Imp’s Wrestling Adventure
It’s Saturday. You know what that means. Time to look back over this past week, where the wrestling world changed for good.
A brand new RAW skateboard set with pyro and everything, NXT is now 2 hours on USA, SmackDown’s on FOX with all of the WWE’s biggest stars and AEW Dynamite has officially exploded onto TNT! All of this is shaking up the wrestling world, such an exciting time to be fan fully on board for the journey.
The commentators had a major shift too, with the ‘A Team’ moving over to Friday nights and RAW bringing in the new blood of Vic Joseph and Dio Madden. The latter of which seemed nervous, but at the same time perfectly fine in that third man role who’s job it is to just go, “Ohh!” at everything.
Even the WWE intro got a clappy remix, it’s a new era dammit!
And bloody hell, after all that’s happened it’s Hell In A Cell’s this Sunday. On the week that’s very likely to end with The Fiend becoming WWE Universal Champion, he’s like the 5th or 6th thing down the list of wrestling to care about.
But do join me Sunday immediately after for LOP Radio Aftershock, won’t you? I’m going to be shattered and will likely need the company!
It’s also only just hitting me, if you are indeed one of the people trying to consume it all, we’re going to be hitting 12 – 13 hours of wrestling this week. Something tells me I should heed Tito’s words when he talks about his mental health, there’s a reason why I’ve spread the writing of this column throughout the week. I think it’s fair to say most people are not going to have enough free time to commit, folk are going to have to choose and there’s no better fuel for driving competition to improve than that.
Also a multi-billion dollar corporation breathing down your neck, judging every move you make is probably going to motivate you a bit. So far I’m liking the changes, but we’ll see how things settle over the coming weeks. Really that’s the status for all the shows, this week was a flashy entrance, but next is the time where you start to move on to your core product.
So, with an amazing 1.4 million tuning in to TNT and 890,000 over on USA, let’s dive in to Wednesday night shall we?
AEW’s TNT Debut | NXT on USA
October 2nd 2019
The Wednesday Night Wars Have Begun!
AEW is a company unashamed to be called Professional Wrestling. Taxes and all, it doesn’t matter, that is what they are. No 20 minute promos, no backstage segments and no ‘storyline’ angles of nonsense. For better or worse, they are through and through a wrestling promotion.
Guesting on Wade Keller’s podcast, Tony Kahn (the money man behind AEW) repeatedly said that he hates the ‘invisible camera’, those backstage WWE segments where for some reason there’s a whole camera crew there to film a coincidental chat. Instead believing that everything important should play out in the ring, that should be the sole focus. The characters you fall in love with, the stories you get invested in, all revolving around one thing: competing in that ring.
The wrestler’s records appearing on their name graphic adds to that sentiment, in AEW it’s the competition of wrestling itself that matters. Something which really wouldn’t have been felt as hard as it was if it wasn’t directly compared to how RAW ended this week, with their focus instead on the storyline of Bobby Lashley making out with another man’s wife.
I’m not saying one is black and white better than the other, but the difference in focus couldn’t have had a better example. AEW is trying to present stories on television within a wrestling context, where WWE tries to present stories in wrestling within a television context. AEW is presenting wrestling, WWE is presenting television. Two very different philosophies, you could directly call this new era of competition ‘Professional Wrestling vs Sports Entertainment’.
It may take a while for the vision to come together, but there is a plan and direction within AEW. It’s the same within any team sport: you can buy all the talented players you want, but if you don’t have a plan and you’re not buying players to fit that vision, then what’s it all for?
AEW’s focus on the wrestling itself was felt in spades throughout this week’s debut: matches were fleshed out, interviews were either in the ring or conducted on the ramp WCW style and commentators calling the action over calling an overarching story. As a wrestling fan the show was an absolute blast to watch, not perfect but I wasn’t expecting it to be for a debut show. The time flew by and I can’t wait to do it all again, a smooth watch if not a ‘knock your socks off’ thrillride.
With the number one thing for me being that I enjoyed it to that level and there wasn’t really anything that blew my mind. The production just felt so focused and gave us that chaotic ending as a hook for next week, even though Jack Swagger may not be the most exciting piece of the AEW puzzle (but I’d be arguing if I said his debut didn’t work in the moment). A wise move with commentary referring to his undefeated MMA record as the point of interest over him being a former WWE star.
