Imp’s Wrestling Adventure
What an interesting situation we find ourselves in. Entering a week of wrestling with spirits towards WWE genuinely high, with a mental double helping of War Games and a Survivor Series show overall received really damn well.
November ended on a wildly different note to how it started, with Saudi Arabia clouding everything and making fans answer political quandrums they don’t really want to be answering. Just let me watch the half-naked people in their underpants baby oil up and fake fight each other, dammit!
Now we go into RAW, NXT and SmackDown with genuine interest in what happens next. How might dynamics have shifted after the events of the Battle for Brand Supremacy? Was Sunday the true turning point for this new NXT generation of WWE? Or a fun sidebar that’ll see the status revert back until it’s once again time for brand interaction come the Rumble?
It’s genuinely great to be going in to writing these weekly columns in a positive mood – I’m speaking overall rather than just after Wednesdays. Last week proved I can indeed enjoy an episode of SmackDown, that I will have all the energy in the world to talk a WWE show at 3:30am on LOP Radio if I’ve mightily enjoyed myself.
That’s my takeaway from last week, with WWE it can be done, they can deliver an entertaining consistent product. The question is can they do that further than one week? Something damn well easier said than done given they’ve put themselves into a situation of having to create 7 hours of TV content every single week.
At least we’ve now got a few angles that prove the continuity hire was a rather wise decision. Brace for more praise directed WWE’s way, there’s a lot of positives finding their way on to my television set. Or laptop… I need to update my anecdotes.
You’re meant to be a millennial, Imp! You know the articles say we don’t watch television and spend all day on YouTube.
And $6,500 for that ugly Fiend Universal Championship?!! You what, mate?
Monday Night RAW
Rollins Keeps Rollin’ Downhill
Nothing cooler than a Town Hall Meeting
In directly announcing Seth Rollins as the RAW locker room leader, the tone was set. We kicked off the show with the roster surrounding the ring in… I wouldn’t say anticipation, but at least curious as to how he’d try and rally up the troops. “Last night at Survivor Series, you all sucked,” probably wasn’t what folk were expecting.
Fair to say the follow up was even worse, one by one Rollins called out the big names on the roster who instead of speaking simply walked out on him. The effects of Survivor Series out on full display right at the start, especially with Rollins who in trying to play leader instead ended up lashing out and throwing blame. This is so great to see, recent events truly effecting characters is a basic feature that was somewhat missing in WWE as folk jumped from storyline to storyline like passing ships.
I’ve already said it feels like that tide has turned, but I’m happy to say that out of the still many issues plaguing WWE, that isn’t one of them. The little nods and efforts put in over time are somewhat starting to pay off, or at least create a sound enough foundation that the stable building can finally begin. The drops of occasions with Rollins trying to play the hero and do the right thing, whilst in reality he wasn’t coming across in that way at all. I like that, contrast in reality and perception.
The harsh words played nicely off heels walking out, but when Rollins kept that same direction with Rey Mysterio? Normally I’d say because this is WWE it’s a heel turn, they don’t do subtly. But… I think they might have done something more here. That same character trait with Seth truly believing he’s doing the right thing, this week’s show might have the next steps in making him a much more complex character than we’re used to.
We’ll know by next week, but there’s a genuine chance the man slowly becoming an actual character. That’s not really a WWE trait, more likely to dance the clear hero/bad guy line. However, when the rest of television has shifted away to more complex characters, why hasn’t WWE? Or on this occasion: why not? Out of all people surely Seth could benefit from this the most, you don’t have to make the man the blatant bad guy to make him interesting.
After Survivor Series frustrations were high, it’s so much an improvement to see something like that opening segment over the normal promo that gets interfered or a backstage interview meeting. This was frustration boiling over, it gave so much depth to that roster and Seth Rollins’ character.
Great stuff that lead perfectly to Kevin Owens spotlighting that shit and challenging the lad to a match. Always down for a promo that involves one of the blokes calling the other ‘a right prick’.
AOP, who were two of the lads Rollins directly called out, ended up interfering and asking even more questions of the Architects balance with the force.
NXT on USA
November 27th 2019
Pounce on That Like Batista
You can still hope, ‘Plan!
Well there was just a little bit of aftermath to deal with on this week’s NXT.
A Saturday night of violent war followed by a mighty sweep at Survivor Series, this past weekend was sure one hell of a launching pad for this new era of Wednesday nights.
