Sports Strength

Elton’s Weekly Wrestling High Spots and Botches: November 22-November 28


High Spots: Riddle’s attempts at making me crack a smile always fall flat, but the man always knows how to regain my interest every time he enters the ring. He and Dolph Ziggler put on a stirring match that saw Riddle pull off a slick powerslam and devastating RKO just like his tag team championship partner. After the match, Randy Orton made sure to repay the favor by planting Robert Roode with his own version of the Bro Derek. I love the camaraderie between those two unlikely partners – I just hope it doesn’t come to an end on that old tired “partner turns on the other out of nowhere!” storyline WWE loves reverting back to. Now it seems like Seth Rollins and Finn Bálor got issues, which is perfectly fine by me. Those two getting into a new feud will result in nothing but fire matches, so I hope they go at it for a bit before Seth’s WWE Championship title shot comes around. Their brief brawl here was a nice tease of what’s to come between the two in the coming weeks. Seth definitely got the W during he and Finn’s first ringside encounter!

Damien Priest and his anger issues are kinda heat, I’m not gonna lie! The man has developed quite the short fuse lately and has been wildin’ out on a weekly basis. Apollo Crews is seemingly next in line to get a shot at the current United States Champion, as evidenced by his promo against Damien here. Now that’s a match I’m dying to see! Although we didn’t get to see it on this edition of Raw, Damien still got to put in some work by beating the holy hell out of Sami Zayn. I’ve long since stopped caring about the Brand Split (and so has WWE apparently!), so Sami’s appearance here didn’t bother me one bit. SmackDown’s resident conspiracy theory pusher had a decent match with Damien, Damien won, and now I’m ready to see the US Champ tap into his rage to do Apollo extra dirty.

Because of Austin Theory’s perceived ballsiness from Mr. McMahon, Austin found himself in the main event of Raw against Big E for the sport’s richest prize! This first-time matchup provided a fresh encounter that had some fun moments sprinkled throughout it. Could I have done without the distractions from Kevin Owens and Rollins? For sure! I just felt like Big E and Austin’s match would have been much better served without any of those outside influences. The match still ended up being a solid affair, though. The post-match action that took place between Big E, Owens, and Rollins is clearly pointing to all three men battling for the WWE Championship at some point. If Rollins feuds with Finn for a while and Owens steers clear of Big E for a bit longer, then I can see WWE holding off on that big-time Triple Threat Match until the middle or end of December. Maybe it could be the main event of next year’s Day 1 PPV, perhaps? We shall see…

Botches: Fam…fans are still out here hoppin’ the guardrail and tryna attack these wrestlers? That was embarrassing as hell for my city and it was especially scary ‘cause that random attack could have resulted in something far worse happening. I’m just glad Seth is okay. From what I’ve seen and read though, that dumbass fan came out on the worse end of his unexpected run-in. That was hard to watch, fam. Now let’s get into the shitty scripted stuff this episode of Raw forced me to endure. So Riddle went for a funny, hah-ha moment by dressing up like his homie Orton. I sat stone-faced through their entire cringy backstage segment – WWE comedy these days is comparable to modern-day Saturday Night Light. It’s just bad all around.

That egg…that damn egg! Vince McMahon really came back to TV to put a movie prop in the spotlight, make tone-deaf remarks about releasing people, and use that horrid gimmick item to hand out a WWE Championship opportunity to Austin. To make matters even more idiotic, it turns out Austin stole the egg in the first place to take a selfie with it! And instead of punishing the selfie taker, Vince awards him with a match against Big E ‘cause he was impressed with Austin’s boldness. WWE really took up PPV time at Survivor Series and on this showing of Raw to push a stolen egg storyline. Watching all those wrestlers frantically search for the egg backstage just put me in such a sour mood. So Becky Lynch rambled on and on as usual – she shitted on the fans for hating on the Women’s Survivor Series match from the night before (which was boring as all hell and deserved the tepid reaction it got). “The Man” is such a non-factor to me these days, so her promo went in one ear and out the other. Becky vs. Liv Morgan just doesn’t excite me, to be honest. Bianca Belair fought Tamina again for some reason. And just like their previous match, it served no purpose as it was no good and too short to amount to anything. Move Bianca onto something worth her time and energy, please!

I’m more than ready to see AJ Styles move back into singles competition now, especially after seeing him engage in a silly ass match alongside Omos against The Street Profits. To see it build to some big mystery bag reveal and only end up in a fire extinguisher coming out of it was just so deflating & unnecessary. It was a lame match with an even lamer ending. Hey, we got new Women’s Tag Team Champions y’all! *crickets* That was me and plenty of other fans’ reactions to that title change since 1. Those belts are worth their weight in copper and 2. The champs & challengers have been treated as nothing more than complete afterthoughts in an uneventful division. Rhea Ripley’s fall from grace has been legendary on the main roster. It’s kind of impressive how uncool and unimportant she’s become when compared to her incredible run on NXT. The 24/7 Championship made its unwelcome return with a nothing match between Cedric Alexander and Reggie. Cedric ended up winning the match and the garbage title, but then the circus came into town long enough to distract him and cause Dana Brooke to lay him down for the 1-2-3. Now Dana has the belt…and still, nobody cares.

The way they’re stretching out this whole Mysterio father and son drama is beyond annoying at this point. A Dominik Mysterio heel turn on his pops seems like it should have happened already, but suddenly they’ve mended fences in an effort to get back at Bobby Lashley. I’d much rather see Bobby get back into the WWE Championship picture instead of feuding with two guys who are nothing more than annoying pests to him. After watching Bobby tap out Dominik without breaking a sweat, I’m now hoping “The Almighty” puts all this BS behind him so he can tend to some more important duties. I truly never thought I’d be so annoyed by something that Rey Mysterio is involved in but here we are.

NXT 2.0

High Spots: Ay you know what? I kind of admired Grayson Waller at first. But his super cornball demeanor, cringe promo delivery, and horrible taste in-ring attire as of late have sent me flying off the bandwagon for the guy. But at least I got to see Tomasso Ciampa send him to “Never Never Land” after a highly competitive matchup with the young man. Grayson’s tolerable in the ring, at least – he looked decent in there against the NXT Champion. I’ll certainly give him his credit there. LA Knight still has unfinished business with the guy, though – Grayson jumped Mr. Knight from behind before the man could even have a match with the social media buzzword regurgitator, Joe Gacy. Afterward, The Diamond Mine’s Malcolm Bivens helped set up an NXT Cruiserweight Championship match at WarGames between Roderick Strong and Joe with the greatest line of the night – “Roderick Strong is gonna beat you like a Lil’ Jon track…YEAHHHHHHHHHHH!”

Speaking of The Diamond Mine, their lady representative Ivy Nile cleaned Yulisa Leon’s clock in a fun squash match. Ivy’s exercise reps in between a submission hold are a part of her gimmick that I can definitely get behind! I got a lotta love for her version of the Dragon Sleeper (big shout out to the move’s originator, Ultimo Dragon!). Ivy’s one of the few NXT 2.0 new blood talents that I actually care for. Can’t wait to see where she’s at in a year’s time. Solo Sikoa got to speak menacingly once again as he talked about fighting anyone and everyone. Simple, precise, and concise…nice worth there. CAMERON GRIMES HOLDS IT DOWN! TALK YO SHIT, MONEY MAN! I’ve been following the man since his PWG days and have been a fan of his ever since. It sure was nice watching him get serious for a moment (shout out to Lance Storm) and stop giving dating app advice on this show – Cameron definitely gave his best NXT promo to date. I can’t wait to see him stomp a cavern-sized hold in Duke Hudson’s chest at WarGames. A bald ass Duke sounds good to me!

I didn’t realize how much I missed Santos Escobar until I saw him make his return to active duty on this episode. Malik Blade played the part of his return vict…excuse me, opponent. Malik got a pretty dropkick, I’ll give him that. But that lil’ move of his just wasn’t enough to do any significant damage to the proud leader of Legado del Fantasma. Santos is back to wreak havoc once again and I’m glad he got to turn the tide back in his favor by destroying Malik. Judging by the post-match proceedings, it sounds like Kyle O’Reilly & Von Wagner will square off against Joaquin Wilde and Raul Mendoza for the right to face Imperium at WarGames. I’m placing all my bets on Kyle and Von coming out as the victors of that one. NXT’s crowded tag-team scene kept on rolling along with a decent little encounter between Josh Briggs & Brooks Jensen and the Grizzled Young Veterans. I like both teams and don’t really enjoy watching either of them take a loss, but I was fine seeing them big ol’ country boys pick up the W since they needed it the most.

Well, what do you know? The Triple Threat Match for the NXT North American Championship was the biggest highlight of the night! The quality trio of Carmelo Hayes, Johnny Gargano, and Pete Dunne was a joy to sit and watch do battle – their match was a warm reminder of the match quality that NXT 1.0 was is still remembered fondly for. The action was fast & furious here thanks to some dope three-man exchanges and plenty of moments that had Johnny pulling off some of his finest signature high spots. Tony D’Angelo’s run-in helped Carmello retain the title, but everything fell into pure chaos during the big multi-man brawl that ended the show. #DIY reunited in the middle of it, which was a tearjerker of a reunion. Now the Men’s WarGames match is set and it’s going to be a war between the Old & New School’s of NXT. NOW THAT’S WHAT I’M HERE FOR!

Botches: Hey, a new NXT lady is about to make her presence felt! And her gimmick is…Beverly Hills rich girl that uses daddy’s money to get what she wants? How original! So yeah, I already don’t give a shit about this incoming Tiffany Stratton individual. The match that took place between Kayden Carter & Kacy Catanzaro and Indi Hartwell & Persia Pirotta was a humdrum affair – it didn’t last long, the action itself was uninspired, and Indi’s constant ring finger observations annoyed me to death. Big meh energy was felt there. Don’t be surprised when Boa’s name ends up on the next list of “budget cut” releases – without his supernatural adviser by his side, he and his facepalm-worthy “spirit” gimmick is gonna go nowhere fast. That promo of his was highly unconvincing of whatever message he was trying to get across.

Mandy Rose and Cora Jade wrestled, which did absolutely nothing for me. Kay Lee Ray’s silly-ass distraction finish just made me roll my eyes as it led to Cora using her favorite move (THE SHOCK ROLL-UP PIN!) to get the unexpected win. I could care less about this year’s Women’s WarGames match, so all of the segments that were put in place to hype it up on this episode were meaningless to me. MSK…man, y’all already know what type of bullshit they got into again. We don’t have to get into it.

AEW Dynamite

High Spots: Now AEW is most known for kicking off all of its shows with a hard-fought match. But in a very rare move, the latest episode of Dynamite kicked things off with a 20-minute promo battle. And unlike those horrible 20-minute promo segments that bored everyone to tears during The Authority era, the verbal heat exchanged between CM Punk and MJF was pure gold. There were some zingers littered all through that mic battle that it’s so hard to recall each one. The ones that stood out to me were MJF christening his newest rival “PG Punk” and likening his current run to that of John Cena’s. Plus I screamed my head off like a hype man at a URL rap battle when Punk said “You’re too busy talking about the four pillars, you don’t even realize you’ve been replaced by Britt Baker.” That line about MJF being a less popular version of The Miz was a soul taker, too. That was one of the best opening segments in Dynamite history. And to top it all off, not a single punch was thrown. God-tier stuff right there.

Afterward, Punk put on a decent match with QT Marshall. I kinda felt like they gave QT a bit too much offense here, but it makes sense when you consider the whole “Punk is still trying to get back into fighting shape” storyline AEW has been telling all along. I still felt like Punk should have gotten a better opponent, though. The backstage area was hella busy on this pre-Thanksgiving episode – Dante Martin decided to join the ranks of Team Taz (much to Lio Rush’s dismay…), Eddie Kingston almost murdered 2Point0 & Daniel Garcia after he was plastered with a cup of coffee, Adam Cole & Bobby Fish got into it with Best Friends, Dr. Britt Baker learned about her upcoming Rampage match with Riho, and we learned that another tag team title shot is coming Jurassic Express’ way. The Gunn Club vs. Bear Country match was short, which is exactly how I wanted it to be since I’m not all that into Billy Gunn & his boys. Sitting through that entire segment was worth it though ‘cause I got to see Darby Allin run down the ramp like a bat out of hell & clobber Austin Gunn with a vicious tackle that’s going to be replayed for years to come.

In the next match within the TBS Women’s Tournament Championship match, we got to see Thunder Rosa vs. Jamie Hayter. Those two ladies beat the holy hell out of each other with some stiff strikes that had me thinking they had real-life murder beef. There were definitely some sloppy moments here and there (plus the ref distraction was a bit too long for my tastes), but I enjoyed most of the brutal action both women put on display overall. Britt’s errant superkick cost Jamie the match, which makes me think some sort of dissension may come into play within the AEW Women’s World Champion’s camp. Bryan “I HAVE ‘TILL 5!” Danielson continued his war against the AEW World Champion and his buddies in The Dark Order. This time, Bryan locked up with Colt Cabana in a short yet effective matchup. Colt got to shine a few times in front of his hometown crowd, but the “American Dragon” ultimately got the upper hand and even knocked a tooth out of Colt’s mouth. After his victory, Bryan stood face to face with Adam Page. The shit-talking between both men was extra heated once again, plus the brief brawl between them was a nice tease of their upcoming title match. Great stuff here!

The eight-man tag match that brought this extremely pleasing edition of Rampage to an end was certainly eventful. Cody Rhodes and The Death Triangle engaged in an awesome matchup with FTR, Andrade El Idolo, and Malakai Black. Rey Fenix bumped around the ring like a madman with his high-flying offense, which got me to pop outta my seat on several occasions. Everyone else did their part in adding to the match with their exciting offense – even “Armed” Anderson and Tully Blanchard got in on some of the fun by knocking out Andrade’s handler! The big story of the match was Cody’s misplaced superkick to Pac, which cost their team the win. The big moves that came before that moment were super hype and built up perfectly to that mistimed maneuver. The Chicago crowd was hot for this match and were especially passionate about their hate for Cody. After Cody threw his weight belt into the crowd, they threw it right back and almost clipped my queen Aubrey Edwards! This hate for Cody is next level and I’m guessing Pac is gonna get cheered like a hero once he targets Cody for revenge after what happened here.

Botches: So Chris Jericho roasted Matt Lee about his square-shaped head, which left me stone-faced ‘cause that horrible attempt at a joke reminded me of how old Jericho is getting. That segment of his gave me nothing but “corny dad at Thanksgiving trying to get his drunk humor over at the dinner table” vibes. A rare comedy miss from “Le Champion” here…

Impact Wrestling


Botches: I despise Wrestle House – none of the material is funny, the matches are inconsequential, and the whole concept is the perfect embodiment of cringe. This year’s edition was just more of the same and gave me way more Johnny Swinger and Hernandez than I was asking for. This atrocious gimmick episode made me yearn for the days of the Turkey Suit Challenge, which lets you know just how desperate I was for some sort of half-decent wrestling on Thanksgiving. Without Jeremy Borash holding it down on the production side of things anymore, Impact Wrestling’s more comedic segments are incredibly weak and a waste of everyone’s time.

WWE SmackDown

High Spots: On this post-Thanksgiving episode of Smackdown, everyone’s favorite “Tribal Chief” hit the ring to remind us all to be thankful for his glorious presence on Friday nights. He let it be known that Brock Lesnar is a scrub, he’s practically lapped the entire roster already, and the whole world will finally acknowledge him once his career comes to an end. Solid promo here from SmackDown’s resident world-beater and dominating Universal Champion. It’s going to be pretty wild once Brock Lesnar pops back up to make Roman eat those words, as evidenced by his suspension finally getting lifted. Paul Heyman’s paranoia is always great to see since it always results in Kayla Braxton getting roasted by one of his heated promos.

Drew McIntyre & Jeff Hardy vs. Happy Corbin & Madcap Moss was a perfectly serviceable matchup – I only cared about it because North Carolina’s favorite son Jeff Hardy got to shine in front of his hometown followers and actually get the win. WWE loves shitting on their talents in their hometown, but they chose to switch it up for once and allow Jeff to walk away with the big victory. Jeff will get cheered even when he hits his 60s and does his famous dance with a walker close by. The man is wrestling royalty and shall forever be treated as such. I got my wish on this episode – Ridge Holland and Cesaro went extra hard against each other in their first-ever matchup. There was an awkward pin done on behalf of Ridge at one point, plus the way Cesaro got the win over Ridge fell flat to me. But overall, I enjoyed the short piece of work they provided here.

Now were all the ringside servings for the Thanksgiving Leftovers Throwdown a bit much? Yeah, but I’m so used to these silly holiday-themed matches WWE does on an annual basis. It didn’t bother me much since Rick Boogs and Angel had themselves a pretty decent affair. Sitting through it was all worth it just to see Shinsuke Nakamura sweep Humberto and cause him to fall right through the table he was shredding Boogs’ guitar on. Angel ended up getting the win amidst all the chaos, which was fine by me. The buildup to Xia Li’s eventual SmackDown debut continued here with another comic book stylized vignette that provided some more personal backstory. Simply put, she hates individuals that she deems “vultures” and will always take the opportunity to put them out of their misery. I can’t wait to see Xia finally make her presence felt on Friday nights once she starts roundhouse kicking everybody’s heads off. Sasha Banks & Naomi vs. Shayna Baszler & Natalya was perfectly acceptable for what it was – I’m completely over this whole Naomi vs. Sonya Deville garbage, though.

Botches: Fam, they really couldn’t find a better way to add some more heat to Charlotte Flair and Toni Storm’s future clash? The bookers behind their segment really went for slapstick humor with two pie face splashes to Toni, which was highly disappointing to watch. How is anyone supposed to invest in Toni when we just saw her get treated like one of the Three Stooges and back down while Charlotte simply walked away without getting her comeuppance? That was such an atrocious way to build a match I’m actually looking forward to. Toni’s main roster run thus far has seen way more downs than ups thus far…

So the show-closing Black Friday Invitational Battle Royal was completely uninspired and kind of a bore – it did nothing to set itself apart from every other battle royal I’ve seen in recent memory, plus it left us with the wrong winner. But we all know Sami Zayn’s gonna end up losing his title opportunity to Jeff at some point ‘cause WWE knows no one gives a shit about Sami vs. Roman. AND I LIKE SAMI! But let’s keep it a buck, y’all – that’s not a match anyone wants to see while Jeff is sitting right there waiting to finally step into the ring with Universal Champion.

AEW Rampage

High Spots: My man Orange Cassidy was in extra lazy mode here! And I loved each and every moment of his lackadaisical nature during the fun tag team opener on this episode of Rampage. He & Wheeler Yuta (still don’t understand what that name is supposed to even mean…) butted heads, elbows, and knees with Adam Cole & Bobby Fish. Orange’s hilarious antics played really well into Adam’s crowd popping shtick at the beginning of this bout, which made me chuckle a few times. Then as the match got a bit more serious, both teams worked fast and hit hard with some nice tandem work and cool kickouts. Bobby actually finished someone with that top rope Falcon Arrow of his for once, which was a nice surprise. Good stuff here, for sure. Can’t wait for the day when Kyle O’Reilly dips from NXT 2.0 and leaves Von Wagner behind to reunite with his “Undisputed” family once again. Tony Nese threw down the gauntlet for a TNT Championship challenge to Sammy Guevarra on Rampage, which is the sort of match that I know will impress. Another exciting match got set up right after – the next episode of Rampage is going to give us The Lucha Brothers vs. FTR in a Two Out of Three Falls Match!

RIHO’S BACK! Been a minute since I’ve seen her in action. She got herself a future Women’s World Championship Match against Britt Baker after scoring a shocking upset. The match itself moved a bit slow in parts, but the action proceeded well enough and led to some big spots here and there. Hopefully, the next meeting between those two ladies is a bit better than this one. Since Andrade El Idolo spiked Cody Rhodes’ head into the concrete (which the crowd adored, by the way!), those two are gonna go to war in an Atlanta Street Fight on the next airing of Dynamite. I’m happy to see Andrade get a better footing on his AEW career now, so I’m very much looking forward to how he performs in singles action against arguably the most hated man in the company. 

And in the main event, Eddie Kingston and Daniel Garcia practically had a back alley brawl filled with nasty slaps, slick submission work, and some crowd popping suplexes. That’s what I love about Eddie and Daniel – their offense looks as real as possible because, in a way, it is! This was a nice slow burner of a match that grew in intensity the longer it went. After Eddie scored the win, 2Point0 jumped on him to regain the honor of their young boy. All of a sudden, Chris Jericho left the commentary booth to give Eddie some much-needed aid. So I’m guessing Eddie and Chris are gonna square up with 2Point0 at some point, which is a match I never imagined I’d see in my wildest dreams.

Botches: None to speak of, honestly…

Random Rumblings Around the Squared Circle

High Spots: Game Changer Wrestling really just made history! The up-and-coming deathmatch wrestling fed has officially sold out its Hammerstein Ballroom debut and will feature the largest crowd to have ever witnessed wrestling inside that building’s hallowed halls. As someone that’s been there countless times for ROH and TNA shows, this latest bit of news is mind-blowing to me. On Sunday, January 23, 2022, I’m gonna go out of my way to watch this whole deal on Fite TV since I effed up by not buying a ticket ahead of time. I have to give GCW another shout-out for its inaugural Indie Wrestling Hall of Fame event, which is taking place the night before its ballroom extravaganza. The indie legends getting inducted thus far include Jerry Lynn, Homicide, Ruckus, and Dave Prazak. Here’s hoping The Briscoes, Amazing Red, Super Dragon, and Christoper Daniels make it in next!

Botches: None to speak of, honestly…

Sports Strength

Elton’s Weekly Wrestling High Spots and Botches: November 15-November 21


High Spots: Kevin Owens has snapped…AGAIN! And that’s just how I like the big French-Canadian. Owens gave Big E a piece of his mind and let it be known that his return to heeldom is all Big E’s fault. That change to his character is infinitely more interesting than his previous babyface persona, plus it gives Big E the perfect killer heel to feud with besides Seth Rollins. If Owens is truly booking it to AEW once his WWE contract comes up in January of next year, then I can totally see him doing some of the best work of his career as Raw’s resident menace until then. The Street Profits and Alpha Academy have wrestled each other a thousand and one times on Smackdown already, but I never get tired of it. They had yet another matchup here and it ended up being another highlight of this show (no shock there). I would have preferred seeing Chad Gable and Otis getting the win, but I get that Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins had to get the W as it looks like they’re next in line for a shot against RK-Bro. Otis’ continued growth as a terrifying brute is fascinating to me – I hope he gets a big singles push in the future to truly capitalize on his new and improved character.

Owens got to show out with the homie Finn Bálor in an unsurprisingly delightful matchup. Finn definitely went above and beyond to incapacitate Owens with a stiff running dropkick that sent him right into the ringside barrier. But Owens fought off all the punishment done to him and eventually took his foe out of the game with a nasty Stunner. Those two men just don’t have it in ‘em to have a bad match, especially when it’s against each other. That was some damn good stuff there! We got yet another change to the Survivor Series Men’s lineup and this time it resulted in a far more sensible addition to the Raw side. Bobby Lashley and Rey Mysterio had a pretty good main event that saw the Lucha Libre pioneer look great against his larger opposition. There were some sloppy moments here and there, but they weren’t bad enough to fully take me out of the match. Lashley’s Full Nelson destruction of Rey-Rey forced Adam Pierce’s hand as he replaced him with Austin Theory. You’ll get no complaints from me there!

