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Top 5 Matches: Week Ending 6/10/2018

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Well as I usually say during tournament or big event time in Japan, it’s hard for normal television to compete. So yes, this Top 5 is almost exclusively New Japan, but to be fair, next week will probably be mostly NXT and WWE. So let’s take the bad with the good, and move on.

However, last week we had the weekly vote and the May vote. So, no one should be surprised but, Buddy Murphy vs Cedric Alexander, won last week’s vote. As for the May vote…well let’s just look at our MOTY Pool and find out.
January – Johnny Gargano vs Andrade Almas
February – Kazuchika Okada vs SANADA
March – Golden Lovers vs Young Bucks
April – Andrade Almas vs Aleister Black
May – WWE  Backlash: Seth Rollins vs The Miz
 
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, and we see the first “main roster” WWE match made it into the Match of the Year pool, let’s see what’s getting voted in from New Japan this week.

5T. NJPW Dominion IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles: EVIL & SANADA vs The Young Bucks

From my NJPW Dominion Results & Ratings:

Match was paced quickly, and that helped and hurt it at the same time. Matt and Nick sold a back and foot injury through most of the match, but that fell apart a little towards the end.

Most of each teams signature moves were hit, SANADA was never able to hit Skull End or his Moonsault and EVIL never managed to hit Everything is Evil. So LIJ weren’t hurt at all in the loss, but the super hero resolve and a fairly bad sell on the Magic Killer just to increase the suspense made the finish feel flat to me.

Yes there was a lot of action, so it was entertaining, but it felt more like an older Young Bucks match when people would complain they had no psychology and were all about spots. Let’s hope that their first reign as Heavyweight Tag Champs have more well rounded matches.

Winner: Young Bucks via More Bang for Your Buck

Rating: ****

 

5T. MLW Fusion: Rey Fenix w/ Salina de la Renta vs ACH

From my MLW Fusion Ratings & Results:

Both play to the crowd for a while, then finally a test of strength into and Arm Ringer from ACH, Arm Drag from Fenix, a little oneupsmenship, followed up by ACH hitting a sweep, double foot stomp, shotgun drop kick. ACH hits a big plancha after Fenix powders out, and then as they come back in, Fenix returns the favor by hitting a big dive, leaving both men prone for the commerical break.

Following the break a big to turnbuckle springboard senton for a nearfall. Big kicks from both as Fenix hits a rewind Spin Kick for another 2 count. Fenix attempts a Rolling DDT, but gets caught into a backbreaker and German Suplex Hold, for 2.

The match finally slows down a little as they both counter Brainbusters, Fenix gets caught mid move, but manages to keep the momentum. Hits a splash, as he goes for a middle rope moonsault, ACH seems to move, but Fenix keeps rolling and catches ACH with a Cutter for the near fall again.

Fenix keeps his position and starts chopping ACH very deliberately and plays to the crowd to get “Uno Mas” chants. Fenix goes for a corner springboard, ACH stops it, Fenix bounces up again, ACH counters again and Fenix pulls himself out of a Tree of Woe, while both men fight for position. Fenix gets a small advantage, goes for a Crossbody, but ACH catches him into a Death Valley Driver, for yet another 2 count.

Both move over to the apron and begin chopping one another. ACH gets the best of the chops, but Fenix escapes, slips momentarily but still hits an Enzuigiri. Following up the Enzuigiri by sliding out, jumping up to the apron and hitting a nice Spinning Back Kick right in ACH’s face.

Fenix tries a big top tope move, but ACH catches him with Flash Kick (Guile from Street Fighter). Pace slows down again, and we get a strong style chop battle. Fenix sells his arm, hits a big combination, but ACH manages to catch him with a few kicks of his own, Vertical Suplex float over, into a near fall.

Big Frog Splash from ACH missed, springboard Spin Kick from Fenix in the corner leads to the Fenix Driver, and the pinfall.

Winner: Fenix via Fenix Driver

Rating: ****

 

4. NJPW Dominion IWGP Intercontinental Title: Tetsuya Naito (c) vs Chris Jericho

From my NJPW Dominion Results & Ratings:

Wow, Jericho jumps Naito before the bell, hits him with tripods, barricades, anything that isn’t tied down. Hell even a Japanese Table breaks for Jericho. Also it must be noted that Jericho comes out looking like Clockwork Orange. Nice call back to his finger flip off spot, but this time he takes a video camera. Jericho DDTs Naito on another table, but it refuses to break.

Eventually Jericho slides in Naito for the match to start, Naito fights back a little, but Jericho maintains all of the advantage. Even hits a nice Lionsault, for another near fall.

Jericho manhandles Naito from pillar to post, until the classic Naito spit spot, gives him a small opening. The leg sweep, Wrecking Ball Dropkick leads to a Rude Awakening on the apron and Naito is finally showing signs of life.

He begins choking Jericho with parts of his suit outfit, and the crowd boos him pretty thoroughly. Maybe Naito is popular, everywhere except Osaka. Naito takes a piece of the broken table and beats Jericho over the head with it multiple times, to more boos.

Naito hits a big Piledriver onto the table from earlier, that still doesn’t break, moves back to the ring and Jericho takes a Dropkick to the back of his neck. Jericho blocks a top turnbuckle Frankensteiner and drops down into the Walls of Jericho. At this point it sounds like the crowd finally comes around to Naito.

At this point it seems to go a lot of one for one with Jericho really pushing to win with the Walls of Jericho, but Naito doesn’t tap. Scary moment when Naito goes for a running Destino, but Jericho loses his balance and then saves it to look more like a side slam cover.

Few more strikes and then they do the Destino spot correctly. But too lose to the ropes. Naito goes for a flying forearm, but Jericho catches him with a Codebreaker. Naito lands Gloria, goes for a Destino again, but Jericho slips away, and pushes Red Shoes. Low blow and Codebreaker, equals Jericho is the new IWGP Intercontinental Champion.

A little sloppy and slow at points, so their chemistry wasn’t fantastic. But, it was a brutal and entertaining match.

Jericho continues beating on Naito and EVIL shows up for the save. So I’m guessing the first official Jericho defense may be EVIL.

Winner: Jericho via Codebreaker

Rating: **** 1/4

 

3. NJPW Dominion IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Hiromu Takahashi vs Will Ospreay (c)

From my NJPW Dominion Results & Ratings:

Starts off with a flurry, Hiromu with the release German into the corner and attempts the Apron Sunset Bomb. Ospreay blocks that and takes a page out of Hiromu’s book by running up the apron, for a full sprint running flip dive off the entrance ramp.

Ospreay goes for a more methodical approach, a Grounded Hammerlock Inverted Armbar, while leaning back keeps Hiromu on the ground. Then we see Ospreay being more aggressive and deliberate, until Hiromu finally starts stringing some offense together.

Lots of quick erratic movements, a big Pop-up Power Bomb gets Hiromu a near fall, leading into a corner chop spot and Ospreay curses at Hiromu. Pip Pip Cheerio, leads into a few attempts and counters at offense. Hiromu goes to the outside and Ospreay hits a Space Flying Tiger Drop.

Oscutter attempts number one, gets caught by Hiromu for a big German Suplex to break the flow of offense. We get the building up strikes back and forth spot, before the pace accelerates and there is a lot of transition and counter wrestling. Suplexes countered, Enzuigiris, but Ospreay catches Hiromu with two big Reverseranas, goes for Stormbreaker, but Hiromu counters with a Code Red.

Match moves to the apron and we get some back and forth strikes before Ospreay superplexes him outside in into the Burning Star Press. A Corkscrew Shoot Star press from Ospreay gets a near fall. Ospreay goes for Stormbreaker one more time, Hiromu counters it into a Canadian Destroyer and tries to tap him out with his Triangle Choke.

Ospreay powers out by twisting and driving Hiromu’s head into the mat, like a Triangle Driver or something. Ospreay goes for another Oscutter, but Hiromu finally gets the Sunset Bomb, into the Dynamite Plunger for 2.

Lots of sloppy offense from Ospreay at this point, Crescent Kick doesn’t hit right, Spinng Heel Kick barely makes contact, and Hiromu manages to counter the Stormbreaker one more time. Hiromu hits his Time Bomb after a Butterfly Piledriver, and a few other moves and, defeats Ospreay!

Winner: Hiromu via Time Bomb

Rating: **** 1/2

 

Honorable Mentions:

  • Smackdown: Charlotte Flair vs Becky Lynch
    Rating: *** 3/4
  • Dragon Gate King of Gate Finals: Masato Yoshino vs YAMATO
    Rating: *** 3/4
  • NJPW Dominion: Cody, Marty Scurll & Hangman Page vs Rey Mysterio, Jushin Liger & Hiroshi Tanahashi
    Rating: *** 1/2
  • 205 Live: Mustafa Ali vs Buddy Murphy
    Rating: *** 1/2
  • NXT: Danny Burch vs Roderick Strong
    Rating: *** 1/2
  • MLW Fusion: Tom Lawlor vs Fred Yehi
    Rating: *** 1/4
  • NJPW Dominion NEVER Openweight Triple Threat: Taichi vs Michael Elgin vs Hirooki Goto (c)
    Rating: *** 1/4
  • NJPW Dominion: Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano vs Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr
    Rating: *** 1/4
  • NXT: Lacey Evans vs Kairi Sane
    Rating: ***
  • Smackdown: New Day vs The Miz, Rusev & Samoa Joe
    Rating: ***

 

2. NJPW Dominion IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match 2 out of 3 Falls: Kazuchika Okada (c) vs Kenny Omega

From my NJPW Dominion Results & Ratings:

Okay, outline version for this match, since too long, too much going on and hard to look away to type.

  • Okada and Omega go to the outside, Okada goes for his crossbody, but V-Trigger counters right into his ribs.
    Omega top rope Dragon Suplex, Okada countered into Tombstone on Apron
    Rainmaker pose, turned into Dragon Suplex, then Rise of the Terminator
    Okada sits down in a sunset flip position and picks up the surprise first fall.
  • Double stomp from Kenny on table
    Okada teases backdrop through table
    Omega teases Dragon Suplex through table
    Reverserana on the outside from Kenny to Okada
    One Winged Angel wins Kenny fall 2
  • Callback to second match, Omega gets thrown into ropes, Omega collapses and Okada lands on his back after attempting a Dropkick.
    Omega hits a Styles Clash
    Ibushi tells Kenny to go for a Phoenix Splash, it misses.
    Okada couldn’t pull of the tombstone, goes for a Rainmaker, and another callback as Okada crumbles after barely making contact
    So many attempts at Rainmakers, both were exhausted a really fast One Winged Angel sets the stage for one more V-Trigger and one final One Winged Angel.

Winner: Kenny Omega 2-1 via One Winged Angel

Rating: ***** 3/4

 

1. BOSJ 25 Finals: Hiromu Takahashi vs Taiji Ishimori

Lots of fast attempts at offense, Hiromu tries the Sunsetbomb but Taiji backflips out of it and they start exchange strikes and moving through the audience. This sets up a recurring move Hiromu was using in this tournament, but finding a long stretch of the building (sometimes the ramp, in this case, the upper deck bleachers) and he runs a long distance and hits a big Shotgun Dropkick.

Hiromu goes to follow that up by Powerbombing Taiji down the steps, but Ishimori counters it into a Frankensteiner that sends Hiromu crashing down 2 or 3 levels of cement steps and crashes into the barricade. After recovering, Taiji walks back to the ring and allows Red Shoes to apply the 20 count, since he doesn’t care how he wins, as long as he wins; but Hiromu slides in at 18.

Hiromu tries to stike back a little, bit Hiromu still is reeling from the steps, Taiji takes him over and twists Hiromu’s neck with his ankles. Taiji keeps the offense as he takes the match to the floor and throws Hiromu into the chairs, hits him with a few and goes for the count out again.

Taiji hits his Sliding German Suplex and stays ontop of Hiromu until Hiromu finally finds an opening to hit the Sunsent Bomb and returns the countout indifference as Ishimori rolls back in at 19. Hiromu starts using his body as a weapon at this point, and will need to change his wrestling style or he’ll be crippled by 35. Fun to watch, just crazy stuff.

Hiromu picks up a near fall, Ishimori tries to go for a Reverse Handspring Elbow, but Hiromu catches him with a forearm shiver. Dynamite Plunger gets countered into a pin for 2, and then Ishimori transitions to the crossface. Hiromu breaks the submission, both men trade forearms, and then Ishimori lands a big Spinning Headscissors Takedown in the perfect position to reapply the Crossface.

Ishimori keeps the Crossface in for a while, changes it to a Grounded Armbreaker to try and keep Hiromu from the ropes, but his feet get to the bottom rope. Some good big move counter wrestling, as Taiji flips out of a release German, but falls victim to the release Belly to Belly into the corner. Hiromu then hits the Dynamite Plunger for a near fall.

More back and forth movement where they just keep trying to out do each other, Ishimori hits Hiromu with a big Reverserana and then Hiromu answers back, but it’s a little sloppy and he spikes Ishimori. Both men slowly get to their knees, and start laying in the strikes as they get to their feet and keep throwing hands. A jumping knee and big lariat, Taiji goes for the pin and Hiromu kicks out at 1.

Shotgun dropkick, Meteora, followed by a big Lung Blower, and still Ishimori only gets a 2. Taiji hits a Popup Powerbomb for 2, and Hiromu catches him in a Triangle Choke. Sunk in deep for a minute or so, Ishimori manages to stand up and just drive him into the corner to break the submission.

Taiji gets some offense going, and goes for his old NOAH finisher, the 450 Splash, but is met by Hiromu’s knees. A few counters led to Hiromu hitting a big Butterfly Piledriver, and then goes for the Triangle again. Ishimori gets out, tries Bloody Cross, Hiromu counters it with a Death Valley Driver into the corner and then a Time Bomb for the pinfall.

Winner: Hiromu Takahashi via Time Bomb

Rating: ****** (Highest rating of the Year)

 

So some may be surprised that Omega vs Okada IV wasn’t at the top of my list, but I explain my overall feelings in the Dominion article. The match was good and driven by the storyline, but the match pacing was odd, 2 minutes breaks made action a little stilted and the spamming feeling of the third fall from both wrestlers, made it fall short of previous epics.

Given all that, Hiromu Takahashi vs Taiji Ishimori was the first match since Omega vs Okada I to make me say “Wow” as I watched it. So my vote goes to the Best of Super Junior Finals match, and here’s to hoping they clash again in the near future.

I don’t expect my number 1 to win the vote, but I wanted to make sure it got the appreciation it deserved.


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MLW Fusion Ratings & Review: 6/22/2018

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I always feel a little bad when I miss an episode of MLW Fusion, and don’t have time to catch up, but thankfully it didn’t play into this show too much. Chris Platt does damn good work when I can’t cover it, I just need more time in a week.

Since I enjoyed the last episode I watched so much, this should be interesting to see how this episode feels.

 

The show begins recapping the $20,000 bounty that Brody King is looking to cash in, and a small plug for MLW Battle Riot in New York City

Trey Miguel vs Teddy Hart

Danny Santiago was supposed to be the opponent, but Teddy Hart jumps him before the bell and Court Bauer comes out to make the new match official.

Quick exchange, where Teddy goes for an Arabian Moonsault, hits Miguel’s knees, goes outside and a kind of short step up Cartwheel Dive from Miguel puts Teddy Hart on his heels. Action goes back into the ring, Trey strings together a few moves and lands a top rope Meteora, for a 2 count. -commercial break-

We return from the break, Teddy is on the receiving end of some forearm shivers in the corner. Counters a corner whip by standing on Trey’s back and quickly transitioning into a Code Red for a near fall. Package Hammerlock DDT from Teddy for another near fall. After a little pandering to the crowd, another big spot, Electric Chair Lung Blower, gets a near fall for Hart. A few chops in the corner, Hart attempts a Superplex, but Miguel slips off and connects with an Avalanche Cutter, only broken up by Teddy having the ropes within arm’s reach.

Sloppy exchange on the apron, Overhead Back Kick and Flatliner gets Trey a 2 count. They move to the corner, Miguel plays to the crowd, Hart makes him pay with a Side Slam across the top turnbuckle. Hart hits one more Lungblower and an Avalanche Canadian Destroyer give Teddy Hart the win.

Sloppy, but an alright re-debut for Teddy Hart.

Winner: Teddy Hart via Avalanche Canadian Destroyer

Rating: ** 1/4
 
Kotto Brazil interview about his Rich Swann match. Alright face promo regarding him trying to get some wins.

Teddy Hart interview next, comes off mostly face but saying that the locker room hates to follow him. Rich Swann, ACH and Teddy Hart have a small altercation, ends with ACH saying “These Harts are crazy”.

Another Battle Riot promo, naming a few new names and a match including Davey Boy Smith Jr, Teddy Hart w/ Brian Pillman Jr vs Rich Swann & ACH

Small interview with Col. Robert Parker hitting on interviewer Vanessa Croft, and taking her off to get coffee while Team Filthy go into their lockroom behind them.

 

Barrington Hughes vs Paris Hakeem

Caramel Colossus is a great nickname, but another squash match doesn’t really do much for me. Barrington will be a major player later, but these squash matches just look kinda bad.

Winner: Barrington Hughes Standing Elbow Drop

Rating: N/A (Squash Match)

Team Filthy say they found his hat, and gave it a good ‘Cleveland Steam Cleaning’, which Robert Parker finds out the hard way, what that means.

 

Kotto Brazil vs Vandal Ortagun

Handshake fake, into a kick from Vandal, leads into a shoulder block takedown. Kotto’s athleticism comes into play necked, leap frog move, kick, Rhodes Laying Uppercut, into a Dropkick.

A nice rolling Monkey Flip attempt gets countered into a side slam from Ortagun for 2. Another counter Neckbreader from Vandal for yet another near fall. Ortagun continues to dominate the position and flings Kotto into the corner, but counters with a Sunset Flip. Running Uppcut for Brazil, Headscissor Driver into the middle turnbuckle as Kotto transitions to a Frog Splash but gets caught. Backstabber from Ortagun for a 2 1/2. Brazil tries to fight back but gets caught in a Wrist Clutch Backstabber.

Ortagun takes a second to complain about the two count, eats two Superkicks and a Running Shiranui from Brazil, as Kotto picks up the win.

Winner: Kotto Brazil via Running Shiranui

Rating: **

 

Recap of Fenix and Pentagon winning the tag titles, going into a Salina de la Renta interview. Very good promo about not being happy with only tag titles, wishing Brody King good luck and running down the interviewer.

 

$20,000 Bounty Match: Brody King vs Shane Strickland

Starts off with Sawyer Fulton and Leon Scott trying to jump Strickland early, but Barrington Hughes intercepts them and tells Shane to go to the ring.

Brody starts off quickly, and the two men begin striking back and forth. Strickland Dropkicks King to the outside, and then starts laying in multiple jumping front kicks from the apron. Swerve attempts a Frankensteiner but Brody catches him and Powerbombs him into the apron. King gets a 2, and continues to put on the pressure, hitting a senton, getting another 2 afterwards. Strickland shows a lot of fighting spirit by landing occasional strikes, but Brody keeps the advantage and hitting more impactful moves.

Repeated knee lifts from Shane, King returns with a Big Boot, German Suplex is no sold by Brody, Shane gets caught in a Fireman’s Carry, but before King can pull off his move, Strickland counters with a Dropkick. The pace picks up pretty nicely here and there’s a lot of exchanges. Shane hits a multitude of moves including a Tiger Feint to King’s stomach, but nothing puts the big man down. Two Pump Kicks, a standing high kick, nothing takes down King. When Shane goes for another move, King hits a big lariat and does a Big Swing, causing Shane to roll out of the ring. -commercial break-

King stalks Strickland on the outside, but a chair to the knee and a stepup Enzuigiri send Brody to a seated position. Shane stares down King and nails him with a Swerve Stomp from the apron, through the chair. Eventually gets big Brody King in the ring, but only for 2 by the time the pin happens.

Swerve kicks and stomps Brody’s head but he powers up and through the moves. Lariat while maintaining wrist control and Brody hits the All Seeing Eye, for a near fall. King then goes under the ring for powder, but Shane kicks it into King’s face, lowers his knee pad and lands a High Knee Strike and picks up the win.

Winner: Strickland via Knee Strike

Rating: ***

 

Low Ki attacks Strickland, as Salina de la Renta comes out with him. She smiles at Low Ki as he continues to beat down the damaged champion.

 

Thoughts:

Not a terrible show, definitely felt and looked a little more low budget than some of their other shows. Some of the interview segments just looked bad, but everyone gottheir characters over well. Even at the end, Salina de la Renta’s facial expressions and body language were fantastic. So it still has those moments where it looks Indy and others when it looks more legit. But hey, if production value is all I’m gonna complain about, that’s pretty damn solid.

Plus, Teddy Hart is back, so what’s to dislike about that?


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The Book Club: Kofi Kingston as WWE Champion

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This is an idea I’ve had on my mind for awhile now.  Last Sunday, Money in the Bank confirmed what I already felt: Kofi Kingston should get a shot at the WWE Championship.

He’s been stuck in the tag title scene for the past several years so you may forget everything he’s accomplished in his career.  His resume speaks for itself.  Kofi is a 4x Intercontinental Champion, 3x United States Champion, and 7x Tag Team Champion (longest reigning).  He has also participated in 3 Elimination Chambers, 7 Money in the Bank ladder matches (tied for most all-time), and 11 Royal Rumbles (tied for fourth most).  Also, not many guys can claim they’ve hosted a Wrestlemania.

Out of those 21 marquee matches I just mentioned, his only victory came in an Elimination Chamber match for the tag belts in 2015.  He’s been with WWE for over a decade but has never had a one-on-one world title match or feud.  His only two WWE Championship opportunities came in Elimination Chamber matches.

So what’s the problem?  We never hear about Kofi having backstage heat or creating problems with management.   He’s been one of the most consistently popular babyfaces in this generation of wrestling and is apart of one of the most successful factions in the company’s history.  Kofi has a Hall of Fame caliber body of work as a singles wrestler but might even end up being inducted with The New Day.  How many other talents can say that besides Ric Flair and the Hardy’s?  His body type can’t be used as an excuse.  Guys like CM Punk, Rey Mysterio, Shawn Michaels, Daniel Bryan, and Jeff Hardy have held the top prize.  The New Day’s feud with the Uso’s was the hottest thing on Smackdown last year and Kingston consistently provides the highlight of every Royal Rumble match.

wwe.com

Last Sunday made me even more excited to write this article.  I was almost certain Big E was going to be the New Day’s mystery entrant.  When Kofi was revealed as the guy, I thought the Chicago crowd was going to turn on him since it would be his 7th appearance in the match.  To my surprise, the opposite happened.  The snarkiest fans in wrestling known for their beach balls and “CM Punk” chants vocalized their support for Kingston multiple times during the match.  When I saw him standing in the ring with seven of the company’s elite, it just looked like he belonged.

Even outside of the venue, I saw the collective support throughout the wrestling community.  The conversation of Kofi sparked on Twitter and the guys over at Cultaholic agreed that he deserved the briefcase.  Now we’re left to hope those chants resonated with Vince.

Let’s Book It

Since the Money in the Bank briefcase is living on Raw, AJ Styles might be WWE Champion for the foreseeable future unless the plans are to strap the rocket to Rusev.  That being said, my ideas revolve around Kofi and AJ.

Some parts of wrestling world still aren’t convinced with Kingston at the top spot so the first step would be to establish him as a credible threat.  I’ve heard that Vince isn’t a big fan of tournaments so a gauntlet match would be more ideal.  Unfortunately, that just occurred in this Tuesday’s episode of Smackdown Live.  The silver lining is that Big E was the New Day member that failed to win so Kofi was spared a critical loss.  Whether it’s a tournament, gauntlet match, or six-pack challenge, Kofi Kingston winning a big #1 Contender’s opportunity against Smackdown’s best needs to happen in the next 12 months.

Kofi is enjoyed by casual and hardcore fans alike.  The silliness of the pancakes and cereal entertains all ages and the older fans have been watching him for over 10 years.  New Day has been active for almost 4 years now and the fans still yell Big E’s intro before the music hits.  The support and babyface appeal is there.  My next step would be to give AJ Styles some heel-ish tendencies.  The longer AJ’s reign continues, the more confident he should get.  He should start to possess some of that likable cockiness that Kenny Omega and Braun Strowman share.  The chemistry of the feud will determine how much of a heel AJ becomes.

Cageside Seats

Another element to the feud could be the addition of Gallows and Anderson, AJ’s old Bullet Club mates.  Gallows and Anderson are coming off their second failed attempt at the tag titles as newly-christened babyfaces so they could use some revamping.  Allowing them to wear face paint again and giving them more violent tendencies could give them their edge back.  Pairing them

back with AJ couldn’t possibly hurt.  We’ve already seen The New Day have matches of the night on several pay-per-views with The Usos in 2017.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see them recreate that magic with The Club’s three veterans.  Whether it’s in 6-man matches or bouts over the Smackdown tag belts, those series of matches could be special if given the right amount of time.

I genuinely think Kofi Kingston and AJ Styles would work really well together.  Imagine them headlining PPV’s with 20+ minutes of time.  They’re two of the best athletes in the company and they’ve done it all.  In the promos leading up, AJ could mock Kofi by saying it only took him a year with the company to win the WWE Title, whereas Kofi has been there for a decade without winning it.  When AJ says Smackdown Live is the house that he built, Kofi could retort by bringing up all the money New Day has brought the company with their merch and television appearances.  There would be no SD Live if Kofi didn’t help man the ship for his whole career.

We’ve seen recently that Vince has been rewarding his veterans with grand-slam championships.  Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Dolph Ziggler, and Jeff Hardy have all completed the feat in the last year.  Kofi Kingston should definitely be next.  Even Christian was given the World Heavyweight Championship at the end of his career.  Hopefully before Kofi decides to hang up the boots, the company he’s given his life to gives him the main event storyline that’s alluded him.  At the end of the day, I think we can all agree that Kofi definitely deserves it.


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How the WCW Cruiserweight Division Changed Wrestling

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Hi, my name is Ite Lemalu, I am from Auckland, New Zealand, and I grew up watching wrestling from the late 1980s. My favourite wrestlers growing up were Greg Valentine, Bret Hart and Jake Roberts. When I first started watching wrestling (WWF Superstars of Wrestling); I was drawn to the gimmicks and the interviews where the wrestlers would drop their iconic catch phrases, and I enjoyed watching wrestlers like Randy Savage and Jimmy Snuka fly off the top rope.

But then I began to notice how certain wrestlers took pleasure in making their moves painful for their opponents which is why I liked watching Greg Valentine ‘break’ his opponents legs. Anyway, I watched wrestling through primary school, high school and even at university when I would go back to my flat regardless of time of day to watch WCW. I don’t watch WWF/WWE as intensely as I used to. I still keep tabs on what’s happening, my wrestling viewing is now devoted to Impact Wrestling and MLW Fusion. I have all of my wrestling from the 20th century backed up, and as long as I have that, I’m good.

Every so often (like Monday just gone, Queen’s Birthday weekend for NZ) I would watch WWF or WCW, and although I grew up watching the WWF, there is still a lot of material that I have still yet to see. In this case, I was in the mood to watch something that I’ve seen before: WCW’s Halloween Havoc 1997. The usual WCW per-per-view in the middle of the 90s featured an A list of names that headlined the events, the A listers were supported by a youthful and talented group of wrestlers, most of whom were smaller in size to their established ‘elders’ and had wrestled extensively outside of the States prior to being lured to WCW for lucrative deals. These young lions of the 90s never failed to deliver a fantastic undercard. These pre-main event matches produced wrestling styles that were rarely seen by the mainstream audience.

My favourite match from Halloween Havoc ’97 (and a favourite of many other fans) is the Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Eddie Guerrero: Mask vs. (Cruiserweight) Title match. Usually when I watch my favourite matches I’d pick up a detail that I probably hadn’t noticed before, and I did find something new and significant regarding this classic match. When I first saw Rey/Eddie 20 years ago, the Lucha libre genre was still fresh to mainstream wrestling, and although the WCW Cruiserweight Division was over a year in existence, only a top few Lucha Libre stars were slotted in one featured singles match at every pay-per-view. As more Lucha libre stars were brought into WCW, the fans’ awareness of the culture grew as they learned about the traditions and the extravagant theatrics. To ensure that the viewers watching at home understood the Lucha libre culture, WCW announcer Mike Tenay – an enthusiast in Lucha libre (and Japanese “Puroresu” wrestling) would sit in during the Cruiserweight matches and supply the viewers with stories about the wrestlers, the Lucha customs, Spanish or Japanese translation of holds, and the family lineage of the wrestlers – most of whom had fathers, uncles or grand fathers who wrestled. The use of Tenay’s valuable commentary gave the fans a backstory to each Lucha star and this helped to integrate the Lucha wrestlers into the WCW product.

There were already some high profiled bouts for the Cruiserweight Titles shown on pay-per-view before the Rey/Eddie of Havoc ’97: Rey Mysterio .Jr/Dean Malenko from Halloween Havoc ’96, Dean Malenko/Ultimo Cruiserweight/J Crown Unification from Starrcade ’96, Chris Jericho/Ultimo from Bash at the Beach ’97. I believe that Rey/Eddie – Havoc ‘97 is what made the Cruiserweight Division an influential part of the US wrestling scene, and even if it were by accident, WCW found the perfect hero and villain to sell the genre to the mainstream fans. Rey/Eddie was the first major storyline of this division that gave the fans a reason to invest in the Cruiserweights: As the match is taking place, Eddie Guerrero’s change of attitude is supported by Mike Tenay’s endorsement when he speaks in detail about Eddie’s past as one half of the notorious Los Gringos Locos tag team. Tenay adds fuel to the fire; highlighting previous accounts of Eddie desecrating the Lucha libre tradition of the mask while in the match Eddie is pulling away at Rey’s mask. Rey Mysterio .Jr is given an equally glowing backstory as Tenay explains that Rey had wrestled under a different name for three years before earning the Rey Mysterio identity that was handed down to him by his uncle Rey Mysterio .Sr. Tenay adds that Rey has successfully defended his mask in nine other matches, making this defence against Eddie, his tenth. Rey’s gear and mask have been altered for this specific event; he appears in a full body suit with his mask is attached to it. The suit is inspired to resemble the Phantom superhero, and before he starts the match, Rey gives a replica like mask to a fan sitting at ringside. This indicates the Americanising of Rey and other Lucha stars and WCW beginning to capitalise off the popularity of Rey and his Lucha peers through marketing and merchandise. Of the overall Halloween Havoc event, Rey/Eddie were of three Cruiserweight matches on the card (matches were slotted, one after the other with Rey/Eddie going third); this again supports that WCW were taking the necessary steps to push the Cruiserweights.

It’s from these details that I find that Rey/Eddie from Halloween Havoc ’97 elevated the Cruiserweight Division and changed the American wrestling scene. This match also surpassed the reputable Ultimo/Malenko unification. Although Ultimo/Malenko gave the Cruiserweights some credibility, it did not accomplish near to Rey/Eddie for the reason that Ultimo/Malenko lacked a definitive hero or villain, or that Malenko wasn’t a strong enough hero; this led to a lack of emotion from the crowd. By default Malenko being American had the home crowd, unfortunately the audience were confused as to who they should fully support. That atmosphere felt like very competitive and interesting exhibition. Malenko/Ultimo contributed a respectable international flavour, however the placing of this match seemed like a “cut and paste”, as if Malenko/Ultimo was not a WCW match but – but an import from New Japan Pro Wrestling. Basically, the match was out of place and didn’t belong to WCW. Rey/Eddie – Havoc was blended in as part of the WCW presentation. It had a genuine hero and villain and it supported Eddie’s actions; his malicious efforts end Rey Mysterio Jr.’s career and desecrate the sacredness of the mask, thank you Mike Tenay.

Two month before Starrcade ’96, the first Cruiserweight Title defence on pay-per-view was at Halloween Havoc ’96, the challenging antagonist Malenko against the heroic champion, Rey Mysterio .Jr. This, a brilliant story explored Reys perspective where he faced the difficult task of fending off Malenko who was a well-schooled mat based technician and a superior wrestler to Rey. Even with Malenko disrespecting Rey’s mask and winning the Cruiserweight belt, their matches together weren’t as memorable. Dean and Rey were an odd pair and for the good of the division it was probably best that they wrestle opponents that would complement their respective methods. Dean was a tremendous wrestler, though he did not possess the charisma to match his impeccable grappling skills. Dean was also regarded as a ‘must’ for the Cruiserweight gold, as well as Eddie and Chris Jericho, however it didn’t help the Cruiserweight Division when these three began floating in between the United States, Television and Cruiserweight belts.

In some weird analogy; I see parallels between Rey and Malenko to Hulk Hogan and Bob Backlund. Backlund was a magnificent wrestler and champion while Hogan gave the WWF the charisma and the electricity to go nationwide and mainstream. Respectfully, Malenko paved a necessary path for the Cruiserweight Division, and Rey Mysterio … more specifically the Rey Mysterio Jr/Eddie Guerrero classic from Halloween Havoc 1997 was what elevated the Cruiserweight Division. I would even suggest that this match may have turned the Cruiserweight Division into a sought after genre with fans and wrestlers who have competed in similar styles throughout the last 20 years.

That’s me for now, will see you again.

https://twitter.com/Ite_Lemalu


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