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Watch This Wrestling 44 (11/5—11)

Hello friends!

And here we have the second week WWE having awakened from slumber. Also, just one non-WWE thing. As I’ve said, I’m trying to change that. NJPW Tag League is coming up to help out, and I may be giving TNA another shot now that it’s employing The Hottest Free Agent in Pro Wrestling: Ethan Page.

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

What I Watched

  • NJPW Power Struggle, 11/5
  • Monday Night Raw, 11/6
  • SmackDown LIVE, 11/7
  • 205 Live, 11/7
  • NXT, 11/8

Upcoming Watch List

  • Monday Night Raw, 11/13
  • SmackDown LIVE, 11/14
  • 205 Live, 11/14
  • NXT, 11/15

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Marty Scurll vs Will Ospreay © for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship

NJPW Power Struggle, 11/5

This is a fun match, and I think it’s the best either have had during their runs in New Japan. Sure, Ospreay match’s against Ricochet is iconic, but it at times felt too much like a routine and not like a fight.

And even if Scurll and Ospreay have wrestled a ton of times before, this match didn’t smell at all of two guys going through the motions. Scurll actually fought despicably and Ospreay had to deal with him in mostly non-flippy ways. Good times.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Kenny Omega vs Trent Beretta, NJPW Power Struggle, 11/5
  • Kota Ibushi vs Hiroshi Tanahashi © for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, NJPW Power Struggle, 11/5
  • David Starr vs Anthony Gangone © for the FBW Championship, Five Borough Wrestling, A Savior Among Us, 11/10

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

A New Challenger Appears for Kenny Omega

NJPW Power Struggle, 11/5

Yep: Jericho vs Omega will happen at WrestleKingdom 12 this year. And if the match alone (and the social media dick measuring contest) didn’t seal the deal on your excitement, check out this promo:

Also, gotta love that Jericho uses a countdown clock for this debut moment, just like he did when he came to WWE. Another smart touch? Jericho is silent for the first few moments of the promo, so the crowd and announcers can lose their collective shit.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Match of The Week:

AJ Styles vs Jinder Mahal © for the WWE Championship

SmackDown LIVE, 11/7

I haven’t hated Jinder’s run as champ. First: it irked fans enough to make this match matter a lot, and second: this match didn’t illogically tweak the role of the Singh brothers, Mahal’s not at all-secret weapon, so that AJ could win.

Not only did Styles systematically take down the flopping boys, but his subsequent return into the ring used reversals and ring-awareness so he wouldn’t go down like all the rest.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Segment of the Week:

Enzo Introduces the UK Division to the British WWE Fans

205 Live, 11/7

This gets a best for giving Tyler Bate on the mic, and for continuing to validate the Enzo Experiment. Sometimes you need to get guys over by pairing them with others who already matter.

This segment also won be over by putting Mark Andrews and James Drake on screen. It also showed that WWE is smart enough to not give Joseph Conners a microphone.

Honorable Mentions:

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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:

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Watch This Wrestling 40 (10/8—14)

Hello friends! This didn’t just go up late because there was a lot to watch, but because I did another one for Cageside Seats: Evolve 94 Live Report: A View From The Front Row.

Also, have you watched my video about BOLA yet?

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

What I Watched

  • 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
  • Evolve 94, 10/14

Upcoming Watch List

  • Evolve 95, 10/15
  • Monday Night Raw, 10/16
  • SmackDown LIVE, 10/17
  • 205 Live, 10/17
  • NXT, 10/18
  • Lucha Underground, 10/18

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Keith Lee vs Matt Riddle: WWN Championship Last Man Standing Match

Evolve 94, 10/14

In a week filled with 4-star matches, it’s hard to pick which one is the best. I’ve been nit-picking the finish of Lee vs Riddle for days, debating how much the Last Man Standing stipulation hurt the match.

Yes, a three-count could have made for a more raucous moment, but this match was still the biggest barn-burner of them all, even when you consider the ending relied on one man not standing up. And since I’ve heard some compelling arguments saying that an I Knocked You Out stip means more than a pinfall, yep this is the winner.

First of all, I loved the rolled-through suplexes to start the match off, placed them on a more-even playing field. The next thing I noticed (from the front row) that made me smile was how Keith Lee worked the match in a very natural way, turning his head to see if Riddle was rising up, and then immediately making an effort to do so at those moments.

