Pro Wrestling

Why Charlotte Flair is in A League of Her Own

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The date was May 29, 2014. The event was the first NXT Takeover special at Full Sail University. The match was Charlotte Flair vs. Natalya in the finals of the NXT Women’s Championship tournament.

Continue reading “Why Charlotte Flair is in A League of Her Own”

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Pro Wrestling

NXT Raises The Bar Again In Brooklyn

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Last night WWE presented NXT Takeover: Brooklyn II from a sold out Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

The show, which is already the front runner as WWE’s best of 2016, was anchored by three tremendous championship matches: Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa vs. The Revival for the NXT Tag Team Championship, Bayley vs. Asuka for the NXT Women’s Championship, and the main event of Samoa Joe vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for the NXT Heavyweight Championship.

You will be hard pressed to find any WWE show with three matches of this caliber in succession.

Gargano & Ciampa vs. The Revival was easily best tag team to take place in a WWE ring this year. The work from all four was on point. Gargano’s performance was particularly noteworthy in that he proved he has the potential to be an underdog babyace in the same vein of a Daniel Bryan or Sami Zayn. The Revival’s old school style often draws comparisons to the legendary team of Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard. Their performance proved these comparisons to be completely valid.

Bayley lost again to Asuka in a match that was a vast improvement over their previous outing in Dallas. Both worked a believable style full of strikes, kicks and submissions. the post match saw Bayley get a standing ovation and say her symbolic goodbyes to the NXT Universe. If this was indeed her last major NXT match then at least she went out with a bang. Bayley, more than anyone else, has embodied the heart and soul of the NXT brand over the last three years.

The biggest story of the night was Nakamura dethroning Joe for the NXT Heayweight Championship. The match was as hard hitting of an affair as you’d expect from these two. It was so hard hitting that Nakamura may have broken Joe’s jaw while delivering his Kinshasha finisher. Just four months after his debut Nakamura now stands atop the mountain in NXT.

In other big news we got the in-ring debuts of Bobby Roode, who is already the second biggest star on the brand behind Nakamura, and Ember Moon, who delivered one of the sickest looking finishers in wrestling today. Hideo Itami confronted Austin Aries and brought the crowd to their feet when he delivered his patented GTS.

Once again, NXT has set the bar high for tonight’s SummerSlam to follow.

Writing

500 Writing Prompts: Something You’re Afraid to Try

Name something you’re afraid to try but really want to. What makes you afraid to try it?

Becoming a professional wrestler. I know that it may sound silly to some but this is something I really want to do. Instead of watching and writing about wrestling, maybe I was meant to be a wrestler.

I’m afraid to try it because I may not be up to the task physically. Wrestling is hard work and you must be in excellent cardiovascular shape to make it through training. I’ve read enough stories and seen enough videos to realize that wrestling is not for the weak of heart. Plus I’m a small guy who isn’t too athletic. My age is another disadvantage. Most wrestlers start their careers in their teens or early twenties. I’m 30.

Although my age and lack of athleticism are the two main reasons I cite for not giving wrestling a try, my fear boils down being scared to try and fail at something I love so much.

There is a female wrestler named Veda Scott whose reasoning for becoming a wrestler mirrors my own. Her story provides me with some hope.

Me wanting to be a wrestler is more of a bucket list type of thing. I don’t necessarily have aspirations of making it to WWE. Sure it would be great if I made it to that level, but I’d be just as content to wrestle on local independent shows. It could be something I do for fun outside of my 9-5 job.

I just want to be able to say that I’m a professional wrestler before I die.

Pro Wrestling

How Vince McMahon’s Lazy Approach To Booking is Choking The Life Out of WWE

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One of the biggest wrestling news stories of the first half of 2016 was the Ricochet-Will Ospreay match at New Japan’s Best of the Super Juniors Tournament. It was a dizzying display of high flying moves and technical precision that caused the typically reserved Japanese crowd to breakout into chants of “this is awesome.” While these chants are commonplace in American wrestling, it was the first time I ever heard the phrase uttered on a Japanese show.

The match generated such an intense online buzz that non-wrestling outlets covered it.

Unfortunately, the first glimpse of the match that many Americans saw were a series of GIFs which lasted mere seconds. These videos cherry picked some of the more explosive moments and didn’t give viewers the full context and emotion of a match that went 16:47.

