I would like to congratulate everyone reading these words for making it through another week. Not even counting everything else going on in the world, this was a busy and unique week for WWE and AEW. We had extra shows, shows airing on different dates, and shows undergoing a transformation. We have a lot to talk about, so let’s get to talking.
How lucky is Johnny Gargano? That was quite the scary bump Johnny Wrestling took during his match against Ridge Holland. He was dumped square on his head and neck, and seemingly knocked loopy for a bit (at least with what we saw in the edited footage), but didn’t appear to suffer any real injury beyond that. Wrestling has seen far too many deaths and injuries related to head and neck trauma, so it’s glad to see we apparently avoided having another one to add to that list.
Is Jessi Kamea the clear leader of Retribution? Lord knows there are more than enough people for WWE to use in segments, from roster members to trainees to local talent brought in as extras. With that said, there’s no excuse to have someone with very distinct hair used in Retribution segments, and then to have that same person randomly wrestling in NXT. Do I expect Kamea to end up being a member of the group when all is said and done? No. That isn’t the point I’m trying to make. My point is that WWE has access to numerous women they could have used for those Retribution shots that didn’t have easily recognizable hair. Can you imagine if we saw a big, beefy Retribution member that had a mask on, but had their hoodie pulled off to reveal a gigantic sword tattoo on their chest? Or terribly pale skin and bright orange hair?
Does Pat McAfee need to tone his promos down a bit? I was a huge fan of what McAfee was able to do in his match at Takeover (more on that later), but his promos are interesting to me. On one hand, he seems very comfortable talking, to the surprise of no one who has experienced him before. On the other hand, his promo skills are going to border on the line of being corny because he speaks like a wrestling villain from the 80’s. That style isn’t going to work in this day and age. He’s got all the charisma in the world. He can cut wrestling promos and get hated by people without sounding like he was heel fodder for Hulk Hogan in the early days of Hulkamania. Obviously, nothing I’m saying here means anything if McAfee’s match was just a one-off thing and he isn’t going to stick around, even in the short-term.
Is it a mistake to not have Finn Balor in the higher-profile match at Takeover? In a match featuring some of the more up-and-coming stars of the NXT brand, I think the North American Title Ladder Match could’ve used the star power that Balor brings to the table. I think it just makes sense to have a former Universal Champion in the match, as beating him helps build the winner’s profile more. Keep in mind that this paragraph is only about me thinking the Ladder Match needed some added star power. It has nothing to do with all the other reasons people think Balor should’ve won this match on NXT. For THAT discussion, let’s say…
Should NXT do something about The Velveteen Dream? I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but you simply cannot talk about what’s happening in NXT without talking about the controversy going on with The Velveteen Dream. WWE’s stance has been that they’ve investigated the accusations against Dream and basically found no wrongdoing, or at least not enough to justify firing him. Meanwhile, those who have been accusing him have doubled down on what they’ve said, with some saying they were never contacted by WWE in whatever investigation the company was doing. Words simply can’t express the problems that WWE will be facing if they’re trying to sweep this stuff under the rug just because they feel Dream has a big future in the business. Let’s play pretend for a moment, shall we? Let’s say you’re WWE, you did all the research you possibly could, and you still found no actual wrongdoing by Patrick Clark. Let’s say the screenshots and clips we’ve all seen and heard are either fake or doctored. People feel a certain way about the guy right now. People believe those screenshots and clips. You saying he’s basically off the hook for everything doesn’t sit right with a large percentage of your fan base. It’s a percentage that seems to be growing all the time. Is bringing him back right now worth the controversy? Is it worth alienating that percentage of the fan base? Is it worth pushing them away from your product? Let’s not forget that NXT is already losing the Wednesday Night War against AEW at the moment, regularly drawing less total viewers and rating demographics on a weekly basis. Is it worth pushing more fans away from watching your product, and potentially over to AEW and/or other promotions out there? Now, before some of you chime in about how Clark should be allowed to do what he does if he’s truly innocent, trust me that I understand that point. I just don’t see how the risk is worth whatever reward there is at this exact moment in time. If you aren’t going to fire him, the absolute least you can do is change his gimmick a bit. It’s insanely tone deaf, with everything that has been thrown around, for him to still be on television and continuing on with the overly sexual themes of his gimmick. This is one of those scenarios where there is no true “right” answer, as WWE is going to upset people no matter what decision they make. “Cancel culture” is a huge deal these days. You have one side who wants Dream to be “canceled”, and who will be mad as long as he isn’t. You have another side who feels Dream shouldn’t be “canceled”, and who will be mad if he is. Bad spot for WWE, but this is their doing.
