Imp’s Wrestling Adventure
Over the weekend Imp was LIVE with LOPR Aftershock: NJPW Wrestle Kingdom, joined by XanMan, LOP’s immediate coverage right after both Night 1 Jan 4th and Night 2 Jan 5th went off air!
The adventure is back on! After a few weeks off from the madness Imp has returned to help you through the post-Wrestle Kingdom whiplash. Driving mile high into Monday Night RAW and taking it nice and steady below the speed limit come SmackDown. I’m a New Japan guy 1st, it takes me a week to readjust and stop comparing WWE to their level.
A world where fans were celebrating the perfectly paid off culmination of a 7 year arc for Tetsuya Naito, when I applaud WWE if an arc’s continuity lasts 7 weeks. When I say NJPW has ‘long term booking’ I don’t mean months, my friend. But that’s not how WWE write, so judging them to that level really isn’t fair on them. I have to deactivate my brain, take my foot off the pedal and take things at the pace they’re written: seemingly made up week to week with plenty of ideas but no set plan.
Something that isn’t necessarily bad, but is definitely a notable difference when trying to get back in the swing. But that’s also why I love Rumble season, the ‘anything can happen’ nature of WWE lends itself so well to such a match, but also the forced path creating a sense of predictability.
The only time of year that sentence makes sense: ‘I love it because you can use the past few months to figure the winners but you also have no idea what might happen’.
My absolute favourite time of the year, but how did the shows build to the annual Royales this week? And what about AEW Dynamite? As they build to their PPV in February and we got Jon Moxley’s answer to Chris Jericho’s Inner Circle invite.
Quick note: No NXT this week, the consequence of going into the week having just watched 13 hours of pro wrestling over 3 days. The wrestle fatigue hit strong on Friday, so if you want in on some NXT I recommend you read Clive’s awesome debut piece for The Brand Extension and JCool’s weekly Cool Points coverage!
Monday Night RAW
January 6th 2020
On To The Royal Rumble!
Right… well fair to say this year’s Men’s Rumble is going to be different!
Here we go! The set up lull right before my favourite time of the WWE year. Recently this period of the calendar has been a highlight as it forces direction and finality the rest of the year severely lacks. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but after this year such a story forced by the annual schedule rhythm probably isn’t the worst thing.
Doesn’t hurt that the Royal Rumble is still my favourite PPV either, turns out having two in one night hasn’t saturated that at all for me either. So I may be down on WWE after their mess of a 2019, but January is always a fantastic time to adjust and get back on track. Hell, the WrestleMania period last year was an absolute joy. A convoluted mess in some places, but those first few months were damn entertaining and produced some of WWE’s best material in their entire history (see Kofi Kingston’s ‘Mania road).
As for this year? Colour me intrigued by the rumour of both Rumbles being composed of 10 RAW 10 SmackDown and 10 NXT superstars. Although as I write this the only thing confirmed is that Brock Lesnar will enter at #1 and I really don’t know how I feel about that. An announcement that sounds fittingly mental with this past year of ‘porque?’ as they didn’t actually say he’d be defending his title. Champions are in the Rumble now I guess because, “Fuuuuu- we forgot to make any stars this year!”
Lesnar vs X on a mini loop to start the match could genuinely be entertaining and completely different from anything before, but if their plan is to go further than that then consider me worried. In no world should Brock Lesnar ever be winning the Royal Rumble 5 years since his peak heat, especially as the past two years have been all about moving on and we’ve reverted to status quo every single time.
With so many other wrestling options I’m enjoying in the year 2020, that would be a strong dose of ‘switch it off’ heat for me. I’ll cover all the positive options in the next bit, but there are a fair few worrying possibilities in the mix. Tyson Fury, Cain Velasquez, Edge, CM Punk and Brock Lesnar are all choices that would once again create some buzz whilst simultaneously reinforcing that you shouldn’t get invested in the talent you see on TV every week.
That’s what’s made the past two Royal Rumble events have that special feeling, embracing the top stars of this generation before their ultimate elevation and crowning. The women’s match appears to be in no danger (with the biggest rumours calling Flair or Rousey as victors), but my am I going into the men’s offering with a tad of worry.
I know who it should be, but if 2018 was pretty bad, 2019 completely broke my trust in WWE’s ability to make decisions and tell stories. The pressure of banking in on a name weighs heavy on the mind of a WWE with weak foundations.
