With Takeover being surprisingly middle of the road, Royal Rumble has a fighting chance this year! Does it cash in on it’s opportunity?
Well now, this review is slightly delayed because for Big Four PPVs I get together with a few buddies and we make an event out of it. So between, hanging out, going til midnight, driving back and other things to get done…I had to sleep.
Big thank you to @Griever2112 for another fun get together! I didn’t win the Rumble picks this year, but he won our Botchamania award for worst picks. So that’s something right?
So now it’s time to see how the Rumble broke down.
- Scott Dawson & Rezar vs Bobby Roode & Chad Gable: Gable wins via Outtatime @6:55 – **
- United States Championship: Shinsuke Nakamura vs Rusev (c): Nakamura wins via Kinshasa @10:15 – ** 3/4 – TITLE CHANGE!!
- Cruiserweight Championship 4-Way: Hideo Itami vs Buddy Murphy vs Kalisto vs Akira Tozawa: Murphy retains via Murphy’s Law @12:05 – *** 1/4
- SmackDown Women’s Championship: Asuka (c) vs Becky Lynch: Asuka retains via Bridging Inverted Guillotine @17:10 – ****
- SmackDown Tag Team Championships: The Bar (c) vs Shane McMahon & The Miz: Shane wins via Shooting Star Press @13:20 – *** 1/4 – TITLE CHANGE!!
- Raw Women’s Championship: Sasha Banks vs Ronda Rousey (c): Rousey retains via Piper’s Pit @13;45 – *** 1/2
- Women’s Royal Rumble: Becky Lynch wins @1:11:25 – ****
- WWE Championship: AJ Styles vs Daniel Bryan (c): Bryan retains by pinfall after Eric Rowan Clawhold Slam @24:35 – ***
- WWE Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs Finn Balor: Brock retains via Kimura Lock @8:35 – *** 3/4
- Men’s Royal Rumble: Seth Rollins wins @58:00 – ***
- So on the Pre-show we get Drake Maverick coming out of Vince’s office talking about an awful idea. This whole hodgepodge team of Scott Dawson and Rezar is just stupid. The match was forgettable but not offensive, the set up was stupid, we really didn’t need this.
- The worst part of the Rusev/Nakamura match is that the ref was literally right in line of sight for Shinsuke removing a turnbuckle pad, and decided to just look at Lana (can’t blame him) and not what she was pointing out. So the finishing sequence was a bit dumb, the Kinshasa to the back of the head looked lethal though. So all in all it was a decent match, but the storyline wrinkle was a little dumb, but more forgivable since it paid off later in the night.
- Cruiserweight’s got to main event the Kickoff Show, so that’s something. Too bad this match was just a basic 4 Way match with smaller guys and nothing of real note. Finishing sequence was a signature/finisher attempt spam and it looked like Hideo had a chance to steal it, but Murphy slips out of the Go to Sleep, and hits Murphy’s Law. I also really hate Lucha House Party, so seeing any bit of that automatically makes me wish for a Jinder Mahal vs Baron Corbin staring contest.
- Well now, this was a great match to kick off the main event. Asuka and Becky tore it up, plus the position allows for the loser to enter the rumble that will be a couple hours later. This match had great striking and technical moments. Asuka going for Fujiwara variations and Becky trying the Asuka Lock were nice elements to prove they just didn’t like each other. Plus I loved the innovative aspect to Asuka’s submission. It reminded me of Pierrothito’s submission Pierrothina, but the fact she bridged out of the necklock looks fantastic. Becky’s face looked to turn bright red, so it wasn’t a weak tap out, it was a fantastic match that never really got topped all night.
- Okay, the fact that Miz’s dad was in the crowd added to the story being told. The match was brutal. Miz held his own nicely, and it’s cool to see this different aspect. He’s not as much of a weasel since he’s trying to prove things to his father and his new best friend. Shane tried to stack up Sheamus and Cesaro in the corner for a Double Coast to Coast, but Cesaro caught him for a Big Swing that lasted a bit. Shane kicked out of the Tandem White Noise move The Bar does, which surprised me a little, and Miz sliding in to hit a Skull Crushing Finale to open up a chance for Shane to go to the top and pull off a gorgeous Shooting Star Press for the win was good stuff. Can’t be mad at this match. It wasn’t an all time classic, but it was good and fun at times.
- Unlike a match later in the night, most people knew how this was ending, and I don’t think Sasha ever won the crowd’s disbelief. Shayna Baszler needs to take pointers from Sasha since when she weakened a limb, she went after it. Sasha kept trying to tap out Ronda, and Ronda wasn’t having it. Hell Ronda got Sasha to tap on the outside, but that doesn’t count. The match was competitive, Ronda looked to be struggling since Sasha really worked over one arm, but the surprise was that Ronda won by pinfall after a Piper’s Pit, not submission. They had words, Sasha throws up the four fingers sowing more seeds of a Four Horsewomen face off, but nothing really happened regardless of really long awkward camera shots before the ad.