I spent much of the hours before the show predicting that Lee would win, to the point where I felt confident. Maybe that’s why I felt the ending looked a little telegraphed, though Riddle spent a lot of time dominating the match, which always signals the comebacks.

On top of the solid build of Lee doing his signature moves, and then having to do them again from the top rope, the post-match moments really tied it all together. Look at how Keith Lee looks at the WWN Championship. We saw more raw emotion here than we ever got from Riddle over this belt, and more than we got from any of the below honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Ricochet vs Shane Strickland, MLW One Shot, 10/8
  • Jinny vs Milly McKenzie, PROGRESS: Revelations Of Divine Love, 10/8
  • Will Ospreay vs Kushida, NJPW King Of Pro Wrestling, 10/9
  • Tomohiro Ishii vs Tetsuya Naito, NJPW King Of Pro Wrestling, 10/9
  • Roppongi 3K vs Ricochet & Ryusuke Taguchi © for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Titles, NJPW King Of Pro Wrestling, 10/9
  • Pentagon Dark vs Son of Havoc, Lucha Underground, 10/12
  • Darby Allin vs Jarek 1:20, Evolve 94, 10/14
  • Fred Yehi vs Hot Sauce Tracy Williams, Evolve 94, 10/14
  • Jaka vs Zack Sabre Jr., Evolve 94, 10/14

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

Ethan Page: This Generation Sucks, And So Does Shane Strickland

Ethan Page’s YouTube, 10/11

Surprise! I love an Ethan Page YouTube promo! Now that All Ego has left Evolve, his channel is my primary means of seeing the Body Guy talk his shit.

Here, he provides a solid takedown of Shane Strickland for making himself the leader of some loosely affiliated group of CZW talent. And Page makes some damn good points about how there are a lot of people just imitating others.

Now, I don’t see Strickland as a clone, he’s been proving his merit in a lot of places, from the Lucha Underground temple to the MLW One Shot event. But if you look around Strickland, in that video, yeah … Page has a point.

Page is also so far above most of the CZW roster — in terms of mic skills — that he can record this video in his kitchen and make it look easy.

Want another indicator of how this promo is great? It’s sold me on paying for the CZW The Wolf of Wrestling event when it eventually hits an online platform.

Why is that a big deal? Because I didn’t set up an array of mute filters, I have a pretty solid guess as to how the match finishes, as I didn’t see people on Twitter raving about a new champion being crowned. But I still want to see how this goes.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Match of The Week:

The Usos vs The New Day for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships in a Hell In The Cell Match

Hell In A Cell, 10/8

Up to that moment it was the Best Hell In A Cell match that didn’t feature Mick Foley or The Undertaker. Which is saying something. Super insane spots, lots of inventive mayhem, and oh the trombones. Francesca lost a lot of family that night.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Segment of the Week:

Kevin and Sami Explain Themselves

SmackDown LIVE, 10/10

You know what’s amazing about this? Completely defied the established and hard-to-argue conventional wisdom that Sami Zayn should always be a babyface.

Sure, I’d like that heels be less right about their motivation, but I’m also impressed that this all ties together so well. Most WWE heel turns don’t make this much sense.

Honorable Mentions:

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Watch This Wrestling 35 (9/3—9/9)

Hello friends! So, thanks to this rundown’s Sunday through Saturday format, this ranking is still hung up on BOLA. Why did I skip NJPW’s shows? Personal time limits met cards whose only matches I saw involved the ongoing thing between Ospreay and Takahashi.

And before you start this, realize minor BOLA spoilers follow. If you want a spoiler-free read, check out this piece I wrote for Cageside Seats about the experience.

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

What I Watched

  • Pro Wrestling Guerrilla 2017 Battle of Los Angeles – Final Stage, 9/3
  • Progress Ch. 54: Go To Your God Like A Soldier:, 9/3 [VOD date]
  • 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

Upcoming Watch List

  • 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, 9/15 [estimated VOD date]

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Keith Lee vs Donovan Dijak

Pro Wrestling Guerrilla 2017 Battle of Los Angeles – Final Stage, 9/3

This match is why, if you can only afford to buy or rent one of the BOLA events, you should pick the third, aka Final Stage, without a moment’s pause.

Yes, I’m far from the first to praise this match, with Dave Meltzer giving it a 5-stars rating (is that out of 5 or now out of 6.25?), but wow. It’s the best damn thing. And most of us, I’m guessing, didn’t see see coming. This is one of the great things about BOLA, as the brackets aren’t made public, and you don’t know third day matches until they happen.

