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Watch This Wrestling 23 (6/11–17)

A salad-days week for WWE was only emphasized by a banner show from NJPW. Nothing more needed to be said, really. Apologies for the lateness here, this was delayed by my attending the Johnny Kidd Invitational (more on that later) and the insanity that was Money In The Bank 2017.

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

What I Watched

  • NJPW: Dominion, 6/11
  • Monday Night Raw, 6/12
  • ROH Wrestling, 6/12
  • SmackDown LIVE, 6/13
  • 205 Live, 6/13
  • Talking Smack Live, 6/13
  • NXT, 6/14
  • Lucha Underground, 6/14

Upcoming Watch List

  • Chikara: Johnny Kidd Invitational, 6/18
  • Money In The Bank, 6/18
  • Monday Night Raw, 6/19
  • ROH Wrestling, 6/19
  • SmackDown LIVE, 6/20
  • 205 Live, 6/20
  • Talking Smack Live, 6/20
  • NXT, 6/21
  • Lucha Underground, 6/21

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

KUSHIDA vs Hiromu Takahashi AND Kenny Omega vs Kazuchika Okada

NJPW: Dominion, 6/11

Here’s a first, we’ve got a draw. Yep, I can’t choose between IWGP Jr. Heavyweight and Heavyweight championship title matches, one of which … well …

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SPOILER ALERT!
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Yes, Omega/Okada 2 ending in a time-limit draw gave me the confidence to let this end in a draw. Both of these matches did one thing unquestionably better than the other, and that’s why I can’t pick. And I feel like I’ve earned a draw, having waited 23 weeks to do so.

Omega vs Okada 2 has the dramatic storytelling that made me scream. That included Omega finally hitting the One Winged Angel too near the rope, Cody being high-key in it for himself, Okada needing the terrible table and most importantly, Omega fainting as Okada tried to hit the Rainmaker lariat.

Unfortunately, it didn’t have the animus and the brevity of KUSHIDA vs Takahashi. That match felt like NJPW’s answer to the Owens vs Zayn feud, with brutal punches from the first bell. While I love Takahashi’s delirious, almost-drugged expressions, I still can’t care about KUSHIDA, because I can’t see much of his emotion.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Roppongi Vice vs Young Bucks, NJPW: Dominion, 6/11
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Naito, NJPW: Dominion, 6/11
  • Roppongi Vice and ? vs The Young Bucks and Adam Page, ROH, 6/12
  • The Mack vs Mala Suerte, Lucha Underground, 6/14
  • Pentagon Dark vs Argenis, Lucha Underground, 6/14

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

Cody Interrupts Okada

NJPW: Dominion, 6/11

I have not been a fan of Indie Cody, but here we got a solid character out of him. Not some asshat waffling between heel and face, but a cocky dick’ead.

By crashing the post-match press conference, insulting the face champ Okada, and stealing dude’s beer, this is a firm persona. Further, he even insulted his own stablemate Kenny Omega, when he said Okada’s afraid of facing a true superstar.

WWE Match of The Week:

Nikki Cross vs Ruby Riot vs Asuka

NXT, 6/14

I’ve been doing some back-reads on this blog and I’ve been disappointed with how it doesn’t get to give kudos to women’s wrestling matches. And while Raw and SmackDown Live don’t seem to be scratching that itch at the moment, NXT sure as hell did.

This title match match main-evented NXT, and even though some feel slighted by the quirks of its finish, I’m good with it. Yes, it didn’t make sense for the match to get thrown out when it’s a triple threat, before you realize it’s an elimination match, and by that point it was down to two. The non-finish to this match is good, as it leads to a one-on-one bout that will further showcase Nikki Cross.

WWE Segment of the Week:

Samoa Joe Interview

Monday Night Raw, 6/12

Yes, another week, another round of applause from yours truly for Joseph of Samoa. This guy is fire on the mic, and this promo is nearly-equal in importance to the pull-apart brawl that had him looking strong earlier in the show.

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Don’t Miss This 2 (1/13 – 1/19)

WWE Match of the Week:

Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate

WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament, 1/15 

What’s more amazing, that WWE’s match of the week featured two talents that never graced the E’s network until a week before it aired, or that these two are at this level at this young an age? I like to joke with my Ring Post co-host Myke Hurley that the rest of us hate him for his youth, but Tyler Bate’s goofy nineteen-year-old ass is another hamper of crazy-pants all-together.

