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Cook’s Top 5 Revisited: Non-WWE Stories Of 2019

Steve Cook takes a look back at his Top 5 (Non-WWE) Stories of 2019 from the beginning of the year–how did it pan out?

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Steve Cook takes a look back at his Top 5 (Non-WWE) Stories of 2019 from the beginning of the year–how did it pan out?

We’re travelling back in time this week. First, we looked at the Top 5 WWE Stories of 2019, as I predicted them back at the beginning of the year. This time, we’re looking back at the Top 5 Non-WWE Stories of 2019 as originally posted on January 11, 2019.

It’s been an interesting year. Did it pan out the way I thought? Let’s take a look…

5. First a penis. Then a tampon. What’s next?

Joey Ryan

“Joey Ryan has been around for a pretty long time. He’s one of the founders of PWG. He’s been featured in Impact Wrestling, Ring of Honor, Wrestling Society X & Lucha Underground. Ryan’s been around the world and back.

He’ll forever be known as “the penis guy.”

Priscilla Kelly hasn’t been around nearly as long as Joey, but she’s made some strides early in her career. She was in the second Mae Young Classic and often appears for EVOLVE, which is an NXT feeder fed.

She might end up being known as “the tampon girl.”

Ryan flipping other wrestlers around with his penis isn’t my thing. Kelly shoving her tampon in another wrestler’s face doesn’t do it for me either. I don’t knock either one though, because this sort of thing has an audience.

Joey’s had a lucrative run in wrestling while maintaining his status as an independent wrestler thanks to his penis. Priscilla will probably see an increase in bookings now that she’s achieved more notoriety. Those promoters will want her to bring her tampons.

What I want to know is this: which enterprising Indy wrestlers will take note of this & come up with something ridiculous of their own in an attempt to get noticed? How far will it go before somebody gets a show shut down with their insanity? You know it’s coming. Just wait for the backlash when somebody takes out a vibrator & goes to town on their opponent. It won’t be good.”

What Happened: Things kind of cooled down on this front as far as I could tell. Unless I missed something, nobody came up with something grosser than a tampon to use in a wrestling match. Thank goodness for that. I feel like indy folks are policing themselves because they have more places to get signed now. Priscilla’s doing fine on the indies but it doesn’t seem like the major promotions are too interested at the moment. Joey did an independent retirement tour then immediately returned to the indies, so there’s that.

4. ROH’s Next Era

Pro Wrestling ROH G1 Supercard Madison Square Garden

“We talked about how WWE needs to make top stars that aren’t named “Roman Reigns”. Ring of Honor has had a similar problem making stars of its own over the past few years.

Ever since the partnership with New Japan Pro Wrestling started, ROH has based its booking around NJPW’s whims & desires. Bullet Club was a staple of ROH television through the AJ Styles, Kenny Omega & Cody eras…when they were available. ROH’s biggest shows have featured New Japan talent. The other shows aren’t exactly setting the world on fire.

With the Elite gang gone, ROH should be looking for new names to feature. Instead, the Elite were putting over the likes of Jay Lethal & the Briscoes on their way out. I mean, the Briscoes were on the first ROH show & Lethal was around a year or two after that. They don’t need a rub from anybody at this level.

ROH has been signing a lot of new talent, which is a good sign. The bad sign is Booker Lizard Man’s track record when it comes to building new talent. Its not great. It needs to be in 2019 if ROH wants to be able to stand on its own. That NJPW partnership might not exist forever.”

What Happened: Most of 2019 was the Matt Taven Show for Ring of Honor. Then we saw some Rush, and we ended the year with PCO as champion. ROH definitely tried to build & feature some different talent. You can’t really say it worked though, as the promotion has less buzz now than it’s ever had. ROH is still looking for their next Era. We’ll talk about that NJPW thing later.

3. Impact’s TV Situation

“People tell me that television doesn’t matter anymore. Nobody watches it. You can catch any type of wrestling you want on YouTube or an array of streaming services. They say it doesn’t matter what kind of a TV deal a wrestling company gets.

These people are wrong. WWE’s recent deals worth over a billion dollars blow that theory out of the water. The right TV deals being revenue, availability & prestige. Airing on Fox is a big deal. Heck, ROH’s local slots have helped grow their promotion. Airing on the Pursuit Channel late on a Friday night does nothing for you.

As good as Impact Wrestling’s roster & product are right now, their limited availability & bad time slot on a hunting channel makes them look bush league. Impact will need an upgrade sometime in 2019 if they want to be on par with the other promotions listed in this column.”

