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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 13 (3/31 – 4/5)

Oh what a week. In short: WrestleMania Weekend isn’t just about WWE. When WrestleMania comes to town, it draws in more other promotions than any fan can manage to see. Which means so many promotions are active at the same damn time.

In a way, that means these weekends might be best viewed at home. I was able to stream more than enough (but not all, we’ll get to that) wrestling, thanks to FloSlam, the FITE app and the WWE network. As someone who attended WrestleMania 30 in New Orleans, I can say that seeing all of the shows in any city without public transit (such as New York) will require significant pre-trip mapping and plotting and familiarity with taxis and ubers. Or, getting a rental car.

So while I will have watched around 42 hours of wrestling for this edition, there was even more. So, if you find yourself looking for more than what I list, the HighSpots network has the stuff that even I missed. Let this be a warning to you, kiddos, if you go to WrestleMania in New Orleans next year, which I hope to, you might need to take a time management class first.

You might have noticed that I didn’t list WWNLive.com when I talked about streaming services, which is weird considering I did use it for Progress. Going forward, you ought to be wary of live events from there, as the promotion fell on its face trying to stream Progress: Orlando. It claimed that a denial of service attack was involved, but I’m suspicious that the company couldn’t handle the stress of Progress fans. Refunds for that event are due some time this week(!).

Lastly, a note. You might notice that the dates on this week are a little shorter than a full week. Looking at when exactly the graps take place, I’ve decided that future roundups will start on Thursday and end on Wednesday. Think it might help get this thing up faster.

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:

  • PROGRES: Orlando, 3/31
  • EVOLVE 81, 3/31
  • WWE Hall of Fame, 3/31
  • Kaiju Big Battel, 3/31
  • WCPW Pro Wrestling World Cup: Scottish Qualifier , 3/31
  • Ethan Page: I Hate WrestleMania Weekend, 3/31
  • WrestleCon Supershow, 3/31
  • Ring of Honor: Supercard of Honor XI, 4/1
  • NXT TakeOver: Orlando, 4/1
  • WWN Supershow, 4/1
  • Beyond Wrestling, 4/1
  • Full Impact Pro, 4/2
  • WrestleMania 33, 4/2
  • Monday Night Raw, 4/3
  • WWE Ride Along, 4/3
  • ROH Wrestling, 4/3
  • NJPW Road to SAKURA GENESIS 2017, 4/4
  • SmackDown Live, 4/4
  • 205 Live, 4/4
  • Talking Smack Live, 4/4
  • NXT, 4/5

Non-WWE Match of the Week:

Keith Lee vs Donovan Dijak

EVOLVE 81, 3/31

So, damn it was hard to pick just the non-WWE match of the week, so boy are there a ton of suggestions below. But yeah, this match is a delight.

A hoss fight, if you don’t know, is when you take two (or more) big boy wrestlers and have them settle their differences in the ring. Keith Lee and Donovan Dijak, though, was an ultra hoss fight. They were doing all kinds of moves you don’t expect from such huge dudes. Like Keith Lee’s monkey flip, or his corkscrew plancha off the apron.

The match was so intense that the crowd started an “OH! Bask in, his gloooorrrrry!” chant ala Zack Sabre Jr.’s “Seven Nation Army” chant. A much watch if you like big dudes, and still something you should check out to see what they can do when they’re not a bunch of Great Khalis.

EVOLVE 81 is available on the FloSlam network.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Fred Yehi vs Matt Riddle, EVOLVE 81, 3/31
  • Darby Allin vs Ethan Page, an Anything Goes Match, EVOLVE 81, 3/31
  • Travis Banks & TK Cooper (South Pacific Power Trip) vs Sami Callihan & Shane Strickland, PROGRESS in Orlando, 3/31
  • Tyler Bate © vs Mark Andrews for the WWE UK Championship, PROGRESS in Orlando, 3/31
  • Team Ricochet (Richocet, Jason Cade, Sami Callihan, AR Fox & Desmond Xavier) vs Team Ospreay (Osprey, Lio Rush, Drew Galloway, Ryan Smile, & Marty Scurll), WrestleCon Supershow, 3/31
  • Marty Scurll vs Adam Cole, ROH TV Title MatchRing of Honor: Supercard of Honor XI, 4/1
  • The Young Bucks vs Matt and Jeff Hardy, ROH Tag Team Ladder Match, Ring of Honor: Supercard of Honor XI, 4/1
  • Travis Banks & TK Cooper (South Pacific Power Trip) vs Catch Point, WWN Supershow, 4/1

Non-WWE Segment of the Week:

Ethan Page: I Hate WrestleMania Weekend

YouTube / Ethan Page, 3/31

One of two back-to-back award winners this week, Ethan Page’s YouTube channel continues to reward those who know about it. This week, that means we’re treated to a tirade about WrestleMania Weekend. Specifically, Page goes after the smart fans who constantly put themselves over in the stands and annoy him for not keeping kayfabe going at the merch booth.

