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The WWE TV YouTube Experiment (RAW: June 24, 2019)

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The WWE TV YouTube Experiment
Week 2, Episode 2
Monday Night RAW/ June 24, 2019
Everett, Washington

I would consider week one a successful beginning to this experiment. Week two will feature both RAW and SmackDown, and it will continue that way until the episodes on the Monday and Tuesday after SummerSlam. If I survive.

Check out last week’s RAW by clicking here.

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Stomping Grounds on Pay-Per-View

Last week was the go-home show for the Stomping Grounds PPV, which overperformed. It wasn’t great, but it was pretty good. I liked some of the matches more than others, but I’m not of the opinion that it was a “great” show, a word which I’ve seen tossed around online a bunch since Sunday night. I’ve also heard it was awful. It turns out that my 2-month $0.99 trial ends on July 17, so I’ll get to see Extreme Rules as well. We’ll see what happens for SummerSlam. In any event, I liked the Lacey Evans idea as Corbin’s guest referee, but the main event felt like a worse version of a bad Attitude Era gimmick main event. The Austin/McMahons 2-on-1 ladder match from the 1999 King of the Ring show comes to mind. It was far too long and drawn out — I understand the idea that Becky decided not to get involved until Lacey physically interjected herself, but that didn’t happen until 15 minutes into a match that barely had any right going more than 10, at most. The crowd reaction was awful — but if you truncate everything and have Lacey go after Rollins at the 5-minute mark instead of 15, then the crowd doesn’t turn on the match and it comes off way better.

I still blame the dopey people who bought tickets and then chanted for other stuff, though. The tickets for this show went on sale in mid-May. WWE was no different then than it is now — the people who crapped on this show would have already hated everything WWE has been doing. What did they expect? Wasted money. I don’t blame them for the show being bad (like I’ve seen some people on Twitter do), just for being dumb enough to waste their money and their time on something they already decided they didn’t like.

The show was good enough. Let’s talk RAW.

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Total Number of Clips: 15
Total Time: 40 minutes, 59 seconds

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Rollins, Lynch, Corbin and Evans get Extreme (4 minutes, 45 seconds)

Sounds like Becky is still the most over person in the company. Seth and Becky make googly eyes at each other and call Corbin and Lacey dumb. Then the irony comes (hopefully intentionally) as Corbin’s music hits and they turn their attention to the entrance, only for Lacey Evans to attack from behind. That was well done. Becky gets the better of Lacey, though, and Seth intercepts an attempted blindside attack from Corbin and the heels bail. I loved Corbin’s promo here. It was actually quite impressive. I’d have stumbled over that line 100 times and he fucking nailed it. The exact opposite of his awkward backstage bumble from last week. Seth and Becky agree to a “Winner Take All” match for both titles as the main event of Extreme Rules. Well, that’s one way to do things.

I know a lot of people are sick of Corbin and Lacey in the spot they’re in, but since I literally just got back into things last week, I haven’t had time to get sick of it! Bonus! I dig the idea and it makes sense. The segment was a fine way to open the show and immediately start the build by announcing the Extreme Rules main event at the top of the show. I only hope for two things in that match: they make it No DQ and both men hit some sort of offensive move on the opposing woman. Even if it takes Baron, the heel, knocking Becky down from behind, which pisses Rollins off, followed by Lacey trying to sneak attack Seth, only to get caught. Just let him hit her with a superkick. She slapped him like 4 times on Sunday and tried to separate his balls from his body. Impact is running Sami Callihan vs. Tessa Blanchard at Slammiversary, which is their most high profile man vs. woman match to date. I don’t think the world will end if Seth kicks another wrestler, who knows the risks involved AND physically attacked him, in the face. (1 for 1)

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Eight-Man Elimination Tag Team Match (2 minutes, 58 seconds)

