Thursday, November 30, 2017

WWE Cruiserweight Classic: Episodes 1-4 Review

I take a look at the first four episodes of the WWE Cruiserweight Classic, featuring the entire first round!!


In early 2016, it was announced by Triple H that WWE would be hosting a special cruiserweight tournament, featured some of the best talents from around the world. The Cruiserweight Classic (originally called the Global Cruiserweight Series) eventually took place over a series of tapings in the summer of 2016, with the semi-finals and finals taking place on a live special in September (all of this, of course, aired on the WWE Network). With the weight limit being set a 205 pounds, talents from different promotions from all over the world flocked to Full Sail University to take part in this tournament (with Mauro Ranallo & Daniel Bryan on commentary), and when the dust settled, it proved to be one of the highlights of WWE's 2016.

My reviews of the Cruiserweight Classic are going to be similar to the reviews I've done for DVD compilations, or other special reviews I've done on this blog. I'll give my star ratings for the matches on a particular episode, before discussing my thoughts on the episode as a whole. I'll start with the first four episodes (featuring all of the first round matches), while Part 2 will feature reviews of the episodes that had the second round and the quarter finals. Of course, all of these episodes features the bracketology, along with the video packages that went with all of the wrestlers, but I won't be talking about those here. These reviews will just be covering the action in the ring. Without further ado, let's get started!!

WWE Cruiserweight Classic: Episode 1 (Original Air Date - 7/13/16)

1.) Gran Metalik vs. Alejandro Saez: ***1/4

2.) Ariya Daivari vs. Ho Ho Lun: **

3.) Cedric Alexander vs. Clement Petiot: ***1/4

4.) Kota Ibushi vs. Sean Maluta: ***1/2

Overall: 7.5/10

This first episode was a very solid start to the Cruiserweight Classic. Obviously, the majority of these opening round matches were meant to establish some of the favorites early on with strong wins, and on this particular episode, we got some of those big names right out of the gate. Gran Metalik, Cedric Alexander, and Kota Ibushi all punched their ticket to the second round with wins here. The best match on the episodes was easily Kota Ibushi vs. Sean Maluta. It shouldn't come as a shock that a bout involving Ibushi was the best on a given wrestling show. Even though he ultimately came up short, Sean Maluta looked impressive, especially to someone like me, who hadn't seen him before this tournament. In a way, that was kind of the theme for this first episode. While people like Cedric Alexander and Gran Metalik earned solid victories, relative unknowns like Alejandro Saez & Clement Petiot had good showings which, again, is important for those of us who hadn't seen them prior to this tournament. The only match on this show that stood out (in a bad way) was Ariya Daivari vs. Ho Ho Lun. It was pretty obvious that Ho Ho Lun was near the bottom of the barrel when it came to the in-ring ability of the participants, and fortunately, Ariya Daivari (the brother of Shawn Daivari) managed to carry to a somewhat decent match. Aside from that hiccup, this was a very good start to the CWC.

WWE Cruiserweight Classic: Episode 2 (Original Air Date - 7/20/16)

1.) Tajiri vs. Damien Slater: ***

2.) TJ Perkins vs. Da Mack: ***1/2

3.) Lince Dorado vs. Mustafa Ali: ***3/4

4.) Akira Tozawa vs. Kenneth Johnson: **

Overall: 8.0/10

The second episode of the Cruiserweight Classic was a step up compared to the first episode, but at the same time, it followed a similar pattern. There were three matches that ranged from good to very good, with the best being Lince Dorado vs. Mustafa Ali. Honestly, that was one of the best bouts of the first round, in my view. I thought it was really good. There was a ton of great action throughout, and both guys looked very impressive. It's one of the hidden gems of the Cruiserweight Classic that needs to be seen. Another really good bout on this episode saw TJ Perkins (who won a qualifying match in EVOLVE) pick up a win over Da Mack (from wXw in Germany). I know this particular contest didn't get a ton of attention at the time, but I really enjoyed it. Da Mack worked pretty well with TJ Perkins, and in general, it was a fun showcase for both guys. The first match on this episode featured the return of Tajiri, who got a victory over Damien Slater from Australia. This didn't set the world on fire (It's pretty clear that Tajiri had lost a step in the later stages of his career), but he still got over with a fans, and had a fun little match with Slater. The worst match on this episode was actually the main event. Akira Tozawa (in a result that shocked nobody) easily defeated Kenneth Johnson (who made a few sporadic appearances in ROH as Weazy Woo). It was an incredibly average affair, but that didn't matter too much, as the whole point was to get Tozawa over. As a whole, this was a very good second episode, aside from the main event.

WWE Cruiserweight Classic: Episode 3 (Original Air Date - 7/27/16)

1.) Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tyson Dux: ***1/2

2.) Drew Gulak vs. Harv Sihra: **1/2

3.) Tony Nese vs. Anthony Bennett: **1/4

4.) Brian Kendrick vs. Raul Mendoza: ***1/2

Overall: 7.0/10

While it did feature some good matches, this was easily the weakest episode from the first round. The  two bouts that are worth checking out were Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tyson Dux and Brian Kendrick vs. Raul Mendoza, and out of those two, I would say the former was slightly better. Even though it wasn't overly amazing, Zack Sabre Jr. & Tyson Dux had a very good technical contest. With those two, it was pretty much guaranteed that it was going to be really solid, and they certainly delivered. Brian Kendrick vs. Raul Mendoza was actually very similar to Gran Metalik vs. Alejandro Saez from the first episode. The established name got the win (as expected), while the relative unknown had a very impressive outing. Those two matches, which bookended this episode, were the ones that really lifted this show up, while the bouts in the middle were the ones that dragged it down. Based on who they were put against, it was pretty obvious that Drew Gulak & Tony Nese (both EVOLVE regulars before this tournament) were going to win. It wasn't the predictability that hurt this one, but the match quality. Drew Gulak vs. Harv Sihra (one half of The Bollywood Boyz) was decent enough, but not even close to memorable. Tony Nese vs. Anthony Bennett was just....there. That match featured some rough patches (I would guess this miscues were mainly caused by the inexperienced Bennett), but it accomplished it's goal of making Nese look good. Again, this was the weakest of the first round episodes, but it still had some good stuff on it.