Botches: As I mentioned in my last set of wrestling highlights, this year’s build to Survivor Series has been highly confusing and a complete bust. And sadly, the lackluster road to WWE’s annual November PPV continued here. The Brand Split is practically meaningless these days, so I wasn’t shocked by The Usos randomly running onto Monday Night Raw to get the drop on Big E and the Raw Tag Team Champions. Setting up a tag match between the SmackDown Tag Team Champions against the WWE Champion and Riddle could have been halfway decent, but it only lasted two minutes thanks to a run-in from Seth Rollins. Then we got a six-man tag that added Randy Orton and Rollins to the mix. But that match didn’t really hit for me like I thought it would due to the lame DQ finish that led into it and the overall lack of excitement surrounding it concerning Survivor Series’ horrible build. 

Bianca Belair is “Black Girl Magic” personified. But even she can’t create greatness out of thin air when she’s forced to work with the always terrible Tamina Snuka. Their match sucked, but I won’t place an ounce of blame on Bianca for that outcome. Tamina just stinks out the joint every time she’s booked to wrestle or even speak. I’ve long since stopped caring about Becky Lynch these days. Her comeback hasn’t recaptured any of the fire she had before her long hiatus and her Survivor Series matchup with Charlotte Flair is one of the least interesting bouts booked for the PPV. I’m not too keen on watching Becky take on Liv Morgan, either – Liv’s been through hell and back due to WWE’s odd booking decisions regarding her career. But Liv’s dueling promo with Becky just fell flat here, in my opinion. And as for a future matchup between the two, I’m fairly confident in feeling that it won’t be all that good. Nikki A.S.H. and Zelina Vega wrestled for two minutes & some change and I was completely uninterested for the entirety of it. I had that exact same feeling moments later once Rhea Ripley battled against Carmella. It pains me to say this, but the Raw women’s division was a complete misfire in every segment it was a part of here.

I think I’m ready to see AJ Styles move on from his whole partnership with Omos now. It started out fine, but I’ve grown a bit tired of watching Omos move around the ring as slow as possible and pull off his generic big man offense. The Dirty Dawgs got treated like nothing but annoying mosquitoes by the larger Omos – Ziggler got caught with a Military Press Drop and a Phenomenal Elbow to end his suffering. And through it all, I couldn’t help but feel that AJ is much better served doing something else at this point besides screaming commands at his oversized tag team partner/personal bouncer.

NXT 2.0

High Spots: Man, the overall run time for most of the matches on this episode ran a bit too short for my tastes. Some of those matches were decent and on their way to being more than serviceable before they ended out of nowhere. Case in point – Dexter Lumis vs. Tony D’Angelo. That one lasted no more than three minutes, yet it still turned out to be a satisfactory encounter. And I may be the only one who feels this way, but it was really the best bout of the entire evening. The crowd was hot for it since they adore both men’s gimmicks (I only rock with Dexter’s unhinged ass!) and the action put on display by both men was highly exciting in some parts. I’m all the way here for a rematch between those two with 10+ minutes attached to it. After Dexter pulled away with the win, Carmello Hayes and Trick Williams hit the ring to get their shots in on the crazed man. This post-match beatdown added even more heat to the future matchup between Hayes and Johnny Gargano – speaking of that enticing matchup, Pete Dunne is also going to be a part of the proceedings on the next episode. FIRE!

Joe Gacy’s gimmick annoys the hell outta me, but I gotta admit – the man can go once the bell rings. So his little backstage run-in with NXT Cruiserweight Champion Roderick Strong has me thoroughly intrigued for a future matchup between the two. Speaking of old Roddy Boy, he and his Diamond Mine stablemates got engaged in a solid six-man affair with Jacket Time (good lord, that name…) and Odyssey Jones. The Creed Brothers continue to get better and better, as evidenced by this action-packed affair. That was another case of a match that I wish got a wee bit more time, however. There’s nothing better than watching Andre Chase get beaten like a government mule (shout out to “Good Ol’ JR!”). Xyon Quinn smashed him pretty quickly, which provided a rare case of me not complaining at all about a short match’s runtime. Xyon didn’t get to celebrate his victory for too long since Legado del Fantasma put his ass down. Santos Escobar made his return and did right by his leading lady Elektra Lopez by KO-ing Xyon on top of a metal grating. Ay, I’m not gon hold you – a match between Xyon and Santos would slap!

Kyle O’Reilly and Von Wagner continued to be the world’s most unnatural duo, but they still had an adequate match with Josh Briggs and Brooks Jensen. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, folks – the match was just a bit too short to really be anything other than alright. Von’s lame-ass finisher is nothing more than a transitional move that needs to be changed ASAP! Kyle got himself a win though, so at least there’s a silver lining in that end to the match. Tomasso Ciampa knew exactly what he was doing when he told Bron Breakker that he has less than a 33 and ⅓% chance of ever beating him for the NXT Championship! I’m sure that line caused Scott Steiner to come up out of his chair and scream various expletives at his TV. Nice little callback to Scott’s infamous TNA promo there. I can’t wait to see a runback of Tomasso and Bron’s first NXT Championship match in the near future.

Botches: I kinda wish LA Knight was on the main roster mixing it up with Raw or SmackDown’s top stars on the microphone. I feel like he’s much better served delivering some verbal put-downs on the likes of Kevin Owens or Xavier Woods instead of wasting his breath on Grayson Waller. This feud just feels so beneath him, honestly. I don’t hate Grayson by any means, though. But sticking LA with him isn’t the sort of feud that someone of LA’s caliber should be saddled with nowadays. Cameron Grimes is another NXT 1.0 talent that deserves to prosper on the main roster, too – watching him participate in a supremely boring game of poker and get torn to shreds by the equally dull Duke Hudson was the very definition of tedious. That whole feud is just a complete waste of Cameron’s talents and nothing worth getting excited about. 

“Lashing Out with Lash Legend” has already taken the (dis)honor of being the worst talk show in wrestling this year, but it continued to litter my TV screen with steaming piles of trash here. We got corny-ass jokes galore and cringy interactions with the host once Grayson hopped onto the scene. Just some terrible stuff all around, honestly. Speaking of unfunny and cringeworthy, MSK’s horrible vignettes made their unwelcome return here. Their continued search for their inspirational shaman is completely insufferable. Persia Pirotta practically massacred two jobbers in a handicap match. I usually enjoy stuff like that, but Persia’s generic offense and unremarkable look left me feeling a bit uninspired. Persia’s tall, pretty…and that’s about it. Raquel Gonzalez and Dakota Kai have never been all that interesting when it comes to their in-ring skills. So watching those two face each other in the main event didn’t really captivate me. Toxic Attraction and Cora Jade don’t do anything for me either, so I was left yawning for far too long during that post-match brawl between them and the match’s participants. Getting a WarGames match between that lineup of ladies doesn’t fill me with a lot of hope for what’s to come…

AEW Dynamite

High Spots: Post-PPV shows are usually never this good. But here comes AEW with one of its best episodes of Dynamite to date just a few days after its Full Gear show. We got everything here – good to great matches, exciting teases of future matchups, and some incredible promos. One of the most intriguing feuds that got set up on this episode was the one between MJF and CM Punk. MJF rubbed it in the fans’ faces and let ‘em know that he’s AEW’s best wrestler and greatest talker on the mic. Then…CM Punk’s music hit and the crowd came unglued! All Punk did was waltz into the ring, look MJF dead in the face, ignore his attempt at a handshake, and walk off while smiling sarcastically at him. Not one word was spoken on Punk’s behalf and I’m perfectly fine with that ‘cause it’s the perfect tease for what’s to come between Punk & MJF on the microphone. Virginia’s hometown champion Adam Page came out to talk his cowboy shit and rejoice over his AEW World Championship win. His next challenger hit the ring and showed everyone just how easy it is for him to switch up his character to that of a heel in an instant. I loved how Bryan mentioned the word WrestleMania and got showered by boos from the amped-up crowd. A pull-apart brawl between the champion and challenger got me super hype about their eventual meeting, whenever that may be.

Bryan stayed in “throwback ROH killer heel” mode as he locked up with Evil Uno in a pretty cool affair. Uno put up a good fight, but Bryan was just too much for him to handle – Bryan yelled the F word at the top of his lungs as he kicked Uno’s ‘effin head in and got one of the quickest submission calls from the ref I’ve ever seen. Bryan’s looking to take out every member of the Dark Order before he faces Adam. I can’t wait to see Bryan rekindle one of his old ROH beefs by squaring up Colt Cabana in Chicago. The wheels are officially turning when it comes to a potential battle for “Elite” leadership between Kenny Omega and Adam Cole. Kenny alluded to him taking some time away from the ring – he told The Young Bucks to hold down the fort while he’s gone. Adam spoke up pretty fast and told Kenny that he’ll step into his leadership role for the time being. This caused an awkward moment between the two when Kenny noted that he was talking to Matt and Nick Jackson, which told me that Adam’s going to try some slick shit when it comes to his position within the Elite.

New Japan’s “Stone Pitbull” and new NEVER Openweight Champion Tomohiro Ishii made his AEW debut alongside Orange Cassidy against The Butcher & The Blade. This match gave me exactly what I wanted when it was first announced – a stiff, big-man war between Tomohiro and The Butcher. The Butcher looked good against Tomohiro, but he ultimately fell in defeat. The Blade caught a mean Brainbuster from Tomohiro and the crowd loved watching it in front of their very eyes. The TBS Women’s Championship Tournament kept rolling on with a banger of a match between Nyla Rose and Hikaru Shida, who are two women that have developed some great chemistry with each other. This match got a good amount of time to blossom into something awesome and made good use of it thanks to some smart storytelling and well-paced action. Hikaru’s knee came into play during the whole match and got damaged even further by Serena Deeb during a run-in attack. Nyla’s misplaced Swanton Bomb into a steel chair almost cost her the match, but she eventually got over it and tapped Hikaru out with a rare Stretch Muffler. Great stuff there!

Lio Rush & Dante Martin had another dope outing and this time it was against The Acclaimed. Things started out on a high-flying note before the match went into hyperspeed thanks to Lio’s amazing agility and synergy with Dante. Max Caster and Anthony Bowens looked adequate in there, that’s for sure. But they just weren’t ready to get rid of their much quicker foes. Lio’s Frog Splash is a thing of beauty, isn’t it? Afterward, Team Tazz kept trying to make their case for Dante to become the newest member of their stable. We still haven’t gotten an answer yet, but I’m guessing Dante declines it and gets himself embroiled in a fresh feud with the FTW Champion Ricky Starks. I’m so here for it! As far as upcoming matches go, Adam Cole & Bobby Fish vs. Jurassic Express & Jade Cargill vs. Red Velvet sound like future barnburners for the next episode of Rampage. Side note – Bobby Fish getting stopped by The SuperKliq before he dropped the Undisputed Era’s catchphrase during his backstage promo had me in tears! That eight-man tag between Andrade El Idolo, FTR, and Malakai Black vs. Cody Rhodes, the Lucha Brothers, and Pac sounds like it’s also gonna be one for the ages on the next episode of Dynamite. And I feel the exact same way about Eddie Kingston vs. Daniel Garcia.

Jay Lethal’s very first match in AEW took place in the main event and it was a damn good one! The former ROH regular got into it with Sammy Guevera for the TNT Championship and definitely sent the crowd home happy. Sammy’s ribs played a huge part in how the match unfolded as Jay worked it over and even had the ref consider ending the match to keep Sammy from further injury. Sammy fought through the pain and brought the fight to Jay, which resulted in both men going back and forth to keep the crowd attentive and loud from bell to bell. The opening exchange of pinning cradles, Sammy’s ill-timed Shooting Star Press right into Jay’s knees, and Sammy’s crash & burn Swanton Bomb into a nearby table all got big pops outta me! It really looked as if Jay was going to win the TNT Championship in his AEW debut, but Sammy stayed in the fight and eventually KO’d his challenger with several flying knees & his Go to Hell finisher. Jay lost in her very first AEW match, but I have no reason to complain about that – both men had an excellent match and proved that the TNT Championship scene is full of greatness.

Botches: Darby Allin vs. Billy Gunn? I’m not too keen on that match being anything other than a big bowl of meh…

Impact Wrestling

High Spots: Josh Alexander vs. Minoru Suzuki was everything I hoped it would be – a brutal, hard-hitting contest that perfectly played to both men’s strengths. The elbow shots were extra stiff, the chest slaps echoed through the arena, and the submission exchanges had me & the crowd on the edge of their seats. I think they should have saved this one for Turning Point so it could have gotten even more time to flourish on the violence scale. I’m still satisfied with what I got here, though! That C4 Spike Josh planted Minoru with is gonna be in every “OMG wrestling movez!” compilation vid from this point forward. At the start of this episode, we got a pretty decent X-Division affair between Steve Maclin and Laredo Kid. Steve’s at the very bottom of my list when it comes to my favorite Impact Wrestling roster members, but I’ll give him credit where credit is due – he and the young luchador did some fine work with each other. My money’s on Trey Miguel retaining his X-Division Championship at Turning Point even with Steve’s late addition to the match.

Chris Sabin and Ace Austin talked real spicy to each other during a backstage segment. It all led to both guys getting booked in a match at Turning Point and it also resulted in Madman Fulton getting thrown into a freezer. You hate to see it! Sorry about your damn luck, big guy. Moose and Eddie Edwards are set to do battle for the Impact World Championship at Turning Point – they showed their immense hatred for one another with a big brawl that was full of the intensity you expect from both guys. Eddie got pummeled atop the ring apron, but he recovered enough to take the fight to Moose with some nasty chair shots. Eddie almost catapulted himself off a tall ass ladder right through Moose on a table, but the Impact World Champion peaced out before that could even happen. Now I’m way more excited about that main event going down since it’s been changed to Full Metal Mayhem!

I really expected the worst from Doc Gallows vs. Hikuleo, but they genuinely surprised me with their big hoss battle. It was way better than it had any right to be – both men didn’t do anything too fancy and just relentlessly clobbered each other. On the promo front, Deonna Purazzo and Eric Young shined on the mic during their respective segments. I can’t wait to see what Madame Deonna decides to do next and I’m extra curious about what EY has in store for Heath & Rhyno at Turning Point. Mickie James and Mercedes Martinez also did some fine promo work hyping up their Knockout Championship bout on PPV.

Botches: The IInspiration will forever be Stan’d by yours truly. But I gotta put ‘em in the botches section for their severely below average meeting with the Undead Bridesmaids. I get that it was put in place to build up the Knockouts Tag Team Championship match at Turning Point against the Decay. But I think that whole ordeal would have been better served as a dueling promos segment instead of that sad excuse for a match. That six-man between Fallah Bah, Hernandez, and Johnny Swinger vs. Black Taurus, Crazzy Steve, and The Demon did not need to happen. I understand why it had to happen, but it was the drizzling shits and had no business taking up time on this show. WCW’s failed Demon experiment shouldn’t be a thing in 2021, plus Hernandez and Johnny Swinger are beyond cringe at this point. You can probably guess that I want no parts of Wrestle House 2…

WWE SmackDown

High Spots: Roman Reigns done pushed King Woods far enough! With The Usos’ assistance, our “Tribal Chief” destroyed his throne, crushed his priceless crown, and assaulted him at the start of the show. Even still, Woods came out at the end of the night looking for all the smoke with Roman. One man came out to even the odds in the 2021 King of the Ring’s favor, however – THE WWE CHAMPION, BIG E! We finally got to see Raw and SmackDown’s respective champions come to blows in a preview of their Champion vs. Champion Survivor Series clash. By the time Jimmy and Jey Uso ran in, they got caught with a combined offensive from Big E and King Woods FTW! Big E turned his back for a split second and got dropped with a Superman Punch, though. But a Spear attempt from Roman almost got him dropped by a Big Ending. That hype ending definitely got me a bit more invested in that Survivor Series main event now!

That Fatal Four Way match was an awesome showcase of two veterans who are always in prime fighting form, one terrible veteran that continues to be a huge waste of space, and a high-flying superstar that deserves to be spotlighted even more. Ricochet went sky high as usual, Cesaro took Jinder Mahal for a long Big Swing ride, Sheamus brutalized the opposition the only way he knew how, and Jinder…looked good taking a 630 Senton. Ridge Holland’s run-in distraction came into play to help Sheamus get the win, which came as no surprise. That result has me chomping at the bit for a future clash between Cesaro and Ridge – I just know both men’s stiff uppercuts and elbow shots are gonna ring off so damn loud in whatever arena they choose to do battle in. Someone must have taken notes from the Shang-Chi movie ‘cause we got a pretty sweet comic book origin story for Xia Li. Who knew she had such a tough upbringing? I’m pretty excited to see her kick people’s heads off on Friday Nights real soon as “The Protector.”

So Sasha Banks and Shotzi tried to end each other just a few days before their tenure as partners at Survivor Series. They got embroiled in a hell of a fight that gave me a better look at Shotzi’s improvement in the ring. Sasha went extra hard with the Diving Meteora’s, but Shotzi made sure to respond in kind with plenty of offense aimed at Sasha’s injured arm. I liked what I saw there and am totally open to seeing this feud go a bit longer after Survivor Series. Sasha got the first W via submission, so let’s hope Shotzi stays angry enough to request a rematch with her at some point. At the other end of the women’s division spectrum for the Blue Brand, Toni Storm finally got an answer from SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair regarding a future matchup. I hope we’re getting that war between the two on the next episode of SmackDown. Toni’s been MIA for far too long, so it’s about time she got to appear more often on Friday nights.

Botches: Sonya Deville’s heel authority figure gimmick continues to be insufferable – it’s easily the worst part of the show lately. The tag match between Naomi & Aliyah vs. Shayna Baszler & Natalya barely lasted a minute before a screwy ref counted extra fast in favor of the heels. I don’t see any reason why that match needed to end so soon and with such a shitty result to boot. Call me crazy, but I actually wanted to see Jeff Hardy and Madcap Moss get at least five to six minutes for their first-time matchup. I get why it was so short (gotta keep SmackDown’s Survivor Series teammates strong!), but it ended on a lame small package. At least we got a Swanton Bomb and a Claymore Kick out of the post-match proceedings, I guess.

A match between Shinsuke Nakamura and Angel should go way longer than a minute and some change, wouldn’t you all say? Two international talents of that caliber should be going at it for damn near 20+ minutes! I was highly disappointed by the short run time given to them and wish they’d gotten more time to give me just a slither of hope about SmackDown’s midcard potential. The Intercontinental Championship is just there for show at this point and doesn’t really play into anything going on on this show any longer, sadly…

AEW Rampage

High Spots: Jade Cargill and Red Velvet got some good chemistry forming between them, I see! It makes sense since they looked pretty good against each other during that whole mixed tag match that also featured Cody Rhodes and Shaq. Their TBS Women’s Championship Tournament match ended up being a hard-fought contest between the two ladies that did two admirable things – it made Jade look a bit better as she got to compete in a longer match this time and Miss Red did a great job of fighting from underneath as the ultimate underdog. Red Velvet looked to have it a few times, but Jade shook off all the damage done to her and eventually put her smaller foe in the dirt. 

We ended up getting a strong main event between Adam Cole and Bobby Fish against Jurassic Express (Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus). Seeing two of NXT’s previous Undisputed Era members come together once again to do some damage on the AEW stage brought a nostalgic tear to my eye. Jungle Boy looked crisp as always, but it was Luchasaurus that stole the show once again thanks to his crowd-popping hot tag comeback. The Young Bucks distraction took a while to come to an end, but Christian Cage eventually ran them off. Adam left his boy Bobby behind to get choked out by Jungle Boy’s Snare Trap, so it looks like Adam could care less about his former stablemate after all. Since this feud doesn’t look like it’s over quite yet, I think it’s about time Adam and Christian mix it up for the first time ever to keep the story going.

Botches: I could have lived without that Billy Gunn vs. Darby Allin match, to be honest. It wasn’t horrendous by any means – I enjoyed watching Darby land a Coffin Drop on Billy’s two sons and I for sure got a kick out of the crowd sending “ASS MAN!” and “ASS BOY!” chants at Mr. Gunn. But everything moved at a snail’s pace while Billy was in control and there just wasn’t a whole lot going on. Darby got the win as expected. But The Gunn Club stood tall at the end, which tells me that this feud isn’t over just yet. This just feels like a huge step down for Darby as far as new beefs go. Darby and Sting certainly deserve better in that department. And I don’t know about y’all, but CM Punk vs. QT Marshall is the last thing I wanna see on my TV screen.

Random Rumblings Around the Squared Circle

High Spots: I’ve been kinda iffy on New Japan Pro Wrestling this year – the roster’s been way too stagnant without too many fresh faces in rotation, some of the booking decisions have been puzzling, and the extra quiet Japanese fans (who have been forced to clap instead of cheer due to the pandemic) are all factors that have brought my interest levels down immensely. But now that we’re on the road to WrestleKingdom 16, my interest in NJPW is starting to come back a bit. That event is actually going to be three days next year and, so far, Shingo Takagi vs. Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship on Night One and the winner of that match facing Will Ospreay for the same title on Night Two has been locked in place. 

Night Three has me super amped though ‘cause it’s going to be a night filled with inter-promotional bouts between NJPW and Pro Wrestling NOAH. My man Okada got extra disrespectful during the promo vid for that event when he said “do Olympic athletes keep tabs on what the local amateur athletic club is doing? Of course not.” Go Shiozaki might have to pull up on his ass for talkin’ so spicy about his home promotion! I can’t wait to hear about the full card for that NJPW vs. NOAH WAR!

Impact Wrestling’s latest installment of Turning Point was a quality event, I must say. Moose/Eddie Edwards, Chris Sabin/Ace Austin, Mickie James/Mercedes Martinez, and (shockingly!) W. Morrissey/Matt Cardona stood out as the most satisfying matches of the evening. On top of all those inspired performances and the rest of the card’s solid affairs, the walking behemoth formerly known as NXT’s Bronson Reed made his Impact debut as Jonah. And he did it by crushing Josh Alexander with repeated running sentons and two diving splashes. The former Impact World Champion just can’t catch a break, can he? Shout out to Jonah for getting a simultaneous bag from NJPW and now Impact!

Botches: Sigh…”budget cuts” reared their ugly head once again as we got yet another round of WWE talent releases. This group of former WWE Superstars is another sad reminder of the uncreative department known as WWE creative and just how fractured the NXT to main roster pipeline still is for most call up’s. To see John Morrison go from competing at WrestleMania 37 in a match with Bad Bunny to being relegated to backstage Yoga sessions to now being released is disheartening. And the fact that Hit Row (who you guys know I have no love for) got called up weeks prior and are now all gone is pretty insane. NO LOVE LOST FOR JAXSON RYKER, THOUGH!

So as always, here are my suggestions for which companies I’d like to see some of these released wrestlers go to now and what some of them should do with their careers next:

– John Morrison to All Elite Wrestling

– Top Dolla to something else besides professional wrestling

– Ashante Thee Adonis to Impact Wrestling

– Isaiah “Swerve” Scott to All Elite Wrestling

– Tegan Nox to Impact Wrestling

– Drake Maverick to something else besides professional wrestling

– Shane Thorne to New Japan Pro Wrestling (to reunite with Mikey Nicholls and get TMDK back together!)