While many in the wrestling community praised Ricochet and Ospreay for putting on a state of the art performance there were just as many, including legends Vader and Jim Cornette, who criticized it for being a glorified spotfest. Some went so far as to say that these two extraordinary talents were killing the business.

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Some complain that the acrobatic style of matches such as Ricochet vs. Will Ospreay are killing the business.

If anyone is killing the very foundation of professional wrestling then it’s WWE Chairman/CEO Vince McMahon. Despite having a team of two dozen or so writers it’s Vince’s vision of wrestling that dictates what we see each week on WWE programming, especially on the company’s flagship Monday Night Raw. Creatively speaking, the buck stops with him.

The booking on the July 13 episode of Raw only magnified the reasons why fans are  losing interest in the current product.

For starters the show kicked off with a battle royal to determine the #1 for the Intercontinental Championship. Darren Young, who has been promoted for weeks with a series of vignettes featuring WWE Hall of Famer Bob Backlund, won in the most unconvincing manner possible. Not only was he booked as an afterthought throughout the entire match, but he only won after Apollo Crews and Baron Corbin eliminated each other.

Why should fans get behind someone who essentially backdoored his way into  receiving a title shot?

Things got even stranger later that evening when Zack Ryder lost clean to Sheamus in a match that served no apparent purpose, other than to further reinforce why Ryder shouldn’t be taken serious as a legitimate threat to anyone. This result wouldn’t be considered as newsworthy under normal circumstances, but Ryder is the one challenging Rusev for the United States Championship next week at Battleground. Sheamus isn’t involved in a major program and it’s unlikely he’ll be added as a third participant to the championship match. So it’s not like Sheamus would’ve been hurt by a loss.

Why should fans get behind someone who is consistently made to look like such a loser?

Raw also featured the much hyped showdown between the Wyatt Family and New Day that was filmed on location at the Wyatt’s compound. It was a blatant ripoff of TNA’s recent Final Deletion showdown between Matt and Jeff Hardy. Final Deletion may have been cheesy, but at least it was entertaining and effective for the direction they’re going. WWE’s version came off as being second rate and seemed to hurt the New Day-Wyatts program.

Even the way WWE is going about booking the SummerSlam main event of Randy Orton vs. Brock Lesnar boggles the mind. Not only have both been off television for months, but Orton even sent a congratulatory tweet to Lesnar following his UFC 200 win over Mark Hunt which seemed oddly out of place even for him.

While Orton vs. Lesnar is a fresh program there is no reason to promote it so early without any storyline ramifications. WWE’s decision to promote so far in advance may prove disastrous since Lesnar was recently busted on a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency violation that could put his SummerSlam appearance into jeopardy.

Each of the instances I’ve described are emblematic of a deeper problem that has permeated WWE booking this year: laziness and arrogance. It’s for this reason that Vince has abandoned nearly every rule that has applied to wrestling since the beginning of time.

Longterm storytelling is nonexistent. Promos are terribly overscripted. The announcers (on Raw) have zero credibility. New guys come in and lose immediately thus killing their momentum. Tag teams and factions are designed for the sole purpose of splitting up. Top heels and babyfaces are routinely emasculated by Vince’s daughter Stephanie. Guys are pushed only to wind up in the same or worse position weeks later. Programs begin and are then dropped at a moment’s notice with no explanation given to fans.

While Vince may think he’s being creative, he’s actually cutting off the fans’ emotional attachment to the product. Ratings have nosedived to near record lows this year. If Vince doesn’t care about the ramifications of his actions then why should fans?

He can get away with putting on such a subpar product because there is no real competition that can compete with the global juggernaut WWE has become. WWE would be in trouble if there was another wrestling company that had a prime time slot and the financial resources that media mogul Ted Turner had when he launched WCW Monday Nitro in 1995.

The most perverse part in all of this is that these problems are only exclusive to the main roster. NXT, WWE’s developmental brand, contains virtually none of these inconsistencies. Everything on there makes sense. The same goes for WWE’s Crusierweight Classic. With only one episode under its belt its presentation and announcing makes Raw look pedestrian.

I doubt that we’ll see any real change in the product until Vince steps down from power. We’ll get a fresh coat of paint such as the upcoming draft that will make things more interesting for a short period, but the underlying issues will be waiting just underneath the surface.