Maybe some day he’ll be in the WWE and complain about how shitty it is that fans bring beach balls to the shows of WrestleMania week.

Honorable Mention:

WWE Match of the Week

DIY vs The Revival vs Authors of Pain ©

NXT TakeOver: Orlando, 4/1

As should be expected, the WWE tag team match featuring The Revival was the best damn match from the promotion, writ-large.

The story going into this match was that Akam and Rezar, The Authors of Pain, a pair of impossibly thick, big boys are just unbeatable. Not only are they good at fighting, but they’ve got the tag team wrestling genius, the former Road Warriors manager, Paul Ellering giving them orders.

That combination led to them beating fan favorites DIY (Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa) for the titles, and then getting in the targets of former champs The Revival (Scott Dawson, Dash Wilder). Also, The Revival and DIY are true rivals, so everyone comes into this with reason to hate the other teams.

So while this match begins as a triple-threat, the two smaller teams unite and turn it into a 4 on 2. From the differing combinations (Gargano & Dawson; Ciampa & Wilder) to the powerbomb spot, it’s all just glorious. Also, the moment with the air getting sucked out of the room is practically a tiny tribute to first eliminated team’s ability.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Asuka vs Ember Moon, NXT TakeOver: Orlando, 4/1
  • Shane McMahon vs AJ Styles, WrestleMania 33, 4/2
  • Kevin Owens vs Chris Jericho, WrestleMania 33, 4/2

WWE Segment of the Week

The Booing of Roman Reigns

Monday Night Raw, 4/3

Absent from the above list is Roman Reigns vs The Undertaker in a Battle for The Yard match. What may not have been obvious at the start, but feels like it now, is the fact that this was the most hamfisted retirement stip ever.

And so Monday Night Raw began with the most iconic moment in years. Following a replay of the retirement of the most beloved zombie ever, the crowd let loose with chants.

The following chants take place, in this order:

“Un-der-ta-ker!”
“Ro-man-Sucks!”
Roman Reigns’ music hits. Roman enters the arena, and then the ring.
A torrential downpour of boos hits.
“DELETE!”
“Fuck! You! Roman!”
Reigns mouths the words, “I’ve got you in the palm of my hand”
“YOU SUCK!” (not ironically, as with Kurt Angle)
Every time Reigns moves the mic to his mouth, the crowd boos harder and harder.
“ASS!HOLE!”
“RO! MAN! SUCKS!”, in the key of “New Day Rocks”
“SHUT! THE! FUCK! UP!” (to a man who hasn’t said a word yet)
Roman Reigns: “This is my yard now.”

End Scene. And with that, the WWE may have accepted Roman Reigns’ place as a heel. We’ll know better next week but this was a very good sign.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Kurt Angle meets Enzo and Big Cass, Monday Night Raw, 4/3
  • Welcome to NXT, Drew … McIntyre?, NXT TakeOver: Orlando, 4/1
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Watch This Wrestling 12 (3/24 – 30)

This week’s going to be kind of an abridged edition, because I’ll be publishing the next week’s edition very soon after this. So, no Upcoming Watch List, as most of that’s already happened.

If I’m missing anything @ me on twitter: @henrytcasey.

What I Watched:

  • WCPW Pro Wrestling World Cup: UK Qualifier, 3/25
  • NJPW Road to Sakura Genesis, 3/26
  • ROH Wrestling, 3/27
  • Monday Night Raw, 3/27
  • WWE 24: WrestleMania Monday, 3/27
  • SmackDown Live, 3/28
  • 205 Live, 3/28
  • Talking Smack Live, 3/28
  • Kurt Angle: Oh, It’s True…It’s True!, 3/28
  • EVOLVE Mini-Doc: Keith Lee – YouTube 3/28
  • NXT, 3/29
  • Progress: Freedom’s Road 6
  • EVOLVE 80, 3/30
  • GCW – Joey Janela’s Spring Break!, 3/30
  • WWE Bring it to the Table, 3/30

Non-WWE Segment of The Week:

We Haven’t Seen The Worst Of Ethan Page?!?!