– Jaxson Ryker to something else besides professional wrestling

So the 2021 Survivor Series was just…middling at best. Like, the main event between Big E and Roman Reigns was cool and all. But it ended on a pretty flat note as everyone expected The Rock to show up and tease a match between him and the “Tribal Chief” at next year’s WrestleMania. The rest of the show kinda matched the lackadaisical vibes of the build given to it, honestly. The Battle Royal was only there to promote Pizza Hut, the Women’s Elimination Match went on forever, the Kickoff Match ended on a lame DQ, Vince McMahon starred in nothing skits with a movie prop, etc. This show was a definite far cry from the excellent 2019 Survivor Series, that’s for sure…

Sports Strength

Get to Know AEW’s Pac

Before Ricochet, Will Ospreay, and Ninja Mack enraptured wrestling fans far and wide, a spectacular high-flyer named Benjamin Satterley blew everyone’s minds. His flashy moves regularly made headlines – the man’s Shooting Star Press will forever be the stuff of legend.

It doesn’t matter how you pronounce his ring name – you’ll instantly recognize him and quickly take note of his unflinching brutality and eye-popping aerial display. The man we’re about to detail here is All Elite Wrestling’s resident “Bastard,” Pac. Before he made his way over to Tony Khan’s wrestling upstart, Pac grew his legend on the independent wrestling scene. And soon after, he began appearing for companies such as ROH, PWG, Dragon Gate, and eventually made his way to WWE. 

Let’s go into further detail about the always smug Pac and why he’s garnered so much recognition during his career.

Pac Got His Independent Wrestling Start With Numerous European Feds

A 16-year-old Satterley turned his love for professional wrestling into something serious once he began competing for backyard wrestling organizations. Later on, Pac’s wrestling career officially got its start in North East England with a promotion by the name of the Independent Wrestling Federation. Afterward, Pac began turning even more heads as “The Man That Gravity Forgot” during his tenure with assorted wrestling feds in the United Kingdom. The companies he competed for during his early tenure include 3 Count Wrestling, International Pro Wrestling: United Kingdom, and One Pro Wrestling. 

Pac’s awe-inspiring high-flying feats and astounding athleticism came into play as he faced off with fellow UK indie wrestling greats, such as Nigel McGuiness, Darren Burridge, and Dunkan Disorderly. Pac even did some work with the Italy-based wrestling company Nu-Wrestling Evolution, which saw him adopt a gimmick that was quite similar to that of the one currently in play for AEW’s Jungle Boy. During his stay there, the man rechristened as “Jungle Pac” locked horns with the likes of Juventud Guerrera, Super Nova, and Matt Cross. Pac eventually ran into one of his most storied rivals in El Generico (WWE’s Sami Zayn) while he competed for American Wrestling Rampage during the company’s UK tour. Both men showed immense chemistry with each other that would play out in the States for a well-known wrestling indie located in Southern California…

Pac Began Making Bigger Waves in the States and Japan With Popular Indie Wrestling Companies

Pac’s notoriety truly began taking shape once he started appearing in more prominent wrestling feds within the States and in Japan. His time spent within the noted Southern Californian indie fed Pro Wrestling Guerrilla earned him a larger following and more critical acclaim. Pac’s competition within PWG consists of a who’s who of the very best in the business – his wars with AJ Styles, El Generico, Kevin Steen, and Chris Hero are the stuff of legend. Pac even claimed the promotion’s World Tag Team Championship alongside Roderick Strong during the first-ever PWG Dynamite Duumvirate Tag Team Title Tournament. Pac also spent some time wrestling for a slew of other companies as his legend grew – he wrestled for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling while in Portugal, debuted for Ring of Honor during one of the company’s UK tours & US shows, and also did some work for New Japan Pro Wrestling as a member of the 2012 Best of the Super Juniors Tournament.

The company that truly put Pac at the forefront of wrestling fans’ minds is Dragon Gate Pro Wrestling. The incredibly fast-paced theatrics and high-flying wizardry from the promotion’s roster proved to be the perfect fit for Pac’s repertoire. In Dragon Gate’s home base within Japan and with the promotion’s USA arm, Pac aligned himself with the World-1 stable. Eventually, Pac and Masato Yoshino became the inaugural Open the United Gate tag team champions for Dragon Gate USA. Pac’s time spent with Dragon Gate also saw him join forces with World-1 International and lock horns with the likes of Ricochet, Cima, K-ness, and Dragon Kid.

Pac’s NXT/WWE Stints Showcased Him to an Even Wider Audience

Pac’s move up to the biggest wrestling company in the world saw him compete for WWE from 2012 up until 2018. Under the new ring name of Adrian Neville, he started working under the developmental banner of NXT. Neville defeated Sakamoto during his NXT television debut. Afterward, he went on a tear via some impressive accomplishments – he and Oliver Grey (better known as British Ambition) captured the NXT Tag Team Championship as its inaugural titleholders, won the same belts alongside Corey Graves, and won the NXT Championship after defeating Bo Dallas in a ladder match at NXT ArRIVAL. After dropping the NXT Championship to Sami Zayn at NXT TakeOver: R Evolution, Neville competed in a few more noteworthy NXT bouts before he got called up to the main roster.

Neville made his main roster debut during the March 30, 2015, episode of Raw by defeating Curtis Axel. At first, Neville played the role of a sort of superhero-type character that clashed with the likes of Stardust (Cody Rhodes’ previous Goldust-like gimmick) and Wade Barrett. Neville was forced to go on the shelf for a few months after sustaining an injury to his ankle during a match with Chris Jericho on Raw in 2016. Upon making his return, Neville continued wrestling as a babyface. But after a successful Cruiserweight Championship defense from Rich Swann at the 2018 Roadblock: End of the Line PPV, Neville turned into the heel fans know him as today by attacking the champ and TJ Perkins.

Soon after, the newly turned Neville began taking down several members of the Cruiserweight Division. He finally captured main roster singles gold once he defeated Swann for the Cruiserweight Championship at the 2017 Royal Rumble. Neville reigned strong as he beat several worthy opponents, such as Austin Aries, Perkins, and Akira Tozawa. Neville eventually dropped the belt to Enzo Amore at No Mercy 2017. And soon after, trouble in paradise began between Pac and WWE. 

On October 9, 2017, it was reported that Neville had walked out during an episode of Raw after he was scheduled to lose another match to Enzo. Multiple wrestling news sites reported that Nevile had done this due to his unhappy state within the company. By November 2017, rumors began circulating that Neville and WWE were preparing to mend their relationship. But it turns out those seemingly positive talks never truly went anywhere – in January 2018, WWE chose to freeze Neville’s contract and keep him there until he was officially let go. And then on August 24, 2018, it was reported that Neville had finally gotten his full WWE release.

Pac Made his Return to Dragon Gate, But Now Competes as “The Bastard” Under the All Elite Wrestling Banner

Neville ditched his WWE moniker and returned to the name that made him so famous in the first place upon his return to Dragon Gate on October 2, 2018. Pac was now back in fine form as he aligned himself with the company’s R.E.D. stable and defeated Shingo Takagi in his return bout. Throughout the remainder of 2018 and 2019, Pac competed for several indie wrestling companies against an array of equally talented opponents – he engaged in some intriguing bouts with the likes of Rampage (Defiant Wrestling), Amazing Red (Revolution Pro Wrestling), and Penta El Zero M (TNT Extreme Wrestling). On December 4, 2018, Pac went on to defeat Masato Yoshino for the Open the Dream Gate Championship. This title reign lasted until July 21, 2019, where he dropped the strap to Ben-K.

Pac’s current home promotion is now All Elite Wrestling. His signing with the company was announced on January 8, 2019. His most notable feuds within AEW thus far include “Hangman” Adam Page, Kenny Omega, and Orange Cassidy. Later on, he chose to create a new stable alongside The Lucha Brothers (Penta El Zero M and Rey Fenix) called The Death Triangle. Since then, Pac has fought alongside his Lucha Libre stablemates against Eddie Kingston, The Butcher & The Blade, and The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson). Pac’s resurgence within AEW has done wonders for “The Bastard” thus far and pushed him to an even higher level that he was never able to attain during his WWE main roster run.

Sports Strength

Elton’s Weekly Wrestling High Spots and Botches: November 8-November 14


High Spots: The eight-man tag that got this edition of Raw going wasn’t anything overly special, but it served its purpose well as a solid opener. The biggest story coming out of that match was the breakdown in communication and camaraderie between AJ Styles & Omos and The Dirty Dawgs. Based on what happened between them, it’s clear to me and everyone else that those two teams are gonna be at each other’s throats right alongside RK-Bro and The Street Profits. I guess they all gotta find a way to get along before Survivor Series, though – I smell some tag team brand warfare coming our way! Bobby Lashley is the epitome of that one Michael Jordan meme that explains his sentiment about kids (y’all know the one!). First, he put his hands on Goldberg’s son. And here, he manhandled Rey Mysterio’s boy Dominik and took his spot on the Men’s Survivor Series team. Now all is right in the world! Our WWE Champion Big E came out to work magic with one of the most slept on wrestlers in the world, Chad Gable. In a four-minute+ span, I got to see the leader of the Alpha Academy prove his worth again against the equally amazing megastar of Raw. The ending was never in doubt – even still, I loved watching Chad mix it up with WWE’s top champion and look great in the process.

So the main story thread running through this show was the fact that Kevin Owens simply can’t be trusted. I’ve been following this man since his ROH glory days with El Generico, so I kinda feel Rollins and Big E when it comes to doubting Owens’ reliability. Watching Owens plead with Big E while the champ lathered himself up in cocoa butter was way more hilarious than it had any right to be, I swear! And I popped again once Big E smacked the hell out of Austin Theory’s phone when he tried to get a selfie with the champ. I wouldn’t mind a match between those two and it looks like that might be a possibility on the next episode of Raw. As for the main event, Rollins and Owens gelled well as expected and made sure to put forth all their energy for the appreciative audience. Rollins’ count-out victory caused Owens to flip his lid and, in all his frustration, take aim at Big E at ringside. Owens did what I and everyone else expected him to do – get back into prizefighter mode and decimate the WWE Champion. I’m totally here for a triple threat match between Big E, Owens, and Rollins post-Survivor Series.

Botches: Rollins and his Lite Brite raincoat drip were not hittin’. And the same can be said about his uninspired promo at the start of this show that ran on for way too long. Owens really saved me from tappin’ out on this episode of Raw – thank god he came out to make Seth stop talking and haul ass from his main event opponent for the evening. Reggie vs. Drake Maverick? Pure basura, moving on! The sooner WWE kills the 24/7 Championship division, the better. But they won’t, so I still gotta suffer through it for the remainder of my life. So the five ladies set up for Raw’s Women’s Survivor Series team were all put in a multi-women match to hash out their issues before the PPV. And I’ma keep it a stack with you, guys and gals – I just couldn’t bring myself to care about any of it. Liv Morgan won, which was a nice change of pace. But I haven’t been feeling anything Becky Lynch has been a part of as of late – a match between “The Man” and Liv doesn’t really inspire me with a lot of confidence in it being any good.

NXT 2.0

High Spots: So there were three good things I have to acknowledge from this super subpar airing of NXT 2.0. And that’s the opening bout, the triple threat, and the main event. I’ll never join the Toxic Attraction fan club, but I’ll give ‘em props when props are due. The three of them had quite the fast-paced and surprisingly compelling matchup against Io Shirai, Kacy Catanzaro, and Kayden Carter. Mandy Rose’s sudden spinebuster to Io Shirai made me pop for anything Mandy has done for the very first time in my life. Good stuff here from the NXT 2.0 women’s division. Solo Sikoa got to keep his mean streak going during a decent triple threat match with Grayson Waller and LA Knight. I always feel some way about Knight taking an L (Sikoa took him out with his signature top-tope splash), but I totally understand why this loss had to happen – Sikoa is on fire and is being built up to become even more of a force on Tuesday nights.

And now let’s get into the awesome main event between Carmelo Hayes and Pete Dunne. It was pretty wild watching the past of NXT clash with the present during this action-packed encounter. Hayes went all the way with the disrespect shown to Johnny Gargano by locking Dunne in the Gargano Escape, but it didn’t help him notch another win. A distraction from “Johnny Wrestling” and Dexter Lumis’ attack on Trick Williams ended up being enough to throw Hayes off his game and result in Dunne ending him with a Bitter End. So is the “Bruiserweight” getting added to this whole North American Championship feud between Hayes and Gargano on account of his victory over the champion? It would seem so…

Botches: NXT 2.0’s overreliance on corny ass skits that belong on an episode of Saturday Night Live reared its ugly head here once again. MSK is pure cringe whenever they speak – I just can’t bring myself to invest in anything they do when it doesn’t involve them flipping and dipping all over the ring. Their ongoing search for the mystery guru is just god-awful stuff. Another tag team that’s been forced to star in hokey segments is the Grizzled Young Veterans, who got engaged in some “urban training” that just made me think “they deserve so much better.” Andre Chase continued to suck the life outta the room with his horrid “Chase University” skits, so nothing new there. Kay Lee Ray will always be the equivalent of watching paint dry, so you can probably guess how I felt about her match with Sarray. And Raquel Gonzalez spoke into a mic, which is never a good thing. The next Wargames got announced without William Regal doing his signature call for it, which honestly took all the excitement out of it.

Tony D’Angelo continued to puzzle me as to why he has a fanbase with another one of his backstage skits where he interrupted some folks via lame humor. Jacket Time vs. The Creed Brothers felt like it was being wrestled underwater to me – it just moved way slower than it should have when you consider Kushida’s inclusion in the match. Joe Gacy vs. Boa ended with some gimmicky bullshit via flashing lights that led to Boa choking Gacy in the ropes and earning himself a DQ. That was supremely stupid. We had a boring squash match that saw Elektra Lopez flatten Erica Yan, plus some post-squash interaction between Legado Del Fantasma and Xyon Quinn that didn’t interest me whatsoever. The same can be said for Cameron Grimes (who I’m slowly losing my favoritism towards) vs. Ru Feng. The post-match announcement of a Poker Showdown between Grimes and Duke Hudson fills me with nothing but dread. And finally, Kyle O’Reilly and Von Wagner continued to expose the fact that they have 0 chemistry and further convinced me that Kyle is gonna peace out of WWE once his contract expires.

AEW Dynamite

High Spots: Now that’s how you do a PPV go-home show! AEW could have easily phoned it in for this edition of Dynamite, but they presented an exceptional show full of captivating matches and compelling promos. First up were Bryan Danielson and one of the hardest working men in the wrestling business, Rocky Romero (the dude walks through the “Forbidden Door” to make some big deals happen and finds time to wrestle in numerous companies all the while). This match was a solid opener that featured some slick submission work that took me back to the early days of both mens’ ROH runs. I’ve enjoyed watching Danielson whip out all types of submissions to finish his opponents lately – it makes his matches a bit unpredictable and that much more interesting. The Inner Circle were supposed to have a quick chat with Tony Schiavone, but The Men of the Year & American Top Team jumped ‘em before they even had a chance to speak. Dan Lambert got to have his “Bully Ray putting Dixie Carter through a table” moment when he did the same to Chris Jericho with the help of Scorpio Sky and Ethan Page. I laughed my ass off when Dan yelled out the true name of the Walls of Jericho and the original master of it while he held Jericho in it. Hot beatdown angle right there.

We got a six-woman tag that saw Tay Conti, Anna Jay, and Thunder Rosa take on Dr. Britt Baker, Rebel, and Jamie Hayter. While the match was a bit sloppy in parts, it still had its good moments here and there – Conti’s spirited comeback and the way that Hayter sold the hell out of Rosa’s flying body splash on the outside were both pretty lit! Conti got the winning pin here and looked strong heading into her match with Baker at Full Gear, so mission accomplished. Anthony Bowens of The Acclaimed is looking more and more like a future singles star in the making! His match with Danielson from the last episode of Rampage and the match he had here with Jungle Boy provided further proof of that statement. Bowens’ apron DDT is sick and I always love watching him drop somebody with it. He did it here, but Jungle Boy and his badass five o’clock shadow ultimately took Bowens down. Afterward, Bobby Fish randomly ran out to kick Jungle Boy’s ass for a bit. It turns out this run-in attack wasn’t so random after all, however – Adam Cole called on his former Undisputed Era stablemate to do some damage before Full Gear. I watched that segment and couldn’t help but think “IT’S TIME TO COME ON HOME, KYLE O’REILLY!” AEW needs reDRagon.

Hey, Wardlow’s here! And he powerbombed Wheeler Yuta into oblivion. The crowd was live as hell during all those repeated powerbombs, which made it quite evident that a babyface run for Wardlow could do gangbusters in the near future. The match of the night honors goes to the hyperfast and high-flying combination of Lio Rush and Dante Martin vs. Matt Sydal & Lee Moriarty. All four men moved a mile a minute as they pulled out all the stops to one-up their rivals. Rush is still as fly as he’s ever been and Martin matched his dizzying pace from bell to bell. Moriarty’s technical know-how provided the perfect counter to his opponents’ quicker style, while Sydal did everything in his stop top Rush & Martin’s gameplan. This was so damn good – even my Pops couldn’t take his eyes off the TV while all four men bounced all over the ring! The sky’s the limit for Martin and Moriarty. Miro just keeps on dropping the hottest bars of the year (sorry, Max Caster…). My man Miro really told Danielson to say goodbye to his wife so that Miro can go say hello to his. THIS MAN MIRO IS ON FIRE! Oh, and before I forget – Eddie Kingston running faster than the speed of light while he and CM Punk screamed at each other in the parking lot was hilarious!

Pac and Dax Harwood had themselves a very snug and hard-hitting matchup that provided a nice change of pace from the tag match that moved at hyperspeed minutes beforehand. They started slow with some stiff strikes and eventually grew more intense as they clobbered each other with some nasty chops & devastating suplexes. That top-rope brainbuster from Pac and Harwood’s Rebound Sitdown Powerbomb made me jump outta my seat! Pac pulled off a submission victory, but a post-match brawl took place and brought out Cash Wheeler, Malakai Black, Andrade El Idolo, Cody Rhodes, and the Lucha Brothers. And that was a damn good segment used to set up another match at Full Gear! For the final segment of the evening, Kenny Omega and Adam Page had a contract signing for their AEW World Championship match. Both men delivered very convincing promos that called back to their long history, which has taken place across numerous companies before AEW even came to be. The shocking return of Don Callis, his hidden cameraman reveal, and Page’s blood being used by the champ to sign the contract was the best ways to bring this quality go-home show of Dynamite to an end.

Botches: “Matt Hardy Will Not Die!” Remember that lil’ catchphrase he adopted at one point? Well, you can apply that statement to the seemingly never-ending feud between him and Orange Cassidy. I figured they would move on by now, but Matt’s constant ringside taunts aimed at Cassidy made it abundantly clear that they STILL have unfinished business. Watching Matt plant Orange with a chair-assisted Twist of Fate didn’t do much to get me excited about watching them square off again. I’m completely over it, honestly. Hopefully, the Lumberjack Match between both guys marks the definitive end to a feud that’s long run its course.

Impact Wrestling

High Spots: I GOT MY WISH, GUYS! The Bullet Club crew that consists of El Phantasmo and Chris Bey are now the #1 Contenders for the Impact World Tag Team Championship by virtue of their victory over FinJuice. And that honor came to both men after a pretty badass opener that showed me just how much dope of a tag team Phantasmo and Bey are (I hope NJPW gives ‘em some dates to work once those restrictions in Japan for foreigners are lifted). The Good Brothers don’t really do it for me anymore, so here’s hoping the Bullet Club’s US representatives claim the tag team belts from them at Turning Point. Before he tries to end Josh Alexander’s life, Minoru Suzuki chose to lessen Kaleb with a K’s lifespan in a quick squash match. It felt so good watching Suzuki pull out that Gotch-Style Piledriver and use it to send Kaleb’s ass packing in short order. “Murder Grandpa” and his USA tour have been such a joy to follow this year. 

Heath and his cheese & crackers connoisseur Rhino are together again! And it felt so damn good to hear them take aim at Violent by Design by issuing a challenge for Turning Point. I’m gonna need that encounter to be nothing but a hardcore struggle! Rhino’s gotta Gore Eric Young through a guardrail is all I’m saying. Mercedes Martinez and Madison Rayne had themselves a pretty decent matchup – while the roll-up pin was a weak finish for Mickie James’ future opponent, I was still pleased with her getting any type of win before Turning Point. The Knockouts Champion came out to help her future foe after the match once Rayne jumped on her (James’ Chick Kick looked like dogshit though, not even gon lie). Shout out to Martinez for putting James to sleep with that move Sheamus always does (White Noise, right?).

Just one night after having a banger with Bryan Danielson in AEW, Rocky Romero popped up here to do the very same thing with Rohit Raju. Raju got past that eye poke from earlier in the match and overcame someone he truly respects in the end. The man’s explosive knees did some fine work there! The main event from this episode was a fun one between Eddie Edwards, W. Morrisey, and Matt Cardona. I was hoping to see Morrisey get the win here ‘cause I really wanted to watch a big boy war between him and Moose at Turning Point. My man “Double E” eked out the win though, which is fine since it gives Moose a great dance partner for his PPV first title defense.

Botches: I could live without seeing any more backstage skits from Brian Myers and his flunkies – they’re just tiresome at this point and have no good matches to show for ‘em. Myers vs. Sam Beale doesn’t sound like it’ll change that troubling trend, sadly. The Decay destroyed some Undead Brides or whatever. I’m just ready to see The IInspiration embarrass ‘em all over again at Turning Point. We got a Steve Maclin promo on this episode, which gave me enough time to get a quick nap in. Trey Miguel woke me up with all his screaming, which didn’t make me too mad ‘cause I was happy to see the X-Division champ shut Maclin’s boring ass up. Johnny Swinger and Hernandez were here, too. And as always, it didn’t mean much and just proved to me that they’re nothing but wasted roster spots in this company…

WWE SmackDown

High Spots: Even though the pre-match brawl between the members of the Women’s Smackdown crew for Survivor Series was really silly, the six-woman tag that took place soon after was pretty good. Aliyah was on fire here and proved that her callup to the big leagues of WWE was the right choice to make. Consider me shocked at that development! Everyone else in the match worked hard to make this show’s opening match come off way better than I expected it to. Major props to the Blue Brand’s leading ladies! Speaking of the SmackDown ladies, Charlotte Flair might have herself a fresh challenger to compete with. After the SmackDown Women’s Champion gave the crowd one of her overly long and drawn-out promos, Toni hit the ring to add some much-needed intrigue to the proceedings. Charlotte completely brushed her off, but it’s quite evident that Toni will eventually find a way to become the #1 contender and make a play for the SmackDown Women’s Championship. I’m just happy to see Toni resurface on this damn show ‘cause she’s sadly been MIA lately.

The main event saw our current King of the Ring Xavier Woods go head to head with the “Head of the Table” Roman Reigns. Both men were on their way to having a great match before The Usos stuck their noses in and stomped a mudhole in the king’s royal ass. It’s pretty wild when you realize King Woods got himself a win over the Universal Champion, even though it came via disqualification. I hope we get to see Woods and Reigns go at it one more time before Survivor Series and get way more time to cook & produce the banger I and everyone else expect from them. I gotta hand it to the “Tribal Chief” – the man looks damn good with that crown on top of his flowing locks.

