AEW Delivers an ‘All Out’ Blockbuster

Photo credit: AEW

Years from now, when fans look back at All Elite Wrestling’s 2021 edition of All Out, they won’t just remember one of the most incredible nights in professional wrestling. Still, they will gain a deep appreciation for the nonconformist storytelling that led the way.

AEW owner Tony Kahn did things on Sunday night that the rules of booking 101 prohibit. Every veteran, booker, and experienced hand worth their salt would not have debuted four new acts on one show, much less two of them in the same segment.

One on loan from Japan and the other three officially signed, sealed, and “All Elite.”

Continue reading “AEW Delivers an ‘All Out’ Blockbuster”

New Champions Crowned at ROH Best in the World 2021

ROH held its first show in front of a live audience in 15 months with Best in the World from Baltimore, Maryland. Five title matches headlined by RUSH defending the World Championship against Bandido. This is the first time two Mexican wrestlers have main evented an American pay-per-view in many years.

Continue reading “New Champions Crowned at ROH Best in the World 2021”

Edge and Bianca Belair Reign at the Royal Rumble

The road to WrestleMania has officially begun as Edge, and Bianca Belair won their respective Royal Rumble matches. Edge joins the two timers club 11 years after winning his first one, while Bianca Belair becomes the first African-American wrestler to win the Rumble.

Continue reading “Edge and Bianca Belair Reign at the Royal Rumble”

New WWE Intercontinental Title Belt Revealed

A new look WWE Intercontinental Championship belt debuted on SmackDown last week as Sami Zayn presented it as a gift to current titlist Shinsuke Nakamura. This is the second title inside of the last two weeks to get a makeover with the Universal Championship getting a blue strap to match the motif of its new home, SmackDown.

This marks the fifth renovation of the IC title throughout its forty-year history. Cody Rhodes introduced the previous version of the belt in 2011 in an attempt to rebuild the prestige of the championship by reintroducing the classic style with an updated white strap.

The new design has a black strap and a center plate with gold and yellow trim brandishing the WWE logo. Two smaller plates are extending outward with a split illustration of the globe. For the first time, the IC title has interchange side plates allowing wrestlers to customize the belt with their name and logo.

While the old school fan in me wants to hate the new belt, I have to admit, it looks pretty cool. It’s very 2019 and speaks to the aesthetic of WWE’s current presentation. Visually, it’s the literal definition of the Intercontinental meaning travel between continents.

The classic version will always be my favorite, however, and it pains me to say this; it looked outdated compared to the other belts in circulation.

Shinsuke Nakamura joins Cody, as mentioned earlier, along with Tito Santana and The Rock as wrestlers who have ushered in a new era for Intercontinental Championship. As they say, out with the old, in with the new.

2019 WWE Survivor Series Results & Review

Photo Credit – WWE.COM

The thirty-third annual Survivor Series emanated from the All-State Arena in Chicago, Illinois, with a new caveat added to the event’s brand supremacy theme. For the first time, NXT competed against Raw and SmackDown. There were several Interbrand matches along with three title matches that made for one of the better WWE pay-per-views of 2019.

WWE didn’t make the wrestlers wear those color-coded brand-specific t-shirts, which were lame. Adam Cole is the big winner here as his matches throughout this pay-per-view cycle exuded superstardom. It will be interesting to see what is in store for him in the next six months.

The match I was looking forward to the most was the Triple Threat encounter between NXT North American Champion Roderick Strong, U.S. Champion AJ Styles, and Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura. In some ways, this match was behind the eight ball before it began since it was never going to live up to the impossible expectations fans had considering the talent involved.

While it never got to that fifth gear, it got close as all three wrestlers worked well together. Several big spots got the tough Chicago crowd to come alive. Roderick Strong got the win when Styles hit the phenomenal forearm on Nakamura and Strong ran in, threw Styles out of the ring, and pinned Nakamura.

Adam Cole defeated Pete Dunne to retain the NXT Championship in what is unquestionably match of the night. This was their most high profile match to date. This match could have very easily been a significant misstep considering Vince McMahon usually doesn’t book NXT style matches on major WWE shows. Vince deserves credit for letting NXT shine by allowing them to do what they do best. I’d recommend going out of your way to see this one.

Team SmackDown won the Men’s Survivor Series Triple Threat Elimination Match when Roman Reigns pinned NXT’s Keith Lee to emerge as the sole survivor. I was concerned that NXT would get lost in the shuffle of the main roster star power of Raw and SmackDown.

