Wrestlemania 34 Spotlight: Shinsuke Nakamura vs AJ Styles

So it’s about time I got round to writing about the match I’m most looking forward to at Wrestlemania. It’s a match between two of my favourites in or out of WWE (I mean, just look at the image at the very top of this site).

Much like I wrote about the Intercontinental Championship triple threat earlier in the week, it’s a match we’ve seen before. Not in this hemisphere, not in this country. Not on this stage and not with this prize at stake. This time it’s the Royal Rumble winner facing the WWE Champion. But it’s still Shinsuke Nakamura vs AJ Styles. Continue reading Wrestlemania 34 Spotlight: Shinsuke Nakamura vs AJ Styles

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!

 

Retro Spotlight: Jeff Hardy vs The Undertaker – Part 2

Last week I debuted a new column where I look at a match, angle or feud of the past and look at the build, the content and the aftermath. There was only one place I could start, and that was with one of my favourite matches: Jeff Hardy vs The Undertaker in a ladder match for the Undisputed Title from the July 1st, 2002 edition of Raw. That match is rightly still remembered today, but the two superstars would face off again years later, in an encounter I think is often forgotten – but no less important in the Jeff Hardy story.

I find it interesting looking back at both matches, because there are a lot of differences as you might expect, but there are also a lot of similarities despite both men being at different stages of their career, and their environment having changed significantly too.

From 2002, we’re jumping ahead six years to late 2008. As noted last time, Jeff Hardy had left WWE in 2003 to go to TNA, but he returned to Raw in 2006 to a wave of approval from his fans. He returned to confront the then-WWE Champion Edge, in what was a nice nod to Edge’s feud with Jeff’s brother Matt the previous year. But much as Jeff had failed to reach his apparent potential in 2003, he had to prove that he could be a top guy all over again when he came back. Continue reading Retro Spotlight: Jeff Hardy vs The Undertaker – Part 2

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 – 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 – 22nd-24th January

Despite once again arguably the biggest WWE story this week happening off-screen (bye Enzo!), this week saw Raw25 take place, as well as the final build-up to NXT’s TakeOver: Philadelphia and, of course, the Royal Rumble on Sunday. So what went down? I’ve collated the main happenings from the week, and put them all together in one, easy to manage round-up.

Raw

A New Intercontinental Champion? Awesome…

We knew going in to Raw25 that Roman Reigns would be defending the Intercontinental Championship, and really if you’ve been reading online reports at any time in the last 10 months you probably had a fair idea that Roman Reigns would be losing the title on Monday night. And he did. And it was relatively clean too! Sure Miz used an exposed turnbuckle, which was brilliantly set up so subtly earlier in the match, but the Miztourage never got involved. Though, perhaps more accurately, they were never allowed to, as Reigns always struck first. Still, it will be interesting to see if there is a rematch, and how clean the finish will be should it turn out that way. If not, the awesome reign of the most must see champion in WWE history looks like it might be here to stay.

Continue reading TV Talking Points – 22nd-24th January

WWE’s TV Talking Points – 1st-3rd January

This is the first of what will hopefully become a regular column! What I’m going to do is discuss a couple of the main talking points – whether that is an impressive promo or match, a significant storyline development, or maybe just something subtle that caught my eye that I felt was worth mentioning – from Raw, SmackDown and maybe even NXT, depending on how things go. I’m normally going to try to have this up in the middle of the week, but it’s later this week because New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom 12 and New Year’s Dash meant I didn’t get round to NXT until yesterday. So what were the main things to takeaway from WWE’s first shows of 2018? Let’s find out!

 

Raw

Royal Rumble Rules Revealed

It’s been a couple of weeks since Stephanie McMahon officially announced the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble, and there had been a lot of speculation over how it would work. Given the size of the women’s roster, how many entrants would there be? Given the size of some of the women, would they have to go over the top rope to the floor, or just out of the ring to the floor? Well, on New Year’s Day Kurt Angle opened Raw to confirm the rules of the match – 30 women, and eliminations occurring when a woman goes over the top rope with both feet hitting the floor. Given that there are only 19 women on the main roster not including each brand’s champion, that means there are going to be a lot of former stars returning or appearances from NXT’s women to fill out the spots. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing, as 30 women puts it on an even playing field as the men – if it was only 20, as had been suggested by many including myself, it might’ve been argued that it was less important. And this year especially, it’ll put over the historical significance of the match to have all these legends coming back to win it. However going forward it’s a concern. If the main roster’s women’s division doesn’t expand for next year, there’s only so many times you can bring back the same names from the past, and having one third of the field coming from NXT could hurt the credibility and star power in the match. It’ll be an interesting situation to keep an eye on in years to come.

Continue reading WWE’s TV Talking Points – 1st-3rd January

WWE Hell In A Cell 2017 Spotlight: Shinsuke Nakamura vs Jinder Mahal

It’s time for a handful of WWE Superstars to step foot inside the most demonic structure in WWE history – Hell In A Cell. For my Spotlight this time round I really toyed with the idea of going with The New Day vs The Usos for the Tag Team Titles, if only to gush about them for having great matches time and time again. However, I do like to put the focus on matches that I feel have a larger significance to them. And this time round, that accolade has fallen to the WWE Championship match between Jinder Mahal and Shinsuke Nakamura. Continue reading WWE Hell In A Cell 2017 Spotlight: Shinsuke Nakamura vs Jinder Mahal