Category Archives: Pro Wrestling

Late to the Party King of the Ring Brackets

Welcome to my late to the party King of the Ring brackets. Since 1985, nineteen wrestlers have held the distinction of being King of the Ring. This year’s tournament will be the first in four years with sixteen wrestlers vying for the crown. The first, second, and third-round matches will occur on Raw and SmackDown. The finals will happen at Clash of Champions on September 15th.

As you can tell by the official bracket pictured above, I’m late to the game when it comes to predicting the field. Four matches have already taken place. I swear on my great grand pappy’s soul I predicted Samoa Joe and Cedric Alexander would win their first-round matches.

On the SmackDown side of the bracket, I predicted Elias and Andrade would advance to the second round. However, unlike the Raw matches, I have proof of my SmackDown picks I made before the show began.

With one minute to spare!

King of the Ring has done a lot for wrestler’s careers. It helped launch Stone Cold Steve Austin and Triple H into superstardom, kept Bret Hart a hot commodity after losing his first WWF Title, and revitalized Booker T’s career as he became the most entertaining KOTR winner (All hail King Bookah!).

So, who will reign supreme in 2019? My complete bracket is posted below.

Buddy Murphy and Drew McIntyre are set to have a fantastic tournament. Murphy, representing SmackDown, got a massive win over Daniel Bryan last night. WWE is not going to squander all of the former cruiserweight champion’s momentum.

His first-round match with Ali will be a show-stealing affair. Kevin Owens will get his revenge on Elias and cost him the match against Murphy. Andrade and Murphy will tango in a SmackDown finale that will be nothing short of amazing.

Drew McIntyre will beat Ricochet in an explosive contest. In round two, “The Scottish Psychopath” will stop Samoa Joe in a hard-fought battle. McIntrye and Cedric Alexander will meet in the Raw finale in what will be a repeat performance of last week’s amazing match in Toronto.

Murphy is on fire right now; however, McIntyre has been the apple of WWE’s eye. He’s has everything going for him as a performer. Clash of Champions will be the time when they begin the main event ascension of Drew McIntyre by crowning him King of the Ring.

WWE Moves NXT to USA Network

photo credit wwe.com

WWE confirmed weeks of speculation this morning as NXT will air weekly on Wednesday night’s, live on USA Network at 8:00 pm EST beginning September 18. NXT will still emanate from Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida. However, it will no longer serve as fist run programming for the WWE Network. This move was made in an attempt to get a two-week head start on All Elite Wrestling’s (AEW) show on TNT, which will air live directly against NXT beginning October 2.

Wrestling insiders wondered not if but when Vince McMahon would respond to the emerging threat of AEW on television, and now we have our answer. Using NXT to cut off AEW at the pass and dilute their audience is a multifaceted, multimillion endeavor. Since 2010, NXT has been a developmental brand in main roster clothing. NXT can no longer be a prioritized training ground with the move from streaming to cable television. The fire of AEW can’t be fought with programming that isn’t on equal footing. To casual fans, developmental means minor league.

NXT will air two hours, live, every Wednesday, as opposed to filming multiple episodes once a month for a staggered release. NXT is the number one watched show on the WWE Network. Removing the show from its first run lineup could have a negative effect on the already low number of network subscribers. Every streaming service needs at least one linchpin program to succeed. Netflix has Stranger Things. Hulu has The Handmaid’s Tale. WWE Network now has…?

What is most interesting about this move is the landscape shift NXT will undertake. Vince McMahon is the primary shot caller for Raw and SmackDown while Triple H was the creative force behind the success of NXT. That was only the case because McMahon considers cable television more of a priority than streaming content. With this shift, there is no way Vince McMahon doesn’t take the creative reigns of the black and yellow brand.

Historically, McMahon doesn’t push wrestlers the physical stature of NXT Champion Adam Cole and the Undisputed Era. Popular character acts such as the talented and flamboyant Velveteen Dream go from being the belle of the ball to a second rate comedy act. The most important thing of all, NXT favors professional wrestling over sports entertainment. Storylines are engaging and straightforward. Talent means something. Wins and losses actually matter. That is the opposite of how Vince McMahon runs a television product. The NXT we used to know is gone.

Vince McMahon making presumed changes to NXT is even more of a head-scratcher considering who they are competing with. AEW is going to be a sports-orientated program where wins and losses matter. It’s precisely what diehard wrestling fans have been vigorously clamoring for ever since WWE has become a stale, homogenized version of the genre. The funny things is, NXT was WWE’s professional wrestling show tucked safely away from the prying eyes of a sports entertainment fanatic.

