The 205 Live Problem Isn’t As Big As You Think

“Huzzah!” they screamed, “for Triple H seized control of 205 Live from the nefarious Vince who is out of touch and doesn’t knows anything.”[1]

Maybe, just maybe, the above quote (which I made up) is happening enough for WWE to actually use optics and rumors to solve its 205 Live problems. Maybe, by convincing a certain section of WWE’s audiences that this is a Triple H Joint, and not a Vince McMahon Product, they can miraculously open eyes.

If that doesn’t happen? Let’s talk about the options on the table.

The Issue

If you’ve ever watched WWE’s 205 Live, you’ve probably realized the central problem with the show. It’s impossible to miss. The audience — by and large — spends most of the match sitting on their hands.

And a quiet crowd is deadly. Not only does it make it harder for the wrestlers performing, but it signals to the home audience that the show isn’t worth caring about.

In the more dire times of this show’s run, this malaise was credited to any number of things, starting with its bland original champion (TJ Perkins), and then the lazy repeated matches from Raw. Now, unfortunately, the show’s audiences have a new problem: the two-hour slog that is SmackDown Live.

And even though SmackDown Live has become as tepid as lukewarm tap-water, the paying crowd is there for that SmackDown Live taping and not for a 205 Live one. Tim Kail’s written about this, that this is a matter of how you perceive the show, and 205 Live’s most-boisterous supporter PastaSauca has concurred, that 205 simply doesn’t have its own audience.

And by having 205 Live exist as content piggy-backing on SmackDown and Raw — remember when audiences watched as WWE staffers taped purple tape on top of Raw’s red ropes — it branded the show as cheap. As “not what you signed up for.” It’s something the cruiserweight wrestlers have been working tirelessly to undo ever since.

But, still, the fans attending 205 Live do not obscure the fact that 205 Live is the veggies. It’s what they cannot skip, because of the dark match, a promised-off-air match that features SmackDown Live’s top-tier talent in a match exclusive to those in the arena.

For the vast majority of its existence, 205 Live required that fans tune from USA to the WWE network, after watching 2 hours of SmackDown Live, the night after those same fans likely watched 3 hours of Raw. Hell, some of the time, those same fans had also just watched at least 3 hours of a WWE PPV on the network. At a certain point, saturation kicks in.

And so that saturation used to be an excuse, until the Mixed Match Challenge started popping audiences from 10 to 10:30pm. And while that means it’s possible for 205 Live to not die on the vine at that hour, WWE just made it harder on 205 Live, by having it go on later.

But even while I don’t hold the 205 Live audience’s silence against it, I certainly want to change it.

I was there, the night that the poison[2] was injected into 205 Live

Screen Shot 2018 02 11 at 5 34 52 PM

See that guy in the 205 Live ring? That’s Neville, the then-king of the Cruiserweights, the night after SummerSlam weekend, being interrupted by Enzo Amore.

Since that moment, everything went kinda wrong and kinda right. On the darkest timeline side of the coin, Neville soon disappeared, leaving the spotlight on The Zo Train. While this sadly meant that The Geordie King may be done with the company, it also gave time for Drew Gulak to get over, and for the storyline of him betraying Tony Nese to be amazing stuff.

At times, 205 Live seemed like it was on the verge of ascending, thanks to how crowds could not get enough of Enzo Amore. If you went to a WWE house show during the end of 2017, you heard that crowds still popped big time for Enzo’s music and that people still wanted to chant along with him.

A few more months of that, there could have been a program leading to a big match at Mania. But we know how January 2018 went, and with Enzo’s evil past catching up to him, immolating his career.

205 Live was once again in trouble.[3]

What trouble, you ask?

I don’t think 205 Live is in jeopardy of being cancelled. WWE needs original, exclusive content on its network, and 205 Live is cheap to produce. The trouble, I’d say, is that its wrestlers are still being kept off in this tiny universe, and it doesn’t seem to help them.

Look at what being a 205 Live champ has done for the previous title-holders. Thinking about that past, minus Tozawa, you almost want to keep your faves from winning that belt.

A show where talented wrestlers go to be wasted and ignored isn’t good for anyone, so the 205 Live needs to overcome that baseline of expectation.

What Works:

And before I bang on about what’s wrong with the show, let’s talk about how there’s not much actually wrong here.

The show’s got a ton of interesting drama, with the bitter rivalries between Tony Nese and Drew Gulak and Jack Gallagher and Hideo Itami, as well as the friendly competition of Cedric Alexander and Mustafa Ali.

Granted, the crowd doesn’t give a damn about Itami, but let’s get some pre-taped segments together to show on the screen, stuff where he and Jack are interviewed elsewhere, and give the crowd a story, so they can care about him.

