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Watch This Wrestling 32 (8/13—19)

This one’s later than ever, but with good reasons (excuses).

First of all, I spent my post-SummerSlam energy writing this: The Five Wrestling Fans You Meet in Hell for Cageside Seats, which – judging by the amount of comments – was a good bit of business for them. In it, I unload a lot of long-standing gripes I’ve had with fans, and even chide myself.

And then, before I knew it, I needed to spend my weekend conserving my energy. BOLA is only 5 days away now, and I need to be as close to 💯 for it as possible. So, expect Vol. 33 to drop shortly after this one.

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 Finals, 8/13
  • Monday Night Raw, 8/14
  • SmackDown LIVE, 8/15
  • 205 Live, 8/15
  • NXT, 8/16
  • Lucha Underground, 8/16
  • House of Glory: High Intensity 6, 8/18
  • NXT: TakeOver Brooklyn III, 8/19

Upcoming Watch List

  • SummerSlam, 8/20
  • Monday Night Raw, 8/21
  • SmackDown LIVE, 8/22
  • 205 Live, 8/22
  • Ethan Page: Another Way To Get Paid with ACH, 8/22
  • NXT, 8/23
  • Lucha Underground, 8/23
  • WCPW World Cup – Round of 16, 8/23
  • WCPW World Cup – Quarter Finals, 8/24
  • EVOLVE Mini-Doc: Darby Allin vs. Timothy Thatcher, 8/25
  • WCPW World Cup – Finals, 8/26

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

“I am alive. That is all.”

NJPW: G1 Climax Finals, 8/13

With those words, fans started to breathe again. In a world where undead-men retire and retire and retire afain, these words can mean all the literal word when you worry the exact opposite was going to happen.

That’s because we heard these word uttered by Katsuyori Shibata in his first appearance since his likely-career-ending match with Okada.

I mention this here because I find it necessary to harp on New Japan’s safety issues. This moment’s calming nature is an unfortunate best-case scenario – that these performers haven’t died for their art – for moments that don’t seem to be disappearing from the promotion any time soon.

I’d hope that the terrible tables go away, and shoot-headbutts are banned, but these seem like features and not bugs.

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Kenny Omega vs Tetsuya Naito

NJPW: G1 Climax Finals, 8/13

This match was amazing because of – and in spite of its – accidental dangerous moments. Specifically everything involving or near the railing or the tables.

Both Naito and Omega managed to make those last second adjustments, ala AJ Styles and Ellsworth, so they didn’t kill each other.

WWE Match of The Week:

Ember Moon vs Asuka ©

NXT: TakeOver Brooklyn III, 8/19

Shades of what NJPW matches did well in the G1. A methodical build, focusing on a limb, false finishes, and a heel deservedly going over. Reminds me a lot of Juice lately, winning by losing.

As a final match for Asuka in NXT, which it appears to be, it’s solid. Unfortunately, I don’t see much of a defined persona for Ember yet. Think she needs at least one more feud down there before she can have a chance to not drown in the cacophony of noise on the main roster.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Akira Tozawa vs Neville, Monday Night Raw, 8/14
  • Johnny Gargano vs Andrade “Cien” Almas", NXT: TakeOver Brooklyn III, 8/19
  • Authors of Pain vs Sanity, NXT: TakeOver Brooklyn III, 8/19

WWE Segment of the Week:

ADAM COLE BAYBAY

NXT: TakeOver Brooklyn III, 8/19

When this was over, I believe, Myke asked me if I was happy with it. Yes, I’m sure I said, because this moment was what NXT needed. It’s the biggest story point – tying together multiple divisions and possibly bringing in the world of pro wrestling – that the NXT brand has ever seen.

And sure, invasion angles don’t have the best history, but it’s NXT’s first and we’ve got high hopes for the long-term execution, as the groundwork has certainly been laid.

First off, Nigel popping hard and yelling ADAM COLE BAYBAY before Cole or the Brooklyn audience could, helps establish that as canon. It also sets up a “what did McGuinness know, and when did he know it?” angle.

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Watch This Wrestling 28 (7/16–22)

So, so much wrestling. 

