Guess who’s back? Back again.
Hustle’s back. Tell a friend.
First and absolutely foremost, folks, I want to thank you all for the overwhelmingly positive response to my return column last week. Whether you contacted me publicly or privately, I read every word, and I appreciate hearing from all of you. I loved hearing from names, both old and new. You guys are going to start seeing more and more of me around here, and I really look forward to giving you more content to enjoy.
We’ve all sat through another week in this sport we love so much, so much like last week, I’m here to ask some questions about everything we saw. There was definitely some good, but there was also some bad, and it’s time to get my analysis cap on and do some… analysis. Once again, let’s go in chronological order, shall we?
How come the opening 846-man tag match was so much better this week? I still don’t really know why last week’s show opener didn’t work for me, but this week’s version was much better, even with extra people added to the mix. There was some interesting storytelling this week, whether it was Dax Harwood’s injury putting the faces at a major disadvantage for a period of time, Hangman Page leaving with FTR, or Page accidentally on purpose on accident nearly hitting Kenny Omega with the Buckshot Lariat. Little bits of story telling like that can go a long way sometimes, and this match was a prime example of that. Good work from all involved.
Why so sloppy? I understand that wrestling is a dangerous sport, and that injuries and accidents definitely happen. With that said, doesn’t it seem like we’re seeing more and more sloppiness from AEW recently? Of course, most of the people involved in said sloppiness are younger and less experienced, but that type of excuse becomes irrelevant when you’re a nationally televised promotion that is trying to stake a claim at being one of the top companies on the planet. Britt Baker getting injured, Ricky Starks nearly decapitating Darby Allin, and now Sammy Guevara busting Matt Hardy’s head wide open are just three of the biggest recent examples of what’s been going on. The Starks and Guevara incidents are especially bad, as they could’ve been prevented pretty easily. These guys are up-and-comers, ready to show the world what they’re capable of, but they’re getting a little too excited to do so, and it’s going to end up with someone getting seriously hurt. AEW can’t afford that kind of reputation. Hopefully, we’ll start to see things flow a little more naturally moving forward, with wrestlers letting the moment come to them and not letting things get out of hand.
Why are there cameras where cameras shouldn’t be? WWE is the biggest wrestling promotion in the world, so logically, there are going to be things that other companies will want to “borrow” from them. One thing that companies should be staying away from, however, is WWE’s constant need to show backstage segments from other angles and perspectives, even if they make absolutely no fucking sense at all. You’ll see this a lot when it’s time to destroy a car or a truck, with a random camera from inside the vehicle filming Wrestler A bashing the windows in with a bat, etc. Even in a form of entertainment where “suspension of disbelief” is always advised, that’s ridiculous. Sure enough, AEW decides to have a segment where Santana and Ortiz destroy the minivan belonging to Trent’s mom, and sure enough, there’s a filming camera from inside the van while the destruction is taking place. Please stop doing this, wrestling companies. It doesn’t make sense, and it makes you look very stupid. Just show the vehicles getting destroyed from the outside, or maybe stop doing angles that require vehicles to be destroyed in the first place.
Was the debate between Chris Jericho and Orange Cassidy my favorite AEW segment yet? Yes. Yes, it was. It just worked so well, with everyone involved playing their role to perfection. Jericho got to be the smug, smarmy bastard that he has been. Guest Moderator Eric Bischoff looked like he was enjoying himself, even though his appearance was largely something that wasn’t necessary. Jake Hager was there. Orange Cassidy, though, was the star of the entire debate. Him flipping a switch to answer the debate question about global warming was just brilliant, and it got actual laughter out of me, especially with Jericho’s gobsmacked facial expression once Cassidy started to speak. I love, love, love that he got to also cut an honest-to-goodness fiery babyface promo about the upcoming match with Jericho. The entire thing was a nice introduction to different layers of the Orange Cassidy character, and even though I hope he doesn’t do stuff like this very often, it was still a refreshing change of pace for this one time.