We’ve only started to see what Drake Maverick, the former Rockstar Spud, is adding, with slight dashes of comedy and monologues that press the importance of 205 Live. His earnestness is definitely worth considering. Also, he’s led to Akira Tozawa’s Vince McMahon impression, which has me nearly crying tears of joy every week.

Everyone has their own solutions for how to fix the show, so I thought it would be best to run through their pros and cons and explain what I’d do.

Don’t change the name

Considering Rich Swann’s arrest, Enzo being a complete dirtbag, Austin Aries leaving, Kalisto flopping, Neville’s unknown status within the company, and everyone hating TJP for his own extracurriculars, 205 Live’s championship lineage is troubled to say the least.

Some fans have argued that 205 Live is cursed and that the cruiserweights are seen as secondary citizens. Fans have been passively instructed to think this purple brand is filled with talent meant to be kept away from the main roster.

The issue here? A massive rebranding risks tossing out what good is associated with the show. For example, when I think of excellent wrestling within WWE, 205 Live is one of the few shows I jump to.

Maybe that’s not the case with all — it likely isn’t considering the way crowds react — but to build a new brand up from nothing is harder than it is to fix a lagging one.

Don’t get rid of the show all together

After Enzo’s trouble came out, people flat out said “okay shut it down, kill the 205 Live thing, it’s over. Folding them into the bigger brands would give these guys more importance.

But, you think this division, which isn’t in the best health as it is, could have a chance of surviving without dedicated time? Go find a Delorean and talk to the Divas. There’s no moral imperative for equality it comes to the cruiserweights, so WWE would never have a reason to listen to pushback about the 205 and under guys having less of a presence.

As it is now, 205 Live is a good thing, because matches on Raw directly promote content on the the WWE Network, which certainly needs all the original programming it can get.

I wish you could film 205 Live at Full Sail

This is one of the better ideas. Take 205 Live out of the basketball arenas they film SmackDown Live in, because this brand and roster did best in the smaller scale of Full Sail during the original Cruiserweight Classic.

The only issue here is likely a deal-breaking one: moving this show to Full Sail probably increases the budget for the show, taking away one of the perks for WWE: that it’s cheap to pull off.

Taping at another venue on means paying for a whole new filming and touring crew, rather than simply adding an hour onto the existing schedule.

You also gain the spoiler problem if you decide to move 205 Live to Full Sail, as evidenced by people who skip NXT TV and just watch TakeOvers.

Instead, let’s do more live shows

Remember that short-lived 205 Live Tour? The one that also had Bray Wyatt vs Matt Hardy? The weirdest thing about it, at least for me, was that it was booked in far-off cities, nothing convenient. Reports suggested it was a hell of a time.

Run monthly live shows that are barn-burners in more populous areas — stay away from Poughkeepsie, NY — but stay working smaller venues, which that show did.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from attending indie shows is that those more intimate venues allow for a potentially-deeper connection between wrestlers and talent.

Next, Let’s Get Weird

Yes, I know that 205 Live’s motto is that Wrestling Comes First, but the pairing of Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt on the 205 Live tour has me thinking they were onto something. What if, on top of 205 Live pushing its tournament — which is seen as of paramount importance in righting the ship — one smaller Raw segment per week gave more time to its new GM Drake Maverick, in a pre-taped moment backstage.

He doesn’t always have to be talking to 205 Live talent, but this could highlight Maverick’s character work (proven when his Rockstar Spud character made segments of TNA worth watching). Spud and Matt Hardy worked together in TNA, so I’m sure His Woken Brilliance could work with Maverick to produce vignettes that make audiences want to see more of the man at the helm of 205 Live.

Wondering why I want WWE to get weird? Mixed Match Challenge thrives by breaking outside of the boxes that confine its wrestlers on other shows. And a mixture of tournament wrestling and bonkers sports entertainment has a better chance than an hour of pure pro wrestling, especially when it’s being pitched at an audience who came here for pro wrestling.

Focus on Audience Members Who Are Here **For 205 Live**

As I’ve noted, the WWE audience has seen a lot of wrestling in back to back nights by the time 205 Live hits the air. So, one thing to do (that isn’t enough to fix this) is to do you do?

Give fans the opportunity to get up and get excited. Promote 205 Live as the people’s show and create a standing-area only area closer to the ring, to give them a better view, regardless of where their SmackDown Live tickets are for. Give this show the feel of an indie show, where fans are hyped to be there.

Accentuate the positives

One issue with 205 Live is that its smaller wrestlers don’t look as big in these larger arenas. Well? Stop filming 205 Live in the same way you do everything else. This show’s talent is of a different size, so they shouldn’t be shown in the same ways.

Rethink the angles you can use for this show, and create a new intimacy with closer-in spots. Maybe put the commentary desk somewhere else, like Raw does. Make it feel special.