There is a generation of fans growing up that will have no idea of what it’s like to witness a year-long program unfold from start to finish such as Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage going into WrestleMania 5, or a personal grudge like Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho in 2008. They’ll never see two transcendent megastars on the roster at the same time like Steve Austin and The Rock. They’ll never see guys start from the bottom and rise to become legends of the business like Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart.

The lack of attention to detail is astounding for a man who once paid meticulous attention to every aspect of his company. These days Vince is known for changing his mind at a moment’s notice. He even joked about this in a tongue-in-cheek manner during a recent an interview with Renee Young on Raw.

While intended to be a cute moment, it was another sad reminder of how far Vince has fallen from his peak.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pro Wrestling

Zayn-Nakamura deliver an instant classic in Dallas

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Although WrestleMania is tomorrow we may have already seen the best WWE match of this weekend, if not the entire year, in last night’s Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura classic at NXT Takeover: Dallas.

Nakamura defeated Zayn in a match that is sure to wind up as a strong match of the year contender in wrestling polls across the board. The match served a dual purpose as Nakamura’s NXT debut and the final major NXT appearance of Zayn, who is now on the main roster.

Words cannot describe the awesome it was. The expectations were already through the roof and they both delivered the goods. I highly recommend watching this match as soon as humanly possible if you haven’t done so yet. I’d go so far as to say the match alone is reason enough to subscribe to the WWE Network.

Known as the “King of Strong Style,” Nakamura has been one of the best wrestlers in the world for a number of years. He debuted in New Japan Pro Wrestling in 2002 and was a major star there for virtually his entire tenure. He holds the distinction of being the youngest IWGP Heavyweight Champion in history which is the same championship that was held by current WWE stars Brock Lesnar and A.J. Styles.

Zayn has been the lifeblood of NXT for the last three years. Not only is Zayn a tremendous worker, but he has an ability to connect with the fans in a manner similar to Bayley and Daniel Bryan thus making him a great underdog babyface. Unfortunately, this aspect of his character hasn’t translated that well since being on the main roster.

Zayn appeared to be on the fast track to main roster superstardom last summer when he wrestled John Cena for the U.S. Championship on Raw. Unfortunately, Zayn injured his shoulder during their encounter and was out of action for several months. He is one of seven participants in tomorrow’s ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship.

Aside from Zayn-Nakamura, the rest of the Dallas card was great. From start to finish it was the best Takeover special that NXT has produced. Here are my observations from the rest of the show:

  • Chad Gable and Jason Jordan defeated Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson in a tremendous opener to win the NXT Tag Team Championship. Both teams were great. Gable, in particular, is one of the best young talents in the entire business. He should wind up as a next generation version of Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit or Daniel Bryan inside the ring.
  • Austin Aries defeated Baron Corbin in his NXT debut. The match was good, but was the weakest on the show. Say what you will about Corbin, but he has really stepped up his game in every facet to become one of the brand’s most entertaining acts.
  • Asuka defeated Bayley to win the NXT Women’s Championship. Although they had a hard time getting the crowd behind them following Zayn-Nakamura, they ended up having a very good match. Asuka had Bayley  locked in the crossface chicken wing when she passed out. The fans were genuinely stunned by the title change even though Asuka has been pushed as an unstoppable monster from the moment she arrived on the scene. I sense a rematch coming at the next Takeover special.
  • Finn Balor retained the NXT Heavyweight Championship against Samoa Joe. This was a super main event. Joe came across as the most aggressive monster heel in the company next to Brock Lesnar. He got busted open above the eye early on. The medical staff came out to work on the cut every time it reopened, which was about four times. Joe would get upset and push them aside whenever they came to assist which made him come off as a huge babyface to the audience. While the constant stoppages did detract from the action in some ways, it also added a great deal of heat. The outcome was surprising since most figured Balor was dropping the title and heading to the main roster.
  • Japanese sensation Kota Ibushi and former TNA star Bobby Roode were both shown at ringside. Ibushi is surely going to participate in the upcoming Global Cruiserweight Series tournament while Roode must be close to coming to terms on an agreement with the company.

 

 

 

 

Pro Wrestling

Bayley vs. Sasha Banks and a history of WWE ironman matches

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On Wednesday, Oct. 7, NXT Women’s Champion Bayley will defend her championship against Sasha Banks in the main event of NXT Takeover in a 30 minute ironman match.

