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.

WWE Payback 2016 Review

AJ Styles challenges Roman Reigns for the WWE World Heavyweight Title!


WWE Payback 2016
Chicago, Illinois 5/1/16

Kickoff Show

1.) Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler: **1/4

So we have not one, but TWO matches here on the Kickoff Show! I guess that’s what happens when there’s a big segment with the McMahon Family on the PPV. Anyway, Corbin is coming off his victory in the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 32, which was his debut on the main roster. He then started having a feud with Dolph Ziggler, which has led us to this match. I thought it was ok. It can be argued that Corbin was brought up from NXT too soon, but at least he’s started off wrestling a good worker like Ziggler. Corbin got in a fair amount of offense, but in the end, Ziggler rolled him up for the win. Not the best start for Corbin on the main roster. It seemed like they were telling the story of Corbin’s overconfidence leading to his downfall, but the finish still came off as pretty weak. I don’t think it made either guy look particularly good.

2.) WWE United States Title - Kalisto vs. Ryback: ***1/2

Since they were in Chicago for this PPV, “The Big Guy” decided to take a shot at CM Punk (who had taken shots at him in the past). During his entrance, Ryback did CM Punk’s signature “check the watch”/“It’s Clobbering Time!” bit, and also had “The Pre-Show Stopper” written on the weight belt that he wears. These two actually met during the Kickoff Show on WrestleMania 32 a month prior, and had a pretty fun match. Here, they managed to top themselves, and put together a really good title bout. It was by no means smooth, but there was plenty of action from start to finish, and they once again told the “big guy vs. little guy” story well. There was one particular spot that could’ve gone badly for Kalisto, as he came up short on a dive to the outside and almost landed badly on the ring apron. Fortunately, the spot didn’t look that bad, and Kalisto came out of it in once piece. Speaking of Kalisto, he eventually got the win to retain his title after hitting Ryback with Salida del Sol. Again, this was very good. It could’ve easily been on the main PPV card.

PPV

1.) #1 Contender’s Match - Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. The Vaudevillains: N/R

This was the finals of a Tag Team #1 Contender’s Tournament. The winner would get a future shot at the WWE Tag Team Titles against The New Day, who were at ringside eating snacks during this one. Unfortunately, this match had an abrupt and unfortunate finish. A couple of minutes in, Enzo Amore got whipped into the ropes in a very awkward manner, as his head slammed into the middle rope before falling to the floor. He appeared to be completely knocked out, and the match was soon stopped as the medical team came out to attend to him. Enzo was taken out on a stretcher, and I believe he was later diagnosed with a concussion. It definitely looked scary, as Enzo was motionless on the floor for a bit. Fortunately, he was able to make a full recovery, and returned to the ring a month or so later.

2.) Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn: ****1/4

What happened in the opener was a very scary situation, and these two were put in a very tough situation by having to follow what just happened. Luckily, if there was any combination that could bring back the crowd, it was this one. I thought this was a fantastic match! It was easily the best match of the night. It’s been so cool to see the story between these two progress through so many different promotions. From the independents (mainly ROH & PWG) to NXT to the main roster of WWE, Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn always deliver when the face each other, and this was no exception. This had everything from emotional moments (which fit into the larger context of their storied history) along with some great action from start to finish. You can never go wrong with these guys in a singles match, and they certainly delivered here. The crowd wasn’t as lively as they could’ve been (which is understable, after what happened in the opener), but they were into it by the end. Owens would eventually get the win with his Pop-Up Powerbomb.

After the match, Owens tossed Zayn aside, and demanded that Byron Saxton interview him. He essentially tried to force the interview along, but Saxton was having none of it. Owens said that he beat Zayn just like he promised, and now he was going to focus on the Intercontinental Title. He then joined the commentary team for the next match, which was for that very title he just mentioned.

