Imp’s Wrestling Adventure
Well that was certainly an interesting week of wrestling!
I started the week kinda down on wrestling with a RAW that built very heavily to NAME REDACTED… wait, is that gag dead now Stephanie McMahon said the name on air? Nice of them to wait until after exactly one year to the week the journalist was dismembered, a real sign of compassion and understanding of our qualms.
But then Wednesday happened, lifted my spirits right back up with two shows I’m genuinely excited to watch every week. Followed by SmackDown being surrounded with anticipation after most of the roster was stranded after Crown Jewel, resulting in WWE having to stitch together a show with whatever pieces they had at last minute. Half of those pieces were literally in the air most of the day.
With rumour being that the NXT talent didn’t arrive until within 10 minutes before show time, man did it make for an exciting show. WWE nails it when they have to make up a Plan B after what they wanted to do becomes impossible, arguably resulting in putting together something that was miles better. I hated SmackDown last week, bloody loved it today.
Really the wrestling world feels all positive and hopeful going forwad. AEW’s first PPV since debuting on TV in Full Gear takes place next Saturday and these next couple of weeks we get to see their first attempt at driving things home. For WWE, Crown Jewel is finally out of the way and they can now turn to their storylines building up folk ready for Janua- oh yeah, piss it’s the Survivor Series!
Hold back storylines, there’s another storm coming through.
At least I actually enjoy this particular divergance, a month of inter-brand fun and matches we don’t normally see. Most years there wasn’t a Wildcard Rule that destroyed that sentiment, but at least we’ve got established teams now without folk jumping about willy nilly.
Wait, what do you mean Brock Lesnar just quit Fridays to jump to RAW? For Pete’s sake. They just swapped the titles round didn’t they?
The rule of folk unable to move shows immediately destroyed. Nice… I’ll be honest I don’t really care, its fine. It is what it is. As long as the Universe actually has a structure now it’ll count as an improvement over the summer.
Monday Night RAW | SmackDown Live
October 28th– November 1st 2019
No SmackDown For Deserted Men
That is amazing. Fan of the week, ladies and gentlemen.
Booking back to back shows in Riyadh and Buffalo was always an optimistic scheduling. Especially when you had pretty much your entire women’s roster at disposal to flat out avoid such an arrangement that left no room for error. And BOY was there an error, with only 12 of the talent actually getting out of NAME REDACTED to make it back anywhere near in time to the US.
All this led to one damn interesting episode of SmackDown, often in times like this WWE ends up putting on one of their most memorable shows. The snowed in episode? The one with the ash cloud? Given all the practice, they’re pretty good at juggling the pieces and pulling a show out their ass.
On this occasion?
November 1st 2019, will be known as the dawn of the NXT influx. The night WWE’s developmental was first truly treated like a third brand, making a statement and having a full episode dedicated to establishing them ahead of Survivor Series.
Whatever WWE originally had planned, I can guarantee that this was one hundred times better. The excitement of guessing who was going to show up next, in how the NXT stars were going to make a name for themselves on this night. With the full roster there you can bet your ass the focus would have been a lot more on each individual segment, rather than all building the one sentiment around the invasion.
On LoP Radio this week, I compared the Crown Jewel and Survivor Series builds as two times of the schedule where all ongoing storylines get dropped and we build to an inter-brand warfare that didn’t really exist before. Two builds that happen to be right next to each other, so now there’s an almost two month period with very little build for the long term.
For me the difference being I genuinely enjoy the modern day Survivor Series antics, folk jumping over to give the other show a bit of gab. A quick ‘wah wah’ before they clash in fun as hell, five on five fashion.
Good one Imp, nailing that predominantly American readership with your Alan Partridge references.
At least that’s what happened last year. This time however? With the draft so recent and with such a heavy focus on USA vs FOX, there is at least some essence of a battle line drawn. Yes it is still a bit early for either side to truly feel established, but the PPV does at least flow on from said draft pretty smoothly.
Something that arguable helped by the presence of NXT, the one WWE brand with a damn strong identity. Their one single product that knows exactly what it is, so when they invade the world of ‘ideas scrambled together’ they stand out.
Even little things, like Ciampa staring holes into Cole’s NXT Championship from the opposite side of the ring. There’s still the care for the small aspects, character traits and arcs not suddenly dropped because the wrestlers are aligned against the other brands for the next month. That attention to detail, it makes the world feel so much more alive.
Actions don’t feel so random or out of nowhere for characters if you drop in bits of foreshadowing. Arguably Triple H has become the king of that when it comes to hints for WrestleMania in the middle of autumn. Not everything ends up paying off, but if it does you’ve suddenly got a story with the seeds already planted.
Speaking of, I can’t ignore the brilliant symmetry of Daniel Bryan starting the decade as part of the first original crop of NXT that became the Nexus, to losing in the main event towards the end of 2019 against the NXT Champion. Everything coming full circle, such a perfect choice to establish Adam Cole. Not forgetting the Undisputed champ went over clean, no interference, no cheating, no nothin’. The man survived a submission, won a back and forth, hit his signatures, smashed that finisher and won.
