Imp’s Wrestling Adventure
Well that was certainly a normal week of wrestling. Two norms falling into place, one fantastic as hell and one… yeah not so much. Some of you aren’t going to like this intro, here’s your racism rant warning.
Firstly Wednesdays are a dream for a fan like myself, every single week both AEW & NXT have been delivering fun as hell shows. The two of them on this occasion were a blast once again, as you’ll see later in the column with all my positive rhetoric. The night still feels so refreshing, especially after what feels like years of falling further and further away from mainstream American wrestling.
Not anymore! Two shows I’m damn excited to watch week in and week out, can’t ask for more.
Then the other thing… it’s really not something I want to talk about, but it’s a big point right now so here we are. Let’s talk Jim Cornette and what he represents, or that way of thinking. Seeing racist remarks thrown out there and my generation gets labelled as snowflakes by certain folks after not standing for it… for what? For giving the people offended a platform and genuinely listening to them when they speak? For not immediately passing judgement on said speaker, but shutting the hell up and listening?
I’m not going to give my opinions on Cornette’s comments because mine is not the one that matters, us white folks’ views on race have been heard for DECADES. Now it’s time where we listen to those exact people that rhetoric has affected, which is not me.
And we’re weak for doing that? Then call me that to my face loud and proud whilst the world passes you by. Which is exactly what’s happened with Cornette, it’s not just previous precedent but he’s shown his unwillingness to change with the times. No racism means exactly what it says on the tin and yes that means jokes that used to make it air may no longer be accepted.
Even more worryingly, the line wasn’t edited out. NWA saw no issue with it, which tells you one thing: in that production room there is no representation.
Listen to the words of Rich Latta & James Boyd on One Nation Radio, of Rey Cash on Chairshot, the threads by folk like @CeeHawk. These are the exact voices to listen to, the people who wouldn’t have had such a platform in the past, but now they’re more able than ever to stand up and speak for themselves.
Which is exactly what is happening, all you have to do is listen.
It’s become normal to see black talent on social media having to defend themselves on racism in wrestling, like it’s meant to be something that’s fine because it was previously tolerated for so long. ‘Previously’ is the key word in that sentence, not anymore. Because now there’s ZERO tolerance towards racism and if you can’t adapt to that then don’t be surprised when there’s consequences for publicly speaking in such a manner.
And for the love of God, Jim, ‘the fault of AEW fans’… really? Really? REALLY? Stretch Armstrong over here with another magnificent reach. Jim Cornette has no one else to blame but himself, I know he’ll never see that, but maybe someone else reading this will.
Sigh, well with that out the way I guess it’s time for the actual bulk of the column! Cheer us all right back up with a little NXT, there’s been no issues down th- ah for Pete’s sake.
NXT on USA
November 20th 2019
Survivor Series Electrifies NXT
Full Sail Sees the Best Show of the Week Again?
Ah, yes, hello. I’ll prepare the tea, Miss Lynch.
Finally this Survivor Series build gets back to being exciting! We started off on such a hot foot with the NXT invasion after most of the SmackDown roster was stuck in Saudi Arabia, but since then it really feels like everything has fallen back into the exact same grooves of every single year since Brand Split. Folk interfering on the other show in brand loyalty, with a strong feeling of suddenness given this spirit evaporates outside of this one month period.
So really the exact same as last year, and the year before, but this time with a little flavour of yellow. Really it’s been kinda disappointing, the electricity in the air around the whole idea has really settled. However, as I’m writing this there’s still one more show to go and drive home the excitement. Because bloody hell was NXT on fire for their Go Home show!
The smaller Full Sail arena really added to every pop, each time a RAW or SmackDown star jumped in they went absolutely nuts. It’s one of the reasons I love these Wedensday shows so much, the atmospheres for both shows are fantastic and I can’t help but get pulled in by that. Becky Lynch was treated like the megastar she is, The Revival the feared foreign force and Ricochet the one time hero now returning clad in RAW’s red as a superhero.
That was an important note about this week’s NXT, every main roster wrestler that showed up was at one time a revered face down in WWE’s developmental. No one of the likes of Randy Orton or Bobby Lashley, only folk who at one time meant something to the yellow brand, the names etched in their history.