- So truncated version, Lacey Evans started things off, and the butterflies were evident. She had a few sloppy exchanges and couldn’t even do a Kip Up, to which Nattie teased her. Liv Morgan was in and out in a couple seconds, Ember had some cool moments, Kacy Catanzaro is gonna do athletic saves too, Billie Kay was stalling until her hetero-life mate Peyton showed up (get the damn reference people), Mandy Rose and Naomi’s story got a little more heat, Zelina Vega came out dressed as Vega from Street Fighter and had a funny under the ring thing which brought Hornswoggle out and confused Rhea Ripley, Lana limped along and couldn’t make because of an ankle injury caused by bumping off the apron in the US match…so Becky walked out and lobbied with Finlay for the #28 slot. Nia tries to screw Becky after Becky eliminates Nia, but gimpy and all The Man gets back in the ring and outlasts Charlotte for the win. Becky versus Ronda is all but confirmed now.
- Daniel Bryan and AJ were put in the death spot, coming off a very fun Rumble that had the crowd going, they started off slow, but the crowd never really got into things. Great wrestling happened in this match with working over limbs and setting up for finishers, on top of only pulling out bigger moves when necessary, but an unexpected re-appearance put the writing on the wall. Flannel clad Eric Rowan stalked the ring, ref gets bumped and AJ takes a Clawhold Slam as Bryan picks up the cheap pinfall. So Captain Planet has his first grunge rock Planteer, I guess this is a thing.
- Finn hit the John Woo Dropkick immediately, and really took it to Brock. Brock was on the back foot the entire match. Repeated Enzuigiris, Dropkicks, Tope con Hilos and even an assist from the corner of the commentary table. The crowd actually popped really hard during Finn’s multiple Topes, and the match, though not long, was a believable story. Finn even managed to land a Coup de Grace, where Brock kicked out and slapped on the Kimura Lock. He hasn’t pulled out the Kimura in what feels like years, so to me, that implied he was out of other options and needed this to work. Finn did tap, but the match was solid action the entire time and the story was perfect. One of Brock’s better matches in the last few years.
- Okay so the Men’s Rumble started off huge and just kinda went down/plateaued from there. Elias was number 1, he does his usual thing, before he starts his song, number 2 comes out, Jeff Jarrett. Jackie Fargo strut and all, I WANTED A DUET! Dammit Elias, I love you, but that could’ve been great. Granted, there’s some Irony with Jarrett getting hit with a guitar and eliminated…but COME ON! Andrade looked good and lasted til the final 6 I believe. Kofi had two saves, one on his own, which wasn’t great and then a tandem one when Xavier was coming to the ring. The best part of this is how McIntyre just clotheslined them both out immediately. So Xavier and No Way Jose might’ve tied Santino’s record. I guess we’ll find out next year when they do their stats rundown. The Men’s rumble was really mostly uneventful even though not bad, until the end. R-Truth got jumped by Nia Jax and she just inserted herself. The men were reluctant to hit her, until Dolph Ziggler Superkicks her, Rey Rey hits the 619 and Randy Orton RKOs her. Randy and Rey have a moment where it seemed like Randy was more surprised Rey hit her, but Rey looked at Randy like ‘Okay, but you have to help me hide the body’. So when Nia finally got eliminated the heel/face dynamic returned, but Randy and Rey having an understanding was cool and off putting all at the same time. So yes, Rollins wins because he was put through a table by Lashley, so he took a 20 minute nap and when Drew got eliminated earlier than expected, there was no way Braun wins that. So yeah…Rollins wins…ugh.
Overall Score: 7.75/10
Even though I’d prefer a root canal to anything involving Seth Rollins, a finish doesn’t change how good the show was. The only match that had to go away was the thrown together tag that started off the Pre-Show. That’s forgivable since people were still getting into the stadium and you don’t want to waste even a slightly important match on a mostly empty building. The women outperformed the men on nearly every level this event, but still, nothing was bad.
Little things about the show kept me interested during the monstrous 7 hours of insanity and the live crowd only really seemed to not care during AJ/Bryan, but also, they were the best ones to put there. If the crowd was dead, it wouldn’t rattle those two, and if anyone could reignite a crowd, it was those two. So, that was perfect placement.
Plus with assumptions of Rollins going after Brock and Becky going after Ronnie, you’d think SmackDown has to win the Elimination Chamber matches this year. Sure, they can extend Bryan/AJ, but that’s getting old. Asuka however, has no real challenger. But, it’s done, the week is in the books and Royal Rumble all things considered, was a better show than Takeover. It’s always nice to see when the main roster is allowed to step it up, even when they’re given a lower bar to exceed.