Can we get more storytelling like Jon Moxley vs Darby Allin gave us? Last week, I asked about Allin becoming AEW’s version of early-to-mid 2000’s Jeff Hardy when Jeff was becoming a fast rising name as a singles wrestler. I mentioned Jeff’s star-making performance against The Undertaker in a 2002 Ladder Match that had people really thinking he could eventually be a main event guy. While the Moxley vs Allin match on Dynamite wasn’t quite on that level, the parallels are definitely there. Earlier in the show, Moxley cut a promo about how Allin basically needed to do the right thing and stay down once he was put down, even though Mox knew he wouldn’t. The match played that out beautifully, with Allin taking a vicious beating, but refusing to stay down time and time again. We even got the respect parallel, with Mox immediately picking Darby’s head up off the mat after the match ended and talking to him, no doubt telling him how much he respects him and how bright his future can be. It was a very good cap to a much improved episode of Dynamite, better in almost every way than the week before.
Are we getting back to Rhea Ripley having something meaningful to do? It seems like Ripley has been a forgotten name over the last few months, and she’s far too talented for that to be the case, especially for that long. At one point, not all that long ago, she seemed destined to be the sport’s next huge female star. Now, I understand that she lost the match to Dakota Kai, but a program with Mercedes Martinez is going to be a ton of fun to watch, and it’s the exact type of feud that will allow the winner to have a lot of momentum as they inevitably go after the NXT Women’s Title next. I’ve seen some people say that Ripley’s “chance” had come and gone after NXT didn’t capitalize on it earlier this year, but I would put a lot of the blame on what’s going on in this COVID world and that causing unforeseen changes left and right. 2020 can still be a huge year for her, and the program with Martinez could be the jump start she needs for that to happen.
Are El Legado del Fantasma supposed to be heels right now? They’re certainly doing heel-like things, what with their penchant for kidnapping and all, but what’s going on with their feud with Breezango makes them look justified in their anger. It has been said time and time again that the best villains, in fiction or non-fiction, are the ones who don’t feel they’re villains at all and feel they’re doing the “right” thing. With this feud, Breezango repeatedly made fun of the Lucha Libre culture, which is next to religion to many of the sport’s followers. Why wouldn’t Santos Escobar be upset? This is a second-generation Luchador that has spent his entire life surrounded by the wonderful culture of Lucha Libre. He has every right to be upset at his culture and heritage being insulted like it has been. This isn’t a normal wrestling story, where the heel can often be a dick for the sake of being a dick. What isn’t helping is the fact that, while I find Breezango entertaining, I feel as though their entire gimmick has kind of run its course by this point. When El Legado del Fantasma kidnapped Fandango, I was thinking that he would return under Santos Escobar’s “spell” and be transformed, just as we’ve seen with the formation of the group, but alas, it was not to be. There’s still time for something like that to happen, but for now, I don’t see a reason for me to hate on Escobar, Raul Mendoza, and Joaquin Wilde for what they’re doing to Breezango.
How bright is Ridge Holland’s future under the watch of the likes of Triple H and Vince McMahon? Based on the way he looks alone, Holland looks like someone that both Trips and Vince would love to work out with and give pushes to. I say that partly in jest, but there’s definitely a lot that is based in truth there. A former pro rugby footballer, he’s only been a pro wrestler for a little over four years now. He has come a long way in that short amount of time. If he keeps improving, there’s no reason why he couldn’t be a big star for the company. There’s already rumors and stories coming out that WWE officials are very high on his work, and you can see why. He didn’t win the NXT North American Title qualifying match, but since he wasn’t involved in the pinfall, he has a second chance to qualify for the match. Even if he is unsuccessful again, it seems clear we’re going to be seeing a lot more of him in the coming months. It wouldn’t even surprise me to see a main roster call-up sooner than later.
How great was Adam Cole’s selling after being punted by Pat McAfee? As far as the entire thing is concerned, it was a little obvious at times, with McAfee being brought in for commentary and deciding he was going to stick around for the next match because Adam Cole and the rest of Undisputed Era were involved. Once everything started to fall into place, and it was clear something was going to happen between McAfee and Cole, I was waiting for some other people to get involved. Sure, you can have McAfee and Cole have their issues, but McAfee angering the entire Undisputed Era group isn’t really going to work out for him. With what we saw, though, I loved the physical side of their altercation. McAfee, one of the best Punters in NFL history, showed off his leg strength by landing a square kick on Cole, who sold it as if he was shot. It was a great visual, and for a company that lives and thrives off of mainstream media publicity, it was something that got played on every sports channel you can think of. I have no idea what to expect from McAfee’s debut match, but sometimes that’s a good thing in pro wrestling.