Flesh out the Lucha House Party

Right now, Kalisto, Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik currently make up a faction known as The Lucha House Party. And while that sounds 1990’s Cool on paper, we know nothing about these guys, unless you’ve got a decent memory and realized that announcer Vic Joseph was making a wisecrack when talkin about the Lucha Things that Kalisto would be doing during a cruiserweight tournament match last week.

So, while the tournament matches are taking a lot of the time up on 205 Live now, please develop characters for these masked men. Otherwise, they’re generic jobbers to the stars.

Oh and one other thing

Sorry, but Vic Joseph isn’t working. Tom Phillips needs to take that spot. And give Drake Maverick gets a spot on commentary during the bigger matches. Maybe they’re trying to prevent oversaturation on him, but it feels to me like he’s barely getting any time on screen.

It’s Wow Time

In the coming weeks, 205 Live will see 6 more matches in the Cruiserweight Championship Tournament, building towards a WrestleMania 34 match. So, during these matches, it’s time to put on even better matches that are more-must-see than anything 205 Live’s seen before, because you need to build the hype for Mania.

Unfortunately, it’s not hard to see that the best-case scenario for the tournament’s finals match is, sadly, that it steals the Kickoff Show, as it will likely not make the main card for WrestleMania.

Why am I so … down on the odds for this? Because we’re less than 2 months away from WrestleMania and I can’t see a match in these brackets that can make it into the constantly-dense Mania card. Not during a night where Ronda Rousey has her first WWE PPV match.

The wrestlers in this bracket that I can see with a hope of making it to the finals are Cedric Alexander, Roderick Strong, Mustafa Ali, Drew Gulak, and Mark Andrews. And as much as I respect those wrestlers, I’ve seen Dean Ambrose fight on the pre-show, and I’ve seen the Usos never make it to the main card.

But, if the simmer of the tournament builds to a boiling-hot Cruiserweight Championship match that lights up the boards on social media? A match filled with emotion and impact and crazy moves, that drives people to scream about how good it is, then you’ve got a solid foundation for 205 Live to be on stable ground after Mania. Stable enough ground for the Raw talent to not be afraid of being seen on screen with the cruiserweights.

Yes, I’m downright hopeful about the future of 205 Live.

 

[1] This blog will never be a Vince McMahon apologist platform, but I think that we as fans — myself certainly included — love to believe our own head-canons, and often allow it to lead us astray. Nothing is likely as simple or straight-forward as wrestling fans will argue it is, especially when it comes to behind the scenes incidents and personalities.

[2] *Eric Bischoff Smile*

[3] 

Watch This Wrestling 52 (12/31—1/6)

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end”

A year ago, I resolved to do a post a week compiling the best wrestling of the week, both inside and outside of the WWE.

That original post, which covered stuff from January 6th through the 12th, was called “Don’t Miss This,” because I didn’t think to put Wrestling in the title. I think since then I’ve grown to own my fandom more and more, and today, I publish the last weekly version of this thing (at least for a while).

Why the change? This year, my creative resolution is to produce with a greater variety. Also, this means I won’t have to write when a week doesn’t merit it. Since that original post, I’ve also written six posts (of varying lengths) for CagesideSeats, and even made a video about the 2017 PWG Battle of Los Angeles. With this change, I hope to continue to have more time to do more things.

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

What I Watched

  • Beyond Wrestling: Heavy Lies The Crown, 12/31
  • Monday Night Raw, 1/1
  • SmackDown LIVE, ½
  • 205 Live, ½
  • NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 12, ¼
  • Progress Chapter 60: Unboxing 2, Unbox Harder VOD: 1/5
  • NJPW New Year’s Dash, 1/5

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Chris Jericho vs Kenny Omega

NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 12, ¼

And what a high-note to end this on. Pretty much everyone who enjoys wrestling kind of owes it to themselves to see this one. Not only is it a side of Jericho we haven’t seen in ages, but to see how Kenny Omega is an incredibly strong worker and sells better than Dog Ziggler ever will.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Doom Patrol (Chris Dickinson & Jaka) vs. EYFBO (Mike Draztik & Angel Ortiz), Beyond Wrestling: Heavy Lies The Crown, 12/31
  • Keith Lee vs Josh Briggs, Beyond Wrestling: Heavy Lies The Crown, 12/31
  • Joey Janela vs David Starr, Beyond Wrestling: Heavy Lies The Crown, 12/31
  • Will Ospreay vs KUSHIDA vs Hiromu Takahashi vs Marty Scurll (champion), IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title match, NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 12, ¼
  • Hirooki Goto vs Minoru Suzuki (champion), Hair vs. Hair NEVER Openweight Title Match, NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 12, ¼
  • Cody vs Kota Ibushi, NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 12, ¼
  • Tetsuya Naito vs Kazuchika Okada (champion), IWGP Heavyweight Title match, NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 12, ¼
  • Travis Banks’ Title Defense, Progress Chapter 60: Unboxing 2, Unbox Harder 1/5
  • Opening Match, Progress Chapter 60: Unboxing 2, Unbox Harder 1/5

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

Travis Banks’ next challenger, revealed.