The rebuilding has started and is genuinely going well, but with the trust broken I’m not believing and getting invested any time soon.
SmackDown on FOX
January 10th 2020
Too Much Wasted Time, Ain’t Gonna Waste No More
After 8 long years, the Sha- oh wait no it’s 9! Ah crap, I’m old now.
John Morrison’s entrance theme has the perfect lyrics for what should be WWE’s mission statement going in to this decade. Paraphrased as, “Stopping dicking about, dick’ead.”
After 9 long years, the Shaman of Sexy returns to Friday Night SmackDown. Mundo no more, the man named Morrison has FINALLY stepped back onto our screens. And you know what? I’m totally digging the way he’s been brought back as part of Miz’s regression since facing The Fiend. The Friday Night Delight has been immediately thrown into an ongoing story, which I prefer so damn much over weeks of squashes or, “Look who it is!”
The Miz brought his former best friend/tag team partner back, falling back into the comfort of the man he was 10 years ago. Which is all part of that feeling of reverting to his past self, when faced with the New Day the reality check hit, “We ran the last decade,” as Big E said.
Miz & Morrison were champions and fast rising stars 10 years ago, but now? The latter left in 2011, this is no longer his town, a world he once relished but now doesn’t belong. Immediately I love that contrast, the duo blaming the fans for reacting the way they are rather than realising the negative nature of the regression.
With them also driving home Morrison’s wrestling style as ‘parkour’, you know, the thing that had its moment in the sun last decade but isn’t really an in fashion fad anymore. I don’t think that one’s on purpose (they always cheesily plugged his wrestling like that), but it does add to that sense of ‘figure from the past’ Morrison seems to add to The Miz. Everything about the man screams late-Noughties.
I’m such a fan of the way WWE have used The Fiend to shift about their own characters, fixing one of the many issues that plagued the last few years in making their pasts relevant. Continuity! Oh lord the continuity! That’s really what The Fiend is, the horror WWE created as their storytelling ability crumbled and destroyed their world. With everything broken a devil was let in, a demon that’s actually a force for good fixing their damn show in the form of The Continuity Beast. A monster with a mantra ‘Your past shall be part of you again’.
What I’m getting at is I really don’t think The Fiend works as well if WWE had been nailing their storytelling and world building for the past half a decade. It’s those cracks in the world that let The Fiend in.
At least until Roman Reigns beats him for the WWE Universal Championship. Make like WWE 2k and patch the world, Big Dog!
Smackers And The Rumble
I’m getting my hopes up, but I don’t trust WWE to not book Brock Lesnar to bloody go and win.
WWE have finally done it, the year is 2020 and it took like 5 whole years but Roman Reigns truly feels like he’s the man who should win the Royal Rumble. I may rate his storylines as dog shit, but I can’t argue how well they’ve positioned the man whilst keeping him well away from that title.
To be fair it’s an almost carbon copy from what they did with Seth Rollins last year, or should I say ‘Corbin copy’. A storyline that didn’t quite go to plan but successfully positioned him as a top guy regardless, followed by main eventing against Baron Corbin and two goons for what felt like ages as we built through to the end of January.
Last year the other storyline overlapped with Rollins’ build to the Rumble, so there were breaks in between his interactions with the ratings draining trio of doom. We’re reaching our 4th straight month with Reigns vs Corbin this year, I didn’t even watch the last one and I’ve seemingly missed nothing at all. Run of the mill end of year heel filler for the top star in full effect!
Overall though it’s done what it had to, WWE have done the job of raising the Samoan star back to his top guy status – after being forced to step away last year – without simply shoving him into championship scenarios. He’s been kept simmering away, slowly heating before they turn the temperature right up on the Road to WrestleMania. It’s a thumbs up from me when looking ahead, even though the actual stories they wrote for the man in the meantime were fecking atrocious.
When I think about it, who else is there that’s been built strong enough to be a genuine contender for the Rumble crown this year? The only ones I can legit think of are either those dreaded outside wrestling names, returning stars that’d prove WWE learnt nothing this decade or the champion himself in Brock bloody Lesnar.
Really, the period between WrestleMania and SummerSlam was so world destroying in 2019 that half the roster are in the middle of having their characters rebuilt and re-established. I believe WWE are doing that well right now, but it does mean there aren’t a lot of choices to win the Rumble and main event WrestleMania. Aside from the guy who’s 2019 was entirely about being built back up, suddenly come January he’s the one main event guy outside the title scene with a consistent run behind him.
