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Power Rankings: WWE NXT

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With the all of the action from NXT Takeover War Games there was a lot of moving pieces to try and sort through. A new men’s and women’s champion as well as the first War Games match in 19 years, that many feel was the best War Games match since the early days of the gimmick. So just to remind everyone, Power Rankings assesses not only championship accolades and main event status, but over all reception among fans, internet buzz, merchandise sales and who the perceived draws of the brand really are.

So with the criteria gone over again, let’s get to the list.

5. Johnny Gargano

Johnny Wrestling had a lot of momentum coming out of the DIY break up a few months ago, but has been haunted by one loss after the other. He finally seems to be getting some momentum on his side after a very impressive win over Kassius Ohno. This leads up to a number one contender’s match, and possibly a chance to avenge an earlier loss to Andrade “Cien” Almas. Still a very over babyface, Gargano’s finally getting a push to validate his fan reaction.

4. The Iconic Duo

The only pure heels left in the NXT Women’s Divison, as well as, two of the most over women in the company. Peyton Royce had more fan support going into the Fatal 4 Way at War Games but sadly fell to Ember Moon. Billie Kay has sadly been relegated to side kick lately for the duo, but together they are still a competent heel team that finds a way to get it done, more often than not.

WWE NXT Aleister Black
3. Aleister Black

The undefeated Dutch Assassin got a huge win over Velveteen Dream. This was the best story going into War Games and it finally allowed the audience to get a small glimpse at Black’s personality aside from just his striking ability. He’s a bit overdue for a shot at the NXT Title since he’s been undefeated since March 8th, where he beat the current NXT champion. So 9 months of victories, something has to break sooner or later.


2. Andrade “Cien” Almas w/ Zelina Vega

I mean this is the fabled tale of heel acquires beautiful valet/manager and wins the main Championship. Zelina added a flair to Andrade that he was lacking, on top of the fact she can cut an English promo, whereas he really can’t. She’s managed to reign in his Ingobernable attitude and get him to focus on winning. He’s got a great look and move set, she’s great looking and easily a candidate for Best Manager of the Year if there was one. Enjoy El Idolo and tranquillo.

WWE NXT Bobby Fish Adam Cole Kyle O'Reilly
1. The Undisputed Era

“Indy Darlings”, winners of the first War Games match, Adam Cole is around the NXT Title scene as well as reDragon staking a claim at the NXT Tag Championship. Their limited time in NXT doesn’t matter since their reputation precedes them. All of these men have numerous accolades in ROH and New Japan, Adam Cole has revived from the dead, while Fish and O’Reily have done some decent work to prove they can hang with the major tag teams. Their NXT accomplishments don’t exactly translate to them being number 1, but the are all positioned well and most of the hardcore fanbase knows what they are about, and they are immensely over. So the top seed may not be undisputed…but it’s hard to argue.

Leading into Takeover: Philadelphia it should be interesting to see how accurate this list stays and exactly who creeps up into the top 5 after the pay per view event. Also since the assumption is that Shayna Baszler will debut soon, that should be interesting to see what the addition of such a vicious heel will do to the Women’s Division.

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Top 5 Matches: Week Ending 2/18/18

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In what turned out to be a very close vote last week, our all Japanese All Star Top 5, finally cleared up when the dust settled. The Top 3 matches had people split most of the week, but Kazuchika Okada vs Sanada @ New Beginning: Osaka, came out the same way I listed it last week, on top.

That being said, this was one of those in between weeks. No major events, but surprisingly the quality of the matches are comparable to PPV level. Let’s take a look at what made the cut.

 

5. NXT: UK Championship Match: Pete Dunne (c) vs Roderick Strong

Now some may be surprised this is only fifth, but it didn’t flow as well as the other matches on this list, the crowd seemed unconscious and the lack of real storyline heat, took away from this match a little.

That being said, neither of these guys put on a “bad” match, so this was nearly a given to make the cut. We saw both men get in most of their stuff. Pete Dunne took a page out of Marty Scurll’s book and worked Strong’s hand to make it harder for him to do many of his moves. So thanks to the injury and Dunne’s brawler style, Strong couldn’t keep up and Dunne retained.

