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King: The Evolution Of 205 Live

Chris King shares with you how far the amazing Cruiserweights of 205 Live have come since their inception in 2016.

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Chris King shares with you how far the amazing Cruiserweights of 205 Live have come since their inception in 2016.

I can’t believe it’s only been three years since we were all watching the incredible Cruiserweight Classic Tournament where Cruiserweights from all over the world put their bodies on the line to become the inaugural WWE Cruiserweight Champion. I remember holding my breath watching these insanely-gifted athletes blow my mind with their dazzling high-flying maneuvers.

In the finals, TJ Perkins defeated Gran Metalik after thirty minutes of high-octane action to become the inaugural WWE Cruiserweight Champion. Stemming from the success of the Cruiserweight Classic, a handful of Cruiserweights were signed by WWE such as Brian Kendrick, Rich Swann, Gran Metalik, Cedric Alexander, Lince Dorado, and Noam Dar were drafted to Raw. Each week the high-flyers were wowing the WWE Universe with their high-octane action in six-man tag team matches.

205 Live Has Arrived

Unfortunately, what appeared to be their greatest achievement of the Cruiserweights quickly turned into the downfall later on for the roster. Shortly after beginning to gain some momentum rumors spread that WWE was planning to water down the Cruiserweight style limiting the number of flips and high spots. Despite the restrictions, the WWE Universe got their first taste of a real feud for the Cruiserweight division, as Kendrick became the number-one contender to face his long-time friend Perkins at the Clash of Champions pay-per-view. This was also before the division was relegated to the pre-show as they are today.

What began as a friendly competition between two friends quickly disintegrated into pure jealousy and contempt as Kendrick revealed his true colors by viciously attacking his so-called friend following his loss. At the next month’s Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, Kendrick would win the Cruiserweight Title after feigning a knee injury and blasting Perkins with a headbutt followed by locking in the Captain’s Hook.

On November 26, 2016, the amazing Cruiserweights would find a new home on 205 Live which aired after SmackDown Live all-the-while they would still be competing in Raw as well.

The King of the Cruiserweights Saves 205 Live

A month later at the Roadblock End of the Line pay-per-view, the Cruiserweight division would be given the spark it so desperately needed as Neville made his long-awaited return to WWE turning heel on the Champion Rich Swann sending shockwaves throughout the WWE Universe. For several consecutive weeks, this new disgruntled and vindictive Neville obliterated the 205 Live division ahead of his title shot at the 2017 Royal Rumble pay-per-view.

On the January 16, 2017 episode of 205 Live ahead of Swann’s match with Tony Nese the self-proclaimed King of the Cruiserweights viciously attacked him from behind. He then picked up a mic and verbally eviscerated the entire Cruiserweight division. To add the exclamation point Neville eradicated Swann to become the new Cruiserweight Champion at the Royal Rumble.

During this time the WWE Universe was introduced to a man known as A-Double Austin Aries who made his main roster debut as a commentator while recouping from an eye injury. Neville continued berating the entire division week after week until someone finally stood up to him. During an in-ring interview, The King of the Cruiserweights would find his next victim in the form of the interviewer himself A-Double.

At WrestleMania 33 Neville and Aries went to war in an incredible match perfectly mixed with technical wrestling and high-octane action. With The King of the Cruiserweights reeling he dug down low and poked his challenger’s eye and hit the Red Arrow to keep his Cruiserweight Championship. A few weeks later at the Payback pay-per-view, Neville and Aries did battle once again adding another chapter in their bitter rivalry. This time The King of the Cruiserweights won by nefarious means while he was trapped in The Last Chancery pulling the official on top to get disqualified.

A-Double would get his final chance at dethroning the King at the Extreme Rules pay-per-view, except this time the stakes would be raised in a Submission Match pitting The Last Chancery versus Neville’s Rings of Saturn.

The King of the Cruiserweights prevailed at the pay-per-view but, at several points of the match, Aries could have easily walked out a champion as he had Neville tapping-out to The Last Chancery on the outside so it didn’t count. After the king disposed of A-Double, he would find his next challenge in the high-flying sensation Akira Tozawa.

