Heading into 2018, I thought it would be a good idea to take a guess at what the top wrestling stories of the year would be. As we’re at the end of 2018, I figure now is a good time to take a look back & see if I was right, wrong or in the middle.
Today, we look at my Top 5 Non-WWE Stories of 2018, originally published on December 12 of 2017, see if they actually were stories or not.
5. Lucha Underground Season 4
“We were unsure about the future of Lucha Underground. Would there be a Season 4? Last month we finally found out that the answer was “yes” & tapings would start “sometime soon”. February is the current rumor.
Lucha Underground started off really hot, but the buzz has died down over the last couple of seasons. There were plenty of high points in Season 3, but the length of time between taping & airing gave the show a lame duck kind of feel that had been lacking in previous seasons. Also, folks like Prince Puma & Rey Mysterio leaving don’t exactly help the buzz factor. We’ll see what rabbits LU can pull out of their hats for a Season 4 expected to come in somewhere half as long as Season 3. We’ll also see how long it takes to air the finished product, and if that saps the buzz out of the show.”
What Happened: Season 4 aired in full on the El Rey Network from June to November. The buzz, as I suspected, wasn’t there. With all sorts of LU talent appearing in Impact Wrestling, and guys like Fenix & Pentagon wrestling all over the world for any company that will have them, the promotion/TV show doesn’t have the wrestling hook going for it. Even their far out & wacky ideas aren’t quite as far out & wacky as they used to be. The Hardys have done some stuff on WWE & Impact comparable to Lucha Underground at its craziest. Impact has done some really weird stuff, including having Scarlett Bordeaux teleport & Eddie Kingston try to kill a kid with a car. Both are the kinds of things you would expect to see on an LU episode.
Lucha Underground’s effect on pro wrestling will outlive its existence, which of course is in question for 2019.
4. Aro Lucha: Southern Style Lucha Libre?
“It was only a matter of time before Konnan found another lucha libre company to work with after he lost the AAA political battles. He carries a lot of influence with certain people & always finds a way to rise to the top somewhere. Enter Aro Lucha, a startup lucha company based out of Nashville, Tennessee. Ron & Don Harris, longtime wrestlers & former TNA financial backers, are among the co-founders, Konnan is the head writer & Vince Russo is a script consultant. Which, given Vince’s past with luchadores, seems like an interesting choice.
The pilot tapings, held at the former TNA Asylum in Nashville, featured many recognizable names. Rey Mysterio, Johnny Mundo/Impact, Hurricane Helms, James Storm, MVP & Pentagon Jr./Dark/Penta 0M among many others. Heck, my old friend Rebecca Hardy was on the show, I should ask her what’s going on with these folks. Probably not.
The taping was received well by the crowd, which was larger than Aro Lucha was expecting. Will this early success lead to more?’
What Happened: For most of 2018, not much. It seemed like the major players here moved on to other things. Konnan has been all over Impact & MLW, while Rey Mysterio worked everywhere before eventually returning to WWE. I think Konnan’s also back with AAA, but it’s always tough to tell who has the power there.
We’d forgotten about Aro Lucha until they had some commercials air during recent episodes of Impact. This was confusing. It said Aro Lucha was coming in 2019, which many took to mean that an Aro Lucha TV show was coming to Pop. Which would have made sense, but that’s not the case. The commercials were provided by Impact Wrestling, not Pop. Does Aro Lucha have a deal with Anthem? Was it a favor to Konnan?
I have no idea. All I know for sure is that Aro Lucha had little to no effect on 2018.
3. The NWA Rebuild
“William Corgan & David Lagana have a twenty-year plan for the return of the National Wrestling Alliance into the hearts & minds of all wrestling fans. This plan will likely face some bumps in the road, but they’ve already shown some gains early on in their stewardship of the company.
Tim Storm was a name that nobody except people that looked up the NWA Championship on Wikipedia knew. He’s 52 years old & has wrestled for a long time…but not all that much outside of the Texas independent scene. Once Corgan purchased the NWA, he & Lagana began the work of building Tim Storm into a champion that people outside of Texas cared about. They got him into new environments & gave him a forum to express himself. The Ten Pounds of Gold YouTube series followed Storm to Los Angeles, Nashville, his high school & finally Philadelphia, where his title reign came to an end at the hands of Nick Aldis…managed by Memphis wrestling legend Austin Idol?
We’ll see where the NWA goes in 2018, but the rise of Tim Storm in the latter months of 2017 has to be considered a good sign of things to come.”
What Happened: The NWA threw itself behind Nick Aldis in 2018, trying to use his Crusade across continents defending the Worlds Championship to make it a big deal once again. Undoubtedly, the highlight was seeing the championship defended at All In, and won by the son of a former NWA Champion. Cody’s reign was short and they’ve gone right back to Nick Aldis. The NWA doesn’t mind getting the rub from Cody & the Elite, but they’re not going to cede control to them. Former NWA promoters have made that mistake in the past, so it seems like Corgan & Lagana have learned that lesson.
