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Watch This Wrestling 50 (12/17—12/23)

Hello friends! 

So, about the future of this column. Feels like next year it should be moving to a monthly project. That will allow for separate pieces about stand-out events to take place in between posts, and for me to feel less rushed. I expect things will stay at the WithAPassion.com domain, but could easily see me leaving Tumblr.

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

What I Watched

  • WWE Clash of Champions 2017, 12/17
  • Monday Night Raw, 12/18
  • SmackDown LIVE, 12/19
  • 205 Live, 12/19
  • NXT, 12/20
  • Progress: Live at the Dome (12/13), 12/22

Upcoming Watch List

  • Monday Night Raw, 12/25
  • Riptide: Black Water, 12/25
  • SmackDown LIVE, 12/26
  • 205 Live, 12/26
  • NXT, 12/27
  • NOVA Pro: Such Great Heights 12/28

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Chris Ridgeway vs Damon Moser vs Pastor William Eaver vs Spike Trivet

Progress: Live at the Dome (12/13), 12/22

So, because I’ve been watching Riptide Wrestling well-after it went up on VOD, I haven’t had a chance to gush about it, nor its lothario Spike Trivet, here until now. If you haven’t seen him work yet, just load up Riptide Returns (a $6 rental) or non-Chapter show from Progress, if you already subscribe to Demand Progress and you don’t have the cash for more VOD Graps. Not only does this match have a ton of excellent spots from the other three stars in the match, but Trivet is just one of the best new baddies in a while.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Sugar Rush (Candyfloss & Zoë Quinn Lucas) vs Laura Di Matteo & Bea Priestley, Progress: Live at the Dome (12/13), 12/22
  • Mike Bird vs Danny Jones, Progress: Live at the Dome (12/13), 12/22
  • Chris Brookes vs David Starr, Progress: Live at the Dome (12/13), 12/22

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

Glen Joseph Deals With Spike Trivet

Progress: Live at the Dome (12/13), 12/22

And he’s such a baddie that I’m giving an award to this segment that had me screaming “WATCH OUT, GLEN!” at my TV.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Match of The Week:

Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunne – WWE United Kingdom Championship Match

NXT, 12/20

Sometimes, hot takes are tweeted with a sense of “I don’t believe this, but have fun yelling at me.” But when I posted the message “Dunne Bate is a better wrestling trilogy than Okada Omega.” I meant it with every inch of my mind and heart.

Why are these matches so good? Because these two have amazing chemistry, facial expressions and aesthetics that do all the storytelling that NXT isn’t doing for them, and their finishing sequences have gotten better and better over the span of 2017.

I’ll write more on this, and soon.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Segment of the Week:

“Woken” Matt Hardy moves his pieces into position

Monday Night Raw, 12/18

Even though this is arguably nothing new and rehashing what Hardy did in TNA, it still gets the win. Why? It’s Matt Hardy talking to a freaking goldfish that’s why. And it’s entertaining. This isn’t rocket science.

Honorable Mentions:

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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:

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Don’t Miss This 2 (1/13 – 1/19)

WWE Match of the Week:

Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate

WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament, 1/15 

What’s more amazing, that WWE’s match of the week featured two talents that never graced the E’s network until a week before it aired, or that these two are at this level at this young an age? I like to joke with my Ring Post co-host Myke Hurley that the rest of us hate him for his youth, but Tyler Bate’s goofy nineteen-year-old ass is another hamper of crazy-pants all-together.

First of all, I didn’t buy Bates at the start, especially due to his gee-golly ‘charm’ and the fact that his “I’ve got two fists” line ripped off James Ellsworth almost verbatim (though who knows, The Chinless Wonder might have been copying Bates).

But from the moment Pete Dunne popped up on the screen, I hated him and enjoyed it. He’s got the perfect aesthetic as a bully, and his combination of a sneer and his fist-against-jaw give me thoughts of Miz and Kevin Owens at the same time. Plus, he’s all packed into a Sami Callahan-esque frame that makes it all feel fresh.
But how did they get this match to be so awesome? 