Neville would retain his championship against Tozawa at the Great Balls of Fire pay-per-view. On the Go-Home-Raw for SummerSlam Tozawa was shock the WWE Universe by defeating Neville winning the Cruiserweight Championship. He would lose it mere days later at SummerSlam, a decision that is still a head-scratcher. I’m going to mention this once because I’m convinced this ridiculous decision led to Neville’s departure from WWE. Enzo Amore happened and was the one to dethrone Neville. Shortly after, Amore was released by WWE and we needed a new WWE Cruiserweight Champion.

 

We Need A New Champion

In January 2018, 205 Live moved back under the guidance of the creator of the Cruiserweight Classic and the first order of business was to add a general manager Drake Maverick. One of the main downfalls of 205 Live and the Cruiserweight division as a whole is no character development. Wrestling can only go so far there must be a great story told between the ropes and to do that you need to build strong characters for the WWE Universe to invest in.

Maverick quickly announced that there would be a HUGE Cruiserweight Championship Tournament where the finals would take place on the WrestleMania 34 kick-off show. For the next few months, the WWE Universe was dazzled with what brought the amazing Cruiserweights to WWE in the first place, fantastic high-octane action and a plethora of flips and high spots. At WrestleMania 34 Mustafa Ali went one-on-one with Cedric Alexander in the Cruiserweight Championship Tournament Finals in a five-star classic for the coveted prize. Both amazing performers gave everything they had to become the Cruiserweight Champion but a missed O54 Splash from Ali allowed Alexander to capitalize and hit the Lumbar Check to claim the title.

The Age of Alexander Is Upon Us

 

During the tournament a new face arrived on 205 Live, WWE’S Best Kept Secret Buddy Murphy who made to the second round but was eliminated by Ali. On the March 27, 2018, episode of 205 Live, Murphy defeated Tozawa, Kalisto, and Perkins to become the number-one contender for whoever won the Cruiserweight Championship at WrestleMania 34.

On the Post-Mania episode of 205 Live, Murphy interrupted Alexander’s championship celebration and dropped him with Murphy’s Law and made his intentions crystal clear. At the Greatest Royal Rumble, Alexander successfully defended his title against Kalisto in a great back-and-forth match. On the May 29, 2018, episode of 205 Live, Murphy finally got his one-on-one match for the Cruiserweight Championship.

Alexander was proudly defending his title in his hometown of North Carolina in front of his family and friends, while Murphy was ready to bulldoze through him and walk away with the biggest win of his career to date. Both competitors delivered an A+ terrific thriller of a match with dozens of near-falls that left the WWE Universe holding their breath. Murphy gave the Cruiserweight champion the fight of his life but not enough to secure the championship.

On the July 24, 2018, episode of 205 Live, Drew Gulak won a stellar fatal-four-way to become the number-one contender to challenge Alexander at SummerSlam. Gulak has been portraying a more aggressive character thanks to the GM Maverick’s criticism over his loudmouth megaphone antics about the “No Fly Zone.” A week later, Alexander would battle one of Gulak’s allies Kendrick in the main event. Due to outside interference, Alexander got the quick win, afterwards, Gulak, Jack Gallagher, and Kendrick delivered a three-on-one assault leaving the champion unconscious.

At the SummerSlam pay-per-view, Gulak gave the Cruiserweight champion a hell of a fight methodically dissecting his body limb by limb furthering his more serious demeanor. Alexander mounted a comeback with his repertoire of dropkicks and high-octane offense and stacked his challenger up for his Lumbar Check for the victory.

Over the next few weeks, a relentless Gulak brutally attacked the champion including interfering in scheduled matches. On the September 11, 2018, episode of 205 Live, Gulak earned another title shot for next week’s episode after a tag team match with Gallagher on his side. The two competitors faced off in an outstanding SummerSlam Rematch where Gulak came so close several times to become the champion by locking in his dangerous Gu-Lock submission but, Alexander was willing to put his body through unimaginable anguish to keep his title in his grips.

The Best Kept Secret Is Here

 

On August 29, 2018, WWE announced via Twitter that The Best Kept Secret would receive another chance at the Cruiserweight Championship in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia at WWE Super Show-Down. I’m sorry folks words can’t describe how fantastic this match was I’ve watched it at least two times. Both Alexander and Murphy finally gave the Cruiserweight division the spotlight they were seeking at WrestleMania 34.