Botches: This year’s build-up to Survivor Series has to be the most confusing one they’ve ever done thus far. So WWE announced all the Raw and SmackDown team lineups on a random Sunday with no matches put in place beforehand to build up the teams. Now WWE has gone out of its way to muddy the waters by taking random members off of both teams and even having them fight each other. It was just so weird to see Sonya Deville take Aaliyah off of the SmackDown’s Women’s team – wouldn’t it have made more sense for say, Aliyah and Toni Storm fight for the right to be on the team instead of involving Aliyah in that tired ass evil GM feud between Sonya and Naomi? It was even more puzzling when Jeff Hardy beat Sami Zayn in a nothing match that led to Zayn getting booted off of the SmackDown’s Men squad. Just some odd booking decisions there. 

(S)Hit Row and Jinder Mahal & Shanky possibly delivered the cringiest promo of the year – the facepalm-worthy promo from the former NXT 2.0 stable and the shit-tastic “freestyle” & dance routine from Jinder & Shanky were the purest forms of torture. I was a bit let down by the tag team match between Shinsuke Nakamura & Rick Boogs and Los Lotharios – considering the talent of all four men involved, it just felt a bit too lethargic and unremarkable for my tastes. What also disappointed me about this match was witnessing Nakamura as the Intercontinental Champion get pinned clean in the middle of the ring. I guess that’s just further proof that the long-running midcard title will continue to be a complete afterthought that’s better off as a paperweight at this point.

AEW Rampage

High Spots: Jungle Boy and that fresh batch of badass facial hair are doing wonders for the young wrestling prodigy these days! He came out to get some much-needed revenge on Bobby Fish and did just that, but he damn sure had to work for it. Fish worked over his arm and almost ripped it out of its damn socket, plus he made sure to mix in some stiff strikes and suplexes to keep him grounded. Jungle Boy fought back valiantly though and put the man to sleep with his patented Snare Trap submission. After that solid opener came to a close, Adam Cole ran out to get his licks in on Jungle Boy. That plan almost came to fruition before Christian Cage and Junglesaurus hit the ring to make the save. Fish caught himself a nasty Unprettier for his troubles as The SuperKliq looked on in disgust. That was a nice way to build up one of my most anticipated matches for Full Gear. Backstage, Adam Page came through with some heated words for his former Elite buddies, The Young Bucks. “If you so much as lay a hand on me, I will end you.” I just love a good threat! Matt and Nick Jackson better not go anywhere near the Full Gear main event is all I know.

Queen Jade Cargill kept on racking up some wins here as she got rid of Santana Garrett in just a few seconds. The biggest development from that whole segment was Cargill’s increasingly hostile relationship with Red Velvet. Red Velvet made sure to ruin Cargill’s one-year anniversary in the company by smashing her manager’s face in some cake and scrapping with her for a bit. Those two hotheads are gonna have quite the quality matchup when they meet once again during the TBS Women’s Championship tournament. Afterward, a hometown battle between Minnesota’s very own Dante Martin and Ariya Daivari ensued. It was pretty cool seeing Daivari get some AEW work here after his 205 Live venture spent in WWE. This match was what I expected it to be – a fast-paced, high-flying spectacle. Martin pulled away with the win, of course. And just a few moments after securing the victory, Team Taz went into recruit mode as they made a contract offer to Martin. I guess now we’re going to see Martin eventually reject that offer and force him and Lio Rush into a feud with Taz’s crew. And that excites me ‘cause I’m dyin’ to Martin vs. “Absolute” Ricky Starks. 

The main event of the evening saw Orange Cassidy finalize his seemingly never-ending grudge with “Big Money” Matt Hardy in a Lumberjack Match. It started out on a pretty tame note as Matt continuously threw Orange outside of the ring to get assaulted by the heels. But during the match’s second half, it livened up a lot more as Orange and his Best Friends went flying over the top rope onto Matt and all of his paid-for cronies. I definitely livened up a bit myself as everyone inside and outside the ring started producing total chaos with all their wild brawling. I was shocked to see Matt actually walk away with the pin that signified the end of this feud. The match itself was surprisingly decent, which is a sentiment I didn’t think I’d feel going into it. I’m just happy AEW is finally moving on from this one…

Botches: Matt Hardy clearly made 0 contact with that final elbow drop of his…

Random Rumblings Around the Squared Circle

High Spots: A whole bunch of non-WWE feds put on some major shows over the weekend – House of Glory Wrestling gave its fans Amazing Red vs. Will Ospreay, Game Changer Wrestling came through with its Evil Deeds show, and New Japan Pro Wrestling presented one of its US specials in the form of the Battle in the Valley. But the most important show of the entire weekend was undoubtedly All Elite Wrestling’s Full Gear. Even though it featured its fair share of strange finishes and a long runtime that seemed to tire out the crowd at several intervals, this year’s Full Gear still pushed out an amazing night of professional wrestling. 

MJF/Darby Allin, Eddie Kingston/CM Punk, and the main event between Kenny Omega/Adam Page were the clear-cut highlights when the topic of best matches come to mind. The visual of the “Hangman” finally holding up that AEW World Championship while the Dark Order celebrated with him brought a tear to my eye. And now that I know that former ROH star Jay Lethal and NJPW’s “Pitbull” Tomohiro Ishii are gonna be doing some AEW work real soon, I’m even more excited about AEW’s future. What a damned good weekend of professional wrestling!

Botches: None to speak of, honestly…

Sports Strength

Elton’s AEW Full Gear 2021 Preview and Predictions

All Elite Wrestling knocked it out of the park with its last PPV showing, All Out 2021.

CM Punk made his in-ring return against Darby Allin, the Lucha Brothers bested The Young Bucks to capture the AEW World Tag Team Championship, and Kenny Omega retained his AEW World Championship over Christian Cage. But that’s not all – former WWE superstars Ruby Soho, Adam Cole, and Daniel Bryan made their shocking AEW debuts in front of a raucous crowd. Now AEW is preparing to make history yet again with its latest special event, Full Gear 2021. To say this show is stacked would be an understatement – Adam Page will finally clash with Omega over AEW’s biggest prize, the Lucha Brothers will defend their belts against the always formidable FTR, and Dr. Britt Baker (don’t forget the D.M.D.!) will clash with Tay Conti over the AEW Women’s World Championship.

Before the big show (pun intended! Shout to Paul Wight) gets here, allow me to offer you all a preview of the entire match card and offer my predictions as to who’ll prevail in each one.

Nyla Rose and Jamie Hayter vs. Thunder Rosa and Hikaru Shida

Four of the participants in this Buy In match are future opponents in the ongoing TBS Women’s Championship Tournament, so it makes sense for all of them to be booked here. I feel like the babyfaces will be the ones to go forward in the tournament, so something tells me the heel duo will get the win here to give ’em some extra heat heading into their eventual tournament matches. I’m going with Nyla Rose and Jamie Hayter here – a victory here makes them look a bit more formidable going into their future tourney bouts in the coming weeks.

The SuperKliq (Adam Cole, Matt Jackson, and Nick Jackson) vs. Jungle Boy, Luchasaurus, and Christian Cage) (Falls Count Anywhere)

The SuperKliq’s constant attacks and verbal beatdown have caused Jungle Boy to grow a beard, Junglesaurus to get even more pissed than usual, and Christian Cage to get enraged enough to pull out the old Con-Chair-To. All that rage will be unleashed during this six-man, Falls Count Anywhere clash. Even with three very pissed-off individuals in their midst, I still get the feeling that Adam Cole and The Young Bucks will walk away with the big win here. I’ll even go far as to say that Cole will pin Cage, which will set up a singles feud between them that will result in a fire match at a later date.

The Lucha Brothers (Penta El Zero Miedo and Rey Fénix) (c) vs. FTR (Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood) (AEW World Tag Team Championship)

Two of the best tag teams on the current wrestling landscape are coming to blows once again. And this time, it’s going to be over the AEW World Tag Team Championship. FTR used some masked shenanigans to rip the AAA World Tag Team titles out of the hands out of Penta El Zero Miedo and Rey Fénix, which added a bit more fuel to this feud’s fire. I think the time for revenge is now – The Lucha Brothers’ tag team title reign shall continue as they overcome the dastardly duo of Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood. The Lucha Brothers championship reign is just getting some steam behind it, which is why I don’t see it coming to an end so soon after getting started.

Dr. Britt Baker D.M.D. (c) vs. Tay Conti (AEW Women’s World Championship)

C’mon, guys – we know the deal here. While I’ve enjoyed Tay Conti’s quick improvement as a member of the AEW roster, it’s clear that she’s being set up as the latest challenger of the month for the incredibly dominant Dr. Britt Baker D.M.D. And as we all know, Britt is still going strong as the clear-cut leader of the AEW women’s division. I think a lot of folks will be shocked by how good this match ends up being. What won’t be shocking is the eventual victor of this match. And it’ll definitely be the good dentist we all love to cheer for even though she’s on the opposite side of the babyface spectrum.

The Inner Circle (Chris Jericho, Jake Hager, Sammy Guevara, Santana, and Ortiz) vs. Men of the Year (Scorpio Sky and Ethan Page) and American Top Team (Andrei Arlovski, Dan Lambert, and Junior Dos Santos) (Minneapolis Street Fight)

I gotta hand it to Dan Lambert – the man is just a natural promo and heat getter. Every time he takes hold of the mic, the crowd immediately dumps on him ’cause he’s gotten them to despise his very existence. You just gotta respect the dedication to his craft. Lambert’s dueling promos alongside his crew against The Inner Circle have gotten me extra invested in this Minneapolis Street Fight. The Men of the Year and American Top Team beat the hell out of The Inner Circle on the last episode of Dynamite, so you already know what that means – the babyfaces will finally get their revenge where it matters most. Lambert’s the one that’s going to go through a table this time by Jericho, which will result in The Inner Circle putting this feud to bed.

Darby Allin vs. MJF

The present and the future of AEW are butting heads at this stacked PPV. And this is the match that’s truly the hardest to call. Darby Allin and MJF could both walk away with the win here and not leave anyone feeling like it was undeserved. A loss for either man here also wouldn’t do anything to dull their shine and negatively impact their placing among their AEW peers. But someone has to ultimately prevail. Something tells me MJF is being set up for a very convincing mean streak into the new year that will set up him quite nicely as the biggest contender for the AEW World Championship. A win here will do well to get the ball rolling on that mega push. I say all that to say this – Darby’s going to take the L here via MJF’s usual chicanery.

CM Punk vs. Eddie Kingston

Man, these boys are tired of talking! That Rampage “disagreement” of theirs did so much to get me even more excited about their Full Gear matchup. I’m not expecting headlocks and a whole bunch of slick counters here – this match is going to be nothing but a drag-out brawl that’s going to bring out the worst in both CM Punk and Eddie Kingston. I feel like the mayhem that will ensue during this heated bout will result in a result we rarely see from AEW – a no contest! I think Tony Khan realizes this isn’t the sort of feud you end in just two weeks’ time – it has to keep going and get even more intense so it results in a rematch with relaxed rules attached to it.

Pac and Cody Rhodes vs. Malakai Black and Andrade El Idolo

Cody Rhodes has been booed relentlessly in the past couple of months, yet he’s averse to the idea of fully turning heel. The crowd’s hate for the “American Nightmare” hasn’t fully subsided, but at least it’s calmed down just a tad thanks to the continuation of his beef with Malakai Black. Now that Pac and Andrade El Idoloo have become a part of their months-long rivalry, the fans have less time to boo Cody and more time to get caught up in all the amazing in-ring work provided by the other three men involved. My gut is telling me Black and Idolo will find a way to overcome their foes here – a slip-up by Cody will cause Pac to fall right into this enemies’ hands and result in him eating the final pin. This mistake will give the fans even more reason to hate Cody afterward and ignite a new feud with Pac, which I think will finally convince Cody to ditch his babyface demeanor later on.

Bryan Danielson vs. Miro (AEW World Championship Eliminator Tournament Final)

Due to Jon Moxley’s exit from the AEW World Championship Eliminator Tournament (for very good reason, I might add), Miro ended up taking his place and beating Orange Cassidy for the right to face Bryan Danielson in the Finals. We only saw these men face each other while in WWE during a 2018 matchup on SmackDown (which you need to watch here). And based on that brief encounter, I’m expecting greatness with even more time allotted to this PPV meeting between the two. Now, this may come as a shocker to you all, but I think that Miro will actually emerge as the victor. Adam Page as the AEW World Champion (more on that later) is going to need a badass heel to contend with as we head into the near year – Miro is clearly that guy. And by breaking Danielson’s undefeated AEW streak, Miro will get an extra surge of credibility going in his first AEW World Championship match.

Kenny Omega (c) vs. “Hangman” Adam Page (AEW World Championship)

IT’S TIME, FOLKS! Everyone doubted that Adam Page would still be in the running for this match now that CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, and Adam Cole are in the mix. But Tonky Khan didn’t abandon the natural push for the “Millenial Cowboy” and made sure to abide by the huge fan response for one of the most over personalities in the company. Kenny Omega and Page’s grudge has been growing for a very long time and it’s finally reached a fever pitch. This match is going to take everyone on an emotional roller coaster and make us all think Page may just lose again. But in the end, we all know what’s going to happen once the bell rings – AND NEW AEW WORLD CHAMPION, “HANGMAN” ADAM PAGE! Cowboy Shit FTW.

Sports Strength

WWE’s 26 Loudest Crowd Pops of All Time

The roar of the crowd makes a hell of a difference when it comes to the sport that takes place within that lauded squared circle.

A match that may just be okay with a lukewarm audience can automatically be lifted to great with the element of a loud crowd watching it unfold. A decent promo can be pushed into the stratosphere once the crowd gets grabbed by it and reacts to its best verbal put-downs with high energy.

And you can quickly determine if someone is over or not based on the crowd’s audible reaction to the opening notes of their theme song. I say all that to say this – the live crowd is responsible for providing me and everyone else that loves wrestling with some of the greatest moments in the sport’s lengthy history. And when it comes to WWE, there’s a wealth of loud crowd pops that have resulted in the sort of YouTube clips you can’t help but get goosebumps from every time you watch them.

Now let’s take a trip down memory lane and count down the 25 loudest crowd pops of all time from WWE.

1. Hulk Hogan Bodyslams Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III

It was the bodyslam seen and heard around the world. At WrestleMania III, the unstoppable force met the immovable object when two of WWF’s mega titans locked horns over the company’s top prize. Champion Hulk Hogan clashed with Andre the Giant in the main event that broke box office records at the time.

 Hogan looked to be on the ropes for most of this encounter and it looked as if Andre would beat him with little to no effort. But Hulk found it in him to come from beneath and do the unthinkable – he bodyslammed his rival titan and sent the crowd into a frenzy. Even though this moment took place seven years prior, the pageantry of WrestleMania and the massive crowd in attendance put this massive bodyslam over the top.

2. The Ultimate Warrior Squashes the Honky Tonk Man at the First SummerSlam

The Honky Tonk Man’s Intercontinental Championship reign was one for the ages. After defeating Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat for WWF’s midcard title, the Elvis Presley impersonator batted away all comers over the course of one year, two months, and 27 days. At the very first SummerSlam in 1988, the Honky Tonk Man was set to defend his prize against a random superstar. 

For a few seconds, it looked as if no one would answer his challenge. All of a sudden, the familiar guitar strings from the Ultimate Warrior’s theme came over the loudspeakers. The crowd erupted as he ran down the ramp at full speed, entered the ring, and practically demolished the Honky Tonk Man. As the Ultimate Warrior celebrated with his newly won prize, the fans in attendance continued to lose their minds.

3. “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith Defeats Bret “Hitman” Hart at SummerSlam ‘92

Babyface vs. babyface matches back in the day was a rarity as kayfabe truly reigned supreme. But when they did happen, they were much better than expected. When the UK’s favorite son “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith came to the ring with boxer Lennox Lewis for this match, the crowd came unglued. 

Following that grand entrance, Bulldog and Bret “Hitman” Hart put on an absolute clinic over the Intercontinental Championship. From start to finish, the crowd was enraptured by the poetry in motion happening in front of them via Bulldog and Hart. When Bulldog got the win via a shocking rollover pin, the UK faithful cheered at the top of their lungs and rejoiced in their hometown hero capturing the IC Championship.

4. The Hart Foundation Blows the Roof Off at the 1997 Canadian Stampede

It’s always funny to hear Jerry “The King” Lawler use the phrase “Bizarro World” whenever the WWF heads to a territory that cheers and boos for the sort of superstars the company wouldn’t expect to get such reactions. Back in 1997, the Hart Foundation ran roughshod over the roster as diabolical heels. While they were booed relentlessly in the US, they were heroes whenever the WWF took a trip over the border to Canada. 

At one of the very best WWF PPVs of all time, a 10-man tag team match was put in place for the main event. The team you’d expect to get cheered got torn to shreds by the crowd. And then…the Hart Foundation came out one by one. Owen Hart, Jim Neidhart, British Bulldog, Brian Pillman, and Bret Hart were flooded with massive cheers before, during, and after the banger of a match they had to cap off Canadian Stampede. The post-match celebration that saw the Hart Family fill up the ring kept the positive (and loud!) vibes intact.

5. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin Saves the Day and Helps Mankind Win His First WWF Championship

At the height of the Attitude Era, the top half of the superstar card was ruled by some of the most iconic wrestlers of all time. Two of those major WWF personalities feuded for much of 1999. One of the moments that fans still regard as one of the greatest triumphs in Raw history happened between The Rock and Mankind. 

As The Corporation and D-Generation X began brawling inside and outside the ring, madness ensued as Rocky and Mick Foley came to blows. Then…the glass shattered and the crowd came unglued. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin came out as the conquering hero and clocked The Rock with a steel chair, which helped Mankind realize his boyhood dream by capturing the WWF Championship. Everyone in attendance rejoiced as Mrs. Foley’s baby boy celebrated with his championship prize.

6. Chris Jericho Debuts on WWF Raw and Interrupts The Rock

For weeks on end, a Countdown to the Millennium clock winded down. The anticipation grew as everyone looked forward to who would emerge once that clock reached 0. On August 9, 1999, The Rock hit the ring to deliver one of his usual catchphrase-filled promos to delight the crowd. All of a sudden, that infamous countdown clock hit the Titantron one final time to mark down its final few seconds. 

As the lights went low, the crowd already began chanting for the “Millenium Man” they knew was about to make his debut. One pyro blast later and everyone was greeted by the words “JERICHO” flashing across the screen. The crowd’s cheers were deafening as Chris Jericho emerged for the very first time within the WWF. Jericho’s ensuing promo battle with The Rock and the chant of “GO JERICHO GO!” did enough to keep everyone’s attention & excite them about “Y2J’s” future away from WCW.

7. Tazz Answers Kurt Angle’s Open Challenge at the 2000 Royal Rumble

Kurt Angle’s undefeated streak pointed to future WWF superstar in the making. The Olympic Gold Hero amassed plenty of wins and a whole bunch of heat amongst the fans due to his holier-than-thou attitude. By the time the 2000 Royal Rumble came around, everyone was ready to see Angle get his comeuppance. Angle emerged to antagonize the Madison Square Garden crowd and issue an open challenge to anyone who was daring enough to test him. 

Then…the lights went low and a booming heartbeat came over the loudspeaker. The crowd already knew who was on his way as an amazing theme song clued everyone into the debut of the former ECW World & FTW Champion, Tazz. The NYC faithful screamed their heads off for the Red Hook, Brooklyn native as he suplexed the hell out of Angle and put him to sleep with his signature Tazzmission. Tazz’s WWF debut couldn’t have gone any better (it just sucks how the rest of his WWF in-ring career went, though).

8. “Stone Cold” Pops Back Up at Backlash 2000 to Save The Rock

The McMahon-Helmsley Era truly came to fruition at WrestleMania 2000 once Vince McMahon helped Triple H retain the WWF Championship. At Backlash 2000, HHH defended his title against The Rock and it looked as if the champion everybody loved to hate would beat their hero once again. The odds were certainly stacked against the “Great One” as Shane McMahon was put in place as this match’s special guest referee. 

As the match winded down and it looked as if HHH would leave Backlash 2000 with his belt intact, that signature glass shattered, and out came “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. What made this moment so special was the fact that Austin hadn’t been seen since being run over all the way back at Survivor Series the year prior. Austin’s steel chair swinging frenzy had the crowd in a frenzy – they went even crazier once The Rock captured the WWF Championship soon after.

9. “Stone Cold” Comes Back to Aid Team WWF Against The Alliance

Austin’s shocking turn at WrestleMania X-7 put a sour taste in everyone’s mouths. For years, fans had become accustomed to Austin’s motto of “DTA – Don’t Trust Anybody.” But he ended up going against his own motto by aligning himself with the very man he used to torment, Mr. McMahon. Things looked dire for the WWF once WCW and ECW joined together to destroy them under the moniker of The Alliance. 

On one particular evening, it looked as if the WWF would finally fall to the combined forces of The Alliance. But at the very last minute, Austin reverted back to his old self and came back to assault anyone and everyone that opposed his WWF squadmates. The crowd seemingly broke the sound scale once Austin’s music hit and loved every minute of his return to form as he fought the good fight. Stone Cold Stunners were handed out in short order as Austin and his WWF compatriots left The Alliance reeling.

10. Triple H Makes His Grand Return From Injury at Madison Square Garden

HHH’s infamous quad tear put him on the shelf – this scary injury occurred during an amazing Raw tag team match back on May 21, 2001. After months of rehabbing his injury post-surgery, “The Game” was ready to go once again. On January 7, 2002, the “Cerebral Assassin” made his grand return in the world’s most famous arena. It was the perfect place to bring back the WWF’s sledgehammer-swinging madman.

Motorhead’s opening guitar riff made everyone go wild as HHH walked onto the ramp as the baddest and toughest in the game (no pun intended). HHH’s classic entrance felt so good to see once again after not seeing it for so long at that point. Hunter’s comeback promo and his beatdown of Kurt Angle capped off an exciting evening for the fully healed master of The Pedigree.

11. The Rock and “Hollywood” Hogan Square Off at WrestleMania X-8

The fans in attendance at WrestleMania X-8 didn’t give a damn about “Hollywood” Hogan’s heel persona and his association with the villainous nWo. All they remembered were the glory days of “Hulkamania” and his legendary match against the Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI. That match took place in the very same arena The Rock and Hogan was set to take place in, which led to Canadian fans watching it unfold cheering unanimously for the “Hulkster.” 

That moment where Rocky and Hogan stood face to face and looked out into the crowd still elicits goosebumps to this day. And as the match progressed, the fans used all their energy to push Hogan to a triumphant victory. Even though he fell in defeat, the rabid fans cheering him on didn’t falter in their adoration for their hero. Hogan’s return to the red and yellow began taking shape this evening.

12. Hogan is Greeted Warmly by the Montreal Fans the Night After WrestleMania X-8

The night after WrestleMania X-8 further proved that Canada would forever be remembered as “Hogan Country.” As soon as Lilian Garcia announced Hogan’s appearance at the start of this episode of Raw, the crowd came unglued. Hogan strolled down the ring while being showered with plenty of love and adulation. 

And when he tried speaking to his extra supportive “Hulksters,” the deafening sound of cheers caused Hogan to take it all in and bask in the fans’ audible appreciation for his efforts from the night before. If you want to watch one of the loudest and longest ovations ever seen in the world of professional wrestling, look no further than this clip. “Damn, I love you guys.” The feeling was certainly mutual.

13. Rob Van Dam Wins the WWE Championship at ECW One Night Stand 2006

Could you imagine if John Cena really retained his WWE Championship at this show in front of such a hostile crowd? Would they really have rioted and torn the Hammerstein Ballroom asunder? Probably! But thankfully, ECW’s homegrown hero Rob Van Dam did the impossible at the 2006 One Night Stand PPV. 