Having NXT’s wrestling centric product going up against AEW’s wrestling centric presentation would be the ultimate treat for wrestling enthusiasts. AEW is believed to have a better in-ring product, but NXT in its current form would have put that theory to the test. Instead of fighting fire with fire, Vince McMahon, presumably, is going to eliminate the hard-hitting wrestling aspect that makes NXT special, turn it into the same monotonous programming that has turned the audience away, and use that platform to combat the alternative program.

Change is coming to NXT in a significant way. Longer shows mean more wrestlers will be needed. Plus, with the brand jumping wild card rule in effect, big-name stars will undoubtedly appear on the show. Imagine The Miz vs. Adam Cole in a TakeOver main event for the NXT Championship? Yep, that is where things could very well be headed. Will there be an NXT draft where WWE Superstars pledge their allegiance to the new brand on the block?

If I could make one booking decision, I would get rid of 205 Live and move the cruiserweight division to NXT. It could be repackaged and hyped as something that will now only be seen on that show. It will be cool to see talents such as Matt Riddle, Johnny Gargano, and KUSHIDA performing on a bigger stage. Ultimately, NXT winning the upcoming Wednesday Night War wouldn’t be a surprise. After all, NXT is now a main roster brand of WWE.

NJPW G1 Climax 29 Review

G1 Climax 29 Final | August 12, 2019, | Nippon Budokan Tokyo, Japan | New Japan World

“The Golden Star” Kota Ibushi pinned Jay White on Monday to win the grueling month-long G1 Climax tournament. Ibushi beat Okada to win the A Block while Jay White defeated Naito to secure the B Block, setting up the final match in Tokyo. White blindsided Ibushi the night before and reinjured his ankle.

The match drew a lot of heat form the Budokan crowd as White targeted Ibushi’s ankle at every turn. The finish came when White went for the Blade Runner, and Ibushi dug down deep to deliver a Kamigoye, followed by a flying knee and two more Kamigoye strikes for the win.

In one of the best angles of the year, KENTA turned on his tag team partners and joined the Bullet Club. What was even more shocking was the physicality of Katsuyori Shibata as he jumped into the ring and cleaned house. It was terrific, and a little scary consider Shibata retired from wrestling several years ago due to an injury that resulted in bleeding of the brain.

Shibata was ultimately subdued by the Bullet Club’s strength in numbers. KENTA delivered a PK kick on Shibata and proceeded to sit on top of him in Shibata’s signature pose. KENTA threw up the too sweet sign, confirming his affiliation with Bullet Club. Shibata left the ring under his own power, which was a drama-filled moment in itself. I’m curious to see where it all leads. It was a compelling moment.

The dream team of IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi fell to Suzuki-gun ringleaders Rev Pro British Heavyweight Champion Zack Saber Jr. and Minoru Suzuki. The finish came when Suzuki choked out Okada and hit the Gotch Piledriver for the win.

Suzuki cut a promo after the match and bragged that Okada lost to a guy that wasn’t allowed in the G1. Suzuki told Okada to hand over the IWGP belt to him. Simple storytelling built to its finest. I wondered why Suzuki was not in the tournament, now, we have our answer.

Final Thoughts: When it is all said and done, G1 Climax 29 will go down as one of best there has ever been. There were a lot of great matches and moments that kept me coming back for more. Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi continued their string of legendary matches on opening night in Dallas. Kazuchika Okada vs. Will Ospreay in Tokyo was probably the best match of the tournament. The all-out brawl in Korakuen Hall between Jon Moxley and Tomohiro Ishii was my favorite match of the tournament.

Lance Archer stepped up his game throughout the tournament while Jon Moxley took the whole thing by storm. Will Ospreay gets my vote for tournament MVP and the in-ring work Hiroshi Tanahashi never ceases to amaze me. Will Ospreay delivering a shooting star press into a Zack Saber Jr. triangle choke was a breathtaking finish. Tachi vs. Ishii during the B Block finals was my favorite match of the weekend. That includes White vs. Ibushi, which as sensational.

Kota Ibushi became the first wrestler to win Best of the Super Juniors, the New Japan Cup, and the G1 Climax. Three unique tournaments in two different weight divisions puts Ibushi in a class all by himself. The artistry on display by Ibushi was on another level. His G1 win guarantees him an IWGP Heavyweight Title Match at Wrestle Kingdom on January 4th in the Tokyo Dome.

This truly feels like its Ibushi’s year. However, two years ago, it also felt like Tetsuya Naito’s year, and he was unsuccessful in his Tokyo Dome bid. It’s hard to doubt the booking of New Japan since they rarely get it wrong. However, with the top-level wrestling landscape changing so drastically with the emergence of AEW, ROH’s decline at the box office and WWE moving to FOX, everyone needs more stars. Ibushi is primed and ready to be the golden star of the lion’s den.

