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Opinion

Cook’s Tale of the Tape: EVOLVE 131 vs AEW Fight for the Fallen

We’ve got two pretty big shows coming up on Saturday night, which has slid under the radar and become the best night for pro wrestling again lately.

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We’ve got two pretty big shows coming up on Saturday night, which has slid under the radar and become the best night for pro wrestling again lately.

People my age & over know all about World Championship Wrestling, Saturday Night’s Main Event & WCW Saturday Night back in the day, but the sport of kings has been taking that night back recently. It started with the NXT TakeOvers, then AEW & New Japan joined in the fun here recently. And you old school ROH fans know that the Saturday shows were always the A shows of a weekend.

This Saturday’s going to be pretty big. AEW is presenting their Fight for the Fallen event in Jacksonville with some pretty interesting matchups. Meanwhile, WWE has decided to let their Double A affiliate, EVOLVE, have their 10th anniversary show air live on the WWE Network. Correctly, they figured that a semi-indy fed booked by Gabe Sapolsky would have a better chance of making a dent in AEW’s streaming numbers than anything else they could throw out there.

Which card should you spend your Saturday night watching? That’s why I’m here with the Tale of the Tape!

Women’s Singles Match

EVOLVE: Brandi Lauren vs. Shotzi Blackheart

F for the F: Brandi Rhodes vs. Allie

I’m a big Shotzi Blackheart fan. She works hard and has green hair & a punk style and I’m a fan of it. She’s howling like a wolf and I dig it. I looked up Brandi Lauren and she was in TNA at some point and I have no memory of it. Larry Csonka’s reviews of her recent EVOLVE efforts don’t give me much hope.

Allie is pretty great. She managed to get herself over in Impact Wrestling during a time when nobody was getting over. Because she was a great worker. She delivered when it mattered. Whether you want to call her Allie or Cherry Bomb or whatever, she’s been one of the best workers on the distaff side of things since she broke in. Brandi Rhodes isn’t as much of a natural. She’s had to work at it, and she probably started too late to be one of the best female workers of all time. The lady works hard though. She’ll likely come up short here because Allie needs to be the person AEW’s women’s division is built around, but Brandi will bring the fight.

Advantage: F for the F

Top Featured Tag Team Match

EVOLVE: Eddie Kingston & Joe Gacy vs. AR Fox & Leon Ruff

F for the F: Cody & Dustin Rhodes vs. The Young Bucks

I love me some Eddie Kingston. He’s one of the best talkers this business has seen over the past two decades. Unfortunately for him but fortunately for us, most of his career has been unproduced. I also love me some AR Fox. That guy can do some incredible things. His Lucha Underground stint showcased it for those that didn’t know, and when I watched some of his CZW stuff years afterward I wondered how he didn’t get signed by somebody.

I’m not as big on Young Bucks matches as some are, but they’re an incredible team. I am huge on Cody & Dustin. The Rhodes Family isn’t as big as some wrestling families, but if you want to talk about quality over quantity, they’ve got it over most. Anything they’re involved in, I’m all about. Cody is awesome, & Dustin is still incredible after however many years. They both got the gene for story-telling from their old man & use it in different ways. Cody has probably thought about this match since the moment he met Nick & Matt Jackson, and I expect them to have the best match on Fight for the Fallen. Cody’s streak of having the best match of a show he’s on will continue.

Advantage: F for the F

Match Featuring A Man Named Adam

EVOLVE: ADAM COLE BAY BAY vs. Akira Tozawa

F for the F: HANGMAN ADAM PAGE vs. Kip Sabian

We’re talking about two Adams that I’m buying all the stock of. Page looks to be the future top guy in AEW and I’m all about it. He’s got the look, the understated charisma, and he can deliver in the ring. He carries himself like he’s a Rhodes or a Windham, so I’m all about building a promotion around him.

But I would also build a promotion around Adam Cole. The guy’s had it ever since he stepped into a ring. Wherever he goes, he becomes a top guy because he is the top guy. He’s the closest thing I’ve seen to Shawn Michaels since Shawn Michaels. If I was booking NXT, I would keep the NXT Championship on Adam Cole until the second he gets called up.

Basically, the choice here comes down to opponents. Tozawa is awesome & I’ve never seen Kip Sabian wrestle.

Advantage: EVOLVE

Match Featuring Two Guys Smarks Like

EVOLVE: Drew Gulak vs. Matt Riddle

F for the F: Kenny Omega vs. Cima

Omega vs. Cima seems like a Japanese dream match. A guy that made it to the top of New Japan and reinvented their main event style taking on the guy that trained most of the people in the secondary promotions. I have no doubt it will be pretty great.