I was very confused by this clip because it wasn’t a regular elimination tag, where it’s 4-on-4 and each individual is eliminated separately. This was 2 teams teaming up against 2 other teams, and when one member of a team is eliminated, his regular tag partner is eliminated. I hope they explained that to the live audience. The clip starts with Bryan taking out Dash Wilder by mistake with a suicide dive, followed by Bryan and Woods in the ring. Bryan walks into a decidedly not-inadvertent uppercut forearm from Wilder, clearly in retaliation, and that led to Bryan getting pinned by Woods. I was very confused by this, but then it was announced that Bryan and Rowan were eliminated. This confused me even further — but just for a moment until I put together that this must have been some contrived way to enforce the ‘no wrestling during commercials’ rule. Woods immediately gets himself and Big E eliminated when The Revival nail the Shatter Machine. Gotta assume they went to commercial here. The match ends with an awesome sequence, as Jey gets a blind tag and the Revival try to take out Jimmy with what appeared to be an attempt at a superplex/top rope splash combination, but Jey stopped Dash and ended up springing off of his back and getting Dawson with a surprise pinfall off a top rope splash of his own. Nice.

I had to read a recap of the show to confirm what exactly was going on. I don’t know if I have ever seen a match of this nature before. I’ve seen tag team battle royals that stipulate that if one member of the team is eliminated, the team is eliminated, but this match was certainly unique. As expected with a 3-minute runtime, this video was heavily clipped, but what they showed was pretty good. I assume this is leading to The Usos challenging The Revival for the RAW tag belts at Extreme Rules. I approve. (2 for 2)

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Drake Maverick begs R-Truth for a 24/7 Title Match (5 minutes, 2 seconds)

Truth and Carmella are guests on Miz TV, and Miz reveals that the 24/7 rule was suspended for the interview. Okay, that’s cool. Miz runs down some of the title changes that have happened thus far. Truth makes some jokes, continuing to be a national treasure. He hasn’t been able to “eat, drink, or be merry”, and he can’t even go to picnics! That’s a damn shame. Drake Maverick interrupts the interview, and he gets booed. People in Washington are such jerks. Truth totally cockblocked him and may end up causing his wife to get the marriage annulled. They make a joke that I think only the R-Truth character could pull off, as he confuses “consummated” with “constipated”. Crowd chants “constipation” — it would have been far more clever for them to chant “masturbation”, but it’s all good. Drake asks for a one-on-one title shot and Truth accepts. Well, technically he accepted a match with Hornswoggle, but Drake works.

Truth is fucking great. This was a funny segment. No idea what the plan is with Miz right now. He lost his babyface turn feud with Shane and I don’t think he’s done anything since. Is he a SmackDown guy? I guess I’ll find out tomorrow. Good segment. (3 for 3)

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R-Truth vs. Drake Maverick – 24/7 Championship Match (2 minutes, 34 seconds)

Truth pins Drake immediately, catching him with his finish in 15-seconds. Titus O’Neil drags a ref down the ramp and a bunch of other goobers follow. They try to win the belt, but Truth and Carmella escape through the crowd. Drake Maverick is too downtrodden to comment on what just happened and walks away from an attempted in-ring interview by Charly Caruso. He’s nearly in tears, and the crowd sings him out with “Na Na, Hey Hey”. I know he was a heel before, but has he been an asshole on TV lately? Why are they being so mean to the poor little spud?

This was a continuation of the Miz TV segment. I assume after a commercial break. It was fun and silly. I am not offended and I am pretty well entertained. (4 for 4)

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Baron Corbin & Lacey Evans conspire against Seth Rollins & Becky Lynch (47 seconds)

Baron and Lacey have an awkward conversation backstage about how Rollins is a bitch, so all they have to do is take out Becky and they’ll win the match. I guess that’s fair. Corbin sorts hits on her at the end, and it’s very uncomfortable for everyone.

It happened. Can’t really complain about a conversation that lasted under a minute and was used as a way to get to a commercial break (I assume). No reason to hate it. (5 for 5)

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The Undertaker comes to Roman Reigns’ aid (2 minutes, 40 seconds)

After Roman was able to beat Drew at Stomping Grounds, so Shane booked a 2-on-1 handicap match with himself and Drew against Roman. It was going well until Shane climbed to the top to hit the Coast-to-Coast dropkick and Undertaker’s DONG hit. Lights out, lights on, and it’s Undertaker! The crowd goes batshit and ‘Taker kills Shane and Drew. Didn’t see that coming.