SummerSlam 2019 Results

SummerSlam | August 11, 2019, | Scotiabank Arena | Toronto, Ontario | WWE Network

WWE’s biggest party of the summer has a special place in my heart. SummerSlam 88 was my maiden voyage with professional wrestling and I’ve been a diehard enthusiast ever since. No Roman Reigns, Daniel Bryan, Samoa Joe, or Drew McIntyre on the lineup. While there are no must-see matches, this is the first pay-per-view of the Paul Heyman era.

 

-Pre-Show

Drew Gulak defeated Oney Lorcan to retain the WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Good effort by Gulak and Lorcan. It’s hard to get the fans to care about 205 Live when the brand’s biggest matches tend to open up the pre-show.

Buddy Murphy defeated Apollo Crews is Disqualification:

Murphy dropped Crews with a flying knee right out of the gate. Fast-paced action between the two until Rowan came out of nowhere and beat down Murphy. After power bombing Murphy against the ring post, Rowan yelled: “Keep my name out of your mouth” in response to Murphy dropping Rowan’s name to Roman Reigns on SmackDown.

Elias sang a melody scathing the city of Toronto until Edge made a surprise appearance. Edge claimed into the ring drilled Elias with a spear.

It’s the first time Edge has done anything physical since he retired several years ago due to injury.

Is Edge coming back?

Alex Bliss & Nikki Cross defeated The Iiconics to retain the Women’s Tag Team Titles: It was Meleficient versus Toy Story as far as the in-ring attire was concerned. Bliss took advantage of a hissy fit by Peyton Royce and hit Twisted Bliss for the win.

 

-Main Card

Becky Lynch defeated Natalya to retain the Raw Women’s Championship in a Submission Match:

The Canadian crowd respected Natalya, but they were firmly behind Becky Lynch. Becky went for an armbar early and transitioned into a triangle choke. Natalya went for the ropes, but there are no rope breaks in a submission match.

Natalya threw Becky between the ropes into the post and applied the Sharpshooter from the top rope. This resembled a street fight more than a submission match at times with some brawling outside the ring and Natalya trying to wear down Becky’s leg, which she injured on Raw.

Natalya hit Becky with a top rope superplex. Becky came back and locked Natalya in the Sharpshooter. The pro-Becky crowd booed this one a little bit until Natalya escaped. Natalya returned the favor and applied the Dis-Arm-Her.

Becky broke free but got caught in the Sharpshooter. Becky crawled under the rope and fell to the floor to escape. Natalya went for the Sharpshooter again, but Becky caught her in the disarmed Dis-Arm-Her. Natalya tried to fight it, but she eventually had no choice but to tap out.

I wasn’t sure if this was a good choice to open the show. I was wrong as both ladies set a great pace and told a fun story.

 

Goldberg pinned Dolph Ziggler:

Ziggler drilled Goldberg with two superkicks out of nowhere, but Goldberg kicked out both times at one. Goldberg came back with a vicious spear and followed up with a Jackhammer for the win in under two minutes.

A beaten Ziggler got the mic and said anyone can get lucky. Goldberg came back and speared Ziggler again. Ziggler said anyone can get lucky twice. Goldberg pretended he wasn’t going to spear Ziggler, only to run off the ropes and leveled him with a final spear.

This match was exactly what it should have been. Gave the fans what they wanted while giving us some post-match action to extend the time the affair without having a long match.

 

AJ Styles defeated Ricochet to retain the U.S. Title: 

Anyone who thought they were going to get a New Japan style wrestling match here was sorely mistaken. Styles worked over Ricochet’s leg with some nice offense between the two. AJ got the win, and a post-match beatdown ensued with Gallows and Andreson hitting Ricochet with the Magic Killer.

 

Bayley pinned Embar Moon to retain the SmackDown Women’s Championship:

This was a good match that was hurt by a severe lack of crowd interest. Ember Moon hit a sweet Stormbreaker/Codebreaker combo for a near fall. Bayley came back with a nice Bayley to Belly off the middle rope for the three count.

 

Kevin Owens defeated Shane McMahon – Owens Quits if he Loses:

This match had all of the bells and whistles of a high stakes affair involving a McMahon. Elias was announced as the special guest enforcer by Shane. They teased Owens getting disqualified and counted out throughout the match. It was stated that Owens could not hit Elias because he was an officially licensed referee for the evening. Later on, Owens had enough and whipped out Elias and the referee with a cannonball off the apron. The finish came when Owens hit Shane with a top rope senton followed by a top rope frog splash for the pin.

