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Spandex and Suplexes: A Wrestling Review Issue #2

 

Welcome everyone to the second edition of Spandex and Suplexes and man do we have a lot to cover this week in what may end up as one of the most historic weeks in modern pro wrestling history. The past seven days saw the season premiere of Raw, the start of the Wednesday Night War with a stacked episode of NXT and the debut of AEW Dynamite on TNT, and the debut of Smackdown on Fox. What a time to a wrestling fan. Let’s get started!

 

WWE Raw:

New Monday Night Raw Set, Photo copyright owned by WWE

We kicked of this week with the season premiere of Monday Night Raw. Right from the get go Raw gave the fans an all new feel and look with new music, a sleek new stage, and a whole new announce team that consists of Vic Joseph, Dio Maddin, and Jerry “The King” Lawler. I enjoyed this team. Dio is still a little green, but he has room to grow, Vic is a really good play-by-play guy, and Lawler is a veteran at the color commentary game and he reminded me how much I enjoy his corny jokes.

Raw kicked off with Rey Mysterio coming out to hype up his Universal title match with Rollins later that night, but was interrupted surprisingly by Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman. Before Rey could say a word, Lesnar grabbed him and proceeded to take him to Suplex City. Lesnar took it to another level when he grabbed Rey’s son Dominik and decided to take him to Suplex City as well to the point that Dominik had to be taken out on a stretcher, much to Rey’s horror. Rey would leave with his son in an ambulance which meant that Seth Rollins would now need a new opponent for the main event.

On Miz TV, The Miz brought out his special guests for the evening, the legendary Hall of Famers, Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan. After teasing a match between the two legends (which thankfully didn’t happen), the Miz announced that at the upcoming PPV Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia, Flair and Hogan will each form a team of five wrestlers to take on each other in a five on five tag team match. It was then revealed that the captains of each team were Seth Rollins for Team Hogan and Randy Orton for Team Flair. After teasing a match between Orton and Rollins, Rollins was attacked by Baron Corbin, who was revealed as the second member of Team Flair. The man who burns it down was saved by the two-on-one beat down by Rusev who was revealed to be the second member of Team Hogan.

Later on backstage, Rusev stated that in exchange for Rusev saving Rollins that he wanted a Universal Championship match in that night’s main event, a challenge that Rollins accepted. I found the segment to be good fun and the team battle at Crown Jewel is a good way to get Flair and Hogan on the show. With Corbin involved in this match, I wonder where this leaves Chad Gable as he did not appear at all on TV this week. Hopefully, Gable will be one of the members of Team Hogan to continue his feud with Corbin and get his much needed win over the new King of the Ring.

There were also two title matches that night with Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode retaining the Raw Tag Team Championships over Heavy Machinery and AJ Styles retaining the U.S. Championship over Cedric Alexander. Both were good matches, but I wonder what role those titles and others will play at Hell in the Cell tomorrow night as, as of this writing, there are only four matches announced for the show.

In the shows main event, Seth Rollins defended his Universal Championship against Rusev. The match was going great, that is until the absolute nonsense that followed. In a surprise return from injury, Bobby Lashley came out during the match and then proceeded to bring out Rusev’s wife Lana and make out with her in front of Rusev, who just stood there. Yes, this actually happened. Yes, my eyes are also rolling. The match was a no contest as Bray Wyatt appeared and attacked Seth Rollins with the Mandible Claw as Raw went off the air.

Overall, this was an entertaining episode of Raw with the only terrible aspect of it being the Lashley/Lana/Rusev cheating nonsense. I mean really? We are going to do a “Rusev/Lana are having relationship problems” storyline again? It was absolutely abysmal back when they did it in 2015 when it involved Ziggler and Summer Rae and I don’t see it going any better this time around. As I mentioned last week, WWE needs to be smart and have Bray Wyatt defeat Seth Rollins at Hell in a Cell and become the new Universal Champion. The Fiend gimmick is gold and the only thing that can ruin it is bad booking decisions from WWE creative.

