NXT Review and Analysis – 25/05

With just two weeks until the next NXT Takeover, now revealed to be called, rather cryptically, NXT Takeover: The End, the latest episode of NXT aired on the WWE Network. It featured a couple of announcements and matches with major implications for Takeover, as well as a debuting tag team. So let’s see what went down…

First up was William Regal announcing that Bayley has suffered an injury and will not be able to compete at Takeover. To determine who would get a shot at Asuka’s NXT Women’s Title at Takeover there would be a triple threat between Nia Jax, Alexa Bliss and Carmella to headline that night’s card.

Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa defeat TM61 by pinfall

One of the fastest rising pairings in the tag team division took on the debuting Australian team of TM-61 (known on the indies as TMDK) to open the show. Whilst not getting the pomp and circumstance of some of the recent debuts from indie stars on the NXT roster, TM-61 did at least get to cut a pre-recorded promo and make a proper entrance to differentiate them from jobbers. This was a very good start to the show, with both teams looking fairly equal throughout the match, before TM61 were defeated as Shane Thorne ate a superkick/running knee combo.

Thoughts:

  • I was impressed with TM61, having never seen them before. They have some great moves, they’re good talkers based on the little speaking they did and Shane Thorne in particular has a real swagger to him. Almost like a toned down Nakamura at times.
  • Is the name Shane Thorne supposed to sound so much like Shane Warne? Because they’re both sportsmen from Australia you see.
  • Poor Bayley, it sucks she’s injured. Just makes me want to hug her even more.

We then see a video hyping Samoa Joe for his cage match with Finn Balor at Takeover. It’s a good little package, making Joe look like a beast and genuinely making you fear for Finn’s safety a bit in that cage.

Next up is Bayley being interviewed backstage, where she talks about how being injured sucks but that Regal probably made the right decision. Nia Jax then turns up and claims responsibility for Bayley’s injuries, telling the former champ that she’ll never be the same again. Carmella shows up to back up Bayley but Jax is unimpressed and finally Alexa Bliss arrives. The Samoan is about to say something but decides Bliss isn’t worth it and walks off, leaving Alexa and Carmella to have words briefly, before Alexa walks off.

Then there is a vignette advertising the impending debut of Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas, showing a luchadore taking off his mask from behind.

That’s followed by still more non-wrestling action as Austin Aries takes to the ring to talk about being the best, greatness and how other guys have grabbed the spotlight. He then claims that it doesn’t matter who wins between Balor and Samoa Joe as before long Aries will have the belt anyway. Shinsuke Nakamura, Aries’ tag partner from last week, then appears and promises that he will be the one to defeat the winner of the cage match and claim the championship. This brings out William Regal, who makes Aries v Nakamura for Takeover, causing the two competitors to shake hands in the ring.

Thoughts:

  • I’m surprised the route to Nakamura v Aries has not yet involved an Aries heel turn, they were definitely teasing him using heel methods to rise to the top.
  • That was a really quite powerful vignette for Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas (previously known outside the WWE as La Sombra), with the luchadore removing his mask, which obviously has massive resonance in the world of lucha libre.
  • The size difference between Alexa Bliss and Nia Jax is ridiculous. It’s great that Nia underestimates Bliss and that Alexa doesn’t back down because it sows the possibility of Bliss overcoming the odds. But seriously, Nia makes Alexa look like a child.
  • Good video for Samoa Joe, dude looks beastly.

Next up Amerian Alpha hype up their contest with The Revival, promising to out-wrestle them and defeat the former champs at Takeover.

No Way Jose defeats Jonathan Ortagun by pinfall.

This was a total squash, with No Way Jose doing his usual ‘I love to dance and play baseball’ schtick and winning with a new cobra clutch slam finisher. At least the baseball swing thing isn’t his finisher any more, even if he still uses it.

We then see Balor’s equivalent of the Samoa Joe video we saw earlier, with Finn talking about his obsession and saying how Joe doesn’t know what Balor is capable of inside a cage.

The last promo of a very talky NXT was from Asuka who promised that whoever won the Number One Contender’s match that night she would retain her title at Takeover.

Nia Jax defeats Carmella and Alexa Bliss by pinning Carmella

A really enjoyable match saw the three women play to their strengths – Bliss was the manipulative and cowardly heel, waiting for the perfect moment to strike, Carmella was the fearless firebrand and Nia Jax was a force of nature. They all delivered some great moves, with Jax hitting some strong power offense, Carmella taking some high flying risks and Bliss reacting brilliantly when caught trying to sneak attack Jax from the top rope. In the end Nia’s power won out as she pinned Carmella with Alexa Bliss laid out at ringside.

After the match Asuka came out and held the title aloft on the entrance ramp before making her way down to the ring to face off with Jax. The new number one contender threatened Asuka while the champion just smiled as NXT went off air.

Thoughts:

  • Nia Jax was definitely the best choice to win here. She is a strong, powerful competitor and offers a significant kayfabe challenge to Asuka, especially since the Samoan is ironing out the mistakes she used to make due to inexperience.
  • The other two women deserve a lot of praise too – Carmella was a bundle of energy who was very over, while Bliss being caught by Jax and climbing down the turnbuckle apologetically was hilarious.
  • The commentators had a bit more to say about No Way Jose this week as they fleshed out his character but I still can’t say I’m particularly interested in him. Gets a good crowd reaction though.
  • Oh American Alpha just make me happy, whatever they’re doing. I wonder if the WWE brand split will see them moving up to the main roster sooner than expected.

So there we go, another episode of NXT in the books and we got a decent build toward Takeover but very few matches. What did you make of it? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @CellarDoorChris.

The 5 Questions We Have After Raw 24/05

One night after a largely very good Extreme Rules Pay Per View WWE Raw was in Baltimore. Having watched it we have a number of questions we’re asking. Here are the top 5 –

What story will the WWE tell around Roman Reigns v Seth Rollins?

The Architect is back and he has been granted a WWE World Heavyweight Title match at Money in the Bank. This is all good. Rollins opened Raw last night by berating the fans, reminding them that they weren’t cheering for him when he was the champion. Though some people disagree, I think this is also a good move – while we’re all happy to see him come back Rollins’ character has no reason to start being a face after he left as a heel.

So what will the story be here? Rollins can seemingly no longer bank on having an authority figure on his side, as Stephanie told him that their business relationship has changed. Reigns also has a numbers advantage, with the Usos on his side, while Rollins has no kayfabe friends in the locker room. So will Rollins work his slimy coward heel act to gain any advantage he can? Will Reigns be looking for revenge for the dissolution of the Shield? Will the rivalry get personal or will it be purely focussed on the belt? Will Ambrose figure into this conflict at all?

When will Finn Balor debut?

Because after AJ Styles’ conflict with Anderson and Gallows last night you know it’s just a matter of time. The seeds have been sown, so how and when is it going down? Will Finn perhaps initially join Styles as he takes on Gallows and Anderson and then turn on the Phenomenal One? Or will he debut as Styles’ adversary from the off, perhaps helping Anderson and Gallows get an edge over Style and whoever he finds to help him in this battle?

Timing wise, Balor has NXT dates in the UK and Ireland from June 10th – 17th which could prevent him from appearing immediately, though I’m sure WWE creative can come up with a reason for him not being on TV for one week if need be. However and whenever it happens the Days of the Demon are coming to the WWE main roster, and soon.

How will the last two Money in the Bank match places be decided, and who will get them?

So far we have Dean Ambrose, Kevin Owens, Cesaro, Sami Zayn and Chris Jericho in there, so who will be joining them and how will that be decided? Well there’s no out and out high flyer in there, which is often a feature of the MITB match, so Kalisto may well take one of the other spots. Neville is also likely to be back from injury soon but are WWE going to want to put him in such a high risk match so early in his comeback?

