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Knee Jerk Reaction: WrestleMania 36 (Night 1)

Get inside the head of Greg DeMarco with these Knee Jerk Reactions for WWE WrestleMania 36, compiled in real time!

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WWE WrestleMania 36 AJ Styles The Undertaker Boneyard Match

Get inside the head of Greg DeMarco with these Knee Jerk Reactions for WWE WrestleMania 36, compiled in real time!

It’s WrestleMania, BAY BAY! I am watching (not) live on the WWE Network. These thoughts are in bullet-point form, and were compiled live as I watched. I’m on the west coast and usually watch on a delay, and managed to do so tonight with minimal spoilers.

WrestleMania 36 Kick Off

  • It’s already weird: Corey Graves is a host, not an analyst, and they’re in a studio and not in front of fans. Craziness ensues!
  • I am glad to see that The New Day is still involved in the ladder match.
  • No one looks more appropriate on the pirate themed WrestleMania match card than The Monday Night Messiah himself, Seth Rollins.
  • Triple H said that there would be a unique way to remove Roman Reigns from the Universal Championship match… that idea (whatever it was) seems to have been scrapped.

Kickoff Match: Drew Gulak vs. Cesaro

  • Good for Drew Gulak, good friend of Chairshot Radio (formerly The Greg DeMarco Show when he was on).
  • Good for Drake Wuertz as well, although this isn’t his WrestleMania debut as he worked the match between Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle and Triple H & Stephanie McMahon from WrestleMania 34.
  • Cesaro, you’ll remember, was reported to be sick. Wrestling Newz!
  • Cesaro victorious with the Airplane Spin, gotta love it. This was a good match, obviously hurt by the lack of a crowd.

WrestleMania 36, Night 1

  • Good reminder as to why I hate it whenever Stephanie McMahon talks.
  • The opening video? Maybe we need to call this MetaMania? (I dug it, by the way.)
  • We really love AC/DC in WWE, don’t we?
  • A lot of focus on Roman Reigns and Becky Lynch–the two biggest stars in the company.
  • I wonder how many takes Rob Gronkowski Gronk needed.
  • I love me some Mojo Rawley, not gonna lie.

WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships – Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross vs. The Kabuki Warriors of Asuka & Kairi Sane (c)

  • NXT is really important, and it’s my favorite show. But Alexa Bliss is a reminder that NXT isn’t the sole indicator of success on “the main roster,” as she didn’t do squat in NXT and is a multi-time champion on Raw and Smackdown.
  • Is that the WrestleMania sign behind Michael Cole and JBL?
  • The volume of the performers is a big plus in this match, that’s something we need to keep up tonight. If I have any complaints about Cesaro/Gulak, it’s how quiet it was. Obviously that’s unavoidable.
  • I wonder if this match would have opened WrestleMania if we were in Raymond James Stadium?
  • Asuka is doing a hell of a job working the, um, crowd.
  • This is something you might hear a lot from me during this, but these performers deserve a ton of credit doing this with no crowd to work off of.
  • Kairi Sane does the little things so well, like a snug little kick to Alexa after breaking in the corner.
  • I feel like this match is going long, but I really think that’s due to the lack of a crowd and not because the match is actually going long.
  • Nikki’s back is in way too good of shape after having taken that Insane Elbow from Kairi Sane.
  • Always love seeing the ol’ Sparkle Press.
  • CODEBREAKER!
  • (I’m sure Jericho tweeted about that. That’s a Jericho thing to do.)
  • Flying Forearm Powerbomb is a move I love to see. Not sure it can be considered a Modified Doomsday Device, that’s not even close, Cole.
  • AND NEW! Big win for Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss, a “crowd pleasing” win to open the show.

Kayla Braxton interviews Intercontinental Champion Sami Zayn

  • Glad to see Kayla Braton working backstage! (I’m just glad to see Kayla Braxton.)

King Baron Corbin vs. Elias

  • A ton of intensity from Elias early, which we need in this environment.
  • Remember when Baron Corbin had hair? Man am I glad he shaved his head! (He still sucks, though.)
  • Interesting question from Michael Cole to JBL asking about a victory on “this stage.” Is this really a WrestleMania stage? I guess the real indicator is if they would have run the same matches in the stadium.
  • If this truly IS a WrestleMania stage, what does that say about a guy like Ricochet who isn’t on the card?
  • Love Corbin bitching at the announcers–that’s what we need with no fans!
  • Going from action to a shot of the WrestleMania sign seems like the first obvious “edit” of the night. They just filmed this last week, I can’t really complain about things like that.
  • Elias gets the win, using the tights. Elias is the type of babyface who can get away with that.
  • That’s 2 for 2 for the babyfaces so far.

