Watch This Wrestling 41 (10/15—21)

Hello friends!

Yep, I took a while off from doing this thing. Why? Mostly because it’s been a busy season outside of this little project. And maybe I’m starting to wonder if this should be a Monthly thing and not a weekly thing. Agree? Disagree? As always, @ me on twitter: henrytcasey to let me know what you think.

What I Watched

  • Evolve 95, 10/15
  • Monday Night Raw, 10/16
  • SmackDown LIVE, 10/17
  • 205 Live, 10/17
  • NXT, 10/18
  • Lucha Underground, 10/18
  • CZW: The Wolf of Wrestling, VOD 10/18

Upcoming Watch List

  • 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

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

“Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams vs Zack Sabre Jr.

Evolve 95, 10/15

I kinda wanted to give this to one of the Lucha Underground Season 3 finale matches, but couldn’t. Even though I’m writing this almost a month after it happened, Williams vs Sabre Jr. still sticks out in my memory.

A technical master-class, I loved this bout because it continued to push forward the slow-burn story of ZSJ’s weakness. Yes, he won, but Hot Sauce looked amazing here, just like Jaka did the previous night in his non-title victory over Sabre.

Available on WWNlive.com because WWN and FloSlam fell apart faster than a birthday cake in a pro wrestling setting.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Matt Riddle vs Fred Yehi, Evolve 95, 10/15
  • Mil Muertes vs Cage vs Jeremiah Crane, Lucha Underground, 10/18
  • Lucha Underground Career vs. Title Match: Prince Puma vs Champion Johnny Mundo, Lucha Underground, 10/18

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

Lucha Underground Finale Montage

Lucha Underground, 10/18

In a surprise to no one, the finale scenes of Lucha Underground’s third season brought all of the thunder. Both of the show’s prior season cappers included shocking moments, but this time it bore an even greater responsibility, as this could have been the series finale, and many fans were aware that Puma’s departure was for real, as the wrestler who portrays him (Ricochet) has been teasing a departure for months and months.

And then, it delivered — and it did so in spades. While we can spend posts debating what Dario Cueto said into a phone as he bled out (he better not be dead, damnit) — and Brandon Stroud already put work into that, we can’t just stall out there. From King Cuerno’s epic trophy room to the surprise appearance in the Lizard Temple to the Spider-Man No More-esque goodbye from Puma, this sequence was exquisite.

And fortunately for me, I took so long to write this that we know this won’t be Lucha’s final season:

pic.twitter.com/eczgLhReET

Also, a little note to Evolve. That crazy clusterfuck ending to Evolve 95 wasn’t how you do a brawl to close out. Sure, you had the epic DARBY OFF THE BACKBOARD spot I desperately wanted to see in Corona, NY (at the death house called The Elmcor), but that was a little too early for The End to be met with a significant challenge.

Available via El Rey, iTunes and other services

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Match of The Week:

Aleister Black vs Raul Mendoza

NXT, 10/18

It’s funny, I didn’t remember this match when I was skimming through the NXT archives, but fast-forwarding to the middle of it, I realized this was the easy pick of the WWE week. Yes, that’s owed in part to it being a weak week for matches in the E, but this had a memorable moment despite Mendoza being utterly forgettable in it.

Yes, this is one of the excellent matches that stoked the fire of the feud between Black and Velveteen Dream. Dream’s finally finding that character, and Black’s utter fury — taken out on Mendoza — is perfect.

WWE Segment of the Week:

Kevin and Sami Explain Themselves, Again

SmackDown LIVE, 10/10

We don’t know what exactly is going on backstage with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn — reportedly kicked off the last leg of a recent European tour — but on camera they are gold.

This segment, where they harass Daniel Bryan, and go in on him for becoming a corporate lackey, is another example of why Kevin Owens is doing better than most of the company when it comes to promos. He has a memory that outlasts the most recent three months. Bringing up how Bryan used to be anti-authority, and now cares about what’s best for business? Ties the room together, man.