It’s a twenty-year plan. They’re not at the top of the mountain yet, but they are further along than they were a year ago.
2. Dalton Castle: Ring of Honor Champion
“Since his arrival in 2015, the Party Peacock has established himself as the most charismatic wrestler to set foot in Ring of Honor since anybody can remember. Back when ROH started in 2002, an androgynous character like Dalton likely would have been booed out of the building by wrestling fans conditioned to dislike anybody that didn’t come off like a real man, brother. Times have changed, and Castle’s antics were tremendously popular from the start. His Freddy Mercuryesque persona was fresher than anything else ROH was doing that wasn’t borrowed from New Japan Pro Wrestling.
The ROH World Championship has recently been dominated by wrestlers better known outside the company. Jay Lethal & Christopher Daniels got their start in ROH, but made their names in TNA. Cody brought name value from his time in WWE, along with his famous family that he can’t mention but everybody knows about. Dalton Castle is something that Ring of Honor can call their own. He’s very much in the tradition of Gorgeous George, “Exotic” Adrian Street & Goldust. Those men were big draws in their time, but their companies never made them the focal point.
Dalton Castle is now the focal point of Ring of Honor, outside whoever might be in from New Japan, of course. It’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts to his new role, and what it might mean for the future of major singles championships. Can a character like Dalton Castle work as a top babyface? We’re about to find out.”
What Happened: Like most ROH World Championship reigns, Castle’s didn’t live up to the promise. It had nothing to do with his persona & everything to do with injuries. Several matches had to be cancelled during Castle’s reign due to nagging injuries, which also had the effect of making him less capable in the ring than normal. Fans that were wanting Castle to be champion were happy to see his title reign come to an end, if for no other reason than he could get some rest.
Even if Dalton hadn’t been injured, one had the feeling that he would still be second fiddle to Bullet Club/Elite shenanigans. That’s something ROH will need to address in 2019, when they won’t be able to focus their shows around the likes of Cody & the Young Bucks.
Honorable Mention: The Continued Saga of Impact Wrestling
“You know that Impact Wrestling is going to have more ups & downs than the coaching career of Marvin Lewis in 2018. It’s like that every single year with this company. Wrestlers will come & go. New creative forces will come in, then depart. New ownership might show up. New TV deals might be made. The show could change networks and/or time slots.
You never really know what’s going to happen next with Impact Wrestling…you just know that it’s going to be unexpected, and the company isn’t going to die. It’s always interesting to watch from the sidelines.”
What Happened: More crazy ups & downs! The ownership stayed the same, and creative mainly stayed the same, but wrestlers came & went as they usually do. The timeslot moved two hours later into Thursday night, and later in the year it was announced that Impact will be moving to the Pursuit Channel in 2019. Friday night at 10 PM if you’re scoring at home, or even if you’re alone.
Which you are if you’re watching Impact Wrestling at 10 PM on a Friday night.
Honorable Mention: Cody Rhodes & The Young Bucks going “All-In”
.@CodyRhodes confirms he and the Young Bucks are self-financing the 10k seat "All In" show, says they want @ringofhonor involved and that he wants to put the ROH World Title on the line against @WWEDanielBryan in the main event: https://t.co/Ih7QtzkA5g pic.twitter.com/8kJX3ZHYWr
— SiriusXM Busted Open (@BustedOpenRadio) November 28, 2017
“Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks are set on a course to present their own wrestling show, currently dubbed “All In” and are planning to draw 10,000 fans to an arena in North America. This started out as a Dave Meltzer pseudo-challenge, but it’s turned into it’s own little circus with rumors of names from CM Punk to Daniel Bryan and New Japan to Ring Of Honor. Going to be a very interesting one, for sure.”
What Happened: All In drew over 10,000 fans to the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. CM Punk & Daniel Bryan weren’t there, but there was more than a little bit of New Japan & Ring of Honor influence. All Elite Wrestling will debut in 2019 & will be the top non-WWE story without question.
1. New Japan’s American Future
“It’s no secret that New Japan Pro Wrestling is targeting the North American marketplace. Bringing in Chris Jericho for Wrestle Kingdom 12 is a sure-fire way to get attention over here. Bullet Club merchandise has taken over Hot Topic, & you almost see as many of their t-shirts at WWE events as anybody else’s these days. Kenny Omega, the Young Bucks & Cody Rhodes are proving that you don’t need WWE to make big money in this market.
