After the non-stop calamity of last week, we’ve got ourselves a lovely bit of downtime calm to enjoy.
Both companies setting the table, heating a hearty broth on the hob as we rub our hands in anticipation. The scenario us ‘folk who write/talk about wresting on the internet’ had been saying we wished to happen for years, the world where fans win big because both companies are competent.
To a degree.
My quick write ups for WWE shifting from picking one my weekly list of detractors, to genuine overall praise each week. Sure things aren’t perfect (this week’s RAW topic an example of that), but on the whole the shows are leaving me on a much greater level of appreciation. I’m not sitting here contemplating ‘which bit’ to moan about, instead finally able to dissect a topic and dig in.
It had been years since WWE was worth properly digging in to. Predictions were just ‘who you thought Vince was going to push’ and nothing to do with the story or character work therein. Look at how much has now changed! You can get invested in their characters and trust there’ll at least be continuity week-to-week.
Not quite at the bar I judge AEW on (HHH is getting them there though), but in watching RAW/Smackers the improvements are night and day.
So raise you glasses and “huzzah!” for this new era of competency. A world of positivity social media is surely not built to comprehend. Where both sides of this wacky wrestling world are enjoyable television and those still squabbling “But if WWE/AEW did that you’d be all…” are left behind to themselves.
To the shows of the week and Logan Paul! Where I immediately get to dig in on a controversial choice.
Friday Night SmackDown
September 16th 2022
“#1 Contender” Logan Paul
Time for Roman’s Saudi side mission. But are we talking CD Projekt Red or Ubisoft?
Either way, portraying Logan Paul as a good guy babyface continues to be an hilarious misread. That guy? Where every crowd he’s in front of can’t wait to boo him? That sounds like the idea of a crazy man, which it was, but you don’t have to continue with it. Did you hear those reactions? The Bloodline defacto babyfaces in the face of the crowd’s immediate desire to see Logan Paul get his ass beat.
A special attraction match to draw eyes, if not the attention of wrestling fans. That’s not really the point of the Saudi Arabia shows (from the WWE perspective), closer to big scale promotional events that have gradually included a stronger tie to the actual product.
At least in taking place in KSA Logan Paul won’t be booed. Their crowds were Vince’s dream in their want to simply enjoy themselves by cheering the faces and booing the heels. More knowledgeable and invested in the current stars with every visit, receiving increasingly stronger reactions each time.
A smart idea to kick the hype off for the Crown Jewel main event here as well. Too often under Vince did the Saudi specials become a side track you could stop watching that month for. Then come back after it was done with nothing having changed as they returned to their regular scheduled programming.
On Smackers they hyped a press event live from Las Vegas to officially announce the match. Sure on the product itself Logan Paul has wrestled two celebrity showcase bouts (and impressed in both), so it’s easy to argue on the side of the suddenness of this announcement. However, the Saudi shows being a pure promotional event of grand stature almost assures that status as the kind of event fit for big celebrity matches over investment angles paying off.
Under Triple H this screams a scenario in which you can bet on a gradual build over the next month and a half. Or at least I hope so. I have more confidence in the current creative control, but it’s never easy to dual-build events.
All that said, if you’ve ever read my work before you’ll be more than aware of my stance on these bi-annual KSA specials. I’m not someone who’s going to scream at you to not watch, but please don’t be kidding yourselves in what you’re watching. The propaganda being inserted smarter than the original show still makes it propaganda.
Monday Night RAW
September 12th 2022
Dominick Mysteri… go?
Nothing crazy, but another solid week of laying the ground work. A much higher bar of quality as these lesser weeks build the necessary character and investment for what’s to come. The patience to sow seeds all over the show still a much welcome new trait.
A night of creative progression kicking into gear: Johnny Gargano’s in ring debut, Kai & Sky finally winning the Women’s Tag Team Championship, the trust in KO paying dividends from the heart & soul and NXT continues to be legitimised as canon. Hell, their wrestler’s own past has been legitimised as canon. I swear our continuity odds were at about 60/40 before.
The positives starting to far outweigh the previously mounting minor gripes. However, there are still a few aspects a tad rough round the edges. The one sparking conversation this week being the presentation of Dominick Mysterio. A young talent with potential, but rushed onto our main screen with the hype of his father’s legendary name.
Who knows the wrestler we could be seeing today with a little patience in development, instead we’ve got a young lad dropped into figuring out so much when already in the fire. That’s my take when it comes to Dominick: he’s got the talent, but the path he was given hasn’t done him any favours.
I somewhat feel against the grain in saying that. It seems many more have settled on the opinion that he’s just simply no good. Debuting his new heel persona in a DQ ending main event likely doesn’t help perception either. The stigma from the previous era is still there regarding those kinds of finishes, even if now they’re used to genuinely advance story and character.
