Thanks to the reception of Hisame’s fantastic Four Days in April article, as well as a good level of interest in All Japan, we had yet another decision get decided thanks to reader interaction. Naomichi Marufuji vs Jun Akiyama, the match of betrayal and resentment, managed to edge out the competition last week. So let’s look at the April matches that we get to vote on also.
NXT: Andrade Almas (c) vs Aleister Black
AJPW: Shingo Takagi vs Yuji Hino
Impact: Pentagon Jr vs Austin Aries (c) vs Fenix
AJPW: Naomichi Marufuji vs Jun Akiyama
So we see two Champion Carnival matches made it into the April pool, which shows nice growth in interest and a potential fanbase for All Japan, as they try and rebuild. Because of the years of build up, and the pure passion you could feel resonate off of every move, Marufuji vs Akiyama gets my vote for the month. It’s not every day, you get to see a match with so much historical significance, in a wrestling ring.
5. WWE Backlash WWE Championship NoDQ Match: AJ Styles (c) vs Shinsuke Nakamura
The stipulation got added, thanks to Nakamura’s propensity to hit low blows. This was the best match they’ve had to date in WWE, but sadly the ending wasn’t fantastic.
We saw a lot of nice back and forth on top of both men playing their characters very well. AJ got slowly frustrated and Shinsuke had his old fun flavor with the stiff cruelty of his Japanese days. Sadly, I have to give Corey credit for being right, when he talked about this heel version of Shinsuke, being what we all knew and loved.
A big highlight spot was Styles throwing the chair into Shinsuke’s knee and having it ricochet off of his face. Then that got followed up with Nakamura placing the chair nicely to hit his Reverse Power Slam onto the chair.
Sufficed to say, this match was building beautifully, we finally got both guys hitting low blows which helped to validate the NoDQ stipulation…and then…the ending happened. WHY, WHY is it another no contest? Stipulation like this are supposed to indicate a blow off, not drawing things out to pop a rating on SmackDown or milk it for another PPV.
Rating: *** 3/4
4. NJPW Wrestling Dontaku IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Kushida vs Will Ospreay (c)
Will Ospreay was on this quest for validation since he wanted to beat each man from the Wrestle Kingdom Four Way, individually.
We all know Ospreay had a big neck injury after his match with Marty Scurll at Sakura Genesis, and yet he still unveils his Stormbreaker move in the tag team match before this event, and ya, made no sense. So we move to the match itself, where even though both men apparently have bad necks, Kushida focuses on the arm since the Hoverboard Lock is all that makes sense to him I suppose.
The match had a lot of big spots, but awkward movement between them. Ospreay also sold his arm for a portion of the match, but still pulled off the super human shtick to land a multitude of high flying moves. Plus with Ospreay winning via his newly unveiled Stormbreaker maneuver, it just felt forced.
Long and short, not their best work, and a lot of spots that were done purely for flash and not because they made sense or helped the match. Still a good match, but they both have done significantly better in previous matches.
3. WWE Backlash Intercontinental Championship: Seth Rollins (c) vs The Miz
So the opening matches lately have been extremely solid, and this one was no exception.
It starts off a little slow, but picks up with some nice big spots, a big miss on the Ripcord Knee on the apron, and Seth Rollins kicking out of two Skull Crushing Finales. Since WrestleMania, The Miz has proven he can put on some pretty fantastic matches without needing outside interference. Yes, he hasn’t been able to manage a victory, but they could be building something.
Not really sure how the Intercontinental scene shakes out after this match, but my guess would be Finn Balor breaking out the Demon…since they haven’t really put much effort into anyone else yet.
Rating: **** 1/4
WWE Backlash: Roman Reigns vs Samoa Joe
Rating: *** 1/2
2. NJPW Wrestling Dontaku IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kazuchika Okada (c)
There’s been a common thread in the marquee matches in Japan, with involving a good amount of history.
