Watch This Wrestling 16  (4/20 – 26)

Indie Wrestling Twitter freaked out over Trevor Lee vs. Chip Day from CWF Mid-Atlantic Worldwide 102 practically the second it hit YouTube, and for good reason. It’s a blast. Unfortunately, it had a big moment that killed the vibe for me.

At some point midway or late in the match, Day gets what seems like too much offense in for Lee to kick out. And yet, he did. But seriously, check out that match, linked below.

As always, a list of what I watched for this week’s edition and what I’m planning to watch next week. If I’m missing anything that can be accessed without too much trouble, @ me on twitter: henrytcasey.

What I Watched:

  • T1W & Battle Club Pro: “The One Who Knocks”, 4/22
  • EVOLVE 82, 4/22
  • Tier 1 Wrestling Presents: “True Will”, 4/23
  • EVOLVE 83, 4/23
  • Monday Night Raw, 4/24
  • ROH Wrestling, 4/24
  • SmackDown Live, 4/25
  • 205 Live, 4/25
  • Talking Smack Live, 4/25
  • NXT, 4/26
  • CWF Mid-Atlantic Worldwide 102, 4/26

Upcoming Watch List

  • Progress Wrestling, Ch.47: Complicated Simplicity, hit VOD on 4/29
  • NJPW: Wrestling Toyo Province 2017, 4/29
  • WWE Payback, 4/30
  • Monday Night Raw, 5/1
  • ROH Wrestling, 5/1
  • SmackDown Live, 5/2
  • 205 Live, 5/2
  • Talking Smack Live, 5/2
  • NXT, 5/3
  • NJPW: Wrestling Dontaku, 5/3

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Keith Lee vs Kyle O’Reilly

EVOLVE 82, 4/22

EVOLVE continued its hot streak at 82 & 83, the two New York shows it put on last week. And how did it rebound from losing Drew Galloway (now McIntyre) to WWE? By adding Kyle O’Reilly. And if you thought you’d seen Kyle’s best during his recent Ring of Honor, run, I suggest you check his re-debut match in EVOLVE (which was against Keith Lee) out.

Not only does Keith Lee just not have bad matches, but the booking here plays nicely with the problem inherent in the match. Sure, the crowd almost turned on the show, but Lee’s charisma and O’Reilly’s intense violence helped bring everything home.

EVOLVE 82 is available via FloSlam.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Matt Riddle vs Timothy Thatcher, EVOLVE 82, 4/22
  • [EXTREME VIOLENCE WARNING] Darby Allin vs Ethan Page, EVOLVE 82, 4/22
  • Matt Riddle vs Penta OM, Tier 1 Wrestling, True Will, 4/23
  • Zack Sabre Jr. vs Lio Rush, EVOLVE 83, 4/23
  • Fred Yehi vs Kyle O’Reilly, EVOLVE 83, 4/23
  • Trevor Lee vs. Chip Day, CWF Mid-Atlantic Worldwide 102, 4/26

Non-WWE Segment of the Week:

Stokely Hathaway’s Big News

EVOLVE 83, 4/23

And it’s come to this. Stokley Hathaway, the Paul Heyman of EVOLVE now manages … well, you’ll see.

I love this for more than a few reasons, and what it’ll do to Yehi & Williams are paramount among them. It’s one of those solid show-opening promos that sets a ton of plates spinning to make for some excellent business.

WWE Match of The Week:

Drew McIntyre vs Andrade “Cien” Almas

NXT, 4/26

Again, I liked this as much for the work and their in-ring chemistry as I do for what it accomplishes. Further establishing Drew’s beastly force and Almas tranquilo chill made for good story telling beats in the build to NXT TakeOver: Chicago, which will be here before we know it.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Segment of the Week:

Table For 3: Common Bonds: Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, and AJ Styles

Table For 3, 4/24

The worst kept secret in WWE is that the shows right before a PPV (known as the Go-Home events, as in: send them home ready to pay more) now suck eggs.

Therefore, my favorite thing on WWE this week was the latest episode of Table For 3 on the WWE Network. Not only did Nash, Michaels and Styles get to shoot the shit, but they get to let HBK tell his side of why he doesn’t want to un-retire to face Styles.

