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The WWE TV YouTube Experiment (RAW: June 17, 2019)

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The WWE TV YouTube Experiment
Week 1, Episode 1
Monday Night RAW/ June 17, 2019
Los Angeles, California

As you can read in my introduction column, I’m doing an experiment to see if WWE’s YouTube content is any good. If it’s worth watching, if it’s enough to make me want to get back into watching WWE (I’m 11 months clean and sober), or if it’s just not worth my time. Every week I will only watch the video clips WWE posts to their official YouTube channel, and I’ll write a review, so to speak, of the show based on that alone. It’s an experiment. Seriously. I have a hypothesis and everything! Go check out the big introduction if you haven’t already, and then come back and read along with me!

I welcome and greatly encourage feedback, especially because my only exposure to WWE (for the most part) will be the YouTube clips. I won’t be reading recaps or reviews. So please, by all means, if you have any opinions, positive or negative, about what I’m about to write, let me know. I thrive on criticism (constructive or otherwise — tell me I’m a batshit crazy moron if you want). That all aside, I don’t want to be insanely long-winded, so I’m going to get right into it.

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Total Number of Clips: 18
Total Time: 45 minutes, 43 seconds

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Seth Rollins blasts Elias with a steel chair (2 minutes, 22 seconds)

Good start! Based on what I know, Seth Rollins and Baron Corbin have been feuding over the Universal Title. Seth is defending the belt on Sunday at Stomping Grounds, and Corbin promised that the match would have a special guest referee. In this clip, Elias is in the ring making fun of Los Angeles and reveals that Corbin chose him to be the ref on Sunday. Out of nowhere, Seth Rollins appears out of the darkness and lays Corbin out with a chair (very cool visual) and declares that anybody who decides to take Corbin up on the offer to referee the match on Sunday is going to take a steel chair up the ass. Something like that.

This was a very simple and effective start to the show. Rollins showed a ton of fire, and coming out of the darkness with the chair shot, as I mentioned, made for a really cool visual. I am interested in watching the next video clip! (1 for 1)

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Fatal 5-Way Elimination Match (2 minutes, 42 seconds)

Another great clip. A quick peek at the results shows that the match was about 14 minutes long, and they crammed it into 2 and a half. Not a bad thing, as the idea of the YouTube clip is to get across the story being told. The story here is that Ricochet beat Cesaro, Bobby Lashley, Braun Strowman and The Miz in order to earn a shot at Samoa Joe’s United States Championship this Sunday. Strowman was dominant. He caught Cesaro springing off the ropes and nailed him with the powerslam and followed up by scooping Lashley up, thwarting an attempt at a spear and hitting another powerslam, except instead of driving him into the mat, he threw him onto Cesaro. Moments later (according to the clip) he hits Lashley with a second powerslam and pins him. Cut ahead in time, and Cesaro is hitting the Gotch Neutralizer on Braun, which allows Ricochet to kill Braun with a massive 630.

I don’t know if there’s a deeper backstory or if Lashley and Cesaro were just mad that they were eliminated fair and square. Not only did they attack Braun after being eliminated, but after the 630, they piled on and helped Ricochet secure the pin! Is Cesaro a heel? Is Braun? Lashley? I know Ricochet is a babyface and unless things have changed very recently, The Miz is a babyface as well. Either way, that gave Ricochet the chance to win the match, as moments later (the magic of editing!) he hits a second 630, this time on The Miz, and pins him to win the match. He doesn’t have long to celebrate, however, as Joe hits the ring and blindsides him. Ricochet saves himself by ducking a clothesline and sending Joe to the floor and wiping him out with a dive.

When you only show 2 and a half minutes of a 14-minute match, you’re due to get all action. It was fun. Since I’m essentially coming into this as almost a newcomer, this clip told me that Braun is a dominant beast, Cesaro is strong as hell, Ricochet is good at flipping, and the Miz… maybe sat ringside until the very end. I don’t know. He was only in the clip for about 5 seconds. Oh, and Joe is an asshole. An enjoyable clip that gave me a little bit of an idea about 4 of the 6 men involved. (2 for 2)

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Becky Lynch catches Lacey Evans by surprise (4 minutes, 21 seconds)

I don’t really know much of the backstory here. Lacey has been a thorn in Becky’s side. I know that she interfered in the title match with Charlotte to cost Becky the SD Women’s Title and according to the promo here, Lacey has been attacking Becky from behind. Becky cuts to the chase and calls Lacey out, and Lacey obliges. She talks about how she’s a classy lady (I gather that’s her usual promo) and before she can get into the ring, Becky attacks and hits her with the Bexploder and leaves.

