It’s the biggest weekend of the pro wrestling year. WrestleMania 34 goes down on Sunday. Before that, we have approximately 150 wrestling shows taking place within the state of Louisiana. Ring of Honor & Impact Wrestling will make their presence felt. Pretty much every indy you’ve ever heard of (and many you haven’t) will be holding shows. It’s gonna be a big time.
Wanna know what’s going to happen this weekend? I’ve got a pretty good idea. Here’s my predictions on some of the major happenings over the weekend.
Impact Wrestling vs. Lucha Underground will be the best WrestleCon show
These two companies have solid TV situations but are lacking a certain buzz. The best way to get a buzz? Put on a kickass wrestling show. There’s been a lot of cross-over between these promotions with the likes of Johnny Mundo/Impact, Taya & Brian Cage recently making their way to Impact. The gimmick of having Eddie Edwards wrestle Jeremiah Crane instead of Sami Callihan is pretty solid. Scott Steiner & Teddy Hart on the same team is pretty cool. The main event pitting Austin Aries & Fenix against Alberto el Patron & Pentagon Jr. sounds pretty fun. Larry Csonka should get a Twitch channel & get me to help him announce it.
The only problems are that Larry is recapping 20 shows this weekend, and I like to sleep.
The Young Bucks will help Cody beat Kenny Omega, whether they mean to or not
It would only be fitting that ROH Supercard of Honor XII’s Bullet Club battle would feature some outside interference. The Bucks originally took Cody’s side against Omega, but the American Nightmare has managed to garner their ire in recent days with things like pushing Nick around & trying to change the BC logo. I suspect multiple Club members will come down during the match, & Nick will try to help Kenny, but it’ll backfire & Cody will stand tall at the end of the night.
As he should, since he’s the best heel in the business.
Johnny Gargano will beat Tommaso Ciampa
Ciampa seems to be the popular choice because everybody assumes that Johnny Wrestling will be on Raw or SmackDown soon enough. I just don’t think this feud is going to end so soon, and frankly NXT needs both Gargano & Ciampa around to keep people interested. WrestleMania-type shows tend to end with the good guy winning, so I’d have Gargano win the Unsanctioned Match to close TakeOver.
Toni Storm will be in the WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal
PROGRESS Wrestling is holding shows on Friday & Satuday, and their champions will be defending their titles at Axess on Sunday. Storm will be all over these shows after Beyond’s intergender show on Thursday. Assuming she emerges in one piece, WWE’s going to need some women to fill space in the battle royal & she’s as good a choice as any.
I’d have her win it, but admittedly I’m biased.
John Cena & The Undertaker will not have a proper match
It’s too late to change my mind on this. I don’t care how many newsbites I read on it up until the show happens, I’m not buying it until it actually goes down. I mean, there’s already 13 matches on the card. Do we really need another one?
#TeamRousey vs #TeamMcMahon will be an #EpicFail
There’s just no way this goes well. Ronda Rousey shouldn’t be doing most of the in-ring work at this point in her development. Kurt Angle shouldn’t be doing most of the in-ring work at this point in his life. Triple H is probably your best bet for a workhorse, but I would rather watch almost anybody in the world try to work a match than him at this point.
Our only hope is that Stephanie McMahon has the match of her life. The way she threw Rousey around on Raw, I have no idea why she isn’t challenging for one of the Women’s Championships.
Daniel Bryan will win…and then Shane McMahon will turn against him
I’ve flip-flopped on this one. I was pretty well convinced that Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn had to win to remain on SmackDown & that their opponents turning against each other was the best way to go about it. But think about it from Shane McMahon’s perspective for a minute. Helping Kevin & Sami out makes zero sense after everything they’ve done to him. I know McMahons are very forgiving of dastardly heels, but this would be a stretch even by those standards.
The smartest thing for Shane to do here would be to help Bryan defeat them, then attack him afterwards to steal his celebratory moment. It would also get the most heat because the fans would have to stop chanting “YES” after they started.