Honorable Mentions:

Watch This Wrestling 39 (10/1—7)

Hello friends! Yes, this is the third of three posts that went up late, and back to back to back. Why? Because I was giving every spare piece of energy to this:

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, 10/2
  • SmackDown LIVE, 10/3
  • 205 Live, 10/3
  • NXT, 10/4
  • Lucha Underground, 10/4

Upcoming Watch List

  • WWE Hell In A Cell, 10/8
  • MLW One Shot, 10/8
  • PROGRESS: Revelations Of Divine Love, 10/8
  • Monday Night Raw, 10/9
  • NJPW King Of Pro Wrestling, 10/9
  • SmackDown LIVE, 10/10
  • 205 Live, 10/10
  • NXT, 10/11
  • Lucha Underground, 10/12

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Hair vs. Mask: Fenix vs. Marty “The Moth” Martinez

Lucha Underground, 10/4

Solid blowoff here, though the victory was clearly foreshadowed to anyone who pays attention to indie wrestling in the US. Fortunately, the match provided serious intensity from both men, as well as enough blood to make you question your will to watch (for a second week in a row).

While the heel turn from The Mariposa didn’t feel foreshadowed, the involvement from both her and Melissa Santos felt necessary and warranted here. I just don’t know where Marty goes from here.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Ivelisse vs Katrina, Lucha Underground, 10/4

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

Ethan Page Discusses Future After Evolve Wrestling Departure

Evolve’s loss is the wrestling world’s gain, or so that’s the message that All Ego Ethan Page is projecting. Yet again proving he’s willing to do something different, Page takes the “hottest free agent” trope, and spins it on its head.

Here’s my own letter: 

Dear New York-based indie wrestling promotions,

BOOK ETHAN PAGE.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Ivelisse and Jeremiah Crane argue, Lucha Underground, 10/4

WWE Match of The Week:

Roderick Strong vs Drew McIntyre © for the NXT Championship

NXT, 10/4

A great, brutal, and strong match, but I love it for the kicker at the end of the segment.

In my text editor, I have a passage that reads “As I watch the end of NXT TV 10/4, I cackle. The Roddy Heel Turn Is Apparently On Its Way.”

Honorable Mentions:

  • Roman Reigns vs The Miz © for the Intercontinental Championship, Monday Night Raw, 10/2

WWE Segment of the Week:

Silent fist action

Monday Night Raw, 10/2

The first Raw of the month narrowly averted disaster. While it almost appeared to end with the biggest let-down in ages — Kalisto joining the Cruiserweight division — it didn’t.

Watch This Wrestling 38 (9/24—30)

Hello friends!

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

What I Watched

  • NJPW Destruction in Kobe, 9/24
  • Beyond: Far Beyond Wrestling, 9/24
  • WWE No Mercy, 9/24
  • Monday Night Raw, 9/25
  • SmackDown LIVE, 9/26
  • 205 Live, 9/26
  • NXT, 9/27
  • Lucha Underground, 9/27
  • Fight Club Pro Project Mayhem VI, 9/22+23, released on VOD 9/29+30

Upcoming Watch List

  • Monday Night Raw, 10/2
  • SmackDown LIVE, 10/3
  • 205 Live, 10/3
  • NXT, 10/4
  • Lucha Underground, 10/4

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Killshot vs Dante Fox in a Hell of War (Three Stages of Hell) Match

Lucha Underground, 9/25

When wrestling reaches to the furthest depths of its dark heart, it winds up in matches that make you question your own morals. Killshot and Dante (aka AR) Fox created such hideous glory in the best death match of the week, which is a high compliment when Jimmy Havoc’s in a Hashtag-DeathHouse tag team match.