Will the beauty and excitement of the Thunderdome wear out quickly? It looks amazing. It makes WWE programming a much better viewing experience than what we’ve been getting with their Performance Center shows. That’s fine and all, but how long will that initial beauty last before it becomes boring and formulaic like WWE often makes everything they touch? If random fans keep putting up “Fire Velveteen Dream” signs and pictures of Chris Benoit like we’ve already seen, it might not matter much, as WWE will end up taking all of this away from us, anyway.
Were the 16-year-old girls in Retribution really supposed to go out and beat Braun Strowman up? Please, for the love of all things that is holy, can we get the fuck on with this entire story already? Seeing these women out there, trash talking Braun Strowman is so stupid. I fail to see any reason why any of us are supposed to take any of it seriously when women that are 5’2″ and wearing size XXXL hoodies are trying to be “tough” and “intimidating” around these male wrestlers who more than double their weight. Go back and watch any of these segments, and you’ll see that even a lot of the men being used aren’t the “normal” size of WWE wrestlers. You’re looking at extras, referees, and random Joe Schmo people being used. I hate it. I hate it all.
Do we really need a Lucha House Party breakup? Is this really what’s hot in the streets? Are any of you really clamoring for Kalisto, Gran Metallik, and Lince Dorado to be split up? It doesn’t matter if they break off into three singles acts again, or if they turn into one heel singles worker and a face tag team. They’re going to get lost in the shuffle, and you can just about guarantee that. They’re barely in the mix for things as a trio. Are we expecting any of them to be huge breakout stars on their own? I’m not putting down their talent. I’m asking if anybody expects World Wrestling Entertainment, with 75-year-old Vince McMahon at the helm, to turn any of these three men into singles stars?
Was anyone else surprised at the title change between AJ Styles and Jeff Hardy? The story was told well. Jeff was injured, and he was the huge underdog. It provided the perfect “out” for him losing the match, and he wouldn’t have been hurt by getting pinned, especially after fighting hard every step of the way. The fact that he actually won the match, ending AJ’s two-month reign as the Intercontinental Champion, surprised the hell out of me. There’s a lot more “juice” in this story with Jeff chasing AJ, in my opinion. Things were just starting to build with AJ’s reign and the addition of Joseph Park, and then he loses to a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest. *shrug*
How poor was that entire final segment? I still can’t believe we have the joy of sitting through both Retribution segments and this Braun/Bray garbage on the same show every week. The ending of this episode was pure, unadulterated garbage juice. That’s actually not true. Garbage juice might actually contain a tiny amount of nutrients in it from the garbage, giving you at least some sort of positive gain. Let’s break it down. First, you have Braun Strowman “pushing” Bray Wyatt off of a loading dock. They wanted us to believe Bray fell a good amount to the floor, but when he landed, you could see his foot sticking up in the shot. Then, even though we saw him almost fall straight down, the camera cuts and he appears to be several feet away from the edge of the dock. Did he skid and slide from his one-foot fall? Then, an ambulance arrives on the scene faster than any ambulance has arrived in the history of ambulancedom. After that, the extras playing the medical professionals are loading Wyatt onto a stretcher in the slowest manner physically possible. It would’ve gone faster if Bray had loaded himself into the ambulance. Then, we get the look of absolute shock, terror, and confusion on the faces of the WWE officials when the ambulance doors open to reveal a perfectly healthy Fiend standing there. I know it was meant to show that they were amazed to see Bray standing there after the absolute deadly free fall he took from the loading dock moments earlier, but their confusion made it look like they were shocked to find out Bray Wyatt and The Fiend are the same person. The whole thing… every agonizing second of it… was asstastic. Do you know what makes it even worse? You just know that a good chunk of it, if not the entire thing outright, was pre-taped. HOW DO YOU STILL PUT OUT THAT TYPE OF DOODOO BUTTER WHEN YOU HAD A CHANCE TO SPRUCE IT UP IN POST-PRODUCTION?!? Vince McMahon gotta go. Kevin Dunn gotta go. Anyone involved in the direction and production of WWE television gotta go. This shit is unacceptable.
