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Abe’s 2018 in Review (Part 2): Wrestler of the Year Candidates

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Velveteen Dream

This is the second installment of my review for the 2018 calendar year.  You can read my Match of the Year candidates here.  We’re about halfway done with this year so I wanted to take some time to reflect on those who have contributed most to our wrestling world so far.  The candidates across all promotions are listed below with my front-runner being announced last.

Aleister Black

I mentioned in my last article how he very narrowly missed the cut for my MOTY entries.  It’s a shame because he’s had a fantastic showing at every TakeOver event.  He started the year with a brutal street fight against Adam Cole, won the NXT Title in April, then had a stellar match against Lars Sullivan when many were concerned with how their styles would mesh.  When he defeated Andrade “Cien” Almas for the belt, a friend of mine mentioned how Aleister would provide more interesting storylines going forward.  I’m a big fan of Almas so I didn’t want to agree but he was ultimately right.  Now that I think about it, his run on the main roster is going to be really interesting.  He takes his character and ring work so seriously that it might be impossible for management to ruin him.

Undisputed Era

Triple H has figured out how to book them to their full potential.  I think the best way to get the most out of cowardly heels is to showcase their impressive ring work as well.  That’s exactly what they’ve been able to do.  Even when they’re not cheating or using their numbers advantage, they’re still good enough to beat you in the ring.  Adam Cole won the inaugural North American Championship, Kyle O’Reilly had a classic against Pete Dunne, and Roderick Strong has found a new lease with the absence of Bobby Fish.  Even though they lost their tag belts, their matches against British Strong Style and Mustache Mountain were some of the highlights of the UK special.  With how successful their year has been, I almost forgot to mention their show-stealer with Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch.

Velveteen Dream

He just gets it.  Everything he touches turns to gold.  Even John Cena said he may be “the one”.  At the end of every night, he wants to be the topic of conversation.  It wasn’t talked about much because it wasn’t his greatest match but his bout with Kassius Ohno is a perfect example.  Part of the story was that he promised to knockout the “Knockout Artist” in 30 seconds.  Then in true Velveteen style, he showed up in full boxing gear and had an assistant carrying his mouthpiece on a giant pillow.  It’s just little ideas that leave a big impression.  Mania weekend he was an integral part of a 5-star ladder match then had a fan-favorite match and social media feud with Ricochet last month.  Before his classic with Ricochet, he decided to enter the ring in Prince Puma tights and flex like Hulk Hogan.  Hulk reached out to be his manager on Twitter but Velveteen told his former Tough Enough judge that he’d rather ride solo.  You know you’re doing something right when you have a legion of fans waiting to see what you’re going to do next.

Ronda Rousey

She’s only had two matches but you can tell she understands the art of wrestling and loves it too.  Being an MMA fighter has taught her how to properly sell and feed off a live audience.  Ronda still has a whole career ahead of her but she’s quickly become one of my favorite things about the product.  Just like Velveteen, she’s gotten me excited for whatever her next step is going to be.  This is sort of like an MVP list so she’s still too relatively new to be given serious consideration.  If I was to crown a Rookie of the Year, she’d be the clear winner.

Cedric Alexander/Mustafa Ali/Buddy Murphy

If you’ve given up on 205 Live then you should really go back and watch the Cruiserweight Championship tournament from March.  That’s when we started to watch things shift direction and see the members of the division get more creative freedom.  Since then, the main event of 205 Live has been a talking point on social media on an almost weekly basis.  Cedric still isn’t getting the biggest pops when he comes out but he knows how to get the crowd on their feet by the end of the match.  Mustafa Ali has not only been a positive voice online but he’s been one of the most consistent performers of the year.  There’s nothing he wont do to leave the fans happy.  Buddy Murphy has the talent, size, and look to compete for any belt in the company but took on the challenge of elevating a smaller division instead.  My Match of the Year article was written a week too early because the match between Murphy and Ali from this week’s episode of 205 Live deserved to be on the list.  I implore you to go watch it if you haven’t already.  It would have been match of the night on any main roster pay-per-view this year.

Chris Jericho

In the middle of being on tour with Fozzy, he has somehow managed to work two of the hottest feuds of the year with Kenny Omega and Tetsuya Naito.  Every time it feels like he’s done it all, he manages to do something fresh and exciting every time he’s on screen.  Stealing a television camera during a match and filming his own middle finger is just one example.  We also can’t forget his profanity-laced promo he shot with a wild turtle.  Despite his recent commitments to NJPW, he still made appearances at Raw 25 and The Greatest Royal Rumble.  On top of his already impossible schedule, he’s taking the best wrestlers in the world and putting them all on a cruise ship this fall.

Johnny Gargano/Tommaso Ciampa

I had to package them together.  They’ve already provided two of the best matches we’ve seen this year and the rivalry still hasn’t been settled yet.  When they split last year I was genuinely upset.  I felt that we were being robbed of so many future classic tag team matches waiting to happen on the main roster.  At the time I was too short-sided to realize we were going to be getting an all-time great feud out of it.  Their work with each other hasn’t even been their only success.  Johnny kicked off the year with spectacular matches against Andrade Almas.  Ciampa has not only mastered social media but he just started a program with Aleister Black which could go in a variety of directions.

The Elite

While this entry is mostly referring to Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks, and Cody, the remaining cast of “Being the Elite” deserves recognition too.  Marty Scurll, Hangman Page, Brandi Rhodes, Flip Gordon, and even Burnard the Business Bear contribute to the success of the whole group.  Kenny and Cody headlined Supercard of Honor and are now headlining the G1 Special in San Francisco.  The Young Bucks, headlined Long Beach, became the first ever 7-time junior tag champs in history, moved up to the heavyweight division, then captured those tag belts on the first try.  On top of that, Matt sustained a back injury at Wrestle Kingdom in January and has been selling it in every match since then.  If the injury is real, then dealing with that is even more impressive.  Flip and Marty had great showings in the BOSJ tournament.  Marty also put his IWGP Junior Heavyweight belt on the line at Wrestle Kingdom and competed for ROH Championship along with Cody.  ALL IN not only met its goal of 10,000 tickets but sold out in 30 minutes.  In fact, it was just announced on Thursday that Marty will be competing against Kazuchika Okada at the show.  After Kenny Omega won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Dominion, him and The Young Bucks announced they would be forming “The Golden Elite” with Kota Ibushi.  Outside the ring, The Elite beat The New Day in Street Fighter, and Kenny, the Bucks, and Cody became the first non-WWE stars with Funko Pops.  And for good measure, Matt and Nick decided to write a children’s book too.

My Current Frontrunner: Seth Rollins

I know everything I just typed is pretty hard to follow so I’ll try my best to make my case for Seth.  Unlike The Elite, Seth hasn’t had the help of The Shield this year.  He’s putting on the best matches for the biggest brand, and on the most-watched programming.  He was running stale for awhile as a babyface but that gauntlet match on Raw where he wrestled for over an hour gave him enough momentum for the rest of the year.  He won his IC belt at Wrestlemania and has picked up steam seemingly every week since.  When he was holding the Intercontinental Championship, it felt like the most important belt in the company.  I think I speak for most people when I say he should be the current Universal Champion.  He’s become the highlight of Raw solely by his wrestling ability.  “Burn it down” helps too but it’s Seth’s charisma that was able to get it over.  Whether it’s against Miz, Finn Balor, Elias, or Dolph Ziggler, the match of the night always seems to involve Seth Rollins.

Honorable Mentions

Kazuchika Okada – Dalton Castle – Will Ospreay – Asuka – Sami Callihan – Tetsuya Niato – Pentagon Jr. – Hiromu Takahashi – Pete Dunne – Suzuki-gun – Shayna Baszler – WALTER – Io Shirai – Daniel Bryan – Jay White – Keith Lee – Matt Riddle


Who is your wrestler of the year so far? Tweet us @theCHAIRSHOTcom with your top name!

 


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Top 5 World Championship Reigns In The WWE Modern Era (1984 to Present)

See the lists developed by PC Tunney, Greg DeMarco, and Patrick O’Dowd as they determine the five best world championship reigns in the modern era of WWE!

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Roman Reigns WWE Universal Champion

See the lists developed by PC Tunney, Greg DeMarco, and Patrick O’Dowd as they determine the five best world championship reigns in the modern era of WWE!

Wrestling is one of the most fun topics under which we can rank nearly everything. A simple Google search will reveal entire websites devoted to rankings–wrestling or otherwise.

PC Tunney devised an idea, and I developed a name. Thus, the Impromptu Wrestling Convo (aka, The IWC) was born. The first topic? Top 5 World Championship Reigns In The WWE Modern Era.

PC Tunney, Patrick O’Dowd, and myself each came up with our Top 5, and came together to reveal them on this special podcast (see it above, and below). Definitely give it a listen. But here you can also read our composite list, and see who ranked in our Top 5.

Grading Criteria:

  • Points were assigned for the rankings: 5 points for #1, 4 points for #2, and so on.
  • Ties would likely have been left as ties, but (luckily for me) there were no ties in the Top 5, making that part easy.
  • Any reign starting with Hulk Hogan’s first was eligible to be included.

And now, the list!

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Top 5 World Championship Reigns In The WWE Modern Era

5. Brock Lesnar, 2014

Starting with his dismantling of John Cena at SummerSlam (which was supposed to be Daniel Bryan), Brock Lesnar had a reign that included an incredible triple threat match with Seth Rollins and John Cena at the 2015 Royal Runble, and of course the WrestleMania 31 main event clash with Roman Reigns that ended in Seth Rollins’ iconic cash-in. This reign is mainly notable for how it starts and how it finishes, as there was but one bright spot in the middle.

4. John Cena, 2005

Not the longest John Cena world title reign, but Cena’s run as WWE Champion started at WrestleMania 21 and ended with the first ever Money In The Bank cash-in at New Year’s Revolution. This cemented Cena as the top dog in WWE, complete with a move to Raw in the draft, and the emergence of “Super Cena.”

3. CM Punk, 2011

454 Days that no one will ever forget, CM Punk dominated WWE television in a reign that was ultimately cut short by The Rock. Punk didn’t main event WrestleMania 28, facing Chris Jericho before the “Once In A Lifetime” clash between The Rock and John Cena. This ended at the following Royal Rumble at the hands of The Rock, who would go on to lose that title to Rumble winner John Cena at WrestleMania 29.

2. Roman Reigns, 2020

The present-day WWE Universal Champion nearly tops the list, but what remains to be seen is just how long he holds the title, and how it ends. Roman Reigns is on a monumental ride, with no signs of slowing down. We will see if the emergence of a new megastar ends this journey, or if Hollywood comes calling first. Either way, this will end up being acknowledged as one of the all time great championship reigns.

1. Hulk Hogan, 1984

Hulk Hogan began his 1,474 day reign as WWF Champion on January 23, 1984, defeating The Iron Sheik in Madison Square Garden. Hogan would kick off the Rock-N-Wrestling Era, launching WWE into a stratosphere not seen by any other wrestling company, ever. Outside of an 83 week stretch, no one could touch WWE, and that stretch was fronted by Hogan himself. His reign ended in controversy (something about Andre The Giant selling the championship to Ted Dibiase, evil twin referees, and a tournament at WrestleMania IV), but it still goes down as the greatest ever.

Others getting mentioned:

  • Jinder Mahal, 2016 (yes, that was mine)
  • Brock Lesnar, 2017 (by PC Tunney)
  • Randy Savage, 1988 (Patrick O’Dowd’s)
  • John Cena, 2006 (by Tunney)

To see how each talent was listed, and by who, I made this chart. Keep in mind, a “5” means they were #1 on that person’s list, a “4” is #2, “3” is #3, “2” is #4, and a “1” is #5.

What are your thoughts? Drop them in the comments below, or on social media! Also, give the podcast a listen, it’s streaming throughout this article.


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News From Cook’s Corner 1.17.22: Gory Self-Mutilation

AEW tried to catch lightning in a bottle for the second time. Did it work? What other news struck last week?

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Hi, hello & welcome to News From Cook’s Corner! We’ve got a short column for you this week, which most of you were probably expecting when the Cincinnati Bengals actually on a playoff game. Nah, I didn’t party too much, just had an allergic reaction with my eye again. We’ve done this before. This time I’m pretty sure it had something to do with cleaning my bookshelf and rearranging my books. Hadn’t done that in awhile, so there was a ton of duct. Sitting down and looking at a computer screen sucks, so we have to limit it as much as possible.

There’s still a couple things that warrant discussion though, so let’s get to it.

WWE On The Offensive

Looks like this week’s top stories are about WWE trying to do things to undermine wrestling promotions. We start with Major League Wrestling, who has filed a federal anti-trust lawsuit against WWE claiming that WWE has interfered with their ability to make various media rights deals.

Some of the highlights:

-Former WWE executive Susan Levison allegedly warned an executive from VICE that Vince McMahon was “pissed” they were airing MLW programming. MLW claims that WWE had leverage over VICE due to the Dark Side of the Ring series often being focused on WWE subject matter.

-MLW alleges that when WWE found out about their agreement with Tubi, WWE threatened to stop doing business with Fox. The fallout from the Tubi agreement falling through led to a drop in ticket sales & event cancellations & delays.

-As an example of WWE’s anticompetitive behavior, MLW cited AEW being held out of two arenas in the Cincinnati market due to pressure from WWE. Jon Moxley wrote in his book that the Heritage Bank Center on Cincy’s riverfront refused to book AEW due to WWE influence. I don’t know the other, could be the BB&T Arena across the river on the campus of Northern Kentucky University where WWE has held house shows. AEW wound up running the Fifth Third Arena on the campus of the University of Cincinnati, and outdrew the Raw taping held at the HBC just prior.

-Apparently starting in early 2020, WWE started trying to poach MLW wrestlers that were under contract, and aired footage of an MLW wrestler without MLW’s consent. (Somebody would have to fill me in on this one, I haven’t the slightest idea who this would be.) MLW also claims that WWE sought to prevent wrestlers from working with MLW by refusing to hire wrestlers that had worked there, and that one MLW wrestler demanded to be released early from his contract so he could join WWE.

Do I think that at least some of these allegations are true? Having followed pro wrestling for over thirty years and having read up on the history of WWE…you betcha!

I don’t think there’s a question that WWE has resorted to any means necessary to drive potential competitors out of their market. They’ve been doing this since taking most of the territories’ top stars back in the mid-1980s. It’s been a monopoly for nearly two decades for a reason. The main question I have: Will a judge actually care, or will they throw it out of court because it’s silly pro wrestling?

How do you think WWE slips under the radar on things that other media companies & sports leagues actually have to deal with? People have been trained to not take WWE seriously. As much as people like us obsess over the rasslin’ business, people that don’t “get it” are happy to ignore it. Vince McMahon can do any darn thing he wants, and the reaction from folks outside the wrestling bubble will be non-existent. It’s wrestling! To outsiders, the whole damn thing is an outlaw mudshow.

AEW = Gory Self-Mutilation

The Toronto Sun did an article on All Elite Wrestling over the weekend, talking about their status as a competitor to WWE. They asked WWE for comment & got one:

“If you look at the gory self-mutilation that bloodied several women in the December 31 event on TNT, it quickly becomes clear that these are very different businesses. We had an edgier product in the `Attitude’ era and in a 2022 world, we don’t believe that type of dangerous and brutal display is appealing to network partners, sponsors, venues, children, or the general public as a whole.”

A few notes here:

1. I’ve been doing this stuff longer than I care to admit, and I never thought of asking WWE for comment on something. Should I start asking people for comments on topics I’m writing about? I doubt I’d get any answers, but it might be worth a shot.

2. This has been WWE’s strategy when asked about AEW for some time now. We remember Vince McMahon using the phrase “Blood & Guts” to describe the promotion on a conference call. They know that people get squeamish about blood, especially when it comes to blood coming from women. The Fabulous Moolah never busted anybody open on television, and she trained most of the women for years. People aren’t used to seeing it, and they often get uncomfortable with things they aren’t used to seeing.

3. Most people find other people bleeding pretty gross. There’s a reason why deathmatch wrestling is a niche produxct. People that love it really, really love it, but it’s a very small percentage of the marketplace.

4. WWE’s belief is that advertisers & media companies aren’t big on blood, so they make sure to mention AEW’s apparent lust for the red stuff whenever the subject comes up. Their hope is that advertisers will shy away from advertising with AEW, and media companies won’t give AEW big money when their current deal with WarnerMedia is up.

5. Thus far, whenever Tony Khan is criticized on something, he doubles down on it. So there’s a pretty good chance that we’re going to see even more matches with female bleeding. AEW’s female workers seem happy to do it.

6. WWE could be called out as being hypocritical on this front, but there aren’t many people that will hold them accountable.

It’ll be interesting to see how this goes. All I know for sure is that the smack talk between these two promotions and their fans is just beginning. Think it’s tocic now? Wait a couple of years.

Welp, that’s all for this week. Thanks for reading! Join me later in the week for some Divisional Round picks. Until then, keep your stick on the ice.

In Memoriam: Pete was a longtime reader from back in the day. From my dealings with him he was a kind person that knew how to use his head. When you’ve written things on the Internet as long as I have, you learn that’s a rare thing. From what I’ve read from people that knew him in real life, he was the same way off the computer. Sadly he passed away from cancer on Friday night. Pete was always about serving others, as he was a U.S. Air Force veteran & a regular blood donor. He will be missed.


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