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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 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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Warrior’s last public appearance, last Monday night, Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA. My postmortem on his life’s lessons.