After this match, I need to see Dante Fox and Killshot elevated into the main event picture, as I care about few who will be there next season (aka bye bye Ricochet, have fun in the WWE) as much as them. Specifically, Fox’s facial expressions were as evocative and emotionally gripping as any you see inside the squared circle.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Juice Robinson vs Kenny Omega © for the NJPW US Championship, NJPW Destruction in Kobe, 9/24
  • Death House: Callous Hearts (Clint Margera & Jimmy Havoc) vs Drew Parker & Rickey Shane Page in a Deathmatch, Fight Club Pro Project Mayhem VI Night 1
  • Shane Strickland vs Omari, Fight Club Pro Project Mayhem VI Night 2
  • Joey Janela vs AR Fox, Beyond: Far Beyond Wrestling, 9/24

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

Kenny Omega Dunks On YOSHI-HASHI

NJPW Destruction in Kobe, 9/24

NJPW is (on occasion) doing more with its post-show press conferences. This week’s was a delight, because we got to see Kenny Omega give the proper reaction to YOSHI-FRICKIN-HASHI of all people asking for a title shot. That response? Mockery. Stating he’ll give the dude his best match of the year.

WWE Match of The Week:

The Bar (Cesaro and Sheamus) vs Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins ©

WWE No Mercy, 9/24

It’s very good that I waited 4 extra days to write about this match, because it gave us this fucking shirt:

image

What I love about this match is that it helps everyone. Not only do Rollins and Ambrose look 10 times better than they had during their recent singles pushes, but it elevates Cesaro and Sheamus by making them credible threats to two former world champs.

And yes, this match wasn’t great because of Cesaro’s grizzly dental injury, but that sure did add to it.

Honorable Mentions:
– Bayley vs Sasha Banks vs Nia Jax vs Emma vs Alexa Bliss in a RAW Women’s Championship Fatal 5 Way Match, WWE No Mercy, 9/24
– Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn, SmackDown LIVE, 9/25

WWE Segment of the Week:

As The Enzo Turns

Monday Night Raw, 9/25 and 205 Live, 9/26

This is a story told in three parts. First of all, Neville throwing out the fucks he has about the Cruiserweight title.

Then Braun Strowman wrecking shop, followed by the whole 205 Live gang running … well, destroying Enzo.

Lastly, Enzo’s full, unchallenged promo. Some don’t like a promo that doesn’t get met with opposition. Me, I think it helps confirm that Enzo is now the bad guy, by wearing out his welcome better with audiences. The issue with Enzo is that the crowd always starts to chuckle if he can jaw jack at a target in front of him.

Honorable Mentions:

Watch This Wrestling 36 (9/10—9/16)

Good graps this week. But a note about spoilers: they suck. That is all.

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, 9/11
  • SmackDown LIVE, 9/12
  • WWE Mae Young Classic Finale, 9/12
  • 205 Live, 9/5
  • NXT, 9/13
  • Lucha Underground, 9/14
  • Progress Ch. 55: Chase The Sun, 9/10, then 9/16 VOD
  • NJPW: Destruction In Hiroshima, 9/16

Upcoming Watch List

  • Monday Night Raw, 9/18
  • SmackDown LIVE, 9/19
  • 205 Live, 9/19
  • NXT, 9/20
  • Lucha Underground, 9/20
  • NJPW Destruction in Kobe, 9/22

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Jimmy Havoc vs Mark Haskins in a Deathmatch

Progress Ch. 55: Chase The Sun, 9/10

Progress’s stacked Chapter 55 card produced multiple match of the week candidates, but I’ll give this one to the deathmatch because it kept me guessing, from the edge of my seat. Gotta give it up to Jimmy Havoc for his continued brilliance in this format.

One excellent and interesting detail here was the use of Vicky Haskins in the match, for how the character development progressed.

But if you don’t like deathmatches — and this one has some brutal fucking craziness — you might be better off with any of the title matches, which I list below.

Honorable Mentions:

  • CCK vs British Strong Style for the Progress Tag Team championship in a ladder match, Progress Ch. 55: Chase The Sun, 9/10
  • Toni Storm vs Dhalia Black for the Progress Women’s championship, Progress Ch. 55: Chase The Sun, 9/10
  • WALTER vs Timothy Thatcher vs Matt Riddle © for the Atlas championship, Progress Ch. 55: Chase The Sun, 9/10
  • Travis Banks vs Pete Dunne for the Progress World championship, Progress Ch. 55: Chase The Sun, 9/10
  • Zack Sabre Jr. vs Hiroshi Tanahashi, NJPW: Destruction In Hiroshima, 9/16
  • Jordynne Grace vs Priscilla Kelly, Shine 45, 9/16

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

That Gauntlet Brawl

Lucha Underground, 9/14

When Lucha Underground wants to go wild, it doesn’t just pull out all the stops, but it just lets everyone into a room at the same time. An excellent game of hot potato.

