Imp’s Wrestling Adventure
Well this was certainly an interesting week of wrestling for Imp to cover! Starting on such a high after one of the best received Royal Rumble matches in years, only to end on Dog Food II and a 22.95% stock drop losing $1 billion for the company.
WWE certainly do give you a fair bit to talk about! Can’t have the WWE yin without that WWE yang.
All that aside, I can’t ignore that Royal Rumble on Sunday did a perfect job of setting up excitement for WrestleMania. The win for Drew McIntyre coming at the perfect time in such a well-executed manner, with the immediate challenge to Lesnar setting us down the road with plenty of time to build. I like it, no fiff faff messing about um-ing and ah-ing over whatnot.
Really all the rumours sneaking out at this early stage have me giving a thumbs up, taken with a grain of salt given we do normally see fan driven possibilities floating about at this point over stuff with actual ground beneath it.
Charlotte Flair challenging Rhea Ripley over Bayley which may also result in the SmackDown champion facing The Boss Sasha Banks at WrestleMania? Yes please! Becky Lynch instead of Charlotte for the umpteenth time possibly defending against the next woman she didn’t beat on her time on top in Shayna Baszler? Count me right in on that, after winning at Survivor Series and being in the final 2 at the Rumble it doesn’t seem crazy or out of nowhere to feature the Queen of Spades on the grand stage.
Even Roman Reigns vs The Fiend has a ton of history to possibly play off of, with their 2015 feud going down as one of the top dog’s best arcs in his time as a solo star, “Anyone but you, Roman.”
So even though I will get a tad moany at times in this column – *cough cough* Smackers *cough cough* – I am genuinely optimistic in regards to WrestleMania right now. A case that often leads to a quality mid-road PPV like Elimination Chamber as we set up those final pieces. Well ‘hopefully’ final pieces, let’s not be too blindly positive given how late creative decisions appear to be being made right now.
Anyway, let’s get on with it and look back over this past week of wrestling. Talking bits from RAW, SmackDown, AEW Dynamite and NXT, what was awesome and what was… SmackDown.
Monday Night RAW
January 27th 2020
The Return of Edge/Randy Hears Voices
Damn those voices.
“There was one guy – when I’d dug a hole too deep to get myself out of – there was one guy… that would grab my hand and pull me up out of that hole. And it was you. Welcome home, Edge.”
Absolutely brilliant stuff. Playing off of such real emotion in the greatest of ways. Showing the bond, reminding us of the long term friendship. Teasing a Rated RKO reunion after we got to see a glimpse of it the night prior in the Rumble, but the very reason the teamwork came to an end in Minute Maid Park comes right back to kill it dead on Monday Night RAW.
The crowd reacting in shock to every single motion from Randy Orton, as he carefully wrapped the steel chair around Edge’s head, seemingly whispering reassurances. Right before climbing to the second rope and perching to jump to a choir of genuine screams from those in attendance.
Although he stopped himself, Orton coercing with those voices telling him he could send a stronger message than this. That he did via the express delivery of the instrument Edge himself created: the ConChairTo. The entire time talking to himself as if holding debate with those inner demons, the only ones that truly understand.
What an incredible way to kick off the angle, toying with such real emotion and twisting it into a story with all the heat in the world. Also not a half bad way to write Edge off for a bit via the storyline reason of the attack, out of all the part time vets in WWE today I’m all behind gradually ease this Canadian back in.
This road to Tampa is a long one and given the severity of reasons behind his 2011 retirement you’re not going to hear much complaint about a small amount of matches in his deal. Especially if the stories are this good.
Really my only con with all this is to question why the current crop of talent don’t get material anywhere near this level of quality. Same with Batista vs Triple H last year, sure I loved that mini Mania arc last year, but why don’t the modern day stars get narratives anywhere near this level?
That’s how great this was, if anything it’s too good. Can’t wait to revisit 2009 once again with a slow Orton promo next week.
SmackDown on FOX
January 31st 2020
Loser Watches Wrestler Eat Dog Food
Oh goodie, the dog food’s back.
10 minutes in I was questioning why did I agree to write about this show again? Then I watched the rest of the show and I’ll be honest it was more of a town crier’s bellow, “WHY OH WHHYYY?!!”
Sure, the middle of the show was fine. Some things moved along and set things up a tad closer for Mania-bow Road, as WWE reposition folk into the ones who are actually going to feature. Shinsuke Nakamura dropping the Intercontinental Championship to Braun Strowman standing out as quite literally the biggest shift in that vein.
Really my highlight was Naomi dancing out like an LED Komusō (Google it, trust me it’s a good gag). After her return at the Rumble sparked such a huge response outside the wrestling bubble, it makes all the sense in the world to immediately strike and feature her in a PPV title match. Really it kind of saves WWE from having to figure out a build given the short one month till Elimination Chamber – not forgetting another urgh Saudi show slapped in the week before.
