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Moving Forward with Kofi Kingston

Are we moving forward with Kofi in the best way possible?

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Abe checks in on the idea of moving forward with Kofi Kingston coming out of WWE Fastlane!

I thought WWE Fastlane was a pretty solid pay-per-view. It had some great matches and planted plenty of seeds for Wrestlemania. However, there was one segment that really caught my attention. I didn’t exactly see anybody on the internet mention it during the show but I couldn’t ignore it.

As you know, Kofi Kingston was sent out to the ring by Vince McMahon thinking he had just been added to the WWE Championship match. But once Kofi got to the ring, it turned out to be a setup. Kofi ended up facing The Bar in a Handicap Match where Cesaro and Sheamus were not required to tag in and out. It was a one-sided assault that leaned closer to a statement of humiliation rather than a match.

I understand that this is all an intricate way to get Kofi over with the audience. The segment immediately following the match is was bothered me more. It was a backstage interview with Sasha Banks and Bayley with big smiles on their faces. Bayley opened by saying that Kofi is a big inspiration to her and encouraged him to keep moving forward. They then proceeded with the interview as if a giant travesty didn’t just occur two minutes prior.

If a superstar truly cared about Kofi Kingston and his success, wouldn’t they be furious over what just transpired? The boss they work for just unjustifiably lied to the most loyal employee in the company for the sole purpose of embarrassing him in front of the world. If your boss continued to publicly bully your best co-worker on a weekly basis, you’d likely want to do something drastic.

If you’re a fan that’s been watching WWE for the last several years, you may see the similarities in the current Becky Lynch and Kofi Kingston storylines with the angle that inspired Daniel Bryan’s “Yes” Movement leading up to WrestleMania 30. He was deemed unfit to be a main event guy until the WWE Universe hijacked Raw and got him an opportunity at ‘Mania.

A way to rectify the Sasha and Bayley segment is to plan a similar segment for Smackdown. The New Day opens the show and is rightfully pissed. No pancakes or colorful gear – they’re in regular clothes and walk straight to the ring. Vince McMahon cuts them off and says he made a mistake by making that 2-on-1 handicap match. Instead, he creates a 3-on-1 handicap match that starts immediately. Big E and Xavier Woods are sent to the back with threats from Vince and Sanity makes their entrance. Another mugging begins. Kofi loses in quick fashion. The fans as well as commentary are enraged. Kofi is assisted to the back and Smackdown continues.

In the next segment, AJ Styles is scheduled to have a match but he refuses. He voices his displeasure on the current situation and states that the WWE isn’t worth working for if that’s how Vince treats his employees. Styles not only refuses to compete, but creates a call to action for the rest of the locker room to join his strike. Slowly, but surely, superstars begin to file out a couple at a time. Even the heels. Once the ring is full, they make it clear that they will not compete or risk their bodies for Vince until he gives Kofi Kingston his Wrestlemania match with Daniel Bryan.

The Vince McMahon character has made it clear he wont listen to the blatant displeasure from the WWE Universe. The only way he would listen is if his show and wallet were at stake. He can’t make money without any superstars. Vince is obviously reluctant but eventually agrees and creates a real contract signing later in the night. The show goes on as planned.

Randy Orton has made is clear that he’s not a fan of AJ Styles vouching for Kofi and has accused him of going soft. After the strike, AJ Styles is the last to exit the ring and is ambushed by Orton who is being seen for the first time. The ambush is violent enough that it requires the superstars involved in the strike to pull Orton off. Two WrestleMania matches have now been set up by the end of the segment.

 


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News From Cook’s Corner 11.22.21: Happy Eggsgiving

A few shows, some big news, and some more releases. This week had everything! For better or worse… – and Cook gives you the lowdown!

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Hi, hello & welcome to News From Cook’s Corner! This is the week where we think about all of the things we’re thankful for. So I might actually do a Fave Five this week, considering the annual Thanksgiving column was the inspiration for the gimmick anyway! Gonna be a pretty busy week though, so we’ll see how that goes.

Before you gorge yourself on turkey, here’s the latest going on in the rasslin world…

More WWE Releases!

There’s a pretty good chance that this will become a regular section of the ol’ column. Eighty wrestlers have been released by WWE during 2021, with one (Samoa Joe. Remember him?) being rehired. Let’s put this in perspective for a minute, as looking at the numbers can explain a lot of what’s going on here.

Raw currently has forty-three wrestlers. SmackDown has thirty-six. NXT has forty-one male wrestlers & twenty-one female wrestlers. NXT UK has forty-three wrestlers. Wikipedia lists four wrestlers under 205 Live, six wrestlers as free agents, then twenty-two wrestlers as Performance Center trainees. If I had to guess, Wikipedia doesn’t have a complete list of Performance Center trainees, so we really have no idea how many people are still hiding there. I seem to recall Nick Khan talking about signing a bunch of people when he was doing that media tour around SummerSlam.