I’ve already seen Gulak & Riddle go at it on a random NXT episode. It was absolutely amazing. Two guys that knew how to technically wrestle putting on a freaking clinic. It was GRAPPLEFUCK at its best. I know Riddle is the favored son in some circles, but from where I sit, Drew Gulak just might be the best wrestler in the world today. Add in Riddle with his oddness, and it can’t possibly suck.

Advantage: EVOLVE

Best Match I Can’t Find A Parallel For

EVOLVE: JD Drake vs. Austin Theory

F for the F: Frankie Kazarian & Scorpio Sky vs. Pentagon Jr. & Rey Fenix

I saw a lot of Austin Theory on The Wrestlers, and he seems like a good kid with a world of potential. I’ve never heard of his opponent. On the other side, you have the two most exciting Mexican wrestlers against two American veterans that will know how to put them over while being fun at the same time. This isn’t really a fair comparison.

Advantage: F for the F

Venue

EVOLVE: 2300 Arena, Philadelphia

F for the F: Daily’s Place Ampitheater, Jacksonville

Advantage: Everybody marks out for the ECW Arena. The bingo hall at Swanson & Rittner. That place has seen so much wrestling that the history is ridiculous. I’ve watched so many shows from that venue that I couldn’t even begin to tell you the best or worst matches. I can understand why Gabe would mark out for running a show there.

I get more enjoyment from shows in different places. My favorite ROH venue ever is a tent they held a show in when they got kicked out of a venue while still having KENTA booked. KENTA in a Tent-a was pretty awesome. This AEW venue is something connected to the Jaguars stadium and also shares space with a practice facility. If I’m going to see pictures of crowds, I’d like to see them in unique places.

Advantage: F for the F

Probable Announcers

EVOLVE: Lenny Leonard

F for the F: Excalibur, Jim Ross, Alex Marvez or maybe GoldenBoy?

I’m higher on the AEW announce team than most. Exaclibur does a good job of carrying things no matter who he’s with. JR seems more emotionally invested with AEW than he has with anything else he’s called in ages. Marvez wasn’t great in the first thing he called ever, but I’m sure GoldenBoy is on AEW’s speed dial.

EVOLVE has Lenny Leonard. Apparently Ron Niemi joins him on occasion, but it’s mostly Lenny. I always liked Lenny on ROH shows before he got replaced during the HDNet era. Simple commentary is the best for me, and Lenny brings that.

Advantage: EVOLVE

Level of Importance

EVOLVE: It’s their 10th anniversary celebration, available to more people than ever. Sapolsky calls this their Barely Legal, which sounds ridiculous to me. But I’m older & more bitter than the people on his roster. They may buy in. Either way, it’s the biggest show in the company’s history. They need to deliver.

F for the F: The proceeds are going to victims of gun violence. That’s a bigger deal than anything else I typically mention in my columns, and if this “feud” took away from those proceeds I would feel guilty. I doubt it will, as it’s the gate in Jacksonville going to the cause, and not anything from streaming. If you live in Jacksonville, go to the show.

These AEW shows leading up to the TNT debut are tests. Which are important in their own right, but not the most important show in the history of a company that started in 2010. If EVOLVE delivers here, they could get some more WWE Network & developmental love. If they tank, Gabe might not even get a job for himself. AEW is in the trial & error phase here, EVOLVE can’t afford any errors.

Advantage: EVOLVE

Sticking It To The Man

EVOLVE: Gabe might try to tell you otherwise, but he’s totally co-opted now. So is my good friend TJ Hawke. He’ll tell you otherwise as well, but they’re all serving at the behest of the man.

F for the F: They’re bringing money to victims of gun violence. People that give money to WWE are giving money to gun violence.

Advantage: F for the F

Final Score: F for the F 5, EVOLVE 4

It’s a close call, don’t get me wrong. But at the end of the day, AEW’s Fight for the Fallen gets the edge over EVOLVE’s 10th anniversary celebration. People will try to argue otherwise, but the numbers never lie.


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Opinion

AJ’s Thoughts: Five Potential Returns

With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?

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With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?

With everything going on with WWE, the one thing we have all been hyped about are all of these returns. Dakota Kai made her return at SummerSlam alongside Io and Bayley and now on last SmackDown, Karrion Kross and Scarlett made their returns in a big way against Drew McIntyre and showed the Hourglass to The Bloodline.