What is Eddie Kingston up to? I dig the mystery here. After The Lucha Bros and Butcher & Blade lost an eight-man tag match, Kingston came out to have a discussion with them about the potential they have, but how they’re failing to live up to it. He got them all on the same page again, then looked at the camera and delivered a big wink and a smile. Is this the beginning of a new faction? Is Kingston going to lure them in and turn on them at some point, leading to a new faction coming in? I certainly don’t know, but I want to watch and find out, which is the entire point.
Did anyone else laugh when Britt Baker tried to bribe Kip Sabian and Penelope Ford? With the unique situation of having a pro wrestler that is an honest-to-goodness Dentist, you’re going to have to take advantage of it sometimes. Having her offer Sabian and Ford free dental work if they do her bidding against Big Swole got a legit laugh out of me, simply based on how ridiculous it sounds. Not money. Not a new car. Not jewelry. Free dental work. It’s one of those times where ridiculousness can be a good thing in wrestling.
Mimosa Mayhem? Now, we get to the opposite end of the scale with ridiculousness in wrestling. Orange Cassidy is a “silly” character… I get that. Chris Jericho relies on comedy a lot… I get that. A match that can only end by pinfall, submission, or having one of the competitors thrown into a giant Mimosa vat at ringside… I don’t get that. Please spare me the talk of how this got started by Cassidy dumping orange juice all over Jericho, because I don’t care. That should’ve been a one-time thing. A cute way to bring “orange” into the mix. We didn’t need a second time involving drinks, methinks. Yeah, that rhymed. Big whoop. Wanna fight about it?
How big of a mess was the Deadly Draw Tag Tournament? Going back to WCW’s Lethal Lottery events, I’ve always been a fan of the tournaments that feature “random” pairings of wrestlers. It gives fresh matchups, intrigue where normal tag partners can be opponents or bitter enemies are partners, and is something different to look forward to every now and then. This tournament was… not any of that. The matches, far too often, were bad. There wasn’t enough intrigue with the pairings. There wasn’t any real star power to grab the attention of people other than AEW diehards. Putting almost the entirety of the tournament on YouTube instead of the company’s television show didn’t help, cutting down the people watching the tournament to mere fractions of what Dynamite was pulling in. It was a flustercuck from beginning to end.
Was that a well done final match and segment or what? Let’s get back to some praise. I loved the story being told in the TNT Title match between Cody and Brodie Lee. Cody has been battered and bruised through the weeks, defending his title against all challengers. Brodie Lee is Brodie Lee, a monster of a man that loves to punish his opponents. Something had to give. What we got was Lee thoroughly demolishing Cody, winning the match in three minutes in a total squash. If that’s where it ended, I would’ve been more than satisfied. The post-match mayhem, from Arn Anderson being attacked to Anna Jay choking Brandi Rhodes out to Dustin Rhodes and QT Marshall being laid out and everything in between, was the delicious icing on an already very tasty cake. AEW built Brodie up as a heel that doesn’t look like he can be stopped, especially with so many Dark Order members standing behind him. Cody gets the sympathy as he fought hard, and fans will want to see him eventually return to get his revenge. A tale as old as time in pro wrestling.
