Greg DeMarco reviews the solid slate of in-ring programming offered this week on the WWE Network: 205 Live, NXT UK, and WWE NXT!
WWE presented another good set of programs on the WWE Network this week with 205 Live, NXT UK, and WWE NXT. If you want more in-ring product from WWE, these are the shows you should be watching.
WWE 205 Live (air date 2/19/19)
TJP vs. Humberto Carrillo – ***
- This would end up being TJP’s last televised WWE match. Who knew! (Probably someone checking their DMs within the last few weeks?)
- Humberto is a star, and obviously the right guy went over here.
- I think Humberto is going to join up with Drew Gulak & Jack Gallagher for a bit, possibly feud with the Lucha House Party, before finally having enough of their garbage and going on his own, elevated.
Ariya Daivari vs. Johnny Lyons – **1/4
- Daivari went for cheap heat, but it makes sense since he hasn’t done much recntly.
- The crowd was more behind the local kid than Daivari, but it was like the Raw crowd from Monday.
- Quick, and effective squash for Daivari.
Mike Kanellis vs. Cedric Alexander – ***
- I was so excited for Mike & Maria to come to WWE. I was wrong in my excitement.
- Mike’s aggressive ways continued, but he fell to another former Cruiserweight Champion.
- I know he wants to go to NXT UK, but it could be a good chance for him to show both sides–in-ring and character. If they let him go, they might want to let him go sans Maria.
- This match got crazy good time–nearly 20 minutes–and they told a good story. The near fall was beautifully done–so much so that someone on Raw or Smackdown will steal it for WrestleMania.
Overall: This was a transitional show, as we are gearing up for the 8-Man Cruiserweight Tournament to name Buddy Murphy’s challenger at WrestleMania 35. I would have chosen Noam Dar, but something tells me it’s going to be Cedric again.
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WWE NXT UK (air date 2/20/19)
Mark Andrews & Flash Morgan Webster vs. Gallus members Mark & Joe Coffey – ***
- The Coffey Brothers being in the tag team division seems to hurt Joe, IMO. But we don’t know when the next UK Takeover is, so there’s time.
- The way he was booked, Joe Coffey should be able to beat both these guys by himself.
- The right team went over, but taping NXT UK in Phoenix wasn’t the best idea.
Side note: I am here for a Nina Samuels push. Give me her over Jinny any day of the week.
Trent Seven vs. Shane Thorne – ***3/4
- This is where things get weird. Different crowd, different ring announcer, etc. Obviously this was taped as a random match and thrown into the broadcast. But it’s Trent Seven and Shane Thorne, that’s all we need!
- Any young wrestlers, in training, should watch this match. They made the most out of the basics, and built to the bigger spots. Great match overall.
- Trent Seven wins, which makes sense for a throw away match. Thorne winning and continuing a program with the two at the next tapings in the UK makes sense to me, but that’s my playlist.
Side note: Another different announcer for the Grizzled Young Veterans, so I think this whole production was taped and then organized after the fact.
Another side note: Next week’s show is setting up like a mini-Takeover.
NXT UK Women’s Championship: Toni Storm (c) vs. Rhea Ripley – ***1/4
- Hot start to the match, with Ripley on the attack.
- No offense to Nigel McGuinness or Vic Joseph, but no one cares if Jinny is watching.
- I know modern wrestling gets a bad rap at times, but one thing they’ve accomplished is making the headbutt effective AND safe.
- Several near falls, which I get–but could you imagine the title changing hands at Axxess? I sure can’t.
- Storm gets the win, but I really hope that wasn’t the blow-off to this feud (unless Ripley is moving to NXT).
Overall: Good episode, but these matches would have better resonated in the UK. I know taping in the US was a need and not a want, but I hope they didn’t give too much away.
WWE NXT (air date 2/20/19)
Aleister Black vs. Roderick Strong – ****
- Takeover quality match to start NXT this week? I’m here for it, but I feel like it could have benefited from more fanfare.
- “Tattooing the back of the Dutch Destroyer” is a crazy funny line from Nigel, considering the tattooed state of Aleister Black’s back.
- There wasn’t much doubt about who was winning here, but Roddy looked great in defeat. A Takeover quality match to start the show indeed!
