Wrestling fans were hit with a shocking bit of news on Wednesday: Tommaso Ciampa, the current NXT Champion and one of the best heels on the planet, is going to be out indefinitely with a neck injury that will require him to undergo surgery.
I’m a big Tommy Sports Entertainment fan, so this news sucks for me, as well as it does for thousands upon thousands of Big Daddy Ciampa fans. But sadly, the news is out there, there’s nothing we could do to fix the situation, we’ve got to look to the future.
But what exactly does the future hold?
This is surely an unprecedented situation for the yellow brand. Here we are just a month out from NXT Takeover: New York, the Takeover before WrestleMania. It’s one of the biggest shows NXT will put on all year, and suddenly we find ourselves without an NXT champion heading into the show.
Not only that, but this remarkable story they’ve been telling with Ciampa and Johnny Gargano, a story that dates back almost TWO YEARS, has come grinding to a halt. Every expectation out there was that it would be Gargano-Ciampa IV for the NXT Championship at Takeover, but clearly the WWE is going to have to go back to the drawing board on this one.
Now, there are a couple of different ways they could take the title here. Do they just hand it to someone? Do they have a match for it on NXT TV? Do they wait until Takeover to crown a new champ?
Allow me to make a suggestion: Six-Man NXT Championship Ladder Match.
IT was this time last year when the NXT North American Championship, currently held by the Velveteen Dream, was ushered into existence as a secondary title for talent to compete for on Wednesday nights. Just how did we get our first NXT North American Champion? In an absolutely off-the-charts amazing six-man ladder match between Dream, Killian Dain, Lars Sullivan, Ricochet, EC3 and the eventual winner, Adam Cole.
That match was heralded as one of the very best NXT matches of all time, and received a fabled (if you put stock into this sort of thing) five-star rating from Dave Meltzer. We’re right on the anniversary of that match, so why not bring the ladders back out and let NXT’s finest go to war for the NXT Championship?
It’s a smart way to inspire a new tradition, a way to honor the past while looking to the future, and above all, it’s an easy way to guarantee an insane match that will send the fans home happy.
So who should be in this match? Here’s who I propose: Johnny Gargano, Adam Cole, Velveteen Dream, Matt Riddle, Keith Lee, and Dominik Dijakovic. That way, you have your two hosses that could also achieve high-flying feats that just don’t seem possible, while also mixing in undeniable star-talent. With this group of six, I don’t think there’s a wrong way to book the future of the NXT Championship.
All six of these guys are deserving at a shot at NXT’s top title, with Lee and Dijakovic working their way into the picture after a simply sensational match on last week’s NXT TV. The other four competitors are proven commodities like Cole, Dream and Gargano, and Matt Riddle being the ultimate wildcard that has a very reasonable chance to win the match despite being the newest to the brand.
In fact, that’s probably how I would book the match if I were given that sort of power. We just had a long heel championship reign, a marvelous one at that from Ciampa, but I’d like to see a change of pace here, so I’d say no to Cole and Dijakovic. Lee’s not ready yet I don’t think, Johnny should focus on the main roster, Dream’s already wearing championship gold…which leaves us with Matt Riddle.
What better way to establish the King of Bros as a megastar by having him step up and knock off this who’s-who field of wrestling greats? The man is going to be NXT champ sooner or later, and probably sooner, so what’s the harm in pulling that trigger in New York?
Rob: Let’s Talk About Shane McMahon
He’s the Best In The World!
Shane McMahon is a hot topic among WWE fans, and Rob is here to chime in on the rumors that Shane could become WWE Champion in 2019.
Yeah, it’s time to talk about the Best in the World Shane McMahon. Shane has become a real thorn in the side of many on wrestling twitter and not in the way that Vince intended. A lot of you guys don’t like the amount of TV time he gets (even I’ll admit that this week was a bit much), don’t like that he got a win over Roman Reigns at Super Showdown (I don’t either but so long as things play out the right way in the end I’m willing to see it as a needed piece of a bigger story), and really got nuts when the NEWZ sites starting ‘reporting’ rumors that he may become WWE World Champion down the line. Some of you guys are even threatening that you’re done if it happens, and I believe you this time. And this all makes me wonder if certain aspects of wrestling storytelling are just not viable in 2019 anymore. Because this is the kind of thing that would have been a layup for mega heat back in the day but now seems to only result in scorn towards the bookers, or in this case Vince, from a lot of you guys for even considering it.