WWE Cruiserweight Classic: Episode 4 (Original Air Date - 8/3/16)

1.) Rich Swann vs. Jason Lee: **3/4

2.) Noam Dar vs. Gurv Sihra: **

3.) Jack Gallagher vs. Fabian Aichner: ***1/2

4.) Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa: ****1/4

Overall: 8.0/10

This final episode was a real mixed bag, as the match quality was all over the place. We kicked things off with Rich Swann vs. Jason Lee, in what ended up being a relatively solid bout. Swann got the win (as expected) in this very short contest (clocking in at just under four minutes), but Lee proved that he does have potential to grow. After that, we got Noam Dar vs. Gurv Sihra (the other half of The Bollywood Boyz) in a match that wasn't very good at all. Parts of it felt disjointed, and it didn't come off well as a whole. This was one of the weakest matches of the tournament, up to this point. Then, things finally started to pick up. Jack Gallagher vs. Fabian Aichner had a really good bout that featured some cool stuff from start to finish. This was my first time seeing Gallagher, and he impressed me a lot on his way to victory. Meanwhile, Aichner is another guy who I didn't know coming into the tournament, but he certainly made a lasting impression on me after his first round matchup. In fact, I'd say that Aichner might've been one of the best out of the "unknowns". It was a very fun bout to watch. Finally, Johnny Gargano defeated his DIY tag team partner Tommaso Ciampa in the final match of the first round. This was the most anticipated encounter out of this first bunch of episodes, and it certainly delivered in spades. There was incredible action throughout (while also telling a solid story, both during the match and in the post-match), and the crowd in Full Sail was invested in it from beginning to end. It was easily one of the best matches of the entire tournament, no doubt about it. With that, the first round of the CWC came to close. The final episode of the first round had a bunch of ups and downs, but it ended on an awesome high note.



Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Random Match Reviews #13 (10/31/17) - TNA Goes To India

I take a look at some of the best matches from TNA's excursion to India earlier this year!


So we've been hearing about TNA (or IMPACT Wrestling, or GFW, or whatever it's called these days) going to India for actual wrestling events. Of course, their TV deal in India with Sony Six is a big reason why they're still in business to this day. After being delayed for a number of years, TNA finally traveled to Mumbai, India to tape some episodes of IMPACT Wrestling before their annual Slammiversary PPV. I've collected a number of matches that I thought were among the best from those set of tapings, and as you've seen below, I've ranked them. Obviously there were other matches, but these six bouts that I picked out are the ones that, I feel, are worth watching, if you're a big TNA fanatic. Let's not waste any more time!

1.) IMPACT Wrestling on Pop TV (6/22/17) - Sony Six X-Divison Elimination Match - Braxton Sutter vs. Davey Richards vs. Eddie Edwards vs. Matt Sydal vs. Suicide vs. Trevor Lee: ***1/2

So over the course of these tapings, a couple of bouts that took place were (I guess) "sponsored" by Sony Six. Essentially, they were multi-person matches where the winner would receive a special trophy from a few officials from IMPACT Wrestling (such as Scott D'Amore & Bruce Prichard) as well as the CFO of Sony Pictures India. The first of those matches was a gauntlet match that featured ten participants, and while that wasn't very good, the second trophy bout, a Six-Way Elimination Match featuring competitors from the X-Divison, was much better. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this was the best match of these TV Tapings in India. There was plenty of entertaining action from start to finish, which really shouldn't be a surprise, considering who was involved. Everyone involved got a chance to shine before being eliminated. Trevor Lee got on an early role when he eliminated Braxton Sutter and then Suicide. Davey Richards & Eddie Edwards (who've been feuding with each other for most of 2017) were pretty much focused on each other for the entire match, with their Full Metal Mayhem at Slammiversary quickly approached. Both men eventually eliminated each other after they used chairs. That bit of the match was the only real downside. It wasn't made clear that you could be disqualified, and Edwards himself got DQ'ed after attacking Richards....who had already been eliminated via DQ. How you do get DQ'ed if you attack someone who's already been eliminated from the match? That part could've been handled better, for sure, but I don't think it hurt the match too much. Anyway, it came down to Trevor Lee vs. Matt Sydal, and in the end, Sydal got the win after hitting his Shooting Star Press. If you watch any match from TNA's India events, make sure you see this one.

