not happen” throws an interesting twist into the mix, but I highly doubt that WWE would even have had Cena mention Undertaker if the match wasn’t going to happen. For the time being, we’ll just have to wait and see how Cena’s excursion to SmackDown goes.

 

SmackDown

Six pack challenge

At the very least, things started well for Cena back on Tuesday nights. He asked to be given an opportunity to be inserted into the WWE Championship match at Fastlane, which he received. All he had to do to get in the match was defeat the WWE Champion, AJ Styles. Whenever these two lock up there is a magic in the air, and they haven’t put on a bad match yet. This might not have been at the level of their previous wars, but it was still an excellent TV match. It could easily end up as the best WWE TV match of the year.

 

Another rivalry renewed

And just as John Cena and AJ Styles butted heads one more time at the top of the card, the tag team division also saw old foes cross swords again. As it stands, the best in ring tag team rivalry WWE had in 2017 will be revisited at Fastlane as The New Day challenge The Usos. I say for the time being, because the Bludgeon Brothers’ tease at the end suggests it won’t be too long before they turn their focus to championship gold…

 

NXT

British Strong Style on Dream’s street

There weren’t many superstars who had more impressive 2017s after debuting than Tyler Bate and Velveteen Dream, and this week saw them do battle in NXT’s opening match. Much like his compatriot Pete Dunne, I don’t think I’ve seen Bate have a bad match, and Dream has obvious superstar potential. It was interesting to see these two clash, but the result was never really in doubt. They’re pushing a losing streak for Bate, which if things turn out properly will hopefully lead to a heel turn and a dominant British Strong Style trio running through NXT.

 

And there we have it. Next week sees the start of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic on Wednesday nights, as well as an Elimination Chamber rematch between Asuka and Nia Jax on Raw. But for now, I bid you adieu!