Why’s he in AEW you ask? Don’t be surprised if the door’s open to more of Cody’s generation of WWE talent, a lost generation somewhat passed over suddenly filled with that passion to have one last go at making an impact.
Side note: my home city of Nottingham got multiple mentions during Hangman vs PAC, forever in AEW canon as the place of their first ever in-universe match. Yes I am that guy that pops whenever my city is mentioned on television, to be fair though, that’s a much rarer occasion for us foreigners!
NXT Championship/NXT Tag Team Championships
Adam Cole (c) vs Matt Riddle
Undisputed Era (c) vs Street Profits
No quick quip, this match was amazing.
And AEW’s only one half of the occasion! Two shows to flip between that I genuinely want to watch, Wednesday nights has officially become THE night for wrestling in America. Yes there are shows on other days, but the energy around the mid-week madness is totally unmatched.
So far I’ve praised NXT trying out new little tweaks to the presentation each week and this third episode was no different. Greeted by a fancy Corey Taylor video, we then got the NXT intro graphic was the bloke shouting, “This is NXT!” and my God did it get the blood pumping! Amped and excited whilst a hot as hell arena chanted, “NXT! NXT! NXT! NXT!”
Mauro Ranallo then greeted us to-camera, setting the stage before our first competitor emerges. This show’s immediate difference from the other three US mainstream wrestling offerings is the lack of pyro, the others being able to follow up the high tempo intro theme with a riveting ‘BOOM BOOM BANG BANG AAAA!!!’
But in NXT’s case? They plugged in to that more grungy, underground feeling and turned it up to eleven. Managing to keep that adrenaline without the extravagance, simply adding to that smaller feel and amping up the energy within the presentation.
Speaking of amping up energy, Jesus Christ Cole and Riddle! No need to leave anything for the rest of us! Yeah just take all the stars, yer greedy feckers. Some absolutely incredible back and forth sequences at such a frantic pace. Easily match of the week by quite some margin, the bar set for this NXT to essentially have the quality of a TakeOver show.
And Finn Balor is NXT now?! Wow, such the perfect person to act as a major star elevating the entire brand.
As for the fun main event, all I have to say is this: Waaale.
Montez Ford can flyy, Roderick Strong can interfere and Fish & O’Riley can destroy with the High & Low Combination for the win. A really fun main event, if not an immediate classic like the NXT Championship opener was. It didn’t need to be though, Full Sail got right behind the Profits and Undisputed Era played every trick in the book to try and overwhelm them.
After the match Adam Cole walked out to congratulate his comrades, when Ciampa’s music hit!! The former NXT Champion is back! Will Adam Cole survive?
I love what this sets up, in the space of one night not only does Matt Riddle feel like a serious threat, but Finn Balor returned to become a contender and then Tomasso Ciampa also made his intentions clear to end the show. You know what this does? It makes the NXT Championship feel important as hell, so many people gunning for Cole’s spot. The champion is a targeted man, the best part being they got that across with actions rather than words. No promo stating it, no setting up a multi-man contender’s cluster, just multiple character’s walking out at the point they think will make the best impact to get that shot they want.
We saw that from two different wrestlers on this episode, both trying to seize that opportunity in their own way. Really does add depth and make the world feel alive. Show don’t tell, my friends. NXT nailed that this week.
NXT Women’s Championship
Shayner Baszler (c) vs Candice LeRae
Long live the horse people.
Who could possibly take down Baszler? I was going in expecting Candice to do a bang top job to help get the champion’s dominance across to the new USA audience. Establish the Baszler before taking down the Baszler. Plus it’s a result which now means the champion has now beaten every wrestler that was in that 4 Way Contender’s bout from NXT’s first 1 hour TV show. Talk about getting a champion over strong.
This match was pretty much everything I was expecting, the champ grounding and slowing things down, the challenger fighting back and taking risks to increase the pace. LeRae had the confidence she was good enough to truly snatch the momentum in those moments to win, but reality’s a bitch when you’re locked in a Baszler submission.