And what about the seventh person? Well, Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt are both scheduled to return soon and both have the pedigree to be in such a high profile match. Bray in particular would be a very intriguing choice to carry the briefcase, especially with the Wyatt Family at his beck and call. The final option I would suggest is, if he loses his US Title to John Cena before the PPV, Rusev. He deserves to be a major player in the WWE and Lana walking around with that briefcase would look awesome!

Will we finally get a male-free Women’s Division?

After a brutal verbal attack the WWE Women’s Champion Charlotte disowned her father and sent the Nature Boy from the arena in tears. With the champ replacing Ric Flair with Dana Brooke as her cohort will we finally get a Women’s division that focusses on the female competitors and not the shenanigans involving men?

Will a feud with Sheamus be a good next step for Apollo Crews?

After losing to Sami Zayn in a Money in the Bank qualifying match Sheamus was irate, and has started to rant about the ‘new era’, focussing his ire on Apollo Crews. With both men losing their qualifiers it looks like a feud is in the offing. So will this be a good move for the leader of the Apollo Nation? It seems likely – Sheamus is a veteran, his brawling, bruising style could mesh nicely with Crews’ strength and agility and there is a good story to tell with the whole old guard v new era narrative. It should also give Crews a chance to develop and display his character a bit more, and to get over because, seriously, who likes Sheamus?

Other questions we have…

Why are Baron Corbin and Dolph Ziggler having another match?
I mean come on, the matches have been solid, but we’ve seen this contest so many damn times now!

How was Kevin Owens powerbombing AJ Styles onto the steel steps not a disqualification?
Didn’t think that would be allowed in a regular match.

What’s next for the Realest Guys now that Enzo is back?
Given the comprehensive way Big Cass has been dealing with the Dudleyz in Amore’s absence is there any reason to carry on with the feud?

Who put that Exit sign on the door that Ric Flair left through?

Ric Flair Exit

Given the side of the door the sign was on The Nature Boy seemed to go, in the words of Prince,  “in through the out door”.

When are they going to start making Darren Young great again?
Because it hasn’t happened yet, those videos with Bob Backlund are godawful.

So there we go, that’s what’s got us scratching our heads after this week’s Raw. Reckon you’ve got some answers? Or questions of your own? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter at @CellarDoorChris and @WrestlingFansGB.

The Top 5 Questions We’re Asking After Extreme Rules 2016 –

Apart from a couple of dodgy moments I largely enjoyed Extreme Rules 2016. But like all PPVs in WWE it has left us with some questions. So here are the top 5 things we’re asking after Extreme Rules 2016 (spoilers ahead) –

Is Rollins’ return setting up the The Shield triple threat in the near(ish) future?

Rejoice! Crossfit Jesus is back! Seth Rollins saved us from another flat end to a Pay Per View by running into the ring and flattening a victorious Roman Reigns with a pedigree, before holding the WWE World Championship aloft. So where does this declaration of intent leave us? Obviously Reigns and Rollins are going to fight over the championship right now but with Ambrose probably now finished with Chris Jericho there is scope to include the Lunatic Fringe in the feud. Will this happen from the off or will we get Rollins v Reigns 1 on 1 for a bit before Ambrose gets involved? Might the Money in the Bank briefcase factor into the situation? When will the triple threat happen? Summerslam maybe?

What’s next for AJ Styles?

That’s two straight clean defeats for AJ Styles in PPV matches for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and, with Rollins now showing up, it looks like the Phenomenal One may move away from the championship spotlight. So where does he go from here? Well the IC Title picture is pretty busy and I don’t think he’ll be challenging for the US Title next (more on that later). I think he may just get some filler matches and end up competing in the Money in the Bank match, as there is no clear rival for him currently on the roster. After that? Goodness only knows.

Why can’t we get a definitive finish to a Women’s Title match?

As I have mentioned before, I bloody love Dana Brooke. She has plenty of work to do on her in-ring performance but she has developed so much since her NXT debut that I think with time and a little patience she will be a huge asset to the WWE women’s division. However her interference in the submission match between Nattie and Charlotte was just a weird, annoying finish to the match. It reduces Charlotte’s prestige as a champion, as it’s another dodgy finish to help her retain her title. Why couldn’t Charlotte have just won clean? I don’t have a problem with Dana siding with Charlotte as an enforcer of sorts but couldn’t Charlotte have just got one clean win to prove she is a credible champion who can get the job done?

Is Rusev just going to get fed to John Cena?

One of the best moments of Extreme Rules was seeing Rusev MACHKA-ing the ever-loving shit out of Kalisto and claiming the US Title while looking like an utter beast. His and Lana’s performance in the Social Media Lounge on the pre-show was also excellent. An interesting part of the interview with Tom Phillips was a real playing up of the anti-American sentiment from Rusev and Lana. In his feud with Kalisto the rhetoric has always been about squashing the inferior opponent but this switch to more anti-Americanism looks like it is just being used to set up a feud with the returning John Cena. The more Anti-American Rusev gets the more likely it looks that John Cena will use his return on the ultra-patriotic Memorial Day to come after the Bulgarian Brute and his US Title. So is Rusev just going to be a transitional champion? Unfortunately I think this is likely. Is this a good thing? Obviously not. Rusev has huge potential, he is fantastic in ring, brilliant in interviews and promos and his partnership with Lana is endlessly entertaining. The only way Rusev being a transitional champion could be a good thing is if he drops the title soon enough to be in the Money in the Bank match and gets the briefcase. Lana and Rusev with the MITB briefcase would just be a wonderful thing.

Was that IC Title Fatal Fourway the WWE match of the year so far?

Easily the match of the night, the fatal fourway had me on the edge of my seat the whole way through – an explosive start with the Helluva Kick, an epic Cesaro Swing, so many false finishes, every man playing their part brilliantly, it was a superb example of how good multi-person matches can be. Personally I would have preferred Cesaro to get the win after KO and Zayn took each other out of the equation but The Mix retaining also worked really well. So where does it rank in the WWE matches of the year so far? Personally I still prefer Zayn v Nakamura but this is a close second, beating out the Fastlane Triple Threat title match and Wrestlemania IC Title ladder match.

Other questions we have –

Do you think Chris Jericho has got all the thumbtacks out yet?

Seriously, that was brutal. I didn’t think they were going to use them until it actually happened, but fair play, it was a hell of a spot. WWE does slowly seem to be pushing the boundaries of PG, with occasional blood and moments like this.

Will Corbin finally be allowed to wrestle someone who isn’t Dolph Ziggler?

Surely that’s the end of the feud now?

Are they ever going to stop bullying Byron Saxton?

“Byron, if you were on life support I’d unplug you & charge my iPhone” That’s the second time JBL has wished Byron dead in a week. #BeAStar

Will Anderson and Gallows make a run at the WWE Tag Team Titles now?

The Club beat The Usos fairly comfortably at Extreme Rules and The New Day overcame The Vaudevillians. Whilst Gotch and English will probably get another shot at the titles, due to Kofi’s shenanigans last night, it seems doubtful they will win. WWE.com is certainly hinting at the possibility of The Club going after the tag team gold, so it will be interesting to see how the tag team division looks after Raw.

So there we go, plenty of questions after the latest PPV, and hopefully we’ll get some answers tonight on Raw. So what are you pondering after Extreme Rules? Think you’ve got the answers to our questions? Let us know in the comments or take a metaphorical kendo stick/mop to me on Twitter at @CellarDoorChris. You can also tweet UK Wrestling Fans at @WrestlingFansGB.

WAW TV Taping Weekend 2 – Afternoon Review

 

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As some of you might be aware, WAW are in the process of gaining multiple TV deals to show British Wrestling worldwide. There is apparently some big name channels looking at their product, and with that being the case they returned to their home base of Epic Studios in Norwich on Saturday 14th May for their second batch of episodes to be taped.

