Tag Archives: Pro Wrestling

New WWE Intercontinental Title Belt Revealed

A new look WWE Intercontinental Championship belt debuted on SmackDown last week as Sami Zayn presented it as a gift to current titlist Shinsuke Nakamura. This is the second title inside of the last two weeks to get a makeover with the Universal Championship getting a blue strap to match the motif of its new home, SmackDown.

This marks the fifth renovation of the IC title throughout its forty-year history. Cody Rhodes introduced the previous version of the belt in 2011 in an attempt to rebuild the prestige of the championship by reintroducing the classic style with an updated white strap.

The new design has a black strap and a center plate with gold and yellow trim brandishing the WWE logo. Two smaller plates are extending outward with a split illustration of the globe. For the first time, the IC title has interchange side plates allowing wrestlers to customize the belt with their name and logo.

While the old school fan in me wants to hate the new belt, I have to admit, it looks pretty cool. It’s very 2019 and speaks to the aesthetic of WWE’s current presentation. Visually, it’s the literal definition of the Intercontinental meaning travel between continents.

The classic version will always be my favorite, however, and it pains me to say this; it looked outdated compared to the other belts in circulation.

Shinsuke Nakamura joins Cody, as mentioned earlier, along with Tito Santana and The Rock as wrestlers who have ushered in a new era for Intercontinental Championship. As they say, out with the old, in with the new.

Favorite Matches #1: Shinsuke Nakamura vs Kota Ibushi

For twenty-three years, Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin from the 1996 Survivor Series was my favorite wrestling match of all-time. That all changed on January 4, 2015, at 5:30 A.M. EST as the IWGP Intercoientlal Title was defended in the co-main event of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s preeminent show, Wrestle Kingdom 9.

I’ve been a casual fan of New Japan since the mid-’90s. Through internet tape trading, I would often see the promotion’s marquee matches weeks or even months after they occurred. Five years ago, New Japan was in the midst of a resurgence that got fans excited. The company’s streaming service debuted within that time and American fans had the opportunity to watch Wrestle Kingdom, for the first time, live.

I had seen Nakamura wrestle for the first time at a 2011 New Japan show in NYC. I was thoroughly impressed with his in-ring style but I was unfamiliar with his character. Wrestle Kingdom served as my introduction to Kota Ibushi and knew absolutely nothing about him going into the match. The show was already great and I assumed that Nakamura in the second to last match against anyone had to be good.

So, why do I love this match? Well, for starters, Nakamura came to the ring dressed as a combination of Freddie Mercury and the Statue of Liberty. The attire was Nakamura’s flamboyant way of proclaiming himself the King of Strong Style. The story going in was simple. Ibushi was a newly minted heavyweight coming up from the junior heavyweight division. He assaulted Nakamura two months earlier and challenged him to a title match.

Ibushi got into Nakamura’s head early, mocking him at every turn. Nakamura missed the Bom A Ye knee and received a dropkick in the back. Ibushi hit Nakamura with some of his own signature moves including the good vibrations kick in the corner. Nakamura regained control and pumbled Ibushi with every type of knee strike imaginable. Nakamura slapped Ibush a few times and followed up with a backstabber.

Ibushi landed on his feet from a Nakamura suplex, delivered a hurricanrana and followed up with a moonsault off the top rope and to the floor on Nakamura. Back in the ring, one roundhouse kick from Ibushi appeared to knock Nakamura out cold. I jolted out of my seat at that moment because I truly believed Ibushi hit him too hard and the match was going to be called early. Nope, I was wrong. It was a testament to how well Nakamura sold it.

What I thought was the move of the match came when Ibushi jumped up for a leapfrog, Nakamura slid underneath and Ibushi connected with a double foot stomp to the chest. It looked like something out of The Matrix. The real move of the match came when Ibushi climbed to the top rope, grabbed Nakamura, who was standing on the apron and threw him with a German suplex into the ring.

At that point, I was sold. This was officially my new favorite wrestling match of all time.

