Welcome everyone to the twenty-fourth edition of Spandex and Suplexes: A Wrestling Review. After a three week personal hiatus, I am happy to be back to give my thoughts to all of you about what went down this week in this crazy sport of kings we call pro wrestling. I cover a week that saw the continued build to WrestleMania 36, WWE and AEW’s continued attempts to keep their programming going in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak, and the confrontation between Chris Jericho and “Broken” Matt Hardy. Let’s get started.
1. Andrade and Angel Garza defeated Ricochet and Cedric Alexander
2. The Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford) defeated Shane Thorne and Brendan Vink
3. Aleister Black defeated Leon Ruff
Thoughts: Due to the worldwide Coronavirus crisis, both WWE and AEW have been forced to perform their shows without a crowd in empty venues over the past couple of weeks, with the WWE Performance Center being used in WWE’s case. This has forced both companies to try to adjust their usual production and performance styles, something I believe AEW has been doing far better than WWE. WWE have been having trouble figuring out how to adapt their usual crowd focused format within a crowdless environment with some performers adapting better than others.
We have recently learned in the past few weeks that WrestleMania will now be done at the WWE Performance Center, again with no crowd, and that it will now be a two night event similar to what New Japan Pro Wrestling did with Wrestle Kingdom earlier this year. To make matters worse, the show will be taped in advance before airing on the WWE Network on both April 4th and 5th with the show having already been taped as of this writing. All of this just supports my belief that Mania should have been postponed to a later date, possibly in June at their already planned Madison Square Garden show. This is the equivalent to the NFL having the Super Bowl at a high school football field in front of no fans, have it taped, and then aired at a later date.
As for this week’s Raw, though the live wrestling was sparse, the promo work was mostly spot on. The first match of the night between Andrade/Garza and Ricochet/Alexander was a very good tag team match that showcased the talent of all four men involved. If WWE has no real plan for either Ricochet or Cedric as singles competitors, this match showed that would be an excellent addition to the tag team division.
It was announced during this show that the WWE Raw Tag Team Champions, The Street Profits, will be defending their titles against Andrade and Garza at WrestleMania. This match came to be made at the last minute due to Rey Mysterio being unavailable to compete against Andrade in their planned match for El Idolo’s WWE United States Championship at the show of shows. Later in the week, the match would be changed again due to Andrade becoming injured and not able to compete with Austin Theory taking Andrade’s place in the match. Despite the chaos in how the final match up came to be, it should still be a fun match up.
While Paul Heyman, Seth Rollins, and Randy Orton all delivered excellent promos to promote the three big matches at Mania that they are each involved with, AJ Styles’ promo felt a bit flat to me as he has been delivering the same exact promo against his WrestleMania opponent, The Undertaker, for the past few weeks. During his promo, Styles challenged The Deadman to what he called a “Boneyard match”. As of this writing they have still not explained what the rules of a Boneyard match are.
Overall, this was a solid show with the highlights being the opening match and the excellent promo work from Heyman, Rollins, and Orton. During Orton’s promo, he accepted Edge’s challenge to a Last Man Standing match at WrestleMania.
1. Tyler Breeze defeated Austin Theory
2. Killian Dain defeated Tehuti Miles
3. Cameron Grimes defeated Tony Nese
4. Io Shirai defeated Aliyah in a qualifying match for the NXT Women’s Championship #1 Contender Ladder match
5. Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan defeated Shane Thorne and Brendan Vink
6. Candice LeRae defeated Kayden Carter in a qualifying match for the NXT Women’s Championship #1 Contender Ladder match
7. Matt Riddle defeated Roderick Strong
Thoughts: As I mentioned before, WWE has been having a problem adapting their style to a crowdless format, however, NXT did a better job this week with its set up by getting rid of the empty seats and putting curtains up around the venue with the matches being taped at the Full Sail Live venue.
Io Shirai made her big return, replacing the injured Xia Li to defeat Aliyah to qualify for the NXT Women’s Championship #1 Contender Ladder match in two week to determine who will face the winner of Rhea Ripley vs. Charlotte Flair at Mania. Having Shirai back is great and adds more to the already stacked NXT women’s division. Of the women who have qualified thus far, she is my favorite to win the ladder match and go to face Ripley whom I believe will overcome Charlotte at Mania.
After Riddle’s victory over Strong, he was attacked by two very large Indian superstars, Saurav Gurjar and Rinku Singh. This brought down their manager, Malcolm Bivens (FKA Stokely Hathaway in Ring of Honor), who made it clear that they would be coming after Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne’s NXT Tag Team Championships. Bivens is an excellent manager as seen from his work in ROH and should serve as an excellent mouth piece for these two big men.
The main event segment that saw the confrontation between Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa with Triple H moderating was very well done. Both Gargano and Ciampa showed great intensity and made you really believe they hated each other. During the segment, Triple H was going to announce a final battle between the two when they could perform on a big stage in front of a large audience again, but both men denied they needed either and only asked for a ring and a referee.
The Game agreed to their request and said that he would find an empty building for them to go to war one last time with the match set for two weeks from that night. While it would be great to see the final chapter of this epic rivalry take place on a major stage, the talent of the two men involved should make their match an awesome encounter.
Overall, this was a solid show with the highlights being Io Shirai’s return and the main event segment.
