If you’ve been a loyal reader of this site for years now, do not adjust your screens… you’re not imagining things. Six years after my last column around these parts…
I. Am. Back.
If you’re new to the brand, allow me to reintroduce myself. From 2008 to 2014, I was the main constant here. In those six years, not only did I post a couple thousand columns and think pieces, but I was involved in getting LoP Radio launched here, helping to provide you with many of your favorite dulcet tones on shows ever since.
You’re going to start seeing me pretty regularly moving forward, with new styles and new branding, but also some nods to my past here that many of you will get a kick out of. We’re going to have some fun together, ladies and gentlemen, and I want to get things started by talking about the week that was in what we’ve been watching in pro wrestling television.
Like a lot of you, I find myself missing the crowds on these shows. Sure, it’s fine to have some wrestlers around to make some noise, but there is something to be said about how an arena full of fans can add to a show. I’ve watched Dynamite. I’ve watched NXT. I’ve watched Smackdown. I’ve watched Raw. As I watch, I have some questions that need to be answered. If any of you can answer those questions, feel free to do so. Otherwise, I’d like to find someone who can. Let’s go in chronological order, from last Wednesday’s shows to Raw, which is the most recent to take place before these words were typed.
- What happened in the 10-man tag match to start the show? To varying degrees, I’m a fan of every person involved in the match, but nothing seemed to “click” for me. It was a main event quality bout, on paper, but a week later, the most memorable and talked-about happening from the match was Luchasaurus struggling to keep his mask on his head. I’m not going to fault anyone in particular, and it’s not as though any of them did anything especially egregious, but this one was quite the disappointment.
- Matt Cardona? Let me preface this by saying that I’ve never been the biggest fan of Zack Ryder. I know the positives he brings to the table. He’s very over with crowds all over the place. He busted his ass to get himself any and every push he ever had. I just don’t think his in-ring talent matches the charisma, and I certainly don’t like the Jersey Shore nonsense. While he is a good “name” for AEW, even though he only signed a short-term deal with the promotion, he does nothing to help the stigma that every North American wrestling promotion that isn’t WWE trips all over themselves to sign whatever WWE “cast-offs” they can grab. Making it worse is AEW bringing in former Funkadactyl, Ariane Andrew (aka one of the worst women’s wrestlers of all-time), for their Women’s Tag Team Tournament. I’ll give Cardona credit, though. He’s in what appears to be the best shape of his career, although his skin tone is apparently the same color as a tomato-based meat sauce.
- Is this where MJF starts to build momentum again? When AEW first started, MJF was one of the hottest names on the independent wrestling scene. Everybody was talking about his heel work and how vicious his promos were. As the months went on, though, his “star” began to fade. He’s been largely successful, not losing a singles match during his time with the promotion, but he has a total of 20 matches wrestled for AEW in approximately 14 months, and three of those matches are Battle Royals. I don’t need to see every wrestler wrestle every week, but that type of start-stop-start-stop nonsense isn’t allowing him to build up steam. Making it worse is that his in-ring work was what had many wondering if he could truly be a top guy for AEW. He can cut some entertaining promos, sure, but that only takes you so far. With a lot of viewers not really knowing much about him at the start of the company’s tenure, what have they really learned since then?
- Can Darby Allin be AEW’s version of Jeff Hardy? If you’ve been reading my previous work and/or following me on social media, you’ve seen me mention the easy comparisons between Darby Allin and early-to-mid 2000’s Jeff Hardy. AEW could very well have something special on their hands with Allin, who appeals to a variety of demographics, just like Hardy did/does. I think he’s going to need a little more “seasoning” before he really and truly moves up the proverbial ladder, but so did Jeff back in 2002 when he had his singles star-making performance in a Ladder Match against The Undertaker. He lost the match, but he showed that he belonged as a singles performer after years of being in a tag team. Allin can follow a similar path, putting his body on the line and showing that he will do anything it takes to win. You could be seeing a future AEW World Champion, folks.