The finish came when Nakamura blocked a Phoenix plex attempt from Ibushi and delivered the following onslaught of moves. Head-butts, elbows, Bom A Ye knee to the back, a backstabber, a falcon arrow, and finished it off with a vintage Bom A Ye for the 1-2-3.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kota Ibushi was a transformative experience for me as a wrestling fan. I went from a casual viewer to a full-on die-hard fan of anything carrying the red and yellow lion mark New Japan. Both wrestlers produced a twenty-minute masterpiece of personified action and excitement.

Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to properly articulate how much I love this match. I’ll always remember where I was the night Nakamura and Ibushi blew the roof off of the Tokyo Dome.


My Favorite Matches

Kenny Omega vs. Okada III – G-1 Climax B Block Finals 2017

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

Favorite Matches: Honorable Mentions

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been on a quest to pen love letters to my ten favorite wrestling matches. Nine of them have already been written with one more to go. Professional wrestling, like any form of entertainment, is subjective. What I like is going to be different from what someone else enjoys, and that’s ok. That is part of the reason why I wrote about each of these matches. To celebrate, not delineate, or force my opinion upon anyone. As my good buddy Dave once told me, “Hey, you like what you like.”

Before reveal post reveal my favorite match of all-time, I’m going to dedicate this post to some of the matches that go in my honorable mentions category. Anyone of these matches could have taken a spot in my top ten. Some of them did when I started this journey. Some of the matches will speak for themselves, while others will require more explanation.

Without further ado…

Magnum TA vs. Tully Blanchard: I Quit Steel Cage Match – Starrcade 1985: A lot of wrestling matches today resemble a dance more than a fight. Magnum and Tully exuded utter hatred for one another that may never be duplicated. Every punch and kick was thrown with the sheer intention to make the other man say the words “I Quit.” Magnum finally won the U.S. Championship after months of Tully escaping by the skin of his teeth. Side Note: This match inadvertently exhibits how wrestlers today can’t throw a punch.


Ric Flair vs. Ted DiBiase – Mid South Wrestling 11/6/85: An angry Dick Murdock came out before the match, saying he was the rightful contender. DiBiase told his old mentor that he was yesterday’s news and received a brainbuster suplex on the concrete floor for his troubles. Blood, blood everywhere. DiBiase somehow got to his feet and competed in the match. Everyone was on the edge of their seat, wondering if a heel DiBiase could pull off the miracle of miracles to win the world championship. All around phenomenal storytelling.


Sting vs. Diamond Dallas Page – WCW Monday Nitro 3/23/98: This was an unadvertised babyface vs. babyface affair as U.S. Champion DDP challenged Sting for the world title. I felt so lucky to see this match at the time. It was a clean match with no shenanigans or outside interference where both wrestlers fought tooth and nail. Sting won with the Scorpion Death drop, helped DDP to his feet afterward, and shook his hand out of respect. DDP lost but showed everyone he was world championship material.

Kenny Omega vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi: 1/4/19: Sometimes, I get so excited about something, the finished product is doomed before it can begin because it can never live up to my impossible expectations. Omega vs. Tanahashi is the match I wanted more than any other from the moment I became a fan of the current form of New Japan Pro Wrestling. Despite the pre-match drama of Omega’s eventual departure from the company, both wrestlers put on a stellar performance. If you played a drinking game of how many times my jaw dropped during this match, your liver would tap out.


Macho King Randy Savage vs. Ultimate Warrior – WrestleMania VII: This career match between two titans of the squared circle personified professional wrestling. Great action and high stakes drama were executed to its fullest. Warrior vanquished the Macho King. Moments later, the Macho Man was reborn as he reunited with the lovely Miss Elizabeth. Tears galore were shed as wrestling’s it couple paraded around the ring. I can’t believe this match didn’t make my top ten.


Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Triple H:  3 Stages of Hell – No Way Out 2001: A two out of three falls match where each fall had a different stipulation. The first fall was a regular match. The second fall was a no disqualification match. The third was a steel cage match. This was the big blow-off where Austin would finally get revenge against Triple H for having him run down by a car one year earlier. Austin made his big return, won the Royal Rumble, and was set to main event WrestleMania 17 against The Rock. The action, storytelling, ring psychology, and selling were all on point. It was all topped by a shocking finish where Triple H pinned the rattlesnake.


Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Eddie Guerrero – Halloween Havoc 1997: Many call this the greatest match in WCW history. Mysterio put his mask on the line to get a shot at the WCW Cruiserweight title. They took high flying wrestling to the next level and had a great story going into the match. Eddie was a bastard of a heel, and Rey exuded the heart of a warrior. There was no doubt after this one that Eddie and Rey were two of the best in the business. Another match that could have easily made my top ten.


Dynamite Kid vs. Tiger Mask: New Japan Pro Wrestling 8/5/82 – Tokyo, Japan: Between April 1981 – April 1983, Tom Billington and Satoru Sayama revolutionized the wrestling business with seven innovative matches. The emotion and athleticism these two put on display was uncanny and still holds up today. The fifth match is considered their best outing and won the Wrestling Observer Match of the Year. However, you can’t go wrong with any of their bouts.


Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior – WrestleMania VI: This was the wrestling equivalent of Superman versus Batman. An epic dream match where no one knew who was going to win. Warrior won in a touch passing moment to capture the world and intercontinental titles. It doesn’t hold up too well today as to match quality. However, at the time, it was great.


Maverick Wild vs. Doug Williams: NECW – Somerville, MA 6/22/01: This match occurred on an independent show promoted by New England Championship Wrestling (NECW). I attended the event as a networking opportunity when I was breaking into the business. Maverick Wild was considered the best wrestler in New England while British grappler Doug Williams had earned the same reputation across the pond. They wrestled a superb fifteen-minute draw that got better and better with each bump on the canvas. The wrestling, ring psychology, and intensity on display represented everything I wanted to be as a professional wrestler. This match will stay with me forever.


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

New Japan Pro Wrestling of America Announced


New Japan Pro Wrestling announced yesterday a new U.S. based subsidiary called  New Japan Pro Wrestling of America. The company will be based in California and begin operations in November. CEO Takami Ohbari presented the three phases of their expansion plan.

-Phase One: Discovering new wrestlers in markets outside Japan and developing talent through the LA Dojo.

-Phase Two: Run events in the US, including at Madison Square Garden and Dallas this year, both independently and with the assistance of other promotions.

-Phase Three: Establish a company within the US, and be ingrained in the everyday fabric when it comes to fans’ wrestling consciousness.

Phases one and two are already completed, and phase three is set as NJPW of America will be putting on twenty-seven live events across eighteen states in 2020. Arenas with twenty-five hundred seat capacity will be the targeted cites for the shows.

This is interesting considering WWE recently tried to purchase two wrestling promotions in Japan to create NXT Japan. Pro Wrestling NOAH and women’s promotion Stardom ultimately turned down their respective offers.

New Japan has made some promotional errors in the U.S., which can be chalked up to a difference in business culture. The opening night of the G1 Climax in Dallas only drew five thousand people. It should have drawn more; however, New Japan promoted the show like they usually do in Japan when they announced the card a few days before the show.

That kind of promotion won’t work with a U.S audience because we’re used to getting the lineup at least a month before the event. People need time to decide if they want to spend their money on event tickets, travel plans, and hotel accommodations.

New Japan also announced they’re staying on AXS TV for the foreseeable future. However, AXS is now owned by Anthem, the parent company of Impact Wrestling (Formerly TNA). Impact’s weekly television show debuts on AXS this evening. Odd are Impact will be the station’s priority, not New Japan.

While some feel New Japan is starting off its American expansion too slow, I think it’s just right. Slow and steady wins the race. NJPW of America needs time to adjust to the American way of promotion and marketing.

WWE is the industry leader. Their lackluster storytelling, however, has led to decreasing ratings, which has ultimately led to the emergence of All Elite Wrestling. Wrestling fans want quality matches and storytelling, and other companies are moving in to fill the void.