3.) WWE Intercontinental Title - The Miz (with Maryse) vs. Cesaro: ***1/2

So there’s been a lot going on with the Intercontinental Title in the last month or so. Zack Ryder won the title in a multi-person Ladder Match at WrestleMania 32, but lost it the next night on RAW to The Miz, who now has his wife Maryse (who had been away from WWE for a few years) with him. He’s defending his title against Cesaro here, and it ended up being a pretty good match. Cesaro was (of course) awesome, but The Miz did a fine job as well. While it was a tad slow in the beginning, it certainly picked up in the closing stages. Towards the end, Sami Zayn returned and attacked Kevin Owens (who was on commentary). The two then brawled on the apron, and this distracted Cesaro long enough for The Miz to roll him up for the win to retain his title. Cesaro was on his way to winning the match, and the Intercontinental Title, before the Owens/Zayn brawl occurred. I actually really liked the finish (and the post-match stuff, which I’ll get to in a second), as they seamlessly inserted Owens & Zayn into the Intercontinental Title picture. It also put The Miz over as heel while also protecting Cesaro a little bit.

After the match ended, Cesaro hit The Miz with The Neutralizer. Kevin Owens then took out Cesaro & Sami Zayn. It looked like that The Miz was going to be next, but Maryse pulled him to safety. Owens then posed with the Intercontinental Title.

4.) Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho: ***1/2

If I recall correctly, these two started feuding after Dean Ambrose replaced Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel with The Ambrose Asylum, per orders from Shane McMahon. This match didn’t get off to the best of starts. The first several minutes were relatively average, and the crowd in Chicago seemed to be pretty lukewarm on it. However, things picked up a fair amount in the second-half, and it ended up being a very solid match as a whole. The turning point occurred during a brawl on the outside, when Jericho tossed Ambrose over the barricade from the German announce table. From there, the match definitely got better, and Ambrose got the win after hitting Dirty Deeds. They definitely could’ve shaved a few minutes off of this, but it was still pretty good.

5.) WWE Women’s Title - Charlotte (with Ric Flair) vs. Natalya (with Bret “The Hitman” Hart): ***

Here we have a rematch from the first NXT TakeOver in May 2014, where Charlotte defeated Natalya in a classic match to win the vacant NXT Women’s Title. Ric Flair & Bret Hart were in the corners of their respective family members for that encounter, and they’re back again for this one. Unfortunately, this was nowhere near as good as that aforementioned encounter from two years prior. It wasn’t even as good as their match from a few months prior at Roadblock. The match got off to solid start, and it seemed like it was going along well. They were telling a fine story with Charlotte working over one of Natalya’s legs, and the crowd seemed to be into it. However, there were a few rough spots in the final minutes, and then we had the finish. What we got was essentially a rehash of The Montreal Screwjob for (seemingly) the 1000th time. Natalya had Charlotte in the Sharpshooter, but then Charlotte locked in a Sharpshooter on Natalya. The referee (Charles Robinson aka “Little Naitch”) then called for the bell, even though Natalya never submitted, and awarded the win to Charlotte. That was just an awful finish that induced so many groans and eyerolls. The fact that Bret Hart was there at ringside made ever more cringeworthy. Charlotte & Natalya are capable of so much better, but the finish really hampered them.

After the match, Bret Hart & Natalya would get a measure of revenge when they locked in Sharpshooters on both Ric Flair & Charlotte.

Before the main event, we got an in-ring segment involving Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon, & Stephanie McMahon. Back at WrestleMania 32, Shane lost to The Undertaker inside Hell In A Cell. Had Shane won, he would’ve gained control of RAW. What happened the next night? Well, Shane asked his father if he could run RAW for the night, and Vince….agreed. This led to Shane running RAW for a few more weeks after “overwhelming fan support”. Stephanie then came back into the picture, and that raised the question of who would run RAW. The two McMahon siblings stated their cases for running RAW, and Vince’s response was that all of this is really about what he wants (isn’t that right?). He would love to see them “disembowel” each other, but he would also love to see them succeed together. Vince then declared that both Shane & Stephanie would run RAW together, and told them to figure things out themselves. All of this would eventually lead to the 2nd Brand Split a few months later.