Which to be fair is quite a lot of folk nowadays.
This episode really was an influx of main roster fun, especially mid-way through with the now custom mass brawl of continuous pops for a full 5 minutes. Yes they did this last week, but it’s still fun as hell and the injection of RAW/Smackers run ins made feel fresh enough when next to the War Games one last week.
Then there was that ladder match… bloody hell Adam Cole and Dijak, you’ve got a War Games match after this and then bleedin’ Survivor Series to still be alive for! The two lads didn’t hold up, as if they had a few weeks to recover and let the match sink in. Nope! Good luck with that, Adam, you’re in a tag match on SmackDown in two days.
That’s some Mia Yim badass bump invulnerability right there.
War Games really does feel like it’ll be so much fun, a lovely, violent pallet cleanser ahead of the Thanksgiving roast dinner that is Survivor Series. Be interesting how having two Double Double Cage Cage Trouble Trouble plays to that quicker TakeOver pacing, with the specials flying by like they were no longer than an episode of The Mandalorian.
Really my biggest praise for NXT is how that adrenaline rush of a presentation directly feeds into hyping you for that next PPV. Weird that, it’s like you’re meant to be excited to purchase a wrestling show?
Monday Night RAW
Survivor Series Looks Fun, So Why Aren’t I Excited?
Don’t worry Randy, these NXT chaps will be back in their box by Wednesday.
We’re at the Go Home shows already?! Jesus the Saudi Arabia show really does compress everything for a month either side where there’s no room to truly build much in time for the next PPV. If there’s one factor that compacts WWE into coming across as comic book wrestling, it’s the closeness of PPVs resulting in ‘of the month’ stories and angles across the card.
Something transformed to not even that amount of time with the KSA shows now, I mean… really… they booked Bray Wyatt vs Daniel Bryan with two weeks of build before their championship match. That’s insane. Two of WWE’s best character actors and they get two weeks… two weeks! They’ll be great, but wow is that crazy to me.
I’m not saying it’s going to be bad, nor that the programme won’t work. I’m saying with more time it could have been so much better, especially given the talent of the two men involved. That’s WWE in a nutshell for me, not bad but often could and should be so much better. Like Star Wars Episode III… in fact modern day WWE really is like that film, the dialogue’s all emotional exposition in that too!
I think there’s a column in this! Have I just found the perfect movie comparison?
As the final show before Survivor Series we got another night of brand interference, a status which now feels copied and pasted from each year prior. This year has had then injection of NXT which 100% initially gave the whole build a fresh feeling, but since then WWE’ve fallen right back into the status quo. Even with NXT’s inclusion, this final RAW felt almost identical to the go home show from the past… three years?
All ending in a massive schmoz of a brawl as the show goes off air and we question why these wrestlers suddenly care so much about which show they’re on. Arguably another thing the KSA shows stopped from being able to happen, just imagine if after Hell In A Cell WWE were able to spend all of that time building and establishing the brands ahead of Survivor Series. Then half way through NXT invade and shake the whole thing up.
Instead we’ve had three weeks. The first being exciting, new and different. The second had that feeling still in the air, but with most of the main roster on the European Tour it died down a bit as the familiar patterns start to sink in. And the third? Yup, I saw nothing different than I have for every single one of these Survivor Series builds since the brand split. Really with the only difference being NXT and now WWE have the chance to build across all three of their shows this week.
A major advantage in moving along the story, but it was one told when they really didn’t have the time. As I said, the Saudi shows squished what time they had, then the European Tour cut out another week entirely. Because I’m not saying what they’ve done on TV is bad, I’m saying I’ve seen it all before and it gets very little reaction out of me.
It’s the same point that was being made when we compared Kofi Kingston’s SummerSlam title defence to AJ Styles’ the year prior, as they were so damn similar and that left us a little disappointed. But with Survivor Series, just like last year, the WWE world outside of their TV really ruined any chance in me being invested outside the quality of the matches themselves.
There just hasn’t been the time to establish, so I totally understand fans questioning why on Earth the wrestlers care so much. Because it feels sudden, which it wouldn’t do with more time. I also totally understand why they weren’t able to do so, the only way would have been to hammer home brand loyalty every week since the draft. Which a) hasn’t been that long and b) would have been interrupted itself by cross-brand matches/tours/KSA.
The schedule gave very little room, but at the end of the day the product hasn’t gotten me invested nor understanding in why the characters care so much. I understand the reasoning, but it has failed. With the saving grace being the quality of the matches in the first place, plus the energy injecting top notch idea of the NXT invasion.
The Survivor Series card itself looks bloody brilliant, WWE have done a great job with that and I’m sure the show’ll be damn fun. I just don’t actually care? Like I’ll enjoy the matches, but I also don’t care.
Quick final note: Rey Mysterio has been bloody fantastic in the build to his match with Lesnar, which has been the same we’ve seen for the past five years from the champion’s side. He’s nailed every promo he’s delivered, a quality that makes me want to genuinely care. All the praise for that man.
Even if it does result in just a quick spree followed by an F-5.
SmackDown on FOX
November 22nd 2019
Are you ready for the Survivor Series?
Hear ye, hear ye. My new theme is fiire.
Finally! The first standard episode of SmackDown that I’ve enjoyed in weeks. It’s finally happened and it’s nice to be writing this column in a happy, excited mood. A night with an undercard filled with NXT vs SmackDown interest that directly set up Sunday in fun as hell fashion, one of the best played final notes before a PPV that WWE have done in a long time.
Round of applause, well done, WWE!
Really it was the SmackDown vs SmackDown matches where my interest died down, I should love Daniel Bryan versus The Fiend but I just don’t. Consequence of a very quick build that just didn’t have the time to truly set itself up, the story’s fine but they’ve no time to build what should be a white hot angle. Instead it’s just good. An odd complaint that something is good, but given all the pieces at play and the way their incorporating both their histories it should be so much more.
It might be one day if this isn’t a one off match, but this is about right now, as we head into their match at Survivor Series. And I just don’t. Same goes for the 6-man main event, mentally I just didn’t have any time for it and my attention only turned back on with the NXT storm to end the show. It wasn’t a bad main event match, but we did pretty much see this exact match pretty recently in the build to Saudi Arabia.
As I said though, my attention perked right back up with the DX-esque NXT arrival. With Triple H, Shawn Michaels and Road Dogg leading the charge, the yellow brand flooded in like a sea of chaos. Did you see that brawl? I can’t call that a wave. It was like the Pacific swam in with the Survivor Series current serving up wave after wave.
An awesome visual, the extra brand really added to that chaos we see every time at this year. A shame the crowd a bit quiet though, yes they turned Chicago down for some reason when they chanted “CM Punk!” at Reigns & Rollins, but they weren’t exactly going crazy for the rest of it. I really enjoyed it though, the crowd getting in to it all would have just been the final brush stroke of the picture.
Wasn’t the end of the world, but it is a small note that maybe crowds haven’t exactly been given a reason as to why this Sunday means so much to result in such a brawl. Why do they care again? Brand supremacy? They’ve not even been on their respective shows for 2 months yet, why would they care so much? It’s something that’s never really been explained at any point these past few years, creates a fun show with exciting visuals but the ‘warfare’ feel lasts… what… 3 weeks before and maybe 1 after?
Allegiance feels a tad sudden is all I’m saying. The card is always a blast to watch though, so I’m not complaining too much.
Elsewhere, you can consider Rhea Ripley a made star after the combination of this week’s SmackDown and captaining Team NXT this weekend. Star performance from the Aussie! Those who’ve watched her down in either NXT UK or the main developmental brand itself can testify that she screams future WWE Women’s Champion. A top prospect to be a star name for the future of the company.
And you know what? If this is her introduction, followed through with a strong performance at Survivor Series, then you have to consider Ripley as one of the strongest NXT call ups in years. An area WWE really have struggled with in recent times, but man am I digging Ripley’s fire during this semi-invasion angle.