 

Charlotte beat Trish Stratus vis submission:

This was much better than I anticipated. Trish more than held up her end. Trish tried to beat Charlotte with the figure four leg lock and figure eight. Charlotte ended up making Trish tap out to the figure eight and left the ring for Trish to get the ovation from the crowd in her final outing.

 

Bret Hart made a cameo appearance wishing Seth Rollins good luck in his match against Lesnar. This got a nice pop from the Canadian crowd. I thought it was funny since Hart has been critical of Rollins’ in-ring work over the years for injuring people.

 

WWE Championship – Kofi Kingston and Randy Orton went to a Double Count Out:

This match was worked at a deliberate pace that failed to draw heat from the crowd. There were dueling chants of “Kofi’s Stupid” and “Randy Sucks,” which was surprising. Orton tends to work slower-paced matches these days. In wrestling, the faster wrestler always works to the speed of the slower wrestler. Orton caught Kofi coming off the top rope for an RKO, which popped the crowd.

Orton, however, didn’t go for the pin and Kofi rolled out to the floor. Orton went outside the ring and started taunting Kofi’s family who was sitting in the front row. Both men were counted out as this unfolded. The commentary team ultimately failed this match because they didn’t mention and identify who it was Orton was mocking until after the fact.

Kofi snapped and beat Orton down with a Kendo stick repeatedly and finished him off with Trouble in Paradise. This was one of the more lackluster WWE Championship matches in recent history. It looks like the feud will continue, and hopefully do better next time.

 

“The Fiend” Bray Wyatt defeated Finn Balor:

They say you only have one chance to make a first impression. Well, Bray Wyatt proved them wrong as the spectacle of his new character was top notch. He came out with an eerie severed Bray Wyatt head lantern along with a new version of his theme music. The match was quick. Wyatt dominated. Balor missed the Coup de Grace and got caught in the mandible claw. The fans absolutely loved this.

photo credit wwe.com

Seth Rollins defeated Brock Lesnar to regain the Universal Championship:

I’ll be the first to admit that I was wrong. I had no interest in this match, but they won me over. It was all action with big moves. Lot’s of near falls with Lesnar working over Rollins’s injured ribs with seven German suplexes. Lesnar swung Rollins around by the medical tape around his ribs, which made for a great visual. Rollins made a herculean comeback with a top rope splash onto Lesnar through a table. Rollins hit three curb stomps for the win. I didn’t believe putting the Superman cape on Rollins would, however, I was wrong. It came off well, and the crowd loved it.

 

Final Thoughts: Overall, SummerSlam 2019 was a thumbs in the middle show. Some of the matches that over-promised, under-delivered. On the flip side, some of the matches that under-promised, over-delivered. Rollins ended the show as the hero of the day, and hopefully, WWE can sustain this sentiment long term. Trish Stratus deserves props for the match she put on after being out of the ring (in singles action) for eight years. Bray Wyatt came off like a superstar. This was not the best SummerSlam show, but it was far from the worst.

SummerSlam 2019 Preview & Predictions

The thirty-second edition of WWE’s summer blockbuster makes its second trip to Toronto. There are ten official matches on the card with a few more rumored. The big story in WWE right now is the mystery surrounding the attacks on Roman Reigns. There is no match scheduled for Reigns, which is weird considering he’s the company’s flagship star. We will most likley see some development in angle. Possibly, the identity of the assailant will be revealed within this scheduled action pack night of wrestling.

 

Drew Gulak vs. Oney Lorcan: Cruiserweight Championship

Squared circle purgatory aka 205 Live hardly gives any of the talented cruiserweights their just due. From a technical standpoint, this could be the best match of the night. It will probably be a mat wrestling affair as opposed to the aerial assault most think of when it comes to cruiserweight action. Unfortunately, it’s likely spot on the pre-show coupled with a poorly featured division will make even fewer people care about the end result. Such a shame.

Winner: Drew Gulak   

 

Bayley vs. Ember Moon: SmackDown Women’s Championship

Two babyfaces going at it in a match where the champion Bayley chose Ember as her opponent. If they are given time, we could have a perfect match on our hands. I have no doubt Ember Moon will hold multiple titles and be the star of the women’s division someday. This Sunday is not that day.

Winner: Bayley

 

Finn Bálor vs. Bray Wyatt

This is an example of the story being more important than the match itself. Bálor’s role here isn’t to convince the crowd that he can win but to help get over Wyatt’s new masked persona dubbed “The Fiend.” No way Bray loses this one…Yowie Wowie!

