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Watch This Wrestling 46 (11/19–25)

Hello friends! If you look at the below, you’ll see a couple of changes. This upcoming week marks both me watching Impact again (yes, this is all Ethan Page’s responsibility) and my renewed interest in Chikara.

For Chikara, I plan to watch the VOD of the penultimate episode Kill the Moon and possibly attend its season finale Closing Time, a decision which will depend on whether or nor Mike Quackenbush vs David Starr is announced for that show in Philly.

And at some point, I’m going to begin the grand project of watching the show from its 4th season, a long-overdue project. The decision to start there was helped by the excellent Courtney Rose (@ChicagosCRose on twitter).

As always, if I’m missing anything that can be accessed without too much trouble, @ me on twitter: henrytcasey.

What I Watched

  • Survivor Series 2017, 11/19
  • Progress Chapter 57: Enter Smiling, 11/19
  • Monday Night Raw, 11/20
  • SmackDown LIVE, 11/21
  • 205 Live, 11/21
  • NXT, 11/22
  • Powerbomb.tv: Wazzup, 11/25
  • Powerbomb.tv: This Very Second with Bryce Remsburg, 11/25

Upcoming Watch List

  • Beyond Wrestling/Women’s Wrestling Revolution, 11/27
  • Monday Night Raw, 11/27
  • SmackDown LIVE, 11/28
  • 205 Live, 11/28
  • NXT, 11/29
  • Impact Wrestling, 11/30
  • Chikara: Kill the Moon, ?? VOD
  • Chikara: Closing Time, 12/2 — possibly attending live

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Keith Lee vs. Flash Morgan Webster

Progress Chapter 57: Enter Smiling, 11/19

Nobody’s surprised to see me hand out a best to my two favorites from BOLA 2017, who wrestled a fantastic, epic match, that just happened to be booked the wrong way.

Anyone watching Progress during the last months has to be wondering what they’re doing with Flash. If all of these almost-wins will build to a major character point and a championship, then maybe they’ll be able to say it was worth it.

But Keith Lee loses nothing if Flash manages to eek a suprirse underdog victory out of the WWN Champion, not the least because the title wasn’t on the line. The crowd adored Keith Lee, though, to the point where nobody would even hazard the opinion that he needed to beat The King of the Mods.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Logan Easton LaRoux vs AJ Gray vs Anthony Greene vs Razerhawk, Powerbomb.tv: Wazzup, 11/25
  • Thick Boys (Jay Freddie & John Silver) vs Ugly Ducklings (Lance Lude & Rob Killjoy), Powerbomb.tv: Wazzup, 11/25
  • Ringkampf (Timothy Thatcher & WALTER) vs CCK (Chris Brookes & Kid Lykos) © vs for the PROGRESS Tag Team Championships, Progress Chapter 57: Enter Smiling, 11/19

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

“Revenge can only be found on the road to self-destruction”

Dahlia Black promo via YouTube

While I thought the four-way match that included Dahlia and Jinny was rushed and didn’t gel together as one whole match (instead reeking of two, smashed together), Ms. Black’s pre-match promo was excellent.

Until this moment, this feud existed in short moments where announcers rushed out words to one of the two, who typically had joined them on commentary. While it could have used one more story beat (at the start, showing their friendship pre-injury), it still was the most well-acted (bravo, Dahlia) and necessary story beat of the week.

Honorable Mentions:

  • The shit talking Trent Seven gave Zack Gibson, Progress Chapter 57: Enter Smiling, 11/19
  • All of the weirdness that was Powerbomb.tv: This Very Second with Bryce Remsburg, 11/25

WWE Match of The Week:

AJ Styles vs Brock Lesnar

Survivor Series 2017, 11/19

How could it be anything but this? AJ Styles elevated himself even higher in the lore of WWE by pulling an amazing 1 on 1 match out of the notoriously unreliable Brock Lesnar.

Honorable Mentions: 

WWE Segment of the Week:

Paige Returns, With Friends

Monday Night Raw, 11/20

Obviously, this segment will age well or poorly based on how WWE books Paige and the friends she picked up on her way back to the main roster, but for now, it’s a win.

