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Top 5: Matches of the Week Ending 3/18/2018

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Well I felt like I was dying most of this week, so I missed a bunch of stuff, since I was trying to sleep off the death. So this week is a more straight forward Top 5, from easily found products. But before the new list, we need to reveal the winning match from last week. In yet another 1 vote win, Kazuchika Okada vs Will Ospreay @ NJPW 46th Anniversary, scraped by.

So there we have it, another close vote, and now we’ve got a new week. Let’s get to that already, shall we?

 

5. NOAH Great Voyage 2018 in Yokohama GHC Heavyweight Championship: Kenoh (c) vs Takashi Sugiura

There was a lot of threads that went into this story. Sugiura is less than a year removed from open heart surgery, he was tag team partners with Kenoh up until a month ago, and if he wins, he becomes the only man to hold the belt more than 3 times.

This match had every bit the feel of a grudge match. The strikes were stiff, the submission trades looked like they had emphasis and each man seemed to take a few extra chances. A big double footstomp to the outside from Kenoh, as well as, Sugiura pulling up the padding and hitting an draping neckscrew from the apron.

Sugiura’s amateur wrestling and MMA background ended up being the difference in this match. His striking and submission ability trumped Kenoh’s kicks. Takashi wins his record 4th title reign, via guillotine choke.

So they are supposed to be partners in the upcoming Global Tag League…so that should be interesting how it plays out.

Rating: *** 1/2

 

4. 205 Live: Roderick Strong vs Cedric Alexander

205 Live has done very well for itself in recreating the magic of the Cruiserweight Classic.

We see two fan favorites, come out on fire, and it doesn’t slow down too much. So much went on in this match, it’s not fair to highlight only a few things, but I will say it was nice to seem them both kick out of the first finisher. Granted the pin was super close to the ropes for both men, so it was an obvious spot, but the match was still entertaining, hard hitting and the winner definitely earned it.

Speaking of winner, Cedric pulled off the win, after his second Lumbar Check. After this match, I personally feel like only Gulak can match up with Alexander. Since we’ve already seen Alexander beat Ali in his recent rise to number one contender and now basically being the “anointed heir” for the belt. But, we haven’t seen Alexander face Gulak in his old, malicious, mat technician mentality, during these last few months.

Rating: *** 3/4

 

3. NJPW New Japan Cup Semi-Finals Day 2: Zack Sabre Jr vs SANADA

Sabre has been on a tear in this tournament. He’s had easily the hardest schedule ( Tetsuya Naito, Kota Ibushi and now SANADA), and he’s looked fantastic in all of them.

This was an odd match for SANADA, since not only was he working from underneath a lot, Sabre had counters for SANADA’s technical moves. The beginning of the match was both men matching the other one, or finding different escapes, but slowly Sabre started working over some limbs, and SANADA’s desperation crept back up.

SANADA went for a moonsault when he really shouldn’t have, and that’s when the match slowly started slipping away. Unable to really regain momentum, or get Sabre to submit, in his one chance at the Skull End, Sabre twisted him up and made it impossible for him to move to the ropes. So SANADA verbally submits, and Sabre moves to the finals.

As I mentioned in my last blurb about a ZSJ match, TAKA has become his Gedo. TAKA playing hype man before and after matches is beautiful. I feel like Sabre should win the Cup just so TAKA and Gedo can have a “hype man off”.

Rating: ****

Honorable Mention:

Raw: Finn Balor vs Seth Rollins
Rating: *** 1/4

 

2. NOAH Great Voyage 2018 in Yokohama GHC Jr Heavyweight Championship: Daisuke Harada (c) vs HAYATA

Two stablemates, going at each other like they hated each other. The familiarity between the two was evident, and made for a great match.

Starting off before the bell, HAYATA hits a big cannonball as Harada is walking down the ramp, and proceeds to beat on him before rolling him into the ring. At this point the referee calls for the bell and only seems concerned with taking the belt off the prone champion. It really reminded me of looting a dead body, because once the ref took the belt off, he was like ‘okay, continue killing him’.

As soon as Harada got a little momentum back, this match was very typical back and forth Junior match. However, the last 5 or so minutes really sold this match. The pace quickened to lightning speed and we saw numerous move combinations, counters, roll ups, attempts and wow, it didn’t stop until the pinfall.