Honorable Mentions:

Watch This Wrestling 15 (4/13 – 19)

First of all, an apology for how late this is. My weekend was a blur of indie wrestling and Persona 5, but I’m looking to get next week’s done quickly.

As always, a list of what I watched for this week’s edition and what I’m planning to watch next week. If I’m missing anything that can be accessed without too much trouble, @ me on twitter: henrytcasey.

What I Watched:

  • PROGRESS Wrestling Presents: Freedom’s Road S01E07, 4/13
  • Make Me Feel Alive…, EVOLVE, WWN Live, 4/14
  • How To Cut A Good Wrestling Promo, Ethan Page, 4/14
  • OTT: Scrappermania III, 4/15
  • Monday Night Raw, 4/17
  • ROH Wrestling, 4/17
  • Chikara: Bad Wolf, hit VOD 4/17, originally happened 4/1
  • SmackDown Live, 4/18
  • 205 Live, 4/18
  • Talking Smack Live, 4/18
  • NXT, 4/19

Upcoming Watch List

  • T1W & Battle Club Pro: “The One Who Knocks”, 4/22
  • EVOLVE 82, 4/22
  • Tier 1 Wrestling Presents: “True Will”, 4/23
  • EVOLVE 83, 4/23
  • Monday Night Raw, 4/24
  • ROH Wrestling, 4/24
  • SmackDown Live, 4/25
  • 205 Live, 4/25
  • Talking Smack Live, 4/25
  • NXT, 4/26

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks (The Elite) vs Lio Rush, Ryan Smile, & Will Ospreay (The Uptown Funkers)

OTT: Scrappermania III, 4/15

While the below honorable mentions do some things well, this match checks a lot of boxes, and with style.

While the Funkers do in fact funk, they also bring the high flying brilliance that Rush and Ospreay are known names for. And of course you have The Bucks doing their chicanery and Kenny being the slyest devil in the game.

OTT: Scrappermania III is available via FloSlam.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Marty Scurll vs Jay White, OTT: Scrappermania III, 4/15
  • Martina, Nixon Newell, & Alex Windsor vs Bea Priestley, Jinny, & Katey Harvey, OTT: Scrappermania III, 4/15
  • Zack Sabre Jr. vs Mike Quackenbush,Chikara: Bad Wolf, 4/1 (available 4/17)
  • Silas Young, Hangman Page, Jay White, and Jay Lethal vs Colt Cabana, Lio Rush, Hanson from War Machine and Bobby Fish, ROH Wrestling, 4/17

Non-WWE Segment of the Week:

EVOLVE Mini-Doc: Crowning A WWN Champion

Directed by Kenny Johnson, via WWNLive/YouTube, 4/17

If you want a brief primer on what’s going on with a few of the biggest names in EVOLVE, this is a great way to catch up with Catch Point. Not only does it tell the Yehi / Riddle story, as well as show off the dickishness of “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams, but it doesn’t leave the other half of the 6-man elimination match behind. And that means you get more Stokely Hathaway, and to learn about Jon Davis and Parrow.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Match of The Week:

Sasha Banks vs. Mickie James vs. Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax – Fatal 4-Way Match

Monday Night Raw, 4/17

It’s not a perfect match, but it deserves some callout for something that WWE got right with the swaps in the women’s division. With Mickie James and Alexa Bliss, Sasha Banks and Bayley finally have opponents with similar frames.

It was weird that WWE announcers never harped on the uphill battle that the comparably-tiny Sasha Banks should have been facing with the chiseled and statuesque Charlotte Flair. But now, they won’t need to, and this match showed some proof. While we all love an underdog, Sasha looks more realistic a potential victor now, and if this is her day 1 chemistry with James and Bliss, she will have a solid chance of thriving under this new era.

Also: Charlotte appears to have been the puzzle piece that SmackDown Live’s women’s division needed. Her match with Naomi was the first time in a while that either performer worked with someone who physically matched up. Unfortunately, a series of whiffs near the end made that match harder to watch.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Segment of the Week:

Cesaro & Sheamus welcome The Hardy Boyz to Team Red

Monday Night Raw, 4/17

This segment is the proof that Matt Hardy is now working with the WWE when he’s trolling the masses about a return of his former self. As Dave Tach put it on our latest episode of The Ring Post, Matt can spend 95 percent of a promo in Hardy Boyz mode and then sprinkle on a bit of Broken Brilliance.

