Watch This Wrestling 34 (8/27—9/2)

This isn’t my tardiest post, but as I had said to expect, it wasn’t going to be one of the timely Sunday posts. BOLA was amazing, but also draining.

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

What I Watched

  • Monday Night Raw, 8/28
  • WWE Mae Young Classic Ep 1-4, 8/28
  • SmackDown LIVE, 8/29
  • 205 Live, 8/29
  • NXT, 8/30
  • Lucha Underground, 8/30
  • Pro Wrestling Guerrilla 2017 Battle of Los Angeles – Stage One, 9/1
  • Pro Wrestling Guerrilla 2017 Battle of Los Angeles – Stage Two, 9/2

Upcoming Watch List

  • Pro Wrestling Guerrilla 2017 Battle of Los Angeles – Final Stage, 9/3
  • Monday Night Raw, 9/4
  • WWE Mae Young Classic Ep 5-8, 9/4
  • SmackDown LIVE, 9/5
  • 205 Live, 9/5
  • NXT, 9/6
  • Lucha Underground, 9/6

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

An Unmasked Castro Meets With Dario Cueto

Lucha Underground, 8/30

A best in-name-only, as there wasn’t much to draw from this week. Being The Elite is getting stale and WWN seems to be in an off-week for YouTube content.

I liked this interaction, between Cueto and the fomerly-undercover cop who was in hiding in his underground wrestling club. Not only was it a surprise, because you don’t expect Castro to walk right into Dario’s office, but it pushed the ball forward in the feud with Joey Ryan.

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Flash Morgan Webster vs Marty Scurll

Pro Wrestling Guerrilla 2017 Battle of Los Angeles – Stage One, 9/1

As you’ll see in the honorable mentions, the first two nights of BOLA were (predictably) top-shelf. I could have gone with either of the Keith Lee matches from nights 1 or 2, or the insane The Elite vs The Lucha Trio (Penta El 0M, Fenix, Flamita). But I did not.

That’s because this match feels more … special. I’d never been a card carrying member of the FMW hive before, and now I own two of his shirts.

Why? He didn’t win the crowd over with perfect high spots or anything (one famous wrestling writer noted to me that’s where he needs work), but he showed everything else about how he is very damn good at this wrestling thing.

Wrestling as a babyface to Marty Scurll’s lovable villain is tough, but Flash sold everything beautifully and his buildups for comebacks were a delight. Scurll, for his part, did take to the mic to chastise the audience and get some heat to get the match starting right. And once Scurll had given Webster that starting point, the mod from a town called Malice brought thunder to begin the match.

All in all, it felt like the biggest match of Flash’s career so far.

Curious? Order BOLA via Blu-Ray or DVD from ProWrestlingGuerilla.com or at a date TBD on HighSpotsNetwork.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Brian Cage vs. Dezmond Xavier, BOLA – Stage One, 9/1
  • PENTA EL 0M vs. “Reborn” Matt Sydal, BOLA – Stage One, 9/1
  • The Chosen Bros (Jeff Cobb & Matthew Riddle) vs. The Monstars (Donovan Dijak & Keith Lee), BOLA – Stage One, 9/1
  • Jonah Rock vs. Zack Sabre, Jr., BOLA – Stage One, 9/1
  • Flamita vs. Ricochet, BOLA – Stage One, 9/1
  • Sammy Guevara vs. Joey Janela, BOLA – Stage Two, 9/2
  • Donovan Dijak vs. Trevor Lee, BOLA – Stage Two, 9/2
  • Michael Elgin vs. Matthew Riddle, BOLA – Stage Two, 9/2
  • Travis Banks vs. Mark Haskins, BOLA – Stage Two, 9/2
  • Keith Lee vs. WALTER, BOLA – Stage Two, 9/2
  • REY FENIX, Flamita, & PENTA EL 0M vs. The Elite (Matt & Nick Jackson, Kenny Omega), BOLA – Stage Two, 9/2

WWE Match of The Week:

Abbey Laith vs. Jazzy Gabert

WWE Mae Young Classic Ep 1, 8/28

Much like the Cruiserweight Classic, the Mae Young Classic’s early rounds aren’t all gems. Fortunately, it’s easy to find the best matches of this four episode (each is around 45 minutes) stretch, as they’re the main events. And of those four, this felt the most competitive.

Not only are their animated reactions at the start of the match a solid way to give this brawl some importance, but Laith’s underdog work from beneath during the match properly established Gabert as a force to be reckoned with. Look forward to seeing her future matches.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Segment of the Week:

Cena Pipebombs Reigns

Monday Night Raw, 8/28

As my friend Luis put it in a gchat, you either die a Super Cena, or live long enough to become CM Punk. As David Shoemaker said, this felt like more than a promo, but an intervention.

Nothing I can really add, but just need to give this segment praise, and hope that they can make this feud last all the way through the next half-year or further.

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.

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.

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.

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.