The WWE Universe was fully invested in watching their hometown hero battle for the Cruiserweight Title. He received the loudest pop of the night, As soon as the bell rang Murphy nailed Alexander with a stiff shot and got a long near-fall, in-ring chemistry doesn’t even do these two justice as both champion and challenger created magic in front of 70,000 fans. It didn’t matter how much of a comeback Alexander mounted the end result was academic with Murphy hitting Murphy’s Law for the HUGE victory for the hometown boy giving Alexander his first loss in 2018.

Over the next month, a resilient Ali ascended his way to the top of the Cruiserweight division and earned himself a title shot at the Survivor Series pay-per-view by defeating Murphy’s right-hand man Nese. Ali and Murphy are no strangers to each other having fought in a chaotic no disqualification match that’s been dubbed as one of the best matches in 205 Live history.

The gutsy challenger gave the champion a decent fight with several aerial attacks and high-octane offense but, the champion fought back valiantly brutalizing Ali all over the ringside area. Murphy had evil intentions in mind as he took apart the announce table, Ali countered and executed a stunning Spanish Fly sending both competitors crashing to the floor! Murphy blocked an O54 attempt and landed a nasty-looking Powerbomb for a near-fall. Ali bounced back with a Springboard into the knees, Murphy hit his finisher to secure his Cruiserweight Championship.

After weeks of Alexander mentally handling his first few losses on 205 Live, he decisively battled back to the top of the division. Handing Lio Rush his first loss since his arrival, followed by pinning the Cruiserweight Champion Murphy in a tag team match to finally gain his rematch for SSD at the TLC pay-per-view. At TLC the amazing Alexander and Murphy tore the house down and stole the whole show even before the event officially began. There are only a certain amount of competitors that are incapable of having a bad match.

Alexander flew into a stiff knee strike reminiscent to their previous encounter in Melbourne. Alexander valiantly fought back mounting a comeback and hitting a Michinoku Driver for a long near-fall. Murphy answered back with a thunderous sit-down powerbomb for a two-count, Alexander went back on offense and hit the Lumbar Check but Murphy got his foot under the rope. Alexander went up top one too many times and got dropped from the turnbuckles, Murphy immediately pounced and hit Murphy’s Law for the three-count.

Murphy’s next title defense was not of one man but three where Hideo Itami, Tozawa, and Kalisto all attempted to strip The Australian of his Cruiserweight Title at the 2019 Royal Rumble pay-per-view. This match was not up to the level of Murphy’s previous one-on-one encounters with Ali and Alexander but, it was still a fun opener. Each competitor got their opportunity to shine in this fast-paced high-octane match that 205 Live is terrific at delivering. Murphy prevailed convincingly by dropping Itami with Murphy’s Law to retain his championship.

On the February 5th episode of 205 Live, Tozawa earned himself a big win to challenge Murphy for the Cruiserweight Championship at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view. Tozawa opened the contest with the hopes of being the first-ever two-time Cruiserweight Champion in history.

He came out of the gate firing on all cylinders until a suicide dive was countered by Murphy into a nasty-looking Suplex on the outside. From there the confident champion took the fight utilizing his strength to maul his opponent. Tozawa hit his Senton Splash landing on the champion’s back for a near-fall. Tozawa went back to the playbook and pulled out his Octopus submission but, Murphy retaliated back with his finisher to retain his championship.

On the February 19th episode of 205 Live, GM Drake Maverick announced the return of the Cruiserweight Championship Tournament to determine Murphy’s next challenger for WrestleMania 35. On the March 19th episode of 205 Live, Alexander and Nese clashed in the finals to meet The Best Kept Secret at the Grandest Stage of Them All. After a hard-fought battle, The Premier Athlete punched his ticket to WrestleMania. Moments later Alexander celebrated Nese’s victory followed by his long-time friend and training partner Murphy. Murphy held his friend’s hand before cleaning his clock with a vicious boot to the face. The Cruiserweight Champion hoisted his title up to close the show.