1. Cody Rhodes defeated Jimmy Havoc
2. Darby Allin defeated Kip Sabian
3. Jake Hager defeated Chico Adams
4. Brodie Lee defeated QT Marshall
5. Kenny Omega (c) defeated Sammy Guevara to retain the AAA Mega Championship
Thoughts: As I mentioned earlier, compared to WWE, AEW has done a far better job at adapting to a crowdless format over the past couple of weeks. I particularly liked how they had some of the wrestlers in the crowd during the matches last week with the most humorous moments coming from MJF and Shawn Spears gambling with each other on the match results.
Last week, Brodie Lee (FKA Luke Harper in WWE) was revealed as the mysterious leader and “Exalted One” of The Dark Order. Lee is now getting a chance to show more personality with this new character than he ever got during his time in WWE. Time will tell how well this new role will do for Lee’s career going forward.
In the main event segment, Chris Jericho confronted “Broken” Matt Hardy who made his surprise debut last week as the final member of The Elite’s team at the upcoming Blood and Guts match (which is essentially the same as a WarGames match), replacing the injured Nick Jackson after he was taken out by The Inner Circle. This was prefaced with a humorous moment where Jericho cut a promo on Hardy’s drone, Vanguard 1, before trying to recruit it into The Inner Circle. The drone then sped away, leaving behind a furious Y2J. The Broken One finally appeared and “teleported” to the ring using some editing magic.
The former Le Champion attempted to convince Matt to abandon The Elite and join The Inner Circle, but Hardy declined. After a back and forth, Hardy leveled Jericho with a right hand. Sammy Guevara jumped Matt from behind and was joined by Jericho in a two on one beat down. This led to Kenny Omega and Cody Rhodes running down to make the save. The three men stood tall as Sammy and Jericho retreated to close the show.
It is nice to see Hardy back to his full broken brilliance after the watered down “Woken” version we got in WWE. We will have to see if he can recapture the same magic that he created with the character back in Impact Wrestling.
Overall, this was a good show with the Omega/Guevara match, which is my match of the week, and the Jericho/Hardy segment being the highlights.
To catch up my personal 2020 Wednesday Night Wars score since my three week hiatus, here are my winners between NXT and AEW from the past three weeks: For week one, I give the win to AEW. For week two, I give it to NXT based mainly on that awesome Gargano/Ciampa brawl. For last week, I give it to AEW based on the in ring presentation and the big debuts of Brodie Lee and Matt Hardy. Between NXT and AEW this week, I am going to have to give the win to AEW once again based on the overall wrestling quality with both shows’ main event segments being equally well done. This brings my personal 2020 WNW rankings to: NXT – 4 and AEW – 8.
1. Drew Gulak defeated Shinsuke Nakamura to earn Daniel Bryan a shot at Sami Zayn’s WWE Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 36
2. Alexa Bliss defeated Asuka
3. The New Day (Kofi Kingston and Big E) vs. The Usos (Jimmy Uso and Jey Uso) in a #1 Contender match for a shot at the WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championships at WrestleMania 36 ended in a no contest after interference by John Morrison and The Miz
Thoughts: After Otis confronted Dolph Ziggler backstage, Ziggler challenged Otis to a match at WrestleMania to which Otis accepted. This is the match that they have been building up to for months as Otis will finally gets his chance to take out the man who ruined his chances with Mandy Rose, the woman he loves.
This has been one of the best storylines WWE has presented over the past few months. While it is too bad that this match will not take place in front of a live crowd as Otis has become one of the most beloved superstars on the entire roster, this should still be a great final chapter that should see Otis becoming triumphed over his hated foe and win Mandy’s love. Hopefully, WWE doesn’t do something stupid like having Mandy or Tucker turn heel and cost Otis the win, but it wouldn’t be the first time WWE has made terrible booking decisions that have ruined good stories.
During an episode of the Firefly Funhouse, Bray Wyatt challenged John Cena to what he called a “Firefly Funhouse match”. As of this writing, the rules for such a match have not been revealed. This segment was really well done with one great moment seeing Wyatt conversing with his new lantern that has the appearance of the head of his previous persona.
After The Miz and John Morrison interfered in the #1 Contender match between The New Day and The Usos, it was announced by Michael Cole that Miz and Morrison will now defend their WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championships against both teams in a Triple Threat Ladder match. Unfortunately, it has since been revealed that The Miz was not cleared to compete at Mania due to being sick with WWE taking precautions due to the Coronavirus outbreak. How this development will affect this announced match has yet to be revealed.
Speaking of being pulled from Mania, it was reported this week that Roman Reigns had requested to be removed from his WWE Universal Championship match against Goldberg at the Showcase of the Immortals due to health concerns surrounding the coronavirus as he has a compromised immune system which is a result of his past battles with leukemia. This has caused one of the biggest matches of the show to be canceled. Goldberg will now need a new opponent for Mania with the reported choice being Braun Strowman. While I would love the see Strowman defeat Goldberg and finally capture his first world title, I have a feeling that WWE will not want Goldberg to lose until he faces Reigns.
All of these last minute changes and cancellations surrounding this year Mania once again supports my belief that the biggest WWE show of the year should have been postponed to a later date. With the show now fully taped as of this writing, we will have to see how the card turns out when it airs on April 4th and 5th.
Overall, this was a good show with the highlights being Gulak vs. Nakamura, the set up for Otis vs. Ziggler at Mania, and the Firefly Funhouse segment.
That’s it for this week’s Spandex and Suplexes. I am looking forward to how both WWE and AEW continue to try to produce their products during this trying time. Until next time, I’ll see you at ringside!