Watch This Wrestling 23 (6/11–17)

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

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

What I Watched

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

Upcoming Watch List

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

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

KUSHIDA vs Hiromu Takahashi AND Kenny Omega vs Kazuchika Okada

NJPW: Dominion, 6/11

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

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

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

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

Honorable Mentions:

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

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

Cody Interrupts Okada

NJPW: Dominion, 6/11

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

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

WWE Match of The Week:

Nikki Cross vs Ruby Riot vs Asuka

NXT, 6/14

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

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

WWE Segment of the Week:

Samoa Joe Interview

Monday Night Raw, 6/12

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

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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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.

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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:

Watch This Wrestling 20 (5/18—27)

So, yet again, this took me a little more time than usual to produce. What’s different about this week is that I’ve put more days of research (read: me watching as much wrestling as I can, with a notebook at my side) than usual. Here on out, the reports will start on Sundays and end on Saturdays.

As for when reports will come out? I’m hoping Sundays, but could see it happen on Mondays or Tuesdays at the latest. It all depends on how much wrestling there was. As you’ll see below, there’s a shitton of graps going on in New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Best of the Super Juniors. On top of that, I’m putting time into starting PROGRESS, which might lead to me putting notes from that into this.

In marvelous news, though, we get Lucha Underground back this week! Yay!

One final note, I skipped the ROH TV show this week, because it was all Honor Rising material I saw in February.

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, Odds and ends of matches from 5/18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, 26, 27
  • Being The Elite Ep. 53, 54, 5/18, 23
  • EVOLVE 84, 5/20
  • EVOLVE 85, 5/21
  • PROGRESS Ch. 48: Bang The Drum, hit VOD 5/21
  • WWE Backlash, 5/21
  • Monday Night Raw, 5/22
  • SmackDown LIVE, 5/23
  • 205 Live, 5/23
  • Talking Smack Live, 5/23
  • NXT, 5/24
  • WCPW World Cup Canadian Qualifier, up on YouTube 5/26

Upcoming Watch List

  • NJPW Best of The Super Juniors, 5/28, 5/29, 5/31, 6/1, and 6/3
  • Monday Night Raw, 5/29
  • ROH Wrestling, 5/29
  • SmackDown LIVE, 5/30
  • 205 Live, 5/31
  • Talking Smack Live, 5/31
  • Lucha Underground Season 3.5 Premiere, 5/31

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

Who Will Keith Lee Challenge?

EVOLVE 85, 5/21

EVOLVE doesn’t do as much theatrical storytelling in the style you see from WWE, so clashes like these mean something. Lee shows up with a decision to make, challenge WWN champ Matt Riddle, or take on EVOLVE champ Zack Sabre Jr. (note to fans: make a ZSJ to Zack Sabre Jr. text shortcut, it’s worth it). What happens next, is delightful.

EVOLVE 85 is available on FloSlam.

Honorable Mentions:

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Bushi vs Kushida

NJPW Best of The Super Juniors, 5/23

I had originally picked Dijak vs Lee for this, but hot damn did Bushi and more specifically Kushida change my mind. As of this moment, Kushida isn’t in the lead in the Best of the Super Juniors tour, but it’s bringing the fire back to his performances, after getting buried to set up that Ricochet/Takahashi match.

And yes there are a lot of matches in this below list, pick based on your favorites if your time is limited.