Some of the segment was definitely cut for time, but it got the message across. Becky is tired of Lacey’s schtick, but Lacey is keeping it up because she knows it pisses Becky off. Becky caught Lacey by surprise and got the upper hand before their match on Sunday. I’m hoping that what I saw here isn’t indicative of what Becky has become because her promo was super generic and she didn’t seem like she wanted to be there. The fire that I remember seeing in clips since she became “The Man” was not there. It seems like Lacey would be a perfect foil for her, so maybe the edit hurt the segment or maybe missing the entire feud up to this point has cost me some context. In any event, it wasn’t bad by any means. It was average. I love Becky and I’m interested in seeing what Lacey can do, so I’m in. (3 for 3)

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Seth Rollins takes out Baron Corbin with a steel chair (1 minute, 5 seconds)

This was a quick one. Baron Corbin cuts an awkward promo about Elias no longer wanting to be the referee. I assume it’s because he’s afraid Seth will hurt him, even though he could, I dunno — leave the arena and avoid Seth until Sunday? In any event, Corbin stumbles over his lines and tries to be smarmy and cocky (I think) but just comes across like a goof who is struggling to remember his lines. He had about 35 seconds to fill with 6 sentences, and he sounded like a 5th grader practicing for his first ever role in a school play. Slow down! Enunciate! Take a breath and pause between your sentences, dude. I understand the character traits he was trying to get across, but he did that poorly.

It’s tough to judge this one. It was barely a minute long, and while it featured a brutal 35-second mushmouth performance from Baron Corbin, it ended with him getting hit with a chair. I can’t be mad. (4 for 4)

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The Viking Raiders vs. Russ & Randy Taylor (52 seconds)

Hey! A full match! Erik hits a sweet running knee on one of the dudes and pulls the other into the ring to hit him with an exploder. Ivar tags in. Erik hoists the guy up for a German and Ivar springboards into a clothesline to assist and add extra impact. A springboard Doomsday German, perhaps. Erik presses the legal man into the air and Ivar catches him with a powerslam (the move is now called the “Viking Experience” — good to know) and that’s that, in 32-seconds.

The Raiders looked awesome and the other guys got in zero offense, which is exactly how it should be. If I’m a fan who has never seen these two guys before, I get two things from this clip. One, I want to see these guys again, because they look awesome. Two, their names are stupid as shit. Still, this was good. (5 for 5)

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R-Truth and Carmella try out some new disguises (1 minute, 9 seconds)

While the Taylor Brothers — why not call one of them Brad or Mark, by the way? Missed opportunity — lay in the ring, still recovering from being destroyed by the War Raiders, the cameras pan the audience. Carmella and Truth are in disguise, but everyone quickly realizes who they are and a cavalcade of people come running down the ramp. Truth tries to hide under the ring only to find a confused Titus O’Neil, and the distraction lets he and Carmella run through the crowd to get away.

I haven’t been following the 24/7 Championship saga very closely, but what I have seen has been entertaining. Nothing really happened here, but it was a minute long and happened in the same televised segment as a good squash match, so there’s zero to complain about. (6 for 6)

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Drew McIntyre brutalizes old friend Heath Slater (2 minutes, 17 seconds)

Heath Slater walks into a room with a little buffet. Shane McMahon is there with The Revival and Drew McIntyre. Drew looks like he would rather be anywhere else in the world. Slater asks for a raise, and because he’s an asshole, Shane gives him a sliver of hope and then denies the raise and tells him to get to steppin’. As Slater leaves, he makes the sign to Drew to follow. Quick cut to the hallway, as Drew feigns trying to help Heath and offers him some money, but beats the crap out of him instead.

Now I’m not familiar with the storyline — so correct me if I’m wrong. I know Shane McMahon has been winning matches left and right over top talent, and I’m assuming that Drew has been helping him cheat to win. Whether I knew that or not, here’s what I gathered from this: Shane McMahon is the asshole boss, The Revival, who go unnamed, are a couple of silly lackeys, and McIntyre is just Shane’s bodyguard/hired gun. If that’s actually the case, that fucking sucks.

The Revival running in and scooping up all of the cash was funny. I enjoyed that. Again, I don’t know the story, so maybe Drew is getting sick of Shane’s power trip. That would explain his body language. If that’s not the case, as I said, that sucks. So Shane is getting a bunch of big wins, the tag team champions are bumbling lackeys, and Drew is a possibly unhappy bodyguard? Gross. Now, if Drew wins on Sunday against Roman, that’s a big deal. Shane doesn’t have a match, so maybe he’s proven his point and is going to step aside and be Drew’s manager and the authority-like leader of the group of Drew and The Revival. I would be all for that. Again, I don’t know much about what’s going on, so I’ll catch up as time goes by. As a standalone segment, this was fine, but because I don’t like Drew as a “heavy” and I know enough about this story as it currently stands, I just didn’t like it. (6 for 7)

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The New Day crash “The Kevin Owens Show” (5 minutes, 0 seconds)

Baron Corbin is the guest. Sami and Kevin don’t want to get hit by chairs, so they both opt out of being the guest referee for Baron Corbin’s Universal Title match on Sunday. Corbin figured that would be the case, so he has EC3 waiting in the wings. EC3 comes out, and as expected, he gets lit up by Seth Rollins with a chair shot from behind and gets another shot while he’s on the ground, just for good measure. I’m enjoying this running gag. It’s funny, but at the same time shows that Seth isn’t going to let Corbin try to make believe he’s still the “Constable” and yield power that he doesn’t actually have.