Is Timothy Thatcher’s in-ring style enough to get a real push that fans can get behind? As I’ve said, Thatcher’s matches are an acquired taste. No matter how NXT wants to frame them, they aren’t going to be for everyone. I just wonder if that disconnect is too large to give Thatcher an actual push, more than just having him win matches here and there. I’m talking title victories, main event spots, and all the fun that comes with that. He’s one of those people that doesn’t need to cut lengthy, flowery promos to succeed. Just make the threats of the violence he’s capable of, and that’s it. The matches themselves are my only real concern. I know a lot of people who don’t like watching Thatcher wrestle. Some of these people are your stereotypical “mainstream only” fans. Some of them enjoy independent wrestling. Some enjoy Lucha Libre. Some enjoy Puroresu. I’m a fan of the guy, and I think pushing him is worth a shot. I would just hate to see it completely fall flat.
Damian Priest was the expected Ladder Match winner, but was he the right choice? Priest, going back to his days as Punishment Martinez, is someone I go back and forth on. I certainly wouldn’t say he’s bad, but I certainly wouldn’t call him one of my favorites, either. Going through all of the qualifying matches, you could tell that he was being groomed as the favorite to win the North American Title. Honestly, I’m actually surprised it took him so long to win a title in NXT. He has been with the brand for coming up on 21 months, 16 of those using the Damian Priest character. He’s big, he’s bad, and he was getting a push. Now that he’s finally holding the title, was it the right move? Obviously, time will tell, but a lot of good content can come from him finally reaching this level.
How high on the list of Celebrity Wrestling Matches does Pat McAfee’s debut rank? My personal favorite match on that list is still Floyd Mayweather vs Big Show at WrestleMania 24. If we’re talking the best performances by a celebrity in those matches, you have to look at Lawrence Taylor vs Bam Bam Bigelow at WrestleMania 11, Neville & Stephen Amell vs Stardust & King Barrett at SummerSlam 2015, and especially Moose & DeAngelo Williams vs Eli Drake & Chris Adonis from Slammiversary 2017. Pat McAfee’s match against Adam Cole now has to rank right up there near the top of the CWM list, if not at the top for many people. He did a great job, showing off the athleticism that made him a pro athlete (save your Punter jokes), but he was very clearly a huge fan of the business. He showed that he knew what to do in the ring, understood the different nuances of the sport, and it helped him out tremendously. A lot of credit goes to Adam Cole, of course, for being good enough to raise McAfee to another level. It was a very good match. Definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already done so.
Is Dakota Kai in the wrong place at the wrong time? Io Shirai is one of the best female wrestlers on the planet today. Rhea Ripley is an absolute rock star with the potential to be the top woman in the company for years to come. Bianca Belair, who only recently left NXT, is another rock star with all the potential in the world. Raquel Gonzalez gets attention because she’s the “monster” of the division. Mercedes Martinez is one of the toughest and most respected female wrestlers of the last 20 years. Charlotte Flair was recently the NXT Women’s Champion. As talented as Dakota Kai is, and as much good work as she’s been putting in over the last few months, it is becoming easy for her to almost fade into the background. She deserves better, but how does she go about receiving better? Your guess is as good as mine. Takeover XXX might’ve been her best chance to climb to the top of the mountain, but she lost, and now it appears that the NXT Women’s Title picture is about to get crowded all over again.
Knowing what we know now, was it a bad decision was it to have the NXT World Title switch hands? Hindsight is 20/20. This much we know. Let’s take a look at what happened, though. Keith Lee dropped the NXT World Title to Karrion Kross because he (Lee) was about to be called up to Raw, but then we found out that Kross suffered a separated shoulder during the match. He described the pain as “a choir of demons screaming inside my shoulder in unison,” which is… colorful. That could very well put him out of action for a while. What happens then? If he’s gone for more than a couple weeks, don’t you have to do something about the title? NXT may very well have lost both of their Takeover main event performers in one fell swoop. That would leave Damian Priest and the North American Title as the top of the top in NXT, which isn’t exactly ideal. Does anyone have a time machine so that we can either go back and have Keith Lee retain the title and stay in NXT for the time being, or at least go back to help Kross avoid his injury? Hell, the solution is always there. Time to make John Cena the new NXT World Champion.
