Imp’s Wrestling Adventure
Saturday’s rolled around quicker than ever, meaning it’s once again time for LOP to throw out weekly recap columns at the same pace the wrestling world’s delivering at!
So much wrestling, so little time. It’s a common notion bringing up how difficult constantly keeping up with 9 hours a week is, however it really doesn’t hurt if said content is an overall blast to consume. Seriously, this week I only struggled with one show and the fact said weekly endeavour is now only 2 hours genuinely makes all the difference in the world.
After the ‘hmm’ opening RAW was fun as hell, AEW flew by once again and NXT delivered one of their most momentous moments in the history of the brand. It’s weeks like this that remind me why I do so much around wrestling, why engage the amount I do. When it’s great, boy there’s nothing like it.
That said, I do want to start out with a tad of a moan this week. I’m one those people where my thoughts on the issues surrounding WWE’ s deal with NAME REDACTED rules me out entirely of ever watching those shows. No problem if you’re fine with it, but for me the integration of the build for these shows 100% affects my enjoyment of the weekly product.
Tt doesn’t matter the quality of the build, or if the shows actually had any substance for fans who keep up every week, the nature of the deal flat out rules me out. I checked out the first show and with the thing payed for by their government and wall to wall with propaganda… yeah, I’m out. That’s the major difference with this and their other shows, NAME REDACTED payed for WWE to be part of their Vison 2030 project to help change the international perception of the Kingdom.
Then in the same bleeding year the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi took place. You can’t put a spotlight on yourself, then continue down the same road as always and expect the international market to be fine and rosey. Change takes time, Triple H talks about WWE being part of that, but you’ve got to actually want to change in the first place.
This isn’t an issue for all fans, that’s fine, I understand that. But for me it is, when these shows roll around I feel wrong for staying a fan. With the final nail in coffin being Stephanie McMahon walking out on RAW and joking, “Turns out dismemberment is a liability.”
When I’m already struggling with your product, don’t test my morals, mate.
So I want to get that all off my chest first, end on a happy note as overall this week was packed full of greatness. Luckily the opening of SmackDown packed all of my qualms into one, tidy, entirely fast forwardable package.
Monday Night RAW | SmackDown Live
October 21st– October 26th 2019
The Build To Crown Jewel 2: This Time Without State Sponsored Murder!
I Just Want To Enjoy My Wrestling
Stop bringing Dom to work with you, Rey!
It’s been decided pretty damn quickly which is my least favourite show of the week. The one least acquired to my tastes, where I struggle the most to see past ‘things happening’ nor find much to chew on behind the arcs.
Man, this episode hit me hard with the reminders of where WWE is right now: Kofi back in the tag scene like nothing happened, building hard to Crown Jewel next week and in consequence their most consistent division in the women having little focus.
All this whilst we’re not that far removed from the Draft. The dust is still settling on this new era, but they’re not able to start anything because they’ve got to build to next week. As someone who won’t be watching it, there’s almost no need for me to tune in at all. Hell, because of half the roster being down in the old Aussie lands there weren’t ANY of WWE’s female stars on RAW at all.
And you can bet your ass I’ve seen some fans jump to conclusions given that tour clash happened with NAME REDACTED right round the corner. Wouldn’t be surprised if it was more aligned to bad scheduling, but it sure doesn’t help perception.
I enjoy ma’ wrestling, but I don’t relish in having to question my morals whilst I do so. Does subscribing to the Network mean I’m endorsing all their practices, even though I don’t watch said shows? Does watching the TV mean I’m giving the thumbs up for Hogan, even though I’m winding the second I see his face?
I don’t want to be answering these questions! I want to watch oiled up muscly people fake fighting each other whilst delivering Shakespearean promos, politely waiting for their opponent to finish their turn before retorting, “Alas, sir, how fell you beside your five wits?”
It’d be bearable if the temporary bi-annual nonsense didn’t interfere and disrupt the TV product itself, but it does and in return I’ve got nothing to say about this episode.
Things happened at such a pace, jumping from one thing to the next that it felt like I was continuously being told I shouldn’t really care about the thing I just watched. Really I should be excited about this next thing! Nothing had time to soak in, so it never moved past ‘things happening’ and I was just simply bored.