Not only was it fun and shocking for a return to turn into an invading faction, but it’s quite clever. Rose and Deville provide solid cover and distraction from the controversy that took place during the time where while Paige’s injury (among ohter thing) kept her off camera.

Honorable Mentions:

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Watch This Wrestling 44 (11/5—11)

Hello friends!

And here we have the second week WWE having awakened from slumber. Also, just one non-WWE thing. As I’ve said, I’m trying to change that. NJPW Tag League is coming up to help out, and I may be giving TNA another shot now that it’s employing The Hottest Free Agent in Pro Wrestling: Ethan Page.

As always, if I’m missing anything that can be accessed without too much trouble, @ me on twitter: henrytcasey .

What I Watched

  • NJPW Power Struggle, 11/5
  • Monday Night Raw, 11/6
  • SmackDown LIVE, 11/7
  • 205 Live, 11/7
  • NXT, 11/8

Upcoming Watch List

  • Monday Night Raw, 11/13
  • SmackDown LIVE, 11/14
  • 205 Live, 11/14
  • NXT, 11/15

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Marty Scurll vs Will Ospreay © for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship

NJPW Power Struggle, 11/5

This is a fun match, and I think it’s the best either have had during their runs in New Japan. Sure, Ospreay match’s against Ricochet is iconic, but it at times felt too much like a routine and not like a fight.

And even if Scurll and Ospreay have wrestled a ton of times before, this match didn’t smell at all of two guys going through the motions. Scurll actually fought despicably and Ospreay had to deal with him in mostly non-flippy ways. Good times.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Kenny Omega vs Trent Beretta, NJPW Power Struggle, 11/5
  • Kota Ibushi vs Hiroshi Tanahashi © for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, NJPW Power Struggle, 11/5
  • David Starr vs Anthony Gangone © for the FBW Championship, Five Borough Wrestling, A Savior Among Us, 11/10

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

A New Challenger Appears for Kenny Omega

NJPW Power Struggle, 11/5

Yep: Jericho vs Omega will happen at WrestleKingdom 12 this year. And if the match alone (and the social media dick measuring contest) didn’t seal the deal on your excitement, check out this promo:

Also, gotta love that Jericho uses a countdown clock for this debut moment, just like he did when he came to WWE. Another smart touch? Jericho is silent for the first few moments of the promo, so the crowd and announcers can lose their collective shit.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Match of The Week:

AJ Styles vs Jinder Mahal © for the WWE Championship

SmackDown LIVE, 11/7

I haven’t hated Jinder’s run as champ. First: it irked fans enough to make this match matter a lot, and second: this match didn’t illogically tweak the role of the Singh brothers, Mahal’s not at all-secret weapon, so that AJ could win.

Not only did Styles systematically take down the flopping boys, but his subsequent return into the ring used reversals and ring-awareness so he wouldn’t go down like all the rest.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Segment of the Week:

Enzo Introduces the UK Division to the British WWE Fans

205 Live, 11/7

This gets a best for giving Tyler Bate on the mic, and for continuing to validate the Enzo Experiment. Sometimes you need to get guys over by pairing them with others who already matter.

This segment also won be over by putting Mark Andrews and James Drake on screen. It also showed that WWE is smart enough to not give Joseph Conners a microphone.

Honorable Mentions:

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Watch This Wrestling 42 (10/22—28)

Hello friends!

Another thing that got in the way of me doing these in a timely manner was that I’ve spent more time than ever finding and watching new promotions. Sadly, not too much clicked with me…

What I Watched

  • WWE TLC, 10/22
  • Nova Pro Wrestling: Nova Project 3, 10/22
  • Powerbomb TV: Futures, 10/22
  • Monday Night Raw, 10/23
  • SmackDown LIVE, 10/24
  • 205 Live, 10/25
  • NXT, 10/26
  • PCW: Fright Night, 10/27
  • Beyond Wrestling: Denim Recruits, 10/28

Upcoming Watch List

  • Beyond Wrestling: Apocalypse Dudes, 10/29
  • Monday Night Raw, 10/30
  • SmackDown LIVE, 10/24
  • 205 Live, 10/25
  • NXT, 10/26
  • Fight Club Pro: Day of the Dead, 11/2 VOD date
  • Progress Chapter 56: La Danse Macabre, 11/2 VOD

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Keith Lee vs The Reapers

PCW Fright Night, 10/27

I loved a Keith Lee match, big surprise, right? Well, it was a … weird week for the stuff I watched outside of WWE. This match wins less for its pacing or any particular workrate, and more for The Friendly Fellow’s ad-libs.