The point I’m trying to make is that WWE has a ton of people under contract and really doesn’t have that many spots. Most of those people listed under Raw & SmackDown haven’t done much of anything in quite some time. The NXT & NXT UK rosters are freaking immense, and NXT is where a lot of the recent cuts have come from. There are going to be more people coming in, therefore there will be more cuts. It’s just best to accept this now instead of getting all sad & depressed every time it happens over the next few months or however long we have before Nick Khan engineers a sale. Don’t spin this as me being happy about people getting canned, I’m just saying “it is what it is”.

So who was it this time?

A few of them were connected to the previous releases. John Morrison would be the longest tenured wrestler of this batch, considering his wife (known as Franky Monet on NXT & Taya Valkyrie elsewhere) was part of the last crop of releases this wasn’t as big of a surprise as one may think. Kind of a dick move from WWE since they’d just moved from California to Florida to facilitate her training at the Performance Center. Other people will have to learn from these events. Johnny has been more entertaining during his stints outside of WWE than he has been in WWE, so I think he’ll do just fine.

Remember when B-Fab was released and everybody thought it was kind of random to get rid of one of Hit Row’s members right after they debuted on SmackDown? Now they’re all gone. Isaiah “Swerve” Scott had been a featured act in NXT and was a top star in the indies before signing with WWE. Ashante thee Adnois was fairly new but had potential, and then there’s Top Dolla. This seems to come down to Top Dolla rubbing people the wrong way, including burying colleagues on social media & complaining to management about B-Fab’s dismissal.

It’s easy to understand why Top Dolla might have gotten a big head & thought his opinions mattered. He was featured on the Most Wanted Treasures show before ever appearing on NXT, so he was obviously a favorite of Paul Levesque’s. He also became the featured member of Hit Row upon their arrival on SmackDown, as his 6’5 330 pound frame played better with main roster decision makers than Swerve Scott’s lack of size. Dude moves pretty well for his size too, so there’s some potential there. Apparently he didn’t show enough potential to make up for whatever headaches he was causing, and the other two guys didn’t have enough appeal without him.

It’s tough, because I like it when people cause trouble backstage & stand up for themselves. Gives me more to write about here. However, I can’t recommend such things in today’s WWE. They’re looking for excuses to fire anybody. Oh, and I also wouldn’t recommend talking smack about the competition’s executive vice presidents like Top Dolla did either. Maybe it’ll impress Tony Khan, who knows.

Tegan Nox’s NXT tenure had more ups & downs than anybody else’s, I’d figure. Whenever she was about to get a push, she tore her knee up. They kept her around though, and finally moved her up to the main roster in July. She was placed in a team with Shotzi and they beat the Women’s Tag Team Champions multiple times, but never got a title shot. Then they got split in the draft, and Nox never even made an appearance on Raw. I don’t have any clue what happened other than somebody wasn’t impressed with Nox for some reason. Seemed like a solid talent to me, but I’m just a dork with a column.

Drake Maverick was released back in April 2020, but was kept around to work the NXT Cruiserweight Championship Tournament and ended up getting his job back due to popular appeal. Of course, he didn’t do a damn thing of note before getting released again, but I think we expected that. Got an extra year & a half of paychecks though, so there’s that. Seems like a nice bloke, he’ll land on his feet.

Shane Thorne disappeared from television once Retribution split up. He did a couple of dark matches recently with a Outback Jack-style Aussie gimmick, but nothing came of it. One would expect him to re-form the TMDK tag team with Mikey Nicholls at the earliest possible opportunity.

Jaxson Ryker was the final name of the list, and was another one that hadn’t done anything notable in awhile. He did outlast his fellow Forgotten Sons in the company, but did not outlast his tag team partner after that group split, Elias. Ryker got some heat back in 2020 when he tweeted political views that his boss agreed with, but it turns out that was the most attention he ever got while working for WWE. How bout that.

We’ll be back with more releases soon enough, I’m guessing. Again, we’re not celebrating these things, but we’re not going to act shocked either. As people have told me, it’s the wrestling “business”.

Did anything interesting happen at Survivor Series?

Becky Lynch beat Charlotte Flair by holding the ropes on a roll-up. In fairness, Charlotte tried to do it first. Also in fairness, it was the same referee that Charlotte took issue with and beat up back in April, so she probably should have seen it coming. Who says WWE doesn’t do long-term storytelling? Prior to the show, Fightful reported the match order, which had this as the main event and everything else in the reverse of which it happened. It’s a good thing Fightful got some egg on their face, as this sure wouldn’t have worked as the finish of the event.