YouTube / Ethan Page

Most indie shows don’t give promos a lot of time in the ring, so it can be on the talent to make it happen. Ethan Page’s YouTube, therefore, is something that Evolve should be sponsoring for its benefit to the company.

Remember when Undertaker started crafting videos and sending them in as teasers? Remember how that didn’t really make much sense? Who taught this guy how to edit? Page, as the obsessive asshole looking to ruin moments for Johnny Gargano and Zack Sabre Jr., and spending all his time crafting and cutting these videos and rants, works in a very easy way.

Honorable Mention:

Non-WWE Match of the Week:

Jason Kincaid vs Jaka vs Lio Rush

EVOLVE 80, 3/30

In a surprise move, Lio Rush was added to this match at bell-time, turning it into a Three-way freestyle match. And while the meditating Kincaid and yelling Jaka can both go, the addition of Rush turned this match into hyper-mode.

And if anyone hadn’t seen Mr. Rush Hour before, now they know who to keep an eye out for going forward. Love the teased team-ups and backstabbing, and how his speed contrasted with Jaka’s size and strength and how his cocky charisma worked with Kincaid’s nonsense. Proved that he’s able to work with all type.

Evolve 80 can be found on the FloSlam subscription service.

Honorable Mention:

  • Drew Galloway vs Ricochet, WCPW World Cup UK Qualifier Bonus Match, 3/25
  • Joey Janela’s Spring Break Clusterfuck: Arik Cannon vs Bryan Idol vs Crazy Boy vs Dink vs Ethan Page vs Façade vs Glacier vs Invisible Man vs Jervis Cottonbelly vs Jimmy Lloyd vs John Silver vs Travis Gordon vs Veda Scott, 3/30
  • Dan “The Beast” Severn vs Matt Riddle from Joey Janela’s Spring Break!, 3/30

WWE Segment of the Week:

The Redemption of Crossfit Jesus Seth Rollins

Monday Night Raw, 3/27

The Seth Rollins Face Turn had been a catastrophe. For months, crowds limply cheered for the guy as he yelled at Stephanie about Triple H. Then Rollins gets injured, and the heat gets transferred to Samoa Joe, and it becomes about Joe and Triple H.

But then on the go-home Raw before Mania, everything finally snapped into place. Seth danced around the topic of betraying Roman and Dean, but sold his humble state of mind with regret about selling out to Trips. Sure this match could end his career, but that’s how much he needs redemption.

WWE Match of the Week:

Johnny Gargano vs Akam vs Dash Wilder

NXT, 3/29

In a solid tease of what’s likely the following week’s WWE Match of the Week, NXT gave a triple-threat version of its tag team titles match. Everything here shows the creativity of the superstars at work, especially  the teased team-up between Wilder and Gargano and the sneaky chicanery of The Revival.

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Watch This Wrestling 11 (3/17 — 23)

What a solid week for professional wrestling.

WWE segments fired on all cylinders in the lead up to WrestleMania, but it also released something for the superfans by unveiling newly-found footage of a promotion we’ve never heard of before. Outside of the E, we got a great PPV from PROGRESS, an OK New Japan tournament and even some neat videos from EVOLVE.

Here’s what I watched for this week’s edition and what I’m planning to watch from the 24th through the 30th. If I’m missing anything that can be accessed without too much trouble, @ me on twitter: henrytcasey.

What I Watched:

  • Southpaw Regional Wrestling, 3/17
  • New Japan Cup 3/17
  • wXw 16 Carat Gold (Night 1), 3/17 (tried night 2, it bored me)
  • WCPW: Matt Riddle vs Cody, 3/18
  • New Japan Cup 3/19
  • PROGRESS Ch. 45: Galvanize, 3/19 (via On Demand on 3/23) 
  • New Japan Cup 3/20
  • ROH Wrestling, 3/20
  • WWE Monday Night Raw, 3/20
  • WWE Ride Along, 3/20
  • New Japan Cup 3/20
  • EVOLVE Mini-Doc: Catch Point “Everything Is Under Control”, 3/20
  • WWE SmackDown Live, 3/21
  • WWE 205 Live, 3/21
  • WWE Talking Smack Live, 3/21
  • WWE NXT, 3/22
  • WWNLive’s YouTube: “Jason Kincaid – Overwhelming Gratitude” 3/23