One point of contention occurred right of the bat when WWE U.K. Champion WALTER, representing Team NXT, was eliminated in four minutes. The crowd hated this, and fans online were equally as upset. WALTER shined against both Bruan Strowman and Drew McIntyre until McIntyre hit WALTER with the Claymore Kick for the elimination.

Looking at this from a promoter’s lens, this was the first time seeing WALTER for a large part of the audience. Booking WALTER to run roughshod over McIntyre and Strowman was done with the idea of getting him over with the uninitiated before he was eliminated. However, it wasn’t enough as all everyone remembers is how quickly WALTER was pinned.

Tomasso Ciampa pinning Kevin Owens with a draping DDT, in front of Randy Orton, was funny because it is a move out of Orton’s playbook. Also, Orton never beats anyone with that move while Ciampa sealed the deal.

Seth Rollins’ next t-shirt should read, “How the mighty have fallen.” The once-popular superstar is now a pariah due to several Twitter faux pas over the past few months. While he didn’t say anything offensive, his comments have made him come off as a company kiss ass while WWE has been pushing Rollins as the cool lead babyface on television.

Photo Credit – WWE.COM

Keith Lee came off like a superstar in the final frame with Roman Reigns. In defeat, Reigns offered a fist bump out of respect to Lee, which spoke volumes. Typically, fans would have rejected the idea of the top guy giving props to an already popular wrestler.

However, Reigns has only extended his fist to members of The Shield. Lee getting such praise came off as a nice moment that suggests big things are in store for the former Texas A&M defensive end. At 6′ 2″, 320 lbs. and moves like a cat, Lee has the makings of a superstar.

Brocks Lesnar matches at Survivor Series have become an event unto itself. The past two years he tore the house down with smaller opponents in AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan. This year he wrestled the smallest of the small in Rey Mysterio.

The NO DQ stipulation was used well as the mammoth Lesnar threw Mysterio around like a ping-pong ball. Rey found an opening and walloped Lesnar at will with a lead pipe. Rey’s son Dominick got involved and looked as if he was going to throw the towel in. The father and son duo delivered a double 619 to Lesnar, which was fantastic.

Each also delivered an Eddie Guerrero style frog splash to Lesnar. Dominick got some serious height with his splash. Lesnar caught Rey coming off the top rope with an F-5 for the win. While the match was short, it was fun while it lasted and told a great story.

In the main event, NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Bazler defeated Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch and SmackDown Women’s Champion Bayley. The finish saw Bazler submit Bayley with a rear-naked choke, giving NXT the overall win for the evening with four wins, two wins for SmackDown, and one win for Raw.

NXT’s involvement this year made for one of the better Survivor Series shows in some time. They added a fresh element to the overproduced “brand supremacy” theme and greatly improved the match quality. WWE booking NXT as the heel invaders worked against them, inadvertently making them the babyface underdogs that no one wanted to lose.

It was important for NXT to shine on its biggest stage to date, and their win over Raw and SmackDown could give them the rub needed to beat AEW, in the ratings, consistently going forward. WWE produced a fun show that elevated their most popular asset. I’d say mission accomplished.

 

Survivor Series Quick Results:

Photo Credit – WWE.COM

  1. Team NXT (Rhea Ripley, Io Shirai, Bianca Belair, Candice LeRae, and Toni Storm) def. Team SmackDown (Sasha Banks [c], Dana Brooke, Carmella, Lacey Evans, and Nikki Cross) and Team Raw (Charlotte Flair [c], Natalya, Asuka, Kairi Sane, and Sarah Logan)
  2. NXT North American Championship Roderick Strong defeated Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura and U.S. Champion AJ Styles
  3. Adam Cole pinned Pete Dunne to retain the NXT Championship
  4. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt def. Daniel Bryan to retain the WWE Universal Championship
  5. Team SmackDown (Roman Reigns, King Corbin, Shorty G, Mustafa Ali, and Braun Strowman) def. Team Raw (Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Ricochet, Drew McIntyre, and Kevin Owens) and Team NXT (Tommaso Ciampa, Matt Riddle, Keith Lee, Damian Priest, and WALTER)
  6. Brock Lesnar defeated Rey Mysterio in a No Holds Barred, No Disqualification Match to retain the WWE Championship
  7. NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler defeated SmackDown Women’s Champion Bayley and Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch

Favorite Matches #1: Shinsuke Nakamura vs Kota Ibushi

For twenty-three years, Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin from the 1996 Survivor Series was my favorite wrestling match of all-time. That all changed on January 4, 2015, at 5:30 A.M. EST as the IWGP Intercoientlal Title was defended in the co-main event of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s preeminent show, Wrestle Kingdom 9.