WWE Match of The Week:

Shayna Baszler vs. Kairi Sane

WWE Mae Young Classic Finale, 9/12

I hope that Vince McMahon’s appearance at the tail end of SmackDown Live helped bump the ratings over on the WWE Network for this match, the finale of the Mae Young Classic. Because Baszler and Sane put on one fucking great match.

While I wasn’t completely engaged during the first watch (still reeling from Vince, to be honest) this match only grew on me when I got a chance to watch it closely. I didn’t fully notice the moment where Shayna begins to sell the injured ribs.

I’m also going to give some blame to the commentary team, as Lita and JR weren’t as terrible as I worried, but still didn’t add anything. I hope this is the last we see of them outside of JR returning for main roster marquee matches.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Segment of the Week:

“A McMahon”

SmackDown LIVE, 9/5

For the second week in a row, Kevin Owens was at the center of the best non-match moment in WWE TV, and this time he had Vince McMahon on the other side of the ring.

Last week I said KO regained his importance, and this week, I’ll say that his mic work made him a Top Guy. Of course, that will rely on WWE making good on this going forward.

The one thing I want to posit, though, is what if Owens didn’t know the heat butt would happen? Something about him tells me he wouldn’t have been so ready to do this, given everything we know about concussions and CTE. What if Vince popped the ask on him in-ring, off-mic?

Honorable Mentions:

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 22 (6/4—10)

Thankfully, I say wearily, this was a week with a manageable amount of wrestling. Of course, that still included an NJPW event and a Progress event, on top of the weekly regulars.

What’s there to say about this week other than … well, someone better cash in that white briefcase immediately if Lana wins the world title. If her Talking Smack appearance was anything to go on, WWE is possibly going to take the ravishing Russian’s solo career seriously, rather than as a joke, as it did Eva Marie’s never-started one.

Also, make sure to check out the Honorable Mention for best non-WWE segment of the week. It’s a joy.

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

What I Watched

  • Progress Chapter 51: Super Strong Style 16, Day 3, 6/4 (VOD post-date)
  • WWE Extreme Rules, 6/4
  • Monday Night Raw, 6/5
  • ROH Wrestling, 6/5
  • SmackDown LIVE, 6/6
  • 205 Live, 6/6
  • Talking Smack Live, 6/6
  • NXT, 6/7
  • Lucha Underground, 6/7
  • NJPW: Road To Dominion, 6/9

Upcoming Watch List

  • 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

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

Backstage Bad News for Johnny Mundo

Lucha Underground, 6/7

No video here, but we’ve got a photo still that should be enough to make those of you with El Rey willing to give this show a chance if you haven’t already.

John Hennigan is doing wonders with the himbo role of Mundo, and as-always, he’s getting by with a little help from his friends in the Worldwide Underground.

Honorable Mentions:

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Tyler Bate vs Travis Banks

Progress Chapter 51: Super Strong Style 16, Day 3, 6/4 (VOD post-date)

I’ve heard a lot about Travis Banks, from those who love him and believe what he’s selling. As someone who had originally seen him as great, but still the least engaging member of the South Pacific Power Trip, I was waiting for a match like this.

Not watching Progress? The three-day Super Strong Style 16 tournament is a great way to jump in. As you’ll see below, even it’s final day was filled with wonder.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Zack Sabre Jr. vs Travis Banks, Progress Chapter 51: Super Strong Style 16, Day 3, 6/4 (VOD post-date)
  • Matt Riddle vs Tyler Bate, Progress Chapter 51: Super Strong Style 16, Day 3, 6/4 (VOD post-date)
  • Kaylee Ray vs Katey Harvey, Progress Chapter 51: Super Strong Style 16, Day 3, 6/4 (VOD post-date)
  • Pete Dunne vs Jeff Cobb, Progress Chapter 51: Super Strong Style 16, Day 3, 6/4 (VOD post-date)
  • Mil Muertes vs Prince Puma, Lucha Underground, 6/7
  • Gedo and Tomohiro Ishii vs Yujiro Takahashi and Hangman Page, NJPW: Road To Dominion, 6/9
  • Roppongi Vice (Beretta, Rocky Romero) and Kazuchika Okada vs The Elite (Nick and Matt Jackson and Kenny Omega), NJPW: Road To Dominion, 6/9