The New Day make their way out for no discernible reason (which I’m cool with, of course) and challenge Corbin, Owens, and Zayn to a match. EC3 agrees to sanction the match just like Stephanie McMahon sanctioned her marriage to Triple H, and that’s that. Renee Young made the obvious “Weekend At Bernie’s” joke (and now the Tweet makes sense!) but it was too obvious, and she didn’t try to make it topical. If you have to go that direction, why not say “Weekend At Dixie’s”? It’s a 3-second line that most people aren’t going to pick up on anyway… how many people watching RAW do you think actually saw that movie?

This was fun and felt way less than the 5-minute runtime of the clip. It’s the 8th clip so far and the longest of the night. The Nick Marsico from a year ago would probably complain about the lack of compliance to the “wildcard rule”, but I think it’s actually a funny gag to have more than the allotted 3 (I think that’s how many it’s supposed to be) pop up on the opposite show every week. It’s humorous to me whether it’s their intended purpose or not, so I’m all for it. Plus, The New Day is a welcome addition to any show, any time. Fun, silly, and furthered the night’s running storyline, as well as the build for the title match on Sunday. Plus, Baron Corbin said less than the other segment he was in, and didn’t stumble over his lines! Everybody wins! (7 for 8)

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The New Day vs. Baron Corbin, Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn (2 minutes, 52 seconds)

Woods rolls up Sami for the first fall (why not tell us it’s 2 out of 3 falls in the description?). Cut to the second fall and Owens hits a superkick on Big E, but doesn’t get the pin. Cut again, still in the second fall I assume, to Kofi almost pinning Corbin, but Corbin comes back with a SWEET looking Deep Six. Clip again, and Corbin accidentally clotheslines Sami. Owens doesn’t like this and superkicks Corbin, allowing Kofi to get the pin with Trouble in Paradise.

Can’t really get any gauge as to whether this was a good match or not, but it got the story across. It’s an ineffective and lazy story, though. I get that the gimmick for the night is that Baron Corbin is having a really shitty night leading up to his title match at the PPV, but did he need to look like a chump AND get pinned? I love the New Day, but they didn’t have three other guys who could have benefitted from being in this spot? Why not Ryder, Hawkins, and Cedric Alexander? Great segment to lead into the match, but the match was worthless. (7 for 9)

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Paul Heyman has a reminder for Seth Rollins (3 minutes, 22 seconds)

Hey, it’s Paul Heyman! He puts over both Seth Rollins and Daniel Bryan, which is cool, and teases that Brock is going to show up. We know he isn’t around. I like that he completely disregards that Baron Corbin has any kind of chance at winning the title, as he addresses everything directly at Rollins.

This was definitely clipped big time — there’s no way Paul Heyman spoke for less than 3 and a half minutes. It got across the point, though, and proves that 3 and a half minutes is all that he needs to cut an effective promo. Brock is watching and Brock is waiting. Be scared, because he’s always got the advantage in any situation, but having that briefcase gives him even more power, so the Universal Champ should be scared.

I love heady-handed Michael Cole ending the segment by pointing out that Brock Lesnar’s steel chair attack on Seth is what drove Rollins to go on a chair-swinging rampage. I don’t think Heyman meant that when Brock returned, he was coming with a chair. He was specifically reminding us, without actually saying the words, that Brock recently kicked the shit out of Seth with a chair. He implied that Seth is on a rampage because of what Brock did and Cole (at Vince’s command, I’m sure) heavy-handedly drove that point home by literally saying it. Stupid line from Cole aside, this was good. (8 for 10)

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Seth Rollins dissuades Eric Young (1 minute, 22 seconds)

Corbin asks Eric Young to be the guest referee, and Eric says he’ll think about it. Clearly Seth Rollins overheard because he approaches Young. EY backs off, trying to say he only agreed to think about it because he was tired of talking to Corbin (which is a 100% plausible story), but Rollins beats the piss out of him with a chair anyway.

Nothing wrong with this. Chair-swinging lunatic Rollins is fun. I’m glad Sanity they disbanded Sanity for this. Totally worth it. (9 for 11)

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The Usos vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson (2 minutes, 51 seconds)

Oh my god, Gallows and Anderson have been around for 3 years? Holy shit. Cole mentions that they were “part of a club” with AJ Styles and namedrops the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Titles. Well that was odd. Gallows and Anderson completely dominate but pause to “Too Sweet” each other. Gallows gets caught with a double superkick, and that’s the end.

Based on what I read going through the results so I could put these videos in order, I saw that AJ gave the Good Brothers a pep talk backstage and told them to get their crap together. They didn’t, and acted cocky, and it cost them the victory. That works for me. Maybe this time they’ll actually follow through on this storyline. This is like the 3rd or 4th time they’ve done the “You’re supposed to be the most dominant team in modern Japanese wrestling history! What the fuck are you guys doing?” storyline. I hope they don’t just drop it after 2 weeks like they have in the past. The match was heatless, but was literally shorter than the length of this clip, so I can’t complain. They didn’t do a boring 10-minute match to tell a 3-minute story. That was smart. There’s promise here. (10 for 12)

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Roman Reigns storms into Shane McMahon’s VIP room (5 minutes, 1 second)

Shane and Drew talk smack, but Drew mentions Roman’s family, so THE BIG DOG makes his way to their (really sweet, actually) VIP room. Roman threw one of the dudes from the Revival at least 50 feet down a hallway and into a loading door on the way. Good god. Roman kicks the crap out of Drew and puts him through a catering table then chases Shane to the ring, where the Best in the World eats a Superman punch and spear. And the crowd was cheering for Roman the whole time! That’s gotta be a positive thing.