Those include:

  • “Oh my god,” sung in a soul music fashion, in pain, after getting hit hard.
  • “I’m the only actual big lad here,” in response to the crowd’s chant of “big lads wrestling.”
  • Also, the reveal moment was solid.

This came from one of four non-WWE shows I saw that week, and it’s a shame I can’t even find one honorable mention to bring up.

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

“We’re obviously not here to talk about me”

Progress Wrestling/YouTube, 10/25

There’s no high degree of difficulty in making the Progress audience dislike Dennis after he turned on Mark Andrews at Ally Pally, but Eddie’s not resting on that moment. This video grounds his fury in reality, how he’s felt overshadowed and babied by his more prolific partner.

Can’t wait to see where they take it from here.

Honorable Mentions:

  • TKTV episode 1, Demand Progress, 10/25

WWE Match of The Week:

Finn Bálor vs AJ Styles

WWE TLC 2017, 10/22

And in a decision that nobody will argue, this meeting of SmackDown Live’s ace and the man who could have been running Raw had it not been for injury gets a W.

The make-shift ppv match (made after Bray Wyatt went down with an undisclosed, though rumored, sickness) turned out to be the highlight of a show that saw WWE back on its Peak Sports Entertainment Bullshit.

Hopefully, this got enough love backstage for Vince to realize that the show can’t just be Brand Loyalty and “wait did they murder a dude?” moments.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Segment of the Week:

Raw is … Under Siege

Monday Night Raw, 10/23

Don’t let the above confuse you, though: I am all in on Peak Dumbshit-mode in the WWE. Rusev standing on the table shouting. New Day leaving the charge. Rollins off the damn platform. Becky in a leadership position. CHAD. FUCKING. GABLE. putting hands on Jason Jordan.

It’s good. It’s damn good.

Honorable Mentions:

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Watch This Wrestling 31 (8/6—12)

As promised, this is late af. What I didn’t expect when I said that last week, though, was that some germ that coated the decrepit Elmcor venue would knock me and many others down with a virus after the event.

Not that I should complain, though, as Progress: NYC saw TK Cooper dislocate his ankle after a bad landing from a corkscrew moonsault from the top turnbuckle to many wrestlers outside the ring. 

It happened right in front of me, and kind of broke me in a way. It’s not what made me sick, but watching one of your favorite artists injure themselves is a mindfuck I hope none of you ever get to see.

As always, if I’m missing anything that can be accessed without too much trouble, @ me on twitter: henrytcasey.

What I Watched

  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 15, 8/6
  • Monday Night Raw, 8/7
  • SmackDown LIVE, 8/8
  • 205 Live, 8/8
  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 16, 8/8
  • NXT, 8/9
  • Lucha Underground, 8/9
  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 17, 8/11
  • Evolve 90, 8/11
  • Battle Club Pro: The Bounty In Kings County, 8/11
  • Evolve 91, 8/12
  • Progress: NYC, 8/12
  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 18, 8/12

Upcoming Watch List

  • NJPW: G1 Climax Finals, 8/13
  • Monday Night Raw, 8/14
  • SmackDown LIVE, 8/15
  • 205 Live, 8/15
  • NXT, 8/16
  • Lucha Underground, 8/16
  • House of Glory: High Intensity 6, 8/18
  • NXT: TakeOver Brooklyn III, 8/19

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Mark Haskins vs Austin Theory vs Mark Andrews vs Keith Lee

Progress: NYC, 8/12

It was a fantastic weekend for wrestling outside of the McMahon shadow (as long as you forget the “working relationships” that Evolve and Progress have with WWE).

And in a week with more excellent 4+ star matches, this unplanned match stands the fuck out. While it was originally slated to be Andrews vs Haskins vs Gibson (Zack Gibson had to bow out to be in a raucous show-opener against Jack Gallagher) those changes led to one of the most gob-smacking moments I’ve born live witness to.