New Japan’s Best of The Super Juniors tournament is available on NJPW World.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Donovan Dijak vs Keith Lee, Evolve 84, 5/20
  • Ethan Page vs Zack Sabre Jr. ©, Evolve 84, 5/20
  • Kyle O’Reilly vs Matt Riddle ©, Evolve 84, 5/20
  • Will Ospreay vs Ricochet, NJPW Best of The Super Juniors, 5/18
  • Ricochet vs Hiromu Takahashi, NJPW Best of The Super Juniors, 5/21
  • Matt Riddle vs Tyler Bate PROGRESS Ch. 48: Bang The Drum, 5/21
  • Jinny vs Session Moth Martina, PROGRESS Ch. 48: Bang The Drum, 5/21
  • Marty Scull, Yujiro Takahashi, and The Gorillas of Destiny vs David Finlay Jr., Ricochet, and War Machine NJPW Best of The Super Juniors, 5/22
  • Ryusuke Taguchi vs El Desperado, NJPW Best of The Super Juniors, 5/22
  • Will Ospreay vs Jushin Thunder Liger, NJPW Best of The Super Juniors, 5/23
  • Taichi vs Hiromu Takahashi, NJPW Best of The Super Juniors, 5/23
  • El Desperado vs Volador Jr., NJPW Best of The Super Juniors, 5/25
  • Speedball Mike Bailey vs Brent Banks, WCPW World Cup Canadian Qualifier, up on YouTube 5/26
  • Taichi vs Marty Scurll, NJPW Best of The Super Juniors, 5/26
  • Taka Michinoku vs Hiromu Takahashi, NJPW Best of The Super Juniors, 5/26

WWE Match of The Week:

Pete Dunne vs Tyler Bate ©

NXT: TakeOver Chicago, 5/20

The WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament two-day event may have been big, but this one match did more for UK wrestling as a whole. Not only does it give Pete Dunne the shine he so greatly deserves on an NXT TakeOver special, but it stole the damn show away.

After this show, TakeOver Brooklyn III neeeds it some Pete Dunne. Hell, we all do. Sure, Pete was the biggest rising star outside of the WWE, but now it’s Network-official. 

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Segment of the Week:

TakeOver Chicago Ends

NXT: TakeOver Chicago, 5/20

Even if you saw it live, it’s time to watch this again:

Everything about this is great. It being a post-credits-bug moment, the first since Owens turned on Zayn. The crowd’s shock and boos and horror at it all. The fact that only those who knew about a mistaken and deleted tweet (regarding Gargano getting new solo music) saw it coming. The social media kayfabe thereafter.

This, is how you break up a tag team. Unless you want ironic THANK YOU GOLDDUST chants.

Honorable Mentions:

Watch This Wrestling 16  (4/20 – 26)

Indie Wrestling Twitter freaked out over Trevor Lee vs. Chip Day from CWF Mid-Atlantic Worldwide 102 practically the second it hit YouTube, and for good reason. It’s a blast. Unfortunately, it had a big moment that killed the vibe for me.

At some point midway or late in the match, Day gets what seems like too much offense in for Lee to kick out. And yet, he did. But seriously, check out that match, linked below.

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:

  • T1W & Battle Club Pro: “The One Who Knocks”, 4/22
  • EVOLVE 82, 4/22
  • Tier 1 Wrestling Presents: “True Will”, 4/23
  • EVOLVE 83, 4/23
  • Monday Night Raw, 4/24
  • ROH Wrestling, 4/24
  • SmackDown Live, 4/25
  • 205 Live, 4/25
  • Talking Smack Live, 4/25
  • NXT, 4/26
  • CWF Mid-Atlantic Worldwide 102, 4/26

Upcoming Watch List

  • Progress Wrestling, Ch.47: Complicated Simplicity, hit VOD on 4/29
  • NJPW: Wrestling Toyo Province 2017, 4/29
  • WWE Payback, 4/30
  • Monday Night Raw, 5/1
  • ROH Wrestling, 5/1
  • SmackDown Live, 5/2
  • 205 Live, 5/2
  • Talking Smack Live, 5/2
  • NXT, 5/3
  • NJPW: Wrestling Dontaku, 5/3

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Keith Lee vs Kyle O’Reilly

EVOLVE 82, 4/22

EVOLVE continued its hot streak at 82 & 83, the two New York shows it put on last week. And how did it rebound from losing Drew Galloway (now McIntyre) to WWE? By adding Kyle O’Reilly. And if you thought you’d seen Kyle’s best during his recent Ring of Honor, run, I suggest you check his re-debut match in EVOLVE (which was against Keith Lee) out.

Not only does Keith Lee just not have bad matches, but the booking here plays nicely with the problem inherent in the match. Sure, the crowd almost turned on the show, but Lee’s charisma and O’Reilly’s intense violence helped bring everything home.