The black and yellow brand were victorious up and down the show, with the running story being that the SmackDown talent weren’t prepared at all. Even when they put up a fight like Daniel Bryan, they had no idea what they were getting in the ring with. Perhaps even looking down at them because they know they’re developmental, not forgetting this was also a sellotaped together roster with most of their big stars stranded abroad.
Would this have played out the same were they up against the likes of Braun Strowman, Roman Reigns or Bray Wyatt? Hell, that last one was meant to be The Miz’s guest on MizTv, Ciampa wasn’t originally planned to get such a significant victory. But now he has, after all the NXT invaders did, Survivor Series has some gravitas to it.
After years of hardcore fans applauding NXT over RAW & SmackDown, the main roster is finally well and truly in a position where they have to stand up for themselves. The next generation has been knocking at the door for a while, but now the thing’s blown off its hinges.
We should be in a damn fun few weeks.
You know, unless this week was just a one off. Fingers crossed though!
WWE’s World Isn’t Believable
Professional wresting is all about suspending disbelief, getting sucked in and invested in the story the performers in that ring are telling. WWE’s active roster is so damn talented that when that bell rings you can’t help but get pulled in, you get invested, you care about the outcome.
In film and TV that’s the massive difference between a great or bad actor, believability. With a bad actor you can’t get invested, you never move past knowing they’re reading from a script with clear direction for their actions. A great actor however? Even though you know all of those things, you get pulled in regardless, forget reality and become invested in what they’re telling.
That last part is my biggest personal battle with WWE today, because even the best actors in the world still need that script they’re reading from and direction to conduct them in order to reach that point. WWE’s writing isn’t good enough, the direction not clear. The actor’s don’t believe what they’re saying so neither do we.
If the viewer doesn’t believe the story of the world then… what are we all doing here? When the writing isn’t good enough to suspend disbelief we, the viewer, stop believing. Your world falls apart.
With Rusev & Lana’s arc on RAW the story of the world isn’t strong enough to hold it’s weight. There’s got to be something substantial to make us forget the two are married in real life, with this also being years after they’ve been an act together on TV. They’ve been coupled both quite literally and in the fan’s eyes for quite some time, this story however has been previously shown in… neither?
I know it’s not real, that they’re still together. With the television, however, to me it just stinks of a soap opera out of nowhere surprise twist. GASP! LANA’s evil doppleganger who hates love LONA! I’ve not moved past seeing actors reading lines, moving with directed action.
I don’t believe a single thing I’m seeing, therefore I’m not invested. Sure, you can pop at Rusev saying ‘shit’ and Lana mentioning sex, but are you genuinely reacting to the tension the show is trying to get across?
AEW’s TNT | NXT on USA
October 30th 2019
Make ‘em Wait
AEW driving into Full Gear.
To me this felt like AEW’s most experimental episode to date. With the first four establishing the main structure of their shows, this week seemed to play around and get creative in their build towards Full Gear next week.
This was the first week that they really dived into the non in-ring action side of the product, featuring a lengthy limo chat between Tony Schiavone and Cody, followed by the AEW contract signing and parking lot assault. An extremely different way of handling that sort of single episode story, having the limo be more than a mystery shoe reveal.
Make the reason they’re in the vehicle during an episode relevant in the first place, then they use the thing in a vicious attack. Not forgetting the whole thing was built during Cody and Jericho having an interaction that was full of vibes making you question why the massive heel was acting as civil as he was. The AEW Champion once again did an awesome job of putting himself over, amping up the upcoming PPV match and getting Cody across as a genuine threat to his title too.
The attack from Cody, Dustin, MJF & DDP last week warranted a reaction from the Inner Circle. Our beloved babyface may have started and won a fight last week, but now he’s payed the price. Expect Jericho to make it perfectly clear that they did what they did to Dustin because of Cody’s actiosn the week before. When it’s time to start getting down to business, Jericho becomes the master of playing with his opponent’s mind.
Loving the build between those two, the animosity between them has been built so damn well in such short time.
However, now for my first ‘eh’ aimed in AEW’s general direction. The Tag Team Tournament Final that main evented the show, another great match, just was brought down by the rushed presentation.
If you were in the building live or if you watch on FITE TV like I do, then this wasn’t much of an issue at all. But for those viewing on national television on TNT, the production of this main event was a little odd. Coming back from the break to immediately see our final competitors already in their respective corners, which then led into a great, if not spectacular final.
Because don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the thing, but the fantastic job they’d done in building up throughout this tournament just left this match a little bit wanting. It was like this was AEW’s first hit of fitting everything in within the time slot of LIVE TV and the match ended up a tad rushed towards the end. Not that I’m complaining that much, the thing was still fun to watch, but when I’m enjoying a show as much as I have been the bar for criticism is much higher.
So stuff like this, yeah, it’s so much better digging at such a minor level. Like damn you AEW for a result that also holds stuff back for a future PPV match between the two, especially as the thing ended via roll up and Pentagon’s sat there in shock at the fact that he made a mistake.