For me Roman Reigns isn’t just the right pick this year, he’s the only choice. With Lesnar in the Rumble who on Earth knows what the plan is, or what the match even has on the line this year, but I can happily say the royale feels predictable in the best of ways. They’ve finally gone and done it.
January 8th 2020
Did Moxley Accept The Inner Circle’s Offer?
Drink it in, maaan.
Bloomin’ ‘eck, how much alcohol was consumed on this episode? Page had three pints in the crowd after his victorious opener and Omega had pegged it backstage, then it’s fair to say that closing segment had a tad more than ‘a little bit’ of the bubbly.
Similar questions to whoever is writing the Nightmare Collective arc, introducing us to a hardcore legend in Japan that’s such a niche name that I find it crazy to believe a sober person thought a live crowd would pop for his reveal. Luther who? I know more about Luther Reigns than I do that man and who the hell remembers anything about him? Apparently he retired in 2006 and that’s just a detail that makes the entire scenario even more bizarre, who thought this would go over well?
Really the entire Brandi Rhodes stable is falling flat, Awesome Kong is so respected the fans always pop for her, but they’re quiet as hell come the end of the segments. Which sucks as the Women’s Division in AEW could use all the help it can get whilst they’re currently attempting to establish it, but this arc is legitimately crippling them.
Even if matches are hot and damn fun to watch, their legs are cut from under them with the Nightmare Collective post-match scuffles. Easily the biggest con with AEW right now, quite possibly the worst ongoing angle in mainstream wrestling today.
Oh and I think it’s fair to say it’s time to slow down with the newly signed wrestler reveals, with them only falling flatter and flatter they’re in danger of it becoming a trope. Like the lights going out and Canadian Destroyers, used so much they’ve accidentally become a tad of a meme and the reaction’s gone.
Positive wise, the main event scene continues to be bloody brilliant. Cody, MJF, Omega, PAC, Hangman, Jericho and Moxley are all entertaining as hell every single week. With Bash at the Beach next week MJF beat up a WCW legend in DDP, Cody tagged with his brother against the Lucha Bros, Omega and Hangman opened the show with the latter preferring to drink with the fans than help save an ally from PAC and then finally we have the glory that is the Chris Jericho vs Jon Moxley feud.
Of course Mox didn’t join the Inner Circle, but they took us for a ride in one damn fun segment. Played out convincingly enough for the crowd in attendance to brake into, “You sold out!” even if we all knew he never had. I was a fan of the segment going pretty long as they sold that he’d joined with the villains for a wee while, celebrating and popping an insane amount of bubbly.
But as Schiavone quipped at the end of the show, “Take the car and kick his ass.” With Moxley smashing bottles of champagne over the Inner Circle and a Paradigm Shift for Le Champion himself. Such a fun way to end the show, the chaos of Jon Moxley mixed with the pure entertainment of Jericho’s charisma.
AEW continue to nail their main event scene, no matter how iffy other areas of the show have been. The arcs for their top guys have been right on point and for me continue to be the highlight of their show. They may want to push tag team wrestling as a serious main event worthy entity, but the development of their top stories and arcs really is their greatest shining beacon.
Coming out of this week AEW possibly have both theworst and best ongoing arcs. Fair to say it’s as mixed a bag as you would probably have expected from a new promotion thrust into the mainstream. The shows continue to fly by as they wrestling style and presentation are right up my street, but the cons are apparent and at the point of needing to be addressed as they’re actively dragging things down as we enter their 4th month.
Imp’s RAW Grade – Rumble season, babay! AKA the show was fine but in today’s age that means just watch the bits you want on YouTube
Imp’s NXT Grade – Each week there’s one thing from NXT that the folk on my Twitter feed are all talking about the next day, this week that thing was Toni Storm’s butt.
Imp’s SD Live Grade – You know what, Smackers is alright if you only watch it once a month.
Imp’s AEW Grade – Wibbly wobbly in the middle, but their main event is still a pure joy to watch.
Comment below, rate and click an emoji too. I’ll be here to reply and chat this weird wrestling world.
LOPR Aftershock: NJPW Wrestle Kingdom Night 1 Jan. 4th 2020 w/Imp, XanMan and Jeff
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