- Was this the worst episode of Dynamite? In the “Wednesday Night War” that we’re all experiencing, I’m a fan of both companies and both shows. I want to see them both succeed and explode in popularity. Every week, I think NXT puts out the better in-ring product, but that AEW is the better overall “variety” show. That’s more than fair if you ask me, and since you clicked a link to read this, you pretty much did. This particular episode of Dynamite was a mess, though. The best match of the night was Kenny Omega & Hangman Page vs Stu Grayson & Evil Uno, which was only decent. We got a good moment with the former Zack Ryder debuting for the company, but even that could be for nothing if he doesn’t stick around for long. We got a good promo from MJF, but again, does it make a difference when he isn’t getting to do much in the ring? There is no doubt AEW will rebound, and more than likely rebound strong, but this was certainly a dud of an episode overall.
- Why didn’t Johnny Gargano and Roderick Strong get more time? It’s a shame that these two couldn’t even get ten minutes for their match. This is a pairing that could main event a Takeover show, and it shows just how deep and talented the NXT roster is that they’re just randomly floating around the midcard with nothing “better” to do right now.
- What’s stopping Mercedes Martinez from being the next Shayna Baszler on NXT? Look, I completely understand that Mercedes is going to be 40 years old in a few months, but her presentation and overall badassery makes her look like a million bucks. She could easily go on a Baszler-like romp through the women of NXT. It’s Wrestling Booking 101. You have yourself a “monster” heel that can’t be stopped, which opens the door to create an absolute star when someone finally gives them their comeuppance. With Baszler herself on to the main roster, and with Raquel Gonzalez still in the somewhat early stages of her career, there is an opening for that type of heel on the “Gold Brand” right now. There is no reason why it can’t be Martinez that takes that and runs with it.
- Is Keith Lee vs Karrion Kross the new “Irresistible Force vs Immovable Object”? I’m not sure that there are any better pushed wrestlers in the business today than Keith Lee and Karrion Kross. They both look like absolute megastars, from their look to their entrances to their promos to their facial expressions to their matches, and everything in between. Having them on a one-way collision course against each other presents for a very interesting booking decision. Keith Lee is just getting started as the NXT Champion. If he loses the title at NXT Takeover XXX (where the match is rumored to be taking place), his reign would be the second-shortest in the eight-year lineage of NXT’s top belt, beating only Samoa Joe’s second reign in 2016, which only lasted two weeks. At the same time, there has been so much effort put into pushing Kross, so having him lose in what would only be his sixth (if he doesn’t wrestle again before Takeover) match with NXT doesn’t make any sense. That would seem to choreograph that the match would be some sort of No Contest or screwy finish to keep the loser strong. If that means we get another match between them, likely with some sort of stipulation added to it, sign me up.
- Is NXT trying to build a new star with the upcoming North American Title match? So far, we’ve had two men stamp their names for the Ladder Match at Takeover XXX, and both men were surprise winners. In Bronson Reed and Dexter Lumis (barring a possible injury to Lumis that will take him out of the running), you have guys that came out of nowhere to be involved here. Reed came to NXT with a lot of hype, but he has seen himself on the losing end of a bunch of matches since his arrival. Before this mini-push of three straight wins, he had a record of 2-10 in televised matches for NXT. Lumis had a better record, but I don’t know of many people that took him seriously as any sort of contender, even if they were enjoying his character work. Does this bode well for Ridge Holland, who is making his NXT debut (in this character) after a brief-but-successful stint in NXT:UK? We shall see.
- What does NXT need to do to regain the viewership lead against AEW? NXT will post some random viewership victories (I look at those more than the “rating” numbers), but it seems like AEW has the edge far more often than not. Both shows have tried loading their episodes with title fights, big “names”, and heavily hyped matches, but the genuine curiosity that people have with the “new” promotion seems to be carrying AEW. As I said earlier, NXT puts on the better in-ring work, but AEW has more of everything for people to potentially enjoy. It would be against NXT’s entire ethos to have the in-ring work take a backseat to more promos and character work, but is that what they need to do? Do they just continue to go after the top independent talent to strengthen their roster? Bring in more random names from Raw and Smackdown to try to get more eyeballs on their product? It isn’t like they’re being destroyed every week, but as competitive as WWE is, it can’t sit well with people like Vince McMahon and Triple H that this newer company keeps getting more viewers than they do.