This is all short term though, being the fourth man in a stable on a roster full of veterans is surely going to reap rewards down the line. He really did need to break away from his dad and this is far better than ending up fending on his own. Sure, it may take a while longer than the other Judgment Day members for Dom to truly find his new persona, but I feel that position is far better for his development than staying in a tag team with his ol’ da’.
Looking at all this, it’s hard not to argue that WWE does indeed have a developmental system for a reason. Look at Bron Breakker, another generational star entering WWE with that hype. However he has been given the time and patience to develop, an arena to not only hone his skill but also his character. He’ll arrive on the main roster with a fully formed presentation, a world of good was done to him.
Compare that to Dom. If he’d have been given that same time would we be having this conversation?
September 14th 2022
Moxley Rises As The Heart & Soul
AEW damn strong for the second week in a row. As if the post Punk creative spur has fired them up into the Grand Slam reset.
Jon Moxley’s promo last week oozed motivation from the heart. The man was meant to be on vacation, now he’s instead sitting on a damn high throne of fan support. Other names caught the eye, but in wrestling and romance love wins out in the end.
And what a perfect opponent Sammy Guevara is. A character that’s the antithesis to Moxley’s honour, a true opponent for a man swimming in fan respect. Because you can bet your ass the man’s going to cheat, Guevara will show you his skill and ability before throwing it away when things become tough. I loved the story of that costing him, as in the end it was swinging for distraction and interference that got his eyes caught shut to the Paradigm counter.
In Punk’s absence Moxley rose as an example of a truly passionate champion and the fans bit. Only for support to fully swing his way post-interim, with the actual champion immediately being an example of anything but. Respect for Punk tanked, seemingly all of it now fuelling Mox who’s motoring away on momentum.
He’s only just dropped the belt and wasn’t even meant to be here, but in spite of doing so his peak hasn’t died down one iota. I mean, that is unless Bryan Danielson wins in a complete misdirect. AEW have done that before! There’s a difference between a ‘swerve’ and purposeful misdirection. I personally have a lot more respect for the latter, suddenly being able to go back and now see all the seeds planted and realising certain words were said with purpose.
Which leads us directly into MJF’s promo. A quick character assassination of Jon Moxley, the former champion, ahead of the all Blackpool Combat Club final in Arthur Ashe. Not a word on Danielson as the Casino ladder match winner purely zones in on Mox, in a move I’ve seen be questioned as a possible mistake… but I’m not exactly sure this is as simple as ‘lad bigs up beef ahead of immediate feud’.
As MJF stood in the ring calling himself the greatest demon Mox will ever have to conquer, it did cross my mind of the possible misdirect. Perhaps the MJF character does truly believe Mox is going to win, but AEW have done it before where they’ve been seemingly setting up one match, only to zag when we were expecting them to zig.
Being totally honest, AEW is in a great situation where either winner creates so many exciting roads of possibility… but with MJF right there on the horizon… does it ultimately matter?
September 16th 2022
The Road To Grand Slam’s Final Stop
Not the most essential watch, even if you won’t find any higher joy this week than during Willow’s entrance. More a show of final builds and sorting before Grand Slam next week. Last minute bouts filling out the card, especially for the 2-hour Rampage special that was previously a tad bare.
Willow not alone as Danhausen’s also joy that lifts the arena, even if he just immediately got his arse whooped. If anything both perfect fits for the flow of Rampage, in it’s easy watch being one the most enjoyable but also least necessary.
… did I just call Danhausen unnecessary? Backtrack, backtrack! I’m not risking a curse like that.
Swiftly onto the rest of the show as two champions finding their last minute challengers for the big show: Jericho challenging for the ROH World Championship and Diamante stepping up to Cargill with her mystery friend. The former with a much stronger character throughline to the challenge than the latter, which feels just… there. I do love me a mystery person angle though, a tad unfair for Jade if Diamante’s 305 OG is Homocide.
A lovely little Golden Ticket Battle Royal also set for next Friday, always nice to see an outing directly building to the near future. AEW’s multi-lad kerfuffles rarely lack purpose come the end and inclusions like Hangman up that ante.
A decent main event as Samoa Joe got a wee showcase defending against Josh Woods. A strong outing adding to that building resume of Woods, even though there was never really any doubt in this contest. Two weeks in a row Rampage works as more of a character showcase than an unmissable hour of telly.
Wardlow and Samoa Joe staring down however… yum, yum, yum, give me that tasty treat.
SmackDown Grade– Damn solid Smackers in spite of the Logan Paul character issues
RAW Grade – Another solid week of build
AEW Dynamite Grade – Exciting setting of the stage for Grand Slam
AEW Rampage Grade – You can skip this, but you will miss the infectious joy of Willow and Danhausen
Comment below. I’ll be here to reply and chat this weird wrestling world.
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