Imp’s Wrestling Adventure
Oh hi, is it that time again already? Another week, another adventure for your friendly neighbourhood Imp? The never ending cycle of wrestling. The dance that never ends. The tired writer who didn’t pen an intro and is now having to come up with something 3,900 words deep.
Well no fear as this time Pirate Imp’s back with the return of NXT to this column! Now with even more people getting thrown over top ropes, ‘cause it’s Rumble Season, ya’ll. I’ve also once again bashed through both RAW and SmackDown so you don’t have to, along with AEW to complete the Wednesdays of Awesome.
Seriously, this week was the first time I’d checked in to NXT since the week before Christmas. My God, I’d completely forgotten how much I’ve enjoyed their output since the move to USA. Doing everything they can to put on a fantastic product you can get invested in, in spite of the fact they’re WWE’s developmental and their fate may already be sealed because of it.
Which is a shame, as more weeks than not I’ve rated the yellow brand above their competitor not competitor. Together NXT & AEW have formed one hell of a Wednesday block, pleasing many a wrestling nerd such as myself in the process. Not sure WWE’s investors are too chuffed, with a lot of faith put in the WWE Network and removing NXT to chip numbers off Dynamite also took out a lot of the value for the streaming service.
Makes no difference as a Brit with stuff to do, I ain’t got no time to watch 4 HOURS of wrestling after work and also write about it all too. Nope, this week I was up watching NXT at midnight on a Friday like all the other cool kids. Maybe that says something about my time scheduling ability… nah, let’s just blame it on all the other LOP Radio/YouTube stuff I’m busy with nowadays.
Anyway, I have miraculously managed to watch everything this week. So let’s bloody get on with it. Two sections on RAW, one on Smackers, two on AEW Dynamite and two on NXT this week. Can you guess which show I had the least to say about?
Also well done, Imp. You managed to get through an entire intro without mentioning New Japan. No, I don’t make it through the whole column.
Monday Night RAW
January 13th 2020
The Monday Night Messiah
It’s fun to stay at the…
Sethy boo with his wanking glove. What a character.
It’s odd, after looking back at 2019’s Royal Rumble I’m somewhat sad WWE failed as badly as they did after ‘Mania season. Nailing it out the park before stumbling flat onto their face after hitting what surely should have been a home run.
Last week I talked about how WWE’s broken world created the cracks that let The Fiend in. The monster running about reverting his opponents back to former states, in some way actually fixing the modern day Humpty Dumpty WWE by sticking it all back together again.
Seth Rollins was one of the first, The Fiend’s October victim. Come January he’s now been reverted back long enough that we’re starting to see him branch off down new paths with this character, if anything he’s more disillusioned than ever before. Christening himself the ‘Monday Night Messiah’, building a group around him to follow his lead and example. The mixture of the reversion and his self-declaration as locker room leader has created a truly horrifying mix… he’s a right dick’ead.
Kevin Owens calls him out on it, Samoa Joe beats him up for it and Big Show is… I dunno, he’s big and it’s Rumble season. The Authors of Pain were two people Rollins named and shamed after RAW’s failure of a Survivor Series, for a short while the only wrestlers to aid The Messiah in creating that greater place. Until this week that is.
Buddy Murphy, oh what a fantastic series of events this was. The Australian was out of it at ringside after his loss to Aleister Black the match prior, completely rejected and seemingly lost in his head. As the main event progressed Seth realised he was going to need more men and in a genius spur of the moment decision offered for Murphy to join and help. Buddy accepted, took part in the Big Show beat down and now we have a true faction building here.
Before AoP simply fit into Seth’s former version of himself, back when he was RAW’s champion heel with J & J Security by his side. But now? This is what I’m talking about when I say the regression has started to mutate down a completely new direction, he’s the one true leader and everyone on Monday nights should heed his word. Awesome stuff!
Oh and it sure doesn’t hurt that this gives Aleister Black a route into this whole thing if need be. He could move on to something grander given he did win and possibly might move on to something else entirely, but if he is tied to Murphy then I sure ain’t complaining at the side build of Rollins vs Black bubbling under the surface over 2020.