Winner: Bray Wyatt

 

Trish Stratus vs. Charlotte Flair:

This match was made one week ago. That is hardly enough time to promote a generational match. The arena in Toronto was sold out months in advance, which means there was no need to bring in Trish Stratus for a late ticket sale push. It’s cool that this match is happening. However, it was thrown together at the last minute and doesn’t have the build a generational match deserves. Trish has stated on social media that this is her final match, which means she is expected to lose. However, Trish retained the women’s championship when she retired at Unforgiven in 2006, which also occurred in Toronto. Could lightning strike twice? Unless the plan is to do multiple matches, Charlotte will style and profile her way to victory.

Winner: Charlotte

 

AJ Styles vs. Ricochet: U.S. Championship:

Man, this has to be the odds on favorite to win match of the night honors. Hell, it could win match of the year if they are given enough time. It also depends on what the storytelling object is here. The recently reformed stable, The Club, now called The O.C., is a focal point of Monday Night Raw. All three members, Styles, Karl Anderson, and Doc Gallows, are wearing gold around their waist. Ricochet is exceptionally talented and was being featured as a hot new act until WWE inexplicability slowed things down when he lost the U.S. title to Styles.

Is WWE more concerned with getting over Ricochet as a new star, or, do their priorities lie in establishing The O.C. as a significant threat in WWE? The answer to that question will provide insight as to who wins on Sunday. I can see Ricochet getting a post-match beat down following a victory over the champ. I’m wearing my booking hat and its telling WWE to give this match thirty minutes, have Ricochet go over in what will hopefully be an epic encounter and while thwarting any interference along the way.

I’m an AJ Styles guy. So, you know that it was hard for me to write.

Winner: Ricochet

 

Goldberg vs. Dolph Ziggler:

Ziggler has been insulting legends of the squared for weeks now. He’s mentioned Shawn Michaels and Goldberg by name and this Sunday, Goldberg answers the call. Ziggler is an outstanding worker; however, it’s been clear for a while that WWE has no plans of highlighting him in a prominent role. Fans have caught on to this, which is why many are lukewarm when it comes to anything to do with Ziggler. Goldberg and Undertaker had an atrocious match at Super Showdown in June. Undertaker got his make good match last month. Goldberg gets his on Sunday. While it would be cool to Ziggler superkick Goldberg coming in for the spear, Goldberg running through “The Showoff” is the only way this match should go. It’s what Goldberg does best and it what the fans want.

Winner: Goldberg

 

Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens:

Kevin Owens has vowed to quit if he loses to Shane McMahon. It was the only way Shane would agree to the match. The problem is, WWE never follows through on career storylines. This match will be a brawl all that goes all over the place with tons of outside interference. Shane McMahon will do his top rope elbow drop through the announce table and Owens will hit a lot of superkicks. WWE is turning Kevin Owens into Stone Cold Steve Austin 2019 minus the beer. The stunner is his new finishing move, and that is how I see him winning on Sunday.

Winner: Kevin Owens  

 

Becky Lynch vs. Natalya: Raw Women’s Championship – Submission Match

Did you know that Natalya has only held the title two times over the eleven years she has been in WWE? Kind of shocking to think about, however, Natalya is often the person who makes people look good rather than being featured as the star. Becky Lynch has been stone-cold since she was the hottest act in the company going into WrestleMania. A feud with an incredibly green Lacey Evans will do that to anyone. The booking of Becky Lynch is getting back on the right track. I expect a pro-Natalya crowd in Toronto on Sunday. Becky could lose the title, thus setting up her chasing Natalya going into the fall.

I would like to see Natalya win this match. It would make for a feel-good moment in what WWE has dubbed “bizzaro land.” Then, all can go back to normal once they are back in the states where Lynch is the hero of the day. From a business perspective, I can’t see Vince making the call for Becky to lose since she is the cover star (with Roman Reigns) of WWE 2K20 video game. Becky is front and center in their multimillion-dollar ad campaign that just started, and she’s the star of the game’s trailer. This will be a good match, the crowd is going to make it better.

Winner: Becky Lynch

 

Kofi Kingston vs. Randy Orton: WWE Championship

Only in professional wrestling can real-life backstage drama to fuel a televised story. In 2009, Randy Orton wrestled Kofi Kingston in a match where Kofi was supposed to take Orton’s new finisher, The Punt. Kofi forgot and stayed in position to receive Orton’s previously established RKO. Orton tried to direct Kofi to get into position for the new move, but Kofi wouldn’t budge. An angry Orton snatched Kofi’s head, drilled him with an RKO and repeatedly called him stupid. Reportedly, Orton, mad over the botch, used his backstage clout to halt Kofi’s push, which is why he hadn’t had a whiff of the main event scene until WrestleMania in April.

