April 9th was a phenomenal day for wrestling fans. April 9th marked the start of WWE’s programming the week after Wrestlemania, which for most of us marks the most eventful shows of the year on a WWE calendar, we expect surprises, returns and a rabid internationally flavoured crowd to entice us for a 3-hour edition of RAW & 2-hour edition of SmackDown.
This year, we certainly got some eventful moments.
The initial call-up of NXT’s Authors of Pain & Ember Moon was exciting, Carmella cashed in her Money in the Bank contract to claim her first major championship, AJ Styles took on Daniel Bryan, Jeff Hardy returned to WWE after a prolonged absence & Paige announced her retirement while being made General Manager of SmackDown just 24 hours later. None of those topics however sparked the interest that Bobby Lashley’s long awaited return did.
Lashley’s initial run with the WWE had some astounding highlights, including a match where he helped the current President of the United States Donald Trump shave the head of Vince McMahon in front of 80,000 people at Wrestlemania 23. On the whole however, he was clearly being pushed too fast for what his ability was and needed more time to establish himself before being expected to achieve the results that management wanted, which is rumoured to have played into his mid-2008 departure.
From there Lashley actually found some resounding success, improving himself immensely and grew himself similar to departed stars such as Drew McIntyre, Jinder Mahal & even Bill Goldberg to a certain extent prior to his return. It is clear however that unlike those men, something is missing from the new take on Lashley’s character and an element WWE is clearing missing the opportunity on this time round.
So, let’s get to the bottom of it.
TNA, Round 1
Just over a year after his departure from the WWE, TNA naturally did what has now become an NXT staple, pick up recently released talents they see potential in and re-push them under their own image. The company at the time had done this with Kurt Angle, Sting, Kevin Nash, Booker T, Rhyno, Mick Foley & event Scott Steiner, even though they more or less retained their gimmick most of what they did hugely differed from their on-screen characters on WWE programming.
TNA had Lashley on their list next and quickly picked up the former ECW & United States Champion in hopes of gaining their brand some further recognition which ended up just as well as you remember. With absolutely nothing of note happening for the 6 months he appeared as a part of their brand.
Quickly given the nickname ‘The Boss’ Lashley made an impressive debut for the company but it was all downhill from there. Despite getting top feuds with both Samoa Joe & Scott Steiner nothing the company attempted with his character seemed to full resonate with the fans, who instead turned on the former WWE star rather than embrace him. The reasoning of this could have been the over abundance of former WWE talent jumping ship and resulted in the fans clamouring for more homegrown talent rather than rejects from their competition and this only got worse when TNA had no clue how to book the man in the first place.
His time with the company came to an abrupt end in February 2010 as he set his sights on a potential MMA career and fans neither cheered, booed or cared in the slightest. Lashley simply left and was never to be spoken of again until almost 5 years later.
Dominating the world of MMA
It’s no wonder many fans make the comparisons between Bobby Lashley & Brock Lesnar, considering how similar their career choices have been, both started out in professional wrestling, left in hopes of chasing their dreams in the MMA industry and eventually come back right to where they began.
However, Lashley’s MMA pursuits didn’t receive close to the attention that Lesnar did during his MMA days, partially due to the latter’s popularity & star power from his WWE days, but this doesn’t mean Lashley wasn’t a success, which he surprisingly was. The transition from wrestling to MMA is something I can’t imagine is easy, the two sports are of different worlds and require different commitments from those who participate, and it was incredibly impressive to see Lashley garner some great success.
Even though he bounced in and out of wrestling for this time, Lashley spent almost a decade in the world of MMA and through doing so earned a 15 win & 2 loss record which speaks volumes on the mans talent across any profession he’s pursued. Brock Lesnar’s MMA record stands at 9 wins & 5 losses and considering WWE’s track recorded of using numbers to further establish stars (take the Undertaker’s undefeated streak as the best example) it’s astonishing how this statistic hasn’t been utilised yet.
Anyone who has seen Lashley’s MMA fights also knows how integral they’ve been in transitioning his style of professional wrestling over the last number of years. His time in MMA has clearly developed him as a competitor in the ring, making his style less one dimensional, typical powerhouse into a versatile and dangerous athlete who may even have more all around ability than Brock Lesnar if we’re being honest.
His last fight as of now was on the 21st of October 2016 but a recent statement by Bellator MMA stated that he is still under contract with the company with no future fights currently announced. With Lashley’s current record, I wouldn’t be surprised if a return is somewhere in his future.
TNA, Round 2 (The good round)
On March 9th, 2014 the world (or the estimate 10-12,000 fans watching at home) witnessed the return of a new, reinvigorated Bobby Lashley, one that had put his WWE past behind him and felt like an entirely different character to the one in 2009.
Shortly after his initial return, Lashley turned heel joining MVP & Kenny King in the new faction known as ‘The BDC’ (or ‘Beat Down Clan’) and quickly begun a hostile takeover of the company while running through any and all competition. The run as part of the BDC exposed the growth he had undergone, becoming not just a better in-ring performer but clearly carrying more confidence in his overall performance as a heel.
It was on June 19th, 2014 that marked the resurgence of Lashley’s career, defeating then-champion Eric Young to claim his first TNA World Heavyweight Championship and in the process mark him as the first African-American Heavyweight Champion in company history. This initial reign spanned close to 5 months and delivered some fantastic matches against the likes of Samoa Joe, Eric Young, Kurt Angle, Bully Ray, Austin Aries & Bobby Roode whom he’d eventually drop the title to later that year.
The next 12-18 months were spent in the main event scene or chasing mid-card championships before his eventual claim to fame was made, his 2nd World Championship reign following the destruction of drew Galloway at Slammiversary in 2016. TNA on this occasion not only proved their capability of booking a champion larger than life, but more importantly a champion with genuine fear behind them as a competitor. Lashley spent much of this time shredding apart the competition, from EC3 all the way to Aron Rex (the former Damien Sandow of WWE fame) and was established as one of the best things going in the business at the time and few would dare question that statement.
While WWE were using Brock Lesnar, a champion who only made scarce appearance on their programming to defend his gold, TNA had produced Lashley who week in & week out reminded fans of his threat and that most importantly, he wasn’t going anywhere. It’s characters like these that present the best obstacles for babyfaces in the business, ones that are so unstoppable it keeps fans waiting, waiting for the day someone actually comes out on top.
That was the beauty of Lashley in TNA. Instead of relying on absence or the feeling that your champion is ‘in control of the company’, TNA made Lashley a weekly character who made his name by appearing weekly and walking over his opponents rather than sit at home teasing his next appearance should it even happen. At this point fans were adamant assuming that Lashley would one day return to the WWE and potentially go up against the man I have seemingly brought up on more than one occasion throughout this article.
What would happen should the former ECW Champion return? Only time could tell, and boy did it tell.
Steve Cook’s Top 5 Worst Tag Team Names
Truly inspired by The Viking Exprience, Steve Cook takes a look back at the Worst Tag Team Names in his latest Top 5!
The Superstar Shakeup brought some new faces to Monday Night Raw & SmackDown Live. In what was considered a bit of a surprise as they’re currently NXT Tag Team Champions, Hanson & Rowe made their debut on Raw. Only they weren’t Hanson & Rowe, they were Ivar & Erik. They also weren’t the War Raiders. Instead, they were The Viking Experience. A week later they’ve changed to the Viking Raiders, which is slightly less horrible but brings back memories of the NFL during World War II when we had the Phil-Pitt Steagles.
The only solace fans can take is that Ivar & Erik won’t be sunk on the main roster because they’re known as the Viking Experience or the Viking Raiders or whatever else. They’ll be sunk on the main roster because they’re a tag team. And hey, it’s not like they’re the only tag team ever to have a crappy name. Here’s five others!
5. Team Hell No (Daniel Bryan & Kane)
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the dynamic between Bryan & Kane. If there are two wrestlers I would like to see/hear do a talk show, it would be the newly Trumpian Glen Jacobs & The New Daniel Bryan. They have amazing chemistry as a unit, though they couldn’t be further apart as wrestlers or on the political spectrum.
The name though…the WWE Universe screwed this one up. Team Friendship was right there for the taking. It would have been the perfect name for Kane & Bryan based on the counseling they had gone through with Dr. Shelby. It was one of those names that would have been stupid and awesome at the same time. Instead, they went with the lazy mish-mash. Which made even less sense when they reunited years later with Bryan firmly in Yes Mode.
4. The Gangstanators (New Jack & John Kronus)
I am kinder to mish-mash names than most. I see a lot of hate out there for names like Jeri-Show, Jeri-Miz, Rated-RKO, Rybaxel and other names that wrestling writers obsessed with Brangelina gave tag teams. For me, the best part of Ryback & Curtis Axel as a tag team was their name.
A team that came along before Brangelina was a much worse example of this fad than anybody that came along after. Kronus was part of the Eliminators, and his partner Perry Saturn decided to get some work with WCW. New Jack was part of the Gangstas. I don’t know what happened to his partner Mustafa, but nobody else seemed to care.
So New Jack & Kronus decided to team based off of mutual respect. Nothing wrong with that. The name was terrible though. If they had plans for this duo, they really should have come up with something new, instead of something that reminded us of two tag teams that we liked more.
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3. TM-61 (Nick Miller & Shane Thorne)
Miller & Thorne were known as The Mighty Don’t Kneel, or TMDK for short, during their run throughout Australia, Japan & the American independent scene. WWE likes to change these things up, for obvious reason. So Shane Thorne got to keep his name, but Mikey Nicholls became Nick Miller, which gives us the TM part. 61 is the dialing code for Australia. So it’s kind of clever.
Here’s the hitch in the getty-up: No good tag team name needs this much of an explanation. You see Ax & Smash, and you understand why they’re called Demolition. Bret Hart & Jim Neidhart walk out accompanied by Jimmy Hart, and The Hart Foundation sounds apt. Heck, Honky Tonk Man comes down with black-haired Greg Valentine and you get Rhythm & Blues right away. This thing…well, there’s a reason they changed it to The Mighty once they turned heel.
2. The New (fill in the blank)
New anything is bad news. Especially in pro wrestling, with the exception of the original New World Order. Remember the New Blackjacks? The New Rockers? The New Midnight Express? If you’re my age, you’re probably trying to forget these teams, as they were nothing but a pale imitation of the original teams.
The New Blackjacks were Blackjack Bradshaw & Blackjack Windham. Marty Jannetty brought along his buddy Leif Cassidy to form the New Rockers. The New Midnight Express were Bodacious Bob & Bombastic Bart. I might be mixing those up, but I don’t care enough to look it up. It was that bad. I’m pretty sure Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson have never retired because they’re afraid somebody will try to make a New Rock N Roll Express.
People are learning, though. When Konnan put Santana & Ortiz together as a new tag team for him to manage in Impact Wrestling, he was smart enough not to call them The New LAX. They got to be LAX while Homicide & Hernandez had to be The OGz during their feud.
1. Air Devils (Fast Eddie & Matt Sydal)
This may require some explanation. Matt Sydal was a young up & comer in the Midwest indies back in 2005. The boy had all the high-flying moves you could ask for, and a look that any babyface would love to have. He was ready to take ROH by storm, but he needed a partner! It seemed like it would be Joey Matthews for a minute, but Matthews had other business at hand with Johnny Nitro & Melina. Hardly an opportunity a wrestler would turn down. So Fast Eddie got the nod, as he’d had some ROH appearances in the past.
The ROH message board got the opportunity to vote on a name for Matt & Eddie, and I can’t tell you what the other options were, but I can tell you what won. The Air Devils. See, daredevils, air devils, haw haw. A name so bad that the ROH commentators crapped on it during their debut match in Dayton, Ohio, which happened to be the very first ROH show I saw live. It was the Air Devils’ first & last match together, as Fast Eddie turned on Matt Sydal and joined Prince Nana’s Embassy.
Just a terrible piece of business, though it worked out in the long run for Sydal. He got over with ROH fans and had a pretty good run there. Fast Eddie…well, I’d be lying if I said I remembered a thing he did with the Embassy. When that faction won a Trios Tournament at another Dayton show I attended, they were represented by Alex Shelley, Jimmy Rave & Abyss. No Fast Eddie. He never saw his dismissal coming.
Did anybody else notice that fans chose two of these names? It goes to show that even if “The Viking Experience” is a terrible name, there’s no guarantee that we would have done better.
Joe’s Lucha Libre Weekly: News & Analysis (4/22/19)
The world of Lucha Libre can be insane and overwhelming–but you have Joe Dinan here to help you make sense of it all!
The world of Lucha Libre can be insane and overwhelming–but you have Joe Dinan here to help you make sense of it all!
Arena Puebla and Arena Mexico Tuesday
I did not watch either of these shows, truth be told on weeks that I’m too busy I’ll probably skip Tuesday at least. Not that I plan on always skipping them but sometimes duty calls in life and Friday is really the only televised show CMLL cares about. CMLL current has what I call WWE syndrome, in the sense that they have a comfortable business right now. They were struggling a little last year until LA Park and the Lucha Brothers came in for a summer tour basically. Cibernetico, El Zorro, and Charley Manson coming in helped to an extent too but not the same. So ever since then CMLL has enjoyed very nice attendance so they don’t feel the need to put in a desperate effort. Which is what happens sometimes. Wrestling companies all go through that period once in a while so I’m sure they’ll eventually be back to high quality things. But right now it’s AAA giving high quality. So on the Monday Puebla show they set up a Police Man vs King Jaguar hair vs hair match which will be this Monday. I can’t imagine most are interested but these guys probably wanna do something. And nothing of significance happened on Tuesday. Nothing usually ever does.
Arena Mexico Friday
Volador and Ultimo Guerrero successfully won Block B and will face Titan and Cavernario next week. Or this week. Depends when this drops. It will be a good match. Block B was definitely a step down from Block A as far as quality wrestling goes. There was a lot of brawling and similar finishes here in Block B. That’s really all that’s going on.
So some of this AAA news involves MLW and Impact so I’m going to put it all here because there’s no point of typing it twice.
AAA has two shows this week, one on 4/26 and 4/28. I won’t be watching the one on 4/26 live because Avengers Endgame is calling. But the line ups look like this for 4/26, Psycho Clown, La Parka, and Puma King vs Rey Escorpion, Texano jr, and Chessman. Laredo Kid and Brian Cage vs Taurus and Daga. Poder de Norte vs Sammy Guevara, Jack Evans, and Australian Suicide. 4 way match with Golden Magic vs Hijo Del Vikingo vs Villano III Jr vs Flamita. Taya and Faby Apache vs Chik Tormenta and Luchadora surprise. Lady Maravilla and Black Danger vs Big Mami and Nino Hamburguesa.
For the 4/28 show it looks like, Psycho Clown, Laredo Kid, and Puma King v Rey Escorpion, Texano Jr, and Taurus. La Parka, Golden Magic, and Nino Hamburguesa vs Chessman, Averno, and Dave the Clown. Hijo Del Vikingo, Flamita, and Villano III Jr vs Poder de Norte. Sammy Guevara vs Jack Evans vs Australian Suicide. Faby Apache and La Hiedra vs Lady Maravilla and Chik Tormenta.
So AAA also has shows coming up on May 3rd and May 5th, Cinco de Mayo. But they also have some joint show which I’m not sure if it’s going to be on just TV Azteca or on Twitch too. There’s no way of knowing until the day approaches cause it’s AAA but it’s some tournament gimmick between 5 “companies”. I use quotes because Konnan is quite literally on creative for all the companies. One company isn’t technically even a company anymore. Lucha Libre Elite is a defunct company propped up by AAA to do invasion angles. The other is Aro Lucha which isn’t even like, it’s own company. The Harris brothers run it with Konnan and they basically use AAA talent and Mexican independent talent. So it’s again, basically AAA. Then we have AAA proper, whatever that entails. Then we have Impact and MLW. So at least in theory those two will use their own talent. It’s some tournament format supposed to happen on May 2nd. I’ll see if I have more information next week before it all happens. Maybe Konnan will reveal more on Keeping it 100 this week.
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