A strong effort, a fun outing, but not really a match where you felt the challenger was really capable of actually winning. With the question now becoming who on Earth will be the one to take that title away from Horse Lady Shayna? Rhea Ripley is now the only one with both momentum and a stake to the claim of challenger, the only thing being if it’s her time or not.
So far NXT has been doing a really good job of making the Australian feel like a big deal, easily winning mid card bouts in dominant fashion since losing her opportunity thanks to a DQ in her match with the champion a few weeks ago. The former NXT UK Champion is really the only name that immediately jumps to mind, with the other paths being: a repeat, a brand jump like Toni Storm, or a brand new name we’ve not really seen on NXT like Deonna Purrazzo.
For me this match set up Baszler so well that I really don’t know where’s next, it’s somewhat a nice feeling. Especially on a show that has continuity and doesn’t break its own rules, whoever the challenger is you can trust that she won’t feel randomly chosen, somewhat earnt rather than out of nowhere for that nice pop. World logic is an actual thing on Wednesdays, it adds so much to the show knowing that what I’m seeing will 100% effect and characters and lead to the next thing.
Speaking of smoothly and logically leading on to the next thing… how was the week of the Season Premiere and FOX debut for main roster WWE?
Monday Night RAW | SmackDown on FOX
September 30th– October 4th 2019
Are You Ready For The Big Time?
(Said the vicar to the actress)
If you smeeeellll, what the FOX is cooking.
The word going round in the hours counting down to the show were saying it was looking set to be a reminder of what WWE is capable of. My testicles are perfectly adequate!
A sentence I couldn’t agree with more, with all the positive and negative ways you could interoperate it. WWE is capable of putting on hell of a show like this week’s FOX debut, two hours of pure exciting energy leaving you amped for next week. But there’s a reason we have to declare that, because they haven’t been.
On LOP Radio on Thursday I worded it as WWE’s product has recently been sprinkled with good things, rather than being actually good. There are things I enjoy about WWE’s product, but the negatives are currently outweighing the positives so it gets harder to see the trees for the bear shit.
So with their 4th reset this year a show full of pure energy and excitement was more than welcome, in fact it was remarkably in tone with the rest of the week (sans RAW). Brand new shiny toys, toys full of explosions, toys returning and making the crowd pop like crazy. Seriously, the hype across all 3 of AEW, NXT & SmackDown was simply fantastic to see.
Becky Lynch was given the nod to be the first act to walk out on FOX, a massive sign of faith going forward. The Rock ignited the crowd, kicked King Corbin’s ass and whilst in the process put over the lass. Oh and bloody hell the tone of the show was so different from the get go. I’m used to Rollins coming out and delivering show recaps, but now Rocky’s out here saying that Corbin’s crack addiction has shrunk his genitals.
One show opener is certainly more attention grabbing than the other.
The new set looked top notch, really giving the show that ‘big time’ feel FOX was promoting. Thanks to those half arch light things the stage now has depth, something it’s all the better for! Don’t get me wrong, I did like RAW’s sick slope, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think it looked bare bones now in comparison to what Friday’s got to play with.
The show itself felt like a WWE 101 course, a true reset explaining the world to everyone who’s new to this weird, crazy, often nonsensical world. With really one stand out moment as Braun Strowman got under the skin of one of the biggest names in boxing in Tyson Fury. For the uninformed it may have appeared Strowman was acting a tad heelish, but you just wait, come the boxer’s open mic on RAW it should become very apparent, very quickly, that Fury is quite the nob.
The bloke is extremely easy to hate, there’s no way in hell he’ll be playing the babyface boxer against the heel wrestling monster. Call me damn well intrigued to see how it all goes down though! It’s fair to say open mics and Tyson Fury have not mixed well in the past, he holds some… ‘interesting’ views.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Kofi Kingston (c) vs Brock Lesnar
If a picture could perfectly encapsulate the two reactions to Kingston’s instant loss…
“I’m being optimistic and predicting a win for Kofi here,” uttered thousands of African Americans before SmackDown hit the air. Then BOOM in comes FOX with a Goldust style swift kick to the nuts, shattering all the dreams of those who’ve followed the champion’s journey in a second. Nice run Kofi, thanks to the state of the world you reigned over it was like your time at the top had only really just begun.