This match showed a lot of call backs, a lot of both men knowing the others moves and of course, being a nice bookend to the rivalry. Okada approached Tanahashi as someone who was too hurt and broken to be a real threat, in the same vein that Tanahashi didn’t see a young returning Okada as a threat back in 2012.
The match wasn’t flashy, and there weren’t a ton of surprising moments, but you could see the years of familiarity in the pacing and sequencing of moves. Ring psychology, the crowd being completely into the match and Okada showing more of his arrogance, just kept adding layers to both characters and the storyline.
Honestly, the most surprising aspect to this match was that it took only 1 Rainmaker to finish Tanahashi, when a few years ago, he was the first man to kick out of one.
1. AJPW Champion Carnival Finals: Naomichi Marufuji (B Block Winner) vs Kento Miyahara (A Block Winner)
With all the emotion and history that went into Marufuji’s match with Akiyama, one had to wonder, exactly what he had left in the tank.
Marufuji came out with a little extra pop in his step, and you could see he wanted this. Highlights of the match being a big Springboard Curb Stomp, the Crescent Kick around the post, Piledriver on the apron as well as a collision of knees, Marufuji’s Bicycle Knee met Kent’s Blackout and both men went down for a few moments.
Both men kicked out of the other’s signature moves, so Marufuji decided to bring out the homage to his friend, his trainer, nearly an adoptive father to him, Misawa’s Flowsion. After landing the Flowsion, Marufuji picks up the pinfall and the NOAH banner waves in victory at AJPW Champion Carnival.
Rating: ***** 1/4
So we see that Backlash has brought a decent amount of matches to compete with the other larger events. My personal vote will go with what I ranked number 1 since I was covering the entire Carnival so I got to see the build, and of course know some of the back story. I don’t expect people who go into that match cold to see it the same way, I’m just stating why I’m going with, Naomichi Marufuji vs Kento Miyahara.
We’ve got two votes this article, and the last few weeks continue to prove that your opinion matters. So comment, email, tweet or scream. Just make sure to say your piece and Always Use Your Head.
AJ’s Controversial? Wrestling Opinions 10.12.21
AJ feels like spouting off about a few wrestling topics that bug him. How controversial are they though?
As Eric Bischoff, President of WCW once said, Controversy Creates Cash…no I’m serious; it’s even the title of a book that he did. Everyone has their hot takes on professional wrestling and some are always wide eyed and kind of shocking to some. There are some of us that will have same opinions or chastise me on a show or an article maybe but hey, don’t hate the player, hate The Game.
Maybe there are some that the readers at home agree with or you want to also be the one to chastise me, @PhenomenalAJB on Twitter. This one is going to be fun!
#1- There are more things than just WWE/AEW and are better majority of the time
There are many people that will rant, rave and complain that the mainstream product is so bland and boring and the classic, “Who even watches this trash?” Whether you love the flippy dippy do’s like I don’t or long drawn out storylines that peter out very quickly because fans aren’t invested in a story or character. To those people, I will say something very bold, very confusing and very… very controversial…
THERE ARE OTHER COMPANIES YOU CAN WATCH ON VARIOUS PLATFORMS IN VARIOUS MEANS ON YOUR OWN TIME!
I don’t know how and I don’t know why that this is even a topic. “TNA has been dead for years” No it hasn’t. Pay $1 USD for Impact Plus on YouTube so you can watch it without commercials at 8:30 Eastern. “Two hours is too long!” NWA and MLW both go for an hour on their respective YouTube Channels as well and if you want to watch, you can hop in at any time. Everyone has something for everyone and you might find your new favorite wrestler in a matter of minutes into an episode. I would never have known who Eli Drake (now LA Knight on SmackDown Live), Alexander Hammerstone or even in the early stages of TNA Impact, AJ Styles, was! You can watch more than what is broadcasted on your TV. Is it easier? Of course but, there is so much more than just the popular option.
#2- Belt Collecting now is just redundant and moronic
Back in 1996, Ultimo Dragon famously has a picture of him holding TEN championships looking like an amazing superstar with amazing defenses. What people don’t know is, that was because eight championship belts were united in a tournament called “The J-Crown Championship” with the adage of ‘All or Nothing’. He lost them one by one but, it was to show that he was the best Junior Heavyweight (or Cruiserweight/Light Heavyweight) out of everyone in various promotions.
People after that really haven’t belt collected other than unifying championships to a grand caliber… then Austin Aries showed up. Aries kind of revised the gimmick and brought it back to light. Newer fans might have thought this was cool but older fans kind of groaned and grumbled. I was one of them but, nothing is original in anything anymore so it’s a fresher concept at the time back in 2018. He did surpass Ultimo with ELEVEN championships but it seemed everyone started doing it to an extent after. Matt Cardona, after being released from WWE, started doing it, getting up to six championships before dropping them. As of right now, not necessarily solo belt collecting, The Bloodline has a stranglehold of the World Championships for both Singles and Tag Teams, we had Becky Two Belts, Bayley wanted Dos Straps but nothing makes this worse than Kenny Omega’s stint as a belt collector.
I am not and will never be a Kenny Omega fan. I don’t see the appeal, I don’t see the amazement or anything like that out of him. I’m impressed he did three 35+ Minute IWGP Championship matches against Okada because that takes a lot of stamina to do so but, that’s about it. When he won the AEW Championship, alright. That’s fine. Nothing wrong with that since he helped build the company up. The Triple A Megas Championship… nothing too wrong here. I hate that he had five defenses in two years but he vacated it due to his injuries. It wasn’t until Don Callis and Omega popped into Impact and made the Hogan Era of TNA look like a dream… okay ALMOST but still. Kenny defeats Rich Swann and Moose in two different matches and has everyone else carry the belts while holding the AEW Championship. I understand heel tactics and mentality but at one point in an interview about going for the Impact Championship, he compared it to a common Comic Book and the AEW Championship as Superman Issue #1. I understand trying to be a heel in this story but you boost your clout, not rain on what you are going after. Heel or Face, belt collecting has just been a cluster within itself in the past four years and it honestly needs to stop.
#3- Overuse of Certain Moves
This one is a more recent problem that I have seen and no, I wish EC3 paid me to say this but it is true and very annoying to even bring up but here I am, wishing for Carter money and a fifth Rum & Coke…
Stop. Overusing. Moves. Because you think. They were cool.
If I had a shot for every time a Canadian Destroyer, Superkick, Suicide Dive, Avalanche (Insert High Spot here), Dual Dropkick spots where they cancel each other out or opposing members do back to back high spots on the prone partner spot… I would not have written this article due to death… even if it was water, I would have died due to drowning. They don’t look cool anymore when everyone does it. It’s bland. When Petey Williams wrestled in his last return to Impact, the Destroyer looked very… stale. Superkicks are the new DDT apparently (another Finisher turned common everyday move) and most people that do dives mess it up in some way shape or form whether it’s their feet get caught in the ropes, they didn’t get a full launch or they overshoot it. Having your own move special to you is difficult now but different wrestlers do their own styles or the pay homage to a family member or a wrestler that they interact with or ask permission… or asked to stop.
How’d you feel if you watched WCW and WWF in 1997 and saw DDP do the Diamond Cutter and HHH did the Pedigree Pandemonium and say they do the same move? That is exactly what happened too if Dallas didn’t ask Hunter to stop using it. We might not have the RKO out of nowhere or an iconic move that seldom bigger names use today.
That’s my list. I said before if you agree with my list and if you don’t and want to throw hate my way… @PCTunney is the hate mail account so enjoy!
AJ’s Thoughts: Five Potential Returns
With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?
With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?
With everything going on with WWE, the one thing we have all been hyped about are all of these returns. Dakota Kai made her return at SummerSlam alongside Io and Bayley and now on last SmackDown, Karrion Kross and Scarlett made their returns in a big way against Drew McIntyre and showed the Hourglass to The Bloodline.
With all of that, there have been things in the pipeline saying Triple H’s foot isn’t off the pedal so these are 5 returns from either NXT, main roster or even Try-Outs that I would love to see happen with the new regime.
1. Johnny Gargano
Now this is a name that people have been saying, “Maybe Impact or MLW” but, what about a return? Gargano didn’t renew his contract, most likely to be with his family which is a valid and amazing reason, will never disrespect that. If he were to return, there would be a handful of great reasons. Maybe a singles run with the Intercontinental or United States but with Ciampa getting limelight in the main roster from RAW, what if we get a tag team reunion?
WWE is hurting for Tag Teams and what better than to scare off The Bloodline, loosen the stranglehold of championships with some Do It Yourself action. DIY reunion could be amazing, especially with newer faces showing up to get championship aspirations like Kross and Ciampa. Want to break the hierarchy? Do It Yourself.
2. James Storm
This one is a little bit weird and off. On one hand, who doesn’t love the Tennessee Cowboy, Jimmy James Storm? On the other, he is 45 and getting some nagging injuries as of late. So why would I say Triple H should bring James Storm back and give him something for the main roster? One of the things I said for Gargano, we have a lack of something and The Usos might need to watch two things in the rearview.
Watch your Money and your Alcohol.
Beer Money showing up in WWE would be amazing in my personal opinion. The Bloodline jump Roode, someone in a hoodie or jacket comes up and jumps them to even the fight and as soon as one Uso remained in the ring, the figure goes down and the old stomping goes off and we hear “BEER…” and Roode looks around and gets hyped up and shouts, “…MONEY!”
3. Big Cass
Since his departure from WWE, he has done something I have said since they split him off from Enzo. Take him through the Kevin Nash School of How To Big Man. ROH and Impact are great examples that he actually cleaned up and worked on what he has to do to be good in the ring. He can work the microphone, he can work the ring so we got a new big boy to take on the WWE once again.
Now I could have said Enzo and Cass to rejoin but, I’m sure the antics of Enzo will get Cass in deep water along with the fact that I already made two tag team predictions, we don’t need another. Cass brings a lot to the table and was kind of unproven in WWE because he was just the big enforcer to the more charismatic Enzo. Give this man about six months in the ring and you have your next MASSIVE problem in the IC or US Championship scene or even more.
4. Bronson Reed
The big man from down under is a former NXT North American Champion. He looked to have a good push going with that championship but he got release. If you wonder where he went… he actually made a pit stop in Impact Wrestling as JONAH with the most fire theme song in recent history I swear… I will link the theme song and Trips… please. Get rights to this theme song. I will be a bigger Bronson Reed fan.
Bronson to me is the weird man in all of this but, I think with Triple H involved, he could get something going for him with a good singles champion run or a big threat to go through like a gatekeeper of sorts. Big boy with a great amount of athleticism? Can’t really hate on that considering the last time we saw athletic bigger people were Keith Lee and… what was that one guy? Sherman Tank with a Ferrari Engine…?
5. Bray Wyatt
And the last one is the obvious one in all of this. Yes… we have Judgment Day as the somewhat supernatural dark group but we know the true successor of the supernatural and that is “The Eater of Worlds”, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt. This time around, I don’t think we will get the Jekyl and Hyde, Mister Rogers gimmick. I believe this time around we get full darkness and mayhem. We get the darkness and the theory of reverting back to your prime.
To make a refresher… Miz went back to being the cocky narcissist after fighting The Fiend. Finn turned back to the Prince and much more. With guys like Edge returning, maybe we see the return of the Heel Ultimate Opportunist, maybe a Fiend fight with AJ Styles to get the TN-AJ perhaps. Possibilities are endless and with a great mind like Wyatt for character and execution, I think Hunter will pick up the phone and Let Him In.
– There are clearly others that I could say, or maybe even didn’t think about, but hey, that’s the Chairshot way of Always Using Your Head. Those are just five returns that could happen and hopefully you read this before RAW or SmackDown and who knows if I get any of these right, maybe I missed an obvious one or maybe we get a giant signing that nobody thought possible. Let me and all of Chairshot know!
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