With the undying support of the fans behind him, RVD fought tooth and nail against WWE’s despised poster boy (when it came to hardcore fans, to say the least). Cena was public enemy #1 at this show, while RVD was the biggest babyface in the world. Once RVD planted Cena with a Five Star Frog Splash and got the final 1-2-3 from Paul Heyman, the ECW audience blew the roof off the Hammerstein Ballroom as they rejoiced over RVD’s championship victory. 

14. John Cena Makes His Shocking Return at the 2008 Royal Rumble

On the October 1, 2007, episode of Raw, John Cena suffered a complete tear of his right pectoral muscle. This injury was severe enough to make everyone think that he’d be away for a year or even longer. Cut to the 2008 Royal Rumble – as Triple H and a host of other superstars stood in the ring, the time counted down to the final 30th entrant. 

To the shock of everyone, Cena’s music hit, and out came the man that was fully healed way before schedule. A mix of Cena devotees and haters all joined in as they produced the loudest reaction possible to his shocking return. Once Cena hit the ring, Cena’s haters got right back to what they know best – booing the hell out of WWE’s latest superhero. Even still, no one could doubt just how amazing it was to see Cena come back much earlier than expected. Cena’s win here was the extra cherry on top for this insane moment.

15. The Rock Returns and is Announced as the Host of WrestleMania XXVII

Before this moment took place, The Rock had been MIA since his last televised appearance all the way back in 2004. When it was announced that WrestleMania XXVIII was set to have a special guest host, fan theories ran wild regarding who it could be. The night of the reveal had everyone biting their nails in anticipation as the arena lights went low and lightning strikes began appearing all over the main stage screen. 

Once the opening catchphrase attached to the “Brahma Bull’s” theme began, the crowd erupted! The sight of The Rock in a WWE ring sent the fans into a frenzy that took a while to slightly calm down. As The Rock spoke to his loyal fans, the excitement level was off the charts from start to finish. It was so awesome watching him stay around for a while to feud with Cena from that point forward.

16. CM Punk Gets a Hometown Crowd Ovation at the 2011 Money in the Bank

The pipebomb heard ‘round the world renewed a ton of interest in the WWE product thanks to the “Voice of the Voiceless” CM Punk. Punk’s fiery promo took aim at his home company and had the IWC on fire as they really thought he was on his way out soon after he delivered it. Punk ended up getting booked against John Cena for the WWE Championship at the 2011 Money in the Bank and the excitement was at an all-time high. 

Punk’s entrance at that legendary PPV took place in front of his fellow Chicagoans and, as expected, they went crazy for their hometown hero. The ensuing match with Cena and Punk’s eventual victory sent the crowd into even more of a frenzy. Punk blowing a kiss at Mr. McMahon while he escaped with the WWE Championship truly put everything mentioned here over the top.

17. Brock Lesnar Returns the Night After WrestleMania XXVIII

Rumors were running rampant on the day that Raw took place after WrestleMania XXVIII. Former WWE Champion turned UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar was reported to have been in a meeting with Mr. McMahon, which had everyone thinking that the master of the F5 would be showing up in WWE once again. At the end of this episode of Raw, John Cena stood in the ring as he spoke on his loss to The Rock the night before. 

All of a sudden, the badass guitar strings of Brock’s theme song could be heard. Everyone who knew he was on his way got the confirmation they had been waiting for all night. Brock looked like he was ready for war as he made his slow march down to the ring. Once Brock planted Cena with an F5 and proceeded to kick his hat into the crowd, everyone couldn’t help but scream their heads off even more. Side note – we’ll never forget the “Brock Lesnar Guy” in the front row going nuts during this segment.

18. Dolph Ziggler Cashes in his Money in the Back Contract the Night After WrestleMania 29

At one point, the Night after WrestleMania ended up being the most exciting episode of Raw all year. Back in 2013, the crowd was rocking all night for everything being put in front of them. But they especially went nuts when one of the greatest Money in the Bank cash-ins of all time took place. Alberto Del Rio suffered an injury during his match with Jack Swagger, which left the door wide open for Dolph Ziggler to make history. And that’s exactly what he did! 

Ziggler’s music hit and caused the post-’Mania crowd to be even louder than they usually are. The short bout between Rio and Ziggler featured some shocking near falls – an armbar that Rio put on Ziggler even had everyone scared that they were about to witness a failed cash-in. Once Ziggler landed a definitive Zig Zag for the win, everyone couldn’t help but rejoice over Ziggler’s World Heavyweight Championship conquest.

19. Daniel Bryan Wins the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XXX

The fans had been backing Daniel Bryan’s war against The Authority and their chosen champion Randy Orton ever since the leader of the “YES!” movement got screwed over at SummerSlam 2013. The odds were stacked against Bryan at WrestleMania XXX as he had to defeat HHH first before he could become a part of the main event between Orton and Batista for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Bryan ended up overcoming “The Game,” but a post-match assault lessened the chances of Bryan being able to win the belts later in the evening. 

During the match, the fans had even more reason to be scared after Bryan took a nasty Batista Bomb-RKO combo through the announcer’s table. But Bryan ended up fighting through the pain and re-entering the match to do the unthinkable! Bryan locked Batista into a YES! Lock and made the big man tap out, which elicited a deafening reaction from everyone in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. As confetti fell from the ceiling and Bryan celebrated with his newly won title belts, the sound scale continued to be broken.

20. Sting Shocks the World at the 2014 Survivor Series

The 2014 Survivor Series looked like it was about to end on a sad note as Team Authority was on the verge of beating Team Cena. HHH KO’d Ziggler with a Pedigree and proceeded to pull Seth Rollins’ prone body over him. When the ref entered and began to count the final pinfall, it looked as if all hope was lost. But then the sound of a crow forced the ref to stop his count and look back in fear. 

HHH also looked to the ramp in pure shock as the face-painted legend officially stepped into the world of WWE. Jaws dropped, tears rolled down people’s faces, and excited screams were all done in unison as Sting hit the ring to plant HHH with a Scorpion Death Drop. Sting’s treatment after this amazing debut may have been a bit lacking, but it still doesn’t take away from the shock and awe that this moment produced.

21. Seth Rollins Makes the Greatest Money in the Bank Cash-In of All Time at WrestleMania 31

The main event between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns didn’t have a ton of hype going into it on behalf of the fans. But as the match unfolded, everyone came to enjoy it due to the overwhelming brutality put on display between both men. After Brock planted Roman with an F5, the shocker of a lifetime happened when Seth Rollins’ music hit. As soon as that moment took place, everyone screamed their heads off as they knew exactly what was set to happen next. Rollins ran faster than The Flash as he came down the ramp to cash in his golden Money in the Bank briefcase. 

A quick encounter between all three men took place – we were treated to a Curb Stomp to Brock, a Spear to Brock while he had Rollins in position for an F5, and a final Curb Stomp to Roman that brought the match to an end. The fans lost their minds even more as Rollins claimed the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and held it high above his head at the top of the ‘Mania 31 ramp. Rollins’ championship prophecy had finally been fulfilled!

22. Sami Zayn Answers John Cena’s US Championship Open Challenge

After Cena defeated Rusev for the United States Championship at WrestleMania 31, the fans began to warm up to the leader of the “Cenation” due to his open challenge performances. Once Cena called out a new opponent during an edition of Raw that took place in Montreal, Québec, Canada, the fans popped like crazy as the sound of Bret “Hitman” Hart’s theme seemed to answer Cena’s call. 

But it turns out Bret came out to introduce Cena’s true challenger, who was none other than the hometown crowd’s favorite Sami Zayn. Following his hyperactive entrance (which actually caused him a severe shoulder injury), Zayn put on the performance of a lifetime against the very best of the WWE. While he fell in defeat, Cena and the lucky fans that got to see it live showed him all the love in the world anyway. This was certainly a night to remember for the Montreal fans.

23. AJ Styles Appears at the 2016 Royal Rumble

Rumors were running rampant about a certain “Phenomenal One” finally making his way back to WWE (if you remember, he wrestled a few matches on Sunday Night Heat before he became the superstar he was in TNA). AJ Styles’ NJPW run had concluded and it was clear that he was moving on to the next part of his journey in professional wrestling.

During the 2016 Royal Rumble, Roman Reigns was forced to start at #1 and defend his WWE World Heavyweight Championship. After the “Big Dog” disposed of Rusev, the countdown to the third match entrant began. Once the timer came to an end, the words “I…AM…PHENOMENAL” came across the big screen and instantly clued everyone into who was coming out next. AJ walked out to thunderous applause and a chorus of cheers from casual and hardcore wrestling fans alike. AJ and his new theme song (which had everyone thinking it was DMX spittin’ some fresh bars on the track) had everyone going crazy over his newfound WWE run.

24. The Hardy Boyz Make Their WWE Return at WrestleMania 33

During WrestleMania 33 weekend, Matt & Jeff Hardy (collectively known as the Hardy Boyz) competed in a banger of a ladder match against Matt & Nick Jackson aka “The Young Bucks at ROH Supercard of Honor XI. The very next evening, another ladder match was taking place at ‘Mania 33 between Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson, Cesaro & Sheamus, and Enzo Amore & Big Cass.

Before all the multi-man madness could get underway, the hosts of ‘Mania 33 (The New Day) came out to tease a last-minute duo entrant into the match. As they inched closer to the entrance ramp and made it seem like they were the extra tag team, The Hardy Boyz music hit out of nowhere! Matt and Jeff resurfaced in WWE and had everyone going wild at the sight of them once again. The pop was off the charts for “Team Xtreme,” to say the least. After The Hardy Boyz captured the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship, the cheers came back in droves.

25. Edge Returns at the 2020 Royal Rumble

It broke our hearts to witness Edge’s retirement speech due to severe neck issues back in 2011. That development came just a few weeks after successfully defending his World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XXVII against Alberto Del Rio. Edge’s post-retirement career afforded him sporadic appearances on TV and a rightful induction into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Fast forward to the 2020 Royal Rumble. No one ever expected the “Rated R Superstar” to make any sort of appearance at this show or even get into some sort of physical altercation. The moment that Edge’s theme hit, the fans lost their shit! Edge’s face said it all – he was beyond emotional about this shocking return and couldn’t wait to reward his fans with a newly healed version of himself. Edge’s showing in the 2020 Royal Rumble was impressive and convinced us all that he was ready to hand out Spears to the rest of the WWE Universe once again.

26. SmackDown Welcomes Back Live Crowds in 2021

The 2020 pandemic forced wrestling companies from all over to present their shows without live crowds. And while the action was good, the virtual fans and piped-in cheers from WWE’s ThunderDome presentation just couldn’t beat the real thing. On July 16, 2021, the return of live crowds officially began with a dramatic return to form for the SmackDown brand. 

The Texas crowd at the Toyota Center filled the arena with a raucous response as Mr. McMahon welcomed them back with open arms. For the rest of this airing of SmackDown, the fans reacted to everything that was put in front of them. Thankfully, this episode gave them plenty to be pleased with – that Fatal 4-Way match between Seth Rollins, Big E, Kevin Owens, and Shinsuke Nakamura was the perfect ending to this high-energy show.

Sports Strength

Elton’s Weekly Wrestling High Spots and Botches: November 1-November 7


High Spots: Now y’all know I’m not checking for any more back and forth promos between Becky Lynch and Bianca Belair. But after tonight’s opening match between the two, I couldn’t help but applaud their worthwhile in-ring efforts. Bianca made sure she emptied out her full arsenal clip against “The Man,” while the champ played into her heel persona and still managed to come off like a proper fighting champion. The ending did a good job of giving Bianca even more reason to request a rematch since Becky had to use an exposed turnbuckle to lay out her challenger and leave her susceptible to a tights-assisted roll-up pin. I can’t see Bianca getting that rematch any time soon, however. All in all, though, Raw started off on a strong note thanks to the top two ladies on Raw. I guess when you ask, you shall receive! WWE answered my prayers by booking Austin Theory against Rey Mysterio. And wouldn’t you have it, they had a good match. Rey hasn’t lost a step as he kept up with the youngster from start to finish. The DQ ending wasn’t ideal as it played into the tired-ass storyline friction between Rey and Dominik Mysterio, sadly. JUST TURN ALREADY, DOMINIK!

After seeing what Finn Bálor and Chad Gable managed to pull off in just five minutes and some change, I’m gonna need them to throw another five minutes on top of that performance in a rematch. ‘Cause they did some amazing grappling, landed some high-impact maneuvers, and produced a finish that leaves the door wide open for an equally amazing part two. Finn is clearly the one who’s being prepped as one of Raw’s top-tier talents. But I hope this performance gives Chad a chance to mix it up with more of Raw’s bigger stars just so it can raise his stock a bit. That RK-Bro theme remix is…inoffensive at best. That’s the only compliment I can afford, honestly. It debuted as the duo came out to watch The Dirty Dawgs come to blows with The Street Profits. The match itself was solid enough, but the distraction finish from Omos kinda took away from it. Omos going on a tear as he destroyed Angelo Dawkins, Montez Ford, and Riddle while Randy Orton looked on was a pretty cool sight, though. This new unhinged version of Damian Priest is definitely a vibe! He made sure to tap into his vicious side again during his No DQ match against T-BAR, which was as good as I expected it to be. That chokeslam into the table on the outside was damn good, plus the way T-BAR sold Damian’s The Final Reckoning was extra brutal. The post-match tease of a feud between Apollo Crews and Damien over the United States Championship excites me, too! 

Big E and Seth Rollins sounded like they were on the verge of having a WWE Championship main event here, but of course, Seth pleaded to him about not being 100% for such a major match after what he endured during the previous week’s ladder match. A fired-up Kevin Owens hit the ring to disrupt their heated conversation to set up a match between him and the WWE Champion instead. For the very first time, Raw’s resident big boys fought each other and put on an admirable performance. Seth just had to come out and stick his nose into their business and play right into the finish, though! Seth laid out the champ with a punch, which forced Kevin to take his sweet time debating if he should capitalize on that disgusting act or not. He finally decided to pin Big E, but his indecisiveness screwed him in the end as Big E recovered just in time to pin Kevin for the win. Kevin tried his best to apologize for his unsportsmanlike actions and even fronted like he didn’t see Seth punch Big E’s daylights out beforehand. But Big E didn’t bite and made sure to plant Kevin with a Big Ending for his continued frontin’. YOU JUST LOVE TO SEE IT! Don’t be surprised if we get Kevin’s 50th heel turn from this whole development is all I’m sayin’.

Botches: Queen Zelina and Carmella do nothing for me – they’re putting everything into their latest gimmick changes, but I don’t care enough to stay in tune with anything they are a part of. I’ve long since stopped caring about Rhea Ripley and I damn sure let out the loudest & longest of sighs whenever Nikki A.S.H. appears on my TV screen. So you can probably guess how I felt about the tag team match between both sets of underwhelming ladies. The Raw women’s division isn’t really inspiring these days, I must say. All I have are Bianca and Piper Niven to keep me from ignoring any segments and matches from the Raw women’s division altogether. So this show managed to mash together two elements that bore me into oblivion – John Morrison’s meditation BS and the Saturday morning cartoon antics of the 24/7 Division. Don’t get any shitter than that, folks! Liv Morgan stepping up to Becky did pique my curiosity a little bit, not even gonna lie.

NXT 2.0

High Spots: Andre Chase is complete ass, so I’m always ready to pull up a chair and watch him get his ass handed to him. Shout out to Bron Breakker for hitting the ring and suplexing that college jobber right out of his bowling ugly shoes. There weren’t a whole lot of bright spots on this show, sadly. But shout out to the hella energetic and extra colorful Bron for adding a small dosage of goodness to an otherwise ho-hum edition of NXT 2.0. I can’t wait for Bron’s next NXT Championship opportunity to come around and result in him winning it big! Sola Sikoa came out on this episode to do something he should’ve done the week prior – put hands and feet all over a bum in a super short time span. The third Uso brother has a ton of potential, that’s for sure! He and that beautiful Superfly Splash of his are already setting him up for bigger things later down the line. Kyle O’Reilly and Von Wagner vs. Legado Del Fantasma was a combination of passable and inoffensive. I’m still not seeing what WWE sees in Von, but at least I could stomach him here since he was in the midst of NXT 1.0’s super talented pros. Have we gotten Kyle vs. Raul Mendoza yet? I kinda wanna see that as a continuation of this little mini-feud we got goin’ on between these two tandems right now. 

The main event of the night was pretty fun, too! But before that, NXT Champion Tomasso Ciampa came out to proclaim his right as the god of NXT. The North American Champion Carmelo Hayes came out to interrupt his sermon and let the top champ know that HE’S the top champ. Trick Williams paid for his disrespectful words to Tomasso by getting clocked, which then led to an intriguing staredown between the rival champs. Things got even more intriguing during The Way’s entrance as former friends turned bitter enemies turned uneasy onlookers Tomasso and Johnny Gargano shared a brief moment. Those guys are gonna be connected at the hip until they ascend to the heavens above, I swear. The main event tag between Carmelo & Trick and Johnny & Dexter Lumis was fun – all four men sit near the top of my NXT 2.0 list because of solid performances such as this one. Carmelo scored the win for his team as he continues to realize his full potential as one of the pillars of the rejuvenated brand.

Botches: Yeah so the majority of this episode of NXT 2.0 was a bust. I knew things were gonna be iffy once fans started chanting “YOU DESERVE IT!” at Mandy Rose during her championship speech (wrestling fans – applauding and cheering for mediocrity is not the wave). Io Shirai stepped up to the plate as Mandy’s next challenger, which resulted in a brawl between the two. Their little skirmish left me unexcited about what’s to come, though – Io vs. Mandy isn’t the sort of match that evokes images of wrestling excellence in my brain. The same goes for a potential matchup between Toxic Attraction and Kayden Carter & Kacy Catanzaro. Bruh…I can’t take all these sleep-inducing “Lashing Out with Lash Legend” promos. I peep all the love all over my Twitter timeline for Tony D’Angelo, but I’m just not feelin’ the whole 90s stereotype vibes he gives off. And Lash is just taking up valuable TV airtime at this point. Having to sit through those two interacting on this episode was painful.

Dakota Kai is back, which is fine and all. But her return match wasn’t exactly a nice welcome back statement. The sloppiness on display during Dakota’s bout with Cora Jade was just too much to overlook and I just mentally checked out of the match as it winded down. What a mess. I’ll always support MSK in the ring. But MSK trying to get a chuckle outta me during pre-taped vignettes? I’ll never support that. It looks like I’m gonna have to hold back on my support for them in the coming weeks as they seek out the aid of some mystery man behind the curtain. Robert Stone could be better served handling his managerial duties on the main roster – someone like Ricochet sure could definitely use his assistance! But instead, he’s on NXT participating in lame-ass singing/dancing contests with Xyon Quinn. I’d much rather watch Xyon mow through jobbers instead of butchering Shawn Michaels’ “Sexy Boy.” Man, that was brutal. As for Joe Gacy and his mission to change the world alongside Harland? Channel-changing vibes are all I get from those two.

This show had one too many pre-taped segments for my liking. None of them were that good, which made sitting through them feel like a complete chore. Josh Briggs & Brooks Jensen are my two new favorite good old boys, but I can definitely do without having to watch them speak about their country upbringing. They’re just not that convincing enough on the mic for me to care. Cameron Grimes has already lost too much steam and a bit of my fandom now that he’s getting curved by all the ladies and participating in cornball poker games with Duke Hudson. I guess those two are feuding now ‘cause Cameron beat Duke in one of those games, huh? I can’t do it, fam. Boa is still a thing in NXT 2.0 for some reason, even though his stable is clearly on life support. He had a bathroom break squash match here that felt like an unneeded time-filler more than anything else.

AEW Dynamite

High Spots: 10 DAYS, KENNY OMEGA! 10 DAYS! Adam Page’s road to Full Gear and his main event match for the AEW World Championship has been one of the best-built feuds in recent memory. It continued to pick up more steam here as Kenny took on Adam’s Dark Order buddy Alan Angels. That opening match was a nice way to give Alan some time to show what he can do and put over Kenny’s championship-caliber endurance & savagery. When it looked as if Kenny would plant Alan right onto a chair with his One-Winged Angel, Adam came out to a massive pop and almost took Kenny’s head off with a Buckshot Lariat. Kenny dodged it at the very last second and left his title in the ring with his Full Gear challenger, which resulted in Adam letting Kenny know that his reign will be coming to an end real soon. The pop that’s gonna erupt in that building once Adam wins the belt is going to be next level!

CM Punk hit the ring to express himself to the delight of the roaring crowd in attendance. He made sure to acknowledge Jon Moxley and his smart decision to check himself into an inpatient alcohol treatment program. And he also took it upon himself to issue a challenge to Eddie Kingston – apologize to him for interrupting his backstage promo time on the last episode of Rampage…or else. Punk vs. Kingston at Full Gear sounds like a plan to me. CON-CHAIR-TO BAY BAY! Christian Cage, Luchasaurus, and Jungle Boy punished the Super Kliq for their past transgressions with a brutal assault. Watching Adam Cole get to put to sleep with the one-two-combo of Jungle Boy’s Snare Trap and Christian’s Con-Chair-To was an awesome sight, I must say! FTR are goin’ all the way in with their AAA World Tag Team Championship reign thus far and I love it – they came out to the ring for their match with Samuray Del Sol and Aerostar decked out in some gear with equal parts American and Mexican representation (their Midnight Express theme remix is heat, too!). The match both teams had was a fun affair, but a bit sloppy in parts – Aerostar looked a bit out of his element, for some reason. FTR got the win and I’m hoping they pull up to AAA at their next PPV event to take on the Mexican wrestling fed’s homegrown superstars.

The Inner Circle finally selected their Man of the Year and American Top Team opponents for Full Gear. The verbal burials from everyone involved during their segment were pretty wild and it damn sure got a few chuckles outta me. Dan Lambert has really talked himself into being one of the easiest to hate personalities in wrestling today – I can already imagine the deafening boos that’ll shower upon him once he enters the ring at Full Gear. And I can already hear the massive amount of cheers that’ll spring up once any member of the Inner Circle finally gets their hands on him. Pray for that man’s safety (or don’t). AEW’s women’s division continued to make me give a damn as the TBS Women’s Championship Tournament continued with Jamie Hayter vs. Anna Jay. The match was solid enough, but the post-match proceedings are what really excited me the most as Britt Baker, Rebel, and Jamie got into it with Tay Conti, Thunder Rosa, and Anna. That looks like quite the six-woman war that should be booked on Rampage, doesn’t it? The same goes for Matt Sydal & Lee Moriarty vs. Lio Rush & Dante Martin. 

MJF and Darby Allin are heading to Full Gear with a lot of pent-up anger and frustration in their souls that must be released. MJF delivered one of his usual fire promos against Darby as he watched on from the crowd and it all led to a big brawl that gave the masked one some time to shine as he battered his future PPV opponent. Shout out to the “Stinger” for the late assist that blocked MJF’s escape (it’s just too bad that Wardlow and Shawn Spears beat the hell out of Sting’s masked backup). A straight-up wrestling match between MJF and Darby sounds like it’s gonna be way better than I originally thought based on how heated both men have been towards each other lately. Andrade El Idolo does a pretty damned good Figure Four Leglock, doesn’t he? In the match of the night, he and Cody Rhodes delivered a banger that proved that Andrade’s AEW career is finally taking off. It’s pretty cool to see Andrade and FTR’s financial partnership continue as they worked together to hand Cody a decisive loss. Of course, all those heel tactics brought out the Lucha Bros and saw them give everyone a preview of what they’re gonna do to FTR at Full Gear. Here’s hoping we get a six-man tag between Andrade & FTR vs. the Death Triangle at some point!