- Why, Shorty G? Is he homeless? Has his family fallen on tough economic times in these uncertain pandemic days? Yes, that’s more than one question, but the point remains. I understand the appeal for money, and with this ransom on Matt Riddle’s head, people are going to want to try and cash in, but this still doesn’t make any sense. Chad Gable is an Olympic athlete, but all it took is a few dollar signs for him to forget everything he’s supposed to be standing for, forgetting the never-ending feud with King Corbin and now doing the man’s bidding. The only bright side here is that the Matt Riddle vs Chad Gable match we get out of this is going to be banana pancake.
- Is that really how we’re going to start Big E’s new singles run? Don’t bother telling me how much The Miz has accomplished since being with WWE. WWE Champion, eight-time Intercontinental Champion, two-time United States Champion, eight Tag Team Title reigns with a total of five different partners, Money In The Bank winner, Mixed Match Challenge winner with Asuka, etc, etc, etc. I get it. That’s fine and dandy, but at this stage in the game, if you’re going to hype up Big E’s singles run, you can’t have him getting beaten for the majority of a 15-minute match with The Miz. The match needed to be five minutes at the very most, and it needed to consist of Big E dominating. If you can’t do that with The Miz right now, then you need to be putting Big E in the ring with someone else. If you want to build it up and eventually have a 15-minute match between them, sure, but to start things off? Nah. That’s when you need to see what Big E can really do. Just a weird decision, in my opinion.
- Shouldn’t Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura be doing bigger and better things? Of the entire WWE roster right now, there might not be anyone that is more underrated and underutilized than Cesaro and Nakamura. Both men are more than capable of being singles champions, but we’ve all heard the rumors and stories that Vince McMahon isn’t a Vince McFan of Cesaro, at least when it comes to being a singles worker, and it isn’t exactly a stretch of the imagination to think that Vince wasn’t thrilled about Nakamura’s initial main event push, either. They’re both making it work, though. You know the type of quality you’re going to get with their matches, but they’ve also shown a surprising amount of in-ring chemistry for a duo that was only put together relatively recently. The only problem right now is that the tag scene on Smackdown is downright atrocious. Two-thirds of New Day are injured, leaving Big E as a solo act. The Usos are on the shelf. Steve Cutler and Wesley Blake are paying for Jaxson Ryker’s sins. Lucha House Party appears to be moving into solo acts, at least temporarily, maybe, possibly, kinda. Heavy Machinery is basically the Money In The Bank winner and that other guy, unfortunately. There isn’t a lot there to work with. The biggest “draw” right now is two heel acts facing off, with the champs possibly defending against The Miz and John Morrison. On one hand, maybe that means a bit of a lengthy reign for Cesaro and Nakamura. On the other hand, that lengthy reign is going to be full of matches that people aren’t exactly thrilled to see, even if the action ends up being decent. Time for some randomly thrown together squads to get their chance, I guess. Come on down, Matt Riddle and Bo Dallas! You’re up, King Corbin and Shorty G! Here’s your chance, Mojo Rawley and Kane! As it is, I’m excited to see what Cesaro and Nakamura can do, but I’d be a lot more excited about it if there was better competition for them to face.
- Is God punishing me by making me sit through a feud between Naomi and Lacey Evans? He has to be. He just has to be. I’m sorry, everybody.