Who will the mystery opponent be for KUSHIDA and Cameron Grimes? I’ve seen all kinds of speculation, from NXT wrestlers making their debut to main roster names making a surprise appearance. There has even been pipe dream guesses like people from New Japan or Ring Of Honor. The “favorite” pick, at least that I’ve seen, is for Tommaso Ciampa to be the mystery opponent, although Ciampa is also heavily rumored to be a member of the Retribution faction that has been doing wacky things on Raw and Smackdown recently. You would think, with the opponent being revealed in this manner, that it wouldn’t just be someone random on the NXT roster. Another name to watch out for would be Velveteen Dream, but obviously, that would require WWE to have done their due diligence on the accusations and rumors surrounding some of Dream’s online interactions with people through the years. Well, unless him not being seen for the last couple months was some sort of hush-hush suspension that he’s been serving. Let’s just play it safe and have the mystery opponent be John Cena, shall we? Doot-doo-doot-dooooo!
How does WWE continue to put on horrendous content in a taped atmosphere? The entire segment with The Miz and John Morrison interviewing Mandy Rose’s “hair” was the kind of garbage that is embarrassing to defend when you have to try and defend it to people that don’t watch wrestling. It’s one thing when this airs on live television. It’s another thing entirely when people saw it happen, then had to see it again multiple times in editing and post-production, and STILL put it in the final product. I shouldn’t be surprised, though. This is the type of humor that Vince McMahon and Kevin “Captain Bucky O’Hare” Dunn find huh-larry-us.
Do we really have to keep watching Braun Strowman and Bray Wyatt feud? Braun’s promo here was one of the most unintentionally funny things wrestling has seen in a long time. The super duper zoom-in on his face while he tried to sound like the Devil himself was just bad, proving yet again that this company doesn’t know how to write anything for face characters. Braun Strowman got over by doing certain things and saying certain things, but once he started really getting popular, Vince McMahon had to put his grubby hands into everything, turning him into something different. Just let the man be what he was! As far as the rest of this was concerned, there is intrigue in Alexa Bliss seemingly taming the beast for a split second as she touched The Fiend’s cheek, but more than likely, that will be forgotten about as Braun and Bray continue to brag about who is the most evil. We know how it all ends, though, because we know Bray Wyatt’s history. For the millionth time, he’ll lose a feud, and then he’ll randomly target a new opponent on the following television episode, and we’ll start all over again from there. I’ll pass.
Who decided matches shouldn’t matter this week? Let’s take a look… disqualification via interference, four minute nothingness, short match ending in disqualification via interference, short match ending with interference, no contest via interference. That’s what we got. That’s it. Not every match needs to be a 20-minute Match Of The Year candidate, but if you’re telling me nothing matters, what incentive do I have to even continue watching? This isn’t rocket science.
Did the same company that once gave us The Nexus making their debut truly give us the Retribution debut? I’ve been trying to think about how this Retribution gobbledygook could start any worse, and I really can’t think of too many things. Maybe if one of the members of The Lollipop Guild had their mask come off on accident and had their identity revealed on accident? Maybe if one of the members of the nW-no ate a tainted burrito backstage before their segment, had explosive diarrhea all over themselves, had said explosive diarrhea come out of the bottom of their pant legs, and then had said explosive diarrhea cause everyone to slip and slide all over the place, ending with the entire Nation Of Abomination covered in said explosive diarrhea? The entire thing is just lame television. WWE’s own website broke the news that this new faction would be debuting… but how? Can you just send an e-mail to WWE and tell them you’re going to show up on Raw to cause “chaos” and they’ll report it? What kind of cockamamie operation do they have running over there?
What kind of blackmail does Kevin Dunn have on Vince McMahon to remain employed? If there’s any sort of televised product of any genre that features worse camera work than WWE, I have yet to be introduced to it. Kevin Dunn’s production work and decision making is aging like milk. CAMERA CUT~! CAMERA CUT~! CAMERA CUT~! SHAKE THE CAMERA~! OOPS, WE MISSED THE FINISHER~! CAMERA CUT~! CAMERA CUT~! OOPS, WE MISSED THAT BIG MOMENT~! CAMERA CUT~! WWE often finds themselves putting on a figuratively unwatchable product, but Kevin Dunn’s sorry ass is hellbent on making sure it’s also a literally unwatchable product, and he is succeeding at doing so far more often than any of us would like.