I’ve been a casual fan of New Japan since the mid-’90s. Through internet tape trading, I would often see the promotion’s marquee matches weeks or even months after they occurred. Five years ago, New Japan was in the midst of a resurgence that got fans excited. The company’s streaming service debuted within that time and American fans had the opportunity to watch Wrestle Kingdom, for the first time, live.

I had seen Nakamura wrestle for the first time at a 2011 New Japan show in NYC. I was thoroughly impressed with his in-ring style but I was unfamiliar with his character. Wrestle Kingdom served as my introduction to Kota Ibushi and knew absolutely nothing about him going into the match. The show was already great and I assumed that Nakamura in the second to last match against anyone had to be good.

So, why do I love this match? Well, for starters, Nakamura came to the ring dressed as a combination of Freddie Mercury and the Statue of Liberty. The attire was Nakamura’s flamboyant way of proclaiming himself the King of Strong Style. The story going in was simple. Ibushi was a newly minted heavyweight coming up from the junior heavyweight division. He assaulted Nakamura two months earlier and challenged him to a title match.

Ibushi got into Nakamura’s head early, mocking him at every turn. Nakamura missed the Bom A Ye knee and received a dropkick in the back. Ibushi hit Nakamura with some of his own signature moves including the good vibrations kick in the corner. Nakamura regained control and pumbled Ibushi with every type of knee strike imaginable. Nakamura slapped Ibush a few times and followed up with a backstabber.

Ibushi landed on his feet from a Nakamura suplex, delivered a hurricanrana and followed up with a moonsault off the top rope and to the floor on Nakamura. Back in the ring, one roundhouse kick from Ibushi appeared to knock Nakamura out cold. I jolted out of my seat at that moment because I truly believed Ibushi hit him too hard and the match was going to be called early. Nope, I was wrong. It was a testament to how well Nakamura sold it.

What I thought was the move of the match came when Ibushi jumped up for a leapfrog, Nakamura slid underneath and Ibushi connected with a double foot stomp to the chest. It looked like something out of The Matrix. The real move of the match came when Ibushi climbed to the top rope, grabbed Nakamura, who was standing on the apron and threw him with a German suplex into the ring.

At that point, I was sold. This was officially my new favorite wrestling match of all time.

The finish came when Nakamura blocked a Phoenix plex attempt from Ibushi and delivered the following onslaught of moves. Head-butts, elbows, Bom A Ye knee to the back, a backstabber, a falcon arrow, and finished it off with a vintage Bom A Ye for the 1-2-3.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kota Ibushi was a transformative experience for me as a wrestling fan. I went from a casual viewer to a full-on die-hard fan of anything carrying the red and yellow lion mark New Japan. Both wrestlers produced a twenty-minute masterpiece of personified action and excitement.

Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to properly articulate how much I love this match. I’ll always remember where I was the night Nakamura and Ibushi blew the roof off of the Tokyo Dome.

 

My Favorite Matches

Kenny Omega vs. Okada III – G-1 Climax B Block Finals 2017

Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania 25

Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin – Survivor Series 1996

Kurt Agle vs. Chris Benoit – Royal Rumble 2003

Bret Hart vs. Undertaker – One Night Only 1997

Ricky Steamboat vs. Macho Man Randy Savage – WrestleMania 3

Mr. Perfect vs. Bret Hart – Summer Slam 1991 

British Bulldog vs. Owen Hart – Monday Night Raw 3/5/97

Bret Hart vs. British Bulldog – Simmer Slam 1992

DC’s Event Leviathan Flounders with Finale

Event Leviathan #6 | Written by Brian Michael Bendis | Art by Alex Maleev | DC Comics

The biggest mystery plaguing the DC Universe reaches its conclusion. Who is Leviathan? We finally get our answer.

“I’m sorry, I don’t recognize you,” unfortunately, encapsulates the magnitude of the reveal when Superman used his x-way vision to peek under the hood.

Unmasking the villain needs to be a shocking experience.

Instead, Bendis used the moment to bring an obscure character to prominence.

That could have worked.

However, we never saw Leviathan actually do anything. Explosions, weird energy fields, and the collapse of the intelligence community wielded massive results.

Yet, Leviathan is never seen pulling the trigger himself or getting his hands dirty. He talked a big game and had people do his bidding. If Leviathan was going to roll up his sleeves finally, this was the time to do it. Instead, he retreats once he realized Superman would never join his cause.