What makes this special is how each man sold the move they were attempting, before the mid air counter. There were numerous times HAYATA would change what looks like a basic high flying move and kick Harada in the face. So even though Harada picked up the win after back to back German Suplex Holds, HAYATA looked amazingly impressive. HAYATA’s biggest highlight being a missed moonsault, into a standing shooting star press, into a middle turnbuckle corkscrew senton.

HAYATA is so fluid I want to call him Shape of Water. It is to be noted, that all of the Ratel stable posed together after the match. So there seems to be no bad blood.

Rating: **** 1/4

 

1. NJPW New Japan Cup Semi-Finals Day 1: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Juice Robinson

Tanahashi finding success in the New Japan Cup for the first time in a few years, and Juice reaching the semi-finals, in only his second appearance in the tournament, are the obvious notes to this match. Juice and Tanahashi have a lot of history as well, from being on the same teams and Tanahashi mentoring Juice when he was younger. So the way both men approached this match was different, and helped the story exponentially.

We saw a more aggressive Tanahashi, which has been the way his character is trending last couple years. Unwilling to shake hands, and more willing to hold submissions beyond the referee’s count, Tanahashi was playing more of the heel role.

The story and actual wrestling was fantastic throughout the match. Each man got in all of their stuff, and even took a page out of the other one’s book at a few different points. A spot in the match that proves the “Former Ace’s” desperation to win, is while in the corner and getting admonished by Red Shoes, Tanahashi stops, slowly walk Red Shoes away from the corner and shushes him; only to return to laying the boots to Juice in the corner.

Little things like that, all through the match made this very special. Juice had plenty of times where he had a believable pin attempt, and at the end of the match, Tana and Juice showed respect. Juice even went as far as to get Tanahashi’s air guitar for him, but had a Young Lion throw it in, since he was too injured after the match.

Tanahashi vs Zack Sabre Jr will be a fantastic finals, and if last year proves anything, both finalists position themselves towards chances for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. So win or lose, we should see Okada vs Tanahashi 1 more time, very soon.

Rating: **** 1/2

 

Well now I know I said I didn’t go out of my way, but that’s also because NOAH has been my second favorite promotion in Japan for years, so if it’s available to find, I don’t see it as an issue. That being said, neither of the NOAH matches get my vote, even though I was happy with the quality of the entire show.

My vote for match of the week is, Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Juice Robinson, there was just too much too like about this match. Well wrestled, good story, happy ending for the crowd, overall exactly what a wrestling match should be.

Vote on Facebook, Twitter, via Carrier Pigeon, or e-mail me at: andrewbalaz@thechairshot.com


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Pros & Cons of Each Money In The Bank Competitor Winning The Contract

A look at each WWE Money In The Bank competitor and the pros & cons of their potential victory!

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WWE Alexa Bliss Money In the Bank

Take a look at each WWE Money In The Bank competitor and the pros and cons of their potential victory!

Lana

Pro – While it is a near certainty that Lana doesn’t come away from Chicago with the briefcase, a Lana/Rusev win would be historic. Not to mention the outcome would be completely out of left field. Some fans complain of a lack of truly surprising moments. Well this would quench their thirst and then some.

Con – Out of all the women in the Money in the Bank ladder match, Lana has the least in-ring experience. Despite being over with the fans, her in ring skill isn’t the best. Compared to the other women in the match, she is the least qualified to be carrying a preverbal title opportunity.

Naomi

Pro – Being one of the most athletic superstars in WWE, Naomi has proven her worth before, but whose to say she can’t do it again. She did win the Women’s battle royal at WrestleMania, thus giving her the opportunity to separate the Women’s WrestleMania Battle Royal from the winners of the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.

Con – With Naomi being the lovable face that she is, it’s hard to see her cash in on a downed champion. A heel turn could make sense as  of the division is face heavy. But I don’t think I’m alone here when I say I’d rather see Becky Lynch take on that task.

Ember Moon

Pro – Ember Moon is one of the most gifted superstars on the RAW roster. And while her time on the main roster has been short, she has had a better run than most NXT call ups. Like Finn Balor before her, a quick push to a championship could show how much she is regarded backstage.