2.) IMPACT Wrestling on Pop TV (6/15/17) - IMPACT X-Division Title - Low Ki vs. Sonjay Dutt: ***1/4

Arguably the most noteworthy match to take place at these tapings saw Sonjay Dutt challenge Low Ki (who's been wrestling in his Hitman suit lately) for the IMPACT X-Division Title. This was a very big match for Dutt. Not only was he returning to his ancestral homeland, but he was trying to capture the title that he had never won, despite being in the company on-and-off for so long. There was also the backstory of Low Ki being the one who gave Dutt an accidental (but legitimate) injury around one of his eyes in a multi-person bout several weeks prior. While this title match wasn't stellar by any means, it was still pretty good as a whole. These two seemed to work well together, and there was some solid back & forth action throughout. Low Ki did rip of Dutt's eye patch early on, but he never really made it a focal point following that moment. Ultimately, a big splash off the top rope secured Dutt the victory, and his first X-Division Title!! There was a big celebration following the match featuring a number of the babyface roster members. Again, this was good, but it seems like they were saving things for a rematch, which would end up taking place a few weeks later at Slammiversary.

3.) IMPACT Wrestling on Pop TV (6/8/17) - IMPACT X-Division Title - Low Ki vs. Caleb Konley: ***

To keep the X-Division theme going in this particular post, we have another X-Division Title bout to talk about! Before Low Ki defended his X-Division Title against Sonjay Dutt, he had a defense against Caleb Konley. Of course, Konley is best known for his time in EVOLVE & Dragon Gate USA, but it seemed like he dropped off the face of the earth after signing with TNA well over a year ago. Fortunately, he's popped back up over the course of 2017, and he got a singles opportunity here against Low Ki. You could question why Konley deserved a title match (as despite reappearing on TV, he wasn't exactly a pushed commodity), but I thought he was fine in his role as good opponent to give Low Ki a solid win. It only went about six minutes or so, but I enjoyed it for what it was.

4.) IMPACT Wrestling on Pop TV (6/29/17) - Low Ki & Trevor Lee vs. IMPACT X-Division Champion Sonjay Dutt & Matt Sydal: ***

Another X-Divison match! No surprise there. This tag team encounter aired two weeks after Dutt's title win, and a few days before his defense against Low Ki in a 2/3 Falls Match at Slammiversary. It was pretty standard, but it worked very well. I'll mention this again in the final match covered in this post, but this was a perfect example of how you book a go-home show before a PPV. Put the people who are in big matches on the opposite sides of multi-man tags. While it's a formula that's become a bit monotonous at times in a place like New Japan, it's proven to work if you want to protect your singles matches. Of course, Low Ki vs. Sonjay Dutt took place two weeks earlier, and the rematch is happening relatively quickly after the fact, so this particular bout makes even more sense. They had some good interactions during this one, and as a whole, the match was pretty entertaining. Another reason why this worked is that the two PPV opponents weren't involved in the finish, as Matt Sydal got the win for his team after pinning Trevor Lee with the Shooting Star Press.

5.) IMPACT Wrestling on Pop TV (6/8/17) - IMPACT World Heavyweight Title - Lashley vs. IMPACT Grand Champion Moose: ***

On the same episode that featured Low Ki vs. Caleb Konley, Moose challenged for the IMPACT World Heavyweight Title against Lashley. As a whole, this was a pretty solid TV match, but it wasn't without its flaws. There were some very good moments scattered throughout, but for the most part, the match itself was relatively....standard. Again, in my eyes, they did enough here so that this match reached into "good" territory, but just barely. What really sucks is that I heard they had a much better contest at a One Night Only PPV (do people even watch those?!) earlier in the year. This barely got the match rating I ended up giving it.

6.) IMPACT Wrestling on Pop TV (6/29/17) - Eight-Man Tag - Alberto El Patron, Eddie Edwards, James Storm, & Mahabali Shera vs. Lashley, Davey Richards, Ethan Carter III, & Kongo Kong: ***

Aside from Kongo Kong & Mahabali Shera, everyone in this match is paired off, in some form or fashion, at the PPV (El Patron/Lashley, Edwards/Richards, & EC3/Storm). This wasn't anything special as a whole, but as I mentioned when I talked about the X-Division tag team bout from the same episode, it's exactly the kind of match you want to book on the go-home show before a PPV. All of the aforementioned PPV opponents got to interact, and there was decent action throughout. Again, it was by no means amazing, but it was perfect as the main event of the final show before the PPV. Alberto El Patron would end up getting the win for his team after hitting a double stomp on Kongo Kong.


That's it for this edition of my random match reviews!! Hopefully I'll continue to make this a more regular series in the future.


Saturday, September 30, 2017

Wrestling HUB Reviews Blog Update - 9/30/17


So I'm sure many of you have been wondering why this reviews blog has been so inactive in recent months. To be completely honest, the last few months have been pretty busy for me. I think it mainly started with (oddly enough) New Japan's G1 Climax. That tournament takes up so much time over the summer, that it's almost impossible to watch anything else. It's happened every year since I started watching New Japan, and sadly, I don't see that changing anytime soon. Then, back in April, I got my first post-college job, after graduating from Penn State in December. Most of my time during the week is now spent at this new job (I had been working as a contract employee, but I recently became a full-time employee). Plus, I have plenty of other interests that I like to indulge in, and in general, it's pretty difficult now to set time aside to watch shows and review them. Seems like a lot of rambling, but the bottom line is, life can be BUSY, especially when there's a lot of things you want to do.

However, I need to stress that this blog IS NOT going away!!! I still have A TON of stuff I want to watch, and a number of reviews already in the pipeline. Also, I've recently had a change with my work schedule, where I now have Monday's off (which is awesome)!! So that should give me more time to watch shows and write reviews.