Jon Silver vs. Adam Cole is gonna be some heat, bruh! Funny story about Jon – a few years back, I auditioned for this reality show called “Love Taxi” that was supposed to be hosted by Ray J. Guess who was there trying out for the show right alongside your boy? Yessir, it was “Johnny Hungee” himself! The dude is super chill and awesome to talk to, so I’m personally attached to the guy and have thoroughly enjoyed his work in AEW thus far. Since Moxley’s exclusion from the tournament resulted in a newly opened spot, Miro filled it and took on Orange Cassidy for the right to face Bryan Danielson at Full Gear in the Finals. Even with his bad ribs, Orange risked it all with hella offense in the ring and a nasty elbow drop outside the ring onto Miro right through a table! But it was all for naught as Miro kicked Orange’s brains out and made him tap out in short order. And now we’re set for Bryan vs. Miro in a PPV war that I just know is gonna leave both mens’ chests beaten red!

Botches: None to speak of, honestly…

Impact Wrestling

High Spots: That main event made me wince a few times, which should let you know just how stiff all those strikes ended up being from all six men involved. Moose, W. Morrisey, & Minoru Suzuki took on Josh Alexander, Eddie Edwards, & Matt Cardona and proceeded to beat the holy hell out of each other. The vicious exchange between Suzuki and Alexander clearly teased a future match between the two at the upcoming Turning Point PPV. I figure “Murder Grandpa” makes for a great stopgap opponent for Alexander before the last Impact World Champion gets another shot at Moose later on. Speaking of Turning Point, a few matches got booked for the upcoming show – the one I’m looking forward to the most is Trey Miguel vs. Laredo Kid for the X-Division Championship! Mickie James vs. Mercedes Martinez for the Knockouts Championship should be really satisfying as well. 

The four-man #1 contender’s match for the X-Division Championship was pure flames, I tell ya! I was pulling for either Taurus or Laredo Kid – thankfully, Laredo scored the win. Trey came out to show him some respect for his victory after the match, but Steve “Zzzzzzzzzzzz” Maclin attacked ‘em during their special moment. The champ and his future challenger got his ass up outta there with stereo dropkicks though, so all is well. Crazed Eric Young in those crispy white trunks & boots of his is a combination I can definitely get behind. He still has murder beef with his former stablemate Rhino, of course. And he made sure to send him a message with a quick squash victory over Jai Vidal that resulted in a nasty jumping piledriver. I’m not a fan of The Decay whatsoever, but their little backstage spooks that were aimed at The IInspiration were quite funny. I’m guessing I enjoyed that segment since Jessica McKay and Cassie Lee’s over-the-top acting made it that much funnier.

The Good Brothers got into it with FinJuice once again and gave us a pretty solid match…with a highly disappointing finish, sadly. Everything was going well enough, then the Bullet Club hit the ring to disrupt matters and make it clear that they want those Impact World Tag Team titles. As long as the duo of El Phantasmo and Chris Bey team up to make a run for those belts, I’m good (please no Hikuleo. Please…). Madman Fulton needs to be doing more than just taking L’s, man. I really like the dude and his whole alliance with Ace Austin. He proved his worth once again in a solid match with Chris Sabin – the man’s chokeslam to the ring apron and that shockingly clean crossbody splash he hit off the top rope were worthy of some applause. Sabin beat him, which disappointed me a little. But I like Sabin too, so I wasn’t too perturbed by that booking decision.

Botches: Johnny Swinger is trying his damndest to finance a new casino and he’s getting some help from Hernandez to do it. I hope they fail terribly at accomplishing that goal ‘cause I’m so tired of seeing them take up valuable TV time on this show. Mickie James vs. Madison Rayne was smack dab average, which I was slightly surprised by. I figured Mickie would bring Madison up to her level, but Madison’s overwhelming mediocrity kept their match from being nothing more than mid. I’m sure Mickie vs. Mercedes will be a million times better than that ho-hum match.

WWE SmackDown

High Spots: Ricochet is apparently with the shits! And I can respect all that newfound bravado he put on display here via his opening promo (is Ricochet getting better on the mic or is it just me? Yeah, it’s probably just me…). In the clear match of the night, Drew McIntyre went head to head with “The Man That Gravity Forgot.” Ricochet did everything in his power to score the upset win, but he paid dearly for his second rope moonsault attempt – Drew ran full steam ahead and knocked Ricochet’s block off with a sick midair Claymore Kick. I love Ricochet to death, but I’d pay good money to watch him get clocked by midair versions of some other dope finishers. Great effort from the newest members of the Blue Brand here. And by the looks of it, Ricochet and Mustafa Ali are set for something special in the near future.

At the start of this episode, The Bloodline ended up sharing some unpleasantries with King Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston. I laughed my ass off when Jey Uso had to be told by Paul Heyman to hand the mic back to Roman Reigns while the Universal Champ held his hand out for an uncomfortably long time! At the end of this episode, the royal Woods and Jimmy Uso put on a good match that actually resulted in the newly crowned king getting the win. The rules stated that Jimmy’s loss would force him to take a knee and honor SmackDown’s resident king. Roman would have none of it, however, which led to the New Day getting beaten into oblivion. That was the perfect way to ignite the Survivor Series feud that will ensue between Big E and Reigns.

My guy Ridge Holland made an appearance here! And he made sure to shout out his fellow Englishman Sheamus by mentioning his past exploits and reflecting on how much they influenced him. I hope we get a cool mentor role for Sheamus upon his return as he kicks ass and helps Ridge prosper on Friday Nights simultaneously. The new guard of SmackDown was focused on once again as a promo aired for Xia Li, who’s set to make her main roster debut real soon. I hope she gets to show her skills against Natalya Neidhart when the time comes. CESAROMANIA IS RUNNING WILD! The “Swiss Superman” went on a tear with his running elbow strikes during the tag team match that put him alongside Mansoor against Los Lotharios (Angel Garza and Humberto Carrillo). The match ended with Cesaro accidentally getting knocked right into Mansoor, which led to Garza and Carillo nabbing the win. I smell a feud brewing between Mansoor and Cesaro after all this, which I’m perfectly fine with.

Happy Corbin and Madcap Moss produced another shitty edition of their bang-average talk show segment, “Happy Talk.” Let’s never hear Moss attempt a stand-up comedy routine ever again. Thankfully, things got markedly better when they came up against The Viking Raiders in a surprisingly fun matchup. I hope this new run on SmackDown does some good for Erik and Ivar – they always go out there and ignite the crowd with their exciting tandem offense. Corbin and Moss punked out at the end of the match and left the Raiders with a countout victory, which obviously means a rematch is on the horizon. And surprisingly, I’m here for it!

Botches: I really wish they’d wrap up this terrible storyline between Naomi and Sonya Deville. It’s beyond tiring at this point. We STILL have no inclination as to why Sonya has so much hate in her heart for Naomi. Naomi and Shayna Baszler had an okay match that saw “The Glow” score a shocking upset, but Sonya came out to rain on her parade and restart the match on a technicality. And as soon as it restarted, Shayna locked on the Kirifuda Lock for the win. I’m just too exhausted to care about this whole ordeal and I hope it comes to an end real soon. That backstage promo from Shotzi Blackheart was kinda iffy, I’m not even gonna lie. Her mannerisms made her look like a first-year acting major that’s ready to star in nothing but Lifetime original movies. I just couldn’t take her seriously as she tried to come off all serious. I miss the happy, go-lucky version of Shotzi and her beloved tank already. Sami Zayn is my guy, but his whole “take my advice” shtick didn’t go over well with me here – I didn’t need to see him chat with Aaliyah and I damn sure didn’t need to see him mix it up with (S)Hit Row.

AEW Rampage

High Spots: Bryan Danielson can do no wrong these days! The man has proven to be one of AEW’s best gets thanks to his wealth of good to great matches with everyone he’s been paired against thus far. On this airing of Rampage, the “American Dragon” found himself competing in the ring against one-half of The Acclaimed, Anthony Bowens. After Max Caster dropped some heat-worthy bars on Bryan (that line about Bryan’s father-in-law ending people’s careers definitely got a pop outta me!), Anthony put on one of his best singles performances to date. The action moved at a nice, fluid pace and gave Anthony enough time to shine in there with a seasoned veteran. This match was a promising look at what Anthony could possibly do in the future if he ever chooses to go it alone. 

CM Punk and Eddie Kingston hit each other with some verbal hard pills to swallow as they had a, let’s say, passionate disagreement right in the middle of the ring. Eddie didn’t take too kindly to Punk judging him back during their rise through the indies, while Punk made it clear that he and Eddie’s peers judged him ‘cause they expected more out of him. All the back and forth jaw-jacking resulted in both men deciding to physically hash out their issues at Full Gear. And before Punk could leave the ring, Eddie took a shot at Punk’s extended hiatus from wrestling. And what do you think happened next? Both men tore into each other in a pull-apart brawl that forced a few folks from the back to break ‘em up. Damn, that was good! Two weeks of build is all I need for this match to enter my most anticipated matches list for AEW’s next PPV.

The TBS Women’s Championship Tournament kept rolling on as The Bunny took on Red Velvet in a brief yet solid affair. Most of it was filled with some moments of intense staring from both women towards Jade Cargill. Red Velvet hit a Playmaker that actually looked halfway decent (MVP and Randy Orton hit some pretty sloppy-looking versions of that move back in the day). I love how Jade and Red are rekindling their feud from that whole Cody Rhodes vs. Shaq mixed tag-team deal. Johnny Boy, you looked great out there! The Dark Order’s swoll representative matched up quite well with Adam Cole and almost looked to have the win in the bag. When Jon Silver blocked that low blow and planted Cole with that sick Spiral Powerbomb, I really thought we were gonna get an upset! I wasn’t alone in thinking that ‘cause the crowd thought so, too. But in the end, Cole put down Jon for the 1-2-3 and left me completely satisfied at the close of this fun episode of Rampage.

Botches: None to speak of, honestly…

Random Rumblings Around the Squared Circle

High Spots: All the props in the world go out to Jon Moxley for making the tough decision to step away from the ring in order to confront his alcohol abuse issues. It takes a big man to fix himself for the sake of his personal well-being and his family while in the midst of a huge push within AEW. The man was clearly being set up to take on Bryan Danielson in the Finals of the World Title Eliminator Tournament at Full Gear. Plus Jon just released his autobiography and was set to refresh his character alignment in the coming weeks. Jon was doing big things and was about to embark upon even bigger things in his career thus far. But Jon clearly has bigger personal issues to tend to, so it makes sense for him to handle those first before he can refocus on his in-ring career. Shout out to Tony Khan, AEW, and the rest of the wrestling industry for supporting Jon’s decision to better himself!

Botches: So get this – according to 411Mania’s wrestling site, “WWE announced the company’s third-quarter 2021 results earlier today (November 4). Per the results, WWE announced a 15% increase in revenue from the 2021 second quarter, or $34.2 million, for Q3 2021 for a total of $255.8 million.” The very same day that announcement hit the web, a slew of shocking WWE releases quickly followed! Out of all the newly announced releases, Keith Lee getting his walking papers pissed me off the most. The dude was money – I’m sure you guys and gals remember how much the crowd took to him when he popped up at the 2019 Survivor Series and the 2020 Royal Rumble. His entire NXT run was incredible thanks to his matches against Damian Priest, Dominik Dijacovik, and Adam Cole (man’s really pounced him into the front row!). I hope Keith gets a big AEW bag from Tony Khan so he can prosper there and possibly walk through that Forbidden Door to work his big-man routine in NJPW, too. 

Check out the rest of the latest WWE releases below and see where I wanna see them all go (and not go):

– Karrion Kross to Major League Wrestling

– Scarlett Bordeaux to something else besides professional wrestling

– Ember Moon to Impact Wrestling

– Oney Lorcan to Impact Wrestling

– Franky Monet to All Elite Wrestling

– Trey Baxter to Impact Wrestling

– Gran Metalik to AAA

– B-Fab to Major League Wrestling

– Katrina Cortez to AAA

– Jessi Kamea to National Wrestling Alliance

– Jeet Rama to something else besides professional wrestling

– Nia Jax to something else besides professional wrestling

– Davey Boy Smith Jr. to Impact Wrestling

– Eva Marie to something else besides professional wrestling

– Mia Yim to All Elite Wrestling

– Zayda Ramier to National Wrestling Alliance

Sports Strength

Here’s Where ROH’s Best Wrestlers Should Go Next

Wrestling fans were hit with some shocking news on October 27, 2021, when it was revealed that Ring of Honor would be going on a long hiatus after its Final Battle event in December.

Plans have now been put in place by ROH to reinvent the company’s image and pivot to a new approach that will hopefully make it relevant again. It’s hard to be inspired by those plans when you learn that all of ROH’s contracted talent will be released from their contracts at the end of the year, however. With a roster full of some of the best wrestlers on the planet, it’s pretty heartbreaking to learn that they’ll be released from the home company they represented so proudly through the pandemic. While they’ll certainly get on their feet thanks to incoming offers from independent companies such as PWG and GCW, they’ll be without exclusive contracts from the major wrestling feds at the time being. Eventually, those premiere wrestling organizations will send out feelers to ROH’s released talent in a bid to bolster their rosters.

As someone that’s followed ROH since its inception and taken a liking to its current roster of superstars, I put together a list of the very best and where I’d like for them all to sign with next once the ball drops to mark the start of a new year.

1. Bandido – All Elite Wrestling

Bandido is one of the most electrifying luchadors on the wrestling scene. Every time he steps through those ropes, you just know you’re in for something extra special. His high-flying antics are crisp and his surprising strength has regularly left my jaw on the floor. At this year’s Best in the World, Bandido pulled off his biggest accomplishment to date when he bested Rush for the ROH Championship. It’s pretty criminal how Bandido’s reign has been super lowkey since it’s taken place within the confines of the ROH bubble that puts on shows in front of no fans. Even still, he continues to produce amazing performances against the rest of the competition.

Out of all of ROH’s wrestlers, Bandido is one of their biggest free agents. At All In, Bandido competed in the main event alongside fellow Lucha Libre superstars Rey Mysterio and Rey Fénix. And now that AEW is prospering as the second-largest wrestling company in the world, I’d love to see him resurface and mix it up with the likes of Andrade El Idolo, Penta El Zero M, and Fénix. Dream matches with Kenny Omega, Jungle Boy, and Bryan Danielson also stick out as the sort of bouts I’d love to see from Bandido if he joined AEW.

2. The Briscoes (Jay and Mark Briscoe) – Impact Wrestling

When you consider the longevity of The Briscoe Brothers’ ROH run, it’s pretty insane. They’ve been there from the very start and have hung around long enough to prosper within every era of the promotion. Jay and Mark Briscoe have practically grown up in front of my very eyes during their storied tenure – watching them actually wrestle each other and eventually develop into one of the best tag teams in the world has been a dream. Now when it comes to them competing outside of ROH, the reason for that is simple – Jay sent out a homophobic tweet a while ago that pretty much kept the sibling duo relegated to ROH and plummeted their chances of joining the bigger wrestling feds.

Now with all that being said, I don’t think WWE or AEW will consider signing them at this point in time. And to be honest, I could totally envision Impact Wrestling being the ones giving The Briscoes an offer over anybody else. Let’s keep it a stack, y’all – for some reason, Impact has a penchant for signing some of the more, let’s say, “controversial” picks in the wrestling industry (Michael Elgin, Moose, and Tessa Blanchard immediately come to mind). Seeing Impact take a chance on The Briscoes sounds like a safe bet if you ask me? Even with Jay’s past Tweet still placing him in hot water, Impact could still be the one that brings him and his brother into the fray.

3. Brody King – All Elite Wrestling

Brody King scares the ever-loving shit outta me! The dude looks like he would have fit right at home with the likes of “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, Stan “The Lariat” Hansen, and Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy during their epic All Japan Pro Wrestling run. In this day and age, Brody grabs everyone’s attention due to his impressive stature and tatted-up appearance. Thank god he has the quality in-ring skills needed to match his intimidating aura. 

Now if you’ve been paying attention to PWG’s recent shows, then you already know that Brody and Malakai Black captured the company’s tag team titles under the awesome name of “The Kings of the Black Throne.” I’m dying to see that indy act make its way onto primetime TV. And since “The House of Black” exists within AEW with its leader as its sole member, I think it’d be amazing to see Brody pop up to bolster its roster. AEW’s booking of big men has definitely been spotty at best (Lance Archer and Brian Cage should be doing a lot more, in my opinion). But I think Brody’s chances of succeeding in AEW are high since his alignment with Malakai would keep him in the Dynamite/Rampage mix on a weekly basis.

4. Dalton Castle – Impact Wrestling

If there’s one thing I’ll always lament about ROH, it’s the fact that they have a bad habit of never really striking while the iron is hot when it’s time to crown a new World Champion. It took far too long for the fed to put the big strap on Nigel McGuinness, Tyler Black, and the man I’m about to speak of here. When Dalton Castle finally captured the belt at Final Battle 2017, I cheered my ass off! But I still felt like this moment should have happened much sooner. 

Dalton’s lingering back issues sadly hampered his reign and brought him down a peg on the ROH ladder. Today’s Dalton may be forced to wear a back brace during competition, but it hasn’t kept him from keeping me enthralled thanks to his outlandish entrance and suplex-filled repertoire. I feel like Dalton would fit Impact like a glove – the company’s usage of colorful characters and the way it showcases them via its more light-hearted backstage segments would do wonders for wrestling’s beloved peacock. Dalton’s act would mesh so well with the likes of Johnny Swinger, No Way, and Zicky Dice. Plus Dalton’s amateur wrestling background would definitely prove fruitful if it was ever pitted against Josh Alexander!

5. Danhausen – Impact Wrestling

Danhausen’s appeal as a humor-filled madman has earned him quite the fervent fanbase. His recognizable face paint, the reoccurring act of throwing human teeth at his opponents, and the supernatural abilities he believes he has have made Danhausen an indie darling. Seeing as how Impact helped give rise to the twisted universe of “Broken” Matt Hardy, I think Danhausen could really prop up his career within Impact. His big fan following is already in place and I’m sure all the zany antics he employs in the ring would get over within the Impact environment. With the Decay running wild in the company, Danhausen could match up really well with them and add his own batshit insane hijinks to the ongoing stable. For some reason, I could totally see Danhausen and Ace Austin putting on a better-than-expected matchup with the proper time given to it.

6. Dragon Lee – New Japan Pro Wrestling

ROH’s collection of Lucha Libre talent has been bolstered to impressive levels in recent years. One of the standout superstars from that corner of the company is the great Dragon Lee, who’s already won the company’s World Television and World Tag Team Championships thus far. His alignment with the La Faccion Ingobernable stable allowed him to flourish as a super cocky heel and show a bit more of his character work in the ring. 

Before he focused on wrestling for ROH, Lee wowed audiences in New Japan thanks to his amazing feud with Hiromu Takahashi. Now’s the time for Lee to return to the NJPW brand and try his hand at dominating its Junior Heavyweight division once again. Lee could do great things within NJPW’s American arm for the time being and put on some bangers with Will Ospreay, TJ Perkins, and Robbie Eagles. And once NJPW starts flying in talent from the States once again, Lee could hop on a plane to fly over to Japan and amaze the company’s homegrown audience once again.

7. Flamita – Major League Wrestling

Flamita may have started out in ROH as a beloved babyface. But now, he’s fully embraced the dark side and renamed himself “Demonic Flamita.” And ever since he made that change, Flamita has turned into a fiercer foe for anyone and everyone on the ROH roster. His non-ROH work has been pretty fun to watch as well (please seek out Malakai Black and Brody King vs Demonic Flamita and Black Taurus from PWG Threemendous VI!). Once Flamita’s ROH contract comes up, I’d prefer if he made his stay in Major League Wrestling. MLW has a roster full of equally talented Lucha Libre wrestlers, such as LA Park, Hijo De La Park, and Puma King. Flamita could have amazing matches with them, plus he could produce some magic with the likes of Gringo Loco, TJP, and Matt Cross.

8. Flip Gordon – Major League Wrestling

FLIP! FLIP! FLIP! One of the homegrown guys that have risen up the ROH ranks is the high-flyer known as Flip Gordon. The military veteran came into the company as a babyface and eventually morphed into a badass heel mercenary for hire. He soon reverted back to being a lovable good guy and continues to tap into his arsenal of awe-inspiring maneuvers and mixes it all in with some slick submission work. I truly feel like Flip’s act would get over real well within the confines of MLW. His moveset would deliver plenty of shock and awe within the confines of the Middleweight Division. On the dream match front, I’d pay all the money in the world to watch Flip try his luck against Myron Reed, Davey Richards, and even Yoshihiro Tajiri!

9. Jay Lethal – All Elite Wrestling

When all is said and done, ROH fans will always place Jay Lethal at the very top of the list when the best World Television champions within the company are mentioned. Jay’s heel swerve and his association with Truth Martini & “The House of Truth” did wonders for Jay’s second run within the fed that gave him his start. He eventually captured the ROH World Championship and fulfilled his destiny as one of the very best to ever do it. Jay made waves in Impact Wrestling, but the company sadly let him go instead of pushing him further to the top of the ladder. 

Now it makes all the sense in the world for Jay to ply his trade with the second hottest wrestling company in the world – All Elite Wrestling. Jay’s the type of talent that deserves to flourish on prime-time TV these days. His excellent in-ring acumen could work well in tandem with the majority of AEW’s roster. Watching him rekindle his beef with Cody Rhodes and possibly lock horns with Kenny Omega sounds like the type of matches I’d love to see. Jay can be a huge asset in a singles role and even do great things as a member of a very slept-on tag team with the next pick on this list… 

10. Jonathan Gresham – All Elite Wrestling

ROH’s resident “Octopus” can take over any part of his opponent’s body and work it until they just can’t endure the pain being done to them anymore. Jonathan Gresham has blossomed into one of the very best technical wrestlers on the scene today – he proved that with his strong tournament run and ultimate victory that led to him winning the revived Pure Championship. Alongside Jay Lethal, Jonathan opened more eyes to his potential as an amazing tag team wrestler when he captured the Tag Team Championship from the Briscoes.

If I’m Tony Khan, I’m getting Jonathan on the phone immediately and presenting him with a worthy contract offer. Why, you ask? Because there’s money to be made and big ratings to pull in by announcing Jonathan vs. Bryan Danielson, Lee Moriarty, Pac, and CM Punk. There are also some huge opportunities in place for AEW if they ever put Jonathan & Jay back together to compete against FTR, The Lucha Bros, and The Young Bucks. Jonathan’s a national treasure that needs more eyes on him and his brutal submission work. AEW’s the perfect place for that to happen.

11. Josh Woods – Major League Wrestling

Josh “The Goods” Woods is a very scary individual – his collegiate amateur wrestler and MMA training credentials present him a force to be reckoned with whenever he’s in the ring. As the current holder of the Pure Championship, Josh has proven to be an essential member of the ROH roster. He’s grown in front of my very eyes thanks to his career-defining feud with Silas Young. And now he’s doing great work as the face of the Pure Division. MLW needs to scoop up Josh as soon as they get the chance to do so. His legit skills and character that exudes a ton of believability go hand in hand with much of the company’s roster. Josh has the in-ring acumen needed to mesh well with the likes of Alex Hammerstone, Jacob Fatu, Davey Richards, TJP, etc.