Con – Moon has only been on the main roster for two months now, and while some superstars have won championships in less time, Moon would do well to wait a while before capturing the RAW Women’s championship. And since Ember is a clear cut babyface, the Money in the Bank contract doesn’t mesh well with her character.

Charlotte

Pro – Despite being one of the most dominant women in WWE, it isn’t likely she’ll come away with the win in Chicago. If she does will then, it will be a complete swerve. Then Charlotte Flair will have another niche in her belt if WWE is trying to portray her as the greatest female of all time.

Con – Charlotte simply doesn’t need Money in the Bank. Not only is she already a part of the women’s main event scene, but she also has a hefty number of accolades already associated with her name. The money in the Bank match is designed to get people to the top title, not keep them there.

Becky Lynch

Pro – Lynch said it herself on Tuesday, since being the inaugural SmackdownLive Women’s Championship, she hasn’t done anything noteworthy.  A win this Sunday would reestablish Lynch in a title scene she hasn’t been a part of for months. Becky has always been portrayed as the

Con – With Auska and Charlotte on the same brand, and the rumor of a champion vs. champion match between Charlotte and Rousey in the works, a title run for Lynch would  be transitional at best. Even if she held on the briefcase passed WrestleMania, there is no telling what the talent pool will look like.

Sasha Banks

Pro – Banks winning would not only help boost her back into the main event scene, but also it could advance the Sasha/Bayley frenemies story. A heel turn could be just what the Boss needs to get out of the slump she’s been on. As one of the best performers in the women’s division, she’s certainly earned another go at the top.

Con – Banks has yet to defend the RAW Women’s Championship after winning it. So if she was to capture the championship again, one might be skeptical of her reign. But with her fued with Bayley still going, and Rousey in the title picture, it might not be her time. Besides, there are other ways of getting an already four time champion into a title match.

Alexa Bliss

Pro – Alexa Bliss and the Money in the Bank briefcase seem like the perfect match. Bliss running down the ramp, contract in hand, is not hard to picture. As a break from the title scene, Bliss could still be an important figure in the Women’s division.

Con – After just being defeated for the RAW Women’s Championship, Alexa would do well with some time away from the title scene. Alexa has been on top of both women’s divisions for a while now, and letting someone else get a piece of the spotlight will not only help another woman, but it will also make sure Bliss doesn’t look too strong.

Natalya

Pro – with Ronda Rousey possibly capturing the RAW Women’s Championship, the resulting story between the two friends could make for an entertaining dynamic. And Natalya certainly deserves a championship run after all her years of service.

Con – If Natalya does manage to take down the briefcase this Sunday it may telegraph a Ronda Rousey title win. And if WWE wants to do the rumored Charlotte vs. Rousey match, Natalya would just be getting in the way of things. If a feud would start between Rousey and herself, she would undoubtedly end up on the losing end.

Bobby Roode

Pro – Roode has been floundering on the main roster ever since he got called up. While a short United States Championship run kept him occupied, it didn’t do much in the grand scheme of things. Winning the briefcase would elevate Roode to main event status.

Con – However, Roode will have to have an evolution of character if he wants to make an effective Mr. Money in the Bank. There have been rumors of a turn for the Glorious One, but if that isn’t the case, perhaps the briefcase would do better for someone else.

Rusev

Pro – People would lose their minds if Rusev won the contract this Sunday. Not only would Rusev Day get the spotlight many believe it to deserve, but it would also be an endorsement to how over Rusev has gotten. A cash in from the Bulgarian Brute could rival that of Dolph Ziggler, especially if it happens to occur on Rusev Day.

Con – A downside to this, however, is that with Styles, Nakamura, and possibly Samoa Joe in the title picture, there would be little chance to cash in. He may be holding on to the contract for a long time before he gets the chance to become champion. By then the luster of Rusev Day might wear off.

Finn Balor

Pro – Since winning the Universal Championship in record time, Balor hasn’t amounted to much on the main roster. Since he was never given his rematch for the Universal Championship, he does hold a claim that could make for a good story. And with Rollins doing wonders with the I.C. title, it may be best for Balor to capture a win on Sunday. Mabye we could even see a heel turn.