This was fine. It looks like they clipped out whatever Roman said to start the segment, since this video started with him in the ring, but it probably wasn’t important. Drew sort of looked like an idiot when he kept talking even after Roman was halfway to the backstage area. Shane already saw that Roman was coming — Drew mentioned something about a movie Roman is going to be in, so I guess they just had to shoehorn that in there. Now I don’t know anything about this rivalry, but it seems like Drew talking about how he’s going to disfigure Roman’s body to the point that his family wouldn’t recognize him was big time overkill. That was graphic for no good reason, and he could have made the same point 30 other ways. But hey, they cheered for Roman and it looks like Drew might not just be a lackey after all, so I’m cautiously optimistic. (11 for 13)

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Rumors spread about Bayley (38 seconds)

Um. OK.

Watch the video. Whatever. Was this really something that needed to be documented? (11 for 14)

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The IIconics vs. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross – WWE Women’s Tag Team Title Match (2 minutes, 36 seconds)

Not much to say about the match. Bayley was at ringside, probably because of the mean social media post that Charley Caruso showed her in the previous clip. Nikki Cross did most of the work for her team and controlled the match for the majority of what was shown. Alexa Bliss pushed Bayley down, and the IIconics take advantage of the 2-on-1 situation, with Billie rolling up Nikki to retain the titles. Bayley stopped Alexa from getting back into the ring to break up the pin.

The match looked fine. It’s not really possible to judge based on under 2 and a half minutes of wrestling, but the IIconics looked okay in the ring. Nikki Cross is great and if she gets the chance, she will be a fantastic babyface when she plays the same role Nia Jax played back when she was Alexa’s lackey who thought they were besties. I thought the rule was that you were supposed to wait 7 years before running the same storyline? None of this was bad at all. (12 for 15)

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Nikki Cross learns the “truth” about Bayley (38 seconds)

Nikki is upset that Bayley stopped Alexa from saving her, which cost them the tag titles. She’s going to be in Alexa’s corner at Stomping Grounds.

Bookending the tag title match with 38-second backstage interactions. Works for me, and advances the storyline very quickly and very simply. (13 for 16)

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Fear is power in the “Firefly Fun House” (3 minutes, 9 seconds)

The latest iteration of the Fun House randomly has Bray saying that the Earth is flat and that dinosaurs aren’t extinct. Okie dokie! Or, Yowie Wowie, I guess. Bray, all his friends, and Cultaholic, I guess, want you to “Join Us” and it appears that along with “Let Me In”, Bray’s new catchphrase may be “Follow the Leader” instead of “Follow the Buzzards”.

This continues to be different from everything else on the show, and in a very good way. It looks like they’re putting a lot of legitimate effort into this. I hope it translates well once he gets out of the Fun House and into the arena. (14 for 17)

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Seth Rollins vs. Daniel Bryan (3 minutes, 26 seconds)

Rollins hits Bryan with a suicide dive, but upon his second try (he and Bryan both do the multiple dive spot, don’t they?) he’s caught by Erick Rowan, who nails him with a sweet-looking Iron Claw modified choke slam (guess you can’t really call it a chokeslam, but whatever). The match is thrown out after a brawl ensues involving a bunch of mostly random people. The New Day come out to help Seth, which… good guys helping good guys, I guess… Sami and KO followed, which makes sense since they have Woods & Big E at the PPV. The Revival aren’t doing anything on Sunday (except for interfering in the Roman/Drew match I would assume) but they ran down as well. And The Usos, who also aren’t on the card for the PPV, also ran down, since… they’re pals with The New Day. What a random bunch of nonsense. The Usos take out all of the bad guys with a stereo dive over the top and the match is restarted. Seth beats Bryan with the Stomp but gets taken out by Corbin with a steel chair on the ramp to end the show.

I don’t get the point of the big run-in party. To make things seem chaotic, since the 3rd hour of RAW is down and dirty and gritty now? Are they still pushing that or was that literally a one time only deal? Maybe They’ll do Usos vs. Revival on the pre-show. Maybe The Revival will be co-special guest referees. In any event, I’m sure the match was good, but they only showed about a minute of it. Closing the night with Corbin standing tall after blindsiding Rollins with a chair is the type of good, simple booking I like to see. Strong way to close the show. (15 for 18)

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Final Analysis
Week 1, Episode 1

For the most part, I liked what I saw. Out of the 18 segments, only three of them got the thumbs down from me. One of them was only 38 seconds long! It took 7 videos for me to find something I didn’t like. That definitely makes this a good show in my eyes. Granted this was a curated, truncated version of Monday Night RAW, but nothing got left out. There was some stuff that wasn’t necessary and could have been cut entirely and not be missed. An important note: just because I liked a segment didn’t mean it was a great segment. Unless something is actively bad, I’m going to give it a pass. I’m an easy grader. RAW was easy to watch and made plenty of sense as a series of clips clocking in at 5 minutes or less.