I've also been thinking about switching over from eBlogger to an actual website where I can post all my reviews. The one thing I don't like about eBlogger is that it's not very good when it comes to organization (and that annoys someone like me, who likes things to be incredibly organized). I would like to have a website where you can filter my reviews by promotion, by year, and so on. My hope is that I can work something out and have it set up by the end of the year, but even after that, I'll still probably keep this eBlogger version going just so I have a backup site for my reviews.

Again, to reiterate, THIS BLOG IS NOT DEAD!!!! Time has been hard to come by over the last few months, but I'm really planning to get back into it during the final three months of the year.



Wednesday, August 30, 2017

WWE Money In The Bank 2016 Review

WWE comes to the brand new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for their annual Money In The Bank event!!


WWE Money In The Bank 2016
Las Vegas, Nevada 6/19/16

Kickoff Show

1.) Breezango (Tyler Breeze & Fandango) vs. The Golden Truth (Goldust & R-Truth): *

So there was this backstage segment on either the week leading up to this show or on the pre-show itself (not entirely sure) where Goldust & R-Truth trapped Tyler Breeze & Fandango in a tanning bed. Thus, both were suffering from serious “sunburns” here (which were clearly fake). This was just….silly. It was nothing more than a comedy match that featured Goldust & R-Truth chopping the “sunburned” chests of Breezango repeatedly, before picking up the victory. Move along….nothing else to see here.

2.) The Dudley Boyz vs. The Lucha Dragons (Kalisto & Sin Cara): **¼

Here we have a second meaningless tag team bout on this Kickoff Show. While it wasn’t notable in any way, it was at least better than the match that came before it. This went about eight or nine minutes, and as a whole, it was ok. Eventually, The Lucha Dragons scored the victory, which was the right call. At this point, The Dudley Boyz were just being used to put over newer tag teams, which was a good role for them.

PPV

1.) WWE Tag Team Titles - Four-Way Tag Team Match - The New Day (Big E & Kofi Kingston with Xavier Woods) vs. The Club (Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows) vs. Big Cass & Enzo Amore vs. The Vaudevillains: ***

The first match on the PPV itself was actually the third straight tag team match on the card as a whole. Of course, we got the usual pre-match promos from Big Cass & Enzo Amore as well as The New Day, which featured Xavier Woods proclaiming that The New Day was the one true “elite” team in wrestling (obviously a fun little shot at Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks). As an opener, I thought this was pretty solid, though to be completely honest, I was expecting this to be a little bit better. It went about the perfect length (around eleven minutes or twelve minutes), and there was entertaining action throughout, but it just felt like something was missing. There were a few rough patches here, the most notable being a botch where Luke Gallows was just left standing in the ring, waiting for what felt like ages for Big Cass to come in for a spot. That looked really bad. Plus, there was also some confusion as to who the legal man actually was by the end. In the end, The New Day got the victory to retain the WWE Tag Team Titles. Aside from those minor complaints, this was still a relatively solid opener, though as I already mentioned, it could’ve been better.

2.) Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler: ***

These two have been engaged in a feud since the RAW after WrestleMania. What’s amazing is that on the previous two PPV’s (Payback & Extreme Rules), the Corbin/Ziggler matches were related to the Kickoff Show. Well, they finally made it to the actual PPV, and they ended up having their best match to date. It was by no means spectacular, but it was certainly a step up from their aforementioned Kickoff Show clashes. They seemed to work pretty hard here, but the crowd just didn’t care about this one at all (and honestly, up to this point, they’d been given no reason to care). Corbin would ultimately get the win after hitting Ziggler with The End Of Days.

3.) WWE Women’s Champion Charlotte & Dana Brooke vs. Becky Lynch & Natalya: **1/4

It’s a little odd that we weren’t getting a defense of the WWE Women’s Title on this card. I believe this was shortly after Charlotte had ditched her father, Ric Flair, as her manager. With three out of the four women involved being really good wrestlers, you’d figure this would be pretty solid. Well….it wasn’t. This match was just barely ok. It was by no means horrible (it certainly wasn’t the worst bout on this card), but it wasn’t even close to being good. The fact that the crowd started chanting for Sasha Banks as soon as the match began didn’t help them that much either. This was (for the most part) a dull and dry women’s tag team affair. Towards the end of the match, Dana Brooke shoved Becky Lynch into Natalya, and this allowed Charlotte to take advantage, pinning Natalya after hitting the Natural Selection.

After the match, Natalya turned heel when she attacked Becky Lynch. With the brand split on the horizon, it was probably a good idea for Natalya to turn heel, but poor Becky Lynch. She has absolutely no friends.

4.) Apollo Crews vs. Sheamus: ***

The former Uhaa Nation was brought up to the main roster after WrestleMania following a several month stint in NXT, and hadn’t done anything of real significance since. Fortunately, he was finally given something to do in the form of a program with Sheamus, leading to this match. Similar to some of the earlier matches on the card, it really didn’t stand out, but as a whole, I thought it was a relatively solid bout. There was some decent back & forth action throughout, it didn’t go very long (it was only about eight or nine minutes), and the closing stretch was mostly entertaining. Crews managed to pick up the victory after catching Sheamus with a rollup. This was certainly a big win for Apollo Crews, but of course, WWE didn’t capitalize on this, and Crews went back to doing nothing in the undercard.