12. Rey Horus – Impact Wrestling

When Lucha Underground was still a thing, one of its many highlights was the Lucha Libre wizardry that was regularly put on display by Dragon Azteca. The green-masked luchador wowed me thanks to his dizzying displays of high-flying madness during matches with Dezmond X, King Cuerno, and Marty “The Moth” Martinez. Ever since that beloved wrestling show got discontinued, the man now known as Rey Horus raised his stock in companies such as PWG, MLW, and ROH. I’d love to see Rey join Impact Wrestling and wow audiences the same way he does me as the newest member of the X-Division. Rey’s chances of producing jaw-dropping performances with Trey Miguel, Black Taurus, Chris Bey, and Laredo Kid are extremely high.

13. PCO – Impact Wrestling

PCO’s late-career resurgence has been such a pleasure to watch. The man who once went by the name of Pierre Carl Ouellet (who’s now known as “Perfect Creation One”) found a way to alter his gimmick and appeal to the hardcore indie wrestling crowd years after he competed for other major wrestling feds. He ditched his role as one of The Quebecers/The Amazing French Canadians and turned into a Frankenstein-like monster in 2016. Fans took to him quickly when they watched him put his body on the line with extremely risky maneuvers and come to blows with fellow big men like Walter. 

PCO’s second wind truly played out in ROH – he fought his way to Rush and ended up beating him for the World Championship in 2019. PCO still has some gas left in the tank and I think he should give the last remnants of his career to Impact Wrestling. His act would get over quite well there due to the company’s penchant for producing wild vignettes for gimmicks like his. Plus his insane bumps would play well during hardcore wars against Moose, Joe Doering, Moose, and even Rhino!

14. Rush – Impact Wrestling

When Rush came over from CMLL (Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre) to ROH, a rocket got strapped to his back. He earned quick wins over established talent and eventually defeated Matt Taven for the World Championship in 2019. His reign of terror was noteworthy as it further showcased his viciousness in the ring and his connections as he put together the La Facción Ingobernable stable. Besides CMLL and ROH, Rush has already done great work in AAA and MLW. So I think it’s time for him to make a play for the Impact Wrestling stage. Rush’s impressive physique and badass persona are World Championship material, so he’d make for the perfect superstar heel if he ever got picked up by Impact. I’d be all in if Rush ever got booked against Moose, Josh Alexander, and Jake Something!

15. Shane Taylor – Major League Wrestling

It’s pretty crazy when you remember that Keith Lee and Shane Taylor used to tear the roof off of smaller arenas nationwide during their clashes with War Machine (who’re now known as WWE’s The Viking Raiders). Once those three big boys moved on from ROH, Shane evolved into a singles star that left plenty of destruction in his wake during his World Television Championship run. Plus he made himself even more of a marquee act for ROH during his World Six-Man Tag Team Championship reign with his two Shane Taylor Promotions stablemates. Shane’s massive stature and underrated mat abilities could play well within the confines of MLW. MLW is home to a lot of big men and smaller wrestlers that could give Shane a platform to work well with. Just imagine the hype bouts you’d get to see between Shane and superstars such as Jacob Fatu, King Muertes, and Calvin Tankman!

16. Silas Young – National Wrestling Alliance

The always surly Silas Young refers to himself as the last real man – he’ll always come off to me as that curmudgeonly old dude next door that hates all those Fortnite dances the kids do these days. And to be honest, I feel him! Silas’ ROH run saw him run roughshod over much of the younger talent and make a habit out of using every backhanded trick to get one up on them all. Once he becomes a free agent, I’d love to see Silas make his way over to the rejuvenated NWA brand and try his hand at prospering in that old-school promotion. Silas has always given off “throwback wrestler from the 80s” vibes, so he’d fit in perfectly alongside the likes of Trevor Murdoch, Nick Aldis, and Chris Adonis. I’d pay good money to watch Silas try his hand at besting D’Angelo Dinero or James Storm!

Sports Strength

Elton’s Weekly Wrestling High Spots and Botches: October 25-October 31


High Spots: We have officially entered the latest post-draft era of Monday Night Raw with Big E firmly put in place as the face of the show and the reigning, defending WWE Champion. And to kick this “season premiere” off, four worthy championship contenders stepped up to challenge him. I’m a bit tired of the “revolving doors contenders” set up at this point since WWE relies on it too damn much, but I wasn’t too mad at this one since everyone featured during the segment is sitting atop my favorites list. We ended up getting a ladder match out of that whole exchange, which turned out a very gratifying ending to this episode of Raw. Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Finn Bálor, and Rey Mysterio pulled out all the stops during a highly competitive multi-man affair that featured your usual array of ladder-assisted bumps. As far as 2021 Raw main events go, that ladder war was certainly among the best of ‘em. “Drip King” Seth nabbed the championship contract and now we’re due for a title match between him and Big E at some point in the near future. Consider me a very happy man in that regard!

Even though this is supposed to be a new era of Raw, three SmackDown teams that have been at each other’s necks for the majority of the year reignited their grudges here. While it wasn’t exactly all that fresh watching The Street Profits vs. Alpha Academy vs. The Dirty Dawgs, I was still into everything all three teams did during their high-octane triple threat match. And based on what Omos did to Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford near the end, the red-cup boys are gonna want all the smoke with the angry giant and his man AJ Styles. Now that’s a brand new feud I could get into! Due to their victory here, Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode competed later in the night for the Raw tag team straps. What they managed to produce during their match against RK-Bro was quite compelling. The fast and furious finish was easily the best part – Randy Orton and Riddle continue to gel well and age like fine wine as a tandem as evidenced by their work here during this match.

Damian Priest and T-BAR (ugh, that name will forever suck hippo turds!) had a quick little match that reminded me of just how good both men were during the 1.0 era of NXT. T-BAR pulled off a sweet moonsault, which you rarely see from the big guy. The match ended with a disappointing DQ finish, but the post-match destruction Damian delivered to T-BAR was pretty hype! Damian has this whole “crazy man mental switch” deal that I’m really digging. Setting him up as a madman that can become unhinged at any given moment works for me. The rehabilitation of Keith “Bearcat” Lee is still going strong, it seems. That whole roaring bear thing at the start of his theme is pure cringe, but I’m still happy to see Keith getting refocused on being unstoppable once again. He dominated the homie Cedric Alexander, which left me a bit saddened since I think the Hurt Business stable member deserves more than just being cannon fodder to the stars. But I get it – Keith is a runaway train that’s on the road to greatness, so him crushing Cedric just had to be done.

We got a nice showing of the future of WWE as Austin Theory and Dominik Mysterio clashed in a decent little sprint. I wish Austin would adopt a more lethal and better-looking finisher, but at least he’s racking up some victories now that he’s back on the main roster. His whole “wait…lemme take a selfie!” shtick is simple, but it’s completely sensible for a super cocky youngster of his caliber. Now let’s get Austin vs. Rey Mysterio ASAP, WWE!

Botches: Congrats to your first lady majesty, Queen Zelina. It’s just too bad that no one in the crowd truly gave a damn about her victory speech, including me. I’m guessing a lot more people would have cared way more if it was someone like Piper Niven or Liv Morgan sitting in that royal throne giving a more enchanting speech. You just knew things were bad when Zelina started getting the “WHAT?” treatment from the uninterested crowd. She and Piper went at it again soon after, but their match didn’t really amount to much since it went by in a flash. Those two segments combined to be a complete bore, sadly. 

I think I’ve reached my limit when it comes to all these back and forth arguments between Becky Lynch and Bianca Belair – heel Becky is far less interesting than the tweener version of “The Man,” plus Bianca’s been delivering the same ol’ tired rebuttal to the Raw women’s champ ever since they started getting into it. I’m completely over them beefing at this point, so I can’t bring myself to care about their upcoming matchup. Another feud I’ve lost all interest in is the one between “Creepy Sparkly Mask” Carmella and Liv. It’s been going on just a bit too long for my tastes and hasn’t gone anywhere interesting since it began.

NXT 2.0

High Spots: The return of NXT reviving old WCW PPV gimmicks has thankfully resurfaced! And as the first special event of the NXT 2.0 era, this year’s Halloween Havoc delivered a solid show. Now don’t get me wrong – it was clear that the new blood of NXT isn’t exactly ready to deliver TakeOver quality matches just yet. There were a good amount of noticeable botches throughout the show and some moments where the younger talent seemed a bit unsure of themselves during certain spots. But overall, everyone put their working boots on here and did well for the most part. The opening ladder match was pretty wild – Io Shirai definitely scared me half to death when she landed hard on a ladder outside the ring! The ladder didn’t even break during her fall, either! She’s a real one for surviving that nasty fall. Toxic Attraction won the match, which wasn’t the result I was hoping for. But it makes sense, I guess. Odyssey Jones finally got some worthy competition against the NXT Cruiserweight Champion Roderick Strong. His short yet sweet match against The Diamond Mine member was a cool way to show off what he could do against a non-jobber, which was a nice change of pace. I have a sneaky feeling that Odyssey’s beef with The Diamond Mine is far from over…

That MSK vs. Imperium match was heat, not even gon lie! The dressed-up lumberjacks on the outside added to the overall madness of this tag team sprint, plus the non-stop offense both teams produced kept its pace going strong. You guys already know I’m not checkin’ for Imperium these days, but I gotta hand ‘em all the respect in the world for their amazing effort against MSK here. They captured the NXT Tag Team Championship, so kudos to them once again. Yo, was it just me or did Cameron Grimes look like Paul London in his spaceman getup? He clearly had the best Halloween costume out of everybody. Cameron is down bad tremendously with the ladies, though. I can relate, my G! I really thought Bron Breakker’s reign as the NXT Champion was going to start here! But to my surprise and dismay, he just couldn’t put down Tomasso Ciampa and his sick Kratos cosplay. Both men competed in a hard-hitting main event that did, even more, to solidify Bron as a future superstar. That man has a beautiful Frankensteiner, I must say! Tomasso brutalized the big guy inside & outside the ring (that DDT to the exposed concrete was insane!) and eventually notched himself a very convincing win in the process. You’ll get ‘em next time, Bron!

Botches: Hey, Kay Lee Ray is coming back! Do I care? Of course not! You know the vibes! I’m just never gonna be into Joe Gacy, either. His promos always give me Twitter incel vibes, plus his new partnership with Harland just falls flat to me. Gacy landed the slowest handspring into a clothesline I’ve ever seen, by the way. Damn, Solo Sikoa is definitely an Uso! Staring him in the face is such a trip ‘cause he looks exactly like his older brothers Jimmy and Jey. His debut was kinda lackluster, though – instead of dominating a random jobber and giving us a taste of what he can really do, he just strolled to the ring to pull off some generic moves on Grayson Waller. I feel like he would have been much better off working a five-minute match here. That was hella disappointing.

I wasn’t really feeling the whole Haunted House walkthrough with Carmelo Hayes, Trick Williams, Johnny Gargano, and Dexter Lumis. I did get a good chuckle out of ‘Melo and Trick reciting the lyrics to Kayne West’s “Gold Digger,” but that’s about where all the laughter stopped. The rest of their skits just left me stone-faced, to be honest. Kinda crazy how the comedy antics involving Johnny and Dexter just aren’t hittin’ like they used to. And finally, the NXT Women’s Championship match between Raquel Gonzalez and Mandy Rose was just a tad bit mediocre. I feel like both women work so much better against more experienced wrestlers – watching them try to work an 11+ minute match against each other did them no favors. Mandy captured the title, plus Dakota Kai came back to kickstart her feud with her former bodyguard Raquel once again. And to be quite frank, I didn’t give a damn about any of it.

AEW Dynamite

High Spots: Ladies and gents, I have to give credit where credit is due – AEW’s women’s division is on fire right now! It wasn’t looking too good for the ladies earlier in the year, but everything is finally back on track thanks to the old guard and new blood getting more time to show just how great they are. Serena Deeb and Hikaru Shida clearly had the best match of the evening! Serena’s smart limb work and Hikaru’s never-say-die-attitude clashed in a match that got a ton of time to develop into the ultimate crowd-pleaser. Hikaru nabbed the win and evened the score at 1-1. And based on the continued limb work Serena did after the bell rang, their feud is far from over. That’s a major plus for me! This TBS Championship Tournament has been such a joy to follow thus far. A case could seriously be made for Serena being the best women’s wrestler in the world right now. And yes, I’m dead serious. CM Punk and Bobby Fish clashed in a match that looked like two generations of Ring of Honor going head to head (which is a coincidence considering the sad news about ROH that dropped before the show). Even though the finish looked a bit wonky on Bobby’s behalf, the rest of the match was a good methodical affair that played to both men’s strengths. I wonder who Phil is gonna face next…

I’m still digging this whole MJF/Darby Allin squabble that’s leading to a final showdown at Full Gear. After MJF made quick work of the local hometown hero, he made sure to hop on the mic and verbally shit all over the Boston faithful. MJF even did a little bit of trolling as he played Sting’s music and made everyone think he was coming out to exact some revenge (I know y’all peeped how much that little stunt pissed off Wardlow! The turn is coming, y’all…). The lights went down to reveal a new Darby Allin promo (which starred the ever so wonderful JPEGMAFIA) that took aim at the smug asshole he’s set to face at Full Gear. Sting arrived with his bat and Darby pulled out his trusty thumbtack-covered skateboard to do some lethal work, which was a delight to watch unfold. I hope we get a match between MJF and Sting at some point in the build to Full Gear.

TNT Champion Sammy Guevara defended his title against “All Ego” Ethan Page in another of the night’s quality matches. Sammy was his usual madman self as he pulled off a picture-perfect Shooting Star Press to the outside, plus Ethan pulled off something equally sick of his own when he landed a Sidewalk Slam to the champ right on top of the turnbuckle. This midcard clash was a fun one, plus it did a great job of pushing AEW’s younger talent into the spotlight. Now we’re set to get that 10-man war between the Inner Circle and The Men of the Year/American Top Team at Full Gear. And to raise the stakes even higher, it’s going to be a Minneapolis Street Fight. Now that’s going to be an amazing car crash-style match! Jon Moxley is all business these days – his changed demeanor is clearly pointing to a future heel turn. Once again, he brutalized his opponent and made sure to put him out of his misery in a short amount of time. With the way the tournament is looking now, it’s clear that Bryan Danielson will make it past Eddie Kingston and butt heads with Moxley at Full Gear in the World Title Eliminator Tournament Finals. I envision a Moxley win there that will set him up nicely for the perfect heel vs. babyface encounter once Adam Page captures the AEW World Championship.

Cody Rhodes just won’t give in to the dark side, it seems. He arrived with Arn Anderson by his side to plead his case to the crowd and convince them that he respects them for speaking their mind in recent weeks. The boos continued to rain down heavily even though Cody tried saying all the right things to bring them back over to his side. Once Andrade El Idolo hit the ring to talk some smack of his own, the boos turned to cheers for the wealthy luchador. The four-man brawl that ensued between Cody, Pac, Andrade, and Malakai Black is clearly teasing a marquee tag team match for Full Gear. And that’s something I can’t wait to see! Let’s just hope Cody takes the L during his match with Andrade on the next episode of Dynamite. And in the final match of the evening, The Dark Order and The Elite embraced all the Halloween hijinks during their hectic eight-man tag. I loved the themed entrances, I adored the costumes, and I damn sure enjoyed each & every minute of the match they put together. I know a lot of people aren’t into this style of wrestling, but I appreciate it so much since I’m a PWG Stan that has seen those types of matches happen there consistently. The Adam Page costume unveiling at the end was an awesome touch that capped this show off on a high note. COWBOY SHIT IS OVER LIKE ROVER, BOYS!

Botches: None to speak of, honestly…

Impact Wrestling

High Spots: The Moose Era of Impact is now underway! And to no one’s surprise, it got off to a mayhem-filled start. Before the new Impact World Champion could even open his mouth to speak, Eddie Edwards ran out to cane his big ass. Both men locked horns in a quick scuffle that thankfully got broken up by security, which means they’ll obviously come to blows over the title soon. Once Moose got himself better situated, he proceeded to deliver a solid promo that sent some shots at a certain “elite” wrestler,  the “tribal chief,” “the boss,” “the man,” etc. Then out of nowhere, the former champ Josh Alexander hit the ring to suplex Moose right out of his shoes. The champ managed to escape and leave Josh in the ring with his very next challenger – “MURDER GRANDPA” MINORU SUZUKI! The brief brawl they got into has me fully invested in whatever sort of match they’ll get booked in sooner rather than later. That opening segment was pure anarchy, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The new X-Division Champion Trey Miguel showed up and showed out against NJPW’s Rocky Romero, which was a pleasant surprise. That Downward Spiral Trey landed on Rocky onto the ring apron was quite delightful, I must say! After Trey earned himself the big W, walking NyQuil Steve Maclin hit the ring to beat him down and set himself up as the next title challenger. Big yawn vibes there. Anyway, the main event pitted two of my favorites against each other in a match that would have been a banger in the Impact Zone back in 2005. Ace Austin and Chris Sabin moved at a breakneck pace and pulled out their best moves to ground the other. The constant distractions were a bit much, but the match was still a fun X-Division romp overall. Where does Ace go from here, I reckon? A possible Impact World Championship match doesn’t sound too far off…

Botches: Rachel Ellering vs. Tasha Steelz was a big miss on this episode. It just didn’t do anything to lift it from below average and the finish looked a bit iffy, to make matters even worse. Not good! I was quite enjoying Joe Doering vs. Heath, but the idiotic finish cut it off before it truly got going. So Rhino and Cody Deaner’s brawl ended up spilling into the ring, right? They didn’t touch either of the active participants in the match, yet the ref still called for a DQ? Like, what? The ref could’ve just forced ‘em out of the ring and maybe we could have gone for a distraction finish of some kind to give Heath a much-deserved win. The logic went out the window for that one. At least Eric Young is healthy enough to destroy everyone with a piledriver again. I love Mickie James as the new Knockouts Champion, but I have 0 desire to see Madison Rayne get the first crack at the new champion. You got Jordynne Grace and Mercedes Martinez right there, but you pick Madison over them first? Despicable…

WWE SmackDown

High Spots: ALL HAIL KING WOODS! ALL HAIL KING WOODS! The grand ruler of SmackDown continued his reign of greatness as he rechristened his best friend “Sir Kofi Kingston, the Hand of the Ring.” This wonderful occasion got interrupted by two individuals The New Day knows all too well – Jimmy and Jey, The Usos. Their interference led to a tag team match in the main event and, just like every other New Day vs. Usos matchup, it was pretty cool. It certainly wasn’t one of their best bouts thus far, but those two duos are simply incapable of having a terrible match.

Now I might be in the minority here, but I got a kick out of the Trick or Street Fight. The 24/7 clown brigade made me groan, but once they left, Shinsuke Nakamura, Rick Boogs, Happy Corbin, and Madcap Moss proceeded to have a bit of fun with the aid of pumpkins, kendo sticks, and even an apple-bobbing barrel. The finish was awesome and sad at the very same time – two costumed dudes clobbered Boogs with kendo sticks and helped Moss nab the win for his team. Those two revealed themselves to be none other than Humberto Carillo and Angel Garza, which got a reaction of nothing but crickets from the live crowd. That saddened me ‘cause I love both guys, but WWE’s booking has done them little to no favors thus far. But the thought of those two linking up with Corbin and Moss could help them garner a bit of much-needed heat in the coming weeks.

Botches: THERE WAS NO “TRIBAL CHIEF ON THIS SHOW, FAM! The absence of the very best part of SmackDown should have clued me into this episode being nothing more than a big skip. And indeed it was, sadly. I get what they were going for with the opening segment – WWE wanted to shine a spotlight on Shotzi Blackheart since she’s one of the biggest women’s stars in the making on the show post-draft. But the execution of it all just fell flat, in my opinion. The match between Charlotte Flair and Shotzi just wasn’t all that good due to Shotzi’s noticeable sloppiness and her non-chemistry with Charlotte. Then the post-match beatdown of Sasha Banks on behalf of Shotzi just came off weird since it teased a heel turn for her, which doesn’t make much sense to me since the crowd is clearly behind her as a babyface instead. Yeah, so none of this worked, in my opinion. 

Drew McIntyre came out later to beat Mustafa Ali without even breaking a sweat (no shock there). The match was decidedly average, plus Mustafa’s post-match promo set up yet another “you don’t like me ‘cause I’m foreign!” angle that I have no need for. I’ve already checked out of this whole Sonya Deville vs. Naomi feud. Sonya’s pretty boring as a character, which was evidenced by her dry-ass promo delivery that was sadly on display here. We still haven’t been told exactly why Sonya doesn’t like Naomi, which is something you’d think we would have found out by now. The “match” between Naomi and Shayna Baszler went by faster than a sneeze and was ultimately inconsequential. Everything about that segment was a huge waste of time. Oh, and Brock Lesnar has to pay a million dollars for his overly abusive actions or whatever…

AEW Rampage

High Spots: Eddie Kingston deserves all the credit in the world! The man fought to the very limit with the “American Dragon” on this episode of Rampage and even had half the crowd on his side. Eddie’s stiff chops had Bryan’s chest looking like a crime scene, plus he planted his opponent with some nasty belly-to-back suplexes and almost put his ass to sleep with a sick spinning back fist. Eddie’s efforts here made me appreciate him even more. Bryan eventually overcame Eddie due to his tenacity and ability to fight through the immense pain done to him because of those crowd popping chops. Both men had a hell of an opening match that wouldn’t look out of place on an NJPW card. I love how Bryan has so many different ways to end his opponent now that he’s fighting against the very best of AEW. It’s pretty clear to me that Bryan will face Jon Moxley in the final round of the World Title Eliminator Tournament at Full Gear. CM Punk tried to engage in a quick backstage talk with Tony Schiavone, but a clearly pissed-off Eddie interrupted it with his angry ranting. Eddie got in Punk’s face and got really colorful with his language, which made Punk answer back with a challenge. Could Kingston vs. Punk be in the works? I hope so!

We went from hard-hitting puroresu-like action to high-flying madness between Dante Martin and Matt Sydal. Their third meeting was just as exciting as I figured it would be as soon as it was announced – both men pulled off slick counters and their usual array of flip-assisted maneuvers. Matt’s veteran status came into the picture here since he got a ton of offense in on the rookie Dante. But Dante eventually rose like a phoenix and wowed the crowd his fly comeback sequence. That Springboard Moonsualt of his is a thing of beauty and I never get tired of seeing him land it cleanly. This whole Lio Rush partnership is taking young Dante to higher places thus far (no pun intended). To bring this fun evening to a close, Britt Baker and the always zombified Abadon embraced the spirit of Halloween in a No DQ Trick or Treat match. So here are my three main takeaways from that show ender – AEW must have accidentally copped a Japanese table ‘cause it took plenty of abuse & still didn’t break, that thumbtack slam Britt took was insane, and Abadon’s gimmick kicks all the asses! The ladies of AEW definitely sent this show out on a high note.