Honorable Mentions:

What is Ring Of Honor?

NOTE: This is the latest in my series of explainer articles about pro wrestling promotions. Those include What Was TNA?, What is New Japan Pro Wrestling? and You Need To Watch Lucha Underground.

Updated per July 14

So, what’s Ring of Honor?

Ring of Honor (ROH) is a pro wrestling promotion with its headquarters in Baltimore, MD. It is similar to WWE in that it is a traveling promotion that divides its content between TV tapings and PPV events.

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To put its age in perspective, ROH just celebrated its 15th anniversary, whereas WWE has been around for 37 years and New Japan Pro Wrestling just reached its 45th anniversary.

What Makes ROH Different?

Founded in 2002, Ring of Honor filled part of the void left by promotions such as ECW and WCW (both bought out by WWE). Its stronger focus on the in-ring wrestling strikes a balance between WWE’s campy Sports Entertainment and NJPW’s strict Purowresu.

In short, “ROH is about the wrestling!" 

Most recently, Ring of Honor appeared in the headlines in a Pro Wrestling Sheet report stating WWE’s attempts to purchase the promotion.

Why Would WWE Want ROH?

WWE didn’t buy the promotion, but the main suggested reason for WWE to acquire ROH was for its library of footage. Historically, ROH is where many future top WWE talents have honed their craft, such as Daniel Bryan, Samoa Joe, and Seth Rollins (also, CM Punk, but WWE doesn’t acknowledge him anymore).

The events where those wrestlers appeared could be harvested for future packages and WWE network specials. Further, the archive of ROH PPVs would make the WWE Network an even more valuable service.

ROH is currently owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which broadcasts the promotion’s weekly TV show on its subsidiary networks. Rumors have perennially placed ROH up for sale by Sinclair, which never promoted it with especially strong vigor, and could easily want to divest itself of the original investment.

If WWE were to buy ROH, the big question would be what became of the promotion itself. Would WWE continue the TV and PPV shows as-is, or (as it did with WCW and ECW) would it take what it wants, renegotiate talent contracts, and move on?

But as of this moment, WWE hasn’t bought Ring of Honor, so let’s talk about the promotion as it stands today.

Who’s there?

Cody (formerly Rhodes) and The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) are the most high-profile talents currently working at Ring Of Honor. All three are members of the world-famous Bullet Club pro wrestling faction.. 

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Recently, The Bucks headlined ROH’s Supercard of Honor PPV, where they beat The Hardys (who wrestled at WrestleMania 33 the next day) for the ROH Tag Team Championships.

The rest of Ring of Honor’s top tier of talent is comprised of many fantastic wrestlers, including Christopher Daniels, Jay Lethal, Adam Cole, Marty Scurll, Mark and Jay Briscoe, and Dalton Castle.

A visit to the promotion’s roster page shows that the promotion’s roster isn’t especially deep. Not only are referees and announcers listed, but so are part-timers such as Cody (Rhodes) and Colt Cabana.

Ring of Honor is trying to do women’s wrestling, with Women of Honor, but it’s hard to actually see. When I attended the Manhattan Mayhem 2017 iPPV, the night was all men’s wrestling aside from a triple-threat dark match featuring the independent performers Sumie Sakai, Jenny Rose, and Mandy Leon. The aforementioned roster page shows plenty of talent that even weekly ROH TV watchers may not have seen (Faye Jackson, Kennadi Brink, Solo Darling).

Lately, the story of Ring of Honor is more about who’s not there.

As stated above , Ring of Honor’s top stars often leave for WWE. Over the past year, this issue became more problematic with up-and-coming stars leaving for smaller promotions, most notably Lio Rush, Keith Lee and Donovan Dijak. While all three went to EVOLVE, which is viewed as something of a feeder promotion to WWE, ROH’s inability to hold onto them is not a good sign.