5.) “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles vs. John Cena: ****1/4

After the first half of the show featured a number of pedestrian matches, we FINALLY got something exciting!! This was Cena’s first real program since his return from injury (minus his one-off appearance with The Rock at WrestleMania), while AJ Styles was just coming off two losses to Roman Reigns in PPV title bouts. This initially started as a “dream match”/“friendly rivalry” scenario, but Styles soon showed his true colors when he turned heel and reunited with his former Bullet Club stablemates of Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows (who were banned from ringside here). This match was awesome, and featured some great action throughout, which shouldn’t surprise anyone, since these guys are two of the best in the entire world. Not only was the match itself great, but they told a pretty good story as well. In the buildup, Styles proclaimed that he was so much better than Cena, saying he could wrestle circles around him and that Cena wouldn’t have obtain all of his various achievements/accomplishments in WWE if AJ Styles was around fifteen years earlier. That story really played into this match, as Styles appeared to be very prepared for Cena, and really showed him up a few times. Even with some of the great stuff we saw in this one, the finish did hurt it. The referee got knocked down towards the end of the match, and this (of course) led to Anderson & Gallows getting involved. They hit Cena with The Magic Killer, put Styles on top of Cena, and referee recovered to make the three count. Again, this was a fantastic match with a crowd that was into every second of it, but the finish definitely took away from it. Fortunately, we would get rematches down the line.

6.) Money In The Bank Ladder Match - Alberto Del Rio vs. Cesaro vs. Chris Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn: ****1/4

Aside from Alberto Del Rio (whose stock in general had fallen so much at this point, compared to his run on the independents in 2014-2015), this was a great lineup for a Money In The Bank Ladder Match. There was no way that this was going to be less than great, and to the surprise of nobody, they delivered. I thought this was fantastic!! I would put it slightly ahead of the AJ Styles/John Cena bout that came before this, just because that match was hurt by the interference towards the end. Of course, there was a ton of crazy action throughout this one, which is exactly what we’ve come to expect with a Money In The Bank Ladder Match. Plus, you have so many competitors in here that either have a plethora of experience when it comes to Ladder Matches (Jericho, Owens, Zayn, along with Alberto Del Rio and Cesaro to lesser extents), or a background in hardcore matches (Ambrose). Everyone had a chance to shine, and the crowd was hot for this one from beginning to end. Ultimately, Dean Ambrose eventually emerged victories and secured the Money In The Bank Briefcase! There were too many cool spots to describe. It wasn’t the greatest version of this match that we’ve seen, but all six competitors certainly did an awesome job here. The Money Bank Ladder Match, nine times out of ten, always proves to be (at the very least) entertaining, and this was no exception.

7.) WWE United States Title - Rusev (with Lana) vs. Titus O’Neil: **

In case you missed it, Rusev won the United States Title from Kalisto back at Extreme Rules 2016. This was essentially a reset of sorts, as Rusev & Lana were basically back in the same roles they were in prior to their feud with John Cena (though not nearly as prominent). As this show took place a few weeks before the 4th of July, we had an American stepping up to the plate to challenge Rusev, and that man was….Titus O’Neil (please contain your excitement). I believe O’Neil was also wearing some wacky USA attire. Additionally, this PPV was also being held on Father’s Day, and O’Neil (who is lauded as being the “Father Of The Year”) had his sons sitting at ringside. While the match was by no means awful, it was the definition of painfully average. Rusev eventually got the win when he locked in The Accolade and made O’Neil (the American babyface) pass out in front of his sons….on Father’s Day. What a loser.

In a great moment after the match, Rusev went to the outside after the match and berated Titus O’Neil’s children, mockingly wishing them a Happy Father’s Day. What an amazing heel!

8.) WWE World Heavyweight Title - Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins: ***¾

Seth Rollins made his long awaited return from injury the month prior at Extreme Rules 2016 when he attacked Roman Reigns following the main event. Rollins was the WWE World Heavyweight Champion for much of 2015 until a severe knee injury sidelined him. Now he’s back, looking to reclaim the title he never lost. As a whole, this wasn’t a great match, but it was really good. It did go longer than it really needed to, clocking in at around twenty six minutes or so. I get that it’s the main event, but must it be that long. Additionally, the crowd seemed to be flat for the first half of the match. However, as the action slowly picked up, they managed to bring the audience back. The second half of this one really helped immensely. There were some particularly awesome sequences and counters in the final few minutes. In the end, it was a shocking result in the moment, Seth Rollins hit a second Pedigree on Roman Reigns and pinned him clean in the middle of the ring to win the WWE World Heavyweight. Most of us figured that Rollins had a chance of winning, but nobody expected him to do it in the manner that he did. Of course, we would come to find out later that the reason for the finish was a result of Roman Reigns being suspended 30 Days for violating WWE’s wellness policy (LOL). Regardless, it was truly a shocking moment, and some sweet redemption for Rollins.

Unfortunately, Rollins’ celebration was soon cut short in dramatic faction, as Dean Ambrose’s music hit. This sent Rollins into a state of panic, and he frantically waited for his former Shield teammate to appear. Ambrose then emerged from the crowd and clocked Rollins with the Money In The Bank Briefcase!! He announced that he was cashing in, and the match was official!!

9.) WWE World Heavyweight Title - Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose: N/R

This only lasted nine seconds, as Ambrose hit Dirty Deeds, and scored the pin to capture the WWE World Heavyweight Title! This meant that, in just one night, all three members of The Shield held the top championship in WWE in some form or another. That was honestly a really cool moment. Ambrose celebrated with the title as the show came to a close.