Progress Chapter 60: Unboxing 2, Unbox Harder ¼

I wanted to originally award this to Jericho attacking Naito at New Year’s Dash, but that would be a bald-faced lie. Instead, I’m giving my final Non-WWE Segment of The Week to the aftermath of Travis Banks’ title defense. There, he declared that he’s ready to take on everyone and anyone. And then, this song hit. If for some reason, you haven’t seen it, I won’t say whose music that was, or force you to click on it.

What I will say, though, is that everything felt real and natural. Nothing felt forced, everyone stayed true to their character. And I loved it.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Match of The Week:

The Usos vs. Gable & Benjamin – SmackDown Tag Team Title Match

SmackDown LIVE, ½

Sure, you could be a grouch and say how can refs act like this once, shouldn’t they always? Well, the product is always in service of the story, and to give Gable and Benjamin something to gripe about was a fantastic idea.

Because the truth is, the ref did make the wrong call at first, and it was right to be reversed. Also, just a damn good match.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Segment of the Week:

The New Day ring in the new year with a surprise for Xavier Woods

SmackDown LIVE, ½

Xavier Woods, Pastry Detective, is a show I’d pay to watch. Especially if Rusev and English are the Moriarties to his Holmes.

Honorable Mentions:

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:

Watch This Wrestling 49 (12/10—12/16)

Hello friends!

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

What I Watched

  • Beyond Wrestling: Cold Brew, 12/10
  • Evolve 97, 12/10
  • Fight Club Pro: Infinite, 12/10
  • Monday Night Raw, 12/11
  • SmackDown LIVE, 12/12
  • 205 Live, 12/12
  • NXT, 12/13
  • Death Match 7, 12/13
  • MLW: Never Say Never, 12/13
  • Impact Wrestling, 12/14
  • Progress Chapter 59: Whatever People Say We Are, That’s What We’re Not, 12/15
  • House of Glory: Se7en, 12/16

Upcoming Watch List

  • 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

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Mark Davis vs. Jordan Devlin vs. MK McKinnan vs. Omari (Infinity 2017 – Final)

Fight Club: PRO: Infinity 2017

Fight Club Pro — one of my favorite new promotions to watch this year — came to a raucous crescendo with its Infinity 2017 tournament. And so while I wanted to give the point to one of the many other good matches from that week (wow, see below), this elimination based-fourway was so solid. Not only does it offer a chaotic scramble style, but you practically got a whole other great match when it was down to the final two. 

Honorable Mentions:

  • Walter vs David Starr, Beyond Wrestling: Cold Brew, 12/10
  • Darby Allin vs. Keith Lee vs. “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams, Evolve 97, 12/10
  • Jaka vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. © (Evolve World Championship), Evolve 97, 12/10
  • Matt Riddle vs. WALTER (No Rope Breaks Match), Evolve 97, 12/10
  • Omari vs. Millie McKenzie (Infinity 2017 – First Round), Fight Club: PRO: Infinity 2017, 12/10 VOD
  • Kay Lee Ray vs. Mark Davis (Infinity 2017 – First Round), Fight Club: PRO: Infinity 2017, 12/10 VOD
  • Ospreay/Okada vs Naito/Takahashi, NJPW World Tag League Final, 12/11
  • Zack Sabre Jr. vs Chuck Taylor in a Falls Count Anywhere No Ring Match, Death Match 7, 12/13
  • MJF vs Joey Ryan, MLW: Never Say Never, 12/13 
  • Shane Strickland & John Hennigan vs Jimmy Havoc & Darby Allin, MLW: Never Say Never, 12/13
  • Grizzled Young Vets (Zack Gibson & James Drake) vs Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis), Progress Chapter 59: Whatever People Say We Are, That’s What We’re Not, 12/15
  • EYFBO (Angel Ortiz & Mike Draztik) vs Private Party vs House Of Gangone vs Brian Burgundy & TJ Marconi, House of Glory: Se7en, 12/16
  • Zack Sabre Jr. vs Amazing Red, House of Glory: Se7en, 12/16

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

A Wild Chris Jericho Appears… And Then

NJPW World Tag League Final, 12/11

What started as a fantastic surprise now has some teeth to it, thanks to these two segments. Just, bravo. 

Also, gotta love the subtle trolling from Jericho, in the lines saying this match will end Omega, he specifically suggests it’s the end of Omega’s run in New Japan. 