A couple sequences seemed a little stalled, but all in all this match was solid. Odd that it kicked off the NXT episode, but it’s also apt that it kicks off this list.

Rating: *** 1/2 (Gold III)

 

4. Raw: Roman Reigns vs Sheamus

This one I had to rewatch since I got distracted mid match(phone calls suck), but at the behest of our beloved Commissioner PC Tunney, I gave it the good ole college try.

A solid hard hitting brawl between two guys with some history from years back, and the tag match the previous week. Cesaro’s interference was minimal, and it was a good showing for Sheamus. Given the fact he’s been in the tag division for the past year, it’s always interesting to see how they’ll present the pieces in singles combat.

Lots of big moves, a superman punch to counter a Brogue Kick (which looked nice) and commentary saying Sheamus tried a Frankensteiner just as a way for Roman to do his sit out powerbomb. Great match that ends with Roman going over, but again he puts on a damn solid match. Those pitch forks are gonna have to aim at someone else soon, cause Roman is progressing much faster than Cena did.

Rating: *** 1/2 (Gold III)

 

3. Smackdown Live: Dolph Ziggler vs Sami Zayn

Well alright, the premise for setting this match up was convoluted…but we got a damn good match out of it.

We all know Zayn and Ziggler can go in the ring, but this was an odd combination of two men who are often overlooked and “buried”, who put on a clinic. Even though the outcome of both impromptu matches was so obvious Helen Keller could see it, this one was fun. Ziggler hit most of his signature moves, and the finish with him countering the Helluva Kick with a Super Kick, was nicely timed and the crowd seemed to appreciate it all.

I doubt this will play into any kind of long push for Ziggler, but I’m just glad we got a match worth watching on Smackdown.

Rating: *** 3/4 (Gold I)

 

Honorable Mention:

Impact: X Division Championship Match: Taiji Ishimori (c) vs El Hijo de Fantasma
Rating: *** (Gold V)

NWA: World Heavyweight Championship Match: Nick Aldis (c) vs James Ellsworth
Rating: ** (Silver V)

 

2. 205 Live: Drew Gulak vs Tony Nese

Well…damn, just damn.

This was the first match this week that surprised me a lot. Tony Nese hasn’t really been lighting it up and Drew Gulak is just the Power Point creating, perfect speller of the ‘Zo Train. So sufficed to say, I forgot these two could wrestle.

Nese held his own and performed some impressive moves, but Gulak was the star. He tapped into some dark technical monster side of his character. He was grinning while getting hit, I really thought Minoru Suzuki possessed him at some point. Also, the fact that he grabbed and posed with the vacant title was such a beautiful heel move.

Evil Gulak may have just became my favorite wrestler on the 205 roster.

Rating: **** (Platinum V)

 

1. Impact: World Heavyweight Championship Match: Austin Aries (c) vs Eli Drake

Now even though this is week 3 of the new Cyrus regime, it’s been hard to see much of a difference. Yes I know they need to tie up the existing stories, but the in-ring product has still been mediocre at best, until now.

During a previous installment I think I mentioned how Eli Drake’s moveset has been ever expanding, and this match held true to that. Eli is more of a brawler, and Aries is a high flying technical specimen. However, Eli kept up wonderfully and this match was back and forth for the most part.

Eli would counter and catch Aries mid move, and Aries would get frustrated at Eli’s resiliency. Chris Adonis proved mostly useless, except to take a Suicide Dive, so that’s probably the path to why he leaves Impact (when things are officially on Twitter it’s basically general knowledge). The match did a great job at protecting the Gravy Train since Eli never hit it, and Aries was visibly frustrated at many points.

So even though Aries retained, Drake should’ve cemented himself as a main event player to management. He pulled off a top rope moonsault and jumped to the top turnbuckle and suplexed Aries down, in one fell swoop. These aren’t part of a usual Eli Drake match, so it should be fun to see what other tricks he has up his sleeve.