Can we finally move on from this nonsense between The Street Profits and Zelina Vega’s crew? Not only is the poisoning stuff really stupid, as I’ve talked about in this space before, but anyone involved with Vega has been losing just about every match they’ve had for months. It’s time for them to go in opposite directions, letting The Profits shine bright and letting Andrade and Angel Garza regroup.
Can we get Sonya Deville back sooner than later? In all seriousness, I’m glad that she’s getting some time off to deal with what has been going on in her personal life. It’s extra sad that the time off is happening when she’s doing tremendous character work and is one of the fastest-rising stars on the WWE roster right now. She has “Future World Champion” written all over her, isn’t even 27 years old yet, and hasn’t even been wrestling for five years. I’m not even sure how you bring her back after losing a “Loser Leaves WWE” match, but if you know anything about the sport of wrestling, you know that those types of stipulations don’t matter whatsoever. She’ll just randomly appear on WWE programming when all her personal issues are taken care of, probably attacking Mandy Rose or even coming to her rescue. Again… you know how wrestling can be. I just want to see her back, healthy, happy, and ready to rock.
How high a ceiling does Dominik Mysterio have if he continues training and working hard at his craft? 23-years-old, fresh off of his debut match, and with the business in his blood? I have no doubt in my mind that he can be a star. He’s off to a great start. He seemed like he had some issues battling nerves, but that’s understandable with what was going on. He’s going to need a slight change to his ring attire so that he isn’t stopping to pull the hood from over his eyes 47 times every match, but that’s an easy fix. The question now is whether or not we watch his growth as a performer in WWE rings every week, or if he goes away for a bit to train and returns down the road when he’s more “ready” to be a WWE Superstar. If it were up to me, I’d have him go away for a bit after his current storylines are done. Let him continue his training at the Performance Center, and if you’re really feeling froggy (and if we ever move back to any sense of normalcy after Covid), send him away for extra training, whether it’s in Mexico, Japan, or wherever those in charge see fit.
Are there two women in wrestling right now that have more in-ring chemistry together than Asuka and Sasha Banks? The only possible other answer is Sasha and Bayley, but they haven’t faced each other in a match in five months, and haven’t had a singles match against each other in almost two years. Asuka and Sasha have matches that are absolute fire, and they’re both on a helluva roll. Asuka is always ready to deliver an ass kicking, and she welcomes an ass kicking in return. Sasha, as small as she is, seems like she’s desperate for her matches to seem as “real” as can be, and she works a stiff style of her own. It really is a treat when they step in the ring against each other.
We really didn’t see a backslide ending the WWE Title match, did we? WE’LL NEVER SEE IT COMING. By God, they were right. No matter who you thought was going to win the match between Drew McIntyre and Randy Orton, you probably had a few different outcomes in your head. Maybe Drew would win after a Claymore. Maybe Orton would win after an RKO or a Punt. Maybe there would be a DQ finish of some sort. I saw people predict that Edge would get involved somehow. People thought Ric Flair’s attack was a swerve and that he was going to help Orton win. I didn’t see a single person predict a backslide victory, so… mission accomplished, WWE?
Why did people think the return of Roman Reigns was a heel turn? Bonus question! In the immediate aftermath of the event, I saw multiple sites and social media users proclaiming that WWE FINALLY gave us a Roman Reigns heel turn. Why? He returned and attacked two people… someone who is clearly working as a heel, and someone who is a “tweener” AT BEST… and he has serious history with both of them. That’s not a heel turn. If he returned to attack Drew McIntyre after the WWE Title match, maybe. If he returned to attack Rey and Dominik Mysterio, sure. If he returned and dumped a pot of piping hot chicken and gnocchi soup all over Kayla Braxton’s head, I’ll give you that one. Come on, folks.