The two had just as recently as Night 1 tagged as the Space Jam-inspired Monstars, but even their dynamic chemistry there didn’t make it obvious that Lee and Dijak would steal the show. Instead, it took mere moments into this bout, the third on the card (WHICH IS NOT WHERE YOU TYPICALLY PUT A BARN BURNER), for us in the audience to realize there was something special taking place in front of us. That we truly were going to bask in the glory of a maybe-once-in-a-lifetime feat to feast our eyes upon.

I won’t say any more, other than to say that if this doesn’t put Keith Lee on WWE’s shopping list – as they just picked up Dijak – I don’t know what Regal, The Brian Kendrick and X-Pac were looking at when they were at BOLA. These two redefined what big men can – and should – do, and I’d love to see it all take place again and again, on even grander stages. If you think Braun Strowman’s making 2017 the year of the hoss, just get ready for 2018: When Hosses Learn How To Fly.

Honorable Mentions:

  • All of BOLA Day 3. I thought about going into detail here, but seriously, that could spoil any of what went down. Most know about Lee vs Dijak by now, but let the rest of this night, drink it in maaaan, 9/3
  • Tyler Bate vs Kid Lykos, Progress Ch. 54: Go To Your God Like A Soldier:, 9/3
  • Jinny vs Dahlia Black, Progress Ch. 54: Go To Your God Like A Soldier:, 9/3
  • In a 5-0 Street Fight for an Aztec Medallion, Cortez Castro vs. Joey Ryan, Lucha Underground, 9/6

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

Post-BOLA

Pro Wrestling Guerrilla 2017 Battle of Los Angeles – Final Stage, 9/3

The rug that tied it all together, the segment that finished BOLA, happening after the Finals victory, explained it all. Again, not going to spoil anything, but just applaud the mic work of those involved. With its wrestling being as good as it is, PWG doesn’t need to oversaturate with storyline, and this felt great.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Flash Morgan Webster’s “Wrestling Friends,” with special guests Jimmy Havoc and Mark Haskins, Progress Ch. 54: Go To Your God Like A Soldier:, 9/3

WWE Match of The Week:

Toni Storm vs. Kairi Sane

WWE Mae Young Classic Episode 8, 8/28

It’s not a surprise to me that my two favorites in this tournament put on the best WWE match of the last week. While it was competitive, I like that it didn’t feel like Kairi only barely came away with the win, because that would have felt like she definitely had no chance next week. And I desperately want her to win.

But that’s not to say that Toni Storm didn’t make the most of this appearance. She’s one of a few wrestlers who I’d be surprised that WWE doesn’t make a major offer to sign at the end of this thing.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Segment of the Week:

“You should have died in that crash.”

SmackDown LIVE, 9/5

First of all, thank you SmackDown Live, for doing the little thing, of crossing the wires. For Kevin Owens to interrupt Carmella, is a nice little moment that reminds us that wrestlers aren’t separated by division or locker room. Yes, I’m assuming Ellsworth changes before he gets to the venue and waits for Carmella to.

But, of course, this award goes to Kevin Owens for regaining his importance for the first time in a very long time. Sure, his stuff with Jericho was fun, but this is stronger, meaner and more manipulative.

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Watch This Wrestling 30 (7/30–8/5)

So, a heads-up. WTW 31 is most-likely hitting the pages late. My excuse? Look down at my schedule for August 11 and 12, and realize I’m attending 3 of those 6 events, and needing to watch the other three after they occur. And then Sunday August 13 will feature the G1 Climax finals?

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

What I Watched

  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 10, 7/30
  • Monday Night Raw, 7/31
  • SmackDown LIVE, 8/1
  • 205 Live, 8/1
  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 11, 8/1
  • NXT, 8/2
  • Lucha Underground, 8/2
  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 12, 8/2
  • Progress Chapter 53: Fate Loves The Fearless, 8/3
  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 13, 8/4
  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 14, 8/5

Upcoming Watch List

  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 15, 8/6
  • Monday Night Raw, 8/7
  • SmackDown LIVE, 8/8
  • 205 Live, 8/8
  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 16, 8/8
  • NXT, 8/9
  • Lucha Underground, 8/9
  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 17, 8/11
  • Evolve 90, 8/11
  • Battle Club Pro: The Bounty In Kings County, 8/11
  • Evolve 91, 8/12
  • Progress: NYC, 8/12
  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 1, 8/12

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

30 for 30: Stokely Hathaway!?