    WWE Match of The Week:

    Roman Reigns vs. Cesaro – Intercontinental Championship Match

    Monday Night Raw, 12/11

    Ah Cesaro. Remember what I said about his former fellow King of Wrestling in WTW 48? Same goes here. 

    And this match allowed him to show management that he’s ready as hell for a singles push if and when Sheamus retires.

    Honorable Mentions:

    WWE Segment of the Week:

    “Don’t talk to Drew like that.” – Tony Nese / Tony Nese vs Enzo Amore

    205 Live, 12/12

    It pissed off many that Enzo Amore got the cruiserweight championship, but wow has this situation helped Drew Gulak. While the below segment focuses on the match between Nese and Amore, I’m only bringing it in as contextual info to a clip WWE’s YouTube doesn’t have, a backstage segment where Gulak’s Team PowerPoint buddy Tony Nese — maybe Drew’s one true friend — stuck up for Drew. 

    The sadness of the betrayal, though. Not since Festival of Friendship has WWE hit this note so well.

    Honorable Mentions:

    Watch This Wrestling 47 (11/27—12/2)

    Hello friends! Yes, it’s been forever since I’ve put one of these out, more on that in WTW 50 (want it at the top of the posts).

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

    What I Watched

    • Beyond Wrestling Pre-Show & Women’s Wrestling Revolution, 11/27
    • Monday Night Raw, 11/27
    • SmackDown LIVE, 11/28
    • 205 Live, 11/28
    • NXT, 11/29
    • Impact Wrestling, 11/30
    • Progress Chapter 58: Live Your Best Life, 12/1
    • Chikara: Kill the Moon, 12/2 VOD
    • Chikara: Closing Time, 12/2

    Upcoming Watch List

    • Monday Night Raw, 12/5
    • SmackDown LIVE, 12/5
    • 205 Live, 12/5
    • NXT, 12/6
    • Impact Wrestling, 12/7
    • Evolve 96, 12/9

    Non-WWE Match of The Week:

    Dahlia Black vs. Jinny: PROGRESS Women’s Title #1 Contendership No Disqualification Match

    Progress Chapter 58: Live Your Best Life

    It’s a shame that Progress can only run one women’s storyline at a time (there’s no story in the Women’s championship picture). Fantastic fucking match, though. 

    Honorable Mentions:

    • David Starr vs Nick Gage, Beyond Wrestling Pre-Show, 11/27
    • Dasher Hatfield vs Juan Francisco de Coronado, Chikara: Closing Time, 12/2

    Non-WWE Segment of The Week

    Strangler Davis vs. Timothy Thatcher: PROGRESS Atlas Title #1 Contendership Match

    Progress Chapter 58: Live Your Best Life

    Yes, this is technically a match. But it’s less about the match than the incident inside of it. Excellent drama, only slightly dampened by the weird way it went down. Didn’t hate the technique, though.

    Honorable Mentions:

    WWE Match of The Week:

    Elias w/ The Miztourage vs. Roman Reigns for the Intercontinental championship

    Monday Night Raw, 11/27

    And Roman Reigns’ Intercontential Championship Open Challenge began not with a bang, but with a surprising set of bedfellows. Pairing Elias with Dallas and Axel worked, though, as it helped the audience know to boo the drifter, as crowds have tended to ironically enjoy him.

    But in defeat, Elias won big time. Nobody would have been able to say he could go before this match, but now we can. Maybe Roman Reigns is a good wrestler, WINK.

    Honorable Mentions:

    WWE Segment of the Week:

    Drew Gulak explains Team PowerPoint as DC Superheroes

    205 Live, 11/28

    In another instance of delayed blogging helping, a couple week’s wait allowed this segment to age beautifully.

    First of all, wow: Team PowerPoint. It’s a great name, especially given Gulak’s sincerity. Also, why does Tony Nese blanch at the Aquaman comparison? Who the hell else does he think he is? Superman? Clark isn’t counting abs, and Nese isn’t writing at the Daily Planet. OR IS HE?

    Honorable Mentions:

    Watch This Wrestling 46 (11/19–25)

    Hello friends! If you look at the below, you’ll see a couple of changes. This upcoming week marks both me watching Impact again (yes, this is all Ethan Page’s responsibility) and my renewed interest in Chikara.

    For Chikara, I plan to watch the VOD of the penultimate episode Kill the Moon and possibly attend its season finale Closing Time, a decision which will depend on whether or nor Mike Quackenbush vs David Starr is announced for that show in Philly.

    And at some point, I’m going to begin the grand project of watching the show from its 4th season, a long-overdue project. The decision to start there was helped by the excellent Courtney Rose (@ChicagosCRose on twitter).