 

WWE NXT:

Me with Matt Riddle at Evolve 63 6/12/16

In the first week that NXT and AEW go head-to-head, NXT kicked things off with a barn burner as Adam Cole defended his NXT Championship against Matt Riddle. The match was excellent and could easily have main evented a TakeOver. This match showed just how talented these two wrestlers are and if you only watch one match from this show, this is the one to check out. The match ended with Cole picking up the win, but what happened next was one of the biggest surprises this week.

As Cole had his hand raised in victory a familiar music played and to the shock of everyone in the arena, out walked the returning Finn Bálor who announced his return to the NXT roster. This was an amazing moment and gives NXT a major star to work with. The new match up possibilities are endless and makes me excited for what Bálor does next in the coming weeks. This however, would not be the only returning face that Cole would have to deal with tonight.

The second title match of the night saw Shayna Baszler successfully retain her NXT Women’s Championship against Candice LeRae in an excellent back and forth match that made you think that LeRae would pull off the upset, but Baszler picked up the win to continue her dominate reign as champion. As I mentioned last week, I believe the most likely person to defeat Baszler is Dakota Kai due to their shared history. Other matches that night included Johnny Gargano defeating Shane Thorne, Io Shirai defeating Mia Yim, and Pete Dunne defeating Danny Burch. After his match, Dunne was attacked from behind by Damian Priest. Dunne vs. Priest should be a hard hitting feud.

In the show’s main event, The Undisputed Era’s Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish defended their NXT Tag Team Championships against the former champions, The Street Profits. After an excellent tag match between these two talented teams, the Undisputed Era managed to pick up the win after some well-timed interference by their teammate, Roderick Strong. What followed, though, was unequivocally epic. Adam Cole walked out on the stage and raised his title in celebration with his teammates, but he was soon interrupted by a second massive return. The former NXT Champion, Tommaso Ciampa, made his long awaited return from injury. Ciampa delivered a cold stare at Cole before glancing at the NXT title, the title he never lost and was forced to give up due to injury. The two wrestlers continued to stare each other down as NXT went off the air.

This was an amazing episode of NXT and one of the best I have seen in a very long time. With three fantastic title matches and two gigantic returns, NXT continues to prove why it is one of the best wrestling products on the planet. The future looks bright for NXT on the USA Network if they continue to deliver quality programming like this.

 

All Elite Wrestling:

AEW Tag Titles Revealed by Jericho, Smith, Mewes, and Kahn, Photo courtesy of Chris Jericho’s Instagram

NXT was not the only one having a good night on Wednesday as AEW Dynamite made its big debut on TNT. The show opened up with a clinic of a match between Cody Rhodes and Sammy Guevara. The match featured many high spots and near falls, including a very heelish spot where Guevara pulled Cody’s wife, Brandi, in front of him to take the brunt of a suicide dive by Cody. Brandi would get her revenge later on in the match by hitting Sammy with her shoe. The match ended when an attempted shooting star press by Guevara caught the knees of Cody, which enable Cody to roll up Guevara in a small package to pick up the win.

Cody’s good fortune would not last long as he was attacked by his opponent at the upcoming Full Gear PPV, AEW World Champion Chris Jericho. Jericho brutalized Cody with steel chairs before finishing him off by power bombing him onto a pair of folded steel chairs.

The next big match saw Pac taking on Hangman Page. The match was a hard hitting back and forth between the two before Pac gained the advantage by hitting a low blow on Page out of sight of referee Earl Hebner. Pac would hit Page with the Black Arrow from the top rope before applying his Brutalizer submission hold and picking up the victory when Hebner called for the bell as Page was out cold.

Next we saw Riho defeat Nyla Rose to become the first ever AEW Women’s World Champion. The match itself was decent, though there were some rough spots as Rose came off a bit green compared the more experienced Riho. Riho was able to pick up the win after hitting an avalanche northern lights suplex from the second rope followed by a series of running knees to Rose’s face. As Riho attempted to celebrate her victory, she was attacked by Rose before being saved by her friend, Kenny Omega. Other moments from the night saw MJF defeating Brandon Cutler, Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes making an appearance, and a brawl between So Cal Uncensored and the Lucha Bros. to hype up the Tag Team Championship tournament that begins next week.

