Normally, when I post a column, it consists of three different sections. The main topic, my Weekly Power Rankings, and then the playlist of songs I was listening to during the creation of the column. Simple enough.
This week is going to be different, but only out of necessity. I tested positive for COVID last week, and it’s still beating my ass, so I haven’t had time to write a “main topic” at all. It is currently 12:23am on Wednesday, October 5th, approximately 12 or so hours before I usually like my columns to be posted, and I just now finished watching the televised wrestling for the week. For this column only, I’ll simply beef up the Power Rankings a bit and use that as the main topic. Joe Pesci willing, I’ll be back to normal for next week’s column.
Let’s rock. Fuck COVID.
Weekly Power Rankings
Chris Jericho vs Bandido: Overall, this was one of the worst weeks of AEW programming that I can remember. A lot of clunky matches, even clunkier promos, and weird moments, in general. Now imagine how poor the week would’ve been if this match didn’t deliver, and man, deliver it did. I don’t know if it’s because he didn’t want to be tied down right now, or if wrestling promoters are all universally stupid, but it’s still insane that Bandido wasn’t signed to a major deal before this match took place. He is so, so good. At least he has remained busy. With his AEW debut, he has now wrestled at least one match for 18 different promotions and production groups in 2022, and the year isn’t over yet. There was word that WWE was sniffing around and seeing if he would be open to signing with them, so it wouldn’t have shocked me if he added WWE/NXT to that list before calendars hit 2023. It is now being reported that Tony Khan has finally been able to get Bandido signed to an AEW contract, though. He looked like a million bucks in this match, and Chris Jericho, to his credit, played a big part in that. Kudos to Jericho for bumping his ass off here.
Extreme Rules: First and foremost, I’m well aware that not having the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship on the card is rough. Hell, not having the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion on the card at all is even rougher. However, WWE has done a great job in giving us what is, on paper, a tremendous card. So far, with only one episode of Smackdown left until the show, there have been six announced matches, and all six of them are actually “Extreme” matches with stipulations attached to them. There’s an “I Quit” Match, a “Good Old Fashioned Donnybrook” Match, a Ladder Match, a Strap Match, an Extreme Rules match, and a match taking place inside of the Fight Pit. In case you’re curious, last year’s edition of Extreme Rules had seven matches, counting the pre-show, and only one of them had an official “Extreme” stipulation, and that was the main event that saw Roman Reigns face Finn Balor in an Extreme Rules match. If you want to be nice, you can add the Triple Threat between Damian Priest, Sheamus, and Jeff Hardy to the list. It didn’t have a stipulation added, but Triple Threats in wrestling don’t feature disqualifications or count outs, which opens the door for a lot. You’d have to go back to 2010 and 2011 to find the last time Extreme Rules events saw every match on the card have an added stipulation or match type, and both of those years saw regular matches on the pre-show. 2009 saw every announced main show match feature something, but if you want to be super technical, CM Punk cashed in his Money In The Bank title shot on Jeff Hardy to end the night, and that was a regular match. It’s pretty clear that WWE wanted to put the focus back on the Extreme part of Extreme Rules this year.
Drew McIntyre, Kevin Owens & Johnny Gargano vs Austin Theory & Alpha Academy: It has been a great last few years for matches that, in one way or another, are more than just singles or regular tag bouts. AEW has done such a great job of making six-man tag matches that they had to introduce Trios Titles to make that an entire division. Don’t sleep on WWE at all in that category, though. They continue to do great work when it comes to Triple Threats, Fatal Four Ways, Six-Man Tags, and matches of that nature. It can be a main event for the top title, or like this, a television match thrown together at the last minute. This one was really helped by having six of the better workers, and most over performers, on the roster (yes, even Otis) involved. That’s the type of no-brainer that every wrestling company loves. You don’t have to overthink anything. In fact, you don’t have to think much at all. Just send the wrestlers out, give them the time they need, and let them shine. Novel concept.
White Rabbit: By now, I think it’s pretty safe to say that most of us are in agreement that Bray Wyatt is going to end up being revealed as the person behind all this White Rabbit shenaniganery. Your opinion on that, and on Wyatt himself, doesn’t really matter here. WWE has really put in a lot of work in making this viral-type marketing look unlike just about anything they’ve done in a long, long time. After the last however-many years of the “Vince McMahon Era” made everything staler than year-old bread, I appreciate the company’s efforts to roll the dice and try something different once again.
Pretty Deadly vs Brawling Brutes: Welcome to the latest episode of NXT UK! In all seriousness, this was a lot of fun. It was a simple, yet effective, tag match that saw everyone play their parts role. Pretty Deadly are great in their cowardly heel roles and are heat magnets, no matter what continent they’re wrestling on. Butch and Ridge Holland, on the other hand, seem to be freshly rejuvenated now that they’re working as faces without having officially turned face. The match seeing interference from Ludwig Kaiser and Giovanni Vinci made perfect sense and helped further their feud with the Brutes. No complaints here.