Seth Rollins was the sole survivor in the Men’s Survivor Series Elimination Match, because he needed the win. Of note here was Austin Theory having a pretty long run in the match, Kevin Owens walking out on his team like he was Bad News Brown, and Drew McIntyre & Bobby Lashley doing a double countout spot because they didn’t need to lose.

Omos won the Rock 25th Anniversary battle royal, eliminating twelve people in the process. My takeaway from the match was they were trying to make Omos a star. Then I realized the the match was for Pizza Hut pizza, like how kids read books in school so they can win the Book It contest and get a class pizza party, I guess. I’m confused. How does The Rock feel about Pizza Hut? Never mind, one of the few things worse than political conversation is pizza conversation. If we go down this road we have to talk about pineapples and various cities’ styles of pizza, and I just don’t care about all that.

RK-Bro beat the Usos, and I think I’m the only person that doesn’t go completely crazy whenever Randy Orton does an RKO. We know he’s going to do it in a weird spot. It’s been a thing for like a decade now. Maybe I’m just jealous of these people that are able to react like they saw something for the first time evry time. In any event, Randy Orton has now wrestled more WWE PPV matches than anybody in the history of the universe.

Bianca Belair was the sole survivor of the Women’s Survivor Series Elimination Match. I thought the crowd was a little harsh, but it was a pretty sloppy piece of business & the booking was hella questionable. At least Bianca got to win.

Roman Reigns beat Big E to become the Universal Ultra Mega Champion of the Galaxy. Dude needs a few more nicknames so I’m trying to help him out. Big E got to do a big things, but we all knew what was going down here. Seems to hurt the drama factor to me. I may be wrong though, saw a bunch of people online calling it the best thing they ever saw. So what do I know?

The Rock didn’t show up. Apparently I was supposed to expect him to? People sure seemed mad about it.

The big tease for Monday night? Oh, this is one for the books. Vince McMahon got a Cleopatra Egg from The Rock, apparently part of his Netflix movie. Allegedly worth $100 million. Somebody stole it. All the WWE Superstars get to go to Raw tomorrow night so Adam Pearce can question them about it. If this doesn’t equal a record rating, I don’t know what will.

To answer my question of whether or not anything interesting happened at Survivor Series…I’d lean towards no, but it wasn’t an awful show or anything.

Kenny off of TripleMania Regia?

Kenny Omega might have lost his AEW & Impact Championships fairly recently, but he still has the AAA Megachampionship to his name. Omega was scheduled to defend that title against El Hijo del Vikingo at the upcoming TripleMania Regia event in Monterrey, but Dave Meltzer reports that the champion will be pulling out of the event due to upcoming surgeries.

Yep, surgeries. Kenny has a torn labrum, an abdominal hernia, a bad knee, and a septum issue as well. He’s been working through the pain for awhile now, and is expected to be out at least through February. Seriously though, if anybody deserves some time off it’s Kenny Omega. Dude has put the work in, whether you like him or not. It’ll also give him some added time to focus on the AEW video games division.

New Japan & NOAH Working Together

Last week in this column, I wondered why New Japan was holding three different Wrestle Kingdom events, including one in Yokohama on January 8 that didn’t have a fun IWGP Heavyweight Championship match announced for it yet. Turns out that the January 8 show will be a cross-promotional effort also involving Pro Wrestling NOAH. New Japan is reportedly planning on running a number of cross-promotional events in 2021 as part of celebrating the company’s 50th anniversary. DDT, All Japan & Dragon Gate have apparently talked with NJPW about participating.

These reports indicate to me that NJPW isn’t exactly bullish on the idea of borders being opened up anytime soon. It’s good news for Japanese wrestling fans though, and will help New Japan fill some cards. It’ll be fun to see Keiji Mutoh back in a New Japan ring, won’t it?

Well, that’s all we have time for this week. Thanks for reading, and until next time, keep your stick on the ice.


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Cook’s WWE Survivor Series 2021 Gambling Picks

Survivor Series is coming up, so that means Cook has some betting lines! Anyone looking to make money this Sunday, check out the odds!

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If you’re a WWE Superstar and have made it to Survivor Series, you kinda have to feel like a survivor already, right? Lots of budget cuts lately, to the point where it’s tough to keep track of who’s still employed by WWE and who isn’t. As far as I know, the people listed in the matches below and the twenty-five people in The Rock 25th Anniversary Battle Royal are still employed. For now.