Botches: None to speak of, honestly…

Random Rumblings Around the Squared Circle

High Spots: None to speak of, honestly…

Botches: Ring of Honor is really goin’ through it, folks. The indy fed that’s been going strong since 2002 announced that the company is set to go on a hiatus following its December Final Battle event. The company has done an amazing job of keeping its many employees financially secure during the pandemic and featuring them on TV via closed-set tapings with no fans. But the stress of trying to run a wrestling company with no fans or touring schedule finally caught up with ROH’s brass, which has led to the company looking to pivot and try a different approach in 2022. The really sad part about this is the fact that the entirety of the ROH roster will be released at the end of the year. While it’s cool that a lot of the company’s talented stars now have the chance to sign with the other major wrestling feds and get some more independent wrestling opportunities, it still sucks to learn that they’ll now be without a steady paycheck as soon as the ball drops for the new year.

Sports Strength

Elton’s Weekly Wrestling High Spots and Botches: October 18-October 24


High Spots: Just a few days before Crown Jewel, WWE presented a pretty mediocre edition of Raw. The show’s top ladies got to shine here tonight as Charlotte Flair and Bianca Belair donned their best drip during a fiery opening promo segment. Biana deserves all the credit in the world for pulling off a handstand flip with high heels on and not even buckling just once. The match both women had at the end of this episode was a good time, although the inconclusive finish was a mood killer. It made sense for it to end on a disqualification since Charlotte and Bianca are set for bigger things with Becky Lynch. The finish still sucked, though. Major props to Xavier Woods for getting one step closer to his dream of becoming this year’s King of the Ring. Xavier did God’s work as he managed to have a good match with Jinder “Master of 1,001 Restholds” Mahal and came out at the end of their bout as the winner. I damn near jumped through my roof when Xavier landed that tightrope elbow drop of his FTW! 

Thank God the usual 24/7 Championship garbage didn’t happen during the second meeting between Austin Theory and Jeff Hardy. It happened backstage and was an eyesore as usual, though. Austin and Jeff packed in a lot of action into their spirited rematch. Austin got a more satisfying victory this time around, but Jeff got some revenge post-match via his own selfie. Austin gets two W’s over Jeff during his second stint on Raw, while Jeff got a slight bit of revenge to not look too bad while on his way to Friday Nights. Fine by me! The WWE Champion Big E and Drew McIntyre contended with The Dirty Dawgs in a decent matchup that was meant to add a bit more fire to one of Crown Jewel’s biggest bouts. It got its point across and was a decent watch, which was fine I guess. RK-Bro and The Street Profits definitely made the most of the extended match time afforded to them! While watching them work, I couldn’t help but think that a singles match between Riddle and Montez Ford would be incredible. AJ Styles and Omos interfered to bring the good times to an end, but I wasn’t too peeved by that end result ‘cause that three-team feud looks super enticing.

Botches: Mansoor vs. Cedric Alexander was (YOU GUESSED IT!) way too damn short. Is a 10-minute match between two underutilized workers on a three-hour wrestling show too much to ask for? Mansoor won as expected since he’s heading into Crown Jewel to take on his former tag team partner Mustafa Ali. Ali’s post-match promo was pretty weak, to be honest. I just wished they wouldn’t have broken up in the first place – wouldn’t it have been a far better booking decision to have them take on either one of the tag team champs and possibly win the straps in front of a very appreciative crowd? Finn Bálor vs. Mace lasted two minutes and elicited little to no excitement for me since the winner was never in question. I really couldn’t bring myself to care too much about that one. Finn vs. Xavier should have an excellent clash at Crown Jewel, though!

John Morrison continued to search for his inner “chi.” Sigh…the Johnny I fell in love with from Lucha Underground is the one I’d really prefer watching these days. Goldberg and Bobby Lashley spoke angrily at each other to hype up a match that I wish wasn’t happening. Let’s just leave it at that. I’m really a sucker for thinking Piper Niven vs. Shayna Baszler would get the proper time it needed to actually matter as a Queen’s Crown Semifinal match, right? All I got here for my naivety was a two-minute letdown that further painted this tournament as a totally botched endeavor. At least Piper’s gonna win the whole tourney at Crown Jewel, right? RIGHT? Wait, WWE’s totally gonna swerve us all by giving it to Zelina aren’t they? Oh God…

NXT 2.0

High Spots: I never knew I wanted a Carmello Hayes vs. Johnny Gargano match until this episode of NXT 2.0! At the start of the show, “Johnny Wrestling” interrupted Carmello’s “Melo-bration” and teased a future clash between the two over the NXT North American Championship. Dexter Lumis came out to back up his bestie and scare the hell out of Carmello and his boy Trick Williams, which obviously means we’re due for a tag team match in the near future. Now that should be fun! Santos Escobar is pretty peeved with Carmello as well, so it sounds like we might be due for a singles meeting between those two or even a triple threat if Johnny is still embroiled in his beef with the new champ. Malcolm Bivens is straight jokes, fam! I love him when he’s in serious manager mode, but I just love it, even more, when he drops a one-liner or two from time to time. My man really said that the two things he does best is mind his own damn business and not get his ass molly whopped in the parking lot! Once his promo ended, his Diamond Mine duo of the Creed Brothers squared off with Imperium in a decent bout.

The Creed Bros. took the L, which was a genuine surprise since I figured they wouldn’t lose so early in their run thus far. MSK ran out afterward to deliver some comeuppance to Imperium and set up a match for the following episode’s Halloween Havoc special. I don’t really care for Imperium much, so I can’t say that match truly excites me. Ikemen Jiro was definitely wildin’ for interrupting Kushida while he was tryna take a leak! But I couldn’t be too mad at him ‘cause he gifted Kushida with his trusty Back to the Future-inspired jacket. Having those two team up might be more interesting than I initially thought. Joaquin Wilde and Raul Mendoza did right by the rest of Legado Del Fantasma by beating Josh Briggs and Brooks Jensen. Their match was pretty interesting since it was a clash of styles between speed and power. I wouldn’t mind seeing these two go at it again with an extra 10 minutes attached to it.

LA Knight and Grayson Waller really tried to take each other’s heads off just for the right to host Halloween Havoc! While the gimmick for their match was silly, the match itself was decent for the time it was given. The fact that both men competed at a fast pace helped it retain my interest in the short time span it took place within. It sure is nice to see my man LA get back to his winning ways! Future Halloween Havoc opponents Tommaso Ciampa and Bron Breakker pulled up on the Grizzled Young Veterans for the disrespect shown to the NXT Champion the week before. Both teams easily took home Match of the Night honors thanks to a highly competitive main event that let them go to war with 10+ minutes allocated to them. When Bron pulled off a classic Steiner Recliner, a tear came to my eye! I’m really watching the offspring of Rick Steiner embrace the very best parts of one of the greatest tag teams of all time. So we’re all betting on Bron becoming the NXT Champion at Halloween Havoc, right?

Botches: NXT 2.0 has become the new home for squash matches for anyone who’s a fan of that sort of thing. I consider myself among those fans, but a few of the ones we got on this episode just didn’t grab me like I figured they would. Odyssey Jones is cool and all, but I wanna see him featured in some lengthier and more competitive matches now. Watching him demolish the incredibly unremarkable Andre Chase was kind of a bore, honestly. Kyle O’Reilly and Von Wagner had a bonding moment out in the good old outdoors. I didn’t really care for any of it, to be honest. Whatever shirt Kyle was wearing was pretty fire, though! Joe Gacy and his social media wokeness appeared on my screen once again to dole out his collection of tired buzzwords. Pure snore vibes as always. The second squash of the night came with another case of an odd victory taking place when Cora Jade pulled off an underdog win over Elektra Lopez. It lasted a minute & some change and really wasn’t any good, either.

Man, I hope Jacy Jayne is okay. She took a really nasty landing on her suicide dive and ended up leaving the triple threat match she was a part of with Io Shirai and Perisa Pirotta. Io and Perisa obviously had to improvise in the wake of her absence and did the best they could. You could definitely tell that Io was a bit off as the match wore on. But I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt, all things considered. Our third squash of the night featured Tony D’Angelo getting rid of Re Feng in less than two minutes. I know Wrestling Twitter loves the guy and his throwback gimmick, but I’m still not a believer. He’s passable in the ring and I just can’t find it in me to gravitate towards him quite yet. Duke Hudson is a wrestling gambler, huh? Don’t care. Where’s “The Con-Man” Rob Conway when you need him? Bring him and his corny-ass theme song back to embrace this gambler gimmick, I say!

Impact Wrestling

High Spots: Bound for Glory is almost here, baybee! So of course, we got the go-home show for Impact Wrestling’s marquee event of the year here. And for the most part, it was decent enough. We got a fun tag team match at the start of this episode between the Bullet Club’s Hikuleo & Chris Bey and FinJuice. The match was going well enough until a pretty puzzling ending that saw two refs count a double pin that gave us a victory for both teams. Which was a weird way to set up the triple threat match at BFG for the Impact World Tag Team Championship, but at least we finally got there. I feel like a Bullet Club victory is in the works, folks! Josh Alexander’s road to BFG was explained in full during an emotional promo segment that broke down his history in Impact and his world championship aspirations. The guy can wrestle with the best of ‘em and now we finally got a chance to hear him talk shockingly well. YOU GOT THIS ONE, JOSH!

I gotta give more props to Josh ‘cause he brought even more verbal heat during a face-to-face encounter with Christian Cage. The jaw-jacking here was off the charts – Josh hit the champ right in his soul by stating “as long as you’re cashing a check from a billionaire that owns a different company, you will never be the face of IMPACT Wrestling.” OH MY DAMN! That’s going to be one of the best matches of the year, no doubt. Mickie James came back strong during her Impact comeback match against Savannah Evans. After watching her look that good mere days before her meeting with Deonna Purrazzo, I’m way more excited to see that women’s war go down. That no-contact rule looked as if it had gotten broken, but Deonna’s guy Matthew Rehwoldt was the one who put hands on Mickie so no harm done, right? And just like I figured they would, Trey Miguel and Alex Zayne showed out during their X-Division exhibition. I was none too happy seeing Steve Maclin arrive post-match to beat them both down, but I was overjoyed when El Phantasmo came out to leave Steve laying. EL P FTW!

Botches: I can’t say I was a huge fan of the three-way mixed tag. It just felt like a jumbled mess, plus I’m never all that enthusiastic about watching Tenille Dashwood, Crazy Steve, or Fallah Bahh in the ring. It was kinda weird not seeing Rhino finally give Heath a definitive answer for their tag team grudge match against Violent by Design. Heath pleaded to the big guy in a heartfelt promo, yet it still wasn’t enough to convince him to come back to the good side. It would have been great to finally witness Rhino ditch his VBD clan members and fend off the vicious stable as a cool setup for BFG. Having Rhino walk out on Heath and leaving him alone to be assaulted by VBD was a strange path to go down before the PPV, I must say. And finally, the latest episode of “Brian Myers Presents: How to be a Professional” was kind of a bust to me – I’m just ready to see Zicky Dice move on from all the corny backstage humor and show & prove in the ring now.

WWE SmackDown

High Spots: Sami Zayn got new theme music! And it’s not half bad, either. It’s just too bad that Sami’s brand new entrance tune debut came on the same night that he got bodied by Drew McIntyre. Drew established himself as one of the newest pillars of SmackDown thanks to his impressive domination of his post-WWE Draft opponent. Nice work establishing Drew on his new home here. ALL HAIL, KING WOODS! Xavier Woods made good on his promise of winning this year’s King of the Ring and made sure to bask in his regal awesomeness during his official coronation as wrestling royalty. It was so dope watching Kofi Kingston bestow Woods with his kingly gear and do it all in front of a very appreciative crowd. I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that no one came out to interrupt all the good tidings for King Woods, too! I hope to see The New Day member go on to even bigger and better things in the coming months.

Mansoor and Mustafa Ali had an immediate rematch on this episode of SmackDown just 24 hours after their Crown Jewel war. This match was a fun sprint that showcased Mansoor’s immense potential once again. The short runtime for this rematch was a bit of a letdown, but both men filled all that time with enough exciting action to keep me entertained from start to finish. The strong chemistry between Shinsuke Nakamura and Happy Corban has to be one of the biggest in-ring surprises of the year. I usually tune out during any Corbin match, but that’s never the case whenever he’s in the ring with Shinsuke. The match they had here was pretty good, plus Rick Boogs’ guitar upliftment for Shinsuke was an entertaining gimmick.

Botches: The first time Brock Lesnar got “suspended indefinitely,” it was pretty exciting since it came as a genuine shock when he assaulted non-wrestlers. When he did it on this episode of SmackDown, I saw it coming from a mile away. Which in turn made me not as hype for all the damage “The Beast” did this time around. Watching Roman Reigns goad him into coming out was cool and all, but the destruction Brock caused when he finally came out didn’t really land with me. Watching Michael Cole catch an F5 from the rampaging monster was much better than watching him do the same to Adam Pearce is all I’m saying. (S)Hit Row’s era of mediocrity sadly began here with a super corny pre-match promo that made my skin crawl. I can watch Isaiah “Swerve” Scott wrestle all day. Top Dollah, though? Not feeling him whatsoever.

I thought it was lame when the tag team titles for both Raw and SmackDown were simply swapped during last year’s draft, so you can probably guess how I felt about the idiotic women’s title exchange that took place between Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch here. Simply relinquishing one’s belt just so you can grab the other one as you take over the new brand’s division is just so underwhelming to me. The constant childish games between the two ladies were annoying as hell, too. I’m really burnt out on different combinations of the Four Horsewomen feuding, so I’m not at all excited about yet another Banks vs. Charlotte feud.

AEW Rampage

High Spots: If Tony Khan asked me to empty out my savings account just so I could get constant rematches between Andrade El Idolo and Pac, I’d pay up immediately! This episode saw the second meeting between the two and it was even better than that awesome encounter they had on a previous episode of Rampage. It started out hot with Pac getting the better of Andrade, then it evolved into Andrade brutalizing his opponent with stiff kicks and a death-defying apron DDT. Pac responded in kind with some vicious kicks of his own and a devastating Sheerdrop Brainbuster off of the top rope! The ending for this 2021 MOTYC came as a shock as Pac rolled up Andrade out of nowhere for the win. 

Then suddenly, the lights went dark and came back on to reveal Malakai Black brooding in the ring. Seemingly as a favor to Andrade, Malakai blasted Pac with his trademark black mist and began kicking him while he was down. Andrade and his new associate almost did far worse to Pac, but then Arn Anderson emerged to distract them with his terrifying “Armed Anderson” finger pistol. This resulted in Cody Rhodes (who actually got cheered this time!) coming out to assault both men and build up some excitement for his third match with Malakai. This episode’s main event and post-match angle were some damn good wrestling TV!

It looks like the Lucha Bros. vs FTR for the AEW World Tag Team Championship is definitely a go for Full Gear! The brief segment that happened between the two teams made that abundantly clear as Tully Blanchard clobbered Penta El Zero M’s manager and even left the masked one laying. Based on their previous contests, I can’t wait to see those two tandems run it back on PPV. And lemme give some props to Anna Jay – I might not be a huge fan of hers, but she proved she could go with the best of ‘em during her clash with Britt Baker. Their match saw unique counter grappling, stiff elbow shots, and some surprisingly good back & forth offense. That was clearly Anna’s best AEW match to date and it pointed to someone that could be even better as the years go on.

Botches: As soon as I read the full bracket for the World Title Eliminator tournament, I just knew Orange Cassidy would find a way to get past the much larger Powerhouse Hobbs. I wished Hobbs would have gotten pitted against someone else so he had a higher chance of winning and moving on in the tourney, but that sadly wasn’t the case. Orange got the unsurprising win thanks to a huge screw-up on Hobbs’ part, which made sense considering the hot-headedness of Taz’s big boy. But the match itself was practically a squash before the disappointing “slip on a banana peel” finish. That entire opening segment just didn’t sit right with me, honestly…

AEW Dynamite

High Spots: Man, these Saturday Night Dynamite episodes be hitttin’! We started off this edition of the weekend series with a highly competitive matchup between Daniel Bryan and Dustin Rhodes, which is the sort of encounter I never knew I even wanted until it finally took place. Dustin hasn’t lost a step at his old age – it was awesome watching him keep up with Daniel and take it to him with a sick superplex. I loved what I saw from both men and hope to see Dustin continue showing these AEW young bucks (no pun intended) how it’s done. Kenny Omega delivered a fire line during his backstage promo that needs to be a T-Shirt ASAP – “Coward Shit.” And shout out to FTR and Penta El Zero M for delivering another heated promo against each other – I hope and pray that The Lucha Bros and FTR get 20 minutes to produce absolute in-ring perfection at Full Gear. Tony Nese got the “incoming talent in the front row at NXT” crowd treatment, which leads me to believe that he’s already #AllElite.

MJF continued to be incredibly out of pocket as he verbally accosted Florida and brought up Sting’s best buddy, Lex Luger. Sting put hands all over MJF once he entered the ring, but Shawn Spears and Wardlow ran out to put that beatdown to a quick end. Sting got put down via some vicious chair shots, which led to MJF continuing his campaign to mentally break down Darby Allin even more. Man when Darby pops back up, the live audience is going to lose its shit! And so will I. MJF vs. Darby is clearly going down at Full Gear with some sort of specialty attached to it – I can’t wait! Side note – Wardlow having an “Accountability Buddy” in Spears is actually pretty hilarious. The ladies division shined tonight thanks to a strong promo from Britt Baker that hyped up her Full Gear meeting with Tay Conti (that should be an exciting matchup!) and a surprisingly solid TBS Championship tournament bout between Penelope Ford & Ruby Soho. There were some obvious slip-ups here and there, but both women looked equally strong throughout the majority of their clash. The rest of the TBS Championship tourney looks like it’s gonna be a fun one.

Bobby Fish is out here prospering as a brutal heel that loves kicking out people’s legs out from under their legs (shout out to Owen Hart for that wonderful promo botch!). He squashed Anthony Greene with ease and even landed some extra stiff shots on the poor guy post-match. This brought out CM Punk, who clearly has Bobby in his sights and doesn’t appreciate his unsportsmanlike conduct. I’m definitely getting ROH circa early to mid-2000s vibes from a match between those two indy greats. Lio “The King of PPP Loan Scams” Rush got him and Dante Martin booked for a pretty dope exhibition on the next episode of Rampage against The Sydal Brothers. I’m watching that one just to see Lio in his new Power Rangers-inspired getup. Man, I feel so bad for Lance Archer. He and Eddie Kingston were having a damn good match until Lance landed on his head during a moonsault attempt. I appreciate both men for going straight to a quick finish just so Lance could get to the back and get checked out. I love the big lug, so here’s hoping he’s okay and comes back to wreak more havoc on random ringside “fans” real soon.

I was pretty damned happy to see Ethan Page get a lot of promo time here – he’s always been one of the more underrated mic men in wrestling. Sammy Guevara came out to deliver some verbal bars of his own against him and the manager with the most heat in modern-day wrestling, Dan Lambert. We got a TNT Championship match booked between Sammy and Ethan for the Wednesday night return of Dynamite out of that promo exchange, so fine work from everyone involved there. Jon Moxley provided the promo of the night when he spoke on the one thing he cares about over everything else – his daughter. He’s doing everything he can to win the World Title Eliminator tourney in a bid to support his family. A Moxley that’s out to do damage in order to keep the food on the table for his family and his first child is a very scary man indeed. Seeing Adam Page reunite with The Dark Order was so wholesome – I’m dying to know what Halloween costumes they’ll wear during their six-man tag against The Elite!

Jungle Boy made short work of Brandon Cutler and proceeded to cut a pretty decent promo against The Elite. Adam Cole came out to lambast him and caught a stiff elbow shot for his troubles, which resulted in The Young Bucks running out to superkick the hell out of Jungle Boy. At the end of that segment, Jungle Boy got viciously thrown off the stage and right through two nearby tables. It’s looking like Christian Cage will soon make his return to gain revenge for that despicable (yet wholly entertaining!) act. If you would have told me that Miro would be one of the best promos of 2021, I would have told you to seek professional mental health assistance. Miro’s post-TNT Championship run has seen him produce some passionate diatribes about his God forsaking him and forcing him to be even more destructive than ever before. HIS BLOOD IS ON YOUR HAND, MIRO’S GOD!

And in the main event, Malakai Black and Cody Rhodes had an insane third meeting that came off like a TNA Jeff Jarrett PPV main event. But this example of that sort of match was one of the good ones. The crowd’s excitement levels were through the roof for this one as they booed Cody relentlessly, cheered Malakai every time he got on offense, and chanted “GET THE GLOCK!” when Arn Anderson hopped into the ring. This match also featured a classic “Double A” spinebuster, Pac & Andrade El Idolo brawling on the ramp, and a ringside table Cross Roads bump. This match was pure madness, yet I enjoyed every minute of it. Cody finally got one over on the leader of the “House of Black,” which I’m sure infuriated a ton of people. I’m not even gon lie – I really thought Cody was gonna end Malakai with a Pedigree! He ended up finishing Malakai off with a nasty Underhook Piledriver instead. Another wild ending to another great episode of Dynamite!

Botches: None to speak of, honestly…

Random Rumblings Around the Squared Circle

High Spots: If you’ve been watching WWE’s Saudi Arabia specials since the very beginning, then you know they’re usually forgettable events that are filled with underwhelming matches. But to my surprise, this year’s Crown Jewel easily surpassed all those past events and ended up being a great show overall. Every match (AND I MEAN, EVERY MATCH!) ranged in quality from shockingly good to expectedly great. I figured Goldberg vs. Bobby Lashley and Zalina Vega vs. Piper Niven wouldn’t amount to much of anything, but they ended up being far better than they had any right to be. 

Edge vs. Seth Rollins in Hell in a Cell was amazing, Mansoor vs. Mustafa Ali was a great showing for the hometown star, Xavier Woods finally realized his dream of becoming King of the Ring, Big E successfully defended his WWE Championship against Drew McIntyre in a damn good match, and the triple threat for the SmackDown Women’s Championship was pure poetry in motion. And in the main event, we actually got a much better rendition of that corny-ass title belt tug of war from 2015 between Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar. Paul Heyman’s loyalty was definitely in question. But in the end, Roman’s advocate stood by him and helped him leave Crown Jewel with his Universal Championship intact. Crown Jewel 2021 has to be considered as one of the best shows of the year.

MOOSE! MOOSE! MOOSE! Mere moments after Josh Alexander claimed the Impact World Championship from Christian Cage, Moose cashed in his “Call Your Shot” opportunity for a title shot and captured the belt after landing a devastating Spear FTW! And Moose did all of this right in front of Josh’s family! That was a hell of an ending to a pretty good Bound For Glory PPV. Jordynne Grace became the first-ever Digital Media Champion, The IInspiration made their debut & captured the Knockouts Tag Team Championship, Trey Miguel won his first-ever X-Division Championship, and Mickie James claimed the Knockouts Championship. The main event between Josh and Christian was a strong showcase of two Canadian greats, plus we got a hell of a post-match shocking ending to bring the show to a shocking close. And hey, we also got to see WCW’s “The Demon” show up just for the hell of it!

Botches: I had no clue how much of a madman Rob Black was during his run as the owner of Xtreme Pro Wrestling back in the day. I certainly found out about his wild nature during the latest episode of Dark Side of the Ring. It focused on the rise and fall of XPW – I got a deeper insight into the company’s rivalry with Paul Heyman & ECW, Rob’s porno empire, the shocking affair between Lizzie Borden & Messiah, and the brutal attack brought upon Messiah by two nameless thugs. XPW was one of those companies I didn’t follow too much during my younger days, so this episode of DSOTR made me fully aware of just how tumultuous its run turned out to be. It really sucks how Messiah lost his thumb and the sacrifices a lot of XPW’s talent took during their over-the-top hardcore bouts.