In the show’s main event, Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks took on Chris Jericho, Santana, and Ortiz in six-man tag team action. This match was as fun and crazy as you would expect and more. Kenny and the Bucks were in control when Jon Moxley attack Omega and the two went brawling throughout the arena. For some strange reason, this did not cause a disqualification. Their brawl ended when Moxley hit a DDT on Omega through a glass table in an insane spot. With Omega taken out, the Bucks were stuck in a three-on-two situation. Despite this, a hot tag to Nick Jackson by his brother Matt lead to an incredible series of high flying moves before Jericho put a stop to it with a Codebreaker. Jericho then hit a Judas Effect on Matt Jackson, giving the victory to Jericho, Santana, and Ortiz.

Following the match, Jericho, Santana, and Ortiz started beating down the Young Bucks before Cody Rhodes ran out to even the odds. Sammy Guevara then emerged and hit Cody with a low blow. Cody’s older brother, Dustin Rhodes, came out and started cleaning house, but he was taken out by the debuting Jake Hager (FKA Jack Swagger in WWE). With the numbers on their side the heels gained the final upper hand as Cody was put through a table and Dustin and the Bucks were laid out. The five men then posed for the camera, signifying a possible new stable in AEW.

While I feel that NXT won the night based on sheer wrestling quality and massive moments, this was still a great debut episode of Dynamite for AEW. The matches ranged from great to good and set the stage for the promotion from here on. I look forward to see how they do going forward as the Wednesday Night War continues.

 

WWE Smackdown:

New Friday Night Smackdown Set, Photo copyright owned by WWE

After all the hype, Smackdown has finally made its big debut on Fox and man did this show deliver. The show had a big sports event feel with a “blue carpet” event taking place before the show. I first want to say that the new stage is amazing and the graphics and music are top notch. The crowd was electric the whole night, which gave the event an even more epic feel.

Interestingly enough, the announce team only consisted of Michael Cole and Cory Graves. It was interesting to watch a WWE show with only two commentators after so many years of them doing the three person team format. The show opened up with Vince and Stephanie McMahon coming out and welcoming everyone to the show before setting up the new opening.

With the show now underway, the Raw Women’s Champion, Becky Lynch, came out to hype the crowd and talk about how much Smackdown has been a major part of her career. She was then interrupted by Baron Corbin, who proceeded to insult her and proclaimed himself as the real top star. After a verbal back and forth, Corbin was interrupted by the return of the People’s Champion, The Rock! The Rock showed everyone why he truly is the most electrifying man in all of entertainment by causing the crowd to blow the roof off with his mere presence alone. After some very funny jokes and jabs by Rock and Becky at Corbin’s expense, Rock and Becky proceeded to layeth the smacketh down all over Baron’s candy ass!

This was a moment of sheer epicness. The Rock is truly a once in a lifetime performer and seeing Becky Lynch share the stage with him was amazing and it helped push her to even greater heights of stardom. This was my favorite segment of the entire week. If you have the chance, you must check it out.

This moment was followed by a tag team match which pitted Becky and Charlotte Flair against Smackdown Women’s Champion Bailey and Becky’s opponent inside Hell in a Cell tomorrow night, Sasha Banks. This was a good tag match that ended with Charlotte getting the victory by having Bailey tap out to the Figure Eight. Later on in the night, it was announced that Bailey will defend her Smackdown Women’s Championship against Charlotte at Hell in a Cell. I am looking forward to seeing Becky vs. Sasha inside the Cell. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top.

Up next was a champion vs. champion match with Universal Champion Seth Rollins taking on Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura. After Rollins made his entrance, he was interrupted by Bray Wyatt on the screen from the Firefly Funhouse. After paying some mind games and warning Seth about what the Fiend will do to Rollins inside Hell in the Cell, Bray told Seth that he would see him in hell. Nakamura then made his entrance and the match went underway. It was a great back and forth by two of the best wrestlers in WWE today when the lights went out and the familiar music of the Fiend began to play. Seth attempted to escape up the ramp, but he was attacked from behind by The Fiend Bray Wyatt once again as the Fiend locked in the mandible claw before tossing Rollins off the ramp.