Now I can’t tell you guys what to like or not like, but there are a lot of times when I see the takes being thrown around on Twitter and wonder if I’m watching the same TV show that you guys are. I also wonder, often out loud and in this space, just what it is some of you guys want. Because I see people complain about emotional investment but from my earliest days as a fan one of the quickest ways to get emotional investment was to do something that would make people angry. But it seems like in 2019 way too many people on Wrestling Twitter don’t ever want to get angry, and take that as a crime committed by Vince McMahon and not a storytelling piece. And I don’t know how you rectify that.
Who knew this would lead us to “The Best In The World,” Shane McMahon???
By my estimation, someone like Shane McMahon getting the title is perfect for the ‘You Deserve It’ era, because he obviously doesn’t deserve it. And to win it dirty off of someone like Kofi Kingston who toiled for 11 years to just get a chance to win it should be a heat magnet. But instead all I see is that it’s bad booking, that it’s a sign that Vince hates the fans and needs to go, etc. So again I have to ask just what is it that some of you guys are looking for? Heels are part of wrestling, and heels have to prevail sometimes. A lot of you guys won’t boo Kevin Owens no matter low he stoops in turning on or assaulting people. And one of the few guys who gets booed from the crowd because the people there don’t like him, Baron Corbin, gets ripped every day by ‘smart’ fans for being a bad choice to even put on television.
Maybe I’m out of date here but for me part of having heels is that at least every now and then something has to happen that you don’t want. The people you root for have to lose, the people who should be champion have to be denied, somebody has to do something that you find to be beyond the pale, etc. And it can’t just happen when you expect it or are ready for it, it has to happen at a time when you aren’t ready for it to get the maximum effect so that you’ll get angry enough at the perpetrators to want to see them get their comeuppance. But it seems that getting mad at the characters is a bridge too far on Wrestling Twitter, that the point of a heel is to get shout outs on Twitter for ‘good heel work’, and that anything or anyone that you find truly loathsome is now grounds to change the channel. Thus the constant ‘Corbin has go away heat’ takes on Twitter. Where I’m from Go Away Heat meant ‘can somebody please come out and get this guy outta here? and not ‘why is he on my TV, what else is on?’
I mentioned before that we’re in the ‘You Deserve It’ era, and what I mean by that is that a lot of ‘smart’ fans are judging what they watch based who’s in it and whether or not they ‘deserve’ to be there. And deserving it is almost entirely based on their personal career journey or perceived skill level. Workrate guys and gals deserve it, as do those who went down some long, grueling road to get there. Even if they’re playing a heel some of us cheer them based on how good they are in the ring or what they had to go through to get there, while on the flip side anyone who doesn’t meet our technical standards or didn’t suffer enough should be relegated to supporting roles or just removed from our television altogether. The fastest way to get someone booed now it seems is for ‘smart’ fans to find out that they didn’t have to struggle hard enough (by their measures) to get a big spot. Hell, we just had a WrestleMania main event where the winner’s whole elevation came despite acting like a heel because the personal career story of the woman behind the character was deemed more important than the actions of her character on screen.
So now back to Shane. If you can’t get some people to boo heels over sneak attacks, cheating to win (don’t get me started on the whole ‘heels are fine but they shouldn’t cheat too much’ takes I’ve seen…..smh), etc. and the thing some fans get most consistently upset about is whether or not the ‘most deserving’ people are in the right places, then putting someone in the highest position who absolutely does not deserve it seems like an inevitable choice. I’m not telling you that you’re not a real fan if you don’t like it, but I am telling you that there is some very sound logic behind it if they go that route. And all the arguments against it – that Shane is not a full time wrestler, that he’s the boss’s son, etc – seem to me like just more reason to go ahead and do it.
Anyhow……until next week, everyone.
Steve Cook’s Top 5: Wrestling Dads
Who is wrestling’s greatest dad?
In the spirit of Father’s Day, Steve Cook takes a look at Wrestling’s Top 5 Dads! Which dad tops the list?
Last year, right around Mother’s Day, we took a look at the best mothers in the history of pro wrestling. I thought for sure we did the same thing for the best wrestling dads, but apparently it didn’t happen. Certainly a mistake on my part, as pro wrestling is full of fathers whose sons & daughters ended up following them into the ring. Father’s Day is the one day of the year we make sure to give our dads the respect they deserve. These men certainly deserve our respect for how they helped their children create memories for us.