- The post-match attack was assumed, as it puts Aleister Black and Ricochet together–remember that this was taped in January, so don’t pretend that the whole Dusty Classic thing came out of nowhere.
Mia Yim vs. Xia Le – ***1/2
- Xia Le is crisp as hell, and if they can find a way to connect her withe fans, she could be huge.
- Speaking of connecting, Mia Yim as a challenger for Shayna Baszler is something I can get behind.
- Yim picks up the win, but Le has a future as well.
NXT North American Championship: Johnny Gargano (c) vs. Velveteen Dream – ***3/4
- Dream, of course, earned a championship opportunity by winning the World’s Collide Tournament at Axxess in Phoenix. He selected the North American Championship for his shot.
- Tommaso Ciampa watching from the rafters works for me, because we all know this is continuing.
- That was a SHOT from Velveteen Dream to Johnny Gargano’s mouth.
- Dream doesn’t need to show off the technical skill, especially when he doesn’t have a ton of it. That’s not what he has, and that’s not why he’s over.
- Long term, Dream’s career isn’t going to be about championships. It’s about being an iconic character. But he will have some accolades, and this is one.
- I actually hated Dream winning with the Purple Rainmaker. In this case, it makes more sense for him to pull out a win with something else, really giving fans that shocking high.
Overall: Another great episode of NXT–long gone are the days where the brand lost its footing. They are back in full stride, making them hard to beat.
All three of these shows were fantastic, and each one gave you a reason to watch and to come back for more. They are what wrestling is all about, and if you want more wrestling from your wrestling, it’s right here for you.
Greg DeMarco’s Three Stars Of The Night: WWE Raw (4/22/19)
In a good edition of Raw, who stood out at the top Three Stars?
The first WWE Raw after 2019 WWE Superstar Shake-Up saw a #1 contender established for Seth Rollins. But who stood out to Greg DeMarco?
Judging by Twitter, the world seems to agree with Big Daddy DeMarco that this was a good edition of Raw. We may not have Bobby Fernandes at our disposal right now, but I dare say he’d also find it Good. That said, there are talents who rose above the rest. Who were they? Let’s have a look!
The Third Star: Cedric Alexander and Cesaro
Two new members of the Raw roster went to battle here. One was revealed last week (Cedric Alexander), and the other was revealed earlier today in some additional roster swapping (Cesaro). I loved seeing Cedric hold his own against a much larger opponent. That is something he hasn’t had to do in recent years, but he didn’t miss a beat. Cedric the underdog (a role Ricochet seems to be inheriting as well) can work. As for Cesaro? He delivered in a big way here, looking great in the process. The right guy won, but both looked great coming out of this match.
Elisa looks great in her Chairshot gear.
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The Second Star: Lacey Evans
I gotta call a spade a spade: this wasn’t a good night for Becky Lynch. Yes, Alicia Fox has her faults, but those miscues seemed to be equal parts Becky and equal parts Alicia. Enter Lacey Evans to save the segment! Lacey knows her character…Lacey IS her character. She might be the strongest character in WWE today, and she deserves every opportunity coming her way. At this point I am rooting for Becky to lose to Lacey, because seeing The Lady of WWE holding the Raw Women’s Championship just feels right.
Honorable Mention: Sami Zayn, Robert Roode, AJ Styles, Baron Corbin, Samoa Joe, Rey Mysterio, The Miz, Drew McIntyre
The First Star: Bray Wyatt
We’ve been waiting for Bray Wyatt to make his return, and when we are made to wait too long things don’t usually pan out. I am happy to return: this panned out! Bray Wyatt has taken hold of his character’s new direction, and delivered a segment that quickly became the #1 trend, and has people wanting more. That is the goal, and Bray nailed the goal in his first segment back. Yowey-wowey I can’t wait to see what’s next!
In hockey, a game’s “Three Stars Of The Night” represent the top three performers of the night. For more clarification, I defer to this Pittsburgh Gazette explanation:
“The tradition dates to the 1936-37 season, when Imperial Oil became the principal sponsor of Hockey Night in Canada radio broadcasts and was seeking a way to promote one of its products, Three Star gasoline. The idea of doing so by selecting the top three performers in a particular game purportedly came from a Canadian advertising agency.
Many clubs do recognize the player with the most three-star selections with an award or trophy, usually in conjunction with a corporate sponsorship, at the end of the season (or sometimes, each month). All six Canadian franchises, for example, have an affiliation with a well-known brewery.