Con – With Brock Lesnar holding the Universal Championship and guys like Roman and Braun chasing, Balor could have a long wait ahead of him if he were to win. That’s not entirely bad as the Money in the Bank has that flexible expiration date. Even then Strowman and Lesnar probably wouldn’t fall to Balor, even in a cash in situation. HIs best bet would be for Roman to pick up the title, and we all know how the fans would take to Roman being Universal Champion.

Kevin Owens

Pro – If Owens hadn’t already won the Universal Championship, it would have been no surprise to his first world title come from a Money in the Bank cash in. That is how great of a concoction Owens and the stipulation could manifest. Owens time on the mic would elevate that much more when he’s practically champion. Let’s just hope that his next run as champion goes better than his last.

Con – Like Balor, Owens would have to wait for the opportune cash in opportunity. WWE probably wouldn’t want him getting a pin fall win over Lesnar or Strowman. Even if her were successful in a cash in, this would most likely keep him from Sami Zayn, when the two do great work together.

New Day

Pro – Just the idea of the New Day carrying the briefcase is entertaining enough. To see it would not only be a different take on the Money in the Bank, but also for the New Day as well. The trio carrying around the green case could provide for some entertaining skits and promos. They might even substitute it for the pancakes,

Con – Speaking of the Free Bird Rule, while it would be entertaining to see them hold the briefcase, it would be confusing if they actually captured the WWE Championship. One member could hold the belt while the others act more like lackeys, but that’s so out of character for the trio. A break up could happen, where one member takes the contract for himself, but it’s unlikely New Day will be breaking up in the foreseeable future.

Samoa Joe

Pro – Joe has been sitting just outside of the main event scene since his debut. He hasn’t yet to win a single championship in WWE, despite being one of the best NXT call ups. While there are other ways of getting him to that point, a Money in the Bank contract would be an step in the right direction. Joe with the briefcase may also be the most dangerous combination in the contracts’ history.

Con – That being said, the Money in the Bank contract doesn’t exactly fit Joe’s character. He’s the Destroyer of SmackdownLive, not an opportunist. Joe doesn’t need a the briefcase to get involved in the main event scene, since he has been so close to it.

Bruan Strowman

Pro – Strowman winning would virtually guarantee that he will win the Universal Championship. If Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar are actually having another go at SummerSlam. A cash in by Strowman, à la Seth Rollins, would be the best course of action to please the most amount of people if a Roman Brock match does happen. Plus, a Strowman title win has been long overdue.

Con – Much like Samoa Joe, Strowman’s character doesn’t warrant something as underhanded as a Money in the Bank contract. Of course, this could be rectified by Strowman going the RVD/John Cena route and announcing his cash in in advance. Even then, there are other ways of getting Strowman a title match.

The Miz

Pro – After the work the Miz has put in the last few years, fans have been clamoring for another main event run for him. The Money in the Bank contract was made for someone like the Miz. A cash in on Daniel Bryan, if in the works, could make for a moment that will go down in history, and make Bryan’s eventual revenge that much sweeter. Miz the only one in both Money in the Bank matches to actually win said match, but that doesn’t mean he’s not the favorite to win going into Sunday.

Con – While it is difficult to pick a winner, Miz is the most predictable competitor at this point. A cash in on Daniel Bryan makes so much sense that a child could see it coming. That’s the main issue here, it’s too predictable. Of course, if this did happen, no one would complain as we’d finally see the feud we’ve been waiting two years fo come to fruition. However, the Bryan/Miz feud doesn’t need the title to be interesting.


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Three Stars Of The Night: NXT Takeover: Chicago (6/16/18)

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Three Stars Tommaso Ciampa NXT Takeover Chicago

A look at the Three Stars Of The Night for WWE NXT Takeover: Chicago!

WWE paraded into Chicago for what they are unofficially calling Money In The Bank Weekend, and the yellow-and-black brand got to kick things off with NXT Takeover: Chicago II. This is the brand’s second straight year doing Takeover in Chicago, with last year featuring the infamous Tommaso Ciampa heel turn heard ’round the world, attacking Johnny Gargano and ending their DIY partnership. Of course, the two would meet in the final match of the evening.

But now–the Three Stars Of The Night!

