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Levin’s WWE SmackDown Review 1/1/19: AJ Styles Earns Title Shot

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AJ Styles WWE Smackdown

It was a busy first Smackdown of 2019, full of in-ring action and the crowning of a challenger for Daniel Bryan and the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble.

A.J. Styles defeated four other WWE superstars on SmackDown Live to earn the right to face Daniel Bryan for the WWE Title at the Royal Rumble on Tuesday night. It was a fitting way to start of the new year as this kind of feud is one WWE has been hoping to cash in on for some time.

Styles pinned Randy Orton in a five-way match to determine who would face the current WWE Champion. While Mustafa Alu, Rey Mysterio, and Samoa Joe could not get the job done, WWE is moving forward with a darker, more aggressive Styles on the road toward WrestleMania in April.

Personally, I like the idea of changing Styles’ character a bit while still billing him as the blue brand’s top babyface. WWE did the right thing in allowing Daniel Bryan to shock the world before the end of the year with his heel turn to claim the promotion’s biggest prize. Now, the creative team must create a compelling feud that sets the tone for the next 12 months.

Styles is every bit this generation’s Shawn Michaels in that he is the brand’s best performer. He may not be the juggernaut on the microphone like The Miz or the sadistic tempered Orton, there is plenty to build from his character to ratchet his aggression a but without him losing his status with wrestling fans as their conquering hero.

A Styles-Bryan match should be one of the highlights of the night on Jan. 27. WWE needs another strong showing to continue their promise of change. Raw’s main event picture has been damaged because of the loss of Roman Reigns to the roster. SmackDown’s women’s division is the best thing going today. Braun Strowman and Brock Lesner will once again lock it up for the Universal Title. And then there is the Women’s and Men’s Royal Rumble matches.

If WWE wants to get over with its fan base, then have the Styles-Bryan feud continue off and on throughout the year, much the company has done in the past with John Cena and CM Punk or Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes in the NWA. Fans will always accept this kind of cash-in, as the story inside the ring sells itself.

When Bryan was at the height of the “Yes! Movement” it was easy to pick matches for the superstar because of his ability in the ring. Styles, Michaels, Bret Hart, Kurt Angle. They all fit the “What If” scenario of a potential comeback for the four-time WWE champion as he dealt with injuries that forced him to retire from the ring. His return guaranteed another run with the belt in hand, but it did not promise a change in character or attitude.

Styles’ attack on Vince McMahon last week showed even the most popular stars have to find ways to reinvent themselves as performers. The feud with Samo Joe took Styles to the brink, but it did not do the one thing I had hoped it would do – give the company strap to Joe. It would have then forced Styles to readjust his character. Maybe this is what the McMahons had in mind all along.

In a little over three weeks, fans will get the title match they want with two of the best performers in the world. We can all hope it lives up to the hype. If the superstars can perform as well outside the ring with promos as they do inside the squared-circle, this could be a “Match of the Year contender” out of the gate.

That’s something myself as a fan hopes will happen


Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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Steve Cook’s Top 5 Worst Tag Team Names

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Team Hell No Worst Tag Tean Names Daniel Bryan Kane

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)

WWE Daniel Bryan Kane Smackdown

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)

TM61

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.


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

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Joe Lucha Libre Report

The world of Lucha Libre can be insane and overwhelming–but you have Joe Dinan here to help you make sense of it all!

CMLL

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.

AAA

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.


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