Pre Show – Meet and Greet

As they do for all shows, WAW hosted a meet and greet prior to the show. It costs £10 to get in and you can meet WAW home talent for free. Well known Independent stars will charge for signed 8x10s and the big names will charge a higher fee for autographs and take professional pictures in the booth, which cost £10 each. First I met some of the well-known Indy guys at the show. These included Luke Hawx, Nathan Cruz and Jonny Storm. Also in this category was Lisa Marie Varon, better known as Victoria and Tara. She is making her comeback to the ring at the Bellatrix Female Warriors show as part of the weekend on the Sunday. By the time you are reading this, this has probably already taken place. It was great to meet her! Then came the big one though. I’ll let the photo do the talking.

So that was sweet (or too sweet if I may). Then came the tapings. Three episodes were to be taped in the afternoon and three more in the evening. I was only to make the afternoon tapings unfortunately. Here are the rest of my photos taken with talent. Below these will be the rundown of the show.

Episode 1

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The show opened with a dark comedy segment featuring the owners of WAW, Ricky and Saraya Knight. They joked about Saraya rarely wearing a dress, which she indeed was at the show. Saraya wanted to throw some t-shirts but Ricky said it loses him money. They come to an agreement but the segment features some dissention between the two, which was a very nice piece of foreshadowing. All in all, a very funny, improvised comedy segment to kick off the show for the live crowd.

The taping started with the intro video on the titantron, before some dancers came out. It’s 2016, we don’t need dancers at a wrestling show. This segment went on for what seemed like ages, and ages, and ages, and ages. In reality, it was actually about a minute and half, but it was unnecessary.

A 6-man cruiserweight match kicked off the show since Bubblegum was moved to a different match in the days leading to the show. Decent match, not the typical cruiserweight spotfest but there were some moves that looked cool. A lot of brawling between all six men. Kip Sabian picked up the win with the Coup de Grâce move made famous in recent times by Finn Balor. Solid opener, but, like all other matches on the show, it was very short and could have done with a few more minutes. I give it 2*.

 

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This match was very good, as you would expect from Nathan Cruz, but it was much too short. It went maybe four minutes maximum, and I get that they’re taping for TV, but they really should have given the matches more time than they did. Aron Frost is very impressive for a big man. He’s 6’4 from Oslo, Norway. At just 26 I imagine he will make his way further afield around the UK and Europe. He went over in a very good match that should have been longer. Purely for the length I give it just 2*.

 

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Now I don’t like to start a review with a burial, but Brad Slayer is no good as the finish showed. Don’t get me wrong he has potential as he is young, but at this stage he is very green. He’s very over with the fans. Ruffneck on the other hand is a genius of heel. He is the closest thing the UK has to Kevin Owens. I believe he is moving to the US soon, so that will be our loss and America’s gain. Prior to the match though was the first introduction of the night of the WAW Commissioner, Scott Hall. He came out to shake hands with both competitors and to observe the national anthem. Brad shakes his hand no problem, but Ruffneck, the dastardly heel that he is, refuses. Razor responds with a toothpick to the face. It was a decent match but as I said earlier Slayer isn’t the best.

The finish came when Brad Slayer rebounded off of the ropes into a back body drop from Ruffneck.  Slayer didn’t flip anywhere near as far as he needed to, and, in an awful looking bump, he landed on his head. I think the entire building reacted to the landing. Ruffneck demanded that Steve Lynskey count to ten. He did, and Ruffneck won the title by knockout, whilst Brad was lying in the ring unmoving. It seemed that he was ok, and that this was the planned finish. It’s just that it was a stupid bump to be taking. I can confirm that after the show I saw Brad Slayer on the streets of Norwich with Kip Sabian as I was leaving so it appears he was fine. It was very scary at the time though. He was even able to wrestle on the show in the evening. This concluded Episode 1 of the tapings. I give this match 1.5*.

Episode 2

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A great technical match would be expected from these two and that’s what we, albeit a short one. It started off when Dynamite’s music played for Isaksen’s entrance, and then Isaksen fell off of the top rope whilst posing. Then, hit Dynamite’s music for his entrance, and laughter from the crowd. This match was short, but a very good British technical style match. Robbie Dynamite hit a diving headbutt and transitioned into an armbar for the win. 3*.

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Wow. This was BAD. We all know the reputation Mr. Anderson has, so they put him with a dude in his forties who weighs 350lbs. Good one! Anderson did his usual schtick with the dropdown mic. Kendo cut him off after the first Anderson. Anderson immediately gained control and finished the intro. Thankfully this was quick. Kendo began to go for what appeared to be a Vader bomb but his foot fell in between the bottom and the middle rope about five times. At this point, Kendo thought “F*** It” and did a splash…FOR THE WIN!!! This match was horrible, luckily it was about 3 minutes. Why they would book Anderson like this is beyond me. I was in attendance for the infamous Sharmell vs Jenna match at TNA Victory Road 2009. This match was nowhere near that bad, but it was bad. 0.5*

Roy Knight of the UK Hooligans vs Bubblegum

There is no graphic for this match as it was a late replacement made on Thursday. Roy Knight, also known as The Zebra Kid, has been one of the UK’s finest and most controversial performers over the last 15 years, to the point where I once witnessed him being arrested at Norwich Airport many years ago, but I digress. This match was great. Just great. This was my first time seeing Bubblegum live. The man is a wonderful professional wrestler to watch. At one point, his Manchester City roots came out as he began to sing “Blue Moon” whilst on the top rope. The finish though, SUCKED!!! Bubblegum covers Roy but only manages a 2 count. The referee then proceeds to distract himself with an uncovered turnbuckle (which he openly let Roy use on Bubblegum, by the way). Bubblegum is pissed that it was only a two, and proceeds to push the referee whilst he is sorting out the turnbuckle. You see where this is going, right? Roy Knight hits Bubblegum with a clothesline. At this time, the referee turns round to see, not Bubblegum, but Roy looking at him and he thinks “HE’S the only man standing, HE must have pushed me”. I knew what was coming, the whole crowd knew what was coming. There wasn’t a damn thing we could do. The referee raised his hand to call for the bell, and to the dismay of everyone in the crowd, he called a disqualification. At this point I was thinking it was maybe a 4* match. I cannot possibly give it 4* with that finish. 3.5*.

Episode 3

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The Midas Stable came out accompanied by their manager, “The Norfolk Paul Heyman”, Tommy Lee. I just gave him that nickname by the way. Imagine a short bald bloke, with a miniscule of Heyman’s promo ability and the thickest Norfolk accent you’ve ever heard. I just realised I could have skipped the description of his look. Here you are.

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Anyway, the match. The legends team came out individually to pops increasing after each entrance. Just Joe came out first, followed by Williams and then lastly by X-Pac who had Sean Waltman on his titantron despite being promoted as X-Pac and announced by the MC as 6-Pac. This match got a bit of time compared to some, but it was still short. X-Pac wasn’t in long. He did a minute in the middle before coming in for the finish. He hit the wheel kick, he hit the bronco buster before winning with the X-Factor. It was decent. X-Pac was blown up at the end of the match without doing much. 2.5*

 

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This match was just two green guys in the death spot. Nothing more, nothing less. Nobody cared about this match at all. I will point out that Nemesis had a completely different gimmick to the graphic shows. He was an army guy, coming out in camo clothes and a British flag. The fans call Keegan “Sharon Osbourne” for some reason, apparently he looks like her which I’m sure is a massive complement to a 245lb man in his mid-twenties. He also had a badass theme song and won with a sharpshooter. 1.25*

 

After a long show filled with angles, next came perhaps the biggest angle in British Wrestling today, if this makes TV that is. The former WSX star and current RQW champion Luke Hawx was out first to “Hit a Mutha*****” by Three 6 Mafia followed by the Knight Family’s Zak Knight. Zak is known to the casual fan as Paige’s brother who didn’t make the WWE from the “Fighting with My Family” documentary shown on Channel 4 a few years back. Scott Hall came out before the match as the Commissioner to observe the national anthems of both Great Britain and the USA. This was a very good match.