The Third Star:
Nikki Cross

Nikki Cross might be the best female performer in all of WWE. Her commitment to her character is second-to-none…seriously, it’s Velveteen Dream level stuff we’re talking about here.

She didn’t win, but pulled an entertaining match out of Shayna Baszler (not the easiest thing to do), and provided a moment that shouldn’t be forgotten–like, ever. Baszler had the Kurfida Clutch locked in, and Cross couldn’t escape. Cross practically begged Baszler to lock it in early in the match, too. Right before passing out, Cross smiled. When she woke, she was still smiling.

Seriously, she might have the best character in NXT, and with this feud potentially done I hope she gets back with SANITY on the main roster.

The Second Star:
Velveteen Dream and Ricochet (tie)

I try to keep the cheating to a minimum, but this is well deserved. These two delivered an amazing match that played on the strengths of both: the awe-inspiring in-ring ability of Ricochet, and the character delivery of Velveteen Dream.

Ricochet is regarded as one of the world’s best, but many can’t get into him like they got into his Lucha Underground alter-ego, Prince Puma. Velveteen Dream changed that for many tonight, delivering the most psychologically sound Ricochet match many have seen in quite a long time.

The Hogan-esque tights, that were also a not-so-low-key nod to the aforementioned Prince Muma, were damn fine. Velveteen is a star.

Others given consideration:
The Undisputed Era, Danny Burch, Oney Lorcan, Johnny Gargano

And now…a distinction usually reserved for the top performer of the night…the first star!

The First Star:
Tommaso Ciampa

Tonight was Tommaso Ciampa’s night. Hell, this is Tommaso Ciampa’s world, and we are lucky to breathe the air he leaves for us!

It was a match Tommaso Ciampa had to win–otherwise doing another match didn’t make sense. Now we’re likely in for more between these two, and I am confident they’ll find a way to keep it interesting. That doesn’t seem to involve a Candice LaRae heel turn, unless they are saving that for when Johnny insists on another match with Ciampa.

The Sicilian Psychopath lived up to his name, exposing the wood of the ring and eventually using that exposed wood to hit Johnny Gargano with a surprise DDT for the win.

Johnny Gargano is the most over face in the company not named Daniel Bryan, and the one thing a great babyface needs is a heel to work off of. He can’t ask for a better counterpart than the best heel in all of wrestling, Tommaso Ciampa.


Who are your three stars of the Network? Comment on social media @ChairshotGreg, @theCHAIRSHOTcom, and use the hashtag #UseYourHead!


In hockey, a game’s “three stars” represent the top three performers of the night. For more clarification, I defer to this Pittsburgh Gazette explanation:

“The tradition dates to the 1936-37 season, when Imperial Oil became the principal sponsor of Hockey Night in Canada radio broadcasts and was seeking a way to promote one of its products, Three Star gasoline. The idea of doing so by selecting the top three performers in a particular game purportedly came from a Canadian advertising agency.

Many clubs do recognize the player with the most three-star selections with an award or trophy, usually in conjunction with a corporate sponsorship, at the end of the season (or sometimes, each month). All six Canadian franchises, for example, have an affiliation with a well-known brewery.

The NHL keeps track of its own three-stars-of-the-night selections, but that is done on a league-wide basis. The league employs a system that awards 30 points to a first star, 20 to a second star and 10 to a third – a running total can be found on the league’s website – but it does not present an award based on them.”

In hockey tradition, the first star represents the best of the three, but all three are considered to be receiving a high honor.


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WWE Established Dominance vs. The Rise Of New Japan

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New Day The Elite

New Japan’s Dominion event from Osaka is the talk of pro wrestling fans thanks in large part to the major headlining matches that took place. Chris Jericho took the IWGP Intercontinental Championship from Tetsuya Naito and Kenny Omega won the IWGP Championship from Kazuchika Okada.

It was a moment in wrestling history that many fans will never forget. Dominion was perhaps the best example of what NJPW can deliver to those that want more from the business. But what does New Japan’s rise mean to WWE?

For many fans, there is no comparison. New Japan is all about the wrestling. It’s a vast departure from everything that WWE is and much more. NJPW focuses on the in-ring action. It’s not about the drama outside of the squared circle.