Well, by keeping the two on a steady progression of heel and face dynamics and preceding the match with Bate winning Wolfie’s respect and Dunne’s run-in on Bate, trying to break his shoulder. That’s compact storytelling, and William Regal’s outrage (and Michael Cole’s focus on said outrage) tied it all together, man. That all made the match mean a lot. You had someone to cheer, someone to boo, and they both played their parts. 

 Bate and Dunne both look their respective parts as well, Bate looks like the kid who always gets picked on by Dunne’s bully, and they were able to show and not tell over the span of the night.
This match follows those expectations, and Dunne spends most of the match ravaging Bate’s shoulder, including a Kimura lock that looked downright grizzly. 

If you had to take the match by itself, I’d almost prefer Mark Andrews vs Pete Dunne (which I think had a better-paced finish) from the previous round, but this one just shows how much the story-telling can add.
The match made both of these guys huge, and I look forward to seeing what they have coming up. 

Here’s a short clip. Watch the whole thing on the Network.

Best WWE Segment of the Week:

The King’s Court with Jerry The King Lawler and Dolph Ziggler

SmackDown Live, 1/17 

I’ll be the first to say I’m shocked that I’m giving credit to Dolph Ziggler and Jerry Lawler. Both rank high on my “fall off this planet, please” list, and will likely stay there for some time. But since Degree of Difficulty matters for me when trying to compare wrestling moments, I need to give this segment its due.

Wrestling’s performed gimmicks always glimmer more when they’re fused with reality, and so it’s reasonable that a segment where Dolph Ziggler returned to finish the job of killing Jerry Lawler flat-out held me in its hands.
It’s the end of the simmer-segment of Ziggler’s heel turn, which is now at full-boil. 

Lawler’s also part of the Royal Rumble announce team, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see those two go at it. And in one segment (which draws from ages ago), they got me to care so much more about that confrontation than the inevitable Rollins & Triple H shmozz. I’ll admit that this probably worked so well for me because going shirtless-with-cape felt like it should shame Lawler a bit.

Best non-WWE Match of the Week:

Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada © IWGP Heavyweight Championship

NJPW on AXS, 1/13 

Yes, this match originally took place on January 4th, and you may know I’m not that hot on it, but the AXS TV version with Jim Ross aired for the first time on 1/13, and that’s how bad the wrestling outside of the WWE was this week. 

Also, I need to explain something. 

You know how Bate vs. Dunn had barely any buildup but strong face vs. heel dynamics and performances? Omega vs. Okada was the pinnacle of Good Moves and fast pacing at the end, but it had tons of build time but zero face vs. heel storytelling in the ring. As dramatic as it is to be the main event at Wrestle Kingdom at the Tokyo Dome, this match lost so much by not attempting anything aside from moves. 

The one story, if you’ll call it that, was “this is Kenny Omega trying to achieve, but he needs his finishing move and Okada won’t let him do it.” That’s so tiny, it gets lost in the scale of it all.
Amazing moves though, I can’t believe Okada’s neck is still intact after all of that. And good for Kenny Omega for finally getting the attention he’s earned.

Best non-WWE Segment of the Week:

Cody (Rhodes) Will Judge YOU, ROH Fans

Ring of Honor, 1/15 

This Cody right here: the post-Final Battle-heel turn on Jay Lethal, pre-Bullet Club, is the best version of Indie Cody the wrestler we cannot call Rhodes.
It creates solid, consistent loathing from the fans. Cody’s explanation of why he turned heel is that the ROH fans were going to judge him at Final Battle, but nobody judges him. That it’s the other way around, he’s here to judge us. Also, I won’t spoil anymore, except he gets point for use of the word “proboscis." 

Maybe some people don’t like fan heckling like "Where’s Your Sexy-Ass Wife?” yell here and the “STAAAAAR-DUUUUUUUSSSST” fan at that the debut Defy Wrestling show in Seattle, but it works so well overall. Cody trying to call security on the guy who asked where Eden was was hysterical.