Kofi Kingston is amid a feature role that was never meant for him. Ali, the newly minted star who the part was intended for, received a broken orbital bone due to kick from Randy Orton. Ali took time off for surgery, and Kofi was given the spot. Kofi made the absolute best of a great opportunity. I believe Kofi has prospered in the role more than Ali would have. While Ali is talented, Kofi is more popular and has tenue with the audience. Once the unthinkable of Kofi getting the belt became a real possibility, fans vehemently supported the idea. Orton being responsible for Kofi’s newfound fortune is art imitating life, and a better story than any of the writers could have developed.

Last year at this time, neither man was on the card due to injury. What a difference a year makes. Randy Orton can have great matches when he’s motivated. Orton has had some of his finest outings at past SummerSlam events. Kofi hasn’t had a standout performance since his match with Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania. I feel bad for saying that because it implies his reign has been lackluster, when in fact, he’s been booked stronger than most past champions who lose more than they win. Kofi has been a consistently good performer as champion but is due for another marquee match.

SummerSlam is often the time where WrestleMania made champions lose their titles. Randy Orton did it once in 2004. However, I don’t see him doing it again this year. Orton as champion is old news. The fans are still behind Kofi, meaning there is more juice to squeeze out of his current run on top. If both wrestlers have put their tumultuous past behind them, I can easily see them putting on a show-stealing match. Kofi is super talented, and Orton’s ring psychology could be the recipe for something unique. In the end, Orton ultimately falls victim to Trouble in Paradise.

Winner: Kofi Kingston

 

Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins: Universal Championship

STRAIGHT SAVAGE MODE: I didn’t care about this match going into WrestleMania and I certainly don’t care about it now. WWE is telling the same story going into the same match as they did before. Hell, it even has the same friggin’ hook. “How can Seth Rollins possibly slay the best incarnate?” Give me a break. The only difference this time around is that WrestleMania was expected to be Lesnar’s last night in the company. This time around, Lesanr isn’t leaving anytime soon.

Winner: Brock Lesnar

AEW TV Debut Set for October 2nd on TNT.

It’s official folks, All Elite Wrestling’s (AEW) live television show will air weekly beginning on Wednesday, October 2nd, from 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm on TNT. The show will emanate from the Capital One Center in Washington DC, the site of the Sting vs. Hulk Hogan (formerly named the MCI Center) match from Starrcade 1997. AEW looks to be the first major promotion with the ability to absorb a significant piece of the pro wrestling market share from WWE since WCW during the Monday Night Wars in the mid to late ’90s.

AEW already announced a tournament to crown their inaugural tag team champions will be the focal point of their show during its initial launch. Their pay-per-view on August 31st, All Out will run some angles promoting to their TNT debut.

Also, with rumors of WWE moving NXT to Fox Sports 1 on the same day and time as AEW’s Wednesday time slot, this could be the genesis of a new wrestling war. The show will be preempted on Christmas Day, which is usually when TNT airs A Christmas Story in a loop for 24 hours.

The term “Dynamite” has been trademarked by AEW for several months with all signs pointing to it being the name of the show. Ticket information is expected to be announced on July 29th for the history-making show. TNT, the former home of WCW Monday Nitro, is available in an estimated 89 million homes.

Matt Jackson, Kenny Omega and Nick Jackson

AEW will mark the first time a major pro wrestling show will air consistently on Wednesdays. Raw and Nitro cemented the genre’s place on Mondays. SmackDown has spent long periods of its twenty-year history on Thursday, Friday, and currently on Tuesday with a return to Friday nights in October with the move to Fox.

ECW on TNN aired on Fridays during its run, WCW placed Thunder on Thursdays, and TNA/Impact also made Thursday night their home. Wednesday has been mostly untouched by televised wrestling content on cable and TNT is an excellent platform for AEW to launch.

Superstar talent will be vital for AEW’s long-term success. Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley (formerly Dean Ambrose) are the two most recognizable names on the roster. Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks, Cody Rhodes, Hangman Page, SCU, Pentagon, and Fenix are the most prominent stars with the diehard audience.

MJF is a name on the rise and a high level heel in the making. Jungle Boy has the potential to be a star, and AEW is going all-in with their women’s division. CM Punk is appearing at the Starrcast convention adjacent to the AEW pay-per-view. Rumors are running rampant that Punk is signing with the promotion, which would be a game-changer.

Ever since WCW went out of business in 2001, fans have been wondering if a wrestling centric alternative can thrive on a mainstream level. It is clear Vince McMahon is out of touch with what the audience wants. There has never been a better time for a new promotion to enter the space, and AEW’s potential is white-hot.

Favorite Matches #2: Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega III

Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada have engaged in what many have called the greatest in-ring rivalry of all-time. Four bouts with 25 ¼ stars ratings between them have changed the conversation on what makes for a stellar wrestling match. You can’t go wrong with picking one match over another. However, one encounter tickles my fancy more than most due to its simple and compelling story.