Not only will this be the first match of its kind among two women in WWE, but it’ll be the second time in history that a women’s match headlines a major WWE show.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, the winner of an ironman match is determined by whoever scores the most falls within a given time limit. It’s the ultimate test of endurance.

Most ironman matches have a noticeable lack of heat compared to other types of matches since the fans are conditioned to not react to anything until the closing moments. It takes two extremely talented workers to keep the fans’ attention in this kind of environment.

In honor of this week’s momentous occasion I have decided to take a trip down memory lane to rank the best ironman matches in WWE history.

7. Chris Benoit vs. Triple H, Monday Night Raw, 7/26/04

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The story of this match was similar to the entire story of Chris Benoit’s championship run  in that it was more of a backdrop to advance Triple H’s major storylines at the time (which just so happened to be against Nick Dinsmore aka Eugene). Like most ironman matches this one didn’t really pick up up until near the end. It was a good match, but far from the best that WWE had to offer that year.

6. John Cena vs. Randy Orton, Bragging Rights, 10/25/09

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This match occurred during a stretch where John Cena and Randy Orton faced each other on four consecutive PPVs.

It was also the first and only WWE ironman match to be contested under an anything goes stipulation. Although this gave them leeway for more creativity than we’re used to seeing in these kind of matches it still ranks as one of the weaker entries in their longstanding rivalry. Their I Quit match from the previous month’s Breaking Point PPV was significantly better.

5. Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle, Monday Night Raw, 10/3/05

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This was the rubber match of their 2005 series that saw them produce two legitimate match of the year contenders at WrestleMania 21 and Vengeance. It occurred on a special three hour edition of Raw commemorating the show’s return to the USA Network.

Despite not  being as good a match as their previous encounters it was still a phenomenal showing from two of the all-time greats. Although it concluded in a draw there was nothing to complain about as it was a strong match to cap off a tremendously executed program.

4. Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle, Backlash, 4/29/01

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I had completely forgotten about this match until conducting research for this story. This was a unique twist on the traditional ironman rules where the winner would be determined by whoever scored the most submissions within a 30 minute period. Here you had two of the best technical wrestlers in the world going at it for a half hour in an ironman match with submission rules. Yes this match was as amazing as it sounds.

3. Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart, WrestleMania 12, 3/31/96

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This match is forever immortalized for Shawn Michaels realizing his boyhood dream of becoming WWE Champion in the main event of the biggest show of the year.

Although technically excellent, this match lacked a certain spark that kept it from being considered an all-time classic. The audience was pretty dead with a large portion of them having already left the arena by the time it ended.

While the scene of Michaels’ championship celebration is one of the more memorable moments in WrestleMania history, the match itself is not as good as most remember.

2. Triple H vs. Rock, Judgment Day, 5/21/00

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The Rock-Triple H feud dominated WWE programming for much of 2000. Whether it was in singles competition, tags, triple threats or fatal-four ways, just about every episode of Raw and SmackDown that year, and several PPVs, featured some combination of these two against each other.

Many consider their Judgment Day ironman match to be among their finest outings. Not only did they keep a hot pace from start to finish, but there was all kinds of storyline twists and turns. You had Shawn Michaels as the guest referee and the entire McMahon-Helmsley regime at ringside trying to stack the deck against Rock. The action climaxed with the surprise return of the Undertaker whose actions inadvertently cost Rock the match.

Even more incredible is that they provided a backdrop of solid wrestling acumen to complement all the craziness surrounding them. Anyone who was a fan of WWE in 2000 knows how amazing that year was and matches like this were a big reason why.

  1. Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle, SmackDown, 9/18/03

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Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle were embroiled in one of the most intense rivalries of 2003 and the hype surrounding their ironman match was intense. You had two former NCAA champions who were regarded by many insiders to be two of the best in the business at that time. Just the thought of them wrestling for an hour was enough to make a wrestling purist salivate.

The early story of the match involved Lesnar dominating Angle to gain the advantage. Lesnar was up 4-2 by the midway point before Angle mounted a ferocious comeback. He had Lesnar trapped in the ankle lock submission just as the time limit expired. Lesnar won 5-4 to capture his third WWE Championship.

Lesnar played his role to perfection as the monster heel who tried his best to create an unfair advantage from the outset which eventually ended up working to his advantage.

Not only is this one of the best matches in SmackDown history, but it’s the best ironman match ever held in WWE.