If nothing else, this proves that RAW could very easily be a 2-hour show and not have to cut anything. It also proves that as a 3-hour show, they could fit so much more and feature more wrestlers. Well, one episode doesn’t prove it, but if this becomes a recurring theme over the course of the next 2 months, I think that would prove it. The roster isn’t too big for the amount of time they have.

I’ll have to see if this becomes a trend — interestingly enough, the runtime of the 18 clips, which featured everything that happened on the show, was 45 minutes. That’s the length of an hour-long television show if you exclude commercials. RAW without commercials is roughly 2 hours and 25 minutes, and SmackDown is roughly 1 hour and 25 minutes. If my theory holds up, the runtime of the YouTube clips for SmackDown should be in the range of 35 minutes.

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Nick Marsico/ Writer (Kinda)
The Chairshot Dot Com

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Greg DeMarco

Greg DeMarco’s ROH #469 Review: Pure Championship Tournament Kicks Off

Greg DeMarco starts playing catch-up on ROH with the Pure Championship tournament, featuring Jay Lethal vs. Dalton Castle and Jonathan Gresham vs. Wheeler Yuta!

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ROH Ring Of Honor Pure Tournament Pure Championship

Greg DeMarco starts playing catch-up on ROH as the company makes its return to TV with the Pure Championship tournament, featuring Jay Lethal vs. Dalton Castle and Jonathan Gresham vs. Wheeler Yuta!

If you know me, you know I am a huge ROH fan going back to the “old days” when the company featured stars like CM Punk, Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, AJ Styles, Tyler Black (Seth Rollins), Kevin Steen (Owens), El Generico (Sami Zayn) and many more. Recent years turned me off of the of the product, but with ROH making a return and focusing on the Pure Championship, I am ready to make my own return…to honor.

ROH episode #469

The company gives us a quick overview of the Pure Championship that was impactful for me–a guy who was already familiar with the product. For someone who isn’t? I think it’s lacking. Then we have Quinn McKay here to present the field to us, in a manner that was downright goofy with the majestic music and all. It doesn’t seem to fit the “pro wrestling” motif they are going for.

They also give us an overview of the rules, and I am left wondering if they simply forgot that the first closed fist earns you a warning, and the second costs you a rope-break if you have any left. If you’re going to bring this back, even using the old belt, let’s do it right!

Jay Lethal promo

We’re doing sit down interviews with each person, and it’s still just…odd. I don’t know if it’s the music, the way it’s lit, filmed, or what. It just seems like I am watching an old show, not something that was released within the past month. Jay Lethal does a good job selling the importance of the championship, but I question calling Brian Kendrick “Spanky.” Yes, that was his name when Lethal beat him, but today’s fan isn’t going to remember this as well. This is a problem similar to AEW. you’re trying to build new fans, not just appease old ones.

Dalton Castle promo

I am on record thinking that Dalton Castle was cheated in his ROH World Championship reign. but his promo didn’t sell me on ANYTHING. And I love Dalton Castle.

Pure Championship Tournament Block A First Round: Dalton Castle vs. Jay Lethal

I love, love, LOVE the stats on the wrestler cards on their way to the ring. Kinda reminds me of another company that was going to focus on stats….and hasn’t. The clock and rope break counter on the bottom of the screen is a nice touch. It’s strange to see if during a whole match, but it’s also something I will get used to.

Jay Lethal was manipulated into the ropes by Dalton Castle early, establishing the importance of the rope breaks. Later Castle used the rope for leverage, allowing Ian Riccaboni to explain to use that that wasn’t a rope break.

Castle went for a Bangarang at the 11-minute mark, seeing his leg give out at the end. Lethal had to use his second rope break to stop the pinfall. Jay Lethal connects with the Lethal Injection at 13 minutes to score the pinfall.

Winner and advancing to the Block A Semifinals – Jay Lethal
Rating – ***
Impression: Great match, cheated out of fan reaction, definitely one to watch.

I really liked his this match established the rules of the tournament, as Lethal used two rope breaks and Dalton Castle used none. Castle was highly effective with his legal closed fists, telling that story as well. This was a good match to kick off the tournament.

Wheeler Yuta promo

I was exposed to Wheeler as part of Dojo Pro on Amazon Prime, but this promo did a good job establishing who he is. Might be worth it to secure some footage of his matches, even if it’s from Dojo Pro. Pictures are great, but footage is better. Wheeler Yuta fits in with ROH, and this promo told me exactly that.

I also really liked Yuta describing his in-ring philosophy as a “decoder.” One who figures out his opponent through film study and the feeling out process of a match, and then “decodes” how to beat them. Break down their tendencies and exploit them. If you want to see wrestling presented as a modern-day sport–this is it.