I don’t know if it’s a triple suplex or a powerbomb-suplex, or a tower of suplex, or whatever, but watch this match – if for nothing else – than to see the witchcraft they conduct off of one of those turnbuckles. Haskins and Andrews both looked phenomenal, but the true story is the rising stocks of Keith Lee and newcomer Austin Theory.

Progress: NYC was a madhouse and will likely be made available on Demand Progress once the lads get the time to edit it together.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Kazuchika Okada vs. Minoru Suzuki, NJPW: G1, 8/8
  • Zack Sabre Jr vs Tomohiro Ishii, NJPW: G1, 8/11
  • Trent Seven and Tyler Bate (British Strong Style) vs Nick Iggy and Kerry Awful (The Carnies), Battle Club Pro: The Bounty in Kings County, 8/11
  • Pete Dunne vs Darius Carter, Battle Club Pro: The Bounty in Kings County, 8/11
  • Juice Robinson vs Michael Elgin, NJPW: G1, 8/12
  • Toru Yano vs Minoru Suzuki, NJPW: G1, 8/12
  • Kenny Omega vs Kazuchika Okada 3, NJPW: G1, 8/12
  • ACH vs Ethan Page, Evolve 91, 8/12
  • Darby Allin vs Timothy Thatcher, Evolve 91, 8/12
  • Chris Dickinson & Jaka vs Travis Banks & TK Cooper, Evolve 91, 8/12
  • Matt Riddle vs Keith Lee vs Tracy Williams vs WALTER for the WWN Championship, Evolve 91, 8/12
  • Joey Janella vs Jimmy Havoc in a No Disqualifications match, Progress: NYC, 8/12
  • Jack Gallagher vs Zack Gibson, Progress: NYC, 8/12
  • Matt Riddle vs WALTER for the Progress Atlas Championship, Progress: NYC, 8/12

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

Troll Boys by ACH & Ethan Page

Ethan Page’s YouTube, 8/12

This is the theme music for the newly minted troll comedy tag team of ACH and Ethan Page. Yes, the guys who faced each other in the funniest match of the year came back for another one.

As the video description reads:

We literally recorded this 20 minutes before the show. 

Enjoy.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Match of The Week:

Last Man Standing Match: Braun Strowman vs Roman Reigns

Monday Night Raw, 8/7

Since Brock Lesnar is likely walking out of SummerSlam holding the Swedish Fish Championship (something I’ve been saying for weeks, check the podcast) it’s been great to watch the build to the PPV center around his opponents greatness.

Not only does this match have the chair spot of the year, but it has Solid Snake Samoa Joe, jumping up from out of nowhere to put Roman in a close-quarters-combat chokehold.

Honorable Mentions:

  • TJP vs Rich Swann, 205 Live, 8/8

WWE Segment of the Week:

Kevin Owens Uses his WWE Network subscription

SmackDown LIVE, 8/8

WWE often leans upon fans’ short term memory to tuck away the moments that don’t fit with current storylines. Since Kevin Owens loves this wonderfully weird thing called Pro Wrestling, I’d wager he had some involvement with this lovely segment.

I just wish the YouTube segment didn’t have the network bits edited out. A, it kills the tempo, and B) it’s easy marketing for the network!

Honorable Mentions:

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Watch This Wrestling 26 (7/2–8)

You’ll notice is that while ROH TV is in my watched list, but it isn’t in my to-watch-list. Why’s that? Their TV shows have been not-great for months and with a massive amount of Progress and NJPW to watch over the coming weeks, I’m trying to use my time more efficiently. Also, I’ve gotten tired of their PPVs and TV episodes not lining up because of their pre-tape schedule.

Also, a belated Best Non-WWE award to The Bachelorette for the Kenny King vs Lee The Racist feud. So while I love Kenny King now, and he won an ROH TV title #1 contender’s ranking this week on ROH TV, that’s still not enough for me to keep watching that show as it is these days. If ROH TV somehow improves its shows, then we’ll see if they can get the rose again.

As always, if I’m missing anything that can be accessed without too much trouble, @ me on twitter: henrytcasey.