Overall: 8.0/10


It’s funny to look back at this show in hindsight. In the weeks leading up to it, WWE had been referring to this show as the “most stacked Money In The Bank lineup ever”, or something along those lines (obviously acknowledging the fact that, over the last several years, this PPV had turned the traditional “Big Four” PPV’s into the “Big Five”). While the first half wasn’t really memorable in any way, the second half, minus Rusev vs. Titus O’Neil, really lifted this show up in a big way. AJ Styles vs. John Cena and the Money In The Bank Ladder Match were both fantastic, and despite it’s issues, the advertised main event of Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins ended up being really good as well. You also had a very memorable ending with Rollins winning the WWE World Heavyweight Title from Reigns, only for Dean Ambrose to take it from him moments later. There was relatively solid stuff on the undercard, but none of it was that memorable. As a whole, Money In The Bank 2016 was a pretty good show that only reached that point after a (mostly) strong second half.


Monday, July 31, 2017

WWE NXT TakeOver: The End Review

Finn Balor & Samoa Joe settle their rivalry inside of a Steel Cage!!


WWE NXT TakeOver: The End
Winter Park, Florida 6/8/16

1.) Andrade "Cien" Almas vs. Tye Dillinger: **3/4

The show kicked off with the debut of Andrade "Cien" Almas, who was formerly La Sombra in CMLL as well as in New Japan (he was actually part of the original Los Ingobernables in CMLL) take on "The Perfect 10". The majority of these NXT TakeOver events usually feature a match featured the debut of a new talent, and this opening contest continued that trend. I thought this was a decent match that served its purpose well. Almas did look good here, but this crowd in Full Sail loved Dillinger. This really marked a turning point in Dillinger's career, when you look back at this show in hindsight. Prior to this, Dillinger had been seen as a solid hand that would help the new stars get over, but the fans eventually fell in love with his "Perfect 10" gimmick, and that would (in time) lead to his rise as a singles babyface. Andrade "Cien" Almas would get the victory here (as everyone predicted), but Dillinger would come away looking even better.

2.) NXT Tag Team Titles - American Alpha vs. The Revival: ****1/4

Chad Gable & Jason Jordan captured the NXT Tag Team Titles from Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder back at NXT TakeOver: Dallas in a great encounter, and this rematch was just as good, if not a little bit better. I thought this was awesome!! It was easily the best match on the entire show, in my opinion. These two teams have some amazing chemistry, and they put together another classic bout for the NXT Tag Team Titles. There was entertaining tag team action throughout, both sides played their roles perfectly, and the fans were into it. The second half of this match, in particular, was especially great. Ultimately, The Revival managed to score the win to become the first team to hold the NXT Tag Team Titles twice. I would've liked to see American Alpha have a longer run with the titles, but given that they would soon get called up to the main roster (via the WWE Draft), I guess that just wasn't going to happen. Plus, The Revival are perfect as the heel champions, and it would lead to an even better series of matches with another babyface team down the road.

After the match was over, American Alpha were attacked by the team who would soon become known as The Authors Of Pain. Paul Ellering (who managed The Road Warriors back in the day) came out on the entrance way, and essentially revealed himself to be the manager for this new, monstrous team.

3.) Austin Aries vs. Shinsuke Nakamura: ***3/4

These two were arguably the biggest NXT signings of 2016. Austin Aries made his debut in NXT in January, and immediately got into a feud with Baron Corbin. Meanwhile, Shinsuke Nakamura had a spectacular debut at NXT TakeOver: Dallas, as he had a ***** classic with Sami Zayn. This particular encounter was built as a "dream match". While I wouldn't go quite that far, it was still a highly anticipated match. In the end, it wasn't great, but it was still very good. The first half of the match was good, but nothing really stood out until the second half, when the action picked up significantly. There was some great back & forth between the two in the final few minutes, until Nakamura eventually won after hitting Aries (who had his ribs taped up) with the Kinshasa. This was by no means a MOTYC, but as a special showcase match, it delivered.

4.) NXT Women's Title - Asuka vs. Nia Jax: ***1/2

Nia Jax first challenged for the NXT Women's Title back at NXT TakeOver: London, where she came up short against Bayley. This time, however, Asuka comes into the match as champion. As a whole, I thought this was a very good women's bout. It wasn't on par with some of the other women's matches we've seen on previous NXT TakeOver events, but it was easily the best match of Nia Jax's career (up to this point). That just speaks to how good Asuka is. Nia was in control at various points, and it appeared that she might walk away as champion, but Asuka was resilient, and never quit. In the end, it would be Asuka's devastating kicks that got the job done, as she was able to keep Nia Jax down for the count. Again, this wasn't spectacular, but this was the probably the best possible match they could've put on.

Before I get into the main event, I should mentioned that they aired a brief backstage interview with NXT General Manager William Regal that ended with him entering a meeting with former TNA World Champion Bobby Roode.

5.) NXT Title - Steel Cage Match - Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor: ***3/4

I believe this was the first-ever Steel Cage Match in the history of NXT. These two had been feuding for around nine months or so, and they've had a number of great matches. While Balor successfully retained his NXT Title against Samoa Joe at the previous two NXT TakeOver events in London & Dallas, the "Samoan Submission Machine" shocked the world when he won the NXT Title from Balor at a NXT Live Event in Lowell, Massachusetts several weeks prior. This mean that, for the first time in the rivalry, Samoa Joe was the defending champion, while Finn Balor (who was, of course, in his demon war paint) was the challenger. This wasn't as a great as could've been, but it was still a strong main event, in my view. You can never go wrong when you put these two in a match together. The biggest criticism of this one is that they focus too much on trying to escape the cage, especially in the first few minutes. WWE really relies heavily on this particular rule in most of their Steel Cage matches, and no matter how good the match ends up being, it tends to hurt it. That rule was definitely out of place in this case, when this feud has been built up as two guys who want to tear each apart, but I digress. This one still featured some very good action from start to finish. There were some great moments throughout, and both men played their roles well. The biggest spot of the match (by far) occurred at the finish, when Joe got the win after hitting Balor with a Muscle Buster off the second rope!! That was a crazy spot. Samoa Joe celebrated with the NXT Title on the ramp as the show came to a close

Overall: 8.0/10

This certainly wasn't the strongest NXT TakeOver, but it was still a pretty good show with plenty of great matches. American Alpha & The Revival stole the show with their battle over the NXT Tag Team Titles, and even though neither were truly great, both Austin Aries vs. Shinsuke Nakamura & Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor in a Steel Cage proved to be very strong matches. Elsewhere, Nia Jax had arguably the best showing of her career in a losing effort against Asuka, while Tye Dillinger stole the spotlight from the debuting Andrade "Cien" Almas. Again, this show wasn't amazing, but there was still a lot to like throughout the card.


Friday, June 30, 2017

WWE Extreme Rules 2016 Review

AJ Styles goes to war with Roman Reigns, while The Miz defends his Intercontinental Title in an insane Fatal Four-Way!!


WWE Extreme Rules 2016
Newark, New Jersey 5/22/16

Kickoff Show

Before we got to our first match of the evening, we got an in-ring segment with The Dudley Boyz. They talked about how they’re more extreme than anyone in the locker room (including the stars of the “New Era”), and then they proceeded to run down New Jersey. Of course, this brought out Big Cass (Enzo Amore was still out of action at this point). He made fun of The Dudley Boyz, and said the stars of “New Era” could do what The Dudley Boyz did in ECW, but better. This led to a brawl where Big Cass eventually stood tall, sending The Dudley Boys packing.

1.) No DQ Match - Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler: **1/2

So these two have seeming become the new rulers of the Kickoff Show. Ziggler snuck away with the victory on the Payback Kickoff Show a few weeks prior, and since then, their feud continued, leading to this No DQ Match. I thought this was marginally better than their previous encounter. While the action as fine, they really made poor use of the stipulation. No weapons of any kind were used, and it seemed like the only reason this was a No DQ Match at all was so that Corbin could hit a low blow on Ziggler, which was immediately followed by End Of Days from “The Lone Wolf” for the victory. Again, this was ok, but they didn’t come close to living up to the stipulation.

PPV

1.) Tornado Tag Team Match - Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows vs. The Usos: ***

After being The Bullet Club’s primary heavyweight tag team for a good two years in New Japan, Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows made their way to WWE, and immediately made The Usos their first target. I thought it was pretty cool that this essentially served as a proxy for the main event, as Anderson & Gallows backed their Bullet Club stablemate AJ Styles, while The Usos are supporting their fellow family member in Roman Reigns. I thought this was a fine opening contest. The stipulation certainly made it a bit more entertaining to watch compared to a normal tag team match. It was by no means spectacular, and it could’ve been a little better, but it was fine for what it was. Anderson & Gallows would pick up the victory after hitting The Magic Killer.

2.) WWE United States Title - Rusev (with Lana) vs. Kalisto: ***1/4

The League Of Nations dissolved shortly after WrestleMania 32, which meant that Rusev was back on his own. That was probably for the best, as Rusev is so much better in a singles environment with Lana by his side. Here, he’s challenging Kalisto for the United States Title. It’s nice to see Kalisto FINALLY get back on a PPV card after being on the Kickoff Show with Ryback on the previous two shows. I thought this was a pretty solid undercard title bout. It didn’t go too long (it was just under ten minutes), but they packed a fair amount of action in that time. Plus. they both played their respective roles well, which helped make this fun to watch. The crowd wasn’t really reacting to this one, which is a shame, because this could’ve been even better if the crowd was more invested. Kalisto gave it his best effort, but “The Bulgarian Brute” was just too much, and Rusev eventually got the win after locking in The Accolade and bending all the way back on it. That looked brutal. After seemingly messing up Rusev for almost a year, WWE turned back the clock to early 2015 with Rusev as the United States Champion. It was the right move, and it was great to see Rusev & Lana back in this position.

3.) WWE Tag Team Titles - The New Day (Big E & Xavier Woods with Kofi Kingston) vs. The Vaudevillains: **3/4

The New Day cut their usual promo as they made their way down to the ring. I don’t recall exactly how the situation with Payback was resolved, but The Vaudevillains ended up with this title shot against The New Day, who were being represented here by the combination of Big E & Xavier Woods with Kofi Kingston in their corner. This was a fine tag team encounter, but it was largely a forgettable one. There was some decent action throughout, and they were a few moments where it looked like The Vaudevillains might get the titles, but ultimately, The New Day retained after some involvement from Kofi Kingston. Again, this was a perfectly acceptable tag team bout, but it wasn’t that memorable. It’s the kind of match that you forget about shortly after it happened.

4.) WWE Intercontinental Title - Fatal Four-Way Match - The Miz (with Maryse) vs. Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn: ****1/2

This turned into a four-way feud over the Intercontinental Title after Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn inadvertently got involved in a title bout between The Miz & Cesaro. I think most people figured this would be very good (considering who was involved), but it’s fair to say that this match blew away all expectations. This was absolutely awesome!! There was some amazing action and incredible sequences throughout this one (particularly between Cesaro, Owens, & Zayn), and there was never really a dull moment. They also managed to involve a few stories in this one as well. Not only did this continue the Kevin Owens/Sami Zayn rivalry, but they told a good story with The Miz nearly sneaking away with the title on a few occasions. He played the role of the heel opportunist, and that eventually paid off for him, as he took advantage of Owens & Zayn fighting each other to pin Cesaro to retain his title. It’s impossible to recap everything that happened here, because there were so many cool things in this match. Everyone involved put forth an incredible effort, and it really showed. The crowd loved this as well, and that just made the match even better. If you haven’t seen this before, you need to go out of your way to check it out. This was easily one of the best WWE main roster matches of 2016, though it would unfortunately be overshadowed by the main event.

5.) Asylum Match - Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho: *

Chris Jericho changed up his attire for this one, opting for jeans instead of tights. Following Payback, the feud between these two escalated, which led to the first-ever Asylum Match (the brainchild, in storyline, of Dean Ambrose). It’s essentially a Steel Cage Match, but with a bunch of weapons hanging a couple of feet above the top of the cage. This was certainly an odd stipulation, but I was willing to give it change. Well, what we got was a dreadfully boring match that was one of the worst WWE PPV bouts of the year. What made it so hard to watch was the length. The action wasn’t totally bad, but the problem was that this just kept going….and going….and going. In total, this match went twenty-six minutes, which was entirely too long. An assortment of weapons were used here, ranging from a barbed wire 2x4, a straightjacket, a mop, a kendo stick, nunchucks, a fire extinguisher, and even a potted plant. It was just an odd assortment of weapons. The crowd didn’t care at all, and the fact this went so long made it incredibly boring to watch. The only time the fans reacted was when thumbtacks became involved. The last minute or two was the best part of this whole thing, as Jericho got dropped onto the thumbtacks, and Ambrose got the win shortly thereafter. Aside from the final moments at the very end, this was terrible. It was entirely too long, and incredibly boring.

6.) WWE Women’s Title - Submission Match - Charlotte vs. Natalya: **1/2

Ric Flair is banned from ringside for this one. If he were to get physically involved, then Charlotte would automatically lose her title. They also made sure to get a referee other than Charles Robinson to be sure that there was no bias from the referee. You know, it’s really sad to see the diminishing returns when it comes to matches involving these two. Their famous match from the first NXT TakeOver in May 2014 was arguably the match that kicked off the rise of the women’s division in NXT, and eventually the main roster. Since then, their matches on the main roster on major shows slowly decreased in quality, through no fault of their own. Here, they were having a fine, back & forth bout, but then (because this is WWE) we got a distraction finish….in a Submission Match. Ric Flair’s music hit, and it looked like it might be “The Nature Boy”, but it was just Dana Brooke in disguise. This distraction was enough for Charlotte to get the submission victory. What an absolutely lame finish.

7.) WWE World Heavyweight Title - Extreme Rules Match - Roman Reigns vs. “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles: ****3/4

I mentioned in my review of Payback that these two could’ve had an even better match than they ended up having without all of the shenanigans. Well, they certainly proved that here. We knew they could have a great match, but I don’t think anyone was expecting this to be as awesome as it ended up being. This was simply a spectacular match that was easily a MOTYC in WWE for 2016. From start to finish, this was filled with incredible action, insane spots, and emotional moments, with Styles nearly winning the title on multiple occasions. Some of the crazy spots in this one included Reigns giving Styles a back drop from one announce table through another, Styles getting powerbombed through another announce table, and Styles hitting Reigns with the Styles Clash on a steel chair. Of course, The Club (Anderson & Gallows) and The Usos got involved, but that was expected. This time around, I don't think their involvement really hurt the match too much. In fact, it might've added to it a bit. The action in this one was certainly amazing, but this was fantastic on an emotional level as well. There were so many close near-falls, and the crowd was really invested. A hot crowd can add so much to a match, and that was definitely the case here. As for the performers themselves, Roman Reigns (again, to his credit) did a great job, but once again, AJ Styles proved why he is quite possibly the best wrestler on the planet. He's a phenomenal performer (no pun intended). Styles is great at everything he does in the ring, from his selling, to his moves, to athletic ability, to being a master at getting a crowd emotionally invested in a match. When it comes to big match situations, you know that Styles is going to deliver every single time, and it's going to be memorable. Styles put forth an amazing effort here, but ultimately, he fell to Roman Reigns, who pinned him after spearing Styles out of midair. This was a fantastic main event, and as I mentioned earlier, one of the best WWE matches of 2016.

Roman Reigns was celebrating after the match, but then the crowd erupted as Seth Rollins made his return, and hit the WWE World Heavyweight Champion with a pedigree in the middle of the ring. Rollins stood tall as the show went off the air.

Overall: 8.0/10

I would say that this was slightly better than Payback from a few weeks prior, which might be a weird thing to say, considering that two of the best WWE matches of 2016 took place on this show. Yes, Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles and the Fatal Four-Way Match for the Intercontinental Title were both incredible matches, but at the same time, there wasn't anything else noteworthy on this card. The rest of the undercard had a mix of matches that ranged from solid to average, with one match in particular (The Asylum Match) being really bad. Payback didn't have the spectacular bouts that this show did, but as a whole it was definitely more consistent. If you take out the two MOTYC, it's clear to see that this show would suffer tremendously. Also, you had the return of Seth Rollins, which certainly ended the show on a high note. As a whole, the 2016 edition of Extreme Rules was a rollercoaster ride that featured two tremendous matches and a surprise return, which really helped make it memorable.