EVOLVE 82 is available via FloSlam.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Matt Riddle vs Timothy Thatcher, EVOLVE 82, 4/22
  • [EXTREME VIOLENCE WARNING] Darby Allin vs Ethan Page, EVOLVE 82, 4/22
  • Matt Riddle vs Penta OM, Tier 1 Wrestling, True Will, 4/23
  • Zack Sabre Jr. vs Lio Rush, EVOLVE 83, 4/23
  • Fred Yehi vs Kyle O’Reilly, EVOLVE 83, 4/23
  • Trevor Lee vs. Chip Day, CWF Mid-Atlantic Worldwide 102, 4/26

Non-WWE Segment of the Week:

Stokely Hathaway’s Big News

EVOLVE 83, 4/23

And it’s come to this. Stokley Hathaway, the Paul Heyman of EVOLVE now manages … well, you’ll see.

I love this for more than a few reasons, and what it’ll do to Yehi & Williams are paramount among them. It’s one of those solid show-opening promos that sets a ton of plates spinning to make for some excellent business.

WWE Match of The Week:

Drew McIntyre vs Andrade “Cien” Almas

NXT, 4/26

Again, I liked this as much for the work and their in-ring chemistry as I do for what it accomplishes. Further establishing Drew’s beastly force and Almas tranquilo chill made for good story telling beats in the build to NXT TakeOver: Chicago, which will be here before we know it.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Segment of the Week:

Table For 3: Common Bonds: Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, and AJ Styles

Table For 3, 4/24

The worst kept secret in WWE is that the shows right before a PPV (known as the Go-Home events, as in: send them home ready to pay more) now suck eggs.

Therefore, my favorite thing on WWE this week was the latest episode of Table For 3 on the WWE Network. Not only did Nash, Michaels and Styles get to shoot the shit, but they get to let HBK tell his side of why he doesn’t want to un-retire to face Styles.

Honorable Mentions:

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

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.

Watch This Wrestling 10 (3/10 – 16)

What a week it’s been. So much to talk about, and so many things we can’t talk about.  

Of course, though, I can say that this was the week I dropped Impact (fka TNA). It took 19 minutes for that show to focus its whole efforts on the Josh Matthews vs JB storyline and for me to tune out.    

Also, this was the week where I learned what it’s like to watch NJPW’s non-English content. Shows with only Japanese commentary are the most engaging, while matches without any commentary and a fixed angle, they can be difficult. For more on NJPW, read my explainer here.

Last little note, who the hell schedules ROH’s content? The ROH Wrestling show that landed on 3/13 was completely incongruous with the promotion’s 3/10 ppv. Not only did it ignore 15th Anniversary, but it had the Young Bucks holding the tag titles. Which they haven’t since March 4th, when they lost them at Manhattan Mayhem.  

Below, as usual now, you’ll see 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:

  • ROH 15th Anniversary aka Winner Takes All, 3/10
  • New Japan Cup (Night 1) 3/11
  • New Japan Cup (Night 2) 3/12
  • New Japan Cup (Night 3) 3/13
  • ROH Wrestling, 3/13
  • WWE Monday Night Raw, 3/13  
  • New Japan Cup (Night 4) 3/14
  • WWE SmackDown Live, 3/14
  • WWE 205 Live, 3/14  
  • WWE Talking Smack Live, 3/14    
  • New Japan Cup (Night 5) 3/15
  • WWE NXT, 3/15  
  • Impact Wrestling, 3/16 (well, the first 19 minutes)  

My Upcoming Watch list:

  • Southpaw Regional Wrestling, 3/17
  • New Japan Cup 3/17
  • wXw 16 Carat Gold (Night 1), 3/17
  • WCPW: Matt Riddle vs Cody, 3/18
  • New Japan Cup 3/19
  • New Japan Cup 3/20
  • ROH Wrestling, 3/20
  • WWE Monday Night Raw, 3/20  
  • New Japan Cup 3/20
  • WWE SmackDown Live, 3/21
  • WWE 205 Live, 3/21  
  • WWE Talking Smack Live, 3/21    
  • WWE NXT, 3/22  

Segment of the Week (Non-WWE):

Christopher Daniels Promo  

ROH 15th Anniversary aka Winner Takes All, 3/10  

I went into this late, having known everything that would happen, but damn did Daniels’ promo still pump me up. In part, it works so well because it plays upon his history with the company and his lack of reward, blurring that line and creating that raw emotional tension.  