Rey Mysterio & AJ Styles vs Finn Balor & Damian Priest: I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating… I’m glad I was wrong about The Judgment Day being dead in the water. Like many of you, I thought they were done for when Edge returned and helped The Mysterios beat Balor and Priest at SummerSlam. We figured Edge would then return to the ring and send the heels to another defeat, and that’s what he did, both on an episode of Raw in August and then at Clash At The Castle. When Dominik Mysterio turned heel at CatC, it appeared as though he was doing so and going solo as he didn’t align himself with Judgment Day and simply left the ring on his own. Since the Clash, though, the group has looked very strong, wreaking havoc all over Raw. They looked strong here, but I’m worried about where this stuff between Balor and AJ Styles is going. It certainly looks like the return of Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson could be imminent, as they’ll be the backup for their Bullet Club/O.C. buddy, Styles, as he continues to need help against The Judgment Day. Sure, some people are going to love that, but I won’t be one of them. It has been a while since I’ve enjoyed a match featuring Gallows and Anderson, unfortunately, and I don’t see that changing just because they would be returning to WWE under new management. We’ll see, I guess.
Ricochet & Madcap Moss vs Sami Zayn & Solo Sikoa: On one side, you have two men that, at one point, looked like they could be in line for bigger pushes as faces on Smackdown. Then, on the other side, you have two men that are putting in some of the best overall work of their careers. This was another easy peasy match to put together and let play out. In another world, Ricochet and Moss would be pushed more, but the storyline with The Bloodline and Sami Zayn is just too good, and too layered, to take a backseat to that right now. It remains fascinating to watch the story unfold. I love that Sami has an entirely different relationship with Roman Reigns, Jimmy Uso, Jey Uso, Solo Sikoa, and Paul Heyman. We know that Sami is going to get his heart broken by the group at some point, but they’re still sucking people in along the way. Adding one official and one unofficial member to the group also allows for WWE to continue having Roman Reigns involved in the show without needing him to wrestle all the time, which is obviously what they’re aiming for.
Jon Moxley vs Juice Robinson: Another thing I’ve said in the past is that Juice Robinson deserves all the credit in the world for the in-ring and character work improvements he has made through the years. It’s like a night and day difference when you watch him now and you compare it to his early days in Florida Championship Wrestling as CJ Parker. We knew he wasn’t going to defeat Moxley here, even though Juice has beaten Mox in New Japan, but at least the match was good. Perhaps the live crowd wasn’t quite as hot on the match as I was, because they didn’t seem to react to much of anything about Juice, from his entrance to the match itself. That’s a shame, especially since the rumor is that Tony Khan is strongly looking to add Juice to the AEW roster.
Braun Strowman vs Chad Gable: Maybe he’s extra motivated because he’s wrestling in front of big crowds again. Perhaps it’s because he has worked very hard to transform his body and put himself in the best shape of his career. Maybe it’s because new WWE management really likes him. Perhaps it’s all of the above, or at least some combination of them. Whatever it is, Braun Strowman’s matches have been a lot more enjoyable for me since he returned to WWE. As long as he stays as far as physically possible away from Shane McMahon, Braun is going to do big things… again… for the company. I would be a fool if I didn’t drop some praise on Chad Gable, too. As long as the person he’s wrestling has an actual pulse, Gable is going to be able to have a good match with them. He’s a WWE Champion if he was half-a-foot taller. My goodness, that German Suplex he hit Braun with? One of the more physically impressive spots you’ll see.
Angelo Dawkins vs Solo Sikoa: Lost in all of the “Montez Ford could be a future WWE Champion” talk has been just how much Angelo Dawkins has improved in the ring. He continues to put on good, entertaining, motivated performances in his matches, both of the solo and tag variety. His hot streak continued here against one of the hotter young acts in all of WWE right now. The question now is just what was up with Montez Ford’s foot injury. He appeared on Raw in a walking boot, but Fightful is reporting that said walking boot was brought to the arena by WWE’s prop department. That doesn’t mean Ford isn’t actually injured. It simply implies that there might be more than meets the eye here. There is already a lot of speculation that it will be the latest chapter in the “will they or won’t they” story about a Street Profits breakup. Time to hurry up and wait.
Daniel Cormier: If you’re going to try and blend the colorful worlds of pro wrestling and sports entertainment with the in-your-face violence of MMA, there aren’t many people that are better suited to be involved than Daniel Cormier. He’s a huge wrestling fan with a wonderfully colorful personality (although that might have been tough to tell because of that weird Zoom promo on Raw), but he is also one of the most decorated MMA fighters of the last decade-plus, winning Heavyweight Titles in UFC, Strikeforce, King Of The Cage, and XMMA, plus having a UFC Light Heavyweight Title reign to boot. He’s a great choice to be the Special Guest Referee inside the Fight Pit as Matt Riddle and Seth Rollins battle it out.
Bobby Lashley vs Mustafa Ali: Obviously, Mustafa Ali wasn’t going to come out of nowhere and end Bobby Lashley’s epic United States Title reign, but he didn’t get stomped out in under a minute, either, so… hooray? No, he actually looked strong at times here, especially at the end. He’s damn near on the opposite end of the card as Lashley, so it wouldn’t have surprised anyone if he tapped out in the Hurt Lock. Instead of tapping, though, he held on and fought until he passed out from the pain. That’s the type of small booking decision that can help create a star in a loss. No, I’m not saying Ali is now the next “Stone Cold” Steve Austin here, but my point remains. Will WWE follow through on this and push Ali? Based on their track record, the answer is pretty clear, but maybe Triple H sees more in Ali than Vince McMahon ever did.
John Silver vs Rush: I like John Silver and Rush. With that out of the way, can you imagine if this was the main event of Dynamite? No, you can’t. You know where you can imagine them main eventing? Rampage, because that’s exactly where this match happened to close the show. Are you kidding me? AEW continues to make Rampage look insanely weak, all while continuing to stack episodes of Dynamite like pay-per-views on a regular basis. No knock on Silver and Rush, because they were able to have a good one here. It just isn’t something that should be the main event of AEW programming right now, no matter what.
Dominik Mysterio: He continues to get some crazy heel heat from live crowds. I don’t think even his biggest supporters backstage thought he would get these types of reactions. Not this soon, anyway. He just seems so comfortable out there, which is wild when you consider just how many people wouldn’t be able to concentrate if they had Rhea Ripley rubbing up on them and whispering in their ear all the time. I would like to see Dom get some more chances to wrestle as a heel, though. He has only competed once since his heel turn, and that was a really good performance against Edge on the September 12th episode of Raw. He has had a chance to grow and improve as a heel on the mic and during vignettes, but I’d like to see him grow and improve as a heel in the ring, too. It’s only fair.
Nikkita Lyons & Zoey Stark vs Toxic Attraction: Nikkita Lyons is someone I figured might fall back a bit when NXT started changing back to more of the “Black & Gold” vibe, but I’ll be damned… she’s still on television, and she’s still involved in winning matches. With their victory here, Lyons and Stark have earned a future shot at the NXT Women’s Tag Team Titles, currently held by Katana Chance and Kayden Carter. While I can’t say I’m expecting a five-star classic out of that one, I am intrigued to see what NXT will do with Lyons and Stark there. Lyons isn’t anywhere near ready to be a champion right now, but her size and offense are going to make her a very formidable foe for Chance and Carter, who are both “small” by just about every definition of the word. Stark is a wild card here. Wikipedia says that she’s 28 years old, but we know that Wikipedia can often be wrong. When you look long enough at her face, there’s no way she’s a day under 53, but she continues to move well for her apparent age. A possible option for the challengers would be a heel turn. That could be fun. Then again, the champions could end up retaining their titles and quickly moving on to a new set of challengers, and we’d end up getting Stark vs Lyons as a new feud. I don’t know. What I do know is that Toxic Attraction need to be called up to Raw or Smackdown soon. Gigi Dolin and Jacy Jayne don’t need a third reign as the NXT Women’s Tag Team Champions. As soon as Mandy Rose drops the NXT Women’s Title, whenever the hell that might be, I fully expect to see the entire group moved to Monday or Friday nights. It is time.
This Week’s Playlist: “Feel No Pain” by Freddie Gibbs, Anderson .Paak & Raekwon… “PYS” by Freddie Gibbs & DJ Paul… “The Dying Song (Time To Sing)” by Slipknot… “The Chapeltown Rag” by Slipknot… “Hive Mind” by Slipknot… “Medicine for the Dead” by Slipknot… “Catastrophic” by Bubba Sparxxx… “Pain Remains II: After All I’ve Done, I’ll Disappear” by Lorna Shore… “Envidia” by Gracchus… “Choose U” by Project Pat… “Tell Tell Tell (Stop Snitchin)” by Project Pat, Young Jeezy, Lyfe Jennings & Mr. Bigg… “Crack A Head” by Project Pat… “Good Googly Moogly” by Project Pat & Three 6 Mafia… “Never Scared” by Bone Crusher, T.I. & Killer Mike… “Never Scared (The Takeover Remix)” by Bone Crusher, Cam’ron, Jadakiss & Busta Rhymes