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 1, 7/17
  • Monday Night Raw, 7/17
  • AAW: Take No Prisoners Occurred 5/6, hit AAW VOD on 7/17
  • SmackDown LIVE, 7/18
  • 205 Live, 7/18
  • A MOMENT OF SILENCE FOR TALKING SMACK, REST IN POWER
  • NXT, 7/19
  • Lucha Underground, 7/19
  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 2, 7/20
  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 3, 7/21
  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 4, 7/22

Upcoming Watch List

  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 5, 7/23
  • Monday Night Raw, 7/24
  • SmackDown LIVE, 7/25
  • 205 Live, 7/25
  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 6, 7/25
  • NXT, 7/26
  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 7, 7/26
  • Lucha Underground, 7/26
  • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 8, 7/27

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

RIP Daryl

NJPW: G1 Climax Day 4, 7/22

Hiromu Takahashi – along with the fans of New Japan Pro Wrestling – loved Daryl, the stuffed kitty cat that The Ticking Time Bomb carried to the ring. So, as you might expect, Daryl got shredded. The Bullet Club’s Underboss Bad Luck Fale did the dirty work, and it got the biggest heat reaction out of the NJPW crowd I’ve heard in months, maybe years. So, Fale made the most of this, by tweeting the following video.

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Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Tetsuya Naito vs Kota Ibushi

NJPW: G1 Climax Day 1, 7/17

Prior to its start, the big story of the G1 was the return of Kota Ibushi as Kota Ibushi in NJPW. What does that mean? 

  1. Ibushi isn’t still stuck doing Tiger Mask work.
  2. Ibushi isn’t fighting blowup dolls in Japan’s DDT Pro-Wrestling either.

Why was Ibushi doing all of that, rather than the brilliance we see legit-great stuff under his own name? Well, remember Ibushi’s time in the WWE Cruiserweight Classic? The way Kenny Omega – Ibushi’s long time rival – makes it sound in an interview, Ibushi’s decision negatively effected the chances they had of working more Japan. 

Now, though, Ibushi’s back in Japan and putting his life – specifically his neck – on the line in matches like this Week 1 stand-out with Naito.

Honorable Mentions:

Some notes about the below. If there’s a close-second place match, I’ll bold it, as I do below. And yes, Zack Sabre Jr. Elgin was available a while ago, but its price as a rental on AAW’s VOD service is much more affordable.

  • Zack Sabre Jr. vs Michael Elgin, AAW: Take No Prisoners 5/6, VOD on 7/17
  • Hirooki Goto vs Tomohiro Ishii, NJPW: G1 Climax Day 1, 7/17
  • Zack Sabre Jr vs Hiroshi Tanahashi, NJPW: G1 Climax Day 1, 7/17
  • Tetsuya Naito vs Kota Ibushi, NJPW: G1 Climax Day 1, 7/17
  • Prince Puma vs PJ Black, Lucha Underground, 7/19
  • Kota Ibushi vs Zack Sabre Jr, NJPW: G1 Climax Day 3, 7/21
  • Large Michael Elgin vs Kazuchika Okada, NJPW: G1 Climax Day 4, 7/22

WWE Match of The Week:

Mustafa Ali vs Drew Gulak, 2 out of 3 Falls

205 Live, 7/18

I don’t give 205 Live a ton of awards, but that’s possibly going to change. Now that the going will get the full 10 to 11pm Tuesday night hour (RIP Talking Smack), they’re clearly looking to give that extra time to matches, such as this barn-burner that went a while.

This match continues to tell the story of Gulak’s risk-averse style as a counterpoint to Ali’s high-flying tendencies. Fortunately, the big nasty bump in the match (Drew took a poison ‘rana on the top of his head) doesn’t break the structure of the match, as it could make you think Gulak has a point.

WWE Segment of the Week:

The Redemption of Seth Rollins

Monday Night Raw, 7/17

I have been waiting for this moment forever.

Not only did Seth give Dean get an apology, but also a free shot (which Dean didn’t take!). This is the kind of long-overdue character development that you want from WWE, but rarely expect or get.

Honorable Mentions:

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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.