What Happened: Anthem bought a better channel. They got themselves a stake in AXS TV & now Impact airs every Tuesday night. It’s definitely a better situation, and things look better for them from a live audience perspective as well. They’ve still got a ways to go, but 2019 wasn’t a bad year for Impact Wrestling.

2. New Japan’s Big United States Shows

NJPW New Japan Logo

“NJPW’s American expansion has been confined to the West Coast so far. A dojo in Los Angeles. Some shows in Long Beach & San Francisco in smaller arenas. Kinda cool, but nothing too substantial yet.

They’re kicking things up a notch in 2019. Of course, there’s the WrestleMania weekend show co-promoted with ROH at Madison Square Garden. WWE clearly prefers running in Barclays Center these days, but MSG will always be associated with the McMahon family as far as wrestling goes.

New Japan & ROH running in MSG feels like the Big 10 running their men’s basketball tournament there. We’re used to seeing WWE & the Big East there. It’s tough to get used to new people coming in.

NJPW has also announced a show to take place in Dallas’s American Airlines Center on July 6. It’s called “G1 Climax 29 – Opener”, which is big. The US has seen G1 Specials before, and the MSG show will be a G1 Supercard, but the G1 Climax Tournament has never had matches take place in America. That seems to be going down in Dallas, unless the Opener is New Japan’s equivalent to the Kickoff Show.

New York should do well, and I would expect a lot of people to fly into Dallas for authentic G1 matches. Will that be all for 2019? Probably not. I’d expect some random West Coast shows to be announced at some point, and maybe since there’s 2 blocks in the G1 we’ll see another tournament show here. Some of New Japan’s biggest North American stars won’t be there. That won’t stop New Japan from taking the next step.”

What Happened: Kind of a mixed bag for New Japan’s US experiment in 2019. They sold out Madison Square Garden, but Ring of Honor’s portion of the event was so ghastly that it left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth. The G1 in Dallas was a solid event, and the crowd probably would have looked good if the show hadn’t been in an NBA arena. They did a small tour in the Northeast & a couple of events in California in the late part of the year that drew sell outs for the venues, and already have another American tour scheduled for late January. They’re hitting the South this time around, and one would expect them to be back in the Northeast & California at some point. One big problem: AXS TV has new ownership that doesn’t seem interested in continuing the current arrangement. They aren’t even airing that Wrestle Kingdom thing. Oh, and ROH seems to be a less viable partner these days.

New Japan is running out of friends here, it’s a shame they don’t know anybody Elite that could help.

1. Will All Elite Wrestling Be Elite?

AEW Chris Jericho Wine

“If the first week of 2019 is any indication, AEW will take up a lot of our attention this year. We all like shiny new toys. We know the general feel of WWE, ROH, Impact & everybody else. They’re old hat.

AEW is new and exciting. We don’t know what to expect from Cody, the Young Bucks, the Khan family and whoever else might be involved. Its a fun mystery that we’ll find out bits and pieces of each week.

Will Kenny Omega come on board? What about Chris Jericho? Goldberg? What kind of TV deal can they get? When will they start running shows? Will they be good shows?

We don’t know any of these things right now, but we’ll find out as 2019 rolls on. Its a great time for people like me that need things to write about. AEW will be the biggest non-WWE story of 2019, whether it succeeds or not.”

What Happened: A lot! Omega & Jericho came on board. No Goldberg, but some familiar faces to WCW viewers have appeared on TNT since AEW Dynamite’s first episode. AEW was without a doubt the biggest non-WWE story of 2019. They’ve had some successes & some failures along the way, and there will be more ups & downs to come in 2020. AEW might not be Elite every week & every segment, but they’re going to work hard to try & get there.

You know what’s coming next week, right? The top 5 stories of 2019! WWE, non-WWE, whatever we can think of! Join us then.


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Opinion

Steve Cook’s Fave Five: April 2021

It’s a little more than halfway through April! You know what that means…

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It’s a little more than halfway through April! You know what that means.

It’s time to talk about my current five favorite wrestlers like I’m Booker T. Let’s break down the Fave Five!

5. Samoa Joe

I figure what happened between Samoa Joe & WWE was the following: WWE offered Joe an announcing contract since either they didn’t want to use him in the ring or their doctors wouldn’t clear him to wrestle. Joe looked at the contract, noticed the financial discrepancy, realized he could probably get NJPW to let him train young boys in California for that kind of money and said “thanks but no thanks”. Nothing else really makes sense to me.