 

Five days before their WrestleMania match, Nese and Murphy came to blows in a backstage brawl that ensued and carried on to the stage. WWE officials came out to break things up but to no avail. Nese slammed his former friend’s skull into the Tron and hit a THUNDEROUS Running Nese! At WrestleMania, Nese and Murphy both brought their athleticism and strength to the squared circle in a battle over the coveted Cruiserweight Championship. The action started fast-paced with Nese prevailing through the storm and hitting a stunning moonsault for a two-count. The champion fought back and drilled his challenger with a massive superkick and facebuster for a two-count of his own. Nese countered Murphy’s Law with an inverted spike rana.

The Premier Athlete quickened the pace again as the action spilled outside executing his twisted senton splash to Murphy. The champion mounted a comeback and successfully executed his finisher but his former friend got his foot on the rope. The overconfident champ mocked Nese’s Running Nese in the corner and got blasted with a Superkick. Nese finished him off with a Running Nese and the biggest victory of his career to date winning his first Cruiserweight Championship.

205 Live Is Now Premier 

On the Post-Mania episode of 205 Live, the new Cruiserweight Champion Nese and the former champ engaged in a wild and crazy WrestleMania rematch that gave these amazing Cruiserweights the allotted time warranted to finish telling their story inside the ring. This was an A+ battle that not only solidified why the WWE Universe needs to tune in to watch 205 Live but, it also was the perfect manner for Nese one of the first Cruiserweights since the inception to prove that his win at WrestleMania was not a fluke.

On the April 23rd episode of 205 Live, Nese found his next challenger The Persian Lion Ariya Daivari defeated Oney Lorcan to become the new number-one contender, moments the champion and the challenger had an intense staredown ahead of their clash at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view. After weeks of mind games between Nese and Daivari, on the May 14th episode The Persian Lion viciously attacked the Cruiserweight Champion just days ahead of their championship match.

At Money in the Bank Daiviri arrived in style driving an extravagant car. The Persian Lion came right out of the gate as vicious and aggressive as ever pummeling The Premier Athlete. Daivari continued the methodical dissection as the action carried back into the ring. The Cruiserweight Champion bounced back and mounted a comeback and executed a jaw-dropping 450 splash to earn a long two-count. The challenger came back and blasted the champ with a nasty-looking lariat. Nese fought back and drilled him with the Running Nese and the victory.

On the June 4th episode, the state of 205 Live would never be the same again as Drew Gulak made his return by viciously attacking Noam Dar ahead of a match with Akira Tozawa. The GM Maverick sanctioned the new match as two long-time rivals went to war. Tozawa stood no chance against a relentless and vindictive Gulak.

One week later both Tozawa and Gulak pinned each other in a chaotic fatal-four-way match to determine the number-one contender. On June 18th WWE announced that both Tozawa and Gulak would face Nese for the Cruiserweight Championship at the Stomping Grounds pay-per-view.

At Stomping Grounds, all three competitors came out of the gate firing on all cylinders that was until the sadistic and vindictive Gulak began to pick apart his opponents. While most of the action was methodical dissection, the champion still fought valiantly to keep his title. Tozawa inadvertently blasted Nese with a dropkick and Gulak took advantage hitting his Cyclone Neckbreaker for the pin and new Cruiserweight Champion.

A New And Improved 205 Live

 

At the Extreme Rules pay-per-view, Nese received his one-on-one rematch with his former friend and ally Gulak. Nese brought a good fight to the champion but he was no match for this new and improved Gulak. After picking apart The Premier Athlete, Gulak hit his finisher for a convincing win to retain his Cruiserweight Championship. At the SummerSlam pay-per-view, Gulak’s newest challenger would come in the form of The Fury of 205 Live Oney Lorcan. Gulak immediately blasted Lorcan with a dropkick which left the field right open for Gulak to capitalize.

The challenger picked up the pace after hitting a nasty-looking neckbreaker and a series of hard knife edge chops to Gulak. The clever champion locked in the Gu-Lock and almost secured the victory. Gulak attempted the submission again but it was countered into a near-fall. Lorcan came back with his blockbuster and slaps to Gulak but, the champion used a throat punch to stop his comeback and hit the Cyclone Crash for the pin to retain his championship.