Starting off with the whole looker room bouncing out for a dance party was certainly an interesting starting visual. Even referee Drake Younger was out there feeling it and getting right up in there. But that was all for Undisputed Era to put a stop to it all and quickly shift gears to how great/covered in gold they are.
I wouldn’t call this a reset episode, but it certainly pressed the button to send us down all the different roads these wrestlers are about to drive. Especially when it comes to Finn Balor, who we’re only now starting to see enough of to see where his character stands. Is he a straight up Irish baddie now? Yes. Will he be joining Undisputed Era? After that bicycle kick to Adam Cole, I highly doubt it, my friend.
Speaking of Adam Cole, Jesus Christ that pounce from Keith Lee when he tried to run in on the NXT Tag Team Championship match. One of my favourite NXT spots ever as he sent the Undisputed man flying over the barricade and into an area of wrestler fans to catch the bastard. I only clicked back and rewatched it about 5 times, I bloody love this current era of NXT.
Second time was the charm for Adam Cole and interferences, no Fairytale Ending for Tomasso Ciampa as the champion’s presence was enough to drive into chaos and for Balor to snatch victory. A decision Cole might rue after Finn gave him a mighty whack, Full Sail ain’t the land where heels get on because they’re all bad guys.
SmackDown on FOX
November 29th 2019
SmackDown In A Hairy Situation
Daniel Bryan meets his ‘hairy’tale ending.
RAW and NXT both gave us unique openings that immediately grabbed your attention, two initial visuals that were wildly different to the norm. SmackDown however? Yeah, for Friday WWE went with the generic beginning we’ve seen countless times. You know, the one where the dialogue really doesn’t mean anything and is only there to serve the purpose of setting up the Big Dog’s match for the night.
Or as I like to call it: Vince wastes my time with a promo that progresses very little. Because Roman’s words moved things on the tiny bit after Survivor Series nice and fine, Baron Corbin’s had me tuning out as they meant so little. Which is probably my biggest issue with his now third main event run, regardless of everything he still doesn’t feel like a credible threat. The King’s just a bloke for our hero to beat before embarking on his true quest, the character screams it so why should I care that much?
This was an awful example of grabbing the audience’s attention and creating interest, setting a somewhat ambivalent tone for the show. Will you enjoy the night? Who knows, that opening did nothing to convince you.
Again, this isn’t an ‘Imp rants on Vince’s Muscle Show’ thing, WWE’s other two shows this week nailed their openings which also led to booking main event matches. However, they did so in such interesting ways that you couldn’t help but get hyped for them and interested in those characters. Roman Reigns and Baron Corbin’s promo couldn’t have been more run of the mill, absolutely no heat or energy from my end.
In a week of new, fresh ideas, SmackDown went straight back to the safe and trusted. Hero kicks off the promo, baddie makes bad jokes and insults the hometown, move on to the match. It wasn’t the world’s worst segment, but it was so cookie cutter you could have guessed every word said without even watching the thing. Something even more apparent when we’ve had 3 other wrestling shows on mainstream TV this week. All had attention grabbing, unique opening segments.
Really the one important takeaway is that SmackDown IMMEDIATELY had me zoning out. No matter the rest of the show, that is not good. And is also something that’s happening way to frequently on Friday nights. Like they expect you to keep watching so there’s no need to do anything attention grabbing.
Just look at the WWE matches set up as well: RAW gave you Rollins versus a credible threat in Kevin Owns, NXT gave you Ciampa versus another credible competitor in Finn Balor and then SmackDown served up Reigns versus an opponent so low down the pecking order that our antagonist should easily wipe the floor with the lad. A generic opening that set up a match with a foregone conclusion?
Why do I need to watch again? Which is another shame as it meant the badass post-match beat down, in which Roman got a lot of his fire back, felt entirely unearned.
The flip side however is how damn engaging Daniel Bryan vs The Fiend is becoming. It’s no wonder given how integral the past is to Wyatt’s new demon, tying the whole universe together and really adding to that feel of WWE being a lived in world rather than passing ships. Repeatedly telling him from the Funhouse, “You remember what you did, Daniel. So does he.”
Ambiguous enough to get the audience thinking, specific enough that you can probably figure it out. The arc’s just fantastic writing, especially now there’s evidence to prove how The Fiend changes people. Bryan’s now likely to show the biggest visual representation of that fact, after SmackDown went off the air with the world’s most demonic haircut.
Prime ‘Wrestling Without Context’ content as The Fiend repeatedly ducks into the ring to pop back up and delightfully fling hair everywhere.
I loved that ending. Yeah it was weird, but Bray Wyatt’s braced us for weird. I’m not going to complain when they’re basically flat out telling you his arcs will be a tad odd and then surprise, surprise – they’re odd.
And if the pattern has been seeing both Rollins & Balor regress, then count me in for the return of The Dragon!
November 27th 2019
The Jericho Show
This man sure knows how to throw a celebration!
If there was one word I could use to describe AEW this week, it would be: fun. That opening had me smiling from ear to ear for a full 20 minutes, everything about it was so damn funny.
Chris Jericho, man. Chris ‘flippin’ Jericho. That man sure knows how to throw a wrestling celebration. This opening was amazing, so damn funny. A dinosaur! An egg person thing. Clowns doing handstands, a moose, presents all over the place, an inflatable ‘Thank You’ and of course… a little bit of the bubbly.
Which of course they’ve now made into an actual drink you can buy: go to LittleBitOfTheBubbly.com and Pre Order now to get 2 whole bottles for just $46! A libation suitable for Le Champion, for… you know what, I’ll just embed the video. It’s hilarious.
The site crashed when they announced this, how has official alcohol merch not been tapped before? It’s genius. So many wrestling fans love alcohol! Expect ‘ A Little Bit Of The Bubbly’ to make a killing this Holiday season.
On that note, oh my God Virgil Soul Train Jones bloody killed it. He doesn’t know what a G.O.A.T. is, because he ain’t no farmer. Also his reaction to not getting a jersey from Chris Jericho’s dad was brilliant, like that wasn’t him in character, he was genuinely sad he didn’t get one.
And Jericho’s dad! He also hit every note and was surprisingly not awkward at all, instead adding to the segment wonderfully as he casually insults *insert local sports team here*.
Oh and Cody bringing up Jericho’s Dad before Full Gear meant we’d all been helped to immediately know who that grey haired stallion was when the box lifted. It’s the little storytelling things with this promotion, like backstage there’s writing voices who genuinely know what they’re doing. When you’re writing arcs & characters long term, yes this is exact kind of thing you can throw in to tie things together.
Purposefully writing something like that in is not some crazy magical power, we’re just not used to it in US wrestling. Because that’s not how WWE writes, how TNA wrote, how WCW plastered together.
This all built to the main event match for the AEW Championship between Chris Jericho and Scorpio Sky. Setting the precedent that even though there’s ranking lists, you can still trick the champ into giving you a title match. Gives you more room to dance with down the line, purely sticking to those Top 5’s will creatively corner you eventually. To be fair they’re not exactly clear and totally working right now as it is, but hey it’s not the worst thing in the world to write in the ability to deviate.
For me the match was perfectly fine but nothing really note worthy, in fact I’d rate more than one of NXT’s offerings this week above everything on AEW this week. Although that’s more of a note on how much I’m enjoying both shows rather than a notch down on The Elite ‘Rasslers.
The final talking point being Jon Moxley staring down Jericho, as Le Champion looked up in horror as if he’d seen a ghost and shouting, “Wh- what are you doing here?”
Out of all the championship match angles, this is the one I find most intriguing in terms of how they’ll dance around the two’s history in WWE. AEW doesn’t pretend other horses don’t exist, so how they’ll ride this and incorporate their past could sure make for a damn interesting watch.
This week all we got was Moxley’s music and a look, but we’ve got a long, long way till PPV. Time to slowly praise this like we should.
Or at least throw in complications so it lasts and bends around a bit.
Imp’s RAW Grade – Rollin’ on strong from Survivor Series
Imp’s NXT Grade – My favourite show of the week for 3 weeks straight, love it!
Imp’s SD Live Grade – Hated the start, loved the ending. So whatever mixed rating that is.
Imp’s AEW Grade – Jericho was all over it, so the thing was obviously fun as hell.
But now to hear from you!
What did you make of Survivor Series?
Does The Fiend have you attention? Enough to spend $6,500?!!
Has AEW still got your attention as we edge closer to Rumble/WrestleMania season?
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 & Spreaker, this week Imp talked the quality Survivor Series and the RAW/NXT that followed.
Imp’s most recent columns:
Imp’s Wrestling Adventure – Survivor Series Electifies WWE + Cornette Has No One Else To Blame
Imp’s Wrestling Adventure – Dog S***
Imp’s Wrestling Adventure – “Because He’s In The Elite.”
Imp’s Wrestling Adventure – No SmackDown For Deserted Men
Imp’s NJPW Adventure – The Story of Hiroshi Tanahashi Part 1: Becoming The Ace