Unfortunately, those who thought that WWE wouldn’t utilize Joe to their fullest potential were right. It wasn’t all WWE’s fault though. Joe had a lot of miles on his tires when he got there. Injuries are always more of a concern with larger wrestlers the older they get. And when Joe was healthy, he did get to do some good stuff and show people a glimpse of the Samoa Joe that people like me raved about back in the mid to late 2000s.

In any event, Joe got his WWE run. It was a thing that happened. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t wind up in AEW because he seems like the kind of guy Tony Khan would throw all the money at. Should be fun!

4. Kris Statlander

AEW does have a pretty insane number of factions right now. It risks the possibility of all of the groups blending together, with none of them really capturing the attention of fans. However, there are positive things about AEW’s faction warfare that shouldn’t be overlooked. It makes booking fresh matches to fill cards pretty easy. You can have groups facing off each week, but in different combinations that keep it fresh.

Another good thing: It can help us decide how we feel about characters that we might be on the fence about. Kris Statlander’s character was a topic of discussion from the moment she entered AEW. A lot of people weren’t sure how to take her. Wrestling aliens, or wrestlers who think they’re aliens, aren’t exactly common. Its the kind of thing that gets over in the indies, because those feds attract fans that are more willing to buy into unique concepts. Mainstream is a tougher sell.

Aligning Kris with the Best Friends makes sense to those in the know, since she came up working shows with them. It also helps people that don’t know about her figure out more. The Best Friends are a happy go lucky group that are the whitest of white meat babyfaces you’ll find in AEW, and that’s a good thing. They’re welcoming to people with unique personalities, as Orange Cassidy’s presence establishes. A friendly alien couldn’t ask for a better group to surround herself with, and from their appearances so far she seems like a perfect fit.

Add in the fact that the time on the shelf helped her get into better shape and refine her look & presence, and the sky’s the limit for Statlander. As long as she can stay in the ring, I’m expecting big things from her in 2021.

3. Tay Conti

Sometimes, all one needs is a change of scenery to approach their true potential. Tay spent a few years at the WWE Performance Center learning how to be a professional wrestler. During her time there, Tay never showed much in the way of potential. Even though she had a combat sports background and had the type of physical appearance that gets attention, Conti’s TV time was very limited and uneventful. She seemed like one of those wrestlers that was bound to stay in developmental until WWE gave up on them, then drop off the face of the earth without most wrestling fans noticing.

Tay’s story took a different route. She ended up being one of the cuts that AEW took an interest in, and was brought in for the Deadly Draw Women’s Tag Team Tournament. Her teaming with Anna Jay worked well on & off-camera, and she pretty much fit right in with the group immediately. She started training with Dustin Rhodes, and pretty much immediately started looking better in the ring & figuring out what worked for her. Now, she’s one of the people helping AEW’s women’s division go to a higher level.

This isn’t meant to denigrate WWE’s Performance Center or its methods. There just isn’t a wrestling training center out there that’s going to work for everybody. Tay had to find what worked for her. The people that recently got cut will have to do the same. Hopefully, the people that recently got signed by WWE will thrive in that environment.

2. Bianca Belair

We’ve recently seen three new Women’s Champions under the WWE umbrella, all of whom are great in their own way. I’ve talked about Rhea Ripley before, she’s got unlimited potential and so far she’s done very well on the main roster. Raquel Gonzalez is doing very well on NXT and her push to the championship made perfect sense & got over. I do think the best of the title changes was Bianca’s defeat of Sasha Banks in the main event of WrestleMania Saturday. It was a special moment for Bianca, a very fun match to watch, and a great performance from both Bianca & Sasha Banks, who did everything she could to make Bianca in that match.

You see the video of the NXT segment up above, with the three current Women’s Champions under the WWE umbrella celebrating together. Apparently there was a picture taken in 2019, and there were pictures taken after this week’s NXT, with Triple H making sure to get in there as he likes to do with all new champions. I’ve never really been a fan of that sort of thing, even the “Horsewomen” celebrations on previous NXT shows didn’t do much for me.

Besides the usual complaints people have about things like that, the thing that I didn’t like was how Rhea & Raquel came off. They were all smiling & happy like they were Big Daddy Cool Diesel after beating Mr. Bob Backlund in 1994. Completely against what Raquel has been up to this point, and what Rhea has been when she’s been at her best. Hopefully this is just a one-time thing for Rhea for the portion of the NXT audience that likes their lady wrestlers crying & happy after their performances, and hopefully it’s leading to Raquel getting dismembered by Dakota Kai, who can’t be happy about her heater winning the championship and then turning into Smilin’ Diesel.