After maybe 12 minutes, Tony Valentine ran in with a chair through the crowd but the instant attack was thwarted by Zak. Out came Zak’s father, and the owner of the WAW, Ricky Knight. Ricky hit Luke with the chair while the ref was down, handing the title to his son, before taking it from him as he hit Zak with the chair and placed Luke’s hand over Zak’s lifeless body to win his the match and confirm him as the unified champion. Saraya and Roy came out to confront Ricky as he got on the mic. Ricky proclaimed “I’m done with WAW, I’m done being Paige’s dad. Zak, I can make you champion and I can make you un-champion”. Un-Champion. UN-CHAMPION!  That’s my new favourite word. During the evening show, they teased a battle for power between the owner, Ricky Knight and the commissioner, Scott Hall. Zak Knight in storyline owns 48% of the company, so expect him to become involved in this storyline since he isn’t getting a rematch.

 

I would definitely recommend the WAW TV tapings if anyone is in the Norwich area. They are always good shows and bring a host of stars over every time. WAW will be back at Epic Studios for TV Tapings on the 2nd and 3rd of July. The only matches confirmed so far are Luke Hawx vs Mr. Anderson and Victoria vs Saraya Knight. WAW tour the Norfolk and Suffolk area as well. This Sunday (22nd) Scott Hall will be at their show in Lowestoft, Suffolk. Tickets are still available. Just go to wawuk.co.uk and click the ticket tailor links. Also, be sure to follow me on Twitter @SCFack and let me know what’s up! Also remember to follow the blog’s account @wrestlingfansGB. After over 2450 words. That’s all from me, I’ll catch you down the road.

My arms are killing me now by the way.

 

 

NXT Review & Analysis – 18/05/2016

With the next NXT Takeover fast approaching this week’s NXT helped to shape the event’s card further, with another match and stipulation being added to the line up. We also got a surprise Nakamura appearance, the potential dissolution of a stable and a match with major implications for the women’s division. So what went down and what did we make of it? Find out below…

Austin Aries & Shinsuke Nakamura defeat Blake & Murphy by pinfall

The show kicked off with a tag match that resulted from an altercation between Austin Aries and Blake & Murphy last week – the former tag team champions were to take on Aries and a partner of his choice. Aries came down to the ring looking very confident and it was soon clear why – his partner was revealed to be the King of Strong Style.

For a team who have not tagged before Aries and Nakamura worked well together, controlling the match and earning the win after Nakamura refused to tag in Aries and instead hit the Kinshasa on Murphy for the pin. After the match Alexa Bliss walked out on Blake & Murphy who looked confused before Blake then left Murphy at ringside.

Bayley was then interviewed backstage about facing Nia Jax in the main event that night. The former champ said she wasn’t afraid of the Samoan, that she would beat her and then get back to focussing on the NXT Women’s Championship.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Take a look at the <a href=”https://twitter.com/WWENXT”>@WWENXT</a&gt; Women’s Champion <a href=”https://twitter.com/WWEAsuka”>@WWEAsuka</a&gt;! <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/WWENXT?src=hash”>#WWENXT</a&gt; <a href=”https://t.co/jMCgG5LdkE”>https://t.co/jMCgG5LdkE</a></p>&mdash; WWE (@WWE) <a href=”https://twitter.com/WWE/status/733096291580837888″>May 19, 2016</a></blockquote>

Next we got a video package on Asuka, which spliced some angry young people called Halestorm performing a song called Mayhem with highlights from the Empress of Tomorrow’s NXT career to date.

Thoughts:

  • As much as I really like Asuka it still makes me sad to see Bayley lose the title. It deflates the wacky waving inflatable flailing arm tube man in my heart.
  • I really thought Aries was going to turn on Nakamura during or after the tag match match, especially after Nakamura refused to tag him in. Aries has talked about making a statement and that getting to the top of NXT will take “a little extra initiative” so I thought Aries’ plan was to make that statement by taking out Nakamura. I was wrong, for this week at least.
  • Alexa Bliss walking out on Blake and Murphy is no big surprise, it’s been teased for a while now. The potential split of Blake and Murphy from each other is an interesting move that I didn’t see coming though.

After the Asuka video No Way Jose was interviewed backstage, where he talked about his positive attitude and sense of fun but made it clear that, while he was in NXT to have a fiesta, most importantly he is there to fight.

We then saw Carmella backstage talking about what a great job Enzo & Cass are doing and once again declaring her intention to win the NXT Women’s Title.

Carmella defeats Peyton Royce by submission.

The Princess of Staten Island then took on the self proclaimed ‘Venus Flytrap of NXT’ Peyton Royce. Both women got some good offence in, with Peyton Royce looking particularly aggressive, before Carmella ended the match with the inverted triangle submission.

Thoughts:

  • Peyton Royce is an able and improving in-ring performer but her gimmick is all rather vague at the moment – she kind of has a Poison Ivy thing going on, as pointed out by the commentators, but her carrying a flower to the ring doesn’t seem to mean much and reminds me a bit of the Shining Stars with their hibiscus flowers.
  • To be honest I think it’s hard to see Carmella winning the NXT Women’s Title, especially any time soon. Not because she’s not a good performer but currently we have Asuka, Nia Jax and Bayley at the top of the division (in kayfabe). Below that I’d say is Alexa Bliss and then Carmella. Finally you have the jobber/newbie level of Peyton Royce, Liv Morgan, Tessa Blanchard etc. At the moment there doesn’t seem to be anyone in one tier who is quite ready to move up to the next level (though this match certainly didn’t do Royce any harm on that front).

We saw a recap of the brawl that happened in Portland between Samoa Joe and Finn Balor and William Regal’s subsequent announcement that the title match at June’s Takeover would be inside a steel cage.

The next segment saw Alexa Bliss, Blake and Murphy backstage with Bliss dressing down the former tag champs for their poor strong of results lately. She then walked out on the pair, seemingly breaking away from the tag team. Blake and Murphy stood there for a short while before Murphy walked away from Blake.

Johnny Gargano & Tomasso Ciampa defeat Rob Ryzin & Danny Burch by pinfall

This was a fairly straightforward squash victory for the team of Gargano & Ciampa, who showed some great teamwork and coordination as they got the win with a superkick/running knee combo.

In his office William Regal then confirms that American Alpha will take on The Revival for the NXT tag team titles at Takeover in June.

Nia Jax defeats Bayley by pinfall

In a rematch from NXT: London Bayley took on the powerful Nia Jax, with the Samoan once again using her size and power advantage to control most of the match. Bayley managed to get a few flurries in, focussing her attack on Jax’s head with strikes and choke holds. However it was never long before the powerhouse regained control of the bout. Jax used a far more strategic approach this time than when the two faced off in the UK, focussing on Bayley’s left arm to reduce the risk of falling to the guillotine choke again. It seemed to work too as when the former champion tried to lock in the hold she was unable to cinch it in and apply the full pressure. Bayley never gave up but when she hurt her knee during a landing her fate was all but sealed. Jax worked on the knee for a short while before landing a big leg drop over the back of Bayley’s head and getting the pin.

Thoughts:

  • Great storytelling in this match – Nia Jax said she’d got better and she has – she had a strategy that was specifically based on how she lost last time. Bayley sold the power offence brilliantly and targeting body parts had an actual purpose. Good stuff.
  • I wonder if this will lead to Asuka v Nia Jax or whether Bayley will get back into contention and it will be a triple threat match.
  • Gargano & Ciampa’s tandem moves are brilliant, it gives them a USP in the tag team division.
  • So looks like Alexa has left Blake & Murphy. But have the former champs split up or is this just a bump in the road for them? I’ve got to be honest, without Alexa I’m worried for them. Even more so as singles competitors.
  • The recap of the announcement of the steel cage match was brilliant, Joe and Finn looked like they were in trouble with a strict headmaster.