- Is God punishing me by making me sit through more of a feud between Braun Strowman and Bray Wyatt? He has to be. He just has to be. I’m sorry, everybody. Seriously, though… why? I don’t know about all of you, but I’ve given up on Bray Wyatt ever getting to be anything truly special. He set the wrestling world on fire when he first debuted the Wyatt character, but then became that annoying heel that would randomly set his sights on a target, cut the same promo for weeks, lose his matches, set his sights on another random target, cut the same promo for weeks, lose his matches, and so on. Then we got the new version of the character, with the Firefly Fun House and The Fiend, and once again, he set the wrestling world on fire. He had everything going for him, and then… he was just sacrificed to Goldberg for no fucking reason whatsoever. That was over five months ago, and in those five months, he has wrestled a whopping three times, and one of those (Firefly Fun House Match against John Cena at WrestleMania) wasn’t even really a match. This thing with Strowman and Wyatt has been going on for months now. Why do we need more of it, and why do we need to involve Alexa Bliss? I know that Bliss teamed with Strowman during the Mixed Match Challenge, but it’s not like they’re romantically linked or anything. If it was a known fact that they were dating, then yes, knock yourselves out. I just don’t get it. It is beyond time for both of these men to move on to other things.
- How have we not seen any character development for Apollo Crews yet? This is a man who made his NXT debut five years ago, and his main roster debut four years ago. In every match he has, the commentary team talks about him as if he’s a future World Champion, mentioning his rare combination of size, speed, power, and athleticism. They’re not lying when they say that. However, in all that time, we haven’t seen a single ounce of care given to his character development. He’s just a smiley guy who is an insanely freakish athlete. Nothing more, nothing less. They haven’t given fans a real reason to root for the guy, which goes with WWE’s difficulty in making face characters these days. So turn him heel, right? You’d think that would make sense, but no, it doesn’t seem like they’re going to do that, either. It looked like we might be going that route with MVP trying to recruit him, but they had Apollo turn MVP down to… be a smiley guy who is an insanely freakish athlete. He’s experiencing the biggest push of his WWE tenure, so he’s got that going for him, which is nice, but where do we go from here?
- What do you do with a match between Drew McIntyre and Randy Orton? Remember what I said earlier about Keith Lee and Karrion Kross? Many of the same things can be said about McIntyre and Orton right now. They’re both on fire right now, doing some of their best work at the same time. With other champions, you might be able to easily say Orton will be able to run through them and continue his strong work. This time might not be that simple, though. Like Keith Lee, McIntyre’s title reign is only getting started. WWE put a lot of work into getting Drew to the top, having him stand up to Brock Lesnar to get there. I won’t use the word “waste” to describe what having McIntyre drop the title already would be, but it just doesn’t seem like now is the time. Damn, at the very least, we should see if we can get his reign to last where we can have members of the WWE Universe in attendance for shows. I think he deserves that, at least.
- How desperate is this company that they think Raw Underground is the answer? We’ve all seen the ratings and viewership numbers for Raw going straight into the toilet. Every week, more and more fans seem to be tuning out. Maybe it’s because people don’t think pro wrestling in front of little-to-no fans is worth watching, and maybe it’s because people don’t think the WWE product is worth watching. Whatever it is, the company’s new brilliant idea is to recreate the Brawl 4 All, but still have some worked aspects to it. I hated it, honestly. There are some potentially intriguing ideas that can play out, but when I tune in to watch pro wrestling, I’m not looking to watch MMA, just the same way I’m not trying to watch pro wrestling when I tune in to watch UFC. We saw a few fights, but they all looked the same. The takedowns were the same and the ground-and-pound attempts were the same. There’s only so much you can do when you’re running scripted “shoot” fights, and it already shows. With The Hurt Business getting involved at the end of the night, I’ve seen more than one person speculate that this will be WWE’s way of finally getting a Bobby Lashley vs Brock Lesnar match. You know… Lashley dominates on Raw Underground for a bit, starts talking about how he’s the baddest and the toughest man in WWE history, says he’s the best fighter in WWE history, and then booyakasha, Lesnar returns to interrupt one of his promos. It makes sense to give us the match, but do you need to do it in such a roundabout way? You could do all of that without Raw Underground. Lashley can just dominate wrestling matches and get Lesnar to return that way. With a lot of ideas that are thrown against the wall to see if they stick, I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire Raw Underground thing goes away quickly, or at least sees multiple format changes, but we’ll have to wait and see.
- What the hell kind of “poison” was Montez Ford given? Another piss poor idea with piss poor execution. He was apparently slipped something, but he was allowed to cut an emotional promo and hang out at ringside for the Angelo Dawkins vs Angel Garza match with no problem until he Ultimate Warrior-ed the ropes? Oh wait, he’s fine enough to get in the ring and wrestle for several minutes, including a dive from the ring to the outside… but then he passes out after Ultimate Warrior-ing the ropes again? Was there fucking anthrax sprinkled on the ropes?!? What sense did any of this make? To make the entire thing even worse, we got no mention of it for multiple segments after it happened. A wrestler could’ve died in the middle of the ring, so let’s go to focus on… a backstage segment with Seth Rollins and Murphy, followed by a plug for the Raw post-show, followed by another Raw Underground fight before Ford was even mentioned again? You could at least TRY to make it seem like it was a serious situation.
- Why do we have a new faction that consists of teenage girls? When they showed the “security footage” of random rabble-rousers throwing Molotov Cocktails at production equipment, I couldn’t help but notice how small those people looked. I tweeted that they looked like a group of teenage girls wearing their boyfriends’ hoodies and hanging out in a parking lot. It wasn’t a good start, but hey, at least I’m interested to see where the whole thing is going.
- How surprising has Dominik Mysterio been? Yes, that’s right… we’re getting a bonus question for Raw. Dom has come a long way from being involved in a weird custody storyline between his father and Eddie Guerrero. He appears to be in good shape. He doesn’t seem to be shying away from the spotlight. He knows how to cut believable promos. He swings the hell out of a kendo stick. Now, we get to see the ultimate test, as he gets his debut match against Seth Rollins at SummerSlam. That’s quite the sink-or-swim opportunity. Obviously, WWE wouldn’t be giving him this match if he weren’t doing very well in his training, but man, can you imagine what would happen if Dom goes out there and stinks the joint up? On the other hand, can you imagine what would happen if Dom goes out there and looks like a star against one of the best in-ring performers on the planet today? I’m very interested in the match.
- Why was that the final product of Raw we were given? Another bonus question! Raw is being taped these days, and has time to be edited and molded into a good show. There’s no excuse for a dumpster fire of an episode happening anymore. Pretty much everything we saw for three hours was bad. Things didn’t make sense. Hail Mary passes were thrown, sailing out of the back of the end zone instead of connecting with a receiver. We saw the rumors that Vince McMahon was in one of his infamous “moods” backstage all day. That doesn’t mean he has to put all of us in a “mood” to match, though. This was a rough, rough episode to get through.
Well, we got through this together, guys and gals. What did you think of the format? I’m thinking of switching things up from time-to-time when I recap things, so I want to know your thoughts on this. I’ll be back next Wednesday with another look at the week that was, but I have a special surprise for my long-time readers on the 23rd for SummerSlam. Until next time… my function is to make much and lay back munchin’.
This Week’s Playlist: “Roses (Imanbek Remix)” by SAINt JHN… “exile” by Taylor Swift & Bon Iver… “WHATS POPPIN (Remix)” by Jack Harlow, DaBaby, Lil Wayne, & Tory Lanez… “The Box” by Roddy Ricch… “Psychosocial” by Slipknot… “THE SCOTTS” by THE SCOTTS… “And The Beat Goes On” by The Whispers… “Head Over Heels” by Tears For Fears… “HUMBLE.” by Kendrick Lamar… “Where The Hood At” by DMX… “X Gon’ Give It To Ya” by DMX… “Something New” by Wiz Khalifa & Ty Dolla $ign… “Ralph Wiggum” by The Bloodhound Gang… “Tennessee Whiskey” by Chris Stapleton… “My Friend’s Over You” by New Found Glory… “Let’s Do It Again” by J Boog… “High Five” by Rittz… “Khaki Suit” by Damian Marley, Bounty Killer, & Eek-A-Mouse… “Damn” by Youngbloodz & Lil Jon… “WE ARE CHAOS” by Marilyn Manson