What are the divisions & championships in ROH, and who holds those belts currently?

The ROH World Championship, its top title, is currently held by Cody, who won it from Christopher Daniels at the Best in the World event in June.

The ROH World Tag Team Championship is held by The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson), who claim to have recently signed the most lucrative contract in ROH history. They beat the Hardys for the titles at the Supercard of Honor XI pay-per-view.

ROH’s World Television Championship is its secondary singles championship. It’s currently held by KUSHIDA, a New Japan Pro Wrestling talent who works in ROH due to a talent-sharing agreement between the promotions.

The confusingly-named ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Championship is the promotion’s trios belt, in that it’s held by three wrestlers at a time. It gains that name because the belts are seemingly only defended in 3v3 scenarios. The current title-holders are Dalton Castle and The Boys.

What’s up with the handshake?

ROH matches (typically) begin with The Code of Honor, a handshake seen as a sign of mutual respect. Formerly, the Code of Honor contains more rules, such as respecting the ref and a lack of outside interference.

So, ROH works with New Japan?

NJPW talent currently appears in the states during shows held by Ring of Honor. The two promotions have a tenuous relationship that includes sharing talent.

The two promotions use annual Honor Rising (in Japan) and War of the Worlds (in the US) co-events to highlight this relationship.

And those announcers?

ROH’s main play-by-play commentator is Ian Riccaboni, who took the position after Kevin Kelly sort of stopped working with the company. Riccaboni is awkward as heck, but very enthusiastic and not mean-spirited. Colt Cabana is the color commentary guy.

The big shakeups in ROH commentary began when Nigel McGuinness, the current NXT color commentator, left the company. McGuinness did color commentary and acted as ROH authority figure.

Alright, I’m curious: how does one watch ROH?

Ring of Honor appears both as a weekly program and a Pay Per View.

Maybe you have one of the channels the ROH Wrestling show appears on. Starting soon, I won’t! But that’s OK. The FITE app, which is on available iOS and Android gets ROH episodes every Monday night. That’s how I watch, by mirroring them to my TV. Ring of Honor also allows you to watch a terribly pixely version of its weekly program on its website. You’re better than that, though.

ROH does pay per view events in the traditional and expensive-to-buy way. The same way that the WWE network’s price makes hard to swallow. Those events can be purchased and streamed via the FITE app or from satellite and cable providers.

Watch This Wrestling 14 (4/6–12)

But first, about that elephant in the arena…

I want to reaffirm some of the reason behind this weekly roundup. Every week, WWE provide more than enough hours of pro wrestling for most, but there’s more. From those wacky Brits in Progress to the insane bastards of New Japan, wrestling isn’t just WWE.

This past week, there was as much reason to reiterate the above as ever before. No, not because of the phenomenal match between Kazuchika Okada and Katsuyori Shibata at Sakura Genesis. But because of the big outside-the-ring story of bullying in the WWE making the rounds in major publications such as Sports Illustrated and the New York Post.

Vince’s love of fucking with people is no secret, but this has popped up because of speculation that SmackDown Live color commentary announcer, noted veteran, and all-around-cancerous-motherfucker JBL is the reason for the absence of SDL play-by-play announcer Mauro Ranallo. You know, JBL, the guy who thought it’d be OK to goose-step like a Nazi during a show in Germany.

While we haven’t heard any stories about what JBL did to Mauro, who has been public about his bipolar diagnosis, and is off-air for what has been reported as stress, nothing would surprise anyone at this stage. It’s currently expected that Mauro and WWE will settle in private, and that WWE will address this in some way, as the story has been made too-public to ignore.

If it were up to me, and Mauro were not available to the WWE anymore, the SDL announce team would be Corey Graves, Byron Saxton and Renee Young. Of related note this week was the shamelessly transparent “we’re trading the black commentators!” moment where Raw traded Saxton for the useless lump of humanity called David Otunga.

Thankfully, we get a six-week window before Raw Is 3 Hours of Otunga goes into effect, thanks to his commitment to filming a movie where he’s playing a lawyer. In that time, Booker T will be filling in, because (again), “LOL BLACK COMMENTATORS, GOTTA HAVE ONE, AND NO MORE THAN ONE!” Assuming Book does well, I’d like to see a Raw team some day that’s him, Graves, and Tom Phillips.