So after several NXT episodes that had good action but were perhaps a little light on narrative and story progression we got a lot more of that this week, which was definitely a good thing. The next Takeover is shaping up nicely and should be another excellent show from the developmental brand.

What did you make of this week’s NXT? Do my thoughts make me a stupid idiot? Let me know on @CellarDoorChris and follow UK Wrestling Fans on @WrestlingFansGB

The Top 5 Questions We’re Asking After This Week’s WWE Raw

So the last Raw before Extreme Rules is done and dusted and, like most go-home editions of the flagship show, it was largely focussed on adding a little more intrigue, story and emotion to the feuds that will feature at the upcoming PPV. But alongside that we did have a debut, a time machine and a new match type announced so, without further ado, here are the 5 questions we’re asking following WWE Raw…

What exactly is an Asylum Match?

So we’re getting a totally new(ish) match format for the Dean Ambrose v Chris Jericho bout at Extreme Rules – an Asylum Match. So what does this mean? What are the rules? Essentially it appears at this point to be a No-DQ cage match where the only way to win is by pinfall or submission and there are Dean Ambrose related weapons available to use, such as a barbed wire 2×4 (not, you know, the barbed wire baseball bat Ambrose was gifted by Mick Foley), a strait jacket and, of course, a potted plant. On Raw these were suspended just above the top of the cage with cables, which is going to make it fiddly to actually get your hands on one of them during the match. So maybe they’ll just be lying around the ring? Hopefully this will be an opportunity for Ambrose and Jericho to innovate and come up with something new in their match but most likely, partly because of the PG limitations they will be working under, this could be a one-off, slightly disappointing gimmick match.

How good was the match/segment order on Raw?

Was great to see the US title and Women’s Championship segments receive the highest positions on the card, it really helps to elevate the two belts and makes them seem like a much bigger deal. It also helped that Rusev looked like a total beast again – he destroyed Sin Cara, cost Kalisto his match and then hit that vicious kick to the back of the head before locking in the Accolade. Well done that brute.

Charlotte also had a decent performance, almost turning the North Carolina crowd against a Flair, whilst also looking like she was starting to lose her patience with her dad, which could make for some interesting storylines in the future – especially if Charlotte wins without Ric on Sunday.

Will Dana Brooke seize this opportunity?

There seems to be a lot of people saying that Dana Brooke’s call up from NXT has been accelerated due to injuries in the women’s division and now, with Emma’s recent back injury, there’s even more of a spotlight on Brooke. As NXT fans will know, the pro bodybuilder improved massively during her time on the developmental brand. I think the plan was probably to have her there a little longer but she’s shown in her first two matches that she can hang on the main roster, even if she is not the pinnacle of it just yet. So will she make the most of this feud with Becky Lynch to cement her place on the roster? She’s off to a good start with two wins over the Irish Lass Kicker, one clean and one dirty.

Also, a side note: it was awesome to see Dana break out that half cartwheel thing in her entrance again.

Is there any limit to the number of stupid things the commentary team will say on Raw?

Michael Cole – “It’s all about #ExtremeRules for AJ Styles!” – no you tit, it’s all about Extreme Rules, he doesn’t ever say #ExtremeRules.

JBL – “He’s never had to face anyone like Roman Reigns before!” – except, you know, Roman Reigns. At Payback. Less than 3 weeks ago. Cretin.

JBL – “HG Wells would love this!” Cole – “Who?!”. Seriously? Cole was once a journalist who covered presidential campaigns, wars and the Waco stand off, so is likely fairly intelligent, and yet he doesn’t know who the author of The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine and The Invisble Man is? Idiot.

JBL details some of the wrestling history to have occured in Greensboro, Saxton responds by saying “I wasn’t even born then!” JBL – “Too bad you were ever”. What?! JBL essentially wished that Saxton was dead. Way to Be A Star (™).

When is Enzo Amore coming back?

In a WWE.com exclusive backstage interview Big Cass said that Enzo is “ready” to come back, but “you won’t know when and you won’t know where”. So when will Smacktalker Skywalker return? The Raw after Extreme Rules would make sense, as Enzo & Cass will feel that they are in line for a shot at whichever team out of the Vaudevillians and the New Day emerges victorious at the PPV. Plus with Big Cass so easily dispatching the Dudleyz on Raw it kind of feels like that whole rivalry is coming to an end. So will Enzo join Cass in disrupting the tag team victory celebration next Monday? I wouldn’t bet against it.

And a few quickfire questions –

How is the New Day getting away with these jokes?

Last week they slipped a race joke in, this week they alluded to masturbation. How are they doing it in these PG days? Then again John Cena does have a move called ‘The 5 Knuckle Shuffle’ which, let us not forget, is a euphemism for wanking.

Where is Sasha?

Like, for reals? I don’t think it’s cool for the crowd to chant for her when two good performers like Becky and Dana are in the ring but surely Sasha is too good for WWE to be wasting? Let’s hope she re-emerges in the title picture after Extreme Rules. Maybe with Paige in the mix too, since she has a recent singles win over Charlotte to her name.

How dead was that crowd for the Shining Stars?

I actually thought their in ring performance was pretty strong, even if the pre-match promo was lame. The crowd really didn’t give a flying fuck about any of it though, did they?

Also, have the Shining Stars stolen The Ascension’s tag team finisher?

The Shining Star looks suspiciously similar to The Fall of Man to me. Admittedly The Shining Stars use an enziguri/leg sweep combo rather than a spinning elbow/leg sweep, but still…

Where is Stephanie on the heel/face spectrum this week?

She argued a bit with Shane but put the Dudleyz in their place, improved the IC Title tag match and slapped Ric Flair. Oh and she was very sweet doing the ‘You can’t teach that’ gesture.

Isn’t it great how much thought they’ve put into the Corbin v Ziggler match at Extreme Rules?

/sarcasm

So there we go, that’s what’s got us scratching our heads this week. What are you asking this week? Do you have answers to our questions? Just want to yell random abuse at a dude on the internet? Get in touch in the comments or on Twitter @WrestlingFansGB or @CellarDoorChris.

RAW Review – 16/05/16

It’s the go home show before Extreme Rules this weekend! RAW better be good, right? Well it seems for me at least, the honeymoon phase post-Wrestlemania is over as RAW has got me back to looking at the clock and wondering how much longer it’ll be. That’s not to say it was an inherently bad episode – it definitely had some good moments – it’s just that I found the overall show was lacking in the “WOW” department.

AJ Styles & Roman Reigns

AJ Styles opens the show before Roman Reigns interrupts. What we have here is weird – clearly in the WWE’s mind, Reigns is the babyface and Styles is the heel. But it doesn’t quite work like that as hating Reigns is just a by-product of a lot of fans displeasure of constantly being fed story-lines they don’t like or just don’t work. Reigns has the potential to be good and I’ve always been a fan, but he will always suffer being booked the way he is. In an ideal world, yes Reigns could be a great babyface with The Usos, and yes Styles could be a great heel with the rest of The Bullet Club in the form of Anderson & Gallows – but it’ll never happen when you have Reigns in the mix.

And what makes this whole feud even staler for me is that the WWE constantly portrays Reigns as the underdog, even against someone who is considered a “newbie” in the WWE and someone who would wholeheartedly benefit from being the underdog. These guys do put on a good match, as evident from Payback, but their promos and the continuation of the storyline doesn’t feel organic to me and I feel like it’s run it’s course already. Because, what’s the pay off, realistically? Reigns wins, right? I would love Styles to become champion at Extreme Rules but the chances of that are as slim as CM Punk returning to WWE. So I can’t get excited about this feud and I can’t bring myself to care.