My Upcoming Watch list:

  • ROH Wrestling, 3/27
  • WWE Monday Night Raw, 3/27
  • WWE SmackDown Live, 3/28
  • WWE 205 Live, 3/28
  • WWE Talking Smack Live, 3/28
  • WWE NXT, 3/29
  • EVOLVE 80, 3/30
  • GCW – Joey Janela’s Spring Break!, 3/30
  • WWE Bring it to the Table, 3/30

WWE Match of The Week:

The Usos vs American Alpha © for the tag team titles

SmackDown Live, 3/21

SmackDown’s tag division has been on life-support ever since the Alphas won. Sure, I love the former NXT champs and want to see them get their moment, but nothing ever interesting happened during their time as champs.

So thank god for The Usos, who’ve done wonders building themselves up as swaggering heels. Also, credit to WWE for putting this eventful barnburner on free TV. Much like Bayley winning before Mania, this division was dampened by its babyfaces holding the titles going into the biggest show of the year. Now, both teams have momentum to get a pre-show match on the Mania card, and I’m hoping it goes for two out of three falls.

And to be a bitter smark, I need to take an aside here. Yet again , SmackDown Live’s best match didn’t get the spotlight it deserved. Instead, the main event of this show went to a crap segment featuring Shane McMahon’s shitty punches and inability to actually connect on his flying elbow. Sure, it was impressive that he made it as far as he did, but reminded me of that spot between him and Roman Reigns at Instantly made a dead division matter. 2:3 falls at Mania?

Honorable mentions:

WWE Segment of The Week:

Tie: Southpaw Regional Wrestling & Total Bellas Bullsh**

YouTube.com/WWE, 3/17 & SmackDown Live, 3/21

Sure Southpaw Regional Wrestling got the whole wrestling internet talking and watch it if you haven’t (I bet you have), but the Total Bellas Bullsh** segments share top billing.

Not only did they succeed by making Cena’s unwillingness to propose to Nikki the elephant in the room, but they were hilarious. Maryse has been back for how long and we didn’t know she was this funny? Her timing is excellent and the line “I’m the one wearing the hat!” had me cackling. The first bit was so good it earned a sequel.

Things got better with Breezy Bella … who you need to see to believe. Two bonus clips, then:

Honorable mentions:

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Jinny vs Nixon Newell

PROGRESS Ch. 45: Galvanize, 3/19 — went up on demand on 3/23

This match was a semi-final in the PROGRESS Women’s Championship Natural PROGRESSion tournament, which will crown the promotion’s first women’s champion.

Because I’m just starting with PROGRESS, I kinda needed this match to show me where it is in regard to women’s wrestling. Sure, Ch. 44’s, Dahlia Black vs Session Moth Martina was entertaining, but it didn’t grab me as much, partially because it was a comedy match.

PROGRESS Ch. 45 is available via https://demandprogress.pivotshare.com/

Honorable mentions:

  • WCPW: Matt Riddle vs Cody, 3/18
  • Katsuyori Shibata vs Tomohiro Ishii, New Japan Cup 3/19
  • Jay White vs Jay Briscoe, ROH Wrestling, 3/20
  • British Strong Style (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate) vs South Pacific Power Trip (TK Cooper & Travis Banks with Dahlia Black), PROGRESS Ch. 45, 3/19
  • Mark Andrews vs Will Ospreay, PROGRESS Ch. 45, 3/19
  • Jimmy Havoc vs Pete Dunne, PROGRESS Ch. 45, 3/19

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

Jason Kincaid – Overwhelming Gratitude

WWNLive’s YouTube, 3/23

I don’t know about the rest of the EVOLVE audience, but I’ve been trying to figure out what to make of Jason Kincaid since I first saw him wrestle. He’s a meditating beardo with a style that confuses the shit out of his opponents, but always seems to impress.

So, I thank EVOLVE and its parent company WWN for finally committing to defining the gimmick. More importantly, credit to Kincaid for making it work so well.

Honorable mentions:

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Watch This Wrestling 9 (3/3–9)

Well, that was an interesting week of professional wrestling.