Honorable mention:

  • EVIL’s post-match mini-promo from New Japan Cup (Night 1), 3/11.  

Match of the Week (Non-WWE, Overall):

Kenny Omega vs Tomohoro Ishii  

New Japan Cup (Night 2), 3/12  

I don’t know what would make a man so foolish as to get into a knife-edge chop fight with Ben Grimm. Maybe Kenny Omega doesn’t see Tomohoro Ishii the way I do, which is as New Japan’s version of The Thing from The Fantastic Four.  

Either way, this match was fantastic, so much so that I’m using it to start noting the overall best match of the week.  

From the Terminator claps from the audience to the back and forth spitting on one another, this match made the New Japan Cup feel important.  

My notes include the phrase “such lariat” and I’ll stand behind that. It’s the first no-English commentary match I ever loved and it validated my decision to go deeper down the rabbit hole into the NJPW content.  

Available via NJPWworld.com

Honorable mentions:

  • Katsuyori Shibata vs Minoru Suzuki from New Japan Cup (Night 2), 3/12  
  • Christopher Daniels vs Adam Cole © for the ROH World Championship from ROH 15th Anniversary aka Winner Takes All, 3/10

Segment of the Week (WWE):

Who will Mick Foley Fire?

WWE Monday Night Raw, 3/13  

I’m not giving a YouTube video for this segment, as I sometimes do. Find it in full, WWE edite too much out of it.  

Both the Mick Foley’s Impending Firing storyline and Rollins vs. Triple H have been drawn on for so long that it felt like this night would never come. Therefore, seems fitting that WWE rolled the climaxes for the two into one night.    

Mick Foley may often get praise for his Angry Old Veteran promos on Raw, but this segment truly allowed the McMahon/Levesque (pronounced “le•vek”) duo to shine. This segment told us what we already knew (the Authority branding is dead but Steph and Paul still run this town), and made us feel those feelings.  

From the look that Steph gives as Triple H’s music hits to Hunter bringing up Foley disappointing his kids and potentially ruining Noelle’s budding career as a WWE Superstar, there’s a lot of beautiful malice happening here.  

So to top it off with two returns, a low blow and a beating, help give the coming weeks some stakes. Good job, Raw.  

Honorable mentions:

  • Bathing Bray, Bryan’s Ultimate Face-Punching Extravaganza and AJ confronts Shanefrom WWE SmackDown Live, 3/14
  • Noam Dar tells Daivari that he needs a win, Drew Gulak is Angry, from WWE 205 Live, 3/14

Match of the Week (WWE):

Kassius Ohno vs Bobby Roode © for the NXT Championship

WWE NXT, 3/15  

Sure, I’m awarding this match as a compliment, but I should like this match a whole lot more. Hell the audience in Tampa should have enjoyed this match more. I loved the reversals, and that Ohno elbowed Roode out of the ring, but I need to digress a little about what held this back.  

The big problem, of course, is that they didn’t get enough time to cook. 14 minutes may sound long for a WWE match on paper, but it’s still the first match Hero wrestled as Ohno in this return to NXT. Therefore, parts of the audience had no idea who he was or why they should care. Also, WWE kinda botched Ohno’s return, with a bunch of telling and not showing. By leaving the stories of his old feuds on the table, by trying to brush the topic of his weight under an unfortunately tucked-in customized Dream Team jersey, they gave a match so meta that audiences would need to be super aware in order to connect.  

Also, I don’t buy Ohno or Hero getting fooled into getting his neck hurt by the top rope. Dude’s a veteran. Yes, I spent the majority of this bitching, but it wasn’t the best week for matches in WWE.  

Honorable Mention:

  • Number One Contender’s Match for the Cruiserweight Championship from WWE 205 Live, 3/14

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 (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).