The NHL keeps track of its own Three Stars Of The Night selections, but that is done on a league-wide basis. The league employs a system that awards 30 points to a first star, 20 to a second star and 10 to a third – a running total can be found on the league’s website – but it does not present an award based on them.”
In hockey tradition, the first star represents the best of the three, but all three are considered to be receiving a high honor.
Chris: Examining The WWE SmackDown Live Shake-Up
Did the Superstar Shake-Up turn WWE Smackdown into the A-Show?
Christopher McManus takes a deep dive into the WWE Smackdown Live side of this week’s Superstar Shake-Up!
The smoke has cleared and now the RAW and SmackDown Live rosters have changed dramatically over the span of 48 hours. The WWE Universe has seen an entirely new landscape with locker room leaders switching brands, tag divisions finding balance, and a women’s division stronger than ever. Today, I highlight the moves that were made to the SmackDown Live brand and what this means in a very pivotal year for the show going forward.
It is no secret that with SmackDown moving to the Fox Network in October, the brand was going to have a large number of star power and a roster that’s is presentable for a prime time slot that’s going to be available in every household possible. The Superstar Shake-Up did that in droves, creating strong moves that will make the blue brand an intriguing show going into its transition.
Let’s get to one of the main reasons SmackDown will be benefitting heavily with their impending move to the Fox Network and that is The Big Dog in the WWE. The former WWE and Universal Champion made his jump during the closing moments of SmackDown Live, delivering a Superman Punch to WWE Chairman Vince McMahon and spearing Elias. This was the play that the company had in mind for well over a year, as Reigns swapping with AJ Styles was necessary for a number of reasons.
Reigns, much like Styles, have done all that he could on Monday nights. Highly regarded as the top male star in the company and the main locker room leader, Reigns bring the star power and motivation to a young SmackDown roster ready to transition. He will still be in the background as he’s still recovering from his leukemia treatment. Until then, he will be working small programs with Elias to pick up on his ring condition. When that happens, it’s going to be an exciting time with all the new match-ups at his disposal.
A move that was a year in the making, Finn Balor has the opportunity to be one of the top three names on the SmackDown Live roster. Balor also brings the WWE Intercontinental Championship with him, for who he is in his second reign. It is possible that like before, the midcard titles could effectively switch brands with Samoa Joe and the United States title going to Monday Night RAW. Balor also has Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows lurking around, so if creative was interested in pairing “The Good Brothers” again then that’s a direction worth looking into.
The Boulder Beast has finally found a home. After his debut was postponed due to him no-showing a couple of events in January, the Leviathan made his long-awaited presence felt by destroying WWE legends such as Kurt Angle and The Hardy Boyz during Mania Week. It seems like the WWE brass is still high on The Freak Man, having him decimate a number of super popular stars. With Sullivan officially being on the blue brand, many could expect some big plans heading his way.
“The War Goddess” made her return at WrestleMania after recovering from elbow surgery and didn’t miss a beat with her showing in the Women’s Battle Royal. As what was shown leading up to WrestleMania was the severe lack of depth to SmackDown’s women’s division, leading to Charlotte Flair to regain the title from Asuka to help with the brand’s credibility at the time. With the Shake-Up approaching yesterday, Ember was one of the easy candidates in providing balance to a depleted women’s roster and an opportunity to be a perennial title contender in the coming months.
While expected, this still came as a surprise that the former Women’s Tag Champion would now be on Tuesday nights. Bayley has been indirectly involved with the current fiasco surrounding Sasha Banks, who has taken a leave of absence following their defeat at WrestleMania. Whether it played a factor in Bayley moving over or has yet to be determined, but this was also needed for lovable babyface. Prior to her tag run with Sasha, Bayley tread throughout the RAW’s waters barely finding consistent footing. Far too often and even now, she is seen as the fourth wheel of “The Four Horsewomen” of wrestling and. This is her chance to “be the change,” as she likes to put it and make a name for herself as a solo star.