Kingston ended the show as an afterthought, the third wheel off to the side as Lesnar celebrated before the genuinely well set up and delivered surprise arrival. I’ll give WWE it’s kudos, the attack on Dominic set up Mysterio coming out with his Dad well. Add to that the history of Cain being the man who toppled Brock in the Octagon as a focal point for the feud and you’ve got one nicely set up angle.
It’s just a shame it came at the cost of Kingston’s run feeling like it was tossed aside, a title reign that meant a lot to a large portion of the WWE audience. There’s a reason there are people on Twitter today talking about how much Kofi’s WrestleMania win meant to them, it was an historic moment that many believed they’d never see.
But there’s also a reason there’s not much mentioned from between then and now. What has WWE done with him since then? He was booked strongly, yes, but he ruled over what world? Jumping between challengers of the month he should never lose to without much story, only getting to sink his teeth into something in his final feud before dropping the belt. Kofi Kingston was one of the many victims of Post-Mania 2019 Era of WWE, a company that seemingly had on plan, no direction, throwing shit at the wall to see what would stick. Not much of it for more than two weeks.
I’m so glad WWE are over that period, but I’d love nothing more than to see Kofi get a proper run. By that mean with actual stories, an arc, a purpose to his reign throughout and not just in the chase. Kofi’s reign meant a lot to a high number of people, arguably the worst thing they could do is relegate him back down. I’d love to see this loss give him purpose, drive him even more to climb back up.
Now, I’m not going to ignore the multiple reasons why the title change was done. Hugely in part to FOX, but also to set up Cain Valesquez’s surprise debut, the man who legit beat Lesnar for the title in UFC. The arena exploded with, “Miero!” chants last night, as Brock looked back at the ring, scared as hell. The stage was set wonderfully, the match feels heated as hell. I even feel like I want to compliment the commentary for well it was all explained, I know very little about UFC and Cole/Graves told the story damn excellently.
I will quickly note that this is a daaangerous road to be going down, putting over MMA stars as strongly as WWE are. NJPW lives as a tale of caution when dabbling in that world, you have to be very, very careful with who you bring over. The Japanese company’s near demise is a lesson that at the end of the day, core MMA fans don’t want to watch scripted wrestling and core wrestling fans don’t want to watch MMA fighters try to wrestle.
You have to find a balance, bring in the right people and not forget to still use them to put over your top wrestlers in the end. How Ronda Rousey was used is a shining example of how to do that very thing, using a big name to bring in viewers and solidify Becky Lynch as a major star.
In the case of Cain Valesquez? On the face of things it’s another great choice to make that jump, he ain’t just some big time UFC player jumping over for the big bucks carrying some mediocre amount of care. This man’s been putting in the work and turning up pretty damn great down in Mexico. No seriously, search out the footage and you’ll the man whipping out handsprings like it’s nothing.
He’s a man steeped in the honour of Lucha, to the point of making a stance that he wants to wrestle in a mask. Don’t be walking into his first match expecting him to wrestle like Lesnar, yeah he can deliver the ground and pound, but that man is going to Lucha.
Will that be enough for fans wanting to move on from Lesnar, only for WWE to bring in another MMA name to take The Beast down once again?
Oh and word from The Observer is that Lesnar/Valesquez is set to take place at Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia NAME REDACTED, so yaay all that for a match I won’t be watching. Search my column archive if you want to know my in depth thoughts on those shows, they’re full of research and effort and for the last one I ended up on the Death Penalty Database. So I’m good to not have to do that again
Business Becky vs Sasha Banks
Oh Yeah, RAW Also Happened
Next time they meet… it will be… in a cell! Oh wait no they don’t, they’re on FOX yer pri-
With everything that happened, despite all the changes and titles on the line RAW was the least interesting show this week. It felt together, the production of the thing was nice and smooth, however in terms of actual content there wasn’t really much interesting enough for me to bang on about.