As for Kevin & Sami, there’s a Shakeup coming. Either they go to Raw or they come back to SmackDown after new management takes over. I can see Jeff Jarrett being a fan of their work.
AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura won’t live up to the hype
It won’t even be their fault. We’ve been hyping this match up since both men signed with WWE in January 2016. The company was smart to keep them apart for this long & save the match for the grandest stage. The only problem is that we’ve been looking forward to this for so long that our expectations have gotten way too high. As great as Styles is, and as great as Nakamura is when he’s interested, they won’t make everybody happy.
Anything less than six stars from David Meltzer will be seen as a tremendous disappointment in some corners.
WrestleMania Weekend will end with Roman Reigns winning the Universal Championship
LOL at people saying Dana White spoiled the main event. We all knew Reigns was winning anyway. It’s the story WWE has been telling the past four years. Have there been some bumps in the road? Absolutely. Has the story played out exactly the way WWE would have liked? Certainly not. They would prefer Roman Reigns to be as universally popular as he was at the 2014 Royal Rumble, but it’s not gonna happen.
Many of my friends here at the Chairshot have spent a lot of time trying to win over the non-believers. To me, that’s a waste of time. People either love Roman Reigns or they don’t. They’ve already made up their minds and there’s nothing that’s going to swing their vote. WWE has taken the same viewpoint they used with John Cena, that any reaction is a good one. Reigns will get a reaction at the end of the show. I don’t think it’ll be a positive one, but fans will make noise of some sort.
Which will be a feat in itself after four days packed with wrestling.
Cook: Don’t Bet Against Greatness
It’s a mistake that’s easy to make, but it’s an equally important lesson to remember. As Steve Cook says: don’t bet against greatness.
It’s a mistake that’s easy to make, but it’s an equally important lesson to remember. As Steve Cook says: don’t bet against greatness.
It would take at least a thousand columns like this one to explain the biggest mistakes we pundits make. I use the phrase “we” because I’ll never sit here and tell you I’m infallible. I make more mistakes than I care to remember. Today, we’ll talk about one that I’m guilty of pretty often.
Too often, we don’t give greatness the benefit of the doubt.
We jump to quick conclusions when the greats of a genre do things that don’t seem in character, or are different from what we’re used to. We don’t consider the idea that maybe these people, who have already accomplished many things in life, might actually have a better idea what they can do to improve their future than we do.
Hard to believe, I know. This past weekend saw great success for two of the most successful people in the world of sports & entertainment. They serve as perfect examples of my hypothesis.
Example 1: Tom Brady
For years, I have resisted the idea of calling Tom Brady the Greatest Quarterback of All Time. I never like crowning current stars the greatest of anything, as it disrespects the people that came before them. Unless they just accomplish so damn much that it’d be silly to deny them the honor. Sometimes, people get GOAT status that don’t really deserve it. They seem to be on pace to get there, but never make the jump.
Tom Brady made that jump a long time ago. There isn’t really a metric people can use to sell him short at this point. He’s at or near the top of every significant passing category in league history. There’s also the number of Super Bowls won, and number of rings/titles/championships always wins any sports argument, regardless of the sport. It can’t really be denied at this point.
The one thread people had to hang on to? Bill Belichick. The Patriot Way. Brady & Belichick formed a dynasty together. The other players & assistant coaches always changed, but Tom & Bill were always there. Which provided a bit of drama over the past few years whenever we needed something to talk about. Who was responsible for the success? The answer was obviously a little bit of both, but it was always a big debate.
Brady went to Tampa, and some folks thought it might not work. Many talking heads went on about how Tom was just going to Tampa because he wanted out of the cold weather. He just wanted to have fun for the last couple years of his career. They didn’t think that he could do these things and also win championships.
He’s one game away from doing just that. Are you going to bet against him? I’m not!