Assuming WWE gets their crap together and actually writes arcs for their characters they claim to be storytellers for. I shouldn’t need to be piecing moments together to help them make sense, I’d much rather that stuff was there to begin with. Especially now AEW is here and is doing exactly that, WWE are getting shown up and couldn’t care less because they believe they’re Disney.
But guess what? Disney invests MILLIONS of both dollars and hours into their stories and it shows when a high number of them turn out damn great because of it. Same goes for WWE, they make their narratives as they go, piecing them up on the fly and that shows too.
That’s my one big wish for WWE in 2020, start being proactive and plan at least one storyline out in advance. You’re not a storyteller if you wait to see and fit it all together the next week, you’re just reacting. Worst of all reacting to wrestling fans, if we’ve proved anything it’s that we have no fecking clue what we want.
As our very own Tim Rose said, “I don’t need to run a restaurant to know that when I see a car parked inside of an IHOP that something went wrong.”
The Women’s Royal Rumble
Are you ready for Asuka this time?
Who looks most likely to win this year’s Women’s Royal Rumble?
We’re in a kind of similar situation to the men’s: one person has been booked consistently strong enough to stand out as a contender and the other is WWE’s big Wrestling-MMA crossover act. I have no idea about the status of Rousey, but if not her then I struggle to think who else on that main roster could be challenging Charlotte in the closing moments.
The wibbly wobbly 2019 hasn’t just affected the male roster, the female talent are also mostly in a state of rebuilding character and finding their feet again. Most strongly in the case of the likes of Sasha Banks, Bayley, Lacey Evans, hell even Asuka somewhat falls into that. There isn’t really anyone who’s clearly shining ahead of going in.
Well, at least there wasn’t until rumours of Bayley vs Sasha started to circulate. Unfortnately, right now there’s no evidence of that being hinted on WWE TV. I’m more inclined to put that in the box of ideas that catch on because the IWC like the sound of it, more than the story has any weight behind it actually happening. Not quite as bad as Liv Morgan being Sister Abigail OR RIOT.
You convince yourselves into some right old laughs sometimes.
So even though my thinking is Charlotte Flair, it’s not really out of seeing her as the 100% correct choice to light the seas to PirateMania. Which directs my attention to NXT and a certain dethroned long reigning champion, who just as it happens received a massive rub back in November at Survivor Series.
When it comes to the championship itself though, Becky vs Asuka II has all kinds of intrigue. As in these closing weeks Lynch tells herself she has to prove she can beat the Empress of Tomorrow even if it terrifies her, in the process losing a lot of the badass essence that makes the Lass Kicker who she is. On RAW she’s a shadow of her normal self, but Asuka is basking in the sun as if that title is already hers.
Honestly, if WWE aren’t going the route of Rousey or MMA vs WWE 8 Woman spectacular, then splitting our NXT Horsewomen into two separate title matches would 100% be the way to go. Cap this era off with two matches at WrestleMania cementing all four of their achievements, then spend the rest of 2020 establishing the rest of the roster as threats to their reigns.
Lynch, Flair, Banks & Bayley opened the door, but the next generation isn’t going to wait for them to step aside. NXT’s got more call ups over and ready but the main roster hasn’t even got round to establishing the last lot yet. They’re on their way, but I really see this year as the one the Women’s division starts to grow into the world sans our top four stars.
So who wins the Rumble? If not Rousey then Charlotte, if not Charlotte then Banks. Which is also why I’m not ruling out Baszler, was she just part of them putting over NXT at Survivor Series? Or do WWE genuinely have big plans for the Queen of Spades? Hell, even if they do that doesn’t mean her push necessarily has to get going next Sunday.
SmackDown on FOX
January 17th 2020
I am the Table(s Match Main Event)
Dear Sir, I do declare our falls to be counted within any convenient location of one’s desire.
This might come across as a slight, but this week’s SmackDown was one of the best shows where pretty much nothing happened. Things progressed however it was more of an inch forward, like a lower key episode setting stuff up. The Walking Dead episode where we’re a couple weeks out from the big fight so Maggie does some gardening.