As always, a list of what I watched for this week’s edition and what I’m planning to watch next week. If I’m missing anything that can be accessed without too much trouble, @ me on twitter: henrytcasey.

What I Watched:

Upcoming Watch List:

  • PROGRESS Wrestling Presents: Freedom’s Road S01E07, 4/13
  • OTT: Scrappermania III, 4/15
  • Monday Night Raw, 4/17
  • ROH Wrestling, 4/17
  • SmackDown Live, 4/18
  • 205 Live, 4/18
  • Talking Smack Live, 4/18
  • NXT, 4/19

Non-WWE Match of the Week:

Kazuchika Okada © vs Katsuyori Shibata for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship

NJPW: Genesis, 4/9

Most matches don’t get 38 minutes between bells, but that’s because few have the conditioning and technical prowess of Okada and Shibata. The former is the crown jewel of New Japan and the latter, well, he would have been on the rise after one hell of a match. More on that in a moment.

The story here is that Shibata enters the match guns ablazin and in a far more passionate state than Okada. The crowd is on board with this, vocally entirely behind Shibata. Okada is entering that mixed-reactions phase of his career most people associate with John Cena and Roman Reigns, and this match cemented it. Felt a bit like Punk/Cena MITB in that way. Except Okada starts taking shortcuts, playing to the boos.

Without spoiling any spots, I’ll leave discussion of the good parts of the match at that.

Part of me doesn’t want to give the win to the most-talked-about match of the week, but it was the best match outside of the week, despite its serious flaw. And that flaw is so bad that I won’t go back and rewatch this match, despite loving (the majority of) it.

While I always suggest people go watch these matches, this one comes with a brutal asterisk. Near the end of this match, which was already going to win MOTW, Shibata leveled Okada with what is now believed to be a shoot-headbutt. As in the skull-to-skill headbutt that split Shibata open was legitimate, despite early reports of it being a work.

As reported by many, including Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer, reports are coming out that Shibata is currently hospitalized, dealing with lingering right-side paralysis. Meltzer noted that Shibata has “some memories of the match” as if to infer that memory loss is involved. After all of this, it is expected that Shibata will never be cleared to wrestle again, ending his young career. Thankfully, it appears he will recover, but we shouldn’t have needed to hope for that.

It brings up a question of what kind of stiff work is actively encouraged or at least tacitly endorsed by the New Japan management. Much like WWE with its bullying problem, NJPW needs to take this moment to consider how it does business.

Sakura Genesis is available on NJPW World.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Moustache Mountain (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate) © vs The Hunter Brothers (Jim Hunter & Lee Hunter) for the PROGRESS Tag Team Titles, Progress Ch. 46: I Like To Chill Out Here And Shoot Some Dinosaurs, 4/7
  • Pete Dunne vs Mark Andrews for the PROGRESS World Title, Progress Ch. 46: I Like To Chill Out Here And Shoot Some Dinosaurs, 4/7
  • Hirooki Goto vs Zack Sabre Jr., for the NEVER Openweight championship, NJPW: Genesis, 4/9
  • Curt Stallion vs John Skyler in a 2017 Top Prospects Tournament semi-final match, ROH Wrestling, 4/10

Non-WWE Segment of the Week:

EVOVLE Mini-Doc: Zack Sabre Jr. Can’t Make a Mistake

EVOLVE, WWN Live, 4/12

Evolve’s mini-docs, which get attributed to Kenny Johnson, are typically great previews or recaps. This one, though, goes further. It tells twin stories of frustration, from the current EVOLVE champ Zack Sabre Jr. and recent signee ACH.

As the title suggests, the focus of the feature is ZSJ hanging onto his title by a hair. What that means for Zack is that he’s getting closer to the “do whatever it takes” mentality that heels use, to cheat to keep his championship.

This, if you’re following Sabre Jr. outside of this promotion, is intriguing. In Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG) and New Japan, to name a couple of the other place he pops up, things are different.