On September 10th Triple H spoke with Newsweek clarifying what his vision for 205 Live might look like:

“You’ll start to see 205 begin to,” Triple H revealed. “I think it always existed as an island onto itself, a little bit, and it’s become lost in this limbo. You’ll begin to see it move more towards the NXT banner and the talent there. We have a lot of talent. For them to begin to compete either open against anyone or in the Cruiserweight division, but have that title sit under the NXT brand is more meaningful. It creates more opportunities for more people. As for RAW and SmackDown, it’s an open division for them. When you’re on both shows, everybody is competing against everybody.”

At the Clash of Champions pay-per-view, Gulak put his Cruiserweight Championship on the line against both Humberto Carrillo and Lince Dorado in an outstanding triple-threat-match. Both high-flyers showcased their talents while the champion was more concerned about dishing out pain and punishment to his opponents to keep his title in his grips. The methodical and clever Gulak picked his moment to strike after a failed Shooting Star Press and Aztec Press. Gulak tossed the Lucha Libre outside the ring and used a modified roll-up to continue his dominant title reign.

On September 18th on the debut episode of NXT Live, a HUGE number-one contender match took place where the returning Man of the Hour Lio Rush defeated Oney Lorcan to become the number-one contender for the Cruiserweight Championship. This Wednesday on the first-ever two-hour episode of NXT, an overconfident Gulak puts his title on the line against Rush. This will mark the first-time-ever the Cruiserweight Title will be defended on NXT let alone in front of millions of the WWE Universe watching on the USA Network.

I think it’s pretty fair to say that the Cruiserweight division has reached new leaps and bounds since arriving back in 2016. We’ve all witnessed a plethora of fantastic moments that will stand the test of time. While these amazingly gifted athletes have relegated to the pre-show for several years, there’s a great chance they will be competing on TakeOvers and will finally be given the recognition they truly deserve. 205 Live is staying alive and well under the leadership and guidance of The King of Kings HHH!!


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Cook: Don’t Bet Against Greatness

It’s a mistake that’s easy to make, but it’s an equally important lesson to remember. As Steve Cook says: don’t bet against greatness.

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Tom Brady Super Bowl Trophy

It’s a mistake that’s easy to make, but it’s an equally important lesson to remember. As Steve Cook says: don’t bet against greatness.

It would take at least a thousand columns like this one to explain the biggest mistakes we pundits make. I use the phrase “we” because I’ll never sit here and tell you I’m infallible. I make more mistakes than I care to remember. Today, we’ll talk about one that I’m guilty of pretty often.

Too often, we don’t give greatness the benefit of the doubt.

We jump to quick conclusions when the greats of a genre do things that don’t seem in character, or are different from what we’re used to. We don’t consider the idea that maybe these people, who have already accomplished many things in life, might actually have a better idea what they can do to improve their future than we do.

Hard to believe, I know. This past weekend saw great success for two of the most successful people in the world of sports & entertainment. They serve as perfect examples of my hypothesis.

Example 1: Tom Brady

Tom Brady

For years, I have resisted the idea of calling Tom Brady the Greatest Quarterback of All Time. I never like crowning current stars the greatest of anything, as it disrespects the people that came before them. Unless they just accomplish so damn much that it’d be silly to deny them the honor. Sometimes, people get GOAT status that don’t really deserve it. They seem to be on pace to get there, but never make the jump.

Tom Brady made that jump a long time ago. There isn’t really a metric people can use to sell him short at this point. He’s at or near the top of every significant passing category in league history. There’s also the number of Super Bowls won, and number of rings/titles/championships always wins any sports argument, regardless of the sport. It can’t really be denied at this point.

The one thread people had to hang on to? Bill Belichick. The Patriot Way. Brady & Belichick formed a dynasty together. The other players & assistant coaches always changed, but Tom & Bill were always there. Which provided a bit of drama over the past few years whenever we needed something to talk about. Who was responsible for the success? The answer was obviously a little bit of both, but it was always a big debate.