WWE Match of The Week:

Samoa Joe vs Roman Reigns vs Finn Bálor vs Seth vs Bray Wyatt

WWE Extreme Rules, 6/4

First of all, I’d like to get some credit for calling the finish to this weeks before it happened, during The Ring Post 19.

Second of all, damn, what a fantastic showcase for the top talent of the WWE’s flagship brand. Many are despondent over the absence of Braun Strowman, but this match reminded us that the five top regularly-working male superstars can still go.

Lastly, isn’t the sight of Bray and Joe carrying those steps just the best?

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Segment of the Week:

Samoa Joe and Paul Heyman Get Intimate

Monday Night Raw, 6/5

This segment is the official kickoff of Samoan Joseph’s Big Chance Push. Those of us who’d seen him prior to his showing up in NXT to save Finn Bálor knew there was something fantastic in the guy, and this moment let the entire WWE audience find out.

Nobody can be as afraid as Paul Heyman, who did a masterful job here with Joe.

Honorable Mentions:

Watch This Wrestling 21 (5/28—6/3)

Spoiler alert, I disagree with the general consensus about a NJPW PPV main event, yet again. From what I saw online, people were agog about the final match of the BOSJ, and if you haven’t caught up, skip down to the Best Matches/Segments sections, because I’ve got to talk about this.

So, yeah, now, seriously:

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. SPOILER WARNING!
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.

In this age of smarter fans and those who kiss the pencil Gedo uses to book, I couldn’t fathom how this is your final. First of all, face vs face shouldn’t be a problem, and secondly, yes, you’ve got two talented workers in Will Ospreay (one of my favorite wrestlers today) and KUSHIDA. But it’s so obvious what’s going to happen.

The story of the Timesplitter’s redemption has been obvious ever since he got squashed in April’s Sakura Genesis. I could even see the seeds of it mid-way through the tournament in last week’s story. So, to put him up against a non-company guy, the one who won last year, is essentially giving a spoiler warning to anyone paying attention.

But still, I set my alarm to get up at 4am and watch it live, because I thought it would be fun and hoped for something interesting. So while the match had a bunch of fun spots and solid pacing (had the editing that Okada/Omega needed) it still couldn’t bring me in.

But that’s not a real problem. As you’ll see below, there’s been a shitton of good matches this past week, including that one itself. It just wasn’t the match of the week that many will tell you it was.

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

What I Watched

  • NJPW Best of The Super Juniors, tournament matches from 5/28, 29, 31, 6/1, 3
  • Monday Night Raw, 5/29
  • ROH Wrestling, 5/29
  • SmackDown LIVE, 5/30
  • 205 Live, 5/30
  • Talking Smack Live, 5/30
  • NXT, 5/31
  • Lucha Underground, 5/31
  • Progress Chapter 49, 50: Super Strong Style 16, Day 1, 2, 6/2, 3 (VOD post-dates)

Upcoming Watch List

  • Progress Chapter 51: Super Strong Style 16, Day 3, 6/4 (VOD post-date)
  • WWE Extreme Rules, 6/4
  • Monday Night Raw, 6/5
  • ROH Wrestling, 6/5
  • SmackDown LIVE, 6/6
  • 205 Live, 6/6
  • Talking Smack Live, 6/6
  • NXT, 6/7
  • Lucha Underground, 6/7

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

Hate Speech Tears People Apart… Wrestling Brings People Together

WCPW: Fight Back, 6/3

For a chance of pace, I’m going with a segment that has practically no wrestling-content in it. But still, it’s the most important non-fight segment that happened this past week. On Saturday, What Culture Pro Wrestling had an event that was supposed to be the second series premiere of its Loaded series. But as Adam Blampied (aka Plumpy) explains, that can’t happen anymore, thanks to YouTube’s recent stupid decisions dealing with advertisers who didn’t want their content to appear anywhere near that Pewdie Pie, who I gather is a thinly veiled bigot.