What I Watched

  • New Japan G1 Special Night 2, 7/2
  • Monday Night Raw, 7/3
  • ROH Wrestling, 7/3
  • SmackDown LIVE, 7/4
  • 205 Live, 7/4
  • Talking Smack Live, 7/4
  • Progress: Chapter 50: I Give It Six Months, 7/4
  • NXT, 7/5
  • Lucha Underground, 7/5
  • Evolve 88, 7/8

Upcoming Watch List

  • Evolve 89, 7/9
  • Being The Elite Ep. 63, “Hot Topic”, 7/9
  • Monday Night Raw, 7/10
  • SmackDown LIVE, 7/11
  • 205 Live, 7/12
  • Talking Smack Live, 7/12
  • NXT, 7/13
  • Lucha Underground, 7/13

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

Best of Bros: Keith Lee and Matt Riddle

WWNLive via YouTube, 7/7

This may go as no shock as I am a fan of ~both these guys~, but this is another solid mini-doc from Kenny Johnson. This is the first I’ve seen of a promotion focusing on Riddle’s Altered Bro moments, and the digital effects applied there are great.

Also, this shows off their Evolve 87 match as the must-see it was, as well as giving more spotlight to Keith Lee’s charisma, and attention to the issue of being friendly with someone who’s out to get you. Riddle didn’t show up to aide Lee at Evolve 88, and this could be shown as reason why, with The Bro not wanting his strongest competition at full-strength. Or he’s just a prick like John Cena who doesn’t do anything when his “friends” get attacked.

Honorable Mentions:

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Zack Sabre Jr. vs Tomohiro Ishii, IWGP US Championship Tournament match

New Japan G1 Special Night 2, 7/2

The inclusion of Tomohiro Ishii is one of the things about the G1 Special in the US events that makes me the most jealous, considering The Stone Pitbull didn’t show up at the ROH / NJPW War of The Worlds NYC PPV.

This event gave the LA audience everything I wanted, and then some. Of the matches they got, I preferred his match against ZSJ because you rarely see Ishii in submission matches, and this showed he’s great there too. Also, loved the insane move of ZSJ’s trying to go strike for strike with the walking, talking human version of Ben Grimm aka The Thing.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Kenny Omega vs Jay Lethal, New Japan G1 Special Night 2, 7/2
  • Tomohiro Ishii vs Kenny Omega, New Japan G1 Special Night 2, 7/2
  • Young Bucks vs ROPPONGI Vice, New Japan G1 Special Night 2, 7/2
  • Kay Lee Ray vs Toni Storm ©, Progress Chapter 50
  • CCK vs BSS, Progress Chapter 50
  • Ethan Page vs Keith Lee, Evolve 88, 7/8
  • Darby Allin vs “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams, Evolve 88, 7/8
  • ACH vs. Fred Yehi for the Evolve World Championship #1 Contender position, Evolve 88, 7/8

WWE Match of The Week:

AJ Styles vs Chad Gable

SmackDown LIVE, 7/4

I was split this week on the E’s best match, because both were great, but also predictable. But while I enjoyed Roode being despicable, I cared more about the continuation of Chad Gable’s solo sojourn.

As Gable said in a backstage interview afterwards, the tag division is a little packed at the moment. If they need solid solo matches to get the audiences to care more about American Alpha, so be it.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Segment of the Week:

The Rap Battle: The New Day vs The Usos

SmackDown LIVE, 7/4

The first great rap-related segment in WWE history, and it had bars for days. Haven’t seen it somehow? Find another version than the one below, as WWE left off the best bar.

Honorable Mentions:

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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?

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Watch This Wrestling 6 (2/10 – 16)

Welcome back, and yes, I’ve changed the name of this gimmick from the imprecise “Don’t Miss This” to “Watch This Wrestling.” So without further preamble, here’s what you need to see from the last week of pro wrestling.

WWE Match of the Week:

John Cena vs AJ Styles vs Bray Wyatt for the WWE Championship

WWE SmackDown Live, 2/14

While the 2017 Elimination Chamber is the match that got all of the attention this week, I prefer the WWE Championship rematch that took place two nights later. Why? The Chamber match had a slow, stilted pace, or at least it did until it was just these last three.