Also one last positive, AEW embracing the things that the current generation of younger viewers are interested in. Video games outwardly embraced, the same with cosplay, as well extremely popular non-PG modern shows like Rick & Morty. These are all things that aren’t laughed at anymore, society has fully embraced them and AEW looks to do the same thing. You see the clash when they try and explain some of it to Jim Ross, but I see that as something kinda necessary as there really will be people of his era questioning all of this stuff.
To a whole generation cosplay and video game references are goofy, but to today’s younger generation they’re not. I know there are readers on this very site that see them in that light. I took a screenshot of The Elite doing the hadouken back at Fyter Fest for my column, it then got used in a news story and on said article it was all the commenters were talking about.
So J. R. not getting those worlds is necessary, but for those of us that do the full embrace of it all feels so welcoming. These things aren’t seen as dorky anymore, it’s great to have a mainstream promotion embracing them as such. I mean, come on, we got a whole Undertale entrance followed by Street Fighter Young Bucks and the whole thing was enjoyed/explained by Excalibur on commentary.
AEW is aiming hard at that younger generation – teenagers up to folk in their 30s – and they’re nailing that demographic. Unfortunately, they ain’t really the demo that religiously tunes into the live broadcast on television every week. The generation that watches things on their own time is polar opposite to the world wrestling of recent past has built its success on.
If the majority of the 50+ demographic sticks with WWE, should AEW worry? Or just stay the path like they have been? Embracing the new ‘in things’ whilst bringing back aspects and personalities from wrestling’s past?
NXT: The Show of Adrenaline
Pop what Magnitude? POP WHAT?!
Bloody ‘ell, they aren’t half going all guns blazing with this show are they?
Opening with Io Shirai vs Candice LeRae was a fantastic idea, NXT’s been nailing these white hot, lightning paced openers. Injecting an immediate pace of adrenaline into the show. Poppy introducing the Joshi heel made the lass feel like an absolute star, wrestlers always feel special when they’re played out to the ring and it was no different in the smaller Full Sail. The crowd popped HUGE after the music, such an awesome atmosphere.
An awesome cementing the Finn Balor’s turn on the show too. With the Irishman throwing his arms up during his entrance, but now instead of the bright lights flashing as the crowd joined in, instead we were treated to a lone spotlight on the Prince himself. I really loved how that spotlight stayed on Balor with the rest of the lights down for the entire promo. In that moment, NXT really was all about him.
Really, if this segment proved anything it’s that it’s going to take something truly crazy to get the Full Sail crowd to boo Finn Balor. The man’s a hero to them! The one who elevated the brand on his back, bringing TakeOvers out of Florida and elevating them all over the world. So his heel character may be brilliant, it’s early days to really say, but it may be a while till the crowd actually boos him.
That all said, Kabuki Warriors vs Team Kick was really the match that I’ll remember the most from this show. There was a fantastic build for the first ever Women’s War Games match that led on later from the aftermath of the opening bout, but this Women’s Tag Team Championship affair was bloody brilliant.
The Kabuki Warrios are great, even if the Asuka/Sane mash up theme is God awful. Seriously, guys, the two songs are so tonally different and of almost opposite tempos that it’s arguably the most jarring one you’ve ever done.
When the bell rings though, yeah I don’t care about any of that. I’ve immediately fallen in love with heel Kairi, crazily screaming and knocking the crap out of her opponents before Asuka finishes them off. Teagan Nox and Dakota Kai of Team Kick matched up damn well against them, coming ever so close to that final 3 count on multiple occasions.
Really it’s the dynamic of the Kabuki Warriors that lends its hand to these matches, both dangerous but in the world of wrestling the smaller competitor is always one that can be beat. With Kairi Sane the fireball of fury, but the one that the babyfaces can actually get on top of if they get their wits together. Whilst Asuka is like the ultimate boss who has the one hit kill move that could be hit at any moment.
So far their matches have played around that damn well, all resulting in the green mist securing the win for whoever’s the legal competitor in that moment. No different here, Team Kick were building a tad too much steam so ‘BAM’ good night Dakota.
A fantastic match, on yet another NXT that absolutely flew by. The ratings may not show it, but the quality has been brilliant since the move to USA.
Imp’s RAW Grade – Very forgettable, but not bad per say.
Imp’s AEW Grade – The episode where AEW more freely starts experimenting with stuff.
Imp’s NXT Grade – Still an absolute blast to watch, full of so much energy.
Imp’s SD Live Grade – This show of ‘NXT +’ was damn fun.
But now to hear from you!
Did you enjoy this week’s RAW/SmackDown/NXT/AEW?
What are your thoughts on Crown Jewel?
Are you immediately excited for Survivor Series after SmackDown?
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 was joined by Clive from the Ricky & Clive Show to talk Crown Jewel, NXT & AEW Wednesdays and the state of 205 Live!
Imp’s most recent columns:
Imp’s Wrestling Adventure – Don’t Test My Morals, WWE
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 NJPW Adventure – The Story of Hiroshi Tanahashi Part 1: Becoming The Ace