So, watch:

Now that that’s done, here’s a link to the petition Blampied references. If you like me or pro wrestling, or simply think that non-hateful performance art should be allowed to make money, sign up. Thank you.

Honorable Mentions:

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

The Mack vs Johnny Mundo: All Night Long

Lucha Underground, 5/31

So, I’d forgotten what Lucha Underground’s Season 3.5 premiere would give us, and was slightly unenthused by the prospect of this. But then it happened, and I loved it.

image

Credit: twitter.com/LuchaElRey

The story here is that the super athletic Johnny Mundo (Mr. Hardcore Parkour) picked the All Night Long stipulation (an iron man match) for The Mack’s title shot against him, because it fits his style much more than it does Mack’s.

With about 10 seconds left in the match, I assumed I knew the moment that would swerve the ending. And then that didn’t happen. A mere moment later, show instead pulled another rabbit out of its ass, and then layered more on top of that.

But to pull myself out of this meta-level analysis, credit to all involved, especially Mundo and Mack, for an excellent match. Mundo’s sure solidified himself here as a top-level talent and a heel that can lead a show.

A note about the plethora of solid matches below, they’re ordered chronologically, not by quality or preference.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Justin Thunder Liger vs Dragon Lee, NJPW Best of The Super Juniors, 5/28
  • Will Ospreay vs Taichi, NJPW Best of The Super Juniors, 5/28
  • Ryuske Taguchi vs KUSHIDA, NJPW Best of The Super Juniors, 5/29
  • Justin Thunder Liger vs Taichi, NJPW Best of The Super Juniors, 5/31
  • Will Ospreay vs Hiromu Takahashi, NJPW Best of The Super Juniors, 5/31
  • Marty Scurll vs Ricochet, NJPW Best of The Super Juniors, 5/31
  • Jeff Cobb vs Nathan Cruz, Progress Chapter 49: Super Strong Style 16, Day 1, 6/2
  • Jimmy Havoc vs Mark Haskins, Progress Chapter 49: Super Strong Style 16, Day 1, 6/2
  • David Starr vs Zack Sabre Jr., Progress Chapter 49: Super Strong Style 16, Day 1, 6/2
  • Trent Seven Promo, Progress Chapter 49: Super Strong Style 16, Day 1, 6/2
  • KUSHIDA vs Will Ospreay, NJPW Best of The Super Juniors, 6/3
  • Jinny vs. Laura Di Matteo vs. Toni Storm (Natural Progression Series IV Final Progress Women’s Championship Match), Progress Chapter 49: Super Strong Style 16, Day 2, 6/3
  • Jeff Cobb vs Matt Riddle, Progress Chapter 49: Super Strong Style 16, Day 2, 6/3

As always, Progress events can be found on its VOD service Demand Progress, and NJPW events are shown on NJPW World.

WWE Match of The Week:

Finn Bálor vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Samoa Joe

Monday Night Raw, 5/29

I find it funny that for a second week in a row, the secondary, mid-show main event is much better than the one that closes the show. These three have incredibly fun chemistry and did a great job of teasing Extreme Rules’ main event.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Segment of the Week:

Why, Ciampa, why?

NXT, 5/31

Heel turns require solid logic to work, and boy did they give Tommaso Ciampa some solid rationale. I even felt complicit.

Honorable Mentions:

YOU NEED TO WATCH LUCHA UNDERGROUND. (aka What Is Lucha Underground?)

Remember What Was TNA?/What Is Impact? and What is New Japan Pro Wrestling? I’m back, you animals, and I’m here with zero fear because of one of my favorite things to happen in recent memory to
wrestling: LUCHA UNDERGROUND.

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Henry, tell us this isn’t just another pro wrestling show.

Pardon the cliche, but it’s the truth: Lucha Underground is not just another pro wrestling show. In fact, it’s the rebirth of the genre, and one of the best damn things on television in the last 3 years.