WWNLive via YouTube, 8/1

Stokely Hathaway is the crown-jewel of Evolve, and this video is further proof that the promotion is aware of it.

My favorite stuff in here is how some wrestlers just talk their talk about Stokely (Keith Lee in particular), while Dream Team affiliate Tim Thatcher simply avoids conversation.

Honorable Mentions:

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

EVIL vs Kazuchika Okada

NJPW: G1 Climax Day 14, 8/5

The second batch of G1 days didn’t offer the same brilliance as the first set, but god damn this match. In one match, they took Evil, who is the laser-light-loving love-child of Bray Wyatt and The Undertaker, and turned him into a star. If you want to know why Okada is so good, it’s due in part to him making his opponents look like a million bucks.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Dante Fox vs. Prince Puma, Lucha Underground, 8/2
  • Kenny Omega vs Juice Robinson, NJPW: G1 Climax Day 14, 8/5
  • Pete Dunne vs Jack Sexsmith, Progress Chapter 53: Fate Loves The Fearless, 8/3

WWE Match of The Week:

Aleister Black vs Kyle O’Reilly

NXT, 8/2

Leaving Ring of Honor might be the best thing to happen to Kyle O’Reilly’s career. First, he and Keith Lee kill it at Evolve 82 in April, and now this.

Sure, the ending isn’t what you might have wanted, but this match is a barn-burner.

  • John Cena vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, SmackDown LIVE, 8/1
  • AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens, SmackDown LIVE, 8/1

WWE Segment of the Week:

Fashion Peaks

SmackDown LIVE, 8/1

You don’t have to be a Twin Peaks fan to find Fashion Peaks hilarious. How do I know? I’ve tried and failed with the classic David Lynch TV show, but this segment still had me rolling in my chair.

Honorable Mentions:

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Watch This Wrestling 26 (7/2–8)

You’ll notice is that while ROH TV is in my watched list, but it isn’t in my to-watch-list. Why’s that? Their TV shows have been not-great for months and with a massive amount of Progress and NJPW to watch over the coming weeks, I’m trying to use my time more efficiently. Also, I’ve gotten tired of their PPVs and TV episodes not lining up because of their pre-tape schedule.

Also, a belated Best Non-WWE award to The Bachelorette for the Kenny King vs Lee The Racist feud. So while I love Kenny King now, and he won an ROH TV title #1 contender’s ranking this week on ROH TV, that’s still not enough for me to keep watching that show as it is these days. If ROH TV somehow improves its shows, then we’ll see if they can get the rose again.

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

What I Watched

  • New Japan G1 Special Night 2, 7/2
  • Monday Night Raw, 7/3
  • ROH Wrestling, 7/3
  • SmackDown LIVE, 7/4
  • 205 Live, 7/4
  • Talking Smack Live, 7/4
  • Progress: Chapter 50: I Give It Six Months, 7/4
  • NXT, 7/5
  • Lucha Underground, 7/5
  • Evolve 88, 7/8

Upcoming Watch List

  • Evolve 89, 7/9
  • Being The Elite Ep. 63, “Hot Topic”, 7/9
  • Monday Night Raw, 7/10
  • SmackDown LIVE, 7/11
  • 205 Live, 7/12
  • Talking Smack Live, 7/12
  • NXT, 7/13
  • Lucha Underground, 7/13

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

Best of Bros: Keith Lee and Matt Riddle

WWNLive via YouTube, 7/7

This may go as no shock as I am a fan of ~both these guys~, but this is another solid mini-doc from Kenny Johnson. This is the first I’ve seen of a promotion focusing on Riddle’s Altered Bro moments, and the digital effects applied there are great.

Also, this shows off their Evolve 87 match as the must-see it was, as well as giving more spotlight to Keith Lee’s charisma, and attention to the issue of being friendly with someone who’s out to get you. Riddle didn’t show up to aide Lee at Evolve 88, and this could be shown as reason why, with The Bro not wanting his strongest competition at full-strength. Or he’s just a prick like John Cena who doesn’t do anything when his “friends” get attacked.

Honorable Mentions:

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Zack Sabre Jr. vs Tomohiro Ishii, IWGP US Championship Tournament match

New Japan G1 Special Night 2, 7/2

The inclusion of Tomohiro Ishii is one of the things about the G1 Special in the US events that makes me the most jealous, considering The Stone Pitbull didn’t show up at the ROH / NJPW War of The Worlds NYC PPV.