Everywhere but EVOLVE, he’s called “Zacky Three Belts” because he’s crossed over to the dark side, turning heel. So whether he’s joining Minoru Suzuki’s nefarious Suzuki-Gun faction or tag-teaming with The Villain Marty Scurll as The Leaders of The New School, he’s always drawing ire. It’s the role that many who see his lanky frame and know-it-all submission style believe he was born to play.

And then we have ACH – who has worked as a friend of Zack’s in EVOLVE – who came here to win gold. ACH who should have been a world champion by now, but was passed over. ACH who couldn’t get the job done in Orlando, against Sabre Jr. at EVOVLE 80.

ACH who says he doesn’t know what comes next. ACH who’s been a face all this time and maybe that’s not enough.

Of course, this video doesn’t hammer home either potential turn all that hard. Gotta keep that surprise going. I love how the focus and zoom fall out of the scene where Michael Elgin cold-cocks Zack Sabre Jr. after basically demanding their match be for the title. And then the brief moments they bring from Elgin/ZSJ definitely paint Sabre Jr. as valorous and Elgin and the prick.

And then the other challengers. Lio Rush, who challenges Sabre Jr. for the title at the next EVOLVE events, and has “no more time to waste.” Ethan Page, tired of getting looked over by the booking committee, and more than happy to remind you of his two wins against Zack.

And finally, back to Sabre Jr., who speaks of the weight of the belt on his shoulder. If that doesn’t get you buying tickets or a FloSlam subscription, then I’m confused.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Match of the Week:

AJ Styles vs Sami Zayn vs Baron Corbin in a #1 Contender’s match for the United States Championship

SmackDown Live, 4/11

The Superstar Shakeup gave SmackDown Live the kind of roster that everyone wished it had on day 1. Sure, we thought Dean Ambrose and Bray Wyatt were amazing workers, but that just wasn’t happening.

So this past week saw them add a flurry of talent, with Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens coming over as two marquee acquisitions. Oh, and they’re also adding Big E, Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston (give me New Day singles runs) and Rusev to a show that already had AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Baron Corbin, Tye Dillinger and Luke Harper? So hot, hot damn.

And as if they felt the need to prove themselves, Zayn, Styles and Corbin put together a match worthy of their names. So while Styles is still working through being a good guy, Sami’s trying to prove himself against a bully he can hurt (Corbin is no Strowman), and Corbin is showing that he’s a fast learner.

This was the closest call for WWE MOTW in a while. While this had to be the winner, I appreciated the work in the other two matches, also worth checking out. This one just had more time and better pacing. Find the full version on Hulu if you have to.

Honorable Mentions:

Note: Both Galloway and Gallagher hit headbutts, no reports have emerged of resultant injuries.

WWE Segment of the Week:

Braun Strowman Savagely Attacks Roman Reigns

Monday Night Raw, 4/10

I’m really confused about what WWE meant to do with this segment, but I loved it so much nonetheless. This isn’t the best WWE segment of the year (remember the Festival of Friendship?), but damn it’s a close second.

Sure, he didn’t lift the ambulance (hello, it’s pro wrestling), but everything else about it was just so damn cool. Braun just rag-dolling Reigns around the backstage area elevates him to the most awesome thing on the Raw roster.

I watched this Raw at a bar with other fans, and this segment became the most amazing moment when consumed with a dozen or so fans screaming their heads off. So I just can’t emphasize enough how huge this moment is. 

WWE needs to handle this properly on Monday, and keep Roman off TV and let Braun continue to be the next wonder of the world, but not overdo it.

Some notes:

  • Roman takes a moment to remove his clipped-on microphone, because he’s a good employee who treats company property with care.
  • The segment wins by demonstrating impossible awesomeness by way of camera tricks.
  • Someone (possibly the WWE) started a god damn online petition to fire Strowman. That, if done outside of the company, is today’s version of that time people thought the NWO actually invaded WCW and called the police.
  • How does this happen the same week as The United Incident?

And about my confusion:

So, this made Strowman cooler than ever for many. Was it supposed to make Roman pitiable? Likable? Is this just to get Roman cool as a vengeful motherfucker?

After Roman Reigns had all the heat last week, are they trying to cool him down? What the hell?