Wait, why are you just telling me about it now?

Wait, have you seen my twitter? I’ve been raving about Lucha Underground since Dario opened the temple (more on that in a minute). But to answer your question, I’m ranting because now you’re fresh out of excuses for not watching it.

So, how do you see Lucha Underground?

March 15, 2017 will be marked in the annals of wrestling history as the day Netflix got the first two seasons of Lucha Undergound. Well, just Netflix in the Americas. And anywhere that has a VPN service.

Wait, what’s the big deal about this show?

So, Lucha Underground is a show about wrestling, specifically the matches and backstage noir antics that take place in the temple of one Dario Cueto
(Luis Fernandez-Gil). Here’s Dario in his office with his red bull statue and a glass of liquor:

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Here’s Dario Cueto with one of his favorite things (MONEY):

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If you can’t tell, Dario Cueto has the brash egomaniacal chutzpah of Vince McMahon, but he’s working on a seedier level. But of all the things Dario Cueto loves, he probably would put VIOLENCE at the top of that list.

So, what does a promoter with a love of violence and seedy behavior do? Open up an arena in a shady part of Los Angeles (the show is taped in the actually grungy Boyle Heights district) and operate it like his own fight club.

That’s the ground Lucha Underground is built upon, and it’s been a strong-enough base for 84 hours of blisteringly good pro wrestling, with 21 more episodes coming this year. The show is presented in hour-long episodes, making it far more manageable than most other promotions, and built to binge-watch.

So what makes it so great and different from, say, NXT? That’s an hour-long wrestling show too, ya know.

Another thing that separates Lucha Underground from the pack is its narrative style. The show tells stories every way it can, from in the ring to film-quality vignettes and scenes shot in the same arena or on locations.

Throughout it all, Lucha Underground has this strong visual charm and a noir way about itself that is delightful, which makes sense, given that it’s on El Rey, a network started by Robert Rodriguez. You know, the writer, director and producer of such films as Desperado and El Mariachi.

Other wrestling shows offer minimal attention to detail, but Lucha Underground exists only as a television show, so storytelling is its only master. It won’t sell talent up the river because it’s developmental. The show has season premieres and finales, and the writers have plans for how to get from one to the other.

Who’s there?

If you watched WWE during the 00’s, then you’ve got at least one familiar face: Johnny Mundo. But you probably remember him as The Prince of Parkour, John Morrison. Good news, he’s getting to live his best life in Dario’s temple as a super smug chickenshit baddie.

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Modern day wrestling fans who spend time in online communities might know about Ricochet, as his super-flippy match with Will Ospreay at the 2016 Best of The Super Juniors tournament went viral. In Lucha Underground, he’s Prince Puma, a local and fan favorite.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Lucha Underground’s cast of characters is rich and deep. You’ve got two couples: Son of Havoc and Ivelisse (who might be dating?) and Mil Muertes who is managed by Catrina. You’ve also got mysterious masked … not-men, such as Drago who seems to be part dragon and Pentagon Jr. the zombie-ninja.

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The show also features some of the best women wrestlers on the map. At first, it’s limited to Sexy Star (whose talents are limited if we’re honest), but then Ivelisse kicks things into second gear. Season 2 introduces Taya, who is excellent, as well as the dangerous Mariposa.

So, it’s called Lucha Underground… is it in Spanish?

Not entirely, unless you prefer it. The El Rey presentation of Lucha Underground uses English commentary and a mix of English and Spanish dialogue, with subtitles when appropriate.

Those with the UniMás network can see the series entirely in Spanish.

What else is different about Lucha Underground?

The biggest difference between Lucha Underground and most televised wrestling is that women and men can fight each other in Dario Cueto’s temple. It might take some getting used to, but when you realize these are performers and their art is about trust and not hurting each other, you realize there’s not much difference between someone wanting to get revenge on Taya or Cersei Lannister. Equality, many argue, is the right to perform with anyone.

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If you get used to it, and not everyone will (we all have different histories), you’ll get to enjoy a relatively rare version of pro wrestling. Further, it gives Lucha Underground an even greater number of potential matchups.