Every match outside the main event was either interrupted by something or extremely short, something that feels even more apparent now there’s another show where the matches taking place genuinely matter. Watching SmackDown I’m asking what the point in the wrestling parts is at all, when it’s like they’re doing everything they can to move past the matches as quickly as possible. Donning this show ‘Sports Entertainment’ is apt, because it’s like they’re embarrassed to be wrestling at times.
You tune in for the characters, for the stories, you don’t tune in to SmackDown for the wrestling. Wednesdays are for that. And we’re coming out of a summer where those first two were at rock bottom quality, they’re rebuilding so the investment isn’t quite there for those aspects quite yet.
Then the presentation rushes past the wrestling as quickly as possible, that means there’s nothing on this show for me to care about. Sure in the long run with a bit of consistency those characters and stories can rocket it back up, but right now I’m not even pausing the show when I open up Word to write this column, make tea, move clothes to the dryer, etc.
I can’t argue the show’s high energy, the style is off the charts, but substance wise I’m left wanting.
I’ll also say the Lesnar/Valsquez story has actually built pretty well, especially thanks to Rey Mysterio absolutely killing it with his promos. So credit to those guys and the creative behind it, but I’m not watching the match, so there’s only so much I can get into it.
I genuinely enjoyed RAW this week, but man, SmackDown was like a reminder of reasons I left them in May.
Every time these shows come around my fandom is tested. Actually, let’s truly get that out of my system so the rest of the column is chirpy.
RAW’s Build To Crown Jewel
Team Flair vs Team Racist
I’m not saying the wrestlers are rac- sod it, you know what I’m prodding.
Oops, Flair actually said where they’re going! You can’t be out here saying NAME REDACTED, Ric. Our sponsors don’t like us acknowledging where the money of the brand they advertise on actually comes from, there’s a reason you don’t see NAME REDACTED in the quarterlies, Ric! Take a hint!
I’d normally be all in on a returning Drew McIntyre vs Ricochet, but I’d already designated this entire Crown Jewel bit an immediate skip. I’m not watching the show, so why would I care about the build? Especially when all three ventures so far have already informed us everything related to its build will no longer be relevant or canon once it’s over?
That said, I didn’t skip Ricochet/Drew and the match was bloody brilliant. McIntyre’s going to do brilliantly with this roster, as the smaller, extremely athletic guys are going to make him look an absolute beast. Even in defeat, Ricochet had to dig deep as hell and pull something incredible out of the wheelhouse to just ground the man.
The post-match beat down exemplified that, Big Drew ain’t nothin’ to mess with. Not forgetting the man was a first round draft pick, WWE clearly have plans for this man and I’m fully behind them with that. Although if this RAW told me anything, nothing’s going to really kick into gear until November and Crown Jewel’s out the way.
Do you know what that tells me? That there’s absolutely no need to watch any of WWE’s shows for the next two weeks, none at all. If they’re going to be building to NAME REDACTED so heavily, then why on Earth are we expecting this time to be any different than the last three? A month of build to a really long, mediocre-fine house show where in just tuning in you’re answering a morality questionnaire. Then that last month of TV is immediately dropped, with WWE going back to what they were doing beforehand.
So you tell me, why in the hell should I even bother tuning in? Especially as someone who is dead set against these REDACTED shows?
In terms of my viewing, you couldn’t have had a damper opening than building for the multi-man tag match. A wet ‘thub’ on the floor as I grab the remote to sweep it away with the fast forward button.
Final note: Vince, its fine. You gave Ricochet the superhero gimmick but don’t actually know anything about superheroes. Its fine, you don’t have to have Lawler saying Spiderman things every other sentence to try and convince us otherwise.
Seth Rollins vs The Fiend
WWE Once Again Fix An Arc They Themselves Broke
Rollins finally gets character as champion!
One thing that really seemed to be helping Reigns during 2017 was when WWE leant heavier into the heel tics of his persona. The company downright sucks at writing long term babyfaces, villains however? Man do they create some great villains, if anything their stories often get hindered by the reminder that the good guys are the ones we’re meant to get invested in.