I’m sorry, but how many times has Superman been fed the “Tear down the world to make it better” speech?

A lot would be the answer.

Its as if the characters in the book failed to realize something the reader has known about Earth’s greatest hero. I thought something different would have presented itself. Perhaps an argument that was fresh and compelling. Something to make Superman waver, even for a few fleeting seconds, would have given readers something to chew on.

Leviathan was portrayed as someone who is always five steps; however, he put all of his eggs in one red and blue basket. That doesn’t sound very smart al all.

The leaks that appeared online last month regarding Leviathan’s identity were correct.

I hoped they were wrong; however, it seemed too apparent after really thinking about it. The ending of the book is the beginning, as there is more to come from Leviathan. That would have been cool if I actually cared about the person in question. Leviathan peaced out once Superman turned him down.

Why would I be intrigued about any threat he could pose to Supes or the Justice League going forward?

Bendis is in the Leviathan business for the long haul. I hope he can bring something that will have an impact because, unfortunately, this wasn’t it.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Trailer Review)

The final trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker dropped on Monday, and everyone has an opinion about it.

The first and second trailers each had that money shot moment with the reveals of Emperor Palpatine and Dark Rey. This trailer didn’t have that holy s— moment; however, it still gave me that epic feel of something special. Gorgeous imagery, powerful music, and what could be a sad goodbye from C-3PO latched on to the heartstrings like a vice grip.

One of the big questions surrounding the film was answered in the trailer as it was confirmed that it is the ruins of the second Death Star that will be explored in the movie.

Spaceships, spaceships, and more spaceships filled out the trailer, which hinted towards the space battle to end all space battles. I was delighted to see this because if this film is the end of the Skywalker saga, the climactic battle needs to be bigger than what we saw in Return of the Jedi.

It was kind of a bummer that absolutely nothing about the plot was revealed. Besides 3PO, there is no exchange of dialog between any of the characters. In fact, there was nothing revealed about the new characters and no footage of the much talked about Sith Troopers and Knights of Ren. There are a lot of quick cuts throughout the trailer, which leads me to believe Disney is keeping their cards close to their chest.

It’s risky move to hold back necessary information from a marketing perspective. Especially since The Last Jedi was incredibly divisive. Director JJ Abrams said the film will answer as many questions as possible. If that is true, the studio doesn’t want any of those answers revealed until the movie is released.

Overall, I liked the trailer. There were some missed opportunities, but it still got me super excited and counting down the days until December 20th. I really wanted to learn SOMETHING about the story. However, Star Wars is the only franchise in cinema that can release an all imagery trailer and still get people more excited than they were going in.

I already bought my tickets!

 

NWA POWERRR: Old School Look with New School Energy

Over two years ago, when Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan bought the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), everyone wondered what could be possibly done with the brand. We’re long removed from the days when the NWA was the governing body of professional wrestling or even relevant within the industry.

The last twenty plus years saw the vestiges of the promotion attach itself to any independent promotion willing to pay a membership fee. Most obtained membership out of nostalgia for the once-mighty company where iconic names such as Lou Thez, Harley Race, and Ric Flair showcased their skills.

Last week, NWA debuted their new show on YouTube called POWERRR filmed in front of a live studio audience in Atlanta. The set design is a replica of the old Georgia Championship Wrestling cable television show on channel 17 (TBS).

Old school production graphics are used, similar Georgia show format, and they even used the old yellow NWA logo. If that’s not cool enough, the show has a worldwide air time on Tuesday at 6:05 EST. The: 05 start time was a distinguished hallmark of TBS programming for many years and most synonymous with wrestling. Unforgettable start time is an excellent piece of marketing, and it’s free.

Powerrr is a one-hour commercial-free show with a mixture of squash matches and competitive matches between stars. Promos occur at the studio podium after the match where current storylines and advanced and future angles and born. This is precisely how Georgia Championship Wrestling was formatted.

However, what makes Powerr different from other nostalgia acts is the show’s old school motif coupled with contemporary wrestling. This gives the show a new school energy that makes it feel fresh. Industry leader WWE has thrown basic wrestling storytelling by the wayside. The NWA is giving older fans what they’ve missed while providing younger fans with a version of wrestling they never knew they wanted.

What a difference two years makes. In 2017, WWE was the only wrestling promotion that could get a viable television deal. Jeff Jarrett and Tobey Keith couldn’t even get a tv deal. The belief within the television industry was that wrestling’s popularity is fading, and WWE is the only company that can do it on a large scale.