With all of that, there have been things in the pipeline saying Triple H’s foot isn’t off the pedal so these are 5 returns from either NXT, main roster or even Try-Outs that I would love to see happen with the new regime.

1. Johnny Gargano

Now this is a name that people have been saying, “Maybe Impact or MLW” but, what about a return? Gargano didn’t renew his contract, most likely to be with his family which is a valid and amazing reason, will never disrespect that. If he were to return, there would be a handful of great reasons. Maybe a singles run with the Intercontinental or United States but with Ciampa getting limelight in the main roster from RAW, what if we get a tag team reunion?

WWE is hurting for Tag Teams and what better than to scare off The Bloodline, loosen  the stranglehold of championships with some Do It Yourself action. DIY reunion could be amazing, especially with newer faces showing up to get championship aspirations like Kross and Ciampa. Want to break the hierarchy? Do It Yourself.

2. James Storm

This one is a little bit weird and off. On one hand, who doesn’t love the Tennessee Cowboy, Jimmy James Storm? On the other, he is 45 and getting some nagging injuries as of late. So why would I say Triple H should bring James Storm back and give him something for the main roster? One of the things I said for Gargano, we have a lack of something and The Usos might need to watch two things in the rearview.

Watch your Money and your Alcohol.

Beer Money showing up in WWE would be amazing in my personal opinion. The Bloodline jump Roode, someone in a hoodie or jacket comes up and jumps them to even the fight and as soon as one Uso remained in the ring, the figure goes down and the old stomping goes off and we hear “BEER…” and Roode looks around and gets hyped up and shouts, “…MONEY!”

3. Big Cass



Since his departure from WWE, he has done something I have said since they split him off from Enzo. Take him through the Kevin Nash School of How To Big Man. ROH and Impact are great examples that he actually cleaned up and worked on what he has to do to be good in the ring. He can work the microphone, he can work the ring so we got a new big boy to take on the WWE once again.

Now I could have said Enzo and Cass to rejoin but, I’m sure the antics of Enzo will get Cass in deep water along with the fact that I already made two tag team predictions, we don’t need another. Cass brings a lot to the table and was kind of unproven in WWE because he was just the big enforcer to the more charismatic Enzo. Give this man about six months in the ring and you have your next MASSIVE problem in the IC or US Championship scene or even more.

4. Bronson Reed



The big man from down under is a former NXT North American Champion. He looked to have a good push going with that championship but he got release. If you wonder where he went… he actually made a pit stop in Impact Wrestling as JONAH with the most fire theme song in recent history I swear… I will link the theme song and Trips… please. Get rights to this theme song. I will be a bigger Bronson Reed fan.

Bronson to me is the weird man in all of this but, I think with Triple H involved, he could get something going for him with a good singles champion run or a big threat to go through like a gatekeeper of sorts. Big boy with a great amount of athleticism? Can’t really hate on that considering the last time we saw athletic bigger people were Keith Lee and… what was that one guy? Sherman Tank with a Ferrari Engine…?

5. Bray Wyatt

And the last one is the obvious one in all of this. Yes… we have Judgment Day as the somewhat supernatural dark group but we know the true successor of the supernatural and that is “The Eater of Worlds”, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt. This time around, I don’t think we will get the Jekyl and Hyde, Mister Rogers gimmick. I believe this time around we get full darkness and mayhem. We get the darkness and the theory of reverting back to your prime.

To make a refresher… Miz went back to being the cocky narcissist after fighting The Fiend. Finn turned back to the Prince and much more. With guys like Edge returning, maybe we see the return of the Heel Ultimate Opportunist, maybe a Fiend fight with AJ Styles to get the TN-AJ perhaps. Possibilities are endless and with a great mind like Wyatt for character and execution, I think Hunter will pick up the phone and Let Him In.

– There are clearly others that I could say, or maybe even didn’t think about, but hey, that’s the Chairshot way of Always Using Your Head. Those are just five returns that could happen and hopefully you read this before RAW or SmackDown and who knows if I get any of these right, maybe I missed an obvious one or maybe we get a giant signing that nobody thought possible. Let me and all of Chairshot know!


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Opinion

King’s Greatest Hits Of Jeff Hardy

As he battles his demons, Chris King looks at some more positive moments in Jeff Hardy’s career!