Fortunately for Bianca, it does nothing to affect her character or our opinion of her. That’s why I think her title run will go best. I’m also putting her here because I’m pretty well convinced there isn’t a wrestling move or spot she can’t do well. Insanely talented, and the more experience she gets the better she’ll be.

1. Darby Allin

Sometimes you just want to watch something that’s stupid fun. Something that doesn’t need too much thought in order to enjoy it. Just people doing crazy things to entertain an audience. Darby Allin matches are just what you need when you’re looking for something like this. There isn’t anybody crazier in pro wrestling today than Darby, which is probably for the best. I’m convinced this kid has a death wish.

The one thing that kinda gets me about Darby sometimes is how he kicks out of everything. Poor Matt Hardy wasn’t going to beat that kid unless he shot him with a gun, and apparently there’s a metal detector at Daily’s Place. (Shoutout to Matt by the way, hell of an effort in that match.) But then I remember that Darby Allin is a daredevil and constantly posting videos online where he’s jumping off high places and doing crazy things. Obviously, it’s going to take a little more to beat a daredevil than your average pro wrestler.

What’s it going to take to beat Darby Allin? That’s a good reason to keep watching.


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NXT Minus 6: About that Cole-O’Reilly match…

It was the Takeover match that held the most promise. Where did it go wrong? 

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It was the Takeover match that held the most promise. Where did it go wrong? 

Exclusive: Kyle O'Reilly is ready to renew his career-long rivalry with Adam Cole at NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver

6. I was jacked to 11 for Adam Cole versus Kyle O’Reilly. I was ready to give it a Tokyo Dome 6 stars. MOTY before the bell rang. A masterwork of storytelling. I correctly predicted it would be an unsanctioned match. Then the action started, and it quickly became “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.”

NXT TakeOver: New Orleans | WWE

5. After the first few acts of violence, it was apparent that the problem with the match would be the stipulation. The last NXT unsanctioned match was Johnny Gargano versus Tommaso Ciampa in 2018. That was 3 short years ago, but things move quickly in today’s world. There is very little chance an unsanctioned match can deliver the level of violence it promises as long as NXT is on the PG-13 Peacock.

The Most Brutal Spots from Adam Cole and Kyle O'Reilly's Insane Unsanctioned Match at NXT Takeover - EssentiallySports

4. Fans are losing their minds over all the content Peacock is leaving on the cutting floor. A lot of it was offensive and would never work today, but that’s not the point. The fact is there’s only so much violence Peacock’s parent company NBC will tolerate from wrestling. Take the chain, for example. Other than the clothesline, it was practically useless. O’Reilly tried to make it work, but it fell flat. In an unsanctioned match, 20 feet of heavy duty chain should be all you need to decimate another human being.

The B Word: Did Pro Wrestling's Blood Dry Up? | Ring the Damn Bell

3. Maybe I’m a victim of my own wrestling memory. An unsanctioned match in Memphis in the 80’s would have been a bloodbath. Someone would have been hung over the top rope with the chain around his neck. Whipped across the back. Hog tied. Someone would have wrapped it around their fist for a few stiff shots to their opponent’s forehead. But that goes back to my original point. None of that would fly today even if NXT was only on the WWE network.

5 Hilarious moments from this week's WWE programming

2. I’ll go so far as to say the only violent-promising stipulation that interests me is Falls Count Anywhere. There is zero drama in wrestlers pulling chairs from under the ring. The chance to use the naturally occurring environment as a weapon still holds a world of suspense. Someone is going through windows, walls, off the stage, over the guardrail, stuffed in a locker. Honestly, I’m tired of people getting hit in the stomach with folding chairs. Of all the ways to hit someone with a folding chair, that’s the least practical. 

WWE Announces Multiple Injuries At NXT New Year's Evil - WrestlingRumors.net

1. I’m sorry to say Kyle O’Reilly versus Adam Cole didn’t deliver what I expected. Maybe I’m in the minority. Maybe I don’t need over-the-top violence to entertain me. Maybe I don’t need wrestling to keep pushing the envelope. Five of my top 6 matches of 2021 are straight up wrestling matches. Maybe all I need is two (or three or four) strong characters and a good story. Damn, I sound old. 


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