Was turning Aleister Black another instance of “here, we don’t have anything else for you”? Kevin Owens hasn’t really had anything to do for a bit now. Aleister Black was involved in the story with Rey Mysterio and Seth Rollins, got “blinded” in a heinous attack, and then… he just comes back from the attack and beats Owens up for no apparent reason. It doesn’t seem like the WWE writers have anything for Owens and Black, so let’s just throw them together for something! You see it a lot with this company. People will turn randomly, feud randomly, or team up randomly. It happens. It just seems to happen a lot more with WWE.
Why did they turn Keith Lee into Serena Williams? I know that Lee has tweeted that fans should be focused on who he was in the ring with for his main roster debut, and not his ring attire or new entrance music, but damn, he came out looking like he was wearing an outfit from Serena’s closet. His shorts looked more like a tennis skirt. It wasn’t the best of looks, that’s for sure. He is 1000% correct, though. The main focus should be that he worked with one of wrestling’s all-time greats in his Raw debut, and had a good, albeit far too short, match to get things started. Let’s just hope he can get the attire thing situated in the future.
How does Apollo Crews keep getting away from The Hurt Business in three-on-one situations? Apollo Crews has some freakish speed and athleticism. There’s no denying that. He has so much speed and athleticism that he is able to squirm out of potential three-on-one attacks just about every week in this feud with The Hurt Business. We’ve seen him evade all three members at the same time. We’ve seen him evade Bobby Lashley and Shelton Benjamin, sneak into the ring, hit MVP, and escape again. Now we’ve seen him hit Lashley, evade MVP and Benjamin, and escape. He just continues to make them look bad time and time again. I don’t think that’s exactly doing much to help the group.
Can we just reveal the people involved in the Retribution nonsense? Another week of content from The Descension, and another week of me rolling my eyes. Another week of super duper wacky attacks from The Borre, and another week of me audibly yelling “BRUH” at my television. Another week of The Not Ready For Prime Time Players wearing oversized hoodies, and another week of me thinking about what heroin is like. Can we just get to the point soon, whatever the fuck that point might be?
Are we ever going to get through a show where we get matches that end normally? Raw featured seven matches, not counting anything that took place on Raw Underground. The first match ended by disqualification after interference. The next match ended after a distraction. The following match ended after a distraction. The next match actually ended cleanly. The next match ended by disqualification after interference. The next match ended after a distraction. The last match was thrown out as a No Contest after interference. Matches just don’t mean much of anything on WWE television right now. That’s batshit insane to me. At a time when you’re constantly getting record low viewership numbers for your shows, why go out of your way to give those viewers more reasons to stay away? Sure, some matches need to end in screwy ways to continue feuds and to keep telling stories, but every… single… one?
There you have it, ladies and germs. It was a busy week, with a lot going on, but we’ve made it through everything together. We’ve got another hectic week ahead of us here, so if you ride with me, I will always ride with you. Until next time… I’m chilly with enough bail money to free a big Willie, high stakes, I got more at stake than Philly.
This Week’s Playlist: “Gone Away” by The Offspring… “Want You Bad” by The Offspring… “Come Out And Play” by The Offspring… “Self-Esteem” by The Offspring… “Brain Stew” by Green Day… “When I Come Around” by Green Day… “Smooth Criminal” by Alien Ant Farm… “Addicted” by Simple Plan… “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” by Panic! At The Disco… “This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race” by Fall Out Boy… “Bring It (Snakes On A Plane)” by Cobra Starship & Travie McCoy… “Superman” by Goldfinger… “Sell Out” by Reel Big Fish… “The Impression That I Get” by Mighty Mighty Bosstones… “Prelude 12/21” by AFI… “Miseria Cantare – The Beginning” by AFI… “Pinch Me” by Barenaked Ladies… “Girl All The Bad Guys Want” by Bowling For Soup… “Flavor Of The Week” by American Hi-Fi… “Ocean Avenue” by Yellowcard