The third bout between Omega and Okada occurred in the B Block finals of New Japan’s 2017 G-1 Climax tournament. It took Okada forty-six minutes to beat Omega in their first encounter, and they wrestled to a sixty-minute draw in their second outing. This time, under G-1 rules, there was a thirty-minute time limit. How was Omega going to beat Okada in thirty minutes, never mind at all?

To add fuel to the fire, Okada could advance to the finals with a win or a draw due to a one-point differential in his favor. Okada was vulnerable due to a neck injury he suffered in a previous bout. However, Okada stated he wanted to win and not coast to the finals since their last match ended in a draw. For Omega, winning was the only option.

Both men wrestled a high action sprint from the jump. Omega found his target and attacked Okada’s neck. Okada fought him off with everything he has had. Early on, both missed their signature moves and Okada gained control by sending Omega to the floor. Okada sold his taped up neck, only for Omega to light it up with a barrage of chops.

All of Omega’s offense battered Okada’s neck. Reverse hurricanranas in and out the ring, V triggers knees, snapdragon suplexes on the apron and missile dropkicks. Okada’s manager, Gedo, considered throwing in the towel after Omega delivered a pair of V triggers to the back of Okada’s neck.

Okada came back, and reversed two One-Winged Angel attempts from Omega and delivered a tombstone piledriver and a German suplex. Okada went for his finishing move, the Rainmaker, Omega ducked, went a third One-Winged Angel, Okada slipped out and hit the Rainmaker for a near fall.

In the closing moments, Okada went for another Rainmaker, Omega ducked, delivered two V triggers and a Jay Driller. Then, after countless attempts throughout three hard-fought matches, Omega finally produced his pièce de résistance; the One-Winged Angel. 1-2-3, Kenny Omega pins Kazuchika Okada and wins the B Block.

Okada vs. Omega III was the best of both worlds. Okada wanted to win as badly as Omega needed to succeed. It was comic book action come to life inside of Sumo Hall. A masterwork of storytelling that delivered an excess of greatness that stands in a class of its own.

 

My Favorite Matches

Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania 25

Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin – Survivor Series 1996

Kurt Agle vs. Chris Benoit – Royal Rumble 2003

Bret Hart vs. Undertaker – One Night Only 1997

Ricky Steamboat vs. Macho Man Randy Savage – WrestleMania 3

Mr. Perfect vs. Bret Hart – Summer Slam 1991 

British Bulldog vs. Owen Hart – Monday Night Raw 3/5/97

Bret Hart vs. British Bulldog – Simmer Slam 1992

AEW Officially Announces TV Deal

After months of speculation, All Elite Wrestling (AEW), which launched in January, has landed a TV deal with TNT. The press release issued by AEW and Warner Media announced that AEW will begin airing live weekly matches on TNT in primetime later this year.

Details on when the show will air, timeslot and title have yet to be revealed. It was also announced that AEW’s inaugural event, Double or Nothing on Saturday, May 25 at the MGM Grand Graden Arena in Las Vegas will air live on traditional pay-per-view and BR/Live streaming platform.

The media rights deal was negotiated by AEW president and CEO Tony Khan and Bernie Cahill, co-founder of Activist Artists Management, LLC, an entity where Khan is also an investor and partner. Khan is the son of billionaire Shahid Khan, the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

All Elite Wrestling is describing themselves as a talent-forward, fan-first league whose inclusive approach to creating a high-quality sport-based product with less scripted, soapy drama, and more athleticism and real sports analytics.

Cody and Brandi Rhodes

This announcement echos the ghosts of wrestling’s past with TNT being the former home of WCW Monday Nitro. This will be the first time professional wrestling will be on a Ted Turner owned network since WWE bought WCW in 2001.

Dusty Rhodes was a creative force behind the scenes for NWA/WCW in the ’80s and ’90s. His son, Cody Rhodes is an Excitive Vince President for AEW, allowing him to serve as a key decision maker.

AEW has a talented roster featuring Chris Jericho, Kenny Omega, Cody, The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson), “Hangman” Page, Brandi Rhodes, Brit Baker and SoCal Uncensored (Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, and Scorpio Sky). Jim Ross will be the lead commentator along with Alex Marvez and PWG’s Excalibur.

AEW will undoubtedly sign some more high profile names before their debut television show in the fall. Dean Ambrose recently left WWE and has already gone back to his original moniker, Jon Moxley. Of course, CM Punk is always a possibility and being able to sign Pentagon Jr. and Fenix to full-time contracts will bring a lot of depth to an already stacked roster.

For years, wrestling fans have always wondered if a wrestling centered pro wrestling show can be successful on a mainstream level. WWE is not just the biggest name in the wrestling genre, but to many, they are the genre.