Next was the big ladder match between Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon in which the loser would be fired from WWE. It was a good standard ladder match with a couple of big spot before Owens finished off Shane by power bombing him onto a ladder. Owens then climbed up the ladder and grabbed the briefcase, winning the match. Owens then picked up Shane and screamed that Shane was fired before hitting him with stunner for good measure. I’m glad this storyline is over, but I feel like this match would have better if it had been done at Hell in a Cell as I feel that they would have gotten more time to tell a better story as this match felt a bit rushed. I am interested in seeing where Owens goes from here.

During an eight-man tag match that pitted Braun Strowman, The Miz, and Heavy Machinery against Randy Orton, AJ Styles, Robert Roode, and Dolph Ziggler, there was a confrontation between Braun Strowman and champion boxer Tyson Fury, who was sitting in the crowd, when Strowman accidentally threw Ziggler into Fury. After Strowman picked up the victory over Ziggler, Fury jumped the guard rail and attempted to confront Strowman much to Strowman’s amusement before security showed up and escorted Fury away.

I assume this is leading to a match between Strowman and Fury and I honestly don’t see how this helps Strowman in any way. It is highly unlikely that an undefeated champion boxer like Fury would agree to a match where he would lose, so this means that this is going to lead to Strowman losing to an outside athlete, more than likely by knockout. This will do nothing but hurt Strowman’s monster character and in ring credibility. Strowman deserves a lot more than what he has been given in this past year.

To build up their upcoming tag match at Hell in the Cell, Roman Reigns took on Erick Rowan in a well done, entertaining lumberjack match. During the match, Luke Harper tried to interfere, but he was stopped by a running knee by Daniel Bryan. Roman was able to pick up the win by hit a spear on Rowan. After the match, Roman finally shook Bryan’s hand. Will Bryan end up turning on Roman tomorrow night and reveal himself as the true mastermind behind the attacks on Roman? Like I said last week, I hope not, but we shall see.

The main event saw Kofi Kingston defend his WWE Championship against Brock Lesnar. It would not last long at all. As soon as the bell rang, Kofi jumped at Lesnar, but he was quickly caught by Lesnar who hit Kingston with the F5 to win the WWE Championship for the fifth time. Brock would not be able to celebrate for long as Rey Mysterio appeared on stage with Cain Velasquez, the man who defeated Brock Lesnar for the UFC Heavyweight Championship during Brock’s MMA run. Cain stormed the ring and got in some shots before Lesnar retreated.

I am honestly very disappointed in how that title match went down. I don’t mind Brock winning, but for him to beat Kofi in seconds and Kofi not even getting one move of offense in not only makes Kofi look weak, but it also makes every wrestler Kofi defeated during his reign look weak as well. There were many fine ways this could have gone down. This was not one of them. Cain Velasquez showing up in WWE is intriguing, but I don’t think his feud with Lesnar really needed the WWE Title involved.

I found this to be an overall entertaining and fun debut episode of Smackdown on Fox. Other than how the WWE Championship change was booked, I enjoyed every minute of this show. After next week’s draft, it will be interesting to see how the show will do on a week to week basis when the rosters are split once again.

 

That’s it for this week’s edition of Spandex and Suplexes. What an amazing week of wrestling. I am looking forward to how the AEW/NXT rivalry develops and how Smackdown will perform on Fox in the long run. If you would like to read some more wrestling related content, you can check out my recent review for Jim Cornette’s new comic, “Jim Cornette Presents: Behind the Curtain – Real Pro Wrestling Stories” here. Until next time, I’ll see you at ringside!

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Nicholas grew up reading J.R.R. Tolkien's books, watching Disney and Studio Ghibli films, and reading Marvel comics and Japanese manga. The superb storylines and characters ignited his passion for writing. He graduated from Full Sail University in 2015 with a BFA in Creative Writing for Entertainment. During his writing career thus far, Nicholas has had numerous short stories and articles published in an array of literary magazines and websites.

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