That was one hell of a surprise. The pop from the crowd was awesome and I’m intrigued to see where this is going. This is another issue with a lot of people, as it means the ongoing Shane/Drew vs. Roman saga must continue. Just like the Corbin/Evans/Rollins/Lynch stuff, I haven’t been around long enough to be tired of it, so it’s all good to me. (6 for 6)

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Braun Strowman vs. Bobby Lashley – Tug of War (2 minutes, 12 seconds)

Okie dokie. Lashley pulls Braun right to the edge of the line in the center of the ring, but Braun was just kidding, guys! He laughs and pulls Bobby over the line, but all that does is propel Lashley into him, and Bobby kicks his ass. So he was kinda dumb to do that. Braun almost made a comeback after hitting a shoulder tackle, but Lashley drives him into the barricade and walks away standing tall.

It was what it was. Lashley wrapped the rope around Strowman’s eyes, which was pretty badass. I assume this is going to set up a bull rope match of some sort for Extreme Rules, and I’m cool with that. I don’t know why people online were so mad about this. It’s not like they spent 15 minutes on this. The YouTube video showed the entirety of the tug of war and the fight, so if we include entrances this couldn’t have been longer than, like 6-7 minutes, tops. I accept this. (7 for 7)

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Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson vs. The Viking Raiders (2 minutes, 27 seconds)

This was almost the same as last week for both teams, except they were against each other. Erik and Ivar (ugh) were on the other end of the offense for a bit, but just like last week against The Usos, when Gallows and Anderson got the upper hand they stopped to gloat, and that’s when the Viking Raiders took over and won with the Viking Experience. This clip showed the last 2 minutes and 5 seconds of a 3 minute and 25-second match.

Good for both teams. The Viking Raiders get a strong victory over a team that has a tiny bit of name value instead of a couple of random indie guys. Gallows and Anderson have been destroyed over the course of the last 3 years, but at least WWE is acknowledging that. So even though they lost, it’s a loss against a team that has been destroying everyone, so it isn’t like they lost to some nerds. It continues their storyline, which will hopefully revitalize them. WWE actually has a chance of rebuilding the tag division! (8 for 8)

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Naomi and Natalya stand up to Alexa Bliss (1 minute, 4 seconds)

Naomi and Natty try to tell Nikki Cross that Alexa is going to double cross her, but she doesn’t believe them. Alexa shows up and calls Naomi a “neon Bayley Buddy” (awesome) and Naomi challenges her to a match.

I’m going to be down on this one specifically because I don’t like that they’re running essentially the same storyline with Nikki that they did with Nia Jax. Plus, naive young girl Nikki Cross doesn’t appeal to me. Insane Scotswoman Nikki Cross is money. Underdog idiot will end up getting a one-time pop when she figures out what’s going on and turns on Bliss, and it will be downhill from there. (8 for 9)

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Multiple Superstars become 24/7 Champion (2 minutes, 29 seconds)

Heath Slater and Mojo Rawley are in the ring getting ready for a one-on-one match with each other, but the goon squad chases Truth back to the ringside area. Slater hits a neckbreaker and wins the title but can’t run away, and Truth hits his flatliner and gets the belt back to become 8-time champion. Cedric Alexander in the ring now, and the Lumbar Check makes him a 1-time champ. EC3 accosts him on the outside, and the 1 Percenter wins him the belt, but Carmella takes it out of his hands, distracting him long enough for Truth to roll him up on the ramp and regain his belt, becoming a 9-time champion. EC3 is forlorn and the geeks chase Truth back up the ramp.