It looks like a fun card on paper. The build has been pretty blah, but isn’t that par for the course with WWE these days? There’s some really good matches going on, you just gotta ignore everything going on around it. BetOnline has some odds on these matches, so we’ll take a look at them for entertainment purposes.

United States Champion vs. Intercontinental Champion
Damian Priest (-240) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (+165)

I like how Nakamura has a championship, yet is still in the role of putting people over on big shows. He lost to Roman Reigns on the Tribute to the Troops event, and now he’s here to lose to Damian Priest. Which, don’t get me wrong, is the right thing to do. Priest is on his way up, and Shinsuke is what he is at this point. It just strikes me as kinda funny, you know? At least Nakamura does a good job. No reason to bet on the underdog here though, unless Priest pisses somebody off backstage.

Raw Tag Team Champions vs. SmackDown Tag Team Champions
RK-Bro (-220) vs. The Usos (+155)

One of these teams has been pretty active in WWE’s tag team division for what feels like decades now. The other just recently formed and features Randy Orton, who always turns against his friends in the end. And somehow Randy Orton & Riddle are the favorites? Come on now. I know they’re the new freshness & all that, but the Usos have been here since Day One Ish and can do the damn thing.

Women’s Survivor Series Elimination Match
Team Raw (Bianca Belair, Rhea Ripley, Liv Morgan, Carmella & Queen Zelina) (-130) vs. Team SmackDown (Sasha Banks, Shayna Baszler, Shotzi, Natalya & Toni Storm) (-110)

We all love Survivor Series elimination matches, right? Especially when they deal with BRAND SUPREMACY instead of, you know, personal issues between wrestlers. OK, so some of these wrestlers do have personal issues with each other, but we’re expected to buy them as part of cohesive units. It’s bass-ackwards, I’ve mentioned this ever since they started doing it and I’ll probably keep mentioning it until they stop doing it.

On the bright side, most of the people involved in this match are good to competent in the ring, or at least are interesting. So it should be a decent enough show. I’m guessing either Bianca or Sasha will be part of the surviving crop of talent…Sasha & Toni Storm? Toni needs a win if we’re meant to take her seriously against Charlotte Flair. I’m leaning towards Team SmackDown here.

Men’s Survivor Series Elimination Match
Team Raw (Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, Bobby Lashley & Austin Theory) (+150) vs. Team SmackDown (Drew McIntyre, Jeff Hardy, King Woods, Happy Corbin & Sheamus) (-200)

Team SmackDown seems like the smart pick here too, mostly because Drew McIntyre is on that team and will likely be going over since they like to keep him strong. I could see him as a sole survivor here. If Raw wins, expect Seth Rollins or Kevin Owens to be victorious since they’re in line to challenge Big E. More likely that there’s a miscommunication with the Raw bunch though.

Raw Women’s Champion vs. SmackDown Women’s Champion
Becky Lynch (-400) vs. Charlotte Flair (+250)

This is the kind of feud I would have really sunk my teeth into when I was a teenager just getting started learning about all the backstage wrestling gossip. It was always so interesting to read about wrestlers that *really* hated each other, or when something was a SHOOT. Oh, I totally bought into that kind of stuff when I was a youngster. Now I’m old and really don’t give a crap about how any of these people feel about each other. I couldn’t care less whether or not Becky & Charlotte are still BFFs, or if they’ve grown apart, or whose side the locker room is taking in the matter.

I’m also smart enough to know that people like Young Me are who WWE is trying to appeal to with this sort of thing. Hopefully for their sake there are plenty of teenage wrestling nerds learning about the business on the Internet that can buy the idea of “Everything you’re watching is fake, but THIS is real, brother!” This should be a damn good match considering who’s involved, I just hope they don’t do some lame shoot-work thing as the finish. We still don’t need another ode to Montreal.

But, Charlotte Flair at +250 might be a good bet if they’re doing something fishy. I’m just saying.

WWE Champion vs. Universal Champion
Big E (+300) vs. Roman Reigns (-500)

It says something about how much people like Big E that the odds here are this close. Roman’s typically a much bigger favorite than this, and for good reason. He’s been trucking fools for over 400 days as Universal Champion, and there isn’t a soul on the SmackDown roster that looks like a threat to take that title off of him. You might tell me “Drew McIntyre”, but even that seems like a bit of a pipe dream at this point.

Big E at least has something of a chance. He’s been all over the media making appearances on various programs leading into this show. Comes off well, like a good dude. You could see him in the top guy role for some time. Doesn’t mean he’s going to beat Roman Reigns, but Big E’s future seems bright. He should at least remain employed for the rest of 2021. As for Roman Reigns, one wonders if this #Rock25 tease is leading anywhere for him.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the PPV! Or the football or whatever else you plan on doing Sunday night.


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