Good job WWE, now let’s hope Raw and SmackDown continue this and don’t fall back on old habits and make me cry tears of blood.
NXT Minus 6: A Tale of Two Champions
Bradley Jay is here with the WWE NXT Minus 6, and we have new champions. Two very, very different new champions.
Bradley Jay is here with the WWE NXT Minus 6, and we have new champions. Two very, very different new champions.
Our two new champions could not be more different…
6. Doomsday Saito comes to the ring and gives a painful, cliched promo. Any wrestler in the back could have said those exact words. Train harder and beat people up. He’s angry. We get it. The only thing Saito could do that would interest me is move to RawDown. On the other hand…
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Not gonna lie, that promo was wasn’t even hot garbage. It was cold garbage.]
5. Raquel Gonzalez delivers a genuine, heartfelt promo that only she could give. Tears of joy. It told her story, and it’s exactly why she got the pop and the chant she deserved. The addition of Rhea Ripley and Bianca Belair, complete with throwback pic, was icing on the cake. I’m excited for whatever Gonzalez does next. Speaking of…
4. Fantasy booking alert!!! Two weeks ago, Raquel Gonzelez told the world I was the one who believed in her. I was the one who made her a champion. Then Rhea Ripley shows up, and Bianca Belair shows up, and I’m the one sent to the back. How quickly you forget who your real friends are. I was the one who took you to the top, and chicka, I am the one who is going to drag you to the bottom. I used you to get to the top and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I am Dakota Kai.
3. No more Santa Claus Ice Cream Bar. Santos Escobar has earned his name back. His match with KUSHIDA is everything great about NXT. Say it with me. Good things happen when you let wrestlers wrestle! Fast paced. Great action. Surprise ending. I’m going 4.5 stars. Give me a match that good every Tuesday and I’m a happy camper.
2. Right now, I don’t know if any two wrestlers have better chemistry than Swerve Scott and Leon Ruff. Every time they get together, it’s electric, and this week was no different. This is quickly climbing into Rivalry of the Year territory. I thought I was happy to see Swerve pick up the victory and move on. Then Ruff goes insane in the membrane and now I’m excited to watch them fight forever.
1. This week’s That’s Why I Love Wrestling goes to…Roderick Strong. Kayfabe. Work. Shoot. I don’t care. Strong deserved a better goodbye than what he got. He is the Perfection of Performance (shout out to the Hitman). He and Kyle O’Reilly were the best version of the Undisputed Era tag team champions. I always got excited for a Strong match because I knew he’d deliver. Roderick Strong is exactly the kind of wrestler that makes me love wrestling. Until he returns, he will be sorely missed.
Steve Cook’s Fave Five: April 2021
It’s a little more than halfway through April! You know what that means…
It’s a little more than halfway through April! You know what that means.
It’s time to talk about my current five favorite wrestlers like I’m Booker T. Let’s break down the Fave Five!
5. Samoa Joe
A gentle reminder that Samoa Joe is one of the greatest talkers in the game pic.twitter.com/p4TZeZIAV7
— Kenny Majid – A Kenny For Your Thoughts Podcast (@akfytwrestling) April 15, 2021
I figure what happened between Samoa Joe & WWE was the following: WWE offered Joe an announcing contract since either they didn’t want to use him in the ring or their doctors wouldn’t clear him to wrestle. Joe looked at the contract, noticed the financial discrepancy, realized he could probably get NJPW to let him train young boys in California for that kind of money and said “thanks but no thanks”. Nothing else really makes sense to me.
Unfortunately, those who thought that WWE wouldn’t utilize Joe to their fullest potential were right. It wasn’t all WWE’s fault though. Joe had a lot of miles on his tires when he got there. Injuries are always more of a concern with larger wrestlers the older they get. And when Joe was healthy, he did get to do some good stuff and show people a glimpse of the Samoa Joe that people like me raved about back in the mid to late 2000s.
In any event, Joe got his WWE run. It was a thing that happened. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t wind up in AEW because he seems like the kind of guy Tony Khan would throw all the money at. Should be fun!
4. Kris Statlander
— All Elite Wrestling on TNT (@AEWonTNT) April 15, 2021
AEW does have a pretty insane number of factions right now. It risks the possibility of all of the groups blending together, with none of them really capturing the attention of fans. However, there are positive things about AEW’s faction warfare that shouldn’t be overlooked. It makes booking fresh matches to fill cards pretty easy. You can have groups facing off each week, but in different combinations that keep it fresh.