I think it’s safe to say that Truth is going to surpass Raven as the most prolific titleholder in WWE history, possibly before the end of the year. Raven is a 27-time Hardcore Champion thanks to the 24/7 rule, and Truth is already up to 9 — the title has been in existence for 6 weeks. This is all so stupid and I love it so much. I don’t know if anything will ever top WrestleMania x8 for the best ongoing story with the 24/7 rule in a single night, but if anyone can make it happen, it would be Truth. (9 for 10)

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Kofi Kingston is a guest on “The Sami and Kevin Show” (3 minutes, 58 seconds)

It’s an impromptu episode, as this started as an in-ring interview with Kofi and Charly Caruso. Sami and Kevin interrupt and have their own questions. I forgot that KO calls her “Not Renee”. That’s awesome. Owens reads questions off of notecards, with the gag being that the last word of each question is on the next card, so he has to pause for a moment before finishing every time. Sami calls Kofi a paper champion that only wins because he gets help from his friends. Kofi calls the New Day a brotherhood and challenges Sami to come to the ring to start their scheduled match now. So does that mean it was actually scheduled to be the main event instead of AJ vs. Ricochet? I’m nitpicking.

This was a good segment that continued the New Day vs. Owens and Zayn feud. It’s really just weird filler since Kofi is a SmackDown guy and Owens and Zayn are RAW guys. But then, so is Samoa Joe and he’s Kofi’s next challenger. Owens, Zayn, and Kofi were also on SD the next night. I like the loose Wildcard rule deal, mostly because unlike it’s somewhat similar to how the shows used to be, with storylines from RAW continued the same week on SmackDown. It allows them to sort of keep the brand split while allowing guys to show up on both nights and avoids making SmackDown a glorified RAW clip show like it was before the new brand split started in 2016.

I hope Ziggler is dropped from the storyline after losing to Kofi on SmackDown (which I’ll cover soon) and Owens gets another title shot, followed by Sami — or maybe a triple threat after he (hopefully) retains over Joe. There are so many ways to go with this story and I’ll be heartbroken when Big E eventually turns on Kofi and Woods. I wonder if they can hold off until next year or if it’ll happen before SummerSlam or Survivor Series. Maybe they’ll throw a big curveball and have Woods turn. Or maybe they’ll just stay together. I’d be cool with that. (10 for 11)

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Kofi Kingston vs. Sami Zayn (2 minutes, 49 seconds)

Sami bails out of the ring and Kofi chases, but it ends up costing him, as Owens interferes on the outside. Clip ahead and Sami gets a near fall with a Michinoku Driver, and then they skip ahead to the finish, as Kofi gets a sunset flip for the pin after a nice reversal sequence. Owens calls Kofi out for a match and obviously, Kofi accepts.

Probably a very good match. The only part I don’t like is that the matches are so short. I wish they gave us just a tiny bit more in the clips. But that’s the nature of this beast and it is part of the project. (11 for 12)

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Kofi Kingston vs. Kevin Owens (2 minutes, 52 seconds)

Owens goes for the apron powerbomb but Kofi backdrops him on the floor. He hits the SOS on the ramp and wins the match by count-out. Well, that was anticlimactic. Sami tries to attack from behind but gets tossed from the ring and Kofi does the crazy “trust fall” dive over the top to take them out. Sadly, his night is not over, as Samoa Joe runs down the ramp and attacks from behind, kicking his ass and choking him out.

This was all angle, as the actual match itself was only a minute and 45 seconds. The finish was really problematic for me, because I didn’t even know the referee was counting, I don’t think the crowd knew it, and the commentary team definitely didn’t know, as Michael Cole reacted with great surprise when the ref called for the bell. That was very poorly done. It would have been a fine finish if anybody other than the wrestlers and the ref knew what was going on. Joe versus Kofi should be awesome. I wonder if they will add some kind of stipulation to it, since it’s going to be the co-main event for Extreme Rules. (12 for 13)

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Naomi vs. Alexa Bliss (2 minutes, 8 seconds)

Naomi hits the cool split leg drop thing she does and Bliss rolls out of the ring. Naomi follows with a baseball slide dropkick but hits Nikki Cross instead of Alexa. This allows Alexa to toss her back in the ring and hit her DDT for the win. Why have they given so many women a simple DDT as a finisher so many times over the years? That bugs me. Bliss and Cross look to attack Naomi, but Natalya makes the save before they can do anything. This ended up becoming a tag team match, but it didn’t show up on WWE’s YouTube channel. I’m not complaining, but it’s just odd.