Brady went to Tampa, and some folks thought it might not work. Many talking heads went on about how Tom was just going to Tampa because he wanted out of the cold weather. He just wanted to have fun for the last couple years of his career. They didn’t think that he could do these things and also win championships.

He’s one game away from doing just that. Are you going to bet against him? I’m not!

Example 2: Vince McMahon

Vince McMahon Laughing

How many articles have you read questioning McMahon’s mental acumen? Especially over the past several years as he’s advanced in age? It seems like everybody has dismissed the old man as a fossil that needs to step aside and let the kids run things.

We think we have evidence for this theory from WWE television. I’ll admit it, Raw most weeks is thoroughly unwatchable. You may disagree, but I’m the one typing this thing up. SmackDown is a little bit better, but Raw’s ineptitude overshadows it for the most part. Then there’s NXT, which most people seem to agree goes downhill the more that Vince pays attention to it.

A good percentage of the Internet wishes that Vince would step aside and not be all over everything.

This places us on the opposite side of most investors, who don’t watch the shows religiously, if at all, and don’t get inside knowledge from the dirt sheets & message boards. What they know is that Vince McMahon is the most successful promoter in wrestling history, and that he knows how to make a lot of money. Which, most would argue, is a lot more important than the quality of the shows one produces.

McMahon has shown an ability to make the right business moves at the right time. 1984 was the right time to go national and wipe out the territories, cable television expanding wrestling program reach made it only a matter of time. Vince was the first one to jump.

The late 1990s when the company was at a mainstream acceptance high was the right time to go public. You didn’t see him trying it in the early 1990s when he was fighting off various scandals and the company was at a mainstream acceptance low. Once people forgot about the steroid & sex stuff and saw how popular the Superstars of the time were, it was time to buy in.

Streaming was the wave of the future when WWE Network started becoming a thing. It was the culmination of nearly thirty years of Vince McMahon collecting nearly every bit of wrestling footage he could. He wanted to own wrestling & create his own history, then he wanted to get everybody else’s history too. He got most of it. There’s stuff sitting in the WWE archives that still hasn’t seen the light of day, and maybe it never will. Everybody and their brother has some kind of streaming service now. WWE was there before most, and now they got the chance to cash in from a media company trying to bolster their own streaming service.

Now, McMahon’s business record isn’t perfect. We know about the WBF & the XFL (twice). We remember how WWE wasn’t the original name. The early 90s scandals have been mentioned. And as major UFC and boxing events have shown, Vince was too quick to give up on pay per view. Left some money on the table there.

Every businessman makes mistakes. Its how they recover from those mistakes that matters. McMahon always comes out of his smelling like roses. There’s never really a long-term negative effect afterward. Vince got Dwayne Johnson to buy the XFL. His attempt to compete in bodybuilding led to no hard feelings. We all eventually got used to saying & writing “WWE”.

All those things we get mad at about Vince? They don’t keep most of us from watching his programming. Which is why WWE is so valuable to media companies. WWE has an audience that it can’t scare away, no matter what it does. People will follow them from USA to Fox to Spike TV to the WWE Network, whatever’s got some of that sweet content.

So the next time somebody wants to tell you that Old Man Vince is out of touch and doesn’t get it anymore…ask that person the last time they deposited a billion dollar check. If it was sometime in the last week, then they might have a point.

I might not be in love with most of the wrestling Vince McMahon produces these days. Are you going to bet against him making money off of it? I’m not!

Do not bet against greatness. More often than not, you will lose.


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Andrew’s Top 5 Matches: Week Ending 1/24/2021

Well even on a quiet-ish week, all of the bigger NA companies get a version of representation and even AJPW found their way into the Top 5! Let’s see what we’re working with!

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Well now, we didn’t have much that really stood out on North American television, but we did get a few additions from All Japan Pro Wrestling!

Last week’s voting was pretty cut and dry, NXT UK: NXT UK Championship: Walter (c) vs A-Kid, managed to control the voting narrative. Now we get this week, and it’s definitely a little more interesting.

Which match will get the most support? Let’s find out!