How much respect did Dominik Mysterio earn from the WWE locker room by taking that beating? My goodness. Talk about a “paying your dues” moment. Seth Rollins and Murphy beat the holy hell out of Dom with a kendo stick for several minutes. They absolutely battered his chest, stomach, ribs, and back, leaving him a bruised and bloody mess. It was good drama, and you just know Dom got his fair share of handshakes and praise once he got to the back because of how he handled the entire thing. In kayfabe, though… not one person came out to save him? Really? Even when you see a despised heel wrestler receiving a beating from a fellow heel that turned on him, you’ll see someone come out to save the day, so it didn’t make any sense for the son of one of the most beloved wrestlers of all-time to be left alone and destroyed by two heels for that long. Kudos to Dom, either way.
Why even bother with non-title matches? Almost without fail, WWE books their champions to lose non-title match after non-title match. It’s lazy writing. It doesn’t benefit anyone, especially when the challenger(s) can’t ride that momentum to a win in a match with the title(s) on the line. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad. That type of 50/50 booking is one of the main reasons that it’s a rare occasion these days for a WWE wrestler to truly stand out.
Why even bother with 24/7 Title matches? Man, this shit needs to stop. As I’ve said, 24/7 means “for the three hours that Raw is on the air and the two hours that Smackdown is on the air” to these writers, which defeats the entire point. 99% of the matches end in less than a minute due to a mere roll-up. Just let someone like Brock Lesnar, Bobby Lashley, or even Bray Wyatt win the title, and then have them destroy the belt itself. End of story. No more 24/7 Title, no more 24/7 division.
Why even bother with letting Kevin Dunn get his cheese-covered hands on Raw Underground? You can’t really present Raw Underground as something unique and special when it features the same Dunn-produced nonsense that the rest of WWE programming has. If you’re trying to make it stand out, STOP WITH THE FUCKING CAMERA CUTS, DUNN, YOU BUCKTOOTHED GOOF! While we’re at it, I don’t know what’s dumber… a female “fighter” wearing a fancy brunch blouse, or Yabba Dabba Kato Kaelin trying to get a dick grab over as a street fighting move. I continue to not be a fan of this stuff.
Is the final segment with Randy Orton and Ric Flair the current front-runner for WWE’s Segment Of The Year? I think it’s definitely right up there. You knew Orton was going to cut a great promo and end up doing something vile. You knew Flair was going to turn up the emotional dial. It all worked well, with their shoot-style comments about each other and their history together. Flair really shined here, as he was able to harness the emotion better than he usually does… until his promo truly called for the water works, which he delivered on. It was a great ending to the show, and a nice surprise for me, as I was expecting some more Retribution nonsense once I realized how much time was left in the show after the match between Orton and Kevin Owens was done. Good work from Orton and Flair, and a good continued build to Orton’s match against Drew McIntyre at SummerSlam.
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for riding with me once again for another look at the week that was. Got anything to say? Drop me a comment below, or hit me up on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage) and let me know what you think. Like I said last week, I have a special surprise for my long-time readers that will be seen on the 23rd for SummerSlam, and before then, I will be back next Wednesday with another Week In Review. Until next time… I’m making short-term goals when the weather folds.
This Week’s Playlist: “Cirice” by Ghost… “Blood and Thunder” by Mastadon… “Good God” by KoRn… “Breathe” by The Prodigy… “(sic)” by Slipknot… “Kill Us All” by Twista… “Heat” by 50 Cent… “Pistol Pistol” by D12… “Say You’ll Haunt Me” by Stone Sour… “Denial” by Sevendust… “Cold” by Static-X… “Scream On ‘Em” by The Game… “Whatever” by Godsmack… “More Human Than Human” by White Zombie… “Brackish” by Kittie… “Slam” by Onyx… “Ante Up (Remix)” by M.O.P., Busta Rhymes, Remy Ma, & Teflon… “Real Nigga Roll Call” by Lil Jon & Ice Cube… “Stupify” by Disturbed… “Jekyll and Hyde” by Five Finger Death Punch