This clip showed a minute and 12 seconds of a match that lasted a minute and 20. Dunno why they didn’t just show it from the start. Maybe to create the illusion that it was a longer match than it actually was? Their odd way of protecting Naomi for the YouTube crowd? There probably wasn’t any reason at all.

Again, I don’t like the Bliss/Cross angle and I find it impossible to care about Natalya for some reason, even though I like her as a wrestler. I think it’s because she’s been wrestling for almost 20 years, 11 of which have been spent on the WWE main roster, and the girl might be the stiffest, most wooden promo in the business. Worse than Baron Corbin. By a longshot. She can do comedy well enough, but anything serious and she just falls apart. The clip from earlier showed that. Not buying any of this, which sucks since it was the only real stuff with the women on the entire show. Becky and Lacey were nowhere to be found after the opening segment and the awkward backstage conversation. (12 for 14)

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Ricochet vs. AJ Styles (1 minute, 54 seconds)

This was set up backstage at Stompin Grounds when AJ, Gallows, and Anderson crashed Ricochet’s photoshoot as the new United States Champion. The clip actually starts with AJ visibly and audibly calling the next spot. It wasn’t clear what he said, but what an odd place to start. Ricochet hits a dropkick that knocks AJ to the outside and follows with his own version of AJ’s famous Fosbury Flop dive over the top rope. They cut to Ricochet avoiding the backflip into the reverse DDT from AJ, but AJ catches him anyway, hitting it out of the scoop slam position instead. Kind of how Sting used to hit the Scorpion Death Drop occasionally, but with way more force and way cooler. AJ gets a 2 count. The next clip comes and Ricochet hits a twisting vertical suplex and Lionsault for 2, and the magic of YouTube puts him on the top rope, from which he misses the 630. AJ hits the springboard forearm to pick up the win.

They only showed a minute and 50 seconds of a 13 minute match (I’m sure it’s on the Hulu version, so I’ll check it out) Upon checking out a recap I see that the match started before a commercial but stopped quickly because Gallows and Anderson tried to interfere and AJ refused to wrestle until they left. I think it’s weird that they have left every interaction between AJ and the Good Brothers out of the YouTube stuff 2 weeks in a row, especially since it seems like they’re starting a big angle. This was really too short to judge, but what they showed was good and I think AJ winning was the right call. It earns him a title shot, and makes sense since he’s an established main event guy and Ricochet just showed up. (13 for 15)

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Final Analysis
Week 2, Episode 2

I didn’t like this show as much as last week. There was nothing outwardly bad or dumb and they set up a bunch of stuff for the next PPV, but it was just OK. Like last week’s show, it took a while until I found something I didn’t enjoy (last week was the 7th video, this week was the 8th). There were three fewer clips than last week, and they left out two things that I would consider important (AJ telling Gallows and Anderson to get serious and the women’s tag match). We’ll see if a trend forms. Last week, the only thing they missed was AJ yelling at Gallows and Anderson because they’re losers who need to start taking things seriously. As mentioned above, they also left out Gallows and Anderson trying to interfere in AJ’s match and getting sent to the back by AJ himself. It’s very odd.

A very nuanced thing that we missed this week was Bray’s puppets showing up in the background. Mercy the Buzzard appeared behind Kofi Kingston while he was preparing for his match backstage, and Abby the Witch was lurking far behind The Miz as he walked down the hall on his way out to start Miz TV. It’s stuff like this that would make it difficult to be a YouTube only viewer. Thankfully, that can be supplemented by things like Facebook and Twitter, which is where I first saw it, as people were taking pictures and posting them. It may be mostly immaterial, as this is really just build-up to Bray making his first appearance out of the Fun House and into the arena. It’s cool to see it, but not a big loss in the grand scheme of things because when Bray himself shows up, that will be uploaded.