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

So after losing to Chris Jericho in his WrestleMania debut, AJ Styles won a Fatal Four-Way Match on RAW the night after to earn a shot at the WWE World Heavyweight Title. Shortly thereafter, Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows (stablemates with AJ Styles in The Bullet Club over in New Japan) made their debut as a team on the main roster. Almost immediately, speculation began with regards to whether Anderson & Gallows would try to help AJ Styles win the WWE World Heavyweight Title. At the time, I wasn’t sure how this was going to go, but it ended up being a really good match. It could’ve been even better, but we got a ton of shenanigans involved The McMahons. First, the match ended in a count out, and Shane McMahon restarted the match with No Count Outs. Then, the match ended in a DQ and Stephanie McMahon restarted the match with No Disqualifications. This brought out Anderson & Gallows, who tried to help Styles, but they ended up brawling with The Usos (who they had attacked in their debut). Eventually, Reigns managed to put away AJ Styles to retain. These two managed to overcome all of the shenanigans involved with this one. I would say that most of the credit for that would go to AJ Styles, though Reigns (to his credit) did a solid job here as well. If Styles wasn’t involved, I’m certain this would’ve completely fallen apart, and that just speaks to how good he really is. They definitely could’ve done better (as their rematch the next month showed), but for what this was, it still managed to be an entertaining main event filled with some very good action, particularly in the closing stages.

Overall: 7.75/10

As a whole, this was a pretty solid PPV from WWE. Aside from the freak accident involving Enzo Amore, there was a lot to like here. Kalisto & Ryback had a really good match for the United States Title on the Kickoff Show, and the majority of the undercard was very solid (with Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn easily taking Match of the Night honors). The final two matches were good, to varying degrees, but both were hampered by some poor booking. AJ Styles & Roman Reigns were able to overcome the booking in their match, but Charlotte & Natalya had absolutely no chance with another rehash of The Montreal Screwjob. We did have a lengthy segment involving the McMahon Family, but hey, it’s WWE. Are we really surprised? Anyway, the only match on the entire card that was close to being bad was Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler (and even that was still ok). The rest of the show featured matches that ranged from good to great. It definitely could’ve been better, but in general, it was still a fine PPV outing from WWE.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Evolve 79 Review

Zack Sabre Jr. finally captures the Evolve Title!!!


My star ratings for Evolve 79 are listed below, but please be sure to read my full review of the show on Voices of Wrestling:

http://www.voicesofwrestling.com/2017/02/27/evolve-79-results-review/

Evolve 79
Woodside, Queens, New York 2/25/17

1.) ACH vs. Jason Kincaid: ***1/4

2.) Four-Way Freestyle - Anthony Henry vs. Austin Theory vs. Chris Dickinson vs. Evolve Tag Team Champion Fred Yehi: ***1/2

3.) Jaka vs. Jeff Cobb: ***3/4

4.) Keith Lee vs. Evolve Tag Team Champion Tracy Williams: ***3/4

5.) "All Ego" Ethan Page (with The Gatekeepers) vs. Darby Allin: ***1/4

6.) Drew Galloway vs. Matt Riddle: ****

7.) Evolve Title - Timothy Thatcher (with Stokely Hathaway) vs. Zack Sabre Jr.: ****1/2

Overall: 8.5/10


Evolve 78 Review

Timothy Thatcher defends the Evolve Title against Fred Yehi!


Evolve 78
Joppa, Maryland 2/24/17

1.) Anthony Henry vs. Matt Riddle: ***1/2

Henry earned this opportunity after a strong showings at the first two Style Battle events. I thought this was a really good opening contest. There was enjoyable, hard-hitting action from start to finish, and it featured a fare amount of intensity. The amount of time they were given (about ten or eleven minutes) was perfect for this shot. Henry was actually a great opponent for Riddle, since he also has an MMA background. Riddle would ultimately get the win with the Bromission. I enjoyed this a lot, and it's certainly in the conversation for best match on the card.

After the match, Matt Riddle took the mic, proclaiming that he wants to win all of the titles in the WWN Family. However, before he can do that, he needed to deal with Drew Galloway. Riddle wants to kick Galloway's ass right now, but the rest of Catch Point come out instead. Tracy Williams took the mic, and offered Riddle congratulations on his win, but reminded him that tonight was Fred Yehi's night. Yehi then took the mic. He said that the last time he was in Joppa, Maryland, he won the Evolve Tag Team Titles with Tracy Williams, and declared that tonight will be magic all over again. Dickinson then grabs the mic and calls out for The Gatekeepers for their match, but Larry Dallas comes out instead. Dallas (once again) pushed the issue of Dickinson & Jaka challenging for the Evolve Tag Team Titles in the future before Williams said that Catch Point is about competition, and reiterated that tonight is about Fred Yehi walking away with the Evolve Title.