So, not only did SmackDown Live’s triple threat match between John Cena, AJ Styles and Bray Wyatt rule, it did so while playing on our expectations.

That “A Wild Luke Harper Appears!” moment at the top of the match existed in-part to toy with fans worried that Wyatt’s run would last a mere 47 hours. Further, while we knew to expect great things whenever Cena and Styles face off, this confirmed that Wyatt and Styles is a top-flight pairing that will do well in the future. I look forward to their post-Mania program.

Non-WWE Match of the Week:

Tetsuya Naito vs Michael Elgin for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship

NJPW, The New Beginning in Osaka, 2/11

Pop some popcorn folks, because this one goes long (more than 35 minutes). And sure, some might not like it for its length (time constrained viewers should check out Shibata/Ospreay or Kamaitachi/Dragon Lee) but I believe the reward is worth the investment. Naito’s detachment and chill make for a perfect pairing with “Big Mike” who plays ever the angry, straight-forward, revenge-driven babyface.

The match shows Naito taking a ton of punishment, and makes Elgin look incredibly powerful. It even has a couple of surprising moves in it that I won’t spoil, just look out for Naito going for a Tope Suicido.

And while this match shows Naito working over Elgin’s injured knee and eye socket, the match isn’t overburdened with the moments where Elgin’s knee isn’t able to support him. Elgin’s expressions are great, too, especially his look of exhaustion and surprise when Naito kicks out later in the match after a sit-down powerbomb. 

Available here with NJPWorld Subscription .

WWE Segment of the Week:

The Festival of Friendship

WWE Monday Night Raw, 2/13 

I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but hot damn this was good. 

Haven’t watched it yet? Watch these clips and then read. In that order.

Even the intro, Jericho’s colorfully-lit pre-taped message that welcomed “ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, grandmothers and grandfathers,” to “The Wrestlemania of Camaraderie” was confoundingly weird.

I’ll be honest, I got lulled into a sense of security. Just as Graves looks startled by all the fireworks, I got bewildered the second I saw Jericho’s super-huge, extra-doofy smile. He wears that smile to close the video and as he walks out to split apart his feather dancers, and he just had me scratching my head.

Even knowing what we now know, Owens’ look of boredom doesn’t telegraph the ending, it just gives viewers this sense that he’s as confused as they are. From the blatantly homoerotic sculpture by Ralph Guggenheim (a name borrowed from a graphics designer from Toy Story) to The Creation of Kevin (“it’s art, you don’t need pants”) this segment is chock-a-block with laughs.

Also, note the Jericho line “true art grows on people,” because you need to rewatch this segment. Its pacing is perfect, with Jericho’s rapid-fire dialogue and Owens delivering deadpan line after deadpan line (“scarfs are your thing,” “Chris, where did you find Friendship The Magician?”).

You don’t even need to know about Triple H pulling Owens aside erlier and speaking likely-evils into his ear. But that added layer, that puppet master moment, gives the little flakes of humanity in Owens, which you see when he’s shaking his head wearily, hoping Jericho delivers Goldberg, to redeem the utter silly stupidity of this all. And the utter disappointment on Owens’ face when freaking Gillberg shows up. Yes, that’s how much Jericho cares about his best friend, he called up The J.O.B. Squad’s finest: Gillberg.

So as Owens says “I don’t understand!” to Jericho, he’s saying “What do you expect me to do? Triple H was right, you’re making me into a joke!” And then Jericho goes and says it all:

“For the last year, I gotta tell you, listen, I’ve had such a great time working with you, being your partner, it’s made this last year in the WWE one of my favorite years of my entire career.

And a lot of that’s because of you.

I’ve had a lot of friends in this business and a lot of partners but I haven’t had the chemistry with any of them like I have with you. It’s been a joy. You’ve made my job here and my time in the WWE here a better place, and I wanted to thank you for that.”

So when Jericho ends that emotional unfurling by promising Owens a Fast Lane win over Goldberg, we now know Owens cannot retain his title. We know that this friendship is doomed.

We don’t know who made The List of KO. It could be Owens, it could be Triple H. But once Owens decides to ask for it, it’s all over, and he’s relishing in the moment. Kevin Owens may have humanity (I think I see hints of him feeling guilty) but he also derives a terrible joy from destroying those who trust him.