On the opposite side, omitting the scenes of AJ and the Good Brothers could lead to a situation where, when they commit to a big angle, will come across with a lot less impact and might even be confusing. My initial intention was to try to run this experiment without reading any recaps/reviews of the show. I was going to view it from a very minimalist perspective, where YouTube would be pretty much the only thing I would see. The fact that WWE uploads the videos in a seemingly random order is problematic not only for my purpose but for others who might watch in a similar way because it could ruin the flow. And while it may not be a big deal, for example, to see Alexa Bliss trying to tell Nikki Cross that Bayley is not a good person because she interfered in their title match before it actually happens, it is important for an angle that traverses the entirety of the show.

Roman Reigns stormed Shane’s office and took out Drew McIntyre, then chased Shane out to the ring and speared him out of his shoes in a big moment on the June 17th RAW. It was the first video on the RAW playlist. The segment that preceded it, which was Drew McIntyre kicking the crap out of Heath Slater at the behest of Shane McMahon after Slater asked for a raise, was the second-to-last video on the playlist. It was the 17th out of 18 videos. In the correct order, the Heath Slater segment happened 7th while Roman going after Drew and Shane was the 13th video. Seeing those things happen out of order is, if nothing else, really annoying. I guess that’s really not the point of the YouTube channel, though. There probably aren’t a ton of people watching only on YouTube, and anybody who does is unlikely, I would guess, to care very much about that kind of thing.

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Straight Numbers

Last week’s RAW had 3 more videos and was 4 minutes and 42 seconds longer in total. The average video length last week was about 2 minutes and 32 seconds. The average video length this week was about 2 minutes and 44 seconds.

As of Wednesday night (July 26) the most-watched video from the July 17th RAW was Roman Reigns attacking Drew McIntyre and Shane McMahon, at 7.9 million views. The next highest out of the 18 videos? Truth and Carmella being caught in disguise and chased by the goon squad. It has 1.2 million. Rollins vs. Bryan was a close 3rd, with 1.1 million views. The Viking Raiders beating up the jobbers was the lowest at about 117,000 views.

To put some of that into perspective, the return of The Undertaker had 7.7 million views, just shy of the 7.9 million for Roman beating down Shane. It has almost equaled last week’s most-watched segment and only took 2 days to get there. Granted these numbers are going to be slightly skewed because I don’t have the figures from last Wednesday, but I think it’s safe to assume Roman’s segment wasn’t already at 7.7 million in under 48 hours. Another thing that’s not shocking is that just like last week, the 24/7 Title videos were the 6th, 5th, and 3rd highest in views. Drake Maverick asking for a one-on-one title shot on Miz TV had 1.2 million views, the segment with the multiple title changes sat at 1.5 million, and the actual one-on-one match was at 2.2 million views. That’s impressive as hell. In about 48 hours, the three videos related to the 24/7 Title all had more views than all but one video from the RAW a week prior. The opening segment with the announcement of Rollins/Lynch vs. Corbin/Evans sat at 2.6 million. I’ll check in next Wednesday evening to get a better comparison.

The Strowman/Lashley tug of war, by the way, had 1.8 million views, making it the 4th highest watched out of 15 videos, behind only Maverick vs. Truth, the Universal/Women’s Title angle, and The Undertaker’s return. People seem to care. Or they heard there was a tug of war and wanted to laugh at it. I don’t have time to get a good survey group together to find the truth. The two least-watched videos were Naomi and Natalya trying to talk sense into Nikki Cross with only about 169,000 and the Gallows/Anderson vs. Viking Raiders match, which came in at only 192,000. That’s two weeks in a row with low numbers for the former War Raiders/War Machine. Better than last week, and they did it quicker, but still not so hot.

That’s going to wrap it up for RAW. I’m going to keep tinkering with the formula until we figure out what this experiment is really all about, or at least until we figure out how much we can learn from it, if anything at all. If nothing else, it will help me figure out whether or not I want to give it another shot with WWE and actually start watching their full shows again. And I’ll also probably give myself a headache every week trying to crunch the numbers. I’m not a numbers guy, but this stuff is somehow fascinating to me.

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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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