2.) Austin Theory vs. Darby Allin: ***

Despite the fact that Chris Dickinson called out The Gatekeepers, we didn't get that match following the end of the segment. Instead, Austin Theory (who had recently signed a contract with Evolve/WWN at only nineteen years old) took on Darby Allin in what ended up being an entertaining sprint. It only went about five minutes or so, but they packed a good amount of action in the time they were given. What was particularly notable about this one is that Priscilla Kelly, who had just started making appearances in FIP, came down the ring and observed the action. It was pretty clear that she had her eyes on one of them, but at the time, we really didn't know who. As for the result, Austin Theory would emerge victorious. This was short, and a lot of fun to watch.

3.) "All Ego" Ethan Page (with The Gatekeepers) vs. Jason Kincaid: ***1/4

I was actually looking forward to this one, as you had a smaller guy with an incredibly unique high-flying move set in Kincaid taking on a (relatively) larger guy in the form of Ethan Page. I thought this was a very enjoyable match. Much like the opener, it went about ten minutes, and they managed to fit in some fun back & forth action. At this point, it's almost impossible for me to not enjoy a match involving Jason Kincaid, because you just can't take your eyes off of him. His offense is so cool, and it really helps him stand out (if his look didn't accomplish that already). Ethan Page was good here as well, as a whole, this was a solid outing for both men. It wasn't necessarily a memorable match, but it was perfectly fine for it's spot on the card. Page would eventually get the win after hitting Kincaid with the RK-EGO.

Chris Dickinson & Jaka hit the ring almost immediately after Page won, and started brawling with The Gatekeepers, which signaled the start of our next contest....

4.) Catch Point (Chris Dickinson & Jaka) vs. The Gatekeepers: ***1/4

This was another match that I was really looking forward to, even though it didn't get much attention compared to some of the other bouts on this card. This was a very enjoyable tag team affair. You had four large dudes beating the crap out of each other for nine or ten minutes. Similar to Ethan Page vs. Jason Kincaid, this wasn't a match that you're to remember a week or two after the fact, but it was fun for what it was. Aside from Dickinson & Jaka getting the win, there's not much else to say about this one.

5.) ACH vs. Evolve Tag Team Champion Tracy Williams: ***1/2

Since his return to Evolve, ACH has been unofficially running the "Catch Point Gauntlet". He lost to Matt Riddle at Evolve 76, but defeated Evolve Tag Team Champion Fred Yehi at Evolve 77. Now he's going up against Tracy Williams, who was the other half of the Evolve Tag Team Champions. This was a really good match. There was solid, technical wrestling throughout, but it just went a little too long for my liking. As I've said in some of my past reviews on this blog, I can never fault a match that has clean, proficient wrestling. These two did a very good job here, in that regard, but it never felt they got into that next gear. It certainly had the potential to be great, but they failed to reach that level. ACH would ultimately get the win after hitting Williams with a brainbuster. 

After the match, Larry Dallas came out, and asked Williams (who was clearly annoyed) if Fred Yehi was going to be ready for his title match. Williams said that he doesn't want to see Dallas again, but proclaims that Yehi will get the job done tonight.

6.) Jeff Cobb vs. Drew Galloway: ***1/2

This was an interesting matchup on paper. Cobb is known as the power guy who tosses people around, but then you have Galloway, who easily towers over Cobb. I should mention that it had been a few months since we had seen Galloway in action in Evolve, as he had been out of action due to real life injuries and storyline suspensions since October/November. When the dust settled, this ended up being a really good match (I've said that a lot in this review, haven't I?). There was strong action throughout, and both guys looked very solid. Cobb got to showcase his power, and even tossed around Galloway on a few occasions. The latter half of this match featured some particularly good action, and in the end, Galloway connected with his Future Shock DDT to secure the victory.