Raw Women’s Championship – Shayna Baszler vs. Becky Lynch (c)

  • Interesting that the swear words were left in the video package.
  • So much for this match serving as the “main event” for one of the nights. That term, main event, is so relative in WWE. Rarely does it mean “go on last.”
  • Why do we need Mike Rome doing the Japanese style ring introductions when there’s no crowd?
  • Becky Lynch really flourishes in front of a crowd, especially a WrestleMania crowd. This is the first match where I am okay with no crowd, though. Shayna Baszler is delivering on her promise of not needing fans.
  • Uranage to the apron seems silly without the crowd reaction. I need to get over this lol.
  • Disarm-Her across the ropes was creative, I like it!
  • Shayna and Becky are BRINGING IT. Love this match.
  • DAMMIT! Don’t like the finish, especially when we saw Ember Moon do it years ago. Baszler needed to win this one.
  • Hell of a match, even if “the wrong person won.” Babyfaces are now 3 for 3.

Intercontinental Championship – Daniel Bryan vs. Sami Zayn (c)

  • Drew Gulak accompanies Daniel Bryan, and Sami Zayn is flanked by Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro.
  • What are the chances Drew Gulak turns on Daniel Bryan tonight?
  • Sami Zayn is a new pair of boots away from being The Iron Sheik. Or The Genie from Alladin.
  • Sami’s persona is perfect for an empty arena match. Plenty of talking and interacting, especially with the official. Drake Wuertz might end up being the star of this match.
  • Sami Zayn: If Bill Murray was a pro wrestler.
  • Love what Drew Gulak is doing here. Great that he gets to shine on the WrestleMania stage.
  • I was really starting to wonder if something was up with Daniel Bryan–then he tackled Sami Zayn on the stage.
  • Sami Zayn continues to flourish on a closed set.
  • I am finally settling in and don’t feel the “no crowd” impact.
  • Drew Gulak continues to shine on the outside. Daniel Bryan bringing him into this is brilliant.
  • Not sure who was clapping for Daniel Bryan’s suicide dive.
  • Creative finish, I can’t complain about it.
  • Zayn retains, and the babyfaces are now 3-1 for the night. Surprised by the result, but also quite happy with how it went down. Best match of the night so far.

Ladder Match for the Smackdown Tag Team Championships – John Morrison (c) vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Jimmy Uso

  • No Big E introduction?
  • I was worried when the Newz sites were reporting that this was John Morrison vs. one Uso. Kofi Kingston was such a huge part of WrestleMania 35, he needed to be in this match.
  • I do miss having Big E’s antics, and still miss Xavier Woods.
  • When all three went to get their ladders, we got our first shot of the “Performance Center” wall. Remember when the new hard camera angle was big news? I think they also turned the set-up in general.
  • I was finally comfortable with there being no crowd, but the Ladder Match having no crowd is really really odd. It’s an eerie reminder of the state of the world today.
  • JBL said John Morrison reminds him of a young Mr. Perfect. Curt Hennig was 44 when he passed away, John Morrison is 40 today. And apparently ageless.
  • Kofi just killed himself in a spot that would have had a HUGE crowd pop. And nothing. Nothing at all. I really wish we had some sort of Mystery Science Theater 3000 effect with Big E and Xavier Woods, as Woods would be marking out over each match.
  • Why do we have the barricade around the ring? There’s no one to keep out of the ringside area!
  • Just noticed the XW plastered all over Kofi’s gear. Given that Xavier Woods is a personal favorite, I love to see it. Still wish he and E were around for this, given how many people were ringside for the last match.
  • Also of note: 5 matches so far, 4 of them from Smackdown.
  • Just when you think there are no new ideas for a Ladder Match, Kofi Kingston climbs up the inside of the ladder.
  • “Flatten your face like a pancake BOI!” Jimmy Uso just pointed out to me that we didn’t get any pancakes during the entrance. NO PANCAKES?!?! The world is so weird right now…
  • Gotta give them credit for the creative finish. I wonder how many takes they needed for that one. Hopefully one, since John Morrison took a hell of a bump at the end! Great match, needed a crowd, and surprised to see Morrison and Miz retain.

Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens

  • Seth Rollins is SO GOOD in this role, as evidenced by the video package.
  • Seth’s gear is fabulous, too. Seriously, this character is amazing.
  • The ONLY thing I would change? His theme song. Doesn’t fit now.
  • Love the KO Mania 4 shirt, and the fact that both pictures are Owens makes it even better.
  • I didn’t realize Seth Rollins was 6-1 at WrestleMania, meaning Randy Orton (WM31) is the only person to beat Seth at the Showcase Of The Immortals. I still think he should be 6-2 after tonight.
  • Do we have international announce teams tonight? Somewhere? Just little things we take for granted.
  • Kevin Owens doesn’t need such a heavy beard. He needs a beard, but not THAT beard.
  • Falcon Arrow on the apron? REALLY???
  • This match could have used a gimmick.
  • The trash talking from Rollins is more necessary than ever with no crowd.
  • High intensity match that I find myself watching and not typing notes…
  • Kevin Owens flat out calling Rollins “God” makes my black heart smile.
  • Ring the bell? RING THE BELL???
  • DQ finish? Really? That’s it?
  • Don’t like the finish.
  • Ok, we’re not done yet. Now I am okay with the finish, thank you restart. There’s the gimmick I said it needed!
  • I’ve always loved how we sell the “steel” steps that are so light they basically float when thrown.
  • You can’t fake being hit with a chair so hard it becomes mangled after 3 shots.
  • Interesting of note, during the reply of the Rollins giving Owens a CHAIRSHOT three times, we didn’t get the split screen. Heavy editing moment #2.
  • OWENS DIVES OFF OF THE WRESTLEMANIA SIGN!
  • That was the most heavily padded announce table ever, and it doesn’t matter. That was one hell of a dive.
  • Rollins needs to watch The Rock sell the Stunner.
  • Good win for Kevin Owens, he needed that.
  • Six matches in, and we’re 4-2 for babyfaces. 4-3 if you count the opener. I have a feeling we’ll end at 6-3.

WWE 24/7 Championship – Mojo Rawley over R-Truth

  • Truth looks like a bitch losing to one forearm shot.
  • I did love Mojo taking that from Gronk, though. Gronk winning it was obvious.
  • I am sure we’ll see Gronk win that thing tomorrow night, though.

Universal Championship – Braun Strowman vs. Goldberg (c)

  • Surprised this doesn’t go on last, it made sense to have the off-site match break things up a little.
  • We’re in the middle of an outbreak, and we still use extras for Goldberg’s entrance. I hate the term “unnecessary” in wrestling, but that was unnecessary.
  • I hope this is short. Really short.
  • I also hope Goldberg’s gum goes flying.
  • No video package, no mention of Roman Reigns. I really want to know what idea got scrapped. Triple H said we’d have a “unique” way for this match to change, and this is far from that.
  • Four Spears with no reaction is not as much fun! This is another match that needs a crowd.
  • Four Powerslams and we’re done. Thank you.
  • See internet, there was no way Vince was going to let Goldberg hold him up for money.
  • “If you’re the WWE, you hate this right now.” No JBL, they love it. Trust me.
  • It’s about time for Braun Strowman. I don’t think he just drops it to Roman, either. I can see him having a long reign, possibly through WrestleMania 37.

Boneyard Match – AJ Styles vs. The Undertaker

  • As I said, I am surprised this is going on last, even if we’re pre-recorded. I honestly expected this go to on in the middle of the show to break up the monotony of the closed set.
  • Does this make AJ Styles a WrestleMania main-eventer?
  • AJ Styles and The Undertaker made Patrick O’Dowd happy by dropping real names throughout the build.
  • Matt Hardy must be hating this right now, it’s everything we wanted to do!
  • Love, love, LOVE AJ Styles stealing Taker’s entrance, then saying the place isn’t scary at all.
  • Thank you AJ Styles for not showing up in ring gear.
  • BIKER TAKER!
  • If you’re new to me, know that I love me some Biker Taker.
  • AJ made this feud personal–and human–so Biker Taker makes the most sense.
  • Good job establishing right away that this is a Buried Alive Match.
  • AJ throwing himself off of the roof of that hearse seemed to appropriate.
  • All this Michelle McCool talk, I feel like we need a Sarah Taker run-in.
  • Everything about this is great. Jeremy Borash is doing a hell of a job.
  • Oh look, here’s The OC! You knew we were going to see Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows.
  • And randon druids. I’m going to guess we’ve got Malcolm Bivens and The Undisputed Era under those.
  • AJ just saved a man’s life, because Mark was gonna impale one of those dudes.
  • AJ really likes bringing up Michelle, eh? Seems like he’s still not over the Samoa Joe feud.
  • After that fence spot, Undertaker literally sounds like he’s dying.
  • A lot of bitch-calling tonight.
  • “Let’s start this thing up” really made me think it wouldn’t start.
  • Now we get some spooky!
  • AJ begging for mercy was great.
  • The chokeslam off of the roof (with the camera work) and the music that followed felt VERY Lucha Underground.
  • There’s no way The Undertaker was losing that match.
  • This was very well done, and I could stand to see more things like this. WWE is good at this.

WrestleMania 36, Night 1 Overall Thoughts

  • No crowd definitely made this a challenge for me, but it was obviously a bigger challenge for everyone involved.
  • WWE did what they needed to do in many of these matches, still provided some surprising results.
  • Hats off to the talent involved, and the staff behind it. They made the best of a bad situation.
  • As a fan, analyst, writer, podcaster, promoter, everything of wrestling, I am glad they did this, and I am looking forward to Night 2 of WrestleMania 36.


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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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