Naomi’s over in this brief return period of hers, so strike, my friends! Doesn’t really feel like there’s much in the way of WrestleMania plans for the SmackDown women anyway.
However then we get to the main event, the storyline for their biggest star that bookended the show. The never ending Roman Reigns vs King Corbin feud that’s been going for 4 months straight now. Once again the rivalry both opens and closes the show and quite easily my least favourite part of the thing, but this time featuring the return of the dog food for Corbin!
Playing Devil’s Advocate, look the structure of Corbin being on top and finally getting his comeuppance as indeed longer form storytelling from WWE. I can’t not acknowledge that. The story exists, that doesn’t mean I think it’s good or have been enjoying the thing.
In 2019 WWE’s main issue for me was the whole world was constantly shifting and no one really got any solid flowing arcs past a single month. So going in to 2020 my first wish was for Vince’s Wrestle Factory to at least start giving us arcs that – you know – met the fundamental basics of storytelling.
Corbin vs Reigns has done exactly that, it doesn’t mean the story itself has been any good. In fact, each week I feel like I’m writing about how I can’t wait for the bleeding thing to end. Four straight months of the same matches over and over, it’s more than a bit much. No wonder I groan when month number five starts with a main event six-man featuring same the guys AGAIN.
You can also guarantee this wasn’t the end either. There’s a Saudi show to build to and an Elimination Chamber match to fill, Corbin vs Reigns has at least one more month. I say ‘at least’ because I ain’t gonna be the one guaranteeing it’ll stop whilst Roman’s potentially feuding with The Fiend.
Only pro I can find for the whole dog food angle is that kids probably loved it. But I’m not a kid and if anything I feel more inclined to drop SmackDown from this review and save myself some much needed time.
I can’t wait for this feud to end. That said, I also thought ‘Who Attack Roman Reigns?’ was total crap. So it’s not exactly like I’ve got high hopes for whatever WWE have in store for their top star. Oh God, this dog stuff was written for their top guy. What the hell’s going on?!
Side note: Roman Reigns sneaking in a cheeky Hook reference with him flicking the spoon at Corbin = A+. One of my biggest childhood movies come to life!
January 29th 2020
Chris and the gang have so much fun, working together they get the job done.
“All you had to do was say yes to my offer of joining the inner circle, but you didn’t and now look at you. You look like a jacked up, cracked up version of Captain Jack Sparrow. Yo ho ho and a bottle of DUM! ‘cus you’re stupid.” – I really am going to have to start keeping a record for the Chris Jericho Quote of the Year.
Depending on when you grew up: Pirate Mox/Snake Mox/Big Boss Mox has been kicking ass over this build to his AEW Championship match at Revolution. If you saw images without watching the thing you’d probably be mistaken for thinking the angle was on the corny side, when in reality they’ve done a magnificent job of painting the one eyed man as such a chaotic force on Wednesday nights.
The champion himself in Chris Jericho has also been presented so damn well as leader of both Inner Circle and All Elite Wrestling as a whole. Carrying himself like the cock of the walk before pelting it ASAP whenever Jon Moxley actually enters the fray, his actions telling us the true story of fear behind his strong words. I can’t compliment Le Champion’s work enough.
The bar AEW is setting is so much higher than what I’m used to that when I call this episode more in the ‘fine’ category I’m really not doing it justice. There was so much I enjoyed, that with me saying it’s a 3/5 episode of Dynamite I really do have to emphasise that that’s me rating by their own much higher standard.
This is what wrestling on TV should be! For a show of this quality to feel like the lesser norm, it feels so damn great. AEW have started to hit such a strong rhythm since hitting 2020, over their first few months of throwing shit at the wall we’re at the point where a lot of the show is filled with what has stuck.
The greatest shit of all being that of the cowboy. Hangman Page’s arc with Kenny Omega, the rest of The Elite and alcoholism has been bloody brilliant. It’s my favourite thing in all of wrestling right now and that’s coming from a New Japan nerd all giddy about Shingo Takagi becoming a big boy champion in Sapporo today.
The slow build with Page drinking more and more, instead of running out to help allies he’s crowd surfing or taking fans’ beers and downing them. His incredible ‘hold my beer moment’ this week, passing the pint over to Matt Jackson, nailing a Buckshot Lariat and pissing off with his drink. Amazing.
Not to be topped by the backstage interaction, with Page gifting Matt & Nick with nameplates to put on their future championships. Somehow simultaneously a genuinely nice gift and such a dick move. It’s brilliant. I love it. Give me more Cowboy shit. This arc is just the greatest and the time given to let the story organically play out just elevates it that little bit more.
January 29th 2020
Tomasso Ciampa & Adam Cole Contract Signing
Signed in his own head blood, Goldie’s coming home.
It doesn’t sound like the biggest compliment in the world, but NXT just really gets contract signings. The format repeated over and over on RAW & SmackDown over the years, often feels anew down in Full Sail. Often replicated, never duplicated.
Oh to be innovative, what a world.