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

    What I Watched

    • Survivor Series 2017, 11/19
    • Progress Chapter 57: Enter Smiling, 11/19
    • Monday Night Raw, 11/20
    • SmackDown LIVE, 11/21
    • 205 Live, 11/21
    • NXT, 11/22
    • Powerbomb.tv: Wazzup, 11/25
    • Powerbomb.tv: This Very Second with Bryce Remsburg, 11/25

    Upcoming Watch List

    • Beyond Wrestling/Women’s Wrestling Revolution, 11/27
    • Monday Night Raw, 11/27
    • SmackDown LIVE, 11/28
    • 205 Live, 11/28
    • NXT, 11/29
    • Impact Wrestling, 11/30
    • Chikara: Kill the Moon, ?? VOD
    • Chikara: Closing Time, 12/2 — possibly attending live

    Non-WWE Match of The Week:

    Keith Lee vs. Flash Morgan Webster

    Progress Chapter 57: Enter Smiling, 11/19

    Nobody’s surprised to see me hand out a best to my two favorites from BOLA 2017, who wrestled a fantastic, epic match, that just happened to be booked the wrong way.

    Anyone watching Progress during the last months has to be wondering what they’re doing with Flash. If all of these almost-wins will build to a major character point and a championship, then maybe they’ll be able to say it was worth it.

    But Keith Lee loses nothing if Flash manages to eek a suprirse underdog victory out of the WWN Champion, not the least because the title wasn’t on the line. The crowd adored Keith Lee, though, to the point where nobody would even hazard the opinion that he needed to beat The King of the Mods.

    Honorable Mentions:

    • Logan Easton LaRoux vs AJ Gray vs Anthony Greene vs Razerhawk, Powerbomb.tv: Wazzup, 11/25
    • Thick Boys (Jay Freddie & John Silver) vs Ugly Ducklings (Lance Lude & Rob Killjoy), Powerbomb.tv: Wazzup, 11/25
    • Ringkampf (Timothy Thatcher & WALTER) vs CCK (Chris Brookes & Kid Lykos) © vs for the PROGRESS Tag Team Championships, Progress Chapter 57: Enter Smiling, 11/19

    Non-WWE Segment of The Week

    “Revenge can only be found on the road to self-destruction”

    Dahlia Black promo via YouTube

    While I thought the four-way match that included Dahlia and Jinny was rushed and didn’t gel together as one whole match (instead reeking of two, smashed together), Ms. Black’s pre-match promo was excellent.

    Until this moment, this feud existed in short moments where announcers rushed out words to one of the two, who typically had joined them on commentary. While it could have used one more story beat (at the start, showing their friendship pre-injury), it still was the most well-acted (bravo, Dahlia) and necessary story beat of the week.

    Honorable Mentions:

    • The shit talking Trent Seven gave Zack Gibson, Progress Chapter 57: Enter Smiling, 11/19
    • All of the weirdness that was Powerbomb.tv: This Very Second with Bryce Remsburg, 11/25

    WWE Match of The Week:

    AJ Styles vs Brock Lesnar

    Survivor Series 2017, 11/19

    How could it be anything but this? AJ Styles elevated himself even higher in the lore of WWE by pulling an amazing 1 on 1 match out of the notoriously unreliable Brock Lesnar.

    Honorable Mentions: 

    WWE Segment of the Week:

    Paige Returns, With Friends

    Monday Night Raw, 11/20

    Obviously, this segment will age well or poorly based on how WWE books Paige and the friends she picked up on her way back to the main roster, but for now, it’s a win.

    Not only was it fun and shocking for a return to turn into an invading faction, but it’s quite clever. Rose and Deville provide solid cover and distraction from the controversy that took place during the time where while Paige’s injury (among ohter thing) kept her off camera.

    Honorable Mentions:

    WTW 45

    Watch This Wrestling 45 (11/12—18)

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

    What I Watched

    • Monday Night Raw, 11/13
    • SmackDown LIVE, 11/14
    • 205 Live, 11/14
    • NXT, 11/15
    • RevPro Global Wars Nights 1 & 2, VOD 11/17
    • NJPW World Tag League Press Conference, 11/17
    • NXT: TakeOver WarGames, 11/18
    • NJPW World Tag League Night 1: 11/18

    Upcoming Watch List

    • Various other NJPW World Tag League events
    • Survivor Series 2017, 11/19
    • Progress Chapter 57: Enter Smiling, 11/19
    • Monday Night Raw, 11/20
    • SmackDown LIVE, 11/21
    • 205 Live, 11/21
    • NXT, 11/22
    • Powerbomb.tv: Wazzup, 11/25
    • Powerbomb.tv: This Very Second with Bryce Remsburg, 11/25

    Non-WWE Match of The Week:

    Keith Lee vs Tomohiro Ishii

    RevPro Global Wars Night 1

    I’m thankful that the two-night RevPro & NJPW collaboration was made available on NJPW World, because it features this excellent faceoff of two of my favorite big men. Sure, Lee‘s size almost dwarfs Ishii’s, but find me a man who says that Ishii isn’t thicc, and I’ll tell him to get new glasses.