Not only did the Broken Hardys jump ship (more on that later), but we saw a great heel turn in New Japan (which I won’t spoil, but is in one of the matches I mention), WWE put on a mostly-bad PPV (Fastlane) and then signed a major talent out of Stardom (we’ll be learning more about her in the future) and of course, TNA fell the fuck apart.

Impact Wrestling was so bad, that I’m actually thinking about finally dropping it from my weekly wrestling diet. How did it get that bad? Well, the big plot through the entire show is a Josh Matthews & Jeremy Borash feud. That’s all I believe I need to say for now, if it’s this bad this week, I’ll be cutting them out.

So, here’s the list of what I watched, the list of what I plan to watch, and of course, what you came here for, the awards for best of the week.

What I Watched:

  • Progress Wrestling Ch. 44: Old Man Yells At Sky, finally went on-demand on 3/3
  • Ring of Honor: Manhattan Mayhem VI, ¾
  • WWE Fastlane, 3/5
  • NJPW 45 Anniversary Event, Night 1 3/6
  • ROH Wrestling, 3/6
  • WWE Monday Night Raw, 3/6
  • WWE Ride Along, 3/6
  • WWE SmackDown Live, 3/7
  • WWE 205 Live, 3/7
  • WWE Talking Smack Live, 3/7
  • NJPW 45 Anniversary Event, Night 2 3/7
  • WWE NXT, 3/8
  • Impact Wrestling, 3/9
  • Drew Galloway vs Will Ospreay from WCPW Exit Wounds, released on YouTube on 3/9

Watch list:

  • New Japan Cup 3/11, 12
  • ROH Wrestling, 3/13
  • WWE Monday Night Raw, 3/13
  • WWE SmackDown Live, 3/14
  • WWE 205 Live, 3/14
  • WWE Talking Smack Live, 3/14
  • WWE NXT, 3/15
  • Impact Wrestling, 3/16 (last shot)
  • Chikara Blink, if they release it
  • Progress Ch. 1, if I have the time
  • Finish PWG BOLA 2016

WWE Match of the Week:

Jack Gallagher vs Neville ©

WWE Fastlane, 3/5

I’ll make this short and sweet: Jackie Boy and Adrian saved the god damn show for Vince & co. This match had the unfortunate position of going on after two Raw segments featuring Handsome Rusev & Hardbody Mahal, and brought the Milwaukee crowd back to life. Tons of fun, stiff work, and Gallagher’s head-butts show that he’s no joke.

WWE Fastlane is available on the WWE Network

Non-WWE Match of the Week:

Jimmy Havoc, Mark Haskins & Morgan Webster vs British Strong Style (Pete Dunne, Trent Seven & Tyler Bate)

Progress Wrestling Ch. 44: Old Man Yells At Sky

WWE fans may be familiar with the three lads of British Strong Style, but I’d like to use this match to welcome Progress Wrestling to my viewing habits. Top to bottom, Chapter 44 was a great show, but I’d like to talk about this match for its solid use of good & evil dynamics.

While I’ve heard that Jimmy Havoc is an amazing heel, the crowd treated him and his team of loosely aligned alternative lads as the faces. All three of them got positive reactions, as they were each returning from injury, but Mark Haskins got huge pops. That much fan love and the fact that he looks a little like CM Punk was enough to grab my attention.

And then, wow, British Strong Style. I know they were heels before now (story beats taking place last August and last December ), but WWE fans might be surprised to see Trent Seven and Tyler Bate in the roles of villains alongside Pete Dunne. The three of them are delightfully rotten, spending their time flipping off the crowd and having Bate brandish his UK Championship in a way that says, “we’re leaving soon, get used to it.”

The match itself is nice too, with tons of great including a dive out of the ring into a spike DDT by Havoc and a brutal-looking ring apron dragon suplex by Trent Seven onto Havoc. My one issue with the match is that it was a bit heavy on triple moves, where a whole team does the same thing to the other team. It always risks looking especially choreographed.

The match also played with its stipulation well, with a title shot going to either Havoc, Haskins or Webster if that man gained the pinfall or submission victory. At first, this leads them to jockey for the win, but eventually, they all work together, since they realize this isn’t something to risk.

Progress Wrestling is streaming via Pivotshare , with events going up around a week after they happen.