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Jeff Hardy WWE Smackdown

I’m sure by now you’ve heard the disturbing news that former WWE superstar and recent AEW signee Jeff Hardy, was arrested again for multiple charges including a DUI.  Hardy has had a hard and tragic road of recovery throughout the years in multiple wrestling promotions.

Not too long ago, Hardy walked out on WWE after they were rumored to have offered the former world champion to go to treatment for his substance abuse issues. Hardy refused and said that he was better but, as we saw the demons are still lurking and got the best of him again.

I have seen some nasty comments and even some distasteful memes about the AEW superstar and felt compelled to go against the grain. Instead of kicking a man when he’s down, I’m going to put together a greatest hits for the “Charismatic Enigma.”

Jeff Hardy & The TLC Match

Everyone can say that Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon helped innovate the iconic ladder match and you are right, but Jeff Hardy and his death-defying stunts changed the concept of the match forever. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. Edge & Christian and their iconic TLC match should have their wing in the Hall of Fame. The risks all six superstars took for the adoration of the crowd could have ended all of their illustrious careers. In the words of Vince McMahon, It’s such good shit!

Jeff Hardy Earns The Undertaker’s Respect

On the July 1st, 2002 episode of Monday Night Raw, Hardy delivered the performance of a lifetime nearly winning the WWE Undisputed Championship from The Undertaker in an incredible ladder match. The young up-and-comer was faced with his greatest task yet, challenging for the most prestigious title in sports entertainment. Hardy showed that without a shadow of a doubt he deserved to be in the main event scene, but came within minutes of defeating Taker. At the time of the match, Hardy was still finding his footing as a singles competitor and earned the respect of the champion and legend.

Swanton Bomb From The Heavens

When I think of the daredevil Jeff Hardy, I can’t help but think of this one crazy-as-hell stunt. At WWE One Night Stand 2008, Hardy faced off against the juggernaut Umaga in a falls count anywhere match. This match was so insane as both superstars fought into the parking lot. Hardy is one of the craziest and bravest superstars, hit a Swanton Bomb off a damn stage truck onto Umaga. It’s one of the wildest things you’ll ever see.

Hardy Wins The WWE Championship 

In 2008, Hardy finally made his way to the main event title picture alongside partner Triple H. HHH was Hardy’s mentor in some sort of way which led to the daredevil achieving his lifelong dream of becoming WWE champion. At the 2008 Armageddon pay-per-view, Hardy would face HHH and longtime rival Edge in a triple-threat match for the title. In what was a great match between all three superstars, Hardy delivered a Swanton Bomb to Edge to win the illustrious championship.

Straight Edge Problems For Hardy

The following year, Hardy found himself in the way of young-up-and-comer CM Punk who is looking to make an example out of him. Punk had won the Money in the Bank briefcase for the second year in a row and took advantage of Hardy to win the world title. What started as mutual respect between both superstars changed drastically, when Punk started throwing jabs at Hardy for his drug and substance abuse real-life issues. Punk would form his infamous stable known as the Straight Edge Society. This is a very underrated feud and you should go back and watch it in its entirety. The promos are gold.

The Hardy Boyz Return To WWE

Both Matt and Jeff Hardy found success in multiple other wrestling promotions including Ring of Honor, and TNA during their time away from WWE. Both brothers were struggling with their vices and made poor life choices but straightened up their act over the years. In 2017, the Hardy Boyz would face longtime rivals The Young Bucks in ROH. The following night the adored tag team would make their incredible return to WWE at WrestleMania 33. Matt and Jeff would be named the final team in the Fatal 4-way ladder match for the Raw Tag Team Championships. The pop these two received was insane and very much deserved. They would go on to win the match and win the titles to capitalize on their momentum.

Jeffery Nero Hardy Makes AEW Debut

From 2017-to 2022 Jeff Hardy would find himself pigeonholed in the mid-card title picture. He would have feuds with a plethora of superstars including Samoa Joe, and Randy Orton. Orton and Hardy had a nasty Hell in a Cell match back in 2018. Earlier this year, Hardy was seen running around after the 24/7 Championship, which was disappointing to see. After being genuinely unhappy in WWE, Hardy would make his AEW debut on the March 9th episode of AEW Dynamite. Hardy would come to the aid of his brother and longtime partner.

This week news broke that Hardy had been arrested for multiple charges including a DUI. While it’s easy to beat a man while he’s down, how about we uplift and try to encourage him to get the help he needs.

As a longtime wrestling fan, I have the utmost respect for Hardy and wish him the best of luck in his battle with addiction.


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