Rating: **** 1/4 (Platinum IV)

 

This vote is actually hard for me. Now I’m a big fan of Eli Drake, and he worked his ass off, but Drew Gulak really showed a new side and captured my attention. Argh…okay, since I have to pick, I will vote for, Drew Gulak vs Tony Nese. Not easy for me, but Evil Gulak could be something special.

So vote, scream, cry, dance, ridicule me, whatever you want to do. Interact on Facebook and Twitter, or yell at me personally at, andrewbalaz@thechairshot.com. Until next week.

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Top 5: Animals in Wrestling

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Brandi Rhodes Top 5 Wrestling Animals

Professional wrestling is often referred to as a circus. It’s a wide-ranging presentation of different acts designed to appeal to children of all ages. Wrestlers have spoken in cizarny language to each other for most of the art form’s existence.

Every good circus needs animals.

Bury the Bullet Club Bear is just the latest involvement of animals (or people dressed like animals) in the history of our great sport. For many years, animals have been used to accentuate human performers. There was even a time when animals wrestled humans in special attraction matches. Here are Wrestling’s Top 5 Animals.

5. Frankie

A macaw, Frankie served as Koko B. Ware’s mascot from Koko’s entrance into the World Wrestling Federation in 1986 until his tragic death in a fire in 2001. Frankie drove home Koko’s “Birdman” persona & entrance music.

The only problem I had with Frankie was that he didn’t exactly strike fear in the hearts of Koko’s opponents. The 1980s WWF often ran angles where heels were afraid of babyface animals. Frankie really couldn’t pull that off.

4. C.P. Munk

CHIKARA has seen several wrestlers in animal costumes appear in their ring, but none inspired the reaction of C.P. Munk. Munk’s inspiration, C.M. Punk, actually appeared in the main event of the first CHIKARA main event. For whatever reason, he & CHIKARA’s management had a falling out and that marked Punk’s only appearance for the promotion.

August 13, 2005 marked the debut of C.P. Munk, a giant chipmunk with Punk’s mannerisms, wrestling attire & entrance music (sped up, of course). He appeared a couple of more times in October before disappearing. Munk’s return happened at CHIKARA’s Tag World Grand Prix 2006, where he teamed with Colt Cabunny.

We found out that Necro Butcher was the man behind the C.P. Munk persona. It made perfect sense, Necro’s typical character certainly wasn’t family-friendly & he needed a way to get into CHIKARA.

3. Matilda

The British Bulldogs are still remembered as one of wrestling’s greatest tag teams. Davey Boy Smith & Dynamite Kid certainly wrestled with the tenacity of bulldogs, but in the 1980s WWF you needed a little bit more than that to establish your persona. Enter Matilda. The bulldog showed up towards the end of the Bulldogs’ tag team championship reign, and offered at least the same level of managerial expertise as their previous manager: Captain Lou Albano.

The highlight of Matilda’s wrestling involvement happened when Bobby Heenan & the Islanders dognapped her. Fortunately, Vince McMahon hadn’t yet considered the idea of having a wrestler feed another wrestler their own dog for dinner.

2. Terrible Ted

Animals

The wrestling bear was a tremendously popular attraction throughout the 1950s & 60s. Live gates would go up across the nation when a bear was advertised. The most famous of the wrestling bears was Terrible Ted.

Ted wasn’t a bad worker from what I’ve seen. I imagine it had to be difficult from a mental standpoint for a human wrestler to get in there with him. Even if the bear looks like he’s working, you never really know for sure. Of course, wrestlers don’t need to worry about getting booked against bears now due to animal cruelty laws, liability laws & things like that. Daniel Bryan wanted to wrestle a bear at a recent WrestleMania, but there was no way he or a bear was getting cleared to compete in a WWE ring.

1. Damien

Jake Roberts had been known as “The Snake” ever since he started out in wrestling. It made sense on two levels: it rhymed with Jake’s first name & it described his personality in & out of the ring. It only made sense to make it a key part of his persona when he arrived in the WWF.

There’s definitely a fear factor when it comes to snakes. People are taught in Sunday School that they’re evil. Jake used Damien as well as any wrestler has ever used a side character. Damien crawling on Jake’s downed opponents was always a creepy moment that further established Jake as a sinister force. Even when he was a good guy, there was always something dangerous about Jake & Damien.