Another good thing: It can help us decide how we feel about characters that we might be on the fence about. Kris Statlander’s character was a topic of discussion from the moment she entered AEW. A lot of people weren’t sure how to take her. Wrestling aliens, or wrestlers who think they’re aliens, aren’t exactly common. Its the kind of thing that gets over in the indies, because those feds attract fans that are more willing to buy into unique concepts. Mainstream is a tougher sell.
Aligning Kris with the Best Friends makes sense to those in the know, since she came up working shows with them. It also helps people that don’t know about her figure out more. The Best Friends are a happy go lucky group that are the whitest of white meat babyfaces you’ll find in AEW, and that’s a good thing. They’re welcoming to people with unique personalities, as Orange Cassidy’s presence establishes. A friendly alien couldn’t ask for a better group to surround herself with, and from their appearances so far she seems like a perfect fit.
Add in the fact that the time on the shelf helped her get into better shape and refine her look & presence, and the sky’s the limit for Statlander. As long as she can stay in the ring, I’m expecting big things from her in 2021.
3. Tay Conti
Sometimes, all one needs is a change of scenery to approach their true potential. Tay spent a few years at the WWE Performance Center learning how to be a professional wrestler. During her time there, Tay never showed much in the way of potential. Even though she had a combat sports background and had the type of physical appearance that gets attention, Conti’s TV time was very limited and uneventful. She seemed like one of those wrestlers that was bound to stay in developmental until WWE gave up on them, then drop off the face of the earth without most wrestling fans noticing.
Tay’s story took a different route. She ended up being one of the cuts that AEW took an interest in, and was brought in for the Deadly Draw Women’s Tag Team Tournament. Her teaming with Anna Jay worked well on & off-camera, and she pretty much fit right in with the group immediately. She started training with Dustin Rhodes, and pretty much immediately started looking better in the ring & figuring out what worked for her. Now, she’s one of the people helping AEW’s women’s division go to a higher level.
This isn’t meant to denigrate WWE’s Performance Center or its methods. There just isn’t a wrestling training center out there that’s going to work for everybody. Tay had to find what worked for her. The people that recently got cut will have to do the same. Hopefully, the people that recently got signed by WWE will thrive in that environment.
2. Bianca Belair
We’ve recently seen three new Women’s Champions under the WWE umbrella, all of whom are great in their own way. I’ve talked about Rhea Ripley before, she’s got unlimited potential and so far she’s done very well on the main roster. Raquel Gonzalez is doing very well on NXT and her push to the championship made perfect sense & got over. I do think the best of the title changes was Bianca’s defeat of Sasha Banks in the main event of WrestleMania Saturday. It was a special moment for Bianca, a very fun match to watch, and a great performance from both Bianca & Sasha Banks, who did everything she could to make Bianca in that match.
You see the video of the NXT segment up above, with the three current Women’s Champions under the WWE umbrella celebrating together. Apparently there was a picture taken in 2019, and there were pictures taken after this week’s NXT, with Triple H making sure to get in there as he likes to do with all new champions. I’ve never really been a fan of that sort of thing, even the “Horsewomen” celebrations on previous NXT shows didn’t do much for me.
Besides the usual complaints people have about things like that, the thing that I didn’t like was how Rhea & Raquel came off. They were all smiling & happy like they were Big Daddy Cool Diesel after beating Mr. Bob Backlund in 1994. Completely against what Raquel has been up to this point, and what Rhea has been when she’s been at her best. Hopefully this is just a one-time thing for Rhea for the portion of the NXT audience that likes their lady wrestlers crying & happy after their performances, and hopefully it’s leading to Raquel getting dismembered by Dakota Kai, who can’t be happy about her heater winning the championship and then turning into Smilin’ Diesel.
Fortunately for Bianca, it does nothing to affect her character or our opinion of her. That’s why I think her title run will go best. I’m also putting her here because I’m pretty well convinced there isn’t a wrestling move or spot she can’t do well. Insanely talented, and the more experience she gets the better she’ll be.
1. Darby Allin
Sometimes you just want to watch something that’s stupid fun. Something that doesn’t need too much thought in order to enjoy it. Just people doing crazy things to entertain an audience. Darby Allin matches are just what you need when you’re looking for something like this. There isn’t anybody crazier in pro wrestling today than Darby, which is probably for the best. I’m convinced this kid has a death wish.
The one thing that kinda gets me about Darby sometimes is how he kicks out of everything. Poor Matt Hardy wasn’t going to beat that kid unless he shot him with a gun, and apparently there’s a metal detector at Daily’s Place. (Shoutout to Matt by the way, hell of an effort in that match.) But then I remember that Darby Allin is a daredevil and constantly posting videos online where he’s jumping off high places and doing crazy things. Obviously, it’s going to take a little more to beat a daredevil than your average pro wrestler.
What’s it going to take to beat Darby Allin? That’s a good reason to keep watching.
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