So we heard the words

“How come my name’s on this?”

Then, after the brief beatdown, this gets the signatures of KO and Jericho. First, Owens giving Jericho the ring-apron powerbomb (Sami Zayn is chuckling somewhere) and then putting Jericho through the TV, just like Jericho put Shawn Michaels through the TV, as Michaels put Janetty through the barber shop window.

Oh, and check out the Samoa Joe interview with Michael Cole and Emmalina’s return if you missed those.

Non-WWE Segment of the Week:

The Broken Hardys in Tijuana Part 2

Impact Wrestling, 2/16

It’s almost as if everyone else saw the festival of friendship and thought, “well, no bother trying to top that.” Except that both the ROH and Impact this week were pre-taped and NJPW doesn’t really do non-match segments.

So, I can’t really credit Kevin & Chris for this one, but this segment (which I’m not even a huge fan of) is another Broken Matt bit that beats the field.
Here’s part 1 , 2 , 3 , and 4 .

I can’t stand The Wolves Breaking Up stuff, the Mini Moose & Big Moose setup for Jealous Cody’s Return, and especially Braxton Sutter’s Bachelor Party and Laurel Van Ness’s Bachelorette Party. Even Eli Drake & Titus’ segment stank.

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Don’t Miss This 4 (1/27 — 2/2)

WWE Match of the Week:

AJ Styles vs. John Cena for the WWE World Championship

Royal Rumble 2017, Sunday, 1/29

John Cena and AJ Styles have the best in-ring chemistry of any two singles wrestlers today, and this match cements it. If somehow you haven’t seen this match yet (and I don’t know how you’re reading this if you haven’t) turn this on now. And if you have, go back and watch again.

Remember how I said all the moves in the world couldn’t make me love Omega vs. Okada as much as everyone else? Cena working heel was such a surprise (well, not when you look back at his promo from SmackDown Live’s go-home show) and glued my eyes to this match. Further, the story of Cena emptying his bag of tricks (and the unspoken story of Cena working in an indieriffic style) make the moves mean something, rather than just looking impressive. This wasn’t Vince’s Cena, this was Cena the wrestling nerd.

It’s worth noting that for once a WWE main roster PPV out-did an NXT TakeOver, but it’s unfortunate that the stellar match from Roderick Strong and Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas on TakeOver: San Antonio got overshadowed by Big Match John and Some Guy From Georgia, but that’s how the weekend filled out.

Non-WWE Match of the Week:

Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Chris Hero

EVOLVE 77, 1/28 

Finally, I get to talk about an Evolve match in this piece. And let me tell you, this one’s fun. While its ending is on the predictable side (as Hero’s last match before he returns to WWE, it’s expected for him to “go out on his back”) there’s enough false-finishes to make you second guess conventional wisdom.

Evolve set this match up with a promo on the previous night where Zack Sabre Jr. said “When I finally beat you in an EVOLVE ring, then Chris Hero can stay, and ‘Kassius Ohno’ can piss off back to Florida" with that finally emphasizing that Mr. Death By Elbow has had the Brit’s number for a while now. Of course, Lenny Leonard emphasized this on commentary, but it helped tell the story for those in attendance who may not have known.

The match itself worked me so well because it gave Sabre Jr. a chance to emphasize his striking ability, giving his offense some dimensionality. From the running boot near the beginning to the forearms at the end, Mr. Armbar is getting to show depth. Thinking about the WWE style, it’s also nice to watch Hero get one last change to work so brutally, with elbows from here to eternity and every kind of piledriver he could think of.

You can watch Evolve 77 on FloSlam.

WWE Segment of the Week:

Unexpected Backstage Footage

NXT, 12/1

And from A Hero’s Farewell we naturally transition to Ohno’s Return. I went into this past weekend wondering how Nakamura will lose the title (it’s felt like Roode’s win was in the cards for a month), if the appearance of Kassius Ohno at an NXT taping to suggest he’s coming for Nakamura’s Title was to be canonical. Now, it seems like that footage will be tossed away forever.