That’s what this week was. WWE went out there and watered the plants, plucked a few weeds, procrastinated trimming the overgrown Corbin tree. But you know what? This is the perfect example of why you don’t need to be firing forward at 100mph every week, you are allowed to slow it down and take a week thinking about building tension. Lots of, “I’m going to beat you up!” statements without much in the way of actual said beatings.
Reigns vs Roode in the main event was part of the continued swing, The Usos return having evened the odds a couple weeks back. Corbin & Ziggler ran out to interfere just as they have done for months, but now the Big Dog has the Brotherhood every time they attempt it. With his family by his side the months of beat downs delivered to WWE’s biggest main event top guy have finally come to an end. A nice pop when they came out, but the whole thing makes Roman feel like the feared top dog WrestleMania how???
If it builds Corbin, don’t forget, he’s quite literally filler for our main star before his actual story gets going next Sunday. What’s the point in building him so strongly for months on end, when he’s not the one who’s meant to be going over by the end of it? Like the point of rivalry got lost along the way, akin to The League of Nations who outstayed their Roman feud presence and eventually fell into their place in time for WrestleMania.
I’m British, I get writing a family of royals to feel like a genuine threat, but like King Shamu before him the act has it’s time and 4 months straight is a tad tiring.
Anyway shut up Imp, enough moaning for this week. As I said I actually enjoyed this week’s SmackDown: Otis continues to be utter mid-card fun, Elias the same and Sami Zayn the third of the entertainment circle. The Smackers Women’s Division is starting to feel like there’s more than one act going, building Lacey Evans up nicely (even if as a dirty foreigner her patriotic mother character does nothing for me).
Plus as I said earlier, rumours of Sasha vs Bayley suddenly adds a tone of intrigue to the otherwise Flair favourite Women’s Rumble. As pieces fall into place of potential Rumble season is starting to feel awake, just in time given the thing’s next bloody week. Today’s wrestling don’t half come around at a lightning pace!
The main event ended with Superkicks galore, a noice double splash off the barricade through an announce table prone Dolph Ziggler and followed up by Roode getting speared through a table for the win. A chaotic main event that the live crowd bloody loved, injecting a nice bit of excitement as we edge closer to the Rumble.
In victory Roman was allowed to choose the stipulation for him and Corbin in their match at the Rumble, the Big Dog going with Falls Count Anywhere as his method of choice. I love the ‘sure why not’ reasoning of, “Well the PPV’s in a baseball stadium again.”
January 15th 2020
Bash At The Beach in Miami
Stand back, Rhodes patrols these streets.
Just want to give a shout out to AEW’s graphics folk, the effort going in for these unique one off shows is so great to see. I’ve become used to a world where WWE are still using out of date images of their wrestlers, then there’s this new promotion going all out for one offs. The difference in effort is crazy.
Well… AEW doesn’t have augmented reality so they’ve got the ruddy time to twiddle their fingers haven’t they. Jesus Christ that’s going to age so badly, those graphics look shit now nevermind in a few years.
Rhodes’ promo was kinda meh, but he did deliver it in his Miami Vice getup so that deserves at least a mention. He accepted MJF’s 3 clauses for a match, the walls put up to make Cody go through hell just to get to his former protégé. Not the craziest segment in the world, but when you tell a story over a much longer period of time you can take your baby steps like this. Do what you can to keep it going without the two interacting. This week that something with MJF being booked for a match so Mr *SURNAME REDACTED UNDER WWE COPYRIGHT* was able to cut a promo and accepted uninterrupted.
Possibly the biggest long term seed planted was Cody hinting at MJF being secretly afraid Wardlow could be the real star out of the two of them. My speculations for what AEW mean by ‘long term plans for everyone’ are just that in this young stage, but I really expect nothing to come of that for quite some time. Hell, it might even be years rather than months until we see any hint in actual physical form. But the seed’s been planted, if they ever want to have Warldow turn on MJF in the future it’s already been set up.
It pays to actually know where you’re going and have set stories, over making it all up as you go. Well, aside from if Marty doesn’t actually sign and now your main event angle has no surprise sting.
But really the segment that established the state of play a tad more in this feud was MJF teaming with Butcher & The Blade to face Dustin Rhodes, Apple Guy & DDP. Continuing his feud with Cody without having to directly interact with him, in the process giving the despised lad some much needed wins under his belt.