This week Tomasso Ciampa swung into Strong, O’Riley & Fish off camera with a baseball bat, with us tuning in to the wreckage and a man on a mission marching into the arena. Such a cool way to set up the segment and immediately foreshadow what’s about to happen, just in case you’d not followed Ciampa then kindly spray painted a giant yellow ‘X’ on the table he’d brought with him before slamming down a pen on it: Daddy’s got a contract signing, boys!
Adam Cole reading right through it too was a nice touch, marching out after already signing for facing whoever at Portland. Grabbing the contract off of William Regal to march into the ring and attack Ciampa himself. Even managing to draw blood from the challenger before he got a swing in. Of course it didn’t work, the NXT Champion got Powerbombed through the table as foretold and Ciampa – in an awesome improvised move – signed the contract with a slap of his head blood.
Such a cool way to blast through the standard contract signing trope, with Ciampa setting the scene in such an aggressive way. Especially when we’re used to the whole thing being presented as such an official occasion with formal Michael Cole, comfy chairs and everything. This was so the opposite of that: a wooden table, spray paint and blood.
Once again NXT finds a way to make the contract signing work and actually get you hyped for the match. Ciampa has only ever had one thing on his mind in reclaiming has precious Goldie, put that in tow with him having the Undisputed Era’s number and the heels have been set up to fall ever so gloriously.
The thing is I suspect we’ve got a tad more of a wait before Undisputed’s Rome collapses, it’s not quite the biggest arena for Cole to vacate his throne.
NXT Main Event
Dusty Tag Team Classic Final
Bruiserweights vs Grizzled Young Veterans
Well, well, well, have we got a one delightful friendship and/or feud brewing here. I love the straight man/fun goof duet between these two, as a comedy man the whole thing couldn’t be any more up my street. You show ‘em why you’re the life of the party, Peter!
They scream ‘temporary’ but Riddle & Dunne have won me over in such a short amount of time, so entertaining and they just have this aura of Super Team. Two ridiculously talented singles stars teaming against well-co-ordinated established heel teams, the worst thing for those champions would be for this new team to suddenly turn out to have amazing chemistry. *Welp* I don’t like the odds for Fish & O’Riley.
I’ve got to give my props to James Drake & Zack Gibson, the Grizzled Young Veterans. They’ve had an absolute banger of a year over on NXT UK and their being featured here the reward, such a fantastic team that seemingly bring something new to the equation every time I watch them. They’re so goddamn hateable too, within seconds of Gibson holding a mic you’re booing your lungs out. These aren’t like your cool heels that dominate NXT, no GYV really are so damn loathable.
So a nice run for the English duo getting a run to the finals of the Dusty Classic, however it’s our lovable heroes who triumphed in the end. Some amazing sequences, crazy dives and stiff as hell combinations. Both teams came out having dealt some incredible looking blows, which is really everything you’d want coming out of a final. What do you know, turns out making both teams look great is a pretty good idea?
As for the future, The Bruiserweights don’t have long to party with TakeOver: Portland and their NXT Tag Team Championship match right around the corner. Pete Dunne’s last tag title challenge didn’t go particularly well (twas the night Roddy Strong turned on him and joined the cool baddies), but will things go more smoothly this time? Or will Dunne have some mistrust issues crop up after what happened before? Or, hell, they just might not be good enough to win.
Whatever happens, with such an impactful 2019 it may not take long before things collapse for the Undisputed Era. When you hold all the gold that’s a lot of targets on your chest. The North American Championship has already fallen to Keith Lee, will the NXT Tag Team Championships be next?
Imp’s RAW Grade – Charlotte vs Asuka was great, McIntyre looked strong and the Edge/Orton ending an all-time great. You can skip all the rest though!
Imp’s SD Live Grade – Avoid like the plague. Don’t catch the plague, dick’ead.
Imp’s NXT Grade – Another top notch outing, TakeOver: Portland’s looking rather tasty.
Imp’s AEW Grade – Flowed so damn well, those 2 hours flew by once again. Nothing remarkable, but when I talk about how WWE should be better this is exactly what I mean.
Comment below, rate and click an emoji too. I’ll be here to reply and chat this weird wrestling world.
Imp’s LIVE every Thursday on LOP Radio, this week talking ast weekend’s WWE Royal Rumble event and rumoured matches for WrestleMania 36!
Imp’s most recent columns:
Imp’s WWE Royal Rumble 2020 Notes
Imp’s WWE Adventure – Who’s Going To Win The Rumble?
Imp’s Wrestling Adventure – Royal Rumble, AEW Bash At The Beach, & NXT Women’s Battle Royal (RAW, SmackDown, AEW & NXT Jan. 18th, 2020)
Imp’s Wrestling Adventure – On To The Royal Rumble! (RAW, SmackDown, AEW & NXT Jan. 11th, 2020)
Imp’s NJPW Adventure – The Story of Hiroshi Tanahashi Part 1: Becoming The Ace
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