Wrestling isn’t like any other industry. In the world of wrestling the business is ever active, ever progressing & ever changing as each day goes by, which other form of sport or entertainment provides its fans with that similar of an experience?
With an industry as active as this one however, we constantly lose track of what’s happened within the span of even a week, sometimes a matter of 3 to 4 days could contain far too much news for one head to handle. A week in professional wrestling consists more than just matches, at times we get title changes, returns, injuries, call-ups, formation of new rivalries & countless other issues which are too long to list.
This revelation has brought me to starting this column, the ‘Rules of Wrestling’.
Using the ‘Rules of Wrestling’ we’re going to have a look over the week in wrestling, or at least the most prominent points in wrestling during a given week. Whether that be a pay-per-view event, Network special or even work from other organisations that aren’t WWE-related. These rules won’t just be ones that those of you who read this can follow but will solidify the most important elements of each week in wrestling.
Without wasting more time, let’s get right to it!
Rule #1: Like it or not, ‘The Dream’ is the future
NXT was always known as the brand that will pave the way for the future of the WWE, it’s the pet-project of Triple H itself and ever since the first TakeOver special back in 2015 it’s been clear the brand wouldn’t make it easy for their main roster counterparts to combat them from a quality standpoint. For a lot of us, NXT hasn’t just given the main roster a run for their money but on most occasions have obliterated the efforts put forward by the more mainstream product.
It is stars like Velveteen Dream that are a prime example of how special the NXT product has become and what makes it stand out compared to the WWE’s bigger, more extravagant events. Velveteen Dream is a reminder that storytelling in wrestling comes before the action in the ring, that without someone willing to pour their heart and soul into their craft, the passion from the audience won’t always be the same. His match against the ‘One & Only’ Ricochet was extraordinary, delivering on every aspect but most importantly boasted a story that was embedded in the ring, a rare tactic that we don’t see near enough of.
Both men throughout the match constantly tried to outdo one and other, trading signature moves and at points inflicting pain that seemed far too abnormal for the average human body to receive. But what beyond that made Velveteen Dream look like a Wrestlemania-sized star? The fact that even in defeat, ‘The Dream’ had won. He might have lost the battle against another new NXT upstart, but he continued to win over insane amounts of respect from the rabid NXT fanbase, receiving an ovation on par if not greater than the one received against current NXT Champion Alesteir Black.
The bottom line is we can focus on what the main roster has now, the likes of Roman Reigns & Braun Strowman are certainly the key focus for the company’s next ‘John Cena’ but it’s only a matter of time before Velveteen Dream shows up. A star at the level of performance that Velveteen Dreams is at is incredibly rare, his in-ring style might not be as ‘flamboyant’ in terms of skill but it’s the simplicity behind it combined with the mans unbelievable storytelling prowess that, if booked correctly, could make him one of the best of the modern-era.
You can run, you can hide, but the Dream is coming.
Rule #2: Emergency Course Correction, Initiated
I’m not going to beat the dead horse over how actively terrible the majority of the Bobby Lashley vs Sami Zayn feud was, especially since it seems like WWE is doing the wise move and moving on from the feud as quickly as possible, with little call back for any fan to remember it by.
The evening after Sunday night on Monday Night RAW, we got the course correction the character of Bobby Lashley mercifully needed to save himself from the mess he was tossed into. It’s not as if anyone at home or in the audience was let down by the decision, since it’s clear the direction the company was taking this once beast of a character was ill-fated and completely misguided.
His swift defeated of Sami Zayn at Money in the Bank at least felt like it made sense, once again establishing Lashley as a legitimate threat and putting on the dominant performance we’d been waiting to see since the night after Wrestlemania (granted the match wasn’t anything special due to the awful writing). The evening after Money in the Bank, Lashley was sent directly into the Universal Championship scene, potentially on a collision course with Brock Lesnar, a match we’ve all been hearing has been discussed prior to Lashley’s WWE return.
It seems like WWE have finally crawled themselves & Lashley out of the hole they dug a few weeks ago and seem to have a direction, at least one with more clarity and potential behind it than hiring men to dress up as Lashley’s ‘sisters’ or basing entire segments around Instagram quotes.
The real question here, is can WWE continue to build on the slight confidence they’ve instilled in fans with in the Lashley character as of this past Monday night?
Only time, or perhaps 7 days to next week’s edition of RAW will tell.
Rule #3: The Summer of Ronda Rousey Is Upon Us
No matter who you are on the WWE roster, male or female, on SmackDown or RAW, you must succumb to one undeniable fact, that Ronda Rousey was the star of the week for the WWE.
If Rousey’s impressive debut against Triple H & Stephanie McMahon at Wrestlemania 33 wasn’t enough of a message to silence her already vocal critics, then Money in the Bank was the show & match that would have finally put a stop to those select critics. Rousey not only held her own against the gigantic Nia Jax but displayed that the level of effort & dedication she put into this sport was paying off in the best way possible. Managing to toss the massive body of Nia Jax over her own alone gave fans the confidence to say the Women’s Championship was in good hands with the former UFC headliner.
Even in loss, Rousey looked like a warrior, one out for the blood of Alexa Bliss & out for the RAW Women’s Championship. This carried over to Monday Night and gave us arguably the best women’s segment the company has showcased in a very, very long time. More than just being a warrior in the ring, Monday night showed Rousey as something more, a malicious athlete who will not be walked over no matter who is in her way. Ringside Security? Took them out. GM Kurt Angle? Tossed him to the floor and pounded on him. RAW Women’s Champion? Put through a table. Rousey gives off the aura that Brock Lesnar once did, that feeling of anxiety and unhinged nature approaching the ring and it’s something I hope can be maintained.
Many people, myself included, feel a champion such as Brock Lesnar needs more TV presence to truly make his current reign & character more of a threat instead of a nuisance but with Ronda Rousey the limiting of her television exposure is actually a benefit. Instead of the traditional overexposure that comes with transitioning onto the main roster, every appearance she makes feels important, unpredictable & something pivotal that every fan wants to tune in and see first-hand. Am I and other fans admitting to a double standard? Sure, but at least we get more than an 8-minute repetition of the same championship match on every show.
To those of you who were worried about the use of Ronda Rousey in the WWE, I advise you to be scared of other things, like the state Alex Bliss will be in when she meets face-to-face with this beast of a competitor sometime in the very near future.
Rule #4: Have no fear, Rusev Day is finally here!
Comparing the current product that SmackDown puts out on a weekly basis as opposed to what was happening roughly a year ago is quite shocking when put into perspective. SmackDown today feels like a show layered with countless great characters, fantastic in-ring action & everything a wrestling fan could want out of a solid product. Last year the product was dwindling, and nobody received quite the beating from a credibility standpoint more than Rusev.
A year removed from one bad booking decision to the next, Rusev hasn’t just surpassed any expectations fans had set for his time on the blue brand but has shattered them and is now next in line to challenge the WWE Champion AJ Styles in roughly 4 weeks. 365 days ago, Rusev could hardly last a full minute against the likes of Randy Orton and has since become not just one of the most popular acts on SmackDown, but the entire WWE in general.
Rusev has never looked more alive as an act. Every minute the man comes out to the ring, he seems more confident than ever before, more focussed and readier than ever to seize his moment in the spotlight. We can also attribute a relative level of his success to the presence of the insanely entertaining Aiden English, because if it wasn’t for his musical talents, could never have gravitated the ‘Rusev Day’ chants towards the audience in the way they’re latched onto today.
With Summerslam just around the corner and only one more stop on the road to the ‘Biggest Party of the Summer’, it remains to be seen how legitimate of a contender the ‘Bulgarian Brute’ is. Could he be no more than a placeholder challenger? One just put into this role to buy time for the champions true challenger a few weeks later? Or is this a genuine attempt by the creative team to bring Rusev back into the main event scene with the biggest swing possible?
In either scenario, WWE have a tremendous opportunity to not just deliver a phenomenal wrestling match over the company’s most prestigious championship, there is a chance to make Rusev the star he deserves to be. We only have to wait 4 weeks, and I cannot wait.
Rule #5: The Times Are Changing & You Better Be Excited
Over a year ago the initial rumours began to spread of the WWE expanding its programming overseas into foreign markets due to the expansion & popularity of their WWE Network. This international growth would begin with the WWE’s 2nd most prominent market outside the United States, the United Kingdom and the emphasis on the United Kingdom Championship.
To introduce the world to their fresh new product, the company crowned its first-ever United Kingdom Champion Tyler Bate, who was later dethroned by Pete Dunne during the NXT TakeOver: Chicago special last year in my personal favourite match of 2017. The match between the two set the tone for how good the division could truly be if the time & effort shown then and there would remain a constant throughout their exposure, which thus far it absolutely has. Other stars such as Trent Seven, Wolfgang, Jordan Devlin, Mark Andrews & Danny Burch have also received exposure across the WWE’s programming, both in appearances on NXT but also the company’s 205 Live brand on multiple occasions.
The showcasing of this talent is essential due to the company being an international presence that is currently trying to tie a stronger knot with international territories and at the same time recruit talent from these regions to enhance and make their own down the line. But if you aren’t from the UK, then why should you care? Is this even relevant.
Yes. It is more important than you will possibly ever understand.
International success within one region ultimately provides a domino effect for the industry which in turn opens new windows of opportunity for brands such as NXT & 205 Live, but also allows for the expansion for programming beyond the existing ones. While the UK is the central focus as of this post, who’s to say a show or roster cannot be former out of Asian talents? Arab Talents? The WWE’s overall stance on foreign brands for potential crossovers doesn’t even seem entirely out of the question at this stage, could there be discussions with the likes of NJPW?
Who knows, but I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised should a move like that be put forward.
Obviously, the United States is the centre for the WWE and much of professional wrestling as a matter of fact, as wrestling fans however it should be our duty to encourage reaching out to every community to give fans the same experience we feel we receive on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Times like these are to be excited over, excited for the possibilities, excited for the numbers of new talents coming into the world of WWE & excited for the quality of wrestling we are about to witness in the coming weeks & months.
NXT’s expansion in the UK comes ever closer by the day, with their 2-day event airing on the WWE Network very soon (Spoilers are online, best find a way to avoid those) and is an opportunity for everyone to catch a glimpse of what is to come when the official UK show gets its official air date. Wrestling right now is as exciting as its ever been, and it’s time for everyone to get as excited those rabid fans in the UK are going to be over the course of the TV tapings.