I give so much preamble because I don’t want to spell out what happens here, just to tell you to find it and watch. I started this episode late and knew something was going to happen but not like this. Which makes it something I’d like to recognize. WWE surprising me, the rarest of rarities.

No video to share of it here, just open it on the network, and enjoy this. The rest of the episode is good for moments too, such as the post-Rumble interview with Tye Dillinger but especially that farewell package for Corey Graves , which had me feeling emotions. I didn’t get to watch WWE 24: Wrestlemania Dallas prior to writing this, but since that’s a documentary, it didn’t feel like it necessarily fit. I hear the Big E & Xavier ❤ Kofi stuff is excellent, though.

Non-WWE Segment of the Week:

A Hero’s Goodbye

EVOLVE 77, 1/28

By this point, you’re probably able to see how fond I am of Chris Hero, but this segment worked both for EVOLVE as a promotion and for the individual performers, as humans.

Those with more old fashioned sensibilities may not like this segment, as it’s an even more transparent version of the MSG Curtain Call, but as a fan of each guy, I sure dug it. From Hero talking about how he met Zack Sabre Jr. and saw the kid coming up to asking who Zack Sabre Sr. is, we got a chance to see them appreciate each other for how they bring out their best.

Then, to have ACH come out and hear Hero reveal what the A stands for, and to see him appreciate the two competitors, was also great. Around this time you see the other talent lining up to make their goodbyes, and you think about what Hero means to the independent scene. That maybe he’s their hero too.

Lastly, though, the setup of the championship title picture, starting by Hero calling Stokely Hathaway the valet of Tim Thatcher, has my brain buzzing. ACH nominating himself as a contender worked, as did Hathaway laughing them all off. Thathcher himself, though, tied it all together with his appearance and a single gesture.

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Don’t Miss This 3 (1/20 — 26)

WWE Match of the Week:

Sami Zayn vs. Seth Rollins, for a spot in the Royal Rumble.

Monday Night Raw 1/23 

By now you know what happened with this one, but I still need to call it out anyways. Everything about it works, from the well-paced match to how it advanced something for everyone.

Sami’s into the Rumble where he can work out his aggression with Strowman. Rollins’ feud with Triple H gets the jumper cables (thankfully not from Kane). And the Foley/Steph distrust comes back.

WWE Segment of the Week:

AJ Styles Called Out John Cena

SmackDown Live, 1/24 

I give this point to John Cena who is still cold blooded when he needs to be. While I originally gave this spot to Mickie James (love her distaste for how Women’s Revolution erases her work), I had to pick Cena because this flipped my pick for the Rumble.

This felt like Cena flipped his switch back into serious mode and that he’s actually going for it tonight. That promo broke AJ apart so much that I can’t help but imagine the trajectory now sees Styles losing the belt at the Royal Rumble.

Also, note the shades of Cena’s The Doctor of Thuganomics gimmick when he yelled out I’m A Bad Bad Man.

Non-WWE Match of the Week:

Will Ospreay vs. Dragon Lee vs. KUSHIDA

ROH Wrestling, 1/23 

You might be familiar with the Ospreay from his match against Ricochet at Best of the Super Juniors last year. If you’d like some more wacky and wild flippy stuff (specifically, 50 percent more) this is for you.

https://dailymotion.com/video/x59vqkz

NJPW’s Kushida sometimes can’t keep up with Ospreay, but CMLL’s Dragon Lee gets time to shine here (which he didn’t at Final Battle in December). Still, though, Ospreay made the biggest impact on me here, especially with his standing shooting star press to break up a pinfall.

Non-WWE Segment of the Week:

New Impact Grand Champion Drew Galloway Promos

Impact Wrestling, 1/26 

The current I’m here to save you all heel gimmick that Drew Galloway is working is so good no matter where he is. I first saw it work in Evolve, but here in Impact, he’s still preaching that he’s the man to save the company. And as we all know, Impact needs all the help it can get.

Galloway is so boo-ably heelish in fact that this made me want to watch the TNA Grand Championship match it led to, so I could see him get his comeuppance. Unfortunately, the Impact Zone crowd still cheered him, and the Grand Championship matches stayed unwatchable.

No video of this, so you probably can’t find it without POP or a torrent of Impact. Not going to say it’s great enough for either of those though.