Jonathan Gresham promo

Gresham’s rise to prominence in ROH came when I wasn’t really watching, so for me this was a great opportunity for me to gain an appreciation for what he means to the company now, and how he compares to those who historically came before him. He ended with a bit of a manifesto on pure wrestling, and it makes me wonder if we could see a pure wrestling vs. non pure wrestling feud of some kind. Not sure it would work.

Honestly my reaction to the Yuta and Gresham promos makes me think I was too hard on the Jay Lethal and Dalton Castle promos. The goofy music didn’t matter as much to me, because I was engaged in both talents. I am literally sold on both after these not-so-short promos.

Pure Championship Tournament Block A First Round: Jonathan Gresham vs. Wheeler Yuta

Love the storytelling of Jonathan Gresham coming to the ring without his World Tag Team Championship, when Lethal did. Gresham was the one campaigning for this title to return, and he is fully focused on it. I love Wheeler Yuta already, but dude we gotta talk about your footwear. You stopped wearing a shirt, and look more like a wrestler. Get some boots! I knew Gresham was shorter, but didn’t realize that was 5’4″. I am going to assume that’s not worked at all, even though many heights are.

I don’t love the amateur wrestler in the background, this is pro wrestling. You don’t want to associate this tournament with a regression in the product–because despite this being a return of a championship after being gone for 14 years, it’s not that.

Wheeler Yuta is 6 feet tall, the tallest of all four competitors featured on this episode. And at 23 years old, he’s already a fantastic storyteller. If he adds size, he can be a big time star–not only for ROH, but in the wrestling business in general.

If you think the first match of this show told a good story, then this one told a phenomenal in-ring story. I can’t even describe the finishing sequence of this match, a punch of rolling pinfall combinations that ended with Gresham pounding Yuta’s knee into the mat until he tapped.

Winner and advancing to the Block A Semifinals – Jonathan Gresham
Rating – ****
Impression: Match of the night, which sounds silly when we only had two matches. But if there were more, this would still likely be on top.

Wheeler Yuta belongs in ROH, and he proved that here. Jonathan Gresham is one of the best in-ring wrestlers in the world today. Hopefully he sticks around.

Overall Impression – 8/10

Ring Of Honor is still a little too “goofy” for my tastes outside the ring, but they more than make up for it in the ring. I am not 100% sure others will agree. It makes me wonder who is producing the non-in-ring elements of the program, and what we have to do to replace them. The in-ring action honestly holds up against any in the world, but the other elements remind me of a high school media project. The talent deserves better.

I do want to talk about the environment. It reminds me of WWE NXT at Full Sail or the Performance Center. Outside of the WWE Thunderdome, I think it’s one of the best environments anyone has created during this “COVID era” of wrestling. I wouldn’t be opposed to piping in some crowd reactions to go along with this action, as there were some great moments in both matches that didn’t land as well without the crowd noise.

Ian Riccaboni makes a great point about how the fans would “come alive” when Lethal and Castle were both down, and he was exactly right. Caprice Coleman, being a wrestler himself, is really underrated as a color commentator. He does a great job adding to the story by adding the wrestlers’ perspective, as well as explaining the technical elements. Riccaboni sounds like a fan who has learned from commentators (not his fault, he’s not a wrestler) when getting technical. Coleman sounds 100% credible and legit.

Putting aside the goofiness of some non-in-ring elements, the only thing I would change here is adding a middle match that is designed to give us a break from the Pure Rules, and introduce (or reintroduce) us to other ROH talent. My 8/10 rating is propped up by the in-ring action, which has to make up for the goofiness otherwise.


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Greg DeMarco

Greg DeMarco’s NXT Takeover XXX Real Time Review

Pat McAfee and Adam Cole shock the world, and NXT Takeover XXX delivers like Takeovers do. What does Greg think?

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WWE NXT Takeover XXX Adam Cole Pat McAfee Chairshot Edit

Pat McAfee and Adam Cole shock the world, and NXT Takeover XXX delivers like Takeovers do. What does Greg think?

Welp, another Takeover is upon us, and I am going to compile my thoughts in real time. Right now the Kickoff Preshow hasn’t started, but I am excited about this event. I am friends with someone works in production for NXT, and he said excitement is at a peak level in the building as of this morning. The set-up is rumored to be cool, and I think this event–which I look at as a rebuilding effort for NXT–could still steal the weekend.

Before we get going, I will give you some “pre-thoughts.” I’ll leave them here and we’ll see how dumb I look when this is over:

  • I am surprised by the lack of an Undisputed Era vs. Imperium match. Given the nature of the finish, I can see the justification of a rematch. At the same time, you can use that result as part of a future issue within Undisputed Era. So we’ll see. Sucks for Imperium to be NXT Tag Team Champions and not have a match at Takeover.
  • I am really excited for Adam Cole vs. Pat McAfee. Cole has been at this for a decade, and I bet her never imagined wrestling a former NFL Pro Bowler at Full Sail. Yet here we are. If this match is great, that is a HUGE feather in the cap of Cole, who you know I regard as the best damn wrestler walking God’s green earth.
  • I would have added Rhea Ripley vs. Mercedes Martinez to this show, BUT we also need matches for the weekly TV show on the USA Network. That said, we are also getting Finn Balor vs. Timothy Thatcher, which could be the match of the night.
  • While I think Bronson Reed should win, I expect Damian Priest to become North American Champion tonight. He is a star on the rise.
  • Lastly, I have to admit I don’t have high hopes for Karrion Kross vs. Keith Lee. Kross has been dominant, and now we will see how he fares in an even match-up. I hope I am wrong in these hopes.