Such a smart finish as well, with Charlotte Flair bridging into the Figure 8 on Banks, only for Ripley to slide underneath and pin her shoulders. A damn smart ending, really put the NXT Women’s captain over as someone to keep your eye on this Sunday.
November 20th 2019
Moxley vs Allin
That one counts, right?
Chris Jericho, you magnificent bastard. Us foreign folk on FITE TV had a treat this week as we got to see Le Champion walk through backstage and cutting jabs on everyone and everything he passed. Yes I said ‘thing’, not even hockey sticks were safe.
Highly recommend seeking that clip out if you were an American who watched live and instead got subjected to a b-roll of advertisements. Not forgetting it led to a hilarious promo where I spent half the time looking over to Hager to see if Jericho had successfully cracked him up (send for the man!).
Also want to give a mention to the bolt of lightning that was the opening match between Rey Fenix and Nick Jackson. The contest was everything I hoped it would be, from high spot to high spot with no letting and plenty of draw dropping rope-a-dope from the younger Lucha Bro. Such a fantastic opener, immediately give the show so much energy. If anything, aside from RAW, we saw three top notch examples of the opening segment setting the tone for the rest of the show.
I’ve noted Jericho already, but my second favourite thing about AEW so far has been the rise of MJF. The boos when he walks out really cement how incredible a job he’s been doing, as well as how effective his arc has been. That said, for me the battle royal was just ‘fine’. For me without question AEW’s weakest area has been in the booking of these kinds of matches, I’ve not really enjoyed any of them. And that’s 3 for 3 now.
On the other hand, it did set up MJF versus Hangman Page. Something that’s the perfect next chapter in the continued build for both men, so I predict it won’t be long till I’m right back in and hyped again.
However the biggest part of the show was easily Jon Moxley and Darby Allin, two damn unique acts that have been breaths of fresh air during these early Dynamite weeks. There’s no one like Darby, the events of his youth causing that disconnect from society and ability to be impervious to pain. Then Moxley is someone who just carries an aura of danger, when he says he’ll beat the crap out of you, you best bet you’ll be leaving all bloody.
Put those two characters together? Danger vs imperviousness, anger and disconnect. What a salivating combination, no surprise this match was an absolute joy to watch. With that note played immediately after Darby doth head first into a ringside Mox who had only just finished making his way through the audience. Such an exciting way to launch into this match, consider that tone set.
The crowd didn’t let either, if anything getting more and more into the bout as time went on. In the back of the mind wondering if a one of them would actually be able to pin the other as that ‘showtime remaining’ ticked on by. You see how effective that is? Even when it’s not utilised, it’s there with its presence felt greater through time.
And finally that counter, bloody hell was the ending to this match timed to perfection. As Darby Allin launched off the top with a Coffin Drop and Moxley shifted his body to catch the man in a sleeper hold. The landing was insanely accurate, locked in with a second and that was the sweet violent goodnight.
Top notch match, also one that launches Moxley up those AEW rankings as he gets closer to that championship contendership. Love the way his arc is building, as he clashes with authority in his refusal to boxed in as a certain kind of special attraction.
Yet another solid episode, flew right by just like NXT did. What have we done to deserve these Wednesdays? They’re bloody brilliant.
Imp’s RAW Grade – ‘Meh’, given how strong NXT & SmackDown were there’s really no need to watch RAW at all this week.
Imp’s AEW Grade – More low key this week, but still bloody solid and a joy to blast through.
Imp’s NXT Grade – Favourite show of the week for the second episode in a row, an absolute treat.
Imp’s SD Live Grade – Fun as hell chaos to send his home into Survivor Series!
But now to hear from you!
Are you hyped for Survivor Series?
Which bran wins the night: RAW, SmackDown or NXT?
Are you watching War Games too? Will NXT folk even survive that first?
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 previewed Survivor Series by playing Worst Case Scenarios! Booking the PPV as badly as possible for a wee bit of fun.
Imp’s most recent columns:
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Imp’s Wrestling Adventure – Don’t Test My Morals, WWE
Imp’s NJPW Adventure – The Story of Hiroshi Tanahashi Part 1: Becoming The Ace