The older guys got to pop the crowd with all their spots, but MJF is the one who ultimately got the win. Setting up that moment down the road when Cody vs MJF potentially has something on the line, we pay money to see Maxwell get his ass beat, but whilst also knowing that in spite of that he still might win anyway and crush all our hopes and dreams.
Who knows if there’ll be one last condition on MJF’s list before Revolution next month, or an added stipulation for their match. Right now he’s the one in control, pulling the strings directing Cody to dance. But we’ve just been told that if MJF wrestles like he did this week, once that bell rings he’s screwed and is almost guaranteed for a whooping.
I say almost, because that’s why big man Wardlow’s there.
Pirate Mox Is Born
Mox in a dream, Snake Eeaaterrr.
Ooo aarrrr. Pfff, shut it, you. Pirates aren’t hokey. Pirates are cool.
I’m not used to targeted attacks from heel stables being this violent, WWE’s conditioned me to seeing those Bret’s rope chair stomps as the ultimate move. You want to assert dominance whilst hiding that you actual are afraid of your opponent? Put a chair round their ankle, swing their arm into a ringpost or stamp their hand onto the steel steps! They’re the true and trusted methods.
Well in AEW it turns out that’s a big NOPE! Here Jon, take an ice pick to the eye. An idea that genuinely gets a reaction and is easy as feck to sell as an injury. It makes the heel stable look evil as hell for going so far and Mox somewhat of a badass for continuing to charge at them regardless. Even if he is slowly turning into Lord Beric from Game Of Thrones, every time he comes back he loses a part of himself: an eye here, a finger there, bit of an ear, etc.
It was less literal in GOT, but this is wrestling dammit and we take everything at face value in this world!
Arguably my favourite part about this is that it starts to paint the Inner Circle as slowly becoming desperate. Painting their actions as a response to Moxley’s actions, over the truth that his potential to dethrone Jericho is become a reality with the man now qualified for a #1 Contender’s match. The group tried to take him out in a dark alley, instead they went and accidently created bloody Batman.
That said, Jon Moxley is now half blind for his match next week with PAC. A pairing that was booked as evenly talented with their time limit draw last year, now they meet again but with tangible stakes on the line upping the ante. Is our hero as badass as he thinks he is? Proclaiming even if he was blind he’d find his way to Jericho, but I’m not forgetting he wasn’t actually able to beat PAC last time.
Our first instance of AEW’s longer term booking coming back around, that time limit draw suddenly coming right into play next week. I love it when a plan comes together.
January 15th 2020
Imp Returns To NXT
I’m basking, Keith. Don’t hurt me!
This week’s NXT opened with an amped up Keith Lee, the man became #1 Contender for the North American Championship last week and next Wednesday is his time to shine. So this week that obviously means it’s time to get attacked by the Undisputed Era! Ciampa saved the day, but it was too late as Strong had already wrapped a chair around his future opponent’s ankle and jumped down from on high with force.
Dammit, Keith Lee even put the Undisputed lads over before bigging himself up. Such the perfect opening segment to get across the 2019 dominance of the UE and set up Keith Lee and Tomasso Ciampa as the threats they are. I’m so looking forward to the heel’s arc coming full circle in 2020. After their rise and dominance, all that’s left is the fall.
And by fall I obviously mean ‘main roster’. Enjoy your PWI win Adam Cole, try getting anywhere near that with RAW or SmackDown’s writing.
We got updates on Keith Lee throughout the show, as it turns out this was all building to one final parking lot brawl. As KENTA donned it, “That parking lot is dangerous.” Lee sending one poor lad flying Over The Hedge with Bruce Willis, before destroying the future of NXT by launching the younglings into every vehicle in sight.
Well done NXT, painted Keith Lee as an absolute monster ahead of his title match next week. Hell, this could even be used to suspend him and postpone the match for some lovely heat. Although that’d surprise me given they’re up against Jericho’s Big Boat Bananza next week and will be needing all the buzz they can get.
Quick bash through everything else: The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic rolled on with Riddle and his moustache teaming with Pete Dunne in a winning effort against Team Wales. A personal favourite spot in a smooth as hell X-Plex reversed mid-air into Andrews’ patented Stundog Millionaire. After wrestling each other a gazillion times on the UK circuit it’s fair to say Mark & Peter have pretty slick chemistry when against each other!
As a NJPW fan first, the former Timesplitters KUSDHIA & Alex Shelley debuting in NXT together after YEARS apart was an awesome moment to see. They faced the top quality UK exports in the Grizzled Young Veterans as NXT UK continued to get their bottoms handed to them- oh wait THEY WON?!
Highlight of the match was easily the, “If you hate Gibson shoes off!” chant delivered with no melody and met with, “What the feck are you doing? Put your shoes back on, Darren.”
Ooo Balor vs Dragonov, that’s a tasty one. They changed Swerve’s theme to generic meh. That’s it, the whole match is ruined! Okay maybe not as the Cruiserweight triple threat was bloody brilliant, but still… MAH THEEEME. And finally we got lots of hype for Worlds Collide next Saturday, I need to check where that’s actually taking place as the last one was inside Access and therefore ‘a bit shit’.
NXT Main Event
#1 Contender NXT Women’s Championship Battle Royal
Well I bloody well didn’t predict this outcome!
Bianca Belair is your new #1 Contender after an outstanding battle between her and Io Shirai as the final 2. After that the actual Rumble’s got some stepping up to do, even after they’ve bloody moved their shows off the weekend the developmental folk raise the bar ahead of the main roster.
But seriously, that Shirai and Belair’s back and forth was so great. You could hear it from the crowd, Full Sail only being quiet when they’d lost their damn voices going crazy all match. The whole thing built so well, with both nearing elimination but saved by their athleticism. In the end it was Belair’s strength that overpowered the Joshi superstar and sailed her towards Ripley’s NXT Women’s Championship tide.
The rest of the roster also got their shine, it wasn’t just the final two with the attention to the build. Shotzi Blackheart got one hell of an introduction with her elimination of Shaner Baszler, NXT playing me like an absolute fiddle as I’d forgotten completely she was still in the match. Next up seeing what on Earth they’ve got in store for her entrance, Shotzi deserves nothing but the best in that field! Let’s just hope CFO$ had some bangers left over.
Mercedes Martinez as well, signed this week and straight away positioned as a veteran of the division strong enough to clash with its biggest stars. The depth on display in this match really was something, WWE’s talent hoarding on full display with this truly impressive line-up. I’ve not even mentioned the other modern day staple names: Candice LeRae, Mia Yim, the returning Kacy Catanzaro, Deonna Purrazzo, Xia Li, Teagan Nox and the interfering Dakota Kai.
That ring was PACKED with talent, arguably the most impressive part was how on top of it all the booking was. So many people got their moment to shine, hell even Chelsea Green got her time and she wasn’t ever in the bleedin’ arena. Care and effort was put into this and it shows, this battle royal did wonders in showcasing the division. Top notch stuff, Wednesdays are such a joy.
Imp’s RAW Grade – I zoned out of so much of this show, YouTube the interesting bits and save 2 hours of your life.
Imp’s NXT Grade – A fantastic example of how to build to a gazillion things at once and it not be shit.
Imp’s SD Live Grade – Flew by, Rumble season is the gift that keeps on giving.
Imp’s AEW Grade – They set up Pirate Moxley the week before they’re on the open seas, need I say more??
Imp’s LIVE every Thursday with ‘Imp’s LOP Radio Adventure’, this week he took a trip back to this time last year and Royal Rumble 2019. One year later, how do the two Rumble matches stand up?
Imp’s most recent columns:
Imp’s Wrestling Adventure – On To The Royal Rumble! (RAW, SmackDown, AEW & NXT Jan. 11th, 2020)
Imp’s WWE Adventure – Are WWE Outdated?
Imp’s Wrestling Adventure – SmackDown In A ‘Hairy’ Situation
Imp’s Wrestling Adventure – Survivor Series Electifies WWE + Cornette Has No One Else To Blame
Imp’s NJPW Adventure – The Story of Hiroshi Tanahashi Part 1: Becoming The Ace
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