Example 2: Vince McMahon
How many articles have you read questioning McMahon’s mental acumen? Especially over the past several years as he’s advanced in age? It seems like everybody has dismissed the old man as a fossil that needs to step aside and let the kids run things.
We think we have evidence for this theory from WWE television. I’ll admit it, Raw most weeks is thoroughly unwatchable. You may disagree, but I’m the one typing this thing up. SmackDown is a little bit better, but Raw’s ineptitude overshadows it for the most part. Then there’s NXT, which most people seem to agree goes downhill the more that Vince pays attention to it.
A good percentage of the Internet wishes that Vince would step aside and not be all over everything.
This places us on the opposite side of most investors, who don’t watch the shows religiously, if at all, and don’t get inside knowledge from the dirt sheets & message boards. What they know is that Vince McMahon is the most successful promoter in wrestling history, and that he knows how to make a lot of money. Which, most would argue, is a lot more important than the quality of the shows one produces.
McMahon has shown an ability to make the right business moves at the right time. 1984 was the right time to go national and wipe out the territories, cable television expanding wrestling program reach made it only a matter of time. Vince was the first one to jump.
The late 1990s when the company was at a mainstream acceptance high was the right time to go public. You didn’t see him trying it in the early 1990s when he was fighting off various scandals and the company was at a mainstream acceptance low. Once people forgot about the steroid & sex stuff and saw how popular the Superstars of the time were, it was time to buy in.
Streaming was the wave of the future when WWE Network started becoming a thing. It was the culmination of nearly thirty years of Vince McMahon collecting nearly every bit of wrestling footage he could. He wanted to own wrestling & create his own history, then he wanted to get everybody else’s history too. He got most of it. There’s stuff sitting in the WWE archives that still hasn’t seen the light of day, and maybe it never will. Everybody and their brother has some kind of streaming service now. WWE was there before most, and now they got the chance to cash in from a media company trying to bolster their own streaming service.
Now, McMahon’s business record isn’t perfect. We know about the WBF & the XFL (twice). We remember how WWE wasn’t the original name. The early 90s scandals have been mentioned. And as major UFC and boxing events have shown, Vince was too quick to give up on pay per view. Left some money on the table there.
Every businessman makes mistakes. Its how they recover from those mistakes that matters. McMahon always comes out of his smelling like roses. There’s never really a long-term negative effect afterward. Vince got Dwayne Johnson to buy the XFL. His attempt to compete in bodybuilding led to no hard feelings. We all eventually got used to saying & writing “WWE”.
All those things we get mad at about Vince? They don’t keep most of us from watching his programming. Which is why WWE is so valuable to media companies. WWE has an audience that it can’t scare away, no matter what it does. People will follow them from USA to Fox to Spike TV to the WWE Network, whatever’s got some of that sweet content.
So the next time somebody wants to tell you that Old Man Vince is out of touch and doesn’t get it anymore…ask that person the last time they deposited a billion dollar check. If it was sometime in the last week, then they might have a point.
I might not be in love with most of the wrestling Vince McMahon produces these days. Are you going to bet against him making money off of it? I’m not!
Do not bet against greatness. More often than not, you will lose.
Andrew’s Top 5 Matches: Week Ending 1/24/2021
Well even on a quiet-ish week, all of the bigger NA companies get a version of representation and even AJPW found their way into the Top 5! Let’s see what we’re working with!
Well now, we didn’t have much that really stood out on North American television, but we did get a few additions from All Japan Pro Wrestling!
Last week’s voting was pretty cut and dry, NXT UK: NXT UK Championship: Walter (c) vs A-Kid, managed to control the voting narrative. Now we get this week, and it’s definitely a little more interesting.
Which match will get the most support? Let’s find out!
Quick Top 5:
- AJPW New Year Wars Final Round: Triple Crown Championship: SUWAMA (c) vs Shotaro Ashino
Rating: **** 1/4
- AJPW New Years Wars Final Round: World Junior Championship: Fuminori Abe vs Koji Iwamoto (c)
Rating: *** 3/4
- WWE Raw: Ricochet vs AJ Styles
Rating: *** 3/4
- IMPACT! Private Party w/Big Money Matt Hardy vs Beer Guns (James Storm & Chris Sabin)
Rating: *** 1/2
- NXT: Fight Pit: Tommaso Ciampa vs Timothy Thatcher
Rating: *** 1/2
- NXT UK: Dave Mastiff vs Rampage Brown
Rating: *** 1/4
- NXT: Imperium vs Lucha House Party
- WWE Raw: Asuka vs Alexa Bliss
- AEW Dynamite: MJericho vs Sammy Hager vs Santana & Ortiz
- NXT: KUSHIDA & Leon Ruff VS The Way
4t. NXT: Fight Pit: Tommaso Ciampa vs Timothy Thatcher
The ref checks on Thatcher but Thatcher grabs at Ciampa over the ref’s back! Ciampa uses the leverage for WILLOW’S BELL!! But Ciampa can’t win off a cover, he wants to know if that knocked Thatcher out! The ref starts a count, Thatcher is still conscious but he has to get up before 10! The count is 5, then 6! Thatcher uses the cage and drags himself up at 9.9! But Ciampa CLOBBERS him, underhooks, but Thatcher spins out to throw EuroUppers! Ciampa forearms, they’re brawling back and forth with fury! The fans are fired up as Ciampa CHOPS but Thatcher tackles him into steel!
Ciampa throws elbows, has a facelock, and he RAMS Thatcher into steel! FAIRYTALE ENDING!! And then a SLEEPER HOLD!! Ciampa wants Thatcher to pass out, but Thatcher fights up! And scoops Ciampa to RAM him into the steel! Thatcher gets Ciampa in a sleeper hold of his own, but Ciampa uses the corner to go up! Thatcher shoves Ciampa into the corner! Thatcher CLUBS Ciampa over and over and over, then has the leg trapped in the girder! HANGING STRETCH MUFFLER!! Ciampa shouts in pain, he TAPS! THATCHER WINS!!
Winner: Thatcher Hanging Stretch Muffler
4t. IMPACT! Private Party w/Big Money Matt Hardy vs Beer Guns (James Storm & Chris Sabin)
Fast paced as expected, but early on we see Tony Khan and Jerry Lynn walk out to sit at ringside and watch the match. Storm didn’t slow down too much, which is surprising since aside from his brief stint back in Impact at the end of 2020, we saw him tagging with Eli Drake in much slower, less workrate dependent matches.
Private Party were their usual high flying, fun having, break dance inspired flourishes to some offense we’ve seen for years. Beer Guns had a cool tandem move with Sabin Sunset Flipping from outside in, Quen rolled right into the Backstabber from James Storm. Lots of signature spam, a few dives, highlighted by a nice Fosbury Flop from Quen.
Sabin looked to be setting up for the finish, when Jerry Lynn hops the familiar guardrail, grabs Sabin’s foot while Matt Hardy distracted the ref; and Private Party hit Gin & Juice for the heel tactic upset! Interestingly, Private Party still comes off as great babyface kids who are being swindled by scummy adults. So they aren’t playing heel, but everyone around them is doing it for them.
Winner: Private Party via Gin & Juice
2t. WWE Raw: Ricochet vs AJ Styles
Ricochet is frustrated but Omos is relieved as Styles survives. Ricochet fireman’s carries but Styles fights out. Ricochet mule kicks a leg then back flips into the DEAD LIFT GERMAN! Bridging cover, TWO! Ricochet grows further frustrated but he watches Styles stand. Ricochet runs out from the corner but Styles dodges. Styles runs in, Ricochet elbows back, QUEBRADA into a LARIAT! Styles gets Ricochet up, SNAP BRAIN BUSTER!! Cover, TWO!! Styles fireman’s carries Ricochet for USHIGOROSHI! Cover, TWO! Omos says it’s alright but Styles is still surprised Ricochet survives!
Styles goes to a corner, goes to the apron, and takes aim. Styles springboards, but Ricochet hits the RECOIL!! Both men are down, Ricochet crawls to the cover, TWO!! Styles survives and Ricochet is beside himself! Ricochet goes to the corner, climbs up top, but Styles trips him up! Ricochet lands hard on his stomach and flops to the apron! Omos coaches Styles as Ricochet drags himself up. Styles goes to the corner, brings Styles up, but Ricochet hotshots! Ricochet aims, slingshots, but into Styles’ suplex, that rebounds off the ropes! Into the STYLES CLASH!!! Cover, Styles wins!
Winner: AJ Styles via Styles Clash
2t. AJPW New Years Wars Final Round: World Junior Championship: Fuminori Abe vs Koji Iwamoto (c)
Iwamoto has finally started to blossom as the Ace of the current Junior Division. Fuminori Abe on the other hand, is a freelancer who can do anything and everything. This should be a great test for the Junior Ace, since Abe can hit you from every conceivable angle.
There’s a brief period of feeling out we saw the versatility of Abe. He delved into a little bit of his comedic side with the long set up on a Penalty Kick to the back, but he also snapped off some great Frankensteiners and high spots. He also worked over the upper body well to try and go for his signature Octopus Hold, but Iwamoto was able to get the rope break.
Iwamoto’s saving grace was his Judo background. A few Dropkicks to get distance and just catching Abe with multiple Judo Throws, set up beautifully for the Koko no Geijutsu, because it is also a fast snapping Judo Throw, but he uses the ropes for the added momentum to make it a finish.
Smooth as butter, and only rated under a 4 because of how fast the match was. If it had a longer build or another back and forth, this could’ve been epic. But it was still a damn great match.
After the match Cima challenged via video.
Winner: Koji Iwamoto via Koko no Geijutsu
1. AJPW New Year Wars Final Round: Triple Crown Championship: SUWAMA (c) vs Shotaro Ashino
Suwama’s hand picked opponent because of their similarities. Ashino being the former ace of Wrestle-1, a disciple of Keiji Mutoh and an accomplish amateur style wrestler; this all rings true with Suwama. So we get part two of the Mutoh’s favorite son challenge!
This match did have a few of the same issues as their first one, since a slower mat based style doesn’t resonate well with no crowd or a muted crowd. Suwama did keep up with Ashino for the most part, and the match had many similar elements as the first match. Ashino worked over the Ankle and went for the Ankle Lock; where Suwama showed he could counter most of it and apply his own submissions.
Smartly, Ashino did his best to avoid the Last Ride Powerbomb, which is how he lost his first challenge, and force Suwama to dig deeper. Ashino was explosive with German Suplexes, but he fell into the SANADA trap. Ashino drags Suwama to position him from the corner, even commentary is confused since Ashino is no high flier, but Ashino goes for the Mutoh Moonsault, and hits nothing!
After the miss it felt like Ashino was looking for something he didn’t have to take down Suwama. Suwama did have to pull off numerous Backdrop Drivers and finally the Backdrop Suplex Hold to retain the title. A very solid defense that built off the previous matchup, and would’ve been much better if the mat wrestling didn’t feel like it dragged because of the world situation.
Kohei Sato comes out after to challenge.
Winner: Suwama via Backdrop Suplex Hold
Now I’m really intrigued at how this vote will shake out. A few matches from the lesser view AJPW, a match from Raw, a crossover with AEW & Impact and a gimmick match from NXT.
My vote personally will go to Private Party vs Beer Guns, because this is the first interaction that really does feel interesting for the invasion/war/crossover/takeover whatever story. Great use of former Impact talent, great screwjob and ideally should lead to bigger things. Plus it’s nice to see a younger/undercard team like Private Party getting their star elevated a bit.
Do I think any of these matches touch the first week of the year? No, not at all. But they weren’t stinkers, so let’s make the month interesting before Royal Rumble!
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