Quick Top 5:

  1. AJPW New Year Wars Final Round: Triple Crown Championship: SUWAMA (c) vs Shotaro Ashino
    Rating: **** 1/4
  2. AJPW New Years Wars Final Round: World Junior Championship: Fuminori Abe vs Koji Iwamoto (c)
    Rating: *** 3/4
  3. WWE Raw: Ricochet vs AJ Styles
    Rating: *** 3/4
  4. IMPACT! Private Party w/Big Money Matt Hardy vs Beer Guns (James Storm & Chris Sabin)
    Rating: *** 1/2
  5. NXT: Fight Pit: Tommaso Ciampa vs Timothy Thatcher
    Rating: *** 1/2

 

Honorable Mentions:

  • NXT UK: Dave Mastiff vs Rampage Brown
    Rating: *** 1/4
  • NXT: Imperium vs Lucha House Party
    Rating: ***
  • WWE Raw: Asuka vs Alexa Bliss
    Rating: ***
  • AEW Dynamite: MJericho vs Sammy Hager vs Santana & Ortiz
    Rating: ***
  • NXT: KUSHIDA & Leon Ruff VS The Way
    Rating: ***

4t. NXT: Fight Pit: Tommaso Ciampa vs Timothy Thatcher

From Mitchell’s Coverage:

The ref checks on Thatcher but Thatcher grabs at Ciampa over the ref’s back! Ciampa uses the leverage for WILLOW’S BELL!! But Ciampa can’t win off a cover, he wants to know if that knocked Thatcher out! The ref starts a count, Thatcher is still conscious but he has to get up before 10! The count is 5, then 6! Thatcher uses the cage and drags himself up at 9.9! But Ciampa CLOBBERS him, underhooks, but Thatcher spins out to throw EuroUppers! Ciampa forearms, they’re brawling back and forth with fury! The fans are fired up as Ciampa CHOPS but Thatcher tackles him into steel!

Ciampa throws elbows, has a facelock, and he RAMS Thatcher into steel! FAIRYTALE ENDING!! And then a SLEEPER HOLD!! Ciampa wants Thatcher to pass out, but Thatcher fights up! And scoops Ciampa to RAM him into the steel! Thatcher gets Ciampa in a sleeper hold of his own, but Ciampa uses the corner to go up! Thatcher shoves Ciampa into the corner! Thatcher CLUBS Ciampa over and over and over, then has the leg trapped in the girder! HANGING STRETCH MUFFLER!! Ciampa shouts in pain, he TAPS! THATCHER WINS!!

Winner: Thatcher Hanging Stretch Muffler

 

4t. IMPACT! Private Party w/Big Money Matt Hardy vs Beer Guns (James Storm & Chris Sabin)

From My Results:

Fast paced as expected, but early on we see Tony Khan and Jerry Lynn walk out to sit at ringside and watch the match. Storm didn’t slow down too much, which is surprising since aside from his brief stint back in Impact at the end of 2020, we saw him tagging with Eli Drake in much slower, less workrate dependent matches.

Private Party were their usual high flying, fun having, break dance inspired flourishes to some offense we’ve seen for years. Beer Guns had a cool tandem move with Sabin Sunset Flipping from outside in, Quen rolled right into the Backstabber from James Storm. Lots of signature spam, a few dives, highlighted by a nice Fosbury Flop from Quen.

Sabin looked to be setting up for the finish, when Jerry Lynn hops the familiar guardrail, grabs Sabin’s foot while Matt Hardy distracted the ref; and Private Party hit Gin & Juice for the heel tactic upset! Interestingly, Private Party still comes off as great babyface kids who are being swindled by scummy adults. So they aren’t playing heel, but everyone around them is doing it for them.

Winner: Private Party via Gin & Juice

 

2t. WWE Raw: Ricochet vs AJ Styles

From Mitchell’s Coverage:

Ricochet is frustrated but Omos is relieved as Styles survives. Ricochet fireman’s carries but Styles fights out. Ricochet mule kicks a leg then back flips into the DEAD LIFT GERMAN! Bridging cover, TWO! Ricochet grows further frustrated but he watches Styles stand. Ricochet runs out from the corner but Styles dodges. Styles runs in, Ricochet elbows back, QUEBRADA into a LARIAT! Styles gets Ricochet up, SNAP BRAIN BUSTER!! Cover, TWO!! Styles fireman’s carries Ricochet for USHIGOROSHI! Cover, TWO! Omos says it’s alright but Styles is still surprised Ricochet survives!