After the match, Galloway took the mic, and said that it's hard to be in a feud with someone when you're expressing yourself and speaking truths while the other person just says "Bro". Galloway calls Riddle out for a fight right now. The "King of Bros" comes out, and the two start brawling. During this, Riddle bumps into Cobb, and this leads to Cobb hitting Riddle with Tour of the Islands. The rest of Catch Point come out to make the save, and Jaka gets into a shoving match with Cobb. I know this was building matches for Evolve 79 the next night, but it was still a little odd to see Riddle get attacked by Cobb for almost no reason. It seemed like it might've been a heel turn, but that wasn't the case. It was just a way to build up matches for the next night.

7.) Keith Lee vs. Zack Sabre Jr.: ***1/2

Despite losing to Chris Hero in his debut at Evolve 76, Keith Lee still came away from that match looking like a future threat, and in just his second appearance in Evolve, he went up against the guy who had arguably become the ace of the promotion. I thought this was a very strong match. It's certainly in contention for the best match on the card, though in my view, it's a tossup. This was a nice clash of styles, as you had a technical wrestler going up against a massive powerhouse. For Zack Sabre Jr., it was certainly a challenge that he really hadn't faced before in Evolve. The action was really solid throughout, though I don't think they did enough here to make this match stand out on this card. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it a lot, but it just didn't manage to break away from the pack. In what was probably the most shocking result of the night, Keith Lee pinned Zack Sabre Jr. clean in the middle of the ring. It might seem odd in the moment, but given what happened the next night, it planted the seeds for a future rematch. Plus, a win like this gives Lee immediate credibility.

After the match, Stokely Hathaway cut a promo saying that he doesn't care about all of the new faces that have been coming into Evolve recently. He told Zack Sabre Jr. (who would be challenging for the Evolve Title the next night) that the ring is his street, and right now, he was standing in his spot. Hathaway said that when you come at the king, you best not miss, and introduced Timothy Thatcher. Zack Sabre Jr. then vowed that he would win the Evolve Title before heading to the back.

8.) Evolve Title - Timothy Thatcher (with Stokely Hathaway) vs. Fred Yehi (with Catch Point): ***1/2

Fred Yehi had a lot of momentum as 2016 came to a close, and that carried into 2017, as he scored a submission victory over Timothy Thatcher during an Evolve Tag Team Title defense at Evolve 76. I was very curious to see how this one would turn out, and it ended up being.....wait for it.....a really good match. I actually saw a lot of varying opinions of this one in real time. Some thought it was at MOTYC level, while others didn't like it at all. I'm firmly in the middle, as it was very entertaining to watch, at least from my perspective. There was some cool grappling exchanges, and at points it felt like a UFC fight (mainly because it was relatively quiet initially while Catch Point & Hathaway were giving instructions to their respective side). Yehi is an incredibly versatile performance, and he did a great job here. Thatcher was good here also, and as a whole, this was very solid. There were points where Yehi was clearly dominating, and had Thatcher on the defense, but in the end, Thatcher was able to just get the win after catching Yehi in the Saka Otoshi submission.

Tracy Williams consoled Fred Yehi following the match. Chris Dickinson & Jaka handed the Evolve Tag Team Titles back to them, but it was very obvious that there was tension building towards an eventual showdown over the titles.

Overall: 7.0/10


This was a really fascinating show from Evolve. It was probably one of their weakest shows in recent memory, yet there wasn't a single match that was bad. Everything on the card was good to very good, but nothing got close to be great. Just to give you an idea, I had one match at ***, two matches at ***1/4, and five matches at ***1/2. Any of those matches that I had at ***1/2 could be the Match of the Night (aside from ACH vs. Tracy Williams), but I honestly couldn't pick one out. They were all very good in their own unique way, and they all deserve to be seen. This was an incredibly consistent show from Evolve, but it wasn't exactly a memorable one.


Monday, May 29, 2017

Evolve 77: A Hero's Exit Review

Chris Hero battes Zack Sabre Jr. one last time!!