Anyway, the segment was short and sweet and we’re informed that The Usos will face Anderson & Gallows later with their respective “families” in their corners of the ring.

Sami Zayn vs Cesaro vs Kevin Owens vs The Miz w/ Maryse

The one thing WWE is doing well lately is the feud and build up for IC Title match at Extreme Rules (shock fucking horror). What’s excellent here is that normally in a Fatal 4 way match there isn’t a lot of reasoning for why some men are involved – it’s usually just to fill a space or get everybody paid – but with this current feud, I genuinely feel like every man here has his space because he deserved it and it’s where the story naturally leads to. The Miz is champion; Cesaro and The Miz have a bit of background and Cesaro has constantly been a contender for the IC Belt in recent memory; Kevin Owens dropped the title at Wrestlemania and desperately wants it back and Sami Zayn is the underdog who stands a legitimate chance of becoming IC Champion, if it weren’t for his ongoing battle with KO who is always trying to one up him. So it’s nice to have a coherent background and interlinking stories with these guys and apart from The Miz (still not sorry), I love watching these guys fight.

This initially starts of with KO and The Miz on commentary watching a singles match between Cesaro and Zayn. As much as I love KO on commentary, having 5 people does become a bit of a clusterfuck, but it quickly moves on as KO and The Miz end up brawling outside of the ring. It spills into the ring with Zayn and Cesaro becoming involved and the match is called off.

Shane McMahon appears to tell the lads that it will now be a tag match – with The Miz partnering with KO (KO: “But he’s the worst one!”) facing Cesaro and Zayn.

Weirdly enough and well, I guess totally unsurprisingly enough, Steph appears and in an effort to get herself over everybody else, tweaks the match so KO and Zayn are on the same team, against The Miz and Cesaro. Steph actually received a cheer when she added that if KO attacked Zayn, he would be disqualified from the IC Title match at Extreme Rules.

The interaction between all 4 here is great – the little details of the match are the ones that stand out. KO is constantly berating Zayn (KO: “You hear that? They’re booing you!”) and The Miz and Cesaro’s alliance breaks down with The Miz trying to steal Cesaro’s moves. Even though this match is so stuffed with adverts that I genuinely considered ordering a pizza and diabetic medication at the same time (thanks, America), we still get treated to a great match.

Working on the breakdown of Cesaro’s alliance with The Miz, Zayn is able to win the match, giving him and KO the win. KO quickly reminds everybody how much he hates Zayn with a swift kick to the face and the post-match drama ends and we’re back to 4 men with 4 different agendas.

The Shining Stars vs Corey Hollis & John Skyler

They finally get their debut… and the crowd is dead. Like, super dead. I actually feel bad for them. I swear I heard someone in the audience groan. Also, I’m sure as hell Cole got Epico and Primo confused, so yeah, this is gonna be great for them and ALL OF US BEING FORCED TO WATCH THIS LACKLUSTRE MATCH.

The match is short and inoffensive. The Shining Stars win. I had to Google the names of the other two involved. Moving swiftly on…

Dean Ambrose and Chris Jericho

I still can’t believe this feud is on going – I am utterly bored by this feud. Ambrose and Jericho are individually all kinds of great, just evidently not together and not when confined by the strictures of being PG.

Ambrose says he wants an extreme match at Extreme Rules but I feel it’ll be as tame as Ambrose’s match against Brock earlier this year – the definition of anti-climatic. Credit where credit is due though, Ambrose always goes out of his way to sell whatever it is he has to sell and you can tell he is desperately trying his hardest. The gimmick of an ‘Asylum Match’ against Jericho is now on the card for Extreme Rules and my interest has definitely piqued. Let’s hope it’s a good match and Ambrose wins, because honestly, what else is the point?

Becky Lynch vs Dana Brooke

Following Dana’s debut last week and Emma’s unfortunate injury, Becky Lynch goes one on one against Dana in her first match on RAW. The match is quick and Becky seems to be carrying Dana throughout most of it – which is what makes Becky such a great opponent. I’m gutted Emma isn’t in the mix any more but here’s hoping for good things from Dana, who has room for improvement. She wins her first RAW match after grabbing a cheeky pin over Becky. Not much to see here.

The Golden Truth vs Fandango & Tyler Breeze

I honestly can’t behind this at all. The Golden Truth has been building for 5 months now (that’s if Cole is to believed, mind) and it just seems so utterly pointless. On the other hand, it does give something for the older guys to do, it does give them screen time and it does provide light-hearted entertainment to fill out the show. But how has this been given more love and attention than Goldust’s time with Stardust, which had potential to be fucking great? Honestly, I don’t know what goes on in creative and I don’t think I want to.

At least the younger guys win, as a dangerous kick from R-Truth hits Goldust and Breeze secures the victory. 

The New Day

So the best segment of the show, without a doubt, goes to The New Day. Xavier reveals a time machine – The New Day-Lorean – and persuades Big-E and Kofi that they need to go back in time to better understand The Vaudevillians. “Why is the keyboard sticky?” Big-E shouts as Xavier bundles them inside of the “time-machine”.

And honestly, the best comedy segment in a damn long time happens as Kofi’s old theme music starts playing and he hops out of the box speaking with a thick Jamaican accent. Xavier comes out telling him they haven’t gone back far enough and Kofi is pulled in kicking and screaming that “2009 was my best year!” Just… 10/10.

I think the thing I love about The New Day is that it’s so natural – these guys are clearly like this off camera as well and you can tell they are in their element when they’re given the freedom and trust to do whatever they want. They nail their promos every week and manage to combine funny with credible without ever crossing over into cringe-worthy territory.

The Vaudevillians ambush them and creates legitimate heat – who knew the tag team division could be so great? The New Day has single-handedly given credence back to the division and I cannot wait for the title match at Extreme Rules.

The Usos vs Gallows & Anderson

I have to give credit to The Usos here – you can’t deny that they are a consistently good team and the majority of their matches are thoroughly enjoyable. Whether this feud is getting a bit dragged out or their overall gimmick is confusing, they do always give their best. They are fun most of the time, in the virgin, stale, inoffensive kind of way. 

Reigns and Styles are ringside with their respective families for the match and when the fight finishes – The Usos pick up the victory with their usual superkicks – a brawl breaks out between all 6 men. AJ Styles goes to smack Reigns with a chair but – SURPRISE – Reigns smacks him first with his fist and then the chair. He then Superman punches G&A, but Styles is able to use the distraction to his favour and hits Reigns with the chair a few times before delivering the Styles Clash onto the said chair. Did I mention a chair was involved? HASHTAG CHAIR. HASHTAG EXTREME. Guys, there’s a chair, it’s totally extreme.

I don’t know if I’m just becoming disillusioned with wrestling or it’s because it’s gone 3am when I’m watching it, but I seriously struggle with keeping my interest during this match and most of the previous segments. RAW is becoming a slog again, purely due to the fact that it seems to be the same thing week in, week out. Even with the “new era” and the new talent, I still feel like it’s falling victim to the same awful booking: confusing and ultimately pointless stories that are played out to death with no real ultimate pay-off.

Big Cass vs D-Von Dudley

Still Enzo-less, Cass proves that he is wholly capable of being a singles wrestler. The match is quick and unsurprisingly, Big Cass picks up the win. It’s nice to see a quick simple match with no cheap finishes. Hey, guys, WWE did their jobs! 

Kalisto vs Alberto Del Rio

Because we haven’t seen THIS match before…

But in all seriousness, it’s guaranteed to be fun, as these guys have good chemistry together. Del Rio dominates the majority of the match and throws Kalisto around the ring and outside of the ring.

Backstage, Sin Cara is watching the match before he is attacked by Rusev. Del Rio forces Kalisto to watch the unfolding drama backstage before managing to turn the match around. A small back and forth takes place between the two as Rusev makes his way down the ramp, kicking Sin Cara in front of him. Personally, what makes this more fun is to imagine that Rusev is trying to play football with a small Mexican man and is horrendously bad at it. Kalisto, suffering from the distraction of seeing his bae thrown around by Rusev outside of the ring, falls victim to a sneak attack from Del Rio, who picks up the win.