This event gave the LA audience everything I wanted, and then some. Of the matches they got, I preferred his match against ZSJ because you rarely see Ishii in submission matches, and this showed he’s great there too. Also, loved the insane move of ZSJ’s trying to go strike for strike with the walking, talking human version of Ben Grimm aka The Thing.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Kenny Omega vs Jay Lethal, New Japan G1 Special Night 2, 7/2
  • Tomohiro Ishii vs Kenny Omega, New Japan G1 Special Night 2, 7/2
  • Young Bucks vs ROPPONGI Vice, New Japan G1 Special Night 2, 7/2
  • Kay Lee Ray vs Toni Storm ©, Progress Chapter 50
  • CCK vs BSS, Progress Chapter 50
  • Ethan Page vs Keith Lee, Evolve 88, 7/8
  • Darby Allin vs “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams, Evolve 88, 7/8
  • ACH vs. Fred Yehi for the Evolve World Championship #1 Contender position, Evolve 88, 7/8

WWE Match of The Week:

AJ Styles vs Chad Gable

SmackDown LIVE, 7/4

I was split this week on the E’s best match, because both were great, but also predictable. But while I enjoyed Roode being despicable, I cared more about the continuation of Chad Gable’s solo sojourn.

As Gable said in a backstage interview afterwards, the tag division is a little packed at the moment. If they need solid solo matches to get the audiences to care more about American Alpha, so be it.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Segment of the Week:

The Rap Battle: The New Day vs The Usos

SmackDown LIVE, 7/4

The first great rap-related segment in WWE history, and it had bars for days. Haven’t seen it somehow? Find another version than the one below, as WWE left off the best bar.

Honorable Mentions:

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Watch This Wrestling 17 (4/27—5/3)

Here’s the latest edition of my weekly roundup of what’s worth checking out from the week in wrestling. People I talked to loved the Raw main event more than I did, but my issue was that the winner was so clearly obvious.

If somehow you found this and you don’t know I do a podcast about wrestling, I do! It’s called The Ring Post, and we just published our latest episode “Paybacklash” which you can find here.

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:

  • 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:

Kenny Omega vs Tomohoro Ishii

NJPW: Wrestling Dontaku, 5/3

As much as I loved the matches from Progress 47 (watch it) nothing stands up in comparison to this bit of business from The Cleaner (Omega) and the Stone Pitbull (Ishii).

I wanted there to be a little more heel/face dynamic when I was watching this match, but in the time since I’ve realized why. Omega may possibly be turning heel, and this match may have primed the crowd to handle it, as they’ve already been turning on Okada, his opponent at the upcoming Dominion show.

NJPW: Wrestling Dontaku is available on NJPW World.

Honorable Mentions:

  • South Pacific Power Trip vs. London Riots, Progress Wrestling, Ch.47: Complicated Simplicity, hit VOD on 4/29
  • PROGRESS World Title and Tag Team Titles on the line: British Strong Style vs Ringkampf, Progress Wrestling, Ch.47: Complicated Simplicity, hit VOD on 4/29
  • Hiromu Takahashi vs Ricochet, NJPW: Wrestling Toyo Province 2017, 4/29

Non-WWE Segment of the Week:

EVOLVE Mini-Doc: Page vs. Darby – The Final Chapter

WWN Live/YouTube, 5/1

I’ve had a hard time writing about the recent last man standing match between Ethan Page vs Darby Allin. This video, another gem of an Evolve Mini-Doc from Kenny Johnson, tells so much story that it needs to be screened at the start of the next Evolve event.

Excellent mix of match footage and backstage content, with caption overlays as necessary. Gives the suicidal Darby Allin all the credit he deserves. I hope he’s going to be well soon.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Match of The Week:

Naomi & Charlotte Flair vs Natalya & Carmella

SmackDown Live, 5/2

While the Payback PPV had some good stuff, this is the match I found myself thinking about more. And that’s less about the match itself rather than what it did for its characters. Love everything that happens once Charlotte arrives, as well as Becky’s decisions.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Segment of the Week:

The Fashion Files

SmackDown Live, 5/2

Without a shadow of a doubt, the best non-wrestling segment of the WWE week. Please, let this be a recurring bit. As I noted on the latest episode of The Ring Post, I want this to be a plot device for summarizing the current state of SmackDown Live.