So when WWE does in fact show that their heroes aren’t as smiley goodie-two-shoes, bloody hell does it work. I loved how Rollins was presented, mostly because it played off of last week and the fallout from it incredibly well. Seth believing that he knows what’s right, that he made the right decision even if it is unpopular. Declaring that’s what being a champion is, taking that kind of responsibility on your shoulders.
This is all in assumption it was meant to come across as a slight lean to the heel side, instead of a genuine justification to try and explain/an attempt to stop the booing for the show’s top babyface. But for me the best characters in wrestling aren’t afraid to show that side of themselves, to heel it up and dig in with what they’ve said they’ll stand for. Even if it’s just for one night only like John Cena on 2006’s One Night Stand, or ’97 Steve Austin in Canada or Naito in Osaka.
No babyface is believable long term if all the actions they make are qualities of a good hero dictated by focus groups, people don’t work like that, even role models ain’t perfect. Folk don’t change personalities from month to month, so Rollins taking this firm stance on his actions was great. Lean into that, make that a permanent part of his character. If WWE are once again going to go down that line of, “He’s controversial!” because they mucked up on the writing of their top babyface’s character for the third star in a row, then bloody go into it and have his actions actually be controversial.
I’m not sure it makes sense for the in-universe wrestlers to be upset at him burning down the Funhouse? He was a monstrous bad guy, why would they be upset? But creating an avenue for Rollins to get across this side of his character is so damn welcome, it changes him from being yet another bland good guy to an actual character.
So thumbs up for this, with one massive asterisk however. These character moments, the traits they created can’t just vanish into thin air. Sure, if he must Rollins can be an all smiley good guy trying to make a generic script sound interesting in interviews, but show that darker side to him on a consistent basis and you’ve got me interested. Suddenly those ‘meh’ interviews add to his character, he’s portraying the heroic role model he believes a champion should be.
Rollins believing that makes him a hero is way more compelling than his character simply being that he is one.
Also Humberto Carillo is such a nice, lovely boy. Rollins sold like an absolute boss for that lad, I was so into this match even if some in the crowd seemingly were dead set against anything Rollins. What they presented this week was genuinely good, no complaints.
AEW’s TNT Debut | NXT on USA
October 23rd 2019
AEW Kicking Into Gear
Dammit, kicking into ‘Full Gear’. It was right there, Imp
This was a really interesting one for me, with the growing pains of the first few weeks out of the way. How would AEW feel this week with momentum and narratives truly starting to kick in? We know what AEW is now, we’ve seen what the shows are like, got a feel for the product.
For me this was their best flowing show to date, enjoyed every single minute of it. From the white hot opener all the way to Moxley/PAC ending in a time limit draw, it was an absolute joy to watch. With the crowd reaching an incredible peak popping huge for the Cody/Jericho mid-show angle, something that was built to really well with the Inner Circle making their way to their VIP seats during the second match and being disruptive as hell for the remainder of the first hour.
Pittsburgh were on fire for that segment, their energy came through so damn loud as Cody & Friends took the fight to the heel stable. With commentary also setting the scene well too, letting us know that their muscle in Jack Hager wasn’t there this week. Meaning the moment Jericho starts being a dick, his equaliser isn’t waiting in the wings as protector.
Just such a lightning show, the two hours absolutely flew by. Lucha Bros and Private Party had one hell of an opener, injecting the show with energy and excitement right off the bat. Immediately followed by the next Tag Team Tournament Semi Final with the crowd popping for the Inner Circle part way through, which is resulted in the crowd being extremely into the match once the focus switched back.
With the first hour closing off with Omega vs Janela in another enjoyable battle between the two, this time in a more standard setting as The Bad Boy shows us he’s more than just hardcore… he’s also got amazing hair.
I also really rate the way the show ended too, PAC & Jon Moxley had one hell of a back and forth match to close things if in intriguing fashion. A competition so equal the TV time remaining simply wasn’t enough to decide things, such a great tactic to build a future PPV match that just simply hasn’t been seen on mainstream TV in a damn long time.
The live crowd didn’t take it as well, but when draws have been used in such a way that we’ve become familiar with them being an automatic trigger for such a reaction, you’re going to get that ‘Reigns boo’ even though Reigns has been used perfectly well.