NXT Takeover XXX Kickoff

  • Pat McAfee is easily a better heel villain than 95% of the those playing that role on the WWE roster today.
  • I can’t shake the feeling that Karrion Kross is better suited for the “main roster” shows than NXT. But if the plan is to take NXT on the road for TV after this pandemic is over, then I can see him staying. Either way, I can’t see him winning tonight.
  • Correction — I can’t see Keith Lee losing tonight. I think Kross eats his first loss in WWE tonight.
  • Booker T sees a “pro” in Dakota Kai and that’s why he’s picking her. Does that mean he doesn’t see a pro in Io Shirai?
  • I love that Imperium is holding gold across multiple brands.
  • Digging the set with the XXX. Not loving Breezango in this match. It’s hard to take them seriously as a tag team contending for anything.
  • Still surprised we can’t get a NXT Cruiserweight Championship match at Takeover. Santos Escobar has made this championship important–treat it that way!
  • The white ropes with the longer XXX stage/set make this “look bigger.” It’s Full Sail with the fake fans, but it comes off like a bigger deal.
  • Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch might go down as one of the most underrated teams in wresting history.
  • Oh look, Breezango won. Hopefully the match will be good, but I hope they don’t unseat Imperium.

Kickoff Match: Breeango beat Legado del Fantasma and Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch when Tyler Breeze pinned Lorcan to earn an NXT Tag Team Championship match

  • Finn Balor vs. Timothy Thatcher is a hell of a match to start the show. Love that announcement.
  • I know William Regal said McAfee’s buddies (and we’re not focusing enough on them, they have name value) and the rest of Undisputed Era can’t get involved. I really hope they do. This match needs shenanigans.
  • If Adam Cole loses to Pat McAfee, there better be a rematch. Otherwise, what does that say about NXT, WWE, and the business in general? Especially when McAfee, in character, has buried it.

NXT Takeover XXX

  • No one does video packages better than WWE. No one.
  • We got some pyro in Full Sail!
  • Love seeing Corey Graves pair up with Vic Joseph and Beth Phoenix tonight. I am guessing Mauro had another gig.

Finn Balor vs. Timothy Thatcher

  • Finn Balor is a great example of what I’ve been saying about faces and heels not mattering anymore, and it instead being heroes and villains. Thatcher is the villain tonight, and Balor is the hero. But both are heels. And that’s okay.
  • Not gonna lie, I miss the NXT crowd. Even at Full Sail. But imagine this in Boston?
  • Timothy Thatcher might not be the only person in WWE who likes to utilize this style, but he damn sure is the best.
  • Thatcher works a style that could really work on the “main roster.” I know he’s already 37, but I could actually see him pulling off a huge WrestleMania match someday, even as a show closing talent.
  • Starting a single-leg crab, and Thatcher just lays kicks into Finn instead. Damn, dude is SO GOOD. I really hope more people take notice in this match.
  • On the flip said of the Thatcher-WM comments, you have Finn Balor who damn well better close a WrestleMania before he’s done. I hate to say he’s wasted in NXT, but I can’t think of a better word.
  • Balor going over and Thatcher doesn’t even kick out of a finisher–not that he would want to–seems like a missed opportunity. Is losing to Balor really a break-out opportunity like they want us to think?

Finn Balor pinned Timothy Thatcher following 1916

  • Love that Sasha Banks and Bayley are in the crowd, fangirlling, tonight.

North American Championship Ladder Match: Cameron Grimes vs. Bronson Reed vs. Damian Priest vs. Johnny Gargano vs. Velveteen Dream