    This match has tons of fun moments inlcuding that spine-buster that looked like a choke-slam, and some mind-blowing German suplexes, but there’s one fantastic sequence: Powerbomb -> Guillotine -> Suplex -> DDT that left me scrambling to rewind.

    Honorable Mentions:

    • Lord Gideon Grey and Damian “No Fun” Dunne vs Toru Yano and Gedo, RevPro Global Wars Night 1
    • Tetsuya Naito vs Marty Scurll, RevPro Global Wars Night 1
    • CCK (Chris Brookes and Travis Banks) vs Rocky Romero and Yoshi-Hashi, RevPro Global Wars Night 1
    • Zack Sabre Jr. vs Will Ospreay, RevPro Global Wars Night 2
    • Michael Elgin, Jeff Cobb, David Finlay & Katsuya Kitamura vs. Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano, Trent & Chuckie T, NJPW World Tag League Night 1, 11/18

    Non-WWE Segment of The Week

    Zack Gibson’s Promos

    RevPro Global Wars

    If you’ve never seen Zack Gibson — the self-anointed future Number 1 of Liverpool — own a microphone while giving a promo, you need to fix that, and do so soon.

    I won’t spoil any of the punchlines in this, but it’s safe to let you know that rather than verbally attack his opponent, The King of Scouse Style harangues the fans in the audience, and questions their actual fandom. And it’s excellent.

    Honorable Mentions:

    WWE Match of The Week:

    Aleister Black vs Velveteen Dream

    NXT: TakeOver WarGames, 11/18

    The hottest take of the week seems to be the opinion that this wasn’t the match of the week. And while the WarGames match had a lot much to love, I’ll take this concise storytelling over that excess any day of the week.

    Let’s first start in praise of a good feud based on differences in characters. All too often, bouts are just about championships or betrayal, but this story of Dream wanting Black to pay him attention, and Black refusing to give it to him, is a perfect first chapter in what I hope will be a storied rivalry and possibly tag-team (in the 2018 Dusty Classic, call them Black Velvet).

    Then, a bravo to the match for starting off with the excellent simmer of ground-based offense and technical expertise. That out-of-nowhere Octopus Lock from Black looked even slicker than when ZSJ accomplishes his take on it.

    And then when the fireworks went off, it was blazing like the fourth of July. Dream’s Superkicks looked epic and almost cartoonish with their contortion, his rolling Death Valley Driver was magnificent and that inside-out modified DDT was more proof that young Patrick Clark is a superstar in the making.

    For more contemplation about this match, check out this episode of Jim Smallman’s Tuesday Night Jaw podcast, to hear Progress co-owner Jon Briley unfurl a mountain of thoughts.

    Honorable Mentions: 

    • Andrade “Cien” Almas w. Zelina Vega vs Drew McIntyre, NXT: TakeOver WarGames, 11/18
    • The Undisputed Era vs SaNitY vs The Authors of Pain in a triple-threat WarGames match, NXT: TakeOver WarGames, 11/18

    WWE Segment of the Week:

    “Enjoy infamy, Velveteen Dream.”

    NXT: TakeOver WarGames, 11/18

    I debated including this in the above, but since that blurb got away from me, I have to bring it here.

    The most important part of this, aside from delivering the sentiment that both Black and the Houston audience demanded, is its brevity and indirect language. To only say “Enjoy infamy, Velveteen Dream,” is so honest to the Aleister Black character (curt, mysterious and abstract) that even if you saw it coming, you had to applaud it.

    Watch the whole match, and see this as its capper. And then, if you hadn’t seen it yet, check out this post-show interview where Velveteen Dream expresses his relief that Aleister Black said his name:

    Honorable Mentions:

    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:

    Watch This Wrestling 43 (10/29—11/4)

    This week was better than the one before it.

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

    What I Watched

    • Beyond Wrestling: Apocalypse Dudes, 10/29
    • Monday Night Raw, 10/30
    • SmackDown LIVE, 10/31
    • 205 Live, 10/31
    • NXT, 11/1
    • Fight Club Pro: Day of the Dead, 11/2 VOD
    • Progress Chapter 56: La Danse Macabre, 11/2 VOD

    Upcoming Watch List

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

    Non-WWE Match of The Week:

    Aussie Open vs Moustache Mountain

    Fight Club Pro: Day of the Dead, 11/2

    This match almost didn’t make it here, but because Hon. Mention 1 has Stokely and Hon. Mention 2 has Goth Martina, but wow this is a showcase of greatness.