Styles goes to a corner, goes to the apron, and takes aim. Styles springboards, but Ricochet hits the RECOIL!! Both men are down, Ricochet crawls to the cover, TWO!! Styles survives and Ricochet is beside himself! Ricochet goes to the corner, climbs up top, but Styles trips him up! Ricochet lands hard on his stomach and flops to the apron! Omos coaches Styles as Ricochet drags himself up. Styles goes to the corner, brings Styles up, but Ricochet hotshots! Ricochet aims, slingshots, but into Styles’ suplex, that rebounds off the ropes! Into the STYLES CLASH!!! Cover, Styles wins!

Winner: AJ Styles via Styles Clash

 

2t. AJPW New Years Wars Final Round: World Junior Championship: Fuminori Abe vs Koji Iwamoto (c)

Iwamoto has finally started to blossom as the Ace of the current Junior Division. Fuminori Abe on the other hand, is a freelancer who can do anything and everything. This should be a great test for the Junior Ace, since Abe can hit you from every conceivable angle.

There’s a brief period of feeling out we saw the versatility of Abe. He delved into a little bit of his comedic side with the long set up on a Penalty Kick to the back, but he also snapped off some great Frankensteiners and high spots. He also worked over the upper body well to try and go for his signature Octopus Hold, but Iwamoto was able to get the rope break.

Iwamoto’s saving grace was his Judo background. A few Dropkicks to get distance and just catching Abe with multiple Judo Throws, set up beautifully for the Koko no Geijutsu, because it is also a fast snapping Judo Throw, but he uses the ropes for the added momentum to make it a finish.

Smooth as butter, and only rated under a 4 because of how fast the match was. If it had a longer build or another back and forth, this could’ve been epic. But it was still a damn great match.

After the match Cima challenged via video.

Winner: Koji Iwamoto via Koko no Geijutsu

 

1. AJPW New Year Wars Final Round: Triple Crown Championship: SUWAMA (c) vs Shotaro Ashino

Suwama’s hand picked opponent because of their similarities. Ashino being the former ace of Wrestle-1, a disciple of Keiji Mutoh and an accomplish amateur style wrestler; this all rings true with Suwama. So we get part two of the Mutoh’s favorite son challenge!

This match did have a few of the same issues as their first one, since a slower mat based style doesn’t resonate well with no crowd or a muted crowd. Suwama did keep up with Ashino for the most part, and the match had many similar elements as the first match. Ashino worked over the Ankle and went for the Ankle Lock; where Suwama showed he could counter most of it and apply his own submissions.

Smartly, Ashino did his best to avoid the Last Ride Powerbomb, which is how he lost his first challenge, and force Suwama to dig deeper. Ashino was explosive with German Suplexes, but he fell into the SANADA trap. Ashino drags Suwama to position him from the corner, even commentary is confused since Ashino is no high flier, but Ashino goes for the Mutoh Moonsault, and hits nothing!

After the miss it felt like Ashino was looking for something he didn’t have to take down Suwama. Suwama did have to pull off numerous Backdrop Drivers and finally the Backdrop Suplex Hold to retain the title. A very solid defense that built off the previous matchup, and would’ve been much better if the mat wrestling didn’t feel like it dragged because of the world situation.

Kohei Sato comes out after to challenge.

Winner: Suwama via Backdrop Suplex Hold

 

Thoughts:

Now I’m really intrigued at how this vote will shake out. A few matches from the lesser view AJPW, a match from Raw, a crossover with AEW & Impact and a gimmick match from NXT.

My vote personally will go to Private Party vs Beer Guns, because this is the first interaction that really does feel interesting for the invasion/war/crossover/takeover whatever story. Great use of former Impact talent, great screwjob and ideally should lead to bigger things. Plus it’s nice to see a younger/undercard team like Private Party getting their star elevated a bit.

Do I think any of these matches touch the first week of the year? No, not at all. But they weren’t stinkers, so let’s make the month interesting before Royal Rumble!


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