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!

Wrestlemania 34 Spotlight: Kurt Angle & Ronda Rousey vs Triple H & Stephanie McMahon

History was made at the Royal Rumble this year. Has anyone ever told you that? We were treated to the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble Match, which was really fun. But that was overshadowed by what followed before the show went off the air – Ronda Rousey debuted.

Long term, that could be the real history that was made that night, which is why WWE has been pushing her so hard. It’s difficult to describe the phenomenon that was Rousey at her peak in UFC. She was the female Conor McGregor. In fact, she was kind of Conor McGregor before Conor McGregor became Conor McGregor. She was the biggest draw in MMA, regularly adding millions on to PPV revenues. And she had a mainstream value unlike possibly any fighter before her.

So if she brings that to WWE, she could be a game changer. For all the talk about a women’s revolution, it could be Rousey that really makes Vince push women to the top of the company. Continue reading Wrestlemania 34 Spotlight: Kurt Angle & Ronda Rousey vs Triple H & Stephanie McMahon

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 – 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!

 

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

Survivor Series 2017 Spotlight: Men’s Raw vs SmackDown Elimination Match

Holy star power wrestling fan. After looking for a while like it was going to be a really bland Survivor Series card, the changes in the last couple of weeks have produced a stacked show. There are 12 former world champions on the show, 8 former women’s or divas champions, 6 former NXT champions, and the only man on the show (including Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas) who has never held a title is Braun Strowman. However, even with the depth on the card, what a lot of people seem to be talking about this week is the ages of the participants in the top matches – in particular the Raw vs SmackDown 5-on-5 Elimination match.

SmackDown’s team consists of Shane McMahon (47), Randy Orton (37), Bobby Roode (40), Shinsuke Nakamura (37) and John Cena (40) for an average age of 40.2 years old. Raw’s team consists of Kurt Angle (48), Braun Strowman (34), Finn Balor (36), Samoa Joe (38) and Triple H (48) for an average age of 40.8. The issue that people have with the ages of performers is undoubtedly exacerbated by the other real main event – Brock Lesnar vs AJ Styles – also featuring two forty year olds.

Brock Lesnar vs AJ Styles
I don’t care these guys are both 40, I haven’t been this excited for a WWE match in a long time!

Continue reading Survivor Series 2017 Spotlight: Men’s Raw vs SmackDown Elimination Match

WWE Live Reflections

This is going to be one of the most disjointed columns I’ve published in a long time. Usually I like to write to make a point, to address one or two ideas through exemplification and analysis. There will be aspects of that here, but there were so many things I wanted to talk about it is a bit of a mish-mash of ideas. That is because last week, I went to the Raw house show in Glasgow and the Aberdeen house show in Aberdeen – and when you see so much, it gets you thinking about a lot of different things too.

WWE Live in Scotland Graphic

Continue reading WWE Live Reflections

Fantasy Booking The Raw Men’s Division – Part 3

It’s time to write the final leg of my journey to Wrestlemania with the Raw men’s division! This part covers the period between the night after the Royal Rumble right up to Wrestlemania, with some outlined plans for what I would have afterwards too. For the story so far, make sure you read Part 1 and Part 2, but if you’re up to speed let’s pick it right up the night after the Royal Rumble!

January 29th, Raw

On social media before Raw, and during the show, “Kurt Angle addresses Samoa Joe” is promoted as the main event segment.

Results: Matt Hardy defeats Elias by pinfall, Braun Strowman defeats Apollo Crews & Titus O’Neil by pinfall, Finn Balor defeats Darren Young by pinfall

Promos: – Roman Reigns comes out to start Raw, talking about winning the Royal Rumble for the second time. He simply says he is going to Wrestlemania to face Brock Lesnar, and he will win the Universal Championship. Continue reading Fantasy Booking The Raw Men’s Division – Part 3