Using the draw to say, “By gawd, these two men are so great TV time wasn’t enough! We’re going to have to settle this where there’s more time available… on PPV!” Draws aren’t just a tactic to prolong a feud like we’ve seen for so long, with results mattering in such a manner suddenly draws hold actual weight. The result of PAC vs Moxley wasn’t decided, so even though they’re going their separate ways right now, the two will clash again.
This show man, it’s so damn enjoyable.
NXT Has It’s Greatest TV Moment Yet
Pew, pew, pew.
And it wasn’t just AEW Dynamite that was alight, Full Sail witnessed one mighty offering themselves!
As much as the rest of the show was fun, I want to jump to the massive talking point of the night. The main event for the North American Championship and the stunning aftermath that followed. Seriously, you can tell an angle went down well when it’s all everyone’s talking about on my Twitter feed the next morning. I enjoyed the hell out of AEW, but this week NXT was the talk of water cooler town.
The crowd went mental for Dijakovic and Lee flying around like Super Cruiserweights. I still can’t say the former’s name, I’m too European and automatically say his name as ‘Di-yak-o-vich’. Made this match a nightmare to talk about on LOP Radio on Thursday, I cannie bleedin’ say the bloke’s name.
Easily WWE’s match of the week, the thing escalated so damn well. Lee and Dijakovic out doing each other’s insane athleticism, until the champion was finally kept down and the crowd on their feet as they finally faced one on one in the ring. Reaching a point where it was so worthy of that main event billing, that when I saw the somewhat lengthy TV time remaining I still had no further expectations other than an Undisputed celebration soaking it all in.
How I was wrong! Things somehow escalated even further, an amazing match followed by a masterful ending. I have nothing but praise for the entire final half hour of this show.
First out came Ciampa wielding a crutch, continuing the trend of the man walking out every single week to confront the man holding his Goldie. Who was then joined by Gargano, DIY back together to level the odds. Then out comes bleedin’ Finn Balor, the man Full Sail had been clamouring for since the start of this show ending segment.
Four on three, the crowd wre amped up and ready for a brawl, before Balor turned heel and shocked Full Sail with a bicycle kick to Gargano! Every single fan was stunned, a woman shouted, “Go to hell!” A kid even attempting to charge him after a following up ringside running dropkick.
What an atmosphere this created. Setting up two different matches in Cole/Ciampa and Balor/Gargano, whilst also keeping Cole/Balor in the pocket given the Irishman’s eyes for the title he once held so dear.
A shame he can’t swear on WWE TV, Balor was an amazing bad guy back in NJPW when he was… let’s say… full Irish. Fair to say Prince Devitt wasn’t PG!
Imp’s RAW Grade – Lashley/Rusev is awful, the rest was an absolute blast however.
Imp’s AEW Grade – Kicking in to Full Gear!
Imp’s NXT Grade – One of the most momentous endings NXT has ever produced.
Imp’s SD Live Grade – For the second week in a row, I gained nothing from watching this. I’m starting to get worried guys
But now to hear from you!
Did you enjoy this week’s RAW/SmackDown/NXT/AEW?
What did you make of Finn Balor’s heel turn?
Am I crazy for genuinely enjoying RAW?
Comment below, rate and click an emoji too. I’ll be here to reply and chat this weird wrestling world.
Imp’s LOP Radio Adventure is LIVE every Thursday on both YouTube & podcast form, this week Imp went over Wednesday’s top notch AEW & NXT mid-week Wrestling fun!
Imp’s most recent columns:
Imp’s Wrestling Adventure – WWE Complicates The Draft For No Reason!
Imp’s Wrestling Adventure – WWE Draft 2019 Thoughts: You’re A RAW Superstar, Harry!
Imp’s Wrestling Adventure – The Wars Have Begun! (RAW, AEW, NXT & SmackDown on FOX, Oct 5th 2019)
Imp’s Wrestling Adventure – The Fiend Guaranteed To Win At Hell In A Cell? (RAW, SD Live & NXT, Sep 27th 2019)
Imp’s NJPW Adventure – The Story of Hiroshi Tanahashi Part 1: Becoming The Ace