Rusev enters the ring to continue his punishment of Mexicans (maybe he’s trying to get brownie points from Trump?) and puts Kalisto into the Accolade. I genuinely believe that Rusev has a lot of untapped talent and potential and if utilised properly, he could become a truly dominant force in the WWE. I hope the recent disbandment of The League of Nations pushes Rusev back into the brutal machine he was before that… and before that ridiculous feud with Ziggler.

Women’s Title Match Contract Signing with Charlotte and Natalya

Ric Flair comes stumbling out and I’m honestly concerned he’s going to collapse at any given moment. Anyway, he attempts to introduce Charlotte, who is nailing her run as a heel champion.

Charlotte and Natalya go back on forth on the mic for a bit and Charlotte excels: I cannot describe my love for her, she is a natural, for lack of a better way of explaining it. Her feud with Natalya is your typical good versus evil and I don’t think they get enough love for how great they both are.

It’s then revealed that if Ric Flair even so much as turns up at ringside during the match at Extreme Rules, then Charlotte will automatically forfeit the title. In addition, if she refuses to sign the contract, then she will have to forfeit the title immediately. She signs it, and Ric Flair lets loose in a tirade that may not entirely be kayfabe. Hopefully this is the start of Ric being pushed away from Charlotte and letting her have the time and space to develop her own character, even if yes, she does borrow tricks from her dad, like so many superstars have done before.

But in true McMahon style, they have to have the last word as Steph slaps Ric (is she legitimately turning face?!) when he tries to challenge Shane to a fight. Regardless, then night ends with Natalya putting Charlotte into a sharpshooter as Ric is escorted out by security.

Not the best episode of RAW by all accounts and especially not so when you realise a PPV is this weekend. I hope the Women’s Title Match is completely left alone by everybody else so it gets the big match feel it deserves and I’m genuinely looking forward to the Tag Title Match and the IC Title Match. Other than that… The evening falls a little flat.

Additional Points:

There is a huge Seth Rollins shaped hole in the WWE right now.
There’s also a hole where Bray Wyatt used to be…
There’s not a hole where Ryback used to be, however.
Cena’s back in 2 weeks, if you didn’t notice WWE’s incessant reminders…
Having the Women’s Title segment close the show was a nice touch; it gives their match a proper ‘title-match’ feel.
I lost 3 paragraphs as I clicked the back button on my mouse and genuinely considered just writing out “shit” over and over for most of the segments.

Agree with me? Disagree with me? Want to have a go at me for wasting your time? Find me @Rachelskiiiiiii

NXT Review and Analysis – 11/05/2016

This week we got Finn Balor’s first appearance since losing the NXT title, another Nakamura match, an appearance from the tag team champs and a decent amount of William Regal. All that bodes well in my books, but how was this week’s episode of NXT? Read on to find out…

The show started with the Finn Balor ‘Obsession’ vignette we’ve seen recently, reminding us that the former NXT champion would be back later in the show. And by later I mean right away, as the Irishman opened the show by coming to the ring and starting to address Samoa Joe. Before he could get too far however Elias Samson came out and interrupted him, singing a song about stealing Finn’s soul and visibly annoying Balor. Samson got into the ring, as he finished the song, told Finn that he was nothing without the title and then ate a pele kick for his troubles.

We then had a backstage interview with Eric Young, preceded by a recap of the social media reaction to the former TNA champ’s debut on NXT last week. EY talked about proving himself and NXT being the place to show you’re the best.

After that Balor was shown walking backstage and was asked what his intended message for Samoa Joe had been but he declared that that would have to wait until he had kicked Elias Samson’s arse.

Thoughts:

  • Three short, effective segments to open the show.
  • Elias Samson is getting a ton of heat from the fans. A ton. Apart from Reigns I can’t think of anyone, except maybe The Miz and sometimes Jericho, who gets booed so much. So well done him for being an effective heel.
  • The NXT title picture is getting interestingly crowded. Obviously you have Samoa Joe and Finn Balor but both Eric Young and Austin Aries have talked about proving they are the best in NXT. Plus everyone is, rightly, discussing Nakamura as a future title challenger, as if it is a formality at this point.
  • Finn overacts with his facial expressions sometimes but overall he’s doing a good job of putting the idea of him being obsessed over.

American Alpha defeat Jon Skyler and Corey Hollis by pinfall.

A straightforward victory for American Alpha in the show’s first match, as the champions dominated early, survived a mid match flurry from their opponents and were heading for victory when The Revival came out onto the ramp. Gable and Jordan shouted at Dash and Dawson from the ring before turning their attention back to the match as Jordan hit his corner spear and the team got the win with Grand Amplitude. American Alpha then challenged The Revival to come into the ring. The former champs looked like they were going to but then backed off and headed to the back.

Thoughts:

  • A simple win for American Alpha but Skyler and Hollis got enough offence in to suggest that NXT might be looking at them as potentially bigger players in the NXT tag team division in the future. Plus they had coordinated outfits.
  • Can’t wait to see the American Alpha v The Revival rematch, that’s going to be awesome

Shinsuke Nakamura defeats Alex Riley by pinfall.

After some disrespect and use of his size advantage from the now released Riley Nakamura threw the hard strikes and wrapped up the victory with the inverted exploder suplex leading into the Kinshasa.

We then saw Austin Aries talking to William Regal in the Englishman’s office, saying that he wasn’t here to just be another guy, he was here to prove he is a difference maker. The conversation was interrupted by Blake, Murphy and Alexa Bliss and Regal made a tag team match for next week – Blake and Murphy against Aries and a partner of his choosing. Both sides seemed happy with this and Austin said that he would make a call, even though he didn’t need a partner.

Alexa Bliss defeats Rachel Ellering by pinfall.

Speaking of Alexa Bliss the superstar was in action, adding to her impressive run of results with a victory over second generation wrestler Rachel Ellering. Bliss worked on the former powerlifter’s left arm throughout the match before getting the victory with the Sparkle Splash.

Thoughts:

  • They really need to rename the Sparkle Splash. It just sounds too positive and face-like. It sounds like a move that Bayley should be doing, not Alexa Bliss.
  • This was a solid, if unspectacular, TV debut for Ellering, who did well apart from no-selling Bliss’ work on her shoulder later in the match.
  • I wonder who Austin Aries’ tag partner will be. The fact that he has to call him suggests it’s someone who’s not currently at NXT. Unfortunately I don’t know enough about Aries’ pre-NXT career to speculate on who it may be. Though I guess the fact that there are no debut spoilers, that I know of, from the taping currently floating around suggests that it’s no-one hugely surprising.
  • I think that might be the best looking Kinshasa we’ve seen on NXT yet. The cameras did a better job of showing its brutality than they have before.

Bayley was then interviewed backstage and asked when she would be invoking her rematch clause with Asuka. Before the former champ could give a definitive answer Nia Jax appeared. Bayley’s opponent form London said that after making one mistake she was now stronger than ever, whereas Bayley is getting weaker. Bayley reminded Jax that she has choked her out once and will do it again. Jax just smiled and walked off, leaving Bayley looking confident.

Finn Balor defeats Elias Samson by pinfall.

In a short match Samson tried to make the most of his size and strength advantage, but Balor got the best of him, dispatching The Drifter with the 1916. Balor then took the mic and described NXT and becoming NXT champion again as his obsession. The Irishman demanded his rematch for the title, which brought Samoa Joe out, who said that Finn didn’t deserve a shot. William Regal came out and got between the two men, saying that things weren’t going to break down, before setting up the rematch for NXT Takeover in June. Joe and Balor kept shouting at each other until Balor lept the ropes and took out Joe, after which he grabbed the title and told Joe to enjoy it because it wouldn’t last long.