Arguably, New Japan has the best in-ring product in the game today. It will take more than suitable matches to get over in the U.S. on a mainstream level. I think New Japan realizes this and doesn’t mind moving slowly with its expansion while ensuring the product doesn’t take a single dip in the quality.

KOTR Subverted Expectations

After the dust settled last Monday on Raw, Baron Corbin became the 2019 King of the Ring (KOTR).

Yes, the same Baron Corbin who was blamed for the show’s record-low ratings over the summer.

Yes, the same Baron Corbin who diehard fans believe is absolutely atrocious in the ring.

Yes, the same Baron Corbin who reportedly only Vince McMahon sees as a star.

The criticism is fair, but I don’t agree with a lot of it. Corbin’s win capped off a KOTR that was highly entertaining while subverting expectations.

Baron Corbin and Chad Gable were the last two people anyone expected to make it to the KOTR finals, much less, win the whole thing.

Gable was brought up from 205 Live and saddled with a sympathetic babyface character who people look down on because he’s short.

Corbin returned for the tournament after being off of television for the first six weeks of the Paul Heyman booking regime, which reportedly didn’t plan on using Corbin much going forward.

When KOTR began, Ricochet, Ali, and Buddy Murphy were each in the midst of a newly minted push. Meanwhile, Samoa Joe, Drew McIntyre, and to a lesser extent, The Miz are always in the mix for a significant win.

Elias had some momentum due to his alliance with Shane McMahon. While Kevin Owens would have been a popular choice to win, everyone expected him to be screwed out of the tournament via Elias/McMahon, which is precisely what happened.

Corbin and Gable put on strong performances through the tournament, and their match in the finals was highly entertaining. Corbin got the win with a beautiful finishing sequence where Gable spun into Corbin’s End of Days finishing maneuver.

Last night, on Raw, Corbin, and Gable had a rematch that expanded their story and made for another fun outting. Corbin debuted a Game of Thrones-inspired crown, robe, and specter after Gable destroyed the chintzy looking crown and royal garb WWE had reserved for the winner.

WWE has received a lot of slack over the past year for their monotonous storytelling and homogenized presentation of the product. Creatively, KOTR served as a big win for the company. They were able to subvert expectations with the tournament while keeping it interesting throughout with excellent matches and several twists and turns along the way.

Now, Chad Gable is a prominent character on television, and Baron Corbin proved he doesn’t suck as a wrestler while his character has a fresh coat of paint, now dubbed King Corbin. The Kansas City native is the seventh consecutive heel to win KOTR. While it would be nice to see an up and coming babyface win the crown, bad guys always make for a better king.

Page vs. Jericho: Who Should Win?

This Saturday night, Chris Jericho and “Hangman” Adam Page will headline AEW’s All Out pay-per-view to crown the promotion’s first World Heavyweight Champion. This is not only a crucial outing for Jericho and AEW; it is the biggest match of Page’s career. There are many storytelling avenues to travel. However, the big questions remains, who should be the first AEW Champion ?

AEW is a new wrestling company who will introduce the world to a new cast of wrestling characters. Some we already know, like Chris Jericho. Others most will meet for the first time, such as Adam Page. AEW is going with a sports-centric presentation for their product. This means the world champion will be their most essential character. Should AEW’s first champion be a rising star or an established superstar?

Adam Page was pegged for success from the moment he made his professional debut in 2011 for Ring of Honor. Page entered New Japan Pro Wrestling in 2016 as a member of the Bullet Club. It was during his time with the popular stable where Page began to find his footing as a top-level performer while adopting the “Hangman” ring-name.

“Hangman” Page is a favorite among diehard fans. However, there will be more casual viewers watching AEW’s television show, debuting October 2nd on TNT. Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks will be introduced to a mainstream audience and will have to get over based on their character and talent. If Adam Page is the champion, his role will have instant credibility to the uninitiated.