Mark Cuban, whose AXS TV network carries NJPW programming, says that New Japan isn’t true competition to WWE due to the language barrier. I don’t think anybody that isn’t a hardcore puroresu fan will sit here and tell you that NJPW World is going to get more subscribers than WWE Network. However, New Japan continues to gain more American interest with each Bullet Club t-shirt sale & each Tweet on social media. Jericho may not be back in New Japan after January 4, but his presence will bring new eyeballs that might return even if he’s gone.
Whether New Japan is “competitive” with WWE or not, they want their piece of American pie.”
What Happened: New Japan ran several shows on the West Coast in 2018. They opened a dojo in Los Angeles. Chris Jericho worked a number of shows for the company as its Intercontinental Champion. More is planned for 2019, including a co-promoted event with Ring of Honor in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. New Japan is playing this thing slowly, which is the right move.
It’ll be interesting to see what the exit of the Elite does to New Japan’s standing in America. One’s tempted to think it could be a major setback. Then again, New Japan saw WWE sign away AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson a couple of years ago, and that didn’t seem to hurt too much. Granted, Styles especially would be a great talent for New Japan to have at its disposal right now. Either way, New Japan doesn’t seem to have problems creating stars that appeal to their fanbase. Barring WWE signing every single person on the roster, I don’t see talent being an issue anytime soon.
Later this week, we look at what I thought would be the top 5 WWE stories!
NXT Minus 6: Moving Forward
What does the next era of NXT hold?
It’s WWE NXT: We’re moving on. We’re not bitter. We’re happy with what we have.
6. The WWE reeeeeally loves to screw with us. They spend weeks dumping on NXT then kick off a show with a 4.7 star banger?!?!?! Buddy Murphy is a big league striker. He packs a punch far above his weight class. Meanwhile, Velveteen Dream steals another victory. I like where they’re going with him. Shades of the Ultimate Opportunist. Living on the Edge of a Dream?
5. “Charlie Brown finally kicked the football.” Oh Mauro, sometimes you are just too good.
4. Dominik Dijakovic is in desperate need of a save. I have no idea what that promo was. Ancient Wicca prayer? Medieval magnet poetry? He is world class in ring and absolutely floundering on the mic. He’s so bad, it would be an upgrade if Io Shirai was his manager.
3. Speaking of promos, Johnny Champion adds another layer to his story. Johnny Smartass absolutely crushed Adam Cole on the mic. I know they said 2-out-of-3 would be definitive, but if we get Johnny Gargano-Adam Cole part 2 in HIAC or falls count anywhere, I’d find it in my heart to forgive them.
2. Shayna Baszler watches Dark Side of the Ring. She thinks it’s a comedy. She is PURE EVIL. She is as pure of a heel as there is. She is the anti-Ricky Steamboat.
1. I’m trying to overlook how poorly WWE handled Kairi Sane’s last NXT match. Instead, I am focusing on how much it adds to the inevitable Baszler-Io Shirai matchup. Shirai has improved in ring every time out, but she’s still anime nicey nice. It will be exciting to see her turn up the emotion and intensity and really look to hurt Baszler as payback for her best friend. This one could steal the show at the next Takeover.
That’s right…I said it.
Mcleod: Will We Ever Get The Lee vs. Dijakovic Rematch?
Will we ever see the anticipated rematch?
Keith Lee and Dominik Dijakovic tore the house down in their first WWE NXT encounter, and Scott Mcleod is eagerly awaiting the rematch–just like the rest of us!
Cast your minds back several weeks when we saw a short but physically impressive match between Keith Lee & Dominik Dijakovic. We saw Lee get monkey flipped only to land on his feet and Dijakovic hit a corkscrew plancha to the outside. The match unfortunately ended in a double count out but we were lead to believe this wasn’t over as they continue to brawl while refs try to pull them apart.
They were scheduled to face off on the episode where the 5 way to face Gargano took place and that was the focus of that episode. A week or so later Lee said they would settle their differences in two weeks time.Two weeks should have this week but Lee was nowhere to be seen. Dijakovic came out and beat an enhancement in record time before declaring his intentions to challenge for the North American Championship. Judging from this week it looks like they’re feud is done which is just a shame.
They teased us with what could be with that match several weeks ago. Two guys who have the size but can pull out incredible displays of athleticism. Put that on a takeover give them around 10 minutes between two title matches and they would tear the house down. It would be a shame to not see this match at least one more time in NXT. If a few weeks ago didn’t convince you then check out their match from the PWG Battle of Los Angeles 2017 which was rated 5 stars.
It would be something different to everything else on the card. If Dijakovic is set to challenge Velveteen Dream can we not not add Lee and make it a triple threat. Think of how good Dijakovic vs Lee was and add the Dream. Don’t tell me you don’t want to see that on a Takeover. They could have a good build as well. You have the charisma of Lee & Dream along with the intensity of Dijakovic. I need to see that now.
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