Ric Flair once wrote in his autobiography, “To Be The Man,” no one in the wrestling business sold for him more than Ricky Morton and Ricky Steamboat. The story the 16-time world champion and “The Dragon” told from their days in the Carolinas in the late 1970s and early 1980s and later relived in 1989 with Steamboat capturing the WCW World Title was more like ballet than a wrestling match.
When two performers have that kind of chemistry, professional wrestling leaves its mark on its fan and creates a narrative that cannot be duplicated. Today’s professional wrestling has a hard time creating that kind of plot and development because feuds are short-lived and today’s fans aren’t invested in characters like in decades past because of poor booking and a lack of true heels and babyfaces.
The feud between AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura is as close an old-school wrestling story as WWE has put together in some time. Few of this generation of characters come close but fall short of hitting its mark. It may be more important for superstars to work well together than it is for them to have a start, beginning, and end.
When I think of a wrestling story, I have to travel back in time. Jack Brisco and Dory Funk, Jr. Roddy Piper and Greg Valentine. Bruno Sammartino and Larry Zbysko. Verne Gagne and Nick Bockwinkel. Somewhere out there, someone forgot how to write a wrestling program. The connection of the two stars to the fans and how to win them over in victory and defeat. It’s a lost art. With the end of Kayfabe and “wrestling” – which was replaced by sports entertainment – the notion of chapter and verse was lost forever.
The Styles-Nakamura showcase is helping to mend the bridge once again.
As a youngster growing up in Jacksonville, FL, my father would take us to the old Colosseum to watch NWA matches. Flair, The Funks, Brisco, Dusty Rhodes, Pak Song and Mike Graham. Good guys or villains, they were like heroes. They created drama in the ring. They knew how to play off the interaction of the fans. They were some of the best in their craft. I could make the argument a few come close in addition to Styles and Nakamura with The Miz and Jinder Mahal providing they are two of the best heels of this generation.
Seth Rollins has become a one-man show on Monday nights, but there is no one to dance with him. Bray Wyatt told a decent story, but he lost his way. No one holds a candle to Trish Stratus and Lita in women’s wrestling, but a feud between Sasha Banks and Bayley could rekindle that kind of intensity. Vince McMahon used to be a master at creating “believable” characters and scripts. His “circus” kept children interested for more than five minutes. Now, they jump around from superstar to superstar like butterflies from plant to plant.
If WWE wants to get some of its fan base back, write programs that mean something. Maybe not to the extent of Flair and Steamboat, but use Styles and Nakamura as a springboard. Do something with Samoa Joe and Daniel Bryan. Create heat between Jason Jordan and Chad Gable when Jordan returns. Make Banks and Bayley mean something.
If not, the current feud between the WWE Champion and the King of Strong Style may be the last time we witness greatness in the ring from a story that has written itself.
Write better a better wrestling program and fans remain engaged. I thought this was something WWE already knew about, but apparently, they lost the cheat sheet a long time ago.
NXT Minus 6: Too Early To Fantasy Book War Games?
Everyone loves fantasy booking. Right?
The answer is No. It’s not too early.
6. NXT teases us with a Matt Riddle-Arturo Ruas match that went 3 minutes? I know it’s not happening, but those guys deserve a Takeover spot. Kudos to NXT for playing up the mma aspect. Everything from Mauro’s commentary to the ref stoppage made this feel like it should have been in an octagon. If you haven’t already seen it, check out Ruas’ match from the Evolve 10th Anniversary show. Dude is a killer.
5. We got the final opening round match of the Dusty Rhodes Everyman Classic. Bronson Reed is good. He delivered what might be the biggest frog splash I’ve ever seen. There is always a place for athletic big men, but he’s not the story.
4. Dexter Lumas is creepy. The key to wrestling is to crank your personality up to 11. If this creepy thing is any part of Dexter Lumas, I don’t want to be in a room with him. I don’t trust him around my kids. I wonder how many crimes against humanity he’s already committed. Creepy in a way that Bray Wyatt can only hope to be.
3. Tyler Breeze enters the running for Savage Burn of the Year. He looked at Jaxson Ryker and asked “Weren’t you Buddy Murphy?” Brutal. That line alone is worth the return of Prince Pretty.
2. I finally got the moment I was waiting for: an interesting KUSHIDA match. I was ready to send him to 205 in exchange for Akira Tozawa. And if this is Apollo Crews, I will gladly take him back full time in NXT. Stellar matchup and worth watching. 4.4 stars.
1. Oh no, this cannot be happening. They’re turning Keith Lee into Kassius Ohno 2.0? He’s talking about getting passed over for the new guys? And he’s jobbing to Damian Priest next week? Been here a year and zero Takeover matches? The Ridiculous Keith Lee deserves better. THIS…CAN…NOT…BE…HAPPENING!!!
Bonus time: Old school versus new generation. Tyler Breeze heads up a cast of NXT OGs to take on Undisputed Era in (cue William Regal voice) War Games to determine NXT supremacy. Keep Apollo around. Throw in Cesaro and Harper, maybe even Samoa Joe, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a brawl. Either that or Undisputed Era versus the Club. I’m cool with both.
Tiffany’s Takes: WWE NXT (7-17-19)
Who will be the first to challenge Adam Cole for the NXT Championship?
Who will be the first to challenge Adam Cole for the NXT Championship?
Have I ever told anyone that I can’t stand Matt Riddle? I have? Okay. I don’t even know what it is, but he sets my teeth on edge. I will give him props for having a good match with Arturo Ruas, but I’m not sure what they’re doing with his character, except teasing a heel turn after that NASTY beatdown of Ruas. I am here for Killian Dain vs Riddle, that even sounds like fun!
Looks like we are going to Undisputed Era vs Street Profits at some point, but I’m waiting for UE to make a big deal about Street Profits being on the Main Roster for the last couple of weeks.
I love that Mia Yim is learning from everyone’s mistakes in dealing with Shayna Baszler and is going after Baszler’s friends, who are the real reason she’s stayed on top for so long. This feud is going to get nasty in a hurry and I can’t wait!
The next match of the NXT Breakout Tournament had a lot to live up to after two AMAZING matches and one not so amazing. I’m not sure what in the world Australian Strong Styles is, I’m guessing it’s like any ‘Strong Style’ in that it’s pretty hard hitting. I also didn’t know Australia had a Black Forest, it was never on ‘Crocodile Hunter’. I did like this match, however. I can’t say it was as amazing as some of the other matches, but it was really good. Bronson Reed won the match for Australia, so we’ll see what happens in Round 2.
Someone should tell Tyler Breeze that having a beard doesn’t make you a man. I’ve seen teenagers with better facial hair. I did love the little dig at Forgotten Sons, but I don’t think Breeze really wants to pick a fight with Jaxson Ryker, that’s not going to end well.
Well, it looks like we’ll likely get a confrontation between Io Shirai and Candice LeRae next week, unfortunately for Kacy Catanzaro, she’s going to be Shirai’s punching bag before that.
I wasn’t really into KUSHIDA vs Apollo Crews. I’m just not a huge fan of either guy. The match was really good, but I don’ t think anyone really thought Crews was going to beat KUSHIDA, who is getting built into a title contender, but it was a longer match than Crews has been having for most of his WWE run, so there’s that.
I’m still not into Keith Lee, I just don’t get it, but I’m super stoked about the prospect of Lee vs Damian Priest, that promises to be a wild match.
So, it’s officially official, we WILL be getting Adam Cole vs Johnny Gargano III and it sounds like it’s going to be the last one. I did like Gargano comparing his victory tour of trying to inspire young people in Cleveland with Cole’s obnoxious antics at the Gargano restaurant. Also, love the ‘Johnny Badass’ thing, very cool. NXT TakeOver: Toronto II is going to be a wild ride in that Three Stages of Hell match! Thank you, William Regal for booking that!
That’s it for Tiffany’s Belated NXT Takes! Tune in Monday for Monday Night RAW!