How does one follow Lucha Underground?

If you love seasons 1 and 2, you can see season 3 in one of the following ways:

  1. Get a Sling TV account. Its $20 package includes El Rey.
  2. Find a cable package with El Rey. Season 3 is available via Video On Demand. I’d try to avoid going with DirecTV, as they’re limited to SD versions.
  3. Buy it on iTunes . Episodes cost $3 each in HD, or get a season pass with all 19 episodes for $40 (for a savings of $17).

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

With TNA and NJPW, I was OK with explaining this, but you know what, this is all best saved for watching. Have fun.

Don’t Miss This (1/6–12)

I recently realized I watch too much wrestling not to turn it into a feature here at withapassion.com. So, I give you a new feature (that I hope to turn out in weekly fashion), Don’t Miss This, a guide to the best matches and segments from the week in WWE and outside of the WWE.

What are my qualifications? Every week I watch Raw, SmackDown Live, 205 Live, Talking Smack, NXT, Lucha Underground and IMPACT. I even watch all EVOLVE PPVs and try to watch Ring of Honor and NJPW on AXS, but can’t guarantee those, as the first set already takes 10.5 hours of my week. Videos are embedded when possible, but they’re often abridged versions, especially WWE’s.

WWE Match of the Week:
The Revival vs. DIY

NXT 1/11, for the NXT Tag Team Championship 

Most of you have seen The Revival vs. DIY before (and if you haven’t thanks for reading this!) but this match is still amazing even if you have. These four men do tag-team wrestling so well, that every time is a must-see. Between Revival’s inventive heel tactics, Gargano’s ability to make getting his ass kicked look amazing, and the brutality of Ciampa’s knees and elbows.

Non-WWE Match of the Week:
Dragon Azteca Jr. vs. The Monster Matanza with Dario Cueto

Lucha Underground 1/11; Death Match 

More than just your standard David vs Goliath match, as Matanza is more like Frankenstein’s Monster, with his keeper, Dario, watching the match on-camera in states of fear and pride.

How do I know Jeff Cobb is great at portraying the Matanza character? I’ve met the guy (he’s super nice) but I still forget it’s him under that mask, thanks to demented mannerisms and inhuman rage. Also, Vampiro and Striker do a great job of teasing and pointing towards the finish, in a way that I didn’t realize until it was all over. It’s an excellent match to cap the middle of LU’s third season.

Oh, and if you don’t have El Rey:

WWE Segment of the Week:
Jack Gallagher and Ariya Daivari Parlay

205 Live, 1/10, contract signing for I Forfeit match 

Either I have a bias towards Jack Gallagher, or the WWE didn’t offer many worthy segments this week. Probably both. 

Yes, I know you can see Gallagher admit — off-mic — that he’s forgotten his line, but the rest of this is too good. From the return of William the umbrella to calling their feuding “playing silly boogers for too long,” this segment brings the humor that WWE programming is often lacking.

More importantly, this Parlay (contract signing) segment set up this Euro-tinted I Quit match as the actual end of this feud. Gallagher did a nice, Wilder-Wonka-esque job of it, stating “when you forfeit, you don’t only end the match, you end this quarrel between me and you. You lose, and you live with that.” Daivari plays his part well, responding to everything Gallagher says with a correct mix of incredulity and disgust. Corey Graves even shines, registering shock after Daivari throws William the umbrella out of the ring.

Also worth mentioning: a post-match brawl featuring Asuka on NXT

Non-WWE segment:
Young Bucks Respond to House Hardy

Ring of Honor, 1/8 

Again, this wasn’t the strongest week for non-match segments, so I give the outside-of-the-WWE nod to a Young Bucks talking segment. Starts off with the Bucks of Youth being smug bastards about their lucrative contract, and ends with a moment that was worth your time.

As you may know, Broken Matt Hardy challenged them at Final Battle, and here, the Bucks accept the challenge. What nobody expected was a House Hardy member to invade the taping, but as you might have already seen, that happened too.

If you don’t get ROH (and it’s hard to find) here’s some less-than-great footage posted to YouTube (credit: The Elite: the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega).