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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!

 


Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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Cook: Don’t Hate Lafayette Because They Don’t Know #DIY

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Johnny Gargano Tommaso Ciampa WWE Raw

Steve Cook chimes in on the controversy surrounding the WWE Monday Night Raw crowd from Lafayette.

Anybody that knows me well knows that I’ve always been a huge baseball fan. It was the first sport I fell in love with as a kid and has been part of my life as far back as I can remember. I read pretty much anything I could about the history of it. I might be a Cincinnati Reds supporter, but I also have a good appreciation for most of baseball history.

That’s why I was excited when the New York Yankees came to town in 2011. The Yankees don’t come to Cincinnati very often. In fact, it was only the second series they’d played in Cincinnati since interleague play started in 1997. Whether you like the Yankees or not, it’s hard not to be impressed with their tradition of success. Their twenty-seven World Series championships are sixteen more than any other team has. Names like Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle & countless others give the Yankees a tradition that’s unparalleled.

Aura & Mystique on the road

Even in 2011 the Yankees had some all-time greats on their roster. Mariano Rivera became the first unanimous Hall of Famer this year. Derek Jeter will follow him into the HOF in 2020. Alex Rodriguez…well, that vote’s going to be interesting. He’s got the numbers! Heck, Bartolo Colon was on that team, and his HOF vote will also be interesting if he ever retires.

I was lucky to get off of work and get a ticket to a Wednesday afternoon game. The stadium was packed & stacked, as fans in the area knew that the Yankees wouldn’t be back in Cincinnati for several years. Unfortunately for the fans & myself, Jeter was on the disabled list so he wouldn’t be playing. Nobody’s fault, these things happen. We would have expected A-Rod to play, but a rainout the night before resulted in Wednesday being a previously unscheduled doubleheader, and Yankee manager Joe Giradi opted to give Rodriguez the day game off.

Lineup card subject to change

Playing third base for the Yankees instead was the immortal Ramiro Pena. He played 23 games in 2011 and went 4 for 40 for a batting average of .100. He had one home run, four RI & scored five runs. If you’re one of those advanced stats guys, he had a WAR of -0.8 for the season. In all fairness, this & 2012 were his least productive seasons in MLB. He managed to play 50 games in 2013 & 81 games in 2014 for the Atlanta Braves & wrapped up his MLB career in 2016 with the San Francisco Giants. From what Wikipedia tells me, he’s currently playing in the Mexican League.

Jeter’s replacement ended up accomplishing a bit more. Eduardo Nunez played 127 games for last season’s World Champion Boston Red Sox. He was also an All-Star in 2016, though I think that was due to the fact that every team has to have an All-Star & the Minnesota Twins didn’t have a ton of candidates. We also got to see Rivera close out the game, so it’s not like we missed out on everybody of historical importance. And yes, Jorge Posada was there playing first base and hit a home run. Any Yankee fan reading this will yell at me if I don’t mention Posada.

Core 4, baby

At this point you’re probably wondering why in the the world I’ve spent all this time writing about a random June 2011 Yankees/Reds game. In the big picture, that game wasn’t too terribly important. A ton of baseball games aren’t. The game came to my mind early Tuesday morning while I was catching up on Twitter’s reaction to Monday’s Raw episode.

Mostly, people were mad at the crowd. This week’s Raw was notable for being the main roster debut of four NXT Superstars. (NXT wrestlers are called Superstars too, right?) Ricochet, Aleister Black, Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa all wrestled on Monday night’s show in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Triple H did the big introduction at the beginning of the show, we got videos with Michael Cole yelling buzzwords, and the four men got to take part in matches. Which is more than some of the last crop of NXT call-ups can say. Ricochet got to do some flips. Black got to beat up Elias. Gargano & Ciampa got to randomly re-form their tag team.

It was fine, if a wee bit random. I would have expected NXT fans to be happy that some of their favorites were on Raw-wait, no, I wouldn’t have expected that at all because NXT fans want their favorites to stay in Full Sail forever. WWE will mis-use them on the main roster, you see. So I was a little surprised that wasn’t the main thing that Internet wrestling fans were complaining about.

No, it was the crowd.

The Raw crowd didn’t make enough noise for these debuting talents. They should have been out of their seats for Ricochet & Black like they were Austin & Rock in 1998. And of course the fans should have gone crazy for DIY vs. The Revival because it’s great tag team wrestling.

Listen, I’m with you guys as far as the talent of these guys goes. I’m hip to the NXT jazz. I’ve been watching & reviewing lately, If I was in that crowd, I would have been cheering & rooting all of those guys on. The thing is…I’m not in the majority of wrestling fans. Far from it. I’m a wrestling nerd that consumes way too many hours of my day with watching wrestling & writing my opinions about it. From what I can tell, a lot of the people I saw whining & moaning about that crowd do the same thing that I do. We’re obsessed with wrestling & analyze everything way too much because that’s what we enjoy doing.

Not everybody does that.

Sometimes we lose touch with the fact that not everybody is like us. There are plenty of wrestling fans that don’t spend every day obsessing over the gossip or watching every single show they can get access to. I know WWE fans that don’t get WWE Network. There are even WWE Network subscribers that don’t watch NXT. I’m not going to get all hot & bothered & mad at people that don’t watch NXT for not going crazy over NXT call-ups. I might wonder why Baron Corbin gets a louder reaction than any of them, and I might think that reflects poorly on their taste, but at the same time, I realize that it’s because Baron Corbin’s been on TV long enough to establish a persona.

To the casual wrestling fan, Ricochet & Aleister Black are like random guys filling in for Derek Jeter & Alex Rodriguez. Hopefully their careers turn out a little bit better, but just like I wasn’t excited to see Ramiro Pena back in 2011 at Great American Ballpark, Lafayette wasn’t excited to see Aleister Black. You can’t fault paying wrestling fans for not watching all the shows, unless you’re just looking to lord your knowledge over everybody else.

Most of those fans at Raw didn’t have any idea what a Johnny Gargolye or a Tomato Chomper was. Hopefully they’ll get the chance to find out, and hopefully they’ll appreciate them as much as we do. Until then, give Lafayette a break. Don’t get mad at them because they paid to see WWE Superstars & got NXT ones instead.


Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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Andrew’s WWE Raw & SmackDown Live Ratings & Review (2/18 & 2/19/2019)

Andrew let’s us know how the WWE shows following Elimination Chamber measured up!

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Andrew let’s us know how the WWE shows following Elimination Chamber measured up!

Well since Elimination Chamber didn’t hit me as strongly as others (though I enjoyed the two Chamber matches), my bar was set a little lower for Raw and SmackDown.

So now is that point where we find out how both shows did!

 

Raw Ratings:

  • Tables Match: Baron Corbin vs Braun Strowman: Braun wins via Powerslam through Table – *1/2
  • Ricochet & Finn Balor vs Lio Rush & Bobby Lashley: Ricochet wins via 630 Senton – ***
  • Hawkins & Ryder vs Lucha House Party: House Party wins via Hurricanrana – *
  • DIY vs The Revival: DIY wins via Meeting in the Middle – *** ½
  • Drew McIntyre vs Dean Ambrose: McIntyre wins via Claymore – N/A
  • Elias vs Aleister Black: Black wins via Black Mass – *
  • Raw Women’s Championship Match: Ronda Rousey (c) vs Ruby Riott:  Ronda retains via Armbar – **

 

Review Notes:

Triple H comes out, gushes about the PPV, like they always do and then announces a surprise. Ricochet, Aleister Black, Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano will be featured on Raw tonight. Okay…so…this should be interesting.  Wait never mind, because in the same breath he explains the reason there’s tables about is because Braun and Baron will have YET ANOTHER, match no one asked for.

Tables match, not only does the crowd not care, but I’m pretty sure 70% of the audience wants these two, to never touch again. The redid a few spots, including the table spot. It ended the way we all expected, Braun only struggled cause he was banged up. So yeah, this didn’t really do anything for anyone.

After Braun wins, Heyman comes out to hype up Lesnar with a small yet unnecessary interaction with Braun. He says things, video packages play, it’s very paint by numbers.

Finn is up next, Lio and Lashley start trouble…since they’re apparently cool again. Ricochet comes out for the save and we get a tag match. Lio and Lashley against Ryusuke Taguchi’s boys! I’m calling them Apollo Future, educate yourself if you don’t know why. But my big take away here was how awful and out of place Lio looked. Even Lashley looked good. Lio is just a waste of damn space.

Backstage, McIntyre walks up to Triple H demanding Rollins, Ambrose slaps him and says he’s free. So yeah…that’s the set up for their match.

Lucha House Party is an awful gimmick, and to be fair, they aren’t anything special in the ring. Typical “luchador” stuff with no personality, heat or angle makes them a waste of time. The best part from this match was Hawkins having an opening to win the match and he kinda freezes like he doesn’t remember what to do when in an advantageous position.

Heavy Machinery and Lacey Evans strut around for a few minutes…wh-why-what—wa—wh—*head desk*

Backstage segment with Roode, Gable, The Revival and DIY. Sets the stage well with nods to NXT and all of their pasts. So it was a quick way for casual fans to get a small idea of ‘okay they know each other’. As for the match, it was damn good. They always did good work in NXT and it carries over here. A little less time and a little less reign to do as they please, but still a damn good tag match.

Kevin Owens phone promo, which he drops but catches. More of a conversational promo, where his son Owen even makes an appearance when Kevin asks him for change. Apparently Popcorn and a soda is 20 dollars. Sadly, I can believe that…

Sasha and Bayley get to soak in the adoration of a dead crowd, but at least enjoy their distinction of being the first ever WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions. Tamina and Nia show up, they apparently get the first crack. So…yup…I guess that’s a thing.

Drew and Dean barely gets started and it’s over. I love that they book the Claymore like the RKO where it just happens and even matches that should be competitive just end. But yeah, forgettable.

Elias shows up, he starts into his shtick a little, then before he gets to the song, Aleister Black interrupts him. This match was not good. Chemistry was off, Aleister’s strikes weren’t good, his motions seemed to take an extra second, even his back flip sit down spot had a hiccup. Elias caught Aleister with a nice Flying Knee at some point, but that’s the only point that really sticks out. Not a good debut.

Ruby gets a rematch because…reasons. With the squash from the night before, the only thing that gives this credibility is the rest of the Riott Squad at ringside to run interference. Ronda dominates, until the interference kicks in, then Ruby gets in some offense. But suspension of disbelief was the issue here. No one expected Ruby to win because Ronda is the WrestleMania meal ticket, and she had a bad previous showing, so this was a waste of time.

 

Overall Score: 6.5/10

So yeah, the wrestling was actually alright with 3 out of 4 of the NXT surprises being the high points. But so many waste of time filler spots and a dead crowd put a damper on the show. It tried, it had moments where I was entertained, but unlike Elimination Chamber, this was book-ended by matches that actually didn’t matter. Still not an awful show, just closed on a low note.

 

SmackDown Ratings:

  • Aleister Black vs Andrade Almas: Black wins via Black Mass – ***
  • DIY vs The Bar: DIY wins via Cradle – *** ¼
  • Asuka vs Mandy Rose: Rose wins via Roll-Up – *1/2
  • Ricochet vs Eric Young: Ricochet wins via 630 Senton – **
  • Samoa Joe, Daniel Bryan & Randy Orton vs Kofi Kingston, AJ Styles & Jeff Hardy –Kofi gets the pinfall via Trouble in Paradise – ** 1/2

Review Notes:

Shane O’Mac comes out to make Chamber comments, he also declares that since they were such a big hit, the same 4 NXT stars will make their SmackDown debuts as well. Then Miz comes out, apologetic and shouldering the blame. He even says he used Shane for personal reasons to gain favor with his father. Miz makes mention of the ‘no guaranteed rematches’ rule they declared with this new era, but said since Shane is a McMahon he could make it happen anyway. The Usos come out to run down the former champs and goad Shane into using his power to make the match. Miz is happy like a kid who just got the toy he was asking about, for Christmas.

Aleister has the worst Raw debut, but thankfully he and Andrade have good history and work well together. This wasn’t nearly as good as their NXT matches, but with limited time and whatever restrictions come with the main roster, Aleister looked a bit better. They also touched on Aleister basically being the one guy Andrade could never crack the code on. So when Aleister does come up officially, this is a great angle for Andrade to finally get a win.

DIY encounters The Bar backstage. Cesaro and Sheamus tease them about no one knowing who they are and size comments. So that sets the next match.

This match was solid. The smaller team had to maneuver themselves into good positions, and both teams had great flashes. This was probably about on par with the Revival match from Raw, but it loses a quarter of a point for me after the Sunset Flip Power-botch. Yes Ciampa looked like he was able to mostly recover, and after a few replays it looks like he was able to have his leg kinda buckle with Sheamus’ body, so depending on flexibility he might actually be alright. But it still looked bad, and commentary loves to show replays of botches nowadays.

Asuka comes out to basically demand a challenger (her English is better but there were a few imbeciles in the crowd chanting ‘what’ when she spoke. You morons speak the banjo down in New Orleans, don’t try to tease others with accents). Mandy and Sonya come out, with Mandy declaring that she’s ready to step up. The match was slow, stilted and pretty bad all things considered. Spots were sold for too long, or seemed to take a few too many beats to get from point A to B. Mandy did have a beautiful Bicycle Knee that caught Asuka on the outside. But aside from that, the match sucked, but a stop gap defense against Mandy, at a B PPV, is fine.

At this point, I’m just happy to see SAnitY on TV. This match was just generally unexciting. Everyone played their parts alright, Wolfe and Dain had minimal interference but it played a big enough part into a few spots. Not an awful match like Aleister’s on Monday, but the weakest of the Tuesday lot.

The main event felt a little rushed and more of a ‘get your shit in’ match. Not bad, but no real psychology or storytelling. More just trying to pair people off and get to the number 1 contender reveal after Kofi pins Bryan for the face team! Shane comes out immediately and declares Kofi vs Daniel Bryan at Fastlane.

 

Overall Score: 6.5/10

It’s nice they’re still riding the hot hand with Kofi, and the fans haven’t turned on anything yet. Some people are mad about Asuka’s loss, but it’s professional wrestling and she needed an opponent. Mandy used heel tactics to lull Asuka into dropping her guard, it’s a trick as old as time. If you’re freaking out that the “better technical wrestler” shouldn’t lose to someone like Mandy, then you don’t know pro wrestling and need to just shut up and go watch Blue’s Clues or something more rudimentary.

Surprisingly, SmackDown and Raw were both even this week. Raw could’ve been better, but was just weird and SmackDown was just kinda there. So I think this is the first week where the two shows tied. Hmm…well that’s something.


Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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