It’s similar to the music industry where fans feel there are more talented performers on the independent level than there are on a commercial platform. However, sometimes, talent isn’t enough, and it takes commercial appeal and presentation to become vastly popular.

Great professional wrestling action, on its own, is not going to make AEW accessible to the masses. Ring of Honor has been using that formula since its inception in 2002. While they have grown over the years, they have already reached their ceiling.

This is the best opportunity the industry has had in years for a second company to gain a significant piece of the wrestling market share. A compelling mix of wrestling and story with a little something different. Something that is not being done in wrestling right now is what AEW needs to present.

Because if they don’t, and it comes off as a retread of every other promotion that has tried and failed before them, professional wrestling might genuinely become, in the abstract, sports entertainment.

Undertaker vs. Goldberg Set for WWE Super Showdown

WWE’s third venture to Saudi Arabia, Super Showdown, on Friday, June 7 will feature the first-ever clash between The Undertaker and Goldberg. The Attitude Era teenager inside of me is happy to see this match come to fruition. However, should it actually happen at all?

Goldberg only works well in short matches. Undertaker’s recent matches suggest his best days are behind him. The age factor looms over this legends outing like a sore thumb, and the event’s controversial locale will in all likelihood dilute any good will this offering can produce.

This is a giant payday for both wrestlers and its dream match that could be better late than never. While their elaborate entrances will be longer than the match itself, Undertaker’s ring psychology will be a crucial factor in getting around their physical limitations. It doesn’t need to be a five-star classic. It just needs to be a compelling story.

Super Showdown will also feature HHH vs. Randy Orton and a 50-Man Battle Royal because fifty wrestlers starting in the ring at the same time is not going to look weird at all.

Will Undertaker succumb to the Jackhammer? Will Goldberg fall victim to the Tombstone piledriver? Is this a one-time only encounter or the start or something more? We’ll all find out at Super Showdown on June 7th. Here’s hoping this under promising affair will over deliver.

Kofi is Champ!

Four weeks ago, Kofi Kingston became the first black WWE Champion at WrestleMania 35. While other wrestlers of color have held the world title, Kofi’s win was the first time a person of his ethnicity held the industry’s most coveted prize. What makes this accomplishment special is that it had nothing to do with race or color.

At the beginning of 2019, Kofi Kingston was nowhere near the WWE Title picture. On the way to  Elimination Chamber, the newly featured cruiserweight Ali suffered an injury. Kofi was his replacement, and the news was met with faint praise. Kofi’s cool and all, but come on now. It’s not like he was going to win, right?

Then, something amazing happened. Kofi reminded everyone how good he is by putting on an incredible performance in the gauntlet match to determine the last entrant to enter the chamber. In one hardworking hour, Kofi went from placeholder to the guy everyone wanted to win the title. Despite WWE’s lack of ability to keep things hot over a long period, Kofi’s popularity increased.

Augmented by the story of his eleven-year journey on the roster, the audience’s desire to see Kofi Kingston win the big one was irrefutable. The company switched plans, and we saw the result at WrestleMania. Kofi not only went over at the biggest show of the year, but he had the best match, which produced the most heartfelt moment at ‘the granddaddy of them all.’

The story of Kofi’s ascension, again, had nothing to do with race. Instead, the genuine question of a mid-card act becoming champion was used to develop the story. The hypocrisy of Daniel Bryan branding Kofi as a B+ player was the perfect ingredient. While many fans felt the race card would rear its ugly head, thankfully, it never did.

As a lifelong wrestling fan and a person of color, seeing Kofi Kingston win the title put some concerns to rest. Before Kofi, the fact there had never been a black WWE Champion made some people wonder if Vince McMahon was or is racist.

No one actually “wins” the championship; however, being booked as champion puts that wrestler in the lead role. Sports, television, music, and movies can have a person of color in the top spot; however, WWE never had?

What about The Rock? What about Booker T? Both are valid questions, but allow me to elaborate.

Booker T was the World Heavyweight Champion, which is not the same thing. The Rock was the WWE Champion. However, he is half African American/half Samoan and primarily identifies publicly as Samoan. Therefore, you cannot call Dwayne Johnson the first black WWE Champion.

President Barack Obama is half African American/half Caucasian. The reason why Obama is the first black president is that he identifies as African American.

In 2019, we have an African born WWE Champion who wears afro pigtails with pink accents, skips to the ring on a yellow brick road, throws pancakes out into the crowd and is all about that unicorn life. On paper, that sounds like a recipe for disaster. In reality, a fabulous performer name Kofi Nahaje Sarkodie-Mensah made it work exceedingly well due to his undeniable talent.