Thoughts:

  • Interesting that Balor describes his pursuit of the NXT championship as an obsession, as people who are obsessed don’t generally divide their attention. Is this an indication that we will be waiting a bit longer for Finn’s main roster debut or are WWE just playing fast and loose with what makes sense, like they do depressingly frequently.
  • If it is a hint at the former then might we see an interim Bullet Club leader screw over AJ before Balor claims control after he is all done with NXT? Probably not but it could happen.
  • I know it will be their fourth PPV confrontation but I am still very excited for Balor v Joe IV.
  • The women’s title picture is really interesting and I seriously can’t predict the result for Nia Jax v Bayley next week, as neither really deserves to look weak at this point and both have legitimate cause to demand a title shot..

So there we go, a really good episode of NXT that sets up a bit of intrigue and starts pulling things together for the next NXT Takeover. What did you make of it? Did my thoughts deserve a Bayley-esque hug or Alexa Bliss’ scary eyes? Let us know in the comments or at @WrestlingFansGB or @CellarDoorChris

5 Questions We Have After Monday Night Raw 09/05/2016

Last night saw the penultimate episode of Raw before Extreme Rules and there was a decent amount to like, even if there was rather a lot of repetition and some parts that just didn’t work. So what are we asking having seen the latest instalment of the Monday night show?

Seriously, what’s up with Stephanie McMahon?

Another week of Steph getting on the fans’ good side – mocking Jericho, using Cass’ catchphrase, putting the Miz in his place and generally getting on with Shane. There was even the genuine looking smile at the photo of Shane and Vince. So where is this all heading? Lots of people expect it’s all an act and we’ll get Shane v HHH (with Steph in his corner) at some point for control of the company. However I wonder if the little touches, like the smile at the photo when no other WWE character could see her, indicate that it might be more complicated than that. One potential avenue is that we find out that HHH and Stephanie’s plan was for Steph to come back, play nice, ingratiate herself and then strike when least expected. However when it comes down to it the time spent being with Shane and treating people well makes her have a change of heart, or at least hesitate. Maybe we’ll find Steph caught in the middle of HHH and Shane when they clash, rather than clearly on one side or the other.

Also I can’t have been the only one that got weirdly incestuous vibes from some of their interactions last night can I? Or have I just been so conditioned to expect the worse from Vince that that’s where my mind goes?

Why are the champions almost all losers?

Losses for The Miz, Charlotte and The New Day on Raw this week are making the champions look weak going into Extreme Rules. Plus it muddies the waters, as in the WWE a win over a champion seems to get you a title shot now. So why aren’t Paige and The Dudleyz demanding to be inserted into the Extreme Rules matches.

Paige beating Charlotte was the only one that made sense from a storyline point of view, demonstrating that The Nature Boy being absent from ringside could have a real effect on the champ when she faces Natalya. But why couldn’t Sami Zayn face literally anyone else on the roster to earn his place in the fatal fourway? Sheamus or Del Rio for example have enough championship pedigree to mean a victory over them constitutes an achievement worthy of being in the fatal fourway, but doesn’t make The Miz look weak. It also doesn’t hurt Sheamus or Del Rio at the moment as they aren’t doing anything. As for the New Day loss, urgh, another distraction leading to a loss. There are other ways to end matches you know WWE?

In a similar vein Rusev losing to Sin Cara, however dirty, was stupid – surely you want Rusev to look as strong as possible going into his match with Kalisto so that you can tell the underdog story? Plus if it had been an extremely vicious victory from Rusev it would give Kalisto even more incentive and drive to defy the odds at Extreme Rules as he would be avenging his friend, as well as defending his title.

On the plus side Paige was on Raw again, the match was great and the English superstar got a win. So yay for all that!

Why are people supposed to fear Anderson and Gallows any more?

Talking of losses hurting credibility, Anderson and Gallows are looking more and more like average superstars every day. The commentators can say they’re one of the best tag teams in Japanese wrestling history but that doesn’t mean much if they’re losing and getting shown up in the WWE (bar that dominant performance in their first match). WWE fans will judge based on what they’re shown, not what they’re told and at the moment we’re being shown AJ Styles being flanked by a tag team who don’t win much.

Is anyone else over the moon about Dana Brooke’s appearance on Raw?

I bloody love Dana Brooke. Seriously. I don’t know whether it’s how much she’s improved in the ring, the personality she showed on Breaking Ground, the pitch perfect obnoxious, bullying heel character, the condescending head pat or that cartwheely thing she does as part of her entrance but I think she’s great. Emma was doing a great job in her feud with Becky on her own but having Dana join her on the main roster will take it to the next level, the two of them work so well together. It may also be the avenue that brings Sasha back to Raw as Beck Lynch looks for back up. I could live without the Team EnD name though. We’ve had Team BAD and Team PCB, so I think we could do with a break with the Team ‘insert three letters here’ format for now.

Is Corbin v Ziggler finished now?

We’ve had a number of matches and confrontations between these two now and the right guy (Corbin) feels like he got the best of the exchanges, so sense would dictate that the feud should be over and both will move on to something else. WWE.com hints as much saying that Ziggler may now be “spared any further sneak attacks” from Corbin. But the match last night just didn’t have the feel of a big finish to a storyline, so we may yet see this pair face off again. If this does happen then hopefully Corbin will win and soon be back on his path of destruction, collecting a growing number of decent level victims.

Other questions…

Why did WWE underplay the value of Jericho’s jacket?

Apparently it’s actually worth $25,000, not $15,000.

Have the WWE.com backstage exclusives always been this good?

Kevin Owens threatening Renee Young’s dog with a mean Instagram post and Rusev calling this the era of stupid referees were excellent.

WWE, how can you not have time for decent stories for Wade Barrett and Damien Sandow yet we keep getting Gorgeous Truth/Goldango segments?

Seriously! I like Goldust and Breeze overall, and Truth has had his moments over the years, but this storyline is awful.

You’re going to call them The Shining Stars?

Really? You couldn’t do better than that WWE? I think this gimmick may be DOA…

So those are the questions we’re asking. What do you think the answers are? What are you asking after last night’s Raw? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter at @WrestlingFansGB or @CellarDoorChris.

NXT Review and Analysis: 04/05/2016

This week on WWE’s developmental brand we got a big name debut, matches from performers looking for titles and No Way Jose’s first televised performance at Full Sail. So what did it all add up to and what did we make of it?

The show kicked off with new NXT champion Samoa Joe coming to the ring to revel in his new belt, exclaiming that despite Finn Balor’s best efforts Joe was inevitable, like taxes and death. The new champion then declared that he was putting the world on notice, that we are entering a new era and that he now runs things in NXT. This brought out Joe’s former TNA compatriot Eric Young who told the Samoan that he collects titles. The champ then left the ring, telling Young that he didn’t deserve to share a ring with Joe.

Nia Jax defeats Tessa Blanchard by pinfall.

Nia Jax continued her march towards an NXT Women’s Title shot against Asuka by making short work of second generation superstar Blanchard. After a number of power moves from Jax and some ineffective offence from Blanchard Jax got the win after the leg drop.

Thoughts:

  • They’re telling a simple but effective story with Nia Jax and I’m looking forward to seeing the clash of styles when she finally takes on Asuka.
  • I’ve never seen anything of Eric Young before but I thought he was interesting on the mic, a little bit crazy. Not saying it will or should happen but I could see him potentially fitting in with the Wyatts.
  • The NXT belt looks really good over Joe’s shoulder, he seems very comfortable with it.

Austin Aries defeats Tye Dillinger by pinfall

This was a smooth, well worked match that went back and forth between Aries and the Perfect 10 with Aries pulling out the win following a rolling elbow, a corner dropkick and a 450 splash.

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