As promised by Paige last week, she would bring in an impressive team to SmackDown Live to combat against The IIconics. “The Pirate Princess” made her SmackDown debut aligning with Asuka as two STARDOM alumni and instant contenders for the Women’s Tag Team Titles. Sane has been featured on both Women’s Royal Rumbles and WrestleMania Battle Royals to moderate success and participated in WWE’s sole women’s pay-per-view Evolution. The casual audience that knows her should fall in love with the Disney character come to life, as her charisma and mannerisms will have her as a longtime fan favorite for years to come.
It was a foregone conclusion that Buddy Murphy would be making a jump to the big boys after losing the Cruiserweight Championship at WrestleMania, the only question is where he would go. When Cedric Alexander was announced he’ll be heading to RAW, Murphy was the next name to be leaving 205 Live to join Team Blue. This is an incredible story for “The Best Kept Secret”, who just in 2017 was grinding on the NXT Florida loops and having heavily-praised classics with Johnny Gargano and Aleister Black. He would continue to chase for the brass ring in shedding enough weight to join the 205 Live roster and stealing the show on a weekly basis.
The former “Cruiserweight Juggernaut” will have a chance to do the same thing on Tuesday nights, with a fresh set of faces to display his skills against. He can rekindle his old feud against Ali, trade strikes with Finn Balor, and even step up to Roman Reigns himself. The possibilities are endless for him and if there’s one man that can prove his opportunity is worth it, it is him.
Vince McMahon’s “biggest acquisition in SmackDown history” turned out to be RAW’s former drifter Elias. Feeling that now he longer have to deal with the interruptions on Monday, Elias was quickly dealt with by Roman Reigns. This is likely to be his first program on the blue brand, as SmackDown has always been the breeding ground for midcarders needing to break through to the top of the card. He’s always been a serviceable act on RAW and now will have to step it up a notch on the show full of workhorses.
The Riott Squad started like a ball of fire nearly two years ago only to fizzle out throughout 2018. As with many members of the main roster, they became victims of circumstance, often fed to Ronda Rousey and The Four Horsewomen. It was only a matter of time that the trio would run their course and had to split in order to truly get the most out of each other. In Liv Morgan’s case, this is a show-and-prove moment for the mischievous, plucky superstar. It will be her first true test as a potential singles competitor, which means she will have to go out of her way to stand out on a now stacked division. Hopefully, she has grown enough not to draw similarities to Carmella, who both developed a brash and urban-influenced gimmick in NXT and are both billed from the Tri-State.
Gable’s run on the main roster has been flashes of brilliance marred with being lost in the shuffle. After being swapped to RAW last year in hopes of a solo run, he was paired with Bobby Roode in a makeshift tag team with moderate success. Then he got stuck again after losing the tag team titles and was sent to SmackDown when it looked like the duo was starting a heel run. Now on his own again, this might be the last shot for Gable to make something worthwhile after so much push and pull.
Getting placed in a tag team with Shelton Benjamin again would only defeat the purpose of Gable’s desire of wanting a solo run. With Fox focusing on a sports-oriented product for their weekend slots, Gable could be seen as a potential athlete to promote. He’s a former Olympian and can be seen as the heir to Kurt Angle if given the right push.
Mickie James has been absent over the past few months before returning for the Women’s Battle Royal at WrestleMania. She returns to SmackDown as a veteran leader into the SmackDown locker room full of talented women. I doubt that she will have much of a bigger role on a roster that includes Charlotte Flair, Asuka, Bayley, and Ember Moon, but she will be a great hand to get younger stars like Kairi Sane and Liv Morgan over and will have good matches.
Heavy Machinery was built for SmackDown Live. The comedic powerhouse duo of Tucker and Otis is a great fit to a dynamic tag team division full of colorful individuals. I wouldn’t be shocked if they have a small run with the titles, though there will more interactions between Mandy Rose and Otis for my amusement.
Apollo, much like Chad Gable, was a victim of being bottlenecked on such a top-heavy RAW roster over the years. He would find some success with Titus O’Neil and Dan Brooke as a part of Titus Worldwide but later went solo facing Jinder Mahal and Baron Corbin in small TV programs. Now back on SmackDown, Crews help in a diverse midcard where no matter where he is placed, he’s gonna do well. He may not be a future world champion now, but Crews have the ability to get to the next level.
SmackDown Live continues to be the beacon of in-ring athleticism and new faces making their mark in the company. This year, the roster has a chance to truly cement themselves as THE A Show.
You can follow more of Chris’ musings on Twitter: @RappersRActors
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