Pro Wrestling

Recent fan incidents expose WWE’s inadequate security

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At last night’s Night of Champions show from Houston, TX, a fan entered the ring prior to the start of a six-man tag team match pitting Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Chris Jericho against the Wyatt Family.

The fan snuck up behind Reigns and Ambrose as they were in the ring awaiting Jericho’s entrance, and was immediately taken down by security.

WWE issued the following statement regarding the matter: “WWE takes the safety of our performers very seriously and any fan entering the ring area will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Unfortunately this incident is just another entry into what has become an increasingly disturbing trend at WWE live events.

It all started at an August SmackDown taping when a fan attempted to attack Ambrose during a match. Then there was a show in Canada where a fan threw a replica Money in the Bank briefcase into the ring that hit Reigns in the back of the head. Two weeks ago on Raw a fan hopped the barricade and walked side by side with Seth Rollins as he was making his way to the ring for that night’s main event.

It’s notable that every occurrence has involved either Reigns, Rollins or Ambrose.

But the real question is why are fans allowed to bypass security so easily?

I can understand one fan slipping through the cracks, but there is clearly a major problem when the same situation happens multiple times within such a short time span.

It would be in WWE’s best interest to take an in-depth review of their security detail to figure out how to prevent these kind of incidents from occurring in the future.

Their wrestlers put their bodies on the line every time they step into the ring for our entertainment. The last thing they need is some whack job making their lives even more difficult.

Pro Wrestling

Cesaro reaches for the brass ring during excellent rematch with Cena

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I missed last week’s episode of Monday Night Raw, which really isn’t anything out of the ordinary for me these days.

When I checked out all the wrestling blogs last Tuesday the only thing I kept hearing about was the John Cena vs. Cesaro match for the United States Championship.

Despite the rave reviews it received I did not seek out the match on You Tube.

Last night, following VH1’s Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta and ABC Family’s Chasing Life, I decided to give the third hour of Raw a chance.

I’m glad I listened to my intuition because it was among the most entertaining hours of WWE programming I’ve seen in months.

Surprisingly, one of the key highlights was a tag team match pitting the Lucha Dragons vs. The New Day. While the match itself was nothing special the commentary by Titus O’Neal was excellent.

JBL had spent much of the match discussing an altercation that happened earlier in the show involving Brock Lesnar and The Authority, instead of calling the action going on inside the ring. This didn’t sit well with O’Neal who then proceeded to tear into JBL something fierce. It was the most entertaining bit of WWE commentary I’ve heard in a long time.

However, the biggest highlight of the night was an excellent Cena-Cesaro rematch. To the best of my knowledge it was Cesaro’s first time being in a singles main event on Raw.

It began with Cena coming out to issue his weekly U.S. Championship Open Challenge, to which Kevin Owens accepted. Owens was soon interrupted by Cesaro who came down to accept the challenge since Owens cost him an opportunity to beat Cena clean on last week.

The two put on a 30:06 clinic that once again proved why Cesaro is one of the best in the business.

When I think back to the infamous comments that WWE Chairman Vince McMahon made about Cesaro’s lack of connection with the audience earlier this year on Steve Austin’s podcast, I couldn’t help but wonder if he still feels the same way after watching last night’s match.

Cesaro consistently nails everything that is thrown his way. They pair him up with Tyson Kidd (another greatly underrated talent) and they end up becoming the company’s hottest team. They put him against Cena and he ends up having two incredible matches.

After Raw went off the air Cena called Cesaro back out to the ring and proceeded to put him over with a heartfelt speech. It’s really telling that the top star in WWE openly endorses Cesaro while management continually drops the ball on him.

I only wonder what excuse will they come up with next to hold this man back from reaching his true potential.

Pro Wrestling

WWE’s astounding tribute to Dusty Rhodes

Here is the tremendous Dusty Rhodes tribute from last night’s Money in the Bank PPV. WWE announcer Renee Young was so broken up after this aired on the preshow that they couldn’t even show her face on camera immediately afterwards. I also got emotional while watching this, especially during the part where he presents the NXT Championship to current WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins. I know it’s been said a lot over the last few days, but the wrestling industry will absolutely never produce another guy like Dusty.

While WWE usually produces such excellent videos for these kinds of occasions, this one is a step above the rest and is one of the best pieces of footage they’ve ever created.

Godspeed to his family and everyone in WWE during this difficult period.