  • Cameron Grimes strikes me as someone who should be residing in WrestleHouse. I don’t mean he shouldn’t be in NXT, but when he goes home, it should be to WrestleHouse.
  • Beth unintentionally making the comparison between Damian Priest and Razor Ramon is one I can’t disagree with. If he can have that type of WWE career, he will have done well.
  • Also makes sense since I picked Priest, and the North American Championship really is the modern day Intercontinental Championship.
  • “Johnny Gargano calls himself the hero that NXT deserves.” See, Gargano already knows–it’s Heroes vs. Villains!
  • I really wish they had kept Bronson Reed with Malcolm Bivens.
  • I want to love Priest mimicking Razor Ramon, Reed honoring Bam Bam Bigelow and Velveteen Dream channeling Scott Steiner, but let these characters stand on their own.
  • Damian Priest selling that DDT by….crawling out of the ring? Roll Damian. Roll.
  • I know I just criticized him, but Damian Priest could be the best striker in NXT, possibly in WWE.
  • That split spot for Cameron Grimes was creative. And it’s hard to do that in a Ladder Match in 2020.
  • Corey Graves on an NXT broadcast just feels right.
  • This might be the most blueish-purple in any NXT match in history.
  • Bronson Reed really adds an element that NXT has been missing.
  • That was a creative Tower Of Doom spot. And it’s hard to do that in 2020.
  • I really feel for these guys, doing this without a crowd–a crowd that would be on their feet going nuts for this.
  • THICCBOI gonna fly!
  • Cameron Grimes worked really hard to get a ladder into the ring…which already had a ladder in it.
  • A splash from Bronson Reed is bad enough. Throw 110 pounds of Candice LeRae on the back? Ouch.
  • Velveteen Dream is a dumb ass for not realizing the title was up there, and then going LOWER on the ladder before trying to grab it.
  • I feel bad for Damain Priest, having to sell Dream’s superkick that didn’t come within a foot of hitting him.
  • Honestly, Velveteen Dream is the least impressive person in this match.
  • I really wanted someone to stop Cameron Grimes, which means he’s done his job.
  • And despite the weird finish, the right guy wins.

Damian Priest retrieves the belt in a Ladder Match to become the new NXT North American Champion

  • That was one hell of a spot for Velveteen Dream, one you can’t do outside of this environment. I feel like it didn’t get sold long enough–that was a crazy spot!

Adam Cole vs. Pat McAfee

  • Why is the main event going on third?
  • This is when we see just how damn good Adam Cole is. (He’s really damn good, btw.)
  • Pat McAfee not entering vi the backdoor is a missed opportunity.
  • Pat McAfee didn’t have to read his promo. Take that Dominik Mysterio!
  • Matt PacAfee?
  • Having this match start as catch-as-catch-can wrestling kinda proves that Pat McAfee is playing wrestler, AMIRIGHT?
  • War Games 2020?
  • Not gonna lie, Pat McAfee ain’t bad at this.
  • Okay, LOVE Corey Graves pointing out that McAfee has friends to teach him some tricks. Considering one of those main friends is COREY GRAVES.
  • And now Corey Graves is calling out Beth Phoenix contradicting herself. Damn I miss Corey Graves on NXT.
  • PAT MCAFEE CAN PUNCH BETTER THAN MOST OF WWE!
  • Pat McAfee > Dominik Mysterio. Some things can’t be taught.
  • I love seeing Twitter do a complete 180 on Pat McAfee. Great job Adam Cole!
  • Pat McAfee is a goddamned pro wrestler.

Adam Cole pinned Pat McAfee following the Panama Sunrise

  • One thing to keep in perspective here: Corey Graves added SO MUCH to this match on commentary. He’s really grown into one of the best.
  • And you, Adam Cole? Still the greatest wrestler walking God’s green earth.

NXT Women’s Championship: Io Shirai (champion) vs. Dakota Kai (with Raquel Gonzalez)

  • Sucks for these talented women to have to follow that match.
  • I feel bad, I am watching this match (which is good) thinking about how much money Triple H and Vince McMahon need to throw at Pat McAfee.
  • Dakota Kai could be a star. Not sure what she needs to take this to another level, but she’s right on the cusp of stardom.
  • No, not STARDOM. Stardom.
  • Io Shirai might be the best women’s wrestler in the entire world. Might be the second best in the world overall (behind Adam Cole, BAY BAY.)
  • Maybe this match is bringing out what Dakota Kai needs to be a star. She’s killing it.
  • REF BUMP!
  • Could we see Bayley and Sasha here?
  • Nope, just Raquel.

Io Shirai pinned Dakota Kai following a moonsault to retain the NXT Women’s Championship

  • Damn good match that won me over–and that’s saying a lot considering I was still reeling from Cole-McAfee.
  • We gonna use Rhea Ripley to build Raquel Gonzalez now?
  • Tommaso Ciampa returns Wednesday? I guess he’s not seeking retribution after all…
  • Look at Damian Priest stealing Joey Janela’s girl!

NXT Championship: Keith Lee (champion) vs. Karrion Kross

  • Imagine a Karrion Kross entrance at WrestleMania.
  • Glad to see Scarlett finally has the timing of the words down.
  • Karrion Kross’ pyro went off before the match. Using the Kane Principle, that means he’s losing.
  • Can you see The White Rabbit as NXT Champion?
  • I really love how they use the guard rails in this new, Plexiglas environment.
  • This is very much a “main roster” match right here, and that’s appropriate since both men could do well there–if they don’t get lost in the shuffle.
  • Keith Lee has been really…..helpful in this match.
  • Keith Lee for “main roster?”

Karrion Kross pinned Keith Lee following a Doomsday Siato Suplex from the second rope to capture the NXT Championship

  • Don’t love taking the NXT Championship off of Keith Lee this fast, making him a transitional champion. But that might have been the plan all along. Sometimes the title win is someone’s peak, and that might have been it for Keith Lee.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this NXT Takeover. It was really a rebuilding show, but it will be remembered for the Pat McAfee appearance no one saw coming.

 


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