How many times has Monday Night Raw kicked off with a five minute promo? The old notion that a wrestling event should begin with a hot curtain jerk match to set the tone is apparently very old indeed. The primary goal now is to spell it out for the crowd. WWE lays the foundation for the following three hours by walking fans through it one word at a time.

If the long-winded promos only happened occasionally, fans would likely not mind. But when silly storylines are the norm and characters begin acting out of character, then frustrations rise. Add to that the constant need to book the McMahon family in main event spots and it just gets worse.

WWE doesn’t seem to listen, which is not helping. The company is so firmly connected to its audience through social media but that connection does not equal understanding. It’s not unheard of for the company to openly mock the fans on live TV. Triple H has in fact done it before yet somehow many seemed to miss the irony of it all.

Without the paying audience, WWE would not exist. Fans can be loud and emotional and even obnoxious, which distracts from the show. But much of the crowd don’t want to act out, they genuinely just want the product to be good. It’s no coincidence that the biggest pops of Raw or SmackDown Live tend to happen because of hard-fought pro wrestling matches. Despite all the hoopla and grandeur that accompany a WWE event, it’s the wrestling that fans respond to the most.

But WWE has existed in this form since The Monday Night Wars. Since the competition disappeared, Vince McMahon’s company has not been the same. The slick presentation and overproduced programs are ingrained into the company and WWE has been in the driver’s seat with no one legitimately threatening its position of power.

However there are some bright spots. Thanks to CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and a few others, WWE is much different now than it was in the years after WCW fell. NXT is a viable third brand and the company now features some of the best wrestlers in the world today. Perhaps WWE seems to have finally realized the importance of strengthening its game in the ring. Is that just a natural evolution or is it happening out of necessity?

The fact is that New Japan is redefining what professional wrestling is. WWE does not happen in a bubble; the world has opened up now. NJPW is the alternative that Impact Wrestling wants to be, but the two companies could not be more different. Anyone that has followed New Japan sees the heart and the effort on display every time the cameras go on. The men in New Japan’s locker room are hungry. They want more and they’re working hard to get it.

But as much as diehard fans love the company, the truth is that NJPW is not without its faults. Yes the men of New Japan are working hard but where are the women? The Women’s Revolution has leveled the playing field for WWE. Women are working main events on TV and pay-per-view. It’s only a matter of time until women main event WrestleMania. Will New Japan feature any female wrestlers by that point?

Then there’s the comedy routines. Though it’s not as prevalent as it once was, comedy does occasionally happen in a New Japan ring. It’s the same comedy that keeps Jim Cornette awake at night. Though many believe he obsesses too much over it, the fact is comedy does equal disrespect in the minds of many pro wrestling fans.

Then there are the matches themselves. No one can deny the amazing body of work that guys like Will Ospreay are delivering. But when that work includes multiple death-defying moves that no one should ever recover from, then the point gets lost. Pro wrestlers are not superhuman. They’re extremely mortal and it’s their humanity that connects them to the crowd.

When Strong Style replaces common sense, what’s left? If two guys stand face to face and physically destroy each other while never leaving their feet, then why should fans believe anymore? The crowd knows that wrestlers are not intentionally trying to cripple each other. But that doesn’t mean they should advertise the ineffectiveness of moves that could seemingly knock a guy out cold.

Both companies have their issues, that much is certain. The idea of sports entertainment consumes WWE. NJPW at times appears just as consumed with crafting five-star matches instead of just allowing it to happen organically. But for many fans, New Japan is the pro wrestling company and WWE is the company that happens to feature pro wrestling. There is a difference.

WWE has talent to rival New Japan. There is no arguing that point. If the governor was removed from the Superstars and they were allowed to tell the story in the ring instead of backstage, on the mic or on social media, then this would be an entirely different conversation. But Vince McMahon’s company is designed a certain way and that way appears to be working. It’s difficult to dismiss a billion dollar company that is firmly entrenched in pop culture.

But if guys like Daniel Bryan, Finn Balor, Seth Rollins, AJ Styles, Kevin Owens and Shinsuke Nakamura had their way, then the silly storylines would probably end. Yes fans want pro wrestling to be fun and entertaining. But New Japan is turning the volume up and the sound is deafening right now. Fans can only wonder if WWE is really listening.


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