Honorable mentions:

WWE Segment of the Week:

Sami Zayn & Neville Laugh It Up

WWE Ride Along, 3/6

We have enough podcasts hosted by current and former wrestlers, but the banter shown by these who makes me want them both to have a show. From Sami’s coffee nerdery to what Sami’s jealous of Neville about, this had me in that painful laughter.

WWE Ride Along is available on the WWE Network

Honorable Mentions:

Non-WWE Segment of the Week:

House Hardy’s Expedition of Gold Reaches The Honorable Ring

Ring of Honor: Manhattan Mayhem VI, ¾

Manhattan Mayhem VI wasn’t a pay-per-view, but it certainly got the attention of one in its aftermath. In the week leading up to it, we learned that The Broken Hardys (who had been working with Ring of Honor’s Young Bucks) were leaving Impact (fka TNA), and so the buzz of “will they return to WWE?” had already began, but nobody was asking much about the Hardys’ planned work with ROH. The Bucks and the Hardys had planned to face in Orlando at a WrestleMania week event, but that was it right?

Wrong. And I was there to capture this video of the whole shebang.

Ring of Honor: Manhattan Mayhem VI is available via VOD on the Fite app and at ROHwrestling.com

Honorable Mentions:

  • South Pacific Power Couple’s Entrance from Progress Wrestling Ch. 44: Old Man Yells At Sky (imagine this, but down the entrance ramp)
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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 5 (2/3 – 9)

WWE Match of the Week:

The 205 Live Fatal 5-Way Elimination Match

205 Live, 2/7

As should be the case more often, the best wrestling in the last week in the WWE happened on 205 Live. The show, designed to be a path to superstardom for performers from the Cruiserweight Classic, was struggling to find its sea legs until around the time that Neville returned from injury with an undercut hairstyle and complete badassery. This match took the five most-over other guys in the division: Cedric Alexander, Mustafa Ali, Noam Dar, Jack Gallagher, and T.J. Perkins, and let them shine.

From submission holds to high-flying moves, this match let each performer show off why they are on the WWE roster. While the surprise victory probably doesn’t mean anything (I doubt he’s beating Neville, this match gives hope for those who worried about the division. Shows all they need is time and stakes. Oh, and the dickishness of Noam Dar. That’s essential.

Non-WWE Match of the Week

Donovan Dijak vs. Chris Sabin vs. Alex Shelley vs. Lio Rush vs. Jay White vs. Jonathan Gresham

ROH Wrestling, 2/5, available on the FITE app for free.

So, it wasn’t a great week for televised (or even streamed) matches outside of WWE this week, but watch this match to enjoy a good spectacle of frenetic wrestling. Not only should you know Lio Rush’s name by now, but check out the big man Donovan Dijak, who is as big and agile enough for Vince to have signed him years ago.

Also, a fun fact about Dijak: he’s left ROH. Expect to see him in Evolve in March and probably in NXT by the year’s end.

WWE Segment of the Week:

Nikki, Natalya, and John Cena

The Natalya vs. Nikki Bella storyline taking place on SmackDown Live (which arguably started at Survivor Series) is one of the better but least buzzed about feuds in the WWE at this moment. It’s been driven by Natalya, who finally found that she can be compelling on the mic, though only as an utter savage.

So it’s great to see this scene, which ties everything together for Survivor Series. From Nikki talking about John letting her fight her own fights to Natalya’s BRU-TAL run-in to Cena almost convincingly act like he didn’t know what happened while he was off camera. It sets up the Elimination Chamber match as well as future stuff between Nikki and Cena.

Honorable mention: NXT, 2/8 Points to Bobby Roode for laughing his ass off after saying “no wait, of course I’m the kind of guy who loves to point out he was right.

Non-WWE Segment of the Week

The Broken Hardys Expedition Of Gold

Impact Wrestling, 2/9

So you’ve probably heard that Broken Matt Hardy has been threatening to take the tag titles from teams in other promotions, such as ROH’s Young Bucks. And while that’s actually booked for Mania weekend this April in Orlando, he’s also made less-likely challenges to WWE’s The Wyatt and New Day.

So while this all seems unlikely, the Hardys managed to surprise again on Impact, using a new and improved Vanguard 1 drone. Jeff got to play the role of the doubter this week, asking Matt to explain his plot to jump over to other promotions, which is based around using Vanguard 1, the sass-mouthed drone that can now teleport the Hardys. I’ll shut up now, so you can watch and find out their first stop.

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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.

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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.