Today, WWE has three shows on television worth billions of dollars, and AEW is making waves on TNT. Billy Corgan might have picked the perfect time to debut Powerrr. The response to the show has been overwhelmingly positive. Hopefully, continued success can be parlayed into a television deal to coincide with the recent resurgence of wrestling’s popularity.

The first two episodes are posted down below. I highly recommend giving NWA Powerrr a close look. The second episode features a wrestler I’ve had the pleasure fo working with named Ashley Vox who wrestles the NWA Women’s Champion in a non-title match.

 

New Japan Invades Lowell

I finally got to enjoy the birthday present from my lovely wife when New Japan Pro Wrestling held the first show of their three event tour at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium in Lowell, MA.

Eight matches were on the line up as an all-star six-man tag team match served as the main event. The show was structured as an intimate house show setting as opposed to a significant event.

There was nothing newsworthy that came out of the event, but it was still fun. Winning the lottery via an amazing parking spot in front of the building was first sign that the night was going to be alright.

Upon, entering the realm of ‘Fight Spirit Unleashed,’ I got to meet two wrestlers who weren’t advertised for a meet and greet. Hirooki Goto and one of my favorites, Tomohiro Ishii were in the foyer. I was lucky enough to be one of the first people in line, which never happens.

Next up, was the merchandise table for authentic New Japan goods that are normally only available in Japan. The line was super long, however, it moved rather quickly. I purchased some of the popular muffler towels… and let’s just say I’ve never spent so much money on linen in my life.

Match Highlights:

-The Rock & Roll Express/Chase Owens & Jado might have had the best match of the night. The audience was super into it and seeing Ricky Morton pull off a hurricanrana in 2019 was absolutely nuts! It was a great piece of nostalgia

-Lance Archer was over like a rockstar and beat the hell out of poor Ren Narita.

-Jay White is genuinely the top heel in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Heck, he might be the top heel in the entire industry. No matter how you slice it, the audience loves to hate him.

-Guerillas of Destiny (GoD)/Roppongi also deserved consideration for match of the night and probably garnered the loudest reaction. GoD was super over with the crowd during their entrance.

While there were some minor miscommunications between the wrestlers in the ring, the audience couldn’t tell. The last five minutes of the match had everyone on the edge of their seat.

YOH kept creatively rolling up Tonga with each pinfall attempt being more exciting than the last. Tonga went for the Gun Stun and YOH caught him for a backslide teasing a remarkable near fall.

New Japan does a great job of augmenting the prestige of their championships by having one title match per show on every tour. This makes the titles and the match mean more, which was evident here.

-The main event was more spectacle than anything else. It was a sight to behold having who many consider the top four wrestlers not only in the promotion but in the world in the same match. Three of them were on the same team.

None of the wrestlers hit their signature maneuvers, which was kind of surprising. It was even more surprising when Tanahashi pinned Naito out of nowhere with a reverse cradle.

This match wasn’t anything special and it didn’t need to be. It was about having all of New Japan’s big guns in the ring at the same time.

Tanahashi, Ibushi & Okada

Final Thoughts:

The maiden voyage of ‘Fighting Spirit Unleashed’ had a little something for everyone. It wasn’t a blow away event. However, it was a house show where all of the matches were well worked. New Japan didn’t need to go all-out crazy for this show. It was a pleasure seeing the best wrestlers in the world apply their craft. The first five matches were finished in 57 minutes. Nothing felt rushed and it gave more time for the two featured matches to shine. This feat is an independent wrestling promoter’s dream. Overall, New Japan adds another fun chapter to the wrestling history of the Lowell Memorial Auditorium.

 

Match Results:

-Karl Fredericks made Alex Coughlin with a modified half crab.

-Lance Archer pinned Ren Narita with the EBD Claw (Everybody Dies).

-Juice Robinson & Mikey Nicholls defeated Clark Connors & TJP

-Chase Owens & Jado defeated The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express (Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson) when Owens pinned Gibson with a package piledriver.

-Tomohiro Ishii & Amazing Red defeated BUSHI & Shingo Takagi when Ishii hit BUSHI with a brainbuster for the win.

-Hirooki Goto, Rocky Romero & YOSHI-HASHI defeated Jay White, KENTA & Gedo, when YOSHI-HASHI made Gedo submit with a Butterfly Lock.

IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Guerillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) defeated Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) to retain the titles when Tama Tonga hit the Gun Stun.

-Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Ibushi defeated Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & EVIL when Tanahashi pinned Naito after reversing a cradle pin attempt.