    If you’re not familiar with Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis, collectively known as Aussie Open, then take this match — you get Tyler Bate and Trent Seven, you can trust them — as your first taste. Fletcher’s god damn one arm … well, I’ll let you see that, and everything else, for yourself.

    Honorable Mentions:

    • Jonathan Gresham with Stokely Hathaway vs Travis “Flip” Gordon, Beyond Wrestling: Apocalypse Dudes, 10/29
    • Session Goths vs No Fun Police, Fight Club Pro: Day of the Dead, 11/2

    Non-WWE Segment of The Week

    Entropy

    Progress Chapter 56: La Danse Macabre, 11/2

    Sure, we gotta boo the heels, but holy heck I write this in praise of this segment. Because

    1. excellent payoff to what Progress was building.
    2. Vicky Haskins is a deity, or possibly a demon.

    A closed system inevitably descends into disorder 

    📷 @POA_wrestler pic.twitter.com/pvGqdQMkVD

    Honorable Mentions:

    WWE Match of The Week:

    Authors of Pain vs SAnitY featuring William Regal’s Takeover Announcement

    NXT, 11/1

    Not only was this a fun match in a week filled with fun WWE matches, but it has a little bonus at the end. Something that most got spoiled by in one way or another.

    Honorable Mentions:

    WWE Segment of the Week:

    “Everybody can get it, and everybody will” – Samoa Joe

    Monday Night Raw, 10/30

    Watch this promo and answer me this question:

    How is Joe not the champion of the universe at this point?

    Is it because being a little chubb and not being white are both things that Vince doesn’t think work, and combined, he just can’t put the rocket on you? God damn Joe is the best.

    Honorable Mentions:

    Watch This Wrestling 42 (10/22—28)

    Hello friends!

    Another thing that got in the way of me doing these in a timely manner was that I’ve spent more time than ever finding and watching new promotions. Sadly, not too much clicked with me…

    What I Watched

    • 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
    • Beyond Wrestling: Denim Recruits, 10/28

    Upcoming Watch List

    • Beyond Wrestling: Apocalypse Dudes, 10/29
    • Monday Night Raw, 10/30
    • SmackDown LIVE, 10/24
    • 205 Live, 10/25
    • NXT, 10/26
    • Fight Club Pro: Day of the Dead, 11/2 VOD date
    • Progress Chapter 56: La Danse Macabre, 11/2 VOD

    Non-WWE Match of The Week:

    Keith Lee vs The Reapers

    PCW Fright Night, 10/27

    I loved a Keith Lee match, big surprise, right? Well, it was a … weird week for the stuff I watched outside of WWE. This match wins less for its pacing or any particular workrate, and more for The Friendly Fellow’s ad-libs.

    Those include:

    • “Oh my god,” sung in a soul music fashion, in pain, after getting hit hard.
    • “I’m the only actual big lad here,” in response to the crowd’s chant of “big lads wrestling.”
    • Also, the reveal moment was solid.

    This came from one of four non-WWE shows I saw that week, and it’s a shame I can’t even find one honorable mention to bring up.

    Non-WWE Segment of The Week

    “We’re obviously not here to talk about me”

    Progress Wrestling/YouTube, 10/25

    There’s no high degree of difficulty in making the Progress audience dislike Dennis after he turned on Mark Andrews at Ally Pally, but Eddie’s not resting on that moment. This video grounds his fury in reality, how he’s felt overshadowed and babied by his more prolific partner.

    Can’t wait to see where they take it from here.

    Honorable Mentions:

    • TKTV episode 1, Demand Progress, 10/25

    WWE Match of The Week:

    Finn Bálor vs AJ Styles

    WWE TLC 2017, 10/22

    And in a decision that nobody will argue, this meeting of SmackDown Live’s ace and the man who could have been running Raw had it not been for injury gets a W.

    The make-shift ppv match (made after Bray Wyatt went down with an undisclosed, though rumored, sickness) turned out to be the highlight of a show that saw WWE back on its Peak Sports Entertainment Bullshit.

    Hopefully, this got enough love backstage for Vince to realize that the show can’t just be Brand Loyalty and “wait did they murder a dude?” moments.

    Honorable Mentions:

    WWE Segment of the Week:

    Raw is … Under Siege

    Monday Night Raw, 10/23

    Don’t let the above confuse you, though: I am all in on Peak Dumbshit-mode in the WWE. Rusev standing on the table shouting. New Day leaving the charge. Rollins off the damn platform. Becky in a leadership position. CHAD. FUCKING. GABLE. putting hands on Jason Jordan.

    It’s good. It’s damn good.

    Honorable Mentions: