As we steamroll on to both SummerSlam and All Out, WWE and AEW have given us yet another week of programming to watch and digest. There were entertaining moments and matches, and as always, there were moments and matches that simply make you want to kick your grandmother down a flight of stairs. It is my job to go through all of that shenaniganery and ask the questions that need to be asked. Because you clicked a link to be here, I’m assuming you’re ready to rock and roll, so let’s not waste any more time, shall we?
Is MJF really a legit AEW World Title contender? The reason I ask is because he doesn’t come across like it. He’s one of the top heels in the company, without a doubt, but that is 99.4% due to his character work and his promos. Go ahead and think about every AEW match he’s had. How many big, memorable moments has he had? How many big wins has he had? His win over Cody is his biggest victory, and that was six months ago. Griff Garrison, Marko Stunt, Lee Johnson, and a nearly 58-year-old Billy Gunn are some of his recent wins, and that isn’t exactly building a big portfolio. Another week of MJF talking the big talk, only to be treated like an absolute nincompoop once Jon Moxley was in the same ring. Even with the good promo work from MJF, this feels like a World Champion taking on a midcard, at best, challenger. Now that I’ve said that, expect MJF to win the title at All Out.
Is everything on the line for Brodie Lee and The Dark Order against Cody? I’ve seen the chitter chatter on social media, so I know I’m not alone in this, but it sure seems like The Dark Order lose every match they participate in. There was a lot of potential there, even more so when Brodie Lee made his AEW debut to lead the faction, but it just hasn’t materialized into much yet. With Lee naming himself as Cody’s next challenger for the TNT Title, how important is it that he picks up the win? How are we supposed to take them seriously if nobody in The Dark Order can win matches when they count? It’s starting to become similar to WWE’s formula for Bray Wyatt with the big talk, followed by a loss in pretty much every feud ending match or title opportunity he gets. Again, now that I’ve said all this, go ahead and pencil in Brodie Lee as the next TNT Champion.
Are we about to see some real tag team greatness? Now that we have an official heel turn for Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler, I’m expecting great things from FTR. They’re now working for a promotion that will (hopefully) let them be themselves and do their thing without limits or restraints like they often found themselves dealing with in WWE. Kenny Omega and Hangman Page. The Young Bucks. Whatever combination of SCU you want. Private Party. Whatever combination of Jurassic Express you want. Santana and Ortiz. Best Friends. Lucha Brothers. That’s just the tip of the iceberg of the great tag team talent on the AEW roster, all of whom could have some very good-to-great matches with FTR, who many feel are the best tag team in the business today. If AEW really wants to do something to help their product stand out from anything WWE puts on, working hard to deliver a deep, multi-layered tag division is a great way to do it.
Did the match between Chris Jericho and Orange Cassidy live up to the hype that the build created? I don’t think it did, but I also don’t think it was ever expected to be a five-star classic. The build was fun and entertaining, and while both men are more than capable in the ring, I think it was more about the story than the need to have a Match Of The Year candidate. That’s fine every now and then. It wasn’t a feud over a title, pushing the actual championship to the back burner. Fans got the feel-good moment of Cassidy winning and seeing the arrogant heel get his comeuppance. Isn’t that what pro wrestling is in its purest and simplest form?
Why is AEW such a roller coaster ride these days? If you can look at things objectively and aren’t just slobbing the knob of your favorite promotion, you should be able to see a lot of consistency, for better or worse, with WWE programming. Raw and Smackdown are, far more often than not, a chore to get through, but they’ll have an episode every now and again that is actually pretty decent. NXT is the opposite, as they’re pretty good most of the time, but every now and then will have an episode that doesn’t really live up to their standards. Dynamite, on the other hand, is often all over the map. They’ll have great episodes, poor episodes, boring episodes, decent episodes, and newsworthy episodes, and you never really know what you’re going to get when you tune in to watch. Is it a simple enough thing to just chalk it up to them being a new company, with new people running it and helping to produce television every week? I’m not saying they’re in trouble, that they’re going to fall off of a cliff, or any kind of doomsday prediction that some people make when AEW doesn’t do something “right” in their opinion. As a matter of fact, it’s quite the opposite. I think the company is doing a great job overall, trying to build their fan base in these uniquely trying times. Whenever this country can get its shit together, maybe sometime in 2024, I think AEW is just primed to explode once wrestling is able to take place in arenas full of people again. It’s just strange to see the ups and the downs on a seemingly weekly basis at this point, that’s all.
A fireball? As all of you should know by this stage of your lives, fire is very dangerous and very unpredictable. Through the years, we’ve seen fire used in wrestling in various ways, but a lot of the time, it can’t be used to the proper effect. We’re not trying to legitimately kill, maim, and injure people, of course. “Fireballs” will be shot at people, and the fire clearly didn’t come close to touching skin, but they have to sell it as if they landed face-first in an active volcano. With the latest fire usage, I wasn’t a fan, but I guess I didn’t hate it, either. Scarlett did a good job in slipping the flash paper (or thermite or whatever the hell they used) into the clipboard before handing it back to Keith Lee, and Lee did his best to sell being hit by the flame. The use of fire in the first place makes a lot of sense with Karrion Kross and his character. It just wasn’t for me. My excitement over their match is still very high. Again… this just wasn’t for me.
Has Drake Maverick’s momentum already come to an end? Regardless of your thoughts on WWE using real life losses of employment in their storylines, there’s no denying that Drake Maverick was one of the most talked-about people in wrestling for a bit earlier this year. What happened since the end of the NXT Cruiserweight Title Tournament? Well, in the three months since the tournament’s final match, Maverick has wrestled a grand total of twice… being on the losing end of a six-man tag, and then having a match declared a No Contest almost immediately after outside interference. That’s it. Do I think Drake should’ve been pushed to the moon and won the NXT Title, or an even bigger title? No, of course not. You have to capitalize on momentum, though, don’t you? Push the guy that people are cheering for and talking about. That should be common sense for wrestling companies, but as we’ve seen, that sense isn’t as common as you think. Sometimes, when I really think about some of the decisions that get made, I find myself absolutely flabbergasted.
Am I wrong in thinking that Santos Escobar could be a major player on the main roster sooner than later? He’s as close to a Mexican Cartel leader as you can get under the family-friendly WWE umbrella, but it’s working. He carries himself like a superstar, from his promo work to the way he dresses to his in-ring work. The only issue I can see as far as pushing him in the future is the fact that he’s 36 years old, with 20 years of experience as a wrestler. That means you can’t lollygag and take your time. He is, arguably, the most consistent performer on the NXT roster right now, and if he’s going to remain there, I can certainly see his push continuing. What do you all think of the possibility of him being on Raw or Smackdown, though? There are two rosters full of opponents that he has never wrestled, or at least never wrestled in this company, so it’s all fresh, exciting potential matches. More eyeballs would be on his work, which is always a good thing. Call me crazy, but I just want to see it happen. Well, I kind of want to see it happen. We all know Vince McMahon and his… ways. Escobar will get called up and be the newest member of Lucha House Party within a week, and I’ll have to judo chop a squirrel in the throat. I’m just rambling at this point.
Is it time to take Cameron Grimes seriously? He has been portrayed as this almost silly character since arriving in NXT, but after getting by KUSHIDA and The Velveteen Dream (more on him in a bit) to qualify for the Ladder Match at Takeover, and a (relatively) recent record that includes victories over the likes of Damian Priest, Finn Balor, and Dominik Dijakovic, maybe he starts to get treated like more of a serious threat. If you look at the competitors that will, and could, be involved in the Ladder Match, Grimes really starts to stand out more and more. Balor certainly doesn’t need the North American Title, although his star power could be attractive to “boost” it. Putting the title on Dream seems even more tone deaf (again, more on that in a bit). It’s way too early for Ridge Holland to have any championships right now. They seem like they’re building to Priest and Bronson Reed destroying each other somehow. That leaves Johnny Gargano, but like with Balor, you could argue that he doesn’t need it. The one guy who could truly benefit from winning the title at this point in time is Grimes. I’d like to see it. As is tradition for me in the last few years, I must now vaguely mention that Grimes nearly broke my leg at an indy event a few years back, but that’s another story for another day.
Was this the right time to bring The Velveteen Dream back? After all of the internet brouhaha about the disgusting behavior displayed by numerous members of the wrestling world, Dream needed to be pulled from NXT programming for a bit, and for good reason. The accusations against him were bad enough that his entire career was potentially hanging in the balance. After being gone for two-and-a-half months, his return was met with almost immediate vitriol from all around the internet. Look… I’m not here to declare anybody innocent or guilty. That’s not my job. WWE has since come out and said they investigated the claims against Patrick Clark, and they didn’t find any evidence of wrongdoing, so they brought him back. That’s what you’re supposed to do as a company, at the very least. There’s just… so much… going on, and with at least one of his accusers saying that WWE never contacted them in any way during their investigation, the optics continue to look bad. I’m not even sure what you do here if you’re WWE. If they truly did their research, and if they truly found no evidence that Clark did anything wrong, you have to bring him back, but when? This isn’t the type of thing that will disappear on its own with time, allowing him to return at some point with people forgetting what did or didn’t happen. There is always going to be a portion of wrestling fans who feel he’s guilty, guilty, guilty on all counts. For those people, there is no “safe” return period. Not after two-and-a-half months, and not after two-and-a-half decades. Again, it’s not my job to say whether or not WWE did their homework and thoroughly investigated everything. What’s easy to say is that WWE has far too much on the line here to screw things up on that monumental a level. Can you imagine what’s going to happen if more accusations come out against the man, and this time, 10000% rock solid proof is provided? WWE, from the top down, is going to be dismantled. They’ll never be viewed the same. Lawsuits will come from left and right. The entire situation is a sad and unfortunate one, but that’s where we are as a society these days. I just don’t know if this was the right time to bring him back. Even if he’s truly innocent, it’s still a bad look right now, ESPECIALLY with the Velveteen Dream gimmick being so sexually suggestive. What say you, Hustlemaniacs? What are your thoughts on this delicate topic?
Do we really need to have the same women involved in every title picture? I’m a big fan of Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Asuka. They have great in-ring chemistry together, and that produces some very good matches. WWE’s main roster has three title pictures for their women, which means that you would have at least eight women involved in those title pictures at any given time. The Raw Women’s Title match at SummerSlam is Sasha Banks vs Asuka. The Smackdown Women’s Title match at SummerSlam is Bayley vs Asuka. It could be argued that the Women’s Tag Team Title match at Payback will be Sasha Banks and Bayley vs Asuka and Shayna Baszler. There are far too many women on these rosters for this to be the case. What happens after SummerSlam? Is Asuka a dual champion, where the entire thing just continues on with the same people being involved? Does Asuka lose both title matches, and if so, does that damage her at all? Does she win one title, but fail to win the other, which still technically keeps the same three women involved in title matches? WWE is in danger of writing themselves into a corner, which they seem to do a lot more frequently than they should.
Hair vs Hair? I’m going to say something, completely aware of how selfish and shallow it’s going to sound. I think both Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville are beautiful women, and I don’t want to see either of them lose their hair and be bald. For all I know, they could pull the look off. Serena Deeb was able to pull that look off when she was a member of CM Punk’s Straight Edge Society. It’s just not my personal cup of tea. In the story, it makes perfect sense for this to be the match we’re building to, after Sonya chopped some of Mandy’s hair off after a backstage kerfuffle. You have to assume that Sonya takes the loss at SummerSlam, as WWE trips all over themselves to tell the world how stunningly gorgeous Mandy is 50 times during every episode of Smackdown, but this is always an intriguing match stipulation for women to have in their matches.
Do you think we’ll ever see Abyss in a WWE ring? Even if it ends up being a one-time thing, which I don’t think is the case, it was fun to see Chris Park (aka Joseph Park aka Abyss of TNA and Impact Wrestling fame) on WWE programming. There is history between him and AJ Styles, so it’s almost a natural pairing to have them together, and after one episode, it’s working wonders. With Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson gone from the company, AJ needed another “partner” to be silly with, and the Park character allows AJ to really shine in that regard. The question that everyone is asking now, though, is whether or not we’ll eventually get an appearance from Abyss. He’s going to be 47 years old soon, and is coming up on two years since he has performed in a match, but it’s not as though he’d be required to wrestle a 45-minute classic. For fuck’s sake, he wouldn’t even have to wrestle. Just have Styles verbally abuse Park for a period of time, and maybe throw some minor physical things like slaps, face mushes, finger pokes to the chest, etc. At some point, Park would lose it and say that “he” isn’t going to be happy with AJ. A week or two later, AJ is looking for Park, but he’s nowhere to be found. Then, the lights turn colors, and Abyss arrives, ready to kill AJ like the modern day catawampus that he is. Something like that would be perfectly fine. We don’t need Abyss to come out of nowhere and Goldberg himself into winning the Universal Title or anything.
Can we use a time machine to go back before Retribution was a thing? I know I don’t speak for all of you, but I’m feeling pretty bamboozled over this whole Retribution malarkey. There was a lot of potential with the entire thing, but the Dungeon Of Gloom has been a disaster from the beginning. As I’ve said on multiple occasions now, we’re talking about a group of people that appear to be no bigger than your average 14-year-old, and they’re supposed to be running roughshod on a professional wrestling roster full of monsters and behemoths? Throwing cinder blocks for no reason, kicking overturned cars, poorly spray painting things… it’s all laughable. Then, on top of that, why in the red hell would WWE continue to have video packages for The Junior Varsity Club to recap what they’ve done? When some idiot runs out onto the field during a sporting event, cameras don’t show them, let alone continue showing footage of them for weeks to come. The worst part about it is that WWE can’t just scrap the entire thing with no payoff of any kind. They’ve dedicated this much time to The Dynamic Duds, so they have to keep it going, but it’s already becoming more stale than three-month-old pumpernickel. Oy vey.
Can we use that same time machine to go back before this Braun Strowman, Alexa Bliss, and Bray Wyatt nonsense? *deep, exasperated sigh* So… was that a double turn? More atrocious “acting” from Braun Strowman, hitting Alexa Bliss with a press, and Bray Wyatt coming out to make the save? In any other wrestling story, that would’ve been a clear cut heel turn for Braun and a clear cut face turn for Bray. I’ve seen people ask for a face turn for Bray, saying that there should be some sort of chemistry between him and Alexa, but do we need another “Beauty and the Beast” story on the same show where Otis and Mandy Rose are already telling that story? While a heel Strowman can be successful, every bit of potential success is going to be undone whenever he cuts a promo with that stupid fucking voice that he’s trying to use to prove that he’s this evil monster. Is this a good time to remind everyone that Braun is the Universal Champion, which means that title is tied up in this idiocy? For the love of everything holy, can we put this to an end at SummerSlam and let everyone move on with their lives?
So when does Zelina Vega get sent to prison? Suspension of disbelief, yadda yadda ya. I get that. It’s just dumb when wrestling involves attacks and plots that go above and beyond your usual “have a match in the ring and fight” fare. When you have videos of people poisoning others, then having the poisoned people pass out and need to be taken to the hospital, you have to wonder where the line is drawn. Why not just have Andrade and Angel Garza straight up murder Angelo Dawkins? Street Profits can’t be the Raw Tag Team Champions anymore if one of them is dead. Then you could say “suspension of disbelief” and, boom, Andrade and Garza don’t have to face charges for a murder, and you could just bring Dawkins back at a later date under a mask, or just say that they had to fake his death and send him into witness protection for a while because he witnessed some other heinous acts they tried to commit. Do you see how ridiculous that sounds? We don’t need poisonings. Just have them attack him backstage and “injure” him. Come on.
You brought Mickie James back for that? Mickie is a surefire WWE Hall Of Fame inductee one day. She’s been out of action for over 14 months after tearing an ACL last summer. You brought her back last week and had it announced that she was back and ready to go. Her return match was a count-out loss in three minutes, where a large chunk of the match itself wasn’t even shown on camera, as we were all distracted by Seth Rollins and Murphy making their way to the announce desk. Why? What’s the point of that? Give her some wins and momentum, and put her in one of the title pictures. Something. Anything.
You brought up Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke for that? Shafir and Duke are damn sure not on the level of Mickie James with their in-ring work. In fact, if we’re being honest with each other, neither of them are even close to being ready to wrestle on the main roster. If we’re going to have them used in Raw Underground, at least that makes sense with their MMA backgrounds. Shafir picked up a win, and then… got dropped by Nia Jax. Jessamyn Duke tried to step up, and then… got dropped by Nia Jax. Both Shafir and Duke stayed down for a long time, while we got a tease of a Underground match between Jax and Shayna Baszler that never happened. Nia’s big and bad. We get it, WWE. She could’ve just beaten up random women at Underground and that point would’ve been made clear. I guess, if we’re going to look for the bright side to things, neither woman was legitimately injured by Jax. So, we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.
We couldn’t get one match without interference or a screwy finish? Let’s do a little rundown, shall we? Apollo Crews vs Shelton Benjamin featured a distraction by R-Truth and Akira Tozawa. Ivar vs Angel Garza featured interference and distraction by Zelina Vega and Andrade. Mickie James vs Natalya featured a distraction (of sorts) by Seth Rollins and Murphy. Asuka and Shayna Baszler vs Sasha Banks and Bayley featured interference by Nia Jax. Ruby Riott vs Peyton Royce featured interference by Liv Morgan and Billie Kay. Apollo Crews, Ricochet, and Mustafa Ali vs The Hurt Business featured interference (of sorts) by Cedric Alexander. Cedric Alexander vs Akira Tozawa featured interference by one of Tozawa’s ninja buddies. Montez Ford vs Andrade featured a distraction by Zelina Vega and Bianca Belair. There was even “interference” and “screwy endings” to promos, segments, and Raw Underground fights. What in the name of WCW Monday Nitro was this discombobulated mess of a show?
What do all these legends think is going to happen when they talk to the Legend Killer? Whenever Randy Orton is using the Legend Killer gimmick, why is that when legends of all sorts suddenly want to show up on WWE programming to have a chat with him? They show up, have some words, and then he lays them out. If you knew someone named David “Dick Puncher” McGee, and you went to have some sort of tense discussion with him, do you know what’s going to happen? At some point, you’re going to get punched in the dick, and it will be all your fault. Now imagine if you talked to him, then got punched in the dick, only for your brother to go talk to him, and then he gets punched in the dick, too. Then, of course, your uncle wants some answers, so he goes to talk to him and gets punched in the dick, which infuriates your cousin, who goes to talk to him and gets punched in the dick. Now your friends are mad, so they go and talk to him, only to get punched in the dick. WHEN WILL YOU LEARN THAT YOUR ACTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES?!?
There you have it. It’s about time for me to hit the old dusty trail and skedaddle. Another week is in the books, but the upcoming week will be a very interesting one, from Dynamite airing on a different day to NXT Takeover and SummerSlam taking place this weekend. Speaking of that… I’ve been promising my longtime readers a fun surprise that I would deliver on the day of SummerSlam, but I’ve decided to change those plans a bit. Now, that same surprise will not only be taking place on the day of SummerSlam, but also on the day of NXT Takeover. Maybe some of you can already figure out what the surprise will be. Hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and tell me what you thought about what we saw this week. I shall see you all in a few days. Until next time… I got the Godfather flow, the Don Juan DeMarco.
This Week’s Playlist: “American Superstar” by Flo Rida & Lil Wayne… “Take You There” by Sean Kingston… “I’m Sprung” by T-Pain… “Let’s Go” by Trick Daddy, Twista & Lil Jon… “I’m A Thug” by Trick Daddy… “Take It To Da House” by Trick Daddy, Trina & SNS Express… “Scarred” by Uncle Luke, Trick Daddy & Verb… “Hustlin” by Rick Ross… “Get Away” by Rick Ross & Mario Winans… “Here I Am” by Rick Ross, Nelly & Avery Storm… “B.M.F.” by Rick Ross & Styles P… “Aston Martin Music” by Rick Ross, Drake & Chrisette Michele… “Bugatti” by Ace Hood, Rick Ross & Future… “Sumo” by Denzel Curry… “Treat U Better” by J-Shin… “I Like It” by Sammie… “Crazy Things I Do” by Sammie… “Want To Want Me” by Jason Derulo… “Culo” by Pitbull & Lil Jon… “Toma” by Pitbull & Lil Jon