5. Chavo Guerrero Sr.
I didn’t get to see Chavo’s father, Gory, who formed a tag team with El Santo that never lost a match. He also had four wrestling sons: Chavo, Hector, Mondo & Eddy. After a legendary career of his own, Chavo resurfaced in the 2000s alongside his son Chavo Jr. in WWE. When given the choice between siding with his son or his younger brother, Chavo chose his son.
Chavo Classic stuck around long enough to have a Cruiserweight Championship reign, and would later appear in Lucha Underground for Jr’s Loser Leaves Lucha match with Rey Mysterio. Chavo’s attempt to help his son lie, cheat & steal his way to victory would be his last televised appearance prior to his death in 2017. Right until the end, Chavo was willing to do anything to help his son. Can’t celebrate Father’s Day without looking at Chavo Classic.
4. Ric Flair
The Nature Boy certainly had his ups & downs with all of his kids over the years. When David started his wrestling career, Ric used his position as President of WCW to give him favorable treatment. David eventually turned against his father because it was WCW and it was the late 1990s. Everybody turned against everybody at one point or another. Reid also appeared around this time and was expected to be a natural in the ring, but life had other plans there.
Where Ric’s sons unfortunately came up short, his daughter was able to excel. Charlotte inherited all of her father’s best traits, and as far as we can tell so far, none of his worst. Ric did his best to help Charlotte as well, up until the point where she decided that she didn’t need his help. Ric was heartbroken, but part of him had to understand where his daughter was coming from.
3. Stu Hart
No father in recorded history produced more professional wrestlers than Stu Hart. We all know about Bret & Owen, but Bruce, Smith, Keith, Wayne, Dean & Ross all had matches at one point or another. Not to mention all the kids they had, and Stu’s daughters marrying wrestlers and producing more wrestlers.
Stu was something of an icon in his homestead of Alberta, where he promoted Stampede Wrestling & performed in rings for years & years. He’s most known to American wrestling fans for his occasional appearances in the crowd at WWF events & in his sons’ storylines. Everybody in the business the same time as Stu has an impression of him that they do on a fairly regular basis. True story.
2. “Bullet” Bob Armstrong
Every single one of Bullet Bob’s sons followed in his footsteps and became professional wrestlers. In something of a rarity among wrestling siblings, they were all talented. Brian became the biggest star as the Road Dogg and was by far the best talker, but Brad, Scott & Steve were all great hands that always got the job done in the ring.
Smoky Mountain Wrestling was largely built on the back of Bob Armstrong. The Bullet had multiple stints as Commissioner during the company’s existence & spent most of the era leading his sons & other fine young men into battle against Jim Cornette & his cast of miscreants. The Armstrong/Cornette feud was one of the finest pieces of work in the 1990s, which is saying something because the decade had plenty of classic feuds. Both men were just tremendous on the microphone.
Honorable Mention: Angelo Poffo
It’s Father’s Day, and the father of Randy & Lanny, Angelo was instrumental in the early portion of both their careers. Angelo’s ICW promotion was where both men got on the map & showed the potential for great things in the future.
Angelo never achieved the fame of his sons, but they wouldn’t have gotten as big as they did without him. That’s why Angelo gets the nod here over Fritz Von Erich & other men that pushed their kids into the business. Angelo pushed them, but he made sure they had good heads on their shoulders. Randy & Lanny weren’t going to self-destruct because Angelo wouldn’t have allowed it.
1. Dusty Rhodes
There has not been a better father/son moment in the history of wrestling than when Dusty addressed his son in Macon, Georgia. It was 1994, and Dustin had ongoing issues with Col. Robert Parker’s Stud Stable, including some longtime enemies of Dusty’s in Terry Funk & Arn Anderson. Dusty resolved to help him out and make up for the fact he had previously neglected his son while being a world champion & front office worker. If you don’t feel a little lump in your throat or think somebody might be cutting onions or something while watching the American Dream pontificate in the below video, you have no soul.
Some say this was Dusty’s finest promo, even surpassing his famous “Hard Times” monologue. Cody, a man heavily influenced by his father & brother, cut a promo after his match with Dustin at AEW Double or Nothing that brought back memories & emotions from 1994.
— Bleacher Report Live (@brlive) May 26, 2019
Dusty was a master of telling a great story. The bull of the woods passed that trait on down the line.
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