My star ratings for Evolve 77: A Hero's Exit are listed below, but please be sure to read my full review on Voices of Wrestling:


Evolve 77: A Hero's Exit
San Antonio, Texas 1/28/17

1.) Six-Man Tag - Darby Allin, Barrett Brown, & Zack Sabre Jr. vs. "All Ego" Ethan Page & The Gatekeepers: ***1/2

2.) Laredo Kid vs. Evolve Tag Team Champion Tracy Williams: ***1/4

3.) Catch Point (Chris Dickinson & Jaka) vs. Jason Kincaid & Sammy Guevara: ***1/2

4.) ACH vs. Evolve Tag Team Champion Fred Yehi: ***3/4

5.) No DQ Match - DUSTIN vs. Matt Riddle: ****

6.) Evolve Title - Timothy Thatcher (with Stokely Hathaway) vs. Jeff Cobb: **1/2

7.) Chris Hero vs. Zack Sabre Jr.: ****1/2

Overall: 8.25/10


Evolve 76 Review

ACH & Keith Lee come to Evolve!!


My star ratings for Evolve 76 are listed below, but please be sure to read my full review on Voices of Wrestling:


Evolve 76
San Antonio, Texas 1/27/17

1.) Jaka (with Catch Point) vs. Peter Kaasa: ***

2.) Chris Dickinson vs. Darby Allin: ***

3.) DUSTIN vs. Jason Kincaid: ***1/2

4.) "All Ego" Ethan Page (with The Gatekeepers) vs. Zack Sabre Jr.: ***1/2

5.) ACH vs. Matt Riddle: ****

6.) Evolve Tag Team Titles - Catch Point (Tracy Williams & Fred Yehi) vs. Jeff Cobb & Evolve Champion Timothy Thatcher (with Stokely Hathaway): ***1/2

7.) Chris Hero vs. Keith Lee: ***1/2

Overall: 7.5/10


FIP Everything Burns 2017 Review

FIP goes through a reboot, and let's just say that everything did indeed burn....


My star ratings for FIP Everything Burns 2017 are listed below, but I strongly encourage you to read my full review of this show (particular in this case, because you need to see my thoughts on this show to truly understand how bad it was) on Voices of Wrestling:


FIP Everything Burns 2017
Tampa, Florida 1/8/17

1.) Winner Gets The Contract Fight For All: DUD

2.) Billy Barboza (with Weevil Whitaker) vs. Alex Rudolph: *

3.) Aria Blake vs. Priscilla Kelly: 1/2*

4.) Anthony Henry (with Amber Young) vs. Austin Theory: ***1/4

5.) FIP Florida Heritage Title - Martin Stone vs. Jon Davis: ***1/4

6.) FIP World Tag Team Titles - The Hooligans vs. Drennan & Parrow: ***1/4

7.) FIP World Heavyweight Title - Fred Yehi vs. Teddy Stigma: ***1/4

8.) Eight-Man Tag - Jason Cade, Sammy Guevara, Jason Kincaid, & Dezmond Xavier (with Aria Blake) vs. Uncle John's Friends (AR Fox, Darby Allin, Sami Callihan, & Dave Crist with Priscilla Kelly): ***1/2

Overall: 4.0/10




Saturday, May 27, 2017

WrestleCon SuperShow 2016 Review

WrestleCon puts on an eclectic card in Dallas, Texas for their annual SuperShow!


WrestleCon SuperShow 2016
Dallas, Texas 4/2/16

The show kicked off with Sami Callihan coming out. He issued a challenge to a certain someone in the back for a "dream match", and the person who answered the call was Pentagon Jr.!

1.) Sami Callihan vs. Pentagon Jr.: ***1/2

This was a really fun opening contest. It wasn't a very long match (going about six minutes or so), but they packed a lot of action in the time they were given. Pentagon Jr. is always entertaining to watch, and Sami Callihan always excels in sprints. Pentagon Jr. ultimately got the win after his infamous armbreaker followed by a package piledriver.

Before the next match began, we got a special in-ring segment with Glen Joseph, who is one of the owners of PROGRESS Wrestling. He talks briefly about the promotion, saying that he's grateful for all the success they've had. Joseph then said that the winner of this next match would be declared the first PROGRESS World Champion (as this was the first time the PROGRESS Title had been defended outside of the UK).