From Monday Night Jericho all the way to the man with the infamous clipboard, Chris Jericho has been a wrestling superstar on television for twenty-three years. He’s reinvented himself repeatedly over the course his career and is one of the best to ever do it. At forty-eight years old, the work Jericho’s produced with his current Clock Work Orange inspired persona has been some of the best of his career.

Jericho being the inaugural AEW Champion could be a double-edged sword. If AEW comes off as a major league wrestling product, Jericho is the exalted king of the new hot promotion. However, if AEW comes off as bush league, Jericho would become the big fish in a small pond.

Some would say Jericho vs. Page represents the past colliding with the present to dictate the future. To many, AEW will hopefully be the future of wrestling, and perhaps Page will be its representative. Jericho has been there and done that. However, he’s not a veteran who’s past his prime. Jericho’s career renaissance since leaving WWE has made him more relevant than ever.

While the title could bring credibility to Adam Page, Chris Jericho will bring credibility to the title. Jericho became the first undisputed world champion in 2001, and it’s only fitting he becomes the first AEW World Champion in 2019. All signs point to AEW coming out of the gate with a strong wrestling product. TV shows need popular characters to thrive, and there are none bigger on the roster than Jericho.

The best scenario is to build up Hangman Page for a few months on television following a Jericho title win on pay-per-view. Then, pick a date, hype of the episode, and have Page go over on Jericho for the belt. TNT is going to get more viewers than any AEW pay-per-view will garner. The key to a successful Hangman title reign is to have the largest audience possible withness his journey and capture the gold.

As for August 31st, Chris Jericho is the man who should be champion.

Ricochet Busted My Bracket

I believed my King of the Ring bracket should have been etched in stone. Well, Ricochet changed that when he defeated the tournament favorite, Drew McIntyre on Raw. Not only did they put on a really good match, but Ricochet went over clean. Baron Corbin toppled The Miz to ensure half of my Raw bracket was still intact.

Then, SmackDown happened. Ali defeated Buddy Murphy, which didn’t surprise me even though I picked Murphy to win. Chad Gable pinned Shelton Benjamin ensuring I ended the week 2-2. My tournament predictions had a back door of sorts since Murphy, in my mind, wasn’t a sure thing. Ricochet straight-up broke my bracket by beating the guy I picked to win the whole thing.

Now, I got to predict the rest of the tournament and pick a new winner…Thanks, Ricochet. 😡

Official Updated Bracket

This Monday on Raw will host the quarterfinal matchups. Samoa Joe vs. Ricochet is the hardest match to predict considering who’s involved. Samoa Joe is always a good bet to win a tournament or championship. However, Ricochet has been getting a push over the last few months. Samoa Joe is a strong enough performer to bounce back from a loss here. Ricochet has the spotlight on him right now and shouldn’t lose this soon in the tournament.

The second quarterfinal match on the Raw side features Baron Corbin taking on Cedric Alexander. If I had to bet, I’d pick Baron Corbin to win. While an Alexander vs. Ricochet semifinal would be fantastic, Vince McMahon likes newly featured babyfaces to conquer dastardly heels. Plus, Vince thinks Corbin is a star. However, since Paul Heyman is the booker, I believe he will produce an Alexander win to get the semifinal match everyone wants to see.

Elias tangos with Ali in the first SmackDown quaterfinal match. This is the easiest one to call. Elias has been making Kevin Owens’ life a living hell at the behest of Shane McMahon. Shane injected himself as the special guest referee; helping Elias beat Owens in the first round. It’s time for Owens to return the favor and cost Elias the match with Ali.

The second blue brand quarterfinal match will see Chad Gable taking on Andrade. Both wrestlers are super talented; however, WWE has done next to nothing with Gable. It’s s shame, too. Andrade seems to be someone the company has high hopes for. This should be a great match, but Andrade gets the W in this one.

My New Prediction Bracket

Here we go. My new prediction bracket. I’m going all in on a Ricochet vs. Andrade final. Ricochet can afford a loss in the tournament finals. Andrade needs it more, and I think he’ll take the whole thing going forward. Still, though, no matter how it goes, the finals should make for a match of the year candidate!

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.