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Opinion

Cook’s Top 5: NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 14 Thoughts

Cook gives us his Top 5 thoughts after Wrestle Kingdom 14!

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I don’t watch nearly as much New Japan as I’d like to. The Japanese time zones aren’t exactly helpful to my watching things live, and I usually just end up reading results. I always make sure to check out the annual Wrestle Kingdom event though, as it’s the second biggest show of the pro wrestling year & usually one of the best from an in-ring perspective too. This year’s edition was a two-night extravaganza featuring a little something for almost everybody.

I had a lot of opinions after watching both shows. Many different things to talk about. I’ve narrowed it down to my Top 5 Wrestle Kingdom 14 Thoughts.

5. Retirement done right

Does anybody really want to live in a world where Jushin Thunder Liger isn’t an active professional wrestler? I know that I, for one, felt a piece of my childhood die while watching Liger’s final two matches this past weekend. When many of us think of NJPW or Japanese wrestling in general, Liger is the first name that comes to mind. His appearances in WCW were eye-openers to kids like me that were accustomed to bigger superstars clubbering on little ineffective dudes.

Liger changed the game. He took the torch from Dynamite Kid & Tiger Mask and took things to the next level. And he made sure to pass the torch on his way out. Losing both nights was the right thing to do, especially on Night 2 when current NJPW Junior Heavyweight Champion Hiromu Takahashi got the pinfall on him. Takahashi, Ryu Lee & others of their generation are the future. Liger knows how the business works. Night 1 was about getting some of his old friends a payday. Night 2 was about putting the next generation over. That’s how everybody should do it. God bless Jushin Thunder Liger.

4. Will Ospreay > Seth Rollins

Here’s the thing. Will Ospreay does some really stupid stuff in the wrestling ring. Some of his offense makes no sense whatsoever. Those who rail against pro wrestling becoming a gymnastics exhibition scoff at the idea of Ospreay being anything other than the worst thing to ever happen to their favorite interest.

Those who are affiliated with WWE or prefer their brand of sports entertainment to everybody else also dislike Ospreay’s style. And to be honest, I don’t usually go for the flippity floppity style. I make an exception though: when the flippity floppity is the best flippity floppity going. Jack Evans did a lot of stuff that drove me nuts, but he was so good at doing it that I had to respect it.

Ospreay is on the right side of that barrier to me. He is so good at what he does, that even if I think it destroys the business I absolutely love watching it. Take a look at this spot that eventually ended up in a Sasuke Special:

When it started I was rolling my eyes and muttering in disgust, but by the time Ospreay finished his routine I was totally into it. See, pro wrestling doesn’t encompass one form of simulated violence. Gymnastics can also be involved…as long as its done well. Put it this way: I would rather see more of Will Ospreay bending the laws of physics & the rules of pro wrestling in 2020 than more of Seth Rollins doing the usual Seth Rollins stuff.

3. Bullet Club is still a thing

Bullet Club Logos

Our most famous factions in pro wrestling history have gone through many different incarnations. Bullet Club started out as a group of evil gaijin led by Prince Devitt & Karl Anderson. AJ Styles came in a couple of years later to replace Devitt as leader. Kenny Omega replaced AJ. Then we had an Elite sub-group, an OG subgroup, and eventually Jay White took over as the leader. Gedo is now with them too, because when you think of evil gaijin you think of Gedo.

I remember thinking a couple of years ago when they were doing the feuding Bullet Club faction gimmick that the group had probably outlived its usefulness. I figured they were only still around because their t-shirts sold well. Is this still the case? Because it’s the only justification I can think of for a Bullet Club in 2020. Well, that and Gedo’s endless interference in Jay White matches. That doesn’t bother me so much, but I could see getting really tired of it after about a month of shows or so. Defenders will point out how rare it is for matches in Japan to have endless interference, so the Bullet Club act stands out in that regard. Other fans point out that we see plenty of this stuff in North America and don’t watch Japanese wrestling to see North American wrestling. I tend to side with the latter.

The Club doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. While most of the BC had a rough couple of nights in the Dome, White did end the weekend on a positive note while KENTA (another evil gaijin) set himself up to be the new double champion’s first opponent. Expect lots of the typical Bullet Club stuff in 2020, for better & worse.

2. The “Forbidden Portal” remains closed for now

Hiroshi Tanahashi almost made the leap. He had successfully convinced Chris Jericho to give him an AEW World Championship match if Le Champion was to lose in the Dome. It seemed a likely proposition, as Jericho had yet to gain a victory in his Tokyo Dome appearances. He also had one of his worst nights ever there in 1997, when he debuted a “Super Liger” persona that was meant to become a top rival for the aforementioned Jushin Thunder Liger. Jericho had a miserable outing and probably ended up burning the costume. So one could see why Tanahashi planned on making a US trip sometime in 2020.

If he does, it won’t be for an AEW title shot. Jericho got his first win in the Tokyo Dome, adding another item to his lengthy lexicon of achievements. However, let’s not assume this story is over. Jericho doesn’t want it to be.

There was a lot to take away from Wrestle Kingdom regarding a potential AEW/NJPW relationship. Jericho wore the AEW Championship to the ring, and English commentary took note of it. (Of course Rocky Romero would be supportive, some of his Best Friends work for AEW.) Jon Moxley’s appearances throughout the weekend contained no AEW discussion, and one name was conspicuous by its absence when commentary mentioned some of Jericho & Tanahashi’s previous Tokyo Dome opponents. From everything I heard, there was no mention of Kenny Omega. Omega & NJPW did not part on good terms, and that’s one of the major obstacles standing in the way of an AEW/NJPW relationship.

Jericho being acknowledged as AEW Champion means something, though. We’ll be keeping an eye on this story.

1. Like most major shows these days, the ending felt a little flat.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about either main event. Kazuchika Okada showed why he was the best wrestler of the 2010s & will have something to say about who the best wrestler of the 2020s it. They were the typical show-closing epics that New Japan has become known for over the past several years. Give them however many stars you choose, then add a star because it’s the Tokyo Dome.

Both shows had ending segments after that felt a bit off. On Night 1, Naito coming down to address Okada after the match didn’t feel as hot as it probably should have, or as NJPW brass thought it would. It was there. Then Okada pretty much begged people to come back tomorrow, which you would think he was above by this point. Apparently not.

Night 2’s didn’t go much better. The idea of establishing KENTA as the top contender was a solid one. The execution…not so much. All of KENTA’s offensive moves on Naito looked pretty lackluster at best. I don’t know if that was due to Naito being way too tired to take anything or if KENTA wasn’t quite going full speed, but it didn’t make me too excited about the next top feud. The selection of KENTA is something I can go either way on. Dude’s a talented wrestler and certainly a legend in Japan, but his stint with WWE/NXT didn’t do much to engage him with the North American audience. It should play well in Japan, but New Japan will have to rely on other things to keep the worldwide audience entertained.


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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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