First of all, I didn’t buy Bates at the start, especially due to his gee-golly ‘charm’ and the fact that his “I’ve got two fists” line ripped off James Ellsworth almost verbatim (though who knows, The Chinless Wonder might have been copying Bates).

But from the moment Pete Dunne popped up on the screen, I hated him and enjoyed it. He’s got the perfect aesthetic as a bully, and his combination of a sneer and his fist-against-jaw give me thoughts of Miz and Kevin Owens at the same time. Plus, he’s all packed into a Sami Callahan-esque frame that makes it all feel fresh.
But how did they get this match to be so awesome? 

Well, by keeping the two on a steady progression of heel and face dynamics and preceding the match with Bate winning Wolfie’s respect and Dunne’s run-in on Bate, trying to break his shoulder. That’s compact storytelling, and William Regal’s outrage (and Michael Cole’s focus on said outrage) tied it all together, man. That all made the match mean a lot. You had someone to cheer, someone to boo, and they both played their parts. 

 Bate and Dunne both look their respective parts as well, Bate looks like the kid who always gets picked on by Dunne’s bully, and they were able to show and not tell over the span of the night.
This match follows those expectations, and Dunne spends most of the match ravaging Bate’s shoulder, including a Kimura lock that looked downright grizzly. 

If you had to take the match by itself, I’d almost prefer Mark Andrews vs Pete Dunne (which I think had a better-paced finish) from the previous round, but this one just shows how much the story-telling can add.
The match made both of these guys huge, and I look forward to seeing what they have coming up. 

Here’s a short clip. Watch the whole thing on the Network.

Best WWE Segment of the Week:

The King’s Court with Jerry The King Lawler and Dolph Ziggler

SmackDown Live, 1/17 

I’ll be the first to say I’m shocked that I’m giving credit to Dolph Ziggler and Jerry Lawler. Both rank high on my “fall off this planet, please” list, and will likely stay there for some time. But since Degree of Difficulty matters for me when trying to compare wrestling moments, I need to give this segment its due.

Wrestling’s performed gimmicks always glimmer more when they’re fused with reality, and so it’s reasonable that a segment where Dolph Ziggler returned to finish the job of killing Jerry Lawler flat-out held me in its hands.
It’s the end of the simmer-segment of Ziggler’s heel turn, which is now at full-boil. 

Lawler’s also part of the Royal Rumble announce team, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see those two go at it. And in one segment (which draws from ages ago), they got me to care so much more about that confrontation than the inevitable Rollins & Triple H shmozz. I’ll admit that this probably worked so well for me because going shirtless-with-cape felt like it should shame Lawler a bit.

Best non-WWE Match of the Week:

Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada © IWGP Heavyweight Championship

NJPW on AXS, 1/13 

Yes, this match originally took place on January 4th, and you may know I’m not that hot on it, but the AXS TV version with Jim Ross aired for the first time on 1/13, and that’s how bad the wrestling outside of the WWE was this week. 

Also, I need to explain something. 

You know how Bate vs. Dunn had barely any buildup but strong face vs. heel dynamics and performances? Omega vs. Okada was the pinnacle of Good Moves and fast pacing at the end, but it had tons of build time but zero face vs. heel storytelling in the ring. As dramatic as it is to be the main event at Wrestle Kingdom at the Tokyo Dome, this match lost so much by not attempting anything aside from moves. 

The one story, if you’ll call it that, was “this is Kenny Omega trying to achieve, but he needs his finishing move and Okada won’t let him do it.” That’s so tiny, it gets lost in the scale of it all.
Amazing moves though, I can’t believe Okada’s neck is still intact after all of that. And good for Kenny Omega for finally getting the attention he’s earned.

Best non-WWE Segment of the Week:

Cody (Rhodes) Will Judge YOU, ROH Fans

Ring of Honor, 1/15 

This Cody right here: the post-Final Battle-heel turn on Jay Lethal, pre-Bullet Club, is the best version of Indie Cody the wrestler we cannot call Rhodes.
It creates solid, consistent loathing from the fans. Cody’s explanation of why he turned heel is that the ROH fans were going to judge him at Final Battle, but nobody judges him. That it’s the other way around, he’s here to judge us. Also, I won’t spoil anymore, except he gets point for use of the word “proboscis." 

Maybe some people don’t like fan heckling like "Where’s Your Sexy-Ass Wife?” yell here and the “STAAAAAR-DUUUUUUUSSSST” fan at that the debut Defy Wrestling show in Seattle, but it works so well overall. Cody trying to call security on the guy who asked where Eden was was hysterical.