2.) PROGRESS Title - “The Villain” Marty Scurll vs. Will Ospreay: ****1/4

These two had a couple of critically acclaimed matches in the first few months of 2016 (those matches taking place in PROGRESS & RevPro), and now they were bringing their rivalry to North America. While this was far from the best match in their rivalry, it was still the Match Of The Night by a pretty wide margin. There was incredible action from start to finish, and it was a ton of fun to watch. Scurry & Ospreay have such amazing chemistry together. Watching them work together in a wrestling ring is simply magical. There's no other way to describe it. Marty Scurll would eventually score the victory when he counter an OsCutter attempt from Ospreay into the Crossface Chicken Wing. Again, this is far from their best match in their storied rivalry, but it's still worth checking out.

3.) Colt Cabana & Chuck Taylor vs. “The Manscout” Jake Manning & Zane Riley: **3/4

After seeing two bouts that were pretty serious in nature, we've now getting a comedy match. This was pretty decent for what it is. Colt Cabana & Chuck Taylor are two of the best when it comes to comedy wrestling, and they were great here. Meanwhile, I thought Jake Manning & Zane Riley were solid foils for them. They could've shaved a couple of minutes off this, but that's my only complaint. As a whole, this was an entertaining tag team contest, which was exactly what I was expect. Colt Cabana & Chuck Taylor would end up getting the win here.

4.) Tessa Blanchard (with Tully Blanchard) vs. “Crazy” Mary Dobson: **1/4

Tully Blanchard accompanied her daughter to ringside for this contest. In the end, this was probably one of the weakest matches on the show. It was by no means terrible, but it wasn't good either. At best, this was average. There really isn't much else to say about this one. Tessa Blanchard would end up picking up the victory.

5.) Six-Man Tag - Aero Star, Drago, & Octagon Jr. vs. Bestia 666, Jack Evans, & Tigre Uno: ****

So this is an interesting matchup. It consists of a bunch of guys from AAA, though only some of them had made their way onto Lucha Underground. It was kind of/sort of a Lucha Underground showcase (we even had Melissa Santos as the special guest ring announcer), but it wasn't at the same time. Also, for those who might not know, Octagon Jr. is better known as Flamita, of Dragon Gate fame. Anyway, this match was pretty great. From what I recall, it was initially slow to get going, but once it did, there was so much exciting action. Everyone was doing crazy spot after crazy spot (I think Aero Star did a dive to the outside that propelled him into the crowd), while Jack Evans was....well....being Jack Evans. This was so much fun to watch. Aero Star, Drago, and Octagon Jr. got the win here, and the fans responded by throwing money into the ring (apparently a Lucha tradition). All six guys were awesome here, and the fans were the real winners.

6.) Ten-Man Tag - Team Jarrett (Jeff Jarrett, Brian Myers, Jessicka Havok, Luke Hawx, & GFW NEX*GEN Champion Sonjay Dutt with Karen Jarrett) vs. (Joey Ryan, Candice LeRae, Shane Strickland, Tommy Dreamer, & Matt Striker): *1/2

This multi-person tag consisted of two teams that saw the team captains on each side pick their partners. I mentioned earlier that Tessa Blanchard vs. "Crazy" Mary Dobson was one of the weakest matches on the show. Well, what we saw here made that bout look like a legitimate Match Of The Year Contender. Before the match even began, Jeff Jarrett took the mic and cut a promo on Joey Ryan. He called the fans degenerates and said they were all disgusting. Karen Jarrett spared verbally with a female fan at ringside, and later spat on her, causing a big ruckus at ringside. A luchador named Sinesto was originally the fifth member of the team, but he later revealed himself to be Matt Striker after an early exchange with Brian Myers. We did get to see some action in the ring, but when Jarret got in there, he took the mic and cut another promo. Tommy Dreamer then called Jeff Jarrett out on his shitty promos, while Karen Jarrett spit on another fan. Then Team Jarrett won, for some reason. There were one or two redeeming qualities here, but as a whole, this was one of the worst matches I've even seen. The pre-match bullshit was nearly twenty minutes, and the match itself was over twenty minutes, meaning that this took up forty-five minutes to almost an hour of the show. This could've been decent if The Jarrett's weren't in there, but alas, they were, and they were BAAAAD. They completely overshadowed what could've been a fine mid-card bout, turning it into an abomination in the process. Avoid this match like the plague. It's fucking dreadful.