Purest of gold here:

Honorable Mentions:

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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
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Watch This Wrestling 7 (2/17 – 23)

WWE Match of the Week:

The Big Show vs Braun Strowman

Monday Night Raw, 2/20

The last time the Twitter timeline blew up this much was … well, last week’s Festival of Friendship . But seriously, folks, if you didn’t think Strowman deserved his own Mania match, this is the moment that elevated Big McStronghuge past the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal.

Not only did Strowman deliver a good match with (or out of?) Big Show (who’s been less than relevant as of late) but he did so during his first 1-on-1 match in a main event. Oh, and that (assisted) kip-up! Maybe this is a case of lowered expectations, but damn, it was a fun time.

Honorable mentions go to SmackDown Live’s Nikki Bella vs Natalya (which would have been my pick it if not for the finish) and 205 Live’s Mustafa Ali vs Noam Dar

Non-WWE Match of the Week:

Christopher Daniels vs Jay Briscoe in the Finals of The Decade Of Excellence Tournament

Ring of Honor, 2/20

This match is the culmination of an 8-wrestler tournament to decide the next number one contender to Adam Cole Bay Bay for the ROH World Championship. In the build up to this match Daniels’ long-time tag partner Frankie Kazarian has done at least one, if not multiple, promos talking about this being his aging buddy’s last shot. This has been awkward, teasing some kind of turn.

The match on its own, is excellent, and it all begins at the commentary table. Adding Mark Briscoe and Kaz to the commentary table is the first time Kevin Kelly hasn’t been drowning since Nigel McGuinness left. Kazarian over-emphasize the story of Daniels’ last chance tempts fate about the split-up of The Addiction.

This episode of Ring of Honor is available for free on the FITE app. After watching the match, you can spoil the next four weeks of tapings by googling “ROH taping results.”

WWE Segment of the Week:

The SmackDown Live Women’s Title Picture, featuring Daniel Bryan and Naomi, and then Alexa Bliss

SmackDown Live, 2/21

I thought Naomi had cemented herself as a popular fan favorite with her new entrance and title win over Alexa Bliss, but this segment proved that the glow is more widely felt than I’d realized. Naomi’s heartfelt, teary-eyed promo was only enhanced by having the retired-by-injury Daniel Bryan be the person she had to return her title to, and for the fans in the arena to be so vocally on her side.

Making matters even better, Alexa Bliss (the latest ultimate opportunist?) coming out to demand the title be handed to her was icing on the segment.

Unfortunately, while I read this segment as a storyline, and not the result of a legitimate, shoot-injury, I was wrong. Rumors point to her injury being as bad as the one recently suffered by Rollins, leading to her liable to miss Wrestlemania.

For now, I’ll hope that even the injury rumors leaking out are all a part of the work. If it is, Naomi’s win at Mania 33 could be huge.

Honorable Mention: Kassius Ohno’s actual return, which could have gone higher, but it’s all a little too meta for me. I’m loving it, but I don’t know if the whole audience is too.

Non-WWE Segment of the Week:

Laurel & Braxton’s Wedding ft. Mike Bennett gives Braxton Sutter advice

While Lucha Underground is off, it’s up to Impact Wrestling to create televised non-match segments outside of the WWE that are worth noting. And for once, they did it without the Hardys.

Wrestling Weddings are a great way to get a ton of performers (Allie, Mike Bennett, Maria Kanelis Bennett, Aron Rex, Rockstar Spud, Sienna, Braxton Sutter … and a few more later on) into the ring at once to play off of each other and create some great (or at least lively) dramatic moments.

While I couldn’t stand Mike Bennet, Worst Bachelor Party Host Ever, his role as drunk best man fits this whole awkward rom-com thing a lot better. This whole story is based on manipulation and misinterpretation, so for him to push Sutter closer to breaking off the wedding, that works.

Also great were the fact that the wedding is entirely about Maria, but what I wish I understood was how Rex and Spud connected to the story. They’re heel, sure, but with no background in this, and only being used as “flower girls” because homophobia.

Flaws and all, though, the Impact Zone crowd ate this one up like they were stoned at the buffet. Tons of expected chants (“We object!”) and even the Delete! let this simmer to a boil and explode. Earlier, during a spot where the Broken Hardys fought in a dark high school gym, I wondered if Impact would be better in a tinier venue, but this showed that given the right prodding, the people passing through at Universal Studios Florida can make it work.

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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.