I mean, aside from that main event. What a weird nonsense ending with three angles happening at once! Rusev clocking Rollins, Lanashley’s… reveal(?) and then immediately into The Fiend’s attack on our Universal champ to end show. All within… what, two minutes? Not forgetting Orton & Corbin standing on the stage throughout it all, building to a Saudi Arabia thing that’s also happening. I always forget how those specials interfere and confuse the television to a point of saying you might as well not watch for the next month.
Aside from that though, not really much of note. It was a pretty fine go home show.
Even in the case of the show’s main women’s feud, not that much happened and just inched forward to set up Hell In A Cell. I’ve not talked about the arc for a few weeks though, so given I’m actually looking forward to their match on Sunday I thought I’d at least explain why. Because in reality, the build hasn’t really been… anything? Mostly tag matches establishing Banks & Bayley with Lynch running out and launching an attack; vice versa, swap in Charlotte.
Since Bayley’s turn and the MSG tag match however, the arc’s not really progressed anywhere. The Hell In A Cell match was set up after their white hot brawl at Clash of Champions, feeling like an absolutely perfect next step. The ante’s just not been raised at all since that point, the animosity’s still there but I’d be lying if I said the feud felt anywhere near as heated as it did when the match was actually announced. If anything it’s like they’ve settled into a status quo, forgetting to actually build and elevate to that next level.
That roster is so damn talented, if anything a fact that is in spite of the quality of the weekly television. The builds to PPVs have a theme of running below par, but the matches themselves more often than not knock it out of the feckin’ park. Sasha Banks vs Becky Lynch in a heated Hell In A Cell bout? Colour me God damn hyped, that match should be an absolute blast.
As is the case modern day WWE though, if you’re not really engaged nor particularly keeping up with the television you’re likely to be more excited for this match. The sad fact I keep repeating: WWE punishes you for getting invested and tuning in every week. So don’t. Their Clash of Champions match ended on such a high that arguably you’re a lot better off having stopped their and set to pick things up again this Sunday.
You’ve really not missed anything. There hasn’t been any progression.
Even though I’m banging out these columns every week, I still can’t recommend any of you watch RAW on a weekly basis. Go to their YouTube channel and pick out the clips you want, because the issues are still too prevalent. The state of WWE’s product is miles better than it was during the summer, but until problems like the weekly canon issue are fixed there’s literally no point. Whatever feud you’re digging, watch it on YouTube.
Rant out of the way, Becky Lynch vs Sasha Banks is still set to be one hell of a match. I’m genuinely looking forward to Hell In A Cell, only three matches announced but both headliners are the two best things going in the company.
Imp’s RAW Grade – YouTube what you want. Nothing but positives about the changes though.
Imp’s AEW Grade – A strong start for the professional wrestling that has wrestling on it.
Imp’s NXT Grade – Still just a breeze to blast though, this show had a really strong TakeOver quality to it.
Imp’s SD Live Grade – FOX will be happy, Kofi fans… not so much.
But now to hear from you, what did you think? What did you make of this week of pure new era hype? What did you make of AEW? Did you enjoy FOX’s wrestling debut? Are you up for Hell In A Cell on Sunday? I am, but I’ve secretly got my fingers crossed there really are only two matches and I can get a relatively normal bed time.
Comment below, rate and click an emoji too if you’re that way inclined. I’ll be here to reply and chat this weird wrestling world.
Imp’s LOP Radio Adventure is LIVE every Thursday, this week he was joined by Rance (@itsReyCash) from Chairshot Radio to go long and debate the ongoing AEW vs WWE arguements!
Imp’s most recent columns:
Imp’s Wrestling Adventure – The Fiend Guaranteed To Win At Hell In A Cell? (RAW, SD Live & NXT, Sep 27th 2019)
Imp’s Wrestling Adventure – All Hail King Corbin! (RAW, SD Live & NXT, Sep 19th 2019)
Imp’s Wrestling Adventure – MSG 3:16 (RAW, SD Live & NXT, Sep 12th 2019)
Imp’s Wrestling Adventure – A Little Bit of the Bayley (RAW, SD Live & NXT, Sep 5th 2019)
Imp’s NJPW Adventure – The Story of Hiroshi Tanahashi Part 1: Becoming The Ace