7.) OMEGA Heavyweight Title - Matt Hardy (with Reby Sky) vs. Lance Storm (with Missy Hyatt): ***

It's so weird going back in time to see this version of Matt Hardy, just before he would become "Broken". Hardy's OMEGA Title is on the line here, as he's defending against Lance Storm, who is technically retired, but comes out for the occasional match here and there. Storm is actually accompanied to the ring by Missy Hyatt, who was a valet in the late 1980's and in the first half of the 1990's. This was a relatively solid match. It was far from the best match on the card, but it was by no means the worst. It was perfectly acceptable. Hardy played his role as a heel well, while Storm showed that he can still put on a good match whenever he makes these rare appearances. We did get interference from Reby Sky, Matt Hardy's wife, but realistically, I don't think it affected things that much, as the match (realistically) wasn't going to be better than it ended up being. The finish came when Hardy took off one of his boots and used it as a weapon against Storm to retain his title.

After the match, Matt Hardy shoved down Missy Hyatt. Hardy and Reby Sky go to inflict more damage on Hyatt, and Storm tries to make the save, but he superkicks Hyatt by accident. After she recovers, they then did an amnesia angle where Hyatt forgot where she was.

8.) Six-Man Tag - Rey Mysterio & IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Ricochet & Matt Sydal vs. Brian Cage, Chris Hero, & Zack Sabre Jr.: ****

Now this was truly the definition of all-star teams. On one side, you had a fun pairing of high-flyers, as Rey Mysterio teamed up with Ricochet & Matt Sydal, who were the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions at the time. On the other end, you had Zack Sabre Jr. teaming up with two larger dudes who are known for beating people up (Brian Cage & Chris Hero). When I saw the card, this was the match that I was looking forward to the most. It didn't end up being quite as fantastic as Marty Scurll vs. Will Ospreay from earlier in the night, but this was still an incredible contest. There was great action from start to finish, and everyone involved got a chance to shine. What's so cool about this match was that we got to see people who rarely interact face off with one another. Seeing Rey Mysterio lock up with the likes of Chris Hero & Zack Sabre Jr. was super cool. You're not going to see a six-man tag like this anywhere else, and that made it special. After a hard-fought battle, the team of Rey Mysterio, Ricochet, and Matt Sydal eventually emerged victorious. This match was simply awesome.

9.) Monster’s Ball Match - Abyss vs. Andrew Everett vs. AR Fox vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Pentagon Jr. vs. TNA X-Division Champion Trevor Lee (with Shane Helms): ***3/4

I believe "Speedball" Mike Bailey was originally scheduled to be in this match, but he had issues with getting into the United States from Canada (we've heard that story before surrounding other Canadian competitors) that prevented him from being here. This was a pretty crazy hardcore brawl, which should come as no surprise, considering who was involved. There were a number of insane moments throughout, and all sorts of weapons were utilized, such as Tables, Ladders, Chairs, Kendo Sticks, and Trash Cans. I should point out that this was Pentagon Jr.'s second match on this card, as he had wrestled in the opener. It wasn't the best match on the show, but it was incredibly entertaining from start to finish. Putting this as the final contest on the show might be a little questionable, but it was still fun to watch regardless. Everyone involved in this one worked out, and they ended up producing a very enjoyable main event. Jeff Hardy would score the win after hitting a Swanton Bomb off a Ladder onto Pentagon Jr. to close out the show.

Overall: 8.0/10

This was a very interesting show. There was certainly a massive disparity in the match quality up and down the card. You had a number of truly awesome matches (Marty Scurll vs. Will Ospreay, the two Six-Man Tags, and the Monster's Ball) scattered throughout the show, and they're all matches that are worth checking out. However, there were also a number of matches that were either average/decent or, in the case of the Ten-Man Tag, downright awful. They really dragged down this card in my eyes, especially that aforementioned Ten-Man Tag with Team Jeff Jarrett vs. Team Joey Ryan. That was pure garbage, mainly because of The Jarrett's, who were simply awful. Aside from that, the majority of this show was actually very good. Nothing really set the world on fire, but it was mostly entertaining. WrestleCon's SuperShow has become known for producing some incredibly cool and unique matches, and aside from one or two dark spots, this show definitely delivered on that promise.