Damien was constantly involved in angles. Ted DiBiase kidnapped him. Earthquake sat on him. He was the only thing that Andre the Giant was afraid of. There was never a more important animal in the history of pro wrestling.

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Power Rankings: New Japan Pro Wrestling

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Well coming off the big New Beginning shows, there were some interesting events. Taichi kidnaps Naito, Sanada showed the world that he’s a the real deal, Kitamura shows a great ability to learn and adapt, as well as, Yoshi-Hashi…well…not stinking up the joint.

Given the fact there’s so much to chew on, it makes sense to try and Power Rank the current landscape of New Japan Professional Wrestling.

5. Tetsuya Naito

The leader of Los Ingobernables de Japon, the leading merchandise mover in Japan and forever the Stardust Genius. Accolades aside, he’s been in a weird spot since losing his IWGP Championship shot at Wrestle Kingdom 12. He got jumped by Jericho, he got pushed around by Yoshi-Hashi and now Taichi is trying to make a statement with him. Not really sure why he’s being saddled with the lower card guys of 2 other factions, and freelance Jericho is looming over his head. So with no real direction but, himself and LIJ are still the most over thing in NJPW, he deserves mention in the Top 5.

 

4. Will Ospreay

ELEVATED, EL-ELEVATED – oh, ya his theme song is catchy, shut up. Aside from a catchy theme, he’s one of the premiere atheltes on the indie scene as well as New Japan. So given the fact that he’s been towards the top of the Junior Division for the last 3 years, and a 2 time Champion in the last six months, it’s hard to ignore him. The fans love him, Okada hand picked him for Chaos, and even hand picks him again for the Anniversary Show to reignite the tradition of the Junior Champion versus the Heavyweight Champion.

Starting off big, this proves to be a big year for Ospreay.

 

3. Minoru Suzuki

The Sadistic Surgeon, he literally tortured Hiroshi Tanahashi to the point where Red Shoes couldn’t take anymore and took pity on the stubborn former Ace. Now he’s the Intercontinental Champion after losing the NEVER to Hirooki Goto last month in a brutal match. He feels disrespected by the press, but the fans still love to hate him. Screaming Kaze Ni Nare at the right time, is still an arena wide tradition, and you can’t help but eat up his brutal technical style.

Suzuki-Gun Ichiban.

 

2. Golden Lovers

Well this one is a gimme. It’s the reunion every new western fan wanted and even many Japanese fans were clamoring for this. Kenny Omega’s possible split from the Bullet Club, time to go full Babyface with Kota Ibushi. Not only Bi-lingual…these guys will be a great story to keep fans engaged through the New Japan Cup and the usually smaller show of Wrestling Dontaku.

We know what they can both do, and now it’s just a matter of seeing where they go. Some great matches can be had, but until we get confirmation on the Bullet Club, speculation is abound.

 

1. Kazuchika Okada

What can I really say? He’s a 5 star machine, even more so than Omega. He’s booked to be super human, looks like a million bucks, has a global footprint larger than most expected and still remains mostly humble on promos. Also New Japan’s parent company Bushi Road has been using his boyish smile and look to help sell their products like Buddy Card Fight.

Even if your sick of him being champion, his matches are always put together in a way to make you believe the other wrestler has a legit chance, until Okada’s resilience shines through. So unlike other “Pushed down our throat” talent, Okada remains humble to fans, looks fairly human, just has a more impressive reserve tank than most.

He will continue to rain money down on New Japan, even after Omega’s eventually exit to WWE.

 

Well there we have it, Power Rankings for New Japan. Due to injuries, Hiroshi Tanahashi isn’t on this list and due to being relatively new, Jay White hasn’t quite captured the hearts and attention of people to believe he’s a top talent.

Could there be a lot of changes amidst how the Anniversary Show, New Japan Cup, Strong Style Evolved and Wrestling Dontaku shake out? Of course! Makabe challenging for the Intercontinental Title, Jericho’s eventual involvement and the next opponent for Okada could shift things. But until them, tranquilo and Bullet Club is fine, they’re fine.

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