Bloomin’ ‘eck the wrestling world just doesn’t stop this year does it? Within the span of two weeks we’ve had superstar walkouts, contract disputes, a stadium attempt fail and a complete mess of a talent relations debacle in Japan.
AEW Double Or Nothing is this weekend (tonight as of posting) and my British arse bloody wakes up to the news of MJF potentially no-showing. Booked/not boarded flights, contract disagreements and all. However it all plays out, you can bet your bottom dollar that Maxwell Jacob Friedman will be a damn hot commodity wherever he ends up.
Two examples of wrestlers potentially choosing to walk in the face of disagreements and unhappiness. If there’s one thing I can say about the effect the rise of AEW has had on industry, just look at the amount of power talent can have. Their negotiating power has increased exponentially.
For us wrestling fans it sure keeps this wacky world interesting!
Anyway, I’m here to talk each telly wrestling show of the week! Aside from NXT. I used to cover them in the original format of this column a few years ago, but f’ that. I’m already forcing myself through mediocre RAWs and SmackDowns, I’m not about to add a third!
I’ll be sticking with the four show format, just swapping out NXT for Rampage. Keeps us at a nice even 2 shows for each company and equal opportunities to praise or moan on their behalf. It’s also fair to say one is much easier to watch than the other!
Monday Night RAW
May 23rd 2022
“Disappointed The WWE Universe”
Has WWE ever handled a talent PR situation any worse?
This week’s RAW was the opposite of essential viewing. Reminding me of the Thunderdome Era with its meandering pacing and fine booking around a damn solidly wrestled main event. Unfortunately for WWE, the Sasha Banks and Naomi story continues to be infinitely more interesting than anything on the show itself.
Word coming out that Banks & Naomi walked hours before the start of the show (and hours before their match was ever announced) has really not helped the stance. The continued slander of the pair has continued to do nothing more than hurt the company’s own image and perception in the process.
PR wise, Vince McMahon’s handling of the walkout has been horrific.
Having their commentators on both RAW and SmackDown say the phrase “Sasha Banks and Naomi disappointed the WWE Universe” has completely backfired on them. An instant meme in its sheer audacity, laughed at and ridiculed for the sub-par character assassination attempt that it is.
On RAW this week Nikki A. S. H. faced Alexa Bliss as the former danced with a pissed off motivation in the face of last week’s scrapped Six Pack Challenge. A logic line that makes all the bloody sense for Nikki! In Universe she had a #1 Contender opportunity one minute, then nothing at all the next. That character should be pissed.
A shame it was really only there to set poor Corey up into the Simpsons meme “Say the line…”
“Sasha Banks and Naomi disappointed the WWE Universe”
It all comes across as if it’s a company trying to get ahead and get their own narrative out first. And it will work on some people. As long as they don’t have the internet and ever Google the story. I’m not talking about who’s right or wrong in this situation, just noting that WWE’s handling has been naff at best.
May 25th 2022
A story of pure excellence in execution
EDIT: I wrote this segment on Thursday after watching Dynamite and was therefore unaware of future events. Keep that in mind as I praise the hell out of a feud that might not end up on the PPV.
I haven’t seen a story play its weekly beat so perfectly since… well since MJF’s last feud. There’s a running theme here, every damn feud has so much intricacy and high levels of pay off. Time for me to put some respect onto the man’s name! Nothing but hits.
This feud with Wardlow yet another peak on the MJF mountain. Nailing the gradual escalation since the big man’s pivot back at Revolution. Teasing a meteoric rise before Freidman ripped that away and tried to flatten his momentum. Taking away every individual aspect he perceived as reasons for the lad’s success till he’s nothing more than a meathead in handcuffs. No branding, nothing making him special, all the odds against him making his win-loss record look as unimpressive as possible.
Each week Maxwell cutting promos to try and take down Wardlow’s character, to gradually wear him down till the crowd respect him less than he does. But even his most staunch supporters in Long Island were cheering Wardlow at the end of their segment.
The taking away of the rise and reduction to nothing was done at such a perfect pace, the room between Revolution and Double Or Nothing a strong amount of time to let this play out in such a measured way. Every week moving forward with not one moment of stalling.
Reaching such a climax of crowd investment right in time for the PPV blow off. Wardlow roaring on top of the cage quite possibly the best final image to leave in our heads, the hero running into Sunday with such a sheer amount of momentum. The fans fully on his side and almost begging for that springboard into a major player.
Everything has been set up for AEW to deliver a star this Sunday. I have all the bloody faith in the world that they’ll take it.
EDIT: Oh God will it? Will it??
May 27th 2022
Owen Hart Cup
Why aren’t I excited for the Owen Cup Finals?
Rampage is simultaneously the easiest and the least consequential watch of the week. An extra hour of consistently solid wrestling for those who want it. That short run time resulting in the show flying by, delivering a praise worthy pace and flow. Although with that said, if you miss an episode it’s not the end of the world.
Which I feel is almost an apt summary of my feelings towards the inaugural Owen Hart Cup. The wrestling’s been solid enough, but I’d be lying if I said I’d been salivating in anticipation of the finals. Curb my enthusiasm as I say, “Eehh, yeah it’s been good.”
It sure hasn’t been due to the quality of matches, just look at the list over the course of both sides: Dax vs Cash, Darby vs Jeff, Samoa Joe being Samoa Joe. Hell, add Statlander vs Soho from this Friday as yet another strong bout in the tournament.
I like the idea and cause of the tournament so much that I feel like I should care for the matches themselves more than I do. But then I guest on the AEW Match Guide Podcast to preview Double Or Nothing and I turn into a Nottinghamshire Larry David.
The Owen Hart cup has been absolutely fine.
I just wish I was a bit more invested. Going off the crowd reactions I might be in the minority here, these cup matches have been routinely getting great reactions. Such so that if I was Tony Khan I wouldn’t really be questioning any of the execution, something’s clearly being done right even if it’s just not for me.
P. S. Brandon dressed as Lita had me HOWLING. That Hardy heel rib from the Young Bucks was so damn great.
Friday Night SmackDown
May 27th 2022
Money In The Bloodline
But not in Allegiant St- eh that gag’s too easy
All the eggs are firmly in the Roman Reigns basket, which is currently floating down the Nile of a reduced schedule. Leaving SmackDown caught in the reeds of stalled direction with nout but a Scottish Medjay to save us.
Hey, Drew was an impressively strong figurehead steering RAW during the lockdown era and could easily helm the ship if given a direction to sail. I just get the impressed that we’ll instead be dropping anchor in the middle of this tepid ocean and just waiting. Patiently standing by until the Bloodline frigate storms the seas once more.
And quite possibly the worst way to combat that was to deliver an episode of SmackDown that felt VERY filler. Yeah, emphasise the issue why don’t you.
Plans aren’t as thin on RAW, clear names being built and folks are at least having arcs over their repetitious matches. SmackDown has a couple of names being built (like Gunther for example) but there aren’t really any arcing to challenge the top.
Drew McIntyre is currently the only name, a feud saved from getting ran dry by the champion’s reduced dates. With both SummerSlam and WWE’s big trip to Wales round the corner there’s a need to hold that bout off, but to what they fill that time with only the lord knows. Because bloody hell the water feels cold in that department. So why not? You might as well not swim.
Roman Reigns and The Usos hold all of the money and momentum, whoever their feuding with feeding off for that short while. Which wasn’t a problem to start with, or a year ago, but now the well’s empty and there’s fuck all to drink. Roman might as well piss off for a bit, it’s not like he’d have much to run with anyway.
I only ask that Drew gets given something to create some waves with in the meantime, instead of just treading water and keeping his head up until the Big Doggy woof woof returns.
And that’s it! I’ll be back next week to trudge through the mud and fallout over Double Or Nothing. Hell In A Cell is on the horizon for WWE so we’ll be amping up for some steel action and AEW hits their routine post-PPV reset.
But let me know how you feel about this past week in wrestling! What’s your takes on both the Sasha Banks & Naomi and MJF contract disputes? And what about AEW Double Or Nothing? How excited are we for show?
Let me know below and I’ll do my best to reply!
I’ll also be live after AEW Double Or Nothing